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Showing posts from March, 2011

Food is Love

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We went to NYC earlier in the week, and it made me feel very nostalgic. I saw glimpses of a ghost of my former self everywhere: getting first job in a museum; going on first dates with fiancé; losing my wallet, totally freaking out, having museum security guard give me a $20 bill to get home, and random woman mailing it to me from one of the busiest intersections in the world; writing 40 page papers for grad school; going out way too often, and staying out way too late; getting sexually harassed at my waitressing job; exhilarated, scared, and a little alone.

I also remembered the first meal I ever cooked when I moved in with Scott. I think I only owned one cookbook at that time which Scott's mother had given me for Christmas the previous year. I made Chicken Tikka with all the condiments. It was the first time I used a food processor, and I remember being surprised how delicious it was to mix yogurt, ginger, garlic, and mint together.

Then, I made a cake from the only cookbook I h…

I Can Believe It's Not Food

Some very wise last words:

Karola Saekel Craib, who joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1955, died Monday of complications from cancer. She was 81. “Only a week or so ago Karola wrote a note — on her iPad no less — thanking her friends for enriching her life,” writes Michael Bauer. “In her notes to her daughters before her death, she included the strict admonition, ‘Never eat margarine!’ That was Karola. The real thing. No margarine; only pure butter.”It's true. Margarine is no less caloric, usually has trans-fats that are far worse for your health than butter, and tastes awful. (Bread tastes better plain than with margarine if you need to cut calories.) I always liked Anthony Bourdain's line in Kitchen Confidential: "Margarine? That's not food. I can't believe it's not butter? I can!"

Side DIsh Tips: Lemon Steamed Spinach

Here's a great technique for a healthful vegetable side. Gently mix a healthy portion of fresh, cleaned spinach with a little olive oil, the zest of one lemon, and salt and pepper. Then steam for a few minutes in a vegetable steamer. Simple, yet very tasty...

Sunday Nights with Thomas Keller

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So tonight we made a great Armagnac Chicken recipe from a cookbook we have discussed in the past.

Then we were left with a lot of bones. I have been wanting to try making homemade stock for a while. It is the basis of so many dishes and sauces I can think of. And what a great way to reuse parts of foods you already have. So since we are basically acting like Julie Powell with her Julia Childs obsession, I consulted Ad Hoc at Home.

So first you want to really wash all the bones and remove all the food particles. This took me a while, but you really want to make sure you don't end up with cloudy stock. You rinse the chicken bones in cold water, and then put them in a large stockpot and cover them in cold water. You can put the pot to the side of the burner as this creates a current, and makes it easier to skim the fat throughout the process.
You gradually bring the liquid to a simmer, and continually skim the pot. Once you get it going, add a whole bunch of ice cubes which will help …

Just like Mom used to make... via Thomas Keller

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I am going to start by reiterating something Scott has already touched on, that this is an amazing book, and that Thomas Keller is a genius. I am not really that interested in cookbooks which basically tell you how to assemble things. While I will once in a while watch cooking shows, and read Rachel Ray's magazine, I don't really want to be told just to add pine nuts to everything and call it gourmet. "Ad hoc at home" is so valuable because it actually teaches you techniques, and explains why these work (which they totally do).

My mom used to make "Chicken a la King". I don't know how, but it was the chicken/peas/carrots/creamy sauce flavor profile served over toast. This to me is the ultimate comfort food, and something I have been on the hunt to reinvent in my own style, made from scratch with all fresh ingredients. I have in the past fallen hard for Cook's Illustrated's chicken pot pie with buttermilk topping, and that is delicious, but once …

What Albany Lacks

Caribou Coffee. I could not have gotten through my undergrad in MI without it. Coffee is smooth and non-acidic. Mixed drinks are actually half way healthy sometimes. The white chocolate is so amazing you can have them put it in everything from the smoothies to the regular coffee. Mmmm, big leather chairs fake-Alaska vibe, love it. For now, I'll just have to settle for a tasty drink on layovers at MSP Airport, and buying enough to stock up the freezer. Au Bon Pain- Coffee is ok, but anyone who has ever tried the crème de fleur knows what I am talking about. (On second thought maybe it is good we don't have that).Trader Joe's I'm not really the hugest fan but it was really useful in NYC where you had to shop at 4 different places anyway to find affordable but still quality ingredients for something as simple as a Greek salad. There were some things that were pretty good though, and I am actually surprised there isn't one. Anthropologie What the hell? Reason to go to …

