Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tag, I'm It!

I haven't posted all week. I've been feeling like a bit of a fwumpus since I not only quit smoking a coupla weeks ago but my Aunt Flo came to visit this week, too. I've put on a few pounds, so I've been cooking healthy dinners that are not very cohesive or photogenic. Last night I made some salmon and leftover linguine with kai lan and pancetta. It was good, but at the end of the meal I felt as though I'd just eaten 1 protein, 1 fat and 2 carb. I wanted dessert desperately, but didn't feel like baking or going to the store. Insert angry face emoticon here.

And oh shit I have been tagged by Pixie and now I have some sparkles on me. Sigh. Don't get me wrong, I think she's a lovely girl and I enjoy her blog. She made her own pink marshmallows, for fuck's sake (which means we should be bff irl). Gah, everyone is gonna think my lack of enthusiasm means I'm an asshole.

Since I don't want people to think I'm an asshole, I will play along. (Thanks for picking me, Pix! I actually am flattered for real.) These are the rules: 1. Link to your tagger and post these rules. 2. Share 5 facts about yourself 3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them). 4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.

1. Post a link to my tagger. Check, done. And post these rules. Done.

2. Say 5 things about myself that you all don't already know.

  1. Did you ever know that I fucking hate these memes with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns? The only reason I'm playing along is because, unlike in a chain letter, everyone will know if I don't.
  2. I live approximately one city block away from the elementary school that I went to. Just ended up that the only affordable neighborhood left in SE Portland was the one in which I grew up.
  3. I have had two video game reviews published on a semi-reputable gaming message board called They are now archived and you can't find them anymore. The point is that I'm a geek beyond food. I play video games.
  4. I was voted Most Artistic by my senior class (and also my fifth grade class), but became a scientist anyway.
  5. I married a man whose last name is my mother's maiden name. It's a very common name, but I still like to joke that the reason the sex is so hot is because we're cousins.

3. Fuck, now I hafta tag five hapless victims.

Nilmandra (aka Mario and the Peach) at Soy and Pepper

Peter the Greek at Kalofagas

Emiline the Fairy at Sugar Plum

Nuria (aka Caliente Mamacita) at Spanish Recipes

and Ben the Bespectacled at What's Cooking?

TAG. You're it.

I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE THESE PEOPLE TO STOP THIS NONSENSE AND NOT PARTICIPATE. Only if that's how they feel. I will not think less of them for letting it die here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ya Pear Galette with Pinenuts and Lemon-Pepper Honey Glaze

I was at Fubonn again last weekend. I swear it's like my mallrat addiction now, on a cold day I just love to walk around and around that place and ogle all of the produce that I've never heard of before. I try to pick up one new fruit or vegetable each time I'm there and taste it, figure out how to cook it, how to elevate it or introduce it to western cuisine.

This time I played it a bit safe and got a ya pear. It looks kinda like a cross between a regular Asian pear and a bosc pear, but has that crisp fragrance expected in an Asian pear. Turns out that along with lemons and nuts, pear is one of the ingredients in this month's In the Bag food blog event, hosted by the lovely Julia at A Slice of Cherry Pie. So I was happy to join in the fun with newfound fruit.

I originally didn't want to do a dessert (because I'm afraid of pastry, I'll be honest), but then someone else did the classic pear-walnut salad that I wanted to do, so I had to step up my game a bit. I'd made a pear galette once before (like TEN YEARS AGO), so I decided to just tweak it a bit to make something more interesting. China meets France.

(Oh man! I just had this great idea as I was typing this to do a hazelnut-crusted pork loin with pears and caramelized shallots and lemons, but oh well. Another day.)

Ya Pear Galette with Pinenuts and Lemon-Pepper Honey Glaze
Makes 2 galettes

3/4 c AP flour
pinch salt
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp cold butter
3 or so tbsp ice water

Whisk together the dry ingredients. In a food processor (or with a pastry cutter) cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal with pea-sized nubs of butter. Sprinkle in the ice water and stir together (or pulse a couple times) until the dough starts to come together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and mush the dough together into a ball. Cut the ball in half and wrap each in plastic wrap. Fridge for an hour or freezer for 20 minutes until the dough resembles modeling clay in texture.

