Monday, April 27, 2009

different but the same

Another case of not judging a book by its cover: Curried Eggplant Risotto, strongly influenced by Food & Wine.

I had an eggplant to use up, and had my mind set on an eggplant curry, but didn't find any recipes that really piqued my interest. I also had some basil currently dying a slow and painful death, so I rescued about 10 leaves for this recipe as well.

The only downside: eggplant and creamy rice have very similar textures. So if you're not up for eating mush for dinner, I'd add something more texturally interesting as a side. Maybe roasted broccoli. :)

I also added curry powder - just couldn't get the eggplant + curry combination out of my head. I suppose my version different enough to repost, so here goes:

Curried Eggplant Risotto
olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. curry powder
2 14.5-oz. cans chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
1 c. Arborio rice
10 leaves basil, julienned
salt & pepper

1. Saute eggplant and garlic in olive oil for 10 minutes. Add curry powder and cook for another minute. Remove from heat. (In order to cut down on the number of pots and pans, I removed the eggplant to the cutting board I used to chop all the veggies).

2. Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to a boil in a separate saucepan. Add a touch more olive oil to the eggplant pot and saute onions until translucent. Add rice and stir until well-coated.

3. Add hot chicken broth a ladleful at a time, waiting until absorbed before adding more. You don't have to stir constantly (I did a couple dishes here and there), but keep an eye on it. When all broth has been added, you should have lovely, creamy rice. If not, heat up some more liquid and add until you do.

4. Remove from heat and add basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

my all

From top-ish to bottom-ish: Coconut Cookies, Matcha Sugar Cookies, Cranberry Icebox Ribbons, Pain d'amande Cookies, Healthy Cookies and Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownies. Whew. I'm exhausted from just typing all that out!

So. The occasion for such cookie extravagance, you ask?

Well, the story goes back to New Year's. And my resolutions. I vowed to add more singing into my life, and for once, I came through for myself. I joined the Hollywood Master Chorale at the end of January, and tonight was my second concert with them. (We also presented the same program last Sunday).

For some reason, I volunteered to bring 200 cookies for our post-concert reception. I think it really comes down to masochism. Especially after I spent the entire morning in Santa Monica being a supportive girlfriend - Matty had a gig at the Santa Monica's Farmer's Market with Krister Axel. I had initially set my alarm for 5:00a to do all of the baking, but once I realized how dark it is outside at 5:00a, I reset for 6:30a (my normal gym-waking time). I really should have just gotten up at 5, though - for that entire hour and a half of extra "sleep," I had nothing but nightmares about not finishing the cookies before the concert. It was wretched.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. The show was great, the cookies were polished off, and I'm going to sleep so hard tonight.

But first, here's a little recap:

Coconut Cookies
I've already established in a previous post that they're my new favorite. I used white whole-wheat flour this time around, and they seemed a little dryer. However, could also have been the fact that they were out in open air for about 2 hours before they were eaten. Still delicious.

Matcha Sugar Cookies
Same batch as last time, just configured a little differently. The swirled ones were basically just mashed together. The pinwheel ones were my favorite. Basically, I piled a rectangle of vanilla dough on top of a rectangle of matcha dough. Once they hardened in the fridge, I cut the dough in half lengthwise (so that each half had a green bit and a white bit). Then I flipped one half to make them pretty. Like this:

Cranberry Icebox Ribbons
Thrillingly, the cuts stayed pretty neat this time around.

Pain d'amande Cookies
Really great flavor, but a huge pain in the ass to slice so thinly. I managed to get about 4 dozen really nice-shaped ones to stick into clear plastic boxes I found at Michael's, but the rest of the dough just crumbled, and I couldn't put the bits back together again to try to re-slice.

Matty loved them - perfect for sticking into an ice cream sundae, he said. I loved how the itty-bitty amount of cinnamon went so far in each bite of crispy cookie.

