This Monday night we had our usual fish for dinner, except tonight I made Nobu's famous miso black cod, which I'd been marinating in a sauce of miso, mirin, sake, and sugar for nearly three days. That's the only way to do it right. The fish came out flaky, buttery tender, and oh so yummy. Our friend 'Eagle Eye' would have been jealous (it's one of his favorites). I went a little out of the ordinary and paired the fish with braised collard greens, which I boiled in chicken stock, then sauteed with mustard seeds (which I've decided is my favorite seasoning of the hour), red pepper flakes, pepper, and proscuitto. The combo was a little unusual, though I think it worked despite the mixture of soft and savory textures. We paired our meal with Justin 2006 Chardonnay from Paso Robles. The Chard had just enough oak to stand up to the greens, with orange blossom honey and green apples on the nose and a lingering finish of vanilla, pineapple, and a bit of grass. I have to say that I'm rarely as excited to eat fish as I am to tear into a juicy steak, but the Nobu cod really is a treat.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Big N and I spent Christmas with his family, which has sort of become a potluck tradition. N's sister 'Star' started the meal off with roasted pumpkin raviolis with browned butter and sage sauce. The raviolis were soft and tantalizing and the sage sauce ensured they weren't too heavy.
N and I contributed the meat with an amazing hunk of horseradish and mustard crusted beef tenderloin. I paired that with celery root puree, a first attempt for me. The tenderloin was to die for, red and soft inside and savory on the outside with all that horseradish and herbs. While I shouldn't have been surprised, the celery root puree actually tasted like whipped celery, not all that enticing considering I don't like celery but at least the texture was perfect.
For dessert I made a Pear and Almond Creme Tart. Big N received a box of Harry & David pears for the holidays. They were big and beautiful and juicy and we have no idea who gave them to us. The pears were gorgeous in my tart, and my crust was flaky and crisp, but I have to admit the almond creme was a little mushy and kind of ruined it for me despite my in-laws claiming they liked it. Big N's brother 'Keroac' saved the day by bringing rich cheesecake from Portos. By the end of the night we left with our arms full and our tummies fuller.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I'm admittedly not the most observant Jew, nor am I observant in general, truth be told, but that's another story. I happen to love pork. Bacon, ham, carnitas, I love it all. I take great pleasure in eating and find nothing wrong with enjoying the other white meat on occasion. Getting wrapped up in the holiday spirit I decided to make Big N a nice Christmas Eve Eve dinner. So I made dried persimmon stuffed pork tenderloin and his favorite asparagus.
For the pork tenderloin I diced dried persimmons (apricots work too but I didn't have any) and shallot and stuffed the seasoned pork tenderloin, then tied it shut with kitchen twine. I roasted it at 450 for 20 minutes.
Halfway through I added the asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. For a vinaigrette I mixed capers, more shallot, olive oil, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and finely diced hard boiled egg and whisked to emulsify. When the pork was done I sliced it neatly and poured the vinaigrette over the roasted asparagus. We tried to pair that with Black Jack Cellars Pinot, but alas the cork was moldy and the wine was bad. It happens to the best of them. At least my pork was tender and juicy and I don't feel the least bit guilty.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For the fourth year in a row the Core is spending New Year's Eve at our cabin in Arrowhead. We look forward to it all year long. Not just because we get to spend the entire long weekend in our pajamas and slippers eating rich saucy foods and drinking cases of wine (yes, we go through a lot of it), but because we can relax, take naps, goof around, play games, take hikes, go sledding, build snowmen, sip mulled beverages, warm our feet by the crackling fire, and just enjoy each other's friendship. What do I like best? I get to spend eons of time in the kitchen playing house. Hooray!
This year I've planned all sorts of deliciously fattening foods: homemade cinnamon rolls, braised short ribs, slow cooked carnitas, apple pies, etc. etc. It's going to be a five-day feast! We're even going to dine on prime rib cooked by guest chef and Core member Sage. (Author's note: I've been told I need pseudonyms to identify my friends because initials are "drab and annoying." So from this point on, all friends will be renamed in a way that I feel suits them best).
