gastronome
Exotic Feast Menu

Using Nigella's Exotic Evening as a springboard I whipped up this menu for dinner tonight:

Mini spiced Meatballs: lamb and veggie versions
Green Fattoosh (heavily herbed salad with pita chips and lime dressing)
Flat-bread with Zatar
Cucumber Raita
Humus
Almond Rice
Mixed Olive Salad
Artichoke Salad

The meatball and fattoosh recipes were both from Nigella. The meatball one is going in the permanent archive it was so good!

Posted by rebecca at 06:56 PM

A Fowl-free Thanksgiving Menu

No one in our family was particularly attached to having a turkey this year so I pulled together a great birdless meal that was easy to execute and, if I do say so myself, totally satisfying to eat!

Salmon Crostini with Mustard Dill Sauce (from sfgate)
French Green Beans with Garlic Butter
Vegetarian Stuffing
Cranberry Citrus Relish (from meriko)
Potatoes Boulangere (from Gordon Ramsey's F-Word)
Prime Rib With Mint Chimichurri
Wheat and Butter Pop-overs

The potatoes were the best surprise: all the flavorful joy of a layered augratin dish without the fatty cream.

Posted by rebecca at 05:36 AM

Grilled Anniversaries!

tofuandveg.jpgfigandfish.jpgThis Fourth of July, we were lucky enough to have our friends Kristen and Michael come for a visit. The fourth isn't just Independence Day to them - it's also their wedding anniversary. Obviously, a party was in order. The day cleared up just in time to fire up the grill around 2, and we shut it down right around 9; just in time to hike up the hill and see the fireworks. I wasn't feeling too creative, so I pulled out a lot of the old favorites from the all-day firesessions out back at Hill Street. (Noone seemed to mind. If I make fire and don't serve that peanut sauce, I get lynched.) As usual, the grilled figs were the hands-down favorite - even our hardened anti-fruit-with-seeds-eater succumbed to their charms. The menu's below - I'll post recipes through the week. (Anything in particular you want to see?)

Kristen and Michael were exceptional prepchefs, and many thanks to Dallas who acted as my impromptu grill-sous all day. Extra bonus: All photos by the amazing Kristen Johansen. (Prep chef, charming guest, AND photographer? Come back anytime, darling.)

P'tit basque & crackers
Tomato salad with ricotta salata & fresh oregano
Spicy cucumber & carrot salad with mint & feta

Grilled zucchini & roasted peppers
Grilled asparagus with young parmigian reggiano
Grilled artichokes with lemon & bay
Proscuitto-wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese

Grilled tofu with peanut sauce
Chicken thighs with peanut sauce
Basque chicken wings

Shrimp with lemon, garlic, butter & white wine
Salmon with citrus-chipotle glaze & lime-ginger-shallot relish
Black cod wrapped in bacon
Sturgeon with salt, pepper & pistachio oil

Steak with blue-cheese butter on grilled toast

Grilled peaches - plain, with fig balsamic, or with blue cheese butter

Posted by shock at 09:45 AM

Caribbean Family Feast

It's been hot here in the low country. Last night I tried something in tune with the vacation get-away calibur heat: a caribbean-themed dinner. My versions of the dishes are below, but all the original recipes are from the May 2006 Bon Appetit (I can post 'em later, if anybody wants).

Ap: Plantain Chips with Warm Cilantro Dipping Sauce
Veggie entree: Spicy Rice with Blackened Faux-Chicken
WW-friendly entree: Brown Rice with Jerk Shrimp
Dessert: Luigi's Italian Lemon Ice

Posted by rebecca at 03:41 PM

NYF 2005
soup Ever so slowly, I catch up on my dinner party backlog. Here it is, February, and you're just hearing about New Year's Feast? Dreadful.

2005 was full of change and growth for so many of the people dear to me. This year, it seemed appropriate to embrace the theme of comfort... thus, NYF 05 - "all the comforts...." was born. We set the table with the good china, dined on our favorites in our PJs, and toasted our way into 2006 with cupcakes.
The menu of comfort food was also well-suited to production on a day also dedicated to the baking of wedding cakes!

steak & mashers ahimac & cheesecupcake countdown
As we do about half the years, we voted to skip the salad course. Both pizzas featured oven roasted tomatoes, basil and cracked black pepper; one added Fatted Calf's soprassata. The chips were Kettle Chips salt & vinegar and spicy thai, the beer was tasty and belgian. The mushroom cassoulet was modeled after Tom's, minus the smoking of the peppers. The blue cheese in the butter is uor favorite - Pt. Reyes Blue. Special guest photographer Cate took the fabulous shots of soup, ahi, and steak. And without further ado, all the comforts....

Chips, Pizza & Beer

Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ahi Tartare
Mushroom Cassoulet

Flank Steak or Grilled Vegetables with Blue Cheese Butter
Mashed Potatoes

Mac & Cheese

Caesar Salad

Rum Butter Cupcakes

Posted by shock at 08:50 AM

Onion Party for a Grey Saturday

Yesterday morning we hit the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. They sky was overcast and the rain was drizzling, but the organic farmers were out in full force hawking the season's best. I picked up a huge bundle of leeks ($3!) and an assortment of monster green onions, then holed up in the kitchen for a while to concoct an onion-based veggie-only comfort food style dinner with my spoils.

My Festival of Onions for Grey Rainy Saturday Night Menu:
meriko's Green Garlic Soup (slightly modified for the lactose intolerant)
Ginger Basmati Pilaf with Cumin and Scallions
Fresh ciabatta from the Acme Bread Company

The result was simple and savory. The soup was stunning - definitely a recipe to keep on hand - and the ginger and cumin infused the pilaf with just enough warmth to complement the mellow soup well. I had never tried the pilaf recipe before, but I think it would be perfection paired with an asian-style fish the next time I try it. And oh yes, there will be a next time!

Posted by rebecca at 12:40 PM

Menu for a luau

Aloha! I'm planning a menu for about 10-20 adults/kids/family this month in honor of my daughter's 1st birthday. A traditional menu would look something like this: assorted pupu (appetizers), Kalua Pig, Poi, Sweet potatoes, Luau or laulau (pork or chicken and fish wrapped in taro leaves), a chicken dish, Lomi salmon (cold tomato-salmon dish), macaroni salad, fruit (pineapple, mango and papaya), Haupia (coconut pudding), and fruity beverages. I'm going to bend tradition a bit to accomodate my 40+ hour work weeks and motherhood; the goal is stick to the theme but make as much of the food ahead of time as possible.

My Birthday Luau Menu
Ahi Poke
Sushi
Mango salsa, thai banana salsa
BBQ pork, tofu, teriyaki beef, veggie kebobs
Jasmine rice
Hawaiian bread
Macaroni Salad
Coleslaw
Sweet potato fries
Tropical Fruit
Punch
Birthday Cupcakes (organic white cake and white frosting!)
Banana or coconut cream pie

Posted by rebecca at 02:19 PM

it begins and ends with thyme

Saturday night we had Tammy, Todd & Forrest over for dinner. You can blame the circular thyme theme on my savasana practice at yoga. We started with a "trifle" with alternating layers of Laura Chenel chevre blended with thyme and Carolina B's fig and sesame jam. Some warm flatbread sprinkled with coarse pink sea salt, and cyprus cocktails with sprigs of rosemary completed our first course. We ended with a Navarro 2001 muscat blanc and fresh thyme sorbet. Read on for the rest of the menu....

Goat cheese, thyme, and fig-sesame trifle with warm flatbread
Cyprus cocktails: hand-squeezed grapefruit juice, Roederer brut rosé, sink of Campari, rosemary sprig.

Crab & champagne risotto with roasted cauliflower and grilled asparagus
Bonny Doon Viognier

Mixed green salad dressed with sherry-shallot vinaigrette with Point Reyes Blue and bosc pears

Muscat & thyme sorbet

Posted by shock at 01:31 PM

thanksgiving 2004

This Thanksgiving we cooked up a storm and served 16 lovely folks a feast. (And another 6 or so who came and snacked and helped eat dessert! And yet, there are still Too Many Leftovers...) William joined me in the kitchen - a sous chef extraordinaire. Click the teasers for the full-sized pics; the full menu is below. I'll post some recipes over the next few days. (Yes yes! Including the timpano!) If you have requests, send 'em in the comments!

Some observations this year: all the truly tedious prep worked seemed to center around peeling food that resembled brains. (Brussell sprouts & chestnuts.) The biggest hit of the night was a dish we put together on the fly. ("William, can you do some kind of chipotle-maple sauce to put on chipotle-rubbed sweet potatoes?") William's stripey herbed flatbread in a champagne bucket ruled my inner presentation contest. The item I forgot to serve this year: calvados & porcini pate. Final glove count: nine.

pomegranate & lime cocktails

muhommorah
calvados & porcini pate
cowgirl creamery cheeses
grilled figs

roasted butternust squash soup

slow roasted turkey with gravy
timpano with herb-garlic gravy
pignola risotto with tomato sauce & fresh basil

sugar snap peas & french beans
ridiculous mushrooms
cranberry and satsuma relish
cranberry sauce with port and rosemary
grilled endive
roasted sweet potatoes with chipotle-maple sauce
brussell sprouts with bacon
mashed potatoes with charred shallots
savory bread pudding with leeks & chestnuts
biscuits
herbed flatbread

salad with fig balsamic vinaigrette

pie (at least) three ways
pink-lady & cranberry crumble
cypress sorbet
ice creams
raven’s rum balls
bubbe’s brownies

Posted by shock at 03:47 PM

L-cubed tapas

Last night I finally had a chance to cook for the Lempert-Lopez's. (It's been on the list for a YEAR.) The Leckmans joined us, and it was Sunday-as-unusual! Beca said she was craving tapas - specifically the gambas al ajillo and potatoes decadence we used to get at Timos. With that, I was off and running....

marcona almonds & olives
wacky spanish goat cheese (I forgot the name already. tsk.)
hummus with ground lamb and pinenuts
grilled figs with herbed goat cheese and proscuitto
french 75s and apple sours

===================
mushroom and almond soup
cava

===================
sorbet of grapefruit, champagne & campari

====================
gambas al ajillo
lamb meatballs in almond sauce
chorizo and apples in hard cider

potatoes decadence
roasted artichokes with romesco
fried gypsy peppers
salad with sherry-shallot vinaigrette & blue cheese
Jump the Stump (a red, from Beca)
an albariño I picked up at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant

====================
capricious with truffled honey and asian pears

Posted by shock at 04:32 PM

Professorial Cocktails

I was looking for an excuse to make some tasty new food and mix up some tasty new cocktails. The tail-end of my vacation seemed as good a time as any, so I threw out an invitation and pulled together the recipes. I wound up selecting four cocktails from the last two years of Gary Regan's "The Cocktailian" column from the Chron, and plumbed through my copy of Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book. This fall, I'm in love with my panini grill all over again. A few folks came over, and we had a lovely evening! Even Ely liked the proscuitto.