Healthy Cookies
I made them previously as drop cookies, and thought I'd save some time by piling the dough into a 9x9 pan and baking off to slice as bars. Well, it took forever to bake up properly. I pulled them out after about 30 minutes, sliced them, realized they weren't going to hold up, transferred them onto a cookie sheet and baked them again for another 10 minutes. They were fine. Probably would have saved myself a lot of stress if I had just recreated the drop cookies.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownies
No nuts for me - hate nuts in cookies and brownies. My first time with vegan + gluten-free baked goods. I've done each individually, but never together. These also took a little longer to bake than the suggested time, but they were well worth the wait. Such amazing texture. Makes me feel just a little less bad that I spent twelve freaking dollars on the sweet rice flour that I only needed 1/4 cup of. If I find out they sell it at the Bulk Bin, and I really could have only gotten the amount I needed, I'm going to be angry. In fact, I think I'll avoid the Bulk Bin for that very reason.

Something did taste a little off to me. Matty cleverly suggested it was the missing eggs and butter, but I think it may have been the cocoa-powder I used. (Definitely wasn't the pumpkin puree - couldn't even taste that). I can't really describe the taste, and the vegan friend I basically baked them for didn't say anything about it, so I'll let it lay for now. But he's got a birthday coming up in June, and I'm thinking of figuring these brownies out again with a different cocoa powder.

*Thud* That's me face-planting into the keyboard. I've given everything I have in every possible capacity today. Time for bed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

straighten up and fly right

After splurging on an impromptu trip to The Smokehouse after I picked Matty up from the airport Monday night, and having late night jalapeno mac and cheese & calamari Wednesday night, tonight was time to get back to healthy eating. What better way to do that than with Steamed Fish on Kale? And what better fish to use than the mahi mahi Matty caught while in Florida a couple weeks ago? That's what I thought. :)

I didn't have any white wine, so I used a dry vermouth. It ended up evaporating pretty quickly, so I added a bit more water to the cooking process.

Changes for next time:

- I'd double the amount of kale. I just can't get enough!

- I didn't feel the kale needed to cook for 10 minutes before the fish was added. Next time, it'll be 5 minutes for the kale.

I was afraid this dish was going to be bland - I mean, it is steamed fish after all. I even prepped the dining table with various condiments, including a Ginger Lime Dipping Sauce. While the dipping sauce was good enough to drink straight, it was almost unnecessary because the fish was somehow magically flavorful. It almost made me forget all about jalapeno mac and cheese. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

it's getting hot in here

It's been magnificently warm the last couple days, and now with Matty home, I really wanted to grill our dinner. Unfortunately, I got out of work a little late and then had to stop at the grocery store, so by the time these Grilled Mussels were ready, it was chilly and too dark to eat outside. Oh well.

And the mussels were fine, and I will never complain have having to call a pound of mussels dinner, but it was really these Grilled Eggplant Caprese Sandwiches that we made as an appetizer that were the highlight of the meal.

My love affair with Brussels sprouts, broccoli and green beans are well-documented on this blog, but I just felt it was time to have something new. I walked around the TJ's produce section, and the chubby eggplants just called to me (literally, the description tag said, "Grill Me! And Add Cheese!" Why, don't mind if I do!

The eggplant, peel on, was sliced into about 1/2-inch thick slices, rolled around in olive oil and grilled. I then topped half of the rounds with a slice of fresh mozzarella and half a basil leaf. The original idea was to make them into caprese towers, but since we were standing around the grill, the sandwich idea was just more convenient.

A whole eggplant between two people might have been a little too much, but the sandwiches were so good, we just couldn't stop. It was the perfect balance between the earthy flavor of tender yet chewy eggplant, the smooth and cool mozzarella, and the freshness of the basil bits. Just a lovely summer meal!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

good enough

With Matty out of town hanging with his folks, I have little motivation to do much cooking. Not that I wasn't about to make a fine meal for myself, but I'm not necessarily moved to take extra gourmet steps for dinner for one.

I went with a new favorite, Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms, over soba noodles. This time, I followed my own advice of 425 degrees for 30 minutes. During the last 10, I cracked an egg in the middle of the cookie sheet and let it bake. Next time, I'll cut that time down to 5 minutes - although it looks perfectly and gorgeously yolky, it was actually pretty solid. I was hoping for a runny yolk to create a bit of a sauce for the dish. Good thing I already know there's a next time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

it takes two

These Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins are so unassuming. They're lovely and golden, but don't look like anything special. Their somewhat lumpy texture and the visible oats make them look suspiciously healthy. And yet, I inhaled more than I care to admit just as soon as the threat of burning my mouth on them had only slightly dissipated.

