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Archive for November, 2008

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Well, we made it: a post everyday in November. I was skeptical, but we did it. [Raise glasses, *clink*!] Thanks to my fellow bloggers and to you all who checked in on our progress. Even though challenges such as NaBloPoMo are a bit of a contrivance, I have found that they do put into place a necessary structure and shape for blog posts. In order to ride this wave of blogging productivity, and to capitalize on the current obsession with all things related to the economy, I’ve been planning a series of posts this month about cooking, eating out, and entertaining on a budget, focused mostly (though not exclusively) on the Ann Arbor area. If there is something you’d like to know about on this topic–where to find the best selection of local products, who has good deals on sparkling wine, etc.–feel free to send us an e-mail at gastronomical3@gmail.com, or leave a note in the comments and we’ll do our best to track down some answers. We look forward to hearing from you.

To kick us off, let me share a note from our friends at Everyday Wines, apprising us of new offerings and services, as well as upcoming deals and events.

75 years ago, on December 5th, the collective consciousness of this country heaved a sigh of relief and reached for its corkscrew. Yes, Prohibition was repealed and we are celebrating that glorious moment this Dec 5. We will be open till 10pm (yes, it’s Midnight Madness around town, we know) and we will give you 15% off all the wine accessories in the shop.

In the immortal words of the Home Shopping Network: But wait! There’s more! All through the month of December, our loyal everyday-wines bag-toting customers will also get 15% off case purchases (that’s 12 bottles to a case). What’s that, you walked here and can’t carry a case home? We’ll deliver it for you. You want all the whites chilled before we drop it off? We can do that too, talk to us.

We have flowers now. Yes! Fair trade roses from Ecuador, Amaryllis and Ranunculus (totes, dude!), all manners of bouquets. All of this from Lisa Waud of Pot & Box. Come in, take a look, a sniff, a rose. Until you do, go visit her at htp://www.potandbox.com
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And a big thank you from A Knife’s Work to all you for your support, feedback and encouragement. They are now featuring weekly desserts, along with the soups, sides and entrees. And, for the month of
December, you get 50% off your second entree Sundays and Mondays. Check their weekly menu at http://www.aknifeswork.com.

Of course, there’s always something new and interesting (like a Champagne taste-off coming up) that slips between the email cracks, so do visit us and say hello.

p.s., You might notice a couple of new items in the right sidebar. Gastronomical Three has been listed in Alltop’s Food listings, as well as on the Delightful Blogs directory. They are both great ways to find out about other blogs, so if you’re hungry for new blogs, check them out.

p.s.s. Not all posts this month will follow this theme — just be on the lookout for a collection of such posts on these pages!

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One of the things I enjoy most about long weekends is the opportunity to enjoy breakfast in a big way.  I came to the pleasures of breakfast late in life.  For a good part of my adulthood, I was a lifestyle academic and that meant long nights of reading and correcting papers, going to bars at midnight, sleeping as late as I could and rolling out of bed and into my clothes just in time to make it to classes (ones I attended and ones I taught).  Aside from weekend brunches, eaten after several glasses of water and a reasonable recovery time, I just couldn’t face breakfast. A glass of orange juice, and I was out the door. Maybe sometime later in the morning there would be a coffee and a pastry from one of the local cafes. This was good for neither my wallet nor my body chemistry.

And then came, almost simultaneously, Divorce and 9 to 5.  In the attempt to be a more rational human being and to regulate my mood swings, I tried to make breakfast a regular part of my life. For a couple of years this meant a bowl of Special K with milk. In the summer there were peaches or berries on top. Once in a while, I’d throw an Eggo Whole Grain Waffle in the toaster and serve myself that with some blueberries.

But all that has changed over the past few years.  On work days I’m still a breakfast automaton (glass of water; vitamin; small glass of juice; bowl of something), but my quality of life has improved quite a bit.  Special K led to Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts led to Seven Stars Vanilla Yogurt and then last year, I started making granola, and then we were really off to the races. And a couple of years ago when my coffee-obsessed husband invested in a Rancilio Rocky and Silvia, breakfast really went over the top around here. All the coffee flirtations of my past have fallen by the wayside.  Why would I stray when I’m getting it so good at home?

