Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro*


Today I dropped the bairns off at school and decided I was long overdue for a stop at Altomonte's. Jerry takes various MMA classes during the week and usually comes home fairly hungry, after the boys are asleep and the kitchen is cleaned--which means I beg off having to make him anything that doesn't require more than a knife and a cutting board. A nice cheese plate is a good snack, not too filling and rather fun, however, I'm embarrassingly low on supplies so I picked up a wedge of Prima Donna from Holland and an aged sharp provolone for cheese (now I realize I forgot the Tillamook) and for meat I asked the deli man for a suggestion because I'm a little bored with the usual salami and pepperoni I get. He recommened a slightly spicy, peppery Tuscan salami and he hit the nail on the head. I got it sliced very thin, which enhances its nice dry texture and the black pepper pieces provide a sharp bite. I think it will go well with both cheeses and I'm going to use it on this Friday's pizza with, I think, some hot pepperoncini and regular mozzarella not the fresh.

I also snagged some homemade pancetta. I usually buy a bigass roll of it and slice it as needed; however, this look so enticing I couldn't pass it by. It's meaty, with just enough fat to give whatever I use it for some serious flavor. It also looks to be much more highly seasoned than my regular brand. Don't know yet what fate awaits it but bucatini all'amatriciana is always a good start.

We had angel hair pasta tonight, with a simple tomato-basil sauce and I wrapped asparagus in proscuitto and roasted it for a naughty veggie treat. For wine, I finished the Luna and Jerry is working his way through a bottle of Mark West pinot noir. I'm not a wine geek by any stretch of the imagination, just sharing what we drank with the meal. Dessert: pink strawberry sugar wafers for me (in honor of Gene Hunt and his posse, of course) and a Cadbury egg for the J-man. The bairns got Chips Ahoy. I've been very lax this week in the baking of goods. But tomorrow is another day.

*He who finds a friend, finds a treasure.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Girl, you got me tongue Thai-ed

As you know by now, I've been taking a Thai cooking class. Thus far we've learned curries, sticky rice, fried rice, soup, spring rolls and several other things, with a promise of more to come in the second half of the session, which begins about three or four weeks from now. Whilst I am loving the class, I will admit that I am becoming weary of the exotic nature of the meals I'm preparing both at class and home. My first attempt at drunken noodles was a success, albeit a tremendously spicy one, which required mass quantities of beer and H2O to whittle down the pain, and I have an entire cupboard now loaded for bear with everything I could possibly need to make most Thai dishes; I also have a freezer bag with lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves to round out the dry goods. So I'm good to go at a moment's notice.

But, alas, Jerry determined Saturday night that he just didn't like curries anymore. The spring rolls and drunken noodles--aces high, both, but he's just not into green curry, or red curry, or--I'd imagine--jungle or any other Thai curry I might set before him. I inhaled my shrimp and squid combo and admit to picking the seafood off his plate once it was in the kitchen, but I found myself in bed that night with Tana and Rachel and Gordon (kinky, non?) and a nice Agatha Christie in case I needed a palate cleanser (Sleeping Murder) deciding that we need a bit of a break from Asia and maybe a return to the rotation of some old reliable sensations such as Rachel's amazing homemade sausages and Tana's lovely chicken mango salad. So I set an agenda today and banged out the following:

Tana's homemade baked beans and awesome blueberry muffins


Chicken mango salad; a plate of baked potato skins, beans, and the sausages

I had higher ambitions, which included making my baked potato soup and a sweet; however, Jandar had to work and this left me chasing the chittlins and keeping them from wreaking too much havoc (I let them watch Bloodsport to get them out of my hair--not a good idea the mood they were in) so I wasn't able to do the soup or the sweet but I should be able to make up for lost time tomorrow. I'm just very, very happy I got almost two dozen sausages in my freezer, along with a nice bag of potato skins, both very valuable in times of feeding frenzies, so I won't complain over much. The muffins are lovely as always, and the sausages are to die for. I really, really love their subtle flavor, especially paired with a spicy Creole mustard. They even work on a soft roll, with the mustard and some chopped onions. Full of yum.

So today was very successful, even if I'm mildy snockered on I believe at least half a bottle of a really nice pinot grigio by Luna and too full on rather disgusting Late Night Taco-flavored Doritos (take my word, don't buy these. If you really want to try them, come by my trash can and feel free to root). Tomorrow I'll take on the soup and sweet challenge but at least my freezer is full of the happy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ostara

Spring sprang today with a light dusting of snow on the grass and cars. Now it's sunny, birds are chirping, and it's cold. But hey, it's a mid-Atlantic state, what do you expect? :)

Last night was week two of my Thai cooking class (yes, it started a week ago and yes, this last week was not one to write home about). I remembered to bring my camera so this will be a nicely illustrated entry.

