Tag Archives: Voulez vous diner avec moi ce soir?

Cardamom Muffin Tin Rolls

January 2013

When menu planning, I often like to have a pervading ingredient. For this dinner gathering, the curry of the entrée inspired notes of cardamom in all the accompanying dishes. Rather than make a traditional flatbread, I spiced these whole-wheat, muffin-tin rolls with cardamom.

Cardamom Roll

I sprinkled the tops with Himalayan pink sea salt for a dash of color to channel the colorful and flavorful experience of walking through an Indian street scene. The final touch was a browned butter with honey and cardamom (recipe to come), making this roll ideal for dinner or breakfast or any snacking point in between the two!

Cardamom Rolls in Muffin Tin

Cardamom Muffin Tin Rolls
Adapted from Muffin Tin Mania

Ingredients

2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 package)
1 cup warm milk, not boiling

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for kneading
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 large egg

Garnish

browned butter
Himalayan pink sea salt
poppy seeds

Directions 

Dissolve yeast in milk in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, salt, cardamom and egg. Mix until combined.

Add 2 cups flour and mix until all the flour is moist.

Turn batter out onto a floured work surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour to the work surface and hands as needed.

Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning to coat.

Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down dough which means pushing down the centre of the dough with your fist and then pushing the edges of the dough into the centre using your fingertips.

Form dough into 36 equal sized balls and place 3 balls in each of 12 greased muffin cups.

Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush tops of dough with browned butter. Sprinkle with salt and poppy seeds.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until browned.

Elephants Were Hungry

Here’s to cardamom spiced luck & longevity!

Thai Chicken Curry

January 2013

With the sights, smells, sounds and whirling traffic patterns of India still whirling inside me, I was drawn to the curry element of this one-pot wonder from Bon Appétit (albeit a Thai chicken curry). In an effort to make the recipes of my monthly subscription, rather than just admire the beautiful food photography, I prepared this recipe for friends who had similar journeys still whirling inside them.

Thai Chicken Curry 01

An inexplicable potato-peeling zeal led me to overshoot the quantity of potatoes in this recipe, making my version thicker than the magazine photo I had admired, so choose your fancy. To potato or not to potato? One potato, two potato, three potato, four (pounds and then some)? Whatever your potato fancy, I do highly recommend sharing your version with good friends and the type of cocktails that improve as conversation flows and flavors come together!

Thai Chicken Curry 03

Thai Chicken Curry
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
4-6 ounces red curry paste (I used mild)
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 pounds organic russet potatoes (1 bag), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I may have gone a little overboard on potatoes)
1.5 pounds organic, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (13.5-ounce or 15-ounce) unsweetened coconut milk
Chopped fresh basil
1 cup cashews, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.

Add curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add carrots, onion, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes, chicken, coconut milk, and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Divide curry among bowls, and top with basil and chopped cashews.

Cold & Crisp Carrot Salad

January 2013

This has happened to you. Somewhere in your kitchen or craft room or garage, you’ve had a tool, which though useful, went unused. At some point, you accepted this lack of use, made your peace and sent that tool to a new home. A year later, your January Bon Appétit subscription arrives, and nearly every page of that issue suggests you use that tool which is now just a void in your home. Do you go buy a new mandoline? No, don’t be ridiculous. You use a vegetable peeler and call it an “adapted” version (plus you make a few other changes because that’s how you roll with recipes). Then you set the table and enjoy the adapted version with lovely friends

Carrot and Radish Salad

Carrot Salad with Yogurt & Coriander
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients

1 cup pecans
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons raw cane sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 pound small carrots, scrubbed, sliced lengthwise very thinly on a mandoline (or with a peeler)
6-8 medium radishes, cut into thin slices
1 small beet, roasted and sliced thin
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

Himalayan pink sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°.

Toss walnuts and oil on a rimmed baking sheet or in a skillet. Bake until walnuts are lightly toasted and fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with sugar and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Let cool.

DO AHEAD: Walnuts can be toasted 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Whisk yogurt, vinegar, honey, orange zest and coriander in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Place carrots in a colander set in a bowl of ice water. Let sit until carrots start to curl, about 2 minutes. Lift colander from water and drain carrots well; pat dry.

Combine carrots, radishes, beet, scallions and dressing in a large bowl and toss to coat.

Sprinkle with pecans and garnish with Himalayan pink sea salt.

A Table By Day & A Table By Night

January 2013

The table was poised beautifully in the reflections of the bright white snow, but it wasn’t until the glow of city lights against a night sky that the table truly came to be appreciated.

The Table Was Set

It was then the friends gathered around the table. It was then the candles flickered and wine glasses clanked. It was then plates were passed, and stories shared. It was then that winter became warmer and brighter than reflections from snow.

Better With Friends

(and it will be soon that recipes will be shared)

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.

~Helen Keller

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Fall Flavored Lasagna

September 2012

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

I do find autumn to be quite delicious, especially when fall’s flavors are layered between noodles and cheese! The original Bon Appétit recipe called for broccoli rabe, which I replaced with brussels sprouts. Firstly, I associate those mini cabbages with fall more than broccoli rabe, and secondly, that’s what was available at my grocery store. I also used a brown rice noodle for the health and flavor merits, and this recipe could easily become a gluten free staple if you use an alternative flour (I only had whole-wheat pastry on hand). Extra dashes of red pepper flakes, added to the squash roasting stage, made for a kick of spice, contrasted by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg in the béchamel sauce.  Enjoy with hot cider or hard cider before your migration to successive autumns!

Squash and Brussels Lasagna

Adapted from my food publication deity, Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

Filling

1 local butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh brussels sprouts (the typical grocery store sized bundle), rinsed, stalk removed and pulled apart into leaves

8oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 lb whole-milk ricotta
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
coarsely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Preparation

For the Filling

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat squash evenly.

Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly.

Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Mix mozzarella and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

*DO AHEAD Squash and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Béchamel and Assembly

1/8 cup organic unsalted butter
1/8 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups (or more) organic half-and-half
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon
1 fresh bay leaf
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

10 oz Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles (Tinkyada)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Béchamel and Assembly

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly.

Slowly whisk in 2 1/2 cups half-and-half, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding half-and-half gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming).

Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and cinnamon and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more half-and-half if too thick, until sauce is a milkshake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of well-salted boiling water until still quite al dente, 8–9 minutes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain; spread out noodles on a kitchen towel or baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing a kitchen towel or parchment between layers.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 11x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers).

Layer 1/3 of squash over.

Scatter brussels sprouts leaves over the previous layer.

Dollop 1/3 of ricotta mixture randomly over greens.

Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture.

Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with Parmesan. Leftover noodles can be used for a freeform version with any leftover components.

*DO AHEAD Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes.

Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes.

Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring. 
-Samuel Johnson

May you taste the fruits of delicious autumn! Bon appétit!

My Special’s One’s Birthday: A Most Memorable Main Course (Lamb Shank)

April 2012

After enjoying my fair share of lamb shanks, I added “prepare a lamb entree” to my mental list of New Year’s food resolutions. My special one’s birthday proved to be the worthy occasion and proved I’m clearly not the type of kitchen adventurer who practices and fine tunes a recipe before serving it on a special occasion.  I embrace the risk and take the plunge!  The birthday boy said this was one of the top dinners I’ve made him so far which sounds a lot like “goal accomplished!”

In the realm of slow cooked meats, this recipe felt like cheating.  Less than three hours for tender, flavorful lamb that fell off the bone?  Don’t question it.  Just make it!

Lamb Shanks Fit For A Birthday
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Ingredients

Black Forest Bacon Fat (I happened to have this in my skillet, but olive oil will work if you don’t have bacon fat)
1 large red onion, chopped (about 1 ¼ cups)
3 large whole garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 large lamb shanks (about 3-4lbs total)
Whole-wheat pastry flour (or AP flour)
2 cups dry red wine
1 can (14 oz) cherry tomatoes in sauce
.1 lbs dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tablespoons dried herbes de Provence
~1 pound organic carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-long pieces

Directions

Heat bacon fat in a skillet over medium heat.

Add red onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to small bowl.

Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper; dust with flour to coat.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add lamb and cook until brown, turning occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Add red onion mixture, wine, tomatoes with sauce, mushrooms, herbes de Provence, and carrots.

Stir to coat lamb with vegetable mixture.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until lamb is very tender, turning twice, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue to simmer until sauce reduces slightly, about 10 minutes longer. Spoon off fat from pan juices. Season lamb to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm, covered, over low heat before serving.

Voila!

My Special One’s Birthday!

April 2012

Why would two crazies display such antics around a dining room table?  It doesn’t take all that much to motivate a little silliness around these parts, but this was indeed an extra special occasion and an extra call for antics!  It was my special one’s birthday!!!  More importantly, it was the first time we’d celebrated his birthday as a couple!

Those who know me, embrace [have learned to accept] my birthday gluttony.  My special one really set the bar for my birthday [month].  First there was the Birthday Eve meal.  Then there was a birthday bruncha snowventure, the official birthday meal at my favorite marble table top, and finally, there was A LOT of help making this crazy, beautiful, memorable gathering happen! On top of all that, he changed my life when he gave me a projector!  Friends, when you own a projector, you watch everything at an impressive scale.  EVERYTHING!  In short, he did really, really well, and I wanted him to feel ever so special on his day(s) in April.

In my obsessive preparations, I may even have outdone myself!  Jono said his birthday meal ranked as one of the best I have made him yet!  As such, I’m going to share the components of the meal and memories over the course of a few posts.  Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday Jono!

PS:  I swear our haircuts are not identical.  Must be a gif induced optical illusion.

Lobster By Night/Lobster By Day

Lobster by Night
March 2012 

It had been a while since the two of us had gathered at my dining room table, so I proposed a date of the domestic sort.  As I began menu scheming, I turned to the stained and tattered pages of my trusted America’s Test Kitchen magazine, through which I have faithfully been working.  When I saw a lobster recipe with the words “lazy man” in the title, I found that weekend’s winner!

Yes, that is frozen lobster.  I love him (↓), and I love a special dinner, but I was in no way prepared to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws! Sorry friends.  Not this time!  My other justification was this- if I am going to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws, I’m not going to cut up the meat and bake it in a gratin.

The recipe had me with this opening description…

Lobster is a classic choice for an elegant dinner for two.  Most people boil or steam their crustaceans and serve them whole with a side of drawn butter.  While there’s nothing wrong with this simple, traditional approach, fumbling around with a cooked lobster, hammering down on shells and poking around for meat isn’t exactly a tidy affair.  I wanted a refined lobster dinner for a couple that delivered the sweet, rich flavor of lobster and didn’t require a bib to eat.  – Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen Books

Lazy Man’s Lobster for Two (By Night)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen magazine

Filling

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
8 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
12 ounces lobster meat (frozen), chopped coarse
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
Yakima smoked salt
Pepper

Topping

1 slice high quality wheat bread
3 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon minced sage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Filling

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the thyme and cayenne.

Whisk in the broth and cream and simmer until the liquid has thickened and reduced to ¾ cup, 10-12 minutes.

Off the heat, add the cooked lobster meat and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture evenly between two 2-cup gratin dishes (or similar baking dish).

For the Topping

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Combine the bread crumbs, the pecorino, sage, oil and paprika in a bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the gratins.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Salad

Goose Creek Farms Mizuna
2 champagne mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
green peas

Dressing

Juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

My own personal mixologist shook up one of my favorites:

Buffalo Trace bourbon
AITA Snap
Peychaud’s bitters
Dried cherries rehydrated with bourbon

Well, he actually shook up TWO of those for me!

