Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Roasted Lamb Rack with White Bean Puree

OK, so last night I didn't post anything. You are all probably roaring your terrible roars, and rolling your terrible eyes and gnashing your terrible teeth

(one of these days, I am so going to get sued.)

but I dunno. I wasn't motivated. Last night's dinner was an old standby, orecchietti with rabbit (try chicken thighs), tomato and basil sauce. Bon Appetit, 2001. Man, I'm old. I started subscribing to Bon Appetit in 1992. Can you say GEEZER?? But we'll talk about my early cooking days some other time. And we aren't here to talk about LAST night's dinner (and today's lunch), are we? No! We're here to talk about tonight's dinner!

There are no pictures! No video! (Camera Purchase 2008 Update!: We're waiting for a paycheck, hopefully a week from Friday, at which time we will invest in a camera. Details later!)

Wow. I just did a google search of lamb with white bean to see if I could find something suitable to rip off, and it returned tons of photos. Have you ever noticed how many people have food blogs out there? My goodness! No wonder I haven't been discovered by Bon Appetit, like orangette. Who happens to be one of my blogspot neighbors. I'm trying to decide whether to hate her or not. She has a beautiful blog, with gorgeous photos (notably absent from mine). She has been to France. (I've been to the International Farmer's Market in Decatur, GA, a LOT, but somehow I don't think that counts.) She's been written up all over the damned place. (I did get a nice mention in the Star News...). She's also probably young and thin and beautiful, which I used to be, back in the day, but am a long way from it now, at 41. (Sigh for my lost youth that I wouldn't EVER relive. I'll take life experience over skinnier thighs any day. Well, most days.)

What was I talking about?

Oh yes. Roasted Lamb with White Bean Puree. Well. You remember the White Bean Soup from night before last, with Jack and Beth? (Where Beth and I smeared Jack and P. at spades?) Of course you do! You are my faithful readers! (I'll send you a check next week, Natalie.) I took the leftover one cup of that, and reheated it. I had a small lamb rack from Costco (!) that I rubbed with salt, pepper, a little dijon mustard, some fresh chopped rosemary and garlic, and roasted on the grill. I smashed up the beans when it was time to serve, and sprinkled a little parmesan over, topped them with the lamb, and booyah! Dinner. (My urban slang is impressive, no?)
Now I'm getting tired, and there is still a moderate mess to clean up in the kitchen. Maybe Orangette has a clean-up staff she could loan me.

So I have fed us decently for another night AND used up some leftovers that would otherwise have been jettisoned a week from now. These are times that call for frugality! Also, I worked until about 6:00 tonight, and didn't have a lot of creative spark to deal with dinner. There you go.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Post-Paddle White Bean Soup

Saturday saw us on Island Shelter Creek (or Holly Shelter Creek, we're actually not sure which), kayaking with our friends Jack and Beth. We paddled down the creek and then down the Cape Fear River for the afternoon, and worked up a wet and hearty appetite. (Well, actually, only one of us was terribly wet. SOMEONE fell in right after we started paddling. It wasn't me.)


In the morning, I'd simmered some dried white beans with a couple of rosemary sprigs, a bay leaf, some salt, and two smashed garlic cloves for a couple of hours. I drained them and let them sit while we went kayaking.
When we got home, I diced some pancetta and pan-seared it, added that the beans along with a few grinds of pepper and some chicken stock, and simmered it for another hour or so. Ladeled into big bowls and sprinkled with some toasted bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese, it was pretty rich, and heavy enough to fill us up. I served that with a salad that Beth graciously provided, and some French Bread (that Costco graciously provided). Warm Apple Squares and Vanilla Ice Cream rounded out the dinner, and we played spades. (Beth and I soundly trounced Jack and P., which vindicated us for the last round we played where we were badly beaten. Man, do those guys cheat!)


Simple dinner, really, but hearty.
White Bean Soup with Pancetta
Green Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
French Bread
Warm Apple Squares with Vanilla Ice Cream

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chinese Fried Chicken with Green Onion Dipping Sauce

Dinner Tonight

Tonight's dinner is an old reliable from Bon Appetit. Click here for the recipe. I served it with some steamed Jasmine rice and Chinese Green Beans from Fine Cooking. All was good. Pootie was happy, even with the green beans.

It's been a long week here at the casa, and I'm glad it's Friday night. Fried chicken of some sort seemed in order. P was kind enough to clean up the kitchen while I worked on the blog. Man, what an arduous task. (The blog. You can probably see the sweat beads from there, can't you?)


