29 October 2010

Leftover fagioli for breakfast

Warm leftover fagioli sauce in a pan with a little water. When it's hot, toast an english muffin (or what have you). Fry an egg using the steam trick. Top toasty muffin with a couple spoonfuls of fagioli, the egg, and some more fagioli for good measure. Eat. Drink tea. Stay full until well after 1 pm.

28 October 2010

Something called a salad

Mixed greens from the farmer's market, one of the last good tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, hardboiled egg, chopped parsley and chives, salt and pepper, and dijon vinaigrette.


20 October 2010

Stepping away from the meat

So the past couple weeks have put me into meat overload. We not only undertook the massive chicken/broth-making expedition of 2010, but also a batch of moules marinieres, and a gargantuan london broil with roasted potatoes, carrots, onion, and brussels sprouts. Everything was great, but--wow. Our freezer is totally stuffed with the excess, and I don't want to see any meat again for at least a month.

Right! Let's eat some grain with vegetables!

Barley and vegetable salad

olive oil
various peppers
chard/other greens
fresh parsley

Ok. We're essentially going to cook the barley, sauté the vegetables, and mix them together. Easy.

To cook barley, I use the rice cooker. Just throw in a cup of dry barley, two cups of water, and turn the machine on. You can definitely do this in a pan as well; follow the general rules for cooking rice, and you should be fine. Hell, you can actually use rice instead of barley, and still be fine. Any grain is good here.

While your barley is cooking, warm a little olive oil in a sauté pan. Dice up whatever vegetables sound appealing, starting with alliums. I think I used a red torpedo onion and its greens for this one, but whatever you have on hand should work. Soften your onion (minus any greens; save those for later) while you cut up your other veg. Use a lot, as you want the vegetables to be a good half of the finished product. I had a bagful of wrinkly red and yellow peppers from the seconds table at the farmer's market, so I used maybe three of them, all slightly spicy but mostly sweet. If you want spicier peppers, go ahead and use them. If you're using chard, chop up the stems and add them at this point too. While all those are softening, chop your greens, including any onion greens, and set them aside until the very end of cooking. If you have any parsley or other fresh herbs, chop them up as well.

When your barley and veg are cooked, turn off all the heat. Add the uncooked greens to the pan of veg, and dump as much hot grain as you want on top. Let the pan sit for a minute or two while you wash the other dishes; this will steam the greens without overcooking them. Then all you have to do is add some salt and pepper, stir everything together, add a squeeze of lemon (or a sprinkle of vinegar, or even vinaigrette), and eat it.

Grain salads like this are good hot or cool, so it's worthwhile to make enough for a couple days. You can either eat them plain, for zero-effort lunch, or use them as a component in something else, like this big wrap. All I did here was slightly warm a big flatbread in the toaster oven, spread it with labneh, add leftover salad, and top with raw chard. The result: gargantuan, filling, and damn near instant lunch.

Item: triumph!

19 October 2010

Chicken once, chicken twice

Right before we went to NYC, John had gotten pretty excited about bistro cooking. We even threw down and bought both the Balthazar and the Bouchon cookbooks, both of which are awesome. The Balthazar book is a more practical, traditional cookbook, while the Bouchon book is so gigantic and styled that it almost belongs on the coffee table. Fortunately, the food more than makes up for any awkwardness in the kitchen.

The first thing we made was totally simple yet excellent roast chicken.

You guys probably know that John is vegetarian and I am not. However, John also wants to get better at various strains of cooking, so he was the driving force behind the chicken.

The Persian market supplied us with a halal bird, still sporting its neck and an array of pinfeathers: fascinating yet still pretty gross. After removing those, John salted and peppered the chicken inside and out, trussed it, and stuck it in a fully preheated 450F oven to roast. No basting; no nonsense. After about an hour, it was done. The end.

With my gargantuan breast of chicken (of which I ended up eating about half), I had excellent mashed sweet potatoes with garlic and mirepoix. This is totally easy and much better than any plain sweet potato mash. Yes vegetables! Vegetables win!