So, for those of you who are still out there in the wilderness, grabbing a granola bar on the way to work or serving out your 110th bowl of Raisin Bran, I’m offering a few suggestions, a few enticements into the breakfast fold.  Become a breakfast person. You’ll never go back. For real breakfast inspiration, check out Jennifer Causey’s Simply Breakfast, a visually stunning record of morning pleasures. But if that’s a little overwhelming, try:

  • Homemade granola and yogurt. I tend to favor Seven Stars Vanilla and Faggio Full Fat (that’s not what they call it, but you get the idea) when I’m feeling flush. Trader Joe’s Greek Style plain isn’t bad at all and saves a couple of dollars. For the granola, I’ve messed around with recipes from Orangette, Smitten Kitchen and Jane Cumberbach’s Pure Style. These days, I seem to combine them a lot, but I do recommed the use of brown rice syrup and coconut and the addition of chopped dates. Oh, and pecans. I’m big on pecans in granola.
  • McCann’s Quick Cooking Irish Oats. I’m sure the traditional steel cut would be even better. But the six minutes of so spent stirring these represents a great compromise between the bland efficiency of instant oatmeal and the leisurely pace of long-cooking.  Use milk, not water, add a a good slice of butter, a heaping spoon of brown sugar, and a small handful of dried Michigan cherries or blueberries. Decadence and virtue co-exist in one bowl.
  • Any kind of Zingerman’s bread (available by mail-order!) cut thick and toasted. For Thanksgiving, the cranberry walnut (pictured above) is a special, if expensive treat. But plain ol’ farm bread works too. I like one slice plain with butter, followed by a breakfast dessert of butter and honey or jam.
  • And when you’re trying to use up the holiday leftovers? An egg, fresh from the farm and a potato pancake.  Heat some olive oil until almost smoking in a cast iron skillet. Take a handful of left-over mashed potato and flatten it into a thick pancake.  Put in the pan (it should sizzle). Leave it a little longer than your comfortable with, flip it over and cook on the other side until golden brown. It’s okay to peek, but if it’s sticky, let it go a little longer. Serve with ketchup, hot sauce or apple butter, depending on the mood.

And so concludes my portion of our month of blogging. I have to say, I have an incredible respect for those who do this all by themselves.  I barely made it and I was only carrying half the load. Thanks to all of those who checked in regularly with us this month. We’ll be hoping that next month we hit the sweet spot between entertaining and exhausting.

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The prodigious amounts of leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast are tucked away in many (dozens?) of tupperware containers or wrapped in various layers of foil and plastic. I indulged with such abandon yesterday that today I wasn’t even tempted by the possibilities of turkey sandwiches or any creative way to use up what remains. I was, however, seduced by the pan of noodle kugel my mom made this afternoon — one of her standbys, a traditional dish she learned how to make from her mother-in-law. It was due to accompany my sister back to school tomorrow, and I had to plead with her to let me have some. She finally relented, and I savored this pudding which I have never thought to make myself. I’m not sure why, exactly, except that it’s one of those special things I look forward when I come home. It’s my mom’s dish, but I think it’s time I add it to my repertoire. Tasting it today, I was struck by the small but unmistakable miracle of such humble, traditional foods — how a few eggs and noodles and cheese and butter, sweetened with some sugar and spice, becomes something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

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Lokshen Kugel (Noodle Pudding)
8 oz. broad noodles, cooked and drained (we use Mrs. Weiss’s broad egg noodles)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake, uncovered in 350 F oven for an hour.

