The Cool House: food
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Monday, July 12, 2010

The smell of the ocean

"Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close"
but we won't be there to experience it. While the floors are sanded and sealed, the baseboards & moldings stained, we will be here (clue in image) eating our way through bowls of smoked haddock chowder and other local delicacies. A break is good!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My House Smells like a French (or Belgian) Restaurant

Since I got back from our challenging European vacation I have been (unsurprisingly) obsessed with comfort food. The very first night, despite jet lag, I made Fusilli with ground Buffalo and Three Cheese Sauce. Okay, I cheated by using a jar of Trader Joe's sauce but I added a parmesan rind I had left over in the fridge to the sauce that I mixed with the browned buffalo - unctuous, soothing and exactly what was needed after a plane ride of almost eight hours.
The next evening I was restored enough after 10 hours sleep to cook Pork Tenderloin with a Mustard Sauce and serve it with Stoemp, the Belgian speciality of mashed potatoes with vegetables. The standards are carrots or spinach but I finely chopped green onions to add the perfect bite to an otherwise typically Franco-Belgian dish.
A disappointing but not bad bottle of Pinot Noir became the basis for Boeuf Bourguignon, the classic French stew and an embarrassment of onions prompted me to make Soupe à l'Oignon in the proper fashion with cognac and real bouquet garni.
The only dish I haven't tackled is Lapin Chasseur although the cats did present me with a laid out bunny on the doorstep - a welcome home present.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce

It's been a while since I posted anything food-related on the blog. A combination of laziness, greed (do you realise we have to wait to eat while I take shots?) and twitter. Blame twitter. It's so much quicker to post 140 characters online than mess around with html.
Anyway, I am actually inspired by this lack of summer to make some dishes rather than the usual "Go to store, pick up salads, cheese and pate, open wine and call it a picnic" meals we eat this time of year. Yesterday I used up leftover polpo, peppers, rice and tomatilla salsa with frozen prawns, sauteed garlic and 1/3 bottle of white wine for a simple, summery lunch and made a Panna Cotta with fresh berries for today's dessert. I had planned to serve it with red berry coulis and fresh cherries but then I saw something that made me think why not drizzle it with a little Caramel Sauce? Heaven.
Panna Cotta is one of the easiest desserts to make. Really! It's just cream jelly (Jello). I'm not even going to bother to write out a recipe, there are hundreds around, each as simple as the last. Try David Lebovitz's below. And if you have any doubts about making your own caramel sauce go and see Marilyn at Simmer Till Done. She will hold your hand, mop your fevered brow and guide you through the process for perfecting sweet, buttery and slightly salty caramel. You'll never go back to a jar again!

Panna Cotta
David Lebovitz has a perfect recipe with tips
(If you oil the molds as he suggests you won't have to do what I did and ease them out with a knife, see photo. Do as I say, not as I do!)

Caramel Sauce
I told you: Go see Simmer

Monday, May 18, 2009

The weekend: Highs and Lows

A quick round-up of the weekend:

Highlights: Dinner with Mme Faboolosity and Hubby in the old 'hood, followed by Jill Sobule concert at The Landmark on Main Street. Spent evening coveting Jill's red velvet wedges.

Sunset on the deck in Huntington Bay, appetizers for dinner. (Cell service at the beach!)

Taking photos of the yard followed by best BBQ spare ribs and black beans ever.

Lows: First ever failed fairy cakes. I took this as a personal insult! (N.B. Failure does not mean inedible. There are only four left and I don't eat cake...)
Not fun yard work: weeding, removing thorny suckers and sucky vines; pruning the dead twigs from azalea bushes
Thousands of tiny caterpillars discovered the day after weeding - all over clothes, bedroom floor, bathroom. (The Guy had said the previous evening he thought ants were crawling over him and the zyrtec he took hadn't helped...)

Hitting head on outside lamp while taking close ups of planter... two of the three bulbs are no longer working but I have lump the size of lightbulb where I smacked it...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Citrus Polenta Cake

Because it's the weekend. Because it's raining. Because I needed to bake a cake. Just because.

