Monday, March 31, 2008

you can't blame me for trying

I wish I could tell you those little yellow orbs were gnocchi. Not that the grapes they actually are weren't good, but it's Day 1 of my mini-detox from a bingeful weekend in Vegas, and I already miss the carbs I'm trying to avoid at least for this week.

The idea for Sausages & Grapes came out of reading Mark Bittman's blog. It didn't immediately sound great, but it was intriguing enough for me to want to try. I grabbed some green seedless grapes from TJ's on my way home from work (even though I really wanted to get the white muscat grapes that were out of stock, but still had a sign up to tease me).

I sliced the link and a half of chorizo left over from Easter brunch and threw them into a dry skillet to warm up. Added the grapes once the sausage was warm to the touch, and then waited for the first couple grapes to pop before turning off the heat and adding just a bit of lime juice.

It was pretty good, but I think I'd rather have it in the future as a side instead of it being my main course. There's only so much of that flavor combination I can personally take. I think it was mainly that every time I bit into a grape, it sort of made me think about cooked raisins, just about the only food I can't stand. In any case, I'd definitely like to think on this further to find the right dish to pair it with. The only thing I can think of now is some pasta or polenta, but that may just be my carb-starved brain talking.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

faster, sooner, now

I really should eat like this more often. Don't know why I don't - this was perfectly easy (made entirely of leftovers) and perfectly healthy (hi greens, hi beans).

I normally discard beet greens - particularly if I'm using baby beets, there isn't that much greenery that comes with them anyway, so it's not usually worth the trouble of saving them. This time, however, I used some full-grown beets, and their greens were completely unruly. So much so that the grocery bagger had no idea what to do with them. Just sham 'em in, guy!

The second part of the leftovers was just a bit of canned garbanzo beans from the Edamame Hummus I made for Easter.

As I was staring at my fridge (not even really that hungry because brunch had just ended a couple hours ago), I thought I'd start the process of cleaning it out by making a little something up on the fly:

Beans and Greens
serves 1 generously

olive oil
half of a small onion
2 cloves garlic
10 beet greens leaves, chopped
1/2 cup drained canned garbanzo beans
salt and pepper to taste

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Slice the onion thinly into half moons. Mince the garlic. Toss into the pan, and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the greens and saute for another 5-7 minutes until they're cooked to your liking. Add the beans to the last 2 minutes of cooking just to heat up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gorge because you can. :)

in with the breeze on sunday morning

I am not at all religious, but that never stops me from making a big deal out of Easter brunch. I think it all started in college when my friend Casey organized 15-20 of us for a trip to the beautiful and delicious Firefly Bistro in Pasadena - no small feat since not that many of us had cars. The following year, I arranged a return visit to Firefly (I actually just stumbled upon the Excel sheet I made that year of RSVP's and each person's first and second choice of brunch location - I used to be extremely obsessive-compulsive). We've done it every year since - either at a new restaurant or at someone's house. This is the second year I've hosted at our place.


Smoked Salmon Tartare on New Potato Slices
Can't live without them at a fancy brunch, although I tried to save some time by baking the potato slices the day before and keeping them in Pyrex - definitely not still good enough to save the trouble of baking them the same day.

Green Pea Hummus
Originally from Bon Appetit but brought to my attention by Celine at Have Cake, Will Travel. I modified to use edamame (one 16-oz. bag of frozen edamame yields about 1 1/2 cups shelled). It's a good thing I liked this because I think a grand total of 2 people touched it. Oh well. More for me, although I may leave out the cumin altogether next time. I like cumin, but not that much.

Grated Carrot and Beets with Fresh Mozzarella Slices
I made the full recipe this time, and boy does it make a lot. I sent people home with Tupperware full of the stuff, but I still have more than I can possibly eat before it goes bad. The mozzarella was a nice touch, if I do say so myself. And it's so darn pretty!

Caramelized Onion Quiche with Mashed Potato Crust
Quiche recipe courtesy of Elise and crust culled from a variety of Internet sources - basically 7 Dutch baby gold potatoes, boiled (leave the peel on), mashed, spread onto a pie plate with half a stick of butter and baked at 350 degrees until golden before continuing on with Elise's recipe. Next time, I'll bake the crust until crispy - I really liked the crisp edges, but thought the bottom melted too much into the texture of the eggs.

