Friday, February 26, 2010

Ice, Baby! - Feb 26, 2010

New (to us) Hand Crank Ice Crusher

You may have noticed, Dinner Clubbers, I've been a little light on the meal postings this week. I've been uninspired of late and we've been supping on repeats of some of our new (and old) favorites this week. Instead of dinners, in a vaguely related kitchen-y thread, I thought I'd showcase some of our new kitchen equipment. First up is the ice crusher. Isn't she lovely? I've been searching for one of these for months on frequent thrift store visits and was finally successful yesterday. Yippee!

Bubble Water with Blood Orange

Check out the perfectly 'coarse' ice produced above. In very high tech form, we also have a 'fine' ice option by turning the crank the opposite direction. We have big plans for fun summer cocktails in the months ahead. And, in the meantime, we'll be practicing with fun winter cocktails.

Green Curry Ingredients, Mortar and Pestle, Fresh Yogurt, Red Sauce Pot

Next up is our great mortar and pestle, which we've put to use making some fresh Thai green curry paste. I've also used it recently to crush French grey sea salt for this recipe (sent out as birthday cookies). And, another new addition to the line-up is this cheerful red sauce pot with newly restored (cleaned and mineral oiled) wooden handles. It's perfect for yogurt making, among many other things, and happily sits out on our stove-top looking pretty and keeping the tea kettle company.

I'm planning on a great weekend full of new inspiration and refreshed ideas for what to cook next week. Does anyone have any fun suggestions?


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oatmeal 'FlapJacks' - Feb 25, 2010

FlapJacks (or, perhaps more appropriately, Lumber Jacks)

This dessert post is a day early, but I didn't have anything to post for last night's dinner as we had one of our poached-egg-on-toast creations that I make when I can't think of anything else and that I've posted before, several times. So instead, it's this week's sweet treat. The recipe is from the current issue of Bon Appetit. It sounded interesting and simple, two things that I love rolled into one. According to Ms. Wizenberg's article, these are found all over the British Isles in coffee and tea shops, but are completely different from what Americans refer to as flap jacks. I had to fudge the recipe a bit as, despite the helpful hints, I don't know where I might come across 'golden syrup.' I replaced that ingredient with some grade B maple syrup and decided because of this, lumber jacks were a more appropriate name for what came out of my oven. Whatever you call them, they are delicious, reminiscent of my mom's oatmeal scotchies, but simpler and more maple-y.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bengali Cauliflower Curry - Feb 23, 2010

Bengali Cauliflower Curry

Last night it was cauliflower's turn. After my class on 'Breads of India' and an Indian meal at a friend's place this weekend, I've been craving more. This recipe is from The Complete Book of Indian Cooking by Suneeta Vaswani. After paging through and marking several recipes to try at a later date, once I've stocked up on some needed ingredients, I found this one that utilized items I already had on hand. Unfortunately, it fell well short of my expectations. It just was not flavorful enough for me, even though the spices included some of my favorites, cumin, coriander, fresh ginger, cayenne, tumeric, cinnamon and cloves. I think next time I will pan roast the cauliflower and potatoes with some of the spices as well as letting them simmer together to double up on the flavor. I think I just need more practice with this delicious cuisine.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Warm Cabbage Salad - Feb 22, 2010

Warm Cabbage Salad with Currants and Sunflower Seeds over Creamy Polenta

I was having some trouble with dinner inspiration last night. I had cabbage and cauliflower in the fridge and wanted to do something using one of them. I finally settled on this recipe, using currants instead of golden raisins and omitting the feta, due to not having any around. After briefly contemplating spaetzle to accompany the cabbage, I made polenta instead. I think spaetzle would have been tastier, but the polenta was simpler and served the same purpose. The salad itself was quite good with the tangy vinegar complimenting the sweet currants and sugar-glazed sunflower seeds nicely. I'm sure the cauliflower will show up sometime soon, perhaps tonight...
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Deep Dish Pizza - Feb 21, 2010

