Thursday, May 26, 2011


Ohhhhh yes.  Let me love you.

I should probably back up.  This weekend I finally tried out a mojito recipe to put the lime mint in my garden to good use.  Not quite right that time, but I learned what I like.  Did some more searching, found a new recipe.  Made these tonight with guacamole and quesadillas.  New. Favorite. Cocktail.

There's a stand at the Thursday farmers' market where they're selling baskets of limes right now.  These limes aren't so pretty but they are really good and juicy.  Perfect.

Side note: I love the crazy stuff even at a tiny farmers' market like this one.  Here is a garlic blossom I bought for $1, which I was told is good as a garnish for salads or anything that's calling out for a fresh, garlicky taste. It smells delicious:

Back to the mojitos now.  The recipe I liked best is this one at  Fast and simple.  It says it makes four, but John and I each had "two."  Here's what you need:

About 12 mint leaves (lime mint! lime!)
4 tablespoons of sugar (you could probably cut this down according to your taste if you like)
6 tablespoons of lime juice (that was 2 limes for me)
6 ounces of light rum
Club soda

Get out your stepladder (or just climb up on your counter like a hooligan, as I do) and find that cocktail shaker you got for your wedding way up on the top shelf of your cupboard.  Don't keep it up there anymore. You'll be needing it frequently in the future.

Put the mint, sugar, and lime juice into the cocktail shaker and muddle up the mint with the end of a wooden spoon.  Add the rum and 4-6 ice cubes, then put the lid on and shake shake shake until you think the sugar is probably dissolved.

Set your glasses out and strain the liquid from the cocktail shaker into them.  Try to be fair.  Add club soda as you see fit, then two or three ice cubes.  Garnish with some more mint if you're feeling festive.  Otherwise, just try not to drink it too fast.

Grandma Mel's Tomato Sauce

From camera issues to computer issues. A couple of weeks ago Ben spilled water on our laptop and it would no longer turn on. Soooooo on the advice of friends and the Internet, we baked, yes BAKED, our computer in the oven at 175 degrees for 15 minutes. It worked! ...but only for a few days, when again it wouldn't turn on. Baked again, worked again, until it didn't. New computer!  The end.


Since I made it for company last Friday, I'm going to share with you one of the most valuable recipes I know.  I'll start at my beginning, although the story really begins long before that.  I met my husband in college.  He would often visit his aunt Carol, who lived not too far from campus, for dinner.  Not long after we started doing couple-y things together, he invited me over to her house for "spaghetti and meatballs."  I declined -- too much homework, and besides, I didn't like tomato sauce!  Undeterred, he brought some back for me (plus a brownie).  Well, I wasn't converted... not yet.  But I accepted the invitation the next time it was offered, and I tagged along with John to meet his mother's side of the family -- 100% Sicilian -- for the first time: his aunt (the kindest, friendliest, bubbliest woman I have ever had the pleasure to know) and his grandfather (who laughed for minutes on end when I told him how I had been repeatedly warned about his "inappropriate humor").  Unaware of the history of what I was being served, I politely (or really impolitely) asked to skip the tomato sauce so I could toss my pasta with the Good Seasons salad dressing on the table.  What can I say?  I was barely 18.

As I got to know my future in-laws, I learned that the smooth, meaty tomato sauce was actually the signature recipe of his grandmother Carmella, who died too early of ovarian cancer in 1997.  She loved organizing big family gatherings, for which a big pot of tomato sauce and several pounds of pasta is a perfect feast.  Over time, as her illness progressed, she taught her middle daughter, Carol, how to make her sauce just right -- because as with all the best sauces, of course, a written recipe will only get you so far.  In fact, legend has it that Carol couldn't get the sauce quite right until the first time she made it after her mother had passed on.

It's been ten years after that first night of pasta at Carol's house, and the family has celebrated numerous graduations, marriages, and births -- Mel's grandchildren are all grown up now.  But her three daughters still strive to get everyone together a couple of times a year, and when they succeed we always have Sauce.  It wasn't long before I learned to love it, and the year I married John, I asked Carol to teach me how to make it.  If the joy of being surrounded by people who love you unconditionally had a flavor, this is what it would taste like to me.  That probably sounds pretty cheesy.  But seriously, don't forget: it's gotta be Pecorino Romano.

