Compromise is pricey

SpicyShallot_Sushi_IMG_7387The only thing I could think of that I wanted for dinner tonight was Vietnamese summer rolls. Unfortunately, Shane is the kind of person who will forever forsake a restaurant, store, airline (etc.) after just one bad experience. Shane did not want Vietnamese from Thai Son (and there are very few airlines he will permit us to fly).

Shane is not beyond compromise, however. He and Rose had sushi from Spicy Shallot, and I got my summer rolls from Thai Son. Somehow our compromise added up to a hell of a lot of money.

Aside from the expense, the most notable part of dinner was when Shane attempted to teach Rose how to use chopsticks. After about 15 minutes he said “I’m starving, and I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with this.” I told him I was impressed that he even tried, and Rose went back to eating with her training chopsticks and fingers.

From the freezer

From_The_Freezer_IMG_7378Every time I pull dinner from the freezer, I wish that had the presence of mind to put dinner in the freezer more often. What a luxury on a busy evening, to bung something in the oven, throw together a simple salad, and be done with it.

I totally understand the appeal of the prepared frozen meal now. Well, except for the shitty flavor, highly processed chemically ingredients, and wasteful packaging bit.

Tonight it was Easy Pasta Bake. I usually bake half of the dish on the night I first prepare it, and freeze the other half for a busy night like tonight.

I learned tonight for if you forget to leave your frozen pasta out to thaw in the morning. A couple of hours in the oven on warm will have it ready to bake up perfectly in 15-20 minutes (at 350).

People with microwaves probably don’t have this timing problem. I do not have a microwave, they give me the willies.

After dinner we had a secret special occasion cupcake party, with guilty-pleasure cupcakes from Crumbs.

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Shrimp, scallops, couscous, salad

Scallops_Couscous_Salad_IMG_7369I bought half a pound of scallops at the farmer’s market today because they were $17.99 a pound and that seemed like a lot of money. I just assumed that you’d get a lot of scallops for a lot of money and that half a pound would do. Upon opening the bag at home, I realized that I’d only bought seven scallops. Seven scallops was not going be enough for my family, specifically, Shane.

Fortunately, Shane went to Costco today and got a bag of frozen shrimp. Which reminds me, do you know about The Steady Table’s Costco shopping list? It’s a list of foods we think are worth buying at your NYC area Costco. And possibly Costcos in other areas.

It was proving hard to find a scallop recipe that seemed simple enough, something without a fussy sauce. And then I remembered my own basic scallop recipe. I cooked the shrimp and scallops together, taking the shrimp out a bit sooner since they cook more quickly.

The couscous was delicious, pearl, with tiny pieces of zucchini, lemon juice, zest, olive oil and ricotta salata. It was inspired by this recipe. In my version I left out the shallot and basil, increased the amount of lemon juice, and decreased the amount of couscous so it would be more veggie-y.

Somehow Shane managed to find a decent tomato. He got it at Fairway, maybe that’s why it was good, or maybe we just got lucky. I prepared it with my mom’s no-effort red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil dressing and added a few leaves of spicy arugula. Yum.

As promised, here are the cookies from last night. They are Chewy Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies from Joy The Baker. It’s possible that I might love these more than trusty old Toll House Cookies. The molasses seems to make them extra brown-sugary, the bread flour makes them perfectly chewy and the touch of sea salt makes them, well, perfect.

In case you’re wondering, Buttercup seems to be doing well. I had a bit of a scare today when I thought perhaps she was feeling lethargic, the surgeon said to watch out for that. Turns out she was just being a cat, she later groomed herself, had some treats and drank a lot of water. I think things are looking up for our Butters.

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First barbecue of the season

IMG_1161A totally mellow barbecue with friends this evening was just my speed, and a perfect way to welcome spring. This is the only photo I took.

Ian grilled a variety of steak, asparagus, eggplant and yellow peppers. Britta made pasta salad with artichoke hearts, parmesan, black beans, tomatoes and a secret greek vinegar that seems like nothing but makes a salad sing. And there was corn on the cob! For the kids, there were dogs and fries.

I made cookies which I will tell you about tomorrow, because I’m bushwhacked from a day of post-operative feline care.

Steak Frites

Steak_Frites_Tomato_Asparagus_IMG_7347Our little lady is home from the hospital. She had a very decadent dinner of cat treats in bed. While she rested, we had steak frites with asparagus and tomato salad.

At some point in the day, I started thinking about the amazing tomato salad my mom makes in the summer, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

My mom says the trick is good tomatoes. It’s the juice from the tomatoes that mixes with the very simple dressing—olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt—that makes it taste so good. I managed to find some pretty decent Campari tomatoes, it wasn’t my mom’s summer version of the salad, but it hit the spot.

The photo at bottom is dinner from our five year old’s perspective.

• Oven Fries •
from The New Best Recipe and Annie’s Eats

3 russet potatoes (about 24 oz. total), peeled and cut lengthwise into even sized wedges
5 tbsp. vegetable, canola or peanut oil, divided
¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Preheat the oven to 475˚ F. Place the potato wedges in a large mixing bowl. Cover with hot water; soak for 10-30 minutes. Put 4 tablespoons of the oil onto a heavy, rimmed baking sheet. Tilt the sheet side to side to evenly coat the pan with oil (a pastry brush can also help with this). Sprinkle the pan evenly with the salt and pepper. Set aside.
Drain the potatoes. Spread the wedges out on layers of paper towels or on clean kitchen towels. Pat dry with additional towels. Wipe out the now empty bowl so it is dry. Return the potatoes to the bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Arrange the potato wedges on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula and tongs, flip each potato wedge keeping them in a single layer. Continue baking until the fries are golden and crisp, 5 -15 minutes. Rotate the pan as needed to ensure even browning.
When the fries are finished baking, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain some of the grease. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
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Update

First off, Buttercup is doing well. She got out of the ICU this afternoon and should be coming home tomorrow. If all I post about for the next two years is rice and beans, you’ll know why (hint: kittycat ICU).