Benefits of Modern Marriage

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Over Christmas I had a bridal shower thrown for me in Calgary, AB and I pooled all my cash gifts together for this. Funny enough, I also have a friend who just got engaged, and her parents immediately sent her a food processor because apparently that is what one recieves when one is getting married these days. The idea that you never needed to eat before getting engaged, and the fact that most people live on their own for years before marrying in contemporary society, are things I won't argue with since it is such a superb product.

I had originally read a product review in Cook's Illustrated which stated  that the Kitchen Aid model was the way to go. We were at Different Drummer's kitchen, and  the extremely helpful salesperson said that the Cuisinart model had recently been improved with a few features. These included that the top snaps in and releases really easily with a quick release button (Easy On/Off Locking System with Push-Button Release), and the seal tight gaske…

Have a cocktail!

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I enjoy making and trying different kinds of cocktails. I like to find ways to use what we already have in our cabinet. I like to actually use recipes for cocktails since I find it's not always easy to guess in advance how flavors will interact. I also think one trick to delicious cocktails is actually measuring the ingredients.

And so since we had some tequila we weren't really drinking since we only use it to make margaritas with Mexican food, I thought I'd try something different with it.

 It is called the "Silk Stocking", and that is pretty much what it tastes like. Smooth, luxurious, with a bit of spice.

1 1/2 ounces tequila
1 1/2 ounces white creme de cacao
1 ounce heavy cream
1/4 ounce Chambord
Pinch of cinnamon

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice about 20 or 30 times. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and sprinkle cinnamon over the top.

Recently I bought some rum, not just any rum, in fact rum that is made in the Berkshires, the county that where I …

Cod and Spinach Roulades

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I tried to make a tasty dinner from when Scott returned from his conference in Vegas. I made something from this book , which was what Scott got me for my birthday. I had only tried the chocolate mousse so far from this book which was easy, quick, and delicious. I made cod and spinach roulades. It seemed like it used some really interesting cooking styles, and I was drawn to the idea of making a mousse out of the whitefish.

First I went to the Hannaford on Wolf Road, and would like to say I was very impressed with their produce and seafood departments. For such a fancy looking dish it was actually very simple to prepare. First for the sauce you cook a few ripe tomatoes in a few sliced garlic cloves with about a tablespoon of butter. After the tomatoes have softened, you put the whole thing in the food processor, add some lemon zest, pulse it a bit, add salt and pepper, and put it aside for later. Then you cook some onion and garlic. Throw in about 5 ounces spinach and a table spoon o…

Sangria

Sangria means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Blood? Red wine, sprite, and OJ? Could be......

Here's what I just made for a crowd of 10. There were leftovers, and it was quite a shindig.



1.5 higher quality box wine (I used Bota Box Malbec)
1 bottle Meyers dark rum
1.5 Gallons orange juice
0.5 Gallons pineapple juice
Several stems lemongrass, cleaned and trimmed
3 tsp cinnamon
1 root ginger, peeled and grated
juice from 3 plump limes
Chopped fruit-I used apples, pineapples, and oranges

Mix it up at least 6 hours before you plan to start your festivities.

Birthday at Bouchon

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For my birthday last week, I happened to be at a conference in Las Vegas. So for dinner, we went to my favorite restaurant there, Bouchon. Bouchon is part of the empire of Thomas Keller, the chef (and useful cookbook author) whose flagship restaurants, Napa Valley's The French Laundry and New York City's Per Se, are perhaps the most lauded in the United States. Since they're also priced like it, I've never been to either. Unlike his 3-Michelin-star joints, Bouchon's menu isn't dominated by innovative concepts and idiosyncrasy. The idea is classic French bistro food prepared well. That's not an insult; classics are classics for a reason, and I love French bistro cooking. Bouchon is special because it brings Keller's attention to detail and top-quality ingredients in at a more accessible price point, and you won't complain that you've had a lot of what's on the menu before.