The Professor's Cocktails
21 Hayes
Hoskin’s Cocktail
Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini
Applejack Rabbit

Soup
Wild Rice & Porcini

Salads
Cucumbers, Carrots & Feta with fig balsamic
Bee Stings (parmegian with truffled honey and black pepper)

Sandwiches
Cauliflower & Hazelnut
Proscuitto, Arugula, Manchego Cheese
Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Honey & Walnuts
Grilled Cheese with Marinated Onions and Mustard

Posted by shock at 11:16 AM

QT Zoo Picnic

On Friday, I took my team on an off-site to the San Francisco Zoo. I promised them that I'd cook lunch, so I brought picnic stuff for 11. Good fun was had, all around....

Cowgirl Creamery cheeses: Red Hawk & Mt. Tam
Olives
Pate & flatbread crackers
Acme baguettes

Sliced heirloom tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt, basil & bocconcini
My signature salad, with fresh Black Mission figs.
Two pasta salads

Lemon-blueberry tarts

An assortment of rosés
Pellegrino

Posted by shock at 08:30 AM

perfect picnic

Saturday afternoon Heidi invited me to join her for a Women's Will production of As You Like It in Dolores Park.

I countered with an invitation to picnic beforehand, since the timing and location were right. I wanted a chance to try out the swank picnic backpack my parents gave me a few years ago and feed a dear friend. The food turned out tasty, the wine kept us warm through the play as the San Francisco fog settled to the ground we sat on, and the acting was fabulous. A success all around!

Assorted olives
Liberty Bakery fougasse: mushroom & corn and ricotta, spinach & pinenuets
Kettle Chips: roasted red pepper and goat cheese
Picnic Salad
Navarro Rosé
Just Desserts mini chocolate cake (and two spoons!)

Picnic Salad:
At home: Keep your weeds and fronds in the plastic bag from the grocery. Add a handful of toastedsaltedshelled pistachios. Crumble in a handful of good blue cheese (I used Point Reyes Blue). Cut an apple into 3/4" dice, and toss it in the bag, too. Twist your bag shut, and tuck it inside another plastic produce bag. (You can use this bag later to wrap up the dirty dishes and tuck them into the aforementioned swanky backpack.) Quarter 5 or 6 fresh figs (we had black mission figs), and tuck them into a tiny tupperware container. Put 2 parts fig balsamic vinegar, 1 part good olive oil, in another tupperware container or a small jar, and add a dollop of mustard, a pinch of salt, and a grind of pepper.

When you get to your picnic site, unpack your plates and food. Uncork and pour the wine. Remove the outer bag from your salad mis, and throw in the figs. Shake up your dressing, and pour some of that in, as well. Twist the bag shut, shake, and pour onto your plates. Voila! Perfect picnic salad.

Posted by shock at 10:11 PM

Summer Supper for friends

dessert300.jpgI FINALLY got to meet Miss Jen/Merry last night; she and her husband Alex came over for supper on their post-comiccon tour up the coast. The live in Florida, and I really wanted a chance to showcase some of the fabulous produce we're getting right now. Particularly of note this week, the black mission figs are back! Here's what I came up with for a Friday night dinner party....

Junipero Martinis & Glenfiddich Manhattans
Hummus with lamb and pinenuts
Grilled proscuitto-wrapped & chevre-stuffed black mission figs
Sweet corn soup garnished with hazlenut oil, garlic chives, and bacon
Leek, bacon and chantarelle tart with San Joaquin Gold & a simple green salad
Fig & champagne sorbet with snickerdoodles

I was particularly pleased with the tart and the sorbet. San Joaquin Gold cheese is new to me, and I'm sure going to become a favorite in our house. It nicely rides the line between strong enough for me, and nutty enough for Russell. The sorbet was not-so-sweet, and was nicely complimented by the cookies. I was pleased with the flavor of the champagne next to the intensity of the black figs.

Posted by shock at 02:43 PM

mother's day brunch, 2004

Last year, after making brunch for Mom Bornschlegel & Andrea, we went out on a walk and participated in an activity which became our regular Sunday Pursuit for the next 4 months.

This year, we gleefully invited them back - this time to have brunch in the house we bought after they launched our search last year. The springtime produce really does make this time of year a wonderful time to brunch.

Our menu:
Fraise Royale
Cherry chocolate scones & apricot ginger scones
Salmon, yukon gold, asparagus & fava bean has with hollandaise Jackie's way
Asian pears

For the Fraise Royale:
Hull a pint of strawberries. Puree & force through a chinois or fine mesh strainer. Add sugar to taste.
In a cocktail shaker, add a tablespoon or so of strawberry puree for each cup of champagne. Strain into champagne flutes, and top with a tiny float of Grand Marnier.

For the salmon hash:
I used small yukon golds, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks. I roasted the potatoes and the salmon (adding the salmon when the potatoes were about half-done) at 400 degrees on a silpat over a cookie sheet. While roasting, shuck, blanch, and shell the fava beans, and cook them briefly in water and butter on the stove. Pan sear the asparagus (which i cut on the bias).

Toss all the tasty cooked ingredients gently on a platter, sprinkle sea salt over, and top with champagne hollandaise.

(Jackie, the Saturday bartender at Foreign Cinema told me to try hollandaise sauce with champagne in place of the water - I highly recommend it, now!)

Posted by shock at 11:25 AM

salmon seared with Moroccan spicy crust

Made this from the weight-watchers "great cooking every day" cook book...oh bliss...

Salmon seared with Moroccan spicy crust
Broccoli-Potato Puree
App: Tortilla chips w/Ceyenned Hummus
Red Wine (Firefly)

The seared salmon comes with a browned/candied pearl onion garnish, the most labor-intensive portion of the recipe, but when you pop dem suckers into your mouth you forget about it. We sat on the living room floor to watch the DVD of Kill Bill as I popped one. My eyes closed, and I might have moaned. I tasted the onion everywhere, between the tree...the rock... I was caught off guard. I opened my eyes to see Duane gazing at me with an open-mouthed expression somewhere between awe and jealousy. Kind of like he wished he were a candied peal onion at that moment ;) Make em, double the garnish recipee even if you only "like" onions. Trust me. The drool factor is high.

Seared Salmon with a Moroccan Spicy Crust
makes 4 servings
5 points per serving
263 calories, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 66 mg cholesterol, 189 mg sodium, 17 g total carbohydrate, 4 g dietary fiber, 28 g protein, 62 mg calcium

Ingredients
12-16 pearl onions
1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp anise seeds
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 lb salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup cooked green (French) lentils
1 small head frisée (curly endive), rinsed and torn

1. Fill a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the onions and bring to a boil. Add the onions; simmer, covered, 3-4 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, cut off the roots and peel away the tough skins.

2. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, then add the onions. Cook, turning often, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until the onions are glazed, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and keep warm.

3. Combine the curry powder, coriander, cumin, caraway, anise, and peppercorns in a small bowl. Coarsely grind the mixture in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Rub both sides of each salmon piece with a generous amount of the spice mixture.

4. Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over high heat. Add the salmon and cook, turning once, until the fish is browned on the outside and opaque in the center, about 4 minutes per side.

5. Divide and arrange the lentils on each of 4 plates. Place the salmon in the middle of the lentils and garnish with the glazed onions and frisée.

Posted by adam at 03:51 PM

sandwich night

If I'd had the energy last night I would have baked the toasted hazelnut focaccia the May 2004 issue of Cooking Light suggests you serve these sandwiches on, but I wimped out and used Acme walnut levain instead and still got plenty of compliments tonight:

Ham and brie sandwich
Sweet potato chips
Honeydew melon wedge

For the sandwiches, spread 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard on bottom half of each sandwich. Place 1 ounce thinly sliced smoked ham, 3 thin apple slices, and 1 ounce sliced brie cheese over bottom half of each sandwich. Place bottom halves of sandwiches on a baking sheet, broil for 1 minute or until cheese melts. Top with top halves of sandwich.

Posted by astraea at 08:19 PM

Heather & Tim's Wedding Reception

This Leapsunday, we hosted Heather & Tim's wedding reception here at the wabe. We put together a cocktail party spread of finger foods, assisted by my trusty sous-chefs, Patrick & Todd. A few photos by Mo (click for the popup):

shorttablethumb.jpg table1thumb.jpg salmonthumb.jpg endivethumb.jpg cakethumb.jpg

Cocktails:
Domaine Chandon Brut Classic
Chocolat Royals
Hansel und Gretels

Food:
Puff pastry bites with asparagus pesto, smoked salmon rosettes, créme fraiche & cavair

Ahi tartare with ginger-infused caviar & shallots on cucumber rounds

Endive spears stuffed with crab, mango & mint salad

Shrimp & scallop etouffee tartlettes

Cotswald scones with thyme

Pt. Reyes Blue scones

Pita with muhommorah & tofu spread

... and the ever-present cheese board.

Cakes:
Weekend Cake, Carrot Cake, and Chocolate Cake from Just Desserts

Mascarpone & goat cheese cheesecake with pistachio brittle

Posted by shock at 08:13 PM

valentine's day supper

I can't think of a better Valentine's day than this one - a quiet home-comforting day, knowing what was going on at City Hall. I kid you not - i could feel the energy all the way down in Bernal Heights. A new kitchen toy (a VERY nice Delonghi Panini Grill). Dear, dear friends. And a menu chock full of comfort food. (I definitely say "I love you" with food.) How'd you spend your day?

Asian pears, blue-cheese stuffed olives, and Mt. Tam cheese
Chocolate "kir" Royals

Mimi's tomato bisque
Grilled panini - proscuitto, fromage d'affinois & basil
Grilled panini - chicken, asiago fresco and fresh apple salsa
Grilled paninin - bufala mozerella & basil
Free form pizza margarita
Caesar salad

Cesar's crema de chocolate
21 yo Port Ellen Single Malt Scotch (1979)

The tomato bisque was done with soy creamer, and one batch was finished with lactose-free yogurt rather than sour cream for our resident lactose-intolerants. I also substituted soy creamer for heavy cream in half of the batch of cremas - the end product was still delightful. The chocolate kir royals were done with clear creme de cacao and Domaine Chandon champagne - I rimmed the glasses ahead of time with good semi-sweet chocolate.

