Sunday, March 29, 2009

Return of Real Cooking

Today was my first day off in a little over two weeks and I was going to do some cookin' and eatin' if it killed me. Overall it went pretty well though I could have done with far less laundry.

For lunch we had a visitor. When she's not busy kicking our asses at Wii Bowling, sometimes Heather will meet us for lunch (or my nemesis, brunch). Today she came up to visit the still immobile Jen. Selfishly, I prepared my favorite lunch of smoked salmon, bagels from Mike's Bagels, leftover pizza, and mimosas.

Like some sort of greedy little hog I ate as much smoked salmon as I could, then made tea and had two cupcakes before lying on the couch in shock and eventually falling asleep for a brief nap.

We spent most of the afternoon watching the remaining episodes of Firefly which we started watching the other day. After running out of episodes of Chuck we decided to branch out and watch the complete works of Adam Baldwin, which I believe is the standard reaction for anyone who sees Chuck.

For dinner I cleared some shrimp out of the freezer by making a spicy shrimp boil. I used the remaining champagne, lemon, coriander seed, black peppercorns, bay leaf, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, chili powder, salt, and lemon to flavor the boil then quickly cooked and chilled the shrimp.

To accompany the shrimp I served greens, cocktail sauce, sour cream, avocado, sliced tomato, and diced red onion.

For the main course I carmelized some spring onions with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper then seared some duck breast with the same seasoning. I also made a tiny amount of balsamic glaze for the onions.

At the current moment, I have enjoyed smoked salmon, duck, and a good healthy amount of chocolate. We have one more episode of Firefly as I eat a generous portion of yogurt straight out of the container and follow that up with some delicious See's chocolates.

If it wasn't for the return to work tomorrow this would be the perfect night.

But I'm not going to let my imminent return to work spoil the Adam Baldwin for me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring (onion) into spring

With the temperature scheduled to stay in the 50s for the next 10 days (or so would have me believe), I think it's almost safe to call it spring? In that spirit is tonight's dinner. Nate unexpectedly worked tonight, so the call was for something easy, that didn't require too much moving around and, of course, paid tribute to the approaching, long-desired season of green and sunlight.

The answer, please, internet search of ingredients found in our fridge? White pizza with spring onions. With dough already in the fridge, the hardest thing about it was slicing the onions and stretching the dough. Actually, scratch that: the hardest thing was transferring the raw dough with all its toppings from the sheet pan to the heated pizza stone, but in the end it all came together. The aforementioned onions, some mozzarella and parmesan, and the basic trio of olive oil, salt and pepper and dinner was done. A small salad and voila -- spring-like dinner in name, spring-like dinner in taste.

Six weeks (give or take) until the farm share starts again. Begin the countdown!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ten Minute Chicken Stew

Today's dinner was uninspired. Last night was another late night at work so I brought home a chicken that someone else had already cooked for me. I must say I'm not terribly fond of the idea of having others do elementary cooking for me but since I only have about 10-15 minutes nightly to fix up dinner I have little choice.

I started off by making a salad with the leftover tomatoes from last night and by plucking some leaves off of our basil tree then tearing off some fresh mozzarella. The basil was delicious. I think it's because I'm such an excellent farmer. I guess you could say I have a real green thumb. A wet, green thumb.

I used stewed the leftover chicken in some leftover pasta sauce and broccoli and served it over broccoli. It was kind of like the roast chicken that Jen had in Paris that was served over Spaghetti except much more pleasing than our only lackluster meal in the city of lights.

Jen was kind enough to hobble over to Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery and pick up 4 delicious cupcakes as a special surprise for me. This capped off the dinner quite nicely.

If all goes according to plan I may even cook a proper dinner on Sunday night (if I don't sleep for the entire day). It's my first day off in 14 days so I am pretty jazzed at the prospect of spending a day at home and potentially spending more than 10 minutes to cook a proper, civilized meal.

Look out, culinary world, you are about to get rocked!

Okay, you're probably not going to get that rocked.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Marching On

Wow. A lot has happened recently. Here's what you might have missed . . .

Paul and Caolan stopped by to visit us (mostly Jen). They brought some flowers from a place that told them that they wouldn't even believe how beautiful they were going to be. Then they demanded a minimum $1.00 tip.

We had corned beef and cabbage at 11:00PM on St. Patrick's Day after a long day of work. It was not my finest batch but it was the best I could do with virtually no time to actually cook.

We made Ruebens the next night with the leftover corned beef ingredients.

Our basil has reached soaring heights in our AeroGarden while our chives (previously just one chive -- now three!) and thyme seem to be struggling a bit.

We had some Severino stuffed rigatoni with Monte Bene marinara sauce (made in Bedford, NY). I don't think I've had jarred tomato sauce in close to five years but I needed a quick dinner and this whole dinner cooked in about 10 minutes and cost about $10.00. That included the Pain de Campagna (also made locally). The 365 Chianti was $9.99.

