Friday, December 30, 2005

Tuesday was the annual Gingerbreadfest. It was a smaller affair this year, which was perfectly fine. I actually finished my house, which I didn't do last year. Pictures should be forthcoming. I've already had to pitch it because of some bug issues and the fact that it was falling apart (Twizzlers aren't very fond of verticality).

Tonight is Ryan's baby shower. I'm working on a couple of new hors d'oeuvres recipes for it. I hope they turn out well.
 
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Oh, holidays are so fun. I had an excellent time with my family and Ryan's family. We all got together for Christmas Eve to eat tons of hors d'oeuvres, decorate the tree, sing carols, and talk. I made my bean dip and some little croque monsieurs. Dad cut up vegetables and made potstickers. Mom made marinated artichoke hearts, devilled eggs, pigs in blankets, mulled cider and dip for vegetables/potato chips. Ryan's parents brought over some very tasty eggnog. Ryan brought her wonderful fruitcake, hurray!

If you're ever in the market for panetonne, Maina is really good. It won the Chronicle's taste-test. I was going to buy their second place winner, the Trader Joe's brand, but they were sold out, so I went down the street to Draeger's and found the Maina. We had it alongside our bagels with lox for Christmas breakfast.

Last Thursday, I went to Sundance the Steakhouse with Jer. That was a most enjoyable meal. We had a lovely table by the window where we could watch people running from the pelting rain. Jer got the prime rib, I got the New York Strip, and we split an order of crabcakes to start. The food was uniformly excellent. I had read some reviews that said they overcooked their steaks, but ours were damn perfect. When I first bit into my steak, it was tasty, but as I chewed, it got better. I love stuff like that.

Yesterday, I headed into Sonoma to meet up with Erin and Ys, two of my friends from college. Such fun! The weather had cleared up, and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon walking around, shopping, talking, and eating. We went to The Girl and the Fig for a late lunch. I got their soup of the day, which was a pureed garnet yam soup with cream and blue cheese and walnuts. That was a bit of a mistake on my part, since I had just had the apple-rutabaga soup the day before, and the two soups were a bit similar in taste except the apple-rutabaga soup was far superior. The garnet yam soup tasted like the time I made the apple-rutabaga soup and forgot to put in the cream, maple syrup, cayenne, and apple (aka all the stuff that makes it over-the-top yummy, very dumb of me). Also, it needed salt. For my main course, I got cassoulet. I'd never had it before, but I recalled Eddie saying something about it. It was very, very good. The flageolet beans were a little undercooked, but the meats were so tasty. Duck, lamb, bacon, sausage... yum! So big, though- I couldn't finish it. For dessert we all split a creme brulee that was flavored with lavender and honey. Now, usually I just like my creme brulee basic with no adulterations. This, however, was really good. The sugar top could have been crispier (Ys tried to crack it and her spoon just kind of sunk in), and there were some bizarre temperature changes in the custard underneath (I'm guessing it had just been flamed and was not cooled again afterwards), but I would totally order it again.
 
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Dude, I totally scored at Christmas.

I received a beautiful and lovely French oven from Le Creuset, which means that I don't have to use the pot that is probably giving me cancer anymore. (I have a very old, original Teflon-coated pot from the 70s.) (Also, thank you to the guy at the Le Creuset outlet who gave us a great deal on the pot even thought I was being completely obtuse and didn't understand what he was getting at.)

I also got a Thermapen! These things are incredible. I mean, I have a digital themometer from Polder, but it takes like thirty seconds to read a temperature. This thing takes less than five seconds. It's SO COOL.

When Ryan was visiting Leigh over Thanksgiving, they stopped at Penzey's and got a load of spices. I got REAL cinnamon, plus some very high-quality cassia, Mexican vanilla (the best!), and white pepper. Now I can avoid the ghost of Julia Child yelling at me when I get dark specks in my eggs or light-colored soups or white sauces. Jon got cinnamon and a bunch of exciting chile powders. I am very much looking forward to the next time he makes chili.

