Birthday Creativity…

14 03 2011

It always gets a little interesting when a foodie of any level has a birthday in the family.  I think we all get a little thrill deciding what to prepare…how can we do something a little new and different with a favorite stand-by?  This year it was definitely my turn for that.  Hubby asked for a steak and lobster dinner, with a sunflower nut pie for dessert.   So I picked up some raw beast, a big ol’ crawdad (ok…cousin of crawdad…) and put a potato in the oven.  Oh…and made a pie.

I picked up a pair of rib-eye steaks, a pair of small (the largest available!) lobsters, and the sunflower nuts for the pie.  I’m ultimately very disappointed in the quality of the meat.  I need to remember that a couple local markets only put questionable beef on sale.  The beef was well seasoned with the rub I usually use, moistened with balsamic vinegar.  It had a great flavor…it just wasn’t as easy to eat as one might imagine.

I studied a bit on sous vide cooking, and methods of cooking lobster, and came up with the idea that cooking the lobster sous vide might yield a very moist, not overcooked dish.  I cut the shells and separated the meat from the shell as much as I could.  I placed about a Tablespoon of butter inside the shell of each lobster (each lobster weighed about 6 oz. each), and topped each with a translucent slice of lemon.  I cleaned one of the trays well so I could use it to keep the spines of the lobster from puncturing the bag.  Next time, I’ll wrap the spines with a bit of foil.  I arranged a few lemon slices on the bottom of the styro tray, set the lobsters on the tray, put the whole thing into a Food Saver bag and sealed it.  I had a pot of water at about 130° F waiting for the lobster to make the plunge.  I stirred the pot from time to time to keep the water circulated and used a heavy pot to keep the package submerged.  Remember when I said I used styrofoam?  Good idea, but way too buoyant for this application.   It also made it difficult to completely surround the lobster with the heated water.  Still…the result was near what I anticipated.

The lobster was almost poached in butter and its own juices mixed with a bit of lemon.  I added no other seasonings to the bag before I sealed it.  There was plenty of salt…almost too much at the head end of the tail. You could taste the difference from the meat being frozen in salt water after cleaning.  That meat was a bit salty…inside the tail though…there was a lovely lobster and butter flavor.  Neither of us really tasted the lemon at all.

Put it all together and add a baked potato…and you’ve got way too much food to be able to enjoy dessert!  LOL!  Yes… I made the sunflower nut pie…this time with the addition of chocolate.  I can hardly wait to taste it!

Oh…my.  That’s not good.  That’s wonderful!!!  I wish I could send you a bite…  This is as close as I can get…

That’s not a bad way to celebrate….Pi Day!!

Thirty Minute Thursday: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Bianca~

10 03 2011

For Thirty Minute Thursday this week, I selected Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Bianca….or Spaghetti with Olives, Capers, and Anchovies.   This recipe is found in the Seafood section of Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta.

I have to tell you…this goes together incredibly quickly.   You’ll have plenty of time to do the little bit of chopping and prep work, put your feet up for 10 minutes, and then start your pasta and sauce.  It’s quick!  Ok, I halve all the recipes, but it doesn’t take much longer to chop 2 Tablespoons of something than it does to chop 1 Tablespoon!

Don’t even bother to start cooking your sauce until you’ve added the pasta to the water.  This sauce cooks in less than 5 minutes, start to finish.  I didn’t find that my anchovies “melted” into the olive oil the way it described…although it came pretty close.  I was able to find pitted kalamata olives at Trader Joe’s.  When I saw those, there was NO way I was leaving without at least one jar!  *Ü*

Tasting Notes~
I’m not even going to try and say that you won’t taste the anchovies in this dish.  I’ll say you may not taste them…and, depending on your ability to appreciate those savory tastes that lean toward fishiness…like anchovies or sardines or mackerel…you may enjoy this dish immensely!  My husband really enjoyed it.  He thought it made a great side dish to cold fried chicken.  I guess the textures were opposite and the flavors complementary.   I, on the other hand…went and got the cold fried chicken that was left from last night, because, sadly, I do not have the ability to enjoy that fishy taste.  I can usually eat anchovies…on a Caesar salad…if I can control the amount I’m eating.  I find it takes just a little bit for me to enjoy the flavors.  I think that was where I ran into difficulty with this dish.  The anchovies may have been too heavy for my taste, and if I reduced it some, it might be fine.  It wasn’t bad, it was just more of a fishy taste than I could eat a plate of.  I’ve made other sauces with anchovies and not had this problem.  Like I said, Bruce enjoyed it and couldn’t quite place the “fishiness” I commented on, and if he did…that was one of the flavors he liked and was intrigued by.

