Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Finis! December 30, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 7:05 AM
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My last menu for the Dinner at Home project was an epic meal, cooked over two days. It involved things that were tasty, things that were terrible, and dangerous household calamities–a perfect ending to my year of cooking Martha.

Meal No. 52!  Green Salad with Apple Dressing; Bay Scallops with Lemon and Herbs;  Celery Root and Potato Puree; Jam-Glazed Mini Hazelnut Cakes

SALAD:

I said last week that the terrible salads were over, but I was mistaken.

Oh, beets. Do you wonder if I like them? I do not. Since beets are stereotypically an Old People Food, like Lorna Doones and prunes, of course The Husband likes them.

I had to roast the beets, which took nearly an hour, so I did it the night before I cooked everything else.  Actually, to say I roasted them would be incorrect. Miss Martha had me toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, then put them in a baking dish with 1/4 cup water, cover them with PARCHMENT PAPER AND FOIL, then bake them. So, they were braised, I guess. Weird. Note: I declined to use parchment paper even though we have some. Ha!

Beets are scary things, what with all the bleeding. I came home from work and thought one of the cats had coughed up blood in their bowl of Fancy Feast. I was in a panic until I examined it more closely and found out it was a piece of beet. I have no idea how they managed to get that in there. They have circuses while we’re at work, I’m sure.

So, the salad was a ‘dressing’ made with minced shallot, chopped Granny Smith apple, salt, pepper and olive oil. At first I liked the combination, but then it started tasting like a hard-boiled egg to me. What? I don’t even know. Then I had to add the beets to the baby greens along with the apple mixture. Hmm. Not a fan, really. Neither was Mr. SP. We went so far as to throw away the extra apple dressing. Goodbye, apple. Sorry your time on earth was a waste.

(I took a photo of the salad, but it didn’t show up on my memory card. Is it the vampire of the salad world?!)

CELERY ROOT & POTATO PUREE:

I think I told the story of how I first tried celery root puree on an Air France flight and became a fan. Even so, The Husband is in charge of preparing them, aside from the weird raw celery root and nut salad Martha had me make last winter. This was my first time cooking one; there were brown things that went below the skin. Should I cut them out? Who knew? Martha also had me add 1/2 lb of Yukon Gold potatoes, which she thought would be one medium potato. In reality, it was three medium ones, according to my scale. Good thing I checked, since I love potatoes.

The celery root and potato were boiled along with garlic cloves, then pureed, with hot milk and melted butter mixed in before serving. The celery root puree was delicious! Very good, Martha.

SCALLOPS:

The scallop recipe involves sautéing 8 oz of them in a non-olive oil for a couple of minutes, then removing them from the pan so a sauce can be made of butter and the juice of two lemons. It’s then served atop the puree, with added herbs.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, I got my frying pan SUPER DUPER hot, just like Martha said. Then I added oil, which was SUPER DEE DUPER hot. Then I added my scallops, which may not have been thoroughly dried and/or thawed. What ensued was first a cloud of steam so thick I couldn’t see the top of the stove, as the oil splattered everywhere, including on my open cookbook. Then the room quickly filled with smoke. VERY thick smoke. I summoned Mr. Peanut, who ran in and opened the windows in the kitchen and the dining room, and turned on all the ceiling fans in that half of the house while I tried to keep the scallops from burning. It took about 20 minutes for the smoke to clear.

Turns out that aside from the mess and smoke inhalation, the scallops were fine, and nicely browned. I thought they tasted good with the celery root puree and the lemon sauce, but The Husband found them superfluous. The portion size was exceedingly stingy– 8 oz was about enough for two, so if serving four, the guests would only get three little scallops a piece.

MINI CAKES:

 

Oh, aren’t they cute? We hate these little cakes.

They were quite precious to make. I had to grind blanched hazelnuts (which I couldn’t find, so I had to roast them and then peel the skins off, which is a total pain in the ass, if you couldn’t guess), then whisk them with flour, sugar and salt. That was blended with egg whites, and butter that I had to brown in a skillet, skim the foam off of, and cool. Then the mixture had to rest for 20 minutes. Who do you think you are, Jiffy Cornbread? I know Jiffy Cornbread, and, little miss, you are no Jiffy Cornbread!