These taste like a peanut butter-banana sandwich. When I bit into one, my mouth felt sticky - like I was actually eating a spoonful of peanut butter. I've never really had that sensation before when eating anything else that's peanut butter-flavored. I rather like it.

The banana taste is almost an afterthought to the peanut butter, but the smell of banana baking in the oven is completely heavenly. Really, there's nothing like the combo of banana and peanut butter (unless it's chocolate, which I may add next time. You know, to discard any notion that these might be healthy).

And with it being (relatively) chilly in LA tonight, it was nice to have the oven going. These muffins will be accompanying Matty to Austin where he'll see his parents. They've been driving from Florida, so I thought it might be nice to send something homemade their way.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

jesus is just alright

I've had a massive Easter brunch every year since college. My dear friend Casey started the tradition then, and since graduation, we've continued it with a stop at Barefoot Restaurant, a return to Firefly, where I believe it all began, and then I've hosted at my house for the last 2 years (it seems Easter 2007 was pre-blog).

This year, however, Easter Sunday fell on Rose Bowl Flea Market Sunday (2nd Sunday of the month), and we can't not go to the Flea Market. Plus, most of the original group now lives out of town and everyone else has increasing social obligations, so it's getting more difficult to get people together for a holiday none of us really celebrate anyway (except to use as an excuse to eat). And although the Flea Market today was almost* a complete bust today, this morning's breakfast of Cream Cheese Buns was anything but.

For the jam, I used Matty's mom's homemade plum jam. Yum. I only had a standard muffin pan, but I didn't really want to have to deal with baking two batches, so i just overfilled them. Thankfully, they didn't explode and drip all over the oven, but I wouldn't recommend doing that.

The muffins were absolutely divine. Wonderfully moist and with a crumb that doesn't fall to pieces when you tear into it. Put a little fruit on the side to make us feel a little less bad about the cream cheese and sugar, and let it all power us through the Market. We even had two more for our lunch dessert while we were there! They're that good, folks.

* It would have been a bust had we not stopped and purchased some vermouth-soaked, pimiento-stuffed olives, which we're enjoying in martinis right now. Yes, it is 3:00p. No, we have no shame. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

i guess second best is all i will know

Faith's testimonial on The Kitchn regarding Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk had me going absolutely nuts. I had to make it immediately. But, Matty was out of town, and I don't know what I'd do with 3 pounds of chicken on my own. And I'd have to wait for another weekend to come by since there's no way I'm cooking anything for an hour and a half on a weeknight.

I was just so intrigued by the milk and lemon combo, curds be damned. Also, I thought I already had the best chicken recipe. Obviously, I now had to make Chicken in Milk on behalf of science.

I used 3 pounds of chicken legs (thigh + drumstick attached) - about 4 legs. I still have a stigma against whole chickens. (I don't deal with the whole turkey at Thanksgiving - I leave that to the boys). So parts it was, and I don't think it affected the final result.

I took the lid off for the final 30 minutes of roasting/braising time. I felt the end result was a little dry, so I might shave off a couple minutes next time. The meat still fell off the bone and was quite good, but I would have preferred it a little moister (and I basted about 4 times throughout cooking).

There were really no curds to speak of. Don't know why - there were little clouds here and there, but for the most part, I don't think anyone would have noticed. Definitely don't let that hold you back if that's your only concern with this recipe.

CIM is much simpler - a much shorter grocery list than Forty, and ingredients I'm more likely to already have in my fridge. I liked the bright, lemony taste of CIM, but I think my heart still belongs to Forty. Maybe I'll just add that lemon zest on over to that recipe, and save the milky calories.

