November 24, 2003
cheese rind in soup stock?

so i read an interesting article about how the italians put parmesean rinds in soup stock. apparently you can even freeze your rinds and put them in the minestrone later... have you done this? does it add to the flavor? i've never considered freezing a cheese rind!

Posted by mo on November 24, 2003
November 22, 2003
creamy lasagna

Making a fairly complicated lasagna on a Friday night after work was just asking for trouble. I set the oven temperature too low, I mixed up the layers, I used these wacky no-boil lasagna noodles, it took forever to chop the vegetables, I scorched the bottom of my Dutch oven, the lasagna turned out soupy as hell. However, my brave salon attendees still managed to eat the whole thing, probably from the desperation that accompanies ravenous hunger.

I probably should have done the bechamel a couple days ago and then stuck it in the fridge. Same with the mushroom-sweet potato mixture and the spinach mixture respectively. As it was I was trying to do too many steps at once.

To make a long story short, Lasagna with Fall Vegetables, Gruyere, and Sage Bechamel from the November 2003 Cooking Light. Perfect main course for a veggie T-Day or a cozy Saturday or Sunday night dinner:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

To prepare bechamel, lightly spoon 2/3 cup all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a Dutch oven, and gradually add 6 cups fat-free milk, stirring with a whisk. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage, 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil; cook 1 minute or until thick. Strain bechamel through a sieve over a bowl, and discard solids. Set the bechamel aside.

To prepare the filling, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion and 3 garlic cloves, minced; saute 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach; saute 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Set aside.

Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 8 cups chopped portobello mushroom caps (about 1 1/2 pounds), and 6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 2 1/2 pounds) on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese and 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh parmesan cheese; set aside.

To prepare noodles, soak 12 precooked lasagna noodles in 2 cups warm water in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish 5 minutes. Drain.

Spread 3/4 cup bechamel in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over bechamel; top with half of mushroom mixture, 1 1/2 cups bechamel, and 1/3 cup cheese mixture. Top with 3 noodles, spinach mixture, 1 1/2 cups bechamel, and 1/3 cup cheese mixture. Top with 3 noodles, remaining mushroom mixture, 1 1/2 cups bechamel, and 3 noodles. Spread remaining bechamel over noodles. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake an additional 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 9 servings.

Posted by astraea on November 22, 2003
November 19, 2003
T&T's engagement party

On Saturday we hosted a formal cocktail party to celebrate Tammy & Todd's engagement. I had a LOT of fun with the food, trying to hit upon some of T&T's favorite dishes and cocktail combos. The original plan was grander, but i'm getting better at scaling back as the event approaches to something do-able. A big toast to my sous-chef for the afternoon - Patrick - and his mad plating skills! The menu is below; pictures are behind the thumbnails. Tell me in the comments which recipes you want posted!

tortillaspiralthumb.jpg cevicheensemblethumb.jpg spreadtriobestthumb.jpg cowgirlthumb.jpg tartsnthingsthumb.jpg mushroomtartsthumb.jpg

An assortment of red wine
Damiana Margaritas
Persephone's Punch

Tasty things:
Carrots, celery, bread & crackers

A trio of dips: Millennium tofu spread, asparagus pesto and roasted red peppers with artichokes

Mushroom & leek tartlettes with goat cheese and fig balsamic vinegar

Tuna tartare with shallots and pumpkinseed oil on cucumber rounds

Puff pastry with asparagus pesto, smoked salmon, sour cream, and caviar

Tilapia ceviche with mini tortillas and red cabbage

An assortment of cheeses (Red Hawk, Pierce Point, Mt. Tam, Bianchiatti al tartuffo, and paranno)

A mountain of Joseph Shmidt's mosaics

The Leckmans' signature gingerbread tiles (thank you, Leckmans!)

Posted by shock on November 19, 2003
November 13, 2003
veggie pile

I decided that the pregnant lady needed a pile of fresh vegetables for dinner tonight, so I strayed a little from "traditional" fall fare with this menu from the November 2003 issue of Cooking Light:

Greek Salad with Shrimp
Oregano pita crisps
Vanilla low-fat yogurt topped with honey and sliced almonds

Reminiscent of the salad menu I did a few months back, this time I bought frozen cooked shrimp and thawed them in the sink under cool water and was much happier with the taste. If shrimpies aren't your thing, toss in shredded rotisserie chicken instead.

For the salad, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined; cook 2 minutes or until done. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place shrimp in a bowl; cover and chill.

