November 2010

sunday dinner party

We invited a few friends over for a dinner party on this past Sunday and decided to attempt to conquer another recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Drizzly weather made bouf bourguignon the recipe of choice, and Jordan and I dove right in. After carefully reading the recipe, shopping, and then carefully re-reading the recipe, we began. We followed Julia’s instructions to a t (which is pretty impressive, considering how much Jordan loves to improvise in the kitchen and how detailed Julia’s instructions are) and the bouf turned out beautifully. It was moist, fork-tender, flavorful and drenched in a perfect beefy-bacony sauce. I love braised meats, but I’ve noticed that their sauces occasionally have a bitter aftertaste … well, not Julia’s. This sauce is perfect and I think we made it well.

We served the bouf with mashed potatoes and a salad of spinach, arugula, pomegranate chevre.

Conclusions: Braised meats are awesome! Although this recipe was a bit complicated and multi-stepped, it was absolutely worth the effort. Like Julia says in her memoir, and like my Nonnie says about Julia’s bouf bourguignon, if you carefully follow the recipe and don’t leave anything out the end product will be perfection.

-Emily

pasta with ricotta and heirloom tomatoes

This pasta dish was another of our quick, fresh, light dinners from the week. I wanted to celebrate the last of the tomatoes of the season!

Pasta with Ricotta and Heirloom Tomatoes
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1/2 c mixed herbs, chopped (I used parsley, basil and chives)
1 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
salt, pepper, chili flakes to taste
12 oz dry pasta (I used conchiglie – cute snail shell shaped pastas)
1/2 – 3/4 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c finely grate parmesan cheese

Slice tomatoes and toss them with the chopped herbs, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain. Return pasta to the pot, add ricotta, parmesan, and pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Top with tomato and herb mixture and enjoy!

Conclusions: A direct quote from Jordan: “This is the best thing I’ve had since …  since I can remember. Except for Lobster Day”. And from me: “the easiest ‘mac and cheese’ you’ll ever make that doesn’t come from a box”.

-Emily

 

seared sesame-crusted tuna over rice noodles

It’s been strangely hot here in San Francisco. I’m talking mid-70s, but still, it is November after all. Because it’s been warm and because both Jordan and I have vigorous commutes, we’ve been in the mood for fresh, light dinners. Last night I made seared tuna over rice noodles with a side of broccolini and mushrooms.

Seared Sesame-Crusted Tuna over Rice Noodles
1 lb rice noodles, cooked, drained and cooled.

For the noodle sauce: Whisk sliced green onion, soy sauce, siracha sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, and canola oil together. This was seriously approximated – I just threw a bit of everything asian we had in the kitchen together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh tuna
3 T sesame seeds
A pinch of salt

Sprinkle tuna with salt. Coat with sesame seeds, pressing seeds into fillet.

Heat 1 T of canola oil in a sauté pan over high heat until it is just about smoking. Place fish in the pan, sear for 30 – 45 seconds. Flip, sear for another 30 seconds. Remove from pan and slice.

Look how even that sear is! I'm pretty proud.

Toss rice noodles with the sauce. Lay sliced tuna over the rice noodles. Enjoy!

Conclusions: Super easy, tasty, and fresh. The only catch: Be mindful not to murder the tuna – it really does only take 30 – 45 seconds per side. Another upside: super gourmet leftovers to take to work/school for lunch.

-Emily

baking therapy: angel food cake with lemon cream

Another coworker’s birthday, another delicious treat to break up the workday. I decided to make an angel food cake for a couple of reasons …  because my mom found an angel food cake pan at a garage sale and brought it down to me last weekend, because I’ve never make angel food from scratch, and because I’ve already brought cheesecake, chocolate cake, yellow cake, and banana bread to work.

I must say, baking this cake was quite the adventure. I made a huge mess of my kitchen (mostly because I didn’t realize just how voluminous 12 egg whites can become – very voluminous) and later was thrilled when my cake popped right out of the mold after the two hour cooling period, despite looking totally stuck to the pan.

Angel Food Cake with Lemon Cream and Fresh Berries, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

FOR THE CAKE
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 large egg whites
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in lower third of oven. Sift flour and 1/2 cup sugar into a bowl.

Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add lemon zest and juice, cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt; continue whisking until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add remaining cup sugar.