I made a half bach of the batter, which should have made 9 cakes (WHICH, by the way, are actually muffins, as they are baked in mini MUFFIN tins, not CAKE tins), but only made 6. And thank goodness it did, because they were so not good. They were a bit dry, and the tops were sticky, and the flavor had a weird aftertaste. Have you ever seen a cat eat something it didn’t like? You know how it’ll keep sticking its tongue out and scowling? That was The Husband’s reaction.

Oh, and get this! I had to make a glaze out of raspberry jam and water, cooked on the stove, then cooled, to pour on top. First it was too thin, then too thick. It was easier just to spoon the jam on top, as you can see on the cake on the left, We had tart cherry jam so I just used that, but it didn’t do the cake any favors. No!

OVERALL:

The meal took more than three hours to prepare, due to the beet roasting, preparing the nuts, baking the cakes, etc. It was not worth that!  The best parts–the celery root puree and the scallops, could be accomplished in 45 minutes, though.

SALAD:  D+

CELERY ROOT:  A

SCALLOPS: B (A without all the drama)

CAKES: D

And with that, I am done with my project! I will be back in a few days to sum up my experience and talk about plans for next year. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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‘Adversity is the first path to truth’ December 27, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 9:43 PM
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says Lord Byron. 

Meal No 51: Bacon and Swiss Chard Dip; Braised Chicken Marsala; Sage Polenta; PearsPearsPears (from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home)

Dip:

Golly, this seems like a heavy meal, especially coming off a holiday week. So, I substituted turkey bacon for the pork bacon. I am not fond of things masquerading as other things, like soy cheese or tofurkey, and thought it was creepy how much the turbacon looked like a slice of budget lunch meat ham. Nevertheless, it was browned, along with some onion. Then I made a roux with milk, flour and heavy cream. All was going swimmingly until I had to add the Swiss chard to the pan to wilt it. If you don’t know, Swiss chard is a tough little beast, and by the time the shreds had wilted the cream sauce and bacon had stuck to the bottom of the pan. This created quite a mess, and also resulted in losing a good deal of the dip ingredients. Using spinach would have been more prudent. It also created a problem because I unwittingly used our last sponge to try to clean the skillet. Now we can’t wash any other dishes.

I baked the chard and the little bit of creamy bacon stuff, topped with Pecorino Romano, which I substituted for Parmesan. 

The flavor was good, but even with less creamy stuff added it was pretty oily and had a vaguely slimy texture once it cooled to room temperature. The Husband thinks the leftovers might be good over eggs for breakfast. Hmm.

Braised Chicken Marsala:

Even though I swore off chicken legs after the poached-legs-in-coconut broth incident, I bought some to use in this dish, along with some chicken thighs. Has anyone else noticed that thighs with skin are becoming impossible to find? What is up with that? The unsanctioned skinless thighs and legs (with skin) were browned, sort of, and removed from the pan while two plum tomatoes and red onions were browned along with some thyme sprigs. I then added some Marsala wine and reduced it. The chicken was added back to the pan along with some chicken broth and it baked for 35 minutes.

Polenta:

Cooking polenta is just like cooking grits. Is there any difference, really? I cooked the polenta, then added chopped sage in the last five minutes, plus some butter. Martha said to add 2 teaspoons of coarse salt to the cooking water; I added less and it was too salty. She is a total salt fiend.

Together, the dish achieves a complexity of flavor that is lacking in most of the recipes in this cookbook. It is really quite good, but I prefer the Rachel Ray recipe with the chicken stew and manchego-enhanced polenta I wrote about last week, as Martha’s is a bit too sweet for me, despite having bought the driest Marsala wine I could find. The Husband was just not into the onions at all; he thought they were too sweet, which is odd considering that they were red.

Pears:

Martha opines that the heaviness of the meal demands a light dessert, but honestly, can’t we just skip it? The wine was kind of sweet, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?

There was a delay in making the sautéed pears. If you know me in person you will not be surprised to learn that I burned my fingers pulling the skillet out of the oven. I then didn’t feel like wielding my fingers to make some stupid honey and pear thing. Didn’t we already make this dessert?

