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The Freezer, the Single Cook’s Best Friend

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Yup, I’m going to say that I won’t need to cook anything for a while…. I didn’t even know that I could actually get this much in there.

Full Freezer

4 small containers goulash (each serves 2)
4 small containers bolongnese sauce (each serves 2)
5 small containers Coq au vin (each serves 2)
2 large containers tikka-masala base (each serves 4)
1 large container chicken pot pie filling (serves 2 or 3)
1 bag spätzle (serves 2)
5 quart bags spanikopita
1 pan manicotti (serves 4)
(above all homemade)

1 package uncooked shrimp
3 packages scallops (x12 each)
2 filet mingon steaks
2 new york strip steaks
3 chicken breasts
4 hamburgers patties
1 package bacon
1 bag chicken tenders from Trader Joes

2 packages lobster ravioli
2 packages naan from Dosa Factory in Central Square
2 Dr. Oetker pizzas (the “emergency pizzas”)
1 package flatbread
1 package hamburger rolls
1 box puff pastry
1 bag french fries
1 package maultashen
1 box spinach
1 box peas
1 bag cranberries
1 container guacamole from Trader Joes (which freezes remarkably well)
1/2 package pinenuts

2 martini glasses
4 trays + half full bucket ice cubes

Yeah, like you needed to know this, right?

Menu Planning for the Weekend

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

I’m ‘catering’ a BBQ for my mum this weekend in Maine. How does this sound for a menu? Any suggestions?

Apps/nibbles: Mini-crab cakes with caper-garlic aioli, spanikopita triangles, caprese, antipasti (marinated mushrooms, olives, artichokes, peppers) all with baguette.

Main: letting Dad man the grill [grin]; thankfully not my department

Sides: Swabian potato salad (no, not ‘German’, no, not ‘Bavarian’… Swabian!), 2 types of pasta salad (pesto-jalapeno-goat-cheese and the other summer-veggie pasta salad), cucumber-ribbon salad

Dessert bites: vanilla custard-filled, chocolate-dipped mini-profiteroles and mini-lemon tarts with raspberry garnish (from their raspberry patch)


Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Bergamot is the new restaurant that has opened up in the old EVOO space here in Inman Square (by The Wine & Cheese Cask and Dali). While I was sorry to see EVOO move, they are just down in Kendall Square, so not to worry… it hasn’t shut the doors. Anyway, Bergamot moved in more or less straight away and it’s been getting great reviews. Last night I had the chance to try it out and the reviews are right: it’s definitely one of the better newcomers to the Boston/Cambridge restaurant scene; right up there in my mind with TW Food and Craigie on Main — given Craigie on Main’s prices, Bergamot is downright inexpensive! (Note: Bergamot is in the $25-35 for mains range so still a little in the ‘special occasion’ category; check out the menu)


After a great little amuse bouche of local crab meat wrapped in celeriac on a fresh cucumber, I had the pea-greens salad (pea shoots, scaled/shocked english peas, finely diced berkshire ham, pecorino cheese, truffle vinaigrette and the most amazing “fried egg”. I think they must have soft boiled it, carefully pealed it, then rolled it in panko crumbs and flash fried it. The center was still runny like a poached egg and when you cut into it, it combined with the dressing… lovely). My main dish was a lovely cut of halibut on new potatoes, baby carrots and a perfectly caramelized entire thick slice of vidalia onion, with a touch of herb sauce. Really, really excellent and just the right amount of food. All the desserts sounded wonderful but I was good and stayed away (very tempted but that bride’s maid dress fitting is coming up).

And you know a restaurant is good when they have the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban on the menu. Again, scotch is off limits for me presently, but it is unusual to even see it on the menu.

