April 24, 2010

Week 9: Linguine with Calamari

For week 9, we had linguine with calamari, red peppers, and fennel. I used a recipe from Jamie's Italy with a couple of minor tweaks. The original recipe called for thinly sliced red chilis—Jamie Oliver likes to use them a lot, but I don't often see them in the stores. I still wanted the splash of red color, so I decided to use red bell peppers instead. They gave the dish a Spanish flavor but worked really well. We liked the dish enough to add it to our regular rotation.

The recipe is fairly simple: Cook down some thin slices of fennel with a little garlic. Add white wine, squid, and thin slices of red bell peppers or chilis. Simmer to reduce the wine a little, then start the pasta. Gently simmer the squid while the pasta is cooking. When the pasta is done, toss it with the squid and garnish with some fennel fronds and lemon zest.

April 20, 2010

Week 8: Cauliflower Risotto

For week 8 of the project I made a cauliflower dish. Cauliflower is a very polarizing vegetable—some people love it and others hate it. I was a very picky eater growing up, so I ate it rarely and reluctantly. I would eat small florets raw, usually with dip, but I was never a fan of cooked cauliflower. Eventually, I learned that cauliflower can be very tasty when cooked well.

My favorite cauliflower preparation is the gratin in the Bouchon Cookbook. Keller cooks and purées the inner stems of the plant with some cream. He then seasons the purée with a pinch of curry and horseradish powder, adds the florets, and tops off the dish with some Comté and panko. We also loved the cauliflower velouté that Emily had at Café Boulud in New York.

So when I came across a cauliflower risotto in Jamie's Italy, I decided to give it a try. Like the Keller gratin, the recipe uses both the inner stems and the florets of the cauliflower. The stems are minced and cooked with the onions at the beginning, and the florets are simmered in the stock for the first half of the cooking process. Then they are gradually added to the risotto with the stock. The risotto was finished with some Parmesan and topped with a spicy pangrattato and some parsley.

The risotto turned out well, but it was missing something. We'll probably give it another go with more cheese someday, but there are a lot of other things we want to try making first.

April 08, 2010

Week 7: Easter Dinner

For Easter weekend we decided to make a spring menu from the book Platter of Figs that included an asparagus salad, roast shoulder of spring lamb with beans, and rum baba with cardamom. I had been looking for a lamb dish, figuring that it would be appropriate for Easter, and Emily had been wanting to try baba al rum. So I decided to do the entire menu, just swapping out the first dish for a Mario Batali dish that I saw online—grilled asparagus wrapped with pancetta. Everything is better with pork wrapped around it.

I went to the Ferry Building farmers market for the lamb on Saturday morning. Marin Sun Farms had some nice lamb shoulder, but I accidentally bought boneless lamb leg which was in the same bin. While I was there, I picked up flageolet beans from Rancho Gordo and pancetta from Boccalone.

The beans were simmered with some onion and garlic and finished with a little thyme, salt, and pepper. Although they were cooked very simply, they tasted really good. I will have to make them again sometime.

I mostly followed the recipe for the roast, substituting leg for shoulder, of course. The only change I made was to add a rub of rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. The recipe called for roasting it with a little bit of white wine until the center hit 130°F. I also made the suggested olive relish to serve on top of the lamb. The roast turned out well, but I would have preferred it a little rarer. Pulling it out at 125°F would probably yield better results.

The rum baba was just so-so, and it was most likely my fault. The recipe for the cakes looked like an eggy brioche with multiple long rises, including an overnight one, but I neglected to read the recipe in detail before Sunday. (I had originally planned on making it on Saturday, but I didn't get around to it. I was too busy with the arrival of my iPad, kitchen shelf installation, and graffiti cleanup.) I had to rush the rises a little to get it done in time, and the cold, rainy weather didn’t help. The cake turned out too tough, but the rum syrup with cardamom and candied citrus was really good. I might make the dish again, but I want to give it a try at a restaurant first to see how it’s supposed to turn out. Emily didn’t bother with taking pictures of it this time, so that would be a good excuse for a second attempt.

Although I would make the lamb again, I learned the hard way that I shouldn't microwave the leftovers. The result was so bad that I considered tossing it and going out for lunch, but I couldn't bear to throw out the beans. I’ll either eat it cold or make sandwiches next time.