Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gail's Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup
A meal in a bowl!
Serves: 1 (about 3 c)

2 T dried split peas
2 c vegetable stock
¼ c dry elbow macaroni
½ T olive oil
¼ c chopped onion
¼ c chopped carrot
¼ c chopped celery
¼ c chopped zucchini
¼ c chopped tomato
4 oz fresh spinach
1/8 t minced garlic
1/16 t salt
1/16 t oregano
1/32 t basil
1/32 t thyme
1 bay leaf (per pot, not per serving)
1 whole clove (per pot, not per serving)
¼ c canned kidney beans
Freshly ground black peppe
Fresh Parmesan cheese, or a leftover rind
  1. Rinse peas; bring to boil in stock; reduce heat to simmer; cover; cook 30 min.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. When done, remove pasta with slotted spoon, reserving cooking water.
  3. While peas and pasta cook, heat oil in heavy skillet over low heat.
  4. Chop onion roughly same size as macaroni and beans; add to skillet. Repeat with carrot, celery, zucchini, tomato, spinach and garlic, stirring often, until vegetables soften.
  5. Meanwhile, add spices to stock pot.
  6. Stir sautéed vegetables into stock pot; cook, covered, until peas start to disintegrate, another 15 min. Meanwhile, rinse beans twice.
  7. Add beans and macaroni; heat through, adding pasta liquid to desired consistency. If using a cheese rind, toss it in.
  8. Season with freshly ground black pepper before serving; serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
  • Substitute lentils or any dried beans for peas. Dried beans may need to soak overnight before rinsing twice, then boiling.
  • Substitute ½ c cooked macaroni for dry.
  • Substitute ¼ c cooked spinach for raw.
  • Substitute cabbage, escarole or other greens for spinach. Really any vegetable substitutions are fine.
  • Substitute white (cannellini) beans for kidney beans.
  • Substitute winter vegetables (root vegetables, squash) for summer ones (celery, tomato, zucchini).

Cuban Sandwiches with Smoked Pork and Sourdough

Yesterday I smoked a 5 pound pork shoulder. After 10 hours of smoking, we still couldn't pull it, but it made nice tender and smoky slices. We also had a loaf of sourdough bread, so we decided to make this riff on a Cuban sandwich.

Smoked Pork and Sourdough Cuban Sandwiches
2 slices of sourdough bread
A few thin slices of smoked pork
2 slices of provolone cheese
A slice of ham
3 dill pickle slices
  1. Butter what will be the outside of the sandwich.
  2. Add mustard to the inside to taste.
  3. Layer smoked pork, cheese, pickles and ham.
  4. Cook in a panini press. (Okay, we're not pretentious.  We used the George Foreman grill.)
  5. This is important: cut sandwiches in half. Grilled sandwiches must be cut. Nobody knows why.
Gail said she would like it better with a little less smoked pork and a little more ham.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Challerhocker Cheese

On our last trip to Formaggio Kitchen we had a taste of a what the counter person called a Swiss cheese, something called Challerhocker. What, no holes? Apparently Switzerland has been making a wider range of cheeses recently. We liked it so much we got twice as large a wedge as we usually do. We didn't get enough.

It is a semi-hard cows milk cheese. The taste has nutty and caramel notes. The texture includes crystalline bits like in Mimolette. Where will we put a whole wheel of cheese?

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancakes

Anna is home this week. She and Gail got a pumpkin pancake mix at Trader Joe's and we ate the yummy pancakes this morning. They were like either a pumpkin pie in a pancake or a pumpkin latte you could chew. Who knew there could be this much goodness in a mix.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fromaggio Kitchen has the Best Cheese

If you are in the area and want good cheese, there is no better place than Fromaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. Every time we go in we are overwhelmed with the selection. Thankfully, the staff is amazingly good at helping you find what you like, giving you all the tastings you need. Today we left with half a pyramid of goat cheese, a gooey sheep cheese, and a semi-hard Swiss cow with a crystal-crunch texture.

Beyond cheese, they have an equally amazing selection of pasta, oils, cured meats, wine & beer, honey, chocolates, pastries, fruits and vegetables. They have everything indulgent a foodie might love. Don't miss it.

I Liked Good Food Early

Yup, that's me.

Hi-Rise Bread Company Sandwiches

Gail and I just had sandwiches with Noele and her roommate Emmy. Sandwiches from the Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge rank among the best things I've eaten. Today I had Dan's Havana Heaven and Gail had Linda's Swinging Single. I included the Nat Queen Cool in the picture because it is the best sandwich I have ever had. Dan's was a close second.

I'm looking at the menu I posted, and I think you'll get the wrong impression of Hi-Rise. They are mostly more healthy than these pulled pork delights. Noele and Emmy split a pesto and hummus sandwich called Grace's Newest Nanny along with a spinach salad with a huge hunk of Gorgonzola cheese. But they are also eclectic with a great selection of wine. I got more of the Venti Morales I blogged on earlier.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Making Souffles is Easy

Souffles are one of the most dramatic dishes you can make. Popular culture has convinced us that it is one of the most difficult dishes you can make: A door slam might ruin your carefully concocted dish. Don't you believe it. We were reminded about souffles after having them at Capsouto Freres with our daughters. We told them how easy souffles are, and wanted to share this pamphlet with them so they could make souffles too.

Many years ago, we went to The Big E with friends. We got the attached pamphlet about souffle making from the American Egg Board. (Used here with appreciation but not permission.) That's when we discovered just how easy it is to make a souffle. Actually, it's hard to mess them up.

The only real trick is making sure that the base is thick enough. When mixing it up, first make sure the flour and butter mixture (a roux) is bubbling. After adding the milk, make sure the roux thickens the milk fully. The rest is mostly fool-proof. It's hard to over mix the eggs. You won't mess it up if you get a little yolk in the whites. Folding the two parts doesn't have to be done carefully.

This morning, Gail and I had a cheese and garden broccoli souffle, and were reminded how delicious they are. Chocolate is next.

Monin Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Gail has been on a fall quest for a a pumpkin latte that we can make at home. We may have found it. This morning I made us lattes using a tablespoon of Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup in the foam. Yum.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Capsouto Freres

Gail and I visited our daughters in New York for Parents' Day. Both of them seem to be settled nicely. It makes me more comfortable to see them happy in their world. We enjoyed finally meeting Anna's roommate and were thrilled she was able to join us for dinner that night. OpenTable pointed us well toward Capsouto Freres, a French restaurant just south of Canal on the west side.

We couldn't have found a better place. Unlike most places we've been in New York, it didn't feel crowded or snooty. The staff was professional and friendly. We find the staff at our favorite places to be fancy without being stuffy. Instead of feeling like customers, we felt more like we were being hosted.

Wood-trimmed, vaulted ceilings and properly separated tables gave us a not too quiet environment to enjoy good conversation and food. As is our wont, we had appetizers and entrees to share. We were glad that Anna's roommate jumped us and was eager to share tastes around the table. And there was not a bad taste in the evening. Standouts were my sweetbreads, cooked just enough to stay tender, and Gail's cassoulet was amazingly rich. It included lamb, pork, beef and sausage, each of which melted.

A house specialty is souffles. We ordered two: chocolate and fig. The giant, individual souffles were each firm and over an inch above the ramekins. The waiter poured a warm sauce in the middle of each that made every bite a gooey delight.

As we left, we thanked the owner. When we told him we were visiting for Parents' Day, he asked which program each of our students was in. We left feeling like a valued guest. We will be his guests again.