Pinchy would have wanted it this way

August 20, 2010

Someone is having fun with the Photoshop app on her phone!

I've always wanted to go to the Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine. I already have my and my husband's outfits planned. I will obviously wear my blue lobster t-shirt, and probably a stretchy skirt with plenty of space for belly expansion due to buttery crustacean consumption. He will wear his lobster polo shirt, lobster belt, lobster pants, and lobster flip-flops. And, obviously, his lobster hat. I think the only question that remains regarding his outfit will be which pair of lobster boxers to wear. Have I mentioned before that he likes lobster? He wrote a 35 page paper on the lobster industry, and even has an e-mail address mentioning lobsters. So DAMN STRAIGHT I learned to make a tasty lobster roll.

Lobster rolls
Makes about 10 rolls*

7 cooked and cooled lobsters
3/4 cup finely chopped celery - including the leaves! (this is the secret to a good roll)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
salt and pepper, to taste
10 top-split hot dog rolls (lightly toasted if you prefer them that way)

Pick the meat from lobsters and roughly chop it. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until just combined. For best results, cover and refrigerate for a few hours before stuffing into hot dog rolls.

*This is very easy to cut down. If you just want to make this for two people, use one lobster, about 2 tablespoons of celery, and just a tiny squirt of all the remaining ingredients.

Welcome back chicken

June 21, 2010

I've been neglecting my blog, I know. You may poke me in the eye with dried spaghetti as punishment. But I come bearing barbecue sauce - MADE WITH BOURBON - as a "please forgive me" gesture. I know this photo is terrible. It's from a video I took while camping at Assateague National Seashore, and it was getting dark outside. If you live anywhere near Assateague, and you've never been - it's so worth it. There are wild horses on the island, and you basically camp right on the beach. A few years ago (the first time I was there) the wild horses wandered into our campsite and tried to eat the corn we were grilling. It was a little awkward - I mean, didn't their horse moms teach them that food on the grill would be WAY too hot to eat right away? Plus I didn't even get a chance to spread it with a chive butter yet. Patience, my little horsie friends, patience! No horses wandered into our camp this year, possibly because the whole thing was ringed with poison ivy. There was so much it was almost comical. At least the horse moms taught their foals something.

Back to the sauce - I slathered it on some chicken thighs (bone in, skin off) and DAMN, was it good. So much so that I risked a horrible photo to share it with you. God - it's awful. It looks like something the National Enquirer would publish - "Look, there's a Sasquatch off in the woods making out with Nikki Haley!"

Bourbon bbq sauce (adapted from a July 2004 Bon Appetit recipe)
(makes enough sauce for 3-4 people)

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1/2 cup ketchup (Heinz is the only brand of ketchup one should ever use)
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon brown sugar (well packed)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons bourbon
6 chicken thighs or 12 chicken legs

Melt the butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan. Add the onions, and stir constantly until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in all the rest of the ingredients except the bourbon and let it come to a simmer, stirring often to keep it from burning. Let it bubble for about 10 minutes. Add the bourbon and cook for another minute or two. 

Keep sauce refrigerated until ready to use. Grill chicken thighs or legs until done on one side, then turn, and slather with sauce. Dredge the other side with sauce once you've taken them off the grill. 

Rampage: Part Pickle (with Baked Bean Bonus)

May 19, 2010

I tend to be a little scared of pickled foods that were not formerly cucumbers. Interesting tidbit: in the grocery store I shopped at in Glasgow, they had a whole wall of pickled items, which was across from the entire wall of baked beans - there were like a BAJILLION varieties of baked beans - it would blow your mind. One time, this (American) girl I knew in Scotland won a push-up contest at a bar, and she won her weight in baked beans. That is how seriously the Scots take their baked beans.

But - back to pickles.

So, at the grocery store, I once asked where the pickles were. The sales associate was confused - "Pickled what?" Because they pickle everything there. In fact, in the winter, people there drink so much they become pickled.

But as I've come to love my Shelburne Farms cookbook as much as a brotha from anotha motha, after seeing this ramp pickle recipe I really wanted to try my hand at non-cucumber pickles. And now I've made it three times in two years. It's super easy, and makes the ramp season last just a little bit longer. They are a little spicy, a little onion-y, and tangy and delicious. Eat them with anything you'd eat a regular pickle with - on the side of a sandwich for lunch, on top of a burger, as an interesting accoutrement to a cheese plate, etc.

Ramp Pickles, from Cooking with Shelburne Farms

20 or so ramps, trimmed so there is just about 1 inch of greens
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (I used aleppo pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 bay leaf

Blanch the ramps in boiling water for two minutes. Immediately transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

In a small saucepot, heat the vinegar, honey, sugar, hot pepper, peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and bay leaf to a simmer.

Put the ramps in a clean jar big enough to hold all the liquid (and the ramps). So - back to the recipe - pour the hot liquid over the ramps. Only once it cools down (this will take a few hours) do you want to cover it with the lid, then pop it in the fridge for at least 12 hours before eating. The recipe says they'll last a month in the fridge.

 Bonus photo: the wall of baked beans at a Scottish grocery store

Rampage: Part Trout

May 12, 2010

As mentioned in a previous post, its ramp season! Well, it's almost done now. I've been meaning to post this for a couple of days, but you know, all that other life-living kept getting in the way. I happened to buy these trouts (purposely adding the "s" because I want to) at a Whole Foods in Virginia, where I questioned the clerk as to why there was tax on my purchase. "It's just trouts!" I protested to the confused clerk, thinking my purchase was mislabeled as take-out food or something. So, boo to Virginia for taxing groceries. (Side note: yes, even super-liberal Democrats will occasionally complain about taxes.) Apparently, my trusty Shelburne Farms cookbook agrees with me. It suggested that, in the ideal situation, one would catch the trouts in a gently babbling brook, then forage for the ramps on the side of the stream. And, when you get home, Aunt Bea will have made a pie! Golly!

Trouts with ramps, served with herbed aioli, adapted from Cooking with Shelburne Farms
Serves 2

2 whole trouts, cleaned and butterflied
8 ramps (or scallions, if you can't find ramps), hairy root bits trimmed off
salt and pepper
2 sprigs each of 2-3 herbs (I used garlic chives, regular chives, and oregano)
salt and pepper

Herbed aioli (because I refuse to call it mayonnaise)
1 egg yolk (farm fresh, please)
3/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 minced teaspoon of each of the herbs you used above
1/4 cup olive oil

Put your cast-iron skillet in the oven and set it to broil. Let it get hot in there while you get the fish ready.

Rinse and pat dry the trouts. Open each fish like a book, and season the inside with salt and pepper. Divide the herb sprigs and all but two of the ramps among the fish. (Save the two ramps with the longest greens.) Close up the fish, then tie each one closed with a ramp. The photo above is of the raw trouts, so you can see the little ramp knot. Don't they look like they just ate a bunch of ramps? Ha!

