Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Chocolate Bourbon

When I was having brunch with my friend L last week, we explored Harvard and Cambridge and came upon one of those random gourmet foods/beer shops. They had a full selection of Fee Brothers Bitters, and by full, I mean full. They had several I'd never heard of. Naturally I had to buy them.

I walked out with rhubarb bitters, Aztec chocolate bitters, and lemon bitters.

In my experiments with the new bitters, I've created a drink I've dubbed The Chocolate Bourbon.

Three or so jiggers' worth of Makers Mark (or similar upscale bourbon) with one of Cointreau and several drops of the Aztec chocolate bitters. Add a few drops of Peychaud's bitters for depth, mix, and serve over ice.

Speaking of bitters, check these guys out--A.B. Smeby Bittering Co. They make their own bitters in Brooklyn, in such fascinating flavors as Lemon Verbena, Black and White (as in the cookie), and Apple Cinnamon with Molasses. You know I'll be ordering some. In fact, check out this article from Time Out New York on underground food. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another A Razor, A Shiny Knife dinner

(Hey, remember that last one I wrote about in LA? Here's an article in the LA Times about it!)

This one was a joint effort among five underground supper clubs/restaurants: A Razor, A Shiny Knife, Studiofeast, City Grit, Forking Tasty, and Highlands Dinner Club. Rather than a traditional multi-course sit-down dinner, this was a buffet-type event, with passed hors d'oeuvres and food stations with different dishes. Each organization put forth a different dish (or two). There were also cocktails and wine pairings.

I prefer the multi-course, sit-down dinners, but this was fun as well, and I liked getting the exposure to some new underground restaurants.

Here were the cocktails, provided by Whisk & Ladle:

We had all of them, and I liked the Catherine Slip the best. It was similar to our Paris Manhattan (bourbon with St. Germain). The wines, provided by The Noble Rot, were a Cline Viognier 2009 and a Bodan Roan Cabernet Sauvingnon 2008 (see more about the wines here).

The hors d'oeuvres, which I'm told were all provided by Whisk & Ladle, were: 1. a ring of braised carrot with parsnip puree, pesto and half a cherry tomato on top, 2. foie gras on something called "duck fat toast," and 3. smoked salmon wrapped around goat cheese, coriander and a piece of chocolate. I know what you're thinking: smoked salmon, goat cheese and chocolate? Oh my, yes. That was an inspired combination, one I'll be trying again. (Perhaps goat cheese ice cream with chocolate swirls? Hmmmm.)

City Grit's dish was shrimp n' grits:

Forking Tasty had a chicken cacciatore sandwich:

Studiofeast's dish was described as "Lamb, Matsutake, Brussel Sprout" and looked like this:

Highlands Dinner Club had "Smoked Trout, Local Mangalista Ham, Greens, Membrillo":

And A Razor, A Shiny Knife had two dishes. One was the infamous duck confit/slow-poached egg salad with foie vinaigrette from the dinner in LA:

This was a duck yolk cooked sous vide, over a cake of duck confit, with greens and a foie gras vinaigrette. Two things: it was RICH. Good thing I saved it for last, because I was full after that. Also: The greens, vinaigrette and duck yolk would have been plenty. The confit was almost too much, as it was so rich.

They also offered this: "Celeriac Veloute, White Truffle, Veal Cheek, Crouton":

which was my favorite of the night. I'll be trying my hand at celeriac veloute in the future. (Translation: celeriac, a root vegetable; and veloute, a kind of creamy soup.)

After dinner, we rolled ourselves away to cocktails at Death + Company (see yesterday's post), combining two of the things I loved most about New York: creative food and creative cocktails. Why spend $80 at Applebee's when you could spend it on a meal like the one above?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lentil soup

Yesterday was cold and rainy and aggravating, and definitely a soup day. So I threw this together in under 20 minutes when I got home.

Sauteed an onion and several cloves of garlic (all diced, of course) in some olive oil until browned and soft, and added several shredded sheets of proscuitto. Then two cups of lentils and most of a box of chicken broth, plus a can of tomatoes. I let that boil, then reduced to low, and cooked down until the lentils were done (less than 15 minutes). I stirred in 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, plus salt and pepper, and served.

The lentils were a combination of red and green; any color, or combination thereof, would work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New York

I spent this weekend in New York, visiting all my old friends and old haunts. I also went to another A Razor, A Shiny Knife dinner, which I'll blog about tomorrow.

