Monday, April 18, 2011

Date Night: Sel de la Terre

Friday, Boyfriend and I went out to dinner to celebrate.  What you ask?  Something dumb and girly.... obviously.  I'll be the first to admit it, it was a pretty lame thing to do, but I really wanted a date night so I kinda created an occasion.

Laura (Friday morning, big unnatural smile): "Hey honey, guess what today is?????"
Boyfriend (still mostly asleep): "Uhm, Friday?"
Laura: "Nooooo.... " (unnatural smile getting creepy at this point)
Boyfriend: "What? What is today?"
Boyfriend: "What?  Huh?  You aren't seriously excited about this are you?"
Laura: "Yayyy!  I made dinner reservations for 7:30p at Sel de la Terre to celebrate!"
Boyfriend: "Wow Laura, a new low...  a new low. I guess I still love you, even though you're dumb.  Now stop smiling like that, you're creeping me out."
Please don't judge me.

I don't have awesome pictures because it makes me uncomfortable to whip out my camera while people are eating dinner around me.  I decided that using my phone's camera would be less intrusive, however, the photos are pretty grainy.  Again, I apologize.


To start, Boyfriend chose the Pepper Soup, and I got 2 items off the Charcuterie list, handmade Burrata and Pork Pate de Champagne.
Pepper Soup
The Pepper Soup was a hit.  The base was roasted red pepper, finished with creme fraiche, black olive tapenade and cilantro.  Boyfriend LOVED it and I might try to do a recreation at home.  It had a light but decadent flavor, and tasted like summer.

I forgot to take pictures of the burrata and pate, but they were both outstanding.  As a rule, I only trust a handmade fresh burrata.  I don't know what it is, but the creamy interior has to be fresh to taste right, and because of this, I don't get to eat it very often.  I refuse to buy it at Whole Foods because god knows how long ago it was made.  It was served with orange sections and a light citrus drizzle, which perfectly cut the richness of the creamy interior.  The pork pate was.... well, porky.  I never know what to say about pate.  Some people love it, some hate it.  I happen to LOVE it.  Rich, fatty, porky goodness.  The essence of pig with some homemade pickles and grainy mustard.  Perfection.


Everything looks amazing doesn't it?  We saw the burger go by and HOLY COW... seriously, it was a vision.  Boyfriend go the Rabbit Leg, which was served with a perfectly soft-boiled egg over silky grits and fava beans.  This must have been delicious because I wasn't quick enough and Boyfriend DEVOURED it before I had a chance to get my fork in there.  I'm shocked I was able to get a picture off in time.

I was pretty full from the first courses, so I chose the Razor Clam soup as my entree.  The waiter explained that they don't get to offer this regularly and its only placed on the menu when "the fisherman" calls that morning to say they got some Razor clams in the nets that day.  Lucky me.  Especially since I hadn't ever tried Razor clams before.  All of the seafood (Razors, littlenecks and squid) were cooked perfectly.  Creamy and briny, the first taste transported me directly to the beach.  The tasso ham and saffron broth were a great contrast to the clams- smoky, deep and complex.  Awesome.
We were both way too full to even think of dessert, but the menu had some great selections.  It was reminiscent of spring, which is a nice fantasy when its barely 40F outside.

All in all, it was a fantastic date night.  I ate some amazing, fresh LOCAL food with the man I love, and he didn't even make fun of me for creating a fake occasion to get my way.  Sel de la Terre provided a great meal, attentive service, and well-made cocktails.  I'd definitely go back, especially to try that burger!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pantry Cooking and some News.

This won't be news to everyone, but Boyfriend and I are finally making the big step and moving in together.  Yeah, I know, this isn't really the shock-and-awe statement I'm sure you were expecting, but the only man I've ever lived with was my father and I had originally hoped it would stay that way until I was married.  This topic used to be a pretty huge deal to me.  So what changed?  Hmm... I'm older, theoretically wiser, and living in a fairly expensive city.  Oh.  And I love Boyfriend.  Can't forget about that little fact! We spend nearly every night together as it is, and I've finally decided that it would make a whole lot more sense for both of us for me to discard my silly inhibitions on living together so that we could start saving a little money.  We're not in our 20's anymore and having a savings account sure would be a nice change of pace.

So that was the news.  Do with it as you please.

And what does that have to with this post?  Well, in my super-nerdom, I've made a spreadsheet inventorying the contents of my pantry, fridge, and freezer.  My goal is to eat up as much of it as possible, as deliciously as possible, prior to the big move.  I've already got enough junk to haul up to our lovely 4th floor walk up, and boxes of pasta, 4 jars of Dijon mustard (what? I don't have a problem....not at all) needn't be part of it.