Carefully take the superhot skillet out of the oven and put the trouts in. Broil them for 7-9 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the aioli. In a mini-chopper (or blender), zip up the egg yolk, mustard, salt, lemon juice, vinegar and herbs. Add the olive oil, and zip again until nicely emulsified. (It can probably take more oil than that, but I liked it like this.)

When the fish is done, serve it whole on the plate. The exposed ramps might be a little charred, but that's ok - I won't make you eat that part. To eat, scrape off the skin (it is really easy), and serve with the aioli.

The inaugural mango post

May 4, 2010

My food twin (he who has the same likes and dislikes) is my brother-in-law Drew.  We are both former Indian food-haters.  It's like our taste buds graduated, and are now taking advance courses in curry. I think you're going to like this one, Drew! It comes from Eating Well, and as Indian food goes, it was pretty easy to put together. I say that because my husband and I make a fair amount of Indian food, but I don't blog about it because the recipes and spice blends can be intricate, and all the typing and explaining that would go into a post is exhausting just to think about. If you are looking for a really good Indian cookbook, I highly recommend 660 Curries. Despite the many steps, the author is crystal clear about you need to do to achieve a spice nirvana.

Mango Dal, adapted from Eating Well, February 2010
Serves 4

1 cup yellow split peas
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
12 oz. bag frozen mango chunks OR two mangoes, peeled and chopped
cilantro, for garnish
brown or white rice, for serving

Put the split peas in a colander and rinse until the water runs clear, then put them in a saucepan with the water and turmeric. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until it is just simmering, partially cover, and cook for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, head the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the cumin and coriander seeds for about 30 seconds, then add the onion and cook until it starts to brown a little, about five minutes. Toss in the garlic, ginger, cayenne, and season with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon), cooking for about a minute. Add the mango and the split peas to the skillet and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the split-peas are tender. Serve over rice, and top with cilantro.

Roundup: Letters from my love edition

April 28, 2010

Feelin' sneezy? Get some local honey! (Full disclosure: I rely solely on pharmaceuticals for my allergy relief. But I do like a squeeze of honey on toast or in tea.)

Have you read this story on ways to save money in your food budget? Did that first piece tick you off a little bit? I love the person who wrote this response (third letter down). Really, I do. He's my favorite person.

Homophobic douchebaggery, or "science?" The President of Bolivia thinks hormone-laden chicken is making men "deviate from their manhood."

I'd love to try some raw milk. It's supposed to have amazing nutritional properties, despite the fact that the FDA hates it. I happen to have an iron stomach made entirely of acid, so I think I could handle a little "danger with my cookies."

Despite my interest in raw milk, I don't think I have what it takes to become a raw foodist. From a WaPo article on the subject: "Fruitarians are among the more extreme raw-foodism groups. They eat only uncooked food that has fallen to the ground." I am totally picturing a bunch of dudes in a rainstorm, huddled under trees in an orchard, waiting to be conked on the head with an apple like Isaac Newton. 

A mango thumbs up to Christopher Kimball (of America's Test Kitchen fame), whose e-newsletter I subscribe to . He informed me that his maple-sugaring has produced the worst crop in 40 years! Bummer! But the mango thumb is for this bizarre tidbit (and no, I don't know what it has to do with food either, but it cracked me up nonetheless):
Back in Vermont, here is a recent story that sounds completely made up. A resident of a nearby town is very well liked but more than a little crazy and a bit of a drinker—you never know what he will do next. His wife came home one day and noticed that he looked a bit shaken. He said, “I caught a troll!” and proceeded to lead her upstairs. When they got to the bedroom, she heard a voice from the closet shouting, “Let me out! Let me out!” Well, he had all sorts of furniture stacked up against the door to keep the troll in. Once the way was cleared, she found a very pleasant, rather short gentleman in disarray, shaken after having spent a few hours locked up inside. He was working for the U.S. Census, had rung the bell, and, as soon as the door had opened, the husband had somehow mistaken him for a troll, spiriting him upstairs. No word yet on the impending lawsuit.
Even though I usually do a thumbs down item, this week I'm doing another thumbs up - to ramps! Thank you, delicious wild leek, for making it feel like spring. That's a photo of the little fellers up at the top there.

Why I love onesies

April 26, 2010

My former colleague Joan once commented that I wore a lot of dresses in the summer. I told her dresses are the working woman's onesie. I love one-dish meals for the same reason I like to wear dresses. Everything already is matched up for you. Just as you don't have to coordinate a top to your pants, a one-dish meal already includes the vegetable to go with your protein. Sure, you still have to accessorize (shoes, wine or beer), but you had to do that anyway. A dress takes up less space in a suitcase, and a one-dish meal takes up less pots on the stove. Less pots on the stove, less pots my husband has to clean after dinner. Everyone wins!

Halibut, spinach and orzo onesie, adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2005
Serves 2

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 4-6 ounce halibut fillets
3/4 cup orzo (or any other teeny pasta)
2 garlic clove, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
8 ounce bag of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together two tablespoons of the olive oil and the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put the halibut fillets on a small baking sheet and drizzle with about half of the dressing. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until opaque in the center.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling water until tender. Saute the garlic in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil about one minute. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook over medium high heat until they start to burst, about 5-7 minutes. Toss the spinach in and allow it to wilt. When the orzo is done, add it to the pan too. Season with more salt and pepper. To serve, divide the orzo/spinach/tomato mixture amongst plates, top with a piece of halibut, and drizzle with the remaining lemon dressing.

Roundup: Curly weed edition

April 21, 2010

Happy spring! While asparagus, ramps, and morels tend to steal the arbiter of spring spotlight - those of you in the north might be excited about the arrival of your delicious friend, the fiddlehead fern! I was able to get my hands on some recently, and did them up simple style: just let some garlic sizzle in olive oil, then add the fiddleheads until they are tender, about five minutes.  Aren't they so cute you could just die? Or, alternatively, eat them?

My friend Bev really likes pizza. But I don't think she likes it enough to eat it topped with locusts.

Apparently, the Food Channel is feeling less than hip. So they are going to launch another, "grittier" network called "The Cooking Channel." Possible shows to look forward to include hosers (Canadians) making taco vending machines, demonstrations on how to break a chicken's neck, and vintage Julia Child. Sounds kinda badass. I think I might tune in...

The FDA wants you to stop eating so much sodium. I concur. That's why I respect recipes that say "season to taste." I RARELY add as much salt as a recipe asks for, because I've conditioned my taste buds to want less salt. I also think I'm really sensitive to salt. I eat a salted french fry, and two hours later I practically feel hungover. So, watch the sodium, people. Your skin will thank you.

The state of farmworkers wages in Florida is horrendous. The reasons I stopped buying tomatoes in the grocery store is not because they taste terrible - they do - but because the people who pick them are horribly treated, and I didn't want my money to go towards those practices. (I've linked to this Gourmet article before, but its worth linking again.)

The World Maple Syrup Festival will be crowning World Champions in four categories (Fancy, Medium Amber, Dark Amber, and Grade B) this Saturday in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  Miss Teen Vermont will also be making an appearance.

