Archive for May, 2007

Food-wise, there’s a lot going on in Ann Arbor and on the G3 front these days. First, G3 held a little picnic on the grass to thank the lovely and multi-talented Suzanne for helping make our blog pretty. There were goat cheese and fig preserve baguettes, fresh berries and the last of the brownies Anne brought from Puerto Rico. Then Maria got very excited about the arrival of the first strawberries in the market. Nick got even more excited. He falls asleep cooing the word “berries” to himself.

They were small and had too much green in them, but each (trimmed) bite was like some kind of summer narcotic. Maria and Shana are splitting a Tantre Farms share this summer, and the first box arrived today. There were asparagus, spinach, radishes, lots of lettuce, over-wintered potatoes, arugula, and assorted mystery greens (Shana thinks mizuna). We’ll report on what the box inspires. So far, Maria had a radish and butter baguette sandwich for lunch (loaded up with pink sea salt) and sauteed some of the mystery greens for dinner (with a roast chicken and some french lentils — all good). Shana reports in by email, as I’m writing this, that she’s eating a salad of red leaf lettuce and fig vinaigrette from the Eve cookbook.

But the highlight of recent days for the stay-at-home portion of G3 (we can’t speak for Anne, who’s hanging out Up North with the extended family) was Shana’s 30th birthday, catered by none other than Shana herself. I figured that Shana wouldn’t want to be bragging on herself, so I told her to let me write it up. She treated her thirty year old self, and her guests, very well indeed. Let’s review:

turkey meatballs w/ ciantro, golden raisins and pine nuts

Rumor has it you can find the recipe here. That’s some prosciutto and melon peeking out at the corner.

spring rolls w/ peanut sauce

Much acclaimed by the assembled masses. Lots of exciting tastes going on.

beef tenderloin w/ horseradish cream sauce

Can you believe how perfectly this is cooked? This from a woman who say’s she’s not all that into cooking meat.

veggies wih romesco, aioli

There was also a very pretty cheese plate (it’s a sign of the quality of the meal that the cheese plate only gets a mention) and a fantastic cake with lime curd and coconut, supplied by one of the guests. In our usual party post-mortem, John and I discussed the food and agreed that the spring rolls and all the sauces were over-the-top good. We most long for the recipe for the romescu. Shana? Spring roll and romescu recipe requested please.

The food was great, but really, the whole party is well worth a mention. The early summer air was warm and sweet, the Kimball family was out in force, Suarez — the band — was playful and upbeat (and quite cute, to boot), Nick and other assorted small ones did some booty shaking, and there was an ample supply of champagne. As an extra added bonus, I got to meet some G3 readers, which both flustered and pleased me. Hey, some of you are actually paying attention! What was your favorite part of the meal?

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My husband Lenny and I recently had a surprisingly lovely evening celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. The next day he sent an email to some family and friends telling them about the great food (and wine) experience we had. So I thought I’d just steal his text and make it into a post (then Maria and Shana will fall over in disbelief since it looks like I posted twice in one day).

Just thought I’d apprise you all of our great anniversary dinner. After I mowed the lawn and we were sitting on the deck our new neighbor Stefan and his daughter Yo-Yo brought us some very freshly made authentic egg rolls (they’re from Taiwan) that his wife had just cooked. They were AMAZING and we thanked them profusely– those were our ‘appetizers’!

Then we went to Vinology (for which Anuj had given us a gift card at Christmas – thanks Anuj!) and sat outside and had two very nice glasses of wine. Mine was Paoletti, Piccolo Cru and Anne had a crisp Setzer Gruner Veltliner (from Austria).

We went in for dinner where our talented waiter Alec (Russian Jew from Moscow) guided us through our choices of ‘small plates. We had some pan fried chick peas with herbs that were fantastic (now I’m mad I left the rest there), we had a lovely garden salad w/red wine vinaigrette, hazelnuts and goat cheese toast, also a savory white bean bruschetta with garden tomatoes, parmesan that was perfectly garlicky! In addition to these plates we also had a wonderful gnocchi (potato pasta) that was pan-fried with shallots and asparagus – it was
crispy brown around the edges and melted in your mouth!

We accompanied this with a very nice (very tannic) 2005 Bordeaux that was (remarkably) only $31. Alec said it was very good and we should invest in the 2005s because they were only going to get better!

We finished off the dinner with a Blue Franc Lemburge – another very nice, pretty full-bodied.

Just thought I’d make everyone jealous — it was a wonderful night!

Thanks Lenny for the text (and the nice night) – feel free to comment!

