In which I recover…

2009 had its fantastic moments. I made my first wedding cake. I made my second wedding cake (picture forthcoming.) I had a temp roomie. I had some dinner parties. I went to some amazing celebrations. I turned 30. I ate here (friends, if only this little blog existed then. The story I would have told.) I drank great wine. I saw a lot of my family. I made some great new friends. And perhaps most importantly, from the perspective of my flailing sanity, a blog was born.   

In spite of all the greatness though, I am ready for a new year. I am resolving to do many things. I shouldn’t bother, since in all of my 30 years I have managed to keep ONE new years resolution, but these will stick, I am sure of it. I am determined to run more. I am determined to be better about money. I am determined to spend more time volunteering. I am determined to talk to more strangers. I am determined to turn off the tv and open a book now and again. I am determined to cook something new at least once a week. And I am determined to stop screwing around and find something that makes me truly happy. Totally doable.   

In the meantime, my short-term resolution is to finally clean out my photo archives and share some of my previous experiments with you, so in the off-chance that your resolution involves cooking more, perhaps you will find some inspiration.   

But first I want to talk about Christmas. Because Santa Claus was really good to me. It was a very kitchen centric holiday.  Behold:   

Wustof Classic 8" Chef's knife

How I did not already have one of these, I do not know, but my life is now complete. It is so sharp I am scared of it…   

And to store it…   

kapoosh knife block

This is the raddest thing I have ever seen. It is a knife block filled with perhaps graphite?? rods that shift around to accomodate whatever knives you have, so you can have all different brands and still store them in the same place! Fantastic.   

And this:   

Krups coffee grinder

For grinding my spices.   

And then the reading material:   

another year...thanks Gram!

The Williamsburg Art of Cookery

This sweet little book was a Christmas gift from my Fairy Blogmother, and I can’t wait to read it cover to cover. It is a compilation of colonial recipes for things like Jugged Hare that the people of Colonial Williamsburg put together in 1938. It is very cute.   

Then this:   

A Homemade Life

This is by Molly Wizenberg, who writes the blog Orangette. I love her writing and I love her recipes, and she met her husband because he read her blog and decided he might be in love with her. She is my hero.   

Lastly, the piece de resistance…   

Oh boy

This is the brain child of the new New York restaurant wunderkind, David Chang. I started reading it on Christmas Day and I am about a third of the way through (pesky weddings and New Year’s parties keep interrupting me.) I CANNOT wait to try some of these recipes. Especially the pork belly buns…   

May I interject briefly to share that I am currently watching my former boss (who shall remain nameless, though faithful regular readers will probably be able to figure it out if you read closely) on his food show on PBS. I will politely say his tv personality leaves something to be desired. Also, his hair is weird this episode. Apologies for the interruption.   

To round out my Christmas holiday, I got some fantastic little appetizer plates, my grandmother’s old angel food pan, and an antique angel food cake cutter. Did you know you needed one of those? I don’t know what I did before I had it!   

Now I am ready for a party...

I may be using these this afternoon.

And last, but not least, my stocking…   

Check this out…   

Am I spoiled or what?

Check out that saffron!! I will go out on a limb and suggest that the jar has at least $100 in saffron in it, but thanks to the littlest and her world traveling friends, it ended up in my stocking!!   

So many thanks to Louise and the littlest for my presents and my stocking, and to my aunt for the plates and the angel food…I have so much fun ahead of me!   

Ok, back to business. First on the docket, pork and clams.   

sausage and clams for a weeknight dinner.

This is so very quick. Pick up a pound of cockles (or littlnecks) and some sweet italian sausage on your way home from work. Remove the skins and brown the crumbled sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan, add a little bit of butter, and then saute some minced white onion or shallot until it is soft. Add some white wine, a couple sprigs of thyme, and the cockles. Cover the pan and steam the clams until they open.   

cockles.