Lemon-Pepper Honey Glaze
juice and zest from one lemon
2 tbsp honey - I used mesquite honey
3 or 4 cracks of black pepper
1 tbsp butter

Melt these together in the microwave for 1 minute, watching carefully and stirring every 10 seconds or so.

Assembling the galette
1 ya pear, cored and thinly sliced
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss the pear slices gently with the sugar and cinnamon.

Pull the dough out of the chiller and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out as thin as is feasible - you should get each ball to about 10" in diameter. Lay the pear slices in two overlapping rows, leaving an inch of dough around the perimeter. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of pinenuts on each galette. Brush the lemon-pepper honey glaze over the fruit and give each galette another crack of pepper. Fold over the edges of the dough as pictured above. Brush the dough with some milk or cream and sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then brush more glaze over the fruit. Another ten minutes, and brush some glaze. Then bake another 5-10 more minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Brush once more and cool on a rack. Serve warm. This is probably great with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cassoulet - a Pictorial

We made cassoulet this weekend. It takes three days! As such, I am only posting captioned pictures. You can click the images for an enlargement.

1/28 Editor's Note: In my haste to get this posted, I forgot that I wanted to enter this dish in the Legume Love Affair over at the Well-Seasoned Cook's joint. If it's not too late and not considered cheating, I want to please enter this!

Another Editor's Note: those are my husband's obedient hands in the pictures. I do not have veiny man-hands. Also, I needed to take the photos.

The pot of cannelini beans, onion, bouquet garni and pork (belly and skin) ready for a slow simmer on the stove.

An hour later, the pork belly is curled up and we're bristling with excitement.

Liquid gold - duck fat ready for the confit

Two hours later the duck meat is falling off the bone.

The pork belly is diced and ready for layering into the cassoulet.

Saute the cooked onion and pork skin in a little duck fat until browned.

Meanwhile, line the pot with fresh pork skin.

Puree the cooked onion and pork skin to make the "sauce" for the beans.

Ladle in a layer of beans...

...completely covering the bottom of the pot.

Next add a layer of cooked lamb and lamb sausage.

Then dribble some of the pork sauce over the meat.

Another layer of beans...

...topped with the cubed pork belly...

...and more pork sauce.

Now add the shredded duck meat.

Look at how succulent that duck looks.

More porcine goodness.

Final layer of beans...

...and the pot is finally full. Two hours in the oven, then it sits overnight on a cold porch to let the flavors meld.

The next day, another hour or so in the oven, and enjoy the blissful sound of your arteries slamming shut as you close your eyes and drift off into the headiest foodgasm of your life. Enjoy with crusty baguette and good bordeaux.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Challah at ya girl

Barring a loaf of day-old brioche (like I have those just laying around), challah really does make the best French toast ever. And it can be purchased every Friday, giving you the very best fodder for an epic Saturday French toast and mimosas brunch.

Challah French toast
Serves 2 or 3

3 eggs
2/3 c heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (my special mix, of course)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use my own homemade bourbon vanilla)
scant pinch kosher salt
6 1" thick slices of day-old challah (I used poppyseed)
butter for frying
real maple syrup and powdered sugar, or maybe some good fruit preserves or sommat

Beat together the eggs, cream, sugar, spice, vanilla and salt. Dip the sliced challah on both sides into the mixture and leave it there for a spell. Letting the challah soak in the custard for 10-15 minutes makes the end result taste just like freshly-fried donuts, and the interior will take on a rich creme brulee-like bread pudding consistency.

Heat a frying pan to medium heat. Melt in a pat of butter and let 'er rip (that means go ahead and start cooking the French toast). Flip when smelling gorgeous and fry on other side for maybe 30 seconds. Do the rest of them the same way. I fit two to a pan and have to do batches.

As always, this is lovely with strong coffee and sausages, but we didn't have any sausages this week and had to settle for just coffee. One day I'll be able to eat a food drizzled with maple syrup and not demand sausages, but today is not that day.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What the Phở?

I am on a bit of a soup kick, I guess. I had a pound of thinly sliced eye of round in the fridge, and I didn't really feel like Korean or Japanese (I had yakiniku for lunch the other day, and that really sits with you). So tonight I made big bowls of phở for the hubz and myself. Btw, it's pronounced "fuh?" not "faux" - the intonation indicated by the squiggly on top of the 'o' makes the sound lilt upwards at the end, resembling a question. I only speak a few words of Vietnamese, but this I know.