I don’t have a meal to post for you. Shane and Rose went out to dinner together, which I had planned to post about, but when I got home they were both fast asleep in her room.

Until tomorrow.

Comfort food

Comfort_Food_Tomato_Ginger_CremeFraiche_IMG_7339Our sweet kitty, Buttercup, is about to go in for emergency surgery. It turns out that not only did she eat one of Rose’s princess headdresses, she also ate a piece of metal wire which is now lodged in her little body somewhere. Needless to say we were in the mood for comfort food.

I consider any meal made with cream and tomatoes to be comforting. Add the stomach-settling power of fresh ginger and you’ve got it made.

Pasta With Tomato and Ginger Salsa and Creme Fraiche (original recipe here), is from Rachel’s Favorite Food at Home by Rachel Allen. I’ve made (and posted) about this dish a few times before. I swear it gets better every time.

• Pasta With Tomato and Ginger Salsa and Creme Fraiche •
adapted from Rachel’s Favorite Food at Home

12oz farfalle, penne, rigatoni or similar pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 small sweet onion, chopped
8-10 campari or cherry tomatoes (or 2 large, good, tomatoes), coarsely chopped
2-3 teaspoons finely grated ginger
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons creme fraiche

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter in a sautee pan, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and ginger to the onions and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Sautee tomato, onion, ginger mixture for a couple of minutes, stirring or tossing frequently, until the tomatoes begin to soften. 

Combine the tomato sauce with the drained pasta and creme fraiche, stir to combine and serve.

Thin, steamed, asparagus with butter is a perfect accompaniment.

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Spinach and artichoke grilled cheese

Artichoke&Spinach_GrilledCheese_IMG_7338Our poor, sweet, kitty, Buttercup is very sick. We’re not sure exactly what the problem is but we suspect it has to do with her eating a good portion of one of Rose’s princess headdresses. The little lady had us running back and forth from the vet all afternoon and evening, leaving little time for planning dinner. (Not that dinner trumps our Buttercup’s well-being, of course.)

I decided the best plan of action was grilled cheese, but I didn’t want just grilled cheese tonight. I wanted some kind of jazzed-up, perfectly satisfying, titillating, variation. Naturally, I thought of Joy the Baker. She’s always doing things like adding popcorn to cookies and peanut butter and bacon to pancakes, of course she was bound to have just the grilled cheese recipe I was looking for. And she did! Thanks Joy the Baker.

I used a combination of cheddar and mozzarella instead of jack cheese, and creme fraiche because I didn’t have sour cream. Joy the Baker says “Sandwiches are very personal so the ingredients above are entirely flexible and up to you!”

• Spinach & Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches •
from Joy the Baker, original recipe here

splash of olive oil
1 small clove garlic
3 cups (or 3 big handfuls) baby spinach
4 slices bread (I used sourdough)
about 2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/3-1/2 cup grated or crumbled jack cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped canned artichoke hearts, drained
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sriracha
large pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon butter, for grilling the sandwiches

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Add spinach leaves and saute until wilted.  This should happen quickly.  Spinach just wilts in a hot pan.  Remove spinach from skillet, place in a medium bowl and set aside.

Spread each slice of bread with a bit of cream cheese.  You don’t need much.  We’re using it as edible sandwich glue.

Squeeze or press as much liquid as possible out of the canned artichoke hearts using a paper towel.

To the bowl of sautéed spinach add, jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, chopped artichoke hearts, sour cream, sriracha, and salt.  Stir until combined.

Top two slices of bread with spinach and artichoke filling.  Make sandwiches with the two remaining slices of bread.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add sandwiches and grill until each side is golden and the insides are melty warm.  Serve immediately.  

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Good stuff

Bean_GoatCheese_Quesadillas_IMG_7335We never tire of this meal. Good old, Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas, quick and easy, loved by all. That sounds like an epitaph, but it’s not.

The  original recipe, from Dinner A Love Story is here. The version I make, which is slightly different, is below. More posts on this recipe can be found here, here and here.

• Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas •
adapted from Dinner A Love Story

vegetable oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned well and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup water (more if needed)
6-8* 8-inch regular or whole wheat tortillas
4 ounces goat cheese

Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, leek, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans and mash them with a large fork or potato masher. Add water and cook, stirring until most of water is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a little more vegetable oil. Place half of the tortillas on a flat surface, evenly distribute the bean filling between your tortillas and spread it so the tortilla is covered, leaving a up to an inch of space around the edge. Put blobs of goat cheese on top of beans and top with a second tortilla. Cook tortillas in the oiled skillet, flipping at least once, until they  are golden and cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a dinner plate and place in a warm oven (or tent with foil) to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Cut each quesadilla into 6 pieces and serve.

I like these with a simple salad and guacamole. Feel free to mess around with different cheeses, we’ve had great luck with cheddar and fresh mozzarella.

*Note: I like my quesadillas pretty full, so I just use 6 tortillas. If you like them a bit thinner use 8. Keep in mind that when you make them thick, it gets a bit messy with the cutting and you may need to shove some of the filling back in by hand.

 

Frank Pepe’s

Pepes_IMG_1112We hit Frank Pepe’s on the way home from Cape Cod. This time we actually sat down and ordered instead of eating our pies in the car. The two pies were nearly gone before I remembered to take a photo.