Monday, November 30, 2009
What lies ahead?
Well December of course. I am going to Matsuhisa with my father tomorrow night (the birthplace of the Nobu empire). You didn't think I'll let that go by un-blogged?
And December will also bring a return to Oregon and my co-blogger, so maybe we'll do something extra special with MB's holiday suggestions. Like what I don't know. But stay with us. There's more to come.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
All I want for Christmas is this deep fryer. And a pound of beef tallow. And some Belgian bintje potatoes.
If I had all that, I could make you the real belgian fries, the kind of fries that defy all expectations, and taste better than any deep fried potato you can get this side of the Atlantic.
The secret is in the double frying, and of course the potato (and the bintje's very unique ratio of size to starch - similar to, but not quite as good as a Yukon Gold), the sprinkling of salt and the mayonnaise. The double frying, which so many people ignore elsewhere, is what makes a Belgian fry perfect. It also should be beef tallow, not duck fat. I know its become the gourmet bistro trick of the last year, but duck fat just does not do the trick. Also - did you know that McDonald's used to use beef tallow to make their fries? It's one of the reasons Julia Child declared them to be so good. There are many rumors as to why McDonald's switched to vegetable oils in the 90's, none of which we need to go into now. But if you;ve had a McD's fry lately, you'll know they taste as sallow and weak as any other fast food fry. Beef tallow my friends, beef tallow!
And the yolky mayo to take it over the top.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
If MB and I had to drive down from the Bay Area to LA on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I would certainly hope we'd drive down in a stretch something driven by someone else than MB or I. That way we wouldn't notice the rest of California driving down the 5 today. Nor would we mind getting stuck in traffic for EVER on the last 50-mile stretch into LA.
The lovely driver of said stretchmobile would also be the one to stand in line at the Kettleman City In n' Out Burger and bring it back to us, so we wouldn't have to share space with that half of humanity that was not across the street getting Sundaes at McDonald's.
MB and I would probably have a lengthy debate as to whether the In n'Out burger is better than the Burgerville burger, and we'd be busy discussing it for the next forever hours as we inched our way back to SoCal after 2 very short but lovely days in the Berkeley hills.
PS: the weird non-food picture was taken while driving very slowly through the Cajón pass.
Friday, November 27, 2009
My co-blogger and I had a similar morning, except I did my guilty eating at Café Fanny in Berkeley. But it felt a lot like what was going down in McMinnville.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Unfortunately I stopped taking pictures once dinner got started, which is why there is no evidence of infamous vegetarian shepherd's pie. Just above is a picture of what is essentially the lower layer of the pie. I made a creamy buttery batch of mashed potatoes and celery root, layered it in a very pretty casserole dish and broiled it it for 15 minutes while the chicken (no pics) cooled. It was DELISH! Definitely the vegetarian special occasion meal of the moment. It takes at least half a day to prepare, but it is totally worth it. It is sort of the vegetarian version of boeuf bourguignon without the boeuf or the heart-valve clotting effect.
The soup is another keeper - it insanely easy, and tucked away at the beginning of the last historic Gourmet magazine, it is one of the many reasons you need to get a copy of it while you still can. The carrot and beet play off each other very subtly, and the soup doesn't taste of one or the other, but of a sweet and tart and slightly spicy earthy bowl of goodness. And you can't beat that soup for color! I added a dollop of sour cream and some toasted walnuts. It was pretty, and it was yummy.
We had a lovely dinner, and I was and am thankful to have shared it with the people I was with.
And now I look forward to eating left-overs and not going near a pot for at least 2 days!
But I'll report on that too, because there are 4 more days of November left, 4 more days of Nablopomo, 4 more meals (at least) to tell you about, and 4 more evenings to collect myself and post something before I collapse in bed with an episode of Community on Hulu.com, or one of MI-5 from netflix (if you don't know what I am talking about, drop me a comment and I'll elaborate), 4 more days during which I'll live my life with an eye towards what may be blog-worthy!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I almost finished my neighbors granola bars, but its the excedrin migarine pills (with the caffeine) that kept me going...
