Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

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!

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Clevelandia June 15, 2010

Filed under: Restaurants — squeakypeanut @ 5:56 PM
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So, no new Martha post yet. This time my excuse is that as soon as I recuperated from Detroit, we went to Cleveland to see my favorite niece, Miss Emma, graduate from high school. She was the co-valedictorian and is one smart cookie!

Also, we returned home to find our refrigerator had died, and we lost all our food, including Martha’s favorite condiment, the Dijon mustard. The replacement frig didn’t show up for two days, so there has been no cooking.  

While in Cleveland, we had some yummies, including a stop right off the highway at Corky & Lenny’s, where The Husband snagged a corned beef knish and some rugelach, which he reports were fresh and had oodles of flavor, in addition to an unremarkable matzoh ball soup. The next day we had a post-graduation lunch at L’Albatross. Would you think I was a lush if I said the best thing I had there was the Gemini cocktail, a combination of St. Germaine, grapefruit juice, vodka, and cava? The cauliflower and bleu cheese soup and frozen lemon souffle were also hits.

On Friday, we stopped by the 100 year old West Side Market, where we indulged in some delicious bakewell tarts and a Scottish pie from Reilly’s Irish Bakery, and a chicken tamale from Orale’s Contemporary Mexican Cuisine stand. I debated about whether to bring home a cooler full of pierogies (one stand had at least a dozen different flavors) but decided not to. I am glad I did, since we wouldn’t have had a place to store them when we got back! Every time I go to the market I have so much fun marveling at the selection of meats, fish, cheese, produce, baked goods, etc. Why can’t the Richmond area have something like that? Sigh.

We also had a good meal at Mint Cafe with my brother. The Husband was amazed by how much flavor the vegetable pad thai had, and I enjoyed my spicy fried rice both for dinner and breakfast the next day. Cleveland has so many good chefs nowadays, and I have a list of places I want to try but somehow never make it to. Next time, B-spot!

My genius niece and I made a lemon blueberry buckle from this cookbook that was dee-licious. It had lemon zest in the cake, and lemon zest in the crumble topping The juice of two lemons and some sugar were turned into a syrup that we poured on top of the cake when it came out of the oven. The cake itself had a cup of blueberries in it, and a cup of berries on top.

I plan to stay put for a bit, so new Martha posts will be forthcoming shortly.

 

Chimichurri Showdown: Emeril vs. Martha May 8, 2010

Filed under: Other recipes,Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:52 PM
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 Sorry, mom.  I had to put some more stuff on steak. I hope this doesn’t ruin Mother’s Day for you. 

Menu No 19: Steak with Chimichurri; Roasted Potato Wedges; Sautéed Spinach with Vidalia Onions; Torrijas 

 

 

Steak: 

The recipe calls for 2 lbs of strip steak. I never make steak so I have no idea what cut is what, unless it’s a a T-bone, which, you know, has that T-shaped bone in it. Turns out strip steak is damned expensive; if you want a free-range piece it can go for more than $20 a pound. Since we are not millionaires, I decided to go with 1 lb of rib-eye, which was considerably less expensive. 

I resisted the impulse to grill them, and followed Martha’s simple recipe: dry with a paper towel, salt and pepper both sides, place in cast iron skillet and cook over medium high heat until it has a nice crust, then turn. It rests for 10 minutes, and is sliced against the grain, then topped with chimichurri sauce. 

Chimichurri Sauce(s): 

Evidently I have never had chimichurri sauce–I thought it was a type of Argentinean salsa. but that’s not how it works at all. My grilling cookbook has two recipes for it, as does my Emeril Lagasse grilling cookbook (Emeril at the Grill), so I decided to pit Emeril vs. Martha and make both sauces. I made half of hers, and a quarter of his. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets! 

Martha’s is as follows (adapted from Dinner at Home): 

1/2 c minced red onion 

1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley 

1 T coarsely chopped fresh oregano 

1 T minced garlic 

1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil 

3 T red wine vinegar 

1/2 T crushed red pepper flakes 

1 T finely grated lemon zest 

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season with 2 1/2 t salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. 

Hers is supposed to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, while Emeril advises to let his rest for 2-6 hours. Here is his.  And the drum roll please! 

>  

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We actually liked Martha’s better! 

Did you faint? Yes, us, too. But hers was less acidic, with a better oil to vinegar ratio, and had a better flavor overall. That doesn’t mean I actually enjoyed eating either one on my actual steak. Ew–too vinegar-y.  See, mom? You raised me right after all. 

The Husband enjoyed Martha’s version with the steak, he liked the “oniony whatnot” of it.* He also said it reminded him of A-1, without the molasses flavor. A-1 is an abomination, and I don’t recall what it tastes like, having had it so long ago and never since. To me, the chimichurri reminded me of tabouli without the bulgur. Or like a parsley salad. I don’t know why you would put this on meat, but there you have it.  Sorry Emeril! 

*The Husband’s Helpful Household Hint: the chimichurri would be good to serve with a wine that’s about to go bad. No one would notice the vinegar-y taste of the wine after tasting the sauce.  The tempranillo we opened with it, however, was no match, sadly. 

Roasted Potatoes: 

The “recipe” called for slicing three Russet potatoes into 12 wedges, tossing them with olive oil and minced garlic on the cookie sheet, and roasting them. We clearly have an oven temperature issue, as I checked on them quite a bit earlier than the time she gave, and they were already overcooked on one side.  They tasted pretty much like all of her potato recipes have tasted. 