Posted by shock at 09:10 AM

NYF 2003

Another NYE, another NYF! I love everything about NYF, except maybe for cleaning the formal silverware afterwards. Truly, though, that's a small price to pay for the fun of planning a menu with no worries about money, the fun of cooking it, and the treat of sharing a great meal and a comfy evening at home with good friends. I only would have changed one thing about this year's - i would have granted the Leckmans health-for-the night, as they weren't feeling well and had to cancel at the last moment. Menu below!

menu.JPG wholetable.JPG caviar.JPG menu.JPG scallopsbest.JPG squash.JPG lamb1.JPG

victorian secrets
cheese & olives

an assortment of caviar
potato blini
muhommerah

crab bisque
cream of porcini
herbed coconut broth

seared scallops
yellow squash
curried leeks & blood orange sauce

rack of lamb with demi-glace
hedgehog mushroom, shallot & leek tarts
asparagus with pistachio aillade
charred-shallot mashed potatoes

twice-baked chèvre soufflé
mixed green salad

crème brulée
meyer lemon tarts
recchiuti chocolates

Posted by shock at 12:00 PM

Christmas Dinner 2003

Another holiday, another holiday dinner...
This year we had our Christmas dinner on the 27th, so that most of Russell's family and all of mine could join in, at our new place. A little crazed, and a lot of fun. A few things had to change when i was at the market in the morning to suit the ingredients, but all in all, i think the menu came off quite nicely!

An assortment of cheeses
Muhommorah & crackers
Garlic-stuffed olives

Crab bisque
Asparagus and shiitake soup

Citrus potatoes with hedgehog mushrooms
Baby artichoke hearts stuffed with with crab, parmigiano, and hazelnut oil

Del Papa ravioli
Saffron-sausage pasta sauce
Brussels sprouts with bacon and parmigiano
Caesar salad

Andrea's ginger-lemon poached pears with chocolate-ginger-lemon sauce
Katie's rum balls
Freida's pecan pie

Posted by shock at 10:52 AM

mexican yummy

I haven't felt like doing much of anything lately, much less cook, so I looked for the easiest menu I could find in the December 2003 Cooking Light for tonight's house dinner:

Cumin-Spiced Pork with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa
Seasoned Black Beans
Warm flour tortillas

Almost-instant soft tacos! I loved the all-green salsa, though I edited out the peppers and onions throughout these recipes so I could eat them. If you can't find fresh tomatillos, substitute 1/2 cup chopped drained canned tomatillos or 1/2 cup chopped green tomatoes.

For the pork, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare pork, combine 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, and rub over 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed. Place pork on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink). Let the pork stand 5 minutes before slicing.

To prepare salsa, discard husks and stems from 2 tomatillos. Finely chop tomatillos; place in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup diced peeled avocado, 1/2 cup chopped peeled cucumber, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 minced seeded jalapeno pepper; toss well. Yield: 4 servings.

For the beans, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno, and 2 teaspoons minced garlic; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 (15-ounce) can black beans; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.

Posted by astraea at 09:11 PM

Thanksgiving 2003

I think we can safely call this year's Thanksgiving a resounding success! 15 people at tables threaded through my living room, laughing and talking and telling stories, and eating great food. (Even though i forgot to serve the ridiculous mushrooms. There's always one thing i forget to serve, you know.) Big props to Russell and Heather, my fearless sous-chefs, and to the folks who brought lovely pies and icebox cakes - Naomi, The Leckmans, Heather, and Patrick! I think this year i had things much more under control than the last large Thanksgiving i hosted - i'm definitely getting better at letting go of a few things as the day progresses rather than just getting further and further into the weeds. We served dinner at 6:30, and i don't think anyone went hungry. ;)

(pictures coming soonish - i'm waiting for some images from Forrest's camera)

Cocktail hour:
Pumpkin Martinis
Petit Basque, Drunken Goat, and Emmenthaler
Tofu spread
Roasted red pepper & artichoke spread
Crackers & olives

The main event:
Roasted butternut squash soup with pumpkinseed oil and fried sage leaves

Free-range turkey, grill-roasted with vermouth and butter
Timpano with carrots & sage, chestnuts, spinach & garlic, shiitakes & thyme, and pasta with mushroom velouté

Gravy two ways: roasted garlic herb gravy & classic turkey gravy
Charred shallot mashed potatoes
Savory herbed bread pudding with mushrooms & leeks
Rosemary-port cranberry dressing
Carrots & celery root with verjus & grand marnier
Brussel sprouts salad with bacon
Audrey's biscuits (Heather's specialty!)
Ridiculous mushrooms (oops - we're still eating these leftovers)
Salad with fig balsamic vinaigrette, dried cherries, pistachios, and Pt. Reyes Blue cheese

The sweets:
Chocolate silk pie (vegan) - The Leckmans
Pumpkin pie - Heather
Apple pie x 2 - Naomi
Chocolate icebox cake - Patrick

The wines:
A lovely assortment of reds
Roederer Estate Brut Rosé

Posted by shock at 07:23 AM

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

Cocktails:
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 at 07:23 AM

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 at 09:09 PM

a zoo-ish picnic

It's been a long in the planning, but today i finally got to go to the zoo with Aimee, Soph, Heidi, & Patrick. I planned a picnic for us all. Perfect for a warm October San Francisco afternoon....

Apples & Pears
Herbed D'affinois & Drunken Goat cheeses
Sweet 'n' spicy pecans

Assorted little sandwiches
- smoked salmon & cucumbers & Mt. Tam cheese
- Somerset apples & Pt. Reyes Blue
- proscuitto & chévre & butter lettuce
- paté & cornichon & arugula

Molasses-ginger cookies
Cinnamon créme brulée

Posted by shock at 08:17 PM

brian says we eat a lot of fish

More comfort food! From the October 2003 Cooking Light again.

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon
Baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar-pecan butter
Broccoli spears

The salmon was reminiscent of that recipe I got addicted to a year ago, but with a nice wasabi-like bite from the Chinese-style hot mustard. CL says you could sub in Dijon or a teaspoon of a dry mustard like Coleman's if your supermarket is diversity-challenged. I toasted the pecans ghetto-style on a paper plate in the microwave.

For the salmon, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, 4 teaspoons Chinese-style hot mustard, and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Place 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick) on a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler.

Brush sugar mixture evenly over salmon; broil 3 inches from heat 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Yield: 4 servings.

For the potatoes, pierce 4 (8-ounce) sweet potatoes with a fork. Microwave at HIGH 12 minutes or until done. Combine 2 tablespoons softened butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans. Top each potato with about 1 tablespoon butter mixture.

Posted by astraea at 09:05 PM

imperfect sunday dinner

beef1web.jpgLast weekend, Naomi & Rene came over for dinner. It was lovely to meet Rene, and i'm always happy to spend some time with Naomi. While dinner was tasty, i wasn't entirely thrilled with the execution of everything. Read on for my breakdown in gory detail.

starters: cocktails, Red Hawk, crackers & olives
app: Chantarelle, d'affinois & persillade pizzas
entree: boeuf a la bourguignonne
dessert: Tarte tatin

The cheese and pizzas were perfect. The new baking stone did its job nicely. The fall chantarelles are lovely, right now.

I was a little disappointed in my beef - the sauce was silky and wonderful, and the potatoes were right on, but i should have let the beef cook for another 40 minutes. I guess that's what i get for getting started late. I always forget how long it takes to cook that dish. The meat wasn't egregiously tough, but it certainly wasn't falling-apart-tender, either. Argh.

The tarte tatin was a spectacular failure (but it wasn't inedible). I picked up my favorite new apples - Somersets - and thought to use them. Naomi correctly predicted on slicing that they were going to melt (wrong for pie!). When i turned the tart, i found that the thick caramel coating was really a thin caramel-apple sauce - and the apples were shrunken and way too soft. The whole wheat flour in the pie crust might have been ok if it hadn't been completely drenched and soggy with the excess syrup, but overall, it was weird. With some butter pecan ice cream on top, we all still ate it - but it was wierd. Not at all what i was looking for - Naomi convinced me to serve it, anyway. Reminder: DON'T MESS WITH PASTRY FOR GUESTS. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS preflight it.....

Posted by shock at 11:01 PM

preggers

Laura's pregnant! I just found out tonight, while I was cooking this meal for her (and for Mikko and Wayde and myself) from the October 2003 Cooking Light. My womanly intuition has been twanging for two months now, it was good to get a confirmation. And this comfort food menu was perfect for the occasion:

Pork Loin Chops with Cinnamon Apples
Buttered poppyseed noodles
Green peas

The pork and apples together made me feel like I was eating an apple pie with a delicious meat crust. Granny Smiths + brown sugar = yum! Apparently Braeburns would work well too. God I love fall. I used a vegetable peeler on the apples to try to speed prep up a little, but it still took forever to peel those suckers.

For the pork loin chops, combine 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and sprinkle over 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick). Heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove the pork from pan. Cover and keep warm.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan over medium heat. Add 4 cups (1/2 inch) slices peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium), 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and dash of salt, and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Serve the apples with pork. Yield: 4 servings.

For the noodles, cook 8 ounces of wide egg noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place noodles in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons poppyseeds, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine.

Posted by astraea at 09:56 PM

Sunday Brunch

Last Sunday, Tammy & Todd came over for brunch. I really hope these will become more frequent - i love cooking for them, and seeing them Sunday morning is such a lovely start to the last day of the weekend. Todd doesn't eat mammals, and Tammy doesn't eat avians or mammals. Here's our brunch menu from the weekend - i'm particularly proud of how health-minded some of the cooking techniques were.

Coffee with cherry-blueberry oat bran muffins

Potato pancakes with asparagus pesto & smoked salmon
Mixed greens with fig balsamic vinager
Canteloupe and pear fruit salad with minted simple syrup and orange zest
Bellinis

The potato pancakes were baked on a silpat - so the became golden and crispy on the outside. The muffins had banana in them to replace a bunch of the oil, and were moist and tangy. And i've never put pears and canteloupe together, but they tasted great, and were visually pleasing next to one another.

I'll call this one a success!

Posted by shock at 07:29 AM

a bornschlegel dinner

We had my in-laws over for dinner on Sunday night - Laverne, Andrea, and John. I was going to do a miso-marinated scallop on salad dish, but the heat wave disappeared, and it was quite cold! My farmers' market trip paid off, and with a quick trip to the Good Life down the street, i was set for a warm and homey dinner.

The final menu:
risotto with baby zucchini
fried stuffed squash blossoms
fig medly salad


The risotto was done with vegetable stock and white vermouth; i finished it with a bunch of Capricious goat cheese and then tossed in the halved zucchinis sautéed in butter and basil. Spooned that onto the places, and topped them with the squash blossoms and a rosette of proscuitto. The squash blossoms were exciting! I've never cooked them before! Open them and check for bugs, stuff with chevre and chopped sage. Dip in egg and roll in masa harina just before frying in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Make sure to keep them hot - mine cooled off a bit before service.

The salad was lovely greens and mache from the market, apples, pears, figs, basil chiffonade, pistachios and blue cheese, with a dressing made with olive oil, mustard, and lulu's fig balsamic. The salad paired especially well with the Navarro Zinfandel we drank with dinner.