Lemon Polenta Cake
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9" cake pan.
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Italian olive oil
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup polenta
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
zest 1 1/2 lemons

Melt butter. In a separate bowl whisk eggs and sugar until light in color and doubled in volume. Sift flour, polenta, baking powder and salt. Add butter and olive oil to eggs and fold in dry ingredients. Spoon into cake pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

Citrus Syrup
Heat 1/2 cup of water and 1/3 cup sugar with three or four strips of candied orange peel until sugar has dissolved. Add the zest of half a lemon and an optional tablespoon of Cointreau. Bring to a boil, and reduce until slightly thickened. Add the juice of one lemon. Pour over the polenta cake.
Serve the cake with whipped cream and fruit compote.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February Fourteenth Fence Fixing and Feasting

Other girls get chocolates and roses on Valentine's Day. I received a roll of poultry fencing and a handful of L brackets*. Well, the fence needed securing, at least until we can re-fence in Spring and I'm not terribly romantically inclined. I'm not too upset.
We're not taking any bets on how long this temporary fix will last but I'm hoping for the end of April. We ended up not using the poultry fencing as The Guy was able to secure the panels to the existing uprights with the L brackets, but we'll keep it just in case.

The newly braced fence. Cat approved.
I am, however, making a French inspired Valentine's supper à quatre tonight:

Salad frisee and Bouillabaisse with Rouille

and Pots de Creme.
Sounds so much more romantic than poached egg salad, fish soup and custard, doesn't it?

Our Valentine's Bears and Chocolate - gifts from the Loyal Blog Reader and Awesome Designer
Happy Valentine's Day to all those who celebrate.
*The Guy would like me to point out that the fence-securing supplies were not my Valentine's present, they were for the dogs. MY gift was the tank of fuel he put in my car this morning. Glad we cleared that up!
UPDATE: Tulips arrived but The Guy insists he bought them for himself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The perfect meal

Something unctuous and sexy, satisfying but not heavy, that's what I look for in the perfect Valentine's meal. After some thought I came up with a menu that I thought would be the perfect romantic dinner on Saturday evening. That was until The Guy reminded me that Valentine's Day is another Hallmark tradition we don't celebrate, like Mother's Day or our wedding anniversary. So I made it yesterday, put it on the table with a bottle of Malbec and no fanfare, but by the end we agreed that it was the most enjoyable meal we have had this year, or a long time into last, including our trip to Argentina. (There were better individual dishes in Buenos Aires, lots of them, but not a better meal). Of course our culinary memories could have failed us because we have subsisted on soup and the occasional pasta dish since Solstice, so real food was bound to be a success as long as it wasn't raw, burnt or I didn't confuse salt for sugar.

Beef en Daube
1 lb cubed beef chuck
1 tbl olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced (I used one huge clove of elephant garlic)
1 cup red wine (I used Malbec)
1 cup good beef broth or stock
1 14 oz can of tomatoes
1 tbl tomato paste
1 carrot, peeled, cut into chunks
1 stick celery, cut into chunks
1/2 onion, quartered
1 tbl Herbes de Provence
Bay leaf
Pinch of powdered cloves
1 strip orange peel
1 tsp capers

Heat olive oil in a casserole. Add garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes. Remove garlic and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add beef, sprinkling it beef with salt and pepper. Cook until browned. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic wine, broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. Sprinkle over the herbs, spices. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat off, stir in capers, orange peel and bay leaf and place in a 300F oven for 2.5 hours. Take out of oven, adjust seasonings and if desired place in a lower temperature oven until ready to serve. It will be silky, the beef will have almost dissolved and the smell will be rich and full of promise.

Serve with bread or pasta or these baby Yukon potatoes, baked in the oven with butter, salt and rosemary. Mmm.