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Thanksgiving

November, 1620

But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand-half amased at this poore peoples presente condition; and so I thinke will the reader too, when he well considers the same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembred by that which wente before), they now had not friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succoure. . . . And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that cuntrie know them to be sharp and violent, and subjecte to cruell and feirce stormes, deangerous to travill to known places, much more to serch an unknown coast. Besids, what could they see but a hidious and desolate wildernes, full of wild beasts and willd men? And what multituds ther might be of them they knew not. Nether could they, as it were, goe up to the tope of Pisgah, to vew from this willdernes a more goodly cuntrie to feed their hops; for-which way soever they turnd their eys (save upward to the heavens) they could have litle solace or content in respecte of any outward objects. For summer being done, all things stand upon them with a wetherbeaten face; and the whole countrie, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage heiw. (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation)

I wake up before dawn, which is not early these days, and l feel the solid warmth of the man I love, in quiet sleep beside me. I burrow down deeper under the duvet, watching the light turn from dark blue to gray to a pale blue tinged with gold and pink. A flock of sparrow streams across the sky; my house begins to stir. The dog, despairing of rousting me, climbs into bed, turns twice, curls into a ball, his snout resting on my hip.  A little later, the small boy crawls into the middle of us all and sings a half dozen variations on itsy-bitsy spider. I linger a little longer in this tangle of bones and hearts.

Winter 1621

In 2. or 3. moneths tune halfe of their company dyed, espetialy in Jan: and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvie and other diseases, which this long vioage and their inacomodate condition had brought upon them; so as ther dyed some times 2. or 3. of a day, in the fore- said tune; that of 100. and odd persons, scarce 50. remained. And of these in the time of most distres, ther was but 6. or 7. sound persons, who, to their great comendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night nor day, but with abundance of toyle and hazard of their owne health, fetched them woode, made them fires, drest them meat, made their beads, washed their lothsome cloaths, cloathed and uncloathed them; in a word, did all the homly and necessarie offices for them which dainty and quesie stomacks cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cherfully, without any grudging in the least, shewing herein their true love unto their freinds and bretheren. A rare example and worthy to be remembred. (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation)

There is enough sun today that we can go out to work on tidying the yard and garden, all the chores left undone after the last warm days of autumn. We are all happy to be outside, despite the chill in the air. When the wind drops entirely, I stop my raking and turn my face up toward the sun, marveling again, yet again, how Michigan has come to be my home.

November, 1621

Our harvest being gotten in our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie. (Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation)

Repetition and variation, the changing of ritual by small degrees, my forty-six Thanksgiving ranging back in a long line to a time before memory. The year we deconstructed the turkey before we cooked it. The year in my sister’s New York apartment when the turkey went bad and we dined on sides and sliced turkey from the corner deli. Thanksgivings abroad in expat apartments with too much bad red wine and the accidental camaraderie that comes of being strangers together. The Thanksgiving twenty-five years ago that was the last day I saw my grandfather alive.  The year my family switched from Parker House to crescent rolls.  The Thanksgiving I cooked for my then-husband’s extended family and whatever friends we could draw in. We must have been thirty people stretched across my small house.  Not so many less than what was left after that first hard winter in Massachusetts.  We are all strangers to each other now, but in memory I still hold that circle of love and friendship intact and entire.  The Thanksgiving we shared with my husband’s ex-wife and her new husband, our love of our shared child making common cause. The Thanksgiving my extended family passed around the Norwalk virus and a few days later I discovered that inside me fluttered that small mass of cells that would become Nick.

November, 1621

They begane now to- gather in the small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strenght, and had all things in good plenty; for as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, and bass, and other fish, of which they tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All the sommer ther was no wante. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter aproached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, etc. Besids they had aboute a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not famed, but true reports. (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation)

This year the change is to smoke the turkey. It’s cooking now. I’ve made cranberry sauce and homemade crackers and started the pear cobbler and sorted out the vegetables.  In a little while, Naomi will come over and Nick will wake up from his nap, and there will a walk (a long one, the dog hopes) and then, as it grows dark, we’ll sit down together to this year’s small gathering. But with us will be the great crowd of those who have shared our tables and our lives through all the years we’ve lived, and even as we breathe, John and I become the ghosts our children will always have with them.

Although it be not always so plentiful with us, we are so far from want.

We do not say grace, but some days we live in it.

