Thursday, August 28, 2008

tomorrow is only a day away

I'm unbelievably stoked to be joining Matty on the road this weekend. I'm taking a little break from LA and riding on the bus with Matty as he plays shows in Las Vegas, Reno and San Francisco.

Never one to come to a party empty-handed, I brought along Blueberry Almond Muffins, a riff on this Raspberry Almond Bread from one of the most beautiful food blogs I've ever come across.

I had initially wanted to make cookies for the band, but as I was driving home, I realized I had thrown out my old, disgusting cookie sheet in a fit of anger, so I had to make do with the cooking utensils I still possessed. I didn't feel like madeleines, cakes would be too much trouble to transport on a plane, and they're a little too healthy to know what to do with a batch of cupcakes, so I decided to make little breakfast treats in the form of mini muffins.

The batter yielded about 24 mini muffins, with 2 ramekins full for extra-big muffins (breakfast for me and the only other person who's going to be in the office on the Friday before Labor Day). I'd have to say I preferred the taste and texture of the big muffins, so I think I'll use my regular muffin tin or a loaf pan for the next go. I really wanted to use strawberries in this bread, but I wasn't moved by the strawberries I found in the grocery store, and I had exactly one cup of blueberries approaching expiration in my fridge.

I loved these muffins. I think the crunch of slivered almonds really made them. The blueberries, probably not ideal on their own at this point, found new life as tart counterpoints to the lightly sweet bread. And the smell of them was out of this world. I was barely able to let them cool before QC'ing one. Let's hope they make it through my plane ride tomorrow. :P

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

holiday, celebrate

I read somewhere that it's National Potato Day today. I'm not sure I've ever celebrated a food holiday before, but I figured today was a good place to start. Go starch!

I think there's an actual fancy name for this dish, but for lack of desire to research, I am calling it Pesto Pasta with Potatoes and Green Beans. Clever, no?

I was planning on just getting regular old fingerlings, but I went downtown for a Sustainable LA event on Sunday, and found the nicest man selling the cutest potatoes I've ever seen. I walked away with a paper bag full (with some baby onions thrown in for good measure and a bunch of grapes for munching while walking around) for the unbeatable price of $3.00.

Unfortunately, the potatoes were the highlight of the festival, but what a highlight they were. I sort of eyeballed this recipe, so please feel free to add more or less potatoes/green beans to your taste. I think this would be a great post-race meal. Not that I've done much gymming since my run, but I'm just saying. I also imagine that would be just as good as a cold pasta salad. I'll find out tomorrow with my leftovers. :)

Pesto Pasta with Potatoes and Green Beans
1/2 lb. of any shaped pasta
1/2 lb. potatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with about 3 inches of water (make sure there's room for the pasta you'll add later). Bring to a boil. Add pasta. Cook according to package directions. When there's 4 minutes left in the pasta cooking time, add green beans. Boil until all are tender - should all be done at the same time. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with amazing Cilantro Pesto.

Monday, August 18, 2008

who knew

I didn't really expect much when I started in on these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins. I had never had zucchini bread/muffins, and to be honest, I didn't really think I'd like them. I had 3 reasons to make these: 1) I still had three zucchini in the fridge even though I've been eating this Zucchini Saute just about every day for the last week (side-note: the saute is equally good with a fried egg on top for breakfast or with cubed fresh mozzarella tossed in), 2) I had two tubs of mascarpone in my fridge because I had forgotten to add one of them in this already-sinful Mac and Cheese, and 3) I was going to pick up one of our bands from an early flight at the airport, and figured they might need a snack.

Well, because of airport delays, I didn't end up needing to feed the band, but I did end up with 24 ridiculously good muffins that I forced upon the office today. They're unbelievably moist, not too sweet, and you can pretend they're good for you. :) You can't see (for the most part) or taste (at all) the zucchini, but I do believe they should get the credit for the moistness. I suppose the mascarpone and buttermilk don't hurt, either. :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

till you're gone

I made this Mac and Cheese with Pancetta from the September issue of Bon Appetit on Saturday, but I didn't get a chance to partake until today. Silly, I know. My friend Greg and I had plans to go to Hollywood Billiards for some preseason football action, and I couldn't quite justify having a mac and cheese lunch followed by some wings and chili cheese fries. Given how anti-climactic the game was, though, I wish I had just stayed home and eaten the mac.

It's very good. I felt like I was in front of the stove for a really long time, but that could just have been the infernal heat in our house. I'm not sure I would say it's better than this bit of cheese love, but it's definitely much cheaper (regular ol' cheddar, no shitakes). I made a doggy bag for Greg, and he called it "scrumptious."

I suppose having this beauty in the oven didn't help with the heat in the house. I supplemented this recipe for Buttermilk Pie with about 5 handfuls of blueberries, just enough to cover the bottom of the crust in one layer.

I have never had buttermilk pie, but this one called to me. Plus, I had leftover buttermilk from some chocolate cupcakes, and I'm always annoyed when I end up throwing out buttermilk. I mean, I just don't understand why buttermilk isn't sold in pints like whipping cream. Who uses all of their buttermilk?

Well, now I can say I do. I may have to make this pie every time I have extra buttermilk. Oh man. I don't really know how to describe the custard. It's like Jell-O vanilla pudding. Not in the cheap, non-homemade kind of way, but in the familiar, comforting, sweet, cool way. The only thing I would change about this for next time is the crust-to custard ratio. While the crust recipe provided is delicious, it's a lot more crust than I personally like - I'd actually want to halve the crust recipe, roll it out thinner and put it in a tart pan to let the custard really shine.

Friday, August 8, 2008

too much of a good thing

I ate two zucchini for dinner tonight. How/why? This is why.