Add the sausage back in to the pot to heat through, then serve in bowls with some toasted bread. Voila, dinner in minutes.   

dinner is served

Next on the list? Salmon cakes. This is one of my dad’s standard go to weeknight dinners or first courses. A while back I helped throw a bridal shower for Molly, my very closest friend and cousin in the world. Incidentally, she got married on Sunday, and was the most gorgeous bride in the world. Yay for Molly and Larry. I was left after the shower with an extra filet of poached sockeye salmon that didn’t get eaten. I snatched it right up, and took it home to make some salmon cakes. If you don’t have cooked salmon already, buy a filet and roast it quickly first, and then proceed.   

I crumbled the salmon and added some minced shallot.   

the beginning.

I happened to have a jar of piquillo peppers that I brought home from my trip to Spain last year   

imported from Spain.

I chopped them up and added them, though if you are not lucky enough to have piquillo peppers, a roasted red pepper would work beautifully as well.   

Lastly, I added a lot of minced dill, about a cup of panko bread crumbs, and 2 or 3 eggs to hold it together.   

Almost there.

I formed the mixture into cakes and coated them with panko bread crumbs.   

cakes

At this point I flash froze all but two of the cakes, for individual freezer storage for an even quicker dinner some other time. I sautéed the two cakes in shallow hot oil until the bread crumbs were golden brown and the cakes were hot all the way through. I plated them and this time around, used a mustard-wine-shallot-cream sauce and some fresh chopped dill. Delish.   

perfecto dinner for one.

The second time I did these, I didn’t have the left over mustard-wine-shallot-cream sauce, so I did a more standard (for my dad, anyway) red pepper cream sauce. Often he roasts a red pepper over a gas flame, and then purees it with some heavy cream, salt and pepper for an easy, basic sauce. I used some of those piquillos again, and I sautéed them with not an insignificant amount of butter, and some minced shallot. When everything was soft, I put it in the blender with some sour cream, since that is what I had, and some salt and pepper. I will tell you, the sauce was unbelievable and I ate the leftovers with a spoon. I am thinking it was the butter.   

salmon cakes redux

Now a couple of pasta recipes to round out my weeknight cooking repertoire.   

Baked Lemon pasta is a recipe I got from here. Friends, if you haven’t noticed, I am a food blog reader. I read many and I read them often. I love all the different styles and recipes and fun. Blogging is a curious animal, it is fascinating to see what different people do with it.   

Baked lemon pasta is pretty straightforward, butter, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and sour cream. Coat cooked pasta with the sauce, and bake it until it is hot.

Melt the butter and oil and heat the garlic until it is soft. Add the lemon juice and then the sour cream and lemon zest and some salt. Dunzo. It cooks for a total of about 25 minutes.   

butter and oil

with garlic

plus lemon juice

mmmm, sour cream.

zest, salt and pepper

cooked pasta

bake for 25...

I covered the pasta for the first 15 minutes or so of cooking, and then removed the foil for the final push. I sprinkled the pasta with some chopped rosemary, parmesan cheese and additional lemon zest, and so it was written.   

baked lemon pasta

Lastly, because this is getting verbose, and I have cooking adventures to get to this afternoon, I will conclude with a little gem I picked up from Orangette. 5 ingredients, and one is the pasta. Thick cut proscuitto, cut into pieces, butter, salt and parmesan sprinkled on top.   

First up, melt one tablspoon of unsalted butter and add the proscuitto. You want about one ounce of proscuitto cut about 1/8 inch thick, a half inch wide and an inch long.   

butter

proscuitto

butter and proscuitto

You want to cook the proscuitto just for a minute, you don’t want it to brown, just to look less “raw.” Then you add the cooked pasta (I stopped at the pasta store on the way home and got some “fresh” slightly dried pasta. I used a quarter of a pound.)   

add the pasta and parmesan

and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Serve and enjoy!   

Dunzo

This is by far the fastest recipe, and is definitely my current favorite.   

And now, since this has gone on forever, and I would like to make an apple tart this afternoon, I will leave you now. I volunteered this morning, and I have shared these meals with you, so I feel well on my way to the new me with all my resolutions. I am, of course, sitting in front of the tv, but we will take it in baby steps. The last two months have been totally overwhelming, and I am finally feeling a bit recovered. Back to normal on Monday, but in the meantime, back to the kitchen.   

Happy New Year! May 2010 bring you good health, good food and, if you are like me, a good kick in the ass.

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