Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Fall-Flavored Flautas November 14, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 11:40 AM
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Meal No. 44: Roasted Pumpkin Soup; Black-eyed Pea Salad with Baby Greens; Cheese Flautas with Cilantro Pesto; Apple-Cranberry Crumble

Well, Ms. Martha gets an A+ for using all seasonally appropriate ingredients this week! There is also nothing I don’t like, except for cilantro, so that earns her another point or two.

Soup:

My eagerness to try this soup was quickly diminished by the fact that I had bought the world’s hardest sugar pumpkin. It took me 10 minutes to even get the thing cut in half! I had sharpened my knives, and was terrified I would cut my finger off in the process. So, once I got it halved there was no way I was cutting it into cubes for roasting, per the instructions. I drizzled olive oil on the pumpkin halves and roasted them, along with a quartered onion, for 30 minutes. It was easy to scrape the pumpkin out after it baked.

I forgot to roast the garlic clove, and I didn’t buy fresh shiitake mushroom caps, which were also to be roasted. I only needed two, and I find those bins of loose mushrooms very suspect. Who knows what kind of mushrooms those really are? The packaged shiitakes cost as much as a car, so I decided to use the dried ones we had left over from the mushroom broth recipe of a few weeks ago. I reconstituted them in the vegetable broth, and that was that.

The pumpkin and onion were blended along with the mushrooms and the broth, and salt and pepper were added to taste. I added garlic powder when I realized that I had forgotten about the garlic.

The soup was pretty bland; maybe the roasted mushrooms would have made a difference. The soup barely tasted like pumpkin; if we had closed our eyes while eating it I think we could have guessed it was some sort of squash soup based on its texture, not the flavor. At least it wasn’t sweet, though. Sweet soups are just wrong.  I plan to add some chipotles to the leftovers to flavor it up.

Salad:

A can of black-eyed peas was mixed in with red onion, cilantro, Dijon mustard (of course), garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Right before serving it was added to a baby spinach salad blend. We both really liked the black-eyed pea mixture on its own and didn’t think the salad added much other than soaking up all the oil that was on the peas (and I had added less than recommended, which was three tablespoons!). The pea blend would be good added to a wild rice mixture, or maybe some kind of pasta for a pasta salad. The recipe can be found here.

Cheese Flautas:

You might call them taquitos, but Martha calls these flautas. They involved making a cilantro/pepita/lime juice/garlic pesto, which was smeared onto a corn tortilla, along with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese. After rolling them up they are pan-fried in peanut oil.  They were fine, if a bit oily, which is why I prefer enchiladas to fried tortilla-type-things.  I had gotten some ‘artisanal’ corn tortillas at a fancy market and the flavor of the corn pretty much overwhelmed the mild cheese, so a blend with some cheddar would be better. The pesto was interesting. Martha said to toast the pepitas, which I didn’t think was necessary as they are already roasted. Mine were bordering on overcooked, so the flavor was a bit off.

The recipe makes 8, but I halved it and made 4. We only had one each, so I tried one of the left overs for breakfast the next day. I popped it in the microwave and it was so nasty! All the oil came out. Blarg.

Crumble:

It would be extremely hard to mess up a fruit crumble, but we can never underestimate Martha, so I was a tad worried since her baked goods have been hit or miss. This one  involves apples and cranberries topped with a mixture of brown sugar, oats, chopped pecans and butter. It was not overly sweet and quite tasty!

OVERALL:

It took nearly two hours to make all of this, and half the pans and dishes in the house, so I’m not sure it was worth it. The black-eyed pea salad and the crumble were the stars of the show. We could have been perfectly happy to eat just those two. It was nice that this meal, aside from the fried flautas, was relatively light. All the flavors melded well together, which is unusual for a Martha Meal!

Soup:  C

Salad:  A

Floutas:  B

Crumble:  A

OVERALL: B

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Steaks & Cakes October 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 6:20 AM
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This week’s meal involved making a full dinner with a baked dessert in under an hour. But was it good?