Phrensi (pr. Pensi), a native Thai, leads the class. You can find out all about her here FantasticThai. Last week we made a massive amount of food: chicken spring rolls, red curries with squid and chicken, and pad thai; however, this week was a touch more restrained, if only because we didn't bust out the deep fryer. It's a great deal of fun and hands-on, not a class you can just sit through and idly watch. You cook. You reek when you go home, but it's worth it.

And now for pretty pictures:

Pensi

A plethora of authentic Thai ingredients

Fresh rice noodles

Prep for Drunken noodles with beef

Drunken noodles with beef

Drunken noodles with beef and shrimp

Masaman curry with chicken

Sweet sticky rice

The food was massively good and I got to cook the drunken noodles with beef and shrimp so, by default, it was the best of the bunch. A completely objective opinion, of course. I did forget to take a final pic of the sweet sticky rice so what you see does not at all do it justice but let me assure you--it was crack. The sweet rice, shaped into neat balls with an ice cream scoop, surrounded by slices of fresh mango, drizzled over top with thick cocount cream, with a final sprinkle of sesame seeds and dried mung beans. An amazing explosion of taste and textures and not a speck was left.

I haven't made anything at home yet as I'm waiting for a massive order to arrive from ImportFood. By now you know how much I love shopping online for pretty much everything and this store has all you need to make as many Thai dishes as is humanly possible. I just ran with it and expect a 55lb box of goodness to arrive by next Tuesday. Wegmans has a decent selection of Thai ingredients but I don't really like shopping there (it's the darkest damn grocery store I've ever been in) so I'd rather just eat the shipping and put together one bigass order and be done with it. As it cost just under $11 for everything to be shipped from Washington state I think I got more than my money's worth.
Next week I think is some kind of fried rice and tom yam soup, which I am so dying to make. Nigella has a recipe but pish, I'm going to hold off until I get something authentic under my belt. Then I'll make hers for comparison.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Le sigh

The death of Natasha Richardson today saddens me. Granted, you may say that she was just another celebrity, someone I didn't know nor overly admire (although I will admit to having seen "Parent Trap" way too many times, and that scene where Hayley/Annie first comes home to England after summer camp and and she and Richardson [as her mom] hug on the steps--gets me every damn time) but, well, at 45 she was only a few years older than me. She loved food, even turning up as a guest judge on "Top Chef." Married not that long after I was, with two boys. And she and Liam Neeson seem so nice, people you wouldn't mind having as neighbors, on whose door you could knock to ask if they wouldn't mind pruning back their apple tree so it wasn't such a huge mess come fall. Happy people who just happened to have chosen acting as a profession. And the freakish way she died really sucks.

So, I bid her and her family peace. I also wish the same for Ron Silver's family, another actor I rather liked, whose career had a far broader scope that I ever realized. These things usually happen in threes but let's hope that the next one takes its time. An aging actor, a natural death, this is to be expected. But these two, it's just not fair.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Candles and kittens and knitting, oh my!

Happy Birthday, Auntie Bridget, from the Ting Tings and the whole Gabba Clan!


Bring on the cake and shiny things, it's time to party!
Love, the Boys Wonder

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's a garden, boogie oogie oogie.

Granted, I'm a month behind, but I now have all my seeds and my little peat pods at the ready. Because I'm a crackhead, I have nine kinds of basil: Bush Spicy Globe, Dark Opal Purple, Dwarf Greek, Genovese, Lettuce Leaf, Lemon, Lime, Siam Queen, and Sweet; and five pepper varieties: Anaheim Chili, Cascabella, Poblano, Serrano Chili, and Sweet Banana. To round out the herbs, I am attempting cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, Italian parsley, and rosemary. The rest of my veggies include mesclun, French Breakfast radishes, scallions, and Cuor di Bue tomatoes, all first-time entrants. I have a 72-pod tray but haven't quite worked out the logistics of divvying up the seeds. I usually grow way more basil and peppers than I need but I'm thinking this year it might be kind of fun to dry a lot of the basil and make a blend for use in tomato sauces and pizza during the winter. I like dried basil and don't mind using it so I think this might be an interesting addition to the spice rack. The peppers I usually freeze but this year I'd like to try pickling them; I'm not very good at proper canning but my dad used to do it all the time with our home-grown tomatoes so I should be able to make him proud. We also used to grow scallions by the bucketful, and my mom remembers taking the salt shaker outside, picking the scallions fresh, hosing them off, and eating them on the back step. I've never been a fan of eating them like that, but I think this may be the year I go off the deep end and have some fun.