Arrowhead is waiting for us, with snow-capped trees and glistening blue water. I'm ready to ring in the new year with amazing friends, great food, tantalizing wine, and a sense that all is right in my world.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest chicken fan. It can be dry, tasteless, and boring. But there is something special about juicy roasted chicken. I once knew somebody who couldn't be near chicken if it was still on the bone. It reminded her too much of the chick when it was alive. Me on the other hand, I prefer chicken on the bone and have none of the moral qualms of eating an animal that still resembles its living self. (Except perhaps pig's head-- even a year in China couldn't get me used to seeing, much less eating, roasted pig's head).
Anyway, the idea of roasted chicken sounded comforting given the chilly weather lately. Plus it gave me an opportunity to try out my new chicken roasting dish (cute, innit?); this month's free gift from our favorite wine club, Robert Sinskey in Napa. The following is Maria Sinskey's recipe for juicy chicken.
I started with a 4 pound chicken and gently pulled away the skin from the meat. I chopped up sage, rosemary, and thyme in my handy mezzaluna, added olive oil, salt and pepper to my herbs, and rubbed the herb mixture underneath the skin. I filled the cavity with salt, pepper, onions, garlic, and herb sprigs. I rubbed oil and a little more salt and pepper over the entire bird, then roasted for about an hour and twenty minutes at 425, adding carrots and more onions to the roasting dish.
For side dishes I made herbed saffron rice and fennel with mustard seed. For the fennel I quartered the bulbs. On the stove I heated mustard seeds until fragrant and popping, added chicken stock, white wine, a bit of honey, salt and pepper and the fennel bulbs and simmered for 45 minutes.
Our libation of the evening was Robert Sinskey 2005 Los Carneros Merlot. Lots of cedar and spice on the nose, earth and smoke on the palate. Fruits were dark but muted, plum, some violets, with soft leather and semi-sweet cocoa on the finish.
Sometimes it's nice to stay in, even on a Saturday night.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
On Monday nights my trainer beats me up for an hour and then makes me feel extra special at the end of our session by putting me on the scale. By 8:30 pm I'm guilted into trying to start off the week by eating a light healthy dinner. Last night was no exception. I made pistachio encrusted tilapia with spaghetti squash. Now I know what you're thinking, pistachios are fatty, but the truth is they're one of the healthiest nuts, high in potassium, magnesium, and B6. For the tilapia I pulsed pistachios, italian parsley, garlic, and a little olive oil in my food processor to make a pesto. I smothered the pesto over lightly salt and peppered tilapia and baked at 425 for 12 minutes. For the spaghetti squash, I halved the squash and cored the seeds, microwaved for 10 minutes (cheating, I know), then boiled until soft. I scraped the inside flesh with a fork to get the nice spaghetti-like noodles, then added salt, pepper, and grated asiago (parmesan works too). Big N paired our dinner with a 2001 Cottonwood Canyon Chardonnay. Crisp, clean, light on the oak, just the way I like it. Last night we enjoyed our dinner next to the fireplace, watching the stormy skies and first signs of snow off the San Gabriel mountains. A perfect way to start out the week.
This weekend Big N and I celebrated our 6-month anniversary. Acting on a whim, we decided to celebrate in Las Vegas. We drove up Saturday morning, and were pleasantly surprised when upon arrival the Palazzo upgraged us to a 1500 sq foot suite. I guess Vegas really wants to treat their fewer customers right these days.
For the first time ever I didn't gamble once while there. All we did was shop and eat -- my kind of fun!! (Incidentally I bought a gorgeous Miu Miu bowler and Louboutin boots, both on sale of course. Every now and again a girl's gotta splurge). For the eating part, we decided to make it a Mario Batali weekend- dining at his new restaurant in the Palazzo called Carnevino for dinner, and Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian for lunch on Sunday.