Lobster by Day

The recipe said “Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two,” but that “two” would have to refer to two rather large and very hungry New Englanders as far as I can tell.  Accordingly, “two” for us meant two meals, and our leftovers  transformed into a delicious brunch!

Babies’ first ever poached eggs (a team effort in progress)…

Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two (By Day)

(from the bottom up)
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Speck
Cahill Irish Whiskey Cheese
Leftover Lazy Man’s Lobster (see recipe above)
Poached eggs (from local/free-range eggs)
Smoked black pepper

Leftovers are just new opportunities I say, so Happy Leftovers!

ps:  That’s some leftover Post Patty’s Brunch French Toast on the other side of the plate.  It was quite the morning in the dining room!

Progress and Persistance (Cabin Weekend, Part V)

March 2012

More years ago than I care to admit, I found myself staying in an enviable adobe house in the Arizona desert as part of a volunteering trip.  Each volunteer was in charge of one dinner.  College freshman me was not the With The Grains me, and I was completely out of my element.

My dinner “menu” was a sad “taco” comprised of a canned trio of beans, salsa from a jar and a sad excuse for cheese (I was still under the impression “low fat” was something I should seek on a label).  Though the diners were positive in their reviews, I can only assume that taco meal was lackluster to say the least.  Fast forward to a dinner at the special cabin in the woods, and I do say so myself- I have progressed tremendously!

While I was busy in the kitchen witnessing my full progression, he was busy proving persistance pays off…

… pays off in the form of 1000 pieces forming a sea bass(?).  ONE THOUSAND PIECES!  He did it allllll by himself too!  I literally did not help in the least bit, and my dorky heart fluttered a bit at the sight of his nerdy puzzle persistance [bordering on obsessiveness].

Beef Enchiladas
(A far cry from sad “tacos”)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review 

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon organic brown sugar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt
~1 lb local beef chuck flat iron steaks
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, chopped (~2 cups)
1 (15 oz) can organic tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
8 oz organic cheddar and monterey jack cheese, shredded (~2 cups)
1/3 cup cilantro
1/4 cup chopped canned pickled jalapeños
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Directions

Combine the garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, sugar, cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Cook the meat until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate. Cut the meat into strips and set aside.

Add the onions to the pot, and cook over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil.

Return the meat and juices to the pot, cover, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer until the meat is tender and can be broken apart with a spoon, about 1 ½ hours.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Strain the beef mixture over a medium bowl, breaking the meat into small pieces; reserve the sauce.

Transfer the meat to a bowl and mix with 1 cup of cheese, cilantro and jalapeños.

Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a cast iron skillet (I used an 11 inch skillet).

Spread 1/3 cup of the beef mixture down the center of each tortilla, roll the tortilla tightly, and set in the skillet, seam side down.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas and beef mixture (squish if need be).

Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and spread to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese evenly over the enchiladas.

Wrap the baking dish with foil, and bake until heated through, 20-25 minutes.

Remove the foil, and continue baking until the cheese is bubbling and has browned slightly, 5-10 minutes.

Serve to a puzzle pro (who may be convinced to take a break in order to mash up some guac), and enjoy how far you have come in life!

The Birthday Party: My Black Velvet Bourbon Birthday Dream (28 Cakes for 28 Years)

January 2012

Oh friends, it was beautiful!

I curtsy to the multi-talented, mad scientist, Alex Mohamed for his photo documentation of the night.  Knowing someone else was preserving my moment in time really enabled me to act a fool (a true fool…just scroll down)!

(Click on the beautiful table spread photo to see the rest of Alex’s photos of the night.)

Good friends brought great food, the wine flowed, the Black Velvet burned, and a really memorable night ensued!  Speaking of that Black Velvet, we don’t drink it for its whiskeyness (it’s Canadian after all), and certainly, we don’t drink it for our health.  We drink it because of what happened here.

Don’t expect this to normalize what’s about to transpire, but allow me to explain (and forgive me if you have already read this before)…

On that dreamlike Fleatique & Pique-Nique Sunday, I happened to be wearing riding pants and riding boots and feeling very in touch with my [nonexistent] equestrian side.  One vendor even told me I carried myself with the dignity of Meryl Streep.  Keep talking, vendor!  In my flea market rounds, I spied a black, equestrian helmet.  It was a thing of beauty, but as I don’t actually ride, could I really justify a helmet in my hat collection?  I thought not, but as the market began to close, my nagging want at least merited a price inquiry.

By that time, Nicole and Nina were following my pursuit.  I found the helmet vendor packing up his already full car.  The price pursuit then seemed hopeless, but I asked about the beautiful riding helmet anyway.  When the vendor said “$12,” I though, “sold (but I still played my poker face)!”  Why not?!?

Nicole and Nina lingered by the man’s tables while I followed him to his car, which was literally packed so tightly, items were pressed against the windows.  Fortunately, the helmet was on the perimeter of the colossal squish.  He somehow pulled out only the helmet, and I perched it on my head (above my head really as it’s rather small).  I motioned to Nicole and Nina, “How do I look?”  The vendor told me I looked rich!

Meanwhile, from what seemed like a football field’s distance away, a melody could be heard.  “Black velvet and that little boy’s smile… [mumble mumble]…”  FROM SOOOO FAR AWAY, Nina was serenading the black velvet [velour?] purchase in debate.  I admit, it took me a moment to understand what Nina was doing, but once she hit the chorus, I made the connection, and I sealed the deal right then and there.  I had to have this piece!  A real Kentucky Derby helmet no less!