Grandma Mel's Tomato Sauce

28 ounces canned tomato puree
18 ounces canned tomato paste
At least one bottle of good Chianti Classico, Grandma Mel's favorite wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2-4 bone-in pork ribs
1-2 bay leaves
Big pinch of sugar
Big pinch of baking soda
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of minced fresh Italian herbs (dried herbs to taste are fine, too)
2 eggs, plus more if needed
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Extra Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste
2-3 pounds of rigatoni or cappelini

Combine all the tomato products in a big stock pot. For every can of tomato paste, add three cans of water. You can use the water to get all the extra tomato off the sides of the cans.  Put the pot on the stove over low heat. Throughout the process, stir the sauce frequently so that the bottom doesn’t burn.

Now's a good time to open that wine.  Go ahead and pour a glass for yourself, and anyone else who wants one mid-afternoon (if you're among Sicilians, you'll have plenty of company).  This isn't supposed to feel like work.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it's golden, then add the garlic to the sauce using a slotted spoon, reserving the oil in the hot pan.  Add the pork ribs and brown them on both sides, then add them to the sauce. Next, add the bay leaves, sugar, baking soda, and seasoning.  Take your time.  Drink your wine.

In a separate bowl, combine the ground meat, herbs, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, and seasonings, adjusting the ingredients so that mixture is not too dry or too moist. Roll the mixture into meatballs, brown them all over in the  frying pan in batches that work for your pan size, then add them to the sauce.

And now you can really sit down and enjoy yourself, because the real work is done.  For the next 2-3 hours, simmer the sauce uncovered, remembering to stir every now and again and doing a taste test every so often (or getting other people to do it).  Your main concerns are not letting the bottom burn and skimming off any tomato froth that may form on top of the sauce.  After about 2 hours, cook the pasta to al dente, drain, and toss with just enough sauce to prevent sticking.  Serve the pasta on individual dishes topped with sauce, meatballs, and grated Romano.  Eat, enjoy, and think of Grandma Mel.

Makes enough for at least 8 people.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Golden Roasted Potatoes

I'm having camera issues over here, so I can photograph neither my food nor my son rocking various pairs of Mama's heels.

Yesterday we made our second trip to the Thursday afternoon organic farmers' market.  If you haven't been over there, I definitely encourage it.  They're really trying to grow (not to mention keep the farmers they have), and can only do that if there's traffic.  It's in the shade, too!  Yesterday we got free samples of chocolate goat milk ice cream (which Ben enthusiastically deemed "nummy") and black-eyed pea bread (THAT is why I love farmers' markets; there's always something I've never heard of).  I bought some green beans, blackberries, red leaf lettuce, and some beautiful big new potatoes.  The guy told me I had to make them that night to really capture their flavor, and I said no problem.

So here is my favorite potato recipe, which I made last night.  It's good anytime from breakfast to dinner, and it works anywhere from a barbecue to a baby shower.  And it's super simple.  Normally I use Yukon Golds, but I used the new potatoes last night and they were delicious, too.  Since the potatoes are only flavored with butter, oil, salt, and pepper, the key is to go for it on all four; take the following measurements as minimums.  Don't try to make this healthier than it should be!

Golden Roasted Potatoes, adapted from Gourmet magazine

1.5 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold are best
2 tablespoons melted butter
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste (I like to use Kosher), at least 1/2 teaspoon
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Garlic powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  The original recipe says to peel the potatoes, but I see no reason to as long as you clean them thoroughly.  Slice them as thin as you can, within reason.  I mean, don't spend 5 seconds per slice or anything.  Someday I'll get myself a mandoline, but until then I can get my slices pretty thin by hand.  Just do your best.

