Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Never Stood a Chance

Speaking of missing appendages...

The other day I brought out a new toy for the pugs to play with.  They went to town on it, right away.

Action shot (Bunni was ravenous and wouldn't stop moving):

I know, you're like what the hell is that. That doesn't look like a toy. 

Well, it's not quite "a toy".  Here's a closer look.

Yes, it's "part of a toy".  The ear part, to be exact.

So where's the rest of the toy?  Oh Rikki, where aarree yooouuu??

 Ah. Rikki's found the rest of the toy.  Ahem--Rikki, would you mind giving up half earless rabbit head so I can perform some repairs?

In response, Rikki hunkers down.

Which quickly transitions into multiple photo opportunities for the momma.

This toy lasted about 2 minutes, if that, before the severance.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Salmon en Papillote

We had some people over for dinner a few weeks ago.  They live in the neighborhood, and are also pug owners, so really how could we not invite them.  Heehee.  Actually, over the years that we've lived here, we've chatted with them more and more--they've passed the "they're not crazy test", so we decided to have them over.

This was one of the few times that we've had omnivores over for dinner, so I wanted to make some kind of animal flesh.  But I was too lazy to go to the farmers' market, and since I'm trying to be on this whole holier-than-thou kick to only buy happy meat (ahem, let's not talk about what I eat when I dine out--the phrases "hypocrite" and "double standard" come to mind (although I'm trying, I really am, but now I sound pathetic)), I decided that fish would be a good idea.  Unhappy fish just doesn't tug at my heartstrings the same way as do unhappy pigs.  Luckily the nearby grocery store has been making an effort to provide sustainable seafood.  Damn hippies.

My sister (the nutty one who has three pugs and makes her own pancetta) and friend must be on the same wavelength, because in the past few months they've both told me about salmon en papillote recipes.  The latest was from Dorie Greenspan.  Dorie, whom I love, has a new cookbook out, and my sister is roadtesting the recipes.  This one was a hit.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

This recipe is for 2 people, so I gave everyone at the dinner party a TBS worth of salmon. Just kidding, I doubled the recipe.

  • 3 small tomatoes, halved lengthwise (okay, apparently "small tomato" means "grape tomato"--I made these with plum tomatoes and I was like damn! these tomatoes take up a lot of space!)
  • 16 basil leaves
  • 2 5-oz salmon fillets, skinned
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (this turned out to be a lot, and I probably ended up using the equivalent of 1 1/2 scallions or so)
  • ½ lemon, zested (again, this was actually quite a lot of zest and I didn't use it all)
  • 2 small thyme sprigs 
  • extra virgin olive oil
Behold the aromatics. Note glaring absence of salmon. Didn't want to cross-contaminate, or whatever they call it. Oh look at me trying to be all holier-than-thou again.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees if you plan on cooking the salmon right after prepping (as you'll see later, you can prep the salmon and refrigerate for up to 6 hours before baking).

Halve the tomatoes lengthwise.  Heat a few tsp of olive oil over medium high heat.  Sear tomatoes for about 3-5 minutes total, flipping halfway between (skins will be wrinkly and bubbly).

The directions from the cookbook said that the tomatoes should be caramelized.  Now I don't know if this is because I was using much larger plum tomatoes rather than the grape tomatoes, but in order to get them "caramelized", I sure had to make those suckers mushy.

The second time I made this recipe (for the guests), I tossed the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and a few time leaves and popped them in the oven at 450 degrees for just a few minutes (no more than 5, because they started to scream at me), and decided not to care whether they were caramelized or not.

While the tomatoes are cooking (via skillet or baking sheet), prep the green onion and lemon zest.
Purdy. And ready to rumble.

So the whole idea of "en papillote" (wow I cannot stop myself with the hoity toity stuff today) is that you're baking something in a pouch, to seal in the juices and make it all moist and yummy and juicy and delectable.

Take a piece of foil or parchment paper (I used the latter for the dinner party since it was better presentation) large enough to hold a piece of salmon and half of the tomatoes, side by side.

Build your ingredients slightly to the right (or left, if it pleases you), so you can fold over and seal the pouch before putting it in the oven.

Lay down about 5 basil leaves. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  The recipe calls for white pepper, which I suppose would look nice, but we have space only for one pepper mill in this house, and it demands black pepper.