We tried to sing the song on the way home, but we couldn’t seem to piece together the disparate lyrics in our heads.  Every sentence ended on a questioning high note- a new religion?  Southern…?  We didn’t find resolution until we arrived home and gathered around a computer to watch the video.  It was then we realized, or rather came to a concluding question- WTF IS THIS SONG ABOUT?!!?  She (do you even know the name of the singer?) sings with all the passion of some strong emotion but which emotion and why?!?  Which emotion?!?  We never figured it out, but we did go on a delightful train wreck of a viewing experience (ie:  This and this one too).  Once I discovered the whiskey version, this song really became our anthem.

Then it was my birthday, and a few AMAZING things happened…

Well friends, the future is now!  Someone gave me the best birthday present ever, which gave me an idea!  Though Sandra, one of my absolute bests, was stuck in Florida, there was no reason why she couldn’t join my festivities, especially when the guitar came out.  You see, Sandra, Nina and I go back to 2002, and my life is definitely better for it!

You saw it here first!

Once again, I forgot to make a wish.  I was so concentrated on summoning enough breath to hit all those candles, and furthermore, I was already having a perfect night!

One last antic…

As a baker, I have a silly affinity for the band Bread.  As lifelong loves, Nina and I have a special appreciation for this song, which called for a rekindling of a dance we started ages ago.  (You might notice our projected version featured subtítutlos en español for some reason).

The night concluded like this…

It was the best!

Revoir

December 2011

Pittsburgh isn’t a huge city by any means, and its propensity for French fries on salads and sandwiches (and maybe anywhere and everywhere else in between) really narrows the dining options for this foodie.  I also tend to obsess when I really find something that speaks to me.  Rather than call my affinity for Brasserie 33 an “obsession,” I offer a brief French lesson and a glimpse of why reviews are useful [read:  delicious], especially when my review is a first learn for my dining companion.

revoir /ʀ(ə)vwaʀ/ (conjugate⇒)

  1. transitive verb
    1. (voir de nouveau) to see [sb/sth] again;
      il ne l’avait pas revu depuis 10 ans he hadn’t seen him for 10 years;
    1. (en pensée) to see;
      je la revois encore dans sa robe bleue I can still see her in her blue dress;
    1. (réexaminer) to go over [devoir, épreuve];
      to review [méthode, action];
      to check through [compte];
      ‘à ~’ ‘go over again’;
    1. (corriger) to correct;
    1. (réviser) Scol to revise GB, to review [matière];
      to go over [leçon].

B33 Tarts
Warm Brie, goat cheese and caramelized onion tarts

I was imagining a larger tart with a softer, more pastry like crust, so while these petites were tasty, I would like to see a revamped version.

Les Huitres Rockefeller
7 Traditional oysters Rockefeller

We weren’t sure what Rockefeller had to do with oysters, but as it turns out, this preparation method included greens, ham and cheese and tasted as though the oysters had been baked.  In my quest to understand and enjoy seafood for what it is and not with what it is garnished, this version did nothing to advance my pursuits.  However, it did confirm my affinity for high quality ham and cheese combinations. 

I’ve shown you the lamb shank special and frites before, but what this photo is speaking to now is how amazing both menu items are!  A very clean bone and a few french fry scraps attest to the meal that constantly lures me to this corner of Shadyside.

Brandy + Profiterole

Our waiter told us this was his first go at plating this dessert, so I hereby declare, “well done!”  What a lovely little puff of honey drizzled divinity!  A splash of brandy made us feel like we might return home to a large fire in our library, don burgundy colored robes and maybe even smoke a pipe, which is to say, we were drinking a painted picture of the noble sort of brandy aficionado.

Voilà qui conclut notre leçon de français pour aujourd’hui.
That concludes our French lesson for today!

A Cooking Adventure in a Foreign Territory

November 2011

I very recently explained my seafood virginity after skipping the much talked about Point Brugge brunch mussels option, so you can imagine my own surprise when I found myself really craving scallops while menu planning (which I have eaten and enjoyed a fair number of times despite my overall lack of seafood experience).  Make my own?  As if offering moral support, the issue of America’s Test Kitchen, through which I have been faithfully working my way, featured an approachable pan-seared scallop recipe.  With the added pressure of a dinner guest, I willingly voyaged on a cooking adventure in a foreign territory:  the sea!  I would say so myself, but my dining partner said it for me:  success!  Merci dining partner!  The full menu featured a few parallel flavors:  lemon, sage and overall autumnal palette.  My landlocked roots added a bit of turf to the menu in the form of Merguez in a side dish.

The Foreign Territory Menu

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter
Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Butter
Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Merguez
Lemony Pear & Sage Bourbon

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Brown Butter Sauce
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review Magazine, March 2011

Pan Seared Scallops

~1 pound dry sea scallops (about 10 scallops)
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
2 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

Lemon Brown Butter Sauce

4 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) organic, unsalted butter
3 large pearl onions, diced
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

For the Scallops

Place the scallops on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a paper towel.  Place a second paper towel on top of the scallops and press gently on the towel to blot liquid.  Let the scallops sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while the towels absorb the moisture.

Remove the second towel and sprinkle the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch non-stick saucepan or skillet over high heat until just smoking.

Add the scallops in a single layer, flat side down, and cook, without moving, until browned, 1 ½-2 minutes.

Add 1 Tablespoon of the butter to the pan.  Using tongs, flip the scallops and continue to cook, using a large spoon to base the scallops with the melted butter, tilting the pan so the butter runs to one side, until the sides of the scallops are firm and the centers are opaque, 30-90 seconds longer (remove smaller scallops from the pan as they finish cooking).

Transfer the scallops to a large plate and tent loosely with foil.

For the Brown Butter Sauce

Add the butter to the pan over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter turns dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 4-5 minutes.

Add the pearl onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the parsley, lemon juice and thyme.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm on top of the pan-seared scallops.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Browned Butter and Sage

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
6 medium fresh sage leaves, chopped

Directions

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the oil on the glass baking dish, and poke holes in the sides of the squash.