Put the slices in a mixing bowl and combine them with the butter, oil, salt, and pepper.  Stir them around for as long as it takes to really get each slice coated with fat and seasoning, maybe a minute or so.  Spread them out in a pan; for this amount you could use either 8x8" or 9x13".  I like the larger one since my favorite potatoes are the ones that get brown, and the bigger pan means there are more of those.  If you want, you can sprinkle some garlic powder across the top of the potatoes here, too.  Cover them and bake for 20 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 450 and take the cover off.  Bake for about another 20-30 minutes, or until the top looks brown enough to you.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fast and Loose with Substitutions (Gingered Snow Peas)

Menu: Black Pepper Shrimp with "Sun-Dried" Pineapple; Snow Peas with Ginger Butter

Lessons learned:
  1. Oven-drying fruit: I can't WAIT to buy my next pineapple!
  2. Mashed black beans in stir-fries: surprisingly tasty.
  3. Ginger fried in butter: unsurprisingly tasty.

I almost never make a recipe as written, even if it's my first time.  I make changes according to what I happen to have on hand, what shortcuts might be possible, and what has worked for me in the past.  This approach isn't for everyone, obviously, but sometimes it ends up going too far even for me.

Last night, I endeavored to prepare a fantastic-looking recipe from a great cookbook I found recently at the library, Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges (Vongerichten).  My thought process as I scanned the ingredient list before shopping was, unfortunately, as follows:

"Pineapple?  Those are $5 each.  I already have some mangoes.  Vegetable oil?  Check.  Scallions?  John doesn't like onions, so I'll just cut some chives from the garden and sprinkle them on my portion.  Ginger?  Check.  Garlic?  Check.  Black peppercorns?  Check.  Fermented black beans?  Ummmmm... I have regular black beans.  I'll just use those.  Kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)?  Huh?  I'll just use half soy sauce and half rice vinegar or something like that.  Regular soy sauce?  Check?  Lime juice?  Check.  Sugar and salt?  Check.  Shrimp?  Check.  Jicama?  I've always wanted to try one of those!  [Later at the store: 'gross, the two jicamas they have are both moldy!  I have some carrots at home.']  Baby pea shoots?  I'm going to pretend I didn't see that."

As you might expect, what I ended up with was very different than the beautiful picture in the book.  It was definitely edible, but next time I think I'll make a real attempt to cook the recipe as directed (probably still minus pea shoots, though).

The most interesting thing about this recipe is the oven-dried pineapple.  The intro says it is "amazing," so I decided I would try it with the mango.  It really was good: all that sweet flavor without the messy juice.  I think it really will be fantastic with pineapple.  I can't wait!

I also tried another recipe for preparing my snow peas.  This is one of those really simple ones that I don't know why I couldn't have come up with myself.  Melt some butter in a frying pan, then throw in about a tablespoon of fresh chopped ginger and wait for it to brown a little bit.  It tastes like candy!  Toss your veggies in it, then grate some lemon zest over that and sprinkle with a little salt.  Very nice.

Pesto Potato Salad

Menu: Pesto Potato Salad; Broiled Tilapia; Garlic Bread

Lessons learned:
  1. Putting some parsley in your pesto really helps to keep it looking bright green.  When my pesto darkens, I cry a little inside.
  2. Don't forget to leave some salad components unpestoed for the kids.  Ben liked pesto last year, but since then I think he has learned that green things are yucky, so he wouldn't try any of this.
 I LOVE this salad.  I discovered it last year in my Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook.  Their version includes hard-boiled eggs, but that goes a little overboard to me, so instead I just use a lot more fresh mozzarella than they call for.  I also use a different pesto recipe (from Williams-Sonoma's Sauces cookbook), since it's a perfect balance and I don't want to mess with that.

Unfortunately, I'm the only one in my house who gets excited about fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto.  But you know what, people?  That's what summer is about for me.  I know fresh corn is the standard crop for the season, and a grilled cob with a compound butter is hard to beat.  Except if you're me and you have fresh tomatoes and basil growing right in your back yard.  I waited for this all winter.

Tilapia has been a big hit lately.  I've got the prep down and it's super easy: I put an oven rack as high as it'll go and preheat the broiler on high.  I grease my grill pan and lay the fillets on it, then sprinkle them liberally with salt, white pepper, garlic, powdered lemon peel, and paprika.  Stick them right under the broiler for 5 or 6 minutes and they're ready to go.  I know they would be fabulous with some sort of remoulade or a drizzle of something... not that they need it!  These days I'm trying to find ways to make less effort, not more.  There's probably something I could buy if I got down off my high horse about prepared foods...