And for dessert, a variation on drunken fruit salad: red fruits steeped in St Germain liqueur with a couple of crunched sugar cubes. Hit the sugar cubes with the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the fruit, then pour over the elderflower eau de vie. That's the elegant way to do it. A lazier more sensual way is to allow the whole sugar cubes to soak up some of the alcohol and then suck the cubes.
So, for Valentine's Day, what do you think I should serve The Guy? Peanut Butter and Marmite sandwiches or just plain bread and butter?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Dried Bull Penises Done Up In A Braid

I have to go see if they have Steer Pizzle at a Trader Joe's on Long Island.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reality Check Recipe

While searching the internets for a comfort-food recipe to cheer us up and warm us through I stumbled upon this gem from Nigella Lawson on NPR. Two pretty big differences there guys. Do you think it was a metric/US conversion problem or a good old-fashioned typo? Whatever, recipes are like Yahoo! Maps driving directions: you should always perform a reality check first.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I'm using the iphone as a portable, pictorial list-making device so next time I go to the liquor store I can remember the name of the delightfully smooth yet smokey single malt we are adding to hot water, lemon and a cane sugar cube to ward off the evil effects of the damned cold virus that's plagued as for the past 10 days. Yes, I know that's no way to treat a malt from the Islands but we're too sick to go get any Famous Grouse. It's called making do.........

Monday, January 19, 2009

The last of the evergreens

A month ago I bought two gorgeous rosemary bushes as a fragrant, green Solstice decoration. I hoped they would see us through the winter and we could plant them in the herb patch in the spring. I used them to flavour all the soups we have been enjoying since the festivities ended: red pepper and white bean, roasted tomato, chickpea and lamb and many others. I snipped a sprig or two and placed them on roasting chicken and lamb and chopped a little to throw on escalopes and roast potatoes. Every time I passed the bushes I gently squeezed them to release the aroma.

Then, as the weather grew more frigid and we spent more time in the kitchen cooking, I noticed they were starting to dry out. I watered them and moved them away from the cooktop and oven but it was too late. The rosemary had become a desiccated skeleton, only the heady Mediterranean scent left behind. I still used the crushed rosemary to sprinkle into stews but touching the bush even a little caused it to shower its needle-like leaves across the countertop.

Last week I gave in and harvested the remainder, pouring it into a glass jar, capturing the essence of the plant for a little while longer.
Now if only I could do something about my poor dehydrated skin.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Healthy Eating?

Okay, this is an absolutely hysterical post from the NY Times Blogs.

Nutritionist and author Jonny Bowden has created several lists of healthful foods people should be eating but aren’t. But some of his favorites, like purslane, guava and goji berries, aren’t always available at regular grocery stores. I asked Dr. Bowden, author of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” to update his list with some favorite foods that are easy to find but don’t always find their way into our shopping carts. Here’s his advice.

1. Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.
How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.
2. Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.
How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.
3. Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.
How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil.
4. Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.
How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.
5. Pomegranate juice: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.
How to eat: Just drink it.
6. Dried plums: Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.
How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.
7. Pumpkin seeds: The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.
How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.
8. Sardines: Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.” They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.
9. Turmeric: The “superstar of spices,” it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.
10. Frozen blueberries: Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.
How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.
11. Canned pumpkin: A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.
How to eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

It was first published back in June 2008 and they re-published it this weekend. It's funny not only because the suggestion for incorporating two of the 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating into your diet is to add butter and proscuitto to them. I mean, what food doesn't taste better wrapped in pieces of pig or slathered in butter? But it's the comments that slay me. These - all 54 pages of them - are brilliant.
A sample

Well, we eat all these foods except #11, (canned pumpkin? Yak!) regularly and I really don't think we're "healthier" than any of our friends or neighbors. But I do have a suggestion for #5. Mix with vodka and garnish with a few #10s.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Beer, deer and chocolate

I'm kicking off the New Year with beer. Not "hair of the dog" style, not to drink at all. I'm more of a wine/gin girl but I love to cook with beer. Today it's Vension Shepherd's Pie, hot and comforting after last night's celebrations, and especially appreciated in the arctic blast that has enveloped us since yesterday. It's a standard Shepherd's Pie recipe plus a teaspoon of cumin, another of allspice, two tablespoons of Trader Joe's Spicy Tomato Chutney (yep, still working through those leftovers), and 3/4 bottle of dark beer, I used Negra Modelo because that's what was in the 'fridge, but any dark beer will do. I also threw in the remaining spoonful of the Tapas Tomatoes as there simply weren't enough to serve as a side dish. Because venison is very lean I made sure all the olive oil, and the garlic clove, from the tapas dripped into the meat and vegetables. How good is it on New Year's Day? Perfect. This dish even smells comforting.
If you can't get your hands on some venison and straight up Shepherd's Pie doesn't do it for you, another great meat and beer recipe to keep out the winter chill is Nigel Slater's Braised Beef with Beer and Onions from The Guardian last weekend. Simple and soul-warming.
Incidentally the best quote from 2008 comes from the first paragraph of his article "I can't bear to think of a day without (just a little) chocolate. Not that I need much. But a tiny square or two is necessary if I am to retire with a feeling that my day was something." I think that's my New Year's Resolution: 2 squares of chocolate to validate every day.