But really, the star of dinner was the Roasted Haricot Verts and Portobellos I threw together. And to think, this might have never had happened had my Trader Joe's not been out of stock on asparagus. I can't even imagine writing out a recipe - just toss the haricot verts and thickly sliced portobellos in olive oil, garlic salt and pepper, spread them evenly on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven. Mine was in at 375 degrees for the last 20 minutes of CIM's cook time, and then I blasted them for another 5 minutes at 450 degrees. The higher temperature is key - it really gets those haricot verts nicely browned and crispy. If I were not trying to save time with something already in the oven, I think I'd go 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

I love my roasted asparagus, but I'd say these haricot verts definitely beat them out for sweetness and overall crispy goodness. The mushrooms soften and caramelize against the cookie sheet, but still provide sufficient chew since they were chopped so coarsely. I grabbed bits straight from the cookie sheet for myself while I was waiting for Matty to get off the phone and be ready for dinner. Hey, you snooze, you lose.

Friday, April 10, 2009

eat steak

With all the vegetarian meals we've had lately, I've really felt like we hadn't had a steak in a while. Then I looked at my calendar - oh, we went to a steakhouse 2 weeks ago. Never mind. Maybe this particular craving was linked to Nick's blog entry, enticingly entitled "The Butter Steak." How can that not make you want to drop absolutely everything and learn more?

And the things I learned - this method of cooking doesn't impart the burnt flavor that accompanies grilling or searing that I secretly hate but eat anyway because a) Matty likes it, and b) is extremely simple (sear steak on both sides under very high heat; eat within 5 minutes). I mean, I hate the bits with the grill marks on them - in my opinion, those are the bits that were done wrong. I like the flavor of smoked meat (another low-temp, high-cooking time endeavor), but not the taste of burnt meat.

So. Try this I had to. I went to the Farmer's Market and marched up the gentleman at the counter of Marconda's Meats (not the one in the photo) and asked for a 24-oz. piece of prime rib that was about 1 1/2 inches thick. He looked at me warily. "How many people are you trying to feed?"

"Two," I said. He nodded his head approvingly, as if he was as relieved as I was that he wasn't going to have to yell at me for trying to feed an entire dinner party. And off he went to slice off the largest piece of prime-rib-for-two I've ever seen.

You see, I did have some hesitation with this process - 40 minutes for 24 oz. of meat? "Isn't that a little too long?" wondered the girl who likes her steak cold in the middle. But, I was going to be home early for Good Friday, and the prime rib was on sale, so even if I effed it up beyond all belief, we'd still have time and cash to go grab take-out.

I also underestimated how big a 24-oz. steak really it is. This big (veggies, avert your eyes):

So, into my cast iron skillet it went. And let me tell you, the first step (browning the sides of the steak to render some fat for the pan) has got risotto beat in the arm-workout department. You try holding up 24-oz. of meat with tongs for 10 minutes. You'll have Michelle Obama arms in no time flat.

And just to clarify as to what the steps actually are, I had to write myself a Post-It with simplified steps. I just couldn't focus between all of eGullet's amazing photos:

Butter Steak
10 min: brown edges
10 min: brown flat side #1 with butter and garlic
remove fat in pan; flip steak
10 min: brown flat side #2 with new butter
salt and baste top side
flip steak
10 min: continue cooking on flat side #2
salt and baste top side
15 min: rest in 150-degree oven

Okay. So the crust is awesome-looking. But still, 40 minutes? I was still nervous. Fortunately, it did not look overcooked when Matty did the honors of carving it:

It was a pretty great steak. Still very tender and moist. It took Matty a second to reply when I asked him what he thought of it. More nervous time. But what he said was it's just not what he's used to. He's used to eating steak with smoky, charred flavors, and this is just buttery, beefy goodness. Which isn't a bad thing at all.

My thoughts: I would have liked it less cooked. Even though the steak looked quite pink, it still had the texture of well-done meat to me and not that melt-in-your-mouth goodness of a perfect rare steak. I think the next time I do it this way, I would skip the last 10 minutes of cooking time - no need to re-cook on the side that's already been cooked. But at the same time that I would be very interested in seeing how that leaves the steak, I don't know that I would make it this way again.

It's just cruel to have to look at a steak that delicious-looking for 40 minutes and not be able to eat it right away. Thankfully, we had a cheese plate going while I was cooking, and I had some Brussels sprouts to take care of as a side while the steak was resting, but really, it's just not fair. Like Matty said, if you're going to wait for a steak, you should WAIT - as in stick it in a smoker, cover it and drink half the day away while it cooks. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

miss halfway

I think this dinner counts as semi-homemade. But if it does, I take back just about every negative thing I've thought about the semi-homemade thing.

