Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's at Home

For dinner, I had leftover chicken and apple sausage, with a side of glazed carrots and a glass of cava.

Jon is still in Florida, and most of the people we know are still out of town. Despite a fleeting desire to check out roller disco, I decided to stay home and hang out with the dog for the night. I planned on roasting a chicken and making ratatouille, but I lost my appetite after making these cookies. Not because they're bad, but because they're so full of butter I felt stuffed after two cookies (and some cookie dough....)

I don't really like carrots, but I happened to buy some the other day. I blame this. I used it merely as inspiration, because I was feeling too lazy to make a production of glazing carrots.

I melted a little butter, tossed the carrots around for awhile (hoping to brown them a bit, which did NOT happen), added a little water, and tossed them around a little more. Drizzled in a little lemon juice, threw in some thyme, salted, and done. I didn't add any sugar, and I wish I hadn't added any thyme, which was too heavy. They were still ok.

My new favorite thing: the multi-pack of herbs. Pretty cheap, lasts for weeks.

The cava was likewise ok.

I prefer big, manly red wines, but go for silly girly whites when I drink them. I love a good vionier. Vinho verdes are nice, but that is about as sparkly as my tastes get. Next time, I'll be less festive and get something more exciting.

And no, I don't own champagne flutes. I don't even own glasses for white wines anymore. Sorry.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Light Snacking at Home

For dinner, I had some chicken and apple sausage from Trader Joe's, with a glass of red wine. I've been grazing all evening, so I guess "dinner" also includes some pfeffernüsse cookies, some maple yogurt, some pasta sauce (I snack on it sometimes like soup), and maybe even the roast beef I snacked on as a late lunch. I am currently snacking on more (addictive) pfeffernüsses. Damn you, TJ's.

In other news, I just got back from a week in Florida, and a week in Houston before that. While at the in-laws' house in Florida, I devoured their large stack of Cook's Illustrated magazines. Great articles, but I found myself losing patience with a certain bow-tied individual's overly cutesey-folksy introductions. My grandfather was born in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Vermont, then raised by a single mother there during the Depression. I'm just as bitter about the encroachment of rich New Yorkers and loss of community as he is. If anyone would appreciate his brand of cutesey, you'd think it would be me. But no. It grates.*

However, I think his introductions would make a great drinking game for wonky cooking types.

Take a drink every time he mentions:

-charmingly rural townsfolk by name (+1 if it is one of the "old" families)
-maple syrup (+2 for sugaring stories)
-a cute story about one of his kids
-hunting (+2 if he smugly refers to the cycle of life or the thriftiness of rural folk)
-his childhood (+1 for missing the old days; +3 if it involves outhouses or a lack of electricity)

I'm sure I'm missing a lot. Any suggestions?

*Which is not to dis the man. I hear he is incredibly nice, and I love bowties. And New England.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Light Lunch at Home

For lunch, I had smoked salmon, cranberry compote, and butter on a roll from Whole Foods.

The salmon is leftover tidbits that are getting old; the compote is basically thick cranberry sauce I made last night out of leftover Thanksgiving cranberries. I was curious to try WF's "seeduction" roll after some friends made a DIY version as part of their Thanksgiving dinner. The combination was pretty tasty. My inspiration was the Sironia turkey sandwich from the late, much-mourned JD's Art Cafe in Waco, TX (don't laugh- rumor has it JD was married to an amazing French-trained pastry chef, and I'll be trying desperately to track down her gorgeous cake recipes for the rest of my life). The Sironia was the historic building's name, and the sandwich was allegedly based on one served at a cafeteria in the building in the 1950s. I have no idea how I got smoked salmon and butter from turkey, cream cheese, and cranberry sauce, but whatever. I see the Sironia is back, in the form of an antique mall, apparently.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sashimi at Home

For dinner, I had some swordfish sashimi, a baked potato with butter, brown sugar ice cream, and a fuyu persimmon. And lambrusco, god help me.

Trader Joe's claims their frozen fish is sashimi-grade (which I am fully aware means close to nothing), so I took them up on it. Again. Turns out, swordfish doesn't make very good sashimi. It was certainly an easy meal, but it had a bitter aftertaste and a slightly soggy constitution. The texture was so varied from one side of the swordfish steak to the other that Jon (already skeeved out by raw fish outside of a legit sushi restaurant) refused to eat it. He has finals right now, and thinks that my recent raw fish propensities are some kind of sabotage mechanism. I have to agree with him about the texture issues, but portions were edible.

The potato was unobjectionable. The brown sugar ice cream was not homemade, but tasty nonetheless. In case you haven't noticed, I love anything browned- brown butter, brown sugar. Penuche fudge is the quantum singularity of awesome browned foods in my world.

The persimmon was the result of my afternoon venture to Whole Foods. I sort of felt like I was cheating on Trader Joe's, and their prices look particularly insane after months of TJ's shopping, so I didn't buy a ton. But their persimmons were very ripe and on a huge sale, so I bought a bunch. I'd never had a ripe persimmon before. Bitter ones, yes. Dried ones, yes. My grandfather's much maligned and much missed holiday persimmon pudding, yes. But fresh? Never.

Oh MY GOD, I have a new favorite fruit. It's like apricot meets medjool date, with amazing textures- the skin, the little segments inside...I can't even describe it. Just go find one. I ate all three, and plan on going back for more tomorrow.

The lambrusco was likewise experimental. My mother doesn't really drink, but she occasionally orders sweet lambrusco out at Italian restaurants. I saw some at TJ's, and wondered if "real" lambrusco was like that. Sort of. It's carbonated, not as sweet, but still not dry. I caught a lot of pear flavors, and a little raspberry. Not bad, and I can definitely see how it could be popular with pizza or at a summer barbecue, but it's really not for me. I might consider using it to make sangria. Maybe. But I like Spanish wines much better.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tuna at Home

For dinner, I had sauteed tuna steak with roasted garlic potatoes and a coffee stout.

