Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eclairs with Chestnut Cream

You must forgive me for not having a clue how this recipe went together.  Eclairs used to be one of my favorites, and chestnut puree (marron glace) still is a rare treasure.  So when Emily offered up this combination, I couldn't refuse.  She then launched into a research frenzy - dissecting and compiling the best aspects of each eclair recipe she could find before firing up the stand mixer.  (She does this often, usually with good results.)  The upshot is that I have no way of telling you how to replicate exactly the flavor and texture combinations created in our household , but I can give you a hint.  She found these recipes for the cream puff dough and the chesnut cream particularly inspiring.  Good luck!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deviled Eggs

When I was a kid, I used to eat only the whites of a hard-boiled egg and throw the chalky yolks away.  Little did I know that like-minded cooks had already invented the deviled egg to solve just that problem.  They are a great app for holding you over rather than just making you more hungry, and you can mix in a great variety of things.  These are a Martha Stewart recipe and use thyme.  You can be free to experiment with the flavorings, slightly more/less mayo, different kinds of vinegars or mustards.  I saw a recipe for roasted red peppers mixed in that looked like a great idea.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Homemade Marshmallows

Some people like the cocoa, some people like the marshmallows.  Well, if you are tired of those microscopic marshmallows in the Swiss Miss packet, I have a recipe for you.  These homemade cubes are man-sized.  There is a lot of sugar in the recipe, but the liquid is really where the potential for greatness lies.  The basic recipe is here.  Variations we have tried include peppermint (use water and a tsp of peppermint extract) and apple cider (use cider and some apple-friendly spices).  One marshmallow per mug.

 On a side note, we happened to have a really great cup of hot chocolate the other day at Pitango Gelato on P Street in DC.  It's a steal compared to the other prices in the shop, and it is well worth it - in consideration for my "best of" list.  According to their website, they are also in Baltimore and Reston.  They don't top with marshmallows, but definitely don't refuse the whipped cream - it is top quality.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake

Try this cake if you are a lemon lover.  It's winter time now and that means it is time for citrus.  The Meyer lemons for this cake did not come from our tree - we had three flowers on it, but no fruit yet - they came from a surprisingly cheap bag of them at Whole Foods.  They get sliced up thinly and put into the cake rind and all.  The recipe is a good one - the cake is moist and the topping crunchy, crumbly and sweet.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Okay, now that some of the holidays are behind us,  I can start to fill you in on some of the things that happened in our kitchen.  Here is one of the really good ones: gougeres.  These are a French type of cheesy puff with big taste.  The traditional ones are made with gruyere cheese, and that how these were made.  For a second batch we tried manchego with very similar, but maybe not quite as good results.  The comments on the recipe's main page are correct - there is indeed too much salt in the recipe.  We took it down to 1.5 tsp the second time around and they came out less powerfully salty.  They are great right out of the oven when a puff of steam emerges as you break it open.  Try not to eat them all right then, they do save for a nice appetizer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pork and Pinto Bean Chili

I made this "chili" recipe out of the dozen or so on Martha's website, recipe here.  I was impressed with the Texas Chili recipe and I wanted to try another.  I picked it for a couple of reasons.  One was the choice of chilis - roast poblanos which are a slightly hot, but flavorful.  Another was the achiote paste, which I had not used before.  I learned that achiote is a ground form of annatto, which is bright red.  Finally, it was a pork-based chili, which I am not accustomed to, and I thought that maybe it had potential.

What came out was great for a snow day, but it was more of a spicy bean soup than a chili.  Serve as a stew over rice, or just stick with Texas style.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Polenta Quickbread with Lemon and Thyme

Martha occasionally does an article on a theme and posts a lot of recipes online with variations on that theme.  This one was quickbreads which I must say is an appealing concept.  There is never enough time to make them all, but so far, I think that you do better reading the recipes carefully and picking the best one anyway.  At first they all look amazing, but then as you get serious about picking a recipe, suddenly none of them seem that appealing.  This quickbread was interesting... it appears on the surface to be more of a savory bread, but in fact is a bit sweet.  It's not quite a dessert, not quite a plain cornbread.  The lemon-thyme flavors are nice, but what does it go with?  The recipe is here.  This subject is worth returning to for further evaluation.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad

I wonder if you have gotten all you can out of this year's butternut squash season?  This is a nice little salad that makes a filling winter meal, but is still light.  The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, and though I don't rave about eating this one over and over again forever, I can see how it would be a good standby.  We actually did the make-ahead directions a little differently - we roasted a big batch of squash and used half of it in another recipe and saved half for this recipe.  When you do that it mixes up very quickly for a weeknight meal.  The salad does benefit from being a little bit warm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quick Pork Tenderloin Dinner

It has been too long since I cooked meat and potatoes - I forgot how easy it is.  Salad, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, roast pears, and a little pork tenderloin.  There is no recipe for this because each item is very simple.  Cranberry sauce: it's on the bag - boil a cup of water and a cup of sugar, throw in the berries and cook.  Salad: pull some leaves off a head of lettuce, put 1/2 vinegar 1/2 oil in a jar, shake, and pour.  Potatoes:  peel and cut 2 potatoes into 6 chunks, boil until soft, mash, add salt, milk, and butter until they taste good.  Pork and pears: Salt and pepper raw tenderloin, brown all sides in a skillet on med-high, throw in quartered pears, put whole pan in 400 degree oven.  If you get in the groove, I bet you could have all this on the table in half an hour - the trick is to get them all going at once.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Swiss Chard and Italian Sausage Lasagna

I've gotten a number of comments from readers that they would like to see come recipes posted.  While I want to continue the quicker "journaling" aspect of the blog, I've decided that certain recipes merit further attention and modification, and that readers might like things broken down in a bit more detail.

So I'm starting with this Swiss Chard Lasagna, or Christmas Lasagna for short since my version is red, green and white.  The red color comes from the Red Swiss Chard stems, not tomato sauce, and the green comes from the leaves.  White is the color of the bechamel and fontina cheese, which makes this taste luxurious and addictive.  It's based on a Martha Stewart recipe, which can be found in its original form here.

Let's get the noodle discussion out of the way before we dive into the recipe.  Fresh is best.  No surprise there, but it takes some time and equipment to go this way.  We have a pasta roller attachment to our stand mixer which makes relatively quick work and nice-looking noodles.  Alternatives that can be found in the store are standard dried pasta and the no-boil kind.  The standard kind can be a pain to boil - requiring a large pot and longer cook time, but no dough prep time.  It yields a thicker, softer noodle.  The no-boil kind are super easy - you just layer the dry noodles right into the lasagna pan, but I can't guarantee results in this recipe without testing.  These noodles soak up moisture from the sauce, so the recipe that follows would need to be adjusted to add more bechamel or you risk a dry lasagna.  in general they are thinner and have a little bite, which is okay, but still not the same as fresh.  My inclination is to use these with tomato-based sauces where adding extra sauce tastes good and won't make the dish too rich.

The basic pasta recipe we use is derived from a Chez Panisse cookbook:  Mix 3 cups flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/3 cup water in a large bowl.  This will not be enough water, so you will need to add just enough to get the dough to stick together.  This is a dry, dense, "strong" dough that is probably very unlike other types of dough.  Moisture content is a key parameter, and according to Emily should be the consistency of dry playdough.  You want smooth and firm dough - not tacky or something that would stick to the rollers of the pasta machine.  One or two tries using the pasta machine and you will get it - the rollers can work wonders.  Knead the dough by hand for 15 minutes - it will be too strong for the stand mixer.  Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes.  Then cut it into 8 equal portions and roll out in the pasta machine.  We used number 5 thickness on the pasta machine. These noodles boil up in 2 minutes.

Red chard should look beautiful in the store when it's in season late autumn.  The red stalks are bright and the greens are deep and crisp.  This is a good hearty fall recipe.

Swiss Chard and Italian Sausage Lasagna (Christmas Lasagna)
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2008
Serves 8

Chard and Sausage Filling:
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, meat crumbled into small pieces
3 shallots, peeled and diced
2 pounds Red Swiss chard (two big bunches)
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 lemon's zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from the lemon
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

Bechamel Sauce:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 onion, 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups 2% milk

Fresh Lasagna Noodles
5 ounces fontina cheese, finely grated

1. Prep your filling ingredients.  Separate the chard leaves from the stems by running a sharp knife along both sides of the stem.  Rinse the stems, discard the ends, and then thinly slice cross-wise in two batches.  Run the leaves through a salad spinner, grab them all together and chop roughly crosswise into 1/4" strips.  Prep the shallots, garlic and lemon zest.

