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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Pugilistic Soup, Wine Jello, & Some Other Food September 3, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:18 PM
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Menu No. 34: Blender Gazpacho; Grilled Steak and Blue (sic) Cheese Potatoes; Spinach and Grilled Corn Salad; Blackberry -Red Wine Gelatin

In which my tongue was assaulted and not in friendly ways….

Gazpacho:

I don’t like gazpacho. It’s usually like eating liquefied salsa without the fun of the tortilla chips.  I thought I was the only one, but several fellow gazpacho-haters have come out of the closet to me when I mentioned having to make this. I didn’t have high hopes, and I am not sure why I didn’t just make a half batch or quarter batch, even. This recipe made a bucketful. 

The recipes calls for pureeing garlic, red wine vinegar, water, day old bread, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and half an English cucumber with a bit of oil. While it didn’t taste like salsa, it wasn’t good. The first day I tried it, it tasted odd–one bite would be tomato-y, the next would taste like bread. By the second day, the red pepper taste took over and it was so acidic it burnt my tongue!  Yeouch. 

Salad:

Super simple: baby spinach, grilled corn, red onion, and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. What, no Dijon mustard? Unthinkable!

Lucky for me, I didn’t even have to grill the corn. Earlier in the summer I was a bit of a corn hoarder. One day, my giant pile of corn fell over and I was missing for a week.

For real,  I did somehow end up with 17 ears at one point, so I grilled them all up and then cut the kernels all off and froze them. So that is what I used for the salad, which turned out well. The flavors really paired nicely with the steak and bleu cheese.

Steak:

The cookbook says to marinate skirt steak in Worcestesrhire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil for 15 minutes or overnight. I marinated ours for about 12 hours, then grilled it. Our grass-fed skirt steak was super thin on one end, and nearly an inch thick on the other.

The first piece I tried was from the thin end and I hated it! Hated. It. All I could taste was the Worcestershire sauce, which might as well have been A-1. As you might remember, my people don’t believe it mucking with a nice piece of meat. The Husband, on the other hand, thought it tasted good. (He has no cattle rancher relations, so his naivete is forgivable.)  The thicker pieces of meat were less atrocious, as the sauce marinade hadn’t totally overtaken the beef flavor. I still would never do that to the meat again.

Potatoes:

I boiled some red skin potatoes until they were tender (which, by the way, took twice as long as Martha says it should), cut them in half, brushed them with olive oil and tossed them on the grill for a few minutes. After they had some nice grill marks we spread them with blue cheese. By the way, is anyone else irked that everyone seems to be spelling it “blue” nowadays, including Ms. Stewart?! Hate. 

 I thought these were tasty, but The Husband thought the cheese overpowered the rest of the meal, while the potatoes themselves were bland.  The bleu I got did have a lot of POW.

Gelatin:

Finally, some more booze desserts! This concoction is devised of unsweetened apple juice, water, unflavored gelatin, a full-bodied red wine, sugar, and a pint of blackberries.

Guess what? The Husband actually made this several years ago, when I saw it in MS Living magazine! It was sooo boozey that I couldn’t eat it. The Husband, however, really liked it. Needless to say, I excused myself from making it again.

OVERALL:

Did you notice that this meal involved five dishes? I could have done without the soup, for sure. And the gelatin. If she had  not marinated the meat, and paired it all with a nice peach cobbler* it would have been so much better.

*I made one the other day I may post about.

SOUP:    F   It was weird and burnt my tongue with its acid, but was it as bad as the raddichio horror of last winter? The flavor was not as bad as the salad, but it caused me bodily harm. It’s a toss up as to which is worse.

STEAK:   B-   We were split vastly on this one– Mr. SP gave it an A, and I thought the thin, over-marinated parts were horrible, but not as offensive as the star anise beef recipe of winter.

POTATOES:  B

SALAD:  A

GELATIN OF MEMORIES:    C

 

Awful Offal August 23, 2010

Filed under: Restaurants — squeakypeanut @ 9:24 PM
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This past weekend was Mr. Squeaky Peanut’s birthday, and he wanted to celebrate with a series of road trips. And offal, but more on that later. Naturally, this means there was no Martha cooking again, but I plan to remedy that later in the week. I think I have about 5 more summer recipes to get through–yoiks. There is a Martha connection later in this post, I swear.

