Friday, November 30, 2007

Spanish Roasted Halibut

Are you like me? Always pulling, tearing, and downloading recipes out of newspapers, magazines, and the net? You know you are. I have folders and manila files filled with recipes from various sources, things I saw and thought "Man, I have to make this immediately!" Then my wandering food eye kicks in, and about five other recipes end up piled on top.

Such was the case with last night's dinner. I was looking through one of my recipes files the other day searching for a copy of the Good Eats Meatloaf I posted a couple of days ago. As I was fruitlessly searching for that recipe, this one kind of jumped out at me. I printed it off the NYT website in 2005!! I know, I A.D.D. is a terrible thing! But since we're always looking for new things to do with fish, and on a cold, wet PDX evening something warm and sunny from Spain sounded perfect, this had me salivating. It was worth waiting for, and I'm kicking myself I waited 2-1/2 years to make it. Richly flavored for halibut, the warm flavors of garlic, dried chili, and olive oil with the piquant sherry vinegar soaking into the bed of potatoes were delicious! Another easy to prepare recipe that totally rewards the minimal effort. One of our highest accolades for any new recipe is "Is it dinner party worthy?" I'd throw this down for my friends any day!

Spanish Roasted Halibut on a Bed of Potatoes
adapted from "The New Spanish Table," by Anya von Bremzen
Time: 1 hour

4 skinless halibut fillets, about 2 pounds
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1.4 pound medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup fragrant extra virgin olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 small dried red chili, like arbol, crumbled
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley.

1. Rub halibut with salt and pepper and set aside. Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with salted water and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, allow to cool briefly, then slice about 1/4-inch thick with an oiled knife.

2. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Generously coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or oven-proof baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange potatoes in a slightly overlapping layer in pan. Season with salt.

3. Place garlic and remaining olive oil in a small skillet. Heat on medium-low until garlic begins to color, about a minute. Add chili and cook for 15 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer chili and garlic to a bowl. Add vinegar to skillet and cover immediately. Cook 2 minutes, or until oil stops popping.

4. Pour some of the oil mixture over potatoes, add some of the garlic and chili, then top with fish. Drizzle with remaining oil, garlic and chili. Bake about 10 minutes, until fish is done. Scatter parsley on top and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

As if you needed more reasons...

You all know it's good for you....and not just in that pungent, tastebud tingling way. Not that I needed any more reasons to eat garlic, but the health benefits of garlic are becoming more widely understood as well as ways to maximize those benefits. One easy way: instead of mashing or chopping your garlic and throwing it immediately into the pot or sauté pan, let it rest for 15 minutes which "triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic." Read more in this article in today's New York Times online.

photo courtesy of NY Times

Savory starts and sweet finishes!

So we had these people over Sunday who were there to chow down on some rocking good, home-style meatloaf (see post below) during our anti-turkey dinner party, but you can't just throw some slabs of meat down on the plate with a couple of sides and call it good. Well, maybe you can, but not in our world. Besides, the more courses we serve, the more good bottles of wine we can open! With that in mind, both w and I came up with our own value-added contributions to go with the Good Eats Meatloaf....a before and after keep the party going.

I love good soup, and am always on the lookout for something different, interesting, and if it's easy, especially on a night when people are coming over, all the better. This recipe from the New York Times' food writer Mark Bittman seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I've never had, much less made, an apple soup, but the combination of apple and fennel sounded too intriguing to pass up. This was also incredibly easy to put together, and with a couple of modifications to the original recipe, way delicious!

In the soup...warm, silky smooth goodness!

w was in charge of the after diner portion of our night of over-indulgence, and she had her eye on a very seasonal pumpkin mousse. When it comes to dessert, I've already stated that I am a huge "cake guy". But then there really aren't too many desserts that I won't get with. Being a fan of all sweet things served in ramekins, though, this one sounded too good....and it was! Not too heavy, with that light, fluffy, um....moussey texture. It was a perfect finish to the evening, especially served with a big ginger cookie.

Pumpkin pudding, only better!

These were both fantastic, and again, SO easy. Big wow factor with minimal effort....the perfect dinner party equation!