Roast until soft, about 40-50 minutes.

When the squash is almost done, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.

Add the sage and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is golden brown and the sage is crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat.

Remove the squash from the oven and turn cut-side up.  Pour in the sage butter sauce, and use a brush to butter the sides.

Serve immediately.

Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Merguez

Ingredients

1 satchel* of Brussels sprouts, rinsed and sliced in half
2 local merguez sausages, casing removed, cut into chunks
2 small local apples, chopped
2 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
cinnamon
nutmeg

*I say satchel because I bought a little mesh bundle of Brussels from Whole Foods and didn’t bother to quantify it.  About one sauce pan’s worth of sprouts?  This isn’t a science.

Directions

Bring a saucepan of water to boil.  Add the Brussels sprouts and boil until slightly soft and bright green in color.

Remove from heat, and drain water.

Add the butter to a skillet over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the merguez sausages.

Once the sausage has begun to brown, add the Brussels sprouts, stirring frequently.

As the sprouts start to brown, add the apple chunks, and continue to stir.

Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.  Stir to combine, and then remove from heat.

Serve immediately.

The Sour Wisdom Bourbon Cocktail
There was wine for dinner and bourbon cocktails for dessert!
(Makes two cocktails)

Cocktail Ingredients

½ cup fresh pressed pear juice
1 cup fresh pressed lemon juice
2 shots of bourbon
dash of angostura bitters
4 Tablespoons sage simple syrup*
2-3 dashes of angostura bitters

*Sage Simple Syrup Ingredients

1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup water
5-6 sage leaves, plus 2 for garnishes

*For the Sage Simple Syrup

Combine 1 cup turbinado sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and add 5-6 sage leaves.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Strain sage leaves from liquid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

For the Cocktail

Divide the juice between two mason jars.

Add a shot (or two!) of bourbon, followed by 2 Tablespoons of the simple syrup to each glass.

Finish with a few dashes of bitters in each glass.

Stir each glass and add 1-2 ice cubes.

Serve!

Note:  Because I used fresh juice I made myself, the texture was thicker than the average cocktail, making the experience a bit like sipping on a deliciously boozy slushy or a smoothie. 

Rum Regards/Let’s Get HAMmered?

November 2011

This happened.  Then Jono’s friend sent him an email proposing they eat a ham soaked in rum, so instead, Jono emailed me…

To The Loveliest Lady in the Whole Wide World,
[ok, I may be embellishing the email intro just a tad]

Apparently “rum ham” is a reference to It’s ‘Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ I’m unaware of, and although [my friend's] preparation technique sounds atrocious, I now want to make a ham with some sort of rum-sugar-cinnamon glaze. Any way we could make this happen?

Rum Regards,

Jono

Of course we could make that happen, but I couldn’t stop at the ham.  I wanted an entire rum themed meal…

The Rum Regards Menu

Black Forest HAMmered with an Apple & Beet Compote
Smashed
Sweet Potatoes with Grated Pecorino Cheese
Buzzed Sprouts with Slivered Almonds
Sauced Chocolate Coconut Cake
Spiked mulled cider

Had there not been good friends, dancing dates and brunching dates all the weekend long, this would have been a more homespun ham roasting experience, but using the precooked ham served us really well under busy circumstances.

There was some debate and hesitation as we leaned over the skillet of sprouts.  Add rum?!?  Why not?!?  We went for it, and they were delicious!  The combined natural spice of the under appreciated veggie and the added flavors really harmonized and completed the overall theme.

Let's-Get-HAMmered

However, rum and chocolate for the dessert course was an easy decision.  Dessert was my only solo effort.  Other than that, Jono had a tipsy hand in all the other aspects of the meal.  Go team!

The Recipes

Spiked Mulled Cider

Ingredients

1 Quart local apple cider
1 cup Spiced Rum
2-3 small local apples
cinnamon sticks
nutmeg dash
1” chunk of fresh ginger
A handful of fresh cranberries, cut in half
4-5 cloves
1 organic orange, peeled, sliced

For the Cider

Combine all of the above in a crockpot and allow to mull as the rest of the dinner comes together.  Serve with dessert.  [Full disclosure?  We drank red wine with dinner.  It just went so well with the flavors, I couldn't resist].  Feel free to add an extra splash of fresh rum to the hot bevvie if you want a smidgeon of an alcohol content.

********

HAMmered Black Forest Ham
With Apple & Beet Compote

Ingredients

1 small, all natural, preservative-free, precooked, black forest ham “nugget”
(the package actually called it a nugget)
½ cup water
¼ cup organic brown sugar
2 organic fuji apples, peeled and sliced
1 large roasted beet, peeled and sliced
½ cup fresh cranberries, sliced
dash of cinnamon
dash of ground ginger
zest of one orange
½ cup rum

Directions

To Roast the Beet

Wrap the beet in tin foil and place in a pan to catch the juices.  Heat the oven to 425 F.  Bake the beet for about one hour or until soft.  Remove from the oven, and allow to cool before peeling and slicing.  Set aside.

For the Compote

Heat the water and brown sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Reduce heat to medium.

Add the apple and beet slices.  Stir continuously.

Add the cranberries and spices and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, slice the ham, wrap in foil and place in a baking dish.  Warm in the oven or microwave, depending on your preferences.

Once the apples are soft, remove from heat and mix in the rum.

Serve warm over black forest ham slices.

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SMASHED Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon spiced rum
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream
~1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

For the Sweet Potatoes

Peel and rinse the sweet potatoes.  Cut them into 1-2” chunks.

Bring a pot of water to boil, and add the potatoes.  Boil for a couple minutes, and then reduce to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Drain the water and return to low heat.

Stir in the butter, rum, maple syrup, brown sugar and cream.

