In which I discover that I need a new camera…

Ten days into this, and I am already turning on my poor little camera. It’s been a loyal friend for a couple years. Reliable, always there for me, even sometimes surprising me with its skills, but last night, no matter what I did, it let me down. Sorry buddy, you can’t win them all. Luckily for my little friend, I have no plans to procure a new camera, as a digital SLR is a bit out of my price range right now, so despite its poor performance, my go-to camera it will remain.

I cooked up the brined porkchops, and I made the prettiest dessert ever, not that it will come across in the blog (see above re: camera) Good old Meredith came over since making two pork chops and a fruit tart for yourself is totally lame.

First to the brined porkchops. They were about an inch and a half thick, which made me nervous about cooking them entirely on the top of the stove because that can take some time and I didn’t want the outsides to burn. I needn’t have worried, as I actually over cooked them a little bit. Blast. I liked the brine, though the most noticeable result was a delicious apple cidery flavor after they were cooked. I don’t know that it made them any moister. I pan seared them and let them get caramelized on both sides, then threw some butter, thyme and sage into the pan and continued to turn and baste them every couple minutes. They tasted great, but I like my pork just a bit pink in the middle still, and they were past that. I am going to try the brine again and adjust the proportions and see if that helps the moistness. Or maybe I just won’t overcook them next time. That will probably help too.

To go with the porkchops I made haricot vert sauteed with a little bit of bacon and some shallots. Because nothing goes with pork like more pork. Just reading that makes me want to go running. But they were delicous also. And it looked pretty…

pork and pork, side by side in perfect harmony...

pork and pork, side by side in perfect harmony...

This actually wasn’t as rich as it sounds. I totally didn’t feel disgusting afterwards as you might expect. Pork is a pretty lean meat, and I had poured off most of the fat rendered from the bacon, so it was not at all greasy. It wasn’t a super summery meal, but I plugged in the air conditioning in the kitchen so it felt like a normal day.

Now dessert, and this is where the camera gets a bad rap. Along with the vegetables that have been accumulating in the fridge, I still had the peaches and blueberries from last week that I was saving for just this dessert and I hadn’t gotten around to it. I made a pate sablee first. Pate sablee is a sweet tart crust that is sort of like shortbread. The texture of it when it is cooked is crumbly and sandy (in a good way.) Sable means sand en francais (6 years, thankyouverymuch.) You just press the dough right into the pan, which makes it very easy.

pre baking

pre baking

I filled the partially baked and cooled crust with peaches and blueberries. It looked like a sunflower and ended up totally gorgeous, which was such a happy accident. This is where the camera totally failed to capture it though. Be prepared…

heading into the oven...

heading into the oven...

I had to use the flash (sacrilege!!) to get it to look like anything at all, so it is too bright and weird. Post baking it looked like this…

cooling...

cooling...

I mean, don’t get me wrong, you get the idea, but it looked so pretty in person, and these pics just don’t do it justice. You can’t even tell they are blueberries in the second one.

I made ice cream to go with it. I need homemade ice cream in my freezer like I need a hole in the head, but I made it for two reasons. I have only used my ice cream maker one other time this summer, and homemade ice cream is delicious. I just did vanilla, but I did a custard base. Here is the cream and vanilla bean steeping away.

vanilla-y goodness

vanilla-y goodness

And then these for the custard. How gorgeous are these? The color of fresh egg yolks is unreal.

gorgeous

gorgeous

Then you just have to cook the custard and cool it in an ice bath.

ahh, refreshing

ahh, refreshing

Then into the ice cream maker it goes.

20 minutes to glory...

20 minutes to glory...

And voila! Dessert.

so worth the effort.

so worth the effort.

The ice cream was a little melty, because it does well to be in the freezer for a couple hours after it comes out of the machine and before you serve it, but we didn’t have a couple hours last night. The scoop I had for breakfast this morning was a much firmer consistency.

During the course of this dessert making, I discovered not only that I need a new camera, but also, that I have a problem…

I am a junkie...

I am a junkie...

I have FOURTEEN miniature (2.5 inch, 3 inch? I am not sure) tart pans. Fourteen. Never have I ever made fourteen miniature tarts. I am not sure I have ever made TWO miniature tarts. And if you are paying attention, you will notice that they are two different kinds of miniature tart pans, though they serve exactly the same function, which leads me to believe I bought them at two different times. I have no idea what the rationale for either purchase was. (Also note, I have nine of one kind and five of the other. Who buys an odd number of miniature tart pans?) So now I am going to have to come up with a reason to make fourteen miniature tarts. After I eat nothing but salad for three weeks.