Apple-Fennel Soup
adapted from Mark Bittman

3 apples (Granny Smith, Winesap, Cameo or Cortland)
1 medium-size fennel bulb, stems removed, diced
1 shallot, sliced
2 small inner stems celery, with leaves
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 oz. sweet Italian sausage

1. Peel and core 2 1/2 apples and place in 3-quart saucepan with fennel, shallot, celery, stock, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes, until all are tender.

2. Meanwhile, core and finely dice remaining half apple, toss with half the lemon juice, cover tightly or seal in a sandwich bag and set aside.

3. Put sausage into small skillet, crumble and brown until slightly crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.

4. Purée contents of saucepan in a blender; return to pot. Whisk in remaining lemon juice, cream and mustard. Bring to a simmer, check seasonings and serve, with diced apple and a few bits of crumbled sausage, garnishing each portion.

Yield: 6 servings.

# # # # # # # #

Pumpkin Mousse
recipe courtesy Dave Lieberman/FoodTV

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Ginger snaps, for garnish

Combine pumpkin, 1 cup cream, sugar and spice in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Cool fully.

Whip remaining heavy cream and vanilla to soft peaks and fold into cooled pumpkin mixture. Pour into a serving dish and crumble the ginger snaps over top before serving.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Must see viewing!

I know I'm a little behind the curve here. My au courant status is dropping faster than GWB's credibility. But for all of you who are even more out of touch than me...hard to believe I know...last night I rented The Lives of Others, which is simply one of the best, most well done, understated yet riveting movies I've ever seen. I know it has been much-hyped critically, but if you haven't seen it, this should be at the top of your list! It's a story of a mid 1980s Stasi agent in East Germany, and is the classic tale of redemption, and such a great piece of filmmaking. Wow!! w and I were still talking about it this morning.

The Anti-Turkey!

After last Thursday's turkey fest, about the last thing I wanted to consider for our Sunday dinner party with friends was something fowlish. I figured what would take the taste of too much turkey out of my mouth better than an old fashioned meatloaf? Meatloaf...the anti-turkey! Perfect. One of the greatest inventions ever, ground beef, paired with ground veal, chopped veggies, herbs, and bread crumbs. Plus for a crowd this is one of the best make-ahead dishes that you can pop in the oven an hour ahead of time so you have plenty of time to prepare snacks and make sure there's enough alcohol around to slake the seemingly unending thirsts of your friends. Or maybe that's just the unending thirsts of my friends (btw- our recycler hates dinner party night at 1309. It's like how many empty wine can fit into one recycling bin!!). You know what I mean. This was a hit, with some garlic mashed spuds and pan roasted brussel sprouts, plus we had a first course of apple-fennel soup and w made a fabulous pumpkin mousse for dessert....more on those tomorrow!

Okay, I know it's a half-assed picture, but the meatloaf is fucking awesome, I promise!!

This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown of Food TV fame. It is a regular in our home rotation, and the best thing? It makes killer meatloaf sandwiches the next day!!


Good Eats Meat Loaf
adapted from Alton Brown

6 ounces garlic-flavored croutons
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and broken
3 whole cloves garlic
1/2 red bell pepper
18 ounces ground beef 15% fat
18 ounces ground veal
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg

For the glaze:
1/2 cup catsup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor bowl, combine croutons, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and thyme. Pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture. Place this mixture into a large bowl. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and red pepper in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed. Combine the vegetable mixture, ground sirloin, and ground chuck with the bread crumb mixture. Season the meat mixture with the kosher salt. Add the egg and combine thoroughly, but avoid squeezing the meat.

Pack this mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to mold the shape of the meatloaf. Onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, turn the meatloaf out of the pan onto the center of the tray. Place on middle rack in oven. The meatloaf is done when an instant read thermometer reads 155*.

Combine the catsup, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce and honey. Brush the glaze onto the meatloaf after it has been cooking for about 10 minutes.

** cooks note: the meatloaf can be made several hours ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator. Take out 45 minutes before baking.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome Home!