A mango thumbs up to the people who created this pesticide awareness guide/iPhone app. It's a handy guide of what to buy organic and what's ok to buy conventional. I can never remember beyond "seeds on the outside" means you should get organic.

I give a mango thumbs down to the students at a school in New Jersey who are bitching and complaining that they had to eat cheese sandwiches as punishment after a food fight. I happen to think that cheese sandwiches are awesome, and in fact, I ate one for lunch today. And yesterday. (Can I get a cheese sandwich high five, Carly?) In fact, that same Carly once served me moldy cheese on month-old bread, with mustard, as a snack. And you know what, food-throwing teens, I was happy about it! (This may have been at 2am, after a recreational evening. The Scooby-Snack van was closed.)

Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I LOVE meatloaf

April 20, 2010

Yes, that's (modified) from the Christmas Story movie, right before the mom encourages Randy to eat his meatloaf "like a little piggy!" I do not need to be bribed to eat my meatloaf like a pig; I do that on autopilot. Once I made a meatloaf in college and all three of my roommates said they weren't interested in having any because they didn't like meatloaf. I was briefly excited, thinking this meant I could eat it for six meals straight. Until I took it out of the oven. Then everyone was interested and immediately recanted their statements. Sadly, I think all of them had been scarred by bad meatloaf experiences as children.

Herb and sun-dried tomato turkey meatloaf, loosely adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1996
Serves 6 (or two for dinner, then leftovers for two days of meatloaf sandwiches)

1 lb ground dark meat turkey (We ground our own from two big turkey legs, but if you use pre-ground, don't use the really lean stuff.)

1 small onion, finely diced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and caps chopped (discard the stems)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh pepper
2 tablespoons white wine

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes*
1 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
fresh pepper
a few tablespoons of ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrot, cooking for five minutes, or until softened, then add mushrooms and saute until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt, pepper, thyme; cook two minutes. Add the white wine, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a large bowl to let it cool a little.

To the vegetables, add the turkey, eggs, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix it all  together VERY GENTLY. Pat it into a loaf pan and smear the top with some ketchup. Pop it into the oven for one hour, until it is 165 degrees in the middle. Let cool 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

*I like sun-dried tomatoes that come in a container or bag - not packed in oil. If yours are really dry, cover them with water and put them in the microwave for 15 seconds, then drain and chop.

Roundup: Yurts n' Yaks Edition

April 14, 2010

Changes are coming to Miss Mango Hands! Well, if I can figure out how to read instructions, that is. I'm doing lots of behind the scenes work on my little web log and hopefully will be debuting a Brand New Look sometime in the near future. But in the meantime, I'm still here using Blogger (which rhymes with Frogger! Wasn't that a fun game?!) and so without further ado, my dinky, random, Wednesday food news roundup...

  • All of my husband's immediate family should avoid this link, but OMG - Meatpaper! It's a funky periodical all about meat. And one of the five editors is a vegetarian! So maybe the in-laws can read every fifth page? I just signed up for their (free) e-mail newsletter, so I can't wait to learn more. From their website: "Meatpaper is neither a pro- nor an anti-meat soapbox, nor is it a competitor with the many glossy food magazines already available... (it) is an investigation into what we see as a growing cultural trend of meat consciousness." Mentally adding a subscription to my wish list...

  • A Scottish chocolatier has created haggis flavored chocolate. Necessary? Probably not. But it doesn't actually contain any sheep stomachs, eyeballs, or other inner bits - it just has haggis spices in it.

  • My dad loves bananas. Especially in desserts. In honor of my dad's birthday - WHICH IS TODAY (happy birthday dad!!) - I bring you news of a banana museum.

  • I've heard in the past that people who don't like cilantro might be that way because of genetics. I kind of wish the article would have covered more foods that might fall in this category. Considering the fact that its now in season, what about the asparagus pee phenomenon? Some people get weird smelling pee, some people don't, and some people have the ability to smell it, and others don't. It's all genetic. I think I'll start saying the reason I hate cooked egg yolks is genetic, too.

  • One of my favorite apps for my phone is Urban Spoon, which lets you select a town (or city neighborhood), food type, and price range, then you shake it to get restaurant. Plus it makes a cool noise like a slot machine. Also, it's free.

  • If you eat frozen veggie burgers, please read this article about how some of them contain brain poison - seriously. The chemical is also found in gasoline.

  • We all know someone who might be voted most likely to live in a yurt. Maybe you should call that person and have them help you build this $20 outdoor pizza oven. It's basically a yurt-oven.

  • I love exotic meats. But I've never had yak. Maybe once I move to Vermont. Apparently its all the rage.

  • A mango thumbs down to the guy in Trader Joe's who I overheard making these astute observations to someone he was "teaching" how to cook, "If you want to cook a roast, buy a roast. If you want to cook a steak, buy a steak. If you want to cook a stew, buy stew meat. But avoid anything that says organic or pasture raised. That's just code for more expensive." (Yes, it is more expensive. But it's not just code, it is actually a different product.)

  • A mango thumbs up to my friend Brother Barley who gives me a little shout out in his amazingly informed podcast interview on beer with world famous blogger, Wild and Crazy Pearl.

Light and springy

April 13, 2010

The single best meal of my life was a dinner my dad won in a silent auction. He bid on the "chef's table" at a restaurant called Jackson's, and the chef in question happened to be our next door neighbor when I was a kid. (In the interest of full disclosure, he was my boyfriend for two days in the fourth grade and then later in high school we used to hang around the same troublemakers. Yes, b&b, I'm referring to you.) But back to the dinner. First there was ceviche as an amuse bouche. Then fresh pea soup with a little island of crab, then tuna carpaccio, beef tartar, tenderloin slow boiled in olive oil, and a banana upside down thing for dessert (it was starting to be a haze at that point). It was chock full of fresh, seasonal delicacies. No one could move at the end of the night, but if you are going to be a glutton, do it right. With all those amazing foods, though, my favorite was the pea soup. It was fresh, light, sweet and herbaceous. Thank you, Rick, for the amazing pea soup memories. 

While flipping through some magazines and deciding what to make for Easter dinner, I came upon a pea soup recipe. This one is pretty good (nowhere near Rick's, but I am a mere mortal) and really easy - which is what I like in first courses! I wouldn't recommend it as a dinner entree, it's better as a starter or a side. And if you can garnish it with a little crostini - all the better.

Spring pea soup (not as good as Rick's), loosely adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2010
Serves 4

1 tablepoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
about 2 cups frozen peas (from a new bag, not one that has been sitting in your freezer, opened, for 2 years)
2 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup fresh mint, plus a little for garnish if you're feeling fancy.
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft and tender, turning the heat down if they start to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the peas, then the broth and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until the peas are nice and tender. Let it cool a little, then pour into a blender, add the dairy and mint, and puree until very smooth. (This took about 2 minutes of blender time, for me.) Taste it, and add salt and pepper as necessary. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving cold. Garnish with mint, if you want.

Haiku for the vealcake...

