Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

Fall is one of the best times of year for cooking. The last of the summer produce lingers while squash, apples, and pears are in abundance. When the weather gets cold, it's the perfect time to fire up the stove.

The legendary Paula Wolfert has a new book called
Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking. She must have an amazing publicist (or be one herself) because her clay pot recipes are everywhere, from Food & Wine to today's LA Times. Paula has a knack for my favorite kind of cooking, the slow braise. And, when it comes to Moroccan food, her recipes "roc" the house (ugh, that was bad). Her recipe for Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Melting Tomatoes and Onions is probably best cooked in an earthenware tagine but if you don't have one, try an enameled Dutch oven, like a Le Crueset. The flavors in this dish will not only taste amazing but the smells in your kitchen will immediately transport you to North Africa. The bonus? With the exception of the pinch of saffron, these are ingredients that wont break the bank.

Always a huge fan of any recipe by Mark Bittman, the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Figs, in today's NY Times, caught my eye in an instant. Fresh Brussels sprouts are having their day right now, see if you can find them still on the stalk-very fresh and, frankly, they look damn cool. The combo of salty, sweet, and crunchy in this recipe might just convert those Brussels sprout haters out there. I couldn't leave the Times without a peak at the Leek Bread Pudding recipe too. I love savory bread pudding, kind of like rich, creamy stuffing. The recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller's new Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. It is part of a lovely article on how Thomas has evolved over the years, making me very anxious to get my hands on this book.

All this talk of savory food has me craving something sweet. This year I have noticed dozens of articles and blog posts about apple cider doughnuts. Mary Risley, of Tante Marie's Cooking School, posted a recipe for an apple cake on her web site too (I've tried it and it is amazing). In today's Washington Post there is a great looking recipe for Apple Cider Doughnuts. If you've never made homemade doughnuts before, they are not hard at all. Just be prepared with a bit of time (the dough needs to rise), a lot of oil (remember, this is just for cooking the doughnuts-you don't actually consume it all), and some hungry eaters. Fresh doughnuts are best eaten right away. What a treat for Halloween!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Not to Do in the Kitchen

(green beans cooked the right way, with tarragon lemon creme fraiche from New Flavors for Vegetables)

I know, it is always better to teach as an optimist-telling people how to do things right as opposed to dwelling on what they do wrong. Honestly, there are just some things you should not do in the kitchen and they warrant their own "glass is half empty" post. This list is a start...think of it as part one of many to come.

-Never oil your water when cooking pasta. Oil clings to your noodles, creating a slippery surface that doesn't allow your sauce to cling. You'll end up with naked pasta swimming over a pool of sauce instead of a cohesive dish that feels like it all comes together.

-(almost) Never rinse your pasta. Same basic theory-when you rinse the starchy exterior off your pasta, you get rid of the best starch. This starch is what helps sauce cling to each noodle perfectly. Exception: some Asian noodles will need to be rinsed to remove this starch but make that the exception, not the norm.

-Never cover your pot when cooking green vegetables. It's great to cover a pot of water to help speed up the boiling process. But, once you've added that asparagus or broccoli, leave the lid off. Covering it up keeps the natural acids from dissipating, causing your vibrant green beans to turn that nasty shade of khaki. Yuck.

-Never wait until
the end of the cooking process to season your food . Food needs to be seasoned throughout the cooking process so it absorbs the flavors that make each ingredient stand out. By salting only at the end, the seasoning coats the exterior of your food but wont penetrate beyond that, making for some damn bland dishes.

-Never heat a non-stick pan when it is empty. The coatings on these pans should always have something in them whey they are conducting heat or they can release toxic gasses.

-Hot pan+cold oil=food wont stick. Since most of your cooking should not be in non-stick pans, use this rule for everything else. Heat your saute pans empty (again, not for a non-stick pan) until it gets very hot. THEN add the oil followed by the food you're cooking. The combination of a hot pan and the cold oil will keep food from sticking.

-Never turn a steak the instant it hits the pan. It's such a natural tendency to want to move a steak, chicken breast, or pork chop all over the pan right after it goes in-DON'T! Allow your meat to sear, creating a golden brown crust and eventually releasing itself from the bottom of the pan. Moving it around too soon will only tear the meat to shreds and you'll never get that nice, crunchy exterior.

