Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Cookbook Adventures: My New Favorite Way to Eat Corn

Fiddling around with the search function over at the fantastic Eat Your Books site, I stumbled upon what sounded like a great recipe for one of my very favorite ingredients in what is one of my very favorite cookbooks: Roasted Sweet Summer Corn with Miso Butter, Bacon & Roasted Onions from the Momofuku Cookbook...

Sunday Cookbook Adventures: Momofuku Ramen Broth

I decided that I would go for a fun change of pace this weekend, so instead of spending 12 hours making a single component to be used in a Thomas Keller recipe, I decided to spend 12 hours making a single component to be used in a David Chang recipe...

Bunnies! - Return of the HPFC

In a development that is sure to dismay my friends who don't think I should let the rabbits be the boss of me, but that just as surely made Charley and Pedro really happy, the HPFC (Hawk-Proof Food Cave) is back (and better than ever).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's sort of like they were reading my mind...

So, I have a pretty decent cookbook collection (somewhere around 150 books at the moment)... There are a few on the shelf that I'm intimately familiar with and know I can turn to when I'm looking for certain things, but many of them could contain pretty much any recipe without me having any knowledge of it. I'm not sure if this happens to normal people, but I often find myself in the situation where I want to use a certain ingredient, so I go over to the shelf and pull down 10 or 20 books, flip to the index of each, see if my ingredient appears there, then try the next one. If those 20 don't hook me up, the process continues until I settle on something that sounds delicious. It is, quite frankly, kind of a hassle.While wandering around the interwebs the other day, though, I found a site that seems to have been designed just for people like me. It's called Eat Your Books, and it's basically a tool for making the most of your cookbook collection.

Another Awesome Show...

On Friday night, my friend M and I headed down to House of Blues for what turned out to be another fantastic show. Before I get to the headliners, I should mention that we were quite pleased to discover that both of the opening acts were actually pretty great. Things started with Dutchess and the Duke, a cool little 3-member Seattle folk band, who were pretty amusing when interacting with the crowd and also sounded great. They were followed by The Dodos, a San Francisco indie rock band who rocked pretty hard. I'm tracking down a few of their albums right now, and looking forward to adding them to the collection. It's a rare occasion to enjoy one opening act, so enjoying two was a nice bonus... Then, things got even more awesome when The New Pornographers took the stage...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday Cookbook Adventures: Fava Bean Agnolotti with Curry Emulsion

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I'm a little obsessed with fava beans. It may also have become clear that I'm a little obsessed with Thomas Keller's recipes. Based on those two obsessions, it's a little confusing that I've made Keller's Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Sage Cream, Brown Butter, and Prosciutto several times, but have somehow never gotten around to making his Fava Bean Agnolotti with Curry Emulsion... until now...

Sunday Cookbook Adventures: Sweet Corn Soup with Pork Belly Dumplings

For no good reason that I can think of (other than that I am a little bit crazy...), I decided that I should make two Thomas Keller recipes on Sunday. I also decided that one of them should be from Under Pressure, which it generally considered his least accessible cookbook. There are a couple reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that you need $1500 - $2000 of equipment to execute most of these dishes properly. Most of the recipes are going to make you wish you owned a chamber vacuum and proper sous vide equipment (e.g. a thermal immersion circulator or a product like the SousVide Supreme). The recipes in Under Pressure seem a little more meticulous than those in The French Laundry Cookbook or Bouchon, but this also means that weights are given for every ingredient, and that’s something I’m a big fan of (because, really, how big is a small leek?). I’ll talk more about the style of this book – both the maddening and the beautiful sides of it – as it comes up in the cooking below…

Bunnies!

A random smattering of cuteness today. Trying to keep the rambling to a minimum, since a couple epic food posts will follow... Pedro and Charley both hate waiting for me to put their breakfast in their cage, preferring instead to go straight to the source... Check out the Pedro tongue in the first one:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Joys of Having Friends with Gardens...

