Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bon Appétit, May 2009

I know, I'm a little behind on my foodie magazine posts. You've probably all looked through May's Bon Appétit already - here are my picks.
Note to self (and readers): this issue is better than the last few, both for recipes and articles. Let's hope they continue to be this good.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Non-Food Post - Vegas and other things

Yes, I've been absent for a while. Things have been happening.

My best friend's cancer came back. It's rare, they don't know how to treat it. Surgery and chemo aren't options currently. They're going to try steroids. Thank God it seems to be non-aggressive (for now).

Hubby's brother got married in Vegas over the weekend. A good time was had by all. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. So no pics of the frivolity.

And, since I hate posting without a picture, here's my tan line. I swear I haven't been this dark in 20 years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

French Onion Soup

After I braised my beef shanks, I had a lot of the braising liquid left over. Yes, the dogs would have enjoyed it on top of their kibble, but I'm a little selfish sometimes, and I thought that I'd appreciate the depth of flavor more than they would.

In addition to the happy almost-sticky shank-braising liquid, I was also lucky enough to have some jus left from a recent beef dip expedition. (If you live in north San Diego County, you must try Agrusa's Super Sandwiches in Escondido.)

With all that beefy goodness in my fridge, I knew I had to make French onion soup.

Caramelize a couple pounds of sweet onions, add a few good glugs of red wine, simmer until almost all the liquid's gone. Pour in braising liquid and jus, toss in a bay leaf and some black pepper. Let simmer and reduce. Toast some good bread, grate some Gruyere. Ladle soup into ramekins, top with toast and cheese, and broil.

Now that's tasty.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cheese and Crackers, Grown-Up Style

Go out and buy yourself some of these Trader Joe's pita crackers.

And some of this Spanish cheese.

And some Peppadews. Don't know about Peppadews? Here's the wiki, and here's the US website. Normally I'd laugh at the idea of brand name produce, but these are really really good.

And finally some smoked salt.

Fill pepper with cheese, sprinkle with crushed smoked salt, place on cracker. Crunchy cracker, creamy tangy cheese, sweet and lightly spicy pepper, smoky salt. Truly amazing.

If you can't find Peppadews, I'm sure roasted red bells would work. Or just nix the pepper altogether. And the cracker's pretty much just a vehicle, you don't really need that either. I keep finding myself walking through the kitchen, scooping a knife-point of cheese (it's that soft), sprinkling with salt, and popping it in my mouth.

The only downside is how expensive the salt is, $12 for 7 oz at my market, but honestly, it's worth every penny. I've been drooling over the SaltWorks website for the last 10 minutes. Check out their amazing salts here.

Note: Even Hubby liked the smoked salt, and he's normally strictly a table salt kind of guy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Slow Cooked Beef Shanks

Up front, let me apologize for the lack of pictures. Here are my excuses: 1) This is not a very photogenic dish. 2) I just couldn't be bothered, really.

That being said, dinner was amazing. Here's what you do:

Salt and pepper your beef shanks. I had 4 pieces, 1 to 1.5" thick, somewhere around 2.5 pounds. Dredge in flour, shake off the excess, and brown well. Remove to a plate.

Dice up onion, celery and carrot, about 1/2 cup each. Mince about 3 cloves of garlic. Saute the veggies in a little oil, (in the same pot you browned the shanks in) until nicely caramelized. Mix in a few tablespoons of tomato paste, some smoked paprika, and a couple minced anchovies. Deglaze with a little red wine or broth, scraping up all the happy fond.

OK, I lied about no pictures. Here's a picture of minced garlic.

And here's a picture of fond that I dug up from some previous dinner.

Add about 4 cups of broth and 1/2 cup of red wine. I used a mix of beef and chicken broth. Return the shanks to the pot - you want the liquid to come about halfway up the shanks. Toss in some seasonings - I used thyme, oregano, bay leaf, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. The trick now is to maintain a bare simmer for about 3 hours.

While the shanks are cooking, you can skim the fat from the top. Or (since this is one of those better-the-2nd-day dishes), when the beef is tender, refrigerate overnight, and remove the solidified fat the next day. I also like to refrigerate the cooking liquid separate from the meat, since beef shanks have a lot of fat and gristly weirdness, which I removed prior to mixing back together with the liquid.

