May 05, 2011

Leftovers: Deep-fried almonds over broccoli, garlic, and pecorino-romano

I've been making a concerted effort to eat more vegetables this year.  I'm also trying to eat these vegetables without a whole lot of other stuff covering them up, because that kinds of defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it?

I actually like vegetables, so it's not like this is a huge challenge.  I'm just trying to eat more of them, as well as a varied amount of vegetables.  One in particular I have never really liked is broccoli.  The only way I choked it down in high school was with 47,000 cups of melted Cheez-Wiz on top.  So, yeah.  Not exactly an option for me now.

But broccoli is inexpensive, and something I feel like I should like.  I finally found ways to make cauliflower that doesn't make me gag.  So, I think it's time for me to find a way to make broccoli and enjoy it.

So, I put a little something out on Twitter the other night:

Picture 1

And boy, did the responses fly on in.  Tons of great ideas, most of which involved roasting the broccoli in olive oil, salt and pepper, and various other seasonings (cumin, red pepper flakes, curry powder, etc.)  There were lots of variations and combinations.  SO many great ideas.

So, I started with the basics and wanted to see what broccoli tasted like if I roasted it at a high temperature in just olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Oh, and garlic, because you can't go wrong with garlic.  And shallots.  Because I had them here.  So here's what I did:

1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets; tossed in a bowl with a generous amount of olive oil and kosher salt; more ground pepper than you might ordinarily do; 3 cloves of garlic, chopped; one small shallot lobe, chopped.  And a teaspoon of duck fat.  Because everything is better with duck fat.  (but seriously, you can do this without duck fat; I just happened to have it on hand)

I put this mixture onto a foil-lined baking sheet and roasted it in a 425F-degree oven for 30 minutes.  While it was roasting, I noticed I had some leftover deep-fried almonds from the "Porcini, cherry, toasted garlic, almond" dish.  So, I chopped those, and used them to top the broccoli when it came out of the oven.

I also shaved some pecorino-romano on top.  And, I sprinkled the last of the ham powder from that Porcini dish, too.

And, you guys?

I now really, really, really like broccoli:


The heads got all dark brown, crispy, and toasty.  The stalky part was crunchy and delicious.  Didn't taste like broccoli at all.  You know what I mean, right?  Like, you know how farty and pungent broccoli can taste when you just steam it or blanch it?  Yeah, that.  This tasted NOTHING LIKE THAT, and I now love broccoli, and I'll be buying it every week and doing variations on this theme.

And, for dessert?

MORE LEFTOVERS from the Porcini dish!

Leftover almond milk ice cream and some wine-soaked pineapple chunks, a little bit of 2% milk, and a handful of ice cubes.  Whacked it in the blender for 30 seconds.

A fruity, smooth, nutty milkshake.

Alinea leftovers are awesome.  Awesome, awesome, awesome...

May 02, 2011

Leftovers: Linguine with mushroom purée


I used the leftover mushroom purée and mushroom dice from the "Porcini, cherry, toasted garlic, almond" dish in my dinner the other night.

I took a handful of Bionaturae gluten-free linguine and laid it on a baking sheet, which I put into a 375F-degree oven for 8 minutes.  As it roasts, the pasta gets more golden and slightly brown in some spots, and the heat just brings out a kind of nutty flavor to it.  Well, maybe not nutty... but sort of.  Yeah, I'm sticking with nutty.  And heartier.  And, roastier.  I don't know how else to explain it.  It deepens the flavor, for sure.  Bionaturae is a really great brand of gluten-free pasta, and I really don't buy any other kind.  It's the closest I've ever tasted to "normal" pasta, and it holds up well in both hot and cold pasta preparations.

So, why roast the pasta?  I got the idea from Frank Ruta, owner and chef of Palena.  I went to Palena a few weeks ago for a nose-to-tail beef tasting menu, and he did this oxtail and cheek ragout that, quite literally, has been the best thing I've eaten so far this year.  My dining companions got to spoon theirs over roasted vermicelli (which they all thought was much more delicious than regular pasta).  I ate mine senza pasta, but texted myself a reminder to roast some dried pasta to see what it tasted like.

I finally did it, and it's goooooooood.

So, while the linguine was roasting (again, you just do it plain -- no oil or anything), I brought a pot of water to a boil.  While I boiled the pasta, I reheated the leftover mushroom purée and mushroom dice in a saucepan on the stove.  I added a little bit of olive oil to stretch it a bit, then when the pasta was done, I strained it and tossed it into the pan with the mushroom goodness.

Poured it all into a bowl, shaved some parm-reg on top, and dug in.  After my first bite, it struck me that I had some leftover ham powder, as well.  So, I dashed a bit of that on top, and it made my dinner even better.  A glass of Etude pinot noir rosé rounded it all out quite nicely.

And there you have it.  The pleasures and benefits of doing this blog are with me in my everyday eating.  They can be in yours, too. 

