January 2012

daikon soup?

Jordan wanted to pickle daikon radishes, which is a great and delicious idea, and so he procured some lovely young little daikons. They sat happily in our fridge awaiting their future pickling—until I accidentally turned them into soup.  Daikons are not parsnips, as it turns out. In fact, they are much more watery, much more radishy and very little like parsnips at all, except for their looks.

I was in the middle of making my potato and ‘parsnip’ soup when Jordan came home from work. The soup had just entered into a mysteriously watery state when he walked through the door asking what was for dinner. Potato and parsnip soup was my cheery reply. Where did you get the parsnips, he wondered out loud. The fridge was my matter-of-fact answer. And that is when the ‘a daikon is not a parsnip’ bomb dropped and the reason behind my very watery soup became clear.

Well, when your soup is the consistency of broth because of an ingredient snafu and you still need to somehow turn that mess into a dinner, add half a pound of dry pasta and it will soak the excess water right up. Your potato soup will become a sort of pasta sauce and you’ll now be able to enjoy a carbtastic meal. I won’t torture you will the recipe, but keep the pasta trick in mind.

-Emily

tabbouleh salad with chicken shish kebab

Jordan and I both love tabbouleh. The first time we had tabbouleh it was purchased from a tiny on-campus grocery store while I was studying at Georgetown. It was delicious. I made meals of it. Case in point: When I was an editor at The Georgetown Voice,  I would fuel the long nights we spent putting together that fine newsmagazine with a container of tabbouleh, a stack of pita bread and a pack of Haribo gummy bears. A balanced diet if there ever was one.

Now that I am older and wiser (and can no longer consume the quantity of candy I could during my Voice days), I decided to pair the tabbouleh with rice and chicken shish kebab. For those of you that might be skeptical, you don’t miss the gummy bears at all.

Chicken Shish Kebab
1/2 lb chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 t paprika
1/2 t cayenne
salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning  — it should be well seasoned since this is the only seasoning you’ll put on the chicken. After your satisfied with the taste of your marinade, add the chicken and let sit for at least one hour or overnight. Meanwhile, make the tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh Salad
1 cup fine-grain bulgur wheat
2 bunches parsley, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Bring two cups of well-seasoned water to a boil. Add the bulgur, cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the salad. Chop the herbs—some stems are totally ok— chop the onion and garlic. Mix the herbs and vegetables together in a large bowl. If tomatoes are in season, feel free to chop a few of those and add them in as well.  Add the lemon juice. Drain the excess water out of your bulgur and add that to the herb mixture. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. It should be quite herby and lemony. Add a hearty drizzle of olive oil to help mellow the flavors out and set aside. This salad only improves as the flavors meld.

Put the chicken cubes onto skewers. You’ll lose some of the yogurt marinade while skewering, but the flavors should have had time to permeate the chicken. Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Cook the skewers for several minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice alongside the tabbouleh salad.

-Emily

chocolate pudding

Jordan loves chocolate pudding and so I decided to make some for him for our anniversary last weekend. (Six years!) When we first moved to the city, we feel in love with the chocolate pudding at Tartine Bakery. The texture is amazingly creamy, the flavor intensely chocolatey and it’s topped with unsweetened whipped cream. Perfect—like just about everything else at Tartine!  Turns out, this pudding is quite easy to make and doesn’t take much more effort than the stove top Jello stuff. Try it, and you probably won’t go back.

Chocolate Pudding, from Tartine by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 T heavy cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
3 T cocoa powder
3 eggs
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate

Place a fine mesh sieve over a large heat-proof bowl. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and heat to just under a boil. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together cornstarch, sugar and cocoa powder. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and whisk to combine.

Slowly add half of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. It is really important to watch the mixture closely because it can go from delicious to burnt in a matter of seconds. After 5 or so minutes, once the custard has visibly thickened, pour it through the mesh sieve. Add the chocolate and let it melt. After the chocolate has melted, blend with an immersion blender for a full five minutes. This is what makes the pudding’s texture sublime. Portion the pudding and let it cool. Serve at room temperature (trust me, it is better at room temperature) with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

-Emily

to cook a crab

 

For the first time since he started working at Amoeba last July, Jordan had a Saturday off. Happiness! A shared day off work most definitely meant that an adventure was in order. We decided to explore Point Reyes and Tomales Bay to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. Luckily for us, our good friends Matt and Alexa were also game and prepared an agenda full of amazing food and beautiful scenery.

