Sunday, January 3, 2010

Last Night: Revisited

I cannot, for the life of me figure out this photo thing. Arg. I can do it on my cat's blog. Hm. I'll have to work on this.

Last night's adventure in the kitchen:
I made the dessert, almond cake, in the morning, so that it was done. When people are coming over, I do a timeline of the evening, so that dinner can be on the table when I want it to be ... although last night we were off, weren't we. Anyway, part of the timeline is always "Morning" and then an extensive list of the dessert and sauce and chopping prep. So, I made the dessert in the morning - this was after my grocery shopping, of course - and it came out super. I love this almond cake. It's perfect for people with wheat or dairy restrictions because it doesn't have those things in it. And it's lovely with sorbet, namely Blackberry-Cabernet and Blood Orange, by Ciao Bella.

Next is the appetizer: Bruschetta with rosemary-white bean spread, and red onion and arugula (dressed with balsamic vinegar), by The New Best Recipe. It was really good! I also rubbed the toasts with garlic and painted on some olive oil, so there was lots of flavor. The roof of my mouth is all torn up today, though. Do I have the softest palate in the world?

The salad, fish, and vegetables (not pictured) were out of "Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm." It's our new cookbook. The salad was delicious: Winter Salad, to be precise. Those greens were so refreshing in their bitterness, and the carmelized nuts (also on the Morning list) and cheese were perfect with the dijon vinaigrette (Morning). Of note is the fact that Jason Morgan does not like walnuts. AND he didn't know what a pecan was, but decided that he didn't like those, either. He said it is a "texture thing." What? It's not Spam. It's crunchy, which is a universal happy texture. I said, "They're covered with sugar, man!" No dice. He didn't take any cheese, either. Good thing I make a mean vinaigrette.

Now we get to the aioli, as promised. Pictured is the second batch of aioli made. The first, I whipped by hand. It was super thick and a gorgeous yellow. I was so proud. Then, I tasted it. Nasty! There was a metallic finish and a raunchy bitterness. Ug. No salvaging that crap. I went back to the recipe and noticed what I had mocked before: "Use only fresh garlic from the local farmers' market." But the book doesn't say why. It doesn't say, "Heed this advice or your aioli will be completely unpalatable." Simultaneously, Josh looked on the handy dandy interweb and found Rosemary-Thyme Aioli, from Cook's Illustrated - so trusted, so true, so thorough in their explanations. To wit: "Remove the green germ in the garlic ...; [it] will give the aioli a bitter, hot flavor." AND, CI implores you to use regular olive oil, NOT extra-virgin. So my sins were two-fold, it would appear. I threw out the disgusting aioli (that's the smell in the garbage right now! tmi?), and replaced it with the velvety, delicious one pictured. This one I made in the mini-chopper. Holy Moly, that mini-chopper will complain if you use it for more than a minute. As the smell of burning motor filled the air, I tried to reason with it: slowly add the olive oil! Slowly! Please, don't explode!

The trout! I believe I mentioned that I went to get Arctic Char. That was the second time that I went with one thing in mind, only to find that I couldn't have it. And, for the second time, I thought I could rely on my fishmonger to help me. I guess I have watched too many "Good Eats" episodes, with Alton Brown addressing his butcher by name and casually asking how said meat-man likes to prepare his dead flesh. The butcher always has an answer! Well, my fishmonger did not have an answer, and his smile faded real quick when he put the second fish back that I asked to look at. (I tabled the idea of asking to smell the trout he was wrapping up.)

So the trout worked out swimmingly (ha ha), but the incident brought up a whole host of thoughts about my identity as a cook. I decided that I am a Home Cook. The "home" is an important adjective - just as important as the "cook," note: not "chef." (I like the colons today.) What this means is that I cook from cookbooks - recipes written by others. Yes, I can put my own mark on things and I know some technique and how to experiment. But I am not too bold with experimentation or new territory, and I am shy with the spices. I definitely don't garnish. I make my list of ingredients and I go to the market to seek them out. If I were a Chef, I would go to the market, sans list, and let the produce speak to me. I could probably also better stick to my timeline! I know that I make good things, but I get really bent out of shape when what I make is not good, especially if it's for company. I think a good goal for the serious Home Cook is to migrate into chef territory little by little. Summer is good for experimentation - there is glut of good stuff out there to work with. In Seattle there is a Farmers Market every day of the week full of organic this and sustainable that. AND the vendors cook what they sell, so can give guidance.

So little by little. For this week, however, I already shopped with my list.

Tonight's dinner: leftovers. There are two whole fish in the fridge.

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