2. Heat oil in a large regular saute pan.  Remove casings from sausage and cook on medium high heat, breaking up sausage into smaller and smaller pieces until well browned and cooked through, 6-7 minutes.  Transfer to paper-towel lined plate.

3. Immediately add chard stems and shallots.  As they release their water, scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate pan juices and fond into the chard.  Cook until soft, 6-8 minutes.  Add leaves and cook, stirring so the leaves wilt evenly, 1-2 minutes.  Add garlic, lemon zest, and salt and stir.  Cook another 3 minutes until wilted and turn off heat.   Stir in lemon juice and transfer to a colander to drain.

4. Preheat the oven to 400.  Make the bechamel.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until incorporated. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring gently and often, until thickened and creamy, about 10 minutes. While bechamel is cooking, start a pot of water to cook the fresh noodles.  Remove from heat.

5. Get out a 9x13 baking dish and cover the bottom with a layer of bechamel sauce.  Cut your pasta noodles to size and cook.  With fresh pasta you can work in batches by layer - they only need to boil for 2 minutes and drain for a few seconds.  Start the layering with a noodle.  Then cover with 1/3 the chard and 1/3 the sausage and some bechamel sauce.  See the amount we used in the pictures above - this amount tasted just right to us - you won't use all the sauce.  Repeat until you use all your ingredients.  Top with a noodle, then bechamel, and then grated fontina.  Don't skip the bechamel on top as it keeps the noodle soft.  I have seen others that like to put cheese in the layers - stay away from this - the top really works the best.

6. Bake until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve with a vinegary salad on the side.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spinach Mushroom Swiss Eggs

Since the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I have been taking a little break from serious planning and cooking, preferring instead to eat the stockpiles of prepared food in the freezer, or whip something simple up for a quick meal.  I am posting this picture mostly because it is green, and there is too much brown food showing itself recently here, when the truth is that fruits and greens intersperse themselves throughout every meal in this house.  Eggs are my mainstay for times such as these.  The other night I did egg-chorizo-cubanelle tacos.  In Chicago I made tomato-fontina-chicken andouille-spinach for a brunch with friends (the opportunity for which I am most appreciative).  A late brunch this Sunday morning was in sandwich form.  For the mushrooms, saute them in butter and thyme until well browned.  Then cook the eggs, and mix in the mushrooms, swiss cheese, and spinach at the end so the leaves just wilt.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Apple-Onion Tart

I hate it that this recipe is good.  Martha went overboard with the prep time on this.  So much so that Emily gave up ever having dinner the night she started making it.  We put everything in the fridge and waited a couple days to get the strength up to finish.  When we sat down to eat, we were ready to dismiss this recipe to the memory hole... but it was good.  The onion and apple really blended their flavors into something a bit unique, and the butter crust went well with it.  Savory but sweet.  Onion soup lovers might want to give this a try.  But don't wait until after Thanksgiving, because it's some work.  You may have noticed a lag in the postings... just getting my feet back on the ground after the holiday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Roasted Parsnip Bread Pudding

Being a bread pudding fan, and in general a fan of savories over sweets, I tried this recipe from Martha Stewart.  It uses parsnips and thyme for an earthy fall flavor.  What makes it a pudding rather than a stuffing is probably the base ingredient list: brioche, cream, and eggs.   I subbed out half the cream for milk, and even so this recipe is still best saved for when you really need a comfort food or are having trouble finding a vegetarian stuffing that hits the spot.  To my surprise I think that I prefer the richness of a bread pudding in a sweet version.  Save the killer parsnip-thyme combo for a more conventional stock-based stuffing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


What is there to say about granola?  Let's see.  It goes with fruit and yogurt.  It's got a healthy vibe to it due to it having whole oats, and nuts, and seeds and things.  It's about $5 a bag in the store - expensive in my book.  It's why they call tree-hugging liberals "crunchy."  And I eat it with a banana and cup of Dannon yogurt every day for breakfast.

