Archive | November, 2012

TryptophanTASTIC

28 Nov

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the four or so GENEROUS meals I have gorged myself on have trudged their way through my ready and willing body. Have I since stepped up my running game? Yes. Will I keep it up? Probably not. It’s cold outside and I like tv too much.

While this year’s Thanksgiving was a collaborative effort between my family and I, I managed to squeak out a special cooking story. A Cinderella story, if you will (read: my step mother and step sisters beat me and make me clean the chimney, also my only friends are mice. Full-Disclosure: I have no step mother or step sisters, however my fondness for small home-dwelling rodents exists. Also, I plan to meet my future husband through a midnight curfew with uncomfortable and easily shattering footwear). 

The Thanksgivings of yesteryear in the Vitkin-Light household have seen many different dishes come and go, but one has managed to stay off the menu for at least the past 25 years: Green Bean Casserole. That’s right, we’ve never had Green Bean Casserole at Thanksgiving. And since this is not a it’s-cold-outside-lets-make-a-casserole-since-it’s-wednesday-night type of dish (those are normally reserved for the tunas and noodles of the world), it has never made its way onto my plate, or into my heart. Until this year. In the past, my mother has done the majority of the cooking (read: all of it) but over the past few years I have started to dip my preverbal toe into the rippling thick and meaty gravy pond (I’m sorry, I don’t know where that statement went).

Sidenote: Similar to the poached egg advise I received from work, I timidly asked about mashed potatoes from the same guy. I took notes on the different “waxiness” of different types of potatoes, the pros and cons of different added fats, the added flavor combinations of herbs, cheeses, and caramelized anything. The main things I learned:

  • You know why you like mashed potatoes at restaurants? Well it’s basically a ratio of 1:1 of potatoes and butter (or cream, or both)
  • Adding cream cheese gives mashed potatoes a great creamy texture while also giving it a beautiful and light color
  • Potatoes are like sponges. You think it won’t soak up everything you put into it…but then…ohhh buddy think again

Yes. That’s a whole lot of butter and cream. The potatoes don’t even need to be in the picture. This is what I showed my family 3 years ago after they had my potatoes at Thanksgiving.

So this year I embarked on 2 side dishes for the meal: Curry Stuffed Delicata Squash from Big Girls Small Kitchen (which I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned before, but Jesus Christ is this dish amazing) and Green Bean Casserole from Girl in the Kitchen from Stephanie Izzard (have you bought this book yet?). Also on the menu: brussels sprouts and avocado salad, turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry-orange sauce, sweet potato fries, pumpkin pie, maple pecan ice cream, and wine. Lots of wine.

So how do we start a big meal? With prep!

Chop, Rinse, Juice, Seed

I won’t get into the details of the squash since the full recipe is on Big Girls Small Kitchen‘s website (fun fact, they tweeted me back when I made and bragged about the first time I made that squish). But the casserole, I WILL get in to! I was giddy with excitement to make this since it was a sexy and exotic menu item to us. There are three components to this: mushroom soup, the beans themselves, and extra mushrooms.

  • Mushroom Soup: Sauté about 8oz of mushrooms in about 5 tbs of butter until soft. Coat with 1/4 C of flour and stir until incorporated. Add 2 cups of milk and keep stirring. Stir. Stir some more. Soon you will have a soup-like consistency. It’s AWESOME to witness! A really cool addition to this recipe is a tablespoon of Sambal, or chili paste. I got to go to an Asian specialty store where a lovely gentlemen who didn’t skip a beat in his cell phone conversation rang me up! Sambal has great heat to it along with a great sweet chili flavor. It’s literally the perfect compliment to this dish! Add the sambal and any additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Mushrooms: Sautee and season with Salt and Pepper.
  • Beans: trim, blanche for 2 min then put in an icebath

Mix everything together in a casserole dish, and bake for about 45 minutes. Then get ready to lose your fucking mind.

Exotic and Sexy

And now a rundown of some of the other items:

Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad with Avocado and Dijon dressing

Stuffed Squash and Turkey

Pumpkin Pie with roasted pecans

And now we FEAST

Can you feel your pants unbuttoning themselves just at the sight of this plate in the most un-sexual way you’ve ever experienced?

Cheers!

