Ravioli with radicchio and mascarpone; endive and milk-soaked croutons – 31 December 2011

D, R, and I had an excellent New Year’s Eve dinner. I needed to use up some mascarpone from Christmas dinner, and tried searching “mascarpone pasta” on epicurious, and this is what I came up with.

The other dish was one that D&I wanted to show R, from the ‘ino cookbook, and one we had a couple of days ago. Bread chunks are soaked in milk, drained, and roasted, and endive is braised with garlic and thin-sliced red onion. A fascinating and delicious dish.

Totally forgot to start bread yesterday, and when I went to the Bowl, there was almost nothing left except 2 Acme ciabattas and a bunch of “Artisan” bakery bread. D (via phone) preferenced the ciabatta, so there it is.

Epicurious suggested a light, fruity white or similar rose with the radicchio, and D chose out “Tickled Pink” (their wines are a lot better than their names) from Clos Saron – bottle 967 our of 1572. Most wineries would consider 1572 cases a “small run.”

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Grilled swordfish; citrus/avocado salad; rice; and a great wine match – 30 December 2011

I cooked a recipe/meal from a cookbook from Tsunami in Memphis, given to us by R&E. I had cooked this before. When our friend V gave D several perfectly ripe avocados, I decided to use one in this meal. Good idea šŸ˜‰

The swordfish is simply grilled. OK salted and peppered on one side, and then that side placed down on the grill. I used direct (duh – no choice with the Viking grill) medium heat, oiled the grill, and cooked the thick steak for about 4+ minutes on the first side, then flipped and cooked another 4ish minutes. I cut the fish in half at that point, and found the center was still pink. I left it another couple of minutes on that side and then returned it to the first side for 3 minutes. It suddenly looked a bit shrunken, but when I tried to pick it up I found it was delicate and flaky, and it turned out to be entirely delicious.

The salad is orange sections (the picture in the book has you take them out of their membranes) which I cut in half, avocado (one whole, split between us), lemon and lime juices, green parts of scallions, and cilantro, and kosher salt. But over the salad goes a vinaigrette of orange, lime, and lemon juices, fish sauce, garlic, jalapeno (I used a fresh little fat red pepper instead b/c I forgot to tell D not to use all the jalapeno in the guacamole at lunch) olive oil, and kosher salt.

The recipe recommends “plain rice to soak up the juices” and I cooked up some basmati rice, 1:2 with water.

D chose a Calstar Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay (“Manchester Ridge Vineyard”), an unusual and fascinating wine which was amazingly perfect with the meal. It even liked the fish sauce. More of this!

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Scallion soup; endive and crouton salad – 29 December 2011

I changed this dinner just before I went off to shop. It was going to be more difficult (satay) and would not have gone together well. D wanted to use up the cut-off parts of the Pain de Mie (breakfast ‘ino recipe: truffled eggs in toast -twice!) as croutons, and I realized that a soup recipe I had wanted to try would go really well with the crouton/endive salad. Yay!

The scallion soup from Saveur is so simple: clean and trim 5 large bunches of scallions, and thin-slice 1/2 cup of them and reserve for a garnish. Cut the rest thinnish, but it’s not necessary to do this with any finesse. Cook the cut scallions in 2 Tb butter and 1Tb olive oil till soft but not brown. Recipe says 20 minutes, but it took me just over 10. Peel one russet potato and slice thin – I used the widest setting on the Benriner. Add the potato and 2 cups chicken stock to the soft scallions. Swanson’s chicken broth comes in 6 cup cans, so I always think of it when a recipe wants 6 cups of stock. It’s good tasting and not expensive at Costco. Cook this mixture till the potatoes start to fall apart, 35-40 mins. Mine didn’t, but they were obviously done. Blend. I used the blender rather than the Cuisinart (easier to wash!), dipping out some of the solids from the Dutch oven, and then finally pouring the soup through the strainer into the Pyrex 4 cup measure, and putting the solids and a bit of liquid into the blender to blend the soup. I returned the puree and the strained liquid to the pan to reheat, then remembered it was supposed to have cream, too. I added the 1/2 cup of heavy cream before serving, and then sprinkled on scallion slices. The soup was delicious! But it was also delicious before the cream was added, so I’d certainly consider making it without. It occurred to me also that Iā€™d happily serve this to company.

D chose an Epicuro Salice Salentino for dinner. He is trying not to repeat any wines on my 3-week “weekend”… good luck! šŸ˜‰ Anyway, the wine was really good and we enjoyed everything – a very successful meal!

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Pasta with leftover pork tenderloin in pomegranate sauce; chard stems – 27 December 2011

D suggested making the leftover pork tenderloin into a pasta. I was doubtful, but he was right.

I cut up the remaining 3 inches or so of meat into lengthwise quarters, then sliced about 1/8 inch thick. It looked like a lot, and indeed, we could have used less, but it was not clear how we’d use a small bit of leftover leftovers, so I just used it all. There was perhaps 2 – 3 Tbsp of the pomegranate sauce, to which I added about the same volume of water. I also cut up one scallion (could have used 2 – they shrink when cooked) into lengthwise very thin strips, and then crosswise into 2″ or so pieces. Sort of matchsticky. I cooked the pork and scallion pieces in the pom sauce, which had the effect of reducing the water a bit. That, plus salt and pepper, made up the pasta sauce. I used the egg tagliatelle from Etruria that I bought for our Christmas lunch – a chard/egg/noodle job that was quite good. The chard stems from that dish were our veggie tonight. I washed the stems and removed disreputable parts before stowing them on Christmas, and also cut them into 1 1/2″ or so lengths. Tonight I just cooked them in oil and butter with salt and pepper. They were really good – milder flavored than some I’ve had, and very pleasant tasting.

