Saturday, March 12, 2011

end of 52 weeks

Finally, a post to wrap up the 52 Weeks of Food project. Only two weeks to cover, but Valentine's Day was a big one.

The next to last week was Superbowl Sunday. Steve and I were going to do something with crab, but we made a last minute decision to do something that didn't involve an extra trip to the fish monger on Saturday afternoon. Instead, I pulled out Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking and quickly found this recipe for Spring Minestrone with Brown Rice.

soupand bowl sunday

This soup was a nice mix of green vegetables (peas, snap peas, asparagus), broth, and brown rice. We had it again later that week, adding some mushrooms, and then I ate the leftovers without the broth. A little robiola cheese on top, leftover from a different meal, made a nice variation.

Then it was Valentine's Day again. This whole project really started with Valentine's Day last year, although I didn't count it as week 1. I was inspired by how much fun I had taking pictures of the fancy food that Steve made, and I was impressed that I could manage halfway decent shots at night with a white napkin, a tripod, and regular lights in my living room. I moved away from using that set-up around week 6, as I started to favor natural daylight and got lazy about setting up the tripod, but I had little choice when Valentine's Day came around again. Steve finished cooking after dark, so I got out the old white napkin and tripod combo.

Our first course of the evening was the Lobster Cappuccino from Eric Ripert's On the Line. This was a recipe that we had bookmarked in our mad search for truffle recipes around New Year's. Because Steve was able to preserve and freeze what was left of our truffles after the truffle risotto on January 2, we had some to grate on top of this dish on Valentine's Day. The rest of the "cappuccino" was made from a pretty simple celeriac (celery root) soup, with lobster in the bottom and lobster foam on top. We ended up a little short on the foam, so rather than a solid layer across the top like a proper cappuccino, we had to settle for a dollop in the middle. The foam on the serving that I used for the picture settled a little oddly, but I decided later that it looked like an upside-down heart.

lobster cappuccino

I'm not sure what I was expecting with this recipe, but I think the lobster cappuccino exceeded both of our expectations. It was just really good. There was something about the combination of the celeriac and the lobster that just worked. It was a surprisingly good substitute for our usual first course of French Laundry "Oysters & Pearls," despite its lack of caviar and oysters.

Next came more lobster. I've grown to love lobster, and I definitely wanted some for Valentine's Day. I didn't really think about the lobster in the bottom of the cappuccino, so I requested something lobster-y for our main course as well. We seem to have made all of the lobster recipes from The French Laundry Cookbook, so I thought it was time to revisit the Lobster "Mac & Cheese."

lobster mac n' cheese

Steve made this back in 2007, but I wasn't the biggest fan back then. It was a little on the soupy side, and I don't think I appreciated the lobster enough yet. This time, the orzo mac & cheese turned out better, and I liked the whole thing more. I still prefer the leeky-beet lobster and the figgy-foie lobster, but I was glad that we gave this recipe another try. The only problem with it was that we were starting to get lobstered out by the end. Surprising, but true. Between the lobster cappuccino and this, there was a lot of rich and creamy going on in the meal.

For our dessert, Steve made the Tiramisushi from Elizabeth Falkner's Demolition Desserts. This was actually one of the runner-up choices for our Valentine's Day dessert in 2008—the first year Steve cooked for us at home. It's a chocolate cake roll with mascarpone-marsala filling, served with mocha rum dipping sauce, biscotti chopsticks, shaved bosc pear for the "ginger," and freshly grated ginger for the "wasabi."


It was even better than I anticipated. I actually had some of the ginger "wasabi" too. I never touch real wasabi on sushi plates, but a tiny bit of the fresh ginger gave the rolls a nice kick every so often and went well with the chocolate. The biscotti chopsticks and the pear also provided some variety, as well as more options of things to dip in the mocha rum sauce. With all those components, it felt suitably fancy for Valentine's Day.

And with that, 52 Weeks of Food was over. I went the Tiramisushi picture as the last official shot, since it seemed fitting to finish with dessert.

Here are some of the highlights of the project.

I'm really glad we did this. Steve didn't do so well with the blogging aspect himself, but he definitely held up his end of the deal with the cooking. We tried a lot of new recipes from our cookbook collection, and we checked off several of the recipes that we had bookmarked online. There were lots of risottos and pastas, but also several soups, salads, pizzas, and some other memorable things. Perhaps most importantly, we found some winners to add to our regular rotation. There are about 16 dishes out of the project that we've done again since.

Asparagus risotto is always good when it's in season and when we can get to a cheese store to pick up some robiola. That, along with its inspiration at Beretta, got me to like asparagus, after many years of refusing to eat it. Likewise, I started to enjoy peas after having fresh ones in the Penne alla Papalina and the Minted English Pea Soup with Lobster and Orange. When it's pea season again, I'm looking forward to more of that soup, but we'll have frozen peas in Penne alla Papalina in the meantime.

We've also had the Lamb Kofta Kebabs, nicknamed "Lambie-kins," a few times since May.  And when zucchini comes back, I'll happily eat some more of the Pennette with Summer Squash & Ricotta.

In the summer, we ate the aptly named Summertime Lasagna several times, and I adopted the Summertime Linguini as a go-to lunch to make for myself—when there weren't leftovers to eat, of course. Then came my fig phase. First, we had them in a salad with prosciutto, a few weeks later was the Fig-Stuffed Pork Loin, and finally there was the Figgy-Foie Lobster—my favorite of all.

Fall brought several dishes with mushrooms, which I finally knew were not an allergen for me. Then, in the pasta category, we gained the Bacon Mac & Cheese and the Ditaloni with Mussels and White Wine, both of which we've had for dinner in the past week.

The winter's biggest discoveries had to do with carrots, of all things. After making Jamie Oliver's Roast Carrot & Avocado Salad, we decided to make the same carrots as part of a roast vegetable mix for Christmas dinner. And after the holidays, we had the Carrot Soup with Dungeness Crab. While it wasn't quite perfect, a few tweaks made it nearly so when Steve made it again.

Overall, I think my food photos have improved over the last year too. There's only a handful that I feel like I really nailed, but I'm happy with the set as a whole. I'm starting to branch out a little now with composition and props, so we'll see how it goes this year. Steve and I plan to keep making and photographing new things each week, although we won't be as strict about it. Desserts and breakfasts will count, and we'll most likely miss a few weeks when we go to Chicago (in May) and Europe (in the fall). Meanwhile, it's helping me fill up some of the days for my Project 365.

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