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Fancy Family Dinner: Scallops, Ricotta Gnocchi, Onion Mushroom Tarts, and Pumpkin Bread Pudding

21 Nov

Did I just peak? Is it all down hill from here? Should I just leave on a high note (a la George Costanza)? Is this is the end of Nowenteringflavorcountry as we know it?! All that and more will be answered….right now. [Yes. Probably. Probably. No, I’d be too bored.]

Well my friend Lindsey came this past weekend, and we made “Fancy Dinner” to a standing ovation. This is literally the best meal I’ve ever made before. It took 2 people, 4 hours, 2 grocery stores, the soundtracks of Les Miserables, Book of Mormon, and West Side Story…and more money than I’d care to admit (I’ll explain shortly). Worth it. Worth every crumb.

But for a monumental meal like this, how do we select the recipes? Beef? Pasta? Seafood? It was a long and difficult decision, but we decided on 4 tasty components to this meal:

Scallops from Stephanie Izzard’s Girl in the Kitchen (scallops, goat cheese, and asparagus…what’s not to like?)

Pumpkin Bread Pudding – Martha Stewart

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, Apple, and Gruyere Bites – Table for Two

Grandma DiLaura’s Italian Ricotta Gnocchi – Food52

Armed with our new recipes and a fool-proof grocery list, we hit the road and landed at Plum Market, where we were to buy the “fancier” items, such as scallops, sorrel, and wine. Now, I’ve never bought scallops before, so I assumed they weren’t available at most stores because I just made it up in my head, so of course it was true. The scallops at Plum Market were….$25/lb. Yikes. The bay scallops were $14.99/lb, but who likes bay scallops?! Lindsey took me aside and the following conversation took place:

Lindsey: isn’t there another place we can buy scallops? (meaning “anywhere, absolutely anywhere else, let’s not pay $25/lb for these scallops”)

Erica: this is the place to get seafood (meaning “to my knowledge this is the ONLY place to get seafood”)

Apparently she thought my decision was a testament to my elevated preference in seafood quality, when really it was my ignorance in the scallop marketplace. Lindsey, you know I value my sweet sweet money over any quality of anything ever. So rather than getting the 12 Scallops which the recipe called for, we asked for 8 to be thrifty. Well, guess how much those 8 scallops weighed: 0.94lbs. Goodbye $25…

Once we were at Kroger (to get the cheaper staples like onions, puff pasty…etc), she pointed at the seafood counter at the $15/lb scallops they had

Erica: they sell scallops?! (meaning: “they sell scallops?!”)

Lindsey: yeah, every place sells scallops, that’s why I asked (meaning: “god dammit Erica”)

In my defense, the ones we got are the largest Scallops ever. We called them baby fists all night (and will continue to do so until it’s not funny anymore, which I don’t see happening anytime soon). So after trying to FORGET THE EVIL that just occurred to my wallet, we popped open a delicious Famega

…I’m better when I’ve had a few…

Started prepping the vinaigrette

That happy drip is a steady flow of honey into the all-mighty food processor

…and got down to culinary business. What’s cool about having 2 people cooking? Someone to stage shots, and someone to shoot them! (see the photo above, I’m sure you were thinking “someone is pouring the sweet sweet honey into the food processor AND taking the picture? Witchcraft!” You’re wrong, it was just 2 sets of hands). So rather than making our tasty onion-mushroom-apple-gruyere tarts first to use them as an actual appetizer, we just made EVERYTHING at once (except the bread pudding…that we did wait till the end, but it took about 30 seconds of effort, so it doesn’t really count). One of the more time consuming items was definitely the Gnocchi. We took turns working on that throughout the cooking

Be warned: Steps 3 and 4 take MUCH longer than you’d expect

While these little pillow-y darlings were being made, we began the Mushroom, Onion, Apple, and Gruyere Tarts (is it possible to hear that without drooling?). I love this recipe because it’s one of those “hmmm, I could have come up with this, but I never would”. Basically you just sauté everything (add a little sugar and butter for the apples), and mix it with the grated gruyere. Meanwhile, cut up the puff pastry into squares, wash with egg, and top with your sauté mixture. Bake. Cool. Destroy.

We had tons of these leftover since we served them right alongside the rest of the meal. They made for tasty cold snacks all the next day.