Best pantry meal of all time?  Pizza.  You can put ANYTHING on a pizza.  Hell, Todd English got famous off what was probably a late-night drunk/high concoction, now famously known at Olives as the Fig & Proscuitto Pizza. I can see it now:

TE: duuuude, I'm hammered, let's get pizza....
TE friend:  yeah, man... wait, you're a chef, why don't you make one, Mr. Chef-y Pants?
TE: Can't, all I've got is some fig jam... 
TE friend: and bacon....
TE and Friend: ...>mischievous smiles<.....

A legend was born! That's how it goes in my head anyway....

Sooo, yeah.  That's the long, mostly made-up story about how I decided to use what I had in my pantry to make a pizza for dinner.  Way more interesting than had I just started this post with, "So I made a pizza", right?

Dough: See here.

Sauce: In a saucepan, heat 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/4 C water, 2 chopped roma tomatoes, 1 tbsp sugar, a splash of red wine, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper... and cook until nice and thickened.

Toppings: Whatever you have.  I used chopped mushrooms, kalamata olives, onions, and some cooked Italian sausage (from my CSA meat share).

Cheese: Ricotta (see how to make your own, here) and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. 

Bake on a pizza stone or cookie tray for 10-15min in a 425F or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is nice and golden brown.

To plate: A sprinkle of red pepper flakes and basil makes it perfect.  A salad lets you pretend its good for you.

Not the most interesting of dinners, I'll admit.  But damn tasty nonetheless!  Continue checking the blog over the next couple of weeks as my pantry gets thinner and the meals are forced to become more... uhm, how you say... creative?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seared Ahi Tuna with Vegetable Glass Noodles

You know how most of the time when you go to grab Chinese take-out or sushi, you walk into the restaurant and it just SMELLS AMAZING?  You think to yourself, "Dammit, why can't I ever seem to reproduce that taste/smell at home?"

I have 2 answers to that quandary:

1) You don't use MSG at home,
2) Vegetable oil + a splash of sesame oil + high heat

I'm one of those people that primarily uses only 2 fats on a regular basis - butter and olive oil.  I usually only use vegetable oil for deep-frying.  MISTAKE!  Holy cow did my apartment smell fantastic last night.  In fact, this was so good I'm storing this gem in my "repeat recipe file", a rare honor.

In honor of full disclosure, this is NOT my recipe.  In fact, the glass noodle recipe is almost entirely Hosea Rosenberg's, which you can find here.  Some of the vegetables I used might be a little different, but other than that, its all his.  I purchased the tuna from Trader Joe's Freezer section, so yeah, that's not really "mine" either.  Basically, I was looking for a quick weeknight dinner that wasn't boring.  Wow, I was blown away by this.  So easy.  So delicious.  Especially the noodles.  I beg you to try them. 

For the Tuna:
I just pan seared it for a minute or so on each side for a nice rare middle.

For the Glass Noodles:
Follow Hosea Rosenberg's recipe to a T, it'll make your apartment smell like [insert your local greasy chinese take-out here].

And the creme de la creme, if you like spicy condiments, I highly recommend this little number:

Sriracha Ginger Yogurt Sauce 
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 grated ginger (fresh)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 C rice vinegar
1/4 C orange juice
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp Sriracha
2 tbsp greek yogurt

In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the ginger, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 min. Add the vinegar, orange juice, mirin, wine and Sriracha and simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated and the sauce is thickened, 10-15 min. Turn off the heat and add the yogurt. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

I need to make this sauce again, and put it on EVERYTHING. On burgers? Oh, I bet it's amazing.

Final plating: Thinly slice the tuna and fan out on the plate around a pile of glass noodles.  Dollop some Sriracha Ginger Yogurt Sauce on the side and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions over the whole plate.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lamb Chorizo Sausage over Orzo with Roasted Peppers

Have you figured out yet that I. LOVE. CHORIZO?  Usually, I use the soft soy-based stuff from Trader Joe's because it has a nice flavor and texture that goes well with some of my favorite chorizo applications (chorizo & eggs, chorizo tacos, etc).

However comma.... When I picked up my meat share last weekend I got a very VERY welcomed surprise. 

Lamb.  Chorizo.  Sausage.  (>squeeeeee!<)

This lamb chorizo is so special to me that I couldn't imagine mixing it with anything that might mask its flavor (i.e. eggs).  Oh no, these little links of joy needed to be in the spotlight.  The first dish I chose to make with one of those links was a simple pasta-salad type thing, with grilled chorizo on top for a little kick.