This granola is Emily's creation, based on this recipe.  It's not hard to make your own based on what you like, and to get the right amount of sweetness.  This one has lots of oats and pepitas which we had lying around the pantry, and used maple syrup as a sweetener.  She also fired up the yogurt-maker this past weekend.  We'll often pile a bowl full of fruit, some granola or cereal, a bit of jam or preserves, and pour homemade plain yogurt over the top and call it a quick, easy, satisfying meal.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Fusion of two great desserts: pumpkin pie and bread pudding has been achieved in the laboratory.  Emily made this recipe using brioche made from scratch.  If you like the crispy bits, take a scrape off the top.  If, on the other hand, you like warm custardy comfort, take a deep scoop.  Pumpkin pairs very well with bread pudding, and this is worth a try.  On the other hand, what doesn't pair well with bread pudding?  Home-made brioche does take this up a notch - and the best part is that you have leftovers that can be frozen for french toast the next time you have a leisurely breakfast.  Don't neglect a tasty bourbon or something similar... just the right amount adds great flavor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Butternut Squash Pasties

There is something magical about meat pies.  Eating this recipe, I think the magic for me is in Emily's pastry dough and not the meat.  This is a vegetarian version of the Cornish Pasty (PAST-ee), but it still has some of that signature taste I might have thought was due to tasty meat, but in fact found here with the butternut squash.  The recipe is here.  You can see a bit of the filling cooked in a ramekin to the side.

We watched a couple of youtube videos of Cornish "nans" making pasties.  The fascinating bit was how they seal the dough so it looks rolled over itself.  Shown here, it's the same technique as is used in Bolivian saltenas and it always baffled me how it was done.  Next time, I want to try crimping on top of the pie using this technique so it sits upright rather than on its side.  I think that will result in a neater pie that more evenly stretches the dough.  (I would also like to try reducing slightly the amount of butter in the crust... not too much though.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pomegranate Rice Balls

We are going to friend's for Thanksgiving, and this is a test run in the search for the perfect appetizer to bring.  It caught my eye in Martha Stewart's December issue because of the pomegranate.  Basically, it is a ball of risotto with fontina cheese and pomegranate that is breaded and fried.  It came out well, the main problem being that the pomegranate won't stick to anything!  I lost some in the bowl forming the balls, some on the tray waiting, some in the bread crumbs, some in the egg wash, and some in the frying pan.  The ones that managed to make it onto the plate gave a nice fruity burst to the risotto.

I think this is a keeper for Thanksgiving.  My strategy for improvement next time is going to be to press in pomegranate and cheese into a tray of the risotto while it cools.  Then I can slice it into squares once it is cold and hopefully lock the pomegranate in place.  It will also fry faster in a square than in a ball shape (which is meant for deep frying).

The squares worked out really well... I could have packed more pomegranate in than I did.  The whole process was much neater, faster, and more even.  I also upped the flavor in the risotto by using a little chicken broth instead of plain water.  Here's the revised recipe, let me know how it works out.

Pomegranate Fontina Rice Squares
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2009
Makes about 32 largish squares

Plenty of vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
3 chicken bouillon cubes
4 oz grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz diced fontina cheese
1 pomegranate, seeded
4 cups fine breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten with a little water

1.  Use a large heavy bottom saucepan for the rice.  First heat 2 Tbsp veg oil over medium heat and cook the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the rice and stir, toasting for 3 minutes.  Add wine.  Raise heat to med-high and cook until wine has reduced by half, 3 minutes.

2. Add 2 cups water and rosemary sprigs.  Throw in one of the bouillon cubes.  Stir and cook, paying close attention to the rice.  Let the rice absorb the water, then add two more cups and a bouillon cube.  Martha says about 6 cups, but really you have to keep tasting it to get it the way you want.  It should look creamy and cheesy even before you add the cheese.  Risotto is supposed to be "toothsome" but nit have a hard center.  I still haven't quite figured it out, but you should know it when you taste it.