-Never buy black pepper already ground. Invest in a pepper mill and fill it with good quality black peppercorns. Grind them as you need them and take in the scent of the fresh stuff-it packs much more of a punch.

-Never dress a salad until you're ready to eat it. No one likes soggy greens. And while you're there, use your impeccably clean hands to give it a toss-they are the best kitchen tool for judging the right amount of vinaigrette.

-Never go to the market without checking to see if you have 1) chicken broth 2) canned tomatoes 3) olive oil 4) eggs and 5) onions/carrots/ celery. A pantry is not a pantry without these very simple basics.

-Never admit to mistakes that you correct along the way.
Cooking is not an exact science and when things go wrong with a recipe they can almost always be fixed. When this happens, keep the secret safe. Who cares? In fact, some of the best recipes are invented by making mistakes along the way.

-Never forget that food is love.
Cooking for yourself or other people is the most satisfying thing you can do. Food brings people together, creating a sense of community the way nothing else can. Get yourself in the kitchen and see how it feels. You'll never regret it.

Anything you'd like to add?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cinnamon, Caramel, Gingerbread-Oh My!

Last night I made cinnamon ice cream, homemade caramel sauce, and toasted pecans. My plan was to cut up bananas for a twist on the banana split but when my husband and son surprised me with a birthday cake, I tossed the banana idea aside. Two desserts? Surely a happy accident that they went together stunningly. It was a gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting from the lovely Miette bakery and the combo was perfection. Gingerbread/cinnamon/caramel/pecans might just be the best birthday on a plate you can imagine. My favorite part? Eating leftover cake for breakfast today...don't tell anyone. As you can see from the picture above, lots of fork (and finger) prints-I'm definitely getting caught.

If you're in the mood for homemade ice cream, this could not be easier. Give it a shot. It's my recipe for Vanilla Bean Ice cream with a slight adjustment. When you're heating the cream/milk/sugar, add six cinnamon sticks, gently crushed. Once the mixture has warmed, remove it from the heat and let it steep for about 30 minutes. Strain and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Just the right amount of subtle cinnamon flavor.

If you're craving caramel sauce too, here's how I make mine. Once it is done, it keeps in the fridge for at least a week. If you're ever looking for the perfect gift to bring when you are invited somewhere for dinner, this is it. It will assure you continued invitations for many years to come.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

6 tbs butter, cut into 6 pieces

1/4 tsp fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water, stirring gently to avoid any splatter on the sides of the pan. Heat the mixture over medium high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue cooking but do not stir again. If there are splattered bits of sugar on the side of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to brush them down. The sugar will boil and cook until it begins to turn amber in color, 4-5 minutes. If necessary, gently swirl the pan to even out the color. When the mixture is a nice dark caramel color, remove it from the heat and s-l-o-w-l-y pour in the cream-be careful as it will bubble up and make an obscene mess if you do it too quickly. Add the butter and stir gently until melted and well combined. Stir in the salt and let the caramel cool. Transfer to a jar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. It works cold or gently heated, over ice cream or just on a big spoon. Just cover your tracks so you don't get caught!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

I hate to say it but I think I'm actually ready to change my clock back. These pitch dark mornings are not helping my motivation to get out of bed! They are good for concocting fall menus. Here are some ideas from today's food sections.

Ragu and Russ Parsons-two very good things. In today's LA Times, Russ writes about rich, meaty, slow simmered ragu-perfect on pasta (or even polenta). Every Italian nonna has her own version, usually using different cuts of pork and occasionally beef too . I love, love, love the "Sunday Supper Sauce" served over lumachine at Pizzeria Delfina, it simmers for days and I keep trying to weasle my way in the kitchen to learn how to make it. In the meantime, this version infuses the sauce with pork butt (that's shoulder, if you didn't know) and finishes it with sausage. I think it screams fall and would love a batch to keep in my freezer.

