Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Misery Loves Company Crostini...

These past two months in Richmond have been fabulous. Really fabulous. I've had actual moments of euphoria thinking- how did I get this lucky? But I swear that sometimes the universe decides you're just too damn happy so it brings you down a dark alley and beats the shit out of you.

OK, maybe it's not that bad but this week has been filled with so many little annoyances that I would really love to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head and not come out until Friday... evening. From traffic being rerouted around my apartment so my 10 minute commute takes 40 minutes to adapting to the bass ackwards processes at work to having to take the elevator back up to my apartment every morning because I forgot my lunch, my ID badge, my cell phone, my freakin' mind!!

And then there was Monday when I rushed home to make Jared and me GDL's Sweet Red Pepper Crostini only to skim down the recipe and see - "Let peppers marinate in oil and garlic for at least 5 hours or preferably one day." Not really wanting to eat at midnight, we moved Tuesday Subway Night up to Monday and had the time-consuming crostini last night.

For being in such a crappy pessimistic mood, I do have to say they were really really tasty. I've said it before and I'll say it again- crunchy, toasty, crusty bread is one of my most favorite things on the face of this earth. No exaggeration. If someone came out with a new diet that included cibatta bread and Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, I would pay anything to go on that!

So that's the last recipe of April. I'm sorry to say that there's been only six posts this month and will definitely have to step things up to get through the rest of the book. With 84 recipes to go and 35 weeks left in the year this one recipe a week thing cannot last and the seafood and veal recipes are looming. Wish me luck! I need it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Holy Garlic Overload Batman...

Back away from your computer screen! Please, back away! I fear my garlic aura might be so strong that it has permeated cyberspace and you could possibly faint from my stench. While I fear for those deep breathers around me, I have to admit- it was totally worth it!

Welcome to the week of sauces! I've been pounding out GDL sauces all week. It all started when the basil in my Aero Garden was about ready to get up and walk away- it was huge. Big, beautiful basil leaves just begging to be pesto-tized!

GDL's Basil Pesto was a simple recipe I've used before. Basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan get combined and slathered over pasta. In my case I used some gorgeous ravioli from Whole Foods and the pesto diluted with a spoonful of pasta water was absolutely divine.

I woke up in the middle of the night with garlic still on my palate but since I was sleeping alone that night, I wasn't offending anyone. And I could only hope those double tooth brushings and five Listerine gargles would keep my coworkers from scattering.

The next day I basically repeated the pesto-process but this time with arugula leaves creating GDL's Arugula Pesto. Picture the same process but with crispy arugula leaves rather than basil. Another garlic fest but this time with an interesting tangy-ness to it. An interesting alternative when you happen to be sans basil leaves.

And then last night GDL's Spicy Tomato Sauce was on the agenda. Another simple recipe involving canned crushed tomatoes, onions, capers, garlic (less potent this time) and red pepper flakes. I doubled (maybe tripled) the amount of pepper flakes fearing my spicy connoisseur aka Jared. I brace myself whenever I serve him anything that Giada deems "spicy" just waiting for the inevitable response of "it's not spicy, did you use the wussy organic red pepper flakes?"

Anyways, I think it's kinda spicy but the critic has yet to sample.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Six Degrees of Giada de Laurentiis...

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you should know that Giada de Laurentiis has been popping up everywhere! She launched a product line for Target (yes, I own several pieces including a cast iron pot, silver serving spoons, a large heavy bamboo cutting board and even the official GDL apron!), a new cookbook (Giada at Home) and she’s been touring the country signing books and greeting fans. All fans except me, that is.

I could not be more disappointed to have missed out on the book tour. And my disappointment accelerated into devastation when I learned that Giada herself was at my neighborhood Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, Connecticut on March 19th. March 19th! Eleven days after my move from less than a mile from Stew’s to about 450 miles away! Oh the terrible timing of it all!

To think that all those eager soccer moms were waiting in line, wanting nothing more than a brief brush with celebrity when I who have basically spent four months bonding with the woman was miles away, unaware. It’s a tragedy.

Perhaps a new GDL whisk or wooden spoon or espresso maker will ease the pain!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Calling a Truce...

The war is over! As many of you know, I've had a long-standing battle with rice. It's been an all out war really.

I think it all started in college when I attempted to make instant rice only to learn a minute later that it wasn't meant to be instant. My microwave was covered with rock hard black bits of rice like an army of tiny charred ants attacking my Kenmore from the inside out. And the smell haunted my roommates and me for a good four days.

Then there was the Rice Pilaf Massacre of 2004 when the Zatarain's that was supposed to just steam up plump and moist in the covered pan, instead stuck to every inch of it forming a coating that looked like those beaded seat covers that taxi cab drivers and 80-year-old men sit on.

I know that rice isn't supposed to be challenging. Hell, the first season of Survivor had nothing but rice and managed to make that over a fire on a beach. And still every attempt made by yours truly has been absolute pasty mush or charred black rocks that ruin my Calphalon and my appetite. So try to understand how it took me about a week to gain the confidence to attack GDL's Mushroom Risotto with Peas.

I came home from work on Friday ready for battle. With an auxiliary frozen pizza standing by, I had low expectations for this dish or shall I say, my ability to complete this dish successfully.

While chopping an onion and garlic cloves, the mushrooms get softened in simmering veggie broth. They then come out and you dice the soft mushrooms and deliver all choppings into a large pot with melted butter on the bottom. When your boyfriend says it smells good and looks hopeful for a good meal, it's time to man up and add the rice!

