Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just a quickie before I leave for yet another China trip

Leaving on a jet plane... All my bags are packed and I'm standin' here outside your door. Well, not quite. Nothing is packed, but I'll have an hour tomorrow morning I guess, have to leave by 9.

So - just a few pics of two rainbow trouts we made last weekend. We discovered cedar planks, partly because we still have about 2000 sqft of cedar siding in our garage, courtesy of our contractor whose strength clearly wasn't math.... Untreated, so really good for BBQ as we recently discovered.

The trout were filled with parsley and lemon, salted and peppered, and then wrapped in bacon. We soaked the cedar plank in water for about an hour - that almost smelled better than the food I was preparing!

On the grill they went. You can see the fat of the bacon slowly leaching out. We had one flame-up, which we got in check with a water spray bottle pretty easy. They were on there for about 15 minutes, perhaps a bit longer just because our plank was so thick. The cedar will start smoking and put a great flavor into the fish, without generating carcinogenic compounds as you don't have any of the fat flaming up and burning onto the wood. It's also much easier to handle. You don't need to turn, the fish just slowly cooks to perfection.

We'll try chicken soon, but I first need to get that bag packed I think! See you at the other end of this trip, no access to blogspot while I'm gone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Breakfast Quinoa

Just a quickie post today, I have soooo much work today! I'm home alone and free to eat when and what I want. Almost at least, I really have to drop a few pounds so it has to be sensible. I really wanted something sweet, for a few days, but cakes or cookies are out. So I decided to combine a late breakfast with an early lunch, and my daily intake of fruit. Quinoa also sounded really good.

I browned a cut up nectarine in some basil olive oil (which I had just made in the pan I was trying to use, a bit of butter would have done as well), then added 1/4 cup of black quinoa and a scant 1/2 cup of water. Turned the heat up, cooked for 40 minutes, added 1/2 cup of freshly picked blackberries from the backyard, cooked it for another 5 minutes.

Isn't it pretty?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cold Tomato Soup? With Vanilla Cream?

This post could also be called: "Why should you try things that sound weird?". The NYT's Diner's Journal Blog had a recipe on a Gazpacho with Vanilla Cream last week. It wasn't just the vanilla cream that was weird (the soup is salty, after all), but it also used a bottle of lemon flavored Perrier. The lemon flavored Perrier was the inspiration to the recipe, but I'm not keen on buying water that gets shipped over from France - period. Stupid recipe I thought.

Until I came across very reasonably priced organic tomatos at the farmers market. And lemons. And so I figured I could take another look at the recipe, and reinvent it in the same spirit. And perhaps the vanilla cream wasn't so bad after all.

The recipe calls for tomato paste - don't have any, so I opted for oven drying the slightly salted tomatos for 2 hours at 250 F. The tomatos had plenty of wonderful summer flavor, I just wanted to get a little of the water out.

And I wanted to remove the skins - these tomatos had pretty thick skin, and I just didn't fancy chewing on little bits of skin. They went in the blender, along with a peeled cucumber, some lemon zest and lemon juice and a little cream. I left out the tomato paste, the Perrier, and the salt - I had salted my tomatos before they went in the oven. And no need to splurge on fleur du sel unless you put it over in the last second. While still in the blender I put in some of my best olive oil. Not too much, but enough to give the soup some body. I put it in a bowl and stashed it in the freezer.

Just before serving I added a splash of carbonated water, to give it a little fizz. I'm not sure it actually did much, but it fizzled nicely. And I made a little bit of whipped cream - perhaps 1/4 cup before beating it - with the vanilla pulp of half a pod - I thought that was plenty.

The result is amazing! It's a very sublime taste, the lemon and its zest brings the tomato flavor out in full force. The EVOO makes it nice and thick. And the vanilla cream - what can I say - it sounds weird, but it rounded everything out. We had guests that night, and they said that it was better than what they had at one of our towns great restaurants the night before. For $8 / bowl!

Sorry, no recipe as I didn't measure anything, but I hope between my description and NYT recipe you'll be all set.

Friday, August 6, 2010

More Porky Goodness: Wine Marinated Pork Chops

Moving from head to toe on my pig (yes, I still have a trotter in my freezer and am pondering what to do with it) I'm making it across the nice cuts. Ok, pork chops usually tend to be on the dry side, tender - yes, but quite something to chew on. I had made one of the chops a few weeks ago, after brining it for a few hours, and it was great in taste, but it still had a bit of that pork chop dryness.

So I turned to Julia Child. And read about marinades. For pork. One caught my eye, which was a wine marinade. This made sense to me - it's not just about pumping water and spice in the meat as you do with a brine, but the acid in the wine probably also helps with tenderizing the meat. After all, that's what you do with a Sauerbraten, which is a tough piece of beef that you marinate in wine for days, and that in the end turns out nice and soft.

I winged it a bit (what's wrong with me, following recipes seems next to impossible to me). I made a marinade with wine, mustard, loads of herbs and garlic, and a bit of olive oil.

The meat was fairly lean, with a wide strip of pork fat around it. I left it in the marinade for a few hours, outside on the counter, and I turned it about every half hour. Magic was happening. A few minutes on the grill, and it was transformed in one of the best pork chops I ever had.

The sauce is the leftover marinade, reduced to where it had a creamy consistency and tasted almost like a vinaigrette. Usually I'd cut the fat off, not really for calories, mostly for its nasty taste. But here?

It was wonderful. The meat was slightly pink, and together with the fat we had super tasty morsels of porky goodness....The sauce complemented the sweetness of the pork just right.