Dear J - Two Fridays ago, I decided to take some mental health time. Cooking therapy of comfort food was in order. I started by rendered some prosciutto end (thanks!), browned some oxtails, added onion and garlic, and deglazed with red wine. The pot simmered for most of the evening on low, filling the house with the rich smell of meat. It rested overnight and the fat solidified for easy removal.
On Saturday, I reheated the pot and simmer on extra low until meat was tender and falling off the bones. And skimmed more fat off. Then added portobello mushrooms, carrots and canned of San Marzano tomatoes. Accompanied by polenta and some roasted collard and kale, with shaved Parmesan on top and sprinkled with parsley.
Oh, almost forgot, I got some miscellaneous meats from International Deli - bear sausage, spicy pork (?), and tongue headcheese, and a small slice of Halva with chocolate for dessert. Much debate about whether the sausage was actually Bear. And much thanks for bringing a growler of beverage.
You are right that I was really worried. Certain people (plural) dislike certain textures. So when I pulled the bones out, I also tried to pull out the gelatinous bits. Then I also remember (I think) that you mention certain people like their protein separated from the starch and vegetables. Here I am, serving ambiguous protein, with starch and vegetables in one dish. "There is always Taco Bell."
By request, we played Ticket to Ride after dinner. N won. I picked three initial routes that overlap, then an additional one that extends from my original three. I thought I played a very thrifty and efficient game, but still lost. Hmm, N has a winning strategy.I think we may have played out this game. Power Grid may be in order (BGG).
For the holidays this year, my mom and I bought one another the same cookbook, Jerusalem. This cookbook has quite the cult following -- people have been having Jerusalem parties where each person invited brings a different dish from the book and it was the top-selling cookbook in the summer of 2013.
It's not a cult party, but I decided shortly after Christmas that I would make the roasted cauliflower salad and kofta for our next game night. That's just what I did.
roasted cauliflower salad
I really liked this roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad. I roasted the cauliflower and toasted the hazelnuts in the morning, then put the rest of the salad together later.
The salad has a head of cauliflower, roasted. I tossed it with the spices -- cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper. It is tossed with celery, toasted hazelnuts, a ton of flat parsley, and pomegranate arils. I let this sit for a few hours at room temperature before adding a touch of the dressing -- sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil. I really liked this salad a lot and think is a great winter salad.
You'll have to let us know how it held up overnight, since you took the leftovers!
Along with the salad, I made kofta. I used half local grass-fed lamb (it was VERY lean) and half local grass-fed beef. I wanted to cook the kofta medium-rare, so I was a little particular about the ground meat I picked up. I probably would have cooked them a little more if G wasn't under the weather at home!
The recipe in Jerusalem is a little different from other kofta recipes we've made. There's no binder but it does include onion, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, a medium-hot chile, and more spices.
I made the meat mixture and formed the kofta in the early afternoon, then set it in the fridge to chill and firm up. I believe this helped them hold their shape without a binder. Then I seared them in sunflower oil, per the recipe. This took a little longer than I expected. I pulled them out of the pan at 120-125°F, then placed them on a platter with tahini sauce, and popped them into the oven, just for a few minutes, taking them to medium-rare without losing their crust.
I'd give both recipes a thumbs up. I've made about five or six recipes from Jerusalem now, and there hasn't been a bad one yet. Not bad!
Before dinner, I had wanted us to try Tzolk'in for the first time. But I didn't have enough time to learn the game in advance, so we fell back to the old standby, Settlers of Catan.
With just three players, there was so much space on the board. It was like stretching out in a huge hotel bed. I tried to fly under the radar as I picked up grain and ore resources and upgraded my settlements. I managed to pull off the win! Yay me!
Hi J - Happy New Year!
After the leisure holidays and short work weeks, I endured a very long work week. I must have woken up and though it was Friday at least three times. I was very much looking forward to the weekend. For our first take of the year, I decided on a simple repeat - meatballs, anchovy pasta, and kale. And a 'cake', for the small victories like running water and the mobile you.
Simple and hopefully tasty. High carbohydrate meals so this is a real treat. I am hoping to clean out my pantry so I used angel hair pasta instead of the usual spaghetti. I forget, but I thought someone prefers spaghetti? (or I imagined it.) Oh hey, I found this handy chart on When Pasta Meets Sauce. I should try all the pasta shape, how fun.
