Archive for December, 2009

Not quite sure where I went for the latter half of 2009. I know there was a lot of work and some travel and A Lot of four year old boy and thirteen year old girl and leaves that had to be raked and dogs that wanted walking. There was the pleasure of a warm fall and the sudden shock of winter and some evenings when I read books and some when there was nothing but email until I hauled my weary self up to bed. There was even, truly, a lot of cooking, even if there was precious little blogging about cooking.

Some of you may have noticed me hemming and hawing a bit over in the right-hand column of this blog; Shana and I both started twitter feeds to share some of our gustatory adventures without the overhead of writing full posts. You can follow me @mariaeats and Shana @shanaeats for quick bites, so to speak. I’m a beginning twitter-er, still learning my way around the short form, but really, I’m a long form narrative sort of girl, so I’m looking forward to finding my way back into this space and our communal conversation about food and all that goes with it.

So, with far too much to say, let me use the most favored technique of the last week of the decade and present my top ten food moments of (the second half of) 2009, aka the things I would have written about if the cat hadn’t run off with my blogger tongue:

  1. Raspberry buttermilk cake. Simple as, well, pie, and all about clean, fresh flavor. Equally good for breakfast and dessert.
  2. Grilled halibut with gremolata butter; best when eating fresh-caught halibut outside a beat-up trailer and looking at this view:
  3. “Restaurant style pork chops” with goat cheese and rosemary polenta. Let me tell you, one of those meals where we kept asking ourselves whether we had actually cooked it.
  4. Braised rabbit. Really, not at all good. But I cooked bunny and was inspired to try again some time!
  5. Smoked trout. Two pounds of local trout smoked on the Big Green Egg, with a little guidance from The Smoked Seafood Cookbook by local smokin’ hero, T.R. Durham. We ate it for weeks and were sad when it was gone.
  6. Nick’s discovery of cornichons. The boy is, I tell you, obsessed. A four year old who will trade in chocolate for pickles. We can’t keep them in the house and when they’re not here he asks wistfully after the “little bent pickles.”
  7. Omelette aux fine herbs. Some day in late September, I cracked a few Dragonwood eggs delivered the day before, snipped a few herbs from my garden and cooked them up with some very fresh Calder Dairy butter. Suddenly, after thirty years of omelette making, I understood what the French have been going on about all these centuries.
  8. Thanksgiving dinner with Anne and Shana and an assemblage of men. Not cooked on Thanksgiving at all, but a few days before, and a chance to cook our way without all the pressure of tradition and family palates to please. There were dates stuffed with foie-gras and Seelbachs and celeriac soup with stilton toasts and duck to die for with tart cherry sauce and these little beauties:
  9. John’s Birthday Dinner/our Christmas Dinner. Crab cakes with citrus aoili, a grilled rack of lamb and lovely risotto, molten chocolate cakes and laughter and family until late in the night.
  10. The Great Flour Throw Down, in which John produced 7 pizzas from 3 flours and conferred with our panel of judges to determine the best flour for his pizza making purposes. Verdict: Italian tipo 00. Read all about it

These are the moments that stand out when I’m here curled in my arm chair on a late December night with a little snow in the air, but really the strongest memories come from the pleasurable sameness of my Ann Arbor days, the little surprises of the CSA box, the treat now and then of a Comet Coffee on the way to work, the crisp delight of fresh apple and sharp cheddar cheese on an autumn afternoon, the reliable deliciousness of a Cafe Japon baguette, the fun of watching my son strike up his independent friendships with his favorite farmer’s market vendors. Nothing special and all so special at the same time. It’s been a good year, and not just in food (although I’m certainly not complaining about the food — except maybe that rabbit). I hope it has been so too for all of you that stop by this blog now and then. I look forward to talking  and cooking more in 2010.

Happy Holidays to All.

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After my last throat-clearing post, I’d wanted to return with something really lovely and inspiring to share with you.

Instead, I have one of the most homely dishes ever to appear in these digital pages.

I’m glad I’m posting it nonetheless for a few reasons. Blogging, like cooking, entails a good deal of putting oneself “out there.” It can be a risky transaction, the self-exposure. G3 has been blessed with gracious readers and commenters (food blogs, like many online spaces, aren’t always so lucky), so I’ve never been terribly afraid of censure from our audience or readers. It’s that I’m typically a harsh self-critic, so posting a picture of something as humble – and homely – as this dish is a good way for me to tell that critic to hush up.

Let me assure you: this dish makes up in flavor what it lacks in beauty. This is oozy, hearty stuff — even a little decadent. Somewhere between onion soup and a casserole, it’s the perfect thing for the wintery weather that’s undeniably upon us here in southeast Michigan. Making this with the last of the Tantre winter share greens, as well as some bits and ends of day-old bread that I’ve been throwing in the freezer for the past months, eases my conscience (I’m not wasting!) and domestic tensions regarding our over-stuffed freezer. Relieving us of a few bags of bread means it’s less likely that we’ll be assaulted by projectile paths of bags of frozen Locavorious produce.

Yep, it makes E happy on a few levels, and that makes me happy.

Onion, Greens, and Gruyere Panade

1 ½ lbs yellow onions, preferably a sweet variety, thinly sliced
About ½ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, slivered
1 lb or so of winter greens – kale or chard are my favorites – cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
10 ounces day-old chewy artisan bread, cut into rough 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups good-quality Swiss gruyère

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the onions in lots of olive oil — about 1/4 cup or so. I use my Dutch oven for this, but a deep saucepan would work well. Cook until golden on the edges for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then lower the heat and add the garlic and some salt. Let cook until the onions are a nice amber color, for about 15 mins or so.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet and saute the greens for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Set aside.

Toss and massage the cubed bread with 2 or 3 Tbs olive oil, ¼ cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.

Now, I usually assemble the panade in my Dutch oven (the same one I used for the onions, above), but you could use a souffle dish if you like. Start with a good smear of onions, followed by a loose scattering of bread cubes, then a little more onion, some greens, and a handful of cheese. Repeat, continuing until all ingredients are incorporated and the dish is full. Aim for 2 to 3 layers of each component, but don’t fuss over it. This is peasant food, and as I already mentioned, it’s not going to end up pretty.

Pour the remaining broth and water in slowly over the assembled panade, drizzling it down the sides of the dish. The liquid should come up nearly to the top of the layered ingredients.

Set the dish over low heat on the stovetop, and bring its liquid to a simmer. Cover the top of the dish with parchment paper, then with the lid of your Dutch oven or with some foil. Place the panade on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake it until hot and bubbly, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The top should be pale golden and a bit darker on the edges.

Uncover the panade, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and leave until for another 10-20 minutes, to brown the top a bit. Remove from oven, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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I don’t know about you, but my least favorite kind of blog post is the kind that apologizes for being away from the blog for so long. While I feel all kinds of remorseful for not stopping by here for two whole seasons, I’d like to dispense with the “what I’ve been doing these past months” and say that it’s nice to be here, and that I’ve missed this space.

While I get back into the hang of taking photos of food, not to mention reacquainting myself with my kitchen and meal-planning and cookbooks — I’m woefully out of practice, folks — I hope that those of you who are on Twitter will follow my food-related account, shanaeats. It’s been fun to update — in brief, and on the go — my eating adventures around town and beyond, as well as share links and ideas.

The above photo was taken of me sipping a cappuccino at Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee, my favorite place to get my morning, afternoon, and weekend caffeine fix. I hope that this first bracing winter-esque day finds you sipping something equally warm and comforting.

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