April 8, 2010

You had me swooning
"This is SO good I could die"
Twelve times during dinner.

Um, yes, so there's a reason I'm not a poet. MOVING ON.

My parents bought half of a baby cow last year from a butcher last year. Don't worry, he was hugged and snuggled and loved to his last days. Is it odd that I only buy responsibly raised fish, but will eat veal? Maybe. But this was a LOCAL cow. So I justified it in my head. Plus if you had to live in an area where high school football dominates the newspaper year round, you might not mind dying young either. So there. Anyway, back to the veal. My parents found out they could buy a half cow when my dad showed up at the butcher and said he was ready to pick up his order. The below exchange is approximate.

Butcher guy: We have the whole lamb you ordered processed and ready to go.

Dad: I'm not allowed to take something like that home without a note from my wife.

But it gave them the idea! After my mom wrote the note, they got a lamb, and this past year was half a baby cow. So that's how I ended up with a couple of pounds of ground veal a few weeks back. And how this luscious vealcake came into my life. And now my pants will never fit the same...

Vealcake with mushrooms, from Gourmet, February 2006
Serves 2

1 slice of bread, torn into bits
3 tablespoons cream, divided
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped chives - divided
3/4 lb ground veal
1/4 cup bread crumbs*
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-2 tablespoon butter
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped

Put the torn bread and two tablespoons of cream in a large bowl to soak for five minutes. Add the egg, salt, pepper, two tablespoons of chives and veal, then mix gently with your hands. (No squishing and squashing between your fingers allowed.) Form the veal into two patties. Spread the bread crumbs on a plate and dredge the vealcakes in the crumbs.

Heat the vegetable oil and one tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet. Cook the vealcakes 4-5 minutes per side, until golden brown on the outside. If you have a meat thermometer, it should read 148 degrees. If you don't - well, go with your gut or use the time-honored method of cutting and peeking to see if its done.

Remove the vealcakes to a plate and cover with foil. If there's enough fat in the pan to cook the mushrooms, then just toss them in. If not, add a tablespoon or so of butter. Cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes. To really guild the lily, add a tablespoon of cream and let that cook for a minute or so. Serve the mushrooms on top of the vealcakes, and garnish with the remaining tablespoon of chives.

*When I have fresh bread that gets too stale to eat, I zip it up in the food processor to make crumbs, which I keep in a bag in the freezer. It's a motley mixture of crumbs - English muffin, whole wheat bread, sourdough, etc. But they work just fine for most coating and stuffing jobs.

Roundup: Life cycle edition

April 7, 2010

So I'm going to try to start doing a little roundup of food news every Wednesday. Because according to the two (dead tree) newspapers I subscribe to, Hump Day is apparently Food Day, as that's when both the Washington Post and the New York Times publish their food sections. (The NYT calls it "Dining;" so much more couth than WaPo's "Food.")
  • Related to yesterday's environmentally-friendly fish diatribe: Trader Joe's will begin selling only sustainable fish in its stores starting in 2012. A big Wa-Hoo! to them. (Pun intended. Wahoo, by the way, is classified as a "good alternative" fish.)
  • I've been a bit obsessed with octopi ever since I went to the Newport, KY, aquarium (across the river from Cincinnati) during Phish's fall tour, and saw the sign pictured at left. But, now I have a new quest: to see (but not eat) a novem-pus!
  • Food-fests around the country! I haven't been to a food fest in ages. If you go to one, please tell me so I get insanely jealous.
  • Check out this chart of per capita food consumption of packaged vs. fresh foods. Really, USA? Russia eats more fresh food than we do? And, damn, Mexicans eat a lot of baked goods. (I'm jealous, I wish I could eat more baked goods. For more information, see: Pants, fitting.)
  • I'm posting this link to "Consider the Oyster" for two reasons. One, it contains this phrase, which I think is awesome: "Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest," and two, it allows me to tell you that it IS possible to cut oneself with a butter knife, which I discovered while my husband and I shucked (locally sourced) oysters the other weekend in our tiny kitchen. (We don't have an oyster-shucking knife, but I heard Alton Brown say the second-best tool is a butter knife.) We had them with homemade cocktail sauce - which had freshly ground horseradish in it - and they were awesome.
  • Hipster food trends in DC include cupcakes, yogurt, burgers, and now salad. I'm giving a mango thumb up to Sweetgreen, a hipster salad joint that serves (some) locally sourced food! My friend Bev and I went there last night. (They also do yogurt. And are next door to a hipster burger joint. If you aren't careful, you might leave the area with an ironic mustache and skinny jeans.)
  • I usually try to not say anything if I can't say anything nice (at least in print), but I have to give a mango thumb down to this new place in my neighborhood called the Cereal Bowl. Granted, I have not been there. But, if I wanted to put gummy worms and sprinkles on top of Froot Loops, I think I could handle that myself. (That is their successful business model!!) Unless they offer an insulin shot and free compression hose to avoid getting your feet removed from diabetes complications, I think I'm all set.

Fish, responsibly

April 6, 2010

For me, salmon falls on my food-like scale basically right in the middle between deviled eggs (which would be a zero) and lasagna (which would be a ten). It's always sort of been "meh" to me. So I kind of surprised myself when I picked out this recipe to try. Well, it wasn't that much of a surprise. It has noodles in it. And if there's anything that can sway me, it's a noodle.

And a (non-preachy) word on salmon, if you will. I actually used arctic char for this recipe. It's a close relative. Reason being, you ask? Well, I downloaded this Monteray Aquarium app for my phone that tells me which fish to avoid for environmental reasons. The store I shop at has little signs that say where the fish is from and how it's caught, because when you punch in "salmon" into the app, there are some you can eat and others that you shouldn't. My store had the responsible choice of salmon, but it was more expensive than the arctic char, so I went with that. I think its a little less "fishy" tasting than salmon, too. Now that I've downloaded the app, I feel like I really can't buy a not responsibly-fished fish. That's why I left you at the store, whole flat fish...sigh of sadness.

Honeyed char (or salmon) and noodles, from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf
Serves 2

10 oz. salmon or arctic char
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper
olive oil

1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped basil
splash olive oil
1 zucchini, shredded on a box grater

1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
6 ounces soba noodles

If your fish has skin on it, remove the skin. Cut the fish into 1 inch strips. Whisk the honey, salt and pepper in a flat bowl, then coat the fish on all sides with honey. Set aside.

Cook the soba noodles in boiling water until al dente. Rinse under cold water.

Whisk the lime juice, soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. 

Heat a splash of olive oil in each of two skillets (one being nonstick or cast iron, and the other being the biggest one you have). In the nonstick, sear the salmon until browned and carmellized on all sides, probably about 2-3 minutes total. In the second skillet, add the shredded zucchini until heated through, about a minute. Add the soba noodles and lime/soy/honey mixture and toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add all the chopped herbs.

Serve the fish atop the noodles, and give yourself 2 points for trying to eat responsibly raised food.