I realize the beer doesn't match the food. I totally failed to plan ahead, even though I should have known better, since the tuna steaks have spent the last 24 hours defrosting in my refrigerator. To be fair, maybe it's just the pairing, but I think Schlafly's Coffee Stout is just gross. It lacks substance and heaviness, and reminds me of that vile coffee-flavored soda.

The food, thankfully, was much tastier. At the last minute, wandering around the kitchen with a large slab of raw tuna in hand, I located some leftover panko in the pantry to use as a crust. I sauteed it in butter, and added a little fresh thyme to the skillet. I'm still working my way through leftover fresh herbs from Thanksgiving; not usually a thyme fan, but I figured it was better than the leftover rosemary. In the end, it added a delicious lemony tang that complemented the tuna nicely. I haven't had a burger in forever (this excellent article sort of turned me off), but this was a nice substitute. I'd rather ingest parasites from partially-cooked fish than E. Coli, I guess.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Foam Coffee in St. Louis

For breakfast, I had a cappuccino and a "savory croissant" from Foam Coffee in (across the street from?) the Cherokee-Lemp Historic District.

The coffee was delicious. My cappuccino tasted vegetal and intensely grassy, to the degree that I wondered if they roast in-house. Nope, their beans are from the Northwest Coffee Roasting Co. (which I totally need to try, and happens to be on my running route. Now I have a new reason to go for a morning run.)

My croissant was good, although it was described to me as 'bacon and gruyere'...instead, I caught some serious moldy cheese funk. I think he meant to say 'gorgonzola'. I hate moldy cheese, but it was otherwise tasty- flaky, with an onion-heavy filling.

The decor is gorgeous- I could move in and feel right at home. Exposed brick wall, distressed wood floors, and an attractive mix of mid-century and traditional-style furniture. Jon noted the aesthetic is reminiscent of Snooze.

The only thing marring our morning? The roomful of screaming children. I felt like I was in some Park Slope-esque circle of hell. I do not mind children in public. I respect that sometimes parents need to get together in an adult space and bring their children. But I also expect them to try to control their children, and not to be selfish fucks who think a coffee shop is an appropriate venue for a playgroup. Screaming ensued. Running ensued. Toy car races down the ramp running the length of the coffee shop ensued. Parental attempts at control most certainly did NOT ensue. Really? There is a park, with a playground, like two blocks away. Come buy your morning coffee, and then go there. I promise your little snowflakes won't wilt in the thirty-degree weather if they are properly dressed.

I don't blame Foam for the irritating swath of humanity we encountered there, and will be back for more tasty coffee in the future. But, for Foam's sake, I hope Saturday morning playgroup is not a regular thing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lou Boccardi's on the Hill

For dinner, I had chicken marsala, with a nice side salad and pasta with marinara.

The location was serendipitous- I did a little research this afternoon, trying to find an interesting Italian place we hadn't tried yet, but came up empty. Everything looked either average and run-of-the-mill (key indicators: heavy use of Provel; exceptional reliance on pizzas and toasted ravioli) or intriguing but pricey (small plates; $260 bottles of wine (pdf)). In the end, we just went to the Hill and drove around, and somehow came across delicious Italian magic.

Lou Boccardi's had the lost-in-time feel I like in family-run Italian restaurants. The silver tinsel garlands, Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, and neatly clad waitstaff added to the atmosphere. The menu listed slightly toward the Provel-and-toasted-ravioli end of things, but with one big difference- they did it really, really well. Jon ordered some toasted ravioli as an appetizer, and they were amazingly crispy and chewy and delicious.

The salad was pretty good, a typical iceberg affair with a tomato half, grated Provel, and house Italian vinaigrette. Their other house dressing is "anchovy celery", which Jon tried. It was needed more lemon juice or vinegar to cut the fish flavor- and I LIKE anchovies.

The marsala was incredible, but not at all marsala-ey. The sauce looked suspiciously thick and glossy, but it tasted like pure essence of chicken, like the best chicken soup ever. The only thing I can figure is that lots of chicken fat was involved.

The pasta side was the only disappointing part of the meal. The marinara was thick and exceptionally good, but the pasta was seriously overcooked. I don't blame the restaurant, considering no one in St. Louis seems to know the meaning of al dente. It was just a surprise because they were above average in so many other ways.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pizza at Home

For dinner, I had pizza and a glass of malbec.

Pizza is a great way to get rid of lingering leftovers. Plus, I'd heard good things about Trader Joe's pre-made pizza dough and wanted to try it. I chose the whole wheat dough- my whole grain obsession rears its head once again- and paired it with garlicky, herby olive oil. I'm not a huge fan of tomato sauce. I added some chopped roasted red pepper, black oil-cured olives, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, and spicy italian-style chicken sausage.

The toppings were good, and the dough didn't stick to my pizza stone as much as I thought it would. But the dough was barely ok- really dense and grainy. Moreover, it smelled like wet paint when I first removed it from its plastic bag. Too much fermentation? I'm curious to try their white flour dough, but I can make tastier whole-wheat pizza dough at home with my white whole wheat flour.

The malbec was La Finca, also from TJ's, $3.99. There are a lot of gorgeous Argentine malbecs in the $7-10 range, and next time I might just spring for one of them. The La Finca wasn't bad, but it was watery and undistinguished. It reminded me of bad California Pinot Noir.

In other news, I ordered a DSLR. It should arrive tomorrow. I have high hopes for more impressive food photography, and hopefully fewer battery issues. It's used, but 6.2 megapixels is still a step up from 3.1 megapixels.