this week's thoughts on food.

These are mostly for my own book-keeping, so I won't be offended if you don't pay too much attention.

Starting the new year off, we were in Rochester and then Seattle, where we did a little cooking, but not much. I'll start with Monday the 5th.

Monday: last Seattle dinner with J and Martha - pasta with garlic, bacon, and an egg tossed in at the end. Mmm.... and salad. Tried to make brownies that are better than the ones from the box that Martha loves, ate them while watching Doogie Howser in Dr. Horrible. Recipe at the end.

Tuesday: fly back home to Geneva. "dinner" on Air France was "beef" or "pasta" :)

Wednesday: back home! use (JMSJ memorial* jar of Rogan Josh with chicken), (spinach with some spices) and (crappy Basmati rice from Champion). I knew that rice was suspect when it said it would cook in 11 minutes, but I was deceived by the nice-looking packaging.

* When Jason left Geneva, we got all sorts of tasty things from his fridge, including a jar of pre-made Rogan Josh sauce.

For dessert: Best-ever rice pudding. I usually make half of this recipe, omitting cinnamon, for four servings: Rice Pudding

Mistakes I have made with that rice pudding:

1) The egg goes in at the very end, to add richness. Do not put it in at the beginning by mistake, or it will cook too much!

2) Don't ever let the milk boil too hard. It's tough, because you want to cook it for 1-2 hours, and as the volume of liquid reduces, you need to reduce the heat too. It's best to cook this while you're around the kitchen doing other stuff so you don't forget about it.

3) Don't put a lid on it while it's cooking, or the milk will never evaporate enough.

Other tips:
  • You can leave out the egg, and the same goes for the cream at the end. I often use the egg but not the cream, just because I'm too lazy to buy cream.

  • Chill? Really? I almost never bother.

  • You can reduce the sugar by 1/2 or 1/3 if you will eat the rice pudding warm. If you will eat it cold, I'd use the whole cup. Brown sugar is also awesome if you want to substitute half or all of it.
Thursday: Meatballs sounded like a good idea, make P-Wo parsley-rolled lemon sauce meatballs, served with bulghur and zucchini. These were a little weird -- they looked like green porcupines (the rice in the meatballs was sticking out like spikes), but they tasted good. The lemon sauce was also good but strange, like a savory lemon curd. You can use lots of meats; we used 2/3 lamb, 1/3 veal.

Recipe: Page 347 of Paula Wolfert's Eastern Med. cookbook "Macedonian meatballs rolled in parsley"

Friday: Martin and Sarah arrive, go out to Brasserie du Molard for flammenkuchen and giant columns of beer

Saturday: After going to the market, we made some fish for lunch, with a salad and slices of crusty bread. We just picked a fish that looked good since half the stuff there is new to us anyway, and it turned out to be mild and flaky and tasty, even if wikipedia says it has been considered (until recently) "a cheap fish, regarded as food for the poor or for pets." Funny! For dinner, we just had cheeses and breads and sausages and pickles.

Sunday: Went snow-shoeing for a few hours in order to make our cheese fondue taste even better. First time making fondue! We rubbed a clove of garlic around the inside of a big open pan, then heated about 2 cups of white wine, 2 T of lemon juice, 2 T of eau-de-vie til simmering.  Mixed in, one handful at a time, 2 pounds of cheese (Comté and Gruyère) that had been grated and tossed with 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Served with cubes of bread for dipping, and a salad afterwards. This served 5 hungry people with no leftovers. :) 

Why cornstarch? Why eau-de-vie? I'll let Alton explain. Fast forward to 1:50 if you already have your fondue pot ready.

For the best fudgy brownies, recipe from Fine Cooking magazine:

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter; more softened butter for the pan
3 oz. (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt

Make the brownies:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9-inch-square metal baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk or stir in the sugar, follwoed by all four of the eggs and the vanilla. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, starting slowly to keep the ingredients from flyin gout of the pan and stirring more vigorously as you go. Stir until the batter is smooth and uniform, about 1 minute. If you're using the port-soaked cherries, stir them in at this time, along with any remaining liquid from the saucepan.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing it so it fills the pan evenly. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted 3/4 inch into the center of the brownies comes out with just a few moist clumps clinging to it, about 40 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

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