I will probably post about it later in the week.

Dip:  B

Chicken:  B

Polenta:    A

Pears:   TBD

ONE MORE MEAL, and I will have fulfilled my New Year’s Resolution. I can’t decide whether to hope it’s tasty, or horrible.

 

Meat atrocities: fine if you like that sort of thing… December 19, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:19 PM
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Meal NUMBER 50!

Pork Chops with Sautéed Apples and Onion; Shaved Fennel-Celery Salad; Mustard Mashed Potatoes; Maple Custards

Pork Chops:

The recipe involved bone-in pork chops, onions, Fuji apples, Armagnac, chicken stock, and butter. 

I am not going to give you the measurements for these ingredients, and I am not going to discuss its cooking method. I am taking a stand: it’s time to put an end to the whole Fruit with Pork thing. Now.  If you want to put pork with some garlic, or herbs, or BBQ sauce I will support your right to do so. But I just cannot allow this fruity meat thing to continue.

I wish I had a video of The Husband’s reaction to this part of the meal. There are many variations one can do of, “Oh, my god. This is soooo disgusting.” One can shake one’s head, and just repeat over and over again, “Oh, no.” Or say”Nuh uh,” several times over, then follow it with an “Ohhhhhhh, this is reallllllllly disgusting,” then an, “Oh my god! It’s gross! It’s really soooo gross” Then one can burst out laughing at how much one hates it.

THEN, one can admit that the flavors on the plate, while hideous, do complement one another, if one were into such things…

SALAD:

The fennel was not shaved, fyi. It was sliced, as was the celery. Kohlrabi is too fancy to be found at the several stores I tried, so we had to do without. The dressing was apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard (oh, how I have missed you), honey, and oil. I was supposed to use walnut oil, but didn’t for allergy-avoidance purposes.

I didn’t hate it as much as I expected to. It was pretty quiet in flavor. I liked that it was crunchy. Most importantly, this is the last of the year of terrible salads!

MASHED POTATOES:

These were Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled with their skins on for a rustic effect. They were mashed with whole-grain mustard, chicken broth and olive oil. These were the best thing on the plate, which I suppose isn’t saying much, but they were tasty. I like mustard and think this is a fun idea for a side dish, if you were making kielbasi or something along those lines.

MAPLE CUSTARDS:

We both normally hate maple, but we got some maple syrup from Trader Joe’s that is remarkably un-mapley in flavor. Otherwise I would have skipped this dessert.

I whisked together egg yolks, maple syrup and vanilla, then slowly mixed in heated milk and cream. The mixture was baked in ramekins in a water bath, then chilled. I poured a little bit of maple syrup on top before serving.

This was much better than I expected! The Husband took a bite and said, “OH, MY! I love this texture!!!!” It was silky smooth. Yum.

 OVERALL:

As I said above, the flavors all went together, but that is not necessarily a good thing, in my opinion. The sweet pork was not cute, the salad was just ok, but the potatoes and dessert were good. I could see people who like sweet meat and fennel really digging this meal.

Pork:  F, for our palates, but if you like fruit and pork you would probably give it a B

Fennel salad:  B

Mashed potatoes:  A

Maple custard: A+

 

Return of the Hideous Salads…. December 15, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 8:43 PM
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As we near the end of the Fall portion of Dinner at Home, we are edging ever closer to the Winter of Terrible Salads section. This meal contains a terrifying harbinger of things to come…..

Meal No. 49: Roasted Parsnip and Chorizo Bites; Steamed Mussels and Clams in Smoky Tomato Broth; Orange and Endive Salad; Dark Chocolate Puddings 

Bites:

I wasn’t sure how this would go down, but I figured that with Manchego cheese and chorizo it could only be but so bad, you know? As it happens, it was quite delicious!

I peeled and sliced a couple of parsnips, tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted them on a cookie sheet for about 12 minutes. The parsnips I got had loooong narrow tips that were pretty useless.

After the parsnips roasted, I added some sliced cured chorizo to the pan to heat it up for a minute or two. Then a parsnip slice was topped with a piece of the Manchego cheese, a slice of chorizo, and another parsnip, with a toothpick stuck through to hold it all together. Yum.