So I know that most of you (Natalie) are asking "When exactly ARE you going to get a camera, and replace that lame-ass Flip snap stuff with some REAL blurry photos?" Well, here's the deal. We are taking ocean kayaking classes, and we have three more to go. When those are over, we can invest in the camera. I know! You're just dying here, aren't you? Well, patience is a virtue, that I do not possess. Nevertheless, we must wait. Meanwhile, I will continue to entertain you with bad video. Muaaahahaaahaaahaaaaaa!

Hey. At least I'm not putting up our kayaking videos.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crab Chowder

Dinner Tonight

Tonight we're getting the no-name-almost-tropical-storm. I have named it Terence, since NOAA couldn't be bothered. So today has been cool (in the 60s) and cloudy, giving way to rain, then giving way to torrential downpours. We decided to be "Weather Tourists". We went down to the marina to check on things there. Not terribly interesting, but it was raining, blowing a little, and the tide was REALLY high. Then we went to the beach:


What you may not be able to appreciate is that the beach we're standing on usually runs about a hundred feet out from where we're standing - at water's edge. And the roiling surf you see - usually you have a really clear view of the jetties and the bouys. All underwater. Well, the bouys surfaced a few times, but mostly they were being washed over. The wind is blowing tons of water up into the beach and channels. It was almost high tide, so we expected to see some high water levels. The rain was worse when we were on the road driving, than when we were on the beach. Now it's pouring off and on. At any rate, we got pretty wet on the beach. So we swung by Fresh Market for some crab meat and I made crab chowder for dinner - it was a good night for it, and it's supposed to warm up again this weekend, so best take advantage of cooler temps while we can.

1 onion, chopped
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
Saute in 1 Tbs. butter until translucent
1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
1 bottle clam juice
1 cup chicken broth
Add potato, clam juice and chicken broth. Simmer about 30 minutes, or until potato is tender.
1 cup whole milk
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Add milk and corn, simmer about 15 minutes on low heat, until soup thickens.
1 cup crab meat
Add crab meat and simmer about 5 minutes, until crab is heated through. Top with chopped scallions and sauteed pancetta strips.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Indonesian Spiced Chicken and Spaghetti Squash

Dinner tonight


The rundown:

I went to our local farmer's market on Saturday and caught a major case of Fall Fever. I stocked up on squash, which P. doesn't really like all that much, but I couldn't help myself. I've never done Spaghetti Squash, and it was gorgeous, so you know... (This is what happens when you let your spouse buy vegetables unattended. You may very well wind up with stuff you don't want to eat.)

Fine Cooking again led me in the right direction. I tried their Spaghetti Squash with Indian Spices (with a few tweaks, of course) and then made an old standby that we love, their Indonesian Grillled Chicken Thighs, this time minus the mango salsa, since we had the squash.

Here's THEIR picture of the spaghetti squash, hence my comment about the "brown dinner". I still have no clue how they did this with the spices that were called for and the tomato. I don't see any tomato in there, do you? I mean, yes, it's MUCH prettier than mine. No contest. But I didn't even achieve that color of squash after I roasted it and pulled its little stringy guts out. I love Fine Cooking, and Scott Phillips totally rules, but no way was I coming up with anything that looked even remotely like this. Well, you've seen.

Despite the discrepancy in color, dinner was pretty darned good. As is evidenced by my non-squash eating husband cleaning his plate and going "MMMMM!" the whole time, and then turning to my unfinished plate, and without so much as a "You gonna eat that?", started devouring what squash I hadn't finished. Perhaps I should concede that the squash I've cooked him in the past just hasn't quite cut the mustard. Ever-learning, I suppose. It was good, for sure. If I have one critique of the meal, it would be that for me, there might be just a hair too much heat, between the two dishes.

And no, Natalie. We still don't have the new camera. But we DID gain another endorsement of it from someone who has one that we're looking at. When we're finished with the kayak classes, that will move up on our priority list.

The Way To a Man's Heart

The kitchen is still in pretty sad shape but (hear the hopeful wistfulness in that but) I am promised it will be done tomorrow. Since I am a project manager for a general contractor, I realize the odds are not in my favor. I know better. But I still have hope.

The stove isn't connected, the fridge is in the dining room, the dining room furniture, along with everything from the kitchen, is in my living room and down the hallway. With three full size humans, two Great Danes, a naked bird, a large fish and assorted cats this is not a comfortable living arrangement.

But I digress. The reason for my post was that I was able to make something that looked halfway decent in the kitchen. My patient hubby's lunch. Poor guy came home from work one Friday and I said "Guess what? We have to yank everything out of the dining room and kitchen so Contractor Doug can put a tile floor in." Oh, the look on his face. He had known it was coming one day, but not this soon.