Saturday found us driving down 85 to Chapel Hill and Durham, Miss Pooch in tow. We got to Chapel Hill around lunch time, so we hung out on the patio at Mediterranean Deli, which has a huge deli case full of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food of all sorts. The Husband got a puu-puu platter of tomato kibbe, leek stew, spinach pie, and a chicken and tomato dish that tasted very similar to chicken cacciatore. He also had a za’atar, which is a pita baked with za’atar seasoning. I had a chicken gyro, which was good enough, but not the best I have ever had. Miss Pooch disagrees and says the chicken was delicious. All of The Husband’s food was tasty, however.

After doing some shopping around town, we ended up at Guglhupf , an “old world” bakery/cafe/patisserie in Durham. We split a peach and cherry cobbler tart, and got a bien stitch, which is a German pastry made from bread layered with custard and topped with almonds and honey, and a danish, for later. The danish pastry was very light and flaky, and the peach and cherry tart was nearly all fruit. We were sad that we rolled up as they were closing so we missed all the bread. PS–The Husband also bought an Herb d’Provence salami that he loves.

 

Dinner time found us at Foster’s Market, which is practically next door to Guglhupf. The owner of Foster’s, Sarah Foster, was a chef for Martha Stewart’s catering company! So, you see, I wasn’t a total slacker on the Martha front. Foster’s is adorable– it’s part cafe/deli and part general store. They make an amazing 7-pepper jelly, which I ate on a turkey sandwich with herbed cream cheese. The store has a wide front porch with seating (pooches welcome) and a bunch of picnic tables and rocking chairs set out on the front lawn. After we left the restaurant we found a wine store that The Husband wants to move into, as it specializes in small vineyards and has a strong section from the Loire region of France, his personal favorite.

 

Sunday, Mr. SP’s actual birthday, found us venturing north, to Baltimore, to go to the American Visionary Art Museum. If you haven’t been to this museum, you simply must go. Now. It is awesome. I can’t wait to go back to see the next installation–they collaborated with Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, and John Waters!

We had never heard of the museum until my friend wrote about it on her blog. She also mentioned some hole in the wall BBQ place, Johnny Boy’s Ribs on Route 301, so we stopped there for lunch on the way up. YUM! She will now have to be our very own personal travel advisor, and we will go anywhere and eat anything she tells us to.

Since she had warned against the sides, we just split a sliced beef sandwich, without cole slaw, and topped it with their “hot” BBQ sauce and a splash of hot sauce. The meat was tender and had a nice seasoning. It’s a bizarre place–the counter lady was surly, the shack where you get the food is next door to what appears to be the former Johnny’s BBQ restaurant, which is abandoned, but the restrooms are still in the basement of the empty building. The sign for the place even mentions, “Clean Restrooms” as a selling point; they were clean, so kudos to them, I guess. (Insert foreshadowing here)

After we finished at the awesome museum, we were feeling a bit peckish, so we popped over to Fells Point at Tortilleria Sinaloa, one of our favorite stops in Baltimore. I had a chicken taco and a chicken tamale, which were both excellent., but the tamale was one of the best ones I have ever had–there was a good amount of filling and it was spicy!

The Husband seems to have started a tradition, supposedly unintentional, where he eats offal on his birthday. Last year we went to a British gastropub on his birthday, and he had black (blood) pudding. This year, he celebrated (?) by eating menudo, which is made with tripe, in case you didn’t know. So, two years equals a tradition, yes? His second annual offal fest. I really couldn’t look at it. Unfortunately, the broth was bland, and his tripes were chewy–his last bite seemed particularly unfortunate and if I think about it too much I feel ill.

Then we drove home and got stuck at the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge over the Potomac when the bridge was shut down for an accident. We had to use the restroom at the gas station on the side of the road where we stalled and it was the filthiest one I have ever seen, bar none. We are still talking about how nasty it was. Please send penicillin.