We had leftover birthday cake and a berry and peach gallette for dessert. Tasty! n A lovely housewarming.

Posted by shock at 06:54 AM

earthquake pasta

I paused to grab the counter for an instant and then went right back to boiling the linguine. This garlicky menu from the September 2003 Cooking Light was a snap to throw together on a weeknight for a tired after-work girl. And, as Laura pointed out, it's all vegetarian!

Linguine with Garlicky Breadcrumbs
Arugula and hearts of palm salad
Cantaloupe and honeydew melon

I made the breadcrumbs a few days ago so I wouldn't have to deal with that part tonight. It would be easy to jazz up the pasta even further with some gorgonzola and walnuts.

For the linguine, preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place 1 slice day-old hearty white bread, torn, in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 2/3 cup. Place breadcrumbs on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until dry.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 6 garlic cloves, minced; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Return pan to heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, and cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Cook 8 ounces uncooked linguine according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

For the salad, divide 6 cups trimmed arugula, 1 cup julienne-cut red bell pepper, 1 cup coarsely chopped jarred hearts of palm, and 1 cup canned garbanzo beans evenly among 4 salad plates. Combine 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 crushed garlic clove, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle evenly over salads.

Posted by astraea at 09:42 PM

a farmers market dinner

I spent my morning at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' market today, knowing Heidi was joining us for supper. It turns out that this entire menu was made from farmers' market booty, with the single exception of the proscuitto! It was great for the sunny breeze Mission "it's almost fall" weather we had yesterday.

Amuse bouche: grilled figs stuffed with chevre and wrapped in proscuitto
(we ate these straight off the grill, while we were cooking off the rest of dinner)

Dinner: Grilled steak with Point Reyes blue cheese butter, grilled squashes with fresh purple and green basil, and warm & spicey grilled potato salad.

The potatoes were Russian Butterballs! I adored the name, and the taters themselves were wonderfully tasty. We served dinner with a 1992 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon.

Posted by shock at 10:31 AM

poe-tay-toes

Mikko looked a little dubious when he figured out that the salad was actually the main course, but I won him over with this menu from the July 2003 Cooking Light:

Mediterranean Potato Salad with Shrimp and Feta
Garlic toast
Orange slices

I bought precooked shrimp at the fish counter at Andronico's, but next time I might cook them myself ahead of time just to cut that slight supermarket taste.

I didn't eat the peppers and onions.

For the potato salad, to prepare dressing, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, stirring well with a whisk.

To prepare salad, arrange 5 cups small red potatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 pounds), in a single layer on a microwave-safe dish; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Add 1 pound medium shrimp, cooked and peeled, and 1 tablespoon dressing to potatoes; toss gently to combine. Add remaining dressing, 3 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce, 1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips, 1 cup yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips, 1 cup thinly sliced red onion, and 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese; toss gently to coat. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped pitted kalamata olives. Yield: 4 servings.

For the garlic toast, rub 4 (1-ounce) French bread slices with cut sides of a halved garlic clove, brush with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Broil 1 minute or until golden.

Posted by astraea at 08:15 PM

leckman-borogove supper

Tonight the Leckmans joined us for supper - it's been a while, but they're still our favorite guests. The menus was designed around an idea for an asian-styled crab soup i've been dreaming up for Beca & i (to use up the crab bodies i've stored in the freezer, so romantic!).

We started with a Dai Tartare. I substituted mirabelle peppers for the thai bird chiles in the two-chile-salt dip (on recommendation from the pepper-guy at the market this morning), and small-diced roasted red pepper for the beef in Tad's dish. I served this with gingered lemon drop cocktails (and a gingered mint lemonade non-alcoholic version).

The main course was an asian-inspired soup, with crab for Beca & i. and fried tofu cubes for the boys. I served it alongside a salad of mesclun and carrots, coated lightly in a ginger-mustard dressing. I served a 1999 estate-bottle Navarro Gewurtz, and Navarro Gewurtz grape juice to match.

I'll post a follow-up recipe for the soup method - i think it was overall quite successful for an asian glass-noodle soup. It was enhanced only by the company. (I am reminded how good asian-inspired food is for the lactose-intolerant, tonight!)

Posted by shock at 10:32 PM

steak and shitake's in pita

i was at a total loss for what to make this evening. i wanted meat, and it was getting too late for the bbq. what i ended up doing was just as good if not better.

i had some sliced frozen beef, i think it was chuck, frozen bellpeppers, fresh shitake mushrooms (the tender little ones), green onions, sage, garlic, rosemary, baby lettuce mix and pita's

i browned the garlic in olive oil, added the sage and rosemary, then the mushrooms, sliced in half, the peppers, green onions and meat. salt and pepper to taste. heat the pita's. when all was ready, open the pita, stuff in some of the baby greens and add a little salad dressing, i used a balsamic and blue cheese. then add a few spoons of the meat and veggies.

quick, easy and yum.

Posted by karine at 10:36 PM

meriko vs. MA, #2

A picnic!

Mackerel Brandade
Stuffed Mushrooms
Haricots Verts Salad
Other tasty bites.

Again, i'd serve this with a chilled rosé or sauvignon blanc. Perhaps a nice pinot grigio or a very dry riesling. Ingredients used: Potato, mushroom, green beans, mackerel, artichoke hearts. My additional pantry items are: blue cheese, bread or crackers, capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, milk, garlic, shallots, a lemon, and fresh herbs.

There's a fair amount of prepwork involved here, but everything can be served at room temperature, and thus be prepared earlier in the day. I'd recommend cooking the mushrooms within an hour or so of service, so they stay a bit warm.

Mackerel Brandade
This is a take on a traditional salt cod brandade. I haven't DONE this with mackerel, but i'm confident enough to try it out on a good friend.
Peel, dice, and mash 1 potato with a little milk. Set aside. Heat 3 tbsp of milk until it's warm. Do the same with 3 tbsp of olive oil. Pound 3 or 4 cloves of garlic to a paste with a little salt; beat a third of the potato with the garlic. Use more garlic if you like things extra-garlic-ey. Rinse and pound the mackerel in a wooden bowl or morter until it's reduced to a pulp. The more you work the cod, the fluffier your brandade will be. When you've thrashed the fish thoroughly, gently mix in the milk, olive oil, and potato-garlic mixture to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste; this should look like fluffy mashed potatoes. While you can serve this at room temp, you can also serve it warm; if you prefer, keep it warm in a double boiler or rewarm in a nonstick pan. Note: you can use heavy cream instead of milk if you happen to have it for a richer brandade.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Clean & dry your mushrooms (at least 12, 3 per person), and pull out the stems. Make a mixture of 2 parts bread or cracker crumbs to 1 part blue cheese and 1 part minced shallot. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste. Preheat your oven to 400F. Press the mix into the mushroom cap, mounding it high. Place on a cookie sheet (use a silpat if you have one) and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is bubbly and golden.

Haricots Verts Salad
This is the same as in menu #1. Repeat:
a) Make a sherry-shallot vinaigrette: whisk some good vinegar (sherry vinegar is what i would use), some good olive oil, a tablespoon or two of finely minced shallots, the chopped sage, and salt & pepper to taste. Your oil:vinegar ratio should be about 2:1. Set aside.
b) Put a pot of water on to boil. When it's boiling, blanch the green beans for 2 minutes, and shock them in cool water. Make sure you check them for tenderness before you shock them. Toss beans in sherry-shallot vinaigrette & set aside.

Other tasty prep
--Drain the artichoke hearts. Rinse well, and toss in a bit of vinegar, olive oil, and chopped fresh thyme. Squeeze a bit of lemon over the top just before serving.
--If you have some bread, slice it thinly and toast it.

To plate your picnic
Find a large platter. Fill a large ramekin or colorful bowl with the brandade, and place it in the center of the platter. Surround it with piles of crackers, toast, the haricot vert, the stuffed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, capers, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Let your artistic eye reign and enjoy!

Posted by shock at 11:11 PM

meriko vs. MA, #1

A warm & cool salad plate for a warm summer eve:
Sautéed potatoes and artichokes with mackerel
Ridiculous mushrooms
Haricots verts salad

I'd serve this with a well-chilled rosé or a chilled, crisp, herby Marlborough-style Sauvignon Blanc.

(I'm making the assumption that anything that's in my kitchen for at least 3 weeks out of most months constitutes a staple. Ingredients used: potato, artichoke hearts, green beans, mackerel, mushrooms. My added ones for this menu are red wine, shallots, butter, lettuce, fresh herbs, oil & vinegar, and a bit of lemon.)

Mise en place:
--Top and tail the green beans.
--Finely mince a shallot or two.
--Decant the mackerel filets and rinse them very well. Place them in a shallow dish with a little fruity olive oil and some fresh chopped thyme, salt & pepper, and a squeeze of lemon to marinate.
--Look around in the fridge for some lettuces - watercresses, butter lettuces, red leaf - anything softer than an iceberg will do. If you have none, skip it.
--Wash the mushrooms & dry them. Wash and dry any lettuces you've found.
--Chop a handful of fresh thyme, and a handful of sage. If you don't have an herb garden, using dried herbs is ok.

To prepare the meal:
1) Start the ridiculous mushrooms: In a reasonably-sized pot, sautée the mushrooms whole. They'll make a very odd squeaky sound; don't fret. When they're sufficiently browned (~5 minutes), pour in enough red wine to cover the mushrooms with an inch to spare. (If you're the sort that keeps stock around, you can split the red wine in half with stock, but don't use a salted stock.) Bring this to a simmer, and let it reduce until you have intensely red mushrooms bathed in a few teaspons of viscous liquid. This will probably take a half an hour. (I often start this with my mise-en-place to give a little extra reduction time.)

2) Make a sherry-shallot vinaigrette: whisk some good vinegar (sherry vinegar is what i would use), some good olive oil, a tablespoon or two of finely minced shallots, the chopped sage, and salt & pepper to taste. Your oil:vinegar ratio should be about 2:1. Set aside.

3) Put a pot of water on to boil. When it's boiling, blanch the green beans for 2 minutes, and shock them in cool water. Make sure you check them for tenderness before you shock them. Toss beans in sherry-shallot vinaigrette & set aside. Keep the water boiling.

4) Drain the artichoke hearts. If they were in oil, rinse them well. Dice into approximately half-inch cubes and allow to dry on paper towels while you prep the potatoes. To prep the potatoes, peel 4 large russets (an extra if any are small), and cut into half-inch cubes. Cook the potato cubes for about 4 minutes in the boiling water, and remove. (If they start to crumble around the edges, take them out ASAP.)