This is as good as it gets. Coming home after another grueling 13 hour day of enabling others alcohol consumption at the wine shack, and the first thing that hits me as I walk in the door is the appetite inducing aroma of garlic sautéing in hot oil. Instantly my hunger meter redlines. I walk into the kitchen and find w putting the finishing touches on this fabulous recipe she got from one of my favorite food blogs, Steamy Kitchen, written by a Florida blogger/budding TV chef named Jaden whose goal is to show everyone how to make simple and delicious Asian food at home. Taking those seemingly complex recipes and breaking them down into easy and accessible meals. We've found her to be a great source, and tonight's shrimp were fabulous. The sweet flavor of the shrimp enhanced and amplified by the garlic and brandy. My mouth was most happy! Thanks J, for another addition to our regular repertoire!
Garlic Brandy Prawns
from Steamy Kitchen


1/2 lb prawns, shelled leaving tail on
1 t cornstarch
½ t salt
1T garlic, minced
1T butter
1 stalk green onion, cut on diagonal ¼” strips
1 Tbs brandy
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar


1. Clean & marinate the prawns: Rinse prawns, pat completely dry and marinate in cornstarch and ½ t salt for 5 minutes.

2. Heat wok and add oil. Once oil is barely smoking, turn down heat to med-high. Add prawns. Fry until they are half-done, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from wok, leaving the oil in the wok.

3. Add the garlic, fry for 10 seconds. Add the brandy, salt, sugar, butter. Cook sauce for 1 minute so that it slightly thickens. Add the prawns and green onion. Stir fry until prawns are cooked through, about 2 minutes (depends on size of your prawns)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Beet it!

So you thought you got off the hook this holiday season. Your friends are cooking the main dishes in these meat and starch infused food fests known as holiday dinner parties. Of course you're going to ask what you can bring, right? So you'll hear the "Oh, how about a side dish?" response. What could be easier, and maybe even healthy, than a good salad? But come on, these are your friends and families. Don't give them the usual bag of lettuce with some dressing sloshed on top, when with a little more effort you can bring a drop dead beautiful and delicious salad that will have them "oohing" and "aahing" all through the meal.

People, I give you the golden beet. And with this humble, yet beautiful, root vegetable, you can prepare an awesome salad that will raise the (salad) bar for meals to come! My friend DOR showed me this easy to prepare and crazily good dish a few weeks ago, and I took it yesterday for my contribution to my sister and bro-in-law's off the hook Thanksgiving meal. The requisite compliments were heard, accepted, and appreciated. Now it's your turn!

Roasted Golden Beet & Arugula Salad
serves 8

6 golden beets about the size of a tennis ball
Two large handfuls (or one bag) of arugula
1 sweet or red onion
10 or 12 caper berries
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground pepper

special tools
A mandoline, unless you're incredibly patient and steady handed enough to thinly slice your beets and onions.

1-Turn oven on bake to 500*. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aprchment paper. Wash beets and dry off excess moisture. Rub lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Arrange on baking sheet and out ion oven for 30-40 minutes. Beets are done when a fork goes in with a bit if resistance.

2-While beets roast, slice onions very thin, about 1/8".

The beets laid out and ready to be finished.

3-When beets are done, remove from oven, let cool, and peel with a paring knife. Slice beets with mandoline about 1/8" thick. Arrange beets on platter and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Arrange a couple of large handfuls of arugula on top of beets, leaving edges of beets exposed. Sprinkle onion slices generously on top. Drop the caper berries around the outside of the platter. Drizzle extra virgin olive and balsamic on top to taste. Sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of pepper. Serve immediately.


I know your next question: "Where can I get me one 'o them fancy slicin' machines?" Being the kitchen gadget whore that I am, I have long had a mandoline on my list. When OXO came out with theirs a few months ago, I was ready to pounce. Luckily I'm a world class procrastinator. My friend David brought his little Zyliss Easy Slice 2 over when he made the above salad. it worked fantastically. For the "serious" home cook, maybe you would want to upgrade to a fancier unit, but for most of us, this does plenty at a great price, around $25-$30. I got mine, and I love it! Very sharp slicing blade, portable, easy to clean, safe. It pretty much has it all!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

And I ran, I ran so far away.....

Bill Clinton with Flock of Seagulls keyboardist Mike, I mean his wife Hillary in her Star Trek souvenir uniform in 1993. Brings new meaning to the lyrics:
"I walked along the avenue,
I never thought I'd meet a girl like you..."

