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Archive for July, 2007

One of the ways in which I’m a bad food blogger is that I do not relate what’s new in the world of food in the deuce or its environs. To remedy this, I bring you a report from a friend who wrote the other day with news of a restaurant he and his family dined at recently. Since it sounds like such a find–especially for this season–I share it with you.

We had dinner at a restaurant in Commerce Township called A Matter of Taste. The food was delectable and the restaurant has the not-to-be-overemphasized benefit of being right on Union Lake. It’s rare in these parts (where there are really a lot of fresh water lakes) to have a “fine-dining” restaurant on the water. It’s usually of the Zukey Lake Tavern variety — the view is better than the food. Anyway, I highly recommend it. The restaurant features a dining room that is completely open to a huge outdoor patio. We sat outside, waterside, next to a fireplace that kept us warm as it got dark.

For dinner, I had the Thai-influenced Crisped Walleye. The dish consisted of lightly deep-fried Walleye and mussels in a spicy red-curry coconut broth with Asian vegetables and jasmine rice. It was a dish that I’ve been seeing in various combinations recently at restaurants. This take on it though was highlighted by the
tempura-like fried Walleye.

I wish I didn’t already have dinner plans this weekend! It sounds lovely, no?

A Matter of Taste
2323 Union Lake Road, Commerce Twp.
(248) 360-6650
Lunch + Dinner, every day

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Notes
For M’s birthday yesterday, we feasted. No surprise there, since we have spent an inordinate amount of our free time this month stuffing ourselves with really delicious food. For the first two weeks of July, we were eating our way from Portland to Seattle to Vancouver. (More on that soon–promise!) Last week was spent using up lovely produce from our CSA box, trying to do a bit of penance for the indulgence fest that was our vacation. Though we managed to have a slightly out of hand backyard BBQ over at Claire’s last week and eat lunch at every day cook one day. So much for austerity.

When we weren’t eating, we were doing other food-related activities, like going to see Ratatouille and talking about what would go well with the pickled prunes I brought back with me from Seattle’s Boat St. Cafe, aka My New Favorite Restaurant in the Entire World. Oh, and speaking of pickles, there was the marathon pickling session on Sunday with my buddy Eric: six hours of making vinegar baths and chopping veggies and scratching our heads and wondering if we were doing things right.

Yes, readers, it’s been a month of cooking and eating and I kept it all to myself. How blessedly rude of me. Allow me to share with you, then, my most recent adventure in the kitchen: dinner last night for M’s birthday.

Menu for Michael
I knew that I wanted to make that Gateau au chocolat fondant that Orangette loves so much–her friend refers to it as the “winning hearts and minds” cake. The menu came together after reading (with a rumbling stomach) that Mark Bittman piece in the NYT: Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. It wasn’t that I wanted a fast meal. Oh, no. But it reminded me how good a meal can be when you put together a few simply prepared, high quality ingredients. We had new potatoes and pattypan squash galore from the farm share, so I boiled the potatoes and added butter and salt and fresh parsley. The squash got a quick (maybe too quick) sautee in some olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped basil and a squeeze of lemon. From the Bittman piece, I lighted on the stuffed tomato recipe (#88) and the steak with lots of ground pepper pressed in (#71), with a few changes. I lopped off the tops of the tomatoes and scooped out the insides, and mixed up the pulp with lots of fresh basil and parsley, garlic, s + p, and toasted baguette. I baked the tomatoes for about 20 mins, and they got just soft enough to be a little oozy and a lot delicious. (Next time, I’m going to experiment with chunks of cheese and/or toasted pine nuts.) The delmonico steak turned out really quite well. It was gigantic and more than well-marbled. We doused it with coarse pepper (thanks, Liz!) and kosher salt, seared it in a pan w/ plenty of butter and olive oil, and let it do its thing for about 8-10 mins total. A little red wine into the pan to deglaze it, and the steak went back in for a good sloshing around in the mixture.

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The G3 so enjoyed the spring feast, that we immediately started planning a summer reprise. Plus, the guys felt left out last time, so we wanted to sooth their hearts and stomachs. We started out with a flavors-of-the-season theme, but slowly drifted into a “food we like when it’s hot out” sort of menu plan. That cohered into a Southeast Asian barbecue motif which lost the barbecue at the eleventh hour when Shana found a recipe for The Slanted Door‘s shaking beef on-line. More on that in a moment. Genius must have a spontaneous quality, no?

Maria and John played host again because they are never responsible about finding a babysitter until it’s too late. Pluswhich, that way Nick gets to sit around in his pajamas and munch wasabi peas and pretend he’s one of the big boys until he gets carted off to bed (much to his displeasure; he wants to be at the party, dammit). The guests showed up around 7, arms and shopping bags full of good things. Michael started things off by blending up a batch of lemon-ginger frozen cocktails. A slushee with a kick. Dangerously easy to drink.

We had the first (the first — note there will be more) drink with Anne’s wonderfully fresh summer rolls. She says she learned to make them at her Asian technique cooking class at the fabulous Institute of Culinary Education in NYC (she leaves us periodically to take classes there and the rest of us are VERY jealous).

