Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Inspiration

After realizing that neither Adam or I had contributed to this blog for exactly one year, I found it fitting to write about our dinner last night, which involved a new spin on the classic culinary combination of beets and goat cheese.

Since it's marathon training (for Kate), which means at least weekly pasta dinners, I've tired of traditional pasta dishes and had the urge to try something new. The beet ravioli seemed too complicated so I settled for whole wheat spaghetti and beet sauce. You essentially make a marinara sauce out of beets and butter and boy is it delicious. Rich, sweet and earthy thanks to a heaping tablespoon of poppy seeds, topped off with a dollop of goat cheese that melts throughout the noodles.

Photo and recipe (from epicurious) are below. And here's to blogging more than once a year!

Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds
1 pound red beets, cleaned
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 pound good-quality farro or whole wheat spaghetti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 heaping tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup pasta water 
1/4 pound goat's milk cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the beets in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with the olive oil and water. Bake until a tester easily passes through the beets, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
3. Peel the beets and cut into chunks. Add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to a rough puree. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
4. Add the butter to a 10-inch skillet. Turn on the heat to high. Brown the butter, about 2 minutes. Add the poppy seeds and toast for 2 minutes. Add the pureed beets, salt, and the 1/4 cup pasta water to the skillet. Stir to fully incorporate.
5. Use a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs to remove the spaghetti from the pot and place them directly into the skillet with the sauce. Stir to combine.
6. Divide the spaghetti into equal portions and place on warm plates. Use two round or oval soup spoons to form little balls of the goat's milk cheese. Place a ball on top of each serving.
7. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Gift of Mayonnaise

Since I caught the 'cooking bug' a number of years back, Christmas time has been a great way of stocking up on kitchen tools, gadgets, and things I wouldn't usually buck up, or actually decide to purchase. My Mom, a continual culprit of yuletide silliness, came through with a few gems this past year. One of which is an old school mayonnaise maker she found at a flea market.

An idiot proof way of making arguably the greatest condiment around. The directions are sketched into the front, the handle on the top is pushed up and down to mix the ingredients into a lovely, emulsified bliss.

Not entirely complicated here folks. You need:

An Egg
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice (or vinegar)
1 Teaspoon Prepared Mustard
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Dash of Pepper

After blending all of these ingredients together, vegetable oil is streamed in through the top of the maker while moving the 'mixer thing' up and down until the desired thickness is achieved. Voila.

This recipe lends itself to endless creativity. I have added roasted garlic cloves, and spicy sriracha so far. Basically anything you like in flavored mayos would work (pesto, curry, chipotle, etc.). Thinner mayo is a great salad dressing, thicker is better for sandwiches and dips. One major thing that separates this concoction from it's blue-lidded, store purchased counterpart is that it only last for about a week in the refrigerator. It is dead easy to make though....if you have the right equipment. Otherwise the old whisk and bowl will have to do. Either way, you'll be happy with the results!

Friday, February 18, 2011

No Cook, No Fail Salmon

For our recent Valentine's Day brunch, I decided to take a crack at the time-tested Scandinavian salmon recipe known as gravlax. In the olden days of King Gustaf I, when horned hats reigned and pillaging was a profession, whole fish were cured with salt and sugar, smothered in dill then buried in the ground for a long period of time. With no land, backyard, or spare fiord to speak of, I used the fire escape (aka - 'New England fridge') to keep the fish at a nice, cold temperature throughout the process. The result was a silky and delicate salmon so flavorful that a number people wanted me to post, here we go.

This is a recipe that takes multiple days to complete, so read it through and plan accordingly. It will feed a large number of portions too, so invite a horde of people to share with.

Here's what else you'll need to pull it off:

2 1/2 lbs Fresh Skin-on Salmon - cut into 2 equal sized portions
5 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Whole Allspice
2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns
2 Tablespoons Ouzo (other clear liquors such as vodka, aquavit, or gin would work too)
Zest of One Lemon
Large Bunch of Dill

Pat the salmon pieces dry and lay out on plastic wrap. In a small bowl, or using a mortar and pestle, add the allspice and black peppercorns together and add elbow grease. No need to turn them into a fine dust, just make sure everything is nicely crushed. Add the sugar and salt and combine. Evenly spread the mixture over the salmon.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of Ouzo to either side to moisten. Roughly chop the dill and combine with the lemon zest. Cover the salmon. What you have now should resemble a salmon and dill sandwich. Next step - put the sandwich together.

