Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stream of Conscious

"I want to try a new sauce for Asian vegetables.
Miso sounds yummy, I should try a miso glaze
I've heard of miso glazes before. Maybe with miso and soy sauce? Let's do an internet search. . .
Ah, miso with mirin and soy sauce.
I don't have mirin, but I have sake and I know that works too.
Miso-glazed eggplant. Yum, and I bought a gorgeous eggplant this week too.
But NH doesn't like eggplant. I'll give the sauce a try and make the eggplant another day.
I can use the Asian vegetables we have in the freezer.
Ok making the glaze. . . mmm it's good but maybe some grated ginger too. And a little chicken broth to thin it out.
I'll toss some tofu in it too and sear that up. Excellent!"


This was literally my thought process today while planning dinner. I made this glaze and used it to stir fry vegetables, sear tofu, and garnish chicken for the resident carnivore.

I used part of two frozen bags of vegetables: an Asian mix from Safeway (broccoli, carrots, bamboo shoots, and sugar snap peas) and another mix from Nijiya Market. This one was filled with items I had to look up: taro, lotus root, and burdock along with carrots, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms.
I liked the lotus root and taro, but wasn't too hot on the burdock. Maybe in another preparation, or fresh- I'll have to try it again.

The recipe I've stated below made enough glaze to toss sparingly with the tofu, the chicken, and in the stir-fried vegetables with a little bit leftover to drizzle on top.

Miso-Sake Glaze

3 Tbs white miso
2 Tbs sake
2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbs low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together to combine. Add extra chicken broth to make the sauce more runny.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hungry Monster Syndrome

The condition responsible for the absence of photos of the finished Tomato Sauce. Yes, this gorgeous picture is only the remainder.

Another possible culprit could be deliciousrecipeitis, because this sauce was delish! I enjoyed these leftovers for lunch today and it was even better on the second day.

I prefer chunky, slow-cooked tomato sauces with lots of flavor and a short list of ingredients that come from my pantry. This one complimented some spaghetti squash, and a shower of grated parmesan cheese made a deeply satisfying meal.

Don't serve with spaghetti; this chunky sauce clings really well to the crevices of a shape like fusilli or rotelle.

Tomato Sauce
serves 2

2 Tbs olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped (what I had, yellow onion is just as good)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large carrot, grated
1 Tbs fresh thyme, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in added puree
1/4 cup red wine
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt to taste

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium low. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until softened. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Add the carrot and thyme and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and turn the heat to high.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 3o minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. Add salt to taste, and remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley and serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, or in a bowl by itself with parmesan cheese.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Beautiful Christmas

How I love this holiday. I'm sad Christmas Day has come and gone, but I'm still basking in its warmth of family and relaxation and delicious food.

We gave and received some wonderful gifts, including the Wii Fit and Guitar Hero World Tour which NH and I will play with later today. I received the two things I had hoped for the most- a new bread machine (!!! with a bread already working this morning) . . . and a new camera!! A present from NH, I'm now the proud owner of a Nikon D60 Digital SLR camera, with a camera bag, extra lens, and a few other goodies. My hope of capturing Christmas on film was exceeded by the amazing quality. I have a few pictures on my old camera and the quality difference is amazing.

In honor of the new camera, I present Suite Apple Pie's Christmas (almost entirely) in Pictures.


Mass on Christmas Eve

The table set for Christmas Eve dinner

Anchovy-stuffed olives, yum yum!

Pasta alla Carbonara, our traditional Christmas Eve dinner

Fireplace in our bedroom

Christmas Morning:
Cheese Eggs made by the Egg Master, my Dad

Mom and I, both in new aprons

First picture with the D60!
Just look at the colors!

Here is a comparison: With the old PowerShot,

and with the new:

The family cat Marmy with my brother Chris. She is 16 years old and still going strong.

A few more fun shots throughout the morning:

Hors d'ouerves at noon:
Cheeses (Mt Tam, Gorgonzola Dolce, Gouda, and a sweet Norwegian cheese), baguette, glaceed fruits, fig jam, olives, and hearts of palm with Prosecco. (Taken with the old cam.)