We hit up the classic Pine Cone Diner (lovingly called The Cone by locals, aka Matt) explored the tiny town of Point Reyes Station and then went on a hike through Point Reyes National Seashore. After some leisurely hiking,  it was on to the main event … oysters! Hog Island Oyster Co was the destination of choice. A few picnic tables in the sun and the freshest oysters you’ll ever eat, all right next to the pristine Tomales Bay—heaven on Earth.

Still feeling that oyster buzz, we decided to grab a big ole dungeness crab and a few more oysters from their retail shop on the way out. Matt and Alexa also bought two crabs and those lively guys were trying to escape their icy cooler all the way home. Amazingly fresh seafood, round two!

To Cook A Crab

I’d never cooked a crab before. My only prior experience with cooking the larger members of the crustacean family was Lobster Day over a year ago. To be honest, Jordan did all of the real work in both of these experiments, but I did take good notes.

There are several different ways to cook a crab, but we decided to keep it simple and take the steaming route. Boil a few inches of water in a large stock pot with the steamer insert. Put the crab in the pot and steam for 8 minutes per pound with the lid cocked.

Remove the crab from the pot and rinse with cold water.  Flip the crab over and pull off the apron (the oval/triangular belly of the crab). At this point the crab guts will ooze out all over your counter. You’ll need to sop these up with some paper towels and carry on. Some folks like to eat the guts, but we didn’t this time due to unanticipated oozing. With the guts removed,  you have access to the gills and mandible, which you should also remove. Now you’re left with a delicious crab body and delicious crab legs. Take some scissors to the table and enjoy! We dunked ours in melted butter. Something magical happens when crab meets butter, that’s a fact.

And if you’re curious about shucking oysters at home, here’s how.

Emily

devils on horseback, datiles, or bacon-wrapped dates

Posted on January 6, 2012

Starting off the new year right … with more pork! I’ve had this appetizer in several iterations over the years and it never disappoints. I’m actually surprised I haven’t sung its praises before. The first time I had this dish was at a tapas restaurant in Washington, D.C. I was a vegetarian at the time, but was convinced by some good friends to try the datiles regardless. They couldn’t have been more right—those datiles were date-bacon-donuts sent from heaven. That was the beginning of the end for my vegetarianism. More recently, our friends Matt and Alexa brought their version of those datiles so fondly etched into my memory to a dinner party, this time calling them devils on horseback. Basically, this mind-blowing, vegetarian-converting appetizer is a date stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in bacon, and then baked or fried to crispy perfection. They are insanely easy to make and everyone at the next party you go to will want to be your best friend.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese
1 lb medjool dates, pits removed
1 lb bacon
8 oz chevre goat cheese

Using a sharp knife, slice the date to the pit and remove taking care to not cut through the date. Stuff the date with a small spoonful of goat cheese. I recommend stuffing the dates with slightly less goat cheese—some of mine oozed out while cooking and burned. No point in wasting cheese!

Wrap the date with one half bacon slice, securing with a toothpick. The prep can be done several hours or even the day before you plan to serve the dish, another appetizer plus!

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Bake the dates for 20 – 25 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crispy. Serve warm. I guarantee they won’t have time to get cold.

-Emily

mock porchetta—it’s porktastic!

Posted on January 4, 2012

Before heading back to Sacramento for Christmas, we had a Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah/ Winter Solstice dinner with our dear Supper Club friends. Being that the dish served at this dinner would also become our 200th blog post (!!!), we knew that it had to be pork and it had to be good.

We decided on a recipe for mock porchetta from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. You might be wondering what a porchetta is and why the one we made is considered an improvisation. Well, porchetta is an Italian dish wherein an entire pig is deboned, stuffed with herbs and spices and roasted to perfection. I like to cook for a crowd, but an entire hog is out of the question for most home cooks. This recipe borrows the seasoning and cooking method from the traditional recipe, but scales it down to 3 pound pork shoulder proportions—perfect for a holiday meal.