We took Monday off, and ended up going out to the Westmoreland Berry Farm for shortcake (strawberry + peach, and peach + blackberry) and to look at goats. Miss Pooch said ‘Hell, no! I don’t want to meet any goats.’

 

 

 

 

The End.

 

Never mind July 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 10:46 AM
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Martha done lost her mind!    

Broiling and baking!  Hello, IT IS SUMMER! God.    

Meal No. 29:  Broiled Black-Pepper Tofu; Lemon Soy Dipping Sauce; Soba Noodles; Baked Apricots    

This meal has already ticked me off and I haven’t even made it yet. The grocery stores don’t seem to carry soba noodles, although I swear I used to see them when I had no interest in buying them. So, this morning found me at the park with the dog, and I decided to stop by the Asian grocery store on the way home. Going to this store is always such a production, as they only take cash, the parking lot is laid out stupidly, and it smells like fish and chicken feet. The store was packed and there were tons of horrid, horrid children.  Ok, so maybe horrid is too strong of a word, but in less than five minutes three different kids hit me with their carts.    

The noodle aisle is quite extensive, but why were some soba noodles $4.95 for less than a pound, but others were $1.95? The Husband reads Chinese, but he wasn’t with me (and yes I realize that soba noodles are Japanese, but they had Chinese characters on them), so I had no idea what the difference was. I grabbed an inexpensive batch and headed to the cashier, where there was a line of ten people waiting to be rung up, with the line snaking off in two directions. I stood in line for a minute, thought of Miss Pooch waiting in the car and the Baptists about to steal all the parking by my house, said, ‘Eff it’ and left.    

Blame this face.

 

Meal No. 9: Anything but ducky. February 21, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 5:46 PM
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You know things are bad when the cabbage is the star of the plate.

Menu: Duck in Fig Sauce; Braised Cabbage; Grated Potato Cake; Hazelnut Brittle over Ice Cream (from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home)

I had been looking forward to this week’s Martha Menu, which was to have been roasted chicken, but I have bronchitis and a lot of congestion, and therefore don’t have much of an appetite and can’t really taste anything. So, I decided to skip ahead to the next recipe, which I didn’t anticipate liking, but thought it sounded right up The Husband’s alley. The path to culinary hell is paved with good intentions, you know.

(If you read last week, you saw that my camera broke. It’s still broken, so I had to use my phone to take the photos, so they will be crappier than ever. Sorry.)

Duck with Fig Sauce: The Husband adores duck. In fact, we have a vanity license plate with a duck pun on it. I don’t care much for it, having only liked it once, when The Husband made a fantastic Guatemalan duck curry.

The recipe calls for two duck breasts, each one pound, for a total of two pounds. At the store, the package of duck breast weighed just one pound, so I got two packages. When I opened the first package, there were two breasts inside, each quite sizable, but they were only a half pound each. Even so, that was a lot of meat.  Could she have really meant two 1 lb duck breasts? Where is she finding these Dolly Parton ducks with such big breasts? We decided to just cook one package, and keep the other for a rainy day. Or until he finds that curry recipe.

The cooking of the duck was straightforward: score fat, season with salt and pepper, and let sit for 20 minutes. Then brown, fat side down, for five minutes in a cast iron skillet, and flip and move to the oven to cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, when it should read 130 on the meat thermometer. I took them out two minutes early, and they were already at 140.  Then they rested while the other dishes were finished, oozing blood all over the cutting board.

Meanwhile, I made the fig sauce, which involved cooking a shallot in some of the duck fat, then adding sherry, fig jam, chicken broth, butter, and lemon juice. The sauce was a very unappealing pea green, and to be honest, it looked like a snotty mess. I didn’t really give the color of the fig jam any thought when I was buying it; I just wanted something affordable that didn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. I ended up with St. Dalfour, which is a lovely light green color. It tasted quite nice on some toast the other day. But! Martha’s photos show that her fig sauce was more of a brown-pink color, so I guess she picked a Mission fig jam that they do not stock in the two stores I visited, looking for a naturally-sweetened option.