Hopefully the nice lunches I send with him help to make up for it. This sandwich was salame, fresh mozzarella, tapanade, roasted red peppers and red lettuce. A small bag of sun chips and a tangelo completed the deal. As they say, the way to a man's heart is through is stomach.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cornish Hens with Lemon-Thyme Sauce

Dinner Tonight

OK, seriously people... (and by "people", I mean my sister-in-law Natalie, who is I think the only person who actually reads this blog) I know you're all "ooo! Look at the sparkly pretty pictures with WORDS and the video from the last post! Ronda totally rules and Andie and her lame-ass pictures just SUCKS! And hey! Ronda's food looks tastier too!" Fine. I'll just torture you some more with a blurry Flip snap of tonight's fare. Muaahhaaahaaaaaa!

Anyway. Tonight I mixed together some softened butter, a generous pinch of kosher salt, some fresh thyme, and a little lemon zest, cut a Cornish hen in half, shoved the butter up under the skin, salted and peppered it and set it on a baking sheet on top of a bunch of thyme, and stuck it on the grill. Meanwhile, back in the oven, I'd put in a gratin of squash, shamelessly ripped off from Marc's class with some added tomato and chopped basil. (Layered sliced yellow squash, tomato, and zucchini, sprinkled with a little chopped basil, olive oil and salt and pepper - topped with some bread crumbs and dotted with butter. Baked that at 400 for about 35 minutes.

Dinner. Whoo hoo. I know. I don't want to hear it. Rockin' Ronda and Lame-ass Andie. Someday. When I get my waterproof, shockproof camera, you'll get your fill of exciting food videos! (Interspersed with some kayaking videos and probably a few gratuitous shots of the dogs.)

Here's one of Blog Central. (I am the empty chair. Well SOMEONE has to shoot the crappy video...)


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Black Bean and Tomato Soup

Deja Vu! I know, you think you have already seen this post. But no, hers was stew, mine is soup. If you saw my comment to her post, I was all set to have this soup the other night only to discover that I had no black beans. (I still think it odd that my black beans disappeared the same day she made Pork, Tomato and Black Bean Stew. But I don't want to point fingers.) A trip to the grocery store later and I had the ingredients on hand to make soup for dinner tonight.

Wait. Dinner, you question. How could we have had dinner already when it is barely 4:30. We like to do Sunday Dinner the old fashioned way, early in the afternoon. Seems to make the weekend last just a tad bit longer, and I'm all for stretching out the weekend.

Hubby, who'd been blissfully doing his own thing and ignoring me in the kitchen made a sudden appearance as I pulled out the hand blender. Why is it they only show up when the cool tools come out to play? You'll have to tilt your head to the left to watch this and enjoy it fully.

And that, my friends, was dinner. Considering that my kitchen is still in a stage of disrepair, I think it turned out well. And that is also why you only see close-ups. Here's a shot to give you an idea of what's been going on, tho, and you'll think it a miracle I managed to get an edible dinner fixed at all.

And a good night to all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie with Benjamin

Dinner Tonight

I know what you're thinking. "Surely she could have found a decent picture of a chicken pot pie on the internet?" Well, sure, but it would have been on the cover of a Stouffer's box, and I made this one myself.
I've been simmering some chicken stock most of the day, so I made a pie crust and the filling and put it in a deep dish pan and cooked for dinner. It was so nowhere near as good as the one that Mark made for us earlier this year that I'm almost ashamed to put it on here. That was the best chicken pot pie I've ever had. Ever.
So Benjamin, only child of P's sister, our nephew (obviously) is spending the night. He and P. played a round of Lost Cities and I coached Benjamin, although obviously not well enough, because Benjamin lost.


Now we're going to watch Tomb Raider. ooo!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pork, Tomato and Black Bean Stew

Dinner Tonight


I know. Don't say it. It's just depressing, isn't it? And I've been told by my bookkeeper (husband) that we can't buy a camera right now, because we've spent all our extra cash on crap for the kayaks. Hooray. (Of course, you should know by now that even when we GET another camera, the image content won't be much improved.)

Dinner. Well, the pickins are starting to get slim around here. Fresh veggies are gone, even the pantry is starting to get lean - we'll be going to the grocery tomorrow. But I found a piece of pork tenderloin in the freezer small enough for making stew for the two of us. So I chopped up an onion, sauteed it in a pot with a little bacon, added the diced pork tenderloin, which I'd salted and peppered, and browned that. Then I added a can of whole tomatoes with the juices, a can of black beans, one canned chipotle chile, and let it simmer for a while. Maybe 45 minutes. I have to say, the pork was really tender and the flavor was pretty good. I made a quick half-batch of cheddar biscuits to go with it. (And praised my food processor while I mixed them up. Man, what a great machine. Sure does make whipping up a last minute batch of biscuits a song.)