Limoncello Tiramisu
For some reason, took a Slashfood article to bring to my attention even though I religiously check my Epicurious emails as soon as they come in. Unfortunately, this wasn't my favorite, and I didn't bother with a photo because it wasn't very aesthetically pleasing, either. I really liked the lemon-y mascarpone cream, but the limoncello flavor overwhelmed. Perhaps next time, a simple syrup to soak the ladyfingers in would suffice.

All in all, great fun. There's really nothing that makes me happier than a house full of people chowing down. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

gotta travel on

Matty's been super good about his new fitness goals - unlike me, he's been working out every day and following his morning runs with a very healthy yogurt and granola breakfast. We've been enjoying a cinnamon-apple-raisin granola that our friend Allison gave us for Christmas, and had just run out when I saw this Chocolate Granola recipe from Molly at Orangette.

Matty is also leaving town today for 5 weeks on tour with Tristan Prettyman, so I thought I'd help him at least maintain his healthy eating by sending him along with a jarful. (Dark chocolate is totally healthy! Just Google it!) :)

Unfortunately, in the rush to pack everything up, he left the granola here. Oh well. He'll just have to wait until he gets back home. But for a new batch, because there's no way the jar is going to last that long. After all, it has everything I love in it - coconut, almonds and chocolate. I may add some dried cherries or blueberries in next time to add a little tartness, but it's pretty much perfect as is.

Monday, March 17, 2008

she's so lucky

So apparently, St. Patrick's Day was officially moved to last Saturday because celebrating it today would interfere with Holy Week. Who knew? Definitely not me. Otherwise, I would never have planned on making a corned beef and Swiss tray complete with homemade Irish Soda Bread and Irish Stout Fondue.

Oh, who am I kidding? I would do this every Monday from here on out - that's how good it came out. And I haven't had fondue in so long that I told Matty I was going to make it regardless of how many people came over.

Matty ended up bringing the band home after rehearsal, so it was the 5 of us for the feast. The soda bread was my favorite - it was nice and sweet, and thankfully, did not need 2 hours to rise (the reason I hate making bread). I love that it was just a matter of mixing everything together in a bowl and dumping it into a loaf pan while I did other things. I left out the raisins because I hate cooked raisins, and I left out the caraway seeds because Matty hates them.

I was going to make muffins, but I figured if we were going to make sandwiches, muffins might be a little awkward. The loaf ended up being a great idea, though, because we were able to make mini-sandwiches to skewer and dunk in the fondue.

The fondue was really great, too. I noticed a couple startled/confused looks when I explained what was going into the fondue, but everyone thought the end-product was very tasty. It's very strong - the Irish cheddar is nice and sharp, and stout is, well, stout. I ended up using about one full cup (as opposed to the 3/4 cup called for) because it was very thick after the cheese melted. The fondue was served with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and tortellini. I was planning on adding potatoes to the mix, but the kids were hungry.

Dessert was a really great Chocolate Mousse that I Irished up by using Bailey's instead of Kahlua. I would have loved to have a photo for you all, but it was not very special-looking because I kind of just dumped it into 5 wine glasses. It's really about time for me to get a piping bag.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

just for you

We just found out that my aunt (my dad's half sister who has lived with my parents since before I was born, and played a huge role in raising me and my sister when my parents were at work) has cancer. She's still got plenty of doctor appointments coming up to determine a course of action, so we're hopeful there are options. It's kind of an emotional hazard to speculate too much, so I'm trying to shut my brain off until I hear something concrete.

Anyway. This post was not meant to bring anyone down. It's really meant to celebrate. And be a submission to my first-ever food blog event, Sugar High Friday #41: Sweet Gifts, hosted by Danielle at Habeas Brulee.

My sister and I visited my parents two weeks ago to have lunch with Dad for his birthday. My sister and I had discussed previously if we should be bringing anything, but Dad usually picks out his own birthday cake, so we didn't.