Trying your best to keep all of the "stuffing" inside, wrap tightly with layers of plastic wrap and place in a non-reactive dish (I used an oval gratin dish). Add a weight on top to press the salmon. I used a cast iron pan, but a large foil covered brick, plate with a dumbbell, etc. would work just fine.

Every 12 hours, unwrap salmon, baste with the juices, flip over and re-wrap. Repeat this step every 12 hours for 36-48 hours. Don't forget to weigh it down every time.

Unwrap and wipe off the remaining dill, pepper, etc. Rinse off and pat dry. At this point, taste a slice of the salmon. It should taste very salty and appear much firmer that when you started. In order to mellow that salty kick, place the salmon in a dish with cold water so both pieces are covered. For the next 4 hours, soak the salmon changing the water every 60-90 minutes. After patting dry again, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

After a night in the fridge (or if you are inpatient, right away), you are set to serve. Slice very thinly on the diagonal. For traditional accompaniments, try with some brown bread, pickled shallots and a drop of mustard.

Leftovers can be stored in a sealed plastic bag for about a week. Enjoy!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Best of the Best 2010 - Top 10 Food Memories of the Year

Here's the thing people. I (Kate) LOVE year-end countdown lists, montages, reviews, whatever. In fact, I might have once told Adam that if he dared change the channel and we missed NBC's Notable Death's Montage, he would be in next year's montage. Really. While January 1 usually means the end of these recaps, here's one last one. Even though AdamPlusKate wasn't around for all of 2010, here are our top ten food memories of 2010 (in no particular order): 

1) Red Fire Farm - We heart our farmers, and the great Community Supported Agriculture that we became part of this year. Intrigued by the concept of lessening my food-miles and missing my California days where produce was literally picked a few hours away, we joined the local movement this year! Hooray for crunchy movements. But the best part is local food TASTES so much better and we loved it all summer long. RFF supplied us with amazingly delicious veggies and eggs nearly year round last year, thanks to their winter CSA. And just when we were going into seasonal depression from lack of local produce we learned that Cambridge restaurant Herietta's Table uses RFF veggies. (they also have a great 3 course supper for $25.) Success!

2) Oleana - This not-to-be-missed Mediterranean restaurant on Hampshire Street in Cambridge had been on our list for quite some time. We finally ventured the few blocks from my old apartment on Valentines day of 2010 and were wowed. The whipped feta stole my heart. Adam def. won with his choice: a beet risotto with Berkshire Pork, tallegio cheese and pink peppercorns. It was so good I was tempted to start eating in my sleep and finish his leftovers before we woke the next morning.

3) Vegetarian Dinners (Adam's pick) - It's very odd for me to write about something completely devoid of meat, but I've really taken to the idea of mixing in veggie dinners to break up the monotony of all-you-can-eat pork dinners.  A few favorites included cumin spiced cauliflower 'steaks', lentil loaf with mushroom gravy (loaf almost never sounds appealing, but you'll have to take my word on this one), and kale with white beans over parmesan polenta.  Ok, I might have snuck a few spare lardons of bacon in that last dish......some habits are hard to break.   

4)  Southern California Mexican food - The purpose of our week long trip to California last summer was for Kate's first marathon in San Diego.  However, cheering for my favorite long distance runner ran neck-and-neck with my shameless gorging on the terrific Southern California Mexican fare.  It seems that every meal for a 3-day span was wrapped in a soft homemade tortilla and was accompanied by a tart, boozy margarita.  Apparently, the East Coast doesn't know jack about Mexican food.  How can the same food, taste so different?  Is it the freshness of ingredients, the nuances of local recipes, or just the warm ocean breeze that makes it so much better?  The ultimate highlight for me was Cafe Coyote in Old Town San Diego.  I don't remember exactly what I had, but I definitely made a conscious effort not to bite off a finger as I was inhaling everything so fast.  Their 'Cadillac Margarita' was the finest cocktail I'd had in some time too.           