So there you have it. Dinner tonight. Now I'm going to go sing the praises of my dishwasher and clean up the mess I made. Some of you are saying, "Hey! Shouldn't your husband clean that up? You did make dinner!" Here is his rule: If he makes dinner, I clean it up, because he made dinner. If I make dinner, I clean it up, because I made the mess. Hard to argue with his logic.

(To be fair, most nights he DOES clean up after dinner, while I sit on my heinie and write this blog.)

Cheers, people!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Coriander and Cumin Rubbed Flank Steaks

Dinner Tonight

Yeah, you laugh, but remember, I'm camera-less. This is another "snap" capture from the Flip. The video isn't any better, trust me. This is just to give you an idea of our dinner, and since I didn't follow any recipes much, there weren't any NICE photos to rip off. So deal.

Coriander and Cumin Rubbed Flank Steak

Romaine and Cucumber Salad

Crush-Baked Yukon Gold Potatoes

Here's the 411 on dinner. I'm sitting around at about 4:30, thinking "What do I want to cook? What am I in the mood for? What do I have?" I took a 2 minute break from work and walked out to the freezer, and since we've been utterly steeped in chicken the past couple of nights, I grabbed a flank steak. I put it in the sink to thaw and went back to work for a while, then I glugged a nice glass of vino for myself and trucked outside to sit on the patio to relax, peruse some cookbooks, and think, while the house shuddered with the bass from My Morning Jacket's latest album. (Pootie was doing his workout. Mine was done much earlier in the day off-site.)

While I was sitting there chilling, I decided on dinner and came in the house and stuck a couple of small Yukon Gold potatoes in the toaster oven to bake and went back outside to resume my mellow. When P. finished his workout, I came in, took out the potatoes, put them in a dishtowel and mashed them down to flatten them, then put them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with some olive oil and kosher salt, and put them back in the toaster oven. About five minutes later, I rubbed the thawed flank steak with salt, pepper, coriander, and cumin, and put it on a hot grill. While that was cooking, I made a little salad of romaine and cucumber and dressed it with a lime/honey vinaigrette. I pulled the steak off, let it sit for five minutes, pulled out the potatoes, and assembled the plates. Then I sliced the steak (thin and against the grain) and put it on top of the salad, drizzled it with the juice that came out of the steak, sprinkled the potatoes with a little feta cheese and chopped parsley, and there you go. Dinner.

It was just fine. We've got several days without company, and I'm getting low on supplies. The next couple of days could be interesting. (Or extremely UNinteresting.)

Cheers, people!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spanish Chicken with Chickpeas & Chorizo

Dinner tonight

Another crappy photo brought to you by my Flip, which is trying, dammit!

Here's the magazine photo from Fine Cooking by Scott Phillips:

I know! Isn't that just SAD??? First of all, Scott should sue me just for putting his lovely photo on the same page with my seriously crappy "snap" from my Flip. Words can't even begin to describe how much his picture rules and how pathetic mine is. No! Don't even try! You wouldn't even come close! And you might inadvertantly hurt my feelings. We are still camera shopping. (Not that it will help much, but yeah, I'm stalling.)

The food, though - let's talk about that, rather than my appalling lack of aesthetic skills.
This is so one that's going from my "to try-main course" to "main course" in Master Cook. Another Tony Rosenfeld winner. He's a contributing editor for my favorite cooking mag - Fine Cooking and a really swell guy. I emailed him some fan mail once, (Oh, please. Like you've never done it. Remember Sean Cassidy when you were 12?) and it wound up scoring me a copy of his wonderful cookbook, 101 Things To Make with Roast Chicken (and 50 Ways to Roast It), autographed, no less. No, that was not intentional. I do not go trawling for freebies on the web. I just honestly think he rules. He is a real sweetheart, and is a pro at simple, home-cooked meals. So whenever I see one of his contributions to Fine Cooking (or more recently, Bon Appetit'), I perk up and pay close attention. I haven't hit a clunker yet out of the ones I've tried, and tonight's dinner was no exception.


It was a quick and simple preparation, made easily with ingredients I had on hand - chicken, canned tomatoes, garlic, canned chickepeas, and chorizo (thanks to Marc and Sara). P.thought it was delicious. I modestly agreed. Well, seriously. How much credit can I take? Most people can follow a recipe. So I'd have to totally give credit to Tony. (Did I mention how nice he is and how good his cookbook is?)

So dinner tonight was a keeper for sure. Now I'm taking suggestions for other ways to use some of that marvelous chorizo that Marc and Sara brought me. Please feel free to leave a comment. Yes, they're moderated, but only to protect me from worthless spam.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

Dinner Tonight

Tonight's dinner started out as a use of leftovers. I thought "Hey, I'll use that leftover rotis chicken, and use up some of the veggies I have in the fridge and presto! dinner!"Well, the road to hell...