I had bought a can of marinated beans from TJ's, planning on making it part of a Real Food Basic 3 - beans of the day/greens of the day/soba noodles. However, it's been sitting in the office kitchen cabinet all week, so I figured I'd take it home, throw it in some leftover spaghetti and call it Pasta Fagioli.

Let me tell you about these beans - they're a combination of garbanzo beans, romano beans and kidney beans marinated in an herbalicious lemon and white wine vinaigrette. And they're magnificent. I'd happily eat these straight out of the can, or dump them over some greens for a quick salad. For this dish, I warmed them in a large saucepan over very low heat, added cold spaghetti, put the lid on, and waited until things got sufficiently steamy and my roasted broccoli had finished its time in the oven.

It's a very simple basic meal, and perhaps I would have been better served to have made this Tuesday night when I was sick, but some lessons you just learn the hard way, I guess. I'd make this again the next time I'm looking for healthy comfort food.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

nothing's true and nothing's right

This dinner was an epic fail. I'm hoping it's better when I don't have a stomach bug (and there are leftovers), but I just couldn't concentrate on any food tonight. I'm sure it's my fault, and not the recipes' fault, but indulge me in being just a little pouty about everything tonight.

West Indian Rice & Beans: I love rice and beans. I love coconut milk. I thought putting the two together would be nothing short of awesome. Unfortunately, I couldn't taste any coconut (and I even threw in a little extra because my brown rice needed a little more liquid). I also way over-salted the thing. Apparently I can't taste when I'm sick.

Tofu with Spinach Sauce: I love spinach. I love tofu. I love curry. I love sag paneer. I didn't love this dish tonight. I think I would have if the smell of curry wasn't making me more nauseous than I already was.

Wah, wah. Poor me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

red, red wine

This Drunken Spaghetti wasn't mind-blowing, but it was fast, cost almost nothing to make, and made a whole lot. And sometimes, that's enough.

And anyway, aren't those noodles pretty? Truly the highlight of the meal. For a pound of spaghetti, I just used one bottle of 2-Buck Chuck, and filled that bottle with the same amount of water, which was plenty of liquid. It was so fun to watch the noodles slowly color while I warmed some leftover scallops, made a salad and some garlic bread.

You can definitely taste the wine, but it's not overpowering, which was helpful because the scallops were so delicate. (Because I was planning on pairing it with seafood, I actually looked into boiling in a white wine, but I couldn't find anything, and no chardonnay would have made my noodles quite as pretty. :P I may try a Riesling sometime, though - maybe with some salmon. Someone get Charles Shaw some Riesling grapes!).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

another layer

More cookies as promised - these would be Cranberry Icebox Ribbons that I found over at cookie queen Anita's Dessert First.

I made these for my friend Heather's birthday, to be delivered when I get into the office tomorrow. I'm pretty sure she doesn't know about this blog, but if you're reading Heather, pretend to be surprised tomorrow! :)

I flagged down her boss in our parking lot last week to get some ideas on what Heather looks for in a baked good, and I got "sugar cookie" and "jam." Fair enough. That's what this is. :)

A small substitution - instead of cooking down pureed cherries and cranberry jam, I used the cranberry-apple butter from Trader Joe's. A deliciously tart (and most importantly, stress-free) filling.

After dividing the dough into fourths, I cut a piece of wax paper the size of my loaf pan bottom and pressed each fourth into a fairly even rectangle before transferring it into the prepared loaf pan. It helped me better gauge an even thickness. I used about a tablespoonful of cranberry butter in each layer of filling. Into the freezer it went until this morning.

I took the dough out to soften a bit while the oven was preheating, and then cut the dough into fourths along its long side (since I had used a larger loaf pan), before slicing them into 1/4-inch cookies. In hindsight, I should have put the second fourth of dough back into the freezer or fridge while I sliced the first fourth. By the time I got to the second piece, it got pretty messy - the dough slid a bit so my slices were messier and less even.