Meal No. 42:  Skillet Rib-Eye Steaks; Broiled Peppers with Melted Cheese; Broccoli with Garlic and Anchovies; Molten Chocolate-Espresso Cakes. Recipes, from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home, can be found online here, but the dessert is called Chocolate Truffle Cakes, and is a bit different. Hmm.  

The steak:

The recipe called for rib-eye, which I couldn’t find, so I got a T-bone. Or maybe it was a Porterhouse. I don’t know–it was nearly a pound and had a bone in it.

The steak was salted, peppered, and pressed gently with rosemary. Olive oil was heated in a cast iron skillet with a couple of cloves of garlic, then the steak was tossed in to sear. It only seared in one spot, so I guess my steak wasn’t cut evenly, or my burner is crap, or probably both. Once the steak was done, it was removed, and more rosemary was tossed into the pan of oil until it sizzled, then the oil/herb mixture was poured over the steak.

The rosemary lent a nice flavor, but the oil was too much for me. Ew.

Peppers:

Oddly enough, the store didn’t have asiago cheese (although there were plenty of more exotic choices) so once I broiled the Anaheim chiles for five minutes I stuffed half with a string cheese stick and half with a Mexican cheese blend we happened to have in the house, and popped them back in the oven until the cheese browned.

These were ok–The Husband found the texture of the string cheese suspect, as I knew he would. The Mexican cheese melted nicely, but it needed something else to make it really tasty. I suppose I could have used a hotter pepper, but the Anaheim was one of the types she suggested. 

Broccoli:

Broccoli was sautéed with garlic and chopped anchovies in olive oil. It seemed a touch oily, and although the dish seemed seasoned, it wasn’t apparent that it was anchovies doing the work. I suppose that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about anchovies.

Molten Lava Cakes:

 At last! A “real” dessert! Too bad I couldn’t eat it, due to its chocolate content. These were very quick to mix up. I made a half batch, which made three little cakes. At first the insides were appropriately gooey, then, just as Martha foretold, they were fudgey on the inside after cooling to room temperature.

The Royal Taster/Husband says they were good, but he thought they were too alkaline in taste, due to the bittersweet chocolate and espresso powder. He thinks he would have liked them better if made with some semi-sweet chocolate instead. Note that this didn’t stop him from eating all three in one day.

The recipe in the above link is different, as it doesn’t have vanilla and involves more chocolate and fewer eggs. She says to make that one a day ahead for extra fudginess. I wonder why she changed the recipe for the menu?  There’s a similar molten lava cake recipe on the site that doesn’t contain espresso. Ah, well.

OVERALL:

I was quite pleased that the entire meal only took 50 minutes to make. It was all edible, so I will chalk this up as a win, although I don’t think I would make any of these recipes again without tweaking them. I also thought it seemed a bit heavy, what with the steak, oil on the steak, cheese, oil on the broccoli, and cake.  The Husband was wondering where the carbs to absorb the fat were.  Also, the photos were all very unappealing, so I didn’t add them.

Steak:  B  I think this would have been better cooked on the grill, and without the oil poured on top.

Peppers: B

Broccoli:  B

Cakes:  B

 

ZZzzz October 19, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 5:08 PM
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Meal No. 41: Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Stacks: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Pole Beans; Plums….

 

 

  This will be quick because, honestly, I made this meal nearly a week ago and it barely made an impression then, let alone now, after a SUPERFUN weekend that I will post about shortly.

Stacks:

I am confounded as to why this dish is in the Fall section, rather than the Summer chapter. All you do is grill some eggplant slices, then layer them with heirloom tomato slices, mozarella slices, and basil. The stack is drizzled with a dressing made with olive oil and red chile pepper.

They were good, mainly because it’s hard to mess up anything that involves grilled eggplant. The tomato, since it’s fall, wasn’t that great, of course. I substituted goat cheese for the mozarella, while The Husband used feta.

Pasta:

This recipe involved tossing cooked whole-wheat pasta with jarred barlotti beans, romano beans, olive oil, sauteed red onions, rosemary and garlic.  I don’t think there is such a thing as jarred barlotti beans in this town, but I did find them in a can at Whole Foods. They taste similar to pinto beans. I couldn’t find romano beans, either, so I substituted green beans per Martha’s suggestion.