Regardless of the sauce’s color, it was entirely too sweet to eat with the duck. We are not fans of mixing sweet and savories together to begin with, and this was entirely too much. The Husband added extra lemon to his sauce, and although that decreased the sweetness, it also lost a lot of the fig taste.  We each had one bite, then ate the duck plain.

The duck by itself was just duck. Nothing special. He thought the outer edges, which were a bit overdone, tasted like liver! That’s a neat hat trick, huh? We have the second breast leftover, and I told him I could maybe see eating it covered with BBQ sauce and pretending it was pork. He shook his head at me, slowly and sadly…

Potato Cake: I love potatoes, so imagine my chagrin when I took out my bags of Yukon Gold potatoes and found one had gone all mushy and ick on me.  This meant I had to make a half portion of potato cake. So sad.  Trader Joe’s has the worst produce. When will I learn?!

The non-rotten potatoes were peeled and grated and then squeezed in cheesecloth to remove the excess liquid. Look how much of it there was! And it’s orange! Good-bye, nutrients……

The potatoes are then salted and peppered in a bowl. I had a juniper berry crisis at this point, and the potatoes sat too long and took on an unappealing grey color from the pepper.

Forging ahead, I patted the potatoes into an even layer in a cast iron skillet, after heating some olive oil, and took it on faith that the bottom would be brown in the 18 minutes Martha said it needed, as there was no way to check until it was flipped over. It worked! I slid the cake out, turned it over, cooked in on the stove for another ten minutes, and then it went in the oven for ten minutes to finish cooking.

The texture of the cake was nice and crispy, without being too oily, but even The Husband, who can breathe and taste normally, thought it was lacking flavor. It definitely didn’t have as much flavor as the shoe string fries we messed up several weeks ago, even though both recipes called for potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. I would try this again with farmer’s market potatoes, and some onion grated into it, since the texture worked well.  And hopefully it won’t be grey next time, because that was not appealing, especially not next to the snotty fig sauce.

Braised cabbage: I like cabbage well enough, but The Husband thinks it hardly ever has any flavor, so this was a pleasant surprise.

The recipe involved softening a sliced red onion in hot olive oil, then adding a sliced head of red cabbage, chicken broth, red wine vinegar, and 15 (not 13 and not 17!!!) crushed juniper berries,  simmering it all until the cabbage was tender, which took about 30 minutes.

I liked the flavor of this; I thought it could have used even more vinegar, but The Husband assured me that it was tangy enough as is. He enjoyed the juniper berry flavor. He had a giant second helping of this, and as I said before, he rarely likes cabbage dishes. Thank heavens there was one thing we ate that was good!

Dessert: This will show you how delirious I have been the last few days. I put blanched hazelnuts on my grocery list, and bought some. But after I got home I somehow got it into my head that I needed macadamia nuts, and had bought the wrong thing. The Husband had to go to the store for some other things, so he looked for macadamia nuts and didn’t find any.  We eventually got some at Trader Joe’s, although they are roasted, not blanched. It wasn’t until I started typing up this review that I noticed that I was supposed to have used hazelnuts. I didn’t even notice when I was reading the recipe as I cooked the brittle! It is a wonder I didn’t burn the house down.

Oh, well. Now we have macadamia nut brittle.   This couldn’t have been easier, and thankfully Martha employed the traditional method of making a caramel sauce, rather than the ill-fated method she required for the hideous crème caramel dish. This time, I just had to dissolve 1/2 cup sugar with 2 T water, then use the swirling/brushing sides of pan with a pastry brush method (which wasn’t really necessary) until the mixture turned golden. Then a cup of  nuts, vanilla, and French sea salt were stirred in quickly, then it was poured out onto parchment paper to set. They may look like chickpeas in this photo, but they taste like heaven.

I substituted unsalted roasted nuts, since she wanted them to be toasted before brittled.  She suggests adding the brittle to vanilla ice cream (Breyer’s makes a lactose-free vanilla, hallelujah!) along with optional bittersweet chocolate chunks. The candy is fine and sweet on its own, but we went ahead and tried it with the ice cream. I don’t think the ice cream adds anything to the brittle, and preferred it on its own so the flavor can really stand out.