Let's see... I also got some fun kitchen utensils (silicon basting brush, mini whisk [excellent for making hot chocolate and vinegrettes], and one of those shot glasses with tablespoon measurements on it so I can measure vanilla properly), an extra bowl for my stand mixer (no more stopping the flow of cooking to wash and dry the bowl so I can beat egg whites in it, huzzah!), and a BAGUETTE PAN. I am so damn excited about this. Sometime this week (since I'm not working), I need to try this thing out.

From John and Rose I got some lovely anise pizzelle cookies (so good!) and a tub of the world's best dried cherries. I think it might be time to make scones again!

Cookbooks all around! Dad got the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook. Jon got Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Ryan got Cakes from Scratch in Half the Time. Mom got Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking, The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetables, and Molto Italiano by Mario Batali (the clue for this had something to do with the fact that he has orange hair and he wears those bright orange clogs all the time). I got Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking and The Cook's Encylopedia of Soup (I love that series).
 
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy holidays, y'all.

I'm at the parents' house, preparing for the festivities. Jon and Ryan and Ryan's family (John, Rose, and Leigh) are all coming over tonight for Christmas Eve fun-ness.

I went out to Best Buy and the mall this morning to pick up some last-minute gifts. I thought someone already had something that I was getting the rest of as a present, but it turns out they didn't, so I needed to go get it. Also, I decided to upgrade one of my mom's presents from something amusing to something amusing that she would connect to more. Yeah, along those lines. The crowds weren't terrible (of course, I did go at 8:30am) and the freeways were empty.

I made a pasta dish last night that was pretty okay. Penne with bacon and arugula. It ended up being super-vinegary, though, by no fault of my own. Or my mom's, really. She was making marinated artichoke hearts, and even though she washed and dried the pot she used, some vinegar somehow remained in there. It was ultra-tart. The arugula was mega-tasty, as was the bacon (Nieman Ranch applewood smoked).

I still have presents to wrap and clue! Argh!
 
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Cavatelli with Bacon and Arugula
Quick From Scratch One-Dish Meals

1/4 lb. sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 onion, chopped
1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes (one 15-ounce can)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1 lb. frozen cavatelli
1 1/4 cups arugula, stems removed, leaves torn in half (one 2-ounce bunch)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

In a large stainless-steel frying pan, cook the bacon over moderate heat until almost crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the salt, and the pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the cavatelli until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce, bacon, arugula, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Stir until the arugula just wilts. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top.

Note: Be sure to add the arugula at the last minute; if it actually cooks, it may turn bitter. Also, if you can't find cavatelli, other kinds of pasta work well. (I used penne.)
 
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I got a wonderful Christmas present at work. As you might have heard via my relentless bitchings about it, I have a crappy computer at work. It was as old (possibly older) as the computer I got when I went to college. 1998. That is a long friggin' lifespan for a computer. It HATED me. "You want me to run Eudora, Firefox, IE, Filemaker, Excel, AIM, Acrobat, and Word all in one session? Bitch, please." Slower than molasses, this computer was. But thanks to my wonderful boss, I got a new computer yesterday! I was just hoping for a less-old one, but this thing is brand new. It's nice. And QUIET. It's kind of freaky.

I need to clean my house. It's a mess. Presents and wrapping paper and crap everywhere. I need to get everything in order so that I can mess it up with new stuff next week.

I love this quote from the San Francisco Chronicle (full article here):
Indeed, there are those who also say that all Jewish holidays, with the exception being the solemn days of fasting, consist of the following basic narration: "A cruel ruler came into power, he tried to destroy and annihilate us, our people held their faith and overcame the foes, triumphing in the face of destruction! Now let's eat!"
 
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Monday, December 19, 2005

I have been eating with my family a lot recently, and they have been feeding me well. Last Thursday I had dinner with my parents- meat loaf, tater tots, and brussel sprouts. I love brussel sprouts. They're so good! On Saturday, I ate with Jon and Ryan. Jon had just made a huge vat of sauce. Tonight I went back over to the parents' house, and we had steak and twice-baked potatoes. Yum! I adore twice-baked potatoes. Also, in a search of my website, I don't think I've actually written down the recipe for them. Mini baked potatoes, yes. But not the full-sized ones (not that it's all that different). Huzzah! I'll have a recipe this week even if I don't make anything new!