What I take issue with is that Martha says to use chorizo but doesn’t specify whether to use dried (Spanish) chorizo, or fresh (Mexican) chorizo. It is evident from the cooking directions that you would need the salami-type kind, but if someone were new to chorizo they wouldn’t know that and would probably buy the wrong kind, as even Johnsonville makes a “fresh” chorizo nowadays (that has no flavor, by the way). Then the newbie would wonder why s/he couldn’t slice it and have it be safe to eat after a minute in the oven.

Mussels and Clams:

This was my first time cooking mussels. The book says to debeard them, but I couldn’t figure out where the beard was, so I didn’t. Is it possible they came debearded? I didn’t much care. I have never liked mussels, except for some I had on my birthday at the bar at Lemaire, where the broth was smoky and full of jamon. Would this be nearly as good?!?!?!

No.

The broth was a bit thin, but it was not offensive. The clams seemed a tad chewy but that always seems to happen in her clam recipes. At least this is not as bad as the mussels we tried at Avalon, where the sauce was weirdly bitter and horrid.

I forgot to take a photo of it. I don’t think you want me to dig the empty shells out to photograph them, do you?

The Husband has been known to order mussels, but he admitted tonight that he can’t stand to look at them when he eats them. This ended up in a tangent about how “the sea must be a very scary place….with amorphous animals…and tendrils……”

Orange and Endive Salad:

I had to visit three stores to find endive and almost gave up, but I was too curious about this salad to not make it. I did forget to get oranges so we used the one orange we had, plus two tangerines.  The citrus slices were lovingly placed upon a platter and sprinkled with cayenne; the endive was tossed with mint, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper. The two were then combined.

Good God, this was awful. It was bitter and tart and minty and oily, all at once. I had flashbacks to the salads we made last winter. Then I started twitching, which was only relieved by ingesting additional chorizo. The Husband was shocked by how bitter it was, and didn’t seem to enjoy it much, but he ate most of it. He said it needed more sweetness or some fennel.

Dark Chocolate Puddings:

I didn’t make these, since I can’t eat it. The Husband was supposed to try the recipe, but that fell by the wayside.  Instead, I made the very first dessert I made for this blog, which was the dried cherry and pear clafouti.

ASIDE:

Last month I got the new Rachel Ray cookbook, Look + Cook. I looked at it in the store a couple of times when I was really hungry, and her fifty versions of shepherd’s pie really appealed to me. Since then I’ve made her Spanish-style chicken and dumplings, which was the best thing I cooked all year, I think.

Because I had chorizo and Manchego cheese left over, I tried her Spanish chicken and chorizo stew, with Manchego polenta. It was also completely amazing. And easy. And it didn’t take me all night, nor did it require me to make some disgusting plate of bitter vegetables to accompany it.

I know she gets a bad rap, and quite frankly I can’t stand to watch her shows, but the recipes I have tried so far are damn good. Anthony Bourdain complains that she isn’t a chef, but so what? Neither am I. 

OVERALL:

The salad is terrible;  I imagine the pudding is likely terrible, and the seafood was just ok, but the chorizo bits made up for it.

Parsnip and Chorizo bites: A+  If you come over I may make them for you sometime.

Salad:  I gave it an F, and Mr. SP gave it a B- (What?!) so I guess that averages out to a D+/C-

Mussels and Clams:  B

Pudding:  ??

Three more to go!

 

An Insomniac and a Quail Walk into a Bar…. December 8, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review,Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 8:59 PM
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Meal No. 48! Gratineed Baked Squash Halves; Quail with Figs and Pine Nuts; Classic Rice Pilaf; Frozen Grapes with Sauternes Granita

First off, I want to give kudos to Relay Foods (www.relayfoods.com). I ordered most of the ingredients for this meal from them, and they ran all over town, higgledy piggledy, picking up my quail, squash, Gruyère, wine, etc. And then I just popped over to the creepy, dark lot at the Science Museum to pick up my goodies, lovingly packed by a local hipster. This was my first time ordering from them and it won’t be my last. Faboo!