5) Heat some butter (or olive oil or duck fat) in a heavy skillet. Throw in the potatoes, and let them sit for a minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally. Scatter some salt and pepper over the top, and the thyme. Fry the potatoes until they're golden on all sides. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the artichoke cubes. (They're already cooked; you just want to brown them up a bit.) Salt and pepper the final product to taste.

To assemble your supper:
Get a large plate. Place any lettuces you find in the middle, in a shallow but wide circle. Mound some warm (but not too hot) potato/artichoke mix in the middle. Lay a few filets in a row on top. (The heat from the potatoes will bring out the flavors in the mackerel.) Arrange the haricots verts & the ridiculous mushrooms to the sides - i might make the points of a square/diamond, alternating beans and mushrooms per corner. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the mushrooms.

Posted by shock at 10:46 PM

Naomi vs MA, #1

Quiche and Haricots Verts

A word on the order of doing things:
The night before, cook up the green beans and make the pastry dough. In the morning, bake the pie shell from the dough and make the quiche up. Ideally, you should time things so that the sautéed vegetables for the filling are ready just as the pie shell finishes baking.

A word on the source:
This borrows heavily from the Joy of Cooking, whence I learned my quiche-
making skills.

Haricots Verts
1 lb. green beans
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
Vinaigrette dressing
Extra vinegar or lemon juice (Tarragon vinegar is nice...)
Black pepper, salt to taste

Cut green beans into 1" lengths. Steam or boil the night before, and
refrigerate.
Mix together artichoke hearts, beans. Toss lightly with dressing and a splash more vinegar (I like my beans vinegary). Top with ground pepper.

If you don't have a vinaigrette dressing handy: 1/3 white wine vinegar, 2/3 salad or olive oil, dash of sugar, salt, pepper, and a pinch of crumbled tarragon.


Flaky Pastry Dough

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. icing sugar (or white sugar, if you don't have icing sugar)
1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter

about 1/4 c. ice water

A word about substitutions: you can use all butter in this crust, but it's a bit trickier to work with. likewise cold tap water for the ice water. if you only have salted butter, use the salted butter and omit the salt from the flour mix. Finally, if all this is too much work, the crust recipe on the side of the Bisquick box is not quite the same, but still effective.

To make the dough for the crust:
Sift flour, sugar, salt together into a good steady mixing bowl. Cut shortening and butter into small chunks, and cut into flour with two knives or a pastry blender. Make sure that you bring the flour up from the bottom and distribute the contents of the bowl evenly -- you should end up with evenly pea-sized bits of stuck-together flour and butter: dry flour with little chunks, not cookie dough.

Sprinkle about half the water onto the flour mix. Using either your hands or a spatula, collect and press the dough together lightly. This is easier to do than explain, unfortunately. Add the rest of the water very slowly -- you want the dough *just* sticking together as you press it down into the bowl. Collect the dough together into a ball and knead it against the sides of the bowl 5 or 6 times. Don't worry if you have a bit of flour left that won't stick as long as you've managed a good-sized ball.

Wrap the ball of dough in cellowrap or wax paper, make it nice and round and press it down into a flat circle about 2 " thick. Refrigerate at least 30 min before trying to roll.


Pie Shell for a Quiche

Flaky Pastry Dough (above)
rice or dry beans for weighting
1 egg yolk, beaten with a pinch salt

Heat your oven to 400F
Starting at the center and moving outwards evenly, roll the pastry dough out into a circle wide enough for a 9 or 10" pie pan. If you don't have a rolling pin, a full wine bottle wrapped in wax paper does a passable job on the rolling. Better yet if the wine is chilled! Fit the dough into the pie pan and trim to fit the edges. Cover the pie dough with a sheet of aluminum foil. Fill the foil with rice or dry beans to weight the pan (you can cook the rice later) and bake the pie crust for 20 min.
Being careful not to get rice all over your kitchen, fold up the edges of the foil and remove the foil and rice from the pan. Prick the crust with a fork, then return it to the oven to bake until the crust is golden brown and puffy all over -- about 5-10 minutes more. Brush the yolk wash over the inside of the crust and bake the glaze until the egg sets, about 2 minutes. If you're going on to make quiche, drop the oven temp to 375F.




Quiche

Baked pie shell, still piping hot (above)
about 1 tbsp. oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small cooking onion, chopped
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped (or less, to taste!)
about 10 mushrooms (or again, to taste...)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3/4 c. grated monterey jack, gruyere, or cheddar-like cheese

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk or half and half
salt, to taste

Heat oven to 375F

Heat oil in a heavy skillet until it shimmers. Add minced garlic, chopped onion, peppers, and mushrooms. Adding ground black pepper, sauté vegetables over medium heat until soft. Meanwhile (or even, beforehand) in a separate bowl, beat together eggs, milk, salt.

Keeping a handful of cheese aside, layer cooked vegetables with cheese in the bottom of the baked pie shell. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle the last bit of cheese on the top -- it will look pretty when it cooks.

Bake quiche until the filling is browned and set in the middle, about 25-35 minutes.

Posted by naomi at 10:22 PM

hungry small army

Seems to be the season for visitors. I found out earlier this week that three additional people would be joining our usual Thursday night foursome, so I scrapped my plans for stuffed eggplants and chose the following menu from the June 2003 Cooking Light in an attempt to keep things easy, casual, and plentiful:

Breadcrumb-Baked Chicken
Artichoke and asparagus salad
Hot-cooked long-grain rice

The breadcrumb mixture on the chicken was absolutely scrumptious, and would probably also do well on lamb chops or fish. I threw together the salad while the chicken was baking, and Laura tended the rice cooker for me.

For the chicken, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Place 3 1/2 cups (1/2 inch) cubed Italian bread, toasted (about 6 ounces), in a food processor; pulse until coarsely ground. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, 3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 4 garlic cloves, minced, in a shallow dish. Place 1/2 cup all-purpose flour in a shallow dish. Combine 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten, and 1 large egg, lightly beaten, in a shallow dish.

Dredge 1 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast half in flour; shake off excess flour. Dip in egg mixture; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place in prepared dish. Repeat procedure with the remaining 7 chicken breast halves, flour, egg mixture, and breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over chicken. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Yield: 8 servings.

For the salad, cut 2 pounds trimmed asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender, drain. Combine asparagus, 3 cups drained canned quartered artichoke hearts, 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Posted by astraea at 04:18 PM

mother's day brunch

Last weekend, Russell and i prepared a Mother's Day Brunch in honor of Laverne and Freida. Unfortunately, only Laverne & Andrea were able to attend. Nonetheless, we had a truly lovely time. The menu:

Champagne et Fraise
Mt. Tam cheese & crackers

Puff Pastry Rounds with Jean-Pierre's Cured Salmon, Asparagus Pesto, and Créme Fraiche

Crab, Green Garlic, Asparagus, and Shiitake Tarts
Melon with Rosemary-Mint Syrup
Salad Verte

Coffe with Cream and Sugar
Chocolates from Joseph Schmidt

salmontartsmall.jpgbruleesmall.jpg

I made the purée for the cocktails by grinding up a ton of fresh strawberries with some sugar and Grand Marnier, and forcing it through a fine strainer to remove the pulp and the seedy bits. A little bit of work, to be sure - but so much less than the straining for a pot of jelly! Added the purée (some with OJ, some without) to the champagne in a cocktail strainer, and decanted into flutes. Russell had a version with ginger ale substitued for the champagne, and an extra hit of Grand Marnier.

The puff pastry was the last from NYF; i cut it into small circles, baked it at 500, and let it cool. The cured salmon is a Chez Panisse recipe; the asparagus pesto a standby from The Tra Vigne Cookbook. I'll post both of them soon. I was VERY happy with this app - the flavors definitely melded & gave more than the sum of their parts. (And there's just something about bite-sized food, no?)

I also owe you a long posting on the method for the breakfast tarts i keep posting about. They're truly versatile, and a lot of fun. Today the filling started with a few eggs, some sour cream, and some heavy cream whipped together. I folded in sautéed shiitakes, green garlic braised in butter, blanched asparagus, the meat from two crabs, and thyme from the garden. Plated them on a little salad. The melon dish is the one that Todd & i created for brunch a few weeks ago. Infuse a simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water) with a handful each of mint and rosemary for a half-hour, and strain. Dress your melon, and chill well before service. I served this course with a Viognier from Paso Robles.

I think Carol would have been pleased with my dessert. I used the lovely demitasse cups she gave me for Christmas to make something i called "coffee with cream and sugar" - a bi-layer créme brulée with the bottom layer flavored with coffee, and the top layer flavored with vanilla. The idea melded from several recipes in Claudia Fleming's The Last Course and the French Laundry's signature "Coffee & Doughnuts" dessert. The chocolates were wee caramels covered in dark chocolate from Joseph Schmidt.

Posted by shock at 09:33 PM

solitary supper

cheese!
Saturday night i found myself with a wealth of lovely ingredients from the Farmers' Market, and only myself to cook for. I made a dinner that was full of some of my favorite things that Russell just doesn't much care for - and enjoyed it quietly by candlelight with a book. Sometimes i forget that spoiling just myself can be as much fun as spoiling the people i love, food-wise.

Dinner was two small artichokes, steamed. Seared scallops and morels pan-roasted with butter and thyme. A small wedge of Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam, and a nice class of Sauvignon Blanc. (Click on the cheese to see the full pic.)

Method:
I popped the artichokes in to steam, first thing. I heated up a sauté pan and slowly roasted the morels with butter, thyme, and salt. I removed these, and seared the scallops in the same pan. Deglaze the pan with a healthy glug of chardonnay verjus, reduce until syrupy with the liquid the scallops are releasing in the holding bowl, and mount with a little butter.

Posted by shock at 07:39 AM

dai/thai sunday supper

dai tartare

A few weeks ago, i had an open bottle of Greenwood Ridge reisling and a hankering for some kind of Asian food - so i popped open Hot Sour Salty Sweet and found a few things to try. Our Sunday supper ensued.

The menu:
dai tartare with gingered lemon drops (another dai tartare shot)

salmon, thai green curry, and coconut rice

The dai tartare was nice and simple - ground or chopped meat, mixed with Schezuan pepper & salt, served with a mild lettuce to wrap around spoonfuls of the meat. I was supposed to have a dipping powder of ground thai chilis and Schezuan pepper & salt, but i weaseled out of subbing chili powder for the thai chilis. Very tasty.

The drinks are ginger-infused vodka, a touch of simple syrup, and most of a mild lemon.

The salmon was pan-fried after marinating in a paste of lemongrass, ginger, and garlic; the green thai curry is my usual haphazard with lots of basil, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and curry paste. Overall, very tasty, and a great pairing with the wine. I need to find a better way to plate my rice dishes though...

