Monday, December 20, 2010

november eats

More food from this fall...  First up for the somewhat eclectic month of November: Baked Mushrooms Stuffed with Ricotta from Jamie's Italy.
baked stuffed mushrooms

That's right, it's yet another Jamie Oliver recipe.  We've done several during this project, and it probably has something to do with the fact that so many of his recipes are on his website.  Sure, we have several of his books, and Jamie at Home is really pretty, but the website wins for convenience.  It really helps to be able to search, bookmark things that look good, and then just go through my Firefox bookmarks when we need to decide on a new dish for the week.

Anyway, I was still in mushroom mode during the first weekend of November, so we selected this for lunch that Saturday.  The results were a'ight, but they weren't quite as pretty as the picture on Jamie's website.  The cheese spread out quite a bit.  As for flavor, I wasn't wild about the oregano in this context.  If we were to make these again, I would probably use thyme instead.  The filling also needed a little lemon juice or something to brighten it up.  The zest alone wasn't doing it.

The next week, Steve and I went back to the ever expanding cookbook shelf and pulled out the London River Cafe cookbooks, Italian Easy and Italian Two Easy.  Steve has had these for years, and our go-to carbonara recipe originally came from one of them, although it has evolved quite a bit since.  Another look was definitely overdue, so we went through and put colored tabs on the pages of anything that caught our eye.  That Saturday, we decided on Ditaloni, Mussels, White Wine from Italian Two Easy.
ditaloni, mussels, white wine
It was pretty similar to the classic moules mariniere—mussels in white wine with a little cream—that Steve often made about 3-4 years ago, so we decided to use riesling and basil here too.  The recipe didn't specify what kind of white wine to use, but it did call for parsley.  (meh.)  Our version was better, I'm sure.  It was also even better than moules mariniere, since it had pasta to pick up the sauce.  Steve made it again for dinner last Monday, and I quite enjoyed it.

The lunchtime light was working well for me by then, so we tried our next new dish as a Saturday lunch as well.  The plan was to make Gnudi Spinaci from Italian Easy, but I wasn't really enthused with the results.  Gnudi are supposed to be a little like gnocchi, except that they're made from ricotta cheese instead of potato.  Steve and I didn't really know what we were doing, however; so there was some guesswork involved in deciding how much semolina should coat the cheese mixture, how big they should be, etc.  They turned out okay, but they were nothing special.  I was also being picky about the picture of them, so I switched it out of the food project when another option came along at dinner that night.

Steve had bought some sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) kind of randomly, as he is wont to do.  That prompted our Saturday dinner.  We waffled between a Jamie Oliver sunchoke salad and Steve's idea for squab with sunchoke puree.  Sometime that afternoon, in the course of our trip to the Ferry Building for ingredients, Steve decided to make both.  The salad won the honor of dish of the week, though.

sunchoke salad
From the book Cook with Jamie, the Warm Salad of Crispy Smoked Bacon and Jerusalem Artichokes was curiously good.  We had only really had sunchokes once before, glazed and in a salad at the French Laundry, and I really didn't remember what they tasted like.  They're a little potato-y, but the flavor is kind of earthy and more complex.  My one addition to the salad in the future would be something fruity, like currants.

The tricky part about the meal was trying to take pictures after dark.  Steve wanted pictures of the food, so I was obliged to at least try.  I used two lamps in an effort to get as much light into one little corner of the living room as possible without shining the light directly onto the plates.  The salad shot turned out better and more colorful than the squab.  The light still wasn't quite as diffuse as I would have liked—points of glittery, bright white on the food makes it look less appetizing—but it was passable.


The squab dish itself turned out really tasty too.  I hadn't had Steve's squab before, because he had been making it while I was away at rehearsals.  It was perfectly cooked, and way more flavorful than chicken.  (Squab is young pigeon, but don't worry: we didn't go out and shoot it ourselves or anything.)  To go with it, Steve made some sauteed mushrooms and the aforementioned sunchoke puree.  The puree was a little sweeter and perhaps creamier than potatoes, but it worked just as well.

Last, we come to the weekend following Thanksgiving.  Nothing Steve made for Thanksgiving dinner was new; he makes mashed potatoes, gravy, and butternut squash with brussels sprout leaves almost every year.  (Our sister-in-law, Carmen, makes the turkey.)  After a day or two off from serious cooking, Steve made our official dish for the week on that Sunday for lunch. 

spicy squash salad

A friend of mine had just posted the link on Facebook for Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese from Smitten Kitchen, and it reminded me that I had recently bookmarked it too.  It might have been better suited for Halloween, with the black lentils and orange butternut squash, but it tasted just as good in late November.  Steve wasn't able to find more black lentils at the stores anyway, so he ended up using green ones.  Along with the spicy butternut squash and green lentils, the salad had goat cheese for creaminess and tang, butternut squash seeds for salt and crunch, and mint for greenery and slight cooling.  It was one of those salads in which the perfect bite was just that: perfect.  (Not all bites were perfect, but it's always good to have goals.)

And that's all for November.  I'm catching up!  Since Christmas is at the end of this week, it won't be long until I'll be recapping December's dishes

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