The meal started of with a bang. If you like cocktai…

Soup and the Single Girl

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In some ways, food and music have a lot in common. Too many harsh notes can overwhelm more delicate notes. Timing matters in both as there can be an initial impression, the central substance, and then finally the lingering aftertaste. Also, food has a way of bringing one back to a moment in time or a circumstance or a whole other period of life the way a song does. It can transport you entirely, and sometimes the memory of a food can inform the experience so much that it is the memory one enjoys as much as the actual eating.

When I lived by myself in NYC for years between college and grad school, I went to museums, the opera, plays, read Russian novels and historical biographies that were over a thousand pages. I was a Midwestern suburban girl in a crazy city I didn't belong in, and looking back I don't now who I'd be without that experience. That studio apartment in Queens with barely any furniture (what there was I had gotten for free from the hallway of my building), wa…

In Non-Capital Region Dining News

It's really sad to see that Convivo -- a wonderful Italian restaurant in Manhattan's Tudor City -- has closed. While not outrageously expensive by Manhattan standards, it was definitely special occasion dining for us -- but the couple of times we went the occasion was definitely special. Fortunately, none of our favorite restaurants here have suffered the same fate; I don't want to write a similar post again for a while.

The Barnsider

For my birthday, we went to the Barnsider just off of Wolf Road. I wanted to have steak for my birthday, and they usually have a coupon in the paper where you get 50% on your birthday. It gets points for having an original vibe when you walk in, because it seems much more like a hunting lodge Gaston from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" would hang around in, rather than a place that is around the corner from Colonie Center and Fuddrucker's. It felt very cozy with their wood captain's style chairs and fireplaces. I started out with a glass of Malbec which was pretty good. Then we visited the salad bar which comes with every entree. It was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed like they only had iceberg lettuce, and maybe romaine, but not any of the healthier versions of darker greens like spinach or mesclun greens. A lot of the vegetables tasted like they were canned. Of course you could have as little of the salad bar that you wanted, but to say it is free with ent…

New World Bistro

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The New World Bistro has quickly established itself as part of our regular rotation. We went with two more couples for dinner on Friday. We all ordered off the special Mardi Gras menu, which limits the use of this review somewhat -- evaluations of more regular menu items (I especially recommend the Egyptian sweetbreads) will have to wait. But everyone was satisfied with the meal, which featured the fresh ingredients and big flavors that characterize New World at its best.

We started with a round of drinks -- New World makes very good cocktails and has some interesting taps. Of particular interest is the fact that Chatham Brewing makes a special IPA for New World, which is superb.

We did the appetizers family-style. We had stuffed oysters three ways and a fried oyster cocktail for the table. No individual could try anything but everyone was pleased by the agreeably briny oysters inventively prepared. I regret not being able to try the oyster and artichoke soup; I may have to …

Small Luxuries in Life

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With my gift cards from my bridal shower I purchased a milk frother. I really underestimated how much I would really grow to love this item. I have consumed black coffee with nothing in it since I was 16 years old. My parents drink black coffee. My grandma drank black coffee. I worked at a coffee shop for years and never once put anything in the coffee. Somehow I thought this might be nice. You heat up some milk in a saucepan, pump the frother 20 times, and it takes ordinary to extraordinary in seconds. Put half coffee, half the frothed milk, top with cocoa powder or cinnamon, and it really starts to feel like a weekend. It makes the moment on a Sunday morning where you are hanging out reading the paper all that more enjoyable. And all for the reasonable rate of $30, I'd say being able to turn "I'm running out and really would just like to be woken up as fast as possible" into "Wow, life is pretty good and I am grateful to have this moment", it is totally …