Then we took a little rest, and Shana went to work on the shaking beef. When we were off being scholarly publishers in San Francisco last month, Shana got wined and dined at The Slanting Door. Pretty cool, but her hosts announced to the table that there had to be a plate of Shaking Beef because it was so good and then, the nerve, those same hosts devoured said Shaking Beef before it made it’s way around the table to Shana. So this was compensatory Shaking Beef. It was delicious, but none of us have been able to figure out why it’s called Shaking (and no mean internet searchers are we).

Meanwhile, Michael whipped up more cocktails and Maria put out the rest of the feast:

  • Cold sesame noodles (somehow we missed a photo of these) adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider
  • Chicken Larb (recipe below) — much better than it’s name would indicate
  • Thai cucumber salad — sweet and spicy, cold and refreshing all at the same time.

Larb

We ate a lot and drank some more, some of us switching to white wine as the evening went on. We were convinced that we could not eat another tiny thing. But there were these two flavors of homemade ice cream in the freezer, see? So what were we to do?

Before I close, I have to say a word on the ice cream. In the past two months, every food blogger I read has been making ice cream from David Lebovitz‘s The Perfect Scoop. After I read the first rhapsody on the results, I put the book in my Amazon shopping cart. But then as the posts kept rolling in, singing the praises of the book, I grew cynical, convinced that David has mastered some food blogger form of payola. I would not join the herd. I would resist and my five dollar garage sale Donvier ice cream maker would continue to gather dust. But fate intervened. In my haste to buy Jonathan Lethem’s You Don’t Love Me Yet to make a book club deadline, I hit the one-click order button and after scrutinizing the 50 dollar a bill (how could a novel, even a hardcover novel, be so expensive?) realized The Perfect Scoop was on the way. So I might as well try the coffee ice cream as part of a father’s day celebration. And after we pry our tongues off the bottom of the ice cream cylinder, better clean it out and try the coconut. And the ginger. And the mint. And they’re all that good, they really are. I made the coconut and ginger for the G3 dinner. Mr. Lebovitz was kind enough to give permission to reproduce a recipe here (below). I give you the ginger, my favorite in a strong field.

The guests drifted away around 10. John and I put on some more music, opened the French doors and washed dishes for another hour or so, feeling pretty darn smug. Good friends, good food and perfect weather. A night when life was very nice indeed.

Larb Kai (aka Thai Chicken Salad)

10 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs (I prefer the cost and flavor of the thighs)

1 stem lemon grass

5 T water

2 T fish sauce

4 T lime juice

1/2 t red pepper flakes

1 stem green onion, thinly chopped

2 T chopped cilantro

4 T chopped fresh mint

1/2 med red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 med red pepper, thinly sliced

Stuff to dress it up: Lettuce leaves, more herbs, red pepper strips, wedges of lime, wedges or slices of cucumber and tomato

1. Place chicken on cutting board and, using a chef’s knife, pound and chop until minced. Better yet, get the butcher to grind it coarsely (Thank you, Bob Sparrow). Smash lemon grass with the flat of a chef’s knife and then chop into 1 inch pieces.

2. Heat 5 T water in a wok or frying pan on high heat. Add lemon grass peices and let boil for 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir it around for a while (less than 5 minutes), until the chicken is cooked. You want some juices in the pan. Put it in a bowl. Leave the lemon grass in there but warn novice Thai food eaters not to munch into it.

3. Add fish sauce, lime juice and pepper flakes and stir well. Add the vegetables and herbs and give it a few good stirs to distribute everything.

4. Line a serving dish with the lettuce leaves and spread the chicken on top. Then spend a while making it look pretty with the garnishes. I like to alternate lime, cucumber and tomato wedges around the edges. The salad can sit out, lightly covered, for an hour or two. I think it gets more flavorful that way.

Adapted from Simply Thai Cooking by Wandlee Young and Bryon Ayangoglu.

And when you just can’t eat another bite, eat this:

Fresh Ginger Ice Cream

3 oz unpeeled fresh ginger (this was maybe a 2-3 inch knob)

1 cup whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

5 large egg yolks

Cut the ginger in half length-wise and then cut it into thin slices. Place the ginger in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by about 1/2 inch and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then drain, discarding the liquid.

Return the blanched ginger slices to the saucepan, then add the milk, 1 cup of the cream, sugar and salt. Warm the mixture, cover, and remove from the heat. Let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Rewarm the mixture. Remove the ginger slices with a slotted spoon, and discard. Pour the remaing 1 cup of heavy cream into a large bowl and set a strainer on top. Don’t get confused and put the cream in with the ginger-milk. It’s been known to happen. Keep your mind on the job.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula (I can testify that a wooden spoon works fine), scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (this seems like it takes maybe 5 minutes, maybe a bit less). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Don’t take any guff from other people in the house about the number of dirty bowls. Tell them they don’t get any ice cream if they keep complaining.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then feeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Reproduced, with permission, from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. A few comments are mine.

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