Use a mixer or food processor to puree the potato mixture until creamy.

Lastly, sprinkle with the cheese and spices before serving.

********

Buzzed Sprouts*
*This is more of a guide than a recipe.

Ingredients

1 little mesh bag of Brussels sprouts
Olive Oil
Fresh ginger, grated
A handful of slivered almonds
Splash of Spiced Rum
A dash of cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg

Directions

Wash the Brussels Sprouts.

Bring a saucepan of water to boil.

Add the Brussels Sprouts and cook until bright green and slightly soft.

Allow to cool slightly.

Slice the sprouts.

In a large skillet, heat 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the Brussels sprouts, stirring constantly.

Add the almonds, and continue to stir.

Once the Brussels sprouts have begun to brown, add the ginger.

Turn off the heat.  Add the splash of spiced rum.  Stir to combine.

********

Sauced Chocolate Coconut Cake

Ingredients

6 eggs (local/free-range), separated
2 cups organic evaporated cane juice sugar
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
zest of one organic orange
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons spiced rum

Sauce

1 can (12 ounce) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounce) coconut milk
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/3 cup local heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons spiced rum

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a glass 9×13 baking pan.

For the cake, in a large bowl combine flour, cocoa, spices, baking powder and orange zest.

In a medium size bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and rum.

Set both aside.

Place egg whites in a clean bowl and beat at high speed until peaks are formed.

Turn the mixer down to medium speed and gradually add the sugar to the egg whites.

Once the sugar is dissolved, add egg yolks and beat for 3 minutes.

Continue beating egg white mixture on medium-low speed and add flour and milk alternately until well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan.

While the cake is still warm, punch holes in cake with wooden skewer.

Combine the sauce ingredients and pour evenly over the cake.

Place the cake in refrigerator to cool until ready to serve.  The longer it soaks, the better the burst of rum flavor in each bite!

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Serve.

********
Fin.
********

Two Helpings of Meat & Potatoes

November 2011

This is how buzz and good food work:  back to back!  The foodies at work had already readjusted their PGH dining list and bumped the new downtown restaurant to number one.  Following their lead, Nicole sent me a text message from her spot at the much talked about Meat and Potatoes, “You will love it here.  Pick a day.”  I eagerly did pick a day shortly after that.  She wore her new bangs, I wore a new hat, and we treated ourselves quite well at that marble table.  The following week, Justin and I were finally, finally, finallllly planning to dine together.  We went through a list of options, and when I said, “Well, I’d definitely eat at Meat and Potatoes again,” he said, “done!”  If someone invited me to dine there right this moment, I’d say the same.

The First Helping

I wish I could transport the restaurant to a different neighborhood, but the location is what it is:  downtown Pittsburgh.  This entails a few negatives:  a complete lack of parking for no apparent reason (?) and a “cultured” crowd largely comprised of several old men entertaining much younger women, neither of whom are attractive enough to make the offset aesthetically appealing.  In case this aspect of my personality has not yet been apparent, I am judgmental, but eat one meal there, and you’ll deem this an observation and not just a criticism.

In the case of this blessed union of protein and starch, I am willing to let the good far outweigh the odd:  vintage wood, rusting metals, tea lights in jam jars, hanging bulb light fixtures, letterpress styles, fancy elixirs in fancy containers, chalkboards, stamps and the really obvious key factor:  really amazing food!

Franklin Mint
ri 1 / aperol / citrus / agave /  rhubarb / mint

My eyes scanned the Libations menu for bourbon or whiskey, and I arrived at the Franklin Mint.  In an effort to save money and sobriety, I savored one, but I easily could have enjoyed my way through three more.  Time to find a big spending benefactor!

Harvest Salad
roasted beets / frisee / endive / treviso / pecans / blue cheese

Aside from the fact that Nicole and I both really like beets, we had a very responsible moment during the menu planning in which we ordered the harvest salad to counterbalance our other options.  Our decision process was a bit motherly, “eat your veggies,” but as it turned out, even the salad was held to a higher standard.  The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the dijon dressing had a little bit of a sweet kick to it.  I’d like to think it was real honey.  Whatever the source of that sweetness, the salad really stood on its own merits, which is not easy in the old man’s game of meat and potatoes.

Mac-n Cheese
pastrami pork belly / peas / taleggio

This is a macaroni and cheese that demands a really eloquent and adult review along the lines of, “ahem… holy shit is that good!”  The inclusion of peas takes me to meals my older sister would make for me when left in her care.  I’d eat macaroni with a side of peas (probably from a can which I still find appealing in a counter intuitive way).  The real treat for those meals was eating my mac ‘n cheese dinner in front of the tv (because my family actually valued the dinner table, and for the record, I am grateful).  Before I even hit the reminiscent appeal to this menu item, the mac ‘n cheese had me at “pastrami pork belly.”  The warm, cheesy pasta with major hints of pork and then bites of peas…order it and order it again!  The following day, I was already craving more!

Poutine
Gravy / Local Cheese Curd

Aside from a rurual visit, my Canadian travel log is null and void, a fact I am hoping to remedy in the very near future.  I cannot attest to an authentic Québécois homage, but when salty, creamy cheese curd mixes with a lightly crisped french fry, an authentic homage is really just an excess worry.

Braised Short Ribs
horseradish potatoes / red wine reduction

In my dream world, the braised short ribs would have been served on a bed of poutine, but these horseradish potatoes really earned their way to the restaurant’s namesake.  The sneaky greens maintained enough of what I will call bitterness to assert their flavor.  I say bitterness in a complimentary way.  As for the meat, I could shred it with a fork…a fork!  It was so tender, and there was barely a spot of gravy left on the plate after we finished those ribs.  Let me reiterate:  cut with a fork!

Save for room for the chocolate bread pudding, especially for the novelty of dessert arriving in a jam jar.  It will warm your soul and your mouth when you bite into your first rich, chocolate saturated, caramely spoonful.

