Tra la, it IS May

May 13, 2008

As we’ve all been struck down by combo of spring bug and the overwhelming pollen count, I haven’t really been cooking much. Chili…sandwiches… a few green salads but really a lot of ordering in. I did however get white asparagus on sale in our Fresh Direct order and had to figure out over the weekend a nice but simple way to use it:

White Asparagus Soup

“bundle” of white asparagus (chop off ends, peel and then cut into three-ish likesized pieces)
1 cup of chicken stock (you can use veggie stock, of course)
dash of vermouth
1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. of olive oil
Fresh thyme (the leaves of two sprigs)
1 small shallot diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves minced (or crushed…garlic is optional)
1/2- 2/3 cup of water

saute garlic, shallot and thyme in butter and oil over medium heat for one minute and then add pieces of asparagus and a healthy pinch of salt to sweat the veggies. Saute for about 5 minutes over medium low heat, adding the dash of vermouth about 3 minutes into the cooking and a dash or two of water if needed. Add contents of saute pan to chicken stock and water in a soup pot or large sauce pan (2 to 3 quarts). Bring to a boil and then take asparagus and a small amount of liquid and puree in a blender. Add the puree back into the rest of the liquid, blend and serve. You can add some cream at the last to make this cream of asparagus soup but I would also add some more salt and pepper.

Cheese on a budget may sound like a joke these days but it is possible. The other night I achieved GREAT THINGS with a little planning and some ingrained habits concerning shopping as a poor food lover.

I served the following:

– Montchego
– quince paste
– parm. reg.
– prosciutto
– new “La Tur” type cheese (w/ Goat, Cow and sheep milk)
– water crackers
– rosemary breadsticks
– dried cherries
– pistachios
– spiced nuts
– olives
– grape tomatoes

This was both the appetizer and the first course! Second course was my curry carrot soup with Creme fraiche dollops and some naan on the side. Dessert (that never happened because we were all talking so much) was supposed to be ginger ice cream with Calabrian fig molasses drizzled over it.

First of all, see the Tapas night entry. Notice any repeats? The Montchego, properly stored, lasted the week easily. Simply rough dice your left overs and put it on a serving plate. I then put a portion of parm pieces (approximately 1/5 pd. of the pd. we bought at DiPalo’s for $11. The rest will be snacked on for another week and the ends will be saved to grate on pasta for the month, probably), two tbsps of quince paste, a small handful of dried cherries and a tiny dish of pistachios on this plate. The quince paste was bought at Murray’s two months ago for $6.99. I have about 3 servings left in the container. It is used frequently with cheese but can also serve as a gourmet match on a PBand J (serving as the J). The dried cherries and all nuts were bought at Trader Joes.

ON another small plate I took 8 pieces of prosciutto (had already used the rest for sandwiches and snacks over the past few days) and rolled them into 8 individual rolls. On another small plate I took the new cheese (I had purchased a 1/2 round for $4.99 at DiPalos. After the evening I had 1/3 round left which is now in my fridge and will be snacked on, probably, tonight). On another small plate I put the homespiced nuts (I took 2 handfulls total of walnuts and pecans and toasted them in a skillet with 1 tbsp. of butter, 3 dashes of cayenne pepper, 2 dashes of salt and a little ground black pepper).

Finally, on another medium sized tray I put rosemary breadsticks, water crackers, baby tomatoes and a small bowl of olives in the center.
The rosemary breadsticks come in a box of 6 packs for $1.99 at the grocery store. I used 3 packs for this. I get my water crackers from Trader Joes ($1.29ish) or Whole Foods (365 brand is under $2) and used half a box. The olives were the other half of that two dollar container from Tapas night. The cherry tomatoes were a small portion of a $2.49 container I’d purchased and consumed throughout that week.

I highly recommend stocking up on dried fruit, nuts and crackers at Trader Joe’s. I also recommend breadsticks. I have MANY times put out a plate of rosemary breadsticks, dried cherries and some kind of nut/s when an unexpected visitor has come through and gotten oooo and aaaaah and “how did you manage?”. You can use these for salads. Use the crackers and breadsticks for snacks and soup nights. AND on and on and on and these just aren’t expensive, are good for you and keep the need for amounts of the expensive things like cheese and meat DOWN!

Total for an AMAZING spread of cheese and goodies for 4 (on a special occasion. Jared came up from DC to visit) =

$15.35

(and making the soup and naan was around $9, the molassas is $8.99 for a years supply and ice cream was $4 so dessert cost $4.50 max)

That is a dinner party for 4 that comes in under $30.

Enjoy life cheaply.

Additional note: We had soup leftovers. Enough for bowls with sandwiches the next night for dinner and we have about 3 servings we can freeze still!