Sugar Shack

April 1, 2010

Happy Sugaring! It's maple sugaring season, meaning its time for a maple-y recipe to get that liquid gold down the gullet! As I've mentioned before - I'm not a baker, mostly due to my opposition to measuring. One of the hardest things about blogging about the recipes I make up myself is remembering to guesstimate the quantity of what I throw into the pan. So being forced to measure quantities in order to make something turn out in the first place? Bah! No thanks.

So, if I've baked for you - you know I love you. I can actually count on one hand the people for whom I've baked an actual dessert. One of them being he who puts the Mango in my Mango Hands - my husband. He's pretty easy to please - he basically loves any type of baked good. But, being from Vermont, if its got maple in it, he'll have three, please. And taking into account the weird cranberry hoarding he does every winter, this was a great surprise dessert.

Maple cheesecake with cranberry maple topping, cake adapted from a recipe from The Arlington Inn* and cranberry topping from Bon Appetit
Serves 2, once a day for a week
Note: This has to chill for at least 8 hours before you serve it

twenty-four cinnamon graham crackers
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup real maple syrup (don't you dare use that fake shit)

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
3 eggs
3/4 tablespoon vanilla
6 tablespoons cup heavy cream

Cranberry-maple goodness
2 cups cranberries
1 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Crumble the graham crackers into a food processor, and then pulse until you've made them into crumbs. Add the melted butter and syrup and pulse until it is all combined. Press this mixture into a springform pan (I think mine was 9 inches). Put the pan on a baking sheet.

If you have a mixer, put the paddle attachment on. (If you don't have a mixer, then just use a bowl, a spoon, and a really strong arm.) Put all the cream cheese in the bowl and beat until it is smooth. Add the syrup, then  the eggs one at a time, letting each egg get incorporated before you add the next one. Add the vanilla and cream until just combined.

Pour the filling into the crust and put it in the oven on the baking sheet. (In case you have some overflow, it will prevent a giant oven mess.) Bake for about an hour, or until the center is almost set. It will set as it cools, which it should do on a rack until its at room temperature, then cover with foil and cool in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the cranberry topping in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium low heat. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes, or until the cranberries are bursting. Let it cool, then refrigerate until you are ready to use. You can warm it up to serve, or just serve it cold.

Top each slice of cheesecake with a healthy dollop of the cranberry sauce.

*I've never been to this place, but I love that they have a llama on their website. (Is that a llama?)

Happy hour included!!

March 12, 2010

It's been weeks since I posted about a fish coated in cornmeal! I feel like I'm losing my Miss Cornmeal Hands street cred. Thank God I made this halibut the other day. And if you aren't a fan of cornmeal (um, you should probably be reading a different blog), the pistachio is really the star in the crust. And before you get all crankity about having to shell pistachios for this recipe, I invite you to do what I did: Buy a bag of pistachios in the bulk section of your market. Put them in a bowl. Set out a small bowl for shells and a 1/4 cup measure for the pistachios. Open a beer. Then play "one for the measuring cup, one for me." It's like happy hour! It's even fun the second time around, when you have to start over after spilling your beer into the measuring cup of shelled nuts. (Sad!)

Cornmeal and pistachio halibut with yogurt and asparagus, adapted from February 2007 Gourmet
Serves 2

2 halibut fillets, skin removed
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shelled pistachios nuts
2 tablespoons cornmeal
splash of olive oil

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely diced cucumber (removed the skin and seeds before chopping)
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper, to taste

1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Soak halibut in milk for 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

Meanwhile, heat oven (or toaster oven) to 425 degrees. Put asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until asparagus is browned and crispy, about 15-20 minutes.

Combine all the yogurt ingredients in a small bowl.

Finely chop the pistachios, and combine with the cornmeal in a flat dish. Remove the fish from the milk and after letting the milk drip off, season the fish with salt and pepper, then dredge on all sides in the pistachio mixture. Heat the splash of olive oil in a cast iron (or non-stick) skillet to medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, cook the fish about 3 minutes per side.

Serve with the roasted asparagus and a dollop of the yogurt sauce.

No applesauce

March 4, 2010

Have I mentioned before how much I adore the PBS show America's Test Kitchen? Working there would totally be my dream job. Well, behind the scenes. The people on that show also do another program called Cook's Country which as far as I can tell is pretty much the same thing. My favorite part is The Equipment Corner with Adam. He gets a bunch of people to test out, say, 15 different vegetable peelers, and then tells you which is the best peeler, and which peeler is the best value. Oh, I love him. Adam, if you need an assistant, you call me, ok? Or find me on Twitter!

So the main point of the show is that they show you the BEST method to make a certain food something. And they tell you all the ways they tried before they got to this very BEST way, so you don't feel tempted to cheat and take a shortcut, because you know it will end up a sticky mess, or it will burn in the oven, or your sink will explode and flood your bathroom. Now, I'm not usually a real big fan of pork chops, but The Husband loves them, so when we saw this show together I agreed we could make them. I mean, they make everything look so good! Plus it had a crust. I think we all know how I feel about crusted protein.

I served the pork with sunchokes and a green salad. 

Crunchy Pork Chops, modified from America's Test Kitchen episode: The Crunchiest Pork Chops Ever
Serves 2

2 boneless pork chops, 3/4-1 inch thick*
1/8 cup salt

2 slices white sandwich bread, torn
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
5 tablespoons flour DIVIDED
1 egg white (if you double this recipe, use 3 egg whites), beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in two cups of water in a flat bowl. Add the pork chops for 30 minutes, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the bread pieces in a food processor until you have crumbs. Pour the crumbs out onto a cookie sheet and add the shallot, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well with your hands until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring twice, until they are brown and crispy. Take them out, but keep the oven on. Pour the crumbs into a flat bowl, let them cool, then add the cheese, thyme and parsley.

Get out two more flat bowls or pie plates. In one, put 2 tablespoons of flour. In the second, add the beaten egg white and mustard. Whisk the other 3 tablespoons of flour into the egg/mustard.

Crank the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Put a wire rack on the same baking sheet you used for the crumbs and spray it with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil.

Remove the pork chops from their brine (you may have already done this if the 30 minutes has expired) and rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Dredge them first in the flour, then in the mustard mixture, then press them into the crumbs. Put each chop on the baking sheet.

Bake for 17-25 minutes (depends on your oven and chop thickness). If you have an instant read thermometer, you want the inside of the chop to be 150 degrees.

*I bought our chops out of the butcher's case, rather than pre-packaged, and they were SUPER thick, so I just bought one and had the butcher split it in two.

Linguistics and langoustines

March 2, 2010

There's a little Italian place in DC that I used to go for lunch with my old boss. He went there all the time and the owner always brought him dessert wine at the end of the meal. That always made afternoon typing a little trickier, but I am never one to say no to free booze. But anyway, I don't think I ever ordered anything other than the crab and lobster pasta, which is not on the menu, but is ALWAYS on the specials board. So, linguistically, it wasn't really a special and was more of a regular. Maybe they just really wanted to avoid having their menus reprinted. Or no one could reach the chalkboard to write new specials

When I found a bag of frozen langoustines (aka Norwegian lobsters!) at Trader Joe's, I wanted to give them the Otello's crab pasta treatment. I don't know if its exactly like the original, but it tasted good, so who cares? I know the photo looks saucy, but the sauce is really good, so sop it up with some bread.

