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monday menu

When I’m in rehearsal at work (like right now) and my only night at home for dinner is Monday, what I cook on Monday becomes a major decision. Last week we went out for Valentine’s day, so I didn’t get to cook, and the farmers’ market mocked me with all the delicious produce that I wouldn’t have a chance to eat. So this week I got it in my head that I was just going to buy everything beautiful and tasty that the market had to offer, and throw it all on a pizza. Here’s what I took home:

Pretty random selection for February. Only in California! Purple cauliflower, candy cane beets, a delicata squash, and king oyster mushrooms. In the middle is a nettle pesto. Yes, pesto made with stinging nettles. I’d seen a recipe for a nettle pesto pizza and it looked really interesting, but where on earth would I find stinging nettles? Well, at my favorite herb stand at the market, it turns out. I actually mostly followed this recipe instead, but used less pine nuts. I didn’t have gloves, so I used a silicone potholder and kitchen shears to strip the leaves off the nettles before blanching them (stinging avoided!). They turn a really great, vibrant green and smell rather like spinach, and the pesto is very mild and nutty – a great compliment to this odd collection of toppings, actually. I chopped and sautéed the mushrooms, blanched the cauliflower a little, microwaved the squash and chopped it, and chopped and boiled the beets. I rolled out my crust really thin, spread the pesto on it, and topped it with a little mozzarella and my colorful veggies. When it only had about 5 minutes left to cook, I pulled it out and cracked an egg on it, then finished cooking it. The egg really made it, I think – it’s my new favorite pizza topping (since I had an egg on a pizza at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland last month – awesome name, awesomer pizzas). The yolk broke, but it still tasted good!

The pizza in the background has an onion compote that my mom made and canned in the fall, goat cheese, and broccoli rabe (another market find).

Of course, between pizza prep, a really long bike ride, and watching the new episodes of Project Runway (Mondo rules!) and Smash (not as good this week… a fluke or a trend? I’m not ready to give up on it yet), of course I did absolutely no sewing today. I am almost finished with my first knitting project, though! More on that later in the week…

 

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While I did make a delicious corn chowder for dinner last night (recipe here), I must say that soup is incredibly uninteresting/unappetizing to photograph (or at least it is when I try), so I thought I’d post the recipe for my most recent cocktail obsession.

When we were in Hawaii, we had a lovely dinner at 22 North, where every cocktail on the menu sounded amazing and every one we tried (which was a lot of them…) proved to be so. My favorite had only four ingredients, which I committed to memory so I could duplicate it when we got home. Muddled tangerine, gin, ginger ale and something called “orgeat”, which I assumed was a liqueur until I inquired at our local BevMo and was directed to the Torani syrups – it turns out it’s an almond flavor. The technique, as I recreated it, is to put two slices of tangerine (I can get four slices out of a mid-sized tangerine, for two drinks) in a glass and muddle them (press the heck out of with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon or something) with a little ginger ale. Add 1-1.5 ounces of gin (the restaurant used Tanqueray so I do too) and ice, then top off with ginger ale. I do think the type of ginger ale affects the drink quite a bit, and I think it’s better suited to something lighter and sweeter than a Reed’s Ginger Beer, but gingerey-er than Schweppes. This one (at BevMo but probably elsewhere as well) is really, really good, but I’m sure there are others out there that would work too. FInally, add a little bit of the orgeat syrup (I really mean a little, like a teaspoon, otherwise the almond flavor overpowers everything else) and give it a stir. Yum. I really should give it a name, since I don’t recall what they called it at the restaurant, but the best I can come up with is “Tan-gin-ger-ale”…so I think I’ll just keep calling it “That Awesome Tangerine Ginger Ale Thing”, since that describes it best to me!

I have been stupidly tired when I’ve gotten home from work recently (we’re in tech, which means even longer than usual days), so my sewing production has basically come to a standstill. Of course, when I can’t sew, I plan, which means buying even more fabric and patterns… I’m terrible. I do hope to finish a dress for opening this weekend – it’s a “one hour” pattern, which means it will take me approximately 5 to 10 I’m-too-tired-to-understand-these-simple-instructions hours to complete (I have already ripped out one seam three times because I kept doing it wrong), but I’m hopeful!

It’s officially the end of grilling season… not because it’s too cold to cook outside, which is the reason most people can’t grill in November, but because it gets dark too early now to see what I’m grilling. While I’m always bummed out by the shortening of the days, it is great to get back to all my favorite fall cooked-inside recipes. These quesadillas were a discovery last year on the wonderful Smitten Kitchen blog – they have acorn squash sauteed with poblano peppers and onions, garlic and jalepenos, making for a delicious, hearty, slightly sweet compliment to the cheese and tortilla. The accompanying tomatillo salsa is fresh and hot and beautiful bright green (though fair warning, I was still tasting garlic for hours afterwards!). I love that all these ingredients are in season and plentiful at the farmer’s market right now, and this taste combination is so fall to me. The carrot slaw is a recipe I discovered this summer in Bon Appetit and have made it to go with all the Mexican food I grilled since – it’s delicious. Of course, I could add lime juice and cilantro to just about anything and think it’s the best thing ever… I made it with purple and orange carrots so it ended up being unintentional Halloween slaw!

Here are the links to the recipes:

Acorn Squash Quesadillas and Tomatillo Salsa and Carrot, Cilantro and Chile Slaw (and I always use about 4 times the amount of lime juice called for in the slaw.)

