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Spinach Salad with Prosciutto and Valdeón

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, and Valdeón

It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:

  • Easy to scale down to one person.
  • Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
  • They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
  • Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.

I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.

amy-17

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Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

I had high hopes for this tortilla, and while it was delicious and did a pretty good job of matching the idea of the final product that was in my head, there’s also much room for improvement. But that’s how cooking goes some days. The key is, of course, is to crack a few more eggs and try it again.

My initial vision was to make a Spanish-style tribute to one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had: the omelette aux fines herbes at Pastis.* It’s enormous and fluffy and comes with a side of frites, and paired with a good French 75 it’s my platonic ideal of brunch these days. While the dish as-is would be a wonderful dinner, I’m not one for making frites at home, much less on a weekday. Here’s where the Spanish inspiration came in: crumble in some high-quality potato chips (in our case, the house-made chips from Fairway) along with the herbs into the eggs, and cook it all as a tortilla, served with a big salad.

Pastis's omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Pastis’s omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Because really: if really tasty potato chips are good enough for both Feran Adrià and José Andrés to make the tortilla process a little faster, then they are good for all of us. While the resultant tortilla was tasty, it wasn’t perfectly cooked: the middle was a little runny while the exterior was just a touch too done. This didn’t bother me personally as I like runny eggs, but I’d really like to master the balance of exterior to interior doneness and make a tortilla that is as pretty as it is tasty one of these days. I’ve read that smaller pans are best, so I’ve placed a smaller nonstick on my birthday wishlist and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to report on my success or lack thereof.

So let’s call this the “before” photo, and the “after” will come when I have less pan to work with and the same number of eggs. Pending that experiment, a recipe will soon follow.

Stay tuned!

*I wasn’t into eggs, much less an omelette, until a few years ago and therefore I have a very limited data set for reference. Feel free to instruct me on where to find better omelettes in the comments.

Orecchiette with Tomato, Tarragon and Prosicutto di Parma

You know how when you make a tomato sauce and there’s all of those dark red or purple bits on the side of the pan? I want to make this sauce taste like that.
–Michael on the way home from Fairway after I nagged him to death about his super-secretive sauce idea.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I wish I had some profound reason for our collective silence, but to be honest, it boiled down to not feeling terribly inclined to write about food. The Thanksgiving holiday leaves me with nothing to say about holiday cooking since we’re not the ones cooking it, and we have to travel, and frankly I’m over writing about various squashes and how good they are with sage and rosemary and waxing endlessly on the deliciousness of roasted vegetables.. Yeah–they are all awesome. We know that. Let’s move on.

Over the course of the fall Michael and I have been tweaking red sauces fairly often, in part to rebel against the beige-ness of what tends to be made this time of year. This is a dish that evolved from that culinary puttering (see Michael’s quote above) as well as a very intense desire to have a sun-dried tomato pesto with orecchiette after a rather silly conversation on Twitter (see the #pastawar tag to see what I mean). Michael completely ran with it and flatly refuesd to give me the details of what he was thinking as he gathered ingredients at Fairway. Bastard. But I trusted him because he had a vision, and that vision included prosciutto di Parma, and there was no way I was going to object to any of it. Read More

Copper River Sockeye Gravlax with Goat Cheese on a a Pumpernickel Bagel

Much like any supermarket around the country, ordering anything from the deli department at Fairway can require a wait of some duration on the weekends, and you just have to roll with the punches and try not to shoot too many death glares at the hapless dad ordering half the case’s contents a quarter pound at a time. Being a New York supermarket, though, Fairway also has a smoked fish counter right next to the deli where you don’t have to take a number and usually it’s a very simple in-and-out process…until you get stuck behind the mom ordering two pounds of smoked salmon for her brunch that day, and they don’t bring in another person to help alleviate the growing line behind her as the slicer stands there methodically making her way through the enormous salmon fillet (and then another fillet because one was not enough). I guess it was to be expected–it was Saturday morning on the Upper West Side, after all–but when you only need someone to spoon some alici into a plastic dish and hand it over to you, your patience wears ever thinner as each expertly-cut slice of pink fish is added to the pile.

The mom turned to us with an apologetic smile on her face–at least she waited with us, I suppose–and remarked that maybe she should have just gotten some pizzas or sandwiches after all. I silently grumbled that Fairway has a catering office so she could have at least called ahead, but by then it was a  cow’s opinion so it didn’t matter either way. (Incidentally, one way I entertain myself while waiting for such things is mentally flipping through my internal encyclopedia of pop-culture references. That leads me to giggle for no reason, but at least that ‘s better than giving strangers the stink-eye, right?)

That particular shopping trip came to mind when I was slicing through our little piece of gravlax last week, as I was only trying to slice enough to top half a bagel each for Michael and I as a mid-afternoon snack. Getting those gorgeous slices is not nearly as easy as it looks–no wonder the pros slice at the pace they do. Read More

Pork-Lamb Ragu over Tagiatelle, inspired by Heston Blumenthal

It seems to me that, in some ways, it’s easier to explore culinary innovation in Britain precisely because we have no strong food tradition to enchain us.

Heston Blumenthal, In Search of Perfection

We’ve had a copy of In Search of Perfection on our cookbook shelf for a few years now, but never cracked it open because it is one of those books that are less a cookbook but rather a book on food; after all, it only contains recipes for eight dishes in the span of nearly 320 pages. It’s the companion to Heston Blumenthal’s first BBC series in which he sought to dissect favorites in British cuisine, ranging from bangers and mash to pizza, and figure out a way to create a “perfect” rendition of each dish (all while readily admitting that one’s personal Platonic ideal is another’s culinary hell). He’s known for being grouped in with other so-called “molecular gastronomists” (just don’t call them by that term) and his restaurant The Fat Duck is consistently ranked among the top three in the world, this year trailing only Norma and El Bulli. Blumenthal’s style of food is one that often requires various pieces of special equipment like sous-vides machines, and while they are certainly interesting to see in action on episodes of Top Chef, it’s one we’ve never really embraced because we don’t have the storage space for such things and Michael gets to actually be a scientist every day as it is–sometimes it’s best to leave your work at work and let the professionals and those who are passionate about it do it well.

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Stracciatella of Tarragon, Semolina Flour and Pecorino Cheese

I have to say that I kind of love the habit of coming home after a weekend trip to Pennsylvania and indulging in a soup and an eggy dish. We did it back in August with gazpacho and our ugly-but-delicious tortilla, and after Thanksgiving we toasted to our uneventful Amtrak ride with lovely stracciatella and a simple fritatta. As we worked together to make the meal, both Michael and I started to channel Nigella Lawson a bit because both of these dishes seemed like ones you might see on one of her many BBC programs: fast, loaded with vegetables but all with a heavy does of indulgence. There may have been some bad British-accented commentary going on as we cooked, but I won’t say for certain. All I will confirm is that dinner came together in very short order that night–and that’s something, I think, we could all use in this otherwise hectic time of year. Read More

Tomato, Tarragon and Parmigiano-Reggiano Pizza

What is the appeal of making pizza at home? I mean, you have to make the dough, pray that the humidity is in your favor to ensure that it is elastic enough (but not too elastic) and also pray that the pizza will make it in one piece from the peel to the oven, regardless of the amount of cornmeal spread on the peel to help the process along. Yes, there are many things conspiring against you when you attempt to make pizza in the summertime, but one key advantage has you coming back to through more dough down every time: the power of custom toppings. Read More

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