weeks in food II & III

Looks like I'm not the only one on the internet who is blogging about their food choices for other people to ... skim over quickly. Mark Bittman, awesome NY Times food guy posted about all the food he ate while traveling last week. He ends up eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables during the days -- I often feel like I don't get enough vegetables when I travel, and his approach could solve that. It looks a little rabbit-like at some points, but I do like all those foods.

To see what I think is the best of Bittman, check out this funny, interesting look at his take on eating. Well worth 20 minutes! He goes through a little bit of the history, pitfalls, and ways to deal with the US diet. Similar to Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" but funnier.

So, to catch up on my own list of recent dinners:

Monday: Meatballs, take two. The week before's meatballs turned out good, but strange. This time, we tried to reproduce a Moroccan dish we really liked when we were visiting there last summer.

The dish has a tomato sauce with lots of spices, pan-browned meatballs cooked in the sauce, and, best of all, eggs (one egg per person) poached in the sauce just before serving. You can kind of see them in the photo above.

It came out OK, but there was an unfortunate meatball incident. The meatballs fell apart while I was browning them, so they made the sauce more like a thick meat sauce, rather than a thinner sauce with meatballs in it. I think it was because I added oil that was supposed to be used in the pan into the meatball mixture instead by mistake, and that stopped the meat from sticking together. It still tasted good, though.

We served it with bread and a Moroccan shredded carrot salad. The recipes we used were from the excellent and inspiring Couscous and other Good Food by Paula Wolfert. 

Tuesday: Easy dinner of sausages, brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: Risotto, which I'll call "harlequin risotto" instead of "ugly risotto." We put red wine in, which always makes the risotto come out a funny purple color. Adding bright orange chunks of butternut squash, and mushrooms to the already purple rice wasn't the best choice for a good-looking dish, but it came out with a good flavor. I can only guess what the Top Chef judges would have said about its looks...

Thursday: Chicken tacos, with corn tortillas brought back from the US -- a luxury! They do have tortillas in the grocery store here but they often taste weird/sweet/bad enough that they make you look forward to the real thing. Also had sauteéd red & green peppers, black beans, spicy rice, onions and cilantro and limes.

Friday: on the way to Strasbourg! We arrived and met up with friends and had drinks and snacks. I'll put all the Strasbourg food into a separate post.

Sunday night: back home, quick dinner of soup-from-a-box (something like quinoa vegetables soup?) and salad

Monday: spoons took off to Savannah, Georgia, for a week for a conference. I made a bunch of baked pasta that I could take for lunch. I used something like this vodka penne recipe, with wine instead of vodka, tossed it with already cooked pasta and put mozzarella cheese on top before putting it in the oven. I also mixed in some leftover peppers from the Mexican food.

Tuesday: Inauguration night! I brought another batch of those good brownies from last week to a potluck dinner at D & K's. K made a tasty bean chili dish with rice in it -- I'll try to get the recipe and post it.

Wednesday: Use up rest of Mexican leftovers from last week: black beans, rice, enchiladas, and add butternut squash. Black beans + butternut squash is always a good combination in my book.

Thursday: Out for dinner with friends at a local Irish pub: Paddy's. Had "Irish stew" which is big chunks of potato, carrot, and lamb in a tasty broth, and Guinness, of course.

Friday: not feeling so hot, I don't know if I even ate anything for dinner... crackers? soup?

Saturday: ditto, rice with chicken broth...

Sunday: feeling better. spoons returns. on to the next week!

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and... the rest of the Strasbourg pictures

Click on the photo above to go to my flickr set of pictures and descriptions from last weekend in Strasbourg, France.


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happy inauguration day!

Here's the French/Virgin Records take on the inauguration: Yes We Can sell 24, West Wing, and Foxy Brown DVDs. :)

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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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back by popular request

A number of people mentioned this (mostly abandoned) blog over the holidays, so I thought I would try to revive it in 2009.

Our holidays, in snapshots:

1) Went to Rochester, NY, to catch up with the Spoons-fam and try their first batch of home-brewed beer, which was tasty! The official "Silver Spoons" brewery glasses were the Christmas presents of the Spoonhower kids. Ours even made it back to Geneva in one piece.

2) Drove to Cleveland to see my family, cooked a great dinner with dad, Eileen, Liz, and friends.

3) After a short trip back to Rochester, flew out to Seattle to see the rest of my family and visit with friends. My niece Isabella is four years old!

(Pictures of John and Candace were taken by my dad on his last trip there.)

And now, we're back home in Geneva, Switzerland. Yay!

To see many more photos from throughout the year, check out my photostream on flickr.

I'll also be writing on the US LHC blog for the next few months, so look for me there.

Happy 2009!

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