Saturday, November 27, 2010

So many recipes to be thankful for!

Well, readers, another Turkey Day has come and gone, which means it will be another year before we can binge to the point of pain and have it be socially acceptable. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a recap of the Hoar-Malone-Daly Thanksgiving festivities and all of the good food in which we indulged!

Pat and I started off the morning running a 5 miler, which let us feel slightly less guilty about the hours to come. After a quick shower, I spent the next three hours prepping our contributions to the Turkey Day dinner.

Besides the standard turkey (which was huge and cooked beautifully) and stuffing (one of my greatest weaknesses), we had Dina's green beans with caramelized onions and a cranberry ring. I contributed rosemary mashed sweet potatoes with shallots and nutty warm brussels sprouts salad. The potatoes were yummy...apparently "mashing" potatoes with a hand mixer makes them super fluffy, and rosemary is delicious with basically any orange veg. No one believed the only thing in the sweets themselves were rosemary, salt, and pepper. The brussels were surprisingly delicious as well. I love these things, but this particular recipe even got a "yum" out of my mom, who *hates* brussels sprouts, and Pat had a whole bowl for leftovers the next day! Both recipes I made as written, with the exception of a little less olive oil (2 T is a LOT!) for caramelizing the shallots, and a smaller amount of breadcrumbs and walnuts than the salad called for (otherwise they would have overwhelmed the dish). Both of these were super easy to make and I would highly recommend either if you're looking for a dish to contribute to a future TD shindig! Sadly, we were far too excited to eat and forgot to take pictures...the only one that make it into the camera were the sprouts.

Dessert was just ridiculous. We brought a famous, spicy, Daly family pumpkin pie, along with a ridiculously complicated and beautiful version with struesel and a ginger snap layer that my mom made. You guys. It's called "pumpkin pie spectacular." Seriously. She also brought her famous chocolate-dipped pistachio biscotti. Of course, two pies and cookies were not enough, so we also had for dessert a gorgeous three-layer strawberry cake (a little too sweet for me, although, after sitting at the table long enough, I managed to pick through the entire slice anyway) and an double-crust apple pie. The pecan never even made it to the table...and believe me, my thighs are thankful for that.

We had quite a treat for wine as well: Two types of Seghesio zinfandel (a family favorite), a Molly Dooker shiraz (Pat's Turkey Day tradition--2007 was a yummy vintage), a Moonstone white dessert wine from local Hillsborough Vineyards, and champagne.

It was a cornucopia, to be sure. And I'm so thankful to have been able to share it with so many loved ones!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dinner tonight: Red Lentil Mulligatawny with Apple-Celery Salsa

Okay, the title's a bit of a lie. I made red lentil mulligatawny with apple-celery salsa at least a week ago. Life's been crazy.

I wanted to make a soup with fall flavors that was not pumpkin or bnut for once, and one that had enough protein that it could serve as a meal. I'd had this recipe in my big fat "to cook" folder (yes, I actually have old-school clippings in an accordion folder) for just about forever, so I though we'd give it a try.

Another eh. There was a slight bitterness to it, I think because I accidentally added the lime at the same time as the coconut milk, rather than at the finish. The salsa was interesting, and, as the recipe states, this soup thickens a lot over time. I would actually recommend making it the night before...a really thick soup is much more satisfying as an entree. For an easy, weeknight, vegetarian recipe this was okay, but nothing stellar. Definitely not an entertaining dish.

Next up...Turkey Day posts!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CityZen Birthday Dinner!

For my birthday, my wonderful, thoughtful, thankfully also food-loving boyfriend Pat took me to CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental downtown. Our meal was Very Good, but not one of my All Time Favorites. I was not-so-secretly expecting the latter, given Sietsema's affinity for the CZ and others' reviews, but we certainly were not disappointed by the food. It just didn't blow my mind.

As such, I will describe the meal in a Very Good, but not one of my All Time Favorite forms of poetry, the haiku (personally, I'm a sucker for rhyming couplets). I've also included some editorial comments in brackets following each verse. (Bear with was a tasting menu.)

Oyster canape,
dressed with bloody mary foam,
cucumber gelee

[Pat said, "I never knew celery could be so flavorful!" And he loves celery. This was good (the oyster was perfect and plump), but I thought it was a bit of a cop out for the amuse.]

Cooked matsutakis,
pumpkin, hom'ny, microgreens,
dressed, sweet and tangy

[Honestly, this would have been fantastic without the feature of the salad, the mushrooms. They were chewy and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the dish. The crispy hominy crumbles were fun, though, and the dressing was delectable.]

Surgeon risotto,
sliced chestnuts, sans white truffles--
way too much butter

[Eh. Too buttery and fishy for my taste. Maybe it would have been better with the $40 white truffle supplemental...(HA)]

Hunk of speck-wrapped quail,
seared foie and maybe a veg?
Heavenly fall bites

[Yum-O. And I think I'm starting to love foie...]