Phở is so incredibly easy to make. I was able to take the lazy way out, since I already had veal demi in the freezer. (I'd normally save this for something special, but the beef stock I have has red wine in it. Also, remember the name of my blog.) There are some regional variations in the way the broth is flavored, but we're generally talking about stock made of oxtails steeped with garlic, charred ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, clove and a bouquet garni that may or may not include a bit of lemongrass. Add raw thinly sliced beef, chewy rice noodles and a handful of bean sprouts, cilantro, basil and sliced chile, a squirt of fish sauce and lime juice, and we're talkin' phở shizzle.

Phở bò (Vietnamese beef noodle soup)
Serves 2 or 3

6 cups oxtail, beef or veal stock (from scratch is the best!)
1 bouquet garni
1 small shallot, sliced
1 2" piece of ginger, charred on stove
2 cloves garlic
3 star anise pods
1 3" cinnamon stick
3 or 4 cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
some squirts of fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

Simmer broth gently for an hour or more, adding water as necessary to prevent broth from reducing too much. You should end up with 4 or 5 cups of broth at the end. Strain boiling-hot broth into bowls that contain:

rice noodles, cooked al dente
raw thinly sliced beef, such as eye of round or brisket

The meat and noodles will come up to proper doneness in the hot broth.

Serve with:
bean sprouts
fresh cilantro and basil (Thai basil, if you can get it)
lime wedges
sliced chiles
hoisin sauce
cock sauce (that bottled red sriracha stuff with the rooster on it)

I like to pile all the garnish on top for extra flavor and crunch, and I love to hit it with a bunch of cock sauce and hoisin. The people in
Vietnamese restaurants probably think that I'm totally white trash for doing that, but I eat eggs with ketchup, too, so maybe I am.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Napalm in a Bowl

I just realized I have a shitload of chiles in various forms around the kitchen - canned chipotles en adobo, a dozen fresh jalapeños, a big jar of various dried chiles, and some nice anaheims and red bell peppers. It's a capsicum wonderland! Also, I haven't made my chicken enchilada soup in awhile, and today it is fucking FREEZING out (like in the 20s, clear and windy). So I decided to make some nice spicy soup for dinner.

So I start going through the cupboards and freezer to see what else I can purge from deep storage. This is my favorite part of cooking sometimes, just taking stock of my reserves. I find a tub of poultry stock in the freezer leftover from the holidays. It is as rich and brown as beef stock from roasting the birds (turkey, cornish game hens and chickens) prior to converting their carcasses to velvety broth. I like to chop up the hollow bones with my cleaver to get every atom of flavor into that unctuous stock, and I really think it shows.

And oh, how nice! I also find a little reminder of sunnier days: a freezer bag of corn cobs left over from summer's harvest. I grew corn in the garden - our first vegetable garden in the new house - and we relished every kernel. Ever the frugal gourmet, I saved the cobs after cutting the corn from them and froze them for a later broth. Corn cobs add something so indescribably sweet and earthy to broth for chowders (and my spicy chicken enchilada soup).

This got me sort of thinking about my childhood. We were on food stamps when I was a kid, and frequently received donations from the food bank. I have eaten the "gub'ment cheese", and not ironically. But aside from converting 50 cents' worth of dried beans into a week's meals, I don't think my mom really knew how to stretch a food dollar other than buying generic. I don't think it would ever have occurred to her to save bones or corn cobs in the freezer for later stock-making. Instead, she'd buy a box of bouillon cubes or a gravy mix packet. The funny thing is, even though I can afford nice things now, I am far more parsimonious and resourceful than my mother ever was when I was growing up (sometimes I joke that my last life was spent during the Depression). And I think my soup is the better for it.

So I'm making the soup, and I give the broth a taste. Haha, wouldn't you know the soup came out way too spicy! And without enough corn kernels left in the freezer I had to add a can of pinto beans to starch it up a bit. So this is a new soup. And I shall name it:

Sopa del Fuego (con frijoles)!
Makes ~8 bowls, give or take

This soup is so hot it makes my eyeballs sweat, yet it is somehow not really too hot. It has so much excellent chile flavor, and the cool sour cream and verdant cilantro balance this flavor perfectly.