    ~ serves 2 as a main dish
1 link (approx. 150grams) lamb chorizo sausage from Stillman's Farm, sliced into 1/2" rounds
2 oz orzo pasta
1 oz quinoa
2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1 onion, quartered
2 oz reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
2 small scallions, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1) Roast the peppers and onion in a 400F oven until the skins are charred, about 30 min, rotating once or twice during the roasting.
2) Place the roasted peppers in a plastic back or tupperware container to cool (this makes removing the skins SO. MUCH. EASIER.
3) Let the peppers cool for about 10min, then peel off the skins and chop the peppers and onions into bite sized pieces.
4) While waiting for the peppers to cool, start a pot of boiling, salted water.  Once at a rolling boil, add the quinoa and cook for 7-10min, then add the orzo and continue boiling until the orzo is al dente, about 8-9 more minutes.
5) Drain the pasta/quinoa mixture and add the olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Toss to coat.
6) Add the peppers, onion, garlic, feta and mint to the pasta/quinoa salad.  Toss it all together and let it sit for at least 30min, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors incorporate.
7) Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet to medium-high heat.  Add the lamb chorizo and cook 3min on each side or until cooked through to your liking.
8) Put the pasta/quinoa salad in a bowl and top with the hot lamb chorizo.  Enjoy immensely. 

I loved this and could have easily woofed down a second helping.  Boyfriend's only suggestion was that he would have liked more meat and more feta.  Predictable.
And, not to preach, but this just goes to show AGAIN why it is so amazing to be a member of a Community Supported Agriculture program.  Not only do I get a chance to enjoy fresh, handmade, LAMB chorizo, but I personally know and support the people that grow my meat and vegetables.  Yeah, I said "grow" my meat, because the environment that my lamb was born into and GREW up in is in stark contrast to other poor animals who live in the stressful, inhumane environment of factory farming.  I wish that everyone could experience the personal joy I get from eating locally and supporting my community and a local small business.  If you are interested in joining a CSA, trust me, its worth it.  If you don't know how or where to find local, sustainable food, check out Local Harvest and learn about what's available in your town.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moroccan Lentil Salad

Sorry I haven't been posting much.  I've been cooking plenty, but most of the time the meals are tasty but not extraordinary, and therefore I haven't felt like you'd be interested in them.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I felt like if I wasn't all that into them, you wouldn't be either.

With that said, I've had a mini-creative streak and have whipped up some serious deliciousness lately.  I'll try to post more often, and if you see something you like, please comment on it (everyone needs a little positive feedback now and again).  I've started to learn that this "being a blogger" thing is a bit of a mind-fuck.  I create these little tidbits about me and my food, send it off to cyberspace, and am left wondering if it ever reaches or inspires anyone.  Its a lot like talking to yourself.... you wonder if someone might be just around the corner listening, unbeknown to you.... or if you're just plain ol' crazy.

Ok, blathering on about myself... on to the cooking!

Always in search of a vegetarian meal that Boyfriend will enjoy, I decided to make a lentil salad using stuff I know he likes - grapes (check!), feta (check!), pistachios (check!), and arugula (check!).

The result: I loved it (had it again for lunch today actually).  Boyfriend thought the ratio of lentil:arugula was a little heavy on the arugula side, but he liked the spice it provided.  Boyfriend also decided to throw in a small (and predictable) comment, "You know what would make this better?... MEAT!"

Gotta love the guy.

1/2 lb dry lentils
2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced and washed
2 tbsp sherry
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 C red grapes, halved
1/4 C chopped roasted pistachios
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 dried fig, diced into small pieces
1/4 C mint, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 oz reduced-fat feta, crumbled
3 C reduced sodium chicken stock (or use vegetable broth for totally vegetarian)
1 tsp olive oil

1) Cook the lentils in the chicken stock until tender (~15-20min). 
2) Drain lentils, keeping any remaining cooking liquid. 
3) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet, add the leeks and brown for about 5min.  Add the leftover lentil-cooking liquid (no more than a 1/2 C) to the leeks and allow them to braise until soft, approximately 10min.
4) When the leeks are tender, remove from heat and stir in the sherry and mustard.
5) Combine the lentils, leek mixture, grapes, fig, pistachios, sesame seeds, mint, and parsley in a large bowl.
6) Season with salt and pepper if needed.  Top with crumbled feta.

I served this warm on a bed of arugula.  Boyfriend and I opened a Malbec and enjoyed our light dinner in front of the TV.  He watched the Celtics destroy the Sixers, I graded papers.  So romantic, right? 
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