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Slow cooked Saturday

There is nothing I love more than honest, earthy cooking. A pot on the stove that makes the whole house smell rosier, and straight forward flavors that taste of just what they are. This afternoon I started a pot roast that simmered until eight in the evening, and it just tasted so incredibly… well, beefy! I don’t really think anything more could be said. Shredded and coated in dark, voluptuously umami braising liquids (collagen FTW), embellished with a dollop of sour cream and spooned lovingly over buttered egg noodles, it was such a satisfying meal. I gilded the lily with a still-warm slice of pumpkin pie, which pushed me right over the edge of the happiness-meter.

Beef and nudes

Lip Smackingly Simple Pot Roast
Serves 6-8

One 3-4 lb chuck roast
AP Flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 bottle dry red wine (I used some Merlot I had hanging around)
32 oz beef stock

Season the roast very generously with salt and pepper, the dust with flour and brown on all sides in the olive oil and butter in a heavy dutch oven. Towards the end of the browning, toss in the onion to sweat. Deglaze with the wine and add the stock. Simmer, partially covered for 4-5 hours, until it falls apart. Serve in a variety of ways: you can reduce the braising liquids to an intense sauce, toss with egg noodles, serve over mashed potatoes…the possibilities are endless! You can even add paprika to the braising liquids for a stroganoff-style sauce.

Just a thought…

…loosely associated with the Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo. First of all, did you know that menudo is tripe soup? Seriously, guys. I get that it’s a catchy Spanish word, but tripe soup?

So it got me thinking, what if every nation had a boy band named after tripe soup? In Italy I loved bollito and tripa from Mercato Centrale. Bollito is boiled meats, but it’s always the mystery bits, especially at the central market. So obviously there needs to be an Italian boy band named Bollito.

Imagine… a coliseum full of people and the em cee booms over the hushed crowd, “Ladies and Gentlemen….BOLLITO!” and out comes a guy dressed as tripe, one as a bun and the third as a bowl of salsa verde. And they sing and dance around.

I never said my thoughts made sense, just that I have them.

Meatless meal

I’m going to try and start a new tradition in chez Cecile (my nom du francaise from middle school french class, natch…no it doesn’t mean Christina, I just picked it out because I liked it. I was a brilliant twelve year old), and that tradition is eating better and having one meal a week be meatless. Why? It’s not so much that I want to eat less animal protein, it’s that by pointedly changing my eating habits, hopefully I’ll forge some new, better ones. Ones that will help me lose the weight I’ve gained this semester, weight caused by lots and lots of ice cream. This evening I made rice and black beans and a slow-roasted sweet potato. I started with a favorite salad of mine, marinated cucumbers. It was simple and delicious, and lovely washed down with the last of the apple cider.

So Simple Sweet and Sour Cucumbers

This receipt is more of a ratio. You take any number of Persian (hothouse) cucumbers, peel, halve and seed them, then chop them into slices. For each cucumber you take a 1/4 cup each red wine vinegar and sugar. Add to this salt and pepper to taste, and sometimes when the whim moves me I add minced dill. It’s lovely and refreshing. I’ve never met a soul who didn’t like it. It needs to marinate for at least two hours before service.

Simmered Black beans

Olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tins black beans, rinsed
1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
Pinch of chili powder
Bay leaf
Vegetable broth, 1 c.
Cilanto garnish

Saute shallot and garlic, add beans, seasonings and broth. Simmer for 20 minutes while your rice cooks. For the rice I made a pilaf with almonds and saffron.

For the sweet potato, I roasted it in the oven at 350*F for about 90 minutes until it was tender. At that length of time the very outside of the potato carmelizes inside the jacket and you can practically peel the skin away. I added butter, salt and cinnamon. Delicious.

Bumper crop

I have a ton of kale. I’ve eaten kale about six times in the last two weeks. I should be so healthy from all the vitamin C, K and zinc that I could run a marathon.

I love soup in the autumn. Last year I purchased Lidia’s Family Table, and inside she has a chapter on soups based on three “bases:” a garlicky white bean broth, a potato broth, and a turkey broth. Tonight, rolling with the various iterations she presents, I made a garlicky white bean broth, added potatoes, and finished with, you guess it! kale.

Zuppa

Cannelini, Potato and Kale Soup

3 slices Ossian bacon, cut into lardon
1/2 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz chicken broth
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed
4 white-skinned potatoes, sliced
4-6 cups water
1 large bunch kale, chiffonade and well rinsed of dirt/sand
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino romano

Start the bacon in a cold pot to render, then sweat onion and carrot with a bit of salt. Add the garlic in the last 30 seconds, then deglaze with the broth. Add your beans, potatoes and water and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. The potatoes should be cooked but not falling apart. Add the kale and simmer for 15 minutes longer until tender. Adjust the seasoning and serve with a generous snow of pecorino and some hearty bread.

Stress, I has it

This is the week from hell. I worked all weekend until after midnight, then exam today and tomorrow, two case studies to complete and a presentation to write on top of the typical homework. It’s just overwhelming. I’m sitting here with bloodshot eyes and an aching back from leaning over textbooks constantly. Tomorrow is a sixteen hour day, followed by work Thursday and a ten hour clinical Friday. And then it will be over. This, my friends, is just another week as a student nurse.