There will be much cooking tomorrow, and hopefully some pictures of the vegetarian shepherd's pie I've been thinking so much about, and my co-blogger's chicken, which is replacing the turkey this year, yay!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today I had a very rare quiet hour in my office - door closed, lecture and slides done, 1 hour to go before office hours. I'd picked up a salt bagel from a local bagel shop that does a decent job (by SoCal standards) and had the NYT crossword puzzle with me - I must have sensed I would have time to do it today.
I sat at my desk, salt bagel shmeared with scallion cream cheese and a slice of tomato in the left hand, pen in my right, bent over the crossword puzzle until both were done.
It was quite easily the best hour I have had since the matzo ball soup on Saturday.
Tomorrow I am driving 374 miles north - my delightful neighbor gave me a batch of her home made granola bars, and between those and the peanut butter & jelly sandwich the beast and I will share on our drive up, I think I will be quite satisfied.
I hope to be able to get the recipe for those granola bars , because they are insanely good, and because I'd like, for once, to give you and actual recipe on this blog. The bars are sweetened with brown sugar and dates, and they have oats and sunflower seeds and almonds and god knows what else in them. My neighbor says their healthy. Right.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This will have to suffice.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Here in the valley, this weekend and next are big wine tasting weekends. We are going to do our part a bit today and taste some hopefully nice pinots this afternoon. Since we are close enough to the holiday season that the store is busy (yeah!) I will be working in the morning. This leads me to consider a slow cooking soup for dinner tonight. I have some dried fava beans in my pantry that I will be using with some of the left over chicken. Will report on progress later. I haven't given Thanksgiving cooking a second thought yet! Kudos to my co-blogger for being organized. I have considered just roasting the annoying cat and calling it good, but I think that my children would be unhappy.
Oh, as I wrote this, I INHALED a cornmeal waffle with chestnut honey on top. So. Good.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The dessert was a nice enough chocolate mousse, presented in a minute but very cute little pot one a very pretty plate. Don't you think it is pretty?
On other issues, did anyone notice how amazingly in-synch MB and I are??? I post about my list of thxgiving preparations yesterday, and HE makes his list of 101 dishes to prep before the big day. It's like we are connected or something...
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The plan is to make the vegetarian shepherd's pie from the very last issue of Gourmet magazine. It involves making a deep and rich vegetable stock and roasting enormous amounts of vegetables and peeling pearl onions etc. It will also involve two baking dishes since the recipe calls for cream and butter in the mashed potato&celery root puree, which I will leave out of the vegan version.
Then there will be chicken instead of turkey, and my fingers are crossed that this increases to probability that the picky eaters will have some of it this year.
I am quite sure they won't care for the acorn squash stuffed with bulgur, pine nuts and cranberries, or the fennel& radicchio salad, or the scarlet carrot soup (again from the last Gourmet RIP). But maybe they'll have some of the mashed potatoes I'll save from the shepherd's pie before I mix in the celery root. And there'll be lots of bread for them to nibble on (thank you Acme).
This w-e I will make the rich vegetable stock and freeze it. On Tuesday evening I'll make the scarlet carrot soup (beets give it the color) and the vats of frozen stock will keep it cool on the way up. I need to find a cooler that'll keep all this stuff safe from the hound, who like 3 of the 7 dinner guests, is a complete and uncontrolled omnivore.
Come to think of it, what I actually need is a locked safe...
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I recovered from the day, I relaxed.
There's nothing in the fridge though, and I really should not be around knives after having bourbon, so when my friend Marne came over we decided dinner was going to be a burger. We went old school - all the way to the Apple Pan, where there's plaid wall paper dating from 1953 on the walls, and wood paneling, and the menu hasn't changed since they printed it. We had burgers and fries with a side of hickory sauce - the tartest relish and ketchup concoction imaginable, and it was delicious! We sat at the horse-shoe shaped counter and Marne flirted with the septuagenarian waiter and I left with my hands sticky from that sauce.