And now, on to the main event. We have the vinaigrette nice and emulsified, so it’s time to get down to business: goat cheese-potato puree, seared scallops, toasted almonds, and asparagus bacon “hash”. Sidenote: As a restaurant server, Lindsey has encountered many a funny story (as have we all), but one sticks out most in recent memory, mainly because it has to do with goat cheese. The woman at her particular table was asking about an appetizer, and said the words “oh GHOST cheese! I love GHOST cheese!” to which a mortified Lindsey had to make the ultimate decision: to correct her, or say GHOST cheese the rest of the meal. She chose the latter. Now, just try to say ghost cheese. It does NOT roll off the tongue. So clearly, that’s what we call it now. All the time. Especially during the making of this meal. But let me break it down per item:

Toasted Almonds: put in oven for about 5 minutes, boom toasted. I left them in for about 7 minutes, so they were veeeery toasted (as you’ll see in the big reveal photo).

Goat Cheese-Potato Puree: peel and cube potatoes. Boil until fork-tender then mash. Meanwhile, over low heat combine goat cheese and heavy cream until they are melted into one another. Mix potatoes and cream/goat cheese together and season with salt and pepper. Decadent.

Asparagus and Bacon “Hash”: We used regular old bacon for this rather than ham hocks, because it’s easier/cheaper/less intimidating/cheaper. Cut asparagus into 1/3 in pieces, throw bacon and asparagus into pan and sauté up. Delicious.

Fun Fact: I was the only person at Fancy Family Dinner not to have the gene where you smell asparagus pee. So everyone was in for a world of hurt…but me.

Scallops: RIDICULOUSLY easy! Heat olive oil in pan over high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper, and sear on one side for 1 minute. Turn heat to medium and turn scallops over and sear on other side for 2-3 minutes. Done.

Good Gravy those look tasty!

To assemble, place puree on bottom of dish. Top with 2 scallops. Top with bacon-aspargus hash. Drizzle sorrel vinaigrette over plate. Top with (over) toasted almonds. Try to set aside 90 seconds to take a photo. Be amazed at the pure awesomeness that’s in your mouth.

No photographic evidence will ever do this dish justice. Just…delicious.

Now that all the components are in place it is time to feast. Imagine a Dothraki wedding, but with more carnage…and sex. But mainly just the shoveling of food and wine into mouthes.

These were the 3 chosen images from the 50 or so we took. And by “we” I mean me. It was all me. With that remote control for the camera. Just hours of entertainment.

While we were enjoying ourselves, the pumpkin bread pudding was in the oven, baking to perfection (and by perfection, I mean a tasty but dry consistency…not enough liquid, but add enough caramel sauce and you’re right as rain…and coincidentally making it rain).

I made my first .gif! So exciting!

And thanks to my sweet and beautiful dishwasher, there wasn’t even too much cleanup to be had when we were done. Just very uncomfortable stretching of the insides. How will I top this? Perhaps Thanksgiving will be my gimme…

A good time had by all. Except for the 2 hours following this photograph, as we were all uncomfortably full. Satisfied, but uncomfortable.

Vegan Miso Noodle Soup

16 Nov

Continuing down the vegan path: Miso Noodle Soup from Green Kitchen Stories.

There are many an Asian-inspired dish I have been drawn to, but have been apprehensive to try out because I don’t have many of the key ingredients readily available in my pantry/fridge. Well this recipe proved to me that I shouldn’t let this get in my way (look out, Asian world of cooking!). For me, there are certain types of food that I have to be in the mood for (sushi being one of them), and also types of food that once it’s in my head I NEED TO HAVE IT IMMEDIATELY (I’m looking at you, Indian food). This type of soup is a combination of the two. I took my inspiration from the Vietnamese noodle soup called “Pho” (pronounced “Pha” with a ? sound at the end. Although, pronouncing it this way–the correct way–WILL turn you into “that guy“).

Pho is served at the temperature of the Sun (sorry to get all scientific on you) and then they place thinly sliced pieces of raw steak in, and the broth actually cooks it. It’s served with a side of lime, jalapeños, bean sprouts, cilantro, and all that good stuff. I usually put everything in. And by usually, I mean the 2 times I’ve had it.

Wow, I can’t believe I actually found this picture! This is a bowl of Pho I had in San Francisco in April of 2011. We went for a 4 year old’s birthday because “she’s just really into curry”. It was my first time. I’ve never been the same since. Nice lens cap in the bottom left corner.