First, cook your sweet potatoes. I like to steam them, but you could also boil them, stab them all over with a fork and bake them, or even throw them in the microwave (also well forked, to avoid sweet potato explosion). For steaming: put a pot of water on to boil while you peel the potatoes and chop them into medium-small chunks. When the water boils, throw your potatoes into a steamer basket or insert, cover, and stick the business over the pan. Cook about 25 minutes, or until easily pierced by a fork. I like to call this stage "edible," myself.

In the meantime, make mirepoix. John likes to start this off by poaching a bunch of smashed, peeled garlic cloves in butter, a la Julia Child, but you could also just do a plain mirepoix with olive oil. In any case, heat your oil, smash your garlic, finely chop half an onion, a couple stalks of celery, and a carrot, and slowly cook all the veg until soft and lovely. Add some thyme or sage if that kind of business floats your boat.

When the potatoes are done and the veg are aromatic and excellent, it's time to mash. Add the potatoes to the veg, salt and pepper, and mash enthusiastically. Taste the finished mash before you add any more butter or oil; I find that the veg cooking oil is generally plenty.

After stripping all the rest of the meat off the bones, we made chicken broth. This one is super easy as well: put your stripped chicken carcass in a big pot with a chunked yellow onion, a handful of roughly chopped celery and carrot, and a bouquet garni, i.e. a bunch of herbs. We used parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf. Cover everything with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Use a slotted spoon to occasionally skim off any scum that rises to the surface. After a couple hours, behold! You now have excellent homemade chicken broth.

When the broth is done, skim any more visible fat and gack off the surface, then strain out the solids; we put ours in a full pot insert so we could just lift it out easily. You may also want to pour the resulting broth through a finer mesh strainer to eliminate any tiny bits and pieces. Then put the entire pot in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, a layer of fat will have risen to the surface and largely solidified; lift this off with your slotted spoon, and your broth is totally ready.

At this point, I poured the broth into just about all our storage containers and stacked them precariously around the freezer for later use. We are now well prepared for me to get the flu sometime in the next six months. Thanks, chicken carcass!

We had truly massive amounts of meat left over as well. While most of these also went directly into the freezer, I definitely had a great time eating as many bits and pieces as I could cram into a sandwich. This one had the end of the sweet potatoes, a bunch of greens, emmenthaler cheese, and some dijon mustard, all on a fairly gigantic ciabatta roll. With a big handful of tomatoes, everything was awesome.

13 October 2010

Typical dinner: quick lentil soup

We've been feeling a little run down lately, maybe because of all the crazy amounts of work plus crazy amounts of weekend activity. So I made totally easy, healthy food for maximum feeling better.

Lentil soup: soften onion, a little garlic, and some finely diced hot pepper in olive oil with curry powder, garam masala, cumin, ginger, turmeric, and brown mustard seeds. Cover with a couple cups of water or veg broth and bring to a boil. Scrub and finely dice a potato or two while you're waiting for things to warm up; I usually make half-inch cubes. When the soup is boiling, add the potato and a few big handfuls of red lentils. Bring the business back up to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for maybe 20 minutes, or until both the lentils and potatoes are done. Salt and pepper. If you want a thicker soup, take off the cover and let it reduce a bit.

Eat it with lemon squeezed over the top and a bunch of flatbread warmed up in the toaster oven. Drink mint tea. Feel better. Get in bed.

10 October 2010

Food in NYC

I did not take my camera to NY, and can thus provide no pictures. Tragedy! However, we had a great time.

The first thing we did after checking in to the Hotel Roger Williams at 1:30a in the middle of Murray Hill was to walk two blocks up the street to the Moonstruck Diner. (Incidentally, man, do I ever miss Menupages now that we're back in the full Silicon Valley suburban stretch.) The hotel staff told us exactly where both the diner and deli were when we were checking in; how great is that? SO great. The diner in question was a little expensive, but what do you want for nearly midtown? We were just excited to find a diner. Plus, it was so relaxing to walk around NYC at 1:30a. Being back in a pedestrian-centric, busy, energetic environment = win.