Secondly, I would like it to be known that I cooked most of this meal at 5 am on a Tuesday.  That’s right– 5 am! What happened was, I planned to cook the meal Sunday, but I got caught up cooking some stuff for an office thing and ran out of steam. On Monday night I had a bunch of errands and it was too late (at 8 pm) to start cooking. So instead I cooked it at 5 am. Ok, I see now how that doesn’t make much sense.

But, Thing One woke me up with some vomiting at 4:30 am (yes, I know, speaking of vomiting on a cooking blog is not polite, but it’s the truth). Why must my cats always puke in the middle of the night? Why not at 6 pm? If someone could invent a puke-less cat I bet it would be a very popular model.

The diabolical puker (this time) is on the left.

 I woke up at 4:30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I decided to cook my quail. I cut out their backbones, and chopped off their scrawny little necks while wearing my polka-dotted PJs–quite the surreal moment. If you’re the type to wish you starred in a reality show, this would be the thing you’d hope they’d get on film.  While that was happening I figured I could just go ahead and roast the figs, and what the hell, why not make the rice pilaf, too? I drew the line at roasting the squash, though. I have my limits. Plus, as soon as the sun came up I had to walk Miss Pooch.

THE QUAIL:

The recipe called for de-boned quail, which I didn’t even bother to look for. I just ordered the package off Relay, which got it from the Mediterranean market on Quioccasin. After they were butchered it was a matter of salting and peppering them, and brushing them with oil. I was supposed to cook them in a grill pan, which I don’t have because I just use my grill, but not at 5 am when it’s 20 degrees out. I flattened them with a cast iron skillet, per the instructions. They got a nice crispy brown crust.

The sauce involved roasting Brown Turkey figs (the recipe called for Mission, but I couldn’t get those), capers and pine nuts, then tossing them with balsamic vinegar. The sauce was great! It really helped out the quail in the taste department.

RICE PILAF:

Super simple–never buy Rice-a-Roni again, people! Melt butter, sauté broken pieces of angel hair pasta, then a chopped onion, then throw in the rice and coat with butter. Add water and simmer until done.  This was simple, but I really liked it with the quail and fig sauce.

So far, everything is excellent, and this is perhaps the fanciest breakfast I have ever had! When the husband woke up I told him I made breakfast. “Bacon and eggs?” “NO! Quail with fig sauce and rice pilaf!”

SQUASH:

I made the squash later in the day, after I got home from work. It involved baking halved squash filled with cream, in which some fresh sage and sliced garlic were simmered briefly. Then the Gruyere was added and it was cooked until brown.

This was kind of meh for me. I think my squash was too small, and the cream filled the entire cavity. The ones in the photo in the cookbook don’t have much cream in them at all. So, it mainly just tasted cream-y and bland. The Husband really resented it, as he felt the flavor detracted from the quail.

Granita:

This recipe is in the running for most stupid dessert of the year: Halve red grapes, put in dish, toss with a bit of Sauternes, sugar, and water, then freeze. Stir with fork and serve.

Ok, Martha. WHY are we eating ice in a fall menu?!?!  It was 20 degrees when I made this (the night before the quail incident). Why not a cranberry orange bread? Or anything, really, as long as it wasn’t icy.  It actually wasn’t even all that icy, like the cherry ice recipe. It was mainly just odd tasting frozen grapes. I didn’t like the taste of the Sauternes, and it ruined my precious organic grapes. This would be refreshing in the summer if it didn’t taste terrible.

OVERALL:

We really liked this meal when it was just quail, fig sauce, and rice pilaf. But the squash was disappointing, and the dessert pissed me off. Way to ruin things, Martha.

QUAIL & FIGS:  A

RICE PILAF:  B+

SQUASH:    D  ( I give it a C, but The Husband gives it an F+ for ruining the flavor of the quail)

GRAPES:  F for seasonality. D- for execution

 

In which the pork surprised us more than the soup November 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 11:24 AM
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After days and days of holiday and birthday treats, I was reluctant to make a Martha meal, but to (very, very loosely) paraphrase Winston Churchill, the only way through it is to cook it.

Meal No. 47: Watercress-Cauliflower Soup; Sage and Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin; Braised Fennel and White Beans; Pears with Maple Walnuts and Gorgonzola

The recipes are all on her site here. She recommends this as a buffet style dinner party. Soup on a buffet seems impractical and messy. The photo shows a giant brioche, but of course we will never know how to make that, as we will be making raw pears instead.  Pity.

Soup:

The funny thing about this recipe is that onions + cauliflower + watercress= thin broccoli soup!  It was a bit slimy, from too much butter used to saute the onion, but was otherwise ok. It was shocking how much it tasted like broccoli.  The Husband hated it at first, but when he added a huge amount of white pepper he liked it much better. He says it will make a good breakfast. Yes, I said breakfast. Ask him.

Pork:

You may notice that is entry is not tagged under “boring pork” like all of her other pork recipes. That’s because it was, oddly enough, quite delicious! Even the husband, a pork tenderloin hater, said it was delicious! Yippee. The sage and garlic made a nice crust and it was perfectly cooked and moist. We were thinking about using the leftovers for Cuban sandwiches, but that would involve buying bread, pickles, ham, cheese……

Beans:

Unfortunately, the beans I got were mealy and this didn’t have much flavor. It was a disappointment, but at least the fennel was cooked enough to not offend.

Dessert:

Normally, I am thrilled with the idea of a cheese plate; I prefer cheese to most desserts, in fact.  But it seemed excessive to have it with this meal, as the menu included pork, beans, nuts and cheese. That is a lot of protein, yes?

I have my own salty/sweet nut recipe, and this one used maple syrup. Our maple syrup is remarkably un-mapley, so that is the only reason this passed muster. We substituted pecans for the walnuts, and they turned out very tasty.

This next part is pathetic–I couldn’t find the cheese in the frig as I think I left it at our friend’s house on Thanksgiving. So we were forced to pick the cheese crumbles off the leftover salad and eat it with the pear and the nuts. (It was 9:30 at night, so I wasn’t in the mood to go to the store!). It was fine, because I was actually so stuffed from the soup, pork and beans that I could only eat a tiny bite anyway.

OVERALL:

Some items were better than others, but overall the flavors at least matched.

SOUP:   C as written, B with the gob of black pepper

PORK:    A+ Don’t faint!

BEANS & FENNEL:  C

PEAR/NUTS/CHEESE:   A

 

Nutty Meats & Boring Sides, Squared November 21, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 8:27 PM
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Because we need things to eat, and I feel like I am running behind in getting this project completed by the end of the year, I decided to make TWO Martha recipes today. Two! One for lunch and one for dinner. The entrees are rather similar–sautéed protein covered with a nut sauce, so let’s compare, shall we?

Meal No. 45: Lettuce Hearts with Fried Croutons and Tomatoes; Trout with Almonds and Orange; Porcini and Parsley Farro; Sugared Grape Phyllo Tart

vs

Meal No. 46: Chickpea-Olive Crostini; Chicken Paillards with Walnut Sauce; Arugula and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad; Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates

Let me just say that you can watch Martha cook the chicken dish on the Today show, here. It is worth watching because Meredith puts the smack down on Martha when she tries to make her eat a date. Ha! 

The video also reveals Martha to be the biggest, fattest, lyingly liar around. (If this is my last post you know that she has sued me and I am locked in jail somewhere). She says that all of the meals in her Dinner at Home can be cooked in an hour or less! ALL OF THEM! Do you know how many have actually been cooked in that amount of time? Two, I think! Definitely fewer than five! Liar liar pants on fire!!!!

Anyway.

Salads:

Right off the bat we are unable to provide scientifical analysis of the two salads because I only made one, the roasted sweet potato and arugula salad.  My Whole Foods didn’t have Serrano ham, and I didn’t feel like going anywhere else, unless they sold shoes. Making a salad with just Boston lettuce, cherry tomatoes, croutons, oil and sherry vinegar sounds rather boring. I think we can all imagine what that tastes like, yes? Also, why put ham into a pescetarian meal?

The sweet potato salad was actually quite good, and the best part of that meal. Maybe both meals! I roasted slices of sweet potatoes and leeks in olive oil, with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, until tender, then added them to a mixture of romaine lettuce. The recipe called for arugula, and I bet that would have been even better, but there was a greens snafu so we used what we had. The dressing was a mixture of Dijon mustard, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Yes, I finally got some, and no, it hasn’t changed my life into an amazing super duper fantastic life. Yet.