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So, I got a nice surprise on Twitter the other day: I was nominated for Saveur's Best Cook-Through Blog.  Such an honor, and a pleasure to be nominated in the same category alongside my friends Ryan, Clay, and Zach.  So, click on the image below if you'd like to vote for me.  You'll have to register for a Saveur account (if you don't already have one), but it's free and takes about 20 seconds to do. Voting is open until May 12.

There are so many amazing, fun, wonderful people nominated in all the categories that just being together with them already feels like winning, you know?  Thanks, in advance, for your vote (if you vote for me).  Check out the other categories, too.  I think you'll find some great new blogs to check out -- some really fantastic cooking and writing out there right now.  Good luck, everyone!

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I'm covering the James Beard Awards on Monday, May 9 -- this year, for The Washington Post.  (squeeeeeee!!!!)  I'll let you know when and where you can read the updates -- probably some of it via Twitter, and some on the Post's website.  More details as we figure them out.  Really looking forward to being in New York, and seeing some of my favorite chefs.  Happiness.

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And, thank you for all your kinds words about my previous post.  You guys are the best.  I mean it.

July 01, 2010

A little of this, a little of that


This is a salad I made with lettuce from my neighbor's garden, pickled carrots, fresh chives and dill from the garden, roasted pepitas, a homemade vinaigrette, and many of the dried accoutrements from the "Beef, elements of A1" dish.  I could eat this every day.

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Here's a Chicago Tribune: The Stew interview with Patton Oswalt about his love of food and restaurants.  I love how he describes his dinner at Alinea as having "had just walked away from one of the great seminal rock concerts of all time."

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I tried to make this dish this week.  Perhaps you heard me sighing about it on Twitter.  Perhaps you heard me use the descriptor "open war wound with Band-Aid bits strewn about."  It did not end well.  A post is forthcoming, and I'm actually gonna try it again because I want to do it right.  I even bought a new scale that measures to the 0.01g.  That's how committed I am, y'all.

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Some of you sent the most amazing and sweet and heartfelt emails after my last post.  I loved reading about your unfinished business, and I hope you get to do whatever it is you want to. 

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Are you watching Top Chef?  Who are you rooting for?  Who do you loathe?  Do you think the show is a little tired and played out?  (I think I feel that way, but I'm willing to give it until the end of the season.)  I'm doing the episode recaps for Washingtonian magazine and would love your insights and thoughts on this season's cheftestants and the show as a whole.

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It's a long weekend (happy birthday, America!) and here's what's on my reading list for the next few days:

Food in Jars: my friend, Marisa, is a jamstress.  A canstress?  A jarstress?  Whatever she is, she's awesome and her blog is giving me a ton of great ideas for how to preserve everything I buy too much of at the farmers market.

The Victory Garden: I was obsessed with Crockett's Victory Garden on PBS (along with Hodge Podge Lodge) when I was a kid, and I remember carefully leafing through my mom's copy of the original Victory Garden book (which she's sending me) and thinking how cool it would be to have my own house and my own garden when I grew up (and was retired from being a ballerina-TV news anchor-surgeon).

A couple of books by Jonathan Tropper.  Easy summer reads that are well written and funny.

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Enjoy the holiday weekend -- and let me know what you're cooking and eating.  Don't mind me; I'll just be sitting here, drooling over my corn on the cob with tarragon butter (I love summer; can you tell?).

April 12, 2010

Leftovers: Pickled blueberries, miso mayonnaise

Right now, my life is about crushing deadlines.

If you're self-employed, you know that your time is never really your own. If a client calls, you do the work. You have to.  Because every hour you're not billing is time you don't get paid.  If you don't work, there's no paycheck coming in.  There's no closing the notebook, turning off the lights, powering down the computer, and getting to it another day.  There's no delegating it to someone else on the team. 

I love what I do, I love the clients I work with, and I love the flexibility I have (The month of August off? Yes, please!), but sometimes 3 or 4 clients descend at once with full-time amounts of work and although it's incredibly energizing and one hell of a roller coaster ride to get it all done, it can be hard (for me) to switch gears and relax... even for an hour.

Right now, I'm working 18-hour days and will be for the next few weeks. There will be time for an Alinea dish or two in there... but not much more than that.

Oh, how I've wanted to cook this past week, and write about what I've cooked.  And I will.  Soon.

But for now, I hope you'll be content with a few words and a few lovely pictures along the way, because every time I've sat down to write about something other than the speeches and op-eds and press kits and other things I'm doing for clients, I'm all flibbitydooooo and wonkalazooooo because my brain is jammed and nothing even remotely coherent comes out.