I opened the refrigerator and pulled out the container of leftover rotisserie chicken and opened it to discover that someone had been seriously chowing down on it for lunch. There was a tiny bit of meat left, but not enough to get my fingers greasy for. So I tossed the bones in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer for stock. A quick aside here - SOMEONE in this house likes to put back food in the refrigerator that isn't worth keeping.

Exhibit A:


I'll give you a hint. It's not me (because I'm the one who has to clean out the dead celery and the 2 tablespoons of moldy, unidentifiable growth that would have made a great snack six weeks ago and got shoved to the back of the shelf). And it's not Steamboat or Love Boat, who would be happy to eat ANYTHING out of the Miracle Food Dispenser, including the aforementioned moldy offal. That should help you narrow it down. The above discovery this evening led to a minor confrontation when I dragged my find into the office and placed it under my distracted Pootie's nose and said "You have GOT to be shitting me." He was aware enough to say "Yeah, I shouldn't have put that back in there." There you go.

So in discovering the lack of leftover chicken, it was out to the freezer for a package of chicken thighs, which delayed dinner slightly, but still did the trick. I simmered some black beans with some mild peppers, onions and chopped tomatillas while the chicken thighs thawed. Then I sprinkled the chicken with some salt and pepper and pan-seared them in a skillet, chopped them up, and wrapped those along with some of the beans and some mozarella and feta cheese in a tortilla. Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake it for a little while and you have dinner.


Granted, you could sprinkle cardboard with cheese and melt it and it would be edible. So tonight's dinner was no great feat. But it was still tasty, and did the trick. Now we're going to go play some Lost Cities. Pootie is in a bad mood, because he's having computer problems, so I might have to let him win.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cooking Class at Marc's on Market - French Bistro

Saturday, when we were both feeling pretty, er, peaked, we dragged ourselves out to Marc's on Market for the French Bistro cooking class. I have to admit that while I love their restaurant, and really enjoy watching Marc cook and gleaning what I can from him, the thought of sitting in a hot kitchen with my new best friend Mr. Hangover was not completely pleasant. (That's Marc's range hood, taken with our crappy cell phone. Do you see an equipment trend here?)

We warned Sara when we came in that we would be foregoing the wine tasting that went along with the food, and she took excellent care of us. She brought us pomengranate Izzy soda in wine glasses instead, and THAT was hittin'! (You gotta keep Mr. Hangover happy, or he gets seriously ugly.)

Watching Marc work is mesmerizing. He just calmly flows through the cooking process, unruffled and elegant. Almost like he's a professional or something. It's amazing. He's got wicked knife skills and such a great sensibility for flavors and how to bring the best out of ingredients. Here, if I recall correctly, he's mixing up the pate' choux for the gourgere - cheese puffs. I've made these little guys a lot for parties and no, mine are never that good. I discovered that it's largely because I'm a lazy wench, and I use the spoon-drop method to blob them onto the baking sheet, instead of piping them evenly, like you're supposed to. Dang. Well, next time I guess I'll break out the damned pastry bag.

He started with the gourgeres, using gruyere cheese. (I speak French like Pepe Le Pew, so I'm glad I can just type it. Sorry it's missing all the fancy little symbols.) Then he showed us how to make an escargot dish with butternut squash, which I love, and mushrooms. Delicious. He trussed some chickens and roasted them, (perfectly), made a squash gratin, showed us how to make a beet and greens salad with a walnut vinaigrette, (special thanks for that - I've been asking him to teach me to make a decent salad for a year), pan-fried some flounder with a fabulous brown butter sauce, sautee'd some of the best green beans almondine I've ever eaten, and then made profiteroles with ice cream for dessert. P. actually piped the profiterole dough. It, um... well, he's an amateur, and he was hungover. Mark was kind and didn't give him too hard a time over the mini-eruptions on the baking sheet. Notice I did NOT volunteer. (I was in the corner, keeping Mr. Hangover company and nursing my headache.)

Despite the heat in the kitchen, and my Delicate Condition, the time flew by, pleasantly at that, and we were done. He'd prepared all that food in three hours. And I figured as soon as we were all out the door, he and Sara would be doing it for real for the appreciative Saturday night dinner crowd.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Mitch

This very bad photo is brought to you by the "snap" feature on my Flip. I didn't get any of the food, and I know you are so sad.