So, again, this was my inspiration for this soup (or at least I had it in mind). Now I know there are delicate intricacies involved with the different countries and regions of Asian cuisine (or any cuisine for that matter), and Miso soup isn’t the same as Pho, it’s not even from the same country, but a girl can dream can’t she? To steal a recent Facebook quote “it’s a culinary house of cards” (I know, what a great quote).

I was excited that I found this recipe, and it fit into my vegan-escapades for the week. I started making a shopping list, and realized a lot of what I needed (veggies…lots of veggies) were things I would normally buy. The “house of the rising sun” ingredients weren’t too far out there either. Ginger and a stalk of lemongrass. You can find these in basically any grocery store. And if you’re just buying the amount you need for one dish, it comes out to pennies (well, maybe a combination of dimes and quarters). Miso paste is also available and lots of “specialty” stores like Co-Ops, or, you know, any store in Ann Arbor. Lastly were soba noodles, which, again, were not hard to find. I decided to add some bean sprouts to the mix as well. The bonus: my roommate has a bottle of Siracha sitting on top of the fridge, just waiting to be used in homemade Miso soup, how lucky for me.

I wanted to use the lemongrass as either a magic or maestro’s wand.
It had the perfect weight and density to it.

Funny story behind the “photo shoot” for the image: my roommate Max was selling his tv on craigslist this evening, and he was going to be at work while they wanted to make the “transaction” so I became the high-rolling business dealer. “Oh no, now I can’t go running in the dark and cold” I thought. So I began this soup with the time of 7:30 in mind for them to arrive. Well RIGHT after I finished this particular shot, I get a call, and they’re outside. 25 minutes early. Lovely. I let them in, and they just look around at my camera and tri-pod set up next to my lap top (which is blaring Les Miserables because the trailer for the upcoming movie has affected me PROFOUNDLY), with carrot peels, garlic skins, and muddy leek stems strewn about the kitchen (the main door to our apartment opens to our kitchen, hence the culinary welcome). But they were only there for about 8 minutes, boom, transaction done, and I could get back to the far east.

Miso soup broth. Just like Ramen.

So for the “broth” for this is super simple. Boiling water + miso paste + jalapeños + soy sauce + garlic + ginger + bruised lemongrass. Let it sit and marinate into one another, and it’s veggie time. The recipe calls for not much veggie cooking time, so I put them in longer (and hotter) than Green Kitchen Stories calls for because I like my veggies a little more al dente in soup. Also, I ended up adding too much miso because “enough to taste” I took as “keep adding because you’re not tasting it enough, oh wait, you just didn’t dissolve it all the way in your stirring and that was about 2 spoonfuls ago…” but it didn’t ruin it by any means, it just had more punch than I would have originally liked. Separately I made the soba noodles (which took maybe 100 seconds in the water before they were set).

Now my plan was to keep the noodles separate, and to just add them to the individual bowls as they were consumed, but after sitting in the strainer for about 90 seconds, the noodles turned into a brick. So I tossed them with some cold water, and slid them all into the soup, except for the first bowl, documented here:

Everything is better with Siracha…unless you don’t take into account the amount of jalapeños you’ve already put into your homemade miso soup…

So I wasn’t planning on taking a photo of this last image because as soon as I took the photo with the siracha, I almost knocked my tri-pod over diving toward the bowl to dump everything in, top with Siracha, and waterboard myself with Miso-goodness. But in a moment of clarity, I looked at the mess that was produced with my hasty condiment additions, and I thought it was the prefect representation of these kinds of soups. They’re not pretty. Let me rephrase that: you’re not pretty when you eat them. It’s hot,  but that doesn’t slow you down, so you’re coughing on the steam, your tongue is getting seared, there is sweat on your upper lip, your cheeks are turning red, there’s lava-like broth rolling down your chin, and you keep shoveling it in your mouth as fast as you can, as if the OSS is outside  your door, waiting to evict you from your home and take you down a very unfortunate path (too much?). Now, I’m not saying my version is anywhere as amazing and Nazi-flashback inducing as that original bowl of Pho I had, but it was still pretty damn great.

