Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the next chapter

Continuing on with the chronicle of the 52 Weeks of Food project, we reach week 4.  Again, our inspiration was a dish from February's visit to Contigo.  This time?  Grilled calamari with chorizo and beans.

Steve used some of the San Franciscano heirloom beans that we had purchased at Rancho Gordo in Napa during our anniversary trip last August.  He cooked them up with some Spanish chorizo, red pepper, onions, celery, and a splash of beer, and they turned out great.  For the grilled calamari, he used a marinade with olive oil, lemon zest, and paprika, which made it taste suitably Spanish.  Between the grilling, the chorizo, and the paprika, there was a lovely smokey flavor.  It was just what I had been craving.
A couple weeks later, we tried a different variation of the same dish.  According to their menus online, Contigo had been alternating between serving the grilled calamari with beans and serving them with arros negre.  During our next meal there in mid-March, we tried the arros negre version and decided to replicate that on a weeknight.  Steve did sort of a paella preparation with rice, squid ink, and the Spanish chorizo.  He grilled the calamari the same way as before, but he added egg yolk to his second try at the allioli sauce, which turned out better than his previous, broken attempt.  Although I have yet to take pictures of this version of the dish at home, I liked it even better than the version with beans.  (It was too close to the other calamari preparation, so we didn't count it as our new food for the week.)
Taking a break from Contigo-inspired dishes, just for one week, we tried a pasta from Michael Symon's Live to Cook for week 5.  We settled on the Sheep's Milk Ravioli with Brown Butter and Almonds.  It had been a couple of years since Steve's last attempt at making his own filled pasta, but he did much better this time.  The pasta was nowhere near as thick as I remembered it being, although Steve still could have gone thinner with it.

The sauce that went with the ravioli was interesting, but good.  It was a combination of brown butter, orange, parsley, and almonds.  With the right ratio of each in a bite with the cheese-filled pasta, it was wonderful.  Unfortunately, those perfect bites were kind of few and far between.  They were just glimpses of how good the dish could be if it was executed perfectly.  It was good enough for us to try it again, but I was thinking of different variations to use for the sauce.  As classic and tasty as the orange was, I couldn't help but pine for some lemon or even lime.
coca... kind of
By week 6, I was starting to get tired of my usual photographic set-up.  The tripod and the white background were limiting me, and I was bored with my own pictures.  We decided to make our new dish for the week as our Saturday lunch, which meant I could use natural light for once.  Our choice was also fitting for a weekend lunch: glorified pizza.
In a final Contigo-inspired move, we decided on a coca or Catalan flatbread, similar to those we had eaten at the restaurant.  Steve used his normal pizza crust recipe, though, so it probably wasn't as authentic.  For toppings, we had broccolini that Steve had purchased at the farmers market, caramelized onions that Steve had cooked down that morning, and manchego cheese that I had picked up at Bi-Rite Market when I went to see the baby goats the day before.  The resulting coca/pizza was fabulous.  We made it again the next weekend, but with a thinner crust.  Steve also caramelized the onions a little less, so they were closer in color to the ones we had had at Contigo.
The coca recipe is definitely a keeper.  We plan to make another one tonight or tomorrow night.
Next up: Easter weekend and weeks 7-9 or so.

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