The meatballs were an equal mix of pork, beef and Italian sausage. Seasoned with Parmesan cheese, anchovy paste, generous amount of red pepper flakes (oops) and black pepper. I opted to bake them in the oven instead of browning them on the stove top (lazy). Pasta was tossed with olive oil infused with garlic and almost a tube of anchovy paste, lemon zest and chopped parsley.
After dinner and a little lolly gagging, we started Ticket to Ride.
What? I forgot we have to match the train card colors to the track track colors. After I got the hang of it and juggled my cards, someone blocked me. sigh
I remember the last time running of of train pieces, so I carefully counted before I kept another route card. And the long way around to Phoenix actually forced me to realize the longer way around may not always be detrimental.
For the 'cake' - boxed yellow cake with lemon jell o. The unnatural shade of yellow cracked me up. It matches the yellow GIR spatula you gave me I think I prefer the version that adds jell o after the cake is bake vs this version with jell o baked with lemon icing. N is so right that it is as sweet as a donut. Yikes.
Stay warm and see you soon,
Good afternoon, E!
This year, I think we were all sort of too drained to make one of our usual complicated Thanksgiving meals. I was housebound and supposed to keep my surgically altered foot elevated as much as possible. We split the effort and store-bought a few things and had a nice, relaxing (?!) Thanksgiving.
You and G brought some tasty meats and herring from International Deli in Bellevue. There was a beef product that reminded me of Lebanon bologna, a deli favorite of mine. The headcheese was delicious and reminded me of Russian holodets -- I wanted to add fresh horseradish to it. Yum.
You and G also brought the main event: a ham from Honeybaked Ham and a kale salad.
On one foot and a knee scooter, I made a few simple side dishes.
Mashed potatoes, which I like chunky and with skins on. I use a combination of potato water and milk to thin them out.
Roasted Brussels sprouts, which I just halved and tossed with oil and salt.
Cranberry sauce, which I like spiced up. Similar to Tyler Florence's recipe.
I also made one pumpkin pie on a graham cracker crust. The recipe I used is the one on the Trader Joe's can of organic pumpkin, but it is very similar to Suzanne's Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie.
You saved us with whipped cream for the pie. Yum.
Thanks for putting up with us for another holiday!
Stories of N's lasagna have crossed the country. Pounds of sausage and ricotta, freezers full of noodle. Oh, the garlic! "I ate three pieces and didn't have to eat again for a month!"
N made lasagna in November, shortly after I had ankle surgery and was in no shape to even help cook anything. It was different -- less extreme. Less cheesy. Less meaty. Less garlic.
a different lasagna
Still tasty. G was disappointed as he wanted the many pounds of cheese and meat version.
N used fresh store-bought lasagna noodles, which we liked. He only used ground sausage in the sauce. A layer of fresh spinach (not pre-cooked) releases some liquid into the lasagna, but as long as the sauce isn't too watery to begin with, it works out without soaking the lasagna. Not bad. Simple and quick, which is what we needed.
He also made a Greek salad ... upside-down.
That's a lot of croutons!
After dinner, we played five person Uno, as my mom was in town helping out after my surgery. The strategy (what strategy?) was a little different with five people and me sitting between N and G instead of my usual spot between you and N!
I put a big asterisk on this game though. Hey, I blame the painkillers.
Lucky us, you made a half plain-half pumpkin cheesecake. Mmm. It was delicious.
Until next time!
Dear J -
I hope you are doing ok and resting. I am taking the day to dig out of my many piles. One of which is to catch up here - this long forgotten evening of some store bought marinated flank steak, too crispy potatoes, and spaghetti squash.
And who won this game of Catan? or how poorly I did on Mama Mia! Fortunately, there will be more opportunities to make a better dinner, and chance to do better on whatever game we choose.
Yet another last-minute menu plan.
Earlier in the week, I asked a mutual friend if he had tried peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese. He had not. I thought I'd make some quickly -- I dusted them with some savory sage salt.
goat cheese peppadew
The previous week, I had planned a meal that the power company decided to interrupt. Thankfully you and G were flexible and instead we had a nice meal out.
From the interrupted menu, I decided I would make roasted delicata squash but I switched up the rest of the menu.
For some reason I wanted to make roast beef. Why? I have no idea. Loosely following this recipe, which had me cook the roast on a rack in the center of the oven, so that it could cook from all sides at once. It starts at a high heat to crust the outside, then the temperature is dropped and it finishes cooking.
