Sunday, November 28, 2010

Whole Foods Thanksgiving: Teaser

No time right now for the epic upcoming post about our marathon of a whole foods Thanksgiving, but for tonight, I'll leave you with this...

Adventures in Cooking with Galina (Take Two)

You may recall earlier this year when my friend Galina came over to watch Slings & Arrows, and I chilled chocolate-dipped strawberries in such a way that the chocolate coating remained largely on the serving platter.  Well, Galina came over again (for more Slings & Arrows!) and this time, inspired by the incredible early success of the pork potstickers, decided to make greasy Chinese food again.

Things rarely turn out how you plan.

I should have known to switch gears when I stopped by Whole Foods and found not only no ground pork (settling for ground turkey instead) but also no wonton wrappers (settling for a package of clear spring roll wrappers whose packaging and instructions were entirely in Japanese).

Everything seemed all right at first, but when I went to wrap the ground turkey mixture with the spring roll wrappers, it became evident that the clear, gummy shells were not going to either A) crisp up to the satisfying fried goodness of previous incarnations or B) remain in one piece around the stuffing mixture.

So we ended up with a pan of fried meat lumps and gelatinous skin sheddings.

Which was kind of gross.  

Galina's a good sport, though, and pointed out that her family cooks a Russian dish which is basically fried meat lumps.  And the shrimp fried rice I'd thrown together as a main course came out reasonably delicious, so I suppose all's well that ends well.

This is a remarkably simple recipe courtesy of Food Network's Ellie Krieger: sauté chopped spring onion and ginger in a little sesame oil, then add four cups chopped fresh cabbage and a pound of shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink.  Remove all of this from the pan, add a little more sesame oil, and fry two cups (cold) brown rice.  Put the shrimp and cabbage mix back into, toss it all together, and serve hot.

Less Simple Pleasures

Artisanal chocolates and ten year aged tawny port ... perfect for a Saturday night in, relaxing on the couch, cuddling up in front of a movie...

... Playing with the auto-focus on my camera...

Simple Pleasures

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunday Brunch at Home

Scrambled eggs with cream, pan fried potatoes, and lime-cumin black beans.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup and Veggie Fritters

 In an effort to pursue the "mostly plants?" end of things, I present to you a vegetarian meal to rival the meatiest of meats:  butternut squash soup with crispy vegetable fritters!  And to make it all happen, out came the Cuisine-art.  Which was probably really, really grateful to be used.  It's like the Velveteen Rabbit of food processors, sitting alone and sad up in my highest cabinet.

After dicing a few carrots and zucchinis in the processor, I tossed them in a simple batter of flour, eggs, milk, and beer.

Then fried them.  In a lot of oil.  Who says plants have to be healthy?

Meanwhile, I diced and simmered a whole butternut squash (about 2 pounds) with one diced onion and six cups chicken stock.  (To make it fully vegetarian, you could easily trade out for vegetable stock.) When the squash was soft, I strained it out of the stock, quickly rinsed the food processor, and tossed it in to puree.

Added it back into the stock, seasoned with salt and fresh-grated nutmeg, and it came out the perfect sweet but savory autumn treat.

(Soup recipe here.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ricotta Gnucky**

Joe and Lauren come over most weeks to watch Boardwalk Empire.  (Is anyone else out there watching this show?  Do you feel that, more than other HBO shows, it is needlessly gratuitous?  What's with all the bouncing breasts?  And blood spattering everywhere?  Also: why isn't Omar slash Chalky in EVERY SCENE?)

Anyways, Joe and Lauren are new parents, and they bring their baby, Gwen, who is Bean's favorite person in the world.  Including me and Matt.  But I can't take much offense, because to be fair, Gwen is way, way cuter than either of us.

In any case, when they came this weekend I made this New York Times recipe for ricotta gnocchi.  The article touts it as "light" but be forewarned: it pretty much consists entirely of cheese, flour, and butter.

Which is probably why I liked it so much.

You start by mixing a container of whole milk ricotta with flour, salt, pepper, two eggs, and a cup of freshly grated parmesano reggiano.  Then you drop rounded spoonfuls into a pot of boiling water six at a time, fishing them out after about a minute, when they rise to float on the surface of the water. 

And then, you throw them in the "sauce" which you have made in a saucepan by frying sage leaves in butter.  And you let them get all warm and golden and buttery and sagey.  

When you've cooked and tossed them all in the butter-sage mixture, I'd recommend squirting a slice of lemon in to add a little citrus lightness.  I didn't do this the first night, but the next day eating leftovers, it made a huge difference to balance out the heaviness of the cheese and butter.

Aaaaand they were phenomenal.  A special occasion treat, for sure, to those of us STILL working on the last ten pounds.  But phenomenal:

We served them with jalapeño bratwurst (from Greg's farm last summer) and some juicy honeycrisp apple slices, figuring that you really can't go wrong with that pork/sage/apple combination.


** Credit goes to Lauren for the awesome titular pun.

Your Good Old Midwestern Steak Dinner

Matt and I flew back to (heavenly) South Dakota a couple weekends ago to do some wedding planning (!), and while there, enjoyed some fantastic steaks out on the town.  I don't typically order steak when dining out in Chicago -- a Nebraskan at heart, I can't handle paying $40 for a cut of beef -- so it had been a while, and these were well worth the wait.  The restaurant sources from local cattle ranches, and they were served just right: a piece of fresh, perfectly cooked meat on a plate.  No fancy sauces or glazes muddying the dish.
Sorry, vegetarians, but there is just nothing quite so satisfying as slicing into a rare filet, the flesh buttery soft and rich.

In any case, I was inspired from that experience to purchase some organic ribeyes to cook at home.  We did them really simply, just frying in a little butter for a few minutes on each side, then letting them rest in the pan, covered with foil to seal the heat in.

They came out exactly to my taste ... which is to say, practically bleeding:

And what's a steak without potatoes?  We oven roasted these guys with a little olive oil, salt, and garlic, and finished everything off with mounds of steamed broccoli with shredded sharp cheddar.

Okay, so in the interests of perfect honesty, I have to say that by the time we'd gotten everything to the table and photographed it, the steak was a little tough and the broccoli a little cold, but these are the hazards of food-blogging, I guess.  And it was all still pretty dang delicious.

Besides, this is just one more example of how nothing compares to South Dakota.