3. Add Parmesan and butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and pour out the mixture onto the sheet.  It should be thick.  Spread it into an even layer about 3/4" thick.  Let it cool a little bit on the counter.  Then grab your pomegranate and cubed fontina and pour it out over the rice.  Press the seeds and cheese into the rice as best you can and smooth over the top when you are done.  You really want as much pomegranate as you can cram in without it looking like it will fall apart.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

4. Prep your frying area.  Get the bread crumbs and egg wash set up.  Put a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of veg oil in a  pan and heat over medium high heat.    Take the rice out of the fridge and slice into squares.  Dredge in bread crumbs, then egg, then bread crumbs again, and put in the frying pan.  Give it about 2 minutes a side or until nicely golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate, then to a serving tray.  Sprinkle a little coarse salt on top and maybe some parsley or whatever you have for color.

These are tasty, but also quite filling.  Sorry there's no picture of the square version, but they were looking snazzy at Thanksgiving neatly tiled in a rectangular silver tray.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stuffed Roast Sweet Potatoes

This shot is from a picnic lunch at the Arboretum.  Roast sweet potatoes make a great lunch or quick dinner.  They are simple to roast - drop them in the oven at 350 for an hour or an hour and a half - until they start to ooze sweetly and then even a little longer.  I have never over-roasted one.  They save in the fridge for a quick re-heat in the microwave.  The skin separates nicely from the flesh so they are easy to eat neatly with a fork or by hand.

This topping we found is genius.  Either halve the potato or set it up so you can mash in the sauces if you want.  Find an asian sweet chili sauce (Trader Joe's has one) and pour generously.  Sprinkle with soy sauce.  Add some fresh basil or greens and bean sprouts if you have them.  Squeeze a little lime on top and you can eat these all week.  (Emily is going to.)  Simple, quick, cheap, addictive.  Let me know if you discover any other great stuffings.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sopa Tarasca

This is a bean and tomato soup recipe from Michoacan, Mexico and brought to us by NPR's column.  As Emily pointed out, I think I have an affinity for pureed beans in soups.  They give a creamy fullness to soups that is heartier than cream and probably better for you.  And they pair especially well with a gentle round heat from chiles, whereas cream tends to counteract heat.  I think that is the reason this recipe is so good - the single ancho chile that it uses.  The other thing I changed about the recipe was the tomatoes.  Fresh tomatoes from the store, especially in wintertime, are pathetic and flavorless.  I used about half the tomatoes from a 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, and all the juice from the can to cook them in.  As for the toppings, I had some red pepper, and also sliced and pan fried some corn tortillas, and used the sour cream I had on hand.  Technically this soup is not vegetarian because I threw in some chicken boullion cubes instead of just water at the end.  I would contend that those cubes have so little actual chicken in them that if the FDA set a legal limit to call something "vegetarian" it would probably be under the limit.  But hey, you could always try a vegetable stock or just water.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apple Pate de Fruit

Emily's latest creation is a really good apple fruit roll-up.  Cut with a cookie cutter and served with cheddar cheese, it it quite tasty.  Actually, it makes me rethink my dismissal of the fruit roll-up as kiddie snacks.  Recipe here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simple Grilled Veggies with Polenta

When I do get a chance to grill, I put as much stuff as I can over the coals because I can always use it later, and you can't get the smoky flavor many other ways.  So beside the octopus were a poblano pepper, a red bell pepper, portobello muchrooms, pipian squash, and cauliflower.  Today I reheated them in the oven and mixed up some polenta to go with.  Polenta is really nothing more than cornmeal, so it's on hand and easy to do.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

DC Favorites 2009

Here is my full list of the "best of" yummy things in DC.  Coming soon to a Google Map.

There are no hard and fast rules to this list, but:
  1. The intent is to as much as possible identify particular items, not simply restaurants, that are great
  2. Nothing should go on here unless it as been ordered on at least 2 occasions and been great both times
  3. There must be one "best" - e.g. there can't be two best brick oven pizzas
  4. If you try something off this list, let me know if you agree of have had better!
Here it is:
  • Chinatown Express (6th and H): Steamed Pork Buns
  • Pan American Bakery (Columbia Pike): Bolivian Saltenas
  • Pho 95 (Rockville Pike): Pho Bo Vien
  • Jaleo (7th and F): Tapas
  • El Pollo Rico (Virginia Square): Charbroiled Chicken
  • Nando's (7th and H): Butterflied Chicken
  • 2 Amys (Cathedral): Brick Oven Pizza
  • Maine Ave Fish Market (Waterfront): Fried Catfish Sandwich
  • Teaism (8th and D): Chicken Bento Box
  • Panera (Anywhere): Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
  • Giuseppe's (Rockville): Pizzeria style Pizza
  • Lebanese Taverna (Pentagon Row, Woodley Park): Kibbeh, Lebneh
  • Vegetable Garden (Rockville Pike): Vegetarian
  • Cracker Barrel (Anywhere): Turnip Greens and Biscuits
  • Burma (6th and H): Salads
  • Tako Gill (Bethesda): Sushi appetizers
  • La Flor de La Canela (Gaithersburg): Ceviche Mixto
  • Breadline (Farragut): Bread, French Ham Sandwich
  • Le Pain Quotidien (Old Town): Sourdough Rye Bread
  • Southside 815 (Old Town): Carolina Pulled Pork Nachos

