Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Goodies


pancetta wrapped dates w/ pomegranate glaze - we stuffed these with pecans and parmagiana reggiana. I couldn't detect the pecans, so wasted calories there, but the parm cheese was wonderfully nutty. I liked it better than bleu cheese. The glaze was simply pomegranate juice with a little balsamic, boiled down until thickened.

spiced squash & pear soup w/ roasted pears & fennel & pumpkin seeds - this was the Dorie recipe from earlier in the month. I sauteed extra pears and fennel and it made the soup much more enjoyable. It needed the extra texture, I thought.

hummus w/ pita - Thea's specialty and as usual, a big hit.

chinese-style cured salmon - this was from Barbara Tropp's classic, China Moon Cookbook. I wasn't sure how this would go over. First, I didn't care for the smell of the peppercorns. Second, most of my family don't eat raw fish, though they do love lox and gravalax. It was really my daughter pushing for this one because she loved Dorie's "salmon in a jar". I was concerned it would be spicy and she wouldn't like it either. So anxious and fretting, I sliced it and platted it, along with orange pickled carrot coins, pickled ginger and pickled daikon, all from China Moon. It was a hit.

Forward to Saturday - I thought it had been too long to eat the leftover fish raw, so I roasted it for about 15 minutes at 425. I served it on top of mesclun tossed with cilantro, jasmine rice, stir-fried kohlrabi w/ China Moon orange chili oil, and the pickled vegetables. It was so good! I wish I took a picture.

mashed potatoes & cider gravy
bread stuffing - my daughter was a huge help, cutting up the 2 1/2 challah from Whole Foods.
brussels sprouts w/ chestnuts & lemon - roasted until browned and tossed with chopped lemon peel, chestnuts, and a bit of lemon juice. They were just alright. I made sprouts the previous week and got them really crispy, as suggested by Kelly at Langwater Farm. These needed a little longer in a hotter oven.
Winter squash stuffed w/ swiss, cream, bread & bacon; dorie's pumpkin stuffed with everything good. Red courie squash was the best. The carnival s squash was a little less seedy and creamy.
Cranberry-glazed sweet potatoes - this was so good I can't wait to make it again.

mocha mousse with Sichuan peppercorns
tres leches cake - liz
apple pie w/ginger, lemon whole wheat crust - I've been eating this for breakfast every day and finally finished today. Obviously most of it wasn't eaten, but that's ok, more for me!
pecan pie - jill
Vegan pumpkin pie tarts - recommended by my co-worker friend. I baked these in mini-filo tart shells and topped with a little maple sugar and chopped, toasted pecans. I had to re-crisp them up before serving.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chinese style cured salmon

Sizuan peppercorns are rather stinky, but I'm hoping like with the 5 spice chicken made last year, I didn't like the smell but the finished product was a while different beast.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

braised cardamom-curry lamb - French Fridays w/ Dorie

Another one done on the quick. Yesterday I stopped at the market on my way home to get the lamb. Boneless leg of lamb happened to be on sale so I picked up a 2 lb. package. Next to it were beautiful looking lamb chops, but they were about $3.00 / lb. more expensive, so I passed on them, also figuring the lamb would be nice and tender as it was going to cook for quite a while.

I got home and rushed to get the prep work done as soon as possible. I had about 1/2 hour before we needed to run out to the parent-teacher conference and I didn't want to leave too much for when we got home, since that was going to infringe on my relaxation time. Can't have that! So I got the onions and garlic cooking with the curry and cardamom and wow, what a fantastic aroma. Then on to clean and cut up the potatoes and then apples. Unfortunately I only had Macintosh apples, not the recommended firm/tart kind. More on that later. Basically all but the meat was done, so this really isn't a difficult dish to make. 

Now, after the conference and putting sleepy child to bed, I got going on the meat. I learned a good lesson. The chops may have been $3 more a pound, but I had to discard at least 1/2 lb. of fat from the leg of lamb roast, and it took me a good 1/2 hour to trim it. I put everything in my slow cooker bowl, seasoned it, covered it and put it in the fridge until morning.

Morning - before leaving for work, I put it in the slow cooker and read how to convert a normal recipe. If conventional time is 50 minutes to 3 hours, cooking time on low should be 8 to 16 hours. I set it for 8 hours. The meat was cooked perfectly, as were the potatoes. The apples disappeared and I was able to find a couple pieces of fig, but we were all crunching every so often on the seeds. It also didn't look very appealing. I'm going to be interested to see what other FFWD attempts look like. I'm guessing much better! It did taste good though. The curry I used had a little bite to it, and as I mentioned, the lamb tasted very good and it wasn't at all greasy. All that work did pay off. What I missed were the vegetables. It needed more texture for me. I think, if I make this again, I'd put in carrots and/or sweet potatoes.
I served it with Jasmine rice cooked with carrots and leftover kale.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