Dessert in the NY/MA/VT Tri-State Area

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I'll start out by saying I'm not the biggest fan of dessert. Unless it's something that sounds really interesting that I have never had before or is key lime pie, I could pretty much take it or leave it. However, there are some exceptions to that rule.
Cheesecake Machismo I think that it is run by a husband and wife, and it has an adorable little location, astroturf and all. Everything we've ever had there has been amazing, though I recommend the Tiger Stripe and the Chocolate Chip Fasciana. You can get cheesecake from here and many Capital Region restaurants (Mangia, Cafe Capriccio, El Mariachi right next store), but you really need the whole experience complete with Hula girl figurines and kitschy posters. You can get a slice of cheesecake and a beverage for $5, and the slice is big enough to share.Bettie's Cakes Nothing has increased the probability that we go to the movies at Colonie Center on a Friday night than this popping up in the food court. They get point…

Poached Salmon with Herb Caper Vinaigrette

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So my coworker walked in today and mention how her doctor was mad at her about her diet. She basically doesn't like seasonings, only likes ground beef and sugar, and eats whole bags of M&Ms and whole cartons of ice cream. I was sort of like "well what about oatmeal?" hates it. "chicken breast?" hates it. "seafood?" no way. I did agree to help her exercise at lunchtime. I watch her dogs for her and she has junk food in her house I didn't even know existed like Oreo sticks that come with a container of frosting to dip it in. In some way being at her house is very exciting to me since we don't have any of that stuff at our house. I usually get very sick to my stomach, and regret it all - Coldstone ice cream cakes, Pecan Pie flavored chocolates, frozen pepperoni pizzas and all the rest of it. I also watch about 12 hours of Bridezillas when I am there, so pretty much every aspect of it is totally unhealthy. So in my dear beloved coworker's …

Wine Bar on Lark St.

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When we lived in NYC, we used to frequent a really intimate and comfortable wine bar in Astoria. I love the whole feel of wine bars, the relaxing ambiance, the sophistication that surrounds being able to try a variety of wines. So it was no surprise when we moved to Albany, that we were very excited to try the Wine Bar on Lark St. First off, let me discuss the setting. They have three fireplaces. Especially if you can't find parking and are braving the harsh winter, there is nothing more enjoyable than coming in to the all surrounding warmth of 3 fireplaces. It is like drinking wine under a down comforter. Fabulous. And then in the summer, they have a beautiful patio. It has fountains and greenery hanging from above. If you squint you could believe you were in France. Of course, the patio also has the scents of the kitchen hitting you in the face, which contrary to what you might expect don't always smell that good, but still, near perfect, beautiful setting.

They also have wi…

Spaghetti With Lemon

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Tonight's dinner is good weeknight meal: cheap, filling, tasty. The process is simple. Cook pasta in salted water as per directions. Just as it's al dente, reserve a cup or so of the cooking water. (This is the key step: it allows you to make the sauce with much less cream than the classic recipe.) Return the pot to medium heat (use another burner if you have an electric stove), sautee a shopped shallot (and, if you like, some fresh or frozen peas) in a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the reserved pasta water an a splash of cream or half and half (no more than 1/3 of a cup). Cook for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in the zest and juice of 2-3 lemons, basil, and if you like a drizzle of olive oil, and stir to coat well. Serve with a little Parmesan or Romano, and a green salad with a vinaigrette. (All these portions assume a pound of pasta; if you're just a couple and don't want leftovers, reduce the portions accordingly.)

We accompanied the me…

The Working Women's Guide to Breakfast

With as much joy we take in the planning and executing of dinners at our house, for me it is not the case with the weekday breakfast. Sure I really love steel cut oats on the weekend, and have been fatasizing for months about making this recipe from the Silver Spoon cookbook where you carve out tomatoes and roast them with olive oil and cook an egg inside the tomato, and snip some herbs on top at the end, but with weekdays it is so much more about finding the cheapest/healthiest/easiest way to not make my stomach noticeably growl during my 11am staff meeting. I get up at 6am, commute from Albany to the Berkshires, and am just lucky if I can get some combination of boots/tights/pencil skirt/sweater to look good together and have eyeliner in place, so forget about anything that takes any time or effort. I will mention that the best breakfast is leftover cold pizza (preferably from Lou-Bea's), but I know pizza is not an acceptable breakfast food and that is ridiculous.

So here are so…