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Octo Feast

Inspired by some excellent marinated octopus we had in Portland Oregon several years ago, the recent NPR article that contained this recipe, my trip to the Eden Center, I had to try an octopus recipe.  The recent discovery of grills-in-the-park in Arlington and 70 degree weather last Saturday made this possible.  I have spared you pictures of the cute baby octopi that defrosted so nicely.  Needless to say I had to clean them myself.

Nine octopi were marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette and made three kebabs.  They cooked for three minutes a side just until the tips were charred.

Yummy.   I didn't get the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness I hoped for, but they were pretty tasty and not rubbery.  If these guys weren't overfished I would do this more often.  But seeing as these guys came from Thailand, I'm probably not going to do this again for a long time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turkish Eggs

What you are looking at is two soft-poached eggs surrounded by a garlicky plain yogurt and drizzled with a spicy sage butter.  You can see the sage leaves and the paprika that come from the butter sauce.  On the side is the pita bread you use to mop this deliciousness up.  The eggs are soft-poached for only three minutes, and the spices are warmed to release their flavor in the hot butter.  Recipe is here. Would be great for a brunch.  We happened to have it right before darting off to the Kennedy Center.  Beware garlic breath!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Corn Lemongrass Soup

Winter is almost here and we're doing at least one soup a week.  They freeze well too and will come in handy later.  This recipe is an interesting combo that Emily tried out.  Unfortunately we couldn't find the fresh lemongrass and relied on some stuff out of the tube.  I know Harris Teeter usually carries it, but we struck out at Shoppers and Safeway, and hitting a third store would have been too much.  So we were left with a delicious butternut squash - corn soup.  Using a pemmer to puree the soup in the pot helps reduce the number of dirty dishes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spanish Tortilla

The Spanish tortilla is kind of hash browns and eggs combined into one, with onions cooked in.   It has lots of oniony flavor that doesn't really have the texture of eggs or potatoes, but something in between that I really like.  This recipe is from Cook's, and is the first one I have tried, despite wanting to make these for a long time.  The basic technique is to cook the onions and potatoes together, letting them steam and mingle, before finally pouring in the egg mixture at the last minute.  Great for a brunch or a Spanish breakfast.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

This is one of my creations, based (very) loosely on an attempt to recreate a spicy beef noodle soup I had in Allston, MA several years ago. I made my own beef stock from a couple pounds of beef back ribs. I followed my basic stock recipe for chicken applied to beef. Brown the meat, cover with water, add onions and garlic and a celery stalk, and simmer gently for as many hours as you have. After a couple hours I rescued the meat from washing out and pulled it off the bone, separating out the lean bits for later use in the soup. With the stock made, I bought wheat-based Chinese noodles, mustard greens, scallions, and garlic for the soup. When it was time to make the soup itself I added everything together, flavored the broth with soy sauce and fish sauce and served. Some extra sriracha sauce kicks it up a notch. The mustard greens turned out very well here.

Alongside this I made the Davod Lebovitz scallion pancake recipe. All I will say is that it shows lots of promise, but I need to try it again to make sure it's thin, and easy to eat.

Pizza with Mushrooms and Ricotta

Emily keeps getting better at pizza-making. This wet-doughed version had a wonderful thin-thin crust, with a generous puffy crust at the edges. The toppings were fresh basil, fresh mozz, and a mushroom-ricotta mixture leftover from a ravioli stuffing. Oven temp was reduced slightly to 460 degrees for this version.


