Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Baking - Dec 23, 2011

Cardamom Crescents

Merry Christmas Dinner Clubbers! It seems we all have cookies on our minds around here!  I, too, have been doing a spot of baking in preparation for the Christmas holiday. I usually make traditional German Christmas cookies, but this year I decided to try something different. I've already made two batches of the delicious cardamom crescents. The first had me follow the recipe almost exactly, but for a small mistake I made by pulsing the pecans with granulated sugar in the food processor, rather than the powdered sugar called for in the recipe. They actually turned out so well that I repeated that 'mistake' in my second batch. The second batch also saw me adjust the cinnamon to cardamom ratio, since in the first batch the cinnamon seemed to overpower the more delicate cardamom flavor. I love cardamom, so in order for it to shine as the premier flavor, I replaced the cinnamon with more cardamom and simply added a dash of Penzey's Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon so as not to omit it completely. Both batches are delicious, but I'm a bit more partial to the second.

Rosemary-Lemon Shortbread

Next, I made some rosemary-lemon shortbread. Rosemary and lemon are two of my favorite winter flavors. They remind me of time spent in Northern California visiting Nick's brother and sister-in-law when they lived there. One Christmas, Greg and JJ were living in a house with a giant Meyer Lemon tree in the backyard and they sent a big bag of the happy, yellow fruit home to Minnesota with us. It was my first introduction to this delicious citrus fruit and I've been hooked ever since. They taste like sunshine on a snowy winter day. This recipe is one I've adapted from a Rosemary-Lemon Sandwich Cookie recipe in the February 2008 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. It's a basic shortbread recipe flavored with lemon zest and chopped fresh rosemary leaves. To really bring out the lemon flavor, I've replaced the vanilla with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It works fine to use regular lemons for this, but Meyer lemons give it an extra special flavor. These little guys are so good on their own that I've never felt the need to make the mascarpone cheese filling.

I am also going to make a batch of the Butterfinger truffles from December 2011's Bon Appetit, since Nick is a huge fan of that particular candy bar. Chocolate seems like just the right thing to complete this year's cookie offerings, don't you think?

A very Happy Christmas to you and yours! I hope your holidays are delicious.
Posted by Picasa

Holiday Cookies - December 23, 2011

Happy Festivus, Dinner Clubbers! Let the airing of grievances commence!

In addition to Festivus, today is "prepare-for-holiday-travels" day in the Hartman house, which included assembling cookie tins to bring our family and friends. I've been baking cookies and treats all December and stashing them in the freezer. I've rather enjoyed playing around in the kitchen and am grateful for the excuse to try out new sweet treats!

Almost every recipe this year was a new one, with the exception of the sugar cookie cutouts and the toffee bars I made on the last minute since I realized there was no chocolate represented among the selection. The sugar cookies and frosting are my sister's recipe and I make them every year without any modification. I'm pretty sure she got the recipe from someone else, but in her binder of recipes it doesn't indicate the source so I'm now going to give her credit. I love how the directions are so streamlined and assume this all pretty much common sense!

Lisa's Traditional Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix thoroughly, cover and chill for 1 hour. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick, cut into shapes. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees.

Lisa's Vanilla Butter Frosting

1/3 cup unsalted butter (soft)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

Blend butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until frosting is smooth. Color as desired.

The other cookie recipes came primarily from two sources: the cookie spread in our Washington Post food section a few weeks ago and the cool cookie Advent calendar on Saveur's website. All were good, some outstanding!

Coconut Cookies (modified to use coconut oil instead of butter)
Cardamom Scented Spritz Cookies (recipe from cookie press manual)
Toffee Bars (recipe from old Betty Crocker Cookbook)

A note for making cookies corn-free: Traditional baking powder and powdered sugar contain corn starch to keep everything from clumping, but corn-free varieties do exist. The organic powdered sugar from Whole Foods uses tapioca starch instead (you can also get some at Trader Joe's, but it is a seasonal item for them). The only baking powder without corn starch on the market is Hain's Featherweight. You can also get that at Whole Foods and other health food stores.