I don't plant in the ground; rather, I've got a ton of plastic pots that I set out on the patio and by the sunniest side of the fence. This year, however, I think I may line them all up along the fence because the bairns like to play on the patio and have a really bad habit of digging up the plants and--quite proudly I might add--presenting them to me.

I have lavender in an urn outside my back door that has been coming back over the last three years so this year I'm going to give it a permanent home in the small patch of dirt it stands on and cross my fingers that it takes. I also have sage that has held up well and will more than likely pick up a yellow tomato plant and something to plant near the buddha. He originally was kept company by creeping thyme and mint but those had to go when we did a mass weeding and mulching last year and he could do with some friends.

We have an apple tree in our yard and the fruit keeps the squirrels and various other critters quite happy but, truthfully, we have no idea what kind of apples they are and we're a tad fearful of actually harvesting them ourselves. I've seen pear trees in the neighborhood, too, which is cool. I'd love to add another fruit tree to the yard but they're a little spendy and I worry that I will kill it. But having a fig tree would be awesome. Maybe I'll just do it; if I don't get fruit but the tree actually grows that wouldn't be so bad.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Playing ketchup. Catsup? Ketchup.

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Catsup?

Catsup who?

Catsup a tree and can't get down!

*ba dum bump*

Thank you, thank you, I'll be at the Copa Room through Thursday. Try the veal!

We had lovely snow over the weekend and into yesterday, nowhere near Mega Storm, Bringer of Doom that the weather folks predicted (seriously, you would have thought SciFi channel had asked them for an original movie script), but a good amount nonetheless. Although it didn't really hit until late on Sunday, I'll take any excuse I can for spending time in the kitchen over the weekend.

This is a most divine piece of brisket that I plunked into its own little Harp beer bath and roasted in a 325 oven until it turned into this:


Shredded beefy goodness for bbq beef sandwiches. Jerry's sandwiches were slathered with bbq sauce whilst I topped my helping with some hot pepper sauce and cole slaw. Utterly delightful.

Because I felt like it, here is a picture of my cheese drawer. I've got pecorino romano, some nice sharp Tillamook cheddar, Grana Padano, I think something called Montesino, and an aged gouda simply called Vincent. This is also where the chunks of pancetta and anchovy paste hang out.

Sunday morning I had all four burners going with a really nice Indian spiced soup, teeny breakfast links, linky eggs for Jerry's bagelwich, and pancakes for me and the boys wonder. Although I highly recommend this kind of cooking when you're in the mood, it certainly leaves the house smelling rather funky. Not bad, mind you, but the co-mingling of food aromas sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. :-)

Then, inspired by a most lavish creation from TheCakedCrusader I made an orange-infused cake layered with jammy goodness and topped with cream cheese icing. Mine turned out good but I really, really have to have a go at the original. It's sexy and voluptuous and I really, really want one for myself. Yeah, it's a lot of reallys but go look at it for yourself and tell me you don't feel the same way.

Wrapping things up, I went food shopping today for the first time in eons. Dropped off the bairns and stopped at Wegmans instead of going right home. Man, did I have fun. Spent yonks more than I anticipated but I came home with the produce fixings for cottage pie, a good stir fry or two, and sides for a proper roast; in other words, I scored parsnips, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, bok choy, green beans, fresh Chinese noodles, and more, I'm sure, but can't remember. Leeks. I bought leeks. I'm thinking I'll make a chicken stir fry tonight because I'm dying to try the noodles and am in the mood for something spicy. I hit the international foods aisles and scored some coconut milk, sriracha (that gloriously hot chili sauce in the nifty squeeze bottle), and tom yam paste in a jar, which I have been seeking out for ages and danced the happy when I saw it on the shelf. Nigella uses it to make a soup and I've already planned to dig out the recipe for this weekend. I also found jars of lemongrass and galangal, both of which I'm hoping I'll get to buy once the Thai cooking class kicks off. I'm a whore for jars of lavish ingredients so any excuse is a good one.

To close out with some more of the pretty, here is a shot of my kafir lime leaves and, at least to me, the prettiest piece of ginger I've ever seen.