After a swig (or seven) of white wine, a cup of it gets added to the pot. All the liquid gets absorbed or burned off fairly quickly and visions of burnt rice start dancing in my head causing a quick panic followed by more wine gulps. Veggie broth to the rescue! Adding a cup every ten minutes or so, a half hour later I was left with… (pause for dramatic effect)... creamy, fluffy risotto!

It was a glorious day for rice and me. And as the Uncle Ben Gods smiled down on me, I ate my Mushroom Risotto with Peas slowly, enjoying and savoring each victorious bite.

I have concurred rice. The war is over. And the villagers celebrated with root beer, more wine and reruns of Weeds.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Sorry, I know it's been a while but I needed some recovery time after that Easter dinner. I promise I'm cooking tonight but in the interim I thought I would regale you with the tale of my housewarming gift from Jared.

About a week after I got here Jared presented me with a large box the size of a microwave. The photo on the box looked like some kind of a bright white kitchen appliance with plants growing out of it. Yes, my boyfriend had given me the Aero Garden.

Now, though I admittingly love watching infomercials, I have never purchased one of those products that promises to cure something that wasn't so hard to do in the first place (like keep a blanket on your lap while you talk on the phone - snuggie). I was skeptical of this glowing R2D2 garden. I had two cute tin window containers growing herbs in my kitchen (slowly, but growing nonetheless)  and I didn't think the Aero Garden was really for me.

But the smile on Jared's face and the thoughtfulness of it melted my cynical heart. He knew that because of this cooking project I was buying herbs often and wanted to grow my own. He also knows that I'm not much of a green thumb and the Aero Garden is pretty brown-thumb proof.

Here's how it works. There is a tub with six holes where the seed pods go. I'm growing basil, oregano, thyme, mint, dill and chives. You fill the base of the tub with water every two weeks or whenever the light in the front goes off to tell you to (see, idiot proof!). There's an arm in the back which can be raised as the herbs grow and it holds a cover with two florescent light bulbs that act as simulated sunlight for the herbs 16 hours a day.

It only took a day to start to see progress. It's been about 24 days now and I have big beautiful basil leaves, tall, thin dill and chives and the rest are chugging along just fine. And those aforementioned herbs in the tin tubs have actually started perking up and leaning towards the Aero Garden!

I'm holding off on the pesto chapter in 
Everyday Italian until I'm ready to pick my basil leaves. Jared bought himself one and hopes to grow tomatoes and other veggies in his. I cannot wait to make a homegrown Caprese Salad! Well half home grown unless we plan to start growing and pressing olives for oil and milking cows for mozzarella.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Dinner...

One word- success! I am so unbelievably impressed with myself. If I could high five myself I would but most people would say that's just clapping.

So the day began around 10a with coffee and a game plan. I had to clean the apartment, make sure I had enough plates, glasses, serving utensils, etc set aside, and then start on the salad, fig sauce, pork, potatoes, broccoli, dinner rolls and frosting the carrot cake. Jared had spent the night and I had told my other three guests to arrive any time after three. Thank god none of them are punctual. Miraculously I was finished about 10 minutes before they walked in the door!

The salad was easy and a non-GDL creation. I went with a Waldorf salad because I love the fresh, cool crispness of it. Perfect for Spring! Then I started on the Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs and Garlic. So simple and SOOO good. Just whisk olive oil, herbs and garlic together and coat two pounds of small red and yellow potatoes with it. The potatoes go on a baking sheet for an hour until golden brown and the skins start to shrivel a little. Absolutely delicious.

Then I started on the fig sauce to go with the pork. I boiled two and a half cups of port with cinnamon sticks and rosemary sprigs and chopped up dried figs until the mixture reduced by half. Then it gets poured into a blender and pureed. That's a blender- not a mini food processor or you and your kitchen walls will get splattered with hot sweet port. Trust me, go with the blender. I set the fig sauce aside but let me tell you, I think it was the most exciting part of the entire meal. The cranberry colored mixture looked so beautiful poured on the pork slices and after dipping my biscuit in some I fell in love with the sinfully sweet mixture.

The Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Raisins and Pine Nuts was OK but not my favorite but it looked beautiful. Bright green baby broccoli on a bright white platter. Nothing special but it made for a pretty presentation.

Now, for the main dish- the Roasted Pork Loin. I bought a four and a half pound pork loin and instantly confronted it and commanded it's respect a la Julie & Julia, "My pork! You are my pork!" I placed it on the big roasting dish and covered it with olive oil, salt and pepper and rosemary. For a vegetarian, I think I did well not gagging or puking or crying over the giant piece of pig that lay pink and fatty before me. Instead I placed it in the oven and even managed to flip it once or twice to brown evenly. And though I don't know what it tasted like, reviews from my guests were raves.

The only blunder of the evening came with dessert which was the only non-GDl dish and the only dish I took shortcuts with. My Betty Crocker carrot cake was OK but the cream cheese frosting stuck to the lid of the Pyrex container it was in a upon removing the lid, it took a big chunk out of the center. No one seemed to mind at that point including me.

I can't tell you how happy I was to be sipping wine in my beautiful new apartment with my boyfriend by my side and serving a big meal for the people I love. It was a deliriously delightful evening for me and I hope my guests were just as happy.