5) Chilean Farm Food - I thought I knew the pleasures and joys of local food here in Boston, but I was wrong. I dream of the food we ate on Rodrigo's family farm. The most blissful, flavorful honey I've ever tasted. I'll never forget the trip my taste buds took to that farm! Here's the post on Chilean Food Adventure. 

6) Canning - It's not just for grandmas anymore. Local plum tomatoes, homemade tomato sauce and tomatoes with basil all year long.  We'll definitely be doing this again this summer.

7) The Great Brine Spill of 2010 - Adam and I learned the joys of living with a small kitchen early one November morning when I embarked on my third brining project and, well, there was a bit of a mess. I woke up early one morning to start a brine for the turkey that I volunteered to make for my office holiday potluck. Let's just say 2 gallons of brine all over our kitchen + 1 morning spent cleaning EVERY item from our kitchen and mopping up the mess = one memorable moment from 2010. 

8) Meeting Simply Ming/Jose Andres - We met two awesome Chef's this year. Kate is now convinced Ming Tsai is her BFF.  Chef Jose Andres made a guest appearance at Le Cordon Bleu in Cambridge (Adam's employer).  After an amazing talk about his life in the food industry and a few choice films of his recipes at their wackiest...I got my book signed.  Score!

If you haven't checked out Chef Andres before, here is a phenomenal look at his culinary magic at work.

9) Christmas Suckling Pig - With our respective families and a few random guests scheduled for a Christmas feast, we decided to do it up big.  I made a call our local meat peddler, Savenor's and put in an order for locally-raised piglet, ready to pick up on December 23rd.  I made it a point to check on the possible weight range as our Barbie and Ken mini-oven could only fit a beast of a certain size.  She weighed in at 17.44 lbs and nestled snuggly into a roasting pan.  *phew*  After spending 2 days in a chilly brine bath of apple cider, onions, salt and brown sugar, we stuffed our little piggy with lemons, thyme, onions, gave her a massage of olive oil salt and pepper then shoehorned it into the oven.  After a half hour at 450 degrees to color up the exterior, I dropped it down to 325 for a nice slow roast until done - about 3 hours total.  The skin was bark-crisp and really absorbed the maple, mustard and cider baste.  The meat was amazingly juicy and flavorful.  The bites that combined fat, skin and meat were especially addicting.  Being the butcher, I helped myself to a more than a few pulls right off of the carving board.  The pictures tell the rest....         


10) Starting this blog. Even though we're not quite as consistent as we aspire to be, it's been fun and we're looking forward to upping the game in 2011 with more new food experiences.

Bon Appetite!

K & A

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpple Cake Par-tay.

Sweets lovers of the world were in awe when the Today show featured the dessert equivalent of the turducken last month. Created by a little bakery in Philly, the Pumpple Cake is a mammoth of a layer cake, consisting of pumpkin pie baked inside a chocolate cake as the bottom layer and an apple pie baked inside a vanilla cake on top, all slathered with buttercream frosting.

While the average sweet-toother may have started placing orders for the 1,800 calorie-per slice cake at The Flying Monkey, a pair of my food-loving co-workers and I set out on a mission ourselves: to create our OWN, that's right you read it right, our own pumpple cake.

After dividing the prep between the three of us (one par-baked the apple pie, one par-baked-or purchased-a pumpkin pie, and I whipped up some decadent butter cream) we gathered at Tonya's lovely house (and newly renovated kitchen) in Arlington to do the damn thing.

The end result: a delicious, indulgence that probably shouldn't be consumed more than once a year given its ability to put an average person into diabetic shock. Enjoy the play-by-play below:

That is an apple pie.

Covered by vanilla cake batter. 
Now the pumpkin.
Engulfed in chocolate batter. 

Baked in the oven for a lot longer than we expected. 

Frosted with hand made buttercream frosting. 

A little decoration. 
The Bakers. 

That is 1800 calories of goodness people! 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yes We CAN!

Here's the low down on New England's tomato crop this year: they are abundant. I decided take advantage of the overflowing tomatoes at our CSA farm Red Fire Farm, and order a few, or 20, pounds for canning!