Quick dinner for the family? Get yourself a piece of wild salmon (or whatever wild fish is fresh at your market) and try Sauteed Wild Salmon with Brown Butter Cucumbers. In typical Melissa Clark fashion, she writes (in today's NY Times) about falling into this recipe a bit by accident. Our luck-now we can make it any weeknight in no time flat and it sounds just delish. If you need a fun side, you can try Mark Bittman's Bok Choy with Shitakes and Oyster Sauce. The recipe calls for dried shitakes, which are any any Asian market, and add a real depth to dishes like this one. If you can't find them, a few extra fresh ones will work just fine.

Last night I taught a class where we spent a lot of time going over different methods of cooking eggs. My favorite part was poaching. You should have heard the cheers erupt as the class watched each other master the method, giving each egg a perfect flip. Another delicate way to cook an egg is a French method called "en cocette"-baked slowly so the whites set up and the yolks stay nice and runny. In this recipe, they are baked in jars (ramekins work just fine) over a bed of spinach or bacon. They are the stars of a fall brunch menu consisting of hash browns, poached pears with mascarpone, and a Salad of Radiccho and Orange. Fall brunch is a great way to entertain. I also love the idea of making eggs for dinner.

Hope this inspires you to get in the kitchen this fall and make some magic yourself!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Making a Recipe Your Own, and a new soup recipe

When I teach my classes, I use recipes from many different sources. I page through magazines and cookbooks, read blogs and recipe sites, and create my own recipes based on dishes I've eaten at restaurants. I always credit the source of a recipe, whether I use it verbatim or adapt it slightly. However, when I've made a recipe several times and it has morphed significantly from its original state, I claim it as mine.

I find it almost impossible to create a brand new recipe-there aren't many things that haven't been cooked in one form or another. It comes down to ingredients and methods that make a recipe unique. Just changing 1 tbs of butter to 2 tbs of butter isn't enough, nor is switching the place where one ingredient goes into the dish. The end product must be unique to your recipe for it to be your very own. People work hard to write recipes that work and they deserve the credit for them. In this world of community generated recipe sites, one never knows who created a recipe, if it was tested, and if it even works.

On Wednesday I posted a link to a soup recipe from the LA Times, Kobacha Squash and Celery Root Soup with Maple Syrup and Browned Butter. The recipe came from a book called Love Soup by Anna Thomas. I made the soup yesterday and found myself ill prepared to follow the recipe (blame one of those trips to the store when you "think" you remember what you needed to buy). My recipe morphed into something different from the original but I loved what it became, and can't wait to make it again. It's quite rich so pairing it with a simple green salad would make the perfect dinner.

Give it a try. If you don't have the right ingredients, make it your own and see what happens. I'd love to hear about it.

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup with Browned Butter

1 2-3 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 1 1/2-pound celery root, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-2 inch chunks

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small white onion, diced

5 large sage leaves

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (water works fine too)

pinch cayenne pepper

1 tbs pure maple syrup

2 tbs butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the squash, celery root, 1 tbs of the olive oil, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Spread the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are golden brown on all sides and tender when pierced with a knife, 45-60 minutes, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium stock pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, whole sage leaves, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery and onions are very tender, 10-12 minutes. When the squash and celery root are done, add them to the pot along with 4 cups of water, the chicken broth, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the squash and celery root are very soft, almost falling apart, 20-30 minutes more. Season with a pinch of cayenne and the maple syrup.

Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth. Transfer it to a clean pot and add water, if needed, to thin the soup to your desired consistency.
At this point the soup can be cooled and refrigerated up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.

Just before serving, heat the butter in a small saute pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns a nutty brown color, 3-4 minutes. The butter can either be stirred into the soup or drizzled on top of each portion.

Serves 6-8

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Crepes in a Snap

A few weeks ago I asked what you'd like to do better in the kitchen. I'll eventually get to everything but loved Tori's idea of crepes. The topic deserves a video, and I'm working on that, but in the meantime I wanted to at least scratch the surface.

Crepe batter could not be any easier to make. I starting making a batch at 7:05 this morning and it was done at 7:09 (yes, I timed it). The only thing that takes any time at all is melting butter, and you know how fast that is. The ingredients all go into a blender and that's it, really. For perfectly tender crepes the batter should rest for 20-30 minutes before you use it but its not the end of the world if this doesn't happen.