For Christmas Lunch, Mom prepared Beef Tenderloin with Seared Scallops, Sauteed Swiss Chard and Pommes Anna.
This picture of the raw swiss chard is my favorite of the day.

Pommes Anna is a classic French potato dish made with thinly sliced potatoes and butter. It's special so perfect for Christmas. It starts on the stove and finishes in the oven.

My contribution were Suite Pea Bundles I made two weeks ago and froze.
We had them as a first course with a shower of Parmesan cheese.

After the magnificent meal, we cleaned up and relaxed for a bit before tea at 5:00pm.


For Christmas tea, we enjoyed a Chocolate Madeleine Trifle and Christmas cookies.

Mom made the trifle using leftover Chocolate Madeleine cookies, blackberry puree and raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream.

The trifle was delish! Here is my plate. I left the whipped cream behind, but picked some chocolate madeleine off of NH's plate who was still full from dinner. Gone in a flash!

After such a happy day, we arrived home in the evening with full tummies and a full car.
Padma was very glad to see us.


Today we are enjoying some time at home. NH is playing with his new gadgets, I am doing laundry and have a bread in the new machine. I'm really looking forward to learning more about my new camera.
It's the most wonderful time of the year!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This is my table set for Saturday's party, just before our families arrived. It symbolizes how I feel right now- the table set, everything ready and beautiful, and a deep breath before the festivities begin.

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm full of anticipation. The holiday is upon us and I can't wait for the traditions to begin: We spend Christmas Eve with NH's family in the East Bay before driving down to my childhood home in the South Bay in time for church.


We dress for church right quick to attend Mass at 6:00pm (earlier to get seats), followed by Pasta alla Carbonara and a bit of champagne for dinner. We open a few presents in the evening before going to bed a little early (for tradition, my parents don't need to sneak Santa presents out anymore).

In the morning, my brothers will open the few 'Santa' presents left, followed by breakfast of brioche and coffee. A shower and some festive clothes on, we exchange the presents for each other under the tree. The rest of the day is leisurely and pleasant, cooking with my mom and looking at new gifts.

This year, our holiday meal will look something like this:

12:00pm Hors d'oeuvres
Cheeses, olives, bread, hearts of palm, champagne

2:30pm Christmas Lunch
First Course: Suite Pea Bundles
(made last week and frozen, delivered to my parents' home yesterday)
Main Course: Seared Scallops and Roast Beef, with
Sauteed Swiss Chard and Pommes Anna

5:00pm Tea
Chocolate Madeleine Trifle and Christmas cookies


Buon Natale, Joyeux Noel, Kala Christouyenna, God Jul
Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Little Orzo

The orzo I served with the Beef Burgundy is so simple, but worth a mention here.
No picture- it was gone in the blink of an eye- but it makes a wonderful side dish next to chicken, fish or beef. The lemon juice and zest give the pasta a bright freshness.
In summer, add some fresh tomatoes. A little parmesan cheese takes it to another level. You choose!

Lemon Parsley Orzo
for 10 people as a side dish

1 lb orzo
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
juice and zest of two lemons
4 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the orzo until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucier pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the orzo to the pan and toss to coat. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, the parsley, and parmesan cheese if desired. Toss to coat the orzo thoroughly and transfer to a serving platter. Serve more parmesan on the side so your friends can add the amount they want.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Feeding a Crowd

I am triumphant!


Because I successfully made this dish with almost zero experience and quite a bit of distraction.


I consider myself a vegetarian (I'll have some meat maybe twice a year) so my experience with meat is limited to a few dishes of chicken or steak for NH.
Certainly nothing in large quantities.

With both families coming for a Christmas dinner, I wanted to serve something special- no vegetable entrees for my benefit. I went through a dozen ideas before finding the right one. From roast beef (NH said please no since it's not his favorite) to duck (thank God for Mom who passed on that one duck serves 3 people- yikes!) to a pot of meatballs, (didn't seem special enough) to turkey (my dad doesn't care for it).