20 minute duck - FFWD

Sunday turned into a very French day for us. We had the squash soup as well as the put-off 20 minute duck. Most of the week, Shara was saying, "duck, gross!" but who ate the most? My little carnivore. It was very simple to cook and a great way to prepare duck because all the fat rendered off and it was cooked perfectly. Alan didn't like something with the sauce, but couldn't put his finger on it. I loved the whole thing. I served it with rice and simple Brussels sprouts.

spiced squash, fennel, and pear soup - French Friday's w/ Dorie

Cheese Squash
After missing making the duck in time to post on the FFWD site, I made sure to get this one done early. Sunday turned out to be a perfect day for it. My daughter and I were going to go for a hike to search for a geocache, but she decided she's rather go out and play with her neighborhood friends. I took a look at the next "assignment" and couldn't believe that the squash Dorie recommends using just happened to be sitting on my front steps. What were the chances a Long Island Cheese Squash happened to be the heirloom squash I took from the CSA a few weeks back?  I took the squash, carved off the top (with a saw from pumpkin carving) and scraped out the seeds and "guts". I roasted the cleaned squash, thinking I'd use it as the bowl to serve the soup.

I still needed the pears and fennel so took a trip to the farm. Unfortunately they didn't have any fennel this late in the season, but I did get some cute little Bosc pears. I actually had put fennel fronds and stems in the freezer, from a bulb this summer. I figured the stems would be ok for this. So I followed the recipe, sauteing the onions, fennel, ginger, etc. The squash didn't roast up as I thought it would. As you can see from the picture, the skin of a cheese squash is no where near as thick as a pumpkin. But it made it fairly easy to scoop out the flesh and add it to the other vegetables.
roasted Cheese Squash
I also started throwing out the water/juice from the cavity, but then realized I should add it to the soup. I put in about a cup of the juice, along with chicken broth.

We toasted the seeds, tossed with some curry powder. They were tasty and seemed to go with the cumin in the soup. I was really surprised to see cumin in the list of ingredients and am not sure I liked it. The other problem I had with the soup is the flavor was so dependent on the sweetness of the pears, fennel and squash, if any one of these weren't perfect, the flavor wouldn't hold up. I really don't think the vegetables I had were strong enough to give enough flavor to the soup. Obviously having a fennel bulb would have made all the difference, I'm sure. It wasn't bad, and was actually enjoyable, but it was too mellow for my taste, even with the lemon and pumpkin seeds. I froze what was left and am going to serve it at Thanksgiving. What I think I may do is saute or roast more pears and fennel to mix in. What may be neat is to puree the pears & fennel and swirl it in before serving.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

twenty-minute honey-glazed duck breasts - French Fridays w/ Dorie

OMG this recipe was perfect for a Friday after a long work week. I was excited for such a simple, elegant meal. This morning I cleaned the Brussels sprouts from the first Winter CSA share. I thought I'd make some couscous with craisins and nuts and if I was really motivated and had time, mash up a little sweet potato, also from the CSA. I first thought I'd go get the duck during the day, but didn't have a chance to leave work. Then I thought I'd get to B.J.'s on my way home. Then I realized I was going to bring Alan to pick up his bike and before I even left work for the day said, nope, I'll make it Savory Saturday instead. So I'll stop by a Whole Foods and get a good duck breast, rather than a frozen one I'm sure I'd have ended up with. And since it's such a simple dish, maybe I'll end up doing more interesting sides. I can now take a look at what the other FFWD members and get inspiration, ideas, and motivation!

This week was not like me, other than one meal. It didn't fully succeed, but I liked the concept and now know how to make it better next time. I sauteed garlic and added in sweet potato cubes that were pre-steamed in the microwave, leftover Brussels sprouts, chopped, and then torn kale on top. I covered it to cook the kale, then mixed it all up with salt & pepper. My idea was to make hash and eggs. So once the kale was cooked, I made 3 wells, added some butter in each and then a couple of eggs. I did this in my big cast iron pan and then realized the cover I put over it wouldn't make a seal so I fiddled too long and finally figured out I needed to add some water to make steam to cook the eggs. Well by then the eggs were hard, but everything tasted pretty good. I will make this again because I had visions of the yolks running over the vegetables and making a rich sauce. And it's perfect for a weekday.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Halloween Fun

Last weekend we had a fun foodie art project. My daughter and I made disgusting fingers cookies.
They may have looked disgusting, but they tasted good. I took some advice from the reviews and used the following: 1/2 tsp of salt, 3/4 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of cardamom.
Refrigerate dough about an hour, then cut slices off the dough disc to make square "fingers" then lightly rolled it into a rounded finger. - this was great advice because we didn't have to handle it much at all. We stuck the almonds on with jam before baking, then took white chocolate and colored with red food coloring paste. It didn't get dark enough so I added a bit of dark chocolate too. We brought a basket of these trick-or-treating with us, to give out to the grown-ups that had to stay home and give out the candy. It's a fun surprise.