For now, I'll highlight three different bars I went to.

Death + Company (in the East Village) specializes in complicated, usually pre-Prohibition-era cocktails. The kind with fourteen ingredients and egg white foam. Their door policy is that everyone gets a seat. Therefore, if there are no seats, you don't get in. They take your name and number and call you when seats/a table open up. Normally this is a great policy, but as we were waiting on a friend, it meant we had to wait nearly an hour on their stoop Saturday night. Then we got a table, not seats at the bar, which meant we couldn't watch the bartenders do their thing. THEN the bartenders were new or something, and we had to wait nearly half an hour for our second round, and finally we got fed up and left. But the drinks were delish, even at $13 apiece. Check out their menu here.

After that, we went around the corner to The Bourgeois Pig. They have the same cocktail philosophy, but don't have a full liquor license, so all the drinks were based on wine or beer. I had a lovely drink made from Lillet and finished off with pink peppercorns, which smelled surprisingly like pumpkin and cloves, though there were no pumpkin or cloves in the drink. And we got to sit at the bar and talk to the bartender.

Finally, B61. My old neighborhood bar, around the corner from my old apartment. Simple, cheap, full of locals, and unpretentious. I'm giving them a shout-out because, well, it's my old neighborhood bar. Good times.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bacon-wrapped peanut butter-stuffed jalapenos

Yep, you read that correctly. Jalapenos, stuffed with peanut butter and wrapped with bacon. Then cooked. I know you're skeptical, I was too. But we all know bacon makes everything better. This is surprisingly good.

The recipe is in the title--cut the jalapenos in half and clean out the seeds, then fill with peanut butter (crunchy or creamy) and wrap a slice of bacon around it. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Bake at 350 until the bacon is cooked through and dark brown, about 25 minutes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cooking in a hotel room, part 2

So, now the kitchen has all the hardware essentials. Now I have to stock it with pantry essentials.

Most of what I brought with us from California were remnants--partial bottles/containers of essentials that I couldn't bear to get rid of. If I'd had the opportunity to eat down everything until there was nothing left, and then restock from scratch on the other side, I would have done that. But because we had to move so quickly, there were a lot of things making the trip with us I wouldn't have bothered with otherwise.

Here's what I brought:
2 half-bulk bags of flour (1 all-purpose, 1 bread)
about 10 pounds of potatoes
the rest of all the dried bulk stuff: quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, several kinds of beans, lentils, rice, etc.
a representative portion of all the spices
balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, tarragon vinegar
olive oil, truffle oil
non-stick spray
the rest of the garlic and the picked tomatoes
sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms
bread crumbs
sugar (regular, brown, confectioner's)
the rest of the spaghetti and penne
a box of crackers
a bag of whole almonds
chicken broth
baking chocolate
peanut butter, half a jar of Nutella
pine nuts
red curry paste
ziploc bags, foil, parchment paper, wax paper

Here's what came in the cooler:
2 packs Italian sausage
3 big blocks of parmesan
1 big block mozzarella
the last of my barbecue sauce
anchovy paste
soy sauce
worchestershire sauce
lime juice

Bought once we arrived:
onions, shallots
whole wheat flour
vegetable oil
mustard, ketchup, mayo
puff pastry
frozen corn, peas, spinach, lima beans
baking soda
tonic water
canned tomatoes
coconut milk
goat cheese
feta cheese

And, of course, we restocked the liquor supply. Plus we brought two cases of wine. (That was all I could cram in the car. The rest had to go with the movers, surreptitiously.)

So far I've done fine with just those things.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wine from my collection: Domaine Du Tariquet 2006 Cote Tariquet Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc Gascogne

A long name for an inexpensive ($14.99) and versatile white wine, half chardonnay, half sauvignon blanc. It's a bit too sweet on first opening, but it achieves better balance as it opens up. It's got the grassy structure of a sauvignon blanc, but with the buttery mouth-feel and heavy sweetness of a chard. It's a weird combination, and I'm still not sure I like it. It's not bad...I think this is more of a food wine than a drinking wine. (That is, a wine better paired with food than drunk on its own.)

Then again, I was never a huge fan of chardonnay. That might be part of it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pizza variation: Roasted beet with wild boar bacon, fresh tomatoes and wilted dandelion greens

It's challenging cooking in a hotel room; I'll blog more about that later.