My god...the hair. When did they install the wind tunnel in the oval office??

Thanks to the NYT for the photo.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fifty steps to nirvana!!

Can my life get any better? Regular readers of the blather that is posted here surely know of my food fetish, my not-so-dirty little secret. You know, THAT one. Of course I could only be talking about my taco cart obsession. Those mobile mavens of all things deliciously south of the border. I've been known to drive miles out of my way in search of a great pastor burrito, or the rumored perfect asada taco. Old ladies crossing the street and small children and their cute little pets best be watching out for my car when I'm mission(burrito) oriented.

But now all that careening around town may be in my past. That's because apparently God does answer the prayers of fools, because...and this is worthy of a certain amount of religious fervor...a taco truck has opened RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE WINE SHACK!!!!!!!!! As I'm typing this I can look out the front window at the Taqueria Uruapan cart, an offshoot of their hole-in-the-wall restaurant on SE 82nd Avenue. Even on this rainy late Friday afternoon a line of people waiting patiently for what I have come to discover are perfectly cooked asada, pastor, pollo, and best of all carnitas. What they do that I love is fry up the meat on the flattop grill, getting the bits of meaty goodness nice and crusty. Not wet and too saucy. Just right. And I'm not sure how the economic equation works here, but the tacos, with a healthy serving of meat and a dollop of salsa fresca, are only a dollar apiece!! How they make money I have no idea, but I'm taking full advantage. Their salsa rojo and salsa verde they give out are also top notch, and today I ventured into the land of humongous burritos and was loving life even more. This is great, cheap street food at its best. Did I mention it's right across the street? Hee-hee-hee!!!

The glorious carnitas tacos!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lasso me some tasso!

Just a quick note to all you PDX readers (and eaters!). My sister and I met for breakfast and coffee this morning at Genie's Café on SE 11th and Division. I hadn't been here for a couple of years due to a less than thrilling experience my first time. But since my hunger knows no bounds, and who knows what might have changed in the intervening years, there I was. Three words describe my ensuing happiness: Tasso Eggs Benedict. A couple of slices of smoky tasso ham from those mavens of meat at Viande Meats who supply Genie's, a perfectly piquant hollandaise, and two expertly cooked poached eggs. It was all there and all good. I have an innate fear of eggs benedict due to too many experiences with gloppy, sour, too mustardy hollandaises. This was really nice. My sister had the biscuits & gravy which weren't half bad either. If you find yourself in the inner SE 'hood needing sustenance, you might be wanting to check Genie's out!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spud Love

I have a deep and abiding love of the tuber the French, in their lyrical way, call the pomme de terre, the "apple of the earth". For me, it doesn't matter what you call them or how they come...baked, boiled, fried, mashed...I have even been known to get my spud on with tater tots on occasion.

Thanksgiving is probably the season where the potato gets to really show it stuff, particularly in all its mashed and buttery glory. Today in the New York Times in an article by Julie Moskin you can find out everything you could ever hope to know about the perfect mash. For you tüber-fanatics, check it out!

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chicken, Avocado, & Tortilla Soup...Aye Caramba!

Is there anything better than walking into the house after a day at work and having the house filled with the fragrance of cooking soup? Let me answer that obviously rhetorical question with an emphatic NO, especially when it is this absolutely fanatstic Chicken Tortilla Soup that w's friend Sue turned her on to. This is a pretty awesome bowl of south-of-the-border warmth, especially on a cold, drizzly evening here in the NW. w said it was incredibly easy to throw together, which is belied by its rich, complex aroma and flavor that would make you think it had been cooking for hours. And the strips of tortilla that you throw in part way through act as a thickener, adding texture and feel, then the avocado and sharp cheddar take it over the top. This is definitely on the regular soup rotation. A great main course, it would also be a perfect first course soup at your next fiesta!

Chicken, Avocado, and Tortilla Soup
serves 6

1/3 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper
8 cups (64oz) chicken broth
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 4oz can diced green chilies
10 corn tortilla
1 1/2 lb boned chicken breast or thighs
1 firm ripe avocado
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a medium 5-6 quart pan over medium heat, stir onion, garlic, cumin,
oregano, chili powder, and pepper until spices are fragrant, about 1
minute. Add broth, tomatoes (including juice) and green chilies,
cover, and bring to boil over high heat.