So this was dinner last night:

Mixed greens with apples and maple pecans with apple-cider vinaigrette
Roasted bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin over apples
Baked Pasta with cream and parmesan
Pineapple turnovers

Mitch was visiting from Raleigh, and was kind enough to bring us two lovely bottles of wine, which we politely declined to sample. Both of us were still feeling pretty puny from our night of debauchery on Friday with Ned and Melissa. Mitch was understanding. He's that kind of guy. Witness the fact that Love Boat used him as a sofa cushion.


Yes, we're both feeling just great today (Sunday), thanks for asking. And for keeping your opinions to yourselves about the fact that we're not livin' right, and we're too old for that sort of thing. We know that REAL well after yesterday. We've spent the morning out on the water learning how to get back in our kayaks, and the whole time I was out there, I was thinking, "Man, I'm glad I didn't have to do this yesterday, or I probably would have just let myself drown."

But back to dinner - Mitch was very tolerant of us having a dry and sober evening, and a somewhat subdued one at that. For dinner, I wrapped the tenderloin in some bacon (I normally use pancetta, but I was out) and set that on top of some sliced apples and shoved it in the oven for about 35 minutes. The pasta is pretty much an alfredo sauce, but just using penne pasta and baked in a hot oven for a few minutes. The pineapple turnovers are pieces of pineapple sprinkled with a little brown sugar and a tiny pinch of salt and a dollop of butter, wrapped in puff pastry and cooked until browned. Easy.

We enjoyed our visit with Mitch and will save the wine for some other time. Way, way, far off in the future.

Onion, Onion, who has the Onion

Somehow when shopping for the party last week I ended up with a basket full of yellow onions. Since all of my party recipes had used red onions, I am not really sure how this happened, except maybe I had sampled the pineapple tequila a little too frequently while making notes on the shopping list. So the question became "What do I do with all of these onions?" If a recipe calls for onions I will normally cut the amount at least by half. I'm just not a big onion fan unless they are caramelized. And then the light bulb went on.

Out came the the mandolin. Seven onions (and no fingers) were sliced and many tears were shed. For awhile it looked like we were at a funeral and even the cats were looking rough. But I digress. Into the slow cooker went the onion slices with a stick of butter and a teaspoon of salt.

The house smelled like onions. For hours the oniony odor got stronger. (If Andie can call rotis a verb I can use the word oniony.) Hubby kept saying "Man, that smells good!" I kept saying "It smells like onions, get over it."

Eventually the smell softened and the natural sweetness of the onion starting to come out. A slight golden color was evident. I was definitely on the road to caramelized onions. Now I was saying "Man, that smells good!" He had started moving furniture and boxes of tile by this point and was no longer capable of speech, just grunts and dirty looks. But I digress again, that is a future blog.

Very slowly they were turning into something that continues to amaze me that it really starts out as onions.

After many hours I had a pot of caramelized onions that would be divided into one cup portions and frozen for future use. I see mashed potatoes, focaccia and another argument with the scale in my future.

Yes, I could have done this in a much shorter time utilizing the stove top and a heavy pan. I did not want to stand over a hot stove and we had a lot to do. This way they cooked happily along while we ran errands and moved furniture.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Steak Au Poivre with Melissa and Ned


My poor head. Last night's dinner was... man, I need more coffee. We tied one on last night. Well, I can't speak for everyone, actually. Melissa was fine to drive home, and this morning my husband is Perky Pootie. I, on the other hand, feel like something the cat dragged in and left on the doorstep for someone to step on first thing in the morning. I sure had a good time, though. You know, I've never noticed before how damned loud our coffee grinder is...

Here's what we had.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Parmesan Crackers
Rose' Cava


Salad with Olives and Caesar Dressing
Steak Au Poivre
Potato, Thyme and Olive Oil Gratin
Red Wine (I forget what kind we had, and I simply cannot go look at empty bottles of wine right now.)

Apple Squares
Shots of Speyside Single Malt Scotch from The Glenrothes Distillery (this was a small sample bottle brought to us by our friend Andy from England. The shots were SMALL!! No, really! And it was delicious. Thanks, Andy.)
We had apps and our cava on the patio while the potato gratin cooked. Then I fired up the grill with the cast iron skillet on there and got it nice and hot and I seared the steaks. A quick hustle back in the house to make the sauce while the meat rested, and dinner was served. Yeah, baby! Costco did me right on those steaks. The meat was so tender and the flavor was excellent. Dinner turned out pretty well all around. We enjoyed loud, bawdy conversation (the kids were not here - we are much better behaved when they're around), and ate and drank with gusto. A little too much, on my part, obviously. I will be taking it easy today. I'm getting too old for this kind of morning. P. and I are headed to Marc's later this morning for a cooking class. They'll be serving wine, and I'll be drinking water.