Pesto Pasta Salad

4 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold is usually what I have), cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
About a pint of cherry or plum tomatoes, halved
About 6 ounces of good fresh mozzarella (I like the little balls), halved

For the pesto:
2 ounces pecorino romano chese
1/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 cloves garlic
2 cups packed fresh herbs: mostly basil, but about 3 tablespoons parsley for color
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Boil a medium pot of water and add the potatoes.  Cook them just until they're easily pierced with a fork, maybe about 7 minutes?  I forgot to time it, and the recipe doesn't say.  Remove the potatoes from the water with a strainer, but keep your water boiling for the green beans.  Boil the green beans for about 3-4 minutes so that they're cooked but still have a little crunch to them.  Let the potatoes and green beans cool off, maybe in the fridge if you're pressed for time.

Put the cheese, pine nuts, garlic, and herbs into the small bowl of a food processor and turn it on.  Slowly pour the oil in through the feed in the lid as the machine runs.  Let it go until the mixture has a sauce-like consistency; no big chunks.  Pause every now and then to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Toss immediately with the potatoes, green beans, and tomatoes.  Add the delicate cheese at the end and toss again gently.  Done!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fried Eggplant

I've been tired lately.  By "tired" I don't mean that I want to sleep; I mean that I just want to sit on the couch all day.  And by "lately" I mean this has been going on for several weeks.  I've been running a lot, so that could be zapping a lot of my energy.  I also might need to start taking a multivitamin.  I took prenatals when I was pregnant, but then I read some studies suggesting that vitamins are a waste of money for most people, so I just figured my diet was probably balanced enough without them.  But nobody really seems to know.  So maybe I'll give them another try and see if I feel any better.

On Wednesday, I made Italian Rice Salad.  Since I'm the only one who gets excited about it, I decided to sweeten the deal with some fried eggplant, right from my garden!  They were very popular with the boys:

Here's how I make them: peel the eggplant, then make about 1/4" slices.  Mix an egg and some milk together in one bowl, and put some Italian bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own as long as they're very fine) in a second bowl.  Put a frying pan over medium heat, and coat the bottom with olive oil (be generous).  Dip the eggplant slices in egg, then crumbs, then lay them in the pan to fry, turning once.  They will soak up a lot of oil, so you have to add oil throughout with an eye for balance between super oily eggplant (it will be good, but vegetables are supposed to be "healthy" right?) and not oily enough (this is definitely the worst result: chewy eggplant and the bread crumbs don't crust).  I learned this from my husband's family, who turns these into eggplant parmesan.  Never knew I liked eggplant before that!

On Thursday, we FINALLY made it to the organic farmers' market in the parking lot of The Moon.  It was definitely small, but everyone was super nice -- the kids tend to have that effect on people.  There were vendors with the expected greens, onions, and summer squash.  There was also a guy with some pineapples, mangoes, and limes.  You could also get eggs and many kinds of meat.  That last category raises some questions for me.  I'm all about local stuff, and I'm much more comfortable eating meat if I can talk to the person who takes care of the animals while they're alive.  On the other hand, I'm not sure whether meat at the farmers' market has to meet the same safety standards as normal stuff.  (And if I could borrow a third hand, many small farmers argue that federal safety standards are actually designed to be unfriendly to small operations.  There was one guy at the market selling eggs that he had to legally label as not for human consumption because the requirements for small egg producers are too onerous.  Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, has written a lot about the legal challenges faced by small farmers.)  Anyway, I left the market with a bunch of daikon radishes, the most beautiful and delicate head of red leaf lettuce I've ever come across, and some fine-looking limes that I hope we can make into mojitos this weekend.