Lobster tail and claw,
creamy, buttery sauce, on
sunchoke pedestal

[Perfectly cooked. A LOT of lobster. And I'm a sucker for Jerusalem artichokes!!!]

Venison, med-rare,
huckleberry sauce, and a
fennel financier

[We did not get this dish at all. The venison was cooked perfectly, but it didn't really work with the huckleberry sauce. And neither worked with the financier, which, although tasty, was sweet enough to be dessert and tasted nothing of fennel.]

Palate cleansing time:
A tiny quinule--of oats
and oatmeal ice cream

[Very refreshing and a nice change of pace (not to mention more seasonally appropriate) from the typical citrus fruit.]

Vanilla ice cream,
apricot napoleon,
and cinnamon twille

[Not bad. The ice cream was super creamy and rich and yummy. Probably gelato, actually...]

Fruit gelees, truffles,
fig macaroons, twee cupcake:
Happy Birthday, me!

[I consider myself a cupcake connoisseur, and I have to say this was one of the better ones I have had. I was sad it wasn't bigger. The macaroons were perfect. The other two I didn't much care for.]

Besides the food itself, impressions of CityZen:
- They really went out of their way to make me feel special on my birthday. I got a card signed by apparently my new friends on the CZ staff, and Pat and I each received a muscato d'asti-style dessert wine to go with our napoleons. They also wrote "Happy Birthday" in chocolate on the final plate of sweet bites.
- The sommelier is very good. He treats you like you're not an idiot, and has an extensive vocabulary for describing wines. He also did not recommend the most expensive wine on the menu.
- The service was spot on, with the exception that the leftover Parker House rolls we requested doggie-bagged never actually made it back to us. When we started getting painfully full around the third course they let us take a breather before continuing our gluttony.

- It's very confusing when you walk in where the hostess stand is. This is a minor point, but we did not see one couple walk in un-perplexed.
- The seat against the wall (bench-style, where the girl would usually sit) was VERY, VERY uncomfortable. My lower back was screaming my the end of the night.

Thanks for a very special birthday, P!
(portions x-posted to

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dinner tonight: Chinese Chicken and Persimmon Lettuce Wraps

So, the Teets has persimmons on sale this week. I had never had a persimmon, but they looked pretty fun, and seasonal, so I scoured CL recipes for a good reason to buy some. There were a couple good looking salad recipes, but I needed a meal, so I decided to go with chinese chicken and persimmon lettuce wraps. Kind of.

In true Margaux form, I made subs. Many subs. Some of these were intentional--instead of lettuce wraps, for instance, I just served it over pre-shredded cabbage. Same difference, much less messy (and I find it's harder to inhale something with a fork than with my hands, so a good way to make sure it took more than 30 seconds to eat). I also used a can of diced water seemed pointless to buy them whole and chop them myself. The other subs were not intentional. First, I got home from the supermarket and realized that "orange" had somehow not made it onto the shopping list. fresh OJ for me (and I don't drink juice, so no bottled kind either). I bit later I remembered that I had used up my oyster sauce the last time I made stir fry. And hoisin, although not exactly a perfect substitution, was also not possible...I had depleted my supply of this as well! So...the sauce was a bit of an improvisation. I ended up going with about 1 or 1.5 tablespoons of black bean sauce, and probably about the same of soy.

This was yummy. It wasn't overly different or exciting, but it was tasty, the persimmons add a fun je ne sais quoi, and the water chestnuts a nice crunch. Plus, it turns out that just 4 oz of ground chicken is quite a bit of meat, so the dish was filling as well. Not bad, for a recipe I managed to totally mangle!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mandy's Birthday Dinner/Fall Feast; Double-Caramel Turtle Cake

This past Sunday, Mandy and her housemates hosted the most ridiculously excessive, delicious dinner party in celebration of her birthday and fall. The dinner featured a cornucopia of autumn flavors, many organically grown, hard apple cider, good friends, and a hilarious game of Taboo. I think the highlight of the evening was a banjo and spoons concert by Eric and Alex...but this is not a blog about folksy music. So. On to the food!

We had, to wit:
Appetizers: toasts with either homemade pesto (from Es's own basil plant) or blue cheese and smoked salmon

First course: Veggitastic pumpkin soup

Dinner: Roast turkey, stuffing made with corn bread, Italian bread, and saltines (some with oysters, some without--this apparently was a Paula Dean recipe, but we're going to pretend it wasn't. For so many obvious reasons...), mashed potatoes with chives, sweet spaghetti squash, roasted turnips and beets, vegan sweet potato-pear-raisin-I'm missing something salad, crustless eggplant quiche (with or without tomato), green bean casserole, wilted winter greens dressed with a balsamic reduction, and wheat rolls. I think that's all. But that was a lot of dishes to keep straight in mind head. Sorry if I missed any! There was SO much deliciousness, they made me take home 3 tupperwares of leftovers. And I didn't even make a dent!