N's mom makes a chopped salad that I love. I have tried to copy it many times to no avail. This weekend, N called her to ask for her recipe. The secret? She blends blue cheese with ranch dressing and avocados for the dressing. Aha! It looked like a lot of dressing but it was mostly avocados!
I had pulled out Agricola, but N wasn't feeling up for it so he dealt our new Uno deck. It was labelled Uno Mod, which I thought was just a reference to the new deck design. Oh no. There is actually a new CARD. This new card allows the player to play it and hand out cards of the color selected to all of the other players. I don't think we liked it much! Why mess with success?
After G beat us in Uno, we played a bit of Carcassonne.
It was a close game. I've been playing a lot of Carcassonne on my phone. Maybe it's helping -- the rest of you usually destroy me in Carcassonne.
See you next time!
Hi J - I think I've satisfied cravings for Indian food for a while. How about you? First, we had take out from India Gate, then the lack of power at your house put us at Spice Route the following week.
In between the two meals of yummy India food, we managed a game of Settlers of Catan.
Where we had a close game but you won!
Then, you share this link, about friendships and games. Here is to more sharing my game nights with you and N.
Good day, E!
A few weeks ago our next door neighbor went fishing and caught a bunch of salmon. He brought us a few to smoke. N smoked them with a lot of seasoning and a few of them are a bit over-seasoned. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just make a spread."
I flaked half of a filet of salmon and then added 6 ounces of cream cheese and 4 ounces of crème fraîche to it until it was a spreadable but light consistency. N suggested adding green onion to the spread directly. I decided against it in case the green onion would lose their crunch and I just served them on the side with some quick pickled red onion. It was pretty good on store-bought fresh-baked pumpernickel bread.
While we ate all of the salmon spread, N grilled chickens.
N brined two chickens overnight. He coated them in some hatch chile barbeque sauce I made* and then smoked them with a bit of mesquite. They took a bit longer to cook than usual for some reason.
I threw together a quick, super-tart cole slaw (oops). I shredded the carrots and added them and they turned the entire batch a pale orange color. Not appealing! I did want it to be a bit tart to counter the slightly-sweet bbq sauce, but not THAT tart.
After an afternoon excursion to Cabela's resulted in the truck being hit and our trip taking a bit longer than expected, I supplemented with some store-bought scalloped potatoes. Since the cole slaw was horrible and G doesn't like chicken, I'm glad I added the potatoes!
After dinner, G suggested we play Settlers of Catan again. I fear he will suggest it every week until he wins a game!
not more settlers of catan!
We played two rounds -- you won the first one, N won the second. I guess that means more Settlers of Catan next week? Oh no. I might have to banish our copy with the Uno deck.
* Hatch Chile BBQ Sauce
6 fresh Hatch chile peppers
2 TBSP olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup Guinness
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
Roast chile peppers over flame to blister and char all sides. Once charred, place peppers in paper bag to sweat for 10 minutes. Remove the charred skin along with the stem and seeds then rinse the peppers under cold running water.
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until tender. Add the chiles along with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let set for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Place sauce in food processor or blender and puree.
Hi J - Wow. TIme flies when we are busy with canine appointments. It has been two weeks since this dinner and weather has definitely turned to early fall.
At a little after 4pm on that Saturday, after noticing G had set up the charcoal already...
me: what time are you starting the grill?
me: I thought you said the cooking time is 2 hours+
me: doesn't the charcoal take half an hour, and then resting time.
G: there is that.
And there you have it. Never mind that was an exact repeat of an earlier conversation in the morning.
I present to you food backup plan A - radish with cheese. I found some radish in the drawer that needed a little love. I stw and selected the first recipe. I made a quick cheese, drizzled with olive oil infused with lemon zest and garlic, and ground peppers.
Plan B - beef tongue. Marinated thin sliced beef tongue with the usual suspect of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and gochujang. The special ingredient was yuzu wikipedia. I added some to the marinate and sprinkled more just before serving. I like the sweet tangy taste of the citrus.
I did neglect to take a picture of my plate. I only have a photo of the [store bought] marinated tri-top roast. Served with [store bought] au gratin potatoes and simple romaine salad. Oh wait, I think it was scallop potatoes. Someone with more potato knowledge should explain the difference between au gratin and scallop, or read this chowhound discussion threat.
After dinner, who had the bright idea of Settlers of Catan, again? G, who also switched up the colors, which caused all kinds of issues.
I think N won this one. I've blocked out this six bijillionth Catan game. Hope you enjoyed the evening. See you next time.