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I have been promising this post for 2 months now – I’m sure Maria and Shana thought it would never happen. I created a slideshow with photos of a lot of the food we ate (I think Lenny’s mom was getting annoyed after a while because every time our food came out I would say – “No! Wait – don’t eat any of it until I take a picture!” Anyway I tried to capture a lot of it and take notes so I could remember what we had (sometimes my notes weren’t too good so you will find some of the captions are a little vague). I also included some photos of other stuff remotely food related. You can click on the photo below to view the slideshow. (Please excuse my lack of photographic skill – remember I’m still learning to use my camera so hopefully I will get better at this.)

click image for Puerto Rico slideshow

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Fava and peas

There are lots of great reasons to blog with other people about food, but the best reason might be that it’s awesome to cook with them. Maria, Anne, and I gathered recently for a spring dinner party featuring seasonal ingredients (as the title suggests), and ate really well. Maria hosted, made sure we had tintorettos in hand and yummy snacks to nosh on while we cooked, and womanned the grill. Anne provided menu guidance, side dish and dessert expertise, and all-around impressive kitchen technique. My job–and I don’t know how I got off so easy–was on appetizer and wine duty; mostly, I marvelled at a) how hard it is to find fava beans (thanks, Produce Station!), and b) how tricky it is to shell them.


Serrano ham, rochetta with pecans and wildflower honey

Halloumi with favas, peas, and mint

Spring sautee of baby artichokes, morel mushrooms, and fiddlehead ferns

Roasted potatoes with garlic and herbs

Grilled lamb loin chops

Lemon panna cotta with blackberry sauce

Most of the ingredients were bought at our favorite Ann Arbor purveyors: in addition to Produce Station, we shopped at Morgan and York, Sparrow Market, and everyday wine.

More pictures and a few recipe links after the jump. (more…)

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My friend Jim is a man who enthusiastically embraces his hobbies. I don’t like to count, but we’ve known each other twenty-odd years now. In that time, he’s been a talented home-brewer, bread-baker, woodworker, bowl-turner, canoe-builder, photographer and arborist. To name just a few of his interests (or, as his long suffering wife Rita — also an old friend of mine — says, his obsessions). Lately there’s been some rumor about building a forge, but I haven’t dared inquire too closely.

As a result, he’s a handy friend to have. He’s become my go-to guy for advice on no-knead bread, wood finishing, and plumbing (again, to name just a few). So, imagine my glee when I got an email report from Rita that Jim’s wandering eye had turned toward — wait for it — cheese-making!

I immediately wrote for details and permission to report on Jim’s new adventure on the blog. Permission granted, and even a promise of photos to come. Here’s the background, straight from Jim:

Not sure exactly what the catalyst was on this but it came out of a short exchange with my friend Rob in Pittsburgh. He’s kind of getting into home brewing and asked a question about whether I’d ever get back into it. I mentioned that it was just too involved and time consuming for me to consider in the foreseeable future. Then I threw out “Now cheese making, maybe, but not home brewing.” Rob mistakenly thought I was making cheese and shot back asking what kinds and when could he have some. Then I got to thinking, as I’m wont to do about these things, “Cheese making…huh.”

So I got some books out of the library and pored over them. It seemed doable and not too time consuming. The only major equipment items (most of the smaller bits of hardware I already own from beer brewing) are a cheese press and an aging cave. A dorm fridge can substitute for the cave if one must substitute. The press I can build myself. The process seems pretty straightforward coming from a brewing background.

I made a simple lemon cheese over the weekend which turned a 1/2 gallon of whole milk into maybe a pint of paneer. It was good if bland but proved the concept.

I bought some starter cultures and rennet locally from a homebrew shop but will have to go online to get the rest of the stuff I need.

Will keep you posted on my progress. I think I’ll try a chevre next as I can get goat’s milk at the food coop, apparently. It’s more like a real cheese than this milk+lemon business.

Note to Jim and readers: The smart cheese guy down at Morgan and York (forever in my mind The Big Ten Party Store) says that spring chevres are the most interesting both because of the spring wildflowers and greens the goats might be eating and because the mama goats are producing richly for the kids. He says the pastures are “lively” right now and you can tell it in the cheese.

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You can probably tell that G3 has spring cooking fever. We’re having a lot of chatter lately, online and off, about things like morels (see below), asparagus, and fava beans. Much to my Saturday morning shopper’s delight, the farmer’s market is starting to produce too. It’s still not exactly promiscuous but it’s putting out a little more each week. Here’s just a glimpse of some of what’s come home from the market the past three weeks or so:

First asparagus: before

First asparagus: after

With a basic balsamic vinaigrette. A favorite at our house. Warning — vinaigrette crazes your thrift-store bone china. And I paid two dollars for that plate!

Irresistibly tender young Bibb lettuce.

Needs nothing more than a wee bit of olive oil, a splash of vinegar and some sea salt.

Rhubarb: before

A vegetable I was not at all sure I cared for. But crazy with spring and in pursuit of local eating, I bought some. And roasted it (at 300 degrees for 20 minutes) with the zest of half and orange and all it’s juice, and 3 T Damara sugar and 2 skinny split vanilla beans. With some creme fraiche on top it was so good that it was gone before there was even a thought of an after picture.