In which I am running out of ideas for all my vegetables…

I need some inspiration. And some work free time to spend in my kitchen. Yesterday was CSA day again (yay CSA day!) and this time they just said to fill my bag with $25 of whatever I wanted from the farm stand.  $25 is A LOT from the farm stand.  This is what I ended up with.

I can no longer remember what week this is...

I can no longer remember what week this is...(note to self, close the bathroom door in the background before a photo shoot)

Six ears of corn, two giant zucchini, two cukes, about a 1/2 pound of haircots verts, two tomatoes, a bunch of beets (the light ones don’t stain your hands!) and seven dahlias.  I think it actually came to $24.50.  They totally owe me.  So what to do? I think the two zucchini might have been a mistake. One huge zucchini is probably enough for one person. I think I am going to make some fritters or something with that. Or maybe a play on a scallion pancake with scallions AND zucchini? That sounds promising. The second one will hang out in my fridge and taunt me for a couple of days, along with the carrots and leeks from last week (I really am going to make that leek tart this weekend.) The cucumbers will be easy, I have dill and I will make some cucumber salad with rice vinegar and a little sugar and salt. Perhaps I can lure my sister down from New Hampshire with that, it’s her fave. I’ll probably roast the beets again and throw them in a salad. That is my favorite way to eat them anyway. Why mess with a sure thing?

Also when I was at the farmers’ market yesterday I picked up two fantastic looking thick cut bone in pork chops. Farmers’ market meat is EXPENSIVE, but I had pork chops a couple weeks ago from the same place and they were amazing, so I am really excited to try the thick ones. They are brining right now. I don’t have a grill, so I will probably pan roast them? I have a grill pan, but it is cast iron, and it was pre-seasoned, and therefore useless and stupid and starting to rust. Don’t buy pre-seasoned cast iron cookware. Do it yourself. Easiest thing in the world and never gives me trouble. If my grill pan was in working shape, that is how I would do them for sure. I either have to remedy this situation before I prepare the pork, or I have to figure out a different way. Here they are:

In the brine.

In the brine.

So pretty hanging out in there! The brine is part water, part apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and what ever aromatics I had in the cabinet. Bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, mustard seed, dried chilies, a cinnamon stick-I pretty much consulted several different sources about brining, and if it was mentioned even once in any of them and I had it in the house, it went in there. It looks pretty, and I am pretty excited about that. Results to follow.

In which I wonder who I think I am…

It was the Bachelorette finale last night. Obviously I had to make a special dinner to celebrate the true unending love that is going to grow from this union.  Any self-respecting person would.

I started with a gimlet. I love gimlets, and sometimes I make them for myself. I don’t think this is a problem. I got beets last week with my CSA share, and I decided to roast them (in my toaster oven, as it was way too freakin hot to turn on the real oven.) I also got some goat cheese rolled in dill, and I picked up a couple oranges yesterday.  I roasted and sliced the beets and layered them with the cheese.  A couple of orange segments and a vinaigrette made with fresh orange juice, olive oil and a little salt and pepper finished it off. I love the combination of roasted beets and goat cheese, but the addition of the oranges totally elevates the duo.  It is really good.  You could also add pistachios or pumpkin seeds for crunch, or if you wanted to dress it up or make it larger for lunch or dinner on its own, add crab or lobster meat. The beets were little, so two little stacks were perfect for a first course.

beets and goat cheese with oranges

beets and goat cheese with oranges

Main course was lobster summer rolls.  This is the third time in four days I had lobster. Apparently I think I am a Rockefeller (that is a trend in Beantown these days.) Actually, I can thank Tony for one of those meals, so perhaps I just think I am a Kennedy. Summer rolls are, quite frankly, a total pain in the ass.  The summer roll skin tears easily, and sticks to itself, and the filling is constantly trying to escape. I suspect there is some user error involved, since I am sure summer rolls are much older than I, but it’s a struggle every time. I am not sure why I don’t just make a cellophane noodle salad, all the same deliciousness without any of the difficulty, but I suppose until I master them I will continue to try. I was only able to get one (of the four that I made) to pose nicely for a picture.

my best effort

my best effort

And even that looks a little haggard.  No matter though, these things are flipping delicious.  The filling is cellophane noodles, mango, avocado and lobster (or shrimp, or crab or rare tuna.) The cellophane noodles are dressed with rice vinegar, brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and scallions. Typically the dressing is rice vinegar and sugar and the rest of the ingredients go in a dipping sauce, but have you ever smelled fish sauce? The stuff is foul, and since I like to eat on the couch, I have to hold the plate sort of close to my face. It’s an appetite killer. Tastes delicious, smells nasty. So I mix it into the dressing for the noodles, and that takes care of that problem. My appetite remains intact. Good thing, that.