Tomato Tapas

To welcome in the New Year I need something hot, sweet, zesty and good-looking, even if it's just a humble tomato. Here's my favorite from last night. Happy 2009!

Tomato Tapas

1 box Grape Tomatoes
Clove Garlic
Thinly sliced lemon zest
Couple sprigs fresh Rosemary
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
Spanish Olive Oil

Put ingredients in a shallow dish. You'll need enough olive oil to come a little way up the tomatoes - say 2 tablespoons or so. Bake in a 375F oven until the smell drives you crazy or 20-30 minutes.
Serve with chilled Fino Sherry, or Champagne on New Year's Eve, or as a side dish to Vension Shepherd's Pie on New Year's Day.
For real recipes go over to Simmer Till Done. Marilyn has some of her best posts of 2008 in a round-up edition. Enjoy!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Aftermath

There are no good before shots of the decorations and certainly no during photos - too busy greeting, eating and drinking - but sufficient to say we had a rollicking good time, and I hope the guests did too. I snapped these afterwards while The House Elf, aka The Guy, was collecting glasses and bottles from various corners.

The baked ham, sliced venison (a gift from a guy with a gun) and Swedish meatballs disappeared, the salt and pepper prawns were a hit. We did serious damage to the seasonal cheeses: Stilton with walnuts and dried fruit, chevre rolled in cranberries and honey drizzled blue cheese. The ice cream and half the Solstice cake vanished, too. Friends brought more food, choux pastry puffs, shortbread, cookies, dried fruit and a white chocolate and banana gateau.

Although I make a lot of the food myself, to make life easier I outsource the finickety things. Trader Joe did sterling work as always. A few of the favorites: Spicy Almonds, Cheese and Ham Puffs, Raspberry Brie Filo Rolls and on the sweet side, Belgian Chocolate and Almond Tart, Fruits of Fancy (Turkish Delight with Walnuts) and Snowflakes (yoghurt covered pretzels). One non-edible product got a big thumbs up - Trader Jacques' French Liquid Soap, a little whiff of French perfume for less than $4 a bottle. You can't beat that, can you?

I've spared you the worst of the clean-up, the glasses, empty and half-empty bottles and plates on the sink side of the kitchen. Those bottles on the island are gifts from the partyers and in the big Le Creuset, the remains of the gluhwein we drank to keep out the fast-falling frigid air.
This morning we breakfasted on wonderful leftovers - awesome curried prawn puffs (courtesy of the Awesome Designer) and Buckwheat Salad (from our Buenos Aires-loving South African friends) - while resisting the temptation to heat-up the leftover gluhwein. It's 13 F out there but it's still a work day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And then there was food

Argentina is famous for its grass fed beef. I love it because it doesn't cause all those internal issues that corn fed meat can do (wind, gas or heartburn or whatever your particular affliction may be), and frankly, it just tastes better. Parrilla or grilled steaks, are available everywhere and in huge portions but our favorite turned out to be mollejas or sweetbreads. These were simply cooked, as all parrilla is, just seasoned with salt and pepper and served sliced with wedges of lemons on the side. Succulent and exquisite, without the addition of the usual cream-based sauce, they were very light. Just a simple watercress salad and a cubierto of bread, it made the perfect meal. We also tried the famous asado made in al asador or the embers of a charcoal fire, just like the gauchos cooked it, and ate the offal and chevito, baby goat, with a little chimichurri and a lot of Malbec.
But it's not all about the beef in Buenos Aires, the Spanish and Italian influences mean great desserts, too. As in Belgium, coffee is accompanied by a little sweet something, or even three somethings as in the photo above- a chocolate, a tiny biscuit and sliver of cake. And like in Europe, an entree is an appetizer not the main course. Hurray for logic and food heaven.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buenos Aires: Cocktail time