Increase speed to medium-high; continue whisking until firm, not stiff, peaks form, about 2 minutes. (At this point my mixer was overflowing with egg whites!) Sprinkle whites with 1/3 of the flour-sugar mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine. Sprinkle remaining flour-sugar mixture over whites in 2 additions; gently fold to combine.

Transfer batter to an UNGREASED (very important!) 10-inch angel food cake pan with legs. Gently run a knife through the center of the batter to remove any air bubbles. Bake 45 to 50 minutes.

FOR THE LEMON CREAM
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

While the cake is baking, make the lemon cream. Prepare an ice-water bath (this really does help). Whisk lemon juice, sugar, flour, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; whisk constantly for 1 minute, until it thickens. Transfer to a heatproof bowl set in ice-water bath to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk cream and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold whipped cream into juice mixture in thirds. Refrigerate lemon cream, up to overnight.

Remove cake from oven, and invert onto its cooling legs (if your tube pan doesn’t have legs, invert it over the neck of a wine, or similarly shaped, bottle to cool); let cool, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Yes, you let it cool upside down … the cake won’t just plop out of the pan so don’t worry like I did). Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of cake to remove. Invert onto a serving platter. (Use a knife to separate cake from bottom of pan.)

Frost with whipped cream, serve with fresh berries.

Conclusions: Delicious! Light, lemony and spongy … an angel food cake success! My coworkers all enjoyed it, especially the addition of the lemon zest.

-Emily

julia child’s garlic soup and eggs coquette

I busted out Mastering the Art of French Cooking the other night. I was in the mood to cook something classic, yet more ambitious than usual. I chose two different recipes – one for garlic soup and another for poached-style eggs. I had all my ingredients, I was excited about the recipes, I felt good. And … it all went downhill from there.

A brief outline of the snowballing disasters:

The garlic soup is basically garlic, boiled, crushed and then infused into water. You turn this garlic water into a soup by adding an emulsion of eggs and olive oil. Got that far without issue. I was even proud of my very viscous emulsion. I carefully mixed the hot garlic water with the egg mixture as to not burn the eggs … another successful step. I tasted. It needed acid. I added a squeeze of lemon juice … and watched as my soup went from beautifully emulsified to curdled in seconds. Strike one.

I then decided to tackle the eggs. The idea was to bake eggs in ramekins with a little cream and butter and then top them with fresh chives and sauteed mushrooms. Delicious. Sadly, I failed to read the bit in recipe about starting the eggs on the stove to thicken the cream. Frustrated, I just tossed them in the oven in a water bath. After a few minutes they didn’t seem to be cooking at all. Strike two.

Jordan suggested we put the eggs under the broiler in an attempt to rescue dinner. It was tricky to move a small, too-full pan of water with ramekins sliding around into our drawer style broiler, but we did it. After a few minutes, we opened the broiler drawer to check on the eggs and the pan came sliding out, spilling an eggy, creamy, watery mess all over the kitchen floor. Of course, this commotion prompted Willow to come racing over to investigate. To sum things up, in our tiny galley kitchen we had myself, Jordan, a nosy dog, an open broiler door, a large eggy spill, and a pot of curdled soup. Strike three.

Amazingly, I tried to save dinner yet again by plating this disaster and serving to Jordan and myself.

We had green beans and sautéed mushrooms for dinner. I do love green beans.

-Emily

baking therapy: pumpkin seeds and pumpkin bread

Yesterday was Halloween. We woke up early and hosted a pumpkinpalooza in our kitchen … pumpkin carving, pumpkin seed roasting and pumpkin bread baking!

Step one: Carve your pumpkin. Look at what a fabulous job Jordan did!

Step two: Roast the seeds.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Scrape out all the goopy goop. Rinse the goop off the seeds. Pat dry. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

Step three: Bake pumpkin bread. I used the same recipe from the pumpkin cookies I made last week and just baked the batter in small loaf pans for 45 minutes. It turned out delicious and the browned butter icing was the perfect compliment this time around. So good that we never even got a picture. 😉

Step four: Enjoy pumpkin bread and roasted pumpkin seeds outside in the fall sunshine with beautiful people and beautiful dogs!

 

 

A perfect fall day!

-Emily

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