Must….restrain……….must…take photo..for….BLOG

Epilogue: well I encountered some unfortunateness with this soup. You guessed it: the noodles. My first bowl was amazing. And by my second bowl the noodles were already getting really soggy and fat. By the time John got home (a little over an hour after I completed the soup) there was barely any liquid left. The flavor was still there, but the texture…yikes. I took some to work for lunch the next day, and while (as I said) it still tasted fine, the texture was just too unsettling. We ended up having the throw a lot of it away (and I mean “will have to throw away” because it’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for 2 days, untouched, because who has the time to walk to the trash can and turn a pot upside down?).

My vow to you: I will perfect this soup. Or at least have enough people on hand and ready to eat as soon as it’s ready! Volunteers?

Vegan Chickpea and Spinach Stew

15 Nov

Well, it has been adventure time at house on Hiscock (that’s right, that’s my street name, I’ll give you time to titter amongst yourselves). I’ve tasked myself with making some vegan meals this week, for a few reasons.

  • My friend Lindsey is coming to visit me this weekend, and we’re going to make one hell of a Fancy Dinner (which I’m sure we’ll document for this very blog), so might as well healthy myself up as a “pre-gaming” method
  • It’s a challenge
  • I always hear how great you feel when not eating animal products
  • I’ve never (purposefully) attempted to restrict my animal product intake before
  • I’ve been eating really unhealthily lately (or so I feel)

I’ve (obviously) not gone strictly vegan. Just for these meals. I haven’t, however, eaten any meat all week, which is the first in quite some time (side note: the last time I went an extended period without meat was after witnessing a butchering course for the restaurant group I was working for, at 9 in the morning. It grossed me out so much I didn’t eat meat for almost a month. Not even eggs! (side note within a side note: I feel like eggs are just as much meat as a slab of pork. Also, fish is meat! If you’re a pescetarian, say that, don’t say you’re a vegetarian! Just because they don’t have feet doesn’t mean they’re not animals) But then I triumphantly returned to meat and never looked back…until this week, that is). I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up eggs. One of my favorite things about weekends is making big fancy scrambles/tortas/egg-situations. I also love cheese because…you know what, I don’t need to justify that. Everyone loves cheese. Every. One. I also don’t like the idea of those fake veggie cheeses and meats. If you’re not going to eat meat, don’t break up with it, and then sneak around with it’s inbred and creepy cousin that needs a lot of condiments to cover up the taste. Most vegan patties = a vessel for sauce.

But back on topic. Vegan: how do we start? With the internet, of course. After a quick trip on my trusted food blogging sites, I found a few recipes that made the cut. The first:

Andalucian Chickpea and Spinach Stew – Big Girls Small Kitchen

I’ve actually had my eye on this before, and never ended up making it, so when I found out it was vegan it worked out perfectly. And this recipe couldn’t be easier! Take beautiful and nutritious veggies (spinach, onions, tomatoes, garlic) and sauté them in stages until most of their nutrients are gone (waah-waah) with some tasty spices (smoked spanish paprika, cumin).

Is this what taller people see?

Add some water and vegetable stock, simmer more. Pop in the oven.

I know what you’re thinking. “Is that a genuine Hotpoint?”

Now, here’s the issue I ran into. It says put in the oven for about 20 minutes at 250 and you should be right as rain. I did not have that fortune. I ended up keeping it in for about 25 extra minutes, and turning it up to 400 in order to absorb the liquid and soften the chickpeas. This was the 2 minute countdown for the initial 20 minutes. You can imagine my impatience when I realized I had to keep it in longer.

But all the waiting paid off. The stew, coupled with a “take and bake” whole grain french baguette made quite the meal (a few times over). I didn’t even miss the animal product (animal product. what a gross term)

I wish I still had some left just looking at it. Delicious.

Another great thing about this dish: it’s cheap!

Poached Egg Salad with Roasted Beets and Toasted Pecans or: How I spent my Election Night

9 Nov

I’m going rouge. No recipe. No famous chefs. Just guts and glory (ok Erica, calm down).

At the Farmer’s Market on Saturday I picked up some beautiful salad greens and a bunch of beets (bunch as in term of volume, not in a slang-y way, although I suppose they’re about the same) and have not had a chance to do anything with them…until now! And to top it all off, we just got a “new” dining room table and chairs for the apartment, so it was time to celebrate. I saw “new” because it is used and off craigslist, but WHAT a steal of a deal (unfortunately it smells like moth balls…extremely potent moth balls, as in, walking into the living room you’re hit with a wave of moth ball smelling funk, but hey, Jah invented febreeze for a reason). And plus, we didn’t have a real table, just a coffee table. That 3 of us all try to eat off of. And it’s about 18 inches wide. Think about that: 1.5 feet. That barely fits a plate and glass of water. Sidenote: when we first moved in, John and I didn’t have any furniture except for a big comfy chair, and the TV. For a week we would literally take turns being able to sit in “the chair” for dinner, the other would just sit on the hard wood floor. Have you ever sat on a hardwood floor, with nothing to even lean against, and try to eat? It’s impossible to look cool. 

