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sauces

Pressure-cooked fresh tomatoes–even better than canned.

I’m finally finished with my cookbook project–after nine months and change, I’ve cooked or made at least one thing from every cookbook in our primary collection, all 105 of them. In retrospect it was a really valuable exercise, not only because it gave me a new appreciation for the recipes that I had at my disposal, but also in helping me develop some really helpful techniques. Had I not set out to do this I wouldn’t have tried Massimo Bottura’s method for making pasta completely by hand, or Alton Brown’s shrimp scampi, or Mimi Thorisson’s dry pan-roasted mushrooms. I’ve pushed myself in ways I wasn’t expecting, and because of that I feel like I’ve grown as a cook, and I feel better-equipped to improvise where necessary. Read More

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Snails in salsa arribata

Back when spring was easing into summer, I really didn’t fully appreciate just how much we had planned in the first few weeks of the season, and here we are in the middle of July. One thing I resolved on doing this summer was to spend some time revisiting my favorite Catalunyan dishes since we wouldn’t be making our biennial trip over to Europe this year, what with us buying a house and me buying a new car, but with everything we’ve been up to it’s been awhile since we could devote a couple of days to anything more fun than a typical weeknight meal.

With a weekend looming on the horizon with no plans but our own, I decided to give us a chance to relax and give ourselves a mini Caldes d’Estrac vacation, at least with food if not in beach time. Rosado would be poured, caftans donned, and my hope was each dish would bring us back to those warm days we would spend along the Mediterranean coast. Read More

Spicy Sicilian Pesto with Garlic Scapes

You guys, my ass is tired, both literally and figuratively.

We’re coming off a streak of weekends where we were either hosting guests or being guests ourselves, and while it’s been a lot of fun, it’s kind of sapped my inspiration for cooking. That’s not to say that we haven’t been cooking of course, but we’ve definitely relied on old favorites rather than new recipes, and I’m hoping that this upcoming weekend I can rectify that and spend some quality time with my cookbook collection. During this same time I’ve had some pretty intense workouts (this is what happens when you watch the kickass women in the Crossfit regionals) so there have been several days where I tend to walk like Frankenstein’s monster after getting out of my car or a chair. Read More

Pizza with Roasted Tomato-Garlic-Herb Passata

Do you remember how I mentioned making the warm tomato vinaigrette during my most recent sabor de soledad but then I never posted any pictures of it? Well, I’m making up for it now with this passata. It was the first Sunday of Daylight Savings Time, and we had decided to make pizza (but not in enough time to make the pizza dough in time so frozen dough was required) and I grabbed some tomatoes and herbs to make more of the passata that is the core of the recipe and turn it into a fresh tomato sauce to go one one of the pies. The base for the sauce–long-roasted tomatoes blended with fresh basil–is solid, and so I felt it was only natural to add some roasted garlic and some tarragon to punch it up a little. Read More

Grilled Oysters with Horseradish Aioli and Pancetta

As a lover of all things oyster, I have to admit that usually my preferred mode of eating them is raw and right out of the shell, maybe with a little lemon, horseradish, or mignonette. I’ll enjoy a good fried oyster po’ boy from time to time, of course, but I never really warmed to the idea of grilled oysters until we finally had Drago’s chargrilled oysters as part of an early evening happy hour on our last New Orleans trip. The concierge immediately directed us to the Drago’s that’s in the Hilton Riverside, and while the decor there screams that you’re eating in a hotel bar, the food is far better than what you’d get at a normal hotel. The original Drago’s is in Metarie so it’s not as easy to get to if you don’t have a car, so for many visitors the Hilton location is a good compromise. Read More

Open-Face Croque Monsieur from Pastis

Despite the fact that it’s been years since we’ve been there and it’s been well over a year since it closed, every once in a while I still get a craving to go to Pastis. In spite of all of the irritations about the place–the crowds, the rather ridiculous prices, the cramped banquettes and tiny tables–every visit there would still be a pretty fantastic food experience, and I’ve even taken their lead on a few dishes and incorporated them into our normal recipe rotation.

Plus, it was arguably the prettiest of Keith McNally’s very pretty restaurant empire: lots of dark wood and penny subway tile, but not as dark as Balthazar nor as intentionally run-down as Lucky Strike. (I have yet to visit his newer places so I can’t speak to them, but I imagine they are also very, very pretty but probably not as aesthetically pleasing to me as Pastis.) While it helped that there always seemed to be a preponderance of European tourists eating there at all times of the day, you really did feel like you were being swept into a bustling bistro in a hip Parisian neighborhood and the only thing missing was being able to light up a cigarette or two while you lingered over French 75s and omelettes. Read More

Ginger Scallion Sauce

Were I not fairly certain that doing this would elicit more than a few odd glances (and if it lasted more than a day or two), I would make an enormous batch of David Chang’s ginger scallion sauce, dole it out into quart-sized containers and give it to people as holiday gifts. While not nearly as festive as a plate of Christmas cookies, I would dare any recipient to not fall for this sauce/condiment at first bite. It goes with virtually anything we’ve paired it with so far, from ramen to rice noodles to hanger steak;  it’s rather economical to make over and over again once you’ve purchased a good supply of grapeseed oil, sherry vinegar and soy sauce; if you get the right kind of soy sauce (Tamari), it’s virtually gluten-free. Sure, the sodium content is higher than some would like, but it’s not so bad so long as you avoid eating the whole bowl yourself in one sitting.

It doesn’t help that it is all too tempting to do this, but self-restraint, people: show some and your forbearance  will be rewarded. Read More

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