My second time making ratatouille. Fortunately this time it only took a little over an hour, whereas the first time seemed to take half the day. Also, mandolins are scary as shit. I stop slicing about three inches up, like that’s enough eggplant because I will go no closer to that blade.
Had a little too much fun and the farmer’s market and whole foods. Also, this is my first time ever cooking or eating scallops. I was pleasantly surprised.
From my new cookbook, Nopi. Tomato salad with herbed wasabi mascarpone with pine nuts and pickled shallots. Scallops with sorrel sauce, corn salsa, and sumac cream, and lamb sausage. Super yummy and sounds a lot more intense than is. Mostly just a lot of chopping and mixing. Not much actual cooking.
This was a weird, long, crazy, emotional week. Mainly because my boss at the university retired this week.You know a lot of people aren’t huge fans of their bosses, and in the past I probably would have been in the same boat. I have had several good ones, but I’ve also experienced the worst of the worst. The top of boss that makes hell reign on earth, breathes fire, and eats small children. But this was different. He was the best boss I’ve ever had, and maybe because he never really felt like a boss. More like someone who was there to help me do my job and support me when I needed it. But he also brought a level of humor to the office that could not rivaled.
At the beginning of the week I went on a cookbook binge. That’s right I bought four new books, which is insane when any single one of them would probably take me three months to go through. So buying four makes absolutely no sense, but for some reason I decided I needed all of them. Actually, I managed to convince myself to put back two, so I’m calling that a partial win.
The first recipe I tried, and well the only one I’ve tried so far, is an apricot crumble tart situation out of My Paris Kitchen by David Leibovitz. Of course, the first thing I make is a dessert. Well, if this tart is any indication of how the rest of the recipes will turn out, then I think we might be in business.
So the tart really had three components: the crumble topping, the apricot filling, and the crust. The crust was good. It was a little hard. I’m not sure why that is. The flavor was good, and it softened up a little later on. But it was a little hard. The crumble topping was good and the apricot filling was standard. Granted fillings for these type of things aren’t that difficult or complicated. I actually really liked the fact that the filling only required two tablespoons of sugar. I’m weird in that I don’t like my desserts to be really sweet. Really I like a mild sweet. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure my apricots were too sour. I may need to try this again with better apricots. Overall, I would make this again. To be honest, I’ll probably make it again tomorrow. We’re going to the market, so maybe I can scavenge up some fresh apricots.
Next up is a Mediterranean salad from that WS cookbook. I’m not super sure what distinguishes this from your standard nicoise salad. I’m sure it’s something, but I just don’t know. Probably because I’ve never made a nicoise before. Also, I left out the anchovies. Slimy, salty little fish. I have a difficult relationship with them.
Also, good standard easy recipe. Though I’m the slowest cook on the planet. No, really. I think it took me an hour to put together this salad, which makes absolutely no sense. There was almost no actual cooking involved with the exception of the green beans and boiling the eggs.
One note… I had a hard time finding nicoise or any other tiny olives. I finally found some at whole foods and they still had pits. That didn’t bother me so much, but I probably should have pitted them before dropping them in the salad. As I later discovered my husband dropping them down the disposal because he refused to eat around the pits. Yea…
So going back to my boss’ retirement week. He has this thing where his entire diet is dominated by bananas and cookies. And I should mention he eats SO many cookies. I’ve seen him eat four in a sitting. It’s actually quite impressive. So for his retirement week I made oatmeal raisin. I happen to have learned that his was his favorite. However, I absolutely abhor oatmeal raisin cookies. The little raisins masquerading as chocolate chips and fooling you at the last minute, and the fact that I can’t even eat oatmeal without my stomach having a meltdown. The last remaining remnants of my Peace Corps life are the lists of foods I am no longer capable of eating.
The first batch I made from a recipe on AllRecipes. I swear it had almost a billion 5 star reviews. It may have realistically had almost 2,000 reviews and it was at a 4.5 star. Should be good right? For some reason mine were terrible. Not just slightly funny, but not even edible. They browned too much, they spread too much, and worst of all they didn’t even cook all the way through. Should I have used my baking intuition and been like “I should chill the dough before putting it into the oven,” or “this recipe seems light on the baking soda.” Probably. But I didn’t. And it was a disaster.
The second batch was amazing. And I hate these cookies, so that says something. It was one I found on Tastespotting that had adapted a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. You know that recipe book that my roommate swears by, but I just haven’t seemed to gotten into. Well, baking powder instead of soda and nutmeg instead of cinnamon. I also called an audible and soaked the raisins in rum beforehand and accidentally doubled the nutmeg, because apparently I can’t read.
They were incredible. Until you hit that first raisin. Ick. And I only permitted myself to eat a quarter of a cookie, because oatmeal.