But for this salad, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to make. I had the beets, greens, a sweet potato, eggs, and goat cheese. Boom, salad. At the last minute I decided to make sweet potato fries instead of roasting them for the salad because who doesn’t like a side of sweet potato fries? It was the perfect way to spend Election night 2012 (how hard is it not to say Erection night?).

Sweet Potato Fries:

  • Preheat oven to 450F
  • Cut your sweet potato up into fry-like strips (I like to keep the skins on), and put into a large bowl.
  • Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil in, and then go to town with some seasonings (I used some garlic powder, paprika, and Market Day’s “A Salt for All Seasons”). And toss. Keep tossing. Think you’re done? Toss a little more. (when in doubt, toss more, so you don’t get those bites that are WAY too seasoned, and then those that have none).
  • Spread on parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes (stir them around once or twice while they’re baking).
  • Try to let cool before diving in.

Toss Toss Toss Toss Toss

I was going to make some type of horseradish aioli, but good old fashioned ketchup is never a bad thing either…

While these were baking, I started the beets. And by started, I mean roasted at the same time.

Rosted Beets:

  • Preheat oven to 450F
  • Peel and quarter beets. Toss with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet.
  • Roast for 30(ish) minutes (stirring a few times), or until beets are cooked through (can be pierced with a fork) and are carmel-y and sweet.
  • And don’t get rid of those beet greens! Cut off the stems, and sauté them up in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes!

If you’ve ever stepped foot in my apartment, you’ll notice this wood grain from the kitchen…floor. That’s right. We’re taking artistic chances up in this piece.

These are also really great tossed with pasta

The beet-aftermath

A few fun facts about beets. One: they make your pee pink. Don’t be alarmed when you “accidentally” look back (or look down, fellas) and see pink. For like 3 days. Two: they can tell you if you need more fiber in your diet by…how do I put this, wreaking havoc on your bowels. If you’re eating enough fiber, you won’t be affected by them too much. However, if your fiber is lacking, you will feel like you shot gunned 3 x Fiber One bars. But, this is only if you are eating a lot of beets (more than 3 in one sitting). Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

And for the “meat” of the salad: The Poached egg. I had a real phobia of poached eggs for a while. You DROP them into boiling water and they cook? I don’t see how I could successfully execute this. So I went into one of my former boss’s office (who happens to be a chef) and asked him, in a very timid manner “so…uh…poached eggs. How.” And he just gave me a blank stare. “They’re not that difficult.” I was dumbfounded. How could they not be hard and at a grand wizard skill level (yikes, is a “Grand Wizard” a KKK term?). But he explained to me how to do it, and that night, I went home and successfully poached 2 eggs. I then sent him the following picture, and this text conversation ensued (I couldn’t find the original transcript, so this is somewhat of a dramatization).

Me: I did it!
Him: What did you do on your Friday night? Poached some eggs, you? Texted about poaching eggs.

To this day I think that is the funniest text I’ve ever gotten. Except maybe a recent photo I got from my sister of her being elbowed in the face during the tossing of the bouquet at a wedding. We’ll call it a tie.

And this is what he told me. Poached Eggs:

  • Crack an egg into a ramekin.
  • Place a pot of water with a glug of vinegar on the stove and bring to an ALMOST boil (you want to see the bubbles on the bottom of the pot, but no movement). The vinegar helps to coagulate the whites in the egg. You don’t’ necessarily need the vinegar (it does add a slight taste) but I have always (in my 5 months of egg-poaching) used it.
  • Take a spoon and give the water a swirl so a small cyclone forms in the middle of the water. Pour cracked egg into the middle of the cyclone in one smooth motion. The cyclone helps form the egg.
  • Let cook for 2-4 minutes. Or you can be like me and let it cook for too long, you know, just because.
  • Enjoy.