The cookies tasted pretty good. The tart filling was a nice contrast to the sweet dough. I renamed them Cranberry Almond Ribbons because I felt the almond flavor from the extract was very pronounced.

I still have half of the dough left (about 2 dozen cookies), so I'll eventually bake them off, but I don't think I'll make these again, only because I'm not graceful/patient enough to make these as beautiful as they can be.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

in the air tonight

Just got back from an amazing dinner/hang with our good friends Brad & Tammy, where these Angel Food Cupcakes played a supporting role at dessert.

I knew she was planning on a duo of sorbets for dessert (mango and raspberry - drool), so I didn't want to add anything that would overshadow them. I thought about cookies, but I've been baking them left and right, with more on their way, so I basically didn't feel like it.

I consulted my friend Jules for ideas, so I must credit her with the idea for angel food cake. I never would have thought that angel food cupcakes would work (I don't know why - every other cake can be scaled down for cupcakes). I mean, what would I do with 12 egg yolks after having made a full angel food cake? Luckily, I had one white left over from the matcha cookies, and only needed 3 more to make up the required 3/4 cup, so I only have to deal with 3 yolks in the next couple of days.

Now, Nicole advises that it's not necessary to cool the cupcakes upside-down as you would have to for a full cake because there's less worry of collapse. In my head, though, I thought I should be even more cautious of that because they're already small - any more collapse and they'll be little hockey pucks.

So I rigged up this little contraption to cool the cupcakes. I don't know if it helped at all, but it made me feel better. :)

The little cakes were just lovely. Nothing mind-blowing, but just the right amount of sweetness paired with a great airy texture (and a little bit of crunch about the top crust) that was definitely a welcome change from heavy, overly-rich desserts, especially when paired with the summer-invoking sorbets. I mean, they're practically health food, what with nothing but protein-rich, non-fat egg whites, flour (white wheat - bonus!) and just the tiniest bit of sugar. I almost feel like I've redeemed myself from this morning's quiche. :P

until her heart stops

This Creme Fraiche Quiche is the definition of love at first sight. My heart. It pittered and pattered. Or maybe that was just it stopping and starting at the sight of the ingredient list.

I've been waiting for the perfect occasion to make this. It's been difficult with Matty being out of town for a couple consecutive weekends and this not really being ideal to make early in the morning before gym and work.

Today was the day, though. Nothing was going to stop me. I had gone 5-for-5 at the gym this week, and this was my cheat-day binge. And what a binge it was.

I'm sure I don't have to remind you, but I'm lazy when it comes to a rolling pin, so after letting the sheet of puff pastry thaw in the fridge while I took my parents to the airport, I just kind of stretched and pulled it about until it covered my pie pan. A quick whisk of the eggs and creme fraiche (15 oz. total since that was the size TJ's carries), and a pour into the crust, and I was ready for heart-stopping breakfast heaven. (Side note: I did not feel the need to pour through a strainer. The mixture was pretty smooth as is. Plus, cleaning strainers makes me want to quit cooking, so I probably would have bypassed that step anyway).

It smelled amazing cooking up - all that butter in the crust, all the bacon in the filling. Oh my. All it was missing was the smell of sweetly toasting Gruyere, but I just couldn't bring myself to grate it over the top. I bought it - but 2 tubs of creme fraiche later, I thought it would be overkill. Emphasis on the "kill."

We absolutely did not miss the Gruyere. The filling turned out amazingly creamy and decadent. It's really the way scrambled eggs should taste - amazing fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth eggs. You can bet I'll be adding a dollop in my scrambled eggs from now on. And perhaps the poor-man's version of this quiche would be to scramble eggs to stuff into a croissant, which is obviously what the puff pastry kind of tasted like.

I'm so glad I didn't read the nutritional facts on the back of the puff pastry box. Bad enough that I glanced at the creme fraiche. Thank goodness I was able to stop my brain before it extrapolated one serving's worth of info into the entire container, much less both containers. However, I'm a firm believer in all things in moderation, so a tiny sliver with a mound of grapefruit-topped mixed greens is not going to make me feel guilty. It's just going to give me more motivation to go 5-for-5 again next week.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

heaven is a place on earth

This dish is swoon-worthy. It's cobbled together from a bunch of recipes I found on the Internets (and on the back of the bag of Southern greens), and they all came together to create an absolute dream.