Trimmings from the windowsill forest made this pesto. The recipe is inspired by David Lebovitz, but with a few key modifications. A blender was used. Walnuts were substituted for pine nuts. And some windowsill parsley was thrown in. I am a fan of walnuts in pesto because I like their hearty flavor. Jar this stuff and it is useful for all kinds of things...pasta, pizza, bread, or what have you.

Pear Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

This moist gingerbread cake bakes in a pan - the same pan that cooks the pears in brown sugar topping. Here is the recipe that Emily made. Bosc pears hold up nicely to cooking and are currently in season, so they are perfect for this recipe.

Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms

I picked this Mark Bittman recipe because I love Bok Choy and I had some oyster sauce to use up, which Bittman uses as the main sauce for this stir fry. The dried shitakes from the Eden Center were fragrant and woodsy, and in general very good, but they couldn't make up for the lack of fresh, crispy shitakes (the store didn't have any). Perhaps I ruined it, but there are tastier ways to make bok choy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Grape Tomato Pizza

At any pizza place that claims to be good, I always order a pizza Margherita, or something very close in order to judge the quality of the pizza without cover of super salty olives, spicy sauces, or thai-ginger chicken. When done well, you can't beat Margherita. Emily did very well with this one. Thin, crispy crust. Fresh basil picked from the window sill. Sweet grape tomatoes wilted in the 475 degree oven heat. A touch of olive oil and some mozzerella cheese and a slightly garlicky tomato sauce. Simple. I recommend a pizza stone. We leave it in the oven most of the time, as it adds some thermal mass to the oven and evens out the temperature fluctuations you get from the oven cycle and opening and closing the door (which you should do as little as possible.)

Barley Risotto with Mushroom and Carrot

Barley, quinoa, wheat berries, there are many other whole grains out there that taste great. Next time you are making a risotto, try pulling out the barley instead of the arborio rice. Emily whipped up this dish based on Deborah Madison's barley risotto in "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." I have found that this book is a staple, and really is for everyone, veg-head or not. I find that barley keeps a wonderful chewy bite that is even better than rice.

Spiced Chickpea and Tomato Soup

This is a thick, spicy tomato soup that is great on winter days. The recipe is from Martha, but it's an older one so you can find it online. It relies on canned crushed tomatoes, which are one of the great, reliable sources of tomato flavor, even in summertime - and pureed chick peas for body without cream. Don't skip the dollop sour cream, it is very nice. I will be eating this again soon.

Chinese Pork Noodles

There are many things to discover in pork stir fry. I have loved lo mein since I was a kid. Now I often find it too greasy, so this was an attempt to make it at home. Shopper's is great in latin american international, but their asian selection leaves much to be desired. These are egg noodles, but a bit too thin. The tenderloin is marinated in a brown rice wine and is quite tasty. There is also a whole Napa cabbage in here which gives it some nutritional value. Next time I will amp up the veggies and cut down a bit on the pork, but another solid asian recipe from Cook's.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vietnamese Inspiration

I am an advocate going into the grocery store with a plan of attack... a definite list based on your menu for the week. When you plan ahead and only buy what you need it wastes less food, costs less money, and is generally healthier because you stay away from impulse buys of packaged food. You get to where you spend most of your time in the produce section.

When you are in foraging mode, though, there is a little room to improvise. I went to the Eden center today. It's in Seven Corners, and is an high density concentration of Vietnamese bakery-delis, music, grocery, restaurants, and hair salons. It is absolutely great. Before setting out, I had a few ideas for the week:
What you see above is some of the haul. There was so much neat stuff there I had to restrain myself. I did however, buy some baby octopus. I just read the NPR article on them and plan to do the Uncle Nick's version they talk about. But I need to borrow a grill! Anyone? I won't be doing this regularly because octopus from Thailand are most probably not sustainably fished. But just this once.

This was my last stop, to get a Banh Mi. My favorite from high school is the meatball, so that's what I got. So delicious! If you haven't had one of these you must try it. There are about a 5 or other kinds I want to go back and try, not to mention the restaurants.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas for your week. I'll post these once I've made them. If you give them a try be sure to leave your comments.

Hit Cookies

Hit! Emily surpassed those European biscuit sandwich cookies with this recipe. They are good tea cookies - two buttery biscuits and a creamy chocolate filling. They were gone the next morning.