This was pretty boring. The Husband was aghast at how ‘starchy” it was. I thought it seemed like something you’d cook on a Tuesday night when you need to use up a bunch of stuff left in the refrigerator, so you toss everything you can find together. I couldn’t imagine making this on purpose.  I made a half batch and what we didn’t eat has been languishing in the refrigerator ever since.

Plums:

We were supposed to glaze prune-plums in balsamic vinegar, then serve them with mascarpone cheese. We made something very similar last winter, so I opted out. I decided to instead make knedle sa sljivama, which is a Serbian plum dumpling. I have Serbian folks in my extended family and they go on about how delicious these are so I decided to try them, using a recipe I found in the Washington Post (since I don’t have a family recipe. Ahem).

They were a disaster! I don’t think I used enough flour in the potato dough, so they exploded in the pot whilst simmering. The cooked plums were good with the sugar/butter/bread crumb topping, but what a disappointment.

 ETA: I have consulted the family recipe, which calls for three cups of flour, whereas the WP recipe said to use three tablespoons!!!! No wonder!
 
 

 

Ka-BOOM!

OVERALL:

Stacks:  B  I think these would have been much better when tomatoes were actually in season

Pasta:      C-    It wasn’t horrid, but it was SO BORING that The Husband wanted to give it an F.

 

Miso Happy! (Until the house nearly burned down.) October 11, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 6:27 PM
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Meal No. 40: Tofu and Scallions in Mushroom Broth: Miso-Glazed Fish Fillets; Sesame Brown Rice and Cabbage; Caramelized Persimmons, available on Martha Stewart’s site. I think she has published nearly everything in Dinner at Home on her site. I guess she doesn’t need the money from book sales.

Although I made one of the fall recipes back in the summer, due to its okra content, this week officially kicks off the Fall Menu section of the book. This menu isn’t the first in the section, but since I saw persimmons at Whole Foods, I decided to make this menu while I could.

Soup:

Luckily, I only made a half batch. I didn’t want to waste the entire package of dried shiitake mushrooms on the broth if the soup was going to be awful. I didn’t think it was awful, but it wasn’t great. I think it was missing something; it was made with mushroom broth, tofu, scallions, rice vinegar and soy sauce. The Husband actively disliked it.  It wasn’t as bad at the soup from the Spectral Beasts post.

 I was irritated that the mushrooms were strained out after cooking in the water. So wasteful, that Martha. We are holding onto them–maybe I will throw them in some scrambled eggs or something.

Miso-Glazed Fish Fillets:

This was much better!

 The glaze was supposed to be a mixture of rice vinegar, mirin (Japanese sweet rice cooking wine), white (shiro) miso, and sugar. I went to the local Asian supermarket and they only seemed to carry Chinese sweet rice cooking wine. Was it the same thing? I don’t know, and got spooked by the warning on the label: Do Not Use for Beverages! Also, the fact that the ingredients listed “edible alcohol” on some bottles, and “ethyl alcohol” on others. So, I passed.  I forgot to look elsewhere so when it came time to cook it I used some sweet vermouth that we had on hand. It turned out fine. I heated the mixture until the sugar melted, then smeared it on some halibut filets and broiled them for about 7 minutes.

This turned out quite well! I think I would use less sugar next time, but I will probably make these again. I have a big tub of miso to use up, after all.

Sesame Brown Rice and Cabbage:

This was also a winner! But you have to disregard Martha’s crazy brown rice cooking instructions, which say the rice will be cooked in 25 minutes.  Ha ha ha haha. Anyone who has ever cooked brown rice knows it takes at least 3 days.

Some Napa cabbage was sautéed in grape seed oil along with garlic and ginger, then removed to a bowl. The rice was browned in the oil briefly, then mixed with water and salt to boil then simmer. A month later the rice was done, and the cabbage mixture was tossed back in along with some rice vinegar and sesame seeds. I didn’t think about browning the seeds until just now but I bet it would be tasty.

This had a very nice flavor, and went well with the fish. I could also see using this in a fried rice sort of dealie. There is no photo of it, as it lacked color and visual interest.