Entree:

The trout was salted and peppered and sautéed in olive oil, then removed from the pan when done. Then I toasted some chopped almonds, and mixed them with some orange zest and fresh-squeezed orange juice. I don’t know what was up with that orange, as it was extremely acidic. I had a sip of the juice and it burned my throat like battery acid. I had to scrape the topping off the fish and eat it plain. (If you are a  reading this and are a doctor, and think this may mean I have a vitamin deficiency or scurvy, please let me know).  Lucky for me, I enjoyed it better without the sauce, as it was simultaneously acidic and too sweet. The Husband enjoyed the fish with and without the sauce. He would like it known that he enjoyed the fish so much that he ate the skin.

The chicken was flattened, and also salted, peppered and sautéed in olive oil, then removed. This time, I added toasted walnuts, chicken stock and sherry vinegar to make the sauce. I have no idea how this tasted as I am allergic to walnuts so I ate my chicken plain. The Husband asked, “So, what’s this walnut sauce about? I don’t get it.” He thought the walnuts were superfluous, but did say the sauce had some flavor that he appreciated.

Sides/Apps:

The fish dish called for a side of farro and porcini stuff. Farro is very hard to find here, and expensive, so I substituted pearl barley, per Martha’s suggestion. I forgot that it takes 45 minutes to cook. I also substituted dried shiitake mushrooms for porcini. After the barley and mushrooms cooked, they were tossed with flat leaf parsley and olive oil. We tried a bit Martha’s way, and oh, was it bland. It tasted like water. Then we tried mixing in some black truffle olive oil we happened to get yesterday, and the dish was much improved. I still didn’t think it was all that great, but The Husband thought it was tasty.

The appetizer for the chicken meal involved topping crostini with a cooked/mashed up mixture of chickpeas, red onion, red pepper flakes, cumin, and a paltry six oil-cured black olives plus parsley.  (On the Today show segment, the bread was magically toasted, and the topping was pre-prepared. All she did was saute the chicken and stuff a date). You would think that this would be flavorful, but you would be wrong! So, so bland and dry. The bites with olives had a better flavor, and that is saying a lot from someone who doesn’t even like black olives!

Both were very disappointing.

“Desserts:”

And I do use that term loosely! I wasn’t too worried about making two desserts because I knew we could make one of each and neither one of us would like them much. This is good because my birthday and Thanksgiving occur within 48 hours this week, and I have a feeling I will be having plenty of treats soon enough, and maybe not all of them will be of a sparkling, liquid variety.

The fish meal dessert was to be phyllo dough swabbed with melted butter, sugar, and crushed toasted fennel seeds, topped with red grapes and baked. We all know how I feel about fennel at this point. Even The Husband, who likes fennel, thought it sounded odd. So, I wasn’t keen on making it, but since I already wasn’t making the salad I felt compelled to try something.  Back when we made the phyllo and squash tart I didn’t like how half a package of phyllo dough went to waste, so this time I just bought a little package of the phyllo cups. I put a couple grapes in each, topped them with melted butter and sugar and baked them for about 8 minutes. The Husband thought they were a total waste, but I didn’t hate them. I would never make them again, but they weren’t terrible. There just wasn’t anything to recommend them.

The second “dessert” was Medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese mixed with cream and sprinkled with sea salt. We are not date fans; I have had this type of thing before and while I didn’t hate them, I didn’t really think that much of them. But these were surprisingly tasty. The filling tasted like cream cheese, but the sourness helped tone down the sweetness of the date, and the salt really helped, too. Still, we each only ate one and that was that. Does anyone want some dates? 

OVERALL:

Fish:    A   vs.   Chicken:  B

Pretend Salad:  N/A  vs.  Sweet Potato Salad:   A

Chickpea crostini:   C-       vs.    Farro Salad:   C-

Phyllo Dough:  C    vs.   Dates:    B+

I guess it’s a toss up.  By cooking two Martha meals in one day I ensured that I wouldn’t be crazy about any of the food I ate today…