I cooked the bread today that D mixed up last night. I managed to round it up into this perfect little loaf – I was so tickled that it was so pretty šŸ™‚

D brought up a Les Caves Joseph Bordeaux for this dinner, and it went fine with the meal.

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Leftover chicken breast with mayo-dijon-lemon sauce; Thai jasmine rice; sugar snap peas with mint – 26 December 2011

D looked through the fridge this morning and found pork from yesterday and chicken from late last week. We decided to use up the chicken tonight and the pork for lunch tomorrow.

I reheated the single chicken-breast-slice (I had cut them into thinner slabs), coated and cooked with a good sauce, in a small cast-iron frying pan over medium, then low, heat, with olive oil, for perhaps 10-15 mins, covered. I couldn’t flip it over b/c of the sauce stacked on top, so I heated it slowly from one side. Worked great. I made up another one serving of the sauce: 3T mayonnaise, 2tsp Dijon mustard, 2T grated parmesan, and 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest, mixed. I cooked up 3/4 cup (dry) of Thai jasmine rice in twice as much water, with a little salt this time, and it cooked about 15 mins as usual. I cut the chicken breast slice crosswise and served half to each of us, leaning up on the side of a bed of rice, with half the sauce at the intersection. I also cooked up most of the remaining sugar snap peas (after stemming/defibering) in butter for maybe 5 minutes, but I didn’t watch the time. Should have salted them a bit, but overall, ok. I got several mint leaves from our neighbor T”s yard and tossed those in near the end of the cooking. Great quick veggie (after the stemming, that is).

D chose a white for this meal, a Cameron Hughes Lot 91 Chardonnay from the Russian River. I have to say we both disliked this one. The bouquet was nice, and suggested a good, somewhat oaky chard, but there was a sour, hard taste to it that neither of us cared for.

D suggested we open a pear, so I grabbed one of the Bartletts, and he also got some of R’s chocolate cookies, which apparently contain something like orange peel, to add to the dessert. Both the pear and the cookie were outstanding.

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Pork loin with pomegranate sauce; green beans with ginger – 25 December 2011

Well, we planned three meals today but should have planned only two. Given we had breakfast at about 10:30 and lunch at 3, we had a hard time getting hungry for dinner. And of course there were the Christmas Cookies in between… So we ended up eliminating the sweet potatoes from the menu, and just having the pork loin and the green beans that we had planned on, as well as my Christmas wine.

Both of these recipes are from Gourmet: Pork-Tenderloin-with-Pomegranate-Sauce, and Green Beans with Ginger Butter.

We liked both of them. For the Pomegranate sauce, R says one Tbsp vinegar (the recipe calls for 1 – 2 Tbsp) was enough. I agree.

For my first (I assume?) Christmas wine of the new Present, a Calstar Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from 2007. It was great, and remarkably had little difficulty with the pomegranate sauce.

We had Christmas cookies for dessert. 10 kinds!!!!!


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Vegetable tart; pear salad – 24 December 2011

This was a delicious tart, especially the crust, which was exceptional.

The filling was incredibly time-consuming, but a different filling would work and be less demanding. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2012. The filling is mainly leeks, sauteed and drained, and shiitake mushrooms, microwaved (!) and drained. No liquid came off the mushrooms, but 5 minutes in the microwave (in a big bowl, covered by a plate) reduced their volume by more than half, I’d say. The other essential ingredient was gorgonzola. I got “mountain gorgonzola” at the Cheese Board, and it seemed like the right flavor. I think pea sized granules of it would be preferable to the smaller-than-a-marble version I used, b/c you could spread the flavor around more. The guys are not fans of shiitake flavor, and thought crimini would be better mushrooms for this tart. Should work. We also discussed potatoes and bacon and gruyere as an option. The secret of the filling is first to eliminate moisture so the crust does not get damp and soggy, and second to bind the filling with something strongish flavored, in this case dijon and mascarpone.

The secret of the flaky and delicious crust was to use part whole wheat flour (that’s the delicious part) and to refrigerate, roll/fold-in-thirds/roll/fold-in-thirds/roll/fold-in-sixths, refrigerate, roll to a circle technique (flakiness, obviously!). Fortunately, R was over to help decorate the tree, and lent a hand with the mushrooms and other stuff so we did not end up eating at midnight.

D made a pear salad to go with this, which was, or course, excellent! The three of us ended up eating the entire tart for dinner. I think it would easily have served four if we had added a veggie or had a really huge salad or something.

We had bought a 2010 Domaine Serge LaLoue Sancerre at Solano Cellars on sale for $18, and opened it for “cooking wine” before dinner. We didn’t drink it all then, but left most to try with the tart. D also chose a 2009 Ventoux, Chateau Saint-Sauveur, for this dinner, and I think everybody thought both went pretty well with the meal.

{Written the 27th}


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