Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Finis! December 30, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 7:05 AM
Tags: , , ,

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!

 

 

Return of the Hideous Salads…. December 15, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 8:43 PM
Tags: , ,

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!

 

Nutty Meats & Boring Sides, Squared November 21, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 8:27 PM
Tags: , ,

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…

 

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

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 6:27 PM
Tags: , ,

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)

 

Chicken in Tuna Sauce=Why? September 29, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 9:53 PM
Tags: , , ,

What sounds less appealing than boiled chicken in tuna sauce? Veal in tuna sauce! That’s the dish that inspired this week’s menu. Oh, Lord.  (more…)

 

Eating Soup Like a Goop September 22, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 3:39 PM
Tags: , ,

 Meal No. 38: Spicy Stir-Fried Shrimp; Rice Noodles with Coconut Broth; Braised Bok Choy; Sorbet with Wonton Crisps 

Although most of Martha’s Asian-style meals have been good, the last coconut soup was a slimy disaster, so I was a tad nervous.  (more…)

 

Topsy Turvy Land September 19, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 8:13 PM
Tags: ,

Meal No. 37:  Some Salmon; Some Weird Leek Sauce; Some Rice with Stuff in It; Some SUGAR SNAP PEAS Again; Gelatin with Stuff in it.   (This is also on her website! Damn it all.) 

Salmon

I am so glad Martha has finally published a recipe that tells me exactly how to salt and pepper a salmon filet and cook it in a skillet! I never would have figured out that I needed to both salt and pepper it, then put it in a skillet and cook it.  (more…)