Not only are they delicious for breakfast, they make perfect snacks, a quick lunch, or even dessert. My son likes "jelly rolls", just jam and butter rolled into the crepe. Other fillings you'll see around our house are scrambled eggs, sliced mushrooms, ham and Gruyere, and, my personal fave, butter/sugar/lemon juice. The batter will keep a couple of days in the fridge so I just leave it in the blender jar with the lid on top-makes it a lot easier to pour into the pan.

When you go to make your crepe, be sure you use a well seasoned skillet or non stick pan. It should be nice and hot with a very, very thin layer of melted butter (too much and the batter wont stick enough to hold its shape). I hold the pan in one hand and the blender jar in the other. While pouring from the jar, I gently swirl the pan to make sure the batter covers the bottom in one even, thin layer, quickly pouring off any excess back into the jar. Always make a test crepe first-you may find your batter needs a bit more flour if it seems to thin or a bit more milk if its too thick and not spreading well. Let the crepe cook for about 1 minute, just until the edges start to release from the side of the pan. Using a fork, spatula, or your fingers, flip the crepe over and cook about 30 seconds more. This is when I top the crepe with jam, spreading it with the back of a spoon, or any other filling. If it is cheese you need to melt, reduce the heat a touch and cover the pan briefly. Roll the crepe, using a fork, spatula, or your fingers then slide it out onto a plate. Alternatively, you can fold the crepe in half then in half again to form a wedge/triangle-great for more bulky fillings like veggies or eggs.

It is a good thing crepes are a snap to make because once I put them on a plate around here they disappear in seconds. Next time you're stuck for a good breakfast idea, even on a weekday, remember the simplicity of crepes. In less time than it takes for your coffee to brew you can have thin, delicate, buttery crepes. Yum.

Simple Crepes

1 cup flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp sugar (optional-I like it for the browning effect)

1 1/4 cups milk

2 eggs

1 tbs melted butter (melt it in the pan where you will cook your crepes), plus extra for the pan

In a blender, place the flour, salt, sugar, and milk. Blend until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Add the eggs and blend until combined. With the blender running, add the butter. If you have time, let the batter rest for about 30 minutes.

Heat a medium non stick skillet over medium heat. If you melted the butter in the pan, there is probably a thin film of it leftover, perfect for crepe cooking. If not, add a small piece of butter (1/2 tsp ) and let it melt in an even layer. When the pan is hot, pour in about 1/4 cup of the batter and immediately swirl the pan so the batter covers the bottom in an even, thin layer, pouring any excess back into the blender jar. Cook until the sides are lightly browned and pulling away from the edges of the pan, about 1 minute Using a fork, a spatula, or your fingers, flip the crepe over. Top with jam, cheese, or your favorite filling and cook about 30 seconds more. Using a fork, gently roll up the crepe (or fold it in quarters) and slide it onto a serving plate. Cook remaining crepes the same way, adding a bit of butter to the pan only as needed. Extra batter can be refrigerated for two days.

Makes 12+ crepes

(You can also cook all the crepes, stacking them between squares of parchment paper. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days or freeze up to one month)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

San Francisco got pummeled with rain and wind yesterday. Perfect cooking weather if you ask me. Here's what looks good.

Soup is one of my favorite things to make. It is forgiving, it is ideal to make in advance, leftovers are always good, and it makes a simple meal with a quick salad on the side. In today's LA Times the recipe for Kobocha Squash and Celery Root Soup looks fantastic but, add the Maple Syrup Brown Butter garnish and it is really special. Roasting the veggies will caramelize them for just the right amount of sweetness, giving the soup a lot of depth. If Kobocha squash isn't in your market, peeled and seeded butternut squash will work just fine.

Chimichurri Sauce is the new pesto-its everywhere. The green herbaceous sauce, from Argentina, can really be used anywhere you use pesto or salsa verde but I love it in its traditional place, along side grilled meat. It has an acidity that really cuts through the richness of red meat so the pairing really works. In the NY Times there is a recipe for Steak with Chimichurri Mushrooms where the steaks are quickly seared and then very slow roasted in a 150 degree oven. I'm not sure how practical that is for most people so I'd throw my steaks on the grill then follow the rest of the recipe for the sauce and shrooms. Dinner in a snap!