Meanwhile stack tortillas and cut into 1/8 inch strips. Add to
boiling broth. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stirring occasionally.

Rinse chicken and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel avocado and thinly slice.

Add chicken to broth and return to a boil over high heat. Reduce
heat, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked (cut to test), about 5
minutes. Stir in cilantro and salt to taste. Ladle into soup bowls,
garnish with avocado and add cheese to taste.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Waffle Wonderland!

I have seen the future of breakfast, and it is emanating out a tiny take-out window at 3610 SE Hawthorne Boulevard here in PDX. Should you find yourself in Portland on a Saturday or Sunday feeling a bit peckish, might I suggest a stop at the "Waffle Window" on the side of Bread & Ink Café. There, every Saturday and Sunday from 9-5, you can try one of Mary Fishback's spot-on Belgian waffles, which w says are exactly like the ones she got at street stalls in Bruges (you know, the one in Belgium!), not too sweet with a perfectly crusty exterior. But you would also be well advised to sample one of her many daily special waffles. After a long walk with Chopper to get to this bit of noshing nirvana, I couldn't resist her pumpkin pie waffle...awesomely decadent and delicious! Mary bakes a crustless pumpkin pie, slides a slice on top of one of her Belgian waffles, surrounds it on the plate with perfectly sweet whipped cream, and a squiggle of homemade caramel sauce. Unbelievable! At $3.50 this was a well-deserved, or so I told myself, reward. And her regular Belgian waffles at two bucks are a walk-away steal. This is absolutely worth your attention, because we all know you deserve it, too!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Having my cake....

We're all different kinds of guys (or girls). You know what I mean. There's "Corvette guy" who is making up for some sort of shortcoming. There's "softball guy", that 35-year-old loser who owns his own softball bat who swears that if his high school baseball coach hadn't fucked him over he'd be batting 3rd for the Red Sox. When it comes to food, there's "scared to eat girl" who swears that food is out to get her; "bad date guy" who complains...loudly...about not being able to get a baked potato at Babbo in NY.

Basically all kinds of people are out there. Especially when it comes to food. Me, I obviously am "will eat anything and lots of it guy". But when it comes to dessert, I am definitely "layer cake guy". I love all desserts. My sweet tooth knows no limits. Especially cakes. Maybe it's all those homey associations I make from the smell of my mom's baking cakes wafting through the house. Wanting to be the one to lick the frosting off the beater blades. Luckily for me w is "likes to bake cakes girl", and the following bit of baked deliciousness has quickly shot to the top of my cakes-to-eat-for-my-last-meal list. I saw this fabulous pumpkin cake on one of my favorite food sites, Leite's Culinaria. I showed it to w and she said, "Hm, maybe I'll make it." I replied, channeling Montgomery Burns, "EXCELLENT"!

We've had it twice now, the most recent last Sunday with friends, and this cake kills! The cakey part is moist and pumpkiney, and the maple cream cheese frosting is completely out of control. Holy shit, it is a childhood dream come true! We've had some leftover frosting in the fridge, and I've been dipping my finger into it and eating it that way. Yeah, that good!! So if you're ever invited to a cake smackdown, may I suggest the clicking on this link!

One note: w has found that mixing the cake batter by hand makes for a more airy, less dense cake, which for this recipe we both prefer. A little more work, but well worth the effort!
*photo in upper left courtesy of Leite's Culinaria

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A bowl of happiness!

Even with as much pride as I take in my iron constitution and my bodies ability to withstand regular overindulgences of too much rich food, innumerable taco cart tacos & burritos, too many cocktails, and those pesky bottles of wine that go down far too easily, sometimes even I have to take a break and simplify. Last night was just such an instance, and besides on a chilly November evening a bowl of homemade soup sounded just about perfect. Oh, and I did happen to have a bottle of 2005 white Burgundy that needed sampling, and I knew it would kill with this potato-leek soup. Best of all, after a quick ten minute stop at New Seasons I had everything I needed for this easy to prepare, easy to make, and deliciously satisfying bowl of comfort food. This is a snap, and I'm amazed that something so easy can be so good. It can also be altered for those pesky vegetarian friends of yours (or just tell them you used veggie broth...they'll never know!!). It also has this really pleasing pale green color that I have to say is very attractive, because we all eat with or eyes first, right?
So that was it. In about 30 minutes max I had a healthy bowl of soup, bread, a couple or three glasses of great wine. My body and my mind were both quite happy!