Spicy creamy langoustine pasta
Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons flour
2/3 cup white wine1 1/2 cups fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup half and half
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
12 oz. bag cooked frozen langoustines (or chopped shrimp or lobster)
1/2 pound spaghetti or fettucine

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Cook pasta to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic for a minute or so, then add the red pepper flakes, stirring for 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for two minutes. Add the white wine and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and let it come to a bubble. Add the langoustines, half and half, salt and pepper to taste, and dried basil. When the langoustines are heated through and the sauce is hot, add the pasta to the skillet. Serve with bread to scoop up all that good sauce.

Bonus photo! Fresh langoustines from a summer trip to Scotland.

Who rigs every Oscar night? We do!

February 28, 2010

I love it when dishes have secret ingredients. It makes me feel like part of a secret foodie club, kind of like an epicurean version of the Stone Cutters. And the only way to learn about the secret ingredient is to get the secret password from someone who's tried it, vouched for it, and passed it along. So consider this blog entry a secret handshake that opens the door to the best beef (or buffalo) stew you've ever had.

And what exactly is the secret ingredient? The brined green peppercorn. I know! I had never heard of it either! But in the pack of my mind, I knew I had seen it at my tiny little neighborhood grocery store near the capers and other various pickled things. If you can't find them in the store, there is always the interwebs.

Porter beef (or buffalo) stew, adapted from Gourmet, October 2004
Serves 3

1 lb. beef or buffalo stew meat, cut into small (1-inch or smaller) bites (I used buffalo)

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

  • 1 tablespoon flour
    salt and papper
    vegetable oil
    1 onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    8 oz. shitake or crimini mushrooms, stems discarded and the heads chopped
    3 tablespoons water
    1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
    1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
    1 cup beef broth
    1 cup porter beer (I used Rogues Mocha Porter)
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped
    2 sprigs fresh thyme, or a teaspoon or dried

    1/3 sheet puff pastry, taken out of the freezer when you put the stew in the oven (even when its frozen, you can break off one of the folds, which is 1/3 sheet)
    1/2 tablespoon melted butter
    salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat the meat dry, season with salt and pepper, and dust with flour. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil over medium high heat in a heavy ovenproof pot, and brown the meat on all sides. You may have to do this in a couple of batches, depending on the size of your pot and how much meat you are using. Don't crowd the pot. Remove the browned meat to a bowl.

    Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and water to the pot, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mustard, stirring for another minute. Add the meat with any accumulated juices, broth, beer, Worcestershire, peppercorns (yes, the secret ingredient!!) and thyme. Let it come to a bubble, then transfer to the oven to cook for about 75-90 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick and the meat is very tender. This is a good time to drink the rest of the beer that didn't make it into the stew.

    Right before you take the stew out of the oven, roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured board, until its about half as thin. Cut it into however many pieces you need (I just did two, but you could easily get three pieces per 1/3 sheet.) Brush both sides of the pastry with butter, and place on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. When you take the stew out of the oven, raise the heat to 400 degrees, then put the puff pastry in the oven for about 10 minutes, until puffed and golden.

    Ladle the stew into bowls, then top with a puff pastry "cracker."

    Open (your mouth) sesame!

    February 10, 2010

    I used to be very anti-tofu. My husband always liked it, but up until five years ago, I always got a little lip sneer when thinking about eating it myself. But now I'm totally hooked. (If you already eat tofu, just skip ahead to the recipe, because below is my mini-treatise on why one should try tofu.) You can't think of it as fake meat. It tastes nothing like meat, which is one of its selling points. It tastes like whatever you cook it with. And if you cook it right, it is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Anything that's crispy on the outside is delicious! I dare you to name one food that isn't. Try this recipe if you're new to tofu. If you hate it, there's noodles as a side. And if you hate noodles, well, only God can help you.

    Bonus feature: the leftovers are great cold for lunch the next day.

    Sesame tofu and sesame noodles, from Eating Well and Simple Vegetarian Pleasures
    Serves 4

    1 16 oz. block extra firm tofu
    1/4 cup rice wine, sake or sherry (I used sherry)
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    1/2 cup white sesame seeds (these are much cheaper in the bulk food section, rather than the spice section, of your market)

    1 lb. soba noodles
    1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) or peanut butter
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    2 tablespoons sherry
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon water
    2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
    a few dashes of Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
    1/2 cup finely chopped yellow, red, or orange pepper
    1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

    Cut the tofu into eight slices, about the size of playing cards. Mix together the rice wine (or sake or sherry), soy sauce, and sesame oil in a low bowl or pie plate. Marinate the tofu, turning occasionally, for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil for the soba noodles. Mix together the tahini paste (or peanut butter), soy sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, water, ginger, and Sriracha. Cook the soba noodles in the boiling water until tender, but still with a little bite, about five minutes. Drain and rinse, then toss with the sauce, diced pepper, and onions.

    Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add a little vegetable oil. Spread the sesame seeds on a plate. Lift the tofu slices out of the marinate, and coat on both sides with the sesame seeds. Cook the tofu slices in two batches, allowing the sesame seeds to brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. (A good spatula is essential here. One reason I really like using a cast iron skillet is that you can use a metal spatula.)

    Serve the tofu on top of the noodles. You could also make all of this ahead, and have it chilled for a picnic lunch.

    It's noon (and summer) somewhere...

    February 9, 2010

    I am currently doing a load of socks in the washing machine. Why just socks? Well, what with the recent snomg! in DC, I have worn all of my tall wool socks, which are the only thing I will wear with my hiking boots out in the snow. And with the promise of another 10 inches (of snow) tonight, I need all of my wool socks available for duty. (My favorite name for the second storm is kaisersnowze.) Usually I like comfort food and spiked hot chocolate (with marshmallows) to see me through the winter, but when it gets to be this ridiculous, its fun to pretend you're somewhere else. Like Florida. Drinking a martini. Fresh from a visit to the Turtle Hospital. Plus if you have enough of these cocktails, you might even forget the deathmatch you witnessed at the grocery store between two neighbors battling it out for the last loaf of bread.

    Key lime martini, adapted from
    makes one drink

    2 ounces vanilla vodka (see recipe below, or use store-bought)
    1 ounce Cointreau*
    1 ounce lime juice (I used Nellie and Joe's key lime juice)
    1/2 tablespoon superfine sugar (made by putting regular sugar in a clean coffee/spice grinder - but don't make it into powdered sugar - although it's just a cocktail, I'm sure it will go down the gullet fine either way)

    Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, and then strain into a martini glass.

    *We have a large bottle of Cointreau gifted from my parents' dog, who stayed with us a few months ago and threw up in the living room. (From being nervous, not from drinking martinis.)

