Friday, March 30, 2012

A New Kind Of Cheese Board

Late night snacks for wedding revelers. I'm going to adopt this as our new house appetizer. Farmers cheese, sliced radishes, sweet butter, chopped scallions and uniquely savory coarse Maldon salt along side thinly sliced whole wheat bread. Easy, elegant, delicious.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fried Chicken For The Road

Tomorrow James and I are driving of town. Getting a head start on a weekend away to see a dear friend get married. A long car trip seemed like a perfect excuse to not just stack up on catalogs and magazines to read along the road but to fortify our cooler with a big batch of Italian style fried chicken. After marinating for a day in lemon juice and olive oil, the lightly dredged pieces are fried in olive oil for a flavorful, crispy crust. Some for dinner tonight. Some cold for the road. Much better than drive through.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lentil Soup

Today just felt cold to me. Honestly it wasn't really as frigid as it felt but I just couldn't warm up. So what's the perfect dinner for a cold day? Soup. Hearty, homemade, soup. I barely had enough ingredients to get the pot going but I stared as I usually do with chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrot sin a bit of olive oil. I let the vegetables cook until the onion was soft and translucent and then added in lentils, a bay leaf, chopped parsley, thyme, salt, crushed red peppers, and because I didn't have very many lentils a drained can or garbanzo beans. I covered everything with about 6 cups of chicken broth and a little water and brought the mixture up to a boil. After simmering for 20 minutes I brought James soup to the table topped with sautéed bits of Italian sausage for a little extra flavor and shavings of parmesan cheese. I had mine as it came out of the pot -- more diet friendly that way.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Oven Roasted Dinner

Another day of yardwork. Too tired to cook. We roasted what vegetables we had in the fridge in a hot oven sprinkled with S&P, olive oil, and a pinch of za'atar for an easy to eat vegetarian dinner.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Almost Pizza

I had the crust all ready but no mozzarella. Nothing that really screamed pizza. So I went for something a little different. Thinly sliced potatoes, red onion, ham, fresh thyme, and Gruyère topped with a sprinkling of crushed red peppers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Potatoes and Beans

James, the dogs and I spent all day outside doing yard work. When it came time for dinner I could barely think. I just had no idea. I put some potatoes in the oven to bake. Figured that was a good place to start no matter what went with it. James loves broccoli so I decided to steam some up. My first thought was baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese, but that seemed like it would need a salad and I just didn't feel like washing any lettuce. Besides it never hurts to have a little protein after a long day's work. I looked in the cupboard and happened on a jar of big beautiful white beans and quickly decided on a bean sauté to top those baked potatoes. I mixed diced bacon, onion, celery, crushed red peppers, parsley, thyme, and a bit of fresh sage in a saucepan with warm olive oil and let the vegetables sauté until the onions were tender. I added in the beans, heated through (well a little more than just through to let the beans absorb some of the flavor) and finished the "sauce" with a touch of cream.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cooking For The Freezer

James has been out of town for a couple days. Instead of making his dinner I spent that time stocking the freezer just a bit. Everybody's favorite make ahead freezer meal -- lasagna! I happened to have noodles in the house and for some reason (mostly our very generous beef cattle raising neighbors) plenty of ground beef. I made a thick Bolognese style ragú with beef, ground pork (a pork chop I had in the freezer) and bacon (we didn't have pancetta but that hint of smokiness didn't seem to hurt the sauce a bit) and a milk white bechamel sauce (one of James favorites). I layered the sauces and noodles, with grated mozzarella and parmesan then wrapped up two lasagnas for the freezer and left one out for dinner tonight.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pork Chops and Apple (Onion) Sauce

Easy, fast, delicious. I seared double cut pork chops (rubbed with S&P, oregano, and chilis) in olive oil (bout 4 minutes a side) and then set them aside on a plate. To the fat remaining in the skillet I added about 2 TB of butter and let that melt then tossed in 1 sliced onion, 2 sliced apples, and a clove of minced garlic. I let those cook over medium heat until the onions were soft and poured in a cup of chicken broth and a bay leaf, brought the mixture to a simmer and added the pork chops back in. The chops simmered in the sauce for about 10 minutes until they were cooked through but still moist and juicy. Easy, fast, delicious.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spaghetti with Sausage, Radicchio and Red Wine sauce

Simple and quick and a chance to use up a few things in the fridge. I started with sausage (out of the casings), red onion, garlic and shallots in a pan of hot oil and let the sausage brown and the onion soften together. I thought the sausage might be a bit bland so I added in crushed red peppers, rosemary, fennel seeds and oregano along with some finely chopped Italian dry salami. Next I tossed in the radicchio and let everything cook down until the red leaves were just tinged with brown. I added in about a cup of red wine and a cup of chicken stock and let the sauce simmer while the pasta cooked and the radicchio softened.
The drained pasta went right into the skillet with the sauce, a knob of butter and a handful of chopped parsley. I gave the spaghetti a good couple turns in the sauce and brought it to he table with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a little more fresh parsley.
A pretty hearty wintery dinner.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Something We Do Every Year