I had planned to make fish, but I went to New Leaf Market after visiting the farmers and their seafood selection is no good.  After mentally reprimanding myself for stopping at NLM when I knew I needed fish, I spent about ten minutes searching around the store for some alternative.  I finally decided screw it, I would just make some meatloaf.  I bought some local ground beef for $1.50/lb more than I can buy it elsewhere, brought it home, and mixed it up with some Italian bread crumbs, an egg, some tomato sauce, and water.  By the time I got home, it was actually quite late, so I just threw some frozen sweet potato fries in the oven too.  It still needed almost an hour to cook, so I assembled a salad from my beautiful red leaf, a cuke from my garden, a red Bartlett pear from NLM, some leftover mozzarella, and a freezer-burned hamburger bun that I toasted in the oven with a light coating of cooking spray and Italian herbs.

Tonight, my plan was to try tempeh for the first time.  I was going to cook it with broccoli and noodles with a nice sauce.  Then I tasted it.  Now John is coming home with pizza.  Sometimes things just don't go according to plan.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Penne alla Vodka, Take Two

Menu: Penne alla Vodka; Green Beans with Balsamic Vinaigrette; Fried Eggplant

Lessons learned:
  1. Penne alla vodka is on its way back in my house!
  2. I love, love, love to see my children eat my food.
  3. The fried eggplant is worth it. 
It's been a good day for food at my house.  I ran a Mothers' Day 5k this morning and came back to a lovely breakfast of waffles and maple syrup prepared by my husband.  Then I treated myself to a French dip sandwich and some Pringles for lunch, it being my special weekend and all.  Then tonight, I sliced, breaded, and fried the first eggplant from my garden this year.  I put them out with just some jarred tomato sauce for an appetizer, and they were gone before I could take a picture.  Next time.

After some searching and on many people's recommendations, I decided to try Rachael Ray's "You Won't Be Single For Long" Penne alla Vodka.  I used an adaptation that I found over on Smitten Kitchen.  It was very good, but still needs some adjustments.  For one thing, I ended up with about twice as much sauce as I needed.  I also think this dish is truly naked without salted pork, so I did add about 4 ounces of bacon.  I'll post my official version when I get it perfect, but you have to admit this looks (and tasted!) leagues better than my last attempt:

At this very moment, I'm trying to resist going back for thirds.  And failing.  But we refilled my son's plate FIVE times, so I'm going to be sleeping well tonight.

Attempt at Mango Bars with Coconut

I got to go to a margarita party on Friday night!  I brought these mango bars to share:

They turned out pretty good, except I ran out of sugar and had to use some old random corn syrup I found in my pantry.  Also I don't know that mango and coconut go together as well as I thought, so I will wait to post this recipe until I fix it up a little more.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Eat A Rainbow

I've been really obsessed with meal planning lately. I've always made a weekly ishish meal plan...written down a few ideas for meals that week and semi-made-sure we had the ingredients on hand.

But now I've realized that if I spend an hour each week I can come up with a plan for breakfast lunch and dinner and a very specific shopping list. The first few weeks I was very intentional about eating exactly what my chart said for each meal. It was working but then life started butting in and I couldn't totally predict our days so I let it get a little looser and I think I've got it working for my family.

A few tips on the way I do it:

- find a good planner. Some people may like an app on their phone. Others may prefer an Excel document. I have to hand-write it and put it on the fridge where I can scratch out and easily see what's going on. I've tried it a couple ways and am currently using the form found here.

- Plan at least one meal that can be moved to the next week without any ingredients spoiling.

- Also make a notation to cook extra of something one night to freeze for later.

- Build in one night to use something from your freezer so you don't put a bunch of stuff in there and then never use it because you are waiting for the perfect day to need personal issue... Plus you'll love not having to actually cook one night.

- Planning breakfasts and lunches puts so much time back in your day. No wandering around the kitchen eyeing the cabinets and asking everyone what they want.

- Plan meals with your calendar of events open next to you. So you don't plan to make a brand-new 3-hour recipe on the day your kid has soccer practice and a dentist appointment and you're taking the car in for an oil change.

Meal planning allows me to see at a glance how my family has eaten that week. I even make a list of snacks we have for that week so we don't eat Goldfish or Bunny Crackers twice a day for 7 days.

One of my main food goals is to make sure we all eat as many naturally colored foods as possible each week. Some days we don't eat anything green (gasp!) but we make up for it another day with zucchini muffins for breakfast, peas for lunch and broccoli for dinner...and meal planning helps me make sure that happens.