Mock Porchetta with Roasted Vegetables, from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers
One 3-pound boneless pork should butt roast (my 3.5 lb roast fed 7 people)
salt
1 T capers, rinsed, dried between two towels and chopped
zest of one lemon
3 garlic cloves, chopped
12 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 – 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
2 t fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 t cracked black pepper
1 – 2 pounds vegetables, for roasting (carrots, potatoes, parsnip, turnip, onion)
olive oil
2/3 cup chicken stock or water
3 T dry vermouth

Judy recommends that you season and tie the pork 2 to 3 days in advance to let the meat absorb the flavors of the seasonings. Absolutely do this. Two to three days before you plan to eat, trim off any discoloration and all but 1/4 inch thick layer of superficial fat. Now you’ll want to trim the roast into one long piece of meat that is 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. The idea is to roll the seasonings into the roast, making a sort of pork butt roulade. Study the seams in the roast and carefully separate the meat into one long piece. In my experience, this was actually much easier than it sounded. Salt the splayed piece of pork on both sides. Judy recommends 1/2 t of salt per pound of meat. The lady knows where it’s at.

In a small bowl, combine capers, zest, garlic, sage, rosemary and most of the fennel seeds and black pepper. It should be about 1/2 cup loosely packed.

Spread and pack this mixture onto one side of the roast. Roll the pork back into its natural shape and then tie 4 – 5 strings around its circumference and one around the length of the roast. Rub the outside of the roast with the remaining fennel seed and black pepper. Put the pork on a plate, cover loosely and refrigerate.  I thought my roast was a beaut!

To roast: preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Plan for 2.5 hours of cooking time. Toss your vegetables with some olive oil, salt and pepper. In a roasting pan or oven-proof skillet (you make a pan sauce later so use a pan you can put on the stove), add the porchetta and surround with vegetables.

Place in the oven. If after 45 minutes, the roast hasn’t begun to color, turn the oven up to 375 degrees. After one hour, turn the roast over and roll the vegetables in the rendered fat. After two hours, turn the roast again and add 1/3 cup of stock. Roast another 15 – 3o minutes, until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees.

Turn the oven to warm. Take the roast out of the oven and put on a cutting board to rest. Cover loosely with foil. Place the vegetables in the oven on a warm platter. Make a sauce of the pan juices. First, tilt the skillet and spoon off any excess fat. Add the remaining 1/3 cup stock and vermouth. Turn the heat to medium low. Scrape and stir to dissolve the caramelized drippings on the bottom and sides of the pan. Continue to skim the fat, until you have a nice porky sauce. Slice the pork, removing the strings as you go. Serve each slice with a spoonful of the pan sauce over the top.

In addition to the roasted vegetables, we also enjoyed potato latkes (thanks Robin!) and a salad of winter greens. Kelly made gingerbread for dessert and Jesse made mexican hot chocolate. It was the most delicious and festive of feasts!

I think this porcetta may be my new go-to holiday dish. It is simple to prepare, but oh so tasty. Plus, it has the particular flare that only dishes that require three days advance preparation can muster. Bottom line: if you want to impress, make this roast.

-Emily

 

to round out 2011

Posted on January 2, 2012

We’ve spent the last week or so gloriously far away from our computers. It was fun to pretend that our jobs/computers/the internet didn’t exist for a bit. We’re back with recipes, but need a few more days to pull our blogging-selves back together. In the meantime, here are a few photos from our trip  …

We drove back to Sacramento.

Bringing the dog-tally up to five. Five dogs. One big house.

We finally met my sister’s corgi. And he is a cute little rascal.

My sister and I ate burritos. Oh burritos.

We celebrated Christmas with both of our families.

And took really nice walks to the lake.

And I somehow liked these two even more.

Then there was some epic antiquing with the Mama.

Then we came back to San Francisco and shared the city with our friends Jordan and Kelsey for a day.

It’s nice to be home.

And lastly, Willow and I spent our New Year’s Day lounging in the park. 68 degrees and sunny! I’m hoping 2012 will continue on that note.

I hope you all had a beautiful holiday. Here’s to 2012 and another year spent around the kitchen table!

-Emily