I bought some Yamamotoyama tea today. I remember Lydia brewing me up some and it being very good. I hope this is the same stuff. Genmai-cha brown rice tea.

I've been talking with my parents about Christmas Eve happenings. Although Hannukah doesn't officially start until the 26th (ETA: I'm wrong, the first night is Christmas night), we're going to combine it with our Christmas Eve traditions. In our household, we make hors d'oeuvres- lots of them. Dad is bringing the Hannukah spirit into things by planning to make fried foods- carciofi alla judea and calamari fritti. Oil = Hannukah. Maybe we'll make latkes, too. I saw a recipe for honey-drizzled chocolate cheese fritters that I'm interested in. The accompanying article said they'd be good for Hannukah (because of the oil) or Rosh Hashanah (because of the honey).

My parents went to Boulevard in San Francisco with some friends a week and a half ago. Read my mom's review here. Boulevard also has a new cookbook out; it sounded pretty intriguing at least from an aesthetic standpoint.

Also, while you're over at her blog, check out the personal attacks and wanking done by a few of her commenters (Devereaux and the mouse). Fun stuff. Jeez. Glad I don't get crap like that. Of course, is anyone going to disagree that vehemently with me about cookware or foodstuffs? Probably not. I did try with my post on foie gras a while ago, but no one took that bait.

I need to make something new! I was thinking about making a zabaglione with strawberries for dessert tonight, but then Mom said I didn't have to bring anything. And then I remembered that I had already basically written that recipe in the tiramisu recipe. I still brought cookies, though.

Also, I have started playing the oboe a little bit again. I didn't suck all that badly, which was amazing (only lasted half an hour before my lip gave out, though). But what was really amazing was that my reeds still worked. I mean, damn. Those things are three years old.
 
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Friday, December 16, 2005

Amazon Friday Sale stuff.

If you've got a Kitchenaid stand mixer, this might be of interest to you. My brother has the grinding attachment and he makes excellent sausage with it. This looks like it only comes with one cutting blade.

Also, the crepe/omelette pan is on sale again.
 
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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lasagna

1 1/4 lb. ground beef
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced, separated
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 14.5-oz. cans chopped tomatoes, drained
2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste

12 no-boil lasagna noodles (1 8-oz. package)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded or grated parmesan cheese for the top

Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meat to the pan, breaking it apart with a spatula or spoon. Brown the meat, then drain it in a colander (with small enough holes so you don't lose pieces of meat). Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then place back over the heat and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lower the heat to medium. Add the onion and some salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, then add the oregano, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and tomato paste. Stir to combine, then add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Let the sauce simmer slowly for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Combine the ricotta cheese, dried oregano, dried basil, and egg in a bowl. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste (or not, if you have reason to fear raw eggs).

Assemble thusly in a 9x13 baking dish:

(top)
Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup meat sauce
3 noodles
1 cup mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup meat sauce
2/3 cup ricotta mixture
3 noodles
1 cup mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup meat sauce
2/3 cup ricotta mixture
3 noodles
1 cup mozzarella
3/4 cup meat sauce
2/3 cup ricotta mixture
3 noodles
1 cup meat sauce
(bottom)

At this point, the lasagna can be covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days, or frozen up to 2 months.

Heat the oven to 350. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the cheese has browned slightly and is bubbly, another 15-30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.
 
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I am currently taking a very long time to write up the lasagna recipe. I'm at the layering stage, and it's frustrating trying to make, "Cover the noodles with some ricotta. Then cover the ricotta with sauce. Then cover the sauce with mozzarella. Then put three more pieces of pasta on top of the cheese. Then repeat all that until you run out of noodles," sound at all interesting.

Played D&D last night. We pretty much decided to screw our mission and go find a town where we can sell our loot to buy shiny new equipment. The hostage who we're supposed to rescue can just wait for two weeks. I'm sure her captors are very patient.
 
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Monday, December 12, 2005

I had about a cup of the espresso/brandy mix left over from the Diplomatico. I combined that with a cup of milk and a few tablespoons of cocoa mix and nuked it. Yum!
 