I stole this ramekin from Angelico, an “Italian” place in Tenleytown in Washington, DC my freshmen year at American University. The stolen gift that keeps on giving.

See the small bubbles? This is actually a little premature, I would wait about 3 more minutes past this point

 

In you go

 

And lastly, the roasted Hazelnuts.

  • Spread nuts on baking sheet. Put in oven (I just used the heated 450F oven from the beets and sweet potatoes). Wait a few minutes. It’s roasted nut time.

When they’re hot right out of the oven, they sizzle in your mouth! Ouch/Yum

Place everything on the greens, top with some crumbled goat cheese, and it’s time for salad…time. Damnit.

Just. Delightful.

It’s a slam dunk.

 

Saffron Risotto with White-Wine Clams and Peas

7 Nov

You know those (more than one) opened half-full bags of brown rice you have no idea when you bought, but you refuse to get rid of them because “brown rice is good for you, you guys” and so you move with them multiple times. Multiple times. No? Well then, this rice is freshly harvested from the…paddy?

As I mentioned before, I MAY or may not have a lot of brown rice I don’t make good use of (and bulgur wheat as well. Why, why would I have a lot of bulgur wheat? I’ve made things with bulgur wheat about 4 times in the past 3 years, and apparently I bought a BRAND NEW bag each time because sliding the cans over 3.4 inches to the right was too much of challenge for me, so there goes another $3.99!) so I’ve decided to seek out some brown rice recipes. I made a really great brown rice chicken and apricot stew earlier, but I completely forgot to take pictures (way to go, blog comeback) so let’s pretend this is the first and only brown rice venture I’ve made this week! Good? Great.

I’ve selected a recipe from the tried and true Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. I fall in love with this book all over again each time I make a recipe. Quinoa, Oat Berries, Brown Rice, BULGUR; there have been so many new grains, and I can finally fit in at the People’s Food Co-Op bulk section. Normally a “can I help you find anything ma’am?” is met with a “oh no thank you, I’ve found the chocolate covered {anything}, and I intend to shamefully eat all of it before I reach my car.” And no, it was never a vegan chocolate. But now, I can hold my head up and say “now, there’s the quinoa, am I just not seeing the RED quinoa?” (by the way, red quinoa is WAAY more expensive than normal quinoa, and tastes about the same, without the cool red color).

Back to the recipe.

I was drawn to Saffron Risotto with White-Wine Clams and Peas because, hi, how could you not be? I have some saffron I got in Spain last January, which I was thrilled about, yet feel like I can never use it because it’s Saffron from Spain, which makes it fancy and exotic, and Saffron is supposedly so expensive (I’m pretty sure the Saffron I have isn’t 100% real, and it doesn’t beak my heart, the price was right, and I had a traveler’s culinary shopping high). But then again, here I am 10 months after my trip to Spain with nary a thread of Saffron used, so the time had come.

In the pot everyone is equal: peasant onions with royal saffron. Look how well they play together.

While you’re par cooking the brown rice (meaning you cook it until it’s ALMOST done, then you finish it in the dish), and cooking up the onions and saffron, you’re supposed to prepare the fresh clams. Well, I opted for a different type of clam.

When I was younger we used to add these to our spaghetti sauce and it was delightful.

So naturally everytime I read a line about preparing the clams, I thought to myself “oh yes, I’ll prepare the clams, the CAN of clams” (aaaaand villain laugh).

Once you add the par boiled rice to the saffron party, it’s white wine time. Well, it so happens I had less than 25% of the white wine I needed, so I grabbed a close second: red wine. As I was pouring it in, I felt like I was breaking a culinary rule, like how real beer drinkers never drink beer out of a frosted glass, but if my brown rice baby needs wine, by god, he’ll have it! Flavor-wise I don’t think it made a big difference since it was cooked down so much, and because the rice was brown, the color didn’t change much either.

Once the rice is prepared (chicken stock and a lot of stirring) it’s time for the FROZEN peas. I know, cans of clams, possibly fake Saffron, frozen peas, red wine; what’s next?! But the recipe actually called for frozen peas, which is just fine with me since now I have something to put on a shiner (read: black eye) in case the need arises.

Check out those frosty peas

The peas get a little stir, the clams get added along with some parmesan, butter, salt, and pepper, and boom, it’s risotto time.