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It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I’m back in my hometown. I walked in the door with armfuls of groceries, including big stalks of Brussels sprouts. My father screwed up his face in a “I hate those things” expression and my mom exclaimed “I’ve never seen how Brussels sprouts grow! How unusual!” So I’m dealing with some skeptics here. But you’ve asked for Brussels sprouts recipes and I won’t let you down.

I’m making Molly Orangette’s recipe this year. I’m thinking that the lemon and poppyseed flavors will contrast nicely with of the heavy meal. It was a toss up between this one and a recipe featuring currants and chestnuts. Claire suggests cutting the sprouts in half, lengthwise, and roasting in some olive oil, and tossing the lot with some blue cheese and some pine nuts. My friend Liz made the recipe below for the pre-Thanksgiving meal, with one modification: substituting chicken broth for water. For tomorrow, she’ll try caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar as substitutions.And Maria is making their household classic, braised with bacon, shallots and chestnuts.

That’s a whole lot of choice in good autumnal flavors for the Thanksgiving table. So defy the skeptics and break out the sprouts. They’ll win the hearts and minds of your dinner guests.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Bon Appétit, via Epicurious
November 2007
Molly Stevens

Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.

Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots; season with salt and pepper.

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Roasted Romanescu

Or, What Do You Do With This Thing?

The wikapedia entry reads a bit like poetry at times — “the inflorescence has an approximate fractal character, with the branched meristems making a logarithmic spiral” — but a sort of scientific poetry that I don’t normally associate with the food on my table.

My first memory of seeing one of these was two or three years back when I ran into Shana at the farmer’s market one Saturday morning, and she brandished it at me like some sort of medieval weapon, exclaiming “this is just the coolest looking thing.” And it is.

Like sunflowers, artichokes and pine cones, the romanescu evinces a fibonacci sequence, and though I’ve never quite gotten the mathematical theory behind those, I know I’ve never seen one that I didn’t like.

My meandering research regarding romanescu today has led me to sources identifying it as variously romanescu and romanesco and, more, intriguingly, as both romanescu(o) cauliflower and romanescu(o) broccoli. I’m wondering if both broccoli and cauliflower fans want to claim it or if it’s more like the French calling the common household pest the German cockroach, while the Germans call the same little guy, you guessed it, the French cockroach.

Aesthetic appreciation aside, it was slightly daunting to open up the Thanksgiving farm share box last Saturday and say “oh, hmm, one of those.” (Naomi said “what is that thing?!”).  It was fun to photograph, but then the question remained — “what do I do with this?” And since the Tantre Farm handout indicated it was one of the more perishable items, I figured that I better answer that question for myself right quick.

So, reader, I roasted it.  A couple of years back I started roasting cauliflower, sometimes broken up and tossed with olive oil and salt, sometimes, with smaller heads, kept whole and basted with mustard, lemon juice and olive oil.  Roasting has made me quite fond of a vegetable I heretofore considered edible only when under a blanket of cheese sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Pull the leaves off the romanescu and use a knife to sort of pry out the core. Then use your fingers to pull apart the inflorescence (look Ma, using my new vocabulary) along the natural dividing lines, rendering the romanescu into manageable but still attractive pieces.  Toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of generous pinches of coarse salt. Roast about 40 minutes until some gold and even deep brown color flecks the green of the romanescu.  It will be slightly crunchy and quite delicious as is.  I snacked on some right out of the oven (snacked! On a vegetable sometimes called broccoflower — can you believe it?) but most got tossed with whole wheat penne, feta cheese and caramelized onions, with some toasted walnuts on top for the grown-ups who eat nuts. And that is a very nice way indeed to eat your vegetables and call it dinner.

If you are looking for a recipes a bit more formal than mine, here are a couple that seem appealing. You can, I gather, also use it in almost any recipe calling for broccoli or cauliflower. But make sure you choose something that will show off that fine logarithmic spiral.