Of course, that meant that when we got home, there was no cake to be found. The whole lunch was kind of a downer - Aunt had just gotten back from a week-long hospitalization that was filled with tests and no answers, and the not knowing added to all of the frequent trips to doctors' offices got to be really wearying. Dad even said up-front that this wasn't going to be a very cheerful birthday because he was too worried.

So sad. My sister and I went home again today to visit with Aunt and have lunch with my parents, so I brought this White Chocolate Irish Cream Marbled Loaf as a belated birthday cake. I didn't swirl it because the parentals are not the biggest fans of chocolate (they'll have it every now and then, but mostly when it's around macadamia nuts), so I wanted to give them the option of just eating the top half of the slice if they were so inclined. Also, it reminded me of my childhood when, very mysteriously, our cartons of Neopolitan ice cream would always empty strawberry and vanilla first. I never found out who did it, but I never investigated very thoroughly as I was happy as can be to be doing the fam a "favor" by cleaning out the chocolate ice cream. :)

Anyway, everyone loved this cake. I've recently come around to white chocolate, which I mainly credit to the awesome white chocolate gelato variations at Pazzo Gelato. That half of the cake was impossibly creamy and wonderful. That's not to say the chocolate half wasn't equally great. I was planning on using Bailey's, but I thankfully noticed just in the nick of time that our particular bottle had expired last October, so I went with the Kahlua. I may add more next time because I couldn't really taste it (especially smothered in vanilla ice cream :P).

Friday, March 14, 2008

geek in the pink

When I was a kid, my parents had math toys for me. I am not kidding. While "normal" kids had the joys of Duck Hunt (my personal fave), I had this, in red. (The auction's ended - don't get too excited. And if any of you even THINK about getting this for me as a gag gift, I promise I won't laugh). I mean, seriously.

So it should come as no surprise that I happily celebrate Pi(e) day (3/14). My friend Daisy brought up that it's going to be one hell of a PI day in 2015 - 3/14/15 (Pi is 3.1415...). It's going to be fun to try to come up with a pie worthy of such a grand occasion.

Here's the "purple pizza" I promised I'd make again. Made for a very colorful Friday night meal alongside Grated Carrots and Beets from Chocolate & Zucchini. We wouldn't have Friday nights any other way. :P

It was more of a purple pizza the last time I made it. Using about 5 diced purple potatoes and a tart pan, all you could see was a sea of purple. This time, I chose to slice the potatoes into rounds and use a pie plate, so there was a lot more eggy goodness in which the potatoes could roam. I did manage to forget to add salt and sugar to the crust when I made it before work this morning, so it was a little bland, but like I always like to say - you can always add salt, but you can't take it back out.

To save time and an extra pot to wash, I just sauteed the potato slices with the onions for about 15 minutes while I baked the empty pie crust. Poured the potatoes/onions into the crust, and then the egg/milk mixture went over top. I didn't feel the need for bacon, so this is another accidentally vegetarian meal.

The beets and carrots were also awesome, and I love how it's the perfect base to color as you like. For this particular go-around, I used sesame oil, apple cider vinegar and spicy brown mustard. And it's so pretty! I've never had raw beets before, but I may have to add them to my salad fixings in the future.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

life in the fast lane

Yet another meal that wasn't scheduled for the dinner table just yet this week. We were going to head out to the Farmer's Market to join some friends for dinner, but Cody, the tour manager, ended up making a stop at our house to drop off Matty's gear. There was no point in him continuing down towards home in rush-hour traffic, so he stayed for dinner - Pasta with Clams.

I love this dry method because we hardly ever have white wine in the house. It would only be used for cooking, and then is left in the fridge to go bad. Best part, this meal comes together unbelievably quickly. Clean those clams (Manila in my case) while the water boils. While the linguine cooks, the oil (and butter for me because I ran out of olive oil), garlic and clams can go into the skillet. The pasta and clams conveniently get done at about the same time, and then the pasta joins the happy clams in the skillet. Ridiculously easy, but looks so fancy. Story of my life, really. :P

Monday, March 10, 2008

something good

After completely blowing it out at the uber-fabulous Stella Mare's this weekend, Matty and I returned home from our romantic weekend getaway filled with plans for eating better and getting fit. He ran this morning; I didn't. Score one for him. :P

This Salmon with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter seemed to fit the healthy bill. It actually wasn't going to make it to the kitchen table until later this week, but I had a hellacious day (which I attribute to coming down off the high of the weekend), and wanted to go home and do something I felt I was good at.