Trottoloni Pasta with Crimini and Proscuitto

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

1 pound curly pasta (in this case, trottoloni)
3 tablespoons evoo
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 pound crimini or portobello mushrooms
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 pound prosciutto di Parma, cut into lardons*
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat oil until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic and chili flakes and cook until light golden brown and wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute over high heat 5 minutes, until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Drop the tagliatelle into the boiling water and cook according to the directions. Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking liquid, and add to the pan with the mushrooms. Toss over high heat 1 minute to coat the pasta, adding a splash of the cooking water if necessary to keep the sauce from being too “tight”. Add prosciutto and toss to mix. Serve immediately, topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* I had no idea what a ‘lardon’ was. It just means strips, in this case about 1/2 inch wide.

Beer, Beer and More Beer

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Lord Hobo

… You know that your evening will end up in a rather drunken state when…. the first beer of the night is called “Arrogant Bastard“… [grin]

With Jean unfortunately already on a flight back to London (after a lovely day in Portsmouth, NH, where the drinking really already started, I might add), Joe and I headed to a new pub just a few short blocks (4, to be exact) away from my apartment. Lord Hobo just opened a few weeks ago, to acclaim from beer aficionados and with great food reviews as well. This evening was my introduction to it, even though I’d been to the pub in it’s previous incarnation as the B-Side Lounge.

We didn’t intend to drink through the entire beer menu (good thing, too, as the draught menu itself is at least 50 long, bottles another page or so, plus the cocktails… but I digress), but we did sample more than half a dozen each and with the exception of the Allagash piss-water that Joe had at one point, the beer definitely has some quality going. My personal favorite of the night was the Shark Attack; least favorite was the Dead Guy (not often that you can say you drank a Dead Guy and survived a Shark Attack in one evening, eh?) They even served a Munich weissbier that didn’t taste skunked. Overall, I give Lord Hobo a thumbs up.

We didn’t try the food, but it looked good.

For the record, I learned two things on Saturday night: 1. Don’t try to match a British soldier pint for pint because you will end up stumbling home, barely able to remember where you live and 2. It is likely unwise to spend the half the evening discussing one’s love life (or lack there of) with one’s best friend’s fiance. At one point (after I was already three sheets to the wind), he told me that apparently I scare people — in a good way [grin] and at another point, Joe “threatened” to find 10 single men in the bar that would like to sleep with me. Thankfully, he didn’t go round to ask anyone, because can’t say that pimping is looked upon nicely in Cambridge-town. All in good fun and we had a lot of laughs. The only thing missing was Jellybean being there, but we’ll have to go back, because their cocktail menu looked mighty nice as well… lots of drinks with bubbles (scroll down a bit for the cocktails)!

I spent Sunday on the couch watching hockey and nursing a headache. Joe spent it on his way back to London. I hope British Airways treated him kindly.

Cooking Experiments from a New Continent: Moroccan Tagine

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

So, to break out of my usual European-centric cooking route, I decided to try a new recipe that I saw in one of my cooking magazines: a Moroccan Tagine. It turned out really well and the recipe was really simple. This might have to be added to the “regular rotation”. I had it with a Tomato-Lentil Couscous (though I cheated and just used a box for that).


Moroccan Lamb* and Chickpea Tagine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lamb stew meat*
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup raisins
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas / garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
Chopped cilantro to garnish

Heat a large saucepan** over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meat; saute for 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove meat with a slotted spoon. Add onion, salt, cayenne pepper and cumin pan; saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; saute for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Return meat to the pan. Stir in tomato paste and honey. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth, raisins and chickpeas; bring to a boil.

Reduce medium to low, cover with lid and simmer for 50-60 minutes or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Add pistachios and cook for an additional 10 minutes, lid off. Sprinkle with cilantro.

* I don’t eat lamb so I made this recipe with beef and while it might not be authentic, it was great nevertheless.
** Traditionally, this tagine should of course, be made in a tagine. I don’t have a tagine, so I just used my Creuset dutch oven and it worked beautifully.