Other ingredients that can be problematic for someone who needs to avoid corn include the vanilla, butter, flour, and even the milk. Vanilla extract contains alcohol, which may or may not be made from corn. There is no way of knowing because they aren't required to list that on the label. To be safe, I make my own vanilla extract by seeping whole vanilla beans in potato vodka. Butter is tricky because some contain "natural flavors" which may or may not be derived from corn and sometimes lactic acid which is commonly derived from corn. I actually haven't had any problem with regular butters, but to be safe I use Trader Joe's (regular, not organic) unsalted butter which is the only one I've found that just has one ingredient: Grade A cream.

For the flour I use King Arthur All-Purpose Unbleached White Flour. I'm told bleached flour can be contaminated, but I never buy that anyway. Some people also have problems with the enrichments that they add to flour and to milk, but I seem to be fine with them. If you do want un-enriched flour and milk, look for organic flour and find a source for raw milk directly from a farm (unfortunately, not an option in Virginia as raw milk is illegal here). 

Hope everyone has a very happy holiday, whatever you celebrate, and a happy, healthy, and delicious 2012!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Roast Beef & Gravy - December 17, 2011

Yet another hearty, comfort food post from Jaime! The weather has finally turned wintry here in the DC area and this felt like the right kind of meal to warm us inside and out.

I seared the beef in my dutch oven, then transferred it to a roasting pan and slow roasted it for about 2 hours at 275 degrees, until it was medium rare. Meanwhile I utilized the fond and drippings in the dutch oven to make a gravy. I browned a "mirepoix" (love using fancy French cooking words!) of onions, carrots, and celery. Then tossed in some chopped garlic and flour and cooked for about a minute, then deglazed the pan with some red wine and added a full carton of beef broth. I let it all simmer for a good 20 minutes, until the gravy was thick, and strained out the solids. This was based roughly on a recipe I saw that included mushrooms before the mirepoix, but didn't have any on hand. Next time I'll try to include them. This was delicious but could definitely have been improved with an earthy counterbalance to the acidity of the wine.

If you have gravy, you must also have mashed potatoes which were prepared the standard way using lots of butter and milk.

During the last 30 minutes of roasting, I threw together some brussel sprouts tossed with olive oil and some of the sage and rosemary herb rub I made earlier this fall. I can't believe I used to turn my nose up at brussel sprouts! I adore them now, especially roasted so the outer edges get dark brown and crispy. I need to pick up a few more bags before the holiday season ends and they disappear from the stores.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Tale of Two Soups - Dec 2011

I think that I mentioned being sick for the better part of three weeks. It really set me back (perhaps you noticed my lack of blog presence of late). One thing that seems to help sooth my throat and build my strength is homemade soup. I made a couple renditions over the past few weeks. The first, shown above, was a quick cheater chicken noodle soup utilizing my Penzey's chicken stock base, along with some ginger and spices that I broiled in the oven for a few minutes to build the flavor. I added some of our CSA carrots and parsnips, along with some noodles.

The second version was a sausage and white bean soup that utilized the better part of a head of cabbage to help build the flavors of the broth. I used sweet Italian sausage, cannellini beans and carrots in addition to the cabbage, and seasoned with some homemade celery salt. I found the recipe here, but again had to omit fresh rosemary and parsley, which would have added a lot. 

I am so happy to be feeling better.  It always amazes me how the common cold can really knock me out of commission.  It hit at a horrible time, as Nick and I had a bunch of travel plans and meet-ups with friends and family that could not be rescheduled.  It was so frustrating not to be able to fully enjoy all the special events on our calendar.  And, since we were so busy, I couldn't really take care of myself the way I should have...not getting enough sleep and the like, so I think my sickness really took it's sweet time to clear up.  So, my sincere apologies to all our family and friends who had to put up with me not at my best, and to you Dinner Clubbers that put up with a long absence.  I'm back now, and excited to start all my holiday cooking.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta - Dec 2011

