Friday, April 30, 2010

easter and the revolution

Why yes, it is another blog post about the food project.  I need to catch up so that maybe I'll write about something else someday.

Easter was at the beginning of April and served as the perfect occasion to make some more new things for week 7.  I wanted something that felt seasonal and springy, so I suggested we look in David Tanis' cookbook A Platter of Figs for some recipes.  The book is divided into sections with a few three-course menus for each season.  Since Steve was already gravitating towards some sort of lamb for Easter, we decided on the "Supper of Lamb" menu.

The centerpiece was, of course, lamb.  It was supposed to be a shoulder of spring lamb, but Steve picked up a leg from the same bin at Marin Sun Farms (Ferry Building farmer's market) by mistake.  Luckily, they were pretty interchangeable for this purpose.  Steve roasted it up, made some flageolet beans, and served it all with an olive tapenade.  The roast could have been a little rarer, and we put too much parsley on it for the picture, but it was quite good overall.

The picture for this one seemed a lot more difficult than other weeks.  Something about the platter we used and how I had it set up just wasn't working for me compositionally.  Looking on my laptop later, I didn't really like any of the shots I had taken.  Then, I played around with the pictures a little.  I rotated and flipped some of the overhead ones until they finally looked right.  Below is one such picture.  It still doesn't look perfect to me, but it's less awkward than it was.  It ended up being the official picture for the week, because it showed the main dish the best.
Since it was a special occasion, Steve and I also decided to open one of our fancy wine club wines from Kuleto Estate: Frog Prince Cabernet Sauvignon.  It looked good in the glass, so I stopped to take one more picture of the plated lamb with it before we ate.
But as I mentioned before, this menu had three courses.  The dessert was a Rum Baba with Cardamom, which turned out tasty but with a wonky texture from Steve fudging the instructions on the cake.  The light was leaving by then, so I didn't bother taking a picture of it.  I figured I could take one if we try it again sometime.  Both the pictures and the dessert are bound to turn out better the next time.

The first course was supposed to be asparagus with vinaigrette, but we substituted the recipe in the book with a Mario Batali asparagus recipe.  In this one, the asparagus was wrapped in pancetta before cooking and served with a citronette (like a vinaigrette with citrus).  That sounded more exciting than the recipe in A Platter of Figs.  The excitement of the pancetta falling off the asparagus during the cooking wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but the flavors were there.  We picked the few decent ones to line up for a picture, but we ended up with a mess of pancetta and asparagus that did not get photographed.
Around that time, we started watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on TV.  It was an interesting look at the way most people (specifically children) eat in the US.  It's probably safe to say that we eat better than a good percentage of the people featured, but it was a nice reminder about all those Jamie Oliver cookbooks we have and don't always use.

We broke out Jamie's Italy for week 8 and landed in the risotto section.  Cauliflower risotto sounded good; combining cheesy risotto with cheesy cauliflower had to be pretty tasty.  Spicy, crunchy bread crumbs on top?  Even better.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be missing something when we actually tasted it.  Adding salt and more bread crumbs certainly helped, but even then I wanted another cheese of some sort to round out the flavor.  Parmesan alone was too sharp.  It got salty, but there was no depth.  I think a different melty white cheese would have helped.

I took the picture for this one on our dining room table.  It was a welcome change from the white-on-white of previous weeks' photos.  I don't particularly like our dining room table, but it conveniently blends well with our floor in pictures like this.

The final dish for this installment also came from Jamie's Italy.  In fact, it was a runner-up in the previous week's decision of what to make.  I've been on a bit of a calamari kick lately.  It's healthy, sustainable, and more novel than the typical fish.  It tastes nicely of the sea, but it's not fishy.  It also goes well with rice, beans or pasta.  (We're having some with arros negre and chorizo tonight!)
Here, we have a preparation with pasta.  The actual dish is called Spaghetti con Calamari, but I find spaghetti boring.  There are so many other, more interesting pastas out there; why waste our time eating spaghetti?  The recipe calls for spaghetti or linguine, so we went with linguine.  In fact, Steve found linguine fini, which is like mini linguine.  It's about the size of spaghetti, but it's flat.  That makes it better.  Obviously.
Besides pasta and calamari, the main flavors were fennel, lemon, and red pepper.  Because Steve used red bell pepper rather than red chilis, the dish felt a little more Spanish than Italian.  Still good, though.  I like the punch of lemon juice on pasta, so I squeezed some on top of my share, in addition to the lemon zest that the recipe suggested.  Steve liked it as is, but I thought it was an improvement.  

We may have had different opinions about the proper amount of lemon, but we were able to agree that this was a delightful new dish.  It felt light, and the flavors were different from our usual pasta options.  After making it again last week, I got to sample some as leftovers.  It still tasted really good, but I realized just how light the dish was when I felt hungry again an hour later.  Oh well.


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