What a way to end a very long Tuesday. Upwards and onwards to Wednesday and day 18!
Monday, November 16, 2009
My flight back to heLL-A leaves at 8.30pm, there's a booksigning in P'land at 6, a class to prep for tomorrow and an overdue paper to revise, so this is a busy Monday.
So busy that lunch was improvised with the 4 eggs left in the fridge and a quick stop at the Lafayette Mercado. Result: calabaza jalapeño omelettes with quesadillas and green salsa. I snuck in a very non-vegetarian chicken and potato cruchy taquito with roasted jalapeños and green onions.
Perhaps it was not the low-fat lunch we should be focusing on, but it was good. And it was quick!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I started the day with a bagel and lox (it was ok, but Portland is not NY in this respect) and ended with the most perfect grilled chicken breast and green salad, courtesy of chef Chris at the Dundee Bistro. It was not on the menu, but when I explained the nature of our w-e and my need for comfort, he knew what I meant.
His dinner takes #1 place on today's top 15 list of Juliette's comfort foods. Below a complete list not exactly in order of preference, the makings of which are almost always available in my fridge and pantry.
#1 grilled chicken and green salad with tangy lemon&olive oil dressing
#2 home made tomato soup
#3 my mom's rice pudding
#4 gouda, butter and wheat bread sandwich
#5 my grandmother's chicken soup
#6 soft boiled egg with toast "soldiers"
#7 corn flakes with sweetened milk
#8 PG tips tea with splash of milk (not technically a food, but serious comfort nonetheless)
#9 cream of wheat with sour cherries
#10 cucumber sandwiches made with soft English white bread
#11 sliced tomatoes
#12 plain yogurt with brown sugar
#13 apples (any kind as long as they are tart and hard)
#14 cheddar cheese + avocado + mango chutney
#15 Ritter Sport milk chocolate with hazelnuts
What's on your list?
Beet Orange Salad
Prepare two to three large beets (I mean really large. These were softball sized, so adjust your beet quantities accordingly). I am not going into detail as to how to prepare them, assuming that you either a) already know how or b) can figure it out. Once they have cooled, sliced them into thin (2mm thick) slices, then cut into wedges, like an apple. Really, you can cut them anyway you want.
Take three large mandarin oranges. Peel and slice the sections out so there is no pith and no membrane on them. Cut or rip each slice in half.
Toss together in a large bowl with about 3-4 TB coarsely chopped chives. Take one small red onion and slice as thin as you can - like paper thin. Add about 2-3 TB of the onions and the chives to the bowl. Toss.
Add salt to taste - something with texture to it like fleur du sel is ideal. Add freshly ground pepper - also to taste. Take best quality olive oil and drizzle on top. Add about 2-3 TB of red wine vinegar. Toss all together and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. Often cold dishes need more salt for the flavors to really meld. I also added more vinegar to cut the sweetness of the beets.
These blue bags are great not just for holding The Times, but a myriad of other things as well. In our house, they get stuffed in a basket by the front door and when we are taking the dog for a walk, we grab one to use as a poop-bag. I have also used them to hold sandwiches, a collection of parts from a child's crib, and dog treats. They must be made of very special plastic because they rarely break, and in the wettest weather, my paper is always dry.
Except for this morning. You knew this was coming right? My paper is wet. From the masthead to the fold - soaking. So I have spread the paper out in my living room to let it dry. I type this while I nurse my frustration and wait for the bread to toast. I know, I should be grateful that I can even get home delivery out here in the boondocks, but this really chaps my hide.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
And yet that is what I did. They surprised me at the end of my hair appointment - we had tofu fries and veggie rolls at a modern and sanitized version of a Thai-ish noodle bar in a nice open air Oregon mall where a disturbingly high number of stores have closed since last year. And then we had a bag of candy from a store I think will make it through this recession (because people will delay buying shoes, but candy is immediate therapy).