Spinach with Vidalia Onions: 

I don’t normally think to eat spinach with beef; usually it’s eaten with chicken or fish in the Squeaky Peanut house. We cook it with lots of garlic, and maybe some red pepper flakes, and then add lemon, so this was unusual for us. The Husband was already biased against it after I mentioned the Vidalia onion part, thinking it would be too sweet. 

This “recipe” called for sautéing a sliced Vidalia onion in olive oil, then sautéing baby spinach until it’s wilted. I will say I liked the Vidalia onion with it, as it managed to taste buttery to me. The chimichurri was so acidic, it wouldn’t have worked to cook the spinach as we normally do. 

However, as The Husband pointed out, any idiot could cook this, so why bother with a recipe? 

Torrijas vs. Some Pretty Ok Cookies: 

Dessert was to be torrijas;  a bastardization of a Spanish Lenten treat similar to our French toast. Guess who doesn’t like French toast? Squeaky Peanut. And Mr. Squeaky Peanut! 

In Martha’s version, a loaf of French bread was to be cut into four quadrants, dipped into sweetened condensed milk, and then pressed like a panini in a pan. That seems somewhat geometrically impossible. Also? Sweetened condensed milk is creepy. Milk + sugar. But in a can? Traditional torrija recipes call for milk, honey, sugar, etc. So, I decided not to waste our money, time or calories on the nonsense. 

Instead, I made Martha’s Strawberry Shortcake Cookies, from her website, because we went a bit strawberry crazy at the farmer’s markets last week. I messed them up a bit by forgetting to add the butter until after the cream was added, and I found out too late we don’t have any parchment paper, but they are forgiving little things. 

They turned out pretty nice even though they aren’t much to look at. I also forgot to sprinkle the tops with sugar, which worked out well because they weren’t too sweet.  No one is going to be fooled into thinking this is actually strawberry shortcake, but it’s the kind of thing where you eat one, and think, “Oh, this isn’t bad” and the next thing you know you’ve eaten half the pan. They are good with tea or milk. 

OVERALL: 

I suppose everything went together ok, if you like that sort of thing. We both thought the idea of torrijas after the chimichurri sauce sounded particularly unfortunate. Other than chopping the herbs, potato and onion, there isn’t much prep work to this meal, so it took about an hour. 

Steak w/Chimichurri: The Husband gives the sauce a B. I am deferring to him because I didn’t like it in a philosophical context, not necessarily the thing itself. 

Potatoes:   C    Tastes fine, nothing special and no recipe needed 

Spinach:  C     Tastes fine, also nothing special, and no recipe needed 

Cookies:   Should I grade things that aren’t in the cookbook? If so, A-

 

Lunch for a Snowy Afternoon February 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 1:50 PM
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Took a break (well, just until dinner time) from Martha to cook up a Rick Bayless recipe from his Mexican Everyday cookbook. This is the third recipe I’ve made since getting it at Christmas, and all have been great.

Mexican Beans w/Chorizo and Greens (adapted from Mexican Everyday)

8-12 oz Mexican chorizo, with casings removed

10 oz cleaned young spinach; or swiss chard, de-stemmed and chopped

2 15-oz cans black beans, drained

1-2 chipotle chiles from a can, seeded and chopped

salt

crumbled Mexican queso, or fresh cheese such as feta or goat

1/2 c chopped green onions or thin-sliced red onions, for garnish

1). Cook chorizo in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring to break up chunks, until browned, 8-10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, put spinach in microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap (poked with a few holes), and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until wilted.

3). Add black beans, chipotle, 1 1/2 c water, and salt to taste, to the pan with the chorizo, and simmer 5-10 minutes, until flavors are blended.

4).  Add wilted spinach (or chard) and boil for two minutes.

5). Ladle into a bowl with the cheese (I used goat) and onions (I used chopped radishes, because I was too lazy to cut up a red onion and we didn’t have any green ones).

The recipe notes that you can make this vegetarian by cooking a large onion and two cloves of garlic in place of the meat. My friend also tells me there is a good meatless chorizo product on the market.  I had an issue with my chipotle (I had frozen them individually in ice cube trays, and when this one thawed it was all skin), so I added some chipotle chili powder.

It’s more appetizing than the photo may lead you to believe…


Enjoy!

 

Losing our heads January 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 7:35 PM
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Today was a big day in the Squeaky Peanut household: Eviscerated Squab Day!

Luckily I wasn’t in the operating room while its head and feet were removed, but I got a photo of it before it was decapitated. It’s really pretty cute. Poor thing….

I will spare you the photograph of it with its entrails spilling out  so as not to lose any subscribers. (I do have photos I can email to any sickos interested.)

Hubby followed a Julia Child recipe to roast it, and made some sautéed shiitake mushrooms, grilled bread, and split pea soup to accompany it. The bird was good but a bit gamey–it is considered a red meat, interestingly enough. The mushrooms and soup were scrumptious, as was the sparkling white from the Loire region.  Since this was lunch, we split the tiny bird.

Dessert was a lemon charlotte cake from Whole Foods=highly recommended!

 

Best Cookbook Ever? January 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 4:10 PM
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I just got my copy of one of the best cookbooks ever. It’s a reprint of James Beard’s The Fireside Cookbook: The Classic Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert, with a foreword by Mark Bittman, another personal favorite. The book was originally published in 1949, and aside from having a wacky selection of retro and classic recipes (a Scotch Broth recipe requires beef SHINS, for example), the vintage drawings are beyond charming. The title page has a faux autograph and the cover opens up into a poster! I took photos of a couple pages to show you, which I hope is not a copyright violation, but probably is…