I was so close last night to finishing my brown skirt, but then my serger thread broke and tiredness got the best of me… I just have the hem left to do, so I hope to finish it up tonight and wear it tomorrow!

Last week a woman at work brought in a bunch of teeny tiny lemons from her tree at home.  I considered them all week, and when there were still a bunch left on Sunday night, I grabbed them. What do you do when the office gives you lemons? Make sherbert, of course.

Years ago I stumbled upon a recipe in one of my mom’s Cook’s Illustrated magazines for fruit sherbert. The main recipe was for orange, but I was more interested in the lime version, which has become my go-to frozen dessert recipe.  Then last year I had the most amazing lemon mint sherbert at a wonderful ice cream shop in Berkeley called Ici and I thought, I must recreate this at home.  I remembered that my favorite lime sherbert recipe had a lemon variation, and due to its unique way of infusing flavor into the sugar using a food processor, I thought it was just asking to have mint added to it.

I have some peppermint growing in a pot on my deck, and some spearmint (that’s what you find in stores sold as fresh mint) from the farmer’s market, so the sherbet was practically asking to be made. Like all Cook’s Illustrated recipes, it seems complicated with a lot of steps (a food processor and a mixer?), but just do what they say and it’ll be amazing. Trust me.

 

Lemon Mint Sherbert
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

zest of 1 or 2 lemons

big handful of fresh mint leaves (use more than I have pictured, I didn’t put enough in for my taste)

2/3 cup lemon juice plus 1 1/2 cups of water

2 tsp triple sec or vodka (optional)

2/3 cup heavy cream

Put the sugar in the bowl of a food processor and add the zest and the mint leaves.  Process in 1-2 second bursts until the sugar looks damp and is starting to clump a little.  With the processor running, add the lemon juice/water and process until the sugar is dissolved.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and add the alcohol if using (it makes the final texture of the sherbert a little smoother but isn’t necessary).  Stick the mixture in the freezer for a half hour or so, until it’s really cold but not at all frozen.

Whip the cream just until it firms up a bit and makes soft peaks, but isn’t quite whipped-cream consistency (it doesn’t take long, keep an eye on it! I always mess up this part). With the mixer on low, add the cold juice mixture to the cream in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl.  Then immediately dump the whole mixture into your ice cream maker and start churning.

Once it’s gotten a little past soft-serve consistency, or your machine has stopped, pack it into a freezer-safe covered bowl and freeze for a few hours.  If you can wait longer than that to eat it (I can’t!) and it’s been in the freezer a while, let it soften up at room temperature for a bit – it’s best served fairly soft.

For the lime version, substitute lime juice and zest for the lemon juice and zest, and omit the mint. Or leave it in, I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it’d be good – like a mojito! Mmmmm…

Oh yes, I did also make dinner (though the idea of just eating sherbert did cross my mind). I made these Indonesian Grilled Chicken Thighs with Mango Salsa, and served them with naan, grilled eggplant and summer squash (the last of it, I’m afraid), and a sort of raita made with Greek yogurt and a homemade Indian sweet-pickle relish. So good! Good enough, in fact, to eat it all before thinking to take pictures. Oh well. Luckily ice cream is a slow process or there would be no photographic menu documentation at all!

Ah, Monday.  I love Mondays. I suppose that’s the opposite of what most people feel, but Mondays are my day off (generally my only day off), so my week is shaped around looking forward to Monday rather than dreading it. And pretty much my favorite thing to do on a Monday is nothing. I consider the day a success if I don’t ever get in my car. Today was such a day – so you are the only ones who get to see my self-stitched item today:

Look at me actually relaxing, instead of just pretending to relax! (Well, okay, I am actually pretending to relax in this picture, but I’m authentically replicating the real relaxing I did in this very chair earlier in the day, when it was too bright out to take a good picture.)

The skirt is a gathered jersey skirt with a fold-over waistband, based on this tutorial. This was my first such skirt, made from a kind of bizarre print cotton jersey from the bolt-end bin at one of my local fabric stores. I have since made, like, 5 more of these skirts (with varying degrees of gathering), which I’m sure will show up on subsequent SSS days. Nothing is more comfortable for a busy Monday of relaxing! (And I am aware that today was Labor Day, and I should have hosted a barbecue or something, but I just wanted to stay away from it all. I’m always kind of miffed when there’s a Monday work holiday, it just means more traffic and crowds everywhere, negating the convenience of my having an unusual day off.)

The other thing I like to do on Monday is make dinner (again, this seems crazy, but it’s often my only night of the week to cook).  As I am still in summer mode, I can’t get enough of grilled veggies (summer squash and peppers), and my husband loves tacos (as a hot sauce conveyance more than anything, I think), so I was thrilled to discover this grilled veggie taco recipe from Dana Treat. I was pretty loosey-goosey with it, though – I just grilled the veggies right on the grill grate (sacrificing two slices of pepper through the grate due to poor flipping, as usually happens), then cubed them and tossed them with salt and pepper; grilled the cubed potatoes in one of those perforated grill baskets, then tossed them with the chipotle pepper/sauce; sliced some avocado, made a quick pico de gallo, and crumbled up some cojita cheese to go on top. They seem like they’d be plain, but they’re actually really flavorful and super filling. I’ll also whole-heartedly endorse the new corn-and-wheat tortillas from Trader Joe’s – the best of both (taco) worlds!

And I clearly need to try tilting the camera the other direction next time I photograph a plate.