Lay the salmon on top of the basil.  Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.  Drizzle with 1/2 tsp olive oil.  Sprinkle half of the zest and half of the green onion on each filet. Drizzle on about a 1/2 tsp of lemon juice (the second time I made this, I also drizzled on some white wine--why not).  Top each salmon with a sprig of thyme.  The recipe also calls for laying on thin slices of lemon, but I felt there was enough lemony flavor with the zest and lemon juice, so I refrained.

Lastly, line up half the tomato halves next to the salmon.

Look at my gargantuan tomatoes.  No matter, one can never have enough tomatoes.  Have halves.  Haha I kill me.

Fold over parchment/foil and seal the edges by folding over and crimping the edges.  

If you are not familiar with this technique, you can watch the video at the end of this article.  Spoiler alert: calling it a "technique" is overkill, you can probably figure it out intuitively, or at the very least get it over seeing it done for 2 seconds.

Yay, happy little packet! You can make the packets up to 6 hours ahead and store in refrigerator.  Remove about 30 minutes before cooking.  

While the salmon was refrigerating, I made the side dishes.  I served the salmon with a roasted beet and avocado salad, and potatoes roasted on the stovetop with DUCK FAT.

For da beets.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim beets.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper; wrap tightly in foil and place on baking sheet.

Roast for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove, let sit until cool enough to handle, peel (the skins should come right off), and dice into large chunks.

Toss with vinaigrette (3:1 or 2:1 acid to olive oil with salt and pepper, all whisked together).

Shortly before serving, dice avocadoes, place them on top of beets, and sprinkly lightly with lemon juice.  I also tore up some basil for topping because I had it lying around. 

For potatoes: Clean about 2 lbs fingerling potatoes (for 4 to 6 people).  Heat large pot over medium heat; place in 1 TBS butter and a 2 TBS duck fat (or just use half and half butter and olive oil).

Throw in potatoes.  Cover.  Cook about 20 minutes or until done, shaking every once in a while to prevent sticking.

Back to the salmon.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place salmon packets on baking sheet, and place into oven for about 10-12 minutes.  Snip open pouches with scissors or knife, and serve immediately.

I started digging in before I took a picture.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Look Ma! No Legs!

Sometimes the pugs like to nest their pudgy little bodies like a pair of hens.

Per usual, Bunni doesn't seem all that pleased with the picture-taking.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Farfalle with Cruciferous Vegetables

The farmers' market is gradually transitioning from summer eggplants and tomatoes, to broccoli and cauliflower.  There were some lovely examples of the latter two this past weekend, which brought to mind a pasta recipe that someone passed on to me. The original recipe uses two heads of broccoli, but I couldn't pass up the cauliflower, so I decided to use both.

The recipe also calls for cooking the broccoli by tossing the florets in with the boiling pasta during the last 5 minutes, but I had some time and decided to roast them before adding to the pasta.

Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis (shaded with gray just because).

  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • 1 head broccoli, florets separated and stalks sliced into 1/4" coins
  • 1 head cauliflower, same treatment as broccoli
  • lotsa extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prep the cauliflower and broccoli by separating the heads into florets, and slicing the stalks into 1/4" coins.

I did two rounds of roasting--one for the cauliflower and one for, you guessed it, the broccoli.  Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet. You'll probably need 2 baking sheets--you want there to be enough space so that the veggie actually roasts instead of just steaming happily next to each other.  I needed two baking sheets for each round.

Toss with generous amount of olive oil to coat, and a sprinkle or salt and pepper.

The way my oven was going, I had to toss and rotate the baking pans at about 6 minutes, and roast for another 6 minutes, for a total of 12 minutes.  It'll depend on your oven, how much veggie you have, and what size your chopped veggies are. 

Some of them got a wee bit more cooked than other.  I call it artsy and spontaneous.  I played it a little safer with the broccoli, as you can see below.

After the vegetables are roasted, heat the butter and about 2-3 TBS of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Throw in the garlic slices, anchovies, and the red pepper flakes.

Cook for about 5 minutes, until anchovies are broken down and garlic is golden brown.

Throw in the veggies and toss well to mix.