Look Who’s Cooking…
Joining in and cooking some great dishes from the same book are:

Chaya from Bizzy B. Bakes.  Chaya made Penne with Spinach and Ricotta this week, and does it ever look good!  So far, Giuliano is keeping within the time lines in her kitchen!  Lovely presentation Chaya!

Kayte from Grandma’s Kitchen Table is also with us, and she created Linguine al Limone, or Linguine with Lemon.  She says this one is a keeper…and she’s already working up her own combinations for additions!  You GO Kayte!  I have to agree with you!  And you won’t ever know just how close we came to doing the same recipe on the same night! LOL!  I was looking at this and the lemons on the butcher block!  I’m glad you made it first though…now I know to make sure and add half a pound of the shrimp in the freezer!

Five Stars in my eyes…

5 03 2011

I just finished reading Five Star Foodie’s blog, and her review of a 5 star restaurant in New York.  It left me wondering what 5 star restaurants exist in California, and where they are….  I was aware that The French Laundry in Yountville has 5 stars, but surely there is another restaurant or two in the San Francisco area…how many are in the Los Angeles area?  Here’s Forbes’ answer…

California – Laguna Beach:
California – San Diego:
California – San Francisco:
California – Yountville:
Two of these are within driving distance…and would be an incredible overnight escape and treat.  Seriously something to think about…  About the only vice we still have lurking around is our love of food…good food!  It’s certainly something to think about!  While thinking…here are the Michelin 3 star restaurants in Northern California…both nearby….uh oh…
French Laundry, The Wine Country Napa Valley Reserve a table
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (New) Wine Country Napa Valley Reserve a table 


Ok…The French Laundry is on both lists…and the 2nd restaurant is a new addition. Interesting…  Sadly, there’s nothing any closer, but that’s ok.  I still think a night off on an adventure sounds pretty wonderful!  In the meanwhile…back to the kitchen (and the garden!)…

Thirty Minute Thursday: Pappardelle ai Piselli~

3 03 2011

For Thirty Minute Thursday this week, I selected a recipe I never thought I’d try…Tagliatelle ai piselli…or Taglitelle with peas.  Peas?  As a pasta sauce?  I just couldn’t wrap my head around this one very well.  What a combination!  And I mean…What a great combination!!  I subbed pappardelle for the tagliatelle, otherwise the recipe is the same.  I also halve almost every recipe I cook.  There are just 2 of us.  That’s another thing I love about this book, Thirty Minute Pasta…the recipes are easily increased or decreased to suit your family.  Now…back to the pasta…

I had my heart set on having a roasted pork tenderloin for dinner.  No matter what I did all day, I kept ending up back at the pork tenderloin.  I even decided to make Chicken Yakitori at one point today…came home and promptly cut open the cryovac on the pork.  Decision made!  Now…what the heck to have with it?  I had settled on a bacon wrapped tenderloin recipe I found on line, which was really on the savory side.  What could I put with it?  And it’s TMT too…so I went to Thirty Minute Pasta.  After a bit of diligent perusal, I decided this recipe solved several interests for me.  1)  A recipe for TMT, 2) a side dish for the pork that would complement the savory pork, and 3) it added a vegetable to our meal.  What more could any (in)sane working woman ask for on a Thursday night??  Onions, peas, oil, and seasonings added to freshly cooked pasta…nirvana!

Tasting notes ~
I was so very pleasantly surprised!  The onions are caramelized, the peas cook just to sweet tenderness, a little seasoning magic and toss with pasta…wide, flat pasta!  This dish is incredibly sweet, but in a nice, fresh way.  The colors absolutely pop!  It’s pretty…it’s tantalizing…and it foils a savory dish that’s a bit on the salty side extremely well!  We both enjoyed this dish and agreed it was a keeper as a side dish.  I think we could both enjoy it as an entree, but it serves better as a side or as a primi course.  Who knew??

Look Who’s Cooking! ~
I’m joined this week by Chaya from Bizzy B. Bakes.  Chaya chose a vegetable-sausage-pasta soup recipe this week, and it looks hearty and filling…just the thing for a chilly late winter day!  Like me, she works…and she’s found that this cookbook is a working woman’s friend!  Quick, nutritious, and fresh pasta meals hit your table in just about 30 minutes!

Care to join in?
If you’d like to join me in cooking my way through Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta, please drop me an email (the link is in the sidebar), pick up a copy of the book, and choose a recipe!  I want you to have fun, and cook what works for you at any given time.  We all have different tastes and seasons…it makes it easier for everyone.  *Ü*  I’d love to have you cook with us!