Ah.. but one of the big events of the week was our office outing to the Nationals game. One of the boss’s biggest pastimes is baseball. He LOVES the Nats. So it only seemed fitting for us all to go out to a game together in the worst seats in the stadium. We were actually two rows down from the worst seats, but hey they view of the field was still really good. You could still see everything really clearly. There was no giant post in front of you and the game was just as exciting. I got a hot dog and three beers, because that’s how we roll. We then had an office party the next night for the entire school of medicine. Between the two nights he was so happy. It was really nice to see him really enjoy his last two days as a GWU Dean. It’s a nice reminder that there are still really good, caring, empathetic people out there.
I hate cooking meat. It’s slimy. It smells funny. It requires special attention, like don’t cross contaminate. You never have this problem with broccoli and bell peppers.
But, alas, I was feeling adventurous today and apparently a little spendy, too. So I came across a veal recipe in the aforementioned Wizlliams-Sonoma Cooking at Home book. I’ve never made veal before. I also usually avoid beef whenever possible. I usually avoid cooking any meat whenever possible. Except bacon. Love bacon.
So it was a super easy recipe. I would totally make this again, except for maybe the veal part. I mean that doesn’t make much sense, but veal is kind of expensive. But it also defeats the purpose of making veal piccata minus the veal. But seriously you just dredge it in flour and pan fry in butter and olive oil for 2-3 minutes on each side. If I wasn’t such a slow cook, this may have only taken 15-20 minutes to make in total. Super fast dinner. But I’m slow. Like glacial. I really need to work on my speed. But a quick semi-fancy meal is a win.
We all seem to have at least one fail-safe standard go to cookbook. Right now I’ve been operating out of Williams-Sonoma’s Cooking at Home cookbook. I’ve made a handful of recipes out of it so far and they’ve all been quite good. Also, with my personal experiences with Williams-Sonoma recipes they seem pretty difficult to really fuck up. I mean I’ve completely bombed so many of the recipes and they still somehow turned out incredibly delicious.
Anyway, my roommate uses America’s Test Kitchen as her standard, and to be fair this is probably a much better go-to when you want something decent, easy, and need a step-by-step guide. America’s Test Kitchen definitely holds your hand a little bit better through tougher things. They also have a lot more common recipes like meatloaf, lasagna, other pasta dishes. A lot of standard dishes. The Williams-Sonoma cookbook doesn’t really have a lot of good standard recipes. I guess they assume you can already make some of those. So it’s not a great reference if you want to learn a basic lasagna. Also, it does have references on the proper way to clean/cut vegetables, and the correct temperatures to cook meats like the America’s Test Kitchen. But it still seems like it is expecting you to come in with some base line knowledge.
Basically, in our house when we are looking for a good recipe for a French recipe we have levels. America’s Test Kitchen if we really don’t know what we’re doing, then Williams-Sonoma if we kind of have an idea what we are doing. Then there’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which I love, but sometimes it isn’t quite as straightforward as the other two. Last but not least is the Laduree book if I’m in the mood to be like “Fuck it. I don’t really want to eat what I’m about to make.” Because I know there’s only an 8% chance that I will actually be able to produce the recipe.
Today I made Garlic Parmesan Brussel Sprouts and Veal Piccata. Both were out of the Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home Book. Both were great, and actually really easy to make.
The Brussel Sprouts were trimmed and halved. Then you add olive oil and butter to a pan with six cloves of garlic. After the garlic is heated you add the brussel sprouts and cook covered for 8 minutes. After they’re cooked transfer to a bowl and add parmesan. Simple and straightforward.
So here’s the rub. I actually forgot one of the main ingredients. The recipe actually calls for you to add chicken stock when you add the brussel sprouts to the pan, and well I completely forgot to add it. I didn’t even notice until I had put them in the bowl and added the cheese that there was a cup of chicken stock sitting on the counter. How do you completely forget an ingredient?
Well, this is probably a perfect example of my life as a cook. I don’t read the directions, I forget half of the ingredients (because I don’t read the recipe), and then I just kind of wing it. I must say that the brussel sprouts were still delicious. But I’m sure they would have been that much better if I could read.
This is the second time I’ve written about brussel sprouts. Really I don’t make them that often. This is seriously like the second time this year. But I’ve written two posts about them, so it seems like I have some kind of infatuation with them, which I do, but it probably shouldn’t seem that way.
Love. But we almost never make them. I have no idea why.
Maybe they are under valued.
Maybe for some reason they are always in a tiny bag at the end of the vegetable aisle blending in to the background. They’re and understated vegetable, and yet one of the most hated. But do they have to be?
We were having steak tonight and needed a vegetable pairing and randomly chose Brussels sprouts.
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs stone ground mustard
1 chopped red apple
Bag of Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
I mixed all of the ingredients in a bowl until the Brussels sprouts were evenly coated. Then roasted them in the oven until tender. Not super sure on the timing since I was eyeing it. Also, I would recommend adding some chopped crispy bacon, but that would be too much with the steak.