That pea looks MASSIVE

As I mentioned before, I love this book, and I really liked this dish. It lasted for about 4 meals (2 for me and 2 for John, although John’s 1 meal is about 1.83 of my meals, so really it lasted 5.66 meals).

Man those plate/bowls make everything look fancier!

Cauliflower-Leek Soup and Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts or: How I spent my Halloween

5 Nov

What do you do when it’s Halloween night, you don’t know anyone to go out with, and it’s cold? You blog-cook!

Earlier I mentioned I had some recipes in mind for this week, and I thought I’d hit the ground running with some tasty treats of the vegetable persuasion. Plus I’ve been eating candy all week in honor of the mighty Ween of Hallows, so some veggies should do the trick of kickstarting the old ticker.

The recipes selected:

Dijon-Braised Brussel Sprouts – Smitten Kitchen

Cauliflower Leek Soup – Green Kitchen Stories

At this point no one should be in the dark about these two sites. Smitten Kitchen is all around AMAZING and Green Kitchen Stories is healthy, innovative and delicious. I wonder what the talk about my blog is “Now Entering Flavor Country….sure is on the internet.”

I’ve been wanting to make a fall-ish soup, but John isn’t a fan of my butternut squash soup (“it has too many onions”…that amount DOES NOT EXIST) so I wanted to venture into new soup territory: Cauliflower. It’s tasty, it’s creamy, it’s low carb….blah blah blah. It’s a winner, and it’s a really easy soup to make!  Sauté up all he veggies (unlike the squash, where you roast all the veggies), add water and chicken broth (there is no broth in the original recipe, I added that for my selfish carnivorous ways), boil until everything is tender, immersion blender time, and you’re in the cauliflower business.  What’s nice about this soup is it uses lemon, which really plays well with the creaminess of the cauliflower. I actually added twice the amount of lemon juice, and then added some healthy “dashes” of sumac (that chili powder-looking spice that’s always on the top of good-quality hummus, it has a really great citrus flavor). Simmer for all the flavors to incorporate, top with…wait, are those old bay seasoned pumpkin seeds baked in my very own oven….and some additional sumac. En-Joy.

No, thank you, Trader Joe’s seeded baguette

While the soup was simmering, I began the brussels sprouts (I’m going to take you back in time). Sidenote: I never knew until just now that it was Brussels Sprouts, not Brussel Sprouts (without the extra “s”). Apparently they’re very popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have been originated there…coincidence? I think so, yes, definitely, that must be it. 100%. So to begin these bad boys, let’s take some olive oil and butter, and let them dance across the pan:

HAVE you ever seen a sexier scene? Two tasty fats melting and mingling in a hot and sizzling pan. Excuse me, I need to wipe my drool away.

And then cut all the ‘sprouts in half, and put in said sexy mixture. The recipe warned about not over-crowding the pan, so it would be a good idea to do this in two batches. No thank you. I’m an impatient cook (as I’m sure you’ve put together), so I made this work!

Some may call it “over-crowding” of the pan. I call it “time-saving” of my evening.

In order to achieve the brown caramelize-y goodness needed from the recipe, I let the ‘sprouts sit in the pan longer since they…ahem…were a bit overcrowded. But anyhoo: top with some sliced shallots, white wine and chicken broth, let simmer until the ‘sprouts are tender (which took longer then the recipe indicated…I must be being punished for my overcrowding of the ‘sprouts, my apologies Smitten Kitchen). Now, take the ‘sprouts out of the braising liquid, and add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to make a thick delicious sauce (olive oil + butter + heavy cream = tasty and not terrible because it’s just a little bit of everything so I’m not going to feel guilty!), and then drizzle over the ‘sprouts. I had to purchase a container of heavy cream, of course, and might I just say again WHY DON’T THEY COME IN SMALLER CONTAINERS! But it’s alright, we’re using it for weekend coffee, I have a few other recipes I can pop it in, and maybe I’ll just make some more Naughty Rhubarb Scones (minus the rhubarb).

Green Brussels Sprouts on a green plate. Erica, you’ve done it again.

And here, my Halloween feast:

Do you see that pumpkin in the background? I won “Most Scary” at a work pumpkin carving party. I won a gift card to the movies. Most. Successful. Halloween. Ever.

A glass of apple cider (which is always really tasty for about 2 sips, and then it’s just too sweet and makes your mouth tacky), and some candy to top off the meal, because, hey, it’s Halloween!

ful-filled

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