Saturday, March 20, 2010

We're migrating...

I've been working in this space for over 1.5 years now, and I've gotten used to using Blogger, despite my displeasure with a bunch of the features.  After experimenting and using Wordpress as part of my professional practice, I've found their interface much more user-friendly and manipulative.  Granted, I don't get the CSS customization (for free, anyway) that I get with Blogger, but I'm feeling that it's the way to go.

Hence, this will be the last time that I update this space, and everyone who follows this blog should migrate with me to my new address at - clever name, right?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tinto - 3/13/2010

Braving the monsoon that is currently striking New Jersey, Stephanie and I headed down to Philadelphia to see my good friend Meghann's show that she wrote, directed and produced, called Chlamidya dell'Arte:  A Sex-Ed Burlesque.  It was excellent, and I hope that her and Gigi can have it grow and become more widespread in audience and eventually make millions of dollars because of it.

Aaron and Meghann, my sources for all Philly knowledge, are huge Jose Garces fans, and they had mentioned that one of his restaurants was literally right down the block from the theater.  Thank you OpenTable for making reservations so easy!

The concept is small plates, social eating and enjoying lots of different types of food and flavors.  Since we ordered a wide variety (3-4 plates per person, to be shared) we didn't try to match wines, but rather ordered the Hombre, which was gin, grapefruit and basil.  Steph picked it out, and I decided on one because I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to drink.  It turned out to be a good call because the its flavor cleansed the palate between each plate.

Charcuterie mixto - jamon Serrano, saucisson sec, lomo, chorizo Pamplona: Nothing much better than dried cured meats.  I found the saucisson sec to be my favorite: spicy and and garlic-y and delicious.  Steph liked the lomo, cured pork loin sliced wafer thin (it was practically transparent).

Cheese mixto - Boucheron, La Peral, idiazabal:  Steph has been a real champ when it comes to trying foods she has previously decided she has disliked.  Cheese is one, especially the smelly and stinky ones.  Tonight she gave La Peral, a blue-veined cow/sheep milk cheese a whirl, and liked it!  Good, now I can start making recipes with gorgonzola dolce.  I was more partial to the Boucheron, myself.

Sopa de Castano - truffled chestnut soup, duck & mushroom hash, fried quail egg, pistachio:  I can't begin to tell you about how amazing this dish was.  It started with the tableside service (which I am known to be a sucker for), continued with the breaking of the yolk then ending with a spoon full of a rich and truffle-y chestnut soup, a shred of duck, a slice of mushroom and a sprinkle of pistachio...words can't even describe it.  One day, I'm going to try and make this at home, using Nicholas's recipe for the chestnut soup.  Best dish of the night.

Pork belly montaditos (canapes) - Berkshire pork belly, honey lacquer, shaved apples:  Crostini topped with slabs of glazed pork belly, apples and herbs.  Pork belly is awesome.

Duck montatidos (canapes) - duck confit, Serrano ham, black cherry, La Peral spread:  This is another dish I'd try to recreate at home - the duck confit was pressed into a cube, then topped with a piece of serrano ham and seared to crisp.  The flavors were out of this world.

Hamachi a la plantxa, avocado puree, pepper sauce & pickled onions:  Random moment of the night:  we leaned over to tell the couple next to us they should order this dish, and it turns that Stephanie had the girl in high school as a student.

Oyster Bocadillo (sandwich) - fried oysters, choricero pepper tartar sauce, sweet onion escabeche:  Our love for oysters is well-known, and this tiny Basque version of a po'boy left us very satisfied.  Mind you, I wasn't a fan of having to split this one with Stephanie, as I wanted the whole thing for myself.

Prawn brochetas - prawns, chorizo, grape tomato, espelette chile:  Served with the head and legs attached! A bit more fiery of a course, I'm glad this was the last one served, as to not blow out our taste buds.

Roasted rack of lamb, artichoke puree & lemon:  Not only was it perfectly cooked and delicious, the menu didn't mention that it was truffled artichoke puree.  Win!

Crema Catalana - caramelized Spanish custard, cinnamon shortdough, poached figs, fig sorbet:  Stephanie really liked the custard and cookie, but wasn't a fan of the figs or the sorbet.  Fine with me, I finished both no problem.

Mato y Miel - goat's milk mousse, orange-olive oil caramel, orange blossom gelee, almond lace tuile:  This was amazing.  I'd have been happy with a double portion of this.  Side note:  Meghann had mentioned that she always wanted to order sherry because she thought the people were so cool drinking sherry out of their little sherry Steph and I ordered sherry, a not-too-sweet one as per the recommendation of our server.  I really enjoyed it, Steph said she wished it was sweeter.  Now we know!

