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Archive for April, 2007

Pizza

We’ve decided to take a meat break. Despite Meat 101 (and my eagerness to try out the techniques we learned) . This decision is probably influenced by a certain weariness with flesh caused by 3 months with my devoted carnivore of a mother and my shame about the general culinary laziness of months and months of trying to get meals on the table that please the whole family (it’s so easy to reach for the chicken breasts). So, post-vacation, we swore off all flesh for a week and all flesh but fish for another three.

And it’s been good. I’ve been using a few culinary muscles that had gotten a bit soft, and they feel a little sore, but in that pleasing, getting-in-shape, way. It’s been good too in helping me to remember what my vegetarian friends go through when we go out to eat and for making me order tofu which I like, in theory, but never seem to choose.

Both John and I went through our vegetarian phases, his much more committed than mine (mine consisted mostly of not cooking with meat at home; his was the miso and 25 pound bags of brown rice type — it was the seventies). The thing is, I don’t want my vegetarian dinners to be an endless parade of moist, ethnically spiced Moosewood cookbook dishes (although I still have a special place in my heart for Molly Katzen and there are some old Moosewood stand-bys that will never leave my kitchen repertoire). So the challenge has been to cook dinners all week that are flesh free and that don’t stray too far from that sort of Mediterranean, sort of Californian, sort of new American, way that we love to eat now.

This is the report so far: (more…)

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Just a quick shout-out for our friends at Everyday cook/wines/lunch. They’ve got their nice new blog up and the best part about it is they put the daily lunch menu online. So while you’re eating your peanut butter and jelly for lunch at your desk can you daydream about better things.

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It’s a long time since the “tomorrow” that I intended to write. We’ve been on the road, en famille, down to Charlottesville, VA and back, and then several days at home during which John painted and I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. And did some cooking (post on that to come — with pictures even!). This could be a post which muses on all the good restaurants in Charlottesville and wonders why that small-ish university city manages to support such a range of good places while our small-ish university city . . . but I’m not going to go there.

I will though, give a special mention to The Blue Ridge Pig, hole in the wall, mustard style barbecue, side of baked beans and mustard slaw, sort of place. John and I liked it all very much; Naomi was disappointed by the mustard-ness and spiciness. Both she and Nick wolfed down the beans.

And I have to say a little about Bizou, a sort of bistro on the downtown pedestrian mall with a small and frequently changing menu of “up-scale down-home” cooking. Inside it’s diner casual, with red booths and table-side juke-boxes, and old movie posters on the wall. It’s totally unfussy and unpretentious and the kind of place where it was OK for the kids to go stand in front of the open kitchen and watch the chefs on the line. The food is prepared with love and imagination. For an appetizer, I lusted after the creamy grits with bacon and chantarelles, but we ordered the goat cheese and tapenade bread plate as more friendly to all ages at the table. Nick learned the thrill of a good tapenade, using his baguette as a transportation device for moving large blobs of the stuff to his mouth then holding up the increasingly soggy slice with a plaintive “Mama! More!” For entrees we had a perfectly cooked roast pork loin on a bed of risotto style orzo with jambalaya sausage and a tomato broth and a wonderfully spiced but not spicy coconut curry with mussels and scallops. Even skeptical Naomi liked the curry broth, although she deemed her plate of calamari “too fancy” (meaning not fried enough). I believe there was a lovely chocolate mousse for dessert; at least the evidence of my kids’ faces and spoons would indicate so, but since I was in the bathroom when it was delivered and the bowl was empty when I sat down again, I can’t say for sure. (I exaggerate. I got some and it was great, but it did turn the children, particularly the littlest, into ravening beasts).

Much to my delight, Nick’s visit to Bizou was also the occasion of his learning the word cooking (at twenty months, it was high time). Back home at our cabin in the woods next morning, he dragged the pots and pans into a line on the floor, crammed his Easter Bunny into a stew pot and stirred it with a wooden spoon with great concentration muttering “coooooooking” to himself. At one point he frowned, got up and fetched his small plastic elephant and added it to the pot with a vigorous stir. He seemed pleased with the results, and brought each of us in turn a spoonful and watched us “taste” it with great anxiety until we each said “mmmmm.” He is his parent’s child.

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Just desserts?

How does food and photography mix? I know it happens all the time: people cook things, they take pictures. They go to restaurants, and it’s snap! click! (Though I guess you lose those analog sounds in our digital age.) These pictures are posted on food blogs and photo sharing sites–nothing could be more common. And nothing should be more second hand, especially for a girl who fancies herself a food blogger. Yet my posts are typically big hunks of text on the screen, sans visual accompaniment. Why have I been failing so miserably at this?