The Results:

I was quite irritated that I wasted the little energy I had today making this mess. I needed a nap afterward, and then I woke up hungry. I am deferring to The Husband’s ratings, since he can taste better than I.

The duck and fig sauce: The fig sauce alone was an F, and the dish as a whole got a D.

Potato cake: C+

Cabbage:  A

Brittle:  A+

 

Meal #7 Heroism, asceticism, existentialism February 7, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 11:40 AM
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Every week I check to see if the recipes are posted on Martha Stewart’s web site, so I can post a link here. This is the first time one shows up, and it’s the entire menu, originally published in the February 2002 issue of MS Living. I demand a refund of 1/52 of the cost of this book, since this is a reprint, including the photos. I am surprised this is considered a Valentine’s Day recipe. Fish kisses, anyone?

You can see the recipes, and prep schedule here

Menu: Spaghetti with Clams: Artichokes on Toast; Wilted Chicory and Radicchio Salad; Grapefruit in Moscoto

I have made spaghetti with clam sauce before, but with minced, canned clams and this recipe calls for clams in the shell. I was worried about finding little neck clams in a “snow storm” (we got out of work at 1 pm Friday because of the storm, which dropped a whopping 1 1/2″ of snow by 5 pm, when it turned to rain).  We found them at the Yellow Umbrella on Patterson, a local seafood shop. I hadn’t been there in a while, and they carry more prepared foods than I remember, like crab cakes, tomato aspic, and escargot, ready to be cooked however one does.

The store is located on a corner, and the side street has a slight incline. As we were walking into the store, two of the employees sprinted out into the street to help a (young, cute) woman whose car was stopped halfway up the “hill.” She rolled down her window and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with my car!” They had her back up a tad, and then pushed her car over the crest of the hill.

Your car was stuck, honey, that’s what was wrong with it. Girlfriend needs some new tires, because we had made it up just fine two minutes before. But, big ups to the guys for helping her out!

Artichokes on Toast:

Aka bruschetta.  Sliced rustic bread is toasted in the oven, then rubbed with a piece of garlic on both sides, while a jar of drained, marinated artichokes sautés  with sliced garlic until golden. The recipe calls for spreading ricotta on the toast, but since that’s the worst cheese for our lactose issues, we used a goat cheese. The cheese is  topped with salt and pepper, the artichoke heart mixture, and a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

OMG. This was excellent!!!! When I had my first bite, I thought it was pretty good but needed something. Then I noticed that I had forgotten to rub the garlic on the toast. I promptly rubbed the bottoms (since the tops were topped) with the garlic, and it was like the heavens had opened and a beam of lightning struck my mouth!

Seriously, this is our favorite thing from this cookbook thus far. I was sad that I had bought a smaller jar of artichoke hearts for the two of us. We may be braving the snowy streets to get some more this afternoon. I need shampoo, too.

The salad:

The hateful, hateful salad. The star of the Year of Terrible Salads.

The recipe calls for sautéing two anchovies, which are optional, in olive oil, then wilting a head each of radicchio and chicory. Then the salad is drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

I’ve never noticed chicory at the stores here, and wasn’t about to go running all over town to look for it in the snow.  I thought of using something else, but as far as I know, it’s bitter like the radicchio so why add another bitter element, like spinach? I have no problems with anchovies dissolved in a salad dressing, so we used them. Thank goodness we did because I imagine it would have been worse without, if that is even possible.

WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE HOW AWFUL THIS WAS. I NEED TO USE CAPS TO CONVEY ITS HORRID NATURE. Think of the most bitter, horrible thing you have ever eaten, then multiple that by 100.

The Husband said, “This is the hair shirt of the salad world. You would serve this salad to people who need to do penance.”