Place 6 cups torn romaine lettuce, 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 1 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices red onion, separated into rings, and 1 cup cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices, in a large bowl; toss to combine. Combine 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 garlic cloves, minced, stirring with a whisk. Spoon 1 tablespoon dressing over the shrimp; toss to combine. Add shrimp mixture and remaining dressing to lettuce mixture; toss gently to coat. Spoon about 2 3/4 cups salad onto each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, 4 kalamata olive halves, and 1 pepperoncini pepper. Yield: 4 servings.

For the crisps, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each of 2 (6-inch) pitas into 8 wedges; arrange pita wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lightly coat pita wedges with cooking spray. Combine 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; sprinkle evenly over pita wedges. Lightly coat pita wedges again with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden.

Posted by astraea on November 13, 2003
November 09, 2003
victorian secret

Gary Regan and his wife Mardee are truly excellent cocktailians. I look forward to Mr. Regan's biweekly column in the Chron faithfully, and today was messing around on their site, Ardent Spirits.

I found a link to this: The Victorian Secret. I really need to make these sometime soon... Anyone want to be a taste tester?

Posted by shock on November 09, 2003
November 05, 2003

At Tin-Pan last night the special appetizer was lumpia. I practically jumped out of my seat. Lumpia is a favorite food from my childhood. Unfortunately it was nothing like what I was expecting. Good, of course, but no clear noodles or ground carrot-like veggies. Any ideas on where to find a traditional recipe for lumpia? I'm not even certain what's in the homestyle version. Thanks!

Posted by mo on November 05, 2003
Chenery Park - comfort food for a bad day

P took me to Chenery Park to help ease the pain of a bad day. Once again, the amazing service and delicious dinner has me desperate to go back as soon as possible.

We had reservations for 9ish but decided to go ahead and show up early for drinks at the bar. We were seated at a table anyway and ordered their signature cocktail the Wild Orchid. This is my favorite cocktail ever. How do they get Hawaii in my mouth? Could getting tipsy on Hawaii be any more yummy?

We started with the macaroni and cheese which was tortuously hot, yet creamy and crusty and perfect comfort food. It wasn't as sharp as last time, fewer cheeses perhaps? I love tangy mac-n-cheese. Next we ordered an arugala salad with fig and goat cheese crostini. Magical! I'm never exposed to figs and the combination of figs and tart cheese on crostini was absolute heaven. The vinaigrette paired excellently with the super sweet figs and cheese.

Then we ordered me another Wild Orchid.

P ordered the turkey medallions (sauteed and buttery smooth) with chestnut dressing, brussel sprouts and cranberry campari sauce. I thought the menu said chestnut dressing, but it was actually a savory chestnut bread pudding. Eggy with crunchy roasted nuts. Did I already say heavenly?

I had the double pork chop, potatoes and escarole sauteed in apricot and bacon. Oh my. I ate the esacrole immediately and debated whether or not I was going to share any... The potatoes were grilled and I didn't really dig in to them. I had planned to take some of the pork chop home, but somehow that mesquite-y perfectly cooked tender meat just disappeared and all I could do was chomp on the bone to see if could get it to come back.

In the end, we barely managed to make room for dessert which was also sublime. The topping of the blueberry pear cobbler was buttery and crunchy and carmelly and warm and so very comforting.

And once again, the waitstaff was very attentive and delightful. It was fun to have one of the chefs plop down at the table next to us and eat dinner and gossip.

So after a really really horrid day, Chenery Park soothed me completely. I can't wait to go back!

Posted by mo on November 05, 2003
November 03, 2003
what's in your kitchen

i have been thinking about the tools that are in my cluttered kitchen, and realizing i rarely use most of them, and there is a long list of things i would like to add to my kitchen. so with that in mind, what are the top 5 tools/appliances that you can't live without?

Posted by karine on November 03, 2003
November 02, 2003
espresso pasta!?

This is just wild. (Yes - it's a NYT article, so you'll need a login - but if you're here, shouldn't you already have one so you can peruse the food section?)

Posted by shock on November 02, 2003
November 01, 2003
potato leek soup

after reading a few different recipes, i came up with my own... and it was really quite good.

3 leeks, white parts and 1" of green cleaned well and sliced
5 new red potatoes cubed
5 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons basil
3 tablesppons butter or olive oil
4 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

in a large pot saute leeks and garlic in the oil. once hey are soft and begin to look clear add the stock and water. bring to a boil and add the potatoes, basil, salt and pepper. cook until the potatoes are soft.

remove from heat and puree half of the soup and return to pot.

serve with grated asiago cheese.

I made this soup on Thursday night, and ended up not eating it until friday and it is amazing. I hope this recipe makes sense, it is hard to come up with amounts when you just kinda throw it all together. You can use vegetable broth instead of chicken.

Posted by karine on November 01, 2003