Romanesco Broccoli and Parmesan Puree

Romanesco With Green Olives and Capers

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Time for Chili

ancho chili sauce prep

One of the ways that my brother and I used to weather the boring moments of childhood was–I wish I were joking–to practice telekinesis. (I wonder, do children these days have boring moments? Do they bide the time doing similarly weird shit? Discuss.) We’d be sitting at a relative’s house, or at a restaurant, and one of us would say to the other, “I bet you can’t get that fork to move across the table.” Or, “try to make the plate levitate.” And we’d concentrate really hard, with constipated looks on our faces, trying to will matter into obeying our psychic commands.

This memory comes to me tonight as I lie on the couch, swaddled in sweaters and blankets, with mummy-arms stretched out over my laptop keyboard, wishing and hoping that somehow, some way, the chili I made yesterday that’s sitting in the fridge would open the door, float over to the stove, turn on the range, and heat itself up for me.

Sigh.

Even though it was a relaxing, nicely-paced weekend, I’m feeling . . . ragged. Not for any particularly good reason, but I’m sure it’s due in part to having dragged my butt to the gym four times this week (2x the usual). And there’s the weather, which encumbers me with coats and scarves and hats and just makes everything feel like more of a production. And this craziness of putting up a blog post every. single. day. It’s been great to be reconnected with this space and with our readers, but folks, this little blogger is getting tuckered out.

But the chili. The chili. That was a production, but well worth it. It gave me a good chance to slow down and chop and tear and measure and mix. It filled the house with the most seductive, warm, spicy aromas. And after more than four hours in the oven, and several hours to rest, the flavors mingled beautifully and the texture was velvety and [if I only concentrate hard enough, a steaming hot bowl of it will appear in my hands any moment now . . . ].

texas beef brisket chili

Texas Beef Brisket Chili
Modified from Bon Appetit, October 2008, via Epicurious

As is my habit, I made a bunch of modifications to the recipe, which are indicated below in brackets. The reasons for the modifications were: in order to save some dough, to eliminate a trip to a big grocery store, and to cook this beast of a recipe in my favorite 5-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

This recipe has lots of steps, so I suggest starting it first thing in the morning–or better yet, a day or so in advance–so that the flavors have a chance to mingle.

A final note: butternut squash in another otherwise all-beef chili might sound odd to some. It certainly doesn’t adhere to any chili traditions I’m familiar with. And yet. And yet. Butternut squash is a really good vehicle for ancho chiles; it absorbs the sauce really nicely and is a sweet and mellow counterpoint to the deep, rich, and spicy sauce.

Ingredients

6 large dried ancho chiles [to the local readers: Sparrow sells packages of 6 ancho chiles for $1.99)
6 ounces bacon, diced [I used applewood smoked bacon]
1 1/4 pounds onions, chopped (about 4 cups) [I used 2 medium onions]
1 5-pound flat-cut (also called first-cut) beef brisket, cut into 2 1/2- to 3-inch cubes [I used just under 4 pounds]
Coarse kosher salt
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 10-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles (1 3/4 cups) [I used a can of whole tomates that I diced myself]
1 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer [I used Dos Equis lager]
1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
4 cups 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks seeded peeled butternut squash (from 3 1/2-pound squash)

Garnishes: [I only used fresh cilantro]
Fresh cilantro leaves
Chopped red onion
Diced avocado
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Warm corn and/or flour tortillas

Preparation

Place chiles in medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Soak until chiles soften, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Mine were soft in about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sauté bacon in heavy large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add onions. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle beef all over with coarse salt and pepper. Add to pot; stir to coat. Set aside.

Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Place chiles in blender or food processor. Add 1 cup soaking liquid, garlic, chili powder, cumin seeds, oregano, coriander, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; blend to puree, adding more soaking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if very thick. Pour puree over brisket in pot. Add tomatoes with juices, beer, green chiles, and cilantro stems. Stir to coat evenly.

Bring chili to simmer. Cover and place in oven. Cook 2 hours. Uncover and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Add squash; stir to coat. Roast uncovered until beef and squash are tender, adding more soaking liquid if needed to keep meat covered, about 45 minutes longer. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Tilt pot and spoon off any fat from surface of sauce.

If you’re making this ahead of serving it, cool for 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

If using garnishes, set them out in separate dishes. Rewarm chili over low heat. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

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