This is another 101 Cookbooks recipe utilizing broccoli and cauliflower. I actually found it when I was searching for the salad I posted about yesterday, and it sounded so good, that I put it on the list for later that same week.  I had to swap dried rosemary for the fresh and omit the fresh parsley due to my limited pantry.  I also omitted the golden raisins since I don't like the texture of raisins reconstituted in water.  Usually I'll replace them with dried currants, which are smaller and don't bother me as much, but it's been so long since I cooked this I can't honestly remember if I did that for this dish.  Probably due to these changes, the dish fell a little flat of my expectations.  Dried rosemary is a pale comparison to fresh, and the pasta could have used some of the bright green notes that fresh parsley brings.  I would make this again, but only if I had all the ingredients on hand.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Broccoli and Apple Salad - Dec 2011

This was a delicious broccoli and apple salad that Nick and I enjoyed awhile back. I found the recipe here.  The dressing sounded very curious, a combination of ingredients that I would not think to put together, namely garlic, almond butter, lemon juice and honey.  But, I trust Heidi completely, and so jumped right into the recipe.  As usual, it was delicious, and a big hit with Nick too.  I did have to omit the pan-fried shallots, but other than that, stuck to the ingredient list. It's a wonderful, fresh, crunchy fall and winter salad, perfect when you're craving something green and comforting at the same time.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 12, 2011

Borscht - Dec 2011

Isn't borscht the perfect holiday soup? I made this ages ago now, but I remember it fondly. It was a great use of some CSA root vegetables including beets, parsnips, carrots and cabbage (not a root vegetable, I know).  I used this recipe, and even made a special trip to the store for sour cream and fresh dill for garnish.  It was very worth it.  One thing I did, after consulting with Nick, was to puree about half of the soup to make it a smoother consistency.  I mixed the pureed soup with the non-pureed for our finished bowls.  It was delicious.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thumbs-Up Turkey - Nov 24, 2011

Hello Dinner Clubbers! My sincere apologies for my long absence from the blog. Between travel, visitors, sickness, holidays, and one broken refrigerator things have been a bit hectic for Nick and I of late. I will attempt to bring you all up to date on our culinary adventures, starting with Thanksgiving. Nick and I travelled to his parents, where every year Nick's Dad makes his famous "Thumbs-Up Turkey." This year Nick and I had front row seats for a tutorial.

The story of this family tradition begins with the November 1986 Gourmet Magazine article on 'how to de-bone a turkey.' Chip thought that sounded like a fun project and has used this method nearly every year since. The idea is to cut out and remove the rib cage from the body of the bird, leaving the bones in the appendages, and then stitch up the incision made along the spine. This allows you to stuff the bird with dressing, to plump it back up to it's original robust shape, and to carve it directly into cross sections, for a slice of stuffing surrounded by an edge of meat. It also allows you to use the rib cage to make some of the best gravy known to man, which is the real reason that Chip goes through all the work. Every year, with the successful completion of this undertaking, Chip gives us the thumbs-up and we all feast like kings.

Here is Chip putting the final touches on the bird. The meal was delicious, as always, although due to a nasty little virus I contracted the week before, I actually ended up sleeping through the meal this year. Lucky for me, the leftovers are nearly as good!
Posted by Picasa

Bagels - December 10, 2011

I've been really into baking lately and have wanted to tackle bagels for a while. It all started when I discovered that my corn allergy precluded pretty much all commercially produced baked goods, but now I'm having so much fun testing out new techniques and recipes (and eating the results) that I'm almost grateful for my adult-onset food allergies. Almost.

I've seen several bagel recipes on the internet and in books, and decided that the recipe from my Baking Illustrated cookbook (actual recipe here on someone's blog) seemed to compile the best of all of them and was relatively easy to follow. I believe, as they do, that a good bagel begins and ends with the flour. I followed their advice and ordered high-gluten flour from King Arthur Flour (where would we be without the internet!). 