A week ago, I was thinking this would be a relatively dull week in terms of dinners. With all of the Birthday Dinner prep, I decided the meal plan would consist of diving into the stash of things I'd tossed in the ol' chest freezer after making too many servings of something or other over the last few months. This plan went by the wayside when a couple kick-ass people decided to share with me a bit of the bounty from their gardens. One cannot be faced with such fresh beautiful produce and still choose re-warmed frozen stuff. This meant an extra trip to Russo's, but was well worth it. First up was my office neighbor, who brought in some garlic scapes. I'd never actually heard of garlic scapes prior to the week they arrived on my desk, but a couple questions for my friend and a bit of googling left me convinced that making a Garlic Scape Pesto was the way to go. First up, my pretty, pretty garlic scapes:
I roughly (minus the whole "measuring things" part...) followed a recipe I found a link to here. The scapes go into my food processor...
They get all good and chopped up...
Then in go the toasted almonds, Parmesan, and olive oil...
Everything gets blended together...
... and you have yourself some Garlic Scape Pesto.
The best application for this seemed to be pasta. I have a spiffy new pasta roller attachment for my KitchenAid (which will be employed while making Fava Bean Agnolotti with Curry Emulsion this weekend...), but I was far too exhausted to work for my supper this week, so I let Russo's hook me up with fresh pasta (for both this and the following dish). I randomly picked up a couple tomatoes as well, simply because they looked pretty...I finished the dish with some grilled chicken breasts, and ended up with quite the delicious (if not super-gorgeous) dinner...
The pesto totally reminded me of something familiar, but I have no idea what. I love how the garlic flavor was so strong that it was spicy. I'm definitely a garlic scape fan now, and I hope I'll be able to get my hands on some more to try them grilled and/or on pizza in the not-too-distant future... The other awesomeness that arrived in my kitchen was a bag of fresh peas that my friend Lisa brought from her garden when she drove up for my dinner party. Have I ever mentioned that I love peas? Because I seriously LOVE fresh peas.
Mmm... Just looking at them makes me happy. I shelled them with a glass of wine and some crappy TV, and was ready to prep dinner...
When I think of peas, I think of a dish I made when I first started cooking in college, which involved sautéed (Cremini) mushrooms, (dry bowtie) pasta, (cheap domestic) prosciutto, (frozen) peas, and a cream sauce. I have since tried making a higher-end version of this with the totally kick-ass Porcini Ravioli from Russo's, and will most likely never make it any other way (other than with homemade Porcini Ravioli, of course...). Along with the fresh peas, I actually had some really nice prosciutto, some half & half, a shallot, and a hunk of good Parmesan left over from the dinner party, so it seemed like a sign from the universe that I should make this dish...
This was awesome, and quite happiness-inducing. I make my standard Emily-style cream sauce, in which minced shallot is sautéed in (Amish) butter, white wine is added and allowed to reduce to almost a syrup, then cream or half & half is added and simmers a bit to thicken. The sauce can then be strained or not, depending on how rustic you're feeling. After seasoning to taste, that yumminess is drizzled over the beautiful fresh ravioli... Top with blanched peas sautéed briefly in (Amish) butter and a little torn prosciutto... and (if you're me) you will be a very happy camper. Yummy.
This is another dish I don't really make for "people," because part of my love for it is definitely rooted in memories of the dumbed-down version bringing me comfort in college... so I'm pretty sure it's delicious, but I can't ever really be objectively certain... Anyway... The take-home message from this post is that you should definitely be nice to your friends who have gardens. If you don't have any friends with gardens yet, it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and befriend the keeper of the next kick-ass garden you wander past in your neighborhood. You won't be sorry...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday, which means that last night was my annual birthday dinner. I had a few friends over, and there was much good food and ample tasty wine flowing freely. I'm definitely getting to be an old lady, but it's nice to share the passage of time with a kick-ass group of people. As always, I feel compelled to mention that I couldn't have pulled this off without Lisa's help on Saturday... We ate out on the porch, which is thankfully covered since it was a drizzly evening...
We started with a trio of appetizers: Vodka-spiked Cherry Tomatoes, Fava Bean Crostini, and Salmon Rillettes. We used some baby heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe's for the Vodka-spiked Cherry Tomatoes, and they turned out really cool-looking.
For the soup course, we went with a Creamy Asparagus Soup with Lemon Dumplings,
The soup features wontons filled with a concentrated lemon liquid that explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. Always a fun surprise for first-time tasters...The salad was one that my Santa Barbara friends have had many times before: Warm Peach and Prosciutto Salad. I have a hard time thinking of any other salad to make when peaches are in season. I love the balsamic and thyme combined with the peaches, spicy arugula, and beautiful prosciutto... Mmmm...
The main course was Bouchon's Sautéed Atlantic Salmon with Leeks and Beurre Blanc. (Picture jacked from my other post about this recipe, since we were in the weeds and had no time for frivolous things like picture-taking...)
And, finally, dessert was a Donna Hay Frozen Tiramisu.
It's been a really nice birthday weekend. I took a vacation day on Friday so that I could enjoy the cooking at a leisurely pace rather than trying to cram in all of the grocery-shopping and prep after work. It was great getting to catch up with friends, some of whom I don't get to see nearly often enough. With the whole three-spinal-surgeries-in-9-months thing (a process that actually started the day before my birthday dinner last year), this past year is not likely to be one that I look back on fondly, but I'm optimistic moving forward into the year to come...