Salad of Bitterness, Consternation, and Despair:

(Note how the demonic salad blurs the camera)

The Spaghetti and Clam Sauce:

I will admit, cleaning and cooking the clams intimidated me. We aren’t big shell-type-food cookers, as The Husband is allergic to shell fish, and I don’t like most bivalves, as previously discussed.  I love shrimp but don’t cook it at home because the smell of if makes him gag. I can’t wait for shrimp recipe night!

I was researching little neck clams on the web, and discovered that I was supposed to have put them in the refrigerator in a bowl with a damp towel covering them. I had no idea, so I just threw the paper bag they came in into the refrigerator and left it at that overnight. Gee, I would hate to kill my clams before I really needed to kill them! Supposedly you can tell if they’re alive by tapping on their shells, to see if they close, but they were already tightly closed so that told me nothing. So, I put them in a bowl, covered with a towel. The cookbook has a helpful hints section in the back that explained how to clean the clams, and it was pretty easy: scrub with a brush, soak in cold water with some corn meal, then rinse.

First, I cooked the pasta for two minutes less than the package instructions, and then drained it, reserving some pasta water. Meanwhile, I browned some garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, then added the clams and some vermouth (we didn’t have a dry white handy), and cooked them covered for 2-3 minutes. Voila! They all opened. I hadn’t killed them prematurely after all.

The clams were removed from the pan, and some lemon juice and the pasta water were simmered until slightly reduced, then butter was whisked in off the heat. The clams and pasta were added back into the pan, and then cooked until the pasta was al dente. Salt, pepper and parsley finished the dish.

The results:


The dish was fine. The clams had the most flavor, but the noodles were a bit oily (and I didn’t use the full 3 T of butter, since Martha tried to kill us last time we made noodles). If I made this again I would use less butter, and more garlic, lemon and red pepper flakes.  I actually don’t know if I would make this again, only because I like minced clam sauce better, as the clam taste is more pervasive.  It’s good to know that clams are easy to cook and clean, though, in case I ever have to do it again. (Note, this does not count as a life lesson.)

The Grapefruit in Moscato d’Asti:

Moscato d’Asti is a sweet, Italian sparkler. The recipe says you can substitute an off-dry sparkler or Champagne, but we are never ones to turn down an opportunity to try new booze, so we went with the Moscato. On its own, it’s like a not-very-good sparkling ice wine. We didn’t get a high end version, though, so that may be part of it.

This is one of her recipes that more resembles assembly instructions: Peel a grapefruit, place sections in a glass with a sugar cube, and fill the glass with Moscato. A two year old could make this. She recommends turbinado or demerara sugar cubes, but she’s lucky we happened to have sugar in cube form at all, even if it’s white.

This one left us scratching our heads. It was unclear how to approach it. Do you eat the grapefruit first, which results in the wine dripping back into the glass inelegantly, or do you drink the Moscato, then eat the grapefruit after? The cube resulted in some initial fizziness, but never dissolved.  I don’t think having the slightly bitter grapefruit after the Hell Salad was a good idea. In the end, we just ate the rest of the grapefruit plain, and tried mixing various juices in with the remaining Moscato–cherry, cranberry, etc. None were a winner.

The sidebar says you can consider this an “invigorating” dessert or an after-dinner cocktail. This could lead to some existential dilemmas. What is the meaning of this dish, Martha?????

OVERALL:

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times…..

By the way, this meal (with the exception of peeling the grapefruit and opening the wine) took exactly 60 minutes to prepare, including cleaning the clams!  :::faints:::

Artichokes on Toast: A+ (unanimous) I heartily recommend using the goat cheese, as I don’t think it would be as flavorful with the ricotta.

Salad Of Doom: F (also unanimous) If there was a grade lower than an F, it would get it.

Spaghetti w/Clams: B+

Grapefruit: I (and this grapefruit) may not exist, so what does it matter?

 

Did I mention January 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 3:54 PM
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that we recently got a new set of knives? It makes all our slicing and dicing so much easier!

5 stitches total

Wustoff’s ain’t no joke!

This happened this morning when I dropped the leftover ciabatta roll and nicked two fingers while trying to cut it.  Swelling thanks to finger block shots…