Occasionally though we do get all the colors in one meal...

Eat A Rainbow for Dinner

Purple Potatoes!!!

A great addition to a rainbow meal. The texture and taste is a good cross between a regular white potato and an orange sweet potato.

Becki and I were discussing how to make rainbow meals a few weeks ago and previously the only purple item I could come up with were purple Goldfish. This picture is from a lunch Zola and I created in February:

But a couple weeks ago I hosted a potato bar night for us and Grant's parents and when we were putting everything on our plates I realized I had accidentally prepared a great rainbow meal for us!
Here's mine:

I like to make separate little piles so can taste everything individually and then mix as I go.

and another version made by Grant:

He's a pile it all together because it's just going the same place kind of eater.

and Zola insisted I take a picture of her dinner too which conveniently added in the blue that was missing from mine and Grant's plates.

Here's the Roy G. Biv from our dinner:

Red: tomatoes in the salsa
Orange: Sweet potato, cheese
Yellow: cheese
Green: homemade guacamole (avocado, lime juice), cilantro
Blue: blue corn chips with flax seed
Violet: purple potatoes!!!

extras: black beans, white potatoes, sauteed onions

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Dark Chocolate

I've started baking with my kids.  We put everything down on the floor where they can see what's going on, I explain everything I'm doing, and they can dump things into the bowl (or onto the floor), taste things at various stages, and see how it goes into the oven and comes out looking different.  It's been fun, although Ben is sometimes very sad when things go into the oven.  He's not sure if that deliciousness is ever going to come out again.

Yesterday, we made cookies.  I had some chocolate and dried cherries on hand, and combining those with an oatmeal cookie sounded great -- plus, then I could say that there were healthy elements to them!  The last recipe for oatmeal cookies I tried cooled to be very brittle, which I don't like at all.  These were much better, quite chewy.  That may not be everyone's preferred cookie texture, but I was going for something that didn't taste like it was necessarily just a dessert.  Something that could conceivably be a snack... or my secret breakfast this morning.  Don't tell my kids.

I'm happily perusing a few new cookbooks these days, and this cookie recipe comes from a big old volume from Gourmet magazine.  It's full of new ideas that I can't wait to try, although most of them will probably be "special occasion" meals and not weeknight dinners.  But we'll see.

Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Dark Chocolate, adapted from Gourmet Today

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried fruit (I used cherries and raisins this time)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter two baking sheets.

Beat together the butter, brown sugar, and egg.  Then beat in the baking soda mixture, flour, salt, and vanilla until well combined.  Stir in the oats, dried fruit, and chocolate.

Drop 12 spoonfuls of dough, arranged evenly 3 x 4, on each baking sheet.  Bake the cookies for about 10-11 minutes, let them cook on the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to racks to cool completely.

This recipe made exactly 24 cookies for me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Most Wanted Recipes

I think it was Julia Child who said that if you want to be considered a good cook, you just need ten classic recipes that you've made so often that you can do them perfectly every time.  Sounds like great advice, but unfortunately my style has always been too experimental and ad-hoc to stay true to a mere ten recipes.  I rarely follow the original recipe as written, I'm constantly looking for improvements, and my search for new ideas is never very directed.  As a result, I think there are some glaring omissions from my repertoire that I'd eventually like to fill, dishes for which I haven't yet found the perfect recipe for my tastes (or maybe never started looking).  Here's my list:
  1. Lasagna.  How do you screw up lasagna, right?  Well, sure... I admit it's hard to go wrong with sheets of pasta, a reliable jarred sauce, ground meat, and lots of cheese.  But I'm still looking for something special.
  2. Tiramisu.  No, these aren't all going to be Italian.  But I actually really love a good, light-textured tiramisu.  I'm a sucker for the ones they serve in martini glasses at restaurants.  I'd like to be able to whip one up all on my own.
  3. Clam chowder.  I used to love clam chowder night when I was growing up.  No, my mom did not use fresh clams, and guess what, foodies, I don't want to either!  I want something I can make on a weeknight and serve with a fresh loaf of bread that I bought on my way home from work.  I wonder if she still has her recipe...
  4. Cookies.  For most of my life I've preferred candy to dessert, but these days candy is going the way of most other processed food in my diet.  So I'm just getting into the baking scene, and somewhat reluctantly -- dough and I have had a rocky relationship.  But it seems like every cook needs his or her own signature cookie recipe.  I do actually have a couple of very strong contenders...
  5. Chicken salad.  I've had some really amazing chicken salads, but unfortunately they're the exception to the rule of bland and heavy salads that are in no way worth the calories they pack.  I need something interesting but not too complicated.  This looks very, very promising....
  6. Macaroni and cheese.  Pasta and melted cheese are two of my great loves in the food world, so what's the problem here?  Answer: milk.  Every recipe I've ever tried to make is much too milky, and my efforts are discouraged by the enduring skepticism of my husband, who swears by the blue box.  But I fight on.
  7. Sangria.  Or mulled wine.  Or both.  I'm assuming no justification is necessary.
  8. Mojitos.  See above.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Momo's Pizza