The sole problem is that it only used one cup of the enormous Napa cabbage I bought. What to do with the rest of it?

Caramelized Persimmons:

I don’t know anything about persimmons, including how to pick a ripe one. The cashier said the gnarlier they are the riper they are. It didn’t really look gnarly, but there was some black stuff that looked suspiciously like mold on the stem. How appetizing.

These were to be halved, spread with honey and broiled, then topped with a squirt of lime juice. What actually happened is that the honey slid off the slices, ran into the pan and burned under the broiler, filling the stove and kitchen with smoke. Now the house smells like burnt marshmallows.

To serve, a mixture of mascarpone cheese, vanilla and more lime juice was dolloped atop the persimmon. What is mascarpone cheese doing in a Japanese menu?!?! The recipe, by the way, calls for 9 oz of mascarpone but my container held 8 oz. Lucky for me I only planned to make a smidgen.

The flavor was ok, I suppose. I am not one to enjoy hot fruit unless there is some crust or strudel along with it. It kind of  reminded me of peaches and cream, without the peachy flavor, but with the texture of an apple. I can’t describe it.

OVERALL:

The important items–the fish and rice, were a hit. The soup and dessert were not. I would buy an Asian cookbook from Martha if it were all entrees–they seem to be her best recipes in this cookbook, believe it or not.

Soup: C-

Fish:  A

Rice:  A 

Persimmons: D   (the score was marked down for execution)

 

Tomatoes and okra and corn, oh my! July 2, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 3:15 PM
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This week’s menu (available online here) was plucked from the Fall section. It calls for fresh corn, tomatoes and okra, which we bought from the local produce stand, so I am not sure why she thinks I should be making this later in the year.

Menu No. 27: Grilled Lamb Chops; Corn and Couscous Salad; Okra and Tomatoes: Papaya with Yogurt

We are doing Indian this week! I was very, VERY worried about how this would turn out.

Lamb:

The recipe calls for making a rub of garam masala, salt and pepper and smushing it onto some lamb chops and letting them sit for 20 minutes before grilling on med-high heat. I used a lamb steak instead, and the meat sat for about an hour before I cooked it.

Lemme tell you, this was awesome! As you may remember, I don’t like lamb, and  yet, it was so tasty and moist! Love. I still only ate a wee bit, since I felt guilty, but damn you Martha for making me weaken in my stance to avoid eating baby sheep!

Corn and Couscous Salad:

This is a great menu to make when it’s hot as it involves little cooking time, and no baking. (So, why is it in the Fall section?) I made a dressing of whole-grain mustard, white wine vinegar, curry powder (I used half Madras and half sweet) and salt and pepper. I tossed the cooked couscous, sautéed fresh corn and a jalapeno with the dressing and cilantro.

We didn’t like this warm, as the vinegar was too prominent, but once it cooled to room temperature it was pretty good! It went well with the lamb. Later in the week I tossed some chickpeas and feta in with it to make an entrée for lunch. (The recipe made a mountain of couscous)

Okra and Tomatoes:

Onions, then okra, then tomatoes were sautéed in a mixture of olive oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and coriander. Another winner! And it looked so pretty and summer-like. Sum.mer! Not Fall.

Dessert:

Here’s where things get a little nutty. Toasted coconut is added to whole milk, Greek style (or Indian, like we had) yogurt, with some lime juice and honey. Then we’re supposed to dip papaya strips into it. The Husband doesn’t like papaya, and I am not sure whether I do. The recipe says you can substitute a mango, and since the mango, which we know we like, was $1 and the papaya was $5, guess which one I chose?

The dessert was fine, and tasted more tropical than Indian, but whatever. It seemed more like an afternoon snack than a dessert. It’s very similar to her orange/yogurt/pistachio “dessert” we made earlier. In fact, I think it would be good layered like a parfait with pistachios on top. Maybe I should write a cookbook!

OVERALL:

The meal was quick to cook, full of vegetables, and the flavors were well-integrated. What’s not to like? Martha needs to go to a Seasonal Produce Identification 101 class, but otherwise I have no complaints.

Lamb:  A+

Couscous Salad: B+

Okra: A

Yogurty Thing:   B