wannabefoodblogger

10

Dinner for 10! 

On Sunday we feted my mom for her 60th birthday. We feted me a little too, since my family was away when I turned 30 a few weeks ago.

Part of my present to my mom (um, the other part has yet to be determined) was cooking a feast for the 10 friends and family that joined us to celebrate. 

I haven’t really cooked for most of these folks before, so it was exciting but also a  little nerve-wracking. Well, either they were very polite, or they loved everything. A lot. I’ll choose to believe the latter.

I fretted about the menu for a bit (even while on a beach vacation!), but in the end everything turned out very well and I would make these recipes again individually.

Here’s the menu and some notes about each thing that I made: 

  • Chicken meatball sliders with spinach basil pesto, from The Meatball Shop Cookbook 
    I love The Meatball Shop and had to buy the cookbook so I could find out the secret to their amazing food. Secret to these chicken balls? Ground thigh meat (had to ask the store to grind it for us) and ground fennel in said meat. Also baking them all snuggly and close to each other, apparently keeps them moist. The pesto also had a surprising element–blanching the greens in boiling water for a minute before an ice bath made this pesto much smoother and  flavorful than others I’ve made. And there was NO GARLIC in it. What? I dunno, but it works! 
  • Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
    Really more of a summer thing, but my mom requested a dish with avocados. We found pretty good cherry tomatoes (red and yellow) at Trader Joe’s, not to mention their frozen grilled corn. Mom doesn’t like feta, so we subbed in bacon to give it a little oomph. The salad was the sleeper hit of the evening. 
  • Parmesan Scalloped Potato Stacks
    Potatoes and cheese and garlic, in the oven. enough said.  Tasty, and cute to boot.
  • (not pictured) Braised Brisket w/Bourbon Peach  Glaze
    Um, this took 5-6 hours to make. was it worth it? yes. yes. yes. Falling apart, subtly sweet and moist and so good. Not a bit of it was left over, which is too bad, because I wanted to have some on a sandwich for lunch on Monday real bad.
     
  • things i didn’t make: pigs in a blanket (my dad burned them), stuffed mushrooms (my dad’s specialty), mocha raspberry chocolate birthday cake from Stork’s bakery in Whitestone, Queens (it was really good)

I made this Northern Spy Kale Salad for dinner tonight and it was basically perfect. 

I went to Northern Spy once a few years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. But the older I get (30 so soon…let’s not talk about that now), the less I find myself over in far reaches of the East Village, so I’m grateful I could bring the farm to table make this recipe at home thanks to food52

The salad was not only delicious but also a pleasure to prepare.

I owe this to Trader Joe’s and the pre-peeled, pre-cut chunks of butternut squash I bought there this weekend. No fighting with a slippery squash and a sharp knife tonight! Just had to open the package and pour it out on a cookie sheet. I added some smoked paprika (just a little because I didn’t want to overpower the sweetness) along with the salt and pepper and olive oil before roasting them until brown.

Meanwhile, the “active time” of this recipe was spent dealing with the kale. That meant removing the ribs from my kale, rolling the remaining leaves into bunches of varying tightnesses and slicing them into great green ribbons. I dressed the ribbons in layers, juicing the lemon and swishing in some olive oil for every few handfuls of kale that I dropped into the biggest bowl I have. Somehow this process was relaxing and satisfying, not tedious. 

I ate the salad with a small plate of olive focaccia and soppressata that I impulse-bought at Union Market when I went to buy some good cheese..these elements while not necessary in the least made the meal feel a little less ridiculously healthy. And I mean that to be a good thing.

Oh, and btw, the recipe says it’s for two, but I used the entire bunch of kale that I had and I will be eating it for the rest of my life….or maybe for my next 4 meals.

4

Making the most of an afternoon off

I was away for the (2nd) weekend (in a row), this time to attend a dear friend’s wedding and spend time with lots more dear friends from college. We ate and drank a little and danced and hugged a lot. It was hard to leave.

On the way back from New England this morning, I realized that I would have a good half day at home to enjoy as a bonus since I had taken the day off from work for travel.

After briefly considering a visit with mom & pup, I ultimately decided that I would use the time to take a walk to the park and read for a bit, and then shop for & prepare a meal that would serve to christen my newest kitchen toy: a cast iron skillet

When my pan arrived in the mail last week, Daniel told me to make a steak. So that’s what I set out to do.

But first I found and watched this old Good Eats episode so that I could do it right:



I paired my rib eye steak, cooked to perfection according to Alton's instructions, with smittenkitchen’s Bloody Mary Tomato Salad and some hastily mashed potatoes. 

While shopping for the steak & tomatoes (I basically had all the other ingredients already thanks to my immense collection of condiments & spices), I impulse-bought a crusty baguette & a tiny wedge of fancy triple cream cheese (inspired no doubt by my current reading material and talk of Paris), both of which added a certain je ne sais quoi to my Monday night feast pour un. 

What a way to extend a mini-vacation!

