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Oscar dinner

Let’s be blunt: the Oscars were a shit show. The worst I’ve ever seen. (Hey Franco, when you’re hired for a job, you should do it well or decline. And I’m very mad that in an earlier interview you claimed Gervais bombed at the Globes. You are really dumb.) Our food for the night, however, was not. Well, the cocktail in its original incarnation was, so let’s start there.

Stew, with his refined alcohol palate, was bringing the Grey Goose. I, with my google homepage, found this recipe at the GG website (which is seriously awful to navigate and takes forever). It had vodka obviously, pomegranate juice, maraschino (which we took to be maraschino juice but who really knows), passionfruit syrup, and white grapefruit (!??!) juice (we were confused by this a million times– i mean, does it exist?– so stew bought ruby red g fruit juice and then we thought it was supposed to be white grape juice so we didn’t use any g fruit juice at all because we were confused and gave up until later Joey brought a grape juice back up, and I just finally figured out what it was supposed to be this very second). Sounds delicious, right? No. It tasted exactly like Robitussin cough syrup, the red kind. The passionfruit flavor was the culprit, so we got rid of that and pretty much everything else but the vodka and pom. Much better. Better enough for me to drink four or five of them.

For the good part, I made regular mac n cheese by adjusting the lobster mac recipe I used before.  The cheese got a little curdled or not fully melted, I don’t know, but other than that, it was delish.

I also made an apple & jicama slaw to go alongside. I looked up several recipes and pieced together what I liked about each, and it went something like this: most of a huge jicama peeled and matchsticked, 1/4 head of finely shredded purple cabbage, 1/4 finely diced red onion, 1 granny smith apple peeled and matchsticked, and 1 shredded carrot. All this was tossed with a couple of TBS of veg oil, the juice of one lemon, 1-2 TBS of honey, s & p, and 2-4 TBS of apple cider vinegar or to taste. Healthy and refreshing to counterbalance the heaviness of the main.

And finally, the Best Course award went to my devil’s food cake with angel frosting (Stew was forced to make this part while I worked on the mac– good boy Stew), out of the same book I got this cake recipe. It was lovely and classy, though my favorite is still a cake with the richness and earthiness of a fudgy chocolate frosting.

Well, that’s it. I’m going to wash the memory of last night’s stank show away with a healthy heap of leftover everything.

Ciao (down)!

xo

Michelin meal

This month’s Vegetarian Times featured recipes by Michelin-starred chefs, which equaled me being stoked and settling on Raymond Blanc’s semolina and gruyere quenelles with tomato sauce. Probably because it’s a new recipe, VT doesn’t have it posted for free online yet, but the chef has it here. It’s basically log-shaped (mine were closer to rectangles) cheese dumplings, boiled then baked in a tomato sauce and covered in more cheese. I started early in the day while Mike was at work– partly so he wouldn’t see me using fresh tomatoes in the sauce and become turned off; yes, I actually have to be cautious about this kind of stuff– and thank goodness because it took quite an amount of effort. First, like I said, I made and set aside the tomato sauce, which was easy and delicious and reminiscent of the recipe I used to always use. (Mike liked it enough, even knowing it had fresh tomatoes, to dip bread in it when he got home from work.)

I added some leftover roasted cherry tomatoes and dried oregano that the recipe didn't call for as well

pre-FPed

Then I made the dumpling dough. This consisted first of boiling milk, butter,  then adding and cooking out AP and semolina flours. Now, I have to say, the recipe wasn’t written particularly well. It implied that the dough, while cooking, would be loose and creamy and would come together only after sitting (hence the need for a rimmed baking sheet). Well, because the ratio to flour and milk was so close, the mixture was crumbly and thick like so


So I freaked a bit but moved onward, adding s&p (as the recipe said, if you preferred?! stupid), the shredded gruyere and eggs (there was no note about tempering the eggs so they wouldn’t scramble, but I did it to be on the safe side), shaping it into a square, and tossing it wrapped in the fridge to cool:

When it was time to start dinner, I boiled and salted (not included in recipe– again, dumb) a huge pot of water, and as the recipe instructed, rolled and sliced the dough into 8 4″ logs. Again, this part seemed to be written by someone who had no experience with recipes– how thick should the dough be? 4″ by what”? Mine probably ending up being 3″x2″. I then slid them into the boiling water and when they had risen to the surface, they were done and need to be drained on paper towels (again, problematic as they were delicate and sticky and so it was hard to pull them off the paper towels and each other without breaking them).

Then, I needed to put most of the tomato sauce in a casserole dish, put the quenelles in that, then cover with cheese, and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 oven. I knew this wouldn’t be enough time to get the sauce hot, so I put it in the casserole in the oven while the dumplings boiled to heat it up. I’m glad I did this because the dish still wasn’t piping hot enough for me.