Reviews

April 26, 2008

http://www.auroraristorante.com

Last Friday night, my friend Deborah and I went to Aurora after a bit of imbibing. Deborah’s mother is from Florence and so she is my #1 go-to about Italian things, especially food. Truly authentic, relaxed lovely food…atmosphere is rustic, relaxed and COULD be a date place if you wanted and got a corner table. Lighting is VERY date condusive! I’m definitely going back with my husband. We started with a cheese plate which had 2 pieces of, I kid you not, 12 cheeses, plus bread, a cherry (?) confit, walnuts and honey. Usual suspects were spotted…talegio, ricotta salata… but a wide variety of really wonderful items. I spotted La Tur for certain and a pecorino, of course. Second item (we shared everything) was a frisee salad with a lemon vinagrette and a rabbit loin coined. The loin had been stuffed with cranberries and roasted. A dotting of chilis was on the side for you to enjoy with the dish or not. It was brilliant. The rabbit was perfectly moist and flavorful while the frisee was crisp and the dressing still carried a fresh tang to it even with the hot item placed on top. I enjoyed a Nero D’Avola which went perfectly with the rabbit and the cheeses. By then our neighbors, two gentlemen from Brazil, had made friends with us and shared a lovely wine called Rosso Di Costanza with us (harmless…the place is set up to be almost family style in seating…it is easy to engage neighbors in conversation and encouraged). That was a truly remarkable wine…the rich cherry finish was to die for…still taste it days later and only had a half-glass. We then enjoyed a dish of gnocci, crabmeat, baby tomato and a hint of lemon with crisp glasses of dry Italian white wine. We had NO room for dessert although I did have an espresso to stave off tipsiness from the 3 glasses of vino.

Over the past week, have been working for this elderly lawyer writing a book on company time. Had been trying to remember where I’d heard of this club he was writing a history of…:

For some reason I can’t seem to save the actual link but go to http://www.nytimes.com and type in “search for baker direction”. Article is about a club in Manhattan called the Century Club that has a traditional cookie it cannot do without.

SO on last Saturday morning, taking my wee babe to the bagel store on Ditmars I decided to look for the bakery. Turns out it is across the street from our bagel shop. I had to know if these cookies were worth an article in the New York times so we ventured in and I just went up and asked for the cookies. They are important. I’ve never really considered myself a macaroon fan but these cookies are crazy little almond joys. The Times reviewer did sum up the cookie pretty well although I didn’t get from them the degree of urgency I think these cookies require. The woman behind the counter simpered proudly when I asked for them, although I had half expected to be told that they only sell them to the club and not the public. As I left, I asked her if they had gotten the contract. They have! Turns out the cookies will then be available to me for quite SOME TIME! Yippee!

Yogurt

April 11, 2008

 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/magazine/13food-t.html?pagewanted=1&ref=dining

If I don’t get to post anything else today, feel like I have to point out the above to anyone reading. If you haven’t tried Fage, you need to rush to the nearest market. The plain (add toppings of choice such as granola, dried fruit and honey) 2% is excellent and you can find the sour cherry, honey, peach and strawberry of the 2% in NYC. Fresh Direct carries it as well as a bunch of places in Astoria (of course). 

Anyway, found this article inspiring for cooking lighter.

 

Home Spice Sleepin’

March 30, 2008

This morning we took Arthur to our bed when the “eye rub I’m so tired” routine started. Both of us rubbed his tummy and we took turns keeping the constant “shhhhhh” sound going. Took him from screaming squirming teeming mass of tired baby to soothed sleeping bebe in 1 minute and maybe 30 seconds.

AND SO NOW the baby is asleep…what should we do with with the possible hour but probable 45 minutes we have to accomplish SOMETHING. Sleep is certainly one option but parents have not had breakfast yet, even though baby has had TWO!

Head to the kitchen and stare at space. What the heck do I have besides 4 chicken sausages (which rule…they have apple and tarragon in them and I think I taste a hint of maple syrup and chardonnay.)? Then I spot the bag of Idaho’s:

(For the girl who’s never made) HOME FRIES (before):

4 peeled potatoes chopped into that home fry shape and boiled to mostly tender
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter (hold one to the side)
chopped onion (1/2 of a medium should do it)
4 slices of roasted red pepper chopped
1 tsp. stone ground mustard
2 fresh sage leaves chopped
3 dashes of cayenne pepper
1 or 2 twists of ground red pepper
salt (I like sea) and pepper

Warm over medium heat the olive oil and butter, add chopped onions and red pepper for 1 minute and then add spices and herb. Saute for 1 minute and add potatoes. You may need to add a little moisture to keep this from sticking…a dash of water worked for me and did not affect the texture of the potatoes adversely. 2 more minutes in add the mustard and the other bit of butter. Let the potatoes get a browned side to some and then take off heat (use your good judgment). Enjoy with favorite breakfast meat or, if you aren’t living in my house, an egg is fine.

I’ve eaten a lot of home fries but I’ve never looked at a recipe or tried to make these before…just made this stuff up, as per usual.

I’ll never order Home Fries from a diner again.