1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh - canned would probably not be the best choice for this)
1 fresh jalapeño
6 cups chicken stock, preferably home-made from the carcasses of birds you've eaten in the past
4 corn cobs, if you save that kind of thing
6 large dried chiles such as ancho, pasilla or guajillo (I use a combination of these), seeded and stemmed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 or 5 sun-dried tomatoes
2 bay leaves (not California laurel!!)
2 chipotle chiles (canned "en adobo"), plus a tablespoon or two of the adobo
1 7 3/4-oz. can tomato sauce (I used Mexican hot style by El Pato)
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped bell pepper, any color
8 oz. ground chicken breast, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp ground cumin seed
1 tbsp Mexican oregano (regular oregano is an acceptable substitute but really not the same at all)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups cooked beans (pinto or black is probably best; I used pinto)
S&P to taste
sour cream
fresh cilantro, chopped

Roast corn kernels and jalapeño in a 375-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes until the corn is slightly browned and the jalapeño slightly softened. Seed and stem the roasted jalapeño and mince.

While the corn and jalapeño are roasting, bring 2 cups of the stock to a boil. Add corn cobs, dried chiles, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove corn cobs and bay leaves, and discard. Puree the remaining stock, chiles (including the chipotles), tomatoes and garlic in a blender or with an immersion blender. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the chile skins and errant seeds, rubbing the flesh through the mesh with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Scrape the puree off the outside of the sieve to get every last drop.

Return the puree to the pot and add remaining 4 cups of stock, adobo and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer and add all of the other ingredients except the sour cream and cilantro. Let it do its thing for about 30 minutes on low heat, stirring once in awhile. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added about a teaspoon of sugar at the end because it was really spicy.

Ladle into bowls and top with a spoonful of sour cream and sprigs of fresh cilantro. I also like to throw some tortilla strips on top for crunch. For the tortilla strips, just slice a corn tortilla into 1/4"-thick strips, spritz with cooking spray and sprinkle of salt, and bake at 350 for about 5 minutes or until crunchy. You could also just crumble up some tortilla chips if that's how you roll.

Bueno appetito!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

This morning I was craving pancakes something fierce. Tragically, I lacked buttermilk, so I sent Hubz to the store. "Pick up some sausage and heavy whipping cream, too!" I needed something major - Hubz and I quit smoking last Monday, so my attitude this week is "fuck a diet" and I'm being extra nice to myself. And needing to cook/eat comfort food affords me the opportunity to join in the Monthly Mingle hosted by What's For Lunch, Honey?

We have a bunch of baby bananas that are getting brown, so I thought of making some spicy caramelized banana compote for some banana bread-type topping for the pancakes. It came out really yummeh!

Banana bread pancakes
(Basic pancake recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking - it's supposed to make a dozen 5" pancakes, but I ended up with only 4 huge pancakes! Oops!)

1 1/2 c AP flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs*
1 1/2 c buttermilk

*I used one egg and 3 tbsp egg white because I ran out of eggs but had bottled egg white, and I think it may have added to the overall lightness of the pancakes.

Heat up a griddle if you have one, or a regular non-stick skillet works great too. Whisk together dry ingredients, then in a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and whisk only until combined (batter will be a bit lumpy like muffin batter).

Turn heat to medium and add a pat of butter to cooking surface. For huge pancakes use a ladle (mine's 1 cup-sized). For silver-dollar pancakes you can use an ice cream scoop to meter out the batter. When the bubbles forming on the surface of the pancake batter start to look a bit dry, flip the pancake and cook for ~30 seconds on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep the pancakes in a 150-degree oven while you cook the rest of the pancakes. Add a little more butter to the pan between pancakes.

Banana bread compote
3 mini or one large ripe banana, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice**
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp chopped nuts - I used hazelnuts (optional)
splash rum or bourbon (optional)
pinch salt

**I keep a jar of my own mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and star anise that I toast whole and grind to add to things like banana bread, snickerdoodles, curries, etc.

In a small pan, melt butter with spice mix for a few seconds until butter begins to foam. Add bananas and saute until browned slightly. Add sugar, nuts and salt and stir gently, being careful not to mash up the banana too much. If using it, stir in the splash of booze and let the whole thing simmer for a few minutes over medium-low heat until the alcohol evaporates. Compote is finished when the mixture is saucy and caramelized.