I always like to make a themed holiday dinner. James just likes corned beef, especially with this orange marmalade glaze I have been making since the 70's (no joke) when the now classic Silver Palate Cookbook first hit the stands. 1 cup of orange marmalade (homemade from our blood orange tree this year), 4 TBs (hefty TBs) of brown sugar, and 4 TBs (hefty TBs) of Dijon mustard (I like the whole seed variety) mixed together and poured over the pre-cooked corned beef brisket (I cook the meat in the crockpot so it stays moist and tender). After 30 minutes at 350º the glaze is just a bit crispy and our yearly tradition is ready to take it's place next to parsley tossed potatoes and this year, kale not cabbage.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Roast Turkey

Simple and plain alongside steamed peas and roasted carrots sprinkled with za'atar. Nothing fancy but a good entree for me now that I am back stateside and back to the diet. Not James' favorite but pretty low on the Weight watchers point scale.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bangers And Mash

Perfect for a rainy day out here in the grasslands. Warm comfort food, and a little foreshadowing to upcoming St Patrick's day.
Trader Joe's had packages of Irish sausages on sale so I brought them home and seared a couple quickly in hot oil in a skillet while I boiled peeled potatoes in a saucepan. I took the browned sausages out of the pan and added in one sliced onion, and a minced clove of garlic and let them soften in the still hot oil. When the onion was soft I added in a couple TB of flour and cooked up a quick roux which I thinned with chicken broth. I added the sausages back into the gravy and let them simmer while the potatoes cooked. Five minutes before the potatoes were ready to drain I added in a couple handfuls of chopped chard and let the vegetables soften together. I drained the potatoes and quickly mashed them (and the chard) with butter, olive oil and cream and used that mixture as the base for James' sausages and onion gravy. Bangers and Mash: a UK classic, a first for us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Welcome Home Sliders

The perfect American meal for a first night back in the US. Sliders and duck fat fries.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So Long Shanghai: A Last Food Stroll

Ladies cleaning pig's feet on the street. Perhaps for the rich broths that fill Shanghai's delicate dumplings. A good way to start a last food stroll.
Mangosteen's for sale on the street.
I've heard it said mangosteens might be the most delicious fruit on earth. After tasting them fresh (and not after a long airplane ride far from home) I think it may be true. Super sweet, delicious. I wish I had discovered them earlier.
A sesame ball dessert from a street side vendor -- little greasy but filled with delicious black sesame seed paste.
Honestly I don't know what to call this. Based on the sesame flat breads also made at this tiny stand, I suspect it may be a Northern Chinese specialty but it was new to me. The thinly stretched dough was filled with greens (not honestly sure what kind) and a bit of egg, sealed and, I think, fried.
The filling was fairly bland -- could have used a little chili, but the dough was surprisingly crisp and light.
Making and selling carry out treats in a closet-sized stand.Selling potstickers on the street.
Spiral cut pineapples either whole or on a stick. The spirals artfully remove the eyes while preserving the sweet flesh.
Fresh meat mooncakes. There was a huge line for these and so I just joined in. I thought for sure the translation was botched as the moon cakes I see are usually a sweet treat for Chinese New Year. But, sure enough, when I bit in to the super flaky still warm pastry it was filled with meat and a deep rich broth. A mini beef wellington with ground meat.
Durian. Not nearly as smelly as one would think. Peeled chopped and sold for about $1.50 a container. Sort of like a starchy pineapple. Not too bad. The taste kind of grows on you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Street Bao

Chinese fast food, a spot along a "food street" by People's Park in Shanghai.
Walking the streets of Shanghai I came on Babi Mantou a small chain featuring all types of steamed bao -- often called mantou in the Shanghai area. In some neighborhoods the menu board is posted in English (although the staff will likely not speak any English at all -- I used the old traveling food point). I ended up with something new (at least for me), a fluffy steamed bread stuffed with spicy rice noodles.
A couple blocks away I found another bao shop -- clearly not a chain but the type you see all over Shanghai. Steamer baskets piled high waiting to delight any passerby. I pointed again, no English here, and ended up with the same filling -- spicy rice noodles, a new favorite.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shanghai Food Court

The best food on my trip? No. Fun? Yes. And a bit of adventure in ordering. I went to the desk, bought a couple tickets and came out with a plate of Shanghai noodles (Cu Mian?), thick (okay these weren't really so thick but it is a food court after all) yellow chewy noodles stir fried with soy and vegetables. And a plate of glutinous rice cake (chao nian gao -- I think) also sautéed with soy, maybe pork, and bits of vegetables.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Yang's Fry-Dumplings Shanghai