That was my celebratory dinner. Here’s to Jillian and Ed. You may have finally cracked my addiction to the Bachelor phenomenon, and I thank you for that. Good luck lovebirds, I see great things in your future.

In which I answer my fan mail…

Not so sure if I will be posting recipes exactly, I am not particularly good at them.  Unless I am baking (see: cake) I don’t really measure stuff. However, I got a question about tempura, and I can answer that…

Some tempuras have egg in the mix, but I enjoy and have had great success with a non-egg batter.  Equal parts flour and a fizzy liquid-I used a cup of each for the green beans- club soda, beer (I cannot recommend all fizzy liquids, I make no promises about coke or pepsi, though suddenly I’m intrigued.)  Add a pinch of salt, some cayenne pepper if you’d like, old bay maybe…whatevs. Then dump some canola or vegetable oil in a deep pot. (I am a nervous fryer, the larger the better for me, and I have no idea how much oil.  I use a lot, perhaps unnecessarily.  Again, not so good with the recipes, I’ll work on it.) Heat the oil to 375° and dump whatever you are tempura-ing in in batches.  It finishes pretty quickly, it shouldn’t get too brown.  Drain on paper towels and enjoy!

If you get nothing else from this (which is about what it has to offer) take away that it is not scary or particularly hard.  What is the worst that could happen besides a grease fire?

In which I had a fantastic 15 hours in food…

Disclaimer right up front – no photography to accompany this one.  Unless I am at the French Laundry, I feel a bit squeamish about taking pictures of the food in restaurants.  You will have to rely purely on my powers of description…

Saturday 1:00pm – We went to the new Sel de la Terre on Boylston for lunch. We were hoping for outside, but we we starving, which trumped the desire for al fresco dining.  First up, oysters and little necks and a bottle of a Malbec rose. Delish. Then I had about a loaf of olive bread while I waited for my most delicious burger with bacon and aioli and their perfect rosemary fries. The lunch took FOREVER as our server was kind of useless, but we had fun, so all was well.

3:00pm – We wanted to go to the candy store on Newbury that no longer exists – the next logical choice was CVS.  Between the four of us I think we got 10 different types of candy. I got Dots.  Awesome. And I lied, I actually do have a picture of this portion of the afternoon, but I don’t think my compadres would be thrilled about its inclusion.

4:30pm – A stop at Starbucks for a refreshing ice tea beverage and some people watching.

6:00pm – Marissa (former roommate and weekend guest) and I hit our old stomping ground Olives for pre-theater sustenance.  Tuna sashimi lollipops that I am still dreaming about, more bread, a delicious gimlet followed by an even more delicious St. Germain cocktail, and an asparagus, fontina, bacon and morel mushroom tart from the wood fired oven for me, and duck with a scallion pancake for her.  (I think it may have been an entire duck…biggest plate of food I had seen in a long time…it lost its ranking just a few hours later…stay tuned.)

8:00pm – Off to the theater…RENT was fantastic

11:00pm – Cocktails at a couple local watering holes…names withheld to protect the innocent…not food, but calories, so it counts

2:00am – Armed with beer roadies in sippy cups complete with straws, we decide to finish the evening in Chinatown.  Obviously.  We ordered lo mein, pork spareribs, walnut prawns and egg drop soup, which was plenty more than we needed.  There was a brief issue when duck sauce was delivered and Marissa mistook it for her soup.  Another (turned out to be fortuitous) hiccup when I returned from my trip to the ladies’ room to find a stranger at my table. This stranger, we shall call him Tony, apparently wandered into the restaurant by his lonesome, and felt that our table was big enough to share.  Marissa, being the exceptionally kind person that she is, allowed this to happen.  I will not be going to the restroom in Chinatown again.  But Tony did redeem himself.  He ordered wok fried dungeness crab AND wok fried lobster to share with us. These displaced the duck as the largest plates of food I have seen in a long time.  And the were spectacularly delicious. And he turned out to be a charming dining companion.  Marissa’s kindness: 1, Meghan’s stranger danger: 0

4:00am – I found myself eating lo mein directly off the serving plate and we decided to call it a night.

An epic 15 hours that was worth every calorie.

In which I make lobster and artichokes to serve as vehicles for butter.

I am a lobster purist.  I love it anyway I can get it, but my favorite way to eat it is boiled and dipped in butter.  My friend and former roommate came up this weekend for a little reunion and a little “RENT” so I picked up some giant artichokes, and some fantastic lobsters, and we melted some butter and had quite the feast.  I added some garlic to the butter for the artichokes which was tasty, and I pan roasted some farmers’ market fingerling potatoes.  We started with mojitos and finished with some Gruner Veltliner and we were in business.

vehicles for butter...

vehicles for butter...