    Vanilla vodka
    makes about a pint, takes 3 days

    1 vanilla bean, split open
    1 pint vodka (moderate quality works great here)

    Put the vanilla bean in a pint jar. Cover with vodka. Let it sit three days. We threw the vanilla bean away, and kept the vodka, but you could keep the bean in there and keep adding more vodka as you use it. It will continue to intensify the longer it sits.

    A study in ravioli, parts 1 and 2

    February 3, 2010

    I don't mind taking the time to make something a little labor intensive on a weeknight. It's a nice chance to spend time with my sweetheart, chatting about our day over a drink and working on creating a nice meal to share together. Aren't we so sacharine sweet you could just barf? Ha! But for reals, y'all - it's such a nice way to transition from workday to evening. But I will draw the line somewhere - for example, take these ravioli. After making the (rather quick) fillings, I was not about to mix together and roll out homemade pasta dough. But wonton wrappers make a really good substitute. And you and your dinner partner(s) can regale each other with amusing anecdotes whilst stuffing.

    Note: We both of these made these on a night when we were starving, and had to hold  ourselves back from eating the entire two batches. We prepared them at the same time, but did boil them one after another (so as to only wash one pot, yet keep them separate.) If you made a nice big salad, bread and dessert, you could probably serve 4 people.

    Sweet potato ravioli, from Bon Appetit February 2003
    1 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes
    1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    salt and pepper to taste
    24 wonton wrappers

    crushed spicy nuts, to garnish (I was lucky enough to be Christmas-gifted delicious spiced pecans from my friends Henry and Erin)

    1/2 stick of butter
    1 sprig rosemary, chopped
    (this is the sauce for BOTH ravioli dishes)

    Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork, then microwave them until soft, about 10 minutes. Turn them once during the cooking. Let them cool briefly, them peel the skin off, put the flesh in a bowl, and add the sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

    Take about a tablespoon of filling and place in the middle of a wonton wrapper. Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper, then fold over into a triangle. You can leave it at that, but we made little hats by putting a dab of water in the middle bottom of each wrapper, then folding in the two edges.

    For butter sauce, melt butter in a skillet, let the foaming subside, then add the chopped rosemary, stirring until fragrant, about a minute or two.

    Boil in a large pot of water for 2-3 minutes, then toss with half the butter sauce, and garnish with chopped nuts.

    For ravioli recipe number two, see below

    Not made of Buster

    January 26, 2010

    I love my local farmers market. Not only are there fruit and veggie purveyors, but we can also get eggs, bread, cheese, meats and seafood. And all lovingly raised and sold to you by the same people every week who will ask how you liked last weeks ground goat meat, or do the same weird rubber band trick with a carton of eggs. (Yes, egg man, I'm talking about you.) But back to seafood: one time the guy had a LIVE EEL in a bucket with a sign that said "I'm Buster. I bite." Ha! I did not try to pet Buster. I also did not take him home to eat. In fact, I think I may have shrieked a little. But I do like that fisherman's oysters. Fresh, briney, salty, slimy, yum.

    I should think about changing the name of this blog to Miss Fried-in-Cornmeal Hands, because surprise! my favorite way to eat these oysters is to coat them in cornmeal, fry 'em, shove them in a hot dog bun, and top with a liberal dash of chipotle hot sauce. Aka - the oyster po' boy.

    Oyster Po' Boys, adapted from Gourmet October 2001
    Serves 2

    1 pint fresh shucked oysters
    1 egg
    1/4 cup milk
    1 cup cornmeal
    1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (if you don't have this, use 1/8 teaspoon cayenne)
    6 cups vegetable oil
    2 hot dog buns*
    chipotle hot sauce, to taste

    Begin heating the vegetable oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium high heat. When it gets to a temperature of 375 degrees, you're ready to fry.

    Meanwhile, whisk the egg and milk together in a medium bowl. Combine the cornmeal, salt, pepper, and chipotle (or cayenne) in a second bowl. Oysters first take a dip in the egg and milk, then on to the cornmeal. Keep them on a plate until the oil is hot.

    Fry the oysters in batches of about 6-10 at a time - don't crowd the pot. They'll take about 1-2 minutes to get brown and crispy. When they are all fried, shove as many as you can in each hot dog bun, and sprinkle with hot sauce as you please. If you have more oysters than will fit in each bun, just snack on them on their own. Or make yourself another sandwich. : )

    *Did you know that in New England, hot dog buns are split on the top, as opposed to the side, like in the rest of America? As a matter of fact, if you live with an ex-New Englander, that person might insist on purchasing split-top hot dog buns in mass quantities when they do become available.

    A big pile of New England

    January 22, 2010

    Ok, so sometimes things taste WAY more delicious than they look. Hmm, can I think of an example? Finger tapping against pursed lips... Oh, yes - how about the photo at our left? I mean, this dish is AH-mazing, really one of my favorites, but it kind of looks like a third grader threw up on a piece of bread. Just to deconstruct it a little for you - we've got a thick slice of bread, topped with a piece of pan-seared cod, and then smothered with a chunky clam-chowder broth. And yes, those are pieces of bacon. Which my pescetarian brethren could leave out. In addition to the delish factor, this plate also has freez-a-bility going for it. When my husband and I make it, we make the entire clam chowder portion, but only cook two pieces of cod. Pop the leftover chowder in the freezer, and then you can just thaw it, sear up a couple more pieces of cod - and you've got a REALLY great, warming dinner in like 15 minutes.
    Just a brief parenthetical word on bacon: I urge you to try the black forest bacon from the meat case at Whole Foods. Delicious.

    Seared Cod and Clam Chowder on Bread, adapted from The Mist Grill: Rustic Cooking from Vermont*
    Serves 4

    6 pieces of bacon, chopped
    1 stalk celery, diced
    1/2 onion, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    1/2 red pepper, diced
    3 small red-skinned potatoes, well-scrubbed and diced (keep the skin on)
    1 quart clam juice (I've also used fish stock with good success)
    2 cups milk
    2 small cans of chopped clams (you'll use the whole thing, so don't drain them)
    4 cod fillets (whatever portion size works for you)
    4 thick slices of bread

    In a heavy dutch oven or soup pot, cook the diced bacon over medium heat until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Keep about a tablespoon or two of the bacon drippings in the pot. Cook the celery, carrot, onion, red pepper and potato until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the clam juice and simmer for 20 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary. Stir in the clams (with their juice) and milk and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Put the bacon back in the pot, and season to taste with salt and pepper. The cookbook notes: the chowder is not meant to be thick, but rather more brothlike. Sage advice - thanks cookbook!

    Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once you've stirred in the clams and milk in the broth construction above, you are about ready to start these steps. In a heavy, ovenproof pan (have I mentioned my love of cast iron recently?), melt a tablespoon or so of butter over medium-high heat. Season the cod with salt and pepper. Once the butter stops foaming, but before it burns, add the cod fillets. Sear until the first side is golden brown. Turn them over, and then pop the skillet in the oven, cooking until the fish flakes easily with a fork - about 6 minutes.