Cook pasta according to package directions, shaving off a minute or so. Drain pasta, saving about a cup of the pasta cooking water.  Add drained pasta to veggies.  Continue to cook over low heat until pasta reaches desired consistency, adding in as much pasta water as you like to help make it a little saucy (mine was not very saucy). Dump in the cheese!


Next time I think I would add at least a couple more anchovy fillets and more cheese, and who knows, maybe toss in some whole garlic cloves when I'm roasting the veggies.  If you want to make this veggie, of course you can leave out the anchovies.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

They're Watching Me

I went out of town earlier this week for business.  After checking into the hotel and getting to my room, I started to settle down by, of course, turning on the television. I was greeted with this screen.

It was a perfectly nice and friendly hotel, but this is kinda pushing into creepy-ville, isn't it?


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Oh I do love bucatini all'amatriciana.  Mostly because I love cooking with fatty bits of cured pork. Oh heavens yum.  Mario, help me out.

This recipe consists of two main parts--the basic tomato sauce, and then the second sauce with the guanciale and jazz for the amatriciana aspect.  The amatriciana recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of the basic tomato sauce, but the recipe for the basic tomato sauce (I feel like this is the M.C. Escher of recipes) is for 4 cups, so I halved the ingredients for the basic tomato sauce.

Recipe adapted from Mario Batali.

Basic tomato sauce:
  • 2 TBS of extra-virgin olive oil  
  • 1 small Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice (Spanish onions, at least in my neck of the woods, tend to be gigantor, so I just used a small yellow onion)
    2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced 
    1/2  TBS dried thyme (or 1 TBS chopped fresh thyme)  
  • 1 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved 
    Salt, to taste
  • The recipe also calls for 1/2 medium carrot (so I would have used a whopping 1/4 carrot), finely shredded, but I just left out the carrot completely because I strongly dislike dealing with carrots and it didn't seem worth it
  • Note: The full recipe says this makes 4 cups, but with 2 28-oz cans of tomatoes (the original, full amount), I fail to see how that's only 4 cups. But whatever.
The main event:
  • ¾ pound guanciale, or pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced 1/2" thick
  • 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce
  • 1 pound bucatini (I used something called perciatelli which seems to be very similar to bucatini--if neither of these are available, feel free to use spaghetti or linguine)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsely, leaves only (oops, forgot this)
  • Pecorino Romano, grated
First, make the basic tomato sauce.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and add in garlic and onions. 

Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 6-8 minutes.  Add in tomatoes and their juices, as well as the dried thyme.

Bring to boil and then lower heat to simmer.  Stir occasionally while simmering for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is pretty thick.  I forgot to take a picture.

While the sauce is simmering, prep the amatriciana sauce ingredients.  Place the guanciale (or pancetta) in a large pot and turn on the heat to low or medium low.  The idea is to cook the guanciale very slowly so that the fat has a chance to render out before those bits of pork get nice and crispy. 

Cook, stirring occasionally, until guanciale is nice golden brown.  Don't be surprised if this takes a long time--it probably took me about 20 minutes.

Scoop out the guanciale bits with a slotted spoon on set on paper towel-covered plate to drain excess fat.  Pour out half of fat from pot (oh sooooo SSAAAADDD....)

While the guanciale was cooking, you can prep and measure out the other ingredients--garlic, red onion, and red pepper flakes.

Turn stove to medium-high heat, and add in the red onion, garlic, pepper flakes, and the cooked guanciale.

Cook until the garlic and onions are golden brown.  The recipe says about 5 minutes, but mine might have taken longer. Can't remember.

Almost there. So close. Add in the basic tomato sauce.  While the recipe calls for just 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce, I just added everything I had made, which was about 2 cups (after it had been simmering and reducing for a while).  Maybe more, doesn't matter.  Just make sure it's a nice and thick sauce.  Bring to simmer and wait for the pasta.

Cook your pasta according to the package directions, shaving off 1 or 2 minutes. Drain pasta and add into  the guanciale sauce, cooking until desired texture/consistency.

Stir in a generous handful of Pecorino Romano.  You can also top with parsley at this point, which I totally forgot.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

While the Mommy Cooks...

So what are the pugs typically doing when I'm busy in the kitchen?

Patiently waiting (i.e. begging) for scraps.

Or, more commonly, they are just passed out.

It's positively indecent.