Despite all  of these quibbles about how well the recipe was written, the dish was delicious– soft and pillowy, delicate in flavor but still hearty–and we both devoured it. I’d definitely make it again for a more special occasion and perhaps add a bit of parm to the whole thing to add some different flavor.

Quenelles along with salad and a glass of pinot

Ciao (down)!

P

A little organic Italian

We’d been grazing on our V-day leftovers all day, so we just wanted something quick & simple for dinner before our evening movie date (finally going to see Blue Valentine! and yes I’ve been preparing myself to be terribly depressed)– and in part to quell my infamous popcorn cravings. The delivery of our veg box bright & early this morning, then, couldn’t have been better timed. After sifting through all the surprise treats we got, I had to make an orange fennel salad that I do quite often because it’s bright, healthy, and looks so classy but couldn’t be easier.

First, I peeled and segmented the oranges (I used 3 types– two from the box and one from D & K’s orange tree), saving the pulpy leftovers for the dressing. Next, I trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced one fennel bulb (I save the extras for stock). Then, I cut up a tiny head of lettuce we got (I have no clue what kind it is, but it’s a touch bitter and sturdy– reminds me of escarole. I use baby arugula sometimes; in fact, any kind you’ve got laying around or no greens at all works just as well). All this goes into the bowl.

Next the dressing– into a little bowl went the squeezed pulpy castoffs from the oranges. Aka this stuff:

Then a few teaspoons of an orange vinegar I picked up at TJ’s just to add a bit more zip (red wine or a tiny squeeze of lemon juice would be fine too or none at all):

A couple tablespoons of extra virgin, s & p, and the whole thing was done. Now I’m ready for my movie!

P.S. An avocado would be great in this as well. Maybe even some toasted pine nuts.

Xo

P

BEET it!

Kale, carrots, collard greens, and beets, oh my! (And tangerines and mandarins and cauliflower and scallions and onion and apples and lettuce…) After going a long time wanting to get a CSA box but being too cheap to do so, I finally signed up after I got a $31 box for $10 through Groupon. So here’s the deal: every two weeks, Mike and I get a box of locally grown fruits and veg delivered– it’s like a little present on my doorstep. Not only is it convenient, but it also makes me excited to cook new stuff seasonally. Last week, I made a yummy raw kale salad with a lot of what came in the box– kale and carrots (which actually tasted like carrots!) and meyer lemons for the dressing.This week, we got a veg I love but never make because Mike hates them– beets (I’m blaming you, Lulu ;)). I decided to roast them and saute their greens: in a 350 degree oven, roast, covered, your trimmed and thoroughly cleaned beets along with some sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped onions (I had some extra laying around so just used them up), olive oil, sea salt and pepper; they took about 50 minutes (when a knife goes in easily, they’re done).

Before

After

When these were done, I heated some butter (beets + butter= heaven), olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flake, then tossed in the cleaned and trimmed beet greens and cooked until wilted. Then I added in the roasted beets after I’d peeled and diced them and poured in the onion and beet juice. As all this heated through, I made a quick vinaigrette with leftover meyer lemon juice, olive oil, a touch of sugar, and s & p (I added some blue cheese to Mike’s share of vinaigrette as it’s a natural pairing with beets). The beets, complete with their dressing, turned out delicious and I’m glad I finally got to enjoy them with my now-converted hubby after all these years– took long enough!

Don't mind the red xmas plate-- I didn't want my white ones stained!

I served the beets with maybe one of my fav salads– wild rice salad. I do some take on this recipe here.

Annnnddd for dessert (actually, to be honest, for a pre-dinner snack): applesauce. I had apples left from our last box and some new ones, so applesauce had to be made. It’s easy peasy and yes– I’m a freak– I imagine making it for my kids someday: for a serving of 2, toss four peeled and diced apples into a saucepan on low heat. Add about 1/4 cup water, the squeeze of a 1/2 (meyer) lemon, a heavy sprinkling of ground cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg, a bit of ground ginger (fresh would be amazing, I expect), and a few teaspoons of sugar (I’ve got my own vanilla sugar on call so used that). Put a lid on and boil until the apples are really soft– maybe half an hour. Smash by hand or whir in an FP. Done and yum. (Rating: Mike and I were fighting over the leftovers.)

xo

Shrimpsssssssss!

I love me some cream sauce over pasta (just made some with trumpet mushrooms from our first CSA box 2 weeks ago & it turned out fantastic). And I really love the fact that Mike is getting into the seafood swing of things– it’s starting to be a weekly occurrence! Yessss– I’ve waited so long! So when Mike brought home a bunch of shrimp from work, I knew what had to be done: shrimp + pasta + cream sauce = dinner.