The lentils are absolutely to die for. I added about twice the amount of mustard called for (just Dijon) because I felt it needed more, but obviously, that's to taste. I also didn't use green lentils - it was just hard to look at the 99-cent bag of brown lentils next to the $8 box of green ones and justify the expense, but maybe one day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

when you least expect it

I've been trying to get back to the gym, and I've actually been pretty good about going to yoga classes, but I just can't get in the mood to jump back on the treadmill. I've also not been doing any weights at all, so I am now paying for the fact that I went buck-nutty with my arms yesterday.

With the myriad of errands I had to run after work today in addition to my dejected biceps, I convinced myself to skip yoga. I just can't even think of doing downward dog right now. I just wanted to snuggle up to my laptop with a lovely bowl of pasta. Or maybe soup.

Since nothing in my noodle soup recipe collection thrilled me, I decided to reach over and go through the tiny Post-It's I have in 500 Soups. The Smoked Haddock and Sugar Snap Pea Chowder. Holler. This was going to be my companion tonight.

I had leftover tofu from last night's dinner, so I used that instead of the fish, and because it wasn't fishy, I substituted veggie stock for the fish stock called for. Yay! Accidentally vegetarian! I was glad to be able to use the last bit of sugar snap peas languishing in the crisper, as well as the potatoes and onions that have been feeling neglected because they never made it into the Potato-Onion Tart they were purchased for.

It required quite a bit of salting at the end, but I think it turned out very well for having just been put together from stuff I was otherwise going to have to throw in the trash. It calls for milk instead of cream, so the soup is quite light - if I make this again on a colder night, I think I'll have to either sub some cream or add more potatoes. The sugar snap peas, one of my favorite veggies, were a lovely contrast to the creaminess of everything else. Kind of like a little spring in a bowl full of winter.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

can't win them all

Can anyone tell from just looking at this picture if I screwed up making Bittman's Stuck-Pot Rice with Yogurt and Mango (other than the fact that it didn't release from the pot in one piece)? I was so sorely disappointed in it, and I can't believe it's the recipe because I've had such a good track record with How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

I don't know what I was expecting. It smelled like absolute heaven while it was cooking. The mango sauce that went with it was so good - just yogurt, mango and curry. I am very glad to have a bit of leftover sauce, and I can't wait to be dipping all kinds of yum into it. When I bit into the rice, however, the only reaction I had was absolute terror - had I cracked a tooth (numerous teeth)? It didn't taste burnt. It didn't taste like anything. You wouldn't even have been able to tell there was mango and curry involved had it not been for the color. It was super dry. Could I have undercooked the rice in the beginning? Did I overcook the stuck-pot part, causing it to dry out more than it should have?

Maybe I was expecting arancini in pancake form. I think I wanted it to have a nice crispy crust, but still a tender, creamy center instead of the completely separated grains that I got here. Well, if there's any good to have come from making this, it's that I'm totally going to try to make an arancini pancake the next time I have leftover risotto.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

at the end of the day

A band that I work with is in town for a photo shoot, and two of the guys were staying with me. I figured I should at least provide breakfast. When we found out their flight was cancelled and couldn't be rescheduled until the next morning, that need became even more imperative - I now planned to greet them at the airport with the Cream Cheese Muffins from Bake or Break.

They sounded absolutely unbelievable, and they didn't disappoint. So soft, very moist with the fun crunch of sugar and nuts on top. I used macadamia because I had a tiny bit left from the Macadamia Pie, but, obviously, switch that up with whichever is your favorite. They baked up to be just about the most beautiful muffins I've ever made. I actually burned the bottoms of the first batch of 12 because I left them in for 30 minutes, but I did rescue some muffin tops to midnight snack on later. Thankfully, the recipe yielded another 12 muffins (perfect for me at 24 minutes), so I didn't have to show up at the airport empty-handed.

With the craziness of the day, we didn't actually get into the muffins until after the shoot ended at sunset. They seemed to really enjoy them, so I sent them home with the remainder. Better that than to add to my midnight snack collection. :P