Reading today's Washington Post a recipe for California Chicken caught my eye. Hmmm, what makes chicken "California Chicken"? I guess its the orange in the marinade but I'm still a bit stumped. Whatever it is, this marinated and braised chicken looks tasty and oh so easy.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flexing your "Mussels"

(actual mussels prepared by "team mussel" at our cooking party last weekend-thanks Chris, Kim, Mary, and Bob)

When the weather begins to cool down I always start thinking about fall and winter entertaining. I love having people over for appetizers and drinks and am always on the hunt for recipes I can make in advance. These mussels are one of my favorites. Adapted from a recipe by one of my favorite chef's, Tom Douglas, they are creamy, smoky, and crunchy, not to mention easy. The actual mussel becomes fairly mild which makes these nice for those mussel-shy friends you might have. Clams work beautifully too.

The best thing about this recipe is the make-ahead part. You can assemble these completely and have them in the fridge overnight. Take them about about 30 minutes before you're ready to heat them, and after a 5 minute trip to your oven they are ready to eat. I love serving them on a platter covered in rock salt. Not only does it keep the shells from teetering all over the place, it looks damn good too.

Creamy Mussels on the Half Shell

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

½ lemon, thickly sliced

10 thyme sprigs, plus ½ teaspoon minced thyme leaves

5 whole peppercorns

1½ pounds medium mussels (about 60) scrubbed and debearded as needed

3 thick slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces, or “lardons”

5 tablespoons butter

1 medium leek finely chopped, white and light green parts only

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup Panko (or coarse, dry) breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley

In a large saucepan, combine the wine with shallot, lemon slices, thyme sprigs, and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the mussels are open, about 5 minutes; remove the pan from the heat.
Discard any mussels that have no opened. Pull the remaining mussels out of their shells and discard half of each shell. Arrange remaining shells on a baking sheet in a single layer and place a mussel in each one. Strain the broth into a glass measuring cup, leaving any grit behind.

In a medium sauté pan cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring until browned and crisp, 5-7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined dish and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.
Add 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and melt it over medium heat. Add the leek with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of the mussel cooking broth and cook until reduced and syrupy, about 15 minutes. Whisk in the creme fraiche and simmer for a few minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the bacon and minced thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool then top each mussel with about 1 tablespoon of the mixture. If not serving right away, mussels can be tightly covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet. Add the Panko and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle the crumbs over the mussels and bake in the upper third of the oven until hot and bubbling, about 5 minutes. If the tops of the mussels are not browned, turn the oven to broil and, watching carefully, broil until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer the mussels to a platter lined with rock salt and serve immediately.

If you're searching for a Thanksgiving appetizer you can make ahead, give these a try.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Doughnuts Done Right

There is something about a perfect doughnut that is incredibly hard to resist. I'm not one to seek out a doughnut. In fact, I've heard if you are given a doughnut it has no calories...I wish. On my trip to Seattle this summer, I found myself driving by Top Pot doughnuts several times. What used to be one downtown location has expanded to several, thanks, I'm sure, to their deal with Starbucks (yep, these are the doughnuts you see screaming at you from their pastry case every morning). They are ok when you buy them at other coffee shops but when you stop at Top Pot and buy one fresh, there is nothing like it. I just couldn't resist.

Unike the rising fame of cupcakes and now fried chicken, the doughnut has anchored itself in our world of favorite foods many years. Top Pot's, however, are different. Light, not greasy, and meant to be enjoyed slow like any other great pastry. With flavors like Pink Feather Boa (cake doughnut with pink icing and coconut), Valley Girl (lemon filled), and Glazed Blueberry, it's hard to pick a favorite. I'm a sucker for a maple old fashioned doughnut and when mine was looking right at me from the top of the case, it made my decision easy.

I sat in the sunshine with a cup of Top Pot's own coffee and loved every minute of it. Guilt ridden? Sure, a little, but for some reason when it is a Top Pot doughnut you feel like it will all be okay. You're craving one right now, aren't you?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

I'm fighting a nasty cold so I'm doing a lot more reading about what tastes good than actually tasting it. Here's what I like today...