Sadly inflation hit BA in the early 2000's so the $5 cocktail is now a $10 cocktail, but that didn't stop us hitting the bar every evening, especially as drinks come with great nibble - chips, almonds, cheese, savory biscuits and smoked salmon appetizers. That held us until dinner time, which as in Spain, tends to be served around 10 pm. Really, though, who needs dinner after all that? Well, we do, of course. Anyway, here's my favorite

The Plaza Bar Tango Martini

2 oz. Gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
Pour into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and serve.

The most refreshing Martini I've drunk. The barman also invented a new cocktail for me which was very tall and pretty and pink but rather more Verity's thing as it was reminiscent of a Mojito but gin based:

2 oz. Gin
Simple syrup
Pink grapefruit juice
Muddle the mint into the sugar. Add ice cubes, gin and top with pink grapefruit juice. Stir and serve.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

On the White House Holiday Menu

"In the weeks leading up to the holiday, the Bushes will host almost daily parties with some 22,000 holiday cookies, 250 coconut cakes, 600 pounds of asparagus* and 700 gallons of eggnog."

600 pounds of asparagus? Since when was asparagus festive fare? There is an asparagus season where I'm from, it's called May. Call me peculiar but if there's one thing I don't associate with the holidays, it's pee smelling like asparagus in the morning. Gingerbread, maybe, or eggnog, but not a vegetable that inspired this piece of piss-taking on wikipedia: Green asparagus is... the primary source of nutrition for inhabitants of the Atomium in Brussels.
As if that's not strange enough, can you imagine what dishes they are making with the following ingredients*?

Grapefruits 3,000
Pounds of Asparagus 600
Pounds of Cheesy Stone-Ground Grits 300

Secret family recipes, anyone?

*Fun Facts On the 2008 Holiday Season At The White House

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hangover: Cause and Cure

It may not amuse everyone but I think it's worth a post. This is the door of my freezer: half-empty bottles of alcohol and lots of ice packs. What else would you need for the holiday season?
Why, full bottles, of course.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Solstice Cake: Dried fruit, cognac and patience

Well sure you can make a Christmas cake on Christmas Eve. And in many places you can buy a Bûche de Noël at your local bakery. But if you want to make a traditional cake with sultanas and raisins, currants and dried peel, almonds and brandy you have to start early. The dried fruit must macerate in spirits for 24-48 hours before you can think about adding them to the batter. That allows them to plump up and ensures that when you do get around to eating the cake, in four weeks or so, each tiny bite will be intoxicating, in a really good way.

Because this cake contains 3lb of dried fruit it will take a really long time to bake. Before I mix up the batter I have to prepare the tin so it will insulate the cake from the direct heat of the oven. A layer of greaseproof paper inside the cake tin will help and prevent the cake from sticking to the sides as it cooks.

Now it's time for the batter: 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of soft brown sugar, 3 cups of flour, 3 teaspoons of spices, 1 tablespoon of molasses, the zest of a lemon and an orange and 6 eggs. When it's mixed I add the fruit and nuts and transfer it to that tin. But we're not done protecting the beauty yet, it needs a double layer of paper on top, with a small hole to allow the steam to escape. Then another double layer around the outside of the cake pan, some more paper on a cookie sheet underneath and we're ready to slide it into a coolish oven for 4 1/2 hours.

Four and a half hours is a long time and while the cake is baking the kitchen fills up with those enticing smells of nutmeg and cinnamon, cloves and ginger, cognac and dark rum. When it comes out of the oven, it has to sit and cool and perhaps be briefly admired. Then it must be wrapped in more greaseproof paper, a sheet of aluminum foil, placed in a box and put out of sight again until midwinter. Once a week for the next month I will unwrap it and feed it teaspoons of brandy and then recover it until eventually, a couple of days before solstice, I will ice it, or cover it in glace fruits or nuts, and serve it at last with Wensleydale cheese.