Carnevino, as its name implies, is all about meat and wine. Our sommellier hooked us up with a fantastic 2005 Sandrone Barbera d'Alba from Piedmont to go with our appetizer of Proscuitto di Parma Riserva (aged 18 months) wrapped around gnoccho fritto (think puffed up dough squares). The Barbera was bursting with floral notes, cassis and violets, sweet but spicy. For dinner I had the most fabulous Osso Bucco with saffron orzo and Big N had the tasty crusted filet. Our bottle of 2001 Terralsole "Riserva" Brunello di Montalcino set off both plates very nicely. It was spicy and dark, with wonderful earth, cassis and tobacco hits on the back palate. By the end of the night we were stuffed and satisfied.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I guess you could say that I got my "calling" in Spring 2007, when I planned an eight course wine pairing tasting menu for 15 of our closest friends. I was completely wrapped up in the planning, preparing, cooking, and hosting and it was one of the most magical nights I can remember (after my wedding, of course). Each course was artfully paired with wines Big N and I selected, and on the back of the menus the guests tried to guess the varietal, appellation, and price point of each wine (which of course became more difficult the more wine you drank!).
Here was the menu:
amuse bouche: selection of cheese and pates
soup: cream of cauliflower with roasted croutons
and black truffle oil
starter: smoked salmon crostini with capers and creme fraiche
first: miso, mirin and sake glazed chilean sea bass
with baby bok choy
second: pancetta and shiitake ravioli with sun dried tomato bechamel sauce
intermezzo: blackberry sorbet
main: braised beef short ribs with wild mushrooms and polenta
dessert: kiwi strawberry napoleon with mascarpone and raspberry sauce
finale: selection of truffles
My friend A remembered to take pictures and sent me this lovely montage of the evening's greatest hits.
After that night I was hooked. I felt completely at home, passionate and creative for the first time in as long as I can remember. I decided that one day I will be a proper chef. Then I can plan, cook, entertain, and drink gobs of delicious wine with impunity. One day.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
As promised, I attempted to reverse engineer the Green Apple Rosemary Sorbet we had at Niche in St. Louis last month. My friend A at LickityList originally experienced this delightful treat with me, and we both formulated a plan to try to recreate it ourselves.
Here's how I attacked it: boiled rosemary in simple syrup until my entire house smelled like a Christmas tree. Grated 6 granny smiths (unpeeled) and the juice of one lemon in my food processor (because I broke our blender making bisque on Thanksgiving, boo), then pulsed until I had juicy puree. Strained the juice in my chinois, then added just a hint of the pulp back into the mix for texture and color. Then I added the juice mixture to the rosemary simple syrup and threw all of that into my ice cream maker. Unfortunately, my impatience got the best of me (as usual) and I made two critical errors: 1) I didn't freeze my ice cream maker bowl long enough to bring it down to freezing temperature, and to make matters worse, 2) I didn't chill my simple syrup enough before pouring it into the ice cream maker. You can guess that freezing the solution into a lovely sorbet consistency was pretty much a lost cause. Also, waiting around for the mixture to freeze caused me to lose some of my lovely green color, making my sorbet look more like pea soup, a problem also experienced by A at Lickity List (because as we all know, apples brown: polyphenols + oxygen = rust colorations).
Determined not to forfeit, into the freezer my concoction went. It froze as expected, I scraped and scraped the rock hard green mass with a spoon, and voila: Green Apple Rosemary Snow Cone...minus the cone.
The verdict: the texture was all wrong (because it wasn't, afterall, a sorbet), but according to Big N, the taste was actually better than Niche's. Mine had more rosemary flavor, which gave it a refreshing minty quality, but it wasn't too sweet. I may try this one again, sans Ice Cream maker mishaps. It'd make a lovely intermezzo for the wine pairing tasting menu I'm planning for late-January. More on that later.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Big N and I took a trip to our cellar to drop off some wine and pick out a couple that have come of age. Last night we invited friends H & M over for a wine pairing dinner featuring two of our favorites: Pinot Noir and late-harvest Trockenbeerenauslese (this one was of the Ortega grape varietal, a Müller-Thurgau hybrid similar to Reisling), or TBA for those in the know.
We started off the evening with Penner-Ash 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot, paired with two sheeps milk cheeses, Dante- a hard cheese, and Guilloteau Berger de Rocastin- think brie but with more barnyard qualities. The pairing was beautiful. The Pinot was spicy, earthy, with plenty of terroir typical for the dark volcanic soil of the Willamette Valley, more old world style. The spiciness was complemented perfectly by the creaminess of the Guilloteau.