If your read this blog regularly, you know that I have a sweet spot for rice pudding. I love it hot, cold, thick, or thin. In today's LA Times there is a recipe, via Wine Bistro Pierre LaFond in Santa Barbara, for Rice Pudding with Banana and Pistachio. It's served cold, making it perfect to stash way back in the fridge so only you know where it is (not that I've ever done that). This is a great way to use a banana that is a little over-ripe. When my bananas get this way I just throw them in the freezer-they work perfectly in banana bread or smoothies. Guess next time I'll just have to make rice pudding.

From the now ubiquitous latte to the ever present cupcake, food trends have a tendency to take over like wild fire. Up next? Fried chicken. Not that it ever really went out of fashion but it's taking New York by storm and I'm sure it'll be on a restaurant menu near you if it isn't already. At
Momofuku Ko a Korean style chicken is served along side an American version, just a few times a day and family style-2 whole chickens, all the sides you can eat, and a $100 price tag. Now that better be some chicken! For a bit less money, you can tackle it at home, thanks to the NY Times. The recipe in today's food section for Korean Fried Chicken takes only about 30 minutes to make, plus an hour to marinate. Think lots of garlic and chili paste and super crispy skin...yep, I might just pass on the cupcake too.

I love the Washington Post for its quick and easy recipes and this week's section doesn't fall short. For a great side, or veggie entree, try Moroccan Chickpeas with Apple. Bright spices, crunchy apple, and (even canned) chickpeas transform into a North African dish that would be great with a roast chicken or even just a big bowl of no-fail brown rice.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Julia Inspiration

This past Sunday I taught a class at Tante Marie's called "Cooking for the Family". It was a day of hands on cooking, making recipes for weeknight dinners to please all kinds of palates. I was thrilled to see a handful of my past students returning for the class. One woman particulary stood out.

Jessie has taken many of my classes. A relative newlywed, I helped her with her wedding registry, knocking off those worthless kitchen gadgets and picking great cookware and knives. She works full time but makes time to cook when ever she can. With the summer off, she was cooking three course meals for she and her husband and I could see her face fill with pride when she talked about them.

Like most of us, Jessie saw Julie and Julia. As I've mentioned, I liked the movie. I found it not only entertaining but motivating. Jessie told me she left the theater completely inspired to cook. She is too young to have witnessed the original Julia revolution but she connected with Julie in her love for the recipes and the craft. She told me she wants to cook all the time now.

Many critics poked holes in the film, finding Julie a bit annoying or saying Julia would never have watched such a thing. Personally, I'm all about getting people into the kitchen. If it takes a movie to get Julie Powell and Julia Child to inspire Jessie and people like her, I'm all for it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Birthday Feast

Yesterday my husband celebrated his birthday. While my son kept trying to convince him that he should choose Benihana for his celebration dinner, he opted for my cooking, at home. What to make? His choice-a steak house meal with all the sides: Grilled Rib Eye, Creamed Spinach, Horseradish Mashers (I know, so 90s but so good!), and Pan Roasted Mushrooms.

If I can say so myself, it was delicious! Our new grill has cooked everything to perfection so those prime rib eyes were spot-on, charred on the outside and pink on the inside. The creamed spinach was old school-bechamel, loads of wilted down fresh spinach, and a handful of grated Reggiano. I picked up horseradish from Swan Oyster Depot, the best seafood market and lunch counter in town. They grate their own and it is blow-your-mind strong. Stirred into mashed potatoes, it made for just the right amount of heat. The shrooms were simple-small creminis cooked in garlic infused oil, finished with a shot of vermouth and cooked until brown but not too soft. We loved it all! While the steaks were pricey there is no way we could have gone out for this meal without spending loads more money. And trust me, it could not have been nearly this good. Next time you're celebrating, think about cooking at home. It really can feel very special.

The best testament to the meal? My son saying it was "almost as good as the House of Prime Rib" which, in his mind, is almost as good as Benihana. In my mind, a high compliment to the chef!
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