These lobsters were perfect.  The shells were soft enough that we didn’t need crackers to get into them, and the meat was the best I have had in a long time.  1.5 lb lobsters, boiled for 13 minutes and voila!  Nothing could be easier. I don’t have a vegetable steamer, which is kind of ridiculous, so I had to jury-rig some miniature tart pans into steaming racks for the artichokes, steamed 20 minutes, dipped in garlic butter.  Doesn’t get any better.  There are neater meals out there, but not many tastier ones. And not many that are as efficient at getting melted butter into my mouth. And we ate at the table instead of on the couch.  An added perk of lobster is that it makes you so grown up.

In which I make tempura, pickled vegetables, and pick up my farm share…

On Tuesday night I made green bean tempura with miso mayonnaise for dipping.  It was delicious and perfect for enjoying the House marathon.  I really enjoy foods that I can eat in a semi-recumbent position while watching House marathons.  Or Law & Order: SVU marathons.

battered

battered

fried

fried

delicious**

delicious**

It has also been delicious cold, even though the idea of eating cold left over tempura kind of grosses me out, and tempura gets kind of gummy when it is no longer hot and crispy.  It still tastes delicious, and it is very convenient to pick out a green bean or two every time I walk by my fridge.  It also makes me feel less guilty about my inability to cook food for just one person.  I don’t like to waste, so I eat gummy tempura.  One of the perks of living alone is that no one knew that I did this.  Now I blog.  The secret is out.

I also pickled some cauliflower, radishes, carrots and spring onions.  I picked these up at the farmers’ market last week, and it was about time I used them.  Pickled vegetables last forever, so I can make them in bulk and not feel at all guilty about it.  And they are delicious and not too terribly unhealthy.  And pickled radishes make an excellent garnish for all sorts of things.

DSCN1857

vegetables pickled in rice vinegar

Wednesday was CSA day.  I love CSA day.

Week 5

Week 5

I now have two bunches of leeks in the fridge, and some peaches and blueberries.  I think I might make tarts.  Separate tarts, because I don’t think leeks would do a blueberry peach tart any favors…

** Please pardon the crappy photography.  I don’t have a lovely fancy camera…I have a regular old point and shoot.  I like my regular old point and shoot.  Sometimes it takes amazing pictures, like this one

View from the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

View from the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

but food is a fickle beast, and point and shoots don’t do the job.  But you’re stuck with it for the moment.

A blog is born…

Most of my waking life is spent thinking about food. (I sleep the sleep of the dead, so I can’t vouch for my sleeping life, but when my subconscious is not busy rehashing all the gruesome traumas of a perfectly functional suburban childhood, I am guessing it is food focused as well.)  When I am not eating, I am thinking about my next opportunity to do so.  When I am eating, I am thinking about my next opportunity to do so.  I love to eat, cook, look at, experiment with, read about, talk about and comfort myself (and others) with food.  If I didn’t live in the middle of the city, I am sure I would like to grow my own food.  It consumes me, and I imagine that gets tiresome for those in my life who are not as obsessed (though they have been kind enough never to mention it) so I am blogging to give them a break from listening to me.  I don’t suspect many people will read or care, but for those who do (Hi Gram! Dad! Meredith!) Bread and Ginger is here.

About Me: I am from a food family.  There were and are a few blips on the radar, including a sibling’s phase that limited her diet to things that were dry and white, and covered in soy sauce or ketchup, another family member’s strong aversion to tiny salty fish in any form, and my own war with parsley (too strong to be simply garnish, too blah to be of use to me) and cilantro (tastes like soap) but mostly, a food family.  Chinese feasts sitting around the very low coffee table in the living room-lettuce wraps are a family fave- lunches so delightful my father had to make two sandwiches because the boys in the caf would beg for half of mine, birthday celebrations that centered around what each of the kids would pick for their special dinner (at different times this included chinese fried chicken wings, garlic spaghetti, lobster risotto and grilled steak.)  Since then, I have found myself living in an apartment that I love, with a huge kitchen fundamentally lacking in counter space, which I have yet to remedy.  I am in a fantastic neighborhood right in the heart of Boston.  I have a cube job that makes me sad and friends and family in the area that make me happy.  I cook for myself a lot, for my peeps whenever I can, and I have made a wedding cake.

the cake

the cake

I have no idea what form this blog will take, or if anyone will actually read it. Blogs are a bit narcissistic and a bit prententious, but I’m a sharer, and to save my friends the continued agony, a blog it will be.  Enjoy.