But the old standbys are serving me well here. Yesterday I made one of them, roasted beet pizza, but because the beets I bought were pretty small, I needed to beef out the pizza a bit. So I added two fresh sliced tomatoes, a handful of cooked wild boar bacon, and a bunch of wilted dandelion greens and the beet greens (cooked in the wild boar bacon grease). Plus the usuals: caramelized onions and lots of fresh parmesan cheese.

Wilted dandelion greens are really good on a pizza.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cooking in a hotel room, part 1 a bit complicated, but doable. The room comes with the basics: a full-size stovetop/oven, toaster, microwave, coffeemaker, and the bare minimum of kitchen accoutrements (4 plates; 4 glasses; 4 mugs; a colander; a cutting board; and so on). The trick was figuring out what to bring from my own kitchen, in order to make the thing full-service.

So here's what I brought:
1 big skillet
1 4.5 qt copper-core dutch oven
1 13.25 qt Le Creuset dutch oven
1 pizza stone
1 big cookie sheet
1 large casserole dish
1 large Crockpot
1 food processor, with attachments
my recipes
Joy of Cooking
all my knives, plus sharpener
pepper grinder
Utensils: 1 flat whisk, 1 rubber spatula, 1 pair tongs, a couple of measuring cups and spoons, 1 cooking thermometer, 1 vegetable peeler, 1 ladle, 1 microplaner (used for zesting), 1 bottle opener, 1 wine corkscrew, 1 egg separater (the hotel provided 1 spatula, 1 serving spoon and 1 slotted serving spoon, plus can opener)

So far that's served all my cooking needs. I really miss my wooden spoons, bench knife/scraper thingey, and my pizza wheel cutter thingey, but I can work around their absence. I had to run out to the dollar store and buy a very large plastic mixing bowl, since the hotel's one provided mixing bowl is pretty small. I can use the dutch ovens as both cooking tool and mixing bowl. I also brought some tupperware, and supplemented that with Gladware when we arrived.

So, the lesson here is that you can throw together a fully functional kitchen with just the above. (The hotel provided a couple of smaller pots and pans, but they're so crappy I'm trying not to use them.) The "specialty" stuff (pie pans, loaf pans, etc.) is all in storage, so I just won't make any cakes or pies or whatever in the meantime. Though I may need a pie pan anyway, so I can make quiches and tarts and things.

Next up: a hotel room pantry.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lardo pizza

While pondering the many potential uses of lardo, I typed "lardo pizza" into Google and came up with this recipe.

If you've been reading, you know I found some lardo at a butcher shop last week, and you also know what lardo is. I can now safely say it goes very, very well on pizza. The only problem was that I didn't use enough.

I followed the above recipe, using my standard whole wheat pizza crust (thinner than usual). I sweated one onion, a head of radicchio, and added that to the pizza crust (and some olive oil). I topped it all off with 15 or so slices of lardo. While that was cooking, I took about 1 1/2 cups of cheap-ass, Sam's Club balsamic vinegar, and reduced it in a saucepan until roughly the consistency of molasses. As the recipe/post points out, good balsamic vinegar is devine, but expensive. Reducing the cheap stuff down approximates the taste of the 25-year-old stuff.

When the pizza was done, I drizzled it all over with the reduced balsamic vinegar and just a teeny bit of parmesan, and ate it with the dolcetto I wrote about yesterday. Next time, slightly less radicchio, and a LOT more lardo. Man, that stuff was good. A heart attack on a plate, I'm sure, but delish.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wine from my collection: 2009 Aldo Bianco Dolcetto d’Alba

This Dolcetto is one of the purchases from the local wine and cheese store I found the other day. So far I really like it. Dolcettos are typically soft and fruity, and this one is very well-balanced. It's an inexpensive ($15.99), everyday red from the Piedmont region of Italy that doesn't require a lot of aging. It's a perfect pizza wine, light-bodied but with enough acidity to stand up to all the cheese.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Vin Bin

Yesterday I explored the small town of Marlborough, MA. It's about what you'd expect from a small Northeastern town, an hour from Boston; lots of empty houses for sale, a single street of businesses flanking the courthouse, the erstwhile "downtown"; nothing to really recommend that small town over any other. (Interestingly, there was an old mill that had been renovated into high-end condos, in the middle of an otherwise dilapidated street--is someone trying to gentrify the town?) However, there was a Starbucks, a local watering hole (complete with Guiness on tap), and a wine-and-cheese shop called The Vin Bin.