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Diplomatico
The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

1 1/4 cups strong espresso (find espresso, strong coffee doesn't really cut it)
5 Tbsp rum (I used brandy- it's just what I had)
5 tsp sugar
5 Tbsp water
16 ounces pound cake, cut into 1/4" slices
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp sugar
6 oz. semisweet chocolate coarsely chopped (or in convenient chocolate chip form)
Whipped cream and fresh fruit (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the espresso, rum, sugar, and water. Moisten a sheet of cheesecloth large enough to line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with plenty of overhang. Line the pan with the cheesecloth. Dip the pound cake, slice by slice, in the rum and espresso soak, then use the slices to line the bottom and sides of the pan. (Dip the cake slices very quickly or they will become too soggy to handle, let any excess liquid drain from the slices before lining the pan.) Leave no gaps, patching where necessary with pieces of soaked pound cake.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they turn pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water or in the microwave (2-3 minutes total, stirring every 30 seconds). Gradually pour the melted chocolate over the beaten egg yolks, mixing quickly with a rubber spatula until smoothly combined. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until the form stiff peaks. Stir a rounded tablespoon of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Spoon the chocolate filling into the cake-lined pan. Cover the filling with more slices of soaked pound cake (you may have some cake left over). Fold the moistened cheesecloth over the top of the cake. Refrigerate the diplomatico for at least one day, and up to a week.

When you take the cake out of the fridge, unfold the cheesecloth and pull it away from the top of the cake. Invert the loaf pan onto a platter and shake it firmly to free the cake and peel off the cheesecloth. Slice and serve. You could garnish the slices with whipped cream and fresh fruit, but it also tastes just fine on its own.
 
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Friday, December 09, 2005

My week in food has been pretty unexciting. I bought some hot dogs yesterday and combined them with my extra tube of crescent rolls. I was chowing down on pigs in a blanket for dinner. That was some trashy/wonderful noshing.

This weekend, I'm going to be making lasagna, which I see I have not written about yet. But since what I do is bascially follow the directions on the back of the Ronzoni no-cook noodles box, it's not terribly exciting. I will be making my own sauce instead of using a jar, though. I actually don't think I've ever done that before for a lasagna.

Oh, and some kind of dessert (we're having a dinner for my mom's birthday on Sunday). I was going to make tiramisu again, but for some reason, I cannot find ladyfingers in the grocery stores. It's quite annoying.

I need to do laundry tonight. I'm going through socks a lot faster now that I wear two pairs during the day and one at night. My feet get cold.

Woohoo, par-teeeee tomorrow night. It's time once again for Bud and Eddie's Holiday Hoo-hah, which is one of my favorite events of the year. Great food, strong drinks, and interesting people. Yay!
 
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Well, the results are in, and... we didn't win the Katamari fanart contest. I'm a bit sad. I still think we're the most bad-ass Katamari fans out there (closely follwed by the person who made this ridiculously cool cake [even though I think the Prince should have been made out of marzipan, not modeling clay]).

If you'd like to see who did win, go over to the We Love Katamari website (warning: flash) and looks at the Fans section. The six on the first page are the winners.
 
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Monday, December 05, 2005

Wahhh! My sauce broke!

My mom was trying to make her sweet potato-chipotle-maple-cream gratin thing less soupy. She thought the solution might be to make a bechamel sauce instead of just pouring the cream over the sliced sweet potatoes. I tried this out this weekend. I made the sauce (omg so tasty!), assembled the dish, and slid it into a 350 oven for an hour. When I took it out... well, it was very pretty, except for the fact that there was a centimeter of oil sitting on top of the whole thing. I spooned the oilslick off the top and cut into it. More oil beneath. ARGH! It was still quite yummy, I thought. But still, DAMN!

I must have done something wrong with the sauce. People (not me, clearly) use bechamel in lasagna all the time and it doesn't break in the oven!

I'm so sad.
 
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Friday, December 02, 2005

Alert! The world's best egg/omelette/crepe/crab cakes/potato pancakes pan is on sale at Amazon today! Even cheaper than it usually is- $17.99! I adore this pan, so does Rob, so do Jon and Ryan, so do Ryan's parents, so do Ryan's mom's coworkers. Come, join our cult of this pan.

I wouldn't have thought a rant about stapling could inspire such debate. It's interesting. I was taking notice of how I staple yesterday- I'm a diagonal stapler.
 
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