For dinner we did a surf and turf: ginger sake glazed grilled salmon, ginger garlic and soy marinated flank steak, sweet potatoes with clove, cinnamon and maple syrup glaze, and sauteed spinach garnish. We paired that with a Pinot from one of our favorite Central Coast producers: Cottonwood Canyon 2001 Elizabeth's Vista Pinor Noir from the Santa Maria Valley. This pinot had some age to it, so it was a beautiful crystal clear garnet color, with strawberries and cream, soft leather and scented tobacco notes and a touch of gaminess, and dark fruits on the lingering finish. Not as spicy or earthy as the Penner-Ash, but the ginger and clove in the meal complemented the wine well.
For dessert I cooked a recipe from The Wine Lovers Dessert Cookbook. 'Tis the season for Quince! I made individual Quince Pot Pies, spiced up with cloves and cinnamon, and added a little TBA to the mix because cooking with wine never hurt anybody. We paired it with the TBA of course, Villa Palatina 2005 Ortega Trockenbeerenauslese from the Pfalz region. This wine was a beauty- it can be aged 40 years! Amber golden color, peachy notes with stone fruit and molasses on the palate. The wine is so viscous it reminds me of maple syrup. The apple/peachy quality of the quince and the buttery flaky topping brought out the creaminess and tempered sweetness of the wine.
My tummy was satisfied and my palate was quenched. Not a bad way to spend a mellow Saturday with friends.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Last night Big N and I attended LACMA's exhibit Hearst the Collector. The exhibit displayed several works collected by William Randolph Hearst, including knight armor, pottery, charcoal drawings, drawings of Hearst Castle from the architect that designed it, antiquities, and paintings. My favorite piece from the exhibit was the Canova sculpture of Venus. The sculpture was flawless. It didn't dawn on me until later that the reason it appealed to me is because I adore another of Canova's famous sculptures, Cupid and Psyche, which I gawked at for nearly an hour at the Louvre.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Last night I took my husband, Big N, to Providence for his birthday.
The two-starred Michelin restaurant occupies the old Patina space on Melrose. Warm and spacious inside, with high ceilings decorated with artsy barnacle looking thingees (the restaurant specializes in seafood).
So, we splurged by ordering the 9 course tasting menu with wine pairings, and since that wasn't exactly enough food for our foodie palates, we simply had to order the wagyu beef too.
I have to tell you, I never thought I'd be so pleased dropping so much dough on a meal, but hot damn that food was good. I wouldn't want to spoil it for you by giving you a complete list of the dishes we had, which are simply too numerous to mention, but I can tell you that I was amazed by the amuse bouche (above, please forgive the iphone picture), which had, starting from left, a gin and tonic gelee, a mojito bubble, which burst in your mouth with minty goodness, and a fennel saffron shot. What a bonus- my mouth was truly amused. Highlights also included the scallop with a generous portion of shaved truffles, the cheese plate course (we chose 4 from about 25 cheeses offered), the veal tenderloin tournedos sous-vide with chanterelles and celery root puree, and of course, the wagyu ribeye. The wine pairings were atypical and surprising. Gems included the Sean Thackery vxi blend of petit sirah and syrah and the Casa Rivas 2006 carmenierre from Argentina that was served with our wagyu ribeye.
My husband and I had to hunker down to make it through our 10 lovely courses, but I'm happy to report that nothing went uneaten. Even the dessert (coconut tapioca with kfir lime and shiso lichi sorbet) and the petit fours were gobbled up.
This restaurant ranks up there with my favorites, and I cannot wait to have an excuse splurge there again!
Kudos to Providence. I'm a fan.
And thanks to our friends at lickity list for the recommendation.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Well, Thanksgiving was a success, by my standards of course. The house was lovely, my food was well received, and breaking bread with family and friends reminded me how much I have to be thankful for and what a truly amazing year this has been.
The only hitch- rookie blogger that I am- I forgot to take pictures! I was so wrapped up in being the hostess that I completely forgot to memorex the holiday so I could brag about it to you all. Darnit! The only picture I have is of the picked over Turkey carcass, which should at least prove that my Turkey rocked (thank you Martha Stewart brining recipe). Will post that one for kicks later. Here it is:
I guess I'll have to prove my holiday entertaining prowess at New Years. We're heading up to the cabin in Arrowhead and I plan to spend my days in the kitchen! More on that to come.