The next night I used the remaining Monte Bene with some raviolis from Penne Lane (also local in Huntington, NY) and a simple salad.

Jen's spirits are on the rise every day! She is now thrilled to be disabled! Even while our main laptop is on the fritz and we need to use our old one which is missing several keys.

Last night I was determined to set aside more than 10 minutes to throw dinner together. I had a full 20 minutes so I threw something together that didn't just involve pasta! It did involve this delicious four cheese bread. I can't figure out how to say this without it sounding insulting but it kind of tasted like Goldfish crackers. Delicious, delicious Goldfish crackers!

I got a great deal on flank steak so I seared it, steamed some broccoli, baked some potatoes (from Elba, NY), and made a little salad with cherry tomatoes (from Plainville, CT).

Now we're going to slowly try to crawl back to our regular dinner/lifestyle. Jen's leg brace should be off within the next ten days and we may even get to have dinner at the table soon!

Man, that Soothsayer was right. The Ides of March were (or was?) rough.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Instant Cassoulet

Casoulet is one of those dishes that is steeped in culinary myth. It is the risotto of French cooking. Common folklore indicates that risotto should be an all day affair where you must slowly cook the rice by adding in stock one tablespoon at a time. Similarly it is believed (in many circles) that cassoulet is a dish that requires three days of preparation before you can eat it.

I think that both of these commonly held beliefs are bunk. While it could be said that I cut a few corners while making my cassoulet the resulting dish was about 90% as delicious as cassoulet made using the traditional method. I consider this an acceptable loss since it took 71 hours and 20 minutes less time to make.

Prior to Jen's surgery I'd gone to three different grocery stores to try to get all the ingredients to make cassoulet. I had to make a few concessions. Firstly there was no duck to be found so I opted to just use chicken breast from the freezer. Also there was no French style sausage (there is never any French sausage at any supermarket in New York City that I've ever been to) so I used a standard Italian sausage. While I could find salt pork it was in a package so large that even if I froze the remainder it would be taking up space in my freezer for the next three years before I had the opportunity to use it up.

I sauteed one clove of garlic in a little olive oil and butter, added a can of tomatoes, brought that to a boil then added the remaining pinto beans from the farm. When that came up to a boil I put in some frozen turkey stock from Thanksgiving and simmered that, adding a little salt, pepper, and a touch of cayenne. While it was simmering I rendered a little pancetta then sliced up some prosciutto slices and browned a chicken breast and the sausage. After they were seared I added everything into the same pot and simmered for about ten minutes. Total cooking time: 40 minutes. Deliciousness factor as compared to the cassoulet we had in Paris: 90%.

See that? Only 40 minutes. I used the remaining twenty minutes to write this post and turn the culinary world on its ear. Net gain: 71 hours.

Now that, my friends, is how cassoulet is done.

Boo ya!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

All We Kneed Is Love

On Thursday night Jen prepared dinner. This was to be the final dinner before her knee surgery on Friday. Friday morning. Friday morning at 6:00AM. She had been scheduled to have a lateral retinacular release with medial plication. You know, standard stuff.

Jen made one of her favorites, chicken madness, a take on a dish of the same name from one of her favorite D.C. restaurants.

The next morning we got an early start and walked to the hospital. While our relationship hasn't changed all that much since our last trip to the hospital together there was something big that had changed. I was now her husband and that meant that the apparently all the doctors and nurses would pretty much treat me as if I was actually her. Some of this may have been the product of not going through the horrible emergency room, however, now I was privy to all sorts of information. They even let me stay with her the whole time despite the sign above her bed that declared that visitors were only allowed to visit for five minutes every two hours. This was a right they extended to the gentleman visiting the woman in the bed to Jen's left who decided that 6:20AM was the perfect time to practice his new stand up routine and continually got up out of his chair to do a really loud impression of some guy he used to work with.

After a while of killing time in the waiting room the doctor came over and sat next to me to explain how the surgery went. He took out a pen and drew all over the leg of his scrubs to explain exactly what he'd done during the surgery. Apparently this is standard surgeon practice as I noticed there were drawings all over his scrubs to the point that he resembled the cover of a Ray Bradbury short story compilation.

Jen spent most of Friday in excruciating pain while I tried to do what I could to help her out. That involved taking dinner requests so I made clam chowder for Jen. Sadly the chowder was not sufficiently enjoyed through the intense pain coming from Jen's left knee.

Friday night was pretty rough for Jen so Saturday morning began with me meeting the doctor outside the hospital to get a prescription for a new, stronger pain medication. The doctor met me outside the hospital which I suppose is legal, it just seems like it should be illegal. Maybe if he was wearing scrubs or a white jacket it wouldn't have seemed as illicit, however, dressed as he was in a button up shirt and blue jeans it seemed like I should have been keeping an eye out for the cops.