I'm not cooking these days as much as I am assembling.  I don't have time to leave the house for takeout, and there aren't any delivery options in my neighborhood for someone who can't eat gluten.  So, I'm merely putting together 2 or 3 things and calling it a meal.  Like this:


That's Fage Greek yogurt with leftover pickled blueberries and some orange blossom honey. That was breakfast last Wednesday. And it was goooooood.  Sweet, tangy, pickle-y... and with Portland Roasting's Goose Hollow blend, I started that day off just right.

Friday lunch was a salad of romaine lettuce, carrots, honeycrisp apples, marcona almonds and a vinaigrette made with the leftover miso mayonnaise from the Yuba dish:


That dressing was ridiculously easy -- miso mayonnaise (instead of oil), white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, salt, pepper.  And it tasted so, so, so, so good.

I loved cooking my way through The French Laundry Cookbook, but there's something I've discovered that's a little different about cooking through the Alinea cookbook: more adaptable leftovers.  There are so many individual elements in each dish, and many of them yield incredible opportunities for what's left over.  I made salad dressing three times, and thanks to Charlie Baird who told me over Twitter that he used the miso mayonnaise on grilled vegetables, I brushed some of it on some sauteed Brussels sprouts with tofu and crushed peanuts for dinner last night, and life was good.

It's also interesting to me that, lately, I don't have time to over-think how I'd use these leftovers.  They've served a very basic purpose and have come in handy in such a fundamental way: to feed me.  While I wish I could focus on the pleasure of food as my primary goal, right now it's all about sustenance.  What's fantastic, though, is when what you've thrown together in 2 minutes for sustenance turns out to be so freakin' delicious you actually do stop in your tracks for three minutes, maybe five minutes, to really taste what's going in your mouth.

That's one thing I really love about this project.  It has the power to turn sustenance into pleasure when you least expect it, and when you really need it.

Hope to see some of you at Smith Meadows Farm Day -- I've already heard from a few of you that you're coming... and I am counting the minutes until May 1.  Getting away from the laptop and the phone, and mucking about the fields among cows and chickens for a few hours is gonna be fantastic.  I can't wait!

Up Next: Marcona Almond, white ale, pink pepper, lavender

Read My Previous Post: Yuba, shrimp, orange, miso

November 03, 2009

Alinea Leftovers: Duck and butternut squash salad


Some of you have asked what I do with the leftover ingredients and elements from the dishes I cook for this blog.  Some of the gels and puddings and sauces and juices, I try to use in other things.  Sometimes they work.  Sometimes they don't.  I'll start telling you more about those experiences the next time I have something like that to work with.  I've wanted to be better about that on this blog, and I've not been.  Sorry 'bout that.

Meantime, here's a little something I pulled together for lunch the day after I made the duck dish: a bowl of mache, with leftover grilled duck and butternut squash.  I sauteed the squash in brown butter, and made a lime vinaigrette (olive oil, juice from a lime, salt, pepper, tiny blob of Dijon mustard).  I also sprinkled a few of the curried pumpkin seeds on top.  And yes... sometimes I have a little nip of wine with lunch here at home.  That's a glass of Stag's Leap Sauvignon Blanc.  In all, a great lunch, and pretty typical of the way I cook and eat from day to day.


Any chance I get to sit at my table outside for a meal, I'll take it.  Soon, the table will be tarped for the winter, and I won't see its loveliness again until after the spring rain subsides.

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Chef Achatz has been having his team post some really interesting real-time updates to the Alinea Mosaic forum.  One of the sous chefs in the kitchen is now doing a lot of R&D work for Grant and his team, and he's posting photos and write-ups of the dishes and elements he's working on on a pretty regular basis.

Check it out if you can; some pretty interesting stuff there.  Grant weighs in from time to time, and answers questions that forum participants have.  It's interesting to see how dishes come about, and learn from some of the smartest in the business.

Alinea Mosaic > Dish Development > Fall 2009 Dishes

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A few of you sent me the link to this interview, so I wanted to share it with everyone, because I think it's interesting:

For the last couple of months, Eight Forty-Eight food critic David Hammond has been using more than his palate to experience good dining in Chicago. The series, Soundbites, has taken you through a journey of the senses. His last stop is Alinea.  As you might suspect, controlling sound is a big part of the cooking and dining experience at this restaurant, which many consider one of the finest in the world.   Audio interview with Grant Achatz here.

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Lastly, a friend sent along this quote she read from an interview with fashion designer Isabel Toledo:

"Craft takes time, and therefore it is luxury. You cannot do an amazingly well-made garment without taking time—not just the time it takes to make something but also the time it took the maker to come up with the idea. That is all luxury, and that has been lost because we're trying to make things faster and faster, cheaper and cheaper. The consumer tends to lose track of what luxury is."

The same applies to food, don't ya think? And how sad that luxury (when it comes to food) is a dirty word. 

p.s. -- GO PHILLIES!!!!

Up Next: Pheasant, shallot, cider, burning oak leaves

Read My Previous Post: Duck, pumpkin, banana, Thai aromatics

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