Chicago-Style Gruyere and Mushroom Pizza

We tried a new pizza recipe this weekend. It's on the opposite end of the pizza spectrum from our usual homemade pizza, which is as close to Neapolitan style as we can get at home. But, since we are equal opportunity pizza eaters in this household, this pie was a huge hit. Huge. I had been excited to try this since reading the recipe in Cook's Illustrated and it did not disappoint. Instead of mozzarella, we used Gruyere because it was what we had on hand. We also added some sauteed mushrooms to the mix. Other than that, we stayed true to the ingredients and methods listed. The recipe makes enough for two crusts, but one pizza was more than enough for the two of us. The extra dough went into the freezer to be pulled out at a later date. We'll have to see how it holds up post freezing, in our own little test kitchen experiment.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Nanaimo Bars - Feb 19, 2010

Nanaimo Bars

Happy Friday everyone! It's been awhile since I've posted a Friday dessert. But, as I am in a bit of a celebratory mood, I thought I'd post something sweet. As a (self-proclaimed) bar connoisseur, I was surprised when Greg brought some of these with him during a work visit last year and I had never heard of them. They are currently making the blog rounds due to the Vancouver Olympic Games, as they are named after the city of Nanaimo, BC. So, I snagged this State-side friendly recipe here and made up a batch yesterday. I had to substitute some Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Mint UFO's since I didn't have enough unflavored chocolate to make the ganache, but I think it makes them quite tasty. And, according to the comments after the recipe, apparently some Canadians add mint flavo(u)r to the middle section anyway, so I don't feel as though I've ruined a classic.

Gratuitous Close-Up of Nanaimo Bars

This made a huge batch so I have plans to share as many as possible and freeze some for later.

Have a great weekend!
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kale and Sunchoke Hash - Feb 17, 2010

Kale, Sunchoke, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Hash with Bulgar

I LOVED this dinner. It was so hearty and delicious. The earthy kale and mushrooms and chewy bulgar wheat played perfect background to sweet caramelized onions echoed by the subtle, polysaccharin sweetness of the sunchokes. Sunchokes really are one of my favorite foods. They have a flavor all their own that adds an extra dimension to a dish. A perfect mix of earthy and sweet, rich yet light, that I haven't come across anywhere else. They are in season now in the Mid-west, like the rest of the root veggies. We used some from our CSA, but I've seen them regularly in the co-op the last few weeks. I would strongly recommend trying them in this recipe from Food & Wine. The only changes I made were substituting bulgar for farro and using white button instead of crimini mushrooms.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oven Fries - Feb 12, 2010

Oven Fries with Smoked Spanish Paprika and Parmesan

I was at a community ed class on Indian Breads last night (more on that later) so no pictures of dinner. Instead I thought I'd post this picture of a weekend snack. I found the inspiration here and decided almost as soon as I read about it to make a batch. They were tasty, although, and I make this mistake all the time, I should have put the paprika on after I pulled them out of the oven instead of before as much of the smoky flavor was baked off by the high oven temp. Ah well, next time, and there will be a next time, I will get it right.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Refried Bean Plate - Feb 15, 2010

Refried Beans with Mexican Rice, Salsa and Avocado

Some of this might look a little familiar. It's time to clean out the fridge around here, so last night we made a delicious dinner using up some leftovers. I had cooked pinto beans, so I simply added some onion, garlic, tomatoes, and spices and reheated them while smashing them up. This I served with the remainder of our Mexican rice, a fresh avocado, Salsa Lisa, and a tortilla to mop the plate. Very yummy and now we have a little more space in the fridge.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

St. Valentine's Dinner - Feb 14, 2010

Braised Chocolate Rosemary Short Ribs with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli

For Valentine's Day, Nick and I made a 'fancy' dinner at home. We started with a stop at our favorite local butcher shop, Clancey's, to pick up the ribs. We chose this recipe because it sounded holiday appropriate and had good reviews. I decided on the sides based on what we had in the pantry. I didn't have a recipe for either...I just made it up as I went along. A very tasty dinner indeed, but despite our best efforts, Nick and I have trouble getting the beef short ribs to that fall off the bone stage that is so often described. I believe we will stick with pork ribs at home from now on and leave the beef to the pros.