Eating at Tinto really hammered home the concept that we have gotten so used to giant plates and portions with massive amounts of food that we are thrown off when a dish arrives and it has 2 crostini on it.  I like the idea of cooking a small plates for friends or family, as opposed to the standard holiday meal.  We did it at our last Iron Chef dinner, but it's something I'd like to work on more as time goes on.  One more thing to put on the to-do list!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The challenge continues...

Oven-Baked Sopes with Zucchini-Corn "Filling"
Original recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Times

My self-issued challenge to use up random stuff in kitchen continued tonight.  Here's what I had on hand: an almost full bag of Maseca masa harina flour, a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, a bag of frozen sweet corn and a can of black beans.  I did a little thinking and a little browsing, and I found the basis for tonight's meal on Vegetarian Times. Truth be told, all I was looking for was a recipe for oven sopes (as the last time I had tried making them was somewhat failed initially), but I had what looked like a decent recipe.
However, looking at the recipe, I took a few liberties (I mean...I was being creative...) that would improve the final product. - I used the entire can of beans and I threw in the Ro-Tel into the saute along with the beans - all smart choices on my part.  I made a half-recipe of the sopes, which ended up making 9 (as opposed to the expected yield of 12) - could have been that I didn't press them as thinly as they could have been - but I was satisfied with how they came out.  I also would recommend against using a drinking glass to make an indentation and form them into a tart-esque shape, like they recommended in the recipe.  Just flatten them out and dump the 'filling' on top.  Stephanie has declared this one a "repeat", which I suppose means that she liked it.  I personally added a splash of Tabasco to each one, but that's me.  Maybe next time I'd eschew the Ro-Tel and go with some minced canned chipotles, but that could be too spicy for the wife, and I wouldn't want to be stuck eating the entire dish.  Actually, that may not be a bad idea...
This recipe is vegetarian, obviously, so I'd highly recommend it for a Meatless Monday or a Meatless March, like my awesome friends Meghann and Aaron are doing.  Either veggie or meat, I'm curious to know:  what would you put on top of your corn sopes? 

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Clean-Out-My-Closet Challenge

I've got a pantry filled with all kinds of crazy stuff that I've collected through the course of cooking.  I've got some things that I had to buy an amount of to only use a small bit (masa harina, nonfat milk powder, dark Karo syrup, almond flour, unsweetened coconut) or a partial amount (all manners of pasta and grains: rice noodles, ditalini, udon, farfalle, somen).  I've got some stuff that I bought, but never ended up using (Ro-Tel tomatoes, inarizushi no moto, whole peeled tomatoes).  It's been adding up, and it's been grating on me as the weeks go on.  Let's not mention my freezer, which has all manners of frozen meats and vegetables.
Enter the Clean-Out-My-Closet Challenge.  Here's my goal - I'm going to make dishes for dinner that can be made using these ingredients - I want them in my belly (and out of my closet).  The only stuff I'm willing to buy to make these things is produce.  Have I been taking pictures?  Of course not, because I feel like these dishes, while delicious, aren't exactly what I'd consider photogenic.  Here's what I've been cooking up:
Five-spice pork & shrimp with udon noodles:  In the midst of rearranging and such, I found a sad and lonely pork chop in the back of the freezer.  I also had on hand like a third of a bag of frozen shrimp, 2 bundles of udon from the pantry, and the end of a jar of five-spice powder.  I thinly sliced the pork, added some standard stir-fry ingredients, and dug in.  I especially liked cooking the shrimp with the residual heat from the noodles - tasty and easy!
Broiled chicken with tomato sauce & polenta:  I always have a glut of chicken breasts in my freezer - they are quick to cook, low on WW points and are always on sale at Wegmans (fact about me:  if meat is on sale, I'll probably buy it).  I had some Bob's Red Mill coarse ground cornmeal in the closet, a can of whole peeled tomatoes, half a can of tomato paste in the refrigerator, a leftover onion from who knows when (but still in good eating shape), a bag of baby spinach bought last Saturday along with some chicken breasts.  Didn't even need to think about this one - whipped up a quick sauce, made polenta (which needed to be a little thicker) and broiled up some chicken.  Had leftovers for lunch today, it was delicious.
Honey ginger chicken with rice noodles:  I don't know when I picked them up, but I had a box of thin rice noodles all the way in back of my pantry.  I defrosted yet another chicken breast, made a sauce using some honey, tamari and fish sauce (!), threw in peppers, onions, and some shiitakes I'd forgotten I'd bought last week.  Everything got tossed together, sprinkled with lime juice, and we were ready to go in like 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, this one came out a little blander than I'd like, but with the addition of some tasty and amazing sambal oelek, it ended up tasting alright.  We'll see how it comes out tomorrow when we have the leftovers for lunch.
I'm pleased with how this is going - it's forcing me to be a bit more creative and less constrained to recipes, which was one of my cooking resolutions for the year.  I'm not always 100% successful (like tonight) but it's refreshing to stretch that part of my cooking skill.