Everyday Yumminess: Salmon Rillettes

Before I got really irritated with Alfred Portales, I was a fan... based solely on this dish. It's easy to make, and is a great way to use all that salmon that Thomas Keller is constantly telling you to reserve for another use (e.g. that pile on the scale in this picture)... The poaching liquid for the fresh salmon consists of white wine, champagne vinegar, shallots, and a bay leaf.
While the poached salmon cools, an equal amount of smoked salmon is puréed,
then beaten together with (Amish) butter until well-combined.
Mayonnaise, lemon zest, chives, and dill are mixed in...
...then it's time to add the poached salmon, gently flaking it and being careful not to over-mix.
Plate up on some toasted brioche points, and you have yumminess.
I make a smoked salmon spread that I love, but this is a much more sophisticated use for smoked salmon. I hadn't made this in years, and now that I've tasted it again I can't remember why. I'll definitely have to put this one back in the rotation... at least until I work my way through all the salmon trimmings that Thomas Keller has made me store in my freezer "for another use."

Everyday Yumminess: Kick-ass Asparagus Soup

This is a Jean-Georges recipe that I found on Food & Wine a few years ago. It's super-easy, but features a fun surprise when you serve it. The very Jean-Georges flourish comes in the form of "Lemon Dumplings," which start by essentially making lemon jell-o.
Lemons are zested...
... then supremed (with juice squeezed from the membranes added to the zest)...
The lemon sections are chopped...
... then combined with the zest and juice.
A little gelatin sprinkled over the top...
Once the mixture has started to gel, the pan is placed over moderately low heat until just warm enough to melt the gelatin.
The mixture is then poured into a dish and combined with cayenne, sugar, salt, and olive oil.
After a couple hours in the fridge, things are ready to assemble. The sheet of lemon jell-o is chopped relatively fine...
The recipe gives instructions for folding the wontons that don't really work with mediocre grocery store wonton wrappers (which are what I had on hand this time), so I go with an Emily-style fold that I think actually looks cooler in the soup anyway...
Repeat that many more times, and you can throw your lemon dumplings in the freezer for a day or two, thus saving you crazy work the day of your dinner party...
The soup itself is simple, as any good in-season vegetable soup should be. Butter. Shallots. Asparagus. Stock. Cream. That's it.
The mixture is puréed, and thus becomes Creamy Asparagus Soup. The frozen dumplings are added to boiling water, then seared in a pan of butter until the bottoms start to just brown... and you're ready to plate.The lemon filling in the dumplings becomes liquid while they cook, so each lemon dumpling bite results in an explosion of lemon in your mouth...
The soup itself is fantastic, but I love how the dumplings are able to take a simple soup to another level. No part of this dish is particularly hard to make... just a little time-consuming. The result is well worth it in the end, though. Check it out next time you have too much asparagus on your hands...