On Sunday night, it just felt like an evening for going out.  So we headed over to Momo's Pizza on Market Street for some pizza and beer.  They have 20 beers on tap, plus a a lot of bottles.  They also have HUGE pizzas.

I saw a tangerine wheat beer I wanted to try.  John had trouble deciding, and they were perfectly willing to bring samples to help him out.  We ordered some breadsticks for the kids and hoped our snack bag of crackers would hold out until then.

Momo's sells individual slices (which are ENORMOUS), so I thought that since our tastes are starting to diverge a little bit, we should each just get a slice.  But John convinced me that we should go ahead and get a pizza.  I told the waitress that we wanted a medium, their smallest.  It's 16"!  Their biggest is 32".  We saw one go by and it was unbelievable.

Unfortunately, the kids didn't really like the breadsticks and Ben didn't feel like eating any pizza, so we had to finish faster than we would have liked.  Sophie did eat some pizza crust, and Ben did eat one breadstick and some pepperoni.  I thought the pizza was really good.  I'd love to go back and just get one giant slice with my own toppings.  We'll just make sure to bring something more for the kids.

Score: 8/10

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

I have to admit that in the last year or so, I've become enamored of chunky guacamole.  But before that, when I bought avocados I almost always made them into this smooth salsa that I found on the Williams-Sonoma website several years ago.  It works as a dip, but also as a spread.  I made it for a Mexican buffet on Friday night... as good as ever!

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

1 Serrano chile, seeded
1 large garlic clove
2 large tomatillos, husks removed, skins washed, quartered
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons lime juice
Big pinch of cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Makes about 2 cups.

Exploring Potato Salad

In my experience, potato salad is an oddly, intensely personal dish.  The dressings and garnishes are perfected and then passed down through generations.  My mom makes a "famous" potato salad with hard-boiled eggs, Miracle Whip, and scallions.  My mother-in-law uses Hellman's mayo and pickles.

I love my mom's potato salad because I grew up with it, but I'm also potato-curious... I like to experiment!  So the other night I finally got around to trying this "decadent" potato salad in HTCEV.  Anything with cream cheese as an ingredient is going to be appealing to me.

That's a lot of fish.  A lot of deliciously seasoned fish, if I do say so myself.  The potato salad, though... well, it was strange.  It went over really well at dinner... but it was so rich that there were a lot of leftovers, and no one has touched them yet.  It seemed to be much more appealing as a warm dish, which I think kind of goes against the spirit of a potato "salad."  I can't believe I'm saying this, but my final judgment was that this potato salad was too creamy even for me.  In fact, the entire experience of eating it seemed to be about the cream; it didn't really have any other flavors.  I love me some dairy fat, but not to the extent that I'm just going to open up the cream cheese tub and dig in with my spoon -- and that's kind of what this was like.  If you'd have no problem eating a stick of butter if it was socially acceptable, I get it... and if you want, I'll email you the recipe for this.  As for me, I'm going to try something with a mustard dressing next time.

UPDATE: it turns out that John finally rediscovered the potato salad last night while I was at my weekly track workout, and it was apparently still good enough that it ran out before he and Ben got their fill.  Good to know, but I still don't think this one was for me.