My recipe for a cream sauce is off the cuff and so is always a little different each time, but it goes a little something like this: 1) in a big sauce pan, heat a few TBS each of butter and olive oil (& then maybe a little more butter for good measure) 2) add a couple handfuls of clean and deveined shrimp, a minced shallot or two, 2-4 minced cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to the saucepan and cook the shrimp on each side for 1-2 minutes, then remove shrimp from pan

3) add around 1 1/2 c. half and half (or cream or what have you) and bring slowly to a simmer

4) add lots of parm to the sauce pan and then about a cup of the salted pasta water you’ve been cooking your spaghetti in 5) add your shrimp, the zest and juice of one lemon, your spaghetti, and minced parsley and basil into the pan 6) stir, plate it up, top with more parm, and enjoy!

Golden (Globes) dinner

Movie award shows– a confluence of celebrity gossip, fashion, and of course my favorite thing ever, movies– are heaven for me. They’re also an excuse to drink a bit and make a bigger than usual, indulgent dinner. Dessert is my primary concern. Having just gotten this dessert cookbook from my BIL & SIL, I was excited to make something new. There are a lot of cool, fresh, fancy recipes in there but the desserts that give my life meaning and pleasure are ones that are simple and involve chocolate, so I went with the chocolate skillet cake. It’s just a straight up chocolate cake (moist and fluffy) with straight up chocolate frosting (mmhmm) baked in, and I’m not quite convinced this is essential, a regular ol’ skillet. I LOVED THIS THING! as did Mike. It’s kind of the only thing I need to eat the day after; in fact, I’ve got a fork resting in the skillet, ready for me to take bites at my whim. (I’m too lazy to post the recipe, so ask if you want it!) Here’s the beaut:

And then came my next top priority: cocktails. We had a lonely pink grapefruit kickin’ it in our fruit bowl, so that was my inspiration, as were the last few leaves of leftover basil we had from a recent dinner. Martinis are my new thing– not sloshy, frosty, overly sweet stuff with barely any booze and way too much food coloring– and that’s the direction I took. Here’s what I did: 1) Juice & strain 1/4 of  a pink grapefruit 2) In a martini shaker, put some sprigs of basil, the 1/4 grapefruit rind, and a little sprinkling of sugar and muddle the crap out of all this 3) Toss in 1 1/2 oz gin (which goes together with citrus like Bogie and Bacall), a drop or several of dry vermouth, juice of the 1/4 grapefruit, maybe some agave or simple syrup if you want it even sweeter, lots of ice, and shake it until your hands feel like they’re freezing off! Bam! This was delicious! (I’d say to definitely muddle in the order of ingredients I gave you; otherwise, the martini is a funky green color rather than a cute pink.)

Muddling stage

Because of the above, our poor dinner was a bit of an afterthought but delicious nonetheless. I made some fried tilapia– for a novice fish cooker, this turned out lovely– and my MIL’s asian-y mandarin, candied almond, green onion, spinach, iceberg, water chestnut, etc., etc. salad that Mike’s been craving.

I can’t wait until the real deal, the Oscars.

Xo,

P

P.S. Ricky Gervais for life.

Best breakfast

I usually only post one blog a week, but this breakfast was so good, I just had to share. I made an orange and vanilla bean baked challah french toast with an orange caramel, orange segments, and vanilla bean and bourbon whipped cream. You have to try this, especially if you love bread pudding kind of desserts; it’d also make a great brunch along with a mimosa. Here’s what I did:

French toast (which is a fairly altered version of this): the night before, I tore up about half  a big loaf of challah bread and put it into a greased 8×8 baking dish. In another bowl, I mixed together about 3 eggs, 5 cups total of a mixture of heavy cream, half and half, and milk, about 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 2 TBS. sugar, the seeds of 1/4 of a vanilla bean, and about 1 tsp. orange zest. I then poured this egg mixture over the bread, covered it, and put it in the fridge.

The next morning, as the french toast baked for about 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees (I kept adjusting the cooking time and temp so I could finish my episode of Basketball Wives :)), I got started on the orange caramel. I used this recipe but instead of blood oranges I used a regular one, I added about 2 TBS. of heavy cream when I added the orange flavoring, and I didn’t let it completely cool as this allows easier drizzling (but be careful– it’s hottt).

As the caramel was cooling down a little bit, I whipped up some cream to which I added the seeds of another 1/4 of a vanilla bean, sugar to taste, and about 1 tsp. of Maker’s Mark (some Cointreau of Grand Marnier would’ve been even better). Then I segmented the rest of the orange just to add a bit of freshness to the dish… I put everything together and it was magic in my mouth. Do it!

This is how the french toast should look right out of the oven

xo