It was pretty decent, considering the rest of the town. I found some lovely cheese, including a lot of local cheeses (including a pepper-wrapped goat cheese from Maine); a lot of local microbrews, in addition to my fave, Abita Turbodog; and of course wine. I picked up a bottle of dolcetto and another of 50% chard/50% sauvingnon blanc, which I plan to enjoy with my lardo. I'll report back on them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beacon Hill Chocolates

Another fun Boston find. Beacon Hill Chocolates imports chocolates from all over the world, and I picked out a fairly interesting selection, all dark chocolate. There was one with balsamic vinegar; one with ginger, kaffir lime, and coconut; olive oil and sea salt; Grey Goose; chili and lemon; salt caramel; and blood orange.

They were all delicious.

Here's the thing, though: there was only about 5% taste difference between them. The balsamic vinegar tasted about 5% different from the chili lemon one. The Grey Goose one was slightly more liquid than the others, but I'll be damned if I could pick out any vodka flavor in it (much less Grey Goose specifically). Like I said, they were all delicious. But why put Grey Goose, or vinegar, or blood orange, or whatever in a chocolate if you can't obviously identify the non-chocolate ingredient?

This is why I was driven to create bacon chocolate. Not enough bacon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Savenor's Meat Market

While interviewing in downtown Boston the other day, I walked into neighboring Beacon Hill and wandered around. I found Savenor's on Charles Street, and I believe I may have just found my butcher shop.

Savenor's had all kinds of things, from wild boar charcuterie to rattlesnake to llama meat. Yes, llama meat. I've heard of people eating rattlesnake before, but never llama meat. I won't be eating either of them any time soon--a package of rattlesnake meat was $68. (I forbore to make the obvious "I could get that for FREE" joke.) They also had grass-fed beef, fresh morels, tasso and andouille (though far pricier than in the South), all kinds of in-house smoked bacon, the list goes on and on. You can order free-range, sustainably raised suckling pigs from Vermont. They have pates, terrines, whole lobes of foie gras, fresh rabbit, duck confit, and duck fat. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with all the offerings.

I ended up purchasing a wild boar sausage, another with truffles in it, a package of wild boar bacon, a package of duck bacon, and a quarter pound of thinly sliced lardo. Lardo, for those of you that don't know, is cured pork fat. Like salami, only, you know, all fat. I plan to make the world's most decadent pizza with it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crawfish etouffee


Now, these weren't the greatest crawfish in the world. They were Chinese (not Gulf), previously frozen, already cooked, and in fact many were still half-frozen. But they were the first crawfish I'd had access to since the wedding, so who cares?

So to make the most of them, I removed the tail meat and used the shells to make broth. I put all the shells and the heads in a big pan, filled it with water, brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for a while. I strained out the shells and used some of the broth to make the rice.

Then in a separate pan, I made a roux (one cup vegetable oil, one cup flour, whisk together and keep stirring over medium heat until the mixture turns brown) and added three chopped shallots (one onion would work, too), several chopped cloves of garlic, and one big chopped green pepper. Let that cook down a bit, adding broth as needed (be sure to stir well after adding the broth). Then add seasonings--a bay leaf, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and so forth. Add the reserved crawfish meat and lots of chopped parsley at the last minute, and serve hot over rice.

(I had some broth left over. I froze it for later.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spaghetti with scallops, sundried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts

Some random observations about Boston vs. San Diego, now that I've had a chance to go grocery shopping in Boston:

1. Booze is way, WAY more expensive.
2. But seafood is fresh, abundant, and cheap.
3. Bacon is more expensive.
4. Lemons and limes are more expensive. (Duh.)
5. But gas is cheaper, by about 40 cents a gallon.
6. Still can't find grits.

Naturally the first thing I did upon entering a Boston-area grocery store was head straight for the seafood counter, whereupon I bought three pounds of shell-on crawfish and a pound of fresh bay scallops. Our first dinner in Massachusetts was spaghetti with bay scallops, sundried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.

