Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cabbage, deadbeef

For some reason I haven't been taking particularly good pictures of food lately. Everything's been turning out a little blurry. I think I must have a case of the shakes. Either that or my camera has a case of the not-focusing-correctlies. I hope it's the former, because that can be treated with a hefty dose of Comanaprosil, while the latter would require purchasing a new camera, and that wouldn't be covered by my student health insurance plan. You know, maybe I'll just lay off the coffee.

Let me start off by hitting you with my best shot. Here I fried some brussels sprouts, then seared some cherry tomatoes in hot olive oil and mixed the brussels sprouts into the tomatoes. I added a diced green onion and some basil at the end. I don't know quite what I was expecting from the seared cherry tomatoes--maybe like a crisp, bittersweet caramelized exterior exploding into a brisk rush of fresh tomato water--but they didn't quite deliver. Instead they were just like slightly warm tomatoes. Perfectly good, but not matching up to my perhaps unreasonable expectations for this preparation. Okay, next time I will deep-fry the tomatoes after freezing them in liquid nitrogen.

I also used some brussels sprouts in making this dinner, which, if I were to serve it in a fancy restaurant, I might entitle "BRASSICAS, wheat, elements of magic sauce." This blog is not a fancy restaurant so let me just tell you that it's some cauliflower and brussels sprouts that I cooked, maybe with some tomatoes too, and then seasoned with some olive oil, sweet paprika, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon zest, and chili pepper (basically everything that goes into Heidi's magic sauce, except deconstructed) and before tossing it all with pasta. Wow, that is a lot of things written out like that. Maybe my initial title was better. Speaking of magic sauce, the other day I had the following conversation with Jeff:

Jeff: cilantro is like the parsley for the countries in the eastme: we haven't had magic sauce for a whole week
I was just thinking that
how have we lived?
Jeff: I was thinking the same thing
like five mins ago

How do I live without you, magic sauce? I want to know.

Apparently I have been on a roll taking pictures of brussels sprouts and whole wheat pasta. This was dinner last night: pasta again, this time tossed with some radicchio, pumpkin seeds, seared sweet peppers, rosemary, and a ton of butter. It turned out pretty well, like an oft-told story about a nice steaming bowl of hot buttered noodles punctuated by the occasional bitter crunch of radicchio. The really, really bitter crunch of radicchio. Like, wow, I would not have used a whole head of radicchio if I had known about that bitter crunch. Luckily, the flavors all mellowed together a little bit in the fridge, so having it for lunch today, things weren't quite as astringent. That's a quality to which we should aspire in all lunches: "not quite as astringent."

My high school friend Ben was visiting this weekend for a robotics conference and even though he has a $120 per diem for this conference, I decided that it would be easier to make him dinner and enjoy it overlooking the nonstop three-ring circus of Castro St. He did bring over a $119 bottle of wine to make up for it. Ha, no. We started with this salad--escarole, motherfucking edible flower petals, tomatoes, feta, and figs in a balsamic vinaigrette--and moved on to a red and yellow bell pepper risotto, which I was very proud of producing with my favorite risotto technique: pureeing half of the vegetables and stirring them into the risotto at the last minute before serving. The risotto was great and had a ton of sweet peppery flavor (Lillet never hurts either), but the salad was maybe even better: really fresh, tangy, well-balanced, colorful, and pretty emblematic of California in late, late summer.

It was the kind of salad, in fact, that I might want to eat before or after a lovely piece of meat such as this bavette steak that Jeff and I made for dinner on Friday. I think it's probably the best steak I've ever cooked; it stomped a mudhole in last year's au poivre. You can see here that it's a perfect rosy pink (thanks to a major assist from Jeff's meat thermometer) hidden inside a nice crispy crust and topped with a reduction of red wine and chicken stock. Jeff made the perfect accompaniments to go along with it--a twice-baked potato and some Portuguese cabbage--and then we had some roasted banana ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately I can't post about that yet but once you see this really awesome post next week that has a ton of Ween references you will totally understand. This is how my brain works.


Recipe roundup...

Everything here was kind of off-the-top-of-my-head, but I did look up Kenji's recipe for pan-seared steaks, because I don't cook steak too often. I really dig how he suggests cooking the second side of the steak slowly and continually basting it with flavored butter. I'll probably start doing that instead of a hard sear on both sides.

Jeff's comment on cilantro comes from one of Sandra Lee's delicious recipes

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