Monday, March 29, 2010

sunday in the kitchen

What better for a cold and somewhat gloomy Sunday than The New York Times, a good workout, buckwheat pancakes and blueberries for breakfast and a few hours in the kitchen. Although I prefer fat asparagus to skinny, I'd come upon bunches of pencil-thin stalks for only a dollar a pound, so I bought four pounds with the idea of aspaaragus tarts, a touch of spring. I prepared a savory dough that included a generous pinch of baking powder, producing an easy to work with crust that was rich and tender. Next, I blanched the asparagus stalks after peeling them, shocked them in ice water, and after they were drained I wrapped them in a heavy terry towel to absorb any residual moisture. Then I cleaned and chopped some leeks and cooked them slowly in butter, along with chopped garlic. After pre-baking and cooling the tart crusts, in nine inch pans with removable bottoms, I mixed heavy cream, eggs, parmesan and seasonings. I layered the tarts with the asparagus and leeks, poured in the custard and baked them. I'd also made a half dozen individual tarts, one of which I enjoyed for dinner. Scrumptious. Oh, I forgot to mention that two or three minutes before removing the tarts from the oven, I cut up little pieces of camembert and sprinkled them atop, baking for just a couple of minutes till they became nice and gooey.
I had three glistening young eggplant in the fridge and decided to prepare an eggplangt parmesan, grilling half inch slices in a grill pan rather than frying them. I made a light and simple tomato sauce which I cooked for fifteen minutes, laid a bit of the sauce in a rectangular casserole, then a generous sprinkling of parmesan,followed by a layer of the vegetable. I repeated these layerings, and topped the final layer with a mix of bread crumbs and fresh oregano. I froze it immediately, to be baked and served midweek.

Friday, March 26, 2010

raiding the freezer

I had a nice-size roasting chicken in the freezer and decided to prepare it for dinner with a plan to use the leftovers in a flavorful, colorful pasta dish to serve four generously over the weekend. I laid some onions and carrots, chunked up, in the roasting pan, as a bed for the chicken. After seasoning the bird generously with salt, pepper and fresh lemon thyme from the pots on my windowsill, I put lemon halves and garlic and onion inside the cavity and poured some white wine around the chicken. I roasted it at 375 until almost done, when I upped the heat to 400, to produce a wonderfully crisp skin. A simple escarole salad, good bread and a glass of white wine - perfect. Tomorrow I'll prepare the farfalle with pieces of the chicken, cut up tomatoes, goat cheese and caramelized onions. With this, grilled asparagus.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

a birthday dinner

Last night we had a family celebration of my son-in-law's birthday. There were six of us and we started out with glasses of a lovely vouvray, accompanied by slices of an eggplant and tomato tart which I'd baked in a rectangular tart pan, and cut into squares. The vegetables rested on a custard rich with good cheese and highly seasoned,a piquant beginning to our dinner. Rather than starting out at table with a green salad, I shaved asparagus spears into a julinne and dressed them with a lemony vinagrette enriched wirh freshly grated gran padana.It was light and spring-like and very pretty on the plate. This was followed by our main course, roasted shrimp marinated in olive oil and melted butter with garlic, toasted and crushed fennel and coriander seeds, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. With this, risotto cakes enlivened by a sprinkling of diced sun-dried tomatoes, and sauteed snow peas. Plenty of sourdough bread to mop up the juices. And an excellent white burgundy courtesy of my wine-maven son. The birthday cake was a malted milk yellow cake with a rich chocolate frosting, topped, for fun, with malted milk balls. The cake had a particularly lovely crumb and the family was only too happy to take the reaminders home. A happy celebration.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

sunday night supp[er

A good friend requested a cooking lesson. She came over a couple of days earlier to choose a menu and make a shopping list. I proposed a chicken dish I'd not yet prepared but that sounded seductively flavorful. With that decided upon, we agreed on a mealange of rices and sauteed snow peas with slivered garlic as accompaniments, to be preceded by a refreshing salad of escarole, blood oranges and thinly sliced fennel. For dessert, a lovely lemon tart made with the zest and juice of meyer lemons, available locally for only a short time. I buy bags of them and freeze the juice.The tart has a press-in crust,delicious and simple. The chicken thighs were sauteed till brown,removed from the skillet to be put aside while onions were cooked until translucent. While saffron softened in hot water, marsala, fig agrodolce, cinnamon and coriander were added to the skillet. Then the saffron and additional water. The chicken was returned to the pot, which cooked, covered for about forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, we heated vodka to just below boiling and infused it with a tablespoon of lavender buds. Around twenty minutes before serving, we strained the vodka into the skillet and cooked it down a bit, burning off the alcohol. At serving time we poured a bit of honey over the chicken and plated it topped with crisp, roughly chopped roasted almonds. Heavenly!! Incredibly flavorful, almost mysterious and thoroughly delicious. We were joined at table by her partner who was gratifyingly enthusiastic and happy to take home leftovers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

sensational scones

I am taking unseemly pride and great pleasure in the lemon scones that I prepared, the recipe coming from a terrific book called, appropriately, "Baked. Since I was getting ready to squeeze meyer lemons, I used their zest in the dough , adding an extra dimension of flavor - I adore these lemons. I handled the dough as little as possible, producing an almost delicate crumb. I'd probably describe these scones as elegant yet so flavorful. I devoured one just a few minutes out of the oven. They would be over the top spread with lemon curd!!!