As soon as I saw Bittman's Roasted Bay Scallops with Brown Butter, I knew they were in my future. Scallops are Matty's favorite seafood, and both of us would do anything for brown butter.

I initially thought I'd just keep it simple and serve it over orzo or some linguine, add a green and call it a day. However, it turned out that Matty got a last-minute session last night, so I had a little more time to play.

The first thing that popped into my head is bacon. And yes, I know that it might seem that that's always the first thing that pops into my head, but it really isn't. :) Even though I've never made them this way, I associate scallops with bacon-wrapped scallops. I didn't so much want to wrap little bay ones in bits of bacon (way too much work), though.

Then I thought about purees to serve them over. I love polenta, mashed anything, etc., but Matty's not really a fan of mush, so it wasn't really an option. Still, I researched and came across this fabulous-sounding Bacon and Caramelized Onion Puree. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Bacon AND puree! And as a concession to Matty, I didn't process it too too well - left a little bit of texture in.

Since it was just the two of us, I halved the recipe (approximately 2 onions and 3 slices of bacon). Obviously, the house smelled heavenly while the onions were caramelizing. They take the longest, but if you're also pairing this with Southern greens, they take about the same time to cook. (This time, I cooked down a bag of Trader Joe's greens with 2 cups of tomato juice and a bit of garlic salt. Perfection).

Now, the portobellos that the puree recipe came with sounded fabulous, but I thought I'd mix up the textures a bit by using baked wonton cups that I had come across while reading Leite's Culinaria. I made 12 in a mini muffin pan. Done and done.

Lord have mercy. I could have eaten the puree with a spoon. And while I did take a little nibble (quality-control, remember), I pretty much divided the puree evenly among the 12 wonton cups. Over that went the melt-in-your-mouth roasted scallops, and the cups went over the greens.

We really flipped over them. To be honest, the bacon puree overwhelmed the poor delicious scallops, so I think next time, I would halve the recipe again, or make twice as many cups. They would be a perfect appetizer alone, but were a very satisfying meal with the addition of the vegetable.

We've still got plenty of scallops left, so it may be simple pasta night tomorrow night, but I'm glad to have really indulged on them tonight.

just a little green

I love green tea anything. Green tea ice cream (especially in little mochi balls), green tea smoothies. It's just got such a grounded earthy, but still ethereally floral, smell and taste. For the life of me, I can't get Matty to agree. However, he did say that he liked these Matcha Sugar Cookies "about as much as I can like anything matcha." Fair enough.

First of all, just look at this dough! Isn't it fun? So bright! It doesn't necessarily look like something you should be eating, but still fun!

I have to say, I really appreciated the recipe's instruction to remove 2 cups of vanilla dough before flavoring the matcha portion. I'm not much of an eyeballer when it comes to dividing dough, so it was very helpful to have an exact amount of direction.

Anyway, so I'm way lazy and can't really be bothered to use a rolling pin on most occasions, so I took the easy way out by cutting an approximately 7"x7" square of wax paper and just smooshing the matcha dough about until it formed a relatively uniform square. Then I dolloped the vanilla dough on top and spread that out as evenly as I could before rolling both together. I didn't worry too much about the raggedy edges - I figured I'd have to find some "imperfect" ones to quality-control anyway.

These cute little slices definitely do spread, so leave room on your baking sheet for that to happen. I only made one swirly roll because these are to be a gift for my friend Donna's birthday. Don't know exactly what I'm saving the other two logs for, and I would have reduced the recipe, but it's hard to subdivide one egg and one yolk. (Speaking of which, I may whip up that extra egg white and bake off some matcha meringues. Yum).

It was getting late last night, so I smooshed two other balls together and rolled that out into a log. (Matty might like that one better since the matcha flavor may come out a little less concentrated). I flattened the other two pieces into long rectangles and stacked them on top of each other. I plan to slice them once hardened and smoosh them back together to form a checkerboard pattern. I hope to be able to share a photo or two once I do.