These two fabulous girls - these two! - they were my therapy, and between them and the candy and the insane weather (hail! sun! rain!), this was exactly the kind of day that erases all the grime of LA from me, and encompasses many of the reasons why I want to (will) live here.
And the rest of the day was spent sampling pinot noirs.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday 13th, is it?
A long time ago I swore I would never forsake my Blackberry for the sleek, glib, facile iPhone. The universe has a way of laughing in my face, loudly. First there was the broccoli revelation: after 39 years of professing I was a true blood broccoli hater and that the stuff made me gag, I had the most amazing broccoli dish at Nick's Italian cafe in McMinnville. Its tangy garlicky tartness made me a broccoli lover forever. Then there was that Coldplay song that made me eat my words about Chris Martin making my eardrums bleed. And ultimately the iPhone, upon which I am writing this post, one finger-tap at a time, from up on high in my Alaska Airlines seat. iPhone apps RULE, especially those that let you draft post from miles in the sky.
Because of this app, I can write this, my 12th post, before the end of the 12th day. And I can share the news that the Chipotle burrito franchise closest to LAX has the most unexpectedly interesting clientele - orange county mom with two surly kids, office friends, a soldier, a Mexican mother-daughter pair, a very tattooed dude, a very preppy guy, and a father with his son and teh son's girlfriend, not talking to each other, not one single word for the duration of their burritos. And while my burrito could not hold a candle to yesterday's cheese or the coffee cup I'll get from my boyfriend tomorrow morning, it sure as hell beat the pitiful dining options in terminal 3.
While we are on the subject of apps - I love the epicurious app, and the wholefoods recipe app which is surprisingly easy to use and practical. And the measurement conversion app of course.
Internets, or my fellow and dear co-blogger, what are your favorite food related apps?
Landing in 15 minutes. Must turn iPhone off. From high above Ashland, Oregon
Your committed nablopomo blogger
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Apart from liking certain numbers , you know what else I like? I like cheese. A lot. And after yesterday's salt soup fiasco I vowed like Scarlett O'Hara never to do that again.
I had an errand to run in Beverly Hills today. There's not much I like about BH, but there is one place I LOVE. And I mean, I luuuurve it. Meet today's boyfriend: the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.
I walked in as if I were walking out of the desert and into a cold glass of diet coke. I inhaled the smell of mold and tangy goat milk, and looked into the eyes of a real cheese monger and told him -"I want three pieces of cheese. They'll have to be enough for dinner, and they have to rock my world".
They did. I got one sharp Sardinian cheese that tasted like a mature version of a Ptit Basque, and a Spanish creamy blue cheese that made my knees melt, and the most pornographic tiny burrata. I ate the cheese with a delicious balsamic cream (yes you read right: balsamic.cream. it was amazing) and shaved fennel with a tiny bit of lemon, olive oil and sea salt. The last of the gooey burrata (the part that was spread out over the plate, mixed in with some lemony fennel dressing and drops of the balsamic cream) was neatly scooped up with chunks of a honey crisp apple - those really are every bit as good as everyone says they are.
Ah redemption, thy name is burrata.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Why would someone who idolizes cookbook authors eat such crap? Because of a chronic case of lethargia, brought on largely by a case of Los Angeles. This town does not inspire to cook. Or perhaps it's the LA kitchen? Or the fact that it is still too warm to embrace winters soups and stews, but the tomatoes don't taste like anything anymore either.
This w-e, as I lay in bed waging war against the flu, the one bright spot was the arrival of the NYT on Sunday. It's not just about the x-word puzzle (although it is largely about that) - I always (mostly) enjoy the food essay in the magazine.
This week's essay was about the return of a retro appetizer - the bagna cauda. Not only do I LOVE bagna cauda, it also reminds me of one of this summer's dinners in Oregon, and it reminds me of my Oregon mama Joanie who told me how to make it and what pot to use and what best to dip into it.
