Thursday, May 27, 2010

picking up again

It's been a few weeks since my last post, which means more food in the backlog of things to write about.  Weeks 10-13 included a few keeper recipes, but the more exciting part for me was branching out a little in terms of the pictures.
I had already gotten tired of the old white-on-white scheme in the weeks before, but I ended up using it again anyway for the week 10 picture.  Steve made a Spanish empanada from the companion book to Mario Batali's PBS series Spain - On the Road Again.  It was essentially pizza crust on top and bottom with Spanish chorizo, pancetta, onion, and red pepper inside.  The flavors were good, but the cooking time in the recipe was off.  It got overcooked, and it didn't help that Steve couldn't tell how brown it was getting through the window of the oven door.  This would probably be worth trying again, but it's not really high on the list.

The next week was one of the more successful efforts.  It was also one of the more ambitious and fun ones.  That Saturday and Sunday involved a lot of running around town, including two trips to Room & Board (one each day) on a quest for the right duvet cover.  But more relevantly, Saturday included a trip to Ecohaus for some poster-sized paint samples to use as photo backgrounds.  I had come across a blog post that suggested them, and then I found out that an Ecohaus had just opened in SF, near Trader Joe's.  The day before, I had gone downtown and bought a bamboo cutting board at Crate & Barrel, just to use for pictures.  While I was getting something else I needed at Sur la Table, I also convinced myself that I needed a lovely acacia wood platter for a different look.  So I was armed with some new stuff going into week 11.
After our Sunday run to Room & Board, I helped Steve cook up not one but two dishes from Jamie at Home.  They were both ones that I had bookmarked, and since they shared similar flavors, we decided to do them at the same time.  We did Spicy Fava Bean Fritters with Lemon Minted Yogurt and Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs with Pistachios (that we left out) and Spicy Salad Wrap.

I helped Steve shell the fava beans, and then I made the lemon minted yogurt, which we used for both dishes.  The recipe for the lamb kebab wrap included plain yogurt, but the other flavors were elsewhere in the dish already.  We also used the same salad for both, since one was plain greens and the other (for the wrap, I think) had mint added.  It worked just fine.
Speaking of things I did, I made all the quenelles for the actual fritters.  I've seen Steve do it before, but this was my first attempt.  It turned out to be pretty easy—just keep turning the mixture from spoon to spoon until it's kind of football shaped.

Since I was being all involved in the process this time—I had the weekend off from work for once—I plated my own dishes for the pictures.  I still need some practice with the food styling, but I was pretty happy with the pictures overall.
The fava fritters turned out well, but the lamb kebab wraps were my favorite of the meal.  Steve mixed sumac and other spices with ground lamb, formed kebabs, and grilled them.  Then, we broked them up and served them on grilled tortillas (store-bought, but from a Mexican grocery) with the salad greens, lemon minted yogurt, and some pickled red onions.

It's a been quite a while since I've had a gyro, and I've been craving them on and off for years.  So this dish, which had similar flavors, hit the spot.  While the lamb wraps and the fava fritters together took a couple hours to prepare, the lamb wrap alone wouldn't be so hard to do again.
Week 12 was another very successful one.  I picked out a recipe from Mario Batali's new book, Molto Gusto, to prepare for Thursday evening's dinner.  (It was a busy weekend for work.)  The book has a lot of lighter Italian food: antipasti, pizzas, pastas, and gelato-based desserts.  Flipping through, I found what sounded like a winner with the Pennette with Summer Squash & Ricotta.  Zucchini was now in season, and the oozy spoonfuls of ricotta in the picture looked so good.

It turned out to be an easy and fast recipe, which meant that Steve had it ready before all the light went away from the window in the living room that has become my little studio for these shots.  The photo is probably my favorite so far, and the dish is also a new favorite.
The main flavors with the pasta are zucchini, mint, ricotta, and parmesan.  It's a combination that reminds me of the fillings Steve has made in the past for ravioli and for fried squash blossoms.  I'm pretty sure there's no crack added, but it is that good.  Tonight will mark the third time we've made it. :)
Last, we have another pasta for week 13—this time a homemade tagliatelle.  It was another Jamie at Home recipe that looked good: Tagliatelle with Sprouting Broccoli and Oozy Cheese Sauce.  It was a good use for the broccolini that Steve picked up at the farmers market, and I'm all for "oozy cheese sauce."  In this case, the cheese sauce was a mixture of fontina, parmesan, and creme fraiche.  It was very creamy and had nice flavor.
I was really happy with the dish the night we ate it, but I wasn't a big fan of the leftovers.  I ate them for lunch the next day, and I was hungry about an hour later.  I may have also been on cheese overload, since we had also had crazy amounts of cheese fondue at The Melting Pot a couple days before.
tagliatelle with broccolini
I did the math, and we are now a quarter of the way through our allotted 52 weeks.  Steve is way behind on his blog, but at least he's keeping up with cooking new things each week.

On a somewhat related subject, stone-fruit season appears to be starting around here.  Watch out peaches, nectarines, and plums... we'll be coming for you.

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