Saturday, April 19, 2008

Three days of dinners

Farmers' Market today was particularly full: all the local (and non-local) recycling and community farm and so on organizations set up booths for Earth Day. I just devoured a basket of strawberries.

In any case, it's been a few days since I've written up my cooking.

On Wednesday, we had a fennel gratin from Chez Panisse Vegetables
Preheat the oven, say 350°. Thinly slice one large fennel bulb (washed, saving the stems and leaves for stock) and one large leek, going against the grain so that the bulbs separate into disks. Also thinly slice a few yellow potatoes. For each of the ingredients, sauté in a healthy dose of butter to brown each side. Then transfer to a shallow baking dish, and toss with fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Pour over half a cup of cream and one cup vegetable stock. Bake 40 minutes.
We also had a salad — fresh lettuce, walnuts, with a light dressing of mustard, olive oil, red wine, and salt — and a red wine. Finishing the meal was vanilla ice cream and peach cobbler —
More of a cookie-bar, really, I roughly followed this recipe for blueberry oat bars. For an 8-inch square pan, my oven was already hot from the grattin (350°F), and I lined the pan with parchment. In a medium-large bowl, I combined 1 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup white flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt (I like salt, but I thought this dish on the salty side, so be warned) and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Then I mixed in 6 Tbsp melted butter. I reserved 1/2 cup of the mixture, and packed the rest into the prepared pan, and set in the oven to bake 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, I melted 2 1/2 cup frozen peaches from last summer, with 1 Tbsp lemon juice. In a small bowl I combined 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 Tbsp corn starch, and then added these to the peaches and, stirring constantly, cooked until slightly thickened. I poured the topping over the cooked crust, crumbled the crumb over the mix, and 30 minutes.

Thursday saw another Chez Panisse-inspired dish, although I wasn't as happy with it. We had baby artichokes and spring onion, and Alice Waters suggests a ragout. I ended up trying to follow her recipe —
While my boyfriend cut yellow potatoes (washed) into chunks and set them to boil in salty water until tender, I softened the onion in butter, and then added half-artichokes, the outer layer removed. These we sautéed a bit, continually adding more butter, splashes of water, and ice-cubes of frozen vegetable stock. Some fresh herbs and a few stalks of asparagus went in brilliantly, and the artichokes brown beautifully. But upon serving everything was tasty except the chokes. Or, rather, the chokes tasted great, but many of the petals were simply inedible. It turns out that much more of the baby choke needs to be removed before cooking.
We had red quinoa — combine with 1 1/3 parts salted water, bring to boil, and simmer covered ten minutes, then let steam another twenty — drizzled with a fruity olive oil, a very sweet white wine, and ice cream sundaes for dessert.

The best meal recently was Friday. We began with appetizers: olives, and baguette and dipping oil — fruity olive oil, with dried thyme, crushed sumac berry, and sesame seeds. Meanwhile, I had washed, peeled, scooped, and cubed an orange acorn squash from winter storage, and set it in a lasagna pan in a 400°F oven, with olive oil and salt; the squash needs to cook roughly 30 minutes.

Then I brought enough salted water to a boil and then turned off the heat, so that I could add pasta when ready. Fifteen minutes before eating, bring back to boil, and add a pound of farfalle. In a wok, I toasted some pine nuts and removed them, then added olive oil, fresh oregano, black pepper, and one bunch washed-and-sliced red chard, and sautéed. Then go in the squash, the pasta, the pine nuts, and crumbled sharp cheese. More fresh oregano is in order, and the pasta should be served immediately.

Candles and a nice white wine made for a lovely end-of-the-week meal. We went out for ice cream at Ici afterwards.

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