I bought 2 pounds of zucchini the other day, planning to make this Zucchini Polenta Tart. I've actually been meaning to make the tart for ages, but have been waiting for Matty to go on tour again because he doesn't like zucchini. With him finally on the road, and me armed with more zucchini than I can eat myself, I had set aside time for me to make this tart this week.

Well, the week got away from me (as they tend to do these days), and I finally got a chance to launch into the recipe today. Except today was also the first day I've convinced myself to hit the gym since the race, so when I finally got home, I was exhausted/ravenous.

Rather than wait to make polenta and then bake it for an hour, I took a shortcut and just made some soft polenta and smothered it in zucchini, almonds and Pecorino. How I wish I had a big chunk of Pecorino to grate into the gorgeous slivers Julie has on her blog. Alas, I only had the pre-grated stuff and had to make do.

It was still so good, though. I'll admit, finishing off the rest of the zucchini was pure sport-feeding, but I couldn't help myself. The great saltiness of the cheese, the still-crunch of the zucchini, and the toasty almonds were the perfect thing I needed to recharge after this week. And the almonds made the house smell so divine. I sort of wish I hadn't gorged so that I'd have leftovers for tomorrow, but I do still have about 6 zucchini in the crisper. :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

the road to ensenada

Matty and I recently discovered a new favorite lunch joints - the very appropriately named Best Fish Taco in Ensenada. It's a simple, brilliantly-executed concept: you can only order fish or shrimp tacos. Either way, they're made in front of you, deep-fried to perfection with just the right amount of breading. Then you turn around and dress them with your picks from the salsa bar.

I'm surprised I'm not there every single day. In fact, I thought seriously about foregoing my grocery shopping after work today and just stopping by to grab 2 fish and 1 shrimp taco. My daydreams are very specific. :)

However, I stayed strong and did the groceries like a frugal lass and knew I would be able to reward myself with Ina Garten's Shrimp Salad. I just wrapped it in a couple mini corn tortillas to get to Ensenada without the frying.

The shrimp salad is really good. I hate tough, overcooked shrimp, so this 3-minute boiling method really gets it right. I think I'll use a lot less mayo next time. I'm actually not really a fan of mayo, so I'm not sure why I didn't think of this before, but I could substitute guacamole for the mayo or at least even out the mayo-to-mustard ratio a little more. Matty hates mayo even more than I do. In fact, he hates most of these kinds of "salads" (i.e. chicken, tuna, egg). When he gets back, I'll have to try it guacamole style.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

so much to say

Beware - this is a long catch-up post. I've got nothing else to do tonight - I just ran a 10k, and I am not physically able to do anything else.

It all started with a lovely vacation. We stayed with Matty's parents, and who would want to cook when Matty's mom will? Dear heavens, that was good eats.

Most of these were straight from the July 2008 issue of Food & Wine magazine, one of the many I picked up at Penn Station on our trip up to Syracuse.

These Chicken and Cheese Tamales were delicious, but were kind of a pain in the ass. I guess I'm just not cut out for wrapping tamales in plastic wrap. They escaped a bit in the steamer. I had to go ahead and overachieve by making Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic to shred for the filling, but it was worth the extra step since I just did it the night before.

For my mother's birthday, I made an Almond Cake that purported to save one's soul. Now it was good, but it felt to me more like a breakfast cake (albeit a very good and rich breakfast cake) than a special occasion cake. Maybe I was also too focused on the failure of the accompanying Strawberry White Chocolate Mousse to stay set during transport. Ah well. The leftover mousse, after it was given a couple hours in the fridge and not in my car, was really lovely.

More fun from Food & Wine - Farro with Chanterelles, Green Beans and Mascarpone. I had never had farro before, but I didn't feel anything mixed with chanterellles, green beans and mascarpone could be bad, so I went with it. It turned out great and lasted for ages, but it was really quite expensive. I've read that farro can be tracked down at TJ's, but the ones near me didn't carry it. The stuff I found was imported and like $15. Now I know that's not terribly much, but it's a goddamn grain. And the mushrooms were expensive, too - bought them dried and almost hit $15 getting the full amount I needed. Next time, I might just do couscous and crimini - I think I'd be just as happy.

Yucatan Fish with Crisp Garlic. I added corn because I had some frost-bitten stuff in the freezer. A gorgeous dish (which I served over some quick polenta), but way, way too tart. Like the first bite makes you jump tart. Luckily, I had oversalted the polenta, and somehow between that and our tongues gradually getting acclimated to the abundance of lime, we downed everything, but I don't think I'll try this again. It was nice to get some fish into our diet, though.

Lastly, the delightful, but out of focus Fettuccine with Tomatoes and Crispy Capers. I mean, who knew fried capers were delicious? I don't even really like capers generally - they're usually just in the house for those occasions when Matty fancies to go all out on his lox and bagel. It just goes to show you how everything tastes good fried. :) I left out the prosciutto because I didn't think it needed more saltiness, and we didn't miss the meat.

I've been eating these leftovers for the last couple days (with just a touch of canned TJ's bolognese sauce), but I think I hit the leftover jackpot with tonight's post-race meal. I'll spare you the photo because it looks a lot less appetizing than it is. I'll have to thank Mr. Bittman for the idea of Spaghetti with Fried Eggs, or Poor-Man's Carbonara. It literally took 5 minutes to make with leftovers - threw the garlic in the olive oil, nuked the spaghetti for 3 minutes, fried the eggs in that time, and then threw everything together. I would say it was the best meal of my life (downed by two glasses of apple juice and maybe just a little bit of a Vosges Bacon Bar), but obviously I'm a little biased by the fact that I had only had a turkey sandwich at 2:00p and then at 6:00p, proceeded to run for a greater distance than I've ever run at any one time. :P

And now, to bed. I'm surprised I didn't pass out mid-post. Aren't you lucky? :)