Here's hoping you and yours had a delicious Valentine's day.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Pommelo Salad, version 2 - Feb 10, 2010

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Smoked Trout and Pommelo

I had another pommelo to use and decided to incorporate it into a green salad with smoked trout. I based it very loosely on this recipe from 'Food & Wine.' Changes made include subbing the pommelo for grapefruit; omitting the avocado (only because we didn't have one...I think it would be extra tasty) and radishes; switching to spinach rather than endive; and, because our trout comes sans skin, omitting the crispy trout skin. Also, I used half pommelo juice and half lemon juice, mixed with the olive oil, for the dressing. It was good and simple and provided some healthy greens and a nice dose of fatty fish.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Massaman Curry - Feb 9, 2010

Massaman Curry with Potatoes, Carrots, Broccoli and Onions

Nick and I found some massaman curry paste at the New Orient Market last weekend. We grabbed a couple cans and cracked one of them open earlier this week. I referenced this recipe, although I used my own combination of veggies based on what I had available, and omitted the meat. The salty/sweet/sour/spicy balance was a little off to my palate. I made a bunch of notes for modifications for the next time we make it...add more coconut milk; scale back the sugar; up the salt and spice. We'll continue to practice until we get it right, referencing other recipes and enjoying the process wholeheartedly, no doubt.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fried Wild Rice - Feb 8, 2010

Fried Wild Rice with Tofu, Egg, Bean Sprouts and Thai Basil

This was fun to make. I found the basic recipe here, and changed it slightly to fit my requirements. Nick and I made a run to the New Orient Market here in Minneapolis over the weekend to restock some of our Thai ingredients. The friendly proprietor threw in a big bag of mung bean sprouts 'on the house.' Since these tend to go bad quickly, I wanted to use them up as soon as possible and thus they found a home in this dish. I also added some Thai basil on top for color and flavor. We hadn't made use of wild rice all season until this meal. What a shame, as it's so tasty and produced mainly in Northern Minnesota, so extremely local. I have a feeling it'll be showing up a bit more frequently now that it's back on my radar.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Burritos - Feb 5, 2010

Chicken, Bean and Rice Burritos

We did more cooking than usual this weekend and so I am still playing catch up with my blog posts. This was Friday's somewhat involved dinner. We had another avocado that was at the 'use or lose' stage, a cooked chicken breast left over from our pommelo salad, which I shredded and seasoned, plus a big bunch of cilantro in the fridge. I cooked up some pinto beans using my favorite no-soak method and I decided to make some Mexican rice. The last time I made this it was to accompany fish tacos, but I changed things up a bit this time around. Instead of separately preparing the jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions, I simply added what I guessed to be the equivalent amount (1 cup) of our favorite Salsa Lisa salsa, which was already full of those things, and let the rice cook as directed. As one might expect, it was quite flavorful and about half the work of the original recipe. I chopped up a bit of cabbage for some crunch and loaded everything, plus cheese, up into a large tortilla. For the finishing touch, I wrapped the burrito in aluminum foil and let it warm up in a 350 deg oven for about 15 min, just so everything would be uniformly warm.
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Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl Sunday - Feb 7, 2010

Superbowl Highlights

I'll admit, I'm feeling a little sad now that the football season is officially over. Nick and I did, however, manage to celebrate the end in delicious fashion yesterday. I made a batch of thyme pink peppercorn sodas from February 2010's Bon Appetit to drink during the game. For some reason this recipe is not up on epicurious right now, or I would link to it. I really liked these and they will be going into my permanent homemade soda rotation.

Also, we made hot wings. Food and Wine had a spread of seven different variations and we narrowed it down to two, sweet and sticky wings and ginger honey wings. Both were excellent.