On Saturday we went to Soho and spent the entire day hanging out with our friend Matthew. On the way there, we dinked around NYU. I ate a hot dog with mustard in Washington Square Park, and we got hit up by a dude selling his book of poetry, who was very sorry to interrupt this romantic moment we were having. You know, eating a hot dog on the park bench in Manhattan. NEW YORK! Then we went up the street to Caffe Dante and had a double espresso (John) and a single with cognac (me). The menu had a full page of different espresso permutations. It was pretty epic; I really regret not spending more time here while actually living in NYC, even though it was a fair subway ride away.

We had a vague idea that we should eat at Balthazar, since we had just gotten the cookbook and were very excited about it. However, once we actually fought our way through the ridiculous Soho crowds, they told us they were totally booked for the day. However, not to worry, since Matthew knew another excellent place: Freeman's. I am actually really interested in discovering the history of this area/street, since the name "Freeman" is suggestive, but haven't been able to find much with the traditional (HA) Google thus far. Well. In the meantime, the restaurant is clearly very popular, with a huge wait, but excellent food. I had mac and cheese and ate the entire thing, although it was super rich; Matthew and John were impressed.

Then we went to Astoria and had various delicious beer at the Bohemian Hall i.e. the beer garden. Hooray!

The wedding was on Sunday. It was also my birthday. We caught a train to Montauk from Penn (fortuitous hotel location!) and had an excellent time with a significant chunk of my family. Happy wedding birthday!

On Monday we caught a train back to the city, checked into our new hotel, and immediately went to Brooklyn. We had late lunch at Cafe Lafayette: veggie burger for John, Lafayette burger (lamb and goat cheese and caramelized red onions) for me. We also had their excellent coffee, which was particularly good in view of the constant drizzle and gloom. It was so nice after the weeks and weeks of California weather. After a significant stop at Greenlight (and on reading their site, I realize we JUST missed seeing our friend Darcie read! AUGH) we walked out to Park Slope and drank Gorilla Coffee while waiting for dinner. It was excellent coffee and gloomy, rainy, cool fall weather, and the Gorilla people were playing the soundtrack to Blazing Saddles, and everything was quite excellent.

Then we met Bethany for dinner at the mother of all trendy Brooklyn restaurants: Franny's. Yes, Franny's is pretty great, especially if you get the untopped, essentially flatbread pizza. Man, all the charred bits and the olive oil were great. We had ridiculous cocktails (gin and tonic with homeade tonic; some sort of quince concoction) and a charcuterie plate and lots of olives and the aforementioned flatbread and then a pizza with tomato and even more olives. It was pretty excellent.

In the morning we ate at the Skylight Diner so as to get our diner fix before going back to SV. Oh, man, diners.

02 October 2010

Public service announcement

Yeah, so when you see a bottle of wine that looks like this? Do NOT buy it.

Let's take a closer look.

First: novelty font. And what is the long S doing here? Are you a 17th-early 20th century document, bottle of wine? No. Let's not even get into the fact that they're using a long S as an F.

Next, not only is this bottle covered with plastic, but the plastic is white. Is opaque white a color you should associate with wine? NO.

You may also note that this is a riesling. While I have had a number of decent rieslings in the past ten years, they've all been fairly expensive. This one cost $7.

Tasting notes:
- Smelled like ok, slightly sweet, cheap white wine.
- On first sip, reaction began with an "I guess this isn't so ba--"
- Then the wine hit the back of the throat, releasing a revolting and pungent aftertaste. No similarities to any human-consumption-oriented tastes found in nature.
- Vomit reflex kicked in. "UGH we can't even use this for COOKING UGH OH"
- Poured entire bottle down sink.

In conclusion: don't be an idiot and buy the novelty wine, now matter how ridiculous a mood you may be in. REGRETS ABOUND.

PS: We are in NYC! I forgot my camera! We ate at a diner ASAP, at approximately 1:30a. Oh, NYC, we missed you so, and we haven't even gone to Brooklyn yet.