Monday, February 27, 2012

Family Feast February 2012

February 25, 2012

double-cream cow/goat "Cremont" cheese
Raincoast "Salty Date and Almond" crackers

Moroccan salad of orange sections, kalamata olives, garlic, olive oil, all kinds of chile seasoning, and Michael's home-grown giant Italian parsley

Braised Short Ribes with Brandy and Dried Cherry Reduction
Zuni Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans sautéed in butter with lemon juice

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake with Marlon's pecans from El Reno, Oklahoma
 whipped cream plus rum-sprinkled coconut and cinnamon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Peppers

Previously I used this cookbook (Chicken and the Egg) to muse upon the dear friends that I have.  I like this cookbook a good deal (in part because it was a gift from one of those friends), and it boasts a delightful little blog by its author, Janice Cole.   In fact, this cookbook tempts one to suddenly garner a chicken coop for one's backyard, and I know many of you already have one for your own.  If that's the case, I recommend picking this cookbook up to complete your home.  And even without a chicken coop, if you have access to good chicken and eggs, this cookbook will please you.

This week, I have been thinking a lot about home.  Such thoughts come from two places.  The first is that I have been running again, and I listened to Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk about Love" on a pod cast.  I love this story of Nick and Laura and Mel and Terri, who are sitting around a kitchen table, drinking gin, and talking about love.  I always imagine them in a space like my grandfather's kitchen, a little too close to one another, perhaps their knees touching under the table.  The light goes down as they look out over the backyard.  And Nick at one point says, "We lived in Albuquerque then. But we were all from someplace else."  I have, for the past 23 years, been from someplace else. But ten years ago, we moved to the Bay Area, and I felt as if I had come home.  Many people in the Bay Area are from someplace else, and we have flocked here and made new homes. So what makes a home, then?  A sense of belonging, a smell in the air, the right bend of light?  For me, it includes the smell of the ocean (which I never knew would mean home, but it does), the fog, the hills, and the colors of blue and white reflecting off the city as I drive to my house.

The second reason I am thinking a lot about home is because this past week someone tried to break into that house.  Luckily it was during the day, no one was home, and the burglar wasn't able to actually get inside.  He or she just broke the back window.  However, it shook both the husband and me.  We don't really have anything of real value in our house.  But the thought of someone rummaging through what we do have is troubling. The thought of someone entering our home without our knowing makes us realize (again) how fragile all of this is and how grateful we are to have it.  Yet, of course, the idea of home goes well beyond the material.  It is an elusive and sometimes illusive sense of security.  A sense that what you have and where you are is protected.

So how does all of this connect to cooking, or more specifically with this dish?  Cooking always makes a place feel more like home.  It makes me feel as if I am building a home where I perhaps was once only a visitor.  It makes me feel as if I am gathering around me those whom I love and who make me feel safe.

This chicken dish is extremely simple, and we have actually made this dish twice in the past week.  It's easy enough to make on a weeknight.  You can switch up the veggies (maybe Brussels sprouts or even broccoli) or the spices (I did one round with paprika and turmeric, but the cumin was wonderful).

And this week, the husband and I sat to eat it, enjoying being in our home.  It's a perfect winter dish to make you feel cozy, and hopefully secure, in your home.

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Oatmeal Rolls

Two Years Ago: Stir-fried Rice Noodles with Chicken and Shrimp
Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Peppers
Adapted from  Chicken and the Egg

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower (about 4 cups)
2 large red bell peppers, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 pounds.  I used thighs and drumsticks)
2 teaspoons ground cumin (I made this a second time, and the second time, I used turmeric and paprika.  But the cumin is good, too).

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly oil a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Toss the cauliflower and red bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of the oil and the lemon juice in a large bowl.  Add 2 of the garlic cloves and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and toss the vegetables to mix.  Arrange on the baking sheet.

2.  Toss the chicken drumsticks in the same bowl with the remaining garlic, salt, pepper, and the cumin.  Arrange the chicken around the vegetables (I used a separate baking sheet).

3.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the vegetables are tender.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Family Feast January 2012

January 28, 2012

Olives and Pistachios
Four Cheeses
Truffle Mousse Pate

Ann Johnson's Salad
(Butter Lettuce, Pears, Pecans, and Cheese)


Orange and Almond Bread Pudding with Chocolate


Friday, February 3, 2012

Turkey Meatloaf

Sweet business.  Meatloaf.  Who knew meatloaf could be so tasty?

Okay, let's get a little philosophical before we get to the nitty-gritty of cooking.  I have been thinking about the concept of “enough.”  When is “enough” actually “enough” and how do you know? Most specifically, I have been thinking about this concept in regards to two things—stuff and food. 

Let’s begin with stuff.  I have been in the midst of some cleaning things out.  Maybe it’s the new year.  Maybe it’s the desire for spring.  But I have been stuffing a lot of stuff into garbage bags to be hauled down to the local Goodwill.  Next on the list is a purge of the library to be taken down to Moe’s (my favorite used bookstore), where I will no doubt acquire one or two new (used) books, but at least the exchange rate is something like, bring in 10 books, leave with one.  I have cleaned out the pantry.  I have even cleaned under the bathroom sink.  Filing, tossing, donating what can be gotten rid of.

And when it comes to food, I think about the concept of enough a lot whenever we have a family dinner (which we did last week) (and I will post pictures of soon).  I always worry that we will not have enough food.  So the appetizer plate of cheese and crackers is always overflowing, and we’re left with quarters and halves and slivers of (really yummy) cheese to be eaten as leftovers the next week.  Or I worry there will not be enough dessert for six, so I make dessert for 12.  Because you never know, right?  What would be the worst thing that would happen if there were not enough dessert?  Would it be that I would just cut smaller slices, which people would appreciate anyway because they have just filled up on (enough of) the main dish?  What would be the worst that would happen if there were not enough of the cheese?  Would it be that they would eat more of the main dish, which we have of course made more than enough of?

So in thinking about this concept of enough, here is a recipe that makes way more than enough.  Or is it just enough?  Ina Garten suggests that you make five pounds of meatloaf because she swears by the meatloaf sandwiches that come from the leftovers.  I, too, share in her sentiment.  The meatloaf is quite tasty, indeed, and the sandwiches that follow are divine.  However, I made only two and a half pounds and that was, indeed, enough to last us a whole week of leftovers.  I cannot imagine what the week would have been like had I made the whole five.  Would I have begun to dislike the meatloaf because it was too much rather than just enough?  I am grateful, then, that the two and a half pounds was just the perfect amount of enough.

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash, Kale and White Bean Soup

Two Years Ago: Carnitas

Ina Garten's Turkey Meatloaf
Adapted from  The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook 

8-10 servings

3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
5 pounds ground turkey breast [I used a mixture of thigh and breast]
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
3 extra-large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup ketchup

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.  In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

3.  Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.