1 lb bay scallops
two handfuls chopped sundried tomatoes
four handfuls chopped fresh roma tomatoes
one handful pine nuts, toasted
one handful chopped fresh parsley
parmesan cheese
olive oil
1 chopped onion
a few chopped garlic cloves

Cook the spaghetti. Toast the pine nuts in the oven. Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add tomatoes (all) and cook down for a few minutes. Add the scallops, with juice, and immediately turn off the heat. Drain the spaghetti, and pour about half or 3/4 cup of the cooking water into the skillet with the scallops. Add the spaghetti and parsley, and mix well. Serve with parmesan and a sprinkling of good salt.

Monday, September 13, 2010

We're here!

We've landed in Boston! Barely. After a week of moving cross-country, I'm happy to be anywhere that isn't a car.

Because moving cross-country in two weeks was such a pain in the ass, I've treated myself to a new 13 1/4-quart Le Creuset dutch oven (red) and a new, bigger Crockpot. You bet I'll be testing them out soon.

More tomorrow, after I recuperate.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wine from my collection: Cosentino Sangiovese 2006

Meh. That's my verdict on this wine: meh.

I've been sorting through my wine collection during the packing process, trying to bring as much as possible with me to our sixty days of temporary housing, rather than subject it to the whims of professional movers. Plus then I can drink it. But there's only so much room in our car, and we still have to take the remains of the pantry, our clothes, shoes, cats, etc. So there ended up being two boxes of wine/booze that I deemed necessary to daily living (the good stuff) and the rest that I could live without for two months.

Then, of course, there were about three bottles that couldn't fit into the wine that got packed, because there wasn't room. So I have to drink those before we leave.

This was one of them. I got it during BevMo's buy-one-get-one-for-five-cents sale, and I can't remember what I paid for the first bottle. Most definitely under $20, probably much less than that. I wasn't impressed. I wasn't unimpressed, either, it's perfectly fine for everyday drinking, but not something you'd showcase at a nice dinner party or bring out for celebrations. It's a little spicy, tannic, takes a while to open up.

Of course, consumed as I have been by moving, I may just be transferring my crankiness to the wine.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Joy of Cooking: A Vertical Comparison

I have not one, not two, but three separate editions of The Joy of Cooking. The 1943, 1962, and revised 2006 editions. (The 1943 was my grandmother's.) Here's the thing: these are very different cookbooks. They're different sizes, with different recipes and illustrations. It's pretty interesting, actually. I pulled the three out to compare them, using a pretty standard recipe: chicken pot pie.

Here they are all on the shelf. Note the sizes, and the pretty battered condition of each of them.

And here are the Table of Contents pages from each edition:

1943's Table of Contents ran for several pages, so here's an excerpt. Note that there are sections for Frog Legs and Squirrel:

1962 gets simplified:

2006 has almost entirely different headings:

Neat, huh? Let's start with the 1943 edition. Here's the recipe for chicken pot pie:

It's short, sweet and to the point. Note that it assumes you already know how to make an appropriate gravy for chicken pot pie, and how to take apart a stewing chicken.

Here's another recipe from that edition:

There is no recipe for Jellied Pigs' Feet in the 2006 edition.

In the 1962 edition, the recipe for chicken pot pie gets a little longer:

Still short, but introduces the concept of pre-made pie shells. If we follow the instructions to the recipe for chicken hash, we find:

So this edition doesn't automatically assume the same level of knowledge from a home cook. Although, notably, it does have illustrations on how to skin squirrel and rabbit, which are also not repeated in the 2006 edition.

And it has instructions on rendering fat:

The 2006 edition has been almost completely rewritten and sanitized. No instructions on skinning and dressing game, no mention of lard, and it assumes no knowledge from a home cook. Look how much longer the recipe for chicken pot pie has gotten:

To make the chicken hash is another page and a half:

(And note first mention of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.)

That's why I have the three different editions. Because each one showcases a different approach to cooking. Obviously the 2006 edition is going to be the most useful for everyone now; I've said it before, if you only have one cookbook, get The Joy of Cooking. But if you ever get the opportunity, peruse the earlier editions.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wine from my collection: Veuve Clicquot

Okay, Veuve is not a part of my usual collection. $40+ bottles of champagne are, alas, generally out of my price range. But my boss gave me a bottle as a going-away present, so I'm happy to pass along my thoughts to you.