Last weekend, I set myself to the task of remedying the deficiency. I had a cast of characters in town (my family), and we had an ambitious eating schedule ahead of us: breakfast at Angelo’s, dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, and another dinner at Pacific Rim. I dutifully ported around my little Cannon SD600, and the scene was set for memorializing our meals. Due in part to habit and in part to a surfeit of storytelling, I’m sorry to report that I did not remember to take a single photo until the last course of our last meal (at Pacific Rim)–and these were taken by Michael, who is a much better photographer than me.

My mom ordered almond panna cotta infused with Amaretto, served with a tropical fruit compote. Pretty!

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For Shana: roasted Bosc pear with marcona almondmascarpone cream and a spiced-caramel sauce. Magnifique!

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All were amazing, but I think Michael and my brother chose best: warm bittersweet chocolate cake with sake-macerated cherries and toasted-coconut Kahula ice cream.

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More pics coming soon!

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everydaylunch.jpgI wasn’t fooling the other day when I mentioned that very good things were happening on the 2nd floor of the Kerrytown Shops: tomorrow marks the beginning of everyday lunch @ everyday cook.

Want to partake? Here’s what to do:

  1. Make like you’re going to Hollander’s, look at the pretty paper in the window, and continue upstairs to the equally beautiful loft space that hosts the everyday cook kitchen.
  2. Make sure it’s a day of the week that is not Monday or Sunday, and that the time is between 11am and 2pm.
  3. Be prepared to eat interesting lunch fare, and not spend too much on it.

For the real deal, click the image above, or call 734.827.2665 (COOK) for all the details. I plan on stopping in very soon, and I hope to see you there.

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This is the restaurant I went to in Minneapolis-

http://www.nochee.com (apparently their site is down right now (4/6/07) but you can read about it here too).

It was a Monday so kind of dead, but the food was really wonderful (caveat: this is my opinion in my current culinarily-deprived state).

I had:

The most amazing Lemon Drop I’ve ever had – I don’t make these myself but I’ve had the gamut from pretty good to really bad (advice: don’t order at an Indian restaurant – what was I thinking?) and this was hands down the best. It made me want to start experimenting to make my own perfect version.

Beef carpaccio with arugula, olive oil, fresh lemon, shaved parmesan (and those really flavorful olive-looking caper things, with the stem? They have them at whole foods? I don’t know what they are called…

Spinach and warm Butternut squash salad with red onion and toasted almond vinaigrette

My “dessert” was a Valdeon blue cheese – a blue that is a blend of raw cow, sheep and goat milk – served with pear “mustarda”. I wonder about the mustarda – if they make themselves or not – it was the perfect complement.

From Zingermans.com:

pear mostarda from tamerici

hard to classify, easy to use:

Pear mostarda is one of those old world traditional products that have been around for centuries, though you can’t find it in the US. Paola Calciolari, a cooking teacher in the small town of Pietole (the birthplace of Virgil) developed the recipe for producing these candied fruits, and the result defies classification. First, they take the ripe fruit and submerse them in syrup for three or four days. Then they spice the candied pears with mustard oil, giving the pears a good amount of heat that is the perfect accent to the sweetness of the fruit. Great with salami, cheese, or even slathered on a thick slice of Farm bread, the uses are endless. That’s the nice thing about being indefinable.

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They are doing very good things over at everyday wine + cook in Kerrytown. The new-ish retail store has become a fairly regular destination for me. Not only is the space gorgeous, the staff incredibly knowledgeable, and the kitchenware pleasingly designed (note to self: buy some canteloupe and lime colored bamboo bowls, on the double!), but the kitchen is now open for classes and private events. Back in February, Michael and I took a knife skills class, which taught us the proper way to sharpen our knives using a wet stone (so very cool) and a steel, as well as professional techniques for chopping/ dicing/ mincing. (Maria apparently learned “supremeing” at her solo session last month, but we were not so lucky.) We practiced on unsuspecting onions, garlic, celery, carrot, and herbs. I definitely corrected a few bad habits, like scaping up stuff from the cutting board with the knife edge pointing at my hand, but I still need to dedicate some quality time to make the new techniques not so new.

Luckily, I had a chance to polish up a bit on Sunday at Meat 101, where the focus was on braising, sauteeing, grilling, and roasting. (more…)

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