Serve over rice, noodles, potatoes, or polenta, or with a nice crusty bread.

You'll most likely have a lot of liquid left over - use it to make French onion soup! Or top your hungry puppy's dinner with it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Bacon

Hey, did you know it's National Grilled Cheese Month? It's also Holy Humor Month and National Straw Hat Month. And how could we forget the 13th through the 19th - it's Egg Salad Week! Don't believe me? The Internet told me so.

But back to the important stuff - cheese! Kathy at Panini Happy has organized a Grilled Cheese Pageant. Her roundup, er, list of finalists, will be posted on April 20th. I can't wait to see all the delicious contestants. is posted here. Go check it out! I dare you to not drool on your keyboard.

Never being one to pass up a grilled cheese opportunity, I had to make a sandwich for Kathy's event. I was literally dreaming about what kind of sandwich I could make. Fontina, arugula and fig preserves on ciabatta? Prosciutto, provolone and peperoncini on a nice crusty Italian? Roast beef, Havarti and horseradish on rye?

In the end, I didn't feel like going to the store, so I ended up with American cheese, bacon and tomato, on store-brand sourdough. Although every time I re-read the preceding paragraph, I drool a little. Have to make those...

Please excuse the photographs, my kitchen is the worst for lighting. No, I take that back, the bathroom's probably worse, but you know what I mean.

Here's what I did:

Cook bacon.
Slice and pat dry tomatoes.
Butter bread, using a little less butter than you normally would.
Assemble bread, cheese, tomatoes, bacon, bread.
Heat a skillet with a little of your bacon fat.
Cook sandwich.
Eat sandwich, preferably with hot sauce.
And a glass of Chianti.

Want to get in on the fun? It's not too late! Kathy's accepting contestants until noon (PDT) on Friday the 17th.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch

Go out and buy yourself some matzoh crackers. Like, right now. This recipe from David Lebovitz (still one of my favorite people) is amazing.

Yeah, there's boiling butter and sugar. But it's really not that scary. The baking part is easy, just make sure you set a timer, and check it from time to time, because you may have to lower the heat if it starts burning.

And the sea salt on top? Don't freak out about salt on dessert. There's something magical that happens when you have the crunchy salt on top of the buttery sugary chocolatey crackers.

Next time I make it, I might add some toasted coconut to the top, along with the almonds and sea salt. Or replace the almonds with hazelnuts. Or add some flavored extract to the butter/sugar mix. Lots of experimenting to do, and I'm sure it will all be delicious.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fruit Sushi

A while back, I saw Wandering Chopstick's post on Fruit-shi, or Dessert Sushi. How cute! Mangoes, apples and watermelon cut up to look like fish, placed atop coconut rice balls. And the "California roll"? Adorable. Rice, fruit roll-up, fillings, made to look just like the "real" thing.

So off I went on my fruity adventure.

I cooked the sushi rice, substituting half the water with coconut milk. After it was done, I thought it needed more coconut flavor, so I added some chopped up dried flaked coconut. And some sugar, since I thought it needed to be a bit sweeter. The watermelon nigiri turned out pretty well. The rice didn't hold together too well, but it was better than I've had in some sushi restaurants out here, so I wasn't too upset. The watermelon looked kind of like fish, but I was disappointed that my mango wasn't ripe, it would've looked much better.

The "California roll"? Don't really want to talk about it. My rice was still too warm, and it ended up melting the fruit roll-up. Which, by the way, had stupid cartoons all over it. Does nobody make plain, unadorned fruit roll-ups any more? Guess not.

Even when I let the rice cool off, there was no way this monstrosity was going to slice up nicely. One, I blame the HFCS packaged crap that I bought. Two, I blame myself, because I totally suck at rolling sushi.

In the end, however, it did make a pretty good dessert chirashizushi, of sorts. Coconut rice, watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, and crushed peanuts. Oh, and melted fruit roll-up fragments. It was even kind of pretty, with the rice being dyed green from my bunk fruit leather. But a picture? No way. Too embarrassing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Non-Food Post - Growth

I know I live in southern California, but isn't this just a little ridiculous for April 3rd?

Orange tree:

Fig tree:

Peach tree:

I don't know what these are, they're growing through from the neighbor's yard:

And speaking of ridiculous - Youngest's attire: