January 23, 2009

potato-turnip mash with blue cheese crumb topping

turns out that if you have leftover mashed potato-rutabaga mix, and the end of a chunk of roquefort cheese and some fresh breadcrumbs because you had a cocktail party, you can use all these things to make a really tasty lunch.

i heated up the mash a little in the microwave, then put it into a gratin dish, crumbled the roquefort over, and sprinkled a light layer of crumbs over that. stuck it into the toaster oven on broil until I couldn't endure the smell any longer and had to tuck in immediately. the fat from the cheese crisps up the crumbs, and the whole thing is amazing creamy goodness.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2009

new year's cake and how to use it

We were at the Chinese bakery the other day, and along with the egg tarts and lotus seed moon cakes and the 4 GLORIOUS ENORMOUS breakfast-treat-filled bao we got a weird little golden-brown blob of New Year's Cake. Everyone seemed to be buying some so i wanted to try it too.

I sliced a little off and it tasted kind of like paste. I didn't get it, and complained to the tallasiandude. He suggested that I heat it up, possibly in a frying pan. That seemed reasonable enough so I put some peanut oil in the pan and fried my little slices. And holy mackerel, does that make a difference. They get all crispy and caramelized, and they go gooey and soft. Yum.

I guess I should have known, really, because I know about grilled mochi in Japanese cooking, and mochi is effectively the same thing as this weird glutinous cake. Now I know, and I can look forward to many years of yummy crispy rice-goo goodness in late January. Hurray!

Posted by foodnerd at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2009

celery root hummus

It's not really hummus, but what else do you call a smooth puree of something mixed with tahini, lemon, garlic, salt and oil?

Cooked my celery root till very soft in just enough salted water to cover it. Drained it then ran it over with the stick blender and squoze in half a lemon, and put in a couple of dollops of the Sabra "tahini sauce" which is essentially hummus-makings in a tub. The lazy home cook's version of the silky delectableness available at Sofra.

Freaking fantastic. Yums.

Posted by foodnerd at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2009

instead of icky maraschino cherries

For the manhattans we made this weekend, I needed a replacement for the disgusting maraschino cherries that most bartenders put into this otherwise delightful drink. I bought some frozen sweet cherries that I'll have to try some other time, because plan A worked so well.

I took plain unsulfured dried sweet cherries from Trader Joe's (and i bet this would work with dried sour cherries too, like the delectable ones I got at the Persian market), and I soaked some of them in bourbon and some in Cointreau. I wanted to see if the fruitiness of the Cointreau would be a pleasant addition or an unwelcome distraction, and the bourbon cherries were the lower-key option.

As it turned out, both were delicious dropped into a manhattan -- or fished out of the dish and snarfed on their own, and I have visions of putting these into desserts or over ice cream. But though both were made of nom, the consensus was that the Cointreau cherries were the best, and so we've made another batch with the rest of the dried cherries.

We found that the soaking liquid was syrupy and sweet, very tasty also, but we wanted to dilute it down just a little bit so it could be used as a sauce or a drink ingredient, so we covered our latest batch of cherries with Cointreau and let them soak for a day, then we put in half again as much vodka, to see if that would thin things down a bit. When we use them, we'll post again and let you know.

Posted by foodnerd at 04:34 PM | Comments (3)

January 11, 2009

salt-o-holiday 2009

Our friends are awesome. Last night, in addition to getting out their finest tuxes, feather boas, chiffon dresses, tiaras and stuffed parrots, they braved a "snow emergency" parking ban (start time 2pm) and actual snow (start time around midnight) and proceeded to make me proud by getting through pitcher upon pitcher of manhattans and martinis, and the occasional hand-rolled cosmo and gin-and-tonic, and *demolishing* the following:

60 deviled eggs
2 pounds of cocktail shrimp
2 pans of sweet-and-sour cocktail wieners
most of a cheese plate
a bunch of grapes
2 trays of celery stuffed with blue cheese
a baked camembert with garlic-pimenton toasts
1 recipe of stuffed mushrooms
3 hefty stacks of tea sandwiches (ham-n-pickle, olive cream cheese, and cucumber dill butter)
2 trays of pigs in blankets
1 tray of salmon canapes on pumpernickel with horseradish sour cream
1 batch spicy pimento cheese and a platterful of crackers
64 scallops wrapped in bacon (in literally SECONDS)
most of a double batch of Chex party mix
a huge relish tray of sweet pickles, cornichons and stuffed olives

A tip of the hat to the lovely and talented Mr. Lauderdale, who invented the ChocoHoliday concept 20 years ago, when he strung Christmas lights along the ceiling, mixed pitchers of Tom Collinses, and fed undergraduates in formalwear ridiculous amounts of Belgian chocolates from silver trays. I just swapped out the chocolates for suburban American savories, and turned it into a bon voyage party for the lovely and talented JBar. (Bye! Have fun in Chicago!)

Notes to self:
Fingerburningly hot trays of scallops in bacon cannot safely be left unattended for 2 minutes -- people will brave any danger to get at the trafest and most enticing of treats. When you come back and find the empty tray, you will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Stuffed mushrooms are the ideal companion dish for tea sandwiches, because you can use the ends of the Very Thin Bread loaves for the breadcrumb filling.

Pigs in blankets are the easiest party treat ever. LOVE!

Mild hangovers can apparently be cured by drinking a glass of water, taking 2 ibuprofen, and eating blue cheese mixed with cream cheese on crackers.

The best dance music of all time was probably made in the 1980s.

Posted by foodnerd at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2009

balvenie at The Franklin Cafe

balvenie at The Franklin Cafe

taken by TallMatt, but it was my idea to prop the menu up behind my drink while he was playing with the camera -- collaborative photo excellence!

food at The Franklin was very good across the board, but not so awesome that I would necessarily brave the atrocious parking situation very frequently. if you live in Bay Village or are otherwise in walking distance, by all means, and be sure to try the grilled calamari and the meatloaf.

and bring a flashlight -- those hipsters like to eat in the dark.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2009

party leftovers

it is good when your friends throw a brunch and you get to go home with a baggie full of cocktail shrimp.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2009

korean cakes

tasty little two-bite morsels my parents found at Dae Han market, filled with lotus seed paste and a walnut.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2009

dullsville 100

I am disgruntled. Saveur magazine has finally jumped the shark in a way that I can't ignore or explain away, and it feels a lot like it did when they bulldozed my favorite 24-hour Korean restaurant in Las Vegas: something that used to be lots of fun is just gone, replaced by some corporate snooze.

The Saveur 100 issue just arrived, and usually I jump on it with glee and scan through the list to see which exciting treasures I already knew about, and what new things I might learn. This one I read through and shrugged. This one is the "Home Cook Edition," which is apparently code for "pandering to boring wanna-be foodies who can't find their ass with both hands but love to shop at Sur La Table." BLARGH.

5 must-have sugars, 6 cooking oils, how to make your own mustard, fancy condiments and salts. Yawn. The Saveur 100 should not be about what you should buy to feel like a "real home cook" -- it should be about bizarre treasures found, hidden gems celebrated, and forgotten simplicities rediscovered. I am about a third of the way through the magazine, I'm already annoyed, and I may not even bother reading the rest of it. And this is on top of the appallingly pedestrian graphic redesign (oh how I miss those white covers framing one jewel of a photo), and the alarming tendency toward mass-market, lowest-common-denominator content both in the covers and the articles (a turkey on the cover for November? 14 amazing pastas? give me a break -- if I want that stuff, I'll buy Food & Wine or Good Housekeeping, and sometimes I do). I never thought the day would come, but I'm actually entertaining the idea of letting the subscription lapse.

Saveur of old, I miss you.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:52 PM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2009

warming meatball & vegetable stew

I bought some ground turkey because it was on sale and because poultry is about the only organic meat that Shaw's sells in my neighborhood. And I was at the Shaw's rather than the Whole Paycheck because I wanted to take a walk outdoors, somewhere, anywhere, but I needed a reason to go or else I wouldn't have managed to leave the house.

So anyhow, I wound up with this ground turkey but no actual plan for using it. As it turned out, I used it last night to make a very successful stew, improvised from a base of a couple of recipes in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden, a book I adore and turn to very often. Nom nom nom. I used aspects of Daoud Basha, particularly for the meatballs themselves and the cooking method of browning the balls then finishing them in a tomatoey sauce, but I also stole from an Armenian recipe that used leftover mashed potatoes instead of breadcrumbs or eggs in the meat mixture, and then I added in a bunch of diced vegetables to make it more of a stew than just a sauced meatball.

It wound up like this:

Mix one package ground turkey, about a pound, to a smooth paste with:

1/4 teaspoon each allspice, cumin, hot hungarian paprika, coriander and cinnamon, going a little heavy on the cinnamon

2-3 cloves garlic, minced then mashed to a paste with a scant tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup leftover mashed potatoes

1/2 cup raisins and 1/4 cup pine nuts (approximately), roughly chopped

(I also put in a tiny bit of finely minced onion because I had it to use up; you could use more or omit entirely, i think it would be fine either way.)

Form this meat paste into balls about the size of little walnuts, then roll them in a little olive oil. Fry in a skillet with a bit of olive oil, making sure they brown on all sides. You could also bake them, as the original recipe specified, but I didn't feel like turning on the oven.

In a deep pot, heat about a tbsp of olive oil, and add 1-3 minced cloves of garlic until fragrant, then add vegetables: I used half a butternut squash and two carrots, cut into 1/4" dice to match the size of the chickpeas going in later. Season the vegetables with a sprinkle of kosher salt and another good dash of hot paprika and some ground black pepper. When it seems like the garlic might burn if you wait any longer, add half a 28 oz can of tomato puree (or a 15 oz can if you have one, i didn't), and a cup of chicken broth or water or both. I also added a little sprinkle of dried jalapenos, a pantry staple that I've been finding surprisingly useful in many situations -- you can make salsa at the drop of a hat with canned tomato, assuming you have lime and an onion in the house which I usually do, and they add spice and green to lots of things that otherwise wouldn't get it in the dead of winter.

Cook this at a simmer until the hard vegetables are getting semi-cooked, then add a drained can of chickpeas. Stir periodically so it doesn't burn or stick on the bottom. When the veg are nearly done, add a zucchini cut into 1/4" dice. After about 5 minutes, add the meatballs and nestle them into the tomato sauce. The meatballs are probably nearly done through anyway if you browned them thoroughly, so 5-10 minutes would probably do it, or whenever all the vegetables are nice and soft and the sauce starts to smell like spiced meatballs. You can let it cook longer if necessary or if you are schlepping it down the block to a New Year's Eve gathering and need to reheat it. Serve with plain hot white or brown rice.

You'd never know this was turkey. The meatballs stay relatively moist, or at least you don't notice if they're dry because they're spicy, savory and sweet from the raisins and pine nuts, and they're draped in a bright, simple tomato sauce with a solid serving of vegetables. And it just occurred to me that this is a gluten-free dish, tricky to accomplish sometimes with meatballs because they always call for crumbs. Very tasty, and serves a crowd, I'd guess, because it made about 27 li'l meatballs -- but since this got served after a cheese plate, deep fried pickles, perfect deep fried buffalo wings, and a batch of homemade dumplings, not much of it got et at the party. More for us.

Happy New Year!

Posted by foodnerd at 02:01 PM | Comments (6)