At $6 for a 3 pound bag the per-bagel cost is somewhere between $0.40 - $0.50 each, so this is not really a cost-saving exercise. But worth every penny for taste!

You also need to plan ahead. The bagels need to proof in the refrigerator over night, so mix up the dough the night before the morning you want to eat them. Then the baking process is two-steps... a quick dunk in the boiling water...

Here are my bagels waiting for their turn in the hot tub.

Then, 15 minutes in the oven, a few minutes to cool... and in the belly!!

The only change I needed to make for my corn allergy was to substitute semolina flour for the corn meal.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Moravian Chicken Pie - December 2, 2011

Wow, it sure has been quiet around here! Guess all the Dinner Clubbers are busy celebrating the holidays and a Badger football Big 10 Championship win! I've started my Christmas cookie baking and will post about that later... for now here is yet another comfort food dinner.

This dish was on the cover of Cook's Country magazine this month and Richie thought it sounded fantastic. "Like the world's best chicken pot pie!" said my non-vegetable eating husband. I thought it sounded bland, but I was willing to give Moravian Chicken Pie a shot.

The final dish was tasty, but a bit on the too-salty side. I think that may have been because I used kosher chicken which is already brined and then seasoned the chicken generously before beginning to brown it. I also didn't love the crust... I thought it was a bit too dense and not very flaky. But the pie kept very well in the refrigerator and made for some great leftovers!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Perfect Roasted Chicken - November 17, 2011

I have been on a quest for some time to find the perfect roast chicken recipe and I can now say that I have found a winner! It is from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home cookbook, which is almost too pretty to cook from (especially when you are as messy as I am in the kitchen!).

I've tried a ton of other techniques, including the Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe method that requires you to use a v-rack and rotate the chicken three times and Tom Colicchio's recipe in How To Think Like a Chef that has you sear the skin on the stovetop first. Both produced pretty good chicken, but an annoying amount of tending for what should be a simple stick-in-the-oven-and-mostly-ignore dish. Keller's recipe is not only the tastiest of all, but the easiest too! No brining, searing, rotating, or basting necessary.

The first key is to start with a good small chicken (3-4 pounds). I got mine from Whole Foods last week when they were having a sale on their "free range" whole chickens. I was a little nervous because I've had corn allergic reactions to supermarket chickens in the past and was not certain that this one would be safe, but fortunately I had no problems. I'd like to find a more local and sustainable source that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, but for now this is a good and cost effective option.

Keller recommends you unwrap the chicken a day ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator uncovered so the skin can get nice and dry. Then, take the chicken out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you start cooking it to allow it to come to room temperature. I've never done either of these things before and I think it made a big difference.

The recipe is simple. Generously salt and pepper the cavity, shove a few crushed garlic cloves and thyme sprigs in, and truss the chicken following the directions in the book. He says trussing helps keep the breast from drying out. Then rub canola oil on the outside of the chicken, season it generously, and place a couple pats of butter on the breast before placing in the oven to roast for 25 minutes at 475, then lower to 400 and roast for another 45 minutes. I also roasted carrots, potatoes, and onions in the pan to make it a one dish complete dinner.

The result: An incredibly moist, delicious bird with a beautiful crisp skin!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pittsburgh! - Nov 5-7, 2011

"Dahn Tahn" Pittsburgh

Nick and I spent last weekend in Pittsburgh along with my sister and her boyfriend (who grew up there). It was our first time visiting and we were both super impressed! Pittsburgh is an incredibly beautiful city nestled in between rivers and rolling bluffs, which were all decked out in fall colors during our stay.

We stayed in 'the Strip' which is an industrial neighborhood being revitalized by condos, shops and restaurants. We rode the Monongahela Incline up Mt. Washington on the south side of the city and were treated to breathtaking views of the downtown, PNC park, Heinz Field, and some of the 400 plus bridges that span the three rivers within the city (the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, if you're wondering).

We walked from the Strip across his namesake bridge  to see the statue of Roberto Clemente, my favorite baseball player of all time, outside of PNC park, where the Pirates play.