I’ve finally grokked the Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Two food and recipe posts in a row… oh well. Today was a very lazy President’s Day monday, so I decided to attempt to make cinnamon-raisin swirl bread for about the millionth time (off and on since high school). Jean Jean Jellybean used to make this absolutely wonderful cinnamon swirl bread that is burned into my memory from childhood but I’ve never been able to even come close to that goodness. Apparently, even though I am good at cookies baking, I seem to suck at baking that requires yeast.

That said, this time my bread turned out closer to the Whitney’s variation, so it is worth posting the photo and recipe (not the Whitney recipe, but the one that I tried)


Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 cup raisins
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Cover raisins with water and soak until plump. Warm 1/3 cup milk to no more than 105F to 110F degrees. Sprinkle yeast in milk, and stir until yeast is dissolved. Combine remaining 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, egg, salt and butter in a large bowl; mix well. Stir in yeast mixture. Gradually add flour to milk mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Punch dough down; turn on a lightly floured counter, and roll into a 14 x 12 inch rectangle. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Drain raisins, and sprinkle over cinnamon mixture. Roll up jellyroll fashion.

Place roll in a greased bread pan, seam side down. Cover and let rise in a warm place 35 minutes. Brush dough with egg white. Using a sharp knife, slash top of dough at 2 inch intervals. Bake at 350F degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Yield 1 loaf.

Pan-Seared Talapia with Spanish Rice, Mango Salsa and Avocado Slices

Monday, February 15th, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Spanish Rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute rice, onion, and bell pepper until rice is browned and onions are tender. Stir in water and tomatoes. Season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed.

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions (really simple)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

I’ve made all these mistakes

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

I was looking through the new issue of Cooking Light that arrived today and they had this list of “25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes”. It rang pretty true; I think that I have done most of these at some point. Now that I have read the list (the article itself is how to avoid making them and what to do once you’ve done them), there’s a good chance I won’t make them again, though. (Damn photographic memory; I’m going to have those 6 pages stuck in my head for-evah)

1. You don’t taste as you go.
2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.
3. You make unwise substitutions in baking.
4. You boil when you should simmer.
5. You overheat chocolate.
6. You oversoften butter.
7. You overheat low-fat milk products.
8. You don’t know your oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
9. You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.
10. You overcrowd the pan.
11. You mishandle egg whites.
12. You turn the food too often.
13. You don’t get the pan hot enough before you add the food.
14. You slice meat with – instead of against – the grain.
15. You underbake cakes and breads.
16. You don’t use a meat thermometer.
17. Meat gets no chance to rest after cooking.
18. You try to rush the cooking of caramelized onions.
19. You overwork lower-fat dough.
20. You neglect the nuts that you’re toasting.
21. You don’t shock vegetables when they’ve reached the desired texture.
22. You put all the salt in the marinade or breading.
23. You put meat straight from the fridge into the oven or onto the grill.
24. You don’t know when to abandon ship and start over.
25. You use inferior ingredients.


Sunday, February 7th, 2010

After the Bruins game on Saturday, I treated my parents to a lovely dinner at Mooo, which, in case you couldn’t guess, is a steak restaurant. They don’t let you forget what you are eating either: the 3-meter high black and white photograph on the wall at our table was of a veal — errr, calf [grin] — with the mother moo in the background. Surprisingly, the photograph wasn’t overwhelming and of course, overall the restaurant is subtly decorated, but if you are at all squeamish about the fact that beef was once a living creature, a restaurant called Mooo might not be for you.

Anyway, I’ve been to this restaurant a few times before, always with great results, so I was happy to go again. We ate well — steak, of course, but the lobster bisque as a starter and the tuna tartar that my father had was also spectacular. It’s definitely upscale and the waitstaff treats you well. I offhandedly made the comment that we were pre-celebrating my parents wedding anniversary (more on that in a few weeks) and the waiter went out of his way to make sure that the dessert was something special. Overall, a lovely night.