    To serve, put a piece of bread in each of four bowls. Top with a cod fillet, and then ladle the chowder broth on top. Note: The bread will soak up lots of the broth and get soft. This is supposed to happen.

    *Apparently, the restaurant closed five years ago, and the cookbook is out of print. Ha! (I mean, I'm sad for them and all, but it's funny-ironic a little, right?)

    That's what she said

    January 21, 2010

    I am not much of a baker. Mostly this is because I hate measuring - I'm more of an eyeballer. And since I usually prefer to stuff myself to capacity with dinner and then have a tiny bite of something sweet an hour later, I don't really want to have baked goods just sitting around because I'll never eat them. But for special occasions I'll whip out the measuring spoons - but only if its brainlessly easy. Which is why this originally fell into my repetoire. Add in the fact that it is SO SO GOOD, and bam - we have a winner! In fact, its known around our house as Chocolate Orgasm Cake.

    Spicy Chocolate Orgasm Cake, adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2002
    Serves 4
    1/2 cup flour
    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1 stick salted butter, melted
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
    2 eggs
    3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 oz. dark chocolate chunks

    Stir the flour, cocoa powder, hot pepper and baking powder together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Spoon the batter equally into four small ramekins and divide the mini-chocolate chunks on top. Cover with plastic wrap and let the cakes chill for at least an hour in the fridge. (This is when you can eat dinner.)

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Let the cakes stand at room temperature for a few minutes, then bake for 12-15 minutes. Let them cool for 5 minutes, then serve warm. They'll be puffed, warm and deliciously gooey in the middle.

    Oh, the Pete's I've known

    January 20, 2010

    Okay, so by beer of the week, I actually meant, sometimes I will write a beer review.

    I have had the good fortune to know many wonderful Pete's in my life. First, there was my Uncle Pete. Technically, he was my dad's uncle, the husband of my grandmother's sister. (I know, you totally read this blog for the family tree, right?) Affectionately known as Buggo, he loved to sit in his chair and watch Western movies and never failed to make everyone around him laugh with a (sometimes delightfully tiny-bit off-color) joke. Everyone loved Uncle Pete.

    The next Pete who came into my life was not a human, but a joke, told by my dad:

    Dad: Pete and Repeat are sitting on a bench. Pete fell off and who was left?
    4 year old me: RePete!
    Dad: Pete and Repeat are sitting on a bench, Pete fell off and who was left?
    4yom: ReRete!

    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, until I was crying and my sides hurt from laughing so hard. I couldn't understand WHY on EARTH, when I said ReRete (a name that seemed like the formal of Pete, kind of like RuPaul) it caused my dad to say the first part again. (In other words, I was not yet familiar with the definition of "repeat.") And if there's anything hilarious to a small child, it's repitition.

    And that brings me to the final Pete I know well (omg, I really hope I'm not leaving out a close, intimate Pete) - my friend who covets the ranch dressing hose. He's kind, generous, loves food and drink in large quantities, and his biggest joy in life seems to be helping people move. He has also made me laugh until my sides hurt.

    So, I guess that's the thing with Petes. They make you laugh. Which is why I was so disappointed in the Peter's Brand beer pictured above. It did not make me laugh. Or even smile. It did remind me of something one would drink at a flip-cup table - and flip cup can be fun.

    Peter's Brand, by United Export Brewery
    Pluses: It comes in 16 oz. cans, which is a nice size. Nice head, neutral smell. Available cheaply at Trader Joe's.
    Minuses: Tastes like bitter Busch Light. I wanted to like it. But I didn't.

    Recommendation: If you're throwing a beer blowout for someone named Pete - IT WOULD BE PERFECT. Otherwise, eh, pass.

    We had a little lamb

    January 16, 2010

    I used to love watching Crossing Jordan on Sunday nights. Her dad had the best accent! But he was usually in hiding because I think he was kind of a shady character. People were always trying to kill him, and then Jordan would try and rescue him by going out to the pier alone at night. Oh Jordan. She never learned. Once she fell down an abandoned mine shaft that started filling up with water. And she was a medical examiner! It made no sense - which was why it was so awesome. A couple times NBC (who I'm totally mad at right now - Team Conan!) did a Crossing Jordan/Las Vegas crossover. Which I never watched. Well, I watched the Jordan parts, but not when Jordan was on Las Vegas. Anyway, so now I'm doing a crossover with my friend Emily, who has a delightful blog called Wild and Crazy Pearl. She and her superfun sister Rebecca came over for dinner - which had to be scheduled a month in advance because they are both very cool and know lots of people and are always doing fun things (I, on the other hand, am not cool, know only 12 people, and will be spending my Friday night putting together Ikea furniture) - and we ate and drank and much merriment was had by all.

    Even though lamb isn't really a game meat, people sometimes say that it tastes game-y. So I'm including it in game meat week. (See also: it's my blog and I can do what I want.) Plus it's cute and cuddly like the rabbit from the other day's post.

    Lamb with pici, from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano
    Serves 6 (he says it serves 4, but we had loads leftover)

    Lamb ragu
    4 oz. pancetta, chopped
    olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 fennel bulb, chopped (you can chop and add the fronds if you like)
    1 carrot, chopped
    1 bunch of basil, picked from the stems, and roughly chopped
    1 lb. of freshly ground lamb shoulder (yes, I put mine in the meat grinder)
    salt and pepper
    1 cup white wine
    1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (either homemade, or the simple stuff in a can in the tomato aisle)

    Pici (a type of pasta)
    2 cups semolina flour
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1-1 1/4 cups water, room temperature

    To serve
    Ample amounts of grated Parmesan cheese

    Heat a little bit of olive oil in a sturdy dutch oven and add the chopped pancetta. Once it browns, add the onion, fennel, carrot and basil and cook until the veggies are softened, stirring frequently. Add the lamb and continue to stir to allow all the lamb to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the wine, making sure to scrape up those browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce, and stir to combine. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and let it cook for at least an hour. Stir occasionally.

    To make the noodles, mound the flours on a really large cutting board or countertop. Make a well in the center, and slowly add some water. Swirl in the water with your finger, but still maintain the well-like shape. Add some more water, swirl, etc., etc., until you form a dough. (The amount of water will depend on how humid your kitchen is.) Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Note: this dough is REALLY stiff, and kneading the dough will likely be exhausting. You may need to take a shower afterwards. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before proceeding.

    Okay, so now you've rested from all that kneading. Pinch off a 1-inch ball of dough and roll it between your hands to make a snake of dough. This seems like it should be easy - I mean, who hasn't done this same thing with play-doh? But, again, the dough is stiff, and it will seem like quite a process. I highly recommend that you recruit at least one other person to do this with you. You want the pici to be about 1/8 - 1/4 inch in diameter. You'll have long snakes of dough, so cut them into 3-5 inch pieces for easier eating.

    To cook the noodles, place in salted boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Toss with the sauce, and serve with the Parmesan cheese.