Posted by shock at 09:08 PM

salmon with citrus soy sauce

I've been reading about cooking a lot more often than I've actually been cooking lately, and today I had the best intentions of making a few fun, but more complicated dishes... and of course, that didn't happen. What did happen is that Tim called on his way home, and I realized we really didn't have any of the ingredients for the menus I wanted to make. Ooops.
But we had defrosted salmon, leftover citrus-soy sauce from an ahi tuna dish I made earlier this week... *scrape barrel* ... one lone sweet potato... ahhhhh ... oh yes! Some edamame in the freezer.. and uh, some rice noodles that never got made into spring rolls.

I think it turned out quite well for a quick supper!

Posted by heather at 10:01 PM

a wee dinner party

Last night we had Beca, Tad, Forrest, and Todd over for supper. Forrest had requested "high carb" food, and "something with fruit" for dessert. He's been pretty darned vegan these days, but promised to tolerate a little dairy if i'd spare the beast and make dinner especially yummy. I think i struck a reasonable compromise. (Todd doesn't eat mammals, but other than that he doesn't have any real dietary no-nos.) The final menu:

Green Garlic Soup
Greg's Lasagne, adapted to use less dairy (see below)
Caesar Salad

Strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier & Vanilla Ice Cream

We drank the rest of the Navarro Pinot Noir i opened on Friday, a 1998 Sierra Vista Syrah, and a 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon from Navarro. We finished the evening off with some cherry honey wine in the wee cordial glasses.

The green garlic soup was done with vegetable stock, but no added cream or milk - so the only dairy in it was the butter the green garlic stewed in. (Thank you again, Naomi!)

The lasagne used zucchini and roasted red peppers - i didn't have the time to deal with the eggplant. Rather than a béchamel sauce for the white sauce, i made a velouté - again with the vegetable stock. A cup of butter, a cup of flour, and around a quart of liquid. Add the liquid until you get the consistency you liked. I flavored the velouté with nutmeg and salt, just like a béchamel. I used my microplane to dust a bit of parmesan over each layer, so the lasagne was also very light on cheese. Beca had a place of pasta with butter, olive oil, lemon, sage, and pepper.

The caesar used a ground-up green olive to replace the anchovy; those who like to avoid the dairy had Soy Dream ice cream rather than the Haagen Daas that i ate. 8)

Posted by shock at 10:53 AM

friday night supper

A Friday night supper, not clean for Passover - but since it was just R & i, that was A-OK.

Judy Roger's Zuni Cafe signature roasted chicken & bread salad
Mimi's Tomato Bisque
1998 Navarro Pinot Noir, method a'la ancienne

Strawberries macerated in sugar and Grand Marnier over vanilla ice cream

Ok, so this is the second time i've roasted a birdie using Judy Roger's method, and now i swear by it. No basting, no brining, nothing really fancy. Salt & pepper the bird a few days in advance, stuff some herbs under the breast skin, and let it sit in the fridge, loosely covered. Roast in VERY high heat, turning twice during cooking, in a dry, preheated, oven-safe skillet. You wind up with perfectly juicy, falling apart at the joints meat combined with the crispiest loveliest chicken skin you have ever tasted.

The bread salad is very nice - hand-torn chunks of bread, vinaigrette, toasted crispy with scallions and garlic and currants (we used dried cherries) and pine nuts. Tossed with some mesclun, served under the chicken.

For the full experience of the recipe, i highly recommend picking up a copy of the cookbook: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. It's several pages of excellent prose and advice, as well as a great method and recipe. The entire book is fantastic - i'm about halfway done reading it, cover-to-cover.

And there's really no excuse for me to not go eat there more often.

Posted by shock at 10:04 PM

i beat my meat

I haven't cooked for my house in MONTHS, so I was suffering a bit of performance anxiety going into dinner tonight. Silly Heidi, it was mahvelous. I chose the following menu from the April 2003 Cooking Light:

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Artichokes, Lemon, and Goat Cheese
Bulgur pilaf with pine nuts
Wilted spinach

The only thing I would have done differently given a chance is I would have stuffed the chicken breasts ahead of time instead of struggling with them while the bulgur was cooking. While the chicken was in the oven I finished up the pilaf and wilted the spinach.

For the chicken, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine 2 1/2 tablespoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped, 1 (3-ounce) package herbed goat cheese, softened; stir well.

Place each of 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Top each breast half with 2 tablespoons cheese mixture; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Tuck in sides; secure each roll with wooden picks.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Wrap the handle of pan with foil, and back at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Yield: 4 servings.

For the pilaf, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup coarse bulgur, 1/3 cup sliced green onions, 1/3 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; saute 5 minutes. Stir in 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can less-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons pine nuts and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.

Posted by astraea at 08:39 PM

Sunday brunch

A few weeks ago, Tammy & Todd came over for Sunday brunch. Todd and i whipped up a tasty brunch while Tammy drew Russell's hand and the messed around with R's music programs. We ate, basking in the sunbeams in the bay window. I've always liked joining friends for brunch out; i had no idea i would enjoy hosting brunch as much as i did. It was lovely. I see grilled brunches coming up in the near future, if the weather stays this lovely!

The menu:

Pomegranite kir royals

Point Reyes Blue & Paranno with sliced apples

Oysters

Crab, asparagus & goat cheese tarts
Honeydew with rosemary&mint syrup; grapes

Plenty of coffee!

I'll post a master recipe for these free-form tarts i've been playing around with; i'm very happy with them, overall. On a whim, i infused some simple syrup (1:1 water:sugar) with rosemary and mint from the garden, and tossed the honeydew balls in it, and then chilled the mixture. The light touch of the herbs was fantastic against the cool melon flavor, and was overall a good contrast to the sweet, tangy, and rich tart.

Posted by shock at 09:43 AM

cosmopolitan dinner

As Mary Anne put it, this was a very cosmopolitan dinner - Some plain ol' Americans, a Canadienne, several Australians, a Scots, and (forgive me if i get this wrong, Mary Anne) an American-born Sri Lankan. Mostly though, it was great conversation over good food with lovely people. These folks definitely benefitted from Tad's dinner on Saturday - oddly, the tofu spread seemed more popular at this dinner than the asparagus pesto. The opposite seemed true at Tad's dinner. Wacky!

So the final menu:

Kir Royal

Roasted red pepper soup
(Again with the demitasse cups! They make me sooooo happy.)

Crostini with tofu spread
Crostini with asparagus pesto
Lovely cold grapes

Salmon baked with pumpkin-seed oil
Salsa verde
Charred shallot mashed potatoes (these were vegan!)
Sugar snap peas

Carrot cake cupcakes
Coffee
Toffee & truffled almonds

Posted by shock at 11:11 PM

Tad's 34th Birthday

One down, and one to go. I think i can firmly declare this one a success.

Tonight was Tad's 34th birthday; his gift from the Borogoves was a formal dinner party geared towards Tad-food, with a guest list of his choosing. I know i've mentioned Tad before, and Beca talks about their unique challenges as a family in her bio; it was fun to plan a menu around Tad's loves and adapt for the rest of us, instead of the other way around.

I think that we all had a great time - a fabulous group of people, a lovely birthday boy, a fuzzball under the table, and good talk, food, and wine.

Tonight the menu was:

kir royal

roasted red pepper soup (served in demitasse cups, such fun!)

crostini with asparagus pesto
crostini with millennium tofu spread

wild mushroom cassoulet
salad vert

ollallieberry & pink lady apple tarts
double rainbow vanilla soy cream

joseph schmidt truffled almonds
joseph schmidt toffee almonds


I'm not wild about beans, but i think the cassoulets worked out well. I forgot that i should have cold-smoked the peppers for that psuedo-bacon effect until it was too late, but they were pretty good anyway. Layered in the 11-oz ramekins, i left a third of an inch rather than filling them to the top, and they didn't bubble over (much). I think the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare paired perfectly with the chilled asparagus pesto; we drank a Bonny Doon viognier and a 1997 Navarro Pinot Noir with the cassoulet. I served the almonds mixed up in the lovely squareish demitasse cups that Carol gave me for Christmas this year. I forgot to photograph the amuse bouche and the mignardaise, but i was pleased by beginning and ending with a similar plating. I'll be posting some recipes over the next few days. Anything in particular you want to see?

Posted by shock at 12:23 AM

double-whammy

Gracious - i have scheduled myself for a double-whammy! This weekend i'm hosting two dinner parties; my brain is swirling with all of the menu planning. Things are especially interesting - Sunday's dinner party will be significantly less formal, and less vegan, than Saturday's party, so i have to keep my styles seperate. Saturday we'll have 8 or 10 people, Sunday there will be 8.

I'm trying to decide on desserts for each.... Saturday night i'm looking for fruit/nut based ideas, advance prep is a necessity, and easy on a lactose-intolerant tummy are my requirements. Sunday it should be easy, made in advance, and yummy. Any thoughts?

Posted by shock at 08:47 AM

A valentine's meal

I generally don't advocate going out to eat on Valentine's day - save the outing for another time, and curl up at home with people you like and have a cozy meal. (Hm. My holiday strategy is becoming predictable.) Here's what Russell and i had last night:

Lucca tortellini in a creamy sun-dried tomato sauce with proscuitto (pink food!)
A simple salad
Steamed artichoke with anchovy butter (for me)

Apple tart with vanilla ice cream and bourbon-caramel sauce

And the sufficiently goopy poem i wrote in his card:

The Love Cook

Let me cook you some dinner.
Sit down and take off your shoes
and socks and in fact the rest
of your clothes, have a daiquiri,
turn on some music and dance
around the house, inside and out,
it's night and the neighbors
are sleeping, those dolts, and
the stars are shining bright,
and I've got the burners lit
for you, you hungry thing.

--Ron Padgett

Posted by shock at 11:26 AM

um yeah

Feeling some guilt for not conTRIButing, here's my recent kitchen adventures:

-bought and cooked chard for the first time, and it's surprisingly yum (combine
appropriate amounts of butter and olive oil in a pan, saute chopped garlic,
add chopped chard, cook for ~5-8 minutes depending on preferred bite.) i find
it hard to locate veggies I really like, so this was exciting.

-made once more the scrumptious, easy Epicurious roast chicken w/ potatoes and olives
recipe. yum. yum. yum.

-made apricot & walnut rugelach (also from epicurious, ask me if'n you want
the recipe) when i was home for christmas, and my picky family ate 'em.

still in the kitchen, but not very forthcoming about it. :>

-l.

Posted by leek at 09:45 PM

nyf 2002 - cheat sheets

So - you've seen the menu. You've seen the photos & a bit of commentary. Soon you will see recipes. Today? Today you will see some of the non-cooking process i use to put one of these things together. Heidi, in reference to a kickass birthday brunch she hosted a few years ago, mentioned "...not for another couple of years. Meriko, i don't know how you do it." This entry is dedicated thusly to Heidi and Heather.

