Thursday, June 01, 2006

And So I Begin

Since my other blog tends to be me blathering on about all facets of my daily life, I thought it would be fun for me and better for my foodie/chowhound readers to have a blog specifically about food. Not just recipes, but dining out, things cooked for me, shopping, and the like as well.

My cooking experience in my new life in Cleveland has been fairly limited. The kitchen is not yet completely unpacked (and in fact, not all the components have arrived from the Greene County house yet). Still, I have managed to make some decent dishes. I think the boys are sorry that we cook at all. At 13 & 11, they'd be thrilled to have Pizza Hut or McDonald's all the time. Alas for them, it is not to be so.

The first few days of eating here were primarily, however, those sorts of things. Our first night, J had some wonderful fig/goat cheese/bacon appetizers, from the frozen section at Giant Eagle, all ready for me. After we'd fed the kids pizza and put them to bed, she warmed these & we sat on the balcony with them and Simply Lemonade (which I highly recommend, along with Newman's, if you're not going to make your own). We've tried pizza/subs/calzones from Georgio's (which are fine, but not anyhing spectacular). J grilled ribs with Jack Daniels' No. 7 sauce down by the pool Sunday. They were delicious. So was the Jarlsberg spread we picked up at Giant Eagle's deli to go along with our olive oil bread. It was tangy and smooth and fabulous. Must find recipe. Not so the steakhouse potato salad. We'd hoped to find some kind of delightful redskin potato salad with perhaps a sour cream and dill-based sauce. We settled for this other when we found the deli completely wiped out of salads. Should have made it ourselves. This was nearly inedible and went into the trash promptly.

Monday, I tried a recipe for Pan-Seared Filet with Merlot Sauce from The Gourmet Cookbook. Nearly every recipe I have tried thus far from this cookbook has turned out great and it's a superb resource for any cook's shelves. I served this with potatoes which J baked for a ridiculously long time (and which were absolutely lush and fabulous), steamed asparagus (I melted butter with fresh lemon juice for dipping), and mixed baby greens (NOT Dole! Never Dole. I like Earthbound Farms the best, but could only find Fresh Express here...although I expect the farmer's market will yield good greens) with warm pecan vinaigrette. The dressing was the one and only not-turning-out recipe from the cookbook, but I suspect it had more to do with the cook (and lack of measuring tools at this point in the move) than with the recipe, so I'll include it here. J liked it even though it turned out to be more of a sprinkle than a dressing. She loved the steak, as did I. The boys liked it fine, but Boot doused the poor thing with steak sauce and both refused to try the merlot sauce. Their loss. Here are my adaptations of the recipes.
Pan-Seared Filet with Merlot Sauce
1/4 c. water 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sugar 1/4 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar (I used balsamic) 6 (1 & 1/4" thick) filets
3 tbsp. butter 1 tsp. salt
1 finely-chopped onion 1/2 tsp. pepper
2 c. Merlot (or other dry red) 2 tbsp. oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil)
2 c. veal stock + 1 c. water (I cheated & used canned, less sodium beef broth)

Mix water & sugar in 1 qt. heavy pan & bring to boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil w/o stirring to a golden caramel. Remove from heat and carefully pour vinegar down the side of the pan. Cook, stirring to dissolve any clumps, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Melt butter in another pan. Cook onion in butter, stirring often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add wine & bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Add stock/water combo & bring to boil, reducing to about 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Strain wine/stock into caramel (I reserved the onions left behind to serve on the steak, a good plan, as it turned out). Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings. Cover and keep warm. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Dry steaks and season them with salt and pepper. Heat oil on medium-high. Sear steaks until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Roast on baking sheet 10 minutes. Let stand on plate, loosely wrapped in foil, 5 minutes. Drizzle with sauce before serving. Serves 6.

Warm Pecan Vinaigrette
3 tbsp. olive oil (unless otherwise noted, this means extra-virgin) 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 finely-chopped cloves garlic 1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. chopped pecans 1/4 tsp. pepper

Heat oil. Add garlic & nuts & cook, stirring, until garlic is golden. Add rest of ingredients. Pour hot over greens. Serves 6.

For dessert, I made a strawberry and chocolate pie from a 1995 Better Homes & Gardens. Boot refused to try it because he thinks strawberries & chocolate don't go together. Pie was simply not interested. However, J & I have shared a slice in bed on a few occasions this week. Very easy, very yum.
Strawberry and Chocolate Pie
1 c. (6 oz.) chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli) 9" piecrust, baked & cool (I almost always 8 oz. cream cheese, softened cheat with a pre-made crust)
3 tbsp. honey 4 c. strawberries (go for organic!)

Melt chocolate over low heat (I used the microwave, though). Let cool. Beat cream cheese on low until softened completely. Gradually add chocolate & honey, beating to incorporate. Spread in pie crust. Cover & chill 1-2 hours (providing ample time to enjoy the pool & hot tub). Top with berries (I quartered mine, but would halve them next time). Drizzle with extra melted chocolate, if desired.

J & I celebrated our 4 year and 5 month wedding anniversary at Brendan O'Neill's, an Irish pub with a full complement of poker tables. We split an order of pub chips sparingly scattered with blue cheese and served with a somewhat thin but tasty onion dip for our appetizer. Then, J dug into a very tender salmon fillet, cheese-sauced and served on top of a bed of what seemed like an entire, perfectly ripe avocado. Stunningly bland mashed potatoes were on the side. I had the shepherd pie, the first time I've eaten someone else's. Very flavorful, with a rich undertone we couldn't quite identify. Our waiter, Marc, was very friendly and accomodating (even picking J's beer for her when she couldn't decide & asked for something "light and not skunky"...whatever arrived fit the bill nicely) and the atmosphere was rich for the senses. The banquettes were covered in fabric that resembled carpet, old-fashioned carpet like carpetbags would have been made from, and there were old books above the bar. We snuggled and played Van Morrison and the Violent Femmes on the jukebox and generally had a great time. The boys got to have McDonald's & were ecstatic over this. Pie is a loon for Big Macs.

Yesterday, I had guacamole waiting for J when she got home from work, along with a bag of Sunny Blues (great organic blue corn chips with sunflower seeds adding a nutty flavor). We lounged at the pool for a bit before returning home to make a simple dinner. Pie had requested French food for his choice, but seemed little interested at that point, so J made grilled cheese with corn and bananas (next to, not on the sandwiches) for them. Boot was adventuresome enough to consent to ham on his sandwich...American cheese, deli ham, and Wonder bread. After they went to bed, we had Campbell's beef & barley soup with grilled cappicola & asiago on olive oil bread. It was the perfect dinner to enjoy as a thunderstorm rolled in. Then, we shared pie in bed.


Cynthia Saraswati said...

Lovely, start! I really am enjoying this blog, D.

Daria de la Luna said...

Saraswati, one of my favorite Hindu goddesses! Glad you're enjoying the blog. I'm having fun writing it!