Now I must leave you. I need to go find some ibuprofen and a big glass of ice water and figure out what to serve our guest, Mitch, tonight.
Update: I have been misled by my hangover havin' husband. He acted all perfect and perky this AM, but turns out, he is also not feeling quite so shiny either. Just apparently not quite as bad as I do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rotisserie Chicken

Of course I made it myself! Just because I indulge in the occasional Costco pizza doesn't mean I can't rotis a bird. I got Mad Skills! Mad Skills, I tell you!

Dinner Tonight

Clearly my Mad Skills are not with photography. I did manage to sort of get the camera working tonight. Surprise! You weren't expecting that, were you? As you can see, it doesn't like close-ups (or maybe me) very much. Yes, I had it on portrait.

I know. Tragic. Moving on...
Rotisserie Chicken with Thyme
Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

I'm not entirely sure that you're allowed to have roasted or rotis chicken without some kind of potatoes - mashed, roasted, french fries, etc. Note to Liz, with whom I had dinner last night: I know this is almost what I had for dinner at the restaurant. Mine was better. I promise I'm not bragging. It really was. I'm more than happy to admit when I cook something mediocre or not even. (I'm not naming this restaurant, and it's not appearing on my other blog, because I was underwhelmed.)

Back to the chicken.

I got out the instructions for our grill's rotis option because P. wasn't home. We just got it this summer, and I haven't used the rotis part yet. This involved a lot of ugly words. To give you a clear picture, when I purchase something, I open the box, yank out the user manual, toss it over my shoulder and say "Do I LOOK like a sissy??" Meanwhile, my much more methodical husband scoops it up, READS it from start to finish, and then waits patiently until my cursing escalates to the point where he knows, after 19 years of being with me, that I'm about to start flinging whatever we've just bought around the room. (Yeah, I know. I write software help files for end users. They don't read my stuff either.)

So I found the part that wasn't written in Spanish, Japanese, French (like THEY read directions), or Swahili, and figured out that yes, I had to remove the grates so the chicken could turn, yes, I could put a pan under it so it didn't drip grease all over the grill, blah blah, blah, whatever. Whoever wrote the manual would have been pleased.

I got the grill all set up, stuffed an onion up the chicken's butt, (which promptly fell out when it started twirling around) along with some thyme and salt and pepper. I also stuffed fresh thyme and a little butter under the chicken skin and salted and peppered the whole thing, and set it up to rotis. If "googled" can be a verb, so can "rotis". Easy enough. P. was very pleased with dinner, "Man, I LOVE rotis chicken!", we have plenty of leftovers for lunch, and I can use the bones for stock. That's good, because I'm out.

Next dinner, more pictures and video! Oh boy!! You are SO LUCKY!! We have some very special guests for our next show, so stay tuned! (Ned and Melissa, if you're reading this, you're going to have to act right for the camera tomorrow night. It will be short. I promise.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Grilled Salmon and Roasted Broccoli

No, there's no picture of dinner tonight. (I know! You're devastated!)

OK here. Here is a picture of some poor salmon, buying the farm in Alaska.
So I swiped it from the internet. People who don't want their pictures plastered on questionable blogs should copyright their stuff.

I tried to get my own. Honest, I tried. But every time I pressed the "take-the-damned-picture" button on the camera, it shut off. Now normally, this is an indication of a low battery. But for the two of you who are faithful readers, you know I just changed the batteries last night. Straight out of a newly-purchased package, (from Costco!) I might add. It wasn't the batteries. I think the camera finally just bit the dust, reinforcing my opinion that yes, I am a terrible photographer, but I am a terrible photographer with a BUSTED CAMERA. I am now in the market, as it were. Any of you folks who have digital camera recommendations, I'm all ears. And none of that Japanese "smile recognition" stuff. It works, but it creeps me the hell out.

I'd honestly like to try one with a manual focus, if that's even possible, just because I'd like a little more control. Yes, I know that leaves me with only myself to blame with the photos turn out crappy. But since I'll cop to that anyway, I figure what the hell? So again, suggestions are welcome. I'm looking for reasonable price. Why pay a grand for a camera used by someone who takes crappy pictures? It would be like using a KitchenAid mixer for Betty Crocker brownie mix. (Sorry, Betty.)

OK back to dinner. I'm not a fan of most fish. P. picked up this salmon at Fresh Market. It was Wild King Salmon from Alaska. And the King was Expensive. So I just figured, "let the King TCB" and I sprinkled it with a little kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper and threw the sucker on a hot grill for a few minutes. And you know what? I, who Do Not Like Fish, thought it was fairly tasty. P. liked it more than I did. He did not like the roasted broccoli, which I love. I planned on it being even trade when I was making dinner. Besides, it won't kill him. I'll eat broccoli about any old way, but I really like it roasted. Turned out, I liked the salmon AND the broccoli, and poor P. only liked the salmon. Sorry, Pootie.