We ate at Primanti Brothers, in the Strip, which is a local landmark. Primanti's is known for it's sandwiches, which are piled high with a meat of your choice (we tried corned beef and jumbo, which is Pittsburghese for fried bologna), french fries, and cole slaw. The sandwiches originated to serve truckers who were making deliveries to factories in the Strip and needed a meal that they could eat using one hand, leaving the other free to drive. On game days, the line spans out the door and down the block.

And, speaking of game days, Nick and I had the privilege of attending a Steelers game at Heinz Field on Sunday night. Prior to the game we went to a tailgate with beer can chicken, and smoked kolbassi sausage along with Yuengling beers. We jumped on a water taxi right outside our tailgate and rode down to Heinz field on the Allegheny taking in the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline at night. It was an exciting game, which the Steelers ultimately lost. But, win or lose, it was an honor to be able to cheer on my favorite NFL team in person. A big thank you to our wonderful hosts, yinz guys are the best!
Posted by Picasa

Baked Macaroni & Cheese - November 11, 2011

I'm definitely on a comfort food kick these days! Last night it was macaroni and cheese. I'd seen a couple references to Martha Stewart's recipe as the ultimate best mac and cheese ever on some of the food blogs I follow and wanted to try it for myself.

Not wanting to make 12 servings at once and thus eat mac and cheese forever, I made a half recipe. I also used yellow cheddar and pecorino romano since they were already in the refrigerator. Otherwise I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter.

My big complaint about this recipe is that Martha's directions led me to use virtually every pan in the kitchen! Next time I will avoid this by making better use of the microwave and just melt the butter for the breadcrumbs in the bowl you'll toss them in and warm the milk in a glass measure instead of a separate saucepan.

Although the final dish tasted fantastic, I'm not totally pleased with the texture. I think I need to work on my sauce making skills. I tend to be impatient when making bechamel or other sauce from a roux base. I think I poured the milk in too quickly and didn't allow all the flour to get fully incorporated and smooth. Also I was using a flimsy nylon whisk and for this application anyway I think it was pretty worthless.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pork Chops and Sauteed Kale - Oct 31, 2011

This spooky looking dish was our Halloween meal this year. Nick and I picked up the pork chops from the Farmers' Market and I cooked them up following the directions in our 'How to Cook Everything' cookbook. For some reason they turned out a little tough and dry. I must have cooked them for too long. Usually Nick makes the pork chops, and they are always super delicious and tender. I must not have his magic touch. The side dish was made up of some of our red kale tops, which I roughly chopped and sauteed with some onions, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. It was very good, and the color was perfect for the holiday.
Posted by Picasa

Rosemary Lemon Fried Chicken - November 10, 2011

I have been craving fried chicken pretty much since the moment I realized that my corn allergy made all trashy fast food fried chicken off limits. I knew it could be made at home, but had never attempted it myself and so was a bit nervous about the idea, especially after the tater tot incident where I nearly burned the house down.

But I got an enameled dutch oven and a proper thermometer and Michael Ruhlman's section on "frying" in Ruhlman's Twenty reassured me that deep frying wasn't really scary if I used both of them to control the temperature.

Plus his recipe for fried chicken that was first brined in a rosemary, lemon, garlic, and onion solution sounded so delicious I decided to go for it!

The recipe was a two day process. First I created the brine and let the chicken soak for 24 hours, then removed from the brine on the morning of the second day and allowed it to dry uncovered in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. In the evening I breaded the chicken, following Ruhlman's recipe exactly - including paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in the flour and using organic fat free buttermilk. The result was incredibly delicious. The breading was reminiscent of a much less greasy and better tasting Popeye's chicken and the chicken itself had amazing notes of rosemary.