6

Sometimes I Even Cook Meat

Last Sunday evening, after an early street fair dinner, I wisely took the time to prepare the amazing Saffron Chicken Salad that is in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. I don’t have this cookbook (but I want it!), but someone who does has made me this salad multiple times and I love it so much.

When fennel and basil made an appearance in this week’s CSA share, I could only think about recreating said salad. So I scoured the internet for the recipe (since my cookbook-owning friend was out of town) and found some foodbloggers who had recreated it. Also this perfectly breezy video by the recipe’s creators. I didn’t know that there was saffron in the recipe, so that was an exciting discovery since I had brought back a bit of it from my trip to Dubai and had yet to use it.

Though making the orange sauce and roasting the chicken were not exactly quick steps, it was not at all hard, and I could even leave the hot kitchen for a bit of the time since the sauce needs to reduce for a while. I wound up throwing in the peas from the previous CSA share in to the salad after I shelled them and saw how small the yield was–not exactly worth making a whole other dish out of them. Otherwise, I did not stray from the recipe. False. I used mint instead of cilantro along with the basil. Because I wanted to.

When all was said and done, I kept the salad elements separate and brought them all in various containers to work on Monday–refreshing sliced fennel in one, amazing orangey baked & shredded chicken in another, chopped herbs, peas and chili slices in another, and olive oil and lemon juice and a bit of salt in a tiny honey jar. Then Monday through Thursday, I assembled my lunch time treat.

This versatile salad proved to be perfect for the heatwave I really wish were over, and I’m pretty sad I have none of it left.

Oh, and p.s. I felt like playing with this new photo app called “Over”, so my pictures here look so…bloggy!

3

BEET IT! 

I wasn’t going to cook tonight. I was going to put together an easy dinner of grilled cheese and some store-bought roasted red pepper soup that I’ve had around for a while. 

But then I remembered the cheese.

Don’t forget me, says the cheese.

I’d bought some ricotta salata last week, but the eggplant I wanted to use it with sadly went bad. Not wanting the cheese to meet with the same fate, I turned to the internet to find new inspiration for that salty, crumbly ricotta salata. Two recipes jumped out to me–both of them paired the cheese with beets, and for some reason, I went from feeling ‘eh’ about cooking tonight to NEEDING TO EAT SOME BEETS!! The last time I ate some (here), Michelle said that there being something very primal about preparing and eating beets..and it seems like she was right. 

I decided to go with this recipe from Serious Eats because lo and behold, I had some pearled barley on hand, and set out to find some beets…and preferably the golden variety. Even though dark pink/red/purple is fo sho my favorite color…for clothing and nail polish…I find the at times indelible dying properties of beets to be kinda scary. I’m  not a very neat chef.

My first stop was the awesome farmers’ market near my apartment. I found bunches of non-golden beets at one of the vendors, but they were so tiny! Each bunch had only 3 or 4 beets and was 2.75. I would need at least 2 bunches. Kinda steep. After commiserating over the sad state of the beets with a  cute little Caribbean grandma, I decided to go elsewhere. Found much bigger red beets at the big grocery store in my hood for a lot less money. Win. Sometimes you just gotta go for what’s easier on your wallet, you know? 

Anyway, the skinny is that dish took a long time to prepare. My beets were large and took a lot of time to roast. And the barley took a long time to get tender and soak up all of the liquid. But in the end…it was a very lovely, healthy and satisfying dish. A very lovely, healthy and satisfying HOT PINK dish. 

Curious if I did anything different from the recipe? Yes. Of course. I almost always do. 

Instead of white wine, I used cognac because that’s what I had.

I also threw in some pistachio meats because the other recipe I was considering used them. So why not. 

And, at the last minute, after all the liquid was absorbed and before I added the beets, I stirred in a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree. Because while I was stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting for the barely to become risotto, I whipped up a pumpkin treat for breakfast. Told you it took a while. I decided that the bit of leftover pumpkin would act as a bit of a binding agent for the barely risotto, since barely is not as starchy as aborrio rice, it could use it.

Next time your heart beats for beets..try this!

The final green

The last bit of my very first CSA share was used simply, in a couple of good ol’ turkey sandwiches to finish out the week of #NotSadDeskLunches

What’s the secret to a good self-made sandwich at the office?

Making it at the office. Yes, I mean schlepping in all the components of your sandwich separately and assembling them right before you’re ready to eat it. 

I toasted and then spread the whole wheat sourdough bread that I favor from Bread Alone with leftover avocado miso dressing from the kale noodle dish I made earlier in the week. Of course the avocado had oxidized, so this wasn’t very pretty, but it tasted good! I had at least three coworkers ask me what it was while I was prepping my sandwich in the office kitchen.

In addition to the surprisingly resilient lettuce, a few slices of non-amazing tomato and some spicy “salsalito” turkey, there’s also some bacon hidden in this sandwich. Yeup, I fried up a few slices the night before, and it was definitely a smart move. So I guess with the avocado and bacon, this wound up being a modified turkey club sandwich. Mmm.

I enjoyed my sandwich with leftover broccoli salad.