Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Busy night!: Roasted garlic, chopping veggies, BEST burger EVER!

I've begun preparing for my first 'real' dinner party at my apartment. The idea is a faux Seder (verrry faux)/Holy Thursday last supper. We have matzos and brisket and lots of wine on the way. Tonight was roasting the garlic to mix into the mashed potatoes, cleaning/peeling/chopping the veggies so they are ready to go Thursday night.

It was my first time roasting garlic and it worked out well for my needs, but I think I over roasted the cloves a little bit because they did not come out as full cloves only as roasted garlic paste. Since I'm going to be mixing them into the mashed potatoes its easier that I already have the paste set.
I peeled & chopped 3lbs of carrots which I am going to boil and toss with fresh parsley and butter to serve. Then I prepared a bunch of green beans by French-cutting them; this just means cutting them lengthwise. This is definitely my favorite way to have green beans (one of my top 5 favorite veggies!) and I've only ever had them this way from frozen. It is obviously easy to prepare them, just cutting-- its easiest to cut the green beans at an angle and then split them. Can't wait to have them at dinner!

After all this prep work I was HUNGRY! From reading NYT's Peter Meehan's T Magazine blog article "Homeburgers" (http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/grass-fed-homeburgers/) I was inspired to get ground beef in my Fresh Direct this week and make some tasty beef burgers (instead of turkey, which I have been whenever I've made burgers for months lately). This burger ended up being the BEST burger I've ever made and maybe the best I've ever eaten!! Of course I topped it with bacon, american cheese (deli sliced-- way different than the packaged kind), a leaf of Boston lettuce, and bottomed my baguette roll with BUTTER (Meehan's suggestion from "How to cook everything's" Mark Bittman). It was royally delicious. I RARELY finish a whole homemade burger (btw, McDonalds does not count!). I ate every last bit of it! So so so delicious!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bienvenue Printemps!: Pea Soup with Bacon & Irish Cheddar

Inspired by some pea soup my friend enjoyed this weekend in Central Park and the new Bon Appetit's suggestion for an Easter meal first course I decided making some fresh for myself would be a great rainy-day dinner tonight.
Unfortunately I already had frozen green peas and opted out of buying some freshly shelledpeas, even though the soup would have been fresher and more delicious. Instead of keeping it as basic as the BA recipe I decided to bump it up with some extra veggies and toppings.

I added some carrot and red pepper to the mix and opted for fresh (Italian/Flat leaf, of course!) parsley over any other herbs. And I believe most savory things are better with BACON! so I crisped up some cut-up bacon in the soup pot before adding the butter and topped the soup with the crumbles to serve.
As usual I used a shallot, not an onion. I'm big on scent memory and am beginning to think that the scent of shallots softening in melted butter will take me back to this very kitchen on the UES. I guess I'll have to wait to see what the future will hold for me and my shallots! I let the pepper and carrot cook together before adding the frozen (unthawed peas). I used chicken stock instead of a vegetable broth for the same reason as bacon-- extra flavor! Never will I be a vegetarian!! I had to remove a little bit of the broth before I pureed the soup with my immersion blender so it would be thick (I'm not into 'soupy' soups, very much into thick-French style soups). The outcome was most delicious! The Irish cheddar and bacon really brought the fresh veggie flavor to a deeper taste level.


Food & Film: A study in sensual cooking

Film is a highly expressive medium which allows life's breath to be blown into one's thoughts, visions, remembrances, and above all emotions. Food is also an expressive medium; creating a meal can change the course of your day-- making something comforting can lift ones spirits up from as low down as they could be. Between written food literature and cinematic literature, the sensuality of food is conjured up in each of our senses without any tactile food around. (Just a note: All these movies in their exploration of the sensuality of food all coincide with the sensuality of lovers, as well-- yet another medium that goes well with food-- lovemaking!)

Here is a list of some of my favorite Food Films/Novels:

Like Water For Chocolate By Laura Esquivel, adapted into film
"Whether to the table or to bed, you must come when you are bid"
This is one of the most erotic food films I've seen. Tita, one of three sisters living with her mother, falls in love with Pedro who ends up marrying her sister because Tita's mother insists she not marry to stay and take care of her in her old age. Tita's strong emotions are converted into amazing culinary creations which are often shared with her whole family. The novel/film's magical realism entirely surrounds food, eating, and tasting. The sensuality of eating is shown in every scene of the story. Tita and Pedro's relations are primary cause of her highly emotional cooking. From a wedding cake made of gut-wrentching sobs to a final scene with ingested candle wax this is one of the best "foodie" movies around.

Simply Irresistible Starring Sarah Michele Geller and Sean Patrick Flanery

"I love dessert. It's the whole point of the meal"

Similarly to LWFC, the protagonist of this film, chef Amanda played by Geller, is able to transfer her emotional state onto the plate and into the spirits of those whom eat her food. Amanda owns "Southern Cross" a ficticious restaurant in lower Manhattan. Her business is floundering because she is an awful cook, her mother was the real chef and she took over after she passed away. One day at the Union Square market a peculiar man sells her a basket of crabs which change her culinary ability from awful to amazing. Her emotional highs and lows go into everything she whips up and culminates in a party scene for the opening of a restaurant in Henri Bendel. The love story of Tom and Amanda dominates her powerful cooking and the foodie spirit of the film. A modern Manhattan culinary love story.

Big Night Starring Stanley Tucci

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone"
Another faltering restaurant, this time owned by two Italian brothers (Primo & Secondo) trying to make a living in America by bringing authentic Italian cuisine to the table. Far less sensual than the rest of my list, Big Night has a masculine focus and we spend time primarily with two male characters instead of with a female protagonist and the thoughts of and moments with her love interest. The film culminates on the "big night" set out to save the restaurant with a multi-course feast that stirs up wildness in all the evening's guests. Definitely a must-see.

Chocolat By Joanne Harris (French foodie novelist extraordinaire), adapted to film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp

"Roux: I should probably warn ya: you make friends with us, you make enemies with everyone else.
Vianne Rocher: Is that a promise?
Roux: It's a guarantee."

Chocolat is probably the best known of these four movies. Set in a beautiful little French village and following the lives of nomadic and beautiful Vianne played by Juliette Binoche, the food focus is chocolate! When I was in middle school my science teacher recommended we go see this movie, and to see it at the independent movie theatre in Albany, The Spectrum, so we could watch all the luscious scenes of melted chocolate being stirred, molded, poured and tasted while enjoying one of the brownies the theatre sells. I enjoy watching this movie around Easter because the struggle with Vianne's new chocolate shop comes mainly from the fact that she opens it at the beginning of lent, so maybe a good place to begin watching right now. The music is excellent and the decadence of the chocolate is mouth-watering.

I encourage you all to check these out and comment back-- or if you have already seen them to let me know your thoughts about and perhaps cravings from/for them (I know I could eat a dozen caramel éclairs after watching Simply Irresistible --every time!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Juith Jones' "The Pleasures of a Plate Licker"

When searching for a recipie for Ratatouille and searching for Jones' 'for one' version I happened upon her blog entry for today where she fondly remembers her former 'sous chefs' -- her dogs. Just another reason why I need to get myself a dog one of these days, to "pre-rinse" my party plates.