As I placed my order for a half bushel of pasting tomatoes, also known as Roma, I had what is commonly referred to as an impulse buy. Some people exercise their impulse buys at the check out counter by grabbing that US Weekly, or pack of gum. I found myself impulse buying bulk veggies. In this case a half bushel (20 lbs.) of sweet delicious onions.  Oh yeah, then I threw in eight heads of garlic too!

A few days later I lugged to my office two HUGE boxes of tomatoes and onions, which required help from Adam to carry back to our apartment. Thus started my first foray into canning.

Some may be intimidated by the process, which involves sterilizing everything and then boiling the canned jars in a water bath for at least 45 minutes. But the process is pretty easy, as long as you've got a few hours to dedicate to it.

On Sunday I started out to can whole tomatoes. Since we don't have a dishwasher to sterilize the jars, I boiled the jars and lids, and then blanched the tomatoes in order to remove their skin. After filling up the sterile jars with peeled and quartered tomatoes, I added a tablespoon or so of lemon juice to each. This prevents botulism, which is some pretty nasty stuff. Peeling tomatoes was probably the most painstaking part, but really not as hard as I expected. There's a simple technique for peeling tomatoes, or any skinned fruit or veggie. Bring a pot of water to a boil, throw the tomatoes in for a few minutes, then remove them and dump 'em in an ice bath. The skins just slide right off. Messy, but simple.

After filling and sealing the jars, you simply boil them in a water bath for about 50 minutes. After the jars cool for a day they're done. As long as the lid didn't pop up, you've got sealed tomatoes to keep you through the winter!

Here is a step by step photos for tomato canning.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Can See My House From Here!

Tearfully, our last CSA pickup has come and gone. Subconsciously it seems we have made an attempt to ration the last of this season's vegetables. One reason might be to hold on to the last of the amazing produce we were able to enjoy for 4 glorious months. Yet another reason might be to take a break from eating uber-healthy (albeit damn tasty) roots, tubers, leaves, and sprouts. This might be more of my selfish outlook to be honest.....

After her class on Thursday night, Kate and I decided to cheat on those chlorophyll goodies and try out Chez Henri, the well established and talked about French-Cuban bistro that sits no more than 100 steps from our front porch. Getting in just as the end of the bar opened up, we each pulled up a stool and ordered from the bar menu. We shared their specialty, a pressed Cuban sandwich, and a duck tamale salad for a grand total of $25. For a place that gets knocked on being expensive, not exactly breaking the bank. We enjoyed a few traditional cocktails, a rum and lime juice with bitters for me and a mojito for Kate, and the dishes took little time to follow. The sandwich was easily large enough for two and we were immediately relieved that we didn't decide on a third menu item.....although the french onion soup gratinee is on my list for next time.

The bread was super crusty and buttery, but didn't singe the roof of my mouth with heat or carve it up because it was too hard (a major concern for any panini veteran). Inside - paper thin slices of ham, tender roast pork, pickles, and gooey cheese to bind it all together. Yup, the combination tasted as good as it sounds. To be honest, it's probably the best Cuban sandwich if not the best overall sandwich I have ever had. The duck tamale was also a good size to share. The masa 'cocoon' was stuffed with shredded duck meat and it sat on top of a delicious spinach salad with warm vinegar dressing. On closer inspection, the wilted greens were also studded with thumb-sized lardons of bacon. These guys have definitely done their homework. Both dishes were a perfect compliment to our drinks too. We couldn't eat quick enough, each bite balancing rich, unctuous meaty bits with vinegar-spiked forkfuls and tart lime chasers.

Staring at a clean plates, sipping on the remains of our drinks, I was reminded of The Rum Diaries by Hunter Thompson where he and a raucous gang of journalist-nutbags spend nearly all waking hours downing high octane rum drinks and eating burgers in the sandblasted cafes of San Juan. Okay, not exactly the same environment, but I could picture a group of writers or laborers, or to a lesser extent Harvard students, chatting their days' laments away over the flowing rum drinks and meaty sandwiches of Chez Henri. Maybe I am getting carried away, but a sandwich like this gives you the excuse to daydream.

It's taken a while to get there, but I'm ridiculously happy I live so close to this place. I've got the best sandwich in Boston, bacon salads, and a cozy neighborhood bar one block away from me. I'll try to keep it under wraps though, our vegetables are bound to be jealous.