So for the recap:
Salmon: Two Thumbs Up
Roasted Broccoli: One Thumb Up, One Thumb Down
Broken Camera: Two Thumbs Down

If anyone in my family is reading this (HIGHLY doubtful - my father is still convinced I can't cook at all because I burned a batch of brownies 30 years ago) a new camera would be a most excellent Christmas gift. Meanwhile, the thousands of readers out there will have to suffer with ripped-off web pictures of close approximations of my dinners for the next couple of months. (The roar of the crowd is deafening.)

Grilled Lamb Rack with Sara and Marc

Marc, Sara and Phillip, lounging after dinner. I didn't get a decent shot of dinner itself, but Marc was kind enough to give me some tips for photographing food. I was going to attempt to try them out that night, but the batteries in the camera died, and instead of fooling with changing them, I concentrated on getting dinner on the table instead. Most people like to eat their meal hot.

Smoked Trout Dip
Grape Tomatoes
Anselmi 2007 (Marc had a sidecar and P. was drinking a rum concoction)

Watercress and Plum Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

Grilled Rosemary and Garlic-Rubbed Lamb Racks
Spiced Couscous
Liante 2006 Salice Salentino

Glazed Lemon Cake

Thanks to Eric at Red Bank Wine for matching my wines to dinner (excellent job, as usual, Eric) and to Sara and Marc for bringing the Cava (and a SERIOUSLY sweet huge chorizo that I can't wait to use!). We had our apps and cocktails out on the patio, and caught up. It's been way too long since we've been able to sit down and have a proper visit.


Here's the dessert aftermath. (Yes, I know. My photography skills haven't gotten any better yet, have they? I bet you like it when I use the pictures from the magazines and web sites instead.)
P. and I had a great time, as usual.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Family Birthday Dinner at 305

Last night we celebrated Phillip's parents' birthdays here. His mom's birthday is Sep. 6 and his dad's is Sep. 8, so we split the difference and celebrated on the 7th. Phillip's parents were here, of course, and his sister, Diane, and her husband Craig and our nephew Benjamin also came.

Assorted olives
Caesar Salad
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Roasted Garlic Bread

Glazed Lemon Cake

Again, not my picture above. (P. was reading this blog and said "Oh, now THAT'S a really good shot, honey! I'm impressed! I hated to break it to him, but I can't take credit for work that's not mine.) This is one of my favorite meatball recipes. It's from Fine Cooking (of course) and the meatballs are really light and flavorful. The Glazed Lemon Cake is an old standby from The Silver Palate cookbook. It's like lemonade in cake form.

We ate dinner outside in the pavilion (above) since there's a little more room out there than in the dining room. P. sprayed for mosquitoes earlier in the day.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Party Wrap Up

I had serious doubts that this party would happen. My schedule for prep was tossed to the wind when Hubby the Sous Chef and heavy lifter didn't get home until after my bedtime on Wednesday and then decided that we should go out for dinner on Thursday (as Andie pointed out, it was his birthday, so I couldn't get too mad) and then on Friday the doctor called me in for new limitations due to my back. By Friday evening I had only made the macadamia horseradish spread and thai pasta salad, the veggies were chopped and meat was marinating. Not a good start. The house was not clean, the lawn furniture wasn't set up.

Saturday morning I looked around and thought "there is no way". The only option was to dive in and just go for it. I had a list and we just went down it, item to item. There were only a couple of meltdowns. The first was when I looked over and found a cat, who should have been locked in the bedroom, standing in a tray of cupcakes. Thankfully, there were two trays.

The second meltdown was when hubby piled up laundry, both clean and dirty, in the laundry porch to wash. The same laundry porch that folks would be going through to enter the house in order to use the restroom. Lots of deep breaths and a few sailor words later, we moved on and managed to be ready to go by 2:00, allowing for a short break to relax and regroup. Having all the party ware in a box and ready to go helped tremendously.

Folks arrived pretty much in one wave, with a final tally of 26 adults and 3 kids. The top sellers were the almond cilantro relish, which was devoured on shrimp and crackers, and the chicken with the pineapple mango salsa. We could have skipped the burgers and no one would have cared. The pineapple upside down cake was literally inhaled as fast as it was sliced and what was left of the cupcakes moved well. The coconut cream pies brought by friends had a transportation problem, and were best eaten from glass with a straw. Our pastry chef friend suggested serving it from martini glasses and folks would think it was meant to be served that way.

Two pitchers of pineapple margahooties and one pitcher of virgin were drank, a case each of beer and water, 4 twelves of soda along with beers brought by guests.