New Years Feast is a treat - i start musing on the menu, plotting, reassigning, mucking about, and finally deciding what i'll serve a month in advance. I take it as part of the treat about NYF; it's definitely a once-a-year thing. Once i have the menu in my head, i'll sit down with all the cookbooks housing the relevant recipes, and make up a shopping/ingredients list. I march that into the kitchen, and it becomes my shopping list.

Next i develop something i call the 'component' cheat. It's an in-between step; it rarely gets printed, and it's definitely a stepping-stone to getting a timeline in place. The component sheet lists the major components for each dish/course, and takes a guess at how hard or long a task it is - and whether it can be done in advance. You'll see me add "a la minute" to the ends of tasks; it means that that item CANNOT be done in advance, but has to be done during service. I definitely try and minimize non-plating cooking tasks during service, so if there are too many of these? It's a signal to move around the menu or look for some substitutions.

The component cheat feeds directly into the timeline - which is key. This is probably my most important non-cooking tool during NYF. I double-check recipes, and try and draw up a reasonable schedule for my cooking tasks. (The cleaning timeline goes up on the whiteboard, where it can be quickly eliminated from guests' view!) As i finish each, i cross it off; this helps me keep on top of what is being done, has been done, and needs to be done - it also helps anyone Russell and Beca be efficient sous chefs. Much of what they need to know is up on that timeline. Once i paste the timeline up on the cupboard, i add to it in pen; this year i added plating information a few hours before the guests arrived - what dishware & garnishes each course should use.

Finally, i construct my recipe cheat. At this point, i'm very familiar with the recipes i've chosen, even if they are new to this meal. I transcribe just enough of the recipe to keep me from needing the cookbooks in the kitchen during work hours. You would be hardpressed to cook from these unless you were already familiar with the recipes and techniques, but they're great to have on hand when you're firing each course.

(And i say i'm not a control freak. sigh)

Posted by shock at 09:16 PM

NYF 2002 - wine pairings

As promised, a reveiw of my attempt at wine pairings from this year's New Years Feast. I think i was definitely more successful with the whites than the reds, overall. The champagne with the caviar was a no-brainer, and i finally got to pop the corks on several bottles from Handley that i've been eyeing. It was very cool to see everyone make the discovery that caviar and champagne make gustatorily more than the sum of the parts. And the parts are pretty fantastic in the first place.

We started with vodka cocktails - these started sweet and ended bitter on the palate, which i think was a nice appetite opener.

With the caviar, we enjoyed a 1996 Handley Brut. Handley's a lovely winery in Mendocino, and they create sparkling wines using the traditional methode champenoise. The caviar and bubbly, as noted above, were a perfect match.

Moving onto the soup course, i think i scored a direct hit with the 1997 Navarro Premiere Reserve Chardonnay. I don't generally care for California Chardonnays, but Navarro refrains from over-oaking them, and i think this one nicely complemented both the very delicate watercress soup and the earthier, more robust mushroom.

The fish course prominently feature crab, so i thought we needed something a little dryer and flintier. I pulled out a bottle of the Bonny Doon 1999 Viognier (cleverly titled The grape formerly known as ... viognier), and poured it against the potatoes, artichokes, and crab towers. Artichokes are notoriously hard on wine, but i think the viognier worked wonders with the crab and the lime elements that dressed the salad. Again, a sucessful pairing.

I don't think i did as well with the meat course; i served my last bottle of Kaz's Ascend, which is a fantastic blend of zinfandel and petite syrah. It was just a little bit large and complex against the tartare - something older and mellower, or just plain lighter would have worked better, i think. This wasn't bad - but the food and wine certainly didn't play off of one another, or complement each other in a significant way.

With the rich tart, i served a 1994 Navarro Cabernet Sauvignon. This was maybe a bit past its peak - very mellow, rich, earthy. I actually think that i should hvae swapped this with the Ascend mentioned above - it was big and robust enough to compete with the sweet, rich, and goat-cheesey tart. The cab was mellow enough to complement the tartare. Again, not bad - just not a winner. ;)

Finally, we tryed a 1998 Handley Brut Rose sparkling wine for our midnight toast. I liked the crispy and tart flavors, but not everyone cared for it. Reading back on it - oops, it's a food wine, and here we were drinking it by its lonesome. Interestingly, Handley recommends you pair it with crab - if i had another bottle, i'd definitely try this out.

Posted by shock at 10:09 PM

NYF 2002 - a photoessay

Pop on over to this photoessay that chronicles our meal - or just peek at the menu. Over the next few weeks i'll post the wine pairings & my thoughts, prep sheets, and recipes. If there's a particular recipe you'd like, shout it out & i'll key it in first. Overall rating: a success! Russell and Beca are great sous-chefs, and even my shattered-and-reassembled puff-pastry tarts cooked up beautifully. Themes for the meal:
- Well, there's definitely an overall French theme going on...
- Breads & pastry i have & have not made before. I did three "new" ones, and one old one. New to me are the pain de mie, blini, and puff pastry. The familiar one is our old faithful - pate sucree.
- We started and ended with citrus. A nice note, i think.

The plaintext final linup, for the record....

NYF
a new years fete
31 decembre 2002

aperitif - key lime pie

échantillon de caviar

duet des potages - champignon & cresson

tour des fruits de mer

bifteck tartare

tarte du poireau et chèvre
salad verte

tarte pointillé

Posted by shock at 02:50 PM

planning NYF 2002, deux

Today i spent much of the day working on NYF, in a scattered sort of way. The morning started with coffee, cookbooks, and menu-planning; it ended with cocktail development (and a gastronome post!).

Today i flushed out the menu. More to come on the final menu, and the whys and whats. I made up the ingredients list, by dish, and we marched out to attack the consumer centers of our fair city. We spent some time searching for some tableware i needed (demitasse cups & caviar spoons), and went on a caviar hunt. We picked up some of our ingredients at Andronicos. (Bi-Rite turns out to have caviar and raw foie gras this time of year, but they only had imported caviar; i was heartset on California caviar.)

With shopping success we came home, and i began prototyping some of the dishes - i try and practice the dishes i am making up & i'm uncertain about, or are new to me and reputedly tricky. Today i worked out the kinks in an orange juice-based curd (from the lemon curd recipe in the lemon and blueberry tart); next i test-drove blinis, which we ate for dinner. (See Tom's advice on cooking for crowds - the lessons apply for almost any fancy dinner with many courses, and you should take his counsel with my full endorsement.)

I spent a good chunk of time working out the components to cooking each dish, and then worked up my timeline for tomorrow and Tuesday. Are y'all interested in seeing such things posted here? Tom posted his menu list and his prep list (like my timeline in concept; yes, i do learn from my friends!) for his birthday party this year, and i found it quite interesting. Let me know - if anyone is interested, i'll transpose my prep lists and timelines with notes on how well we matched them after NYF. Heck, maybe i'll just subject you to them anyway. ;)

Finally, we set back out to find some Stoli Vanil, and i worked on the proportions for a cocktail i'd like to call a 'key lime pie'. Stoli Vanil, Charbay Key Lime Vodka, and simple syrup... the garnish will stay a surprise! I think Tad will especially like this concoction.

Tomorrow: Pain de mie! Puff pastry, from scratch!

Posted by shock at 09:53 PM

good-luck-year

Southerners have a tradition -- you must eat black eyed peas and greens on New Years Day for good luck and prosperity in the next year. I have a mini-traditional menu I make on New Years Day to achieve this --
Greens with onions (I think I'll try this recipe this year)
Crook's corner Shrimp and Grits (without the meats or shrimps)
and of course a mess of Black Eyed Peas.

I'm not sure what time I'll be making it this year -- usually depends on how late I'm up the night before, and if we go to the Monterey Aquarium -- but if you'd like a bite for luck, let me know and I'll call you when it's on.

Posted by heather at 03:29 PM

rainy day breakfast

I am not sure what has gotten into me, but I have been doing a lot more
cooking. Maybe just feeling poor and not wanting to eat out.

Shari called in sick today, so I made us a very warming breakfast.

Polenta/yellow grits - with parmesian cheese
eggs sunny side up
and bacon

So rarely do we have bacon in our home, when i saw
the thick sliced bacon on sale at the meat counter i knew i could come up with a yummy use for it.

with a mocha for shari and tea for me.

just thought I would share

Posted by karine at 03:20 PM

xmas eve dinner

I started a tradition of cooking a big Christmas dinner for Shari and I when we moved in together in 1999, (just in time for Christmas). Normally I make a leg of lamb.

I mentioned this to Meriko last Friday night and she suggested a butterfly leg of lamb stuffed with sauted spinach, mushrooms and feta. I thought this a great idea. Since Christmas day was going to be busy, I made our feast last night.


We had the leg of lamb stuffed with, spinach, portabellos and a touch of feta, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic. Then I rubbed olive oil, lemon juice, salt pepper, fresh rosemary and garlic on the outside.

Mushroom and broccoli Risotto, green salad, and rosemary bread with butter and roasted garlic.

and for dessert I made Ginger Shortbread. I had to alter the recipe a bit, since the kitchen was too warm for me to roll the dough into a log and refrigerate. I ended up putting them into an 8x8 pan and baking. They are amazing, recipe to follow.

The dinner was fantastic, the only short coming was the bottle of wine.
Which was a little past it's prime. It will make for an excellent cooking wine, but sipping it with our dinner was not an option.

Posted by karine at 09:37 AM

planning NYF 2002

In the waning days of 1999, Beca & Russell & i started a tradition that i think is my favorite part of the winter holidays: New Year's Feast. We were looking for a way to celebrate with people we loved, in a cozy, non-crazy environment. We combined my love for elaborate dinner parties with these criteria, and came up with NYF. We share a multi-course meal slowly through the night, chatting and enjoying each others' company. We generally issue an open invite to stop in for a glass of wine to anyone passing through the 'hood on their way to their festivities, and get to say hi to a variety of lovely folks throughout the evening. The first few years, our dirty little soiree included a viewing of Show Girls, but we've reserved that firmly for the first these days.

I get the joy of planning a festive meal - i don't worry about costs or money; i cook things i am challenged by and interested in cooking. I get to execute the dishes, and dedicate a few days in the kitchen, and then share the meal with some of my favorite people.

Last year i was on an Asian-fusion American-nouveau kick. This year i'm feeling like the menu is going to have a distinctly French feel to it. I want to do a caviar tasting; i'm deciding between the traditional Big Three, or a few locally farmed and created caviars. I definitely want to do a steak tartare for the meat course. and i have dessertish dreams for a clever tart. I'm toying with some sort of crab dish for the fish course, and perhaps individual onion tartlettes? I'm going to pick up a few cookbooks for perusal in the car during the holiday road-tripping. Discuss, discuss!