I talked to Z and my mom about my quitting or going to down to PRN at work. It’s just a weird thing, my job makes me a better nurse (my clinical instructor tells me it’s so refreshing that I have lots of experience), but my actually BEING a licensed nurse is hinged on excelling in school, and right now, my job is seriously impeding my studying. It’s 11pm and my exam is at 9 am, and I still have three chapters to read. There is just no time to cram it all in.

Seattle

I just spent a week in Seattle with a couple of dear friends and Z. Sadly, I was sick for all of it, and my friend L was sick for half of it, so I don’t have much to say, except a.) Seattle is beautiful and b.) the stomach flu sucks donkey balls.

Seattle is really, really beautiful. I was fortunate to be there during their summer, which is mild and sunny. We had a few amazing moments, like this one, at Duke’s Chowder House on Lake Union:

Lake Union

The next day we went to the Experience Music Project, Sci-Fi Museum, and the Space Needle, where we had lunch in the rotating restaurant. Z snapped these pics:

Space Needle

Mount Rainier

Waterboat from Space Needle

View from Space Needle

It was a good day, especially when I finally started perking up a bit. That evening we had dinner at Coho, and I had halibut for the first time, with couscous and tomatoes. The fish was so buttery and yummy, and it was the first meal I actually enjoyed in Seattle, so it was very special. Z had the mixed seafood grill, and L had these amazing caveman-sized porkchops with a savory bread pudding. We split creme brulee three ways which was a great ending to a simple but tasty meal.

Seattle just didn’t get any less beautiful. Every day was sunny and awesome. One day we went to Ballard to view the salmon ladder, as it was spawning season. On the way we stopped at Archie McPhee’s, which is a local novelty shop that makes a lot of it’s own merchandise. I got a unicorn vs. narwhal playset I’ve been coveting for years, and a brocoli vs. tofu playset (it doesn’t make sense unless you’re a dork). I also mastered the fez grimace:

Archie McPhee's

Thursday L was really ill so Z and I hung around Bellevue, where our hotel was located. In the evening we walked the half-mile circuit around Bellevue Downtown Park, which was so picturesque that both of us were waxing poetic about moving there and becoming Microsoft nerds who play volleyball.

Bellevue Downtown Park

The walking path curved around the center lawn, and was bordered by a man-made stream, which culminated in a waterfall and a pond. These two dogs were taking advantage of the path-stream and cooled off:

Goggies!

Our last morning we drove to Salish Lodge and had a delicious breakfast. On our way out we stopped at the Snoqualmie Falls observation deck and took in all the beauty.

Snoqualmie Falls

Me at Salish Lodge

I miss L and T already and am so grateful for their hospitality and their friendship. I hope to return to Seattle with my normal appetite and zest for adventure. They didn’t really get to see how much fun I can be, since half the trip I was like this:

Snoozin

See you soon, Seattle!

Monkfish is an ugly fish. The Venetians call it Angelfish or Angelshark, which is a corruption of its genus, anglerfish. It’s colloquially called “Poor Man’s lobster” because it is sweet with a dense, firm flesh. I’ve never had a mouthful of lobster tail (shocking, I know!), but monkfish I can now say I’ve had.

Z and I went to Chelsea Market, a wonder-building filled with lovely shops, including The Lobster Place. Inside the place smelled clean and briny and the floors were wet from being regularly washed down. This cleanness, which is such a contrast to the dank stink-holes I find in Indiana, filled me with much excitement- freshly caught fish! The fish, lobsters, mussels, clams and oysters were shining and beautiful; Z was giddy with the potential of stuffing his maw with tasty piscatorial delights. But what particularly caught my eye was a large, translucent, gleaming tail of monkfish. I had never tasted monkfish before, and at $13,50, I felt like it was due time to try it.

Monkfish filet

Z and I shopped for the rest of our ingredients at Buon Italia and Manhattan Fruit Exchange. Buon Italia is a great resource for the Italian cook, as they have many rare pastas, cheeses and meats, as well as roasted porchetta and hot pasta dishes, imported sundry and chocolates. At every turn I was gasping with delight- they have three lengths of buccatini, they have spaghetti alla chittara, they have 18-hour-old burrata flown in from Puglia, they have 36-month old Vecchio Rosso parmesan, they have speck!! I was almost vibrating from excitement. I turned to Z and said, “We’re not going out tonight, I am making a big feast for us.” We settled on burrata on a spicy arugala salad, monkfish braised in a Sicilian-style sauce then tossed with spaghetti all chittara, and tiramisu with hazelnut chocolate curls.

For the monkfish, I removed the thin outer membrane, cut it into 2″ chunks, and lightly floured and browned it. I then sauteed lots of garlic, pitted and slivered olives, a generous pinch of pepperonchini and anchovy fillets before deglazing with white wine and crushed tomatoes. Finally I returned the monkfish to braise while I boiled the chittara, which took a bit longer than regular pasta as it is dense and rough. Finally, I tossed it all together and served it with basil and vecchio rosso cheese.

Dinner

We both really enjoyed the meal. The burrata was milky, buttery and so fresh. The monkfish was sweet, delicately flavored and meaty. The chittara pasta was toothsome and the sauce clung voluptously to the hewn edges. And finally we both had a hefty square of tiramisu, which is always delicious.

Tiramisu

Les noms