The Second Helping

For my first helping, Nicole and I took the safe route and made a reservation, which meant we were seated at one of the small, marble tables lining the curving wall.  The second visit was more of a whim, which meant a spot at the bar.  After experiencing both, my preference is for a seat at the bar.  The tables are awkwardly (or “communally” depending on how you look at it) close to fellow diners, and every time I looked up, I saw my face reflected in the large mirrors.  I like my face enough, but sometimes, it’s just too distracting.  The bar still fostered adequate people watching, but it also provided more surface area for proper sharing and menu sampling.

“What’s in that glass canister at the end of the whiskey boxes?” you ask?  That’s a canister of beef jerky made in house!  We ordered a serving, which equated to about two pieces each.  Not only did I grow up eating beef from cows my dad raised, but I was also spoiled in the sense of my mom making her own beef jerky from those very cows.  Never will you see me eating rest stop jerky, but I’m sure that comes as no surprise.  In light of my high bar for judging jerky, Meat and Potatoes made the cut.  The jerky had enough thickness and flavor to make it beefy, not just dried and impossible to eat.  The herbs really pronounced their flavors as well.  It’s worth squeezing in a small snack into your dining plan to try it.

Old Canadian
Old grandad bourbon / meringue /vanilla /maple / bitters / orange / lemon

Seems like more signs pointing me to our northern neighbors.  If you simply read the cocktail ingredients, you’ll save me the trouble of having to elaborate why this drink was a success.  They nailed it.  The more important question is why haven’t I begun my own Old Canadian experiments at home?

The name of the game for the evening was Sharing is Caring, and more importantly, sharing is maximizing menu potential.  Look at that spread!

Mac-n Cheese
pastrami pork belly / peas / taleggio

Hello familiar friend!  As I said above, “order it, and order it again!”

Bone Marrow
grilled bread / gremolata / onion relish / sea salt

For as much beef as I have consumed in my lifetime, my bone marrow experiences have been limited to the little dinky, prizes at the end of a lamb shank or short ribs meal.  This was the motherland of bone marrow, and it changed my world.  Look at that platter!  On a really secondary note to the mega hunks of bone, I’d like to give a quiet kudos to the crusty, buttery bread used as a base for the rich marrow.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Livers

Justin pulled the “must have” card on this appetizer.  I was skeptical, but I was willing to expand my liver horizons.  I liked the buttermilk fried exterior, but the heart of the appetizer was still just that same old liver my mom tried to make me eat once upon a childhood.  This just proves I’m not a chicken liver fan because Justin was eager to eat my portion.

Sazerac
ri 1 / absinthe rinse / bitters / cane sugar / lemon

Another drink?  Don’t mind if I do!  This one was a slow sippin’ good time.

We had to wait.  We had to caffeinate a bit.  We had to wait some more, but I made sure we made room for dessert because the chocolate bread pudding was beckoning.  Look how they dressed it up in new clothes for my second helping!

So concluded the second helping of Meat and Potatoes, and the most pressing thought in my head was, “How quickly can I return here?”

Fin.  Decadent Fin.

Legume: A Little Too Neutral

November 2011

Remember when I sadly had to remove a third plate from the Dinner for Purple Lips?  To make up for the DayQuil fog that prevented her from attending, Sara offered to take me to dinner at the establishment of my choice.  As a foodie who is concerned with food sourcing, I was long overdue for a visit to Legume.  The closest I had ever come was stepping into the restaurant’s previous location to find every table occupied with no opening in the foreseeable future.  With a reservation securing a table for two, this was my night to experience the rockstar of the Pittsburgh locavore scene.

Legume has come up in conversation a lot lately after reopening at its new, bigger locale.  The most common reaction I had heard was “the food is really good, but the ambiance is super weird.”  I wasn’t sure what ambiance would create such a unanimously ambiguous yet uncomfortable feeling.  Then I went there.

The food was good!  The ambiance was weird!  What others may have had trouble pinpointing, I would conclude in three words:  retirement home cafeteria.  Upon discussing it, another friend concluded her review in two words:  funeral home.  Neither of those describe the ideal backdrop to a sustainably sourced meal cooked with care and expertise.  Had I been charged with drawing my vision of the restaurant before being seated, I would have filled in burnt sienna walls, rustic wood grains, maybe a warm cinnamon-orange color or an olive green with rusting metal and leaf like sculptures.  None of that existed.

But the food really was good!

We began with the Duck Liver and Quince Mousse.  We put a small dent in the ramekin, which the waitress took to mean we were disappointed.  Quite the contrary, but this raises a question in my mind, just how much pate are people capable of eating?!?

My picture speaks very poorly for the Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage and Greens.  The greens really contrasted the sweetness of the sweet potato, and the brown butter enhanced the sweet and savory mix of the flavors.  I could probably eat this autmnal dish all the fall long.

We split both the Brasied Veal Breast with Sauteed Greens, Potato-Celeriac Smash (above) and the 12oz Rib Steak with Red Wine Sauce and French Fries (not pictured), and as a girl who grew up on really high quality beef, I felt right at home!  Both were amazingly tender, flavorful and paired well with their accompanying vegetables and sauces.  Buy the beef!

Conclusions…

First of all, thanks to Sara for a lovely meal!

Second of all, I would gladly eat at Legume again, but I might bring my own rustic, wooden surface and a burnt sienna backdrop to make the immediate ambiance match the quality of the food.  I just might.

The Purple Lips Dinner At Last

The Back Story

Me:  “I’m a sucker for romantic stories.”
Nicole:  “Please, there was no story with my ex.  When I met him my lips were stained purple with Malbec.”