And, at half time, we whipped up a quick batch of fried Halloumi cheese topped with a dash of fresh lemon juice. It's the Mediterranean version of fried cheese curds. They even squeak! The only thing that could have improved upon the day was having the Steelers win, although that would have been very difficult since they weren't actually playing in this year's Superbowl.
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Friday, February 05, 2010

Kale and Tofu Salad - Feb 4, 2010

Crispy Kale and Tofu Salad with Coconut

This is a another Heidi Swanson recipe, this time found here, in January's Food & Wine magazine under 'Best New Vegetarian Dishes.' I think what often hooks me with Heidi's recipes is her unexpected use of ingredients. Case in point, here she adds coconut to the mix and turns a 'flip right past it' dish into something extraordinary. It's what made me dog-ear the page. This was simple, quick, and incredibly tasty. It would have been good without the coconut, but the subtle richness and hint of j'ne sais quoi that it added made the dish exponentially better.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Thai Pommelo Salad - Feb 3, 2010

Yum Som-O

Citrus season is in full swing and I am giddy for it. Nothing is quite so pleasing to my senses during the dog days of winter as tearing into the flesh of the vibrantly hued fruits, releasing fragrant, spicy-sweet oil into the dry, brittle air.

Pommelos are less familiar to me than other citrus. I was introduced one January, a few years back, on a visit to Sacramento, where the larger-than-softball sized fruits, along with many other citrus varieties, were lying on sidewalks and gutters, much like acorns do here in the fall. This sight, so foreign to my Mid-Western eyes, made quite an impression. My next meeting occurred during a trip to Thailand last year, when I tried yum som-o, pommelo salad, for the first time. It was one of my favorite culinary experiences of the trip. I decided to try and recreate it last night with the giant yellow orbs that I could no longer resist.


I did some unsatisfactory research online for a recipe. I settled on this one due to it's use of dried shrimp and fried garlic, thinking that it sounded the most authentically Thai of those that I'd found. It was good, but my expectations were high, too high I think, and ultimately this fell short of my Thailand memories. Some changes I might make next time include adding significantly more toasted coconut; using palm, or brown, sugar, and more of it, rather than white sugar; and replacing the salt with fish sauce to add a bit of sourness along with the saltiness.
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Black Beans and Avocado - Feb 1, 2010

Cinnamon Spiced Black Beans with Avocado Mash, Cilantro, and Cheddar

I had been craving some beans of late, and we had an avocado that was at it's peak of ripeness on our counter. I cooked up the beans and then added some onion, oregano and cinnamon to season. The avocado was simply mashed with a fork and combined with some fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Fresh cilantro and grated sharp cheddar cheese finished off this meal, and everything was piled atop a flour tortilla. Very simple and fresh.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Gnocchi with Pork and Mushroom Ragu - Jan 30, 2010

Potato Gnocchi with Pork and Mushroom Ragu

This recipe caught both Nick's and my attention in February's Bon Appetit. One of the main themes of this issue is 'meat and potatoes,' two things that we've been trying not to eat too often, but this recipe made the cut. It was a team effort, with Nick making the ragu and me being in charge of the gnocchi. It's been awhile since I've made gnocchi, and strangely, I've never made it with plain old russets, instead it's always been sweet potato or pumpkin in the past. I was expecting the process to be tedious, but I actually found it to be quite enjoyable. It took a bit of time, but the dough was great to work with and the finished little potato pillows were perfect in texture and taste.

The ragu was delicious. We ended up making a few changes. Instead of boneless pork rib meat, we used a boneless pork roast, since the former was M.I.A. at the co-op. I was worried it would be too tough, but the half inch cubes were quite tender. Also, we omitted the dried porcinis, since I could not locate them at the store either. We substituted with a bit more criminis. While the end result was very tasty, I think it would be just as good with a higher mushroom to pork ratio, or even with all mushrooms. All-in-all, this is a great recipe and well worth the work. It would be fun to do for guests as both the ragu and gnocchi can be made ahead of time.
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Pan Roasted Cauliflower - Jan 29, 2010

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan and Smoked Spanish Paprika

Lethargic from eating way too many doughnuts on Friday, my initial thought for dinner was, 'Let's order pizza.' Quickly, and with Nick's help, I realized that I was headed down a dangerous path and needed to change course. Thus, Friday's meal ended up as this delicious bowl of cauliflower. Inspired by this recipe, we ended up adding some of our own touches, like the smoked Spanish paprika, which always dresses up a dish nicely. It was quick, healthy and perfectly delicious. A lovely antidote for doughnuts.
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