Here's a picture of Jen pretending to not be hating life. The new pain killers worked in perfect three hour stretches which was unfortunate for Jen considering she could only take the pills every four hours and they took an hour to kick in.

Not even scallops and roasted vegetables could be enjoyed. To kill the times between doses of medicine we watched most of the first season of Chuck as well as Baby Mama. Unfortunately some of the more startling scenes in Chuck and some of the funnier scenes in Baby Mama would occasionally make Jen jerk her leg slightly which resulted in subsequent fits of agony.

This morning we woke up after getting very little sleep last night. Jen was feeling a little better except that apparently she is allergic to the new prescription and broke out in a full body rash. Luckily I didn't have to make my fifteenth trip to Rite Aid in 48 hours because I still had an ample supply of aloe vera from a previous run in with a jet of super-heated steam.

I called Jen's doctor to explain the rash. I told him that she had a similar allergic reaction from penicillin. He quickly cut me off to tell me that there was no penicillin in what he had prescribed for her. I told him that I knew that but I was just comparing the allergic reaction. This had no affect. I think he thinks I'm an idiot.

I may be an idiot but I'm an idiot who can make a kickass no-mayo tuna salad. I used a little hummus, green olive, caper, lemon juice, olive oil, chopped tomato, and dill. I served the salad over toasted naan bread with some mixed greens and turkey bacon. This was the first food that Jen actually seemed to enjoy since the surgery.

I'd spent all morning cleaning, doing laundry, and tending to Jen when right after lunch I hit a wall. We were both pretty exhausted after 48 hours of very little sleep and decided to take a nap. The nap extended for about two hours and we both felt considerably better afterward.

After waking up and getting our bearings we concluded watching the first season of Chuck and rolled right into the first season of How I Met Your Mother. I'm having a hard time deciding on my favorite character from the two shows but it may have to be Harry Tang from Chuck. What a guy.

For dinner I made my famous Pasta a la Freezer and Jen even had a second helping which means that she is well on the road to recovery. She also lost track of when the last time she took her pain medicine was which is a big improvement over this time last night when she was panting and counting down the number of minutes until she was due for her next dose.

There are a lot of loose ends to tie up tomorrow. Most importantly we have to figure out a way to remember to put Jen's sock on before she gets up to use the bathroom. With a bare foot it is nearly impossible to push her foot across the floor but with a sock she just glides along the wood like a hovercraft. A slow, suffering, hovercraft on crutches.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Omelette You In On A Little Secret . . .

Bon Appetite!

I'd like to start off by referring you to yesterday's blog entry where I postulated that the predicted snow storm was going to be far less than predicted. If you are in the metro New York area I would like to direct you to now look out your window. Now I'd like to ask you if I am the world's greatest weatherman. You can answer in the comments section.

Jen was somehow inspired by the sweet potato and eggs in our fridge and had the brilliant idea to combine the two. She made an omelette out of sweet potato, goat cheese, avocado, leftover rosemary bread (which she made into croutons), and diced red onion. She made an accompanying side salad of similar ingredients. Much like our dueling puttanesca courses on Saturday night.

You may be wondering where Jen got this inspiration? I think I can trance it back to a couple of YouTube videos we've watched together in the past weeks. So . . .

It was a little bit this. And . . .

A little bit this.

Bon Appetite!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Oh Deer

Most of today was dominated by the impending blizzard. Apparently we're going to get somewhere between fifteen and eighteen feet of snow overnight. Therefore, there has been a lot of worry and preparation for tomorrow's nor'easter. The high profile nature of this storm has made me extra thankful that we got all our grocery shopping done yesterday. The stores today were likely filled with thousands of idiots rushing around to stock up on bread and milk. Meanwhile our apartment was filled with two warm, dry people who have spent the past ten hours watching Lord of the Rings films on TNT.

Eventually it was time for dinner and I started off with a little salad a la fridge with mixed greens, assorted tomato, avocado, olives, lemon, and olive oil.

We picked up some venison rack chops last night on our horrible traffic-filled trip through White Plains. I marinated them with a little lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. I boiled some of our remaining farm potatoes then tossed them with a little butter and olive oil. I seared the chops for one minute on each side then finished in the oven for about four or five minutes, cooking the chard alongside the venison. I also made a little sauce out of sour yogurt, sour cream, lemon, honey, chili, salt, and pepper. The sauce worked well with the venison as well as the potatoes.

For wine we opened this tasty little Spanish wine we got last week. Normally I'm not a big fan of doing anything to pair wines and food (unless the label had something on it that reminded me of the particular meal -- like a steak) but this wine worked really well with venison.

For dessert we had leftover angel food cake, strawberries, yogurt, and maple syrup. For reasons unknown I did not take a picture so you'll have to take my word for it.

Now, with the evening well underway we await the start of the snowfall. They are predicting as much as 14 inches of snow which means we'll probably get between 0 and 6 inches. Either way it will be a miserable commute tomorrow.

I predict some sort of easy pasta for dinner on the morrow.