Solomon’s Seal

Because it’s good to celebrate some of the beauties of spring that you can’t eat (although truth be told, I’ve never tried to eat this — it could be good).

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Morels and more

This post could be an e-mail to Anne, who is currently loving morel mushrooms and brought some to our G3 dinner party this Saturday (stay tuned for the writeup), but I thought I’d share a little more broadly. The folks over at bluishbarn.com have been a-hunting for morels it seems, and invited others to participate. I’m coming across this info a bit too late perhaps; from their May 7 post: “The scoutabout continues this week after work, through the weekend.” Maybe it’s not too late to contact them and join their hunt. But if it is, we could take some notes from michiganmorels.com and try it ourselves. Any seasoned hunters out there who can keep us from poisoning ourselves?

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Gnudi Photos

Haha I’m so funny (the title – get it?).

The other day I told Shana and Maria that maybe they should change the name of the blog to Gastronomical Two since I rarely make an appearance. We had an AMAZING G3 collaborative dinner the other night (I’m sure someone – prob not me – but maybe me – you never know – will post about it soon) and I am finally feeling inspired and determined to show them I actually do cook every once in a while.

This is acutally from a month or so ago but it was one of the best things I’ve attempted lately – and plus I took photos!

The recipe is Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Sauce (need I say more?) from the January issue of Bon Appetit in which Gnudi was proclaimed to be the “Dish of the Year.” Of course when I came across a recipe with wild mushrooms, prosciutto, sage and truffle oil in it – I couldn’t pass it up. I wrote it down in my notebook back in January, and one Saturday a month or so ago (do you sense a theme here? procrastination maybe?) I finally decided to take it on.

Now I’m sure you probably are wondering if this is something like gnocchi – but it really isn’t. It is apparently meant to be ravioli fillng without the wrapper. So where gnocchi is made with potato, gnudi is made with ricotta cheese. So it is much lighter and more delicate than gnocchi.

So below is a picture of the gnudi before I cooked them. The recipe was a little annoying because it says to roll the dough into balls, and then shape into a short log, which is not as easy as it sounds (getting them even and uniform in size) so after a while I gave up and just made long rolls and used a knife to cut them into pieces. Unfortunately they ended up looking pretty “home-made.” Oh well.

Gnudi before cooking

(OK I don’t really know how to work this photo editor I think it changed since I last used it… or I just forgot)

Here are some more – cooked mushrooms, and the crispy sage and prosciutto:

Cooking Gnudi

Here is finishing by adding the gnudi to the sauce.
Cooking Gnudi in sauce

And …. the final product:

Final Product

Since I live in Ann Arbor and not New York I haven’t seen gnudi on any menus yet, but maybe if we’re lucky it will show up here in the next 20-30 years. In the meantime either take a trip to NY, or try out this recipe.

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In the mood for something fresh and seasonal for lunch the other day, I mused to a colleague that it would be great if Whole Foods were to open a second branch somewhere close to central campus. Something along the lines of an Express version of the megastore, serving delicious prepared food, a salad bar, healthy snacks and baked goods to take away. Wouldn’t that be great? Later that day, a faithful reader* happened to tip me off that plans for a second WF are in the works for the Deuce. My hopes soared–would my dream of lunchtime gourmet convenience food be realized? Er, no. The new store will be nowhere near central campus, sadly, but in the Cranbrook Village shopping center.

I wonder: is A2 big enough for 2 Whole Foods? Will they compete for the same customer base, Ann Arborites willing to shell out for artisinal organic cheeses and a stunning variety of herbal supplements? Or will the two locations attract different clientele–one frequented by families, the other by singles? One for dyed-in-the-wool hippies, the other for earth-conscious oenophiles? Drinkers of Silk versus Rice Dream? We need only wait a year until the mystery unravels.

*Thanks, Eric!

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An inordinate amount of my time is spent these days on ann arbor craigslist, trolling the apartments for rent section. It’s the main reason this blog, and my adopted kitchen at the boyfriend’s house, has seen little of me lately. Sure, I cooked up a little birthday brunch a few weeks ago, featuring an asparagus bread pudding from 101 cookbooks. And I vaguely recall a vietnamese chicken salad and some sesame peanut noodles, to accompany a viewing of the Soprano’s a few weeks back. A loaf of banana-coconut bread appeared, as did a stellar pizza with olives, eggplant, and feta. (We’ve caught the pizza bug from Maria and John.) I fixed myself some nice cavatappi with white beans and sundried tomatoes for a solo dinner, which was superbly satisfying. That might sound like respectable kitchen output for several weeks, but it hasn’t felt like it. My zest for life, typically expressed by preparing relatively delicious food (that I read about in the blogs, apparently), has been squelched by a dispiriting march through Ann Arbor’s apartments–and most disappointingly, its kitchens. (more…)

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