The only problem I ran into was that my chicken's breading seemed to be done long before I thought the chicken inside was actually cooked through. Ruhlman's directions said to fry "until the chicken was cooked through, about 12-15 minutes depending on the size of the piece." But how do you know when the chicken is cooked through? My breading was turning an alarming dark brown just 6 or 7 minutes in to the cooking and I ended up pulling everything at the 12 minute end of that range or earlier. If it had stayed in for a full 15 minutes it would have been burnt to a crisp.

That aside, I've been loving Ruhlman's book and highly recommend it for both accomplished and new cooks. Whether you are just starting out or looking to refine your skills, you'll find things in here to love.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Jaime's Pizza, second attempt - November 4, 2011

This time I decided to forget about creating a cracker like crust reminiscent of the frozen pizzas of my childhood and instead focus on just creating a really good crust, period. This meant planning ahead, making the dough the day before and allowing it to rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. I used the recipe from Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food, except that I didn't have the 1/4 cup of rye flour she called for and instead just did all regular all-purpose white flour.

I made the sauce from Pomi strained tomatoes (the only brand I've been able to find that doesn't have citric acid added) and added in some of the basil and oregano I grew on our patio and dried as an experiment. It tasted very good! The cheese is organic mozzarella from Organic Valley (again, one of the only truly corn-free brands available) and I made the sausage myself. It is ground pork from our local Springfield Butcher, seasoned with salt, pepper, dried sage from our herb garden, a bit of nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne. The next day I turned the rest of the sausage into some amazing tasting southern style sausage gravy and ate it over biscuits as an indulgent breakfast treat!

Overall, the pizza was pretty good and came pretty close to satisfying my craving for good pizza. The crust could have been a bit crisper, but I needed to get it out of the oven before the cheese burned. Next time I'll try one of the methods that has you either start or end the pizza on the stove top to help address this issue. I also picked up some rye flour at the store and will give that a shot to see if it adds anything.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli - Oct 30, 2011

Nick and I had several sheets of the fresh egg pasta from our lasagna meal leftover, as well as some ricotta (which we insist on pronouncing ri-coh-ta, rather than ri-cah-ta, despite being corrected by cheese vendors from the market...we're so snobby I can't stand it) and a big bunch of spinach from the CSA box. The meal pretty much makes itself with that list of ingredients. I consulted our handy 'How to Cook Everything' and found a recipe that fit our needs exactly, but for some quantity modification.

Our filling consisted of ricotta, Pecorino-Romano, wilted spinach, an egg, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

This got folded into little pasta pillows while I simmered a hastily concocted tomato sauce, consisting of canned tomatoes, a chopped onion, and some dried Italian spices, on the stove. We boiled our ravioli in water for two or three minutes before placing them in bowls and topping with olive oil and tomato sauce. Mark Bittman's directions call to boil the ravioli until they float to the top, but ours floated from the start due to some air trapped inside, along with the cheese filling. We only had one bust at the seams, which I think is pretty good since our 'fresh' pasta was a week old and starting to dry out a bit. This was a really fun meal to prepare and surprisingly filling, as well as delicious.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Honeynut Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing - Oct 29, 2011

This meal was inspired by my entree at L'Etoile for the Dinner Club 'renion' meal. Their version was much more involved, including a sweet potato crepe and roasted seasonal vegetables, but the meat of it, so to speak, was a Jack-be-little pumpkin filled with a wild rice and mushroom mix. Unfortunately, when my meal arrived at the restaurant, I was so full from my first course, plus nibbling on everyone else's first courses, that I could not eat as much of it as I would have liked. My solution was to try to recreate it at home utilizing some of the tiny Honeynut squash that came in our CSA box.

I had to capture the vivid orange of this squash's flesh, since it's one of my favorite colors. Everything about this variety of winter squash delights me. It's about the size of a large potato, and perfect for a single serving. I have a strong and inexplicable attraction to things that look just like their normal-sized counterparts, but are actually much smaller or larger, and this Honeynut squash fits nicely into that category. I baked it just like I would have a normal butternut squash, drizzling with olive oil, salt, and a dash of Chinese five spice powder.