Oh yes. There was also a pork shoulder they had been smoking since early that morning, but that was being obstinate and was not ready in time for dinner (smoker pictured here...they ended up having to finish it up in the oven). Fortunately, the pork WAS done in time for me to put together my leftovers plates, which meant that today I have a chipped pork sammie with cranberry bbq sauce and pickled red onion. BEST lonely lunch at my desk ever.
After a brief respite to make some room in our tummies, we had dessert. I made a double caramel turtle cake and Grant brought an apple/berry pie and red velvet cake. We made quick work of them all. But guys. I baked. I don't bake, but this was a special occassion. And it was really, REALLY yummy. The chocolate cake was uber rich and chocolatey and moist, and the frosting/caramel/pecan combo made it even better. I think the base chocolate cake would work in lots of forms...I'm thinking of a peanut butter variation, and maybe a peppermint one for the holidays. Because I'm an idiot, I layered the cakes wrong and ended up with a big crack in the cake, but no one seemed to mind--aesthetics don't hold a candle to yum!

And speaking of candles:

Believe me when I say I ate it all, it was famously delicious, and I was totally still full at 9:30 am the next day. And we are already in discussions for a Winter Fest. Which I suppose means I better either start cutting back on my cals now, or buy a larger pair of pants, in anticipation...

Happy Birthday Mandy!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dinner tonight: Curried Squash and Apple Soup

Fall = time to get my money's worth out of the slow cooker. It also happens to = apples and butternut squash, so for dinner Wednesday I made curried squash and apple soup. The nice thing about this recipe was that, even for a slow-cooker recipe, the prep work was pretty minimal. Only three things to chop, and no pre-sauteeing or anything like that. And for once, I made it exactly as described! (ok, I used two cloves of garlic instead of the bottled minced kind, and used bottled minced ginger instead of the fresh kind. That's basically the same. ;) ) I even actually diced (=1/4 in cubes) the apples as directed , rather than doing a lazy chop.

For Pat, I paired the soup with some frozen Gorton's grilled shrimp, and made my go-to, Alexia whole wheat dinner rolls, to sop up the soup.

So, from the color and ingredients, I expected this soup to be sweet-savory. It wasn't at all, really. It was super, super spicy, and only savory. I thought it was okay, Pat really liked it. We both agreed that you couldn't taste the apple at all. I had some leftover roasted acorn squash in the fridge, so I put a little mashed dollop of that in the bottom of the bowl, which I think tempered the spiciness and brought out the squashiness (hrm, that sounded gross...which it wasn't). I think if I were to make it again, I'd use 4-5 cups squash, rather than three, to bring out that flavor a bit more. And use half as much red curry. All-in-all though, a reasonably easy, weeknight fall dinner. Especially if you like spice, and don't mind not tasting the apples you so tirelessly diced...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dinner tonight: Scallops with Green Tea Cream and Miso-Garlic Broiled Eggplant

Ok guys, I have a really good excuse this time for not blogging for a while. I was sick. Not like, dog-ate-my-homework sick, but like, I didn't want to think about food, let alone blog about it, sick. Fortunately, we have moved on, hopefully to more delicious meals!

The farmers' market last weekend had some really fun looking eggplant...they looked like long, squiggly purple worms. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I really couldn't help myself. Turns out they were pingtung long eggplant, an Asian variety. So of course our meal had to be Asian-themed!

I prepared these eggplants as miso-garlic broiled eggplant. Rather than making slices, I just cut each eggplant lengthwise. And no sesame seeds because they seemed superfluous and not worth the purchase. Otherwise, prepped as is...I believe it took a few minutes fewer than the recipe calls for. The eggplant was delicious--spicy, sweet, substantial. But with some pretty major caveats. First, it was WAY too hard to find miso. I went to three different places (the Teeter, World Market, and Whole Foods) before I actually found it. Also, the cooking of this dish creates a really sweet, heavy smoke and aroma. While this is really exciting when you're anticipating dinner, it's not so yummy when it lingers and you're trying to get to sleep. Or when you wake up the next morning and it's still there (sorry Pat :( ). So, go ahead and make this if you a) know where to find miso ahead of time and b) have a VERY well ventilated kitchen. Otherwise, I recommend a pass.

The eggplant was just the side though. Our protein for the evening was scallops with green tea cream (see? Japanese theme!). These were pretty good. Rather than buy macha, I just ground some green tea in a mini-grinder. I totally undercooked the scallops (while perhaps irreversibly scorching the pan), so I would recommend cooking m-h heat at 4 min per side, rather than high heat at 2 per. And maybe a bit more macha on the scallops themselves. Pat really liked the sauce that accompanied them though, and I agree. It certainly added some much-needed character to the dish.

Overall assessment: not bad. There was really nothing bad about this dish, and yet, there were enough drawbacks that I wouldn't do it again. I could make a joke here about ex-boyfriends, but we'll just leave it at that. ;)