Top the pancakes with a scoop of compote, and if you've just recently quit smoking I think you should also add a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of freshly-whipped cream. Enjoy with sausages and a mug of good, strong coffee.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Royal Foodie Joust - February 2008

Okay, so this month's three ingredients at the Royal Foodie Joust are lentils, eggplant and cinnamon. Although it would've been a fairly obvious choice, I opted for a decidedly un-Asian dish. There would be no dal this month, no, that would be a little too "on the nose" for me. And a lentil soup? Are you fucking kidding me? No offense, but I could turn out a lentil soup in my sleep. I needed a challenge. And with three ingredients like these, a challenge I would have.

So I start brain-storming: A rustic lentil puree? Ooh, I could call it 'po-lentil'. Get it? Instead of polenta? Oh man, I kill myself. But no, that's not quite where I want to go with this. What about a fritter? I've been craving fritter-y type things lately. I already have a jar of beluga lentils in the cupboard.

An aside: I finally found the white balance button on my camera and have gotten photo-happy. Bear with me.

What about the cinnamon? I could go savory with it, as I am wont to do. Can't do Moroccan again, though, that is so last month. What about an aioli? I always make an aioli when I make fritter-y type things.

And eggplant? Okay, I used eggplant in the dish last month, and in fact, my first food blog competition included eggplant as one of the must-use ingredients. I'm kind of sick of experimenting with eggplant. So I hafta start really thinking about it. Stifado? I haven't ever really branched out into Spanish food, which I love, and I haven't made stifado since I was a vegetarian (like more than 5 years ago). I've been craving something saucy and tomato-y, too. Hmmm. A sofrito?

What about the protein? I have WAY too much lamb in the freezer (made it to the butcher last weekend for the boss' lamb). I should use it, but I don't want to have the same protein two entries in a row. I do have some venison in the freezer. I should get it out of there and do something with it.

And so it goes, tossing ideas around in my head for an hour or so, and it finally came together. It wouldn't be very cohesive, but it just might work: beluga lentil fritters with a chunky eggplant sofrito, homemade venison chorizo and cinnamon aioli. The lentil fritters are reminiscent of Italian street food, so at least I'm not totally off the map. And while venison is not a traditional ingredient in Spanish chorizo, I decide it will be delicious anyway and keep everything else pretty straightforward. I picked up some salt pork to flesh it out a bit. I am totally doing this.

The apron and gloves are tied tight. Round two. Fight!

Lentil fritters with venison chorizo, eggplant sofrito and cinnamon aioli
This recipe is broken out into steps, as each component is worthy of being eaten on its own.

Lentil fritters

1 1/3 cup cooked, drained lentils (I used beluga lentils, but any will do, including canned)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk (microwave for 1 minute to warm)
fat pinch kosher salt, crack pepper
1 tbsp chopped oregano
oil for frying

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk until nutty and slightly browned. Turn off heat and whisk in milk until blended thoroughly (or cheat and use an immersion blender like I do for expediency). Let it cool. Gratz, you've just made a bechamel, my favorite of the mother sauces.

Stir the lentils, S&P and oregano into the bechamel. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or electric griddle
(nonstick is great for this) and drop a tablespoon at a time of the batter into the hot, oiled pan and fry until golden. If the first one falls apart, you can add a little more flour to the batter and cook them like regular pancakes. Remove from the oil to a cooling rack positioned over a baking sheet lined with a sheet of newspaper. You can keep these in a warm oven until ready to use.

Venison chorizo
Note: you can use store-bought Spanish (not Mexican) chorizo or omit it altogether. My amateur-hour chorizo is not cured (I do have a day job, y'know), and therefore must be stored in the refrigerator and cooked before eaten.

1 1/4 lb. venison stew meat
1/2 lb. salt pork, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp paprika (I used a hot, smoked Spanish one that is to DIE for - pictured above)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I toast the stick and grind it myself)
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/4 cup basic Spanish
red table wine (such as temperanillo), plus a glass to sip while you work

Fire up the meat grinder, folks! Oh, how I love the "wheeee" of my meat grinder (I have a handy attachment for my KitchenAid - best wedding gift EVER). You basically just load the meat grinder (set at the coarsest grind), alternating between venison, garlic and pork. Then add everything else and mix with your hands. So visceral. So sexy.

Put the bright red meatwad into an airtight container for at least 6 hours so the flavors can get friendly. I made mine a coupla days in advance, so it had about 48 hours. If you are an experienced sausage maker and already have casings and everything, knock yourself out. I just left it fresh and crumbled it into a pan to brown. "Muy rústico" and whatnot.