Great dumplings on a great dumpling street. Directly across the street from my new epicenter of Shagnhai Soup Dumplings (Jia Jia Tang Bao) is a branch of local mini-chain Yang's Fry-Dumpings, Shenjianbao (also called Shenjianmantou in Shanghai) specialists. In fact while slurping through my soup dumplings at JJTB I noticed a few take out containers (the fried bottom makes these treats durable and portable unlike the more tender soup dumplings) from YFD on surrounding tables. These are the spots for dumpling lovers.
Yang's Fry dumpings offers a few soups but only one kind of dumpling. The pan fried super crisp, super juicy local specialty sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions that's been a breakfast treat here in Shanghai for more than 100 years. Customers line up to wait for a batch to be cooked and hustle over for their order waving pre-paid tickets from the front cashier.
Four for about a dollar. Take your plate and find a seat.
Clearly the shop's most popular item, dumplings are constantly being filled, rolled and readied for the three giant flat bottomed pans.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Jia Jia Tang Bao Shanghai

The best so far. Maybe just the best.
I set out specifically to find this highly regarded but decidedly no frills dumpling house twice. I went early to avoid what I'm told can be long lines or the disappointment of hearing your favorite filling has already run out. Now to be fair the "dining room" is so small 25 people would seem like an unruly mob but these are in fact dumplings well worth waiting for.
I strolled in the door feeling conspicuously Western and was relieved that the woman at the front counter had an English version of the menu board behind her head. I placed my order by pointing to a few dishes, paid and was given a numbered ticket.
Not quite the secret lair of an ancient Shanghainese grandmother and her carefully guarded family recipe food geeks dream of finding, these teenagers wait to roll and fill each steamer tray of dumplings to order. I try to hide my excitement as I slip in to find a place at one of the crowded tables. A couple other customers stare (in a friendly kind of way) in my direction.
I started with a seaweed and egg soup, not expecting much. The broth is completely clear -- like water, but the flavor is so complex so full of the sea that I feel healthier just spooning in. A good dose of iron to gather strength for the dish ahead.
Dumplings. Shanghai soup dumpings. I ordered shrimp with egg and pork with crab. This is the kind of dough dumpling seekers dream about. I pick each delicate morsel up by the knot, dip it in the light soy and ginger on the table and roll each one in chili paste. They are nearly transparent and super tender with just enough body to hold the steaming soup and gently resist my teeth as I bite in to slurp the soup from inside.I barely notice the other customers. My head is spinning with hot soup and dough.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Serious Street Food

I strolled past a construction site just around quitting time where an informal food court presided over by a circle of bikes holding coolers had sprung up. I glanced into a bright yellow box, pointed to a spongy white ball of dough and was rewarded with a warm bao filled with savory picked greens. 1 piece for 1 yuan -- not quite 20 cents. Score!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another Kind of Soup Dumpling

Bigger and served with a straw to suck the hot broth out of the doughy shell. Kind of interesting street food for a cold rainy day

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A New Kind Of Dumpling

Shanghai style pork dumplings. New to me, these have slightly thicker dough than the better known soup dumplings and are cooked (steamed and fried at once) in these giant pots covered with a wooden lid ready to serve up to hungry tourists.
The waiting dumplings are sprinkled with sesame seeds and a bit of green onion and then scraped off the kettle when the bottoms are super crisp and the dough springy with a burst of soup that squirts from the inside (if you're not careful).
Juicy, doughy, crisp with a touch of sasame. These might be my new favorite dumplings.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Whampoa Club Shanghai

I remember reading, in one food magazine or another, an article describing the elegant opening of Whampoa Club in Shanghai. With a view along The Bund, WC was described by our hosts as "fine dining" (there is a LOT of fine dining in Shanghai I'm finding) and in fact all of the dishes are served elegantly and graciously. The food was just fine, and for a first night after a long flight it was nice to be taken care of . . . but I am looking forward to seeing even a bit of the real, everyday China.
We started with a selection of cold dishes, jellyfish salad, smoked fish, drunken chicken, and these glazed pork riblets. Shanghai cuisine is marked by a fondness for sugar in all manner of main dishes. The chef at WC hinted at that tradition with his modernized Chinese dishes.
Lion's head meatballs (without the more familiar -- to me -- rice coating), again bathed in a slightly sweet sauce.
There has to be duck. This fellow was artfully sliced table side, the skin wrapped in thin pancakes with thick hoisin sauce.
Crispy and Chewy at once.
When we had just gotten a little excited about the idea of -- however inelegant -- tearing into that crisp little bird he was whisked back to the kitchen only to reappear as part of a quick stirfry. Sigh.
Xiaolongbao, Shanghai soup dumplings. A specialty of Eastern China these little buns, along with a tasty filling, hold a bit of broth that heats as the dumplings steam to offer a burst of soup with your bite. In the states XLB, a shorthand the Chinese food hounds use, are somewhat of a holy grail with blogs holding endless discussions of the thinest dough and the most flavorful fillings. Here they are quite simply -- and delightfully everywhere. I plan on tasting and reporting on quite a few.
The view from our table on The Bund to the electric, Blade Runner light show of the Pudong district, China's financial center.