NYF 1999
NYF 2000
NYF 2001

Posted by shock at 09:50 AM

a tree-trimming party

One of our insta-traditions started when we moved into the Hill Street house some years ago, and realized that we had a huge Victorian bay window, crying out for a huge Christmas tree. We invited a bunch of people over to help trim our tree, but we didn't really have the ornamenture necessary to fill the beast. We pulled out the huge bin of lego, and our friends happily built and built and built. Each year, the ornaments get broken back down into the bin, and the next year, the tree is different. As you might imagine, such hard work requires some pretty serious fortification. Here's the menu of snacks and tasties from this year's party:
Triple chocolate cookies
Molasses-ginger cookies
Pate with porcini and calvados
Several cheese boards
Apples, grapes & pears
Assorted Olives
Spicy maple nuts (cashews, almonds & pecans)
Hot spiced apple cider

Posted by shock at 09:30 AM

pizza my ass

An easy menu for a weeknight on which everyone around the table is exhausted:

Quick Pizza Margherita
Lemon broccoli
Chocolate wafer cookies

Perkiness was up by at least 75% by the end of the meal.

Posted by astraea at 07:35 PM

isotope party - pictures!

I finally edited the pictures from our pre-isotope dinner with the Leckmans, Izzy & Jim - and i found some bonus pictures of the free-form tarts we had for breakfast the next morning. The tarts are done with the gallette dough from Chez Panisse Fruits, with a variety of fillings. Adrienne, Jim & Russell had sweet italian sausage, brunoise of red pepper, egg, and red onion; i had the same thing with the leftover etouffee sauce instead of egg. The sweet tarts were slices of pear tossed in vanilla and sugar, and apple tossed in calvados, sugar, and cinnamon. Click on the tarts to look at the photos!

Posted by shock at 10:49 AM

pre-isotope dinner

It's been quiet around here - so it's about time for me to post another menu. Again, any recipes you want, just ask - i'll followup with a recipe posting. 8)

Last weekend, Adrienne and Jim came up to the city to take Russell & i to a party at Isotope - a single malt scotch tasting in honor of Warren Ellis' visit and the renaming of this fantastic comics shop. I take the opportunity to cook for Ades and Jim anytime i can, so we invited 3 of the 4 Leckmans (sadly, Soosh was relegated to Casa Leckman for the evening), and popped a quiet dinner party together.

We started with spicy southern-style almonds and a ginger ale, pomegranite, and lime punch. With the weather finally cooling down, i wanted to serve soup - the last of the season's corn let me make a soup that had no milk or cream, and fit into the allowed-veggie list for our motley crew. I love this soup - you'd swear it had cream in it while you're eating it, and it stays delicate and sweet with just the few ingredients.

Continuing on my recent pizza theme, our main course was a pile of salad greens dressed very simply with a pomegranite vinaigrette, topped with individual pizzas with pesto, fresh mozerella, pine nuts, zucchini, and fresh basil, draped with some proscuitto when they came out of the oven. (Well, except for Tad's. He misses out when he refuses the pig, but more for the rest of us!) Pizzas are great - they're so easy to adapt to any individual's particular food likes and dislikes. Someday i dream of having an oven where the bottom rack is a full-rack sized baking stone.

No desserts - we were just stuffed. Some tea and chatting, and the Leckman's walked home, and the four of us cabbed to the scotch tasting.

Posted by shock at 01:00 PM

duane's dinner pictures!

Finally - a few hours to myself. A chance to shrink down some photos of the food from Duane's birthday dinner a few weeks ago. Check them out. (Yes, yes, i know we forgot to photograph the etouffee - it's ok, it was tasty, but not terribly stunning.)

Posted by shock at 12:45 PM

Spicy Brains - duane's birthday dinner

Duane likes spicy food. I promised a multi-course dinner for a birthday gift. We enjoyed it this last Saturday night. Of course, i was inspired to name the menu by these lovely kitties, who can smell your brain. Your spicy, spicy brains.

I'd be happy to post recipes or answer questions about timings and whatnot - just throw out requests in the comments, and i'll post some more entries! Dinner was for four: me, Russell, Duane, and Adam. We started around 6pm, and finished eating around 11.

aperitifs: gingered lemon/lime drops with spicy maple pecans
amuse bouche: a shot glass of butternut squash soup, with a scraping of mascarpone cheese and a tiny drop of pumpkin seed oil. (Someday i will have demitasse cups for this presentation!)
appetizer: chanterelle and d'affinois pizzas on baby greens
entree: freshwater shrimp etouffee with rice (Russell had a rolled chicken breast with mascarpone, parsley, and apricot filling.)
salad: caesar salad
cheese: composed plate of asian pears with point reyes blue, garnished with a few cherries
dessert: coconut and macademia nut tarts with vanilla ice cream

Posted by shock at 08:24 AM

menu for a blustery night

Miso-Glazed Salmon
Wasabi mashed potatoes
Steamed bok choy

Once again my barometer was Laura, who doesn't really care for salmon. She asked for seconds.

Posted by astraea at 08:01 PM

spicy dinner menu aid

Ok, folks. I have a menu challenge for y'all. I'm going to be cooking a birthday dinner for my friend Duane, who has a great love for all things of heat - capsicum, garlic, wasabi, or otherwise. I know a few things: cocktails and snacks are going to include gingered lemon&lime drops with sweet & spicy toasted almonds, the main course is going to be a shrimp and scallop etouffe, i'll follow it with a salad (maybe my caesar - Adam's been telling him about it), and end with something Chocolate. This leaves me needing an amuse-bouche and a starter, and potentially a different salad. Any advice? The entree is going to be rich,and full of heat -- so i'd like to balance the mouthfeel a bit with the app. I like the idea of doing something southern-fusion for the app as well, but i'm not heart-set on it. I think i'm going to do something with chanterelles for the amuse-bouche, but i'm not set on that, either. Thoughts? Help? Comment away!

Posted by shock at 11:55 AM

Dia de los Muertos

For the last few years, Russell and i have quietly celebrated Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) at home, with a small private altar. This year, we decided to check out the neighborhood festivities with jD and Logan. It sounded like more folks might be interested, so we decided to host an open house - dinner before the 7pm processional, and Mexican hot chocolate and cookies afterwards.

The challenge: come up with a menu that would feed many or a few, quickly. Keep it vegetarian. Make sure the leftovers (in the case that you only feed a few) are enticing enough to reheat and re-embellish over the next week.

We decided to make butternut squash soup, a salad of romaine, bell pepper, apple & avocado with a spicy citrus-cumin dressing, and bread & cheese & olives. Oh, and the ubiquitous bowl of Halloween candy we keep trying to get everyone else to eat.

I think it turned out nicely - Raven, jD, and Logan joined us for dinner. We ran into Dan and Carol, jennyg, Forrest, and Chris Comparini & Jocelyn en route. Chris & Jocelyn joined jD , Logan, Russell and myself for dessert - hot chocolate made with Ibarra and Sharffenberger with freshly made whipped cream, and almond biscotti from Lucca. (Everyone should have a Lucca a block away to be their pastry chef.) We each chomped on a bite of the sugar skull that jD and Logan brought to share.

Today we repurposed some of the soup as a ravioli sauce; it will provide another meal or two as the week wears on.

Posted by shock at 06:12 PM

weekend madness

I had every intention of cooking for friends this weekend, but the best of intentions..... seem to lead to really good food on the home front. After a really stressy week, a bunch of cooking was what i needed to recenter myself. The menus were all over the board - complete cultural fusion across the weekend. Let me know if you want any of the specific recipes!

Saturday:
brunch: buttermilk biscuits with butter, honey, and apricot butter
dinner (oh so late, dearie me): boeuf a la bourguignonne. I used the recipe from cook's illustrated rather than from dear Julia, but i edited the CI one a bit. I was meant to serve it with some blue lake beans, but failed to remember them at the late hour, so we made do with the tasty tasty sauce, beef, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes. And a nice glass of '96 Navarro Pinot Noir.

Sunday:
brunch: chorizo, tofu, and zucchini scramble with buttermilk biscuits & honey.
dinner: After seeing Spirited Away, we made our way to the Japanese grocery next door to the Kabuki, intent on some onigiri. Dinner was miso soup & an assortment of maki, along with a few "ohmygodeatthemfastbeforetheyfallapart" salmon onigiri. Sake and Orion beer rounded out the menu. Asian pears for desesrt. (And later, some ice cream with fudge sauce we found in the fridge. Eating early at 5:30pm opens you up to a world of desserts.)

Southern. French. Mexican-hippy fusion. Japanese. All good food, centering me at home. I failed to make the large batch of caramel corn that i wanted to send to Andy tomorrow morning - maybe tomorrow night!

Posted by shock at 09:29 PM

a tuesday night dinner

Every Tuesday night the folks who live in my house gather for dinner together. We take turns making it, and last week it was all me. I had just had a crappy day at work and thoroughly enjoyed banging pans around. I stole my menu and recipes, as usual, from Cooking Light.

Pork Tenderloin Studded with Rosemary and Garlic
Caramelized carrots
Boiled red potatoes

The pork was the big hit, even with Laura who normally doesn't really go in for the whole slab-of-meat thing. Do I want to be the type of woman known for my PORK?

And this week we switch to Thursday night. How confusing!

Posted by astraea at 08:54 PM

dinner - 28 september 2002

It's been a while since i cooked for folks other than ourselves. I decided on a whim to see if any of my friends could be lured over to chez borogove for dinner on Saturday night; i scored big and caught both of the Leckmans and Forrest.

We started relatively early (for borogoves; the Leckmans are early birds by nature) at 6:30. I had a large pitcher of minted lime-ginger ale on the table, and a bowl of attractive heirloom eggplants as a centerpiece. We started with some sweet & spicy pecans (from 1999 Best American Recipes) and a bowl of olives while i finished off the soup.

We moved to the table to share some scallion & mushroom soup - it was a lovely rough puree, and i did a first in cooking for me: i mounted the soup with soy milk instead of dairy milk. It turned out nicely, i think - and the lactose-intolerant at the table i'm sure appreciated it.

The main course was a huge salad with a simple vinaigrette, pomegranite seeds, and diced cucumber, and a series of freeform tarts: onion jam & sweet corn; chantarelles, butter, and persillade; a goat's milk cheese that was a little like havarti with sweet italian sausage and yellow bell pepper; and leeks with chevre, lemon, and smoked salmon. A few of us paired a Bonny Doon 'Ceci n'est pas un cigare blanc' with our tarts & salad.

For dessert we tried Nancy Silverton's definitive hot fudge from the same 1999 BAR over ice cream - it was lucious, thick, and dairy-free.

Overall, a good supper shared with particularly lovely friends - even Ely had a few nibbles of the sausage.

The final menu:
sweet & spicy pecans, olives

scallion and mushroom soup

a bevy of tarts
green salad with pomegranites and cucumbers

hot fudge sundaes

Posted by shock at 03:28 PM