While it was baking, I reconstituted some dried mushrooms and cooked my rice. I mixed the rice, mushrooms, some dried cranberries, cashews, salt, pepper and a little drizzle of toasted sesame oil together for my stuffing. This little mixture got piled into the baked Honeynut squash.

The Honeynut squash is billed as sweeter than average, and once roasted, you can see the beautiful caramelization of those sugars on the surface. This meal was delicious, and this time I was able to clean my plate. The only thing missing was the company of our Dinner Club friends...and a wine flight.  Thanks to L'Etoile for the inspiration.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lasagna for Two - Oct 27, 2011

At one of the last Fulton Farmers' Markets of the season, Nick and I made some fun purchases, including a package of fresh egg pasta sheets from the Broder's booth. Since a pasta maker is one of the few kitchen items that we haven't collected (and I think it will stay that way, as I loathe those single purpose tools that take up valuable cupboard space, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we would make pasta once every 27 months), this seemed like a fun way to have fresh pasta without any extra effort. We decided that lasagna would be an excellent use for our market bounty.

I consulted my trusty recipe binder (it's like an old-timey epicurious) and found family recipes from both of our Moms. Hmm...which one to pick? Both are much loved versions from our respective childhoods. I settled on a combination of the two, utilizing ingredients that I had on hand. I'm nothing if not diplomatic. Now for my next dilemma...lasagna recipes are designed to feed a crowd and Nick and I are just two people with limited freezer space. Luckily, I found a third recipe in my binder. One for 'single serving' lasagnas from a cooking class I had volunteered at years ago. This recipe was a basic outline, including proper ingredient ratios, for lasagna made in a small loaf pan.

Now that I had a workable plan, consisting of a mash-up of three assorted lasagna recipes, I was set to start cooking. Our finished version included ground beef (my mom), ricotta (Nick's mom), and a tomato and herb sauce that I made up on the fly. I topped it with shredded mozzarella and baked according to some version of the directions. This came out of the oven right as Nick arrived home from work and the two of us managed to eat about two thirds of this in one sitting, making the amount just about right...perfect if you enjoy having one or two servings of leftovers.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Potato Leek and Celery Root Soup with Sausage - Oct 20, 2011

Once we received our new CSA delivery last week, I needed to use up a few items from the previous delivery to make a little room in the fridge. One of those items was the celery root in my crisper drawer. I decided to combine it with some of our potato stash, and a couple leeks that had been hanging out for the past two weeks, in a rendition of one of my favorite simple winter soups; Potato Leek. To create this soup, I simply chopped up my celery root, 5 medium potatoes, and 3 leeks and tossed them all in my Dutch oven with a healthy pat of butter. Once the leeks were soft and silky, I added 3-4 cups of water and some of my Penzey's chicken stock base. I let this simmer until the celery root and potatoes were soft, about 30 minutes. Next, I blended everything with my immersion blender until I got it to the consistency I like. Nick and I topped our bowls with some sausage slices, a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly ground pepper.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dinner Club *Renion* - Oct 14-16, 2011

All six of the original Madison Dinner Club members, plus spouses, significant others and friends from all across the Country met up in our founding city recently for our official Ten Year Reunion (or Renion, as it will now forever be known). This meet-up serendipitously correlated with homecoming weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, our beloved Alma Mater.

Weekend activities included, but were not limited to, polka dancing, beer drinking, farmers' market going, Badger football game attending, Memorial Union Terrace visiting, and eating a delicious meal together at L'Etoile, complete with personalized menus! While the weekend obviously lent itself to revelling in blissful nostalgia (and we took part in plenty of that, complete with belly laughs from long forgotten stories of people we used to know and experiences we had), my favorite part was looking at how we've all evolved over the past ten years to the people we are today, enjoying the new faces that have been added in to the group, and realizing that no matter how much time passes and how many changes occur during that time, that we will all still be able to come together and thoroughly enjoy one another's company around a dinner table full of good food.

Dinner Club Forever!

I love you guys.
Posted by Picasa


Related Posts with Thumbnails