Eggplant sofrito
As far as I can surmise, sofrito is a basic Spanish tomato sauce. I like to keep it real and live up to my motto, so I used fresh tomatoes which I fire-roasted in addition to roasted canned tomatoes. This sauce would also be amazing just on pasta or smeared onto some pizza dough with a little manchego.
1 medium-sized eggplant, stemmed and cut into matchsticks
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained (juices reserved)
4 cloves garlic
~4 oz cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp diced bacon
1/2 medium-sized onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c Spanish red table wine (same as for chorizo)
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
olive oil
salt and pepper

Put the drained, canned tomatoes into a baking dish and squish them up a bit with your hands. Add the garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast at 350 for 1 hour until slightly browned and slumpy as pictured above. Deglaze the browned juices from the baking dish with the red wine, being sure to scrape all that delicious fond off with a wooden spoon. Remove the roasty garlic cloves and chop them up.

Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, put eggplant matchsticks in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Leave it there 15-20 minutes, then squeeze out all the bitter juices. Set aside.

Put the reserved tomato juice into a small saucepan and reduce over medium heat until syrupy (you can also do this while the tomatoes are roasting, since you have an hour to kill).

If you have a gas range, place a cooling rack or somesuch over a burner and roast the cherry tomatoes over the open flame until the skins pop and char. Gently pull them off into a bowl and cover for 10 minutes to stew in their own juices. Puree the tomatoes and sieve to remove seeds and skin (some of the nice charred bits will still find their way in).

When everything's ready, heat a tsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry for a minute until rendered. Add the onion and saute until a little golden. Add the eggplant, saute for one minute and then add the tomatoes, garlic, reduced tomato juice and the red wine from the baking dish. Let it simmer over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the juices are reduced almost completely and the sofrito is nice and sticky. Add the oregano and maybe a little pepper and stir. You will not need to salt this because the eggplant already brought all the salt to the party.

Cinnamon aioli
This is much easier with a blender, but if you prefer to use a whisk, knock yourself out.

3 egg yolks
~1/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Add all ingredients to blender and whizz until a creamy, mayo-like consistency.

I like to plate this like a little Napoleon by placing one fritter on the plate, adding a spoonful of the browned chorizo and another of the sofrito, topping with another fritter and then drizzling the aioli over the top.

This dish really tastes nice with a tempranillo or any other Rioja.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Silver Spoon

The much-anticipated "Bible of Italian Cooking" has finally joined my cookbook library. The Silver Spoon feels like an Italian Joy of Cooking (and weighs as much), and having recently been translated into English, will likely soon have as much place in the American Everykitchen as Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I'm very much looking forward to learning new tricks from the generations of Italian home-style cooking that went into this book, and will definitely share what I learn!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I just saw this and had to share.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Well, I can't be a creative genius ALL the time

The holidays are finally behind me, I don't hafta worry about the thousands of empty booze calories on my daily count, and I don't need to cook something to impress anyone for the first time in several weeks. Oh yeah, did I mention that my inaugural Royal Foodie Joust lamb dish was being served to a CIA graduate who is a taster for Wine Spectator magazine (I didn't win, btw, and I was gonna call shenanigans but the guy who won has been around a hell of a lot longer than me and probably deserved it more)?

So I say "fuck cooking" tonight. I would, anyway, except that I can't not cook. Ever. Tonight's dinner would have been a big fat sack of boil-in-a-bag failure if I hadn't gotten a wild hair up my ass to doctor it up. So instead of simply eating this:

...we ate this:

Heather's Refusal to Just Keep it Simple, For Fuck's Sake
Serves 2

a bag of some ready-made Korean laziness you picked up at the Asian grocery store (it comes in many flavors - I also like the spicy squid stew)
1 cup of uncooked calrose rice
2 eggs, fried over easy
maybe a spoonful of gochu jang if you have some, or some sesame-chili rice seasoning or sommat

Cook the rice. Put the bag of Korean laziness in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Put rice and Korean laziness into a large bowl and top with fried egg and gochu jang or sommat. The raw yolk makes gravy when stirred into the hot rice/soup.

Oh, don't look at me like that. I didn't totally phone it in.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Black-eyed peas and collard greens. Here's to a delicious 2008!