Somehow that became one of my favorite stories anyway.  Purple lips.  Sometimes they are sought.  More often than not, they appear before you know it, and even more often, you find yourself flirting through purple lips you didn’t even know you had.  On other occasions, that lip stain is the goal of the evening.  This was one such occasion.  We were gathering around the table to be ladies with purple lips.  The menu in my head filled the table with purple foods for the occasion.  The song in my head was this.

The Full Dinner At Last…

Sara came down with a flu and was in a dayquil fog, so sadly, I had to remove one plate.

The Beets

The Chicken
(looking slightly massacred after I took a test cut)

The Purple Potatoes and The Almond-Pear Wine Tizzy

The last little drops…

…and the wine-stained end!

Preparing A Dinner For Purple Lips: Dessert

October 2011

The Back Story (As you may recall)

Me:  “I’m a sucker for romantic stories.”
Nicole:  “Please, there was no story with my ex.  When I met him my lips were stained purple with Malbec.”

Somehow that became one of my favorite stories anyway.  Purple lips.  Sometimes they are sought.  More often than not, they appear before you know it, and even more often, you find yourself flirting through purple lips you didn’t even know you had.  On other occasions, that lip stain is the goal of the evening.  This was one such occasion.  We were gathering around the table to be ladies with purple lips.  The menu in my head filled the table with purple foods for the occasion.  The song in my head was this.

The Dessert:  Almond-Pear Wine Tizzy

16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for preparing pan
1  ½ cup sugar in the raw
1/2 cup local honey
4 eggs (local/free-range)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoon organic almond extract
Grated zest of one lemon
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup almond slivers
2 Tablespoons Wine jelly
Bosch pears

Directions

Center a rack in oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet.

Pour sugar and honey into a medium bowl. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended.

Whisk in salt, vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon zest.

Use a spatula to stir in the whole-wheat pastry flour and almond flour.

Add the almonds and jelly.

Finally, fold in melted butter.

Scrape batter into prepared skillet or pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and a little crisp on outside; the inside will remain quite moist.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Pear Port Compote

½ cup port wine
½ cup water
½ cup sugar in the raw
1 bosch pear, sliced

Combine the port wine, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Continue to simmer until slightly thickened.

Add the pear slices and stir over low heat until slightly softened.

Arrange the pear slices over the cake.  Drizzle remaining sauce over the pears and cake.
Garnish with almond slices.

Whipped Topping

1 cup organic heavy cream
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons local honey

Combine all three ingredients in a chilled bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to use.

Serve with a few glasses of red, lip-staining wine!
(More on the purple lips dinner to come!)

Preparing A Dinner For Purple Lips: Garlic Mashed Purple Potatoes

October 2011

The Back Story (As you may recall)

Me:  “I’m a sucker for romantic stories.”
Nicole:  “Please, there was no story with my ex.  When I met him my lips were stained purple with Malbec.”

Somehow that became one of my favorite stories anyway.  Purple lips.  Sometimes they are sought.  More often than not, they appear before you know it, and even more often, you find yourself flirting through purple lips you didn’t even know you had.  On other occasions, that lip stain is the goal of the evening.  This was one such occasion.  We were gathering around the table to be ladies with purple lips.  The menu in my head filled the table with purple foods for the occasion.  The song in my head was this.

The Side Dish:  Garlic Mashed Purple Potatoes

More of that campfire evoking salt…

Garlic Mashed Purple Potatoes

Ingredients

3-4 large local purple potatoes
1 head of garlic

3 Tablespoon Irish butter
½ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Yakima Applewood Smoked Sea Salt
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper

2 strips Black Forest Bacon, baked & chopped
1 cup grated Maple Leaf Apple Smoked Gouda

Directions

Peel and slice the potatoes.  Bring a medium pot of water to boil, and then add the potatoes and garlic.  Simmer until tender.

Add the butter, milk, mustard, salt and pepper.  Use a food processor to puree.

Pour into a glass bowl.  Add the bacon and cheese.   Stir to distribute evenly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes.

Serve with a few glasses of red, lip-staining wine!

Preparing A Dinner for Purple Lips: The Beets

October 2011

The Back Story (As you may recall)

Me:  “I’m a sucker for romantic stories.”
Nicole:  “Please, there was no story with my ex.  When I met him my lips were stained purple with Malbec.”

Somehow that became one of my favorite stories anyway.  Purple lips.  Sometimes they are sought.  More often than not, they appear before you know it, and even more often, you find yourself flirting through purple lips you didn’t even know you had.  On other occasions, that lip stain is the goal of the evening.  This was one such occasion.  We were gathering around the table to be ladies with purple lips.  The menu in my head filled the table with purple foods for the occasion.  The song in my head was this.

The Purplish Side Dish:  Beet Endive Salad
(Inspired by my various dining experiences at Brasserie 33)

Ingredients

4-5 beets, tops and roots trimmed
Fresh squeezed juice from one lemon (about 3 Tablespoons)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
6 Belgian endive heads, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 head radicchio
6 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled

Directions

Preheat over to 350°F.

Wrap beets in foil.  Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Peel beets. Halve lengthwise, then slice.

Transfer to medium bowl and set aside.

Combine lemon juice and mustard in bowl. Gradually whisk in oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add half of dressing to beets and mix to coat.
(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover beets and chill. Cover remaining dressing and let stand at room temperature.)

Peel off a few layers of radicchio.  Split the endive into individual leaves and position on top of the radicchio leaves.  Mound with beets and additional radicchio, shredded.

Crumble Roquefort over the beets and serve with extra dressing on the side and a healthy dose of wine.

Stay tuned for the final purple lips dinner photos.

PS:  Play With Your Food

I mentioned recently if I wrote a manifesto, it would include a line or two about playing with your food.  As this is my second mention, it seems I should probably start writing my manifesto?  In the meantime, I keep playing with food, in more ways than one.  Look what can happen when beets are the medium…

Coming to a gallery near you?