Two weeks ago I stumbled across my dish during an internet search. Bœuf Bourguignon, or Beef Burgundy in English, popped up. Brilliant!
A special dish of beef, carrots, bacon, and onions simmered in Pinot Noir and garnished with mushrooms- I knew this would be ideal. In the end I selected a different slow cooker recipe, which I modified to use my big Le Creuset pot in the oven.
Only half of the beef gets the flavor-building browning, cutting down on the work but yielding the same results.

I started the stew at 1:30pm and it was more than ready for the table at 6:00pm. Most of the work was done long before our guests showed up (and ALL the messy stuff); the last-minute steps were extremely forgiving of my socializing and distraction.

These pictures show the stew right before going in the oven- unfortunately it was too hectic right before we sat down with the finished dish so I didn't grab a picture. It's a shame, because it really was gorgeous at the end. The sauce and vegetables were delish! I may not have a taste for meat anymore, but I have a great appreciation for the flavors given to its neighbors.

Note: Traditional accompaniments are egg noodles or mashed potatoes; I served with a lemon-parsley orzo and it was divine.

Beef Burgundy

serves 8-10

8 ounces bacon, chopped
4 lbs beef chuck stew meat, but into 1 1/2 inch chunks
salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 cups plus 1 cup Pinot Noir
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 bay leaves
3 Tbs Minute Tapioca
3 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups frozen pearl onions
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup water
10 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered

Position the oven rack in the middle; you may need to remove the top shelf completely to make room for the Dutch oven.

Over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp in a heavy bottomed, oven safe Dutch oven. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, and refrigerate until the end of the recipe. Pour out half the bacon fat into a small bowl and set aside.

Dry the beef thoroughly and season with salt and pepper. Place 1/4 of the beef in the Dutch oven in a single layer and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and brown another quarter of the meat for about 8 minutes. Set all the beef aside, half of which remains un-browned.

Add the reserved bacon fat and heat over medium high until shimmering. Add the onion, carrots and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir until beginning to brown, another 30 seconds. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a bowl and set aside. Return the Dutch oven to high heat and add 1 1/2 cups wine, chicken broth and soy sauce. Simmer, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot until clean, about 1 minute.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the reserved beef and vegetable mixture back to the pot. Stir to combine, cover and place in the oven for 3 hours. Stir after 1 hour and 2 hours.


After 3 hours, remove the pot from the oven. In a medium saucier pan, bring the pearl onions, butter, sugar, and water to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and increase the heat until liquid evaporates. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until the mushrooms are browned. Stir this mixture into the stew.

In the empty saucier, bring 1 cup Pinot Noir to a boil and reduce for about 5 minutes. Add small amounts of this liquid to the stew pot to adjust the flavors. (I used all, you may not want so much).

At this point, you can keep the stew for a while in the (turned-off) oven to stay warm until ready to eat. Or serve right away! Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley and the bacon.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

BTW. . .

For those of you who inquired, the panettone from Whole Foods was very good. The dough was fragrant and soft, and it had just the right amount of delicious fruits and spice.
I wish it had been bigger, but it makes a nice treat if you just want a little bit of this wonderful bread.

Long Break and some Truffles

What a long hiatus! Can it really be over a week since I've blogged? I haven't gone this long for ages, and this week really flew by! I kept up on my reading, and was never far away. How I've missed this! Not much missed- the last week of work before a little holiday vacation, and a bit of a stomach bug- not much to write about when oatmeal is on the menu 3 times a day :-(


These truffles were fun to make for a family holiday dinner- more to come from that menu in the next few days. . .

I've never made truffles before, and these were born from a mix gifted by a coworker. To the dark chocolate mix I added some water and butter, microwaving to melt the butter. A stir with a mixer and then chill to cool down and harden.

Once chilled and firm, take a small cookie scoop and roll with your palm into little balls. Roll the truffles in whatever you like. I used cocoa powder, and crushed candy canes (which came with the mix). Toasted nuts would be nice too, or sugar sprinkles.

These are pretty rich so make them small; the recipe called for 15 truffles but I made 30! They still seem a little big to me. Let them chill on a baking pan for at least an hour, then store them in the fridge until serving.

A nice added component to an after dinner Christmas cookie plate.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Sleeping is a favorite activity of everyone in our house

Those were the days . . .