Oh, and speaking of the wine it was pretty damn good, too. A 2005 Bouchard Puilly-Fuisse that was creamy, with honeyed-butter and flower aromas and flavors. Great texture, perfect balance. Those Frenchies have a pretty good handle on chardonnay!

adapted from epicurious
serves 4

3 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise,
thinly sliced (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 large russet potatoes (about 18 ounces total), peeled, diced
4 1/2 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
1/2 tsp. white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1- Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks; stir to coat with butter. Cover saucepan; cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes begin to soften but do not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

2- Puree soup in batches in blender or processor until smooth. Return to saucepan. Thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring soup to simmer. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with chives and serve.

**cooks notes: If you use store bought chicken stock brring it to a boil and reduce by about a fifth (start with 5 to 5-12 cups). It really intensifies the flavor and adds richness to the soup. I use an upright blender rather than a food processor with my soups. Nothing gives a velvety, palate pleasing texture like a blender (not even hand blenders do as good a job).

I interrupt your thoughts of your next meal....

I have a big favor to ask of you guys. For about ten minutes I want all of you to put aside your food obsessions. Just for a few minutes. I know, I know, it's scary, but this is worth it. I promise.

I was doing some "research" recently at the New York Times website (aka reading the best newspaper in FREE) and came across this story about a couples adoption of a Chinese baby. Now, there are virtually zero newspaper stories that make me a, misty. Outraged? Angry? Bewildered about my fellow humans? Sure. It's not that I'm a hard ass or anything. As I've told my friends, I'm like the target audience for tearjerker movies, commercials, etc. But in the paper, we're pretty much used to all the crazy, insane shit being reported. You become kind of numb to it. Then I come across this piece, so well written, so touching, so sweet, that it just sat me back in my seat for about five minutes after finishing.

Check it out. I'd love to know what you think.

btw- all stories at the NYT site are free to read. Just spam will come your way.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Warming up to cold weather

You can feel it in the air, can't you? Nights getting colder. Leaves falling. Sidelong glances at your Le Creuset or other braising pot of choice. In my kitchen, they're calling out their siren song and I'm listening. You all know what I mean. Well, excepting you all who live in warmer climes, who probably have no idea what I'm trying to say. Is it ever braising season in Phoenix? I mean, it's going to be 90 degrees there today! These must be zero incentive to throw some meat in your 380 degree oven for three or four hours. All I can say to them is "Poor bastards", because I LOVE this time of year.

Sunday was a perfect day to share some of that love with a group of friends. And what says "I care" more than a 4-1/2 pound hunk of chuck roast that has been cooking in the oven for several hours? For a dinner party, there is nothing easier than a long, slow braise. Not only is the prep incredibly easy, but that long cooking time allows plenty of time to get everything else working and ready for your guests. This recipe for Barolo Braised Beef is a dish I made for the first time late last winter, and it rocked the table. For something so easy, this is guaranteed to get huge praise from your pals.

Before I get to the instructional part of this missive, a note on the name. Barolo braised beef. Rule 1: Don't use Barolo!! My $40 bottles of red wine generally don't end up in a cooking pot. Any rich, full-bodied wine will work. I used an awesome Languedoc red from France ($11.95). According to Bill Buford in his book "Heat", at Mario Batali's Babbo in NYC, they use cheap merlot in their "Barolo" braised beef. Now that I've saved you all that money, here's the goods.....


adapted from epicurious


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) boneless beef chuck roast

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 lb sliced pancetta, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red
2 cups water
*Special equipment: a 4- to 5-qt heavy ovenproof pot with lid

mise en place (aka prep)...the key to stress free cooking!

1- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

2-Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs.

Sautéeing the flavoring agents. Getting closer..........

3- Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

All that's left: slicing, reducing, consuming!

4- Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 8-10 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices, arrange on platter, pour most of sauce generously on top and serve remaining sauce in bowl.

*Cooks' note: Beef improves in flavor if made 3 days ahead. Cool completely in sauce, uncovered, then chill in sauce, covered. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven until hot, 25 to 30 minutes, then slice meat.

Monday, November 05, 2007

"Scientists let loose in the kitchen, diners rejoice!"

Two things I can't do in my kitchen:
1- Deep fry mayonnaise
2- Make foie gras knots
But that doesn't mean I don't want to eat them. And apparently some high end chefs, notable Wylie DuFresne of NYC's WD-50, think others do to. Read about their restaurant kitchens as science labs in this article in the New York Times.

Mexican Medication!

After last nights food and drink fest (check out tomorrow's post for the best Barolo Braised Beef recipe you will ever make!), I not only am appreciating my day off, but am also very grateful to be a five minute drive from my preferred big-night recovery method, which is indulging my fetish for taco trucks/trailers/carts/whatever.

My friend Chris had clued me in to the south of the border noshes to be had at El Brasero in the burgeoning food cart mecca in the parking lot at SE 12th and SE Hawthorne here in PDX. He shares my passion for all things wrapped in corn tortillas and any accompanying bites, and has been talking up the barbacoa tacos and chicken tamales for weeks. So today, desperately in need of "Mexican medication" I drove on down. It was gloriously sunny and warm at their outdoor table, and the food was everything I could have wanted. I scarfed down the two pastor and two barbacoa tacos, perfect bites at a little under two bucks each. Okay, the pastor was a little dry, but the barbacoa scored huge. And the tamale was rocking, softly moist, yet firm to the fork, steamed to perfection in the golden corn husks. They also make their own fabulous salsa verde to add a little burn and get the head back on straight.

Pastor and barbacoa tacos, lined up for my eating pleasure!

The perfect tamale!

Man, I dig food cart love. What a great way to eat. Cheap, fast, and marginally out of control. Bring 'em on!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Minimal(ist) effort...Maximum reward

LinkAfter the eat/drink fest that was our weekend in San Francisco, we came back home needing something, anything, lighter. Who better to consult than Mark Bittman, whose "Minimalist" column in the New York Times almost always delivers clean, flavorful, and easy to prepare dishes. I saw this fish recipe a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't wait to get cooking.

Bittman used monkfish in his recipe, but he said you could also sub any other firm fleshed fish (he suggested red snapper or sea bass). Here in p.c. Portland, monkfish is a little hard to come by. I stopped by Trader Joe's to check out their selection, and they had packages of frozen wild caught mahi-mahi filets. They were the perfect size, and turned out wonderfully. The fish really picked up an infusion of thyme and garlic flavor during the quick oven roast. Next time through, I think I'll try red snapper, something a little less firm, as in his recipe description Bittman said part of the appeal of the preparation is how the fish melds with the mashers, turning into sort of a soft fishcake. Whatever you use, this was really satisfying on every level. And it was super easy to prepare, and very much worth the minimal(ist) effort expended!


Monkfish With Mashed Potatoes and Thyme
from The New York Times/Mark Bittman

4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

ingredients :

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup milk, or as needed

Several sprigs fresh thyme

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3or 4 cloves crushed garlic

1 1/2 pounds monkfish, in 1 or 2 pieces, trimmed.

method :
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover. Add a large pinch of salt. Cook potatoes until quite tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and put through a ricer or food mill, or mash with a fork or potato masher. Add butter, milk, a few thyme leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm in the oven or reheat in a microwave when ready to serve.

2. While potatoes cook, or immediately after they are done, put an ovenproof skillet large enough to accommodate monkfish over medium-high heat. After a minute, add the oil, garlic, a couple of thyme sprigs and then fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about a minute, then without turning, transfer to oven.

3. Roast until monkfish is cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes depending on its thickness. (It will be tender but still firm when done; a thin-bladed knife will meet consistent light resistance when inserted in its center.) Reheat potatoes if necessary, then serve monkfish browned side up on top of them, garnished with a little more thyme and pan juices.

*note: we served some quick sautéed rainbow chard on the side.