Bagna cauda uses three of my favorite ingredients: butter, anchovies and garlic, and my other boyfriend - olive oil. Mix those four together and you have the mother of silky smooth baths of savory yumminess, which I am pretty sure is the literal translation of 'bagna cauda'.
I made it for a dinner party we had this summer - 4 people plus us, and I had never met them before. The bagna cauda and a big plate of sliced crusty bread, chiogga beets and fennel and we were all fast friends by the time we were scraping the garlicky anchovies off the bottom of the pot.
That an a couple of bottles of bubbly made for the perfect introduction on a perfect Oregon summer's evening, the perfect memory of which will hopefully carry me away from the salty TJ's experience I am laboring to digest.
Monday, November 9, 2009
My co-blogger has inspired me to try to blog more. This is a crazy-busy time of year for me. But, there is something soothing and so normal about posting periodically. Since the weather is crap right now: really cold and wet, a soup for dinner was in order. Lately, we have been eating a lot of soups. They are fairly easy to make, don't take too long and are very forgiving. Here is what I made tonight:
Chicken Pesto Soup
In a deep pot or dutch oven saute in olive oil:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 small fingerling potatoes, chopped in small pieces
2 small sweet potatoes, yes, these are chopped too
In a cast iron skillet cook up two chicken breast until just barely cooked. Remove breasts from pan and set aside. Add some water and soften the browned chicken goodness with the water. Add this to the dutch oven with all the vegetables.
Add 6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth to the dutch oven. Add 3 TB of prepared pesto to the dutch oven and stir well. Chop up two large handfuls of fresh arugula and add to the veggie-broth mixture.
With an immersion blender or something like that, blend the soup together until moderately smooth. If you like really smooth, blend longer. If you like a little chunky, blend for a shorter period of time. Cut chicken breasts into bit-sized pieces and add to soup.
Add fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste.
I am going to serve this with a little assiago cheese and a baguette. I think everyone will be happy. The photo above does not do it justice, but it is good.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Uwajimaya - This is the mecca for Asian food in the Pacific Northwest. There are three stores, one in Beaverton, OR and the other two up in Seattle, WA and Bellevue, WA. Their selections are huge, but I suspect that a more discerning and knowledgeable shopper would have some complaints. Uwajimaya can be expensive, partially because some of the items just cost more, but also they can charge more because they are almost the only game in town. I took my friend SD for her maiden visit. She came with a list. I was like - list? I just wander around and fill my cart! No wonder I end up spending more than I should when I go there. I bought:
vermicelli rice noodles
pocky sticks (very important)
ginger/honey tea packets
gummie candy (stocking stuffers)
a bottle of wasabi mayonnaise (gift for my brother)
a bottle of gamay (not Asian, but so, so good)
Then, I introduced the lovely SD to another favorite store of mine. The Dutch American Market and Import store. I discovered this place in college when I was cleaning house for a Dutch couple. They had all sorts of Dutch treats in their kitchen that I hadn't seen since my childhood. Bolletje, gouda, roggebrood. Since then, I trek out there a few times a year, but always near the holiday season so that I can stock up on chocolate and treats. Purchased:
chocolate letters (kids and cousins initials)
chocoladehagel (chocolate sprinkles)
gestampte muijes (literal translation is "stomped mice" - is actually powdered anise with sugar)
hopjes (coffee flavored hard candy)
seems like there was something else, but I cannot remember what
All in all, a very fun trip. We ate Lebanese food for lunch (oh how I love thee fresh-out-of-the-oven pita) and had a great americano at Barista.
Came home to take-and-bake pizza, which is actually pretty good!
Today is very, very wet and the first time it seems cold. Husband has prepared a veritable feast - green chili enchiladas and red chili posole and pork soup. Looking forward to it. Delivered the gouda and roggebrood to my Dutch grandfather. He rubbed his hands together with glee. I think that he was almost as happy as when I bring him cigarettes.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Probably because I really do have the flu and am delirious.
And now, for something completely different (and a week late):