Here's the thing about champagne: I used to hate it. It always gave me a terrible headache. Then one day I realized that was because I'd only ever had bad champagne. Bad champagne is too sweet, gives you a headache, and leaves a weird metallic aftertaste. Because it's bad. And probably cheap. The day I had a taste of good champagne was a revelation. Good champagne is crisp, refreshing, well-balanced, and tastes like a spring day when the sun is warm, the weather is perfect, and you can go barefoot for the first time after a long, cold winter.

The problem is that good champagne is usually expensive. I say usually because it is possible to find decent bubbly under $20 a bottle. Champagne is sparkling wine that comes from France; sparkling wine from anywhere else is called sparkling white wine, also known as prosecco (from Italy) or cava (from Spain). A glass of good prosecco with brunch is a fine way to start the day, and it's often easier to find quaffable prosecco or cava or American bubbly in the $20 price range than it is to find actual French champagne.

So, because I don't usually get French champagne, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this bottle of Veuve (yellow label, non-vintage, retails around $45). We'll spend one night with my sister-in-law during our cross-country drive, and we'll bust it out then, and drink to new jobs in new states. It'll be fruity, with a hint of vanilla and pastry, with a long finish, and it will remind us all that better days are ahead. (Massachusetts winters notwithstanding.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sausage and potato hash

This is more appetizing than it sounds. It's basically crispy fried potatoes, with chunks of sausage throughout.

Dice and boil a few potatoes (you can leave the skins on, that's where all the vitamins are) until almost but not quite done. Saute a diced onion in some bacon fat or duck fat. You could also add a green bell pepper, if you wanted. Drain the potatoes, and add to the onion. Fry until crispy and nearly done. Take out the thawed links of andouille sausage in your refrigerator you're trying to use up before moving, dice and add. Swirl the whole thing around until the sausage is done, add salt and pepper, and eat.

For a total and delicious gut bomb, add a fried egg on top and wait for the food coma to commence.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pasta salad with penne and peas

So alliterative, isn't it?

This lovely dish is helping me use up about nine different things, so I'm a fan. To the cooked penne, I added black olives, peas, chopped tomatoes, and feta cheese. Adjust the amounts as you see fit. Then I made a little dressing with red wine vinegar, mustard, and olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing, then add it to the pasta salad.

Some proscuitto in this would be good too.

And look! Pasta salad without mayo! Hooray!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Guest post: Vegan rice and beans

Today's guest post comes from reader Amanda Rowley. Who knew I had so many vegan fans? 

Spicy (or not) rice & beans

1 med onion
1 red, yellow or orange pepper (I just learned green peps are hard to digest)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can rinsed black beans (I don't use canned)
2 cups tomato juice
1 cup frozen corn (I just learned this is a grain!)
2/3 cup brown rice
1 heaping T chili powder
1 t salt
1 t crushed red pepper (or to taste)

Cook first three ingredients, with a little oil if you want. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to boiling. Transfer to covered baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for an hour. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tomato salad

Remember all those green tomatoes I picked off my tomato plant? Well, now my entire container garden is gone. The plants have been killed, the dirt has been relegated to the dumpster, and the pots have been washed and stacked and packed away for future gardening. Sigh. So that pan full of green tomatoes is all I have left.

And they've been ripening nicely, all on their own. I took some this weekend and made a nice tomato salad.

Which is just ripe tomatoes, sliced; feta cheese; a little olive oil; and maybe some good black olives, if you wanna get fancy. If you have a little fresh basil, that would go nicely, too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Creamed spinach

There are two ways to make creamed spinach. There's the "real" way, the steakhouse way, where you start with a blond roux and onions and garlic. Then there's the "quick" way, which is literally just spinach and cream.

For my quick creamed spinach, I thawed two boxes of frozen spinach and squeezed all the water out. I added that to a pan, with cream, and kept adding cream a little at a time until the spinach was thoroughly coated (probably between 3/4 cup and a cup total). I cooked for a couple of minutes, stirring, until the cream had thickened slightly. Add salt and pepper. Done.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sort-of eggs benedict

Last night I had a rare flash of culinary genius (rare for these days, anyway. Although the good news is that the packing is almost done!). I had three boxes of puff pastry shells in the freezer. I also had several boxes of frozen spinach.

Then I looked in the fridge. Some cream...half a package of bacon...eggs.

So I made what I've dubbed Sort-Of Eggs Benedict. Puff pastry shell, topped with creamed spinach, bacon, and a poached egg. A rather messy dish to consume, but a damn good one.

And really, that's the recipe. Pre-cooked puff pastry shell on the bottom. Cooked bacon. Creamed spinach, made with frozen spinach (I'll post that recipe tomorrow). And a poached egg on top.

(There are two tricks to poaching an egg. 1: bring the water up to a rolling boil, then add a little vinegar. Back off the heat until it's just wanting to break into a rolling boil again, but not quite. 2: Break the egg into a bowl or a cup first, then gently tip that into the water. It keeps the white together better. That's it: poach gently for a couple of minutes, then remove with a spoon.)

I'll be making more of this combination this weekend, since I have two more boxes of puff pastry shells to get through.

Really, there's nothing that can't be improved with the addition of a poached egg.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Guest post: Mushroom crust-tini

Today's post is courtesy of reader Veronique Hart, who has submitted this lovely vegan recipe and saved my ass from blogging about eating frozen peas again. Veronique, I know it can't be easy for you, a vegan, to read my emphatically pro-bacon blog. I support your vegan-ness! I'll try to post more veg/vegan recipes from now on.

Mushroom Marinara Crust-tini (get it? crust-tini? because they're little?)

Active time: <10 minutes
Serves 1-2

1 small whole wheat roll (or whatever is on hand)
1 medium portabella mushroom cap (again, substitute whatever mushroom you have)
¼ cup spaghetti sauce (it’s only Vegan if it isn’t made with cheese/milk/meat)
1-2 fresh spinach leaves per slice

Preheat broiler to normal or medium. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the roll, with a bread knife, into ¼ inch thick slices. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until light brown on top. Flip and broil for an additional minute, until just crisp. Thickly slice the mushroom and add to the Crust-tini in a single layer. Broil again for 1 minute. Smother the mushroom with spaghetti sauce and return to oven once more, for 2 minutes or until the sauce is hot. Top with a couple of spinach leaves and enjoy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Calling all guest bloggers!

Okay, peeps, I'm deep in the throes of packing hell. I have to be out of my apartment, driving cross-country, in less than a week. So not only do I not have time to cook (or write about it), my meals have become supremely uninteresting, in an attempt to use up all the perishables before I go. Dinner last night: pasta with leftover lasagna sauce. Frozen peas. Graham crackers.

So I need help with blog posts for the next ten days or so! If you have a great idea or recipe you'd like to share, send it to and I guarantee it'll get posted.

OR, if you have a burning question you'd like answered, send that in too! I can do a Q&A thing.

Meanwhile, I'll be packing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cookbook review: The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook

If there was ever a cookbook with my name written all over it, it's this one. Cookbook? Check. Bourbon? Check. Good bourbon? Check.

I spent three years in my early twenties in Louisville, KY, and while I was there, good Kentucky bourbon managed to imprint itself firmly on my young psyche. Now my bar is stocked with either Maker's Mark or Woodford Reserve, exclusively, and woe be unto anyone who tries to drink the Woodford with (gasp!) a mixer. Or even ice.

Though now, of course, I may relent and allow some of my precious Woodford to be used in such drool-producing recipes as Kentucky Bourbon Pancakes; Asian Strawberry Kentucky Bourbon Shrimp; and Bourbon and Green Garlic Kentucky Short Ribs. Really, there wasn't a recipe in the book I didn't want to try. Does that make me a lush? The author, Albert W.A. Schmid, spent his formative years in New Orleans, so even though he's not a Kentucky native, I'll give him props for knowing his way around bourbon.

One of my last meals in New York was a gin pairing; eight courses, each paired with a different kind of gin cocktail (with different kinds of gin). It opened my eyes to food/booze pairings; I would never have thought to pair dinner courses with gin, but everything was delicious. Similarly, I went to an Abita pairing in New Orleans; five courses, each paired with a different kind of Abita beer. In the introduction, Chef Schmid speaks of attending a bourbon pairing dinner, which opened his eyes to the possibilities of good bourbon. It just goes to show you that anything can be good, if done properly.

Which now makes me want to cobble together a bourbon pairing dinner for my friends, using the recipes herein.

Alas, it will have to wait until my upcoming cross-country move is completed. Until then, I'll be utilizing the most famous of Kentucky bourbon recipes, involving one quart bourbon; one steak; and one dog. Toss the steak to the dog, and drink the bourbon. Cheers.