Archive for April 2011

sardine pasta

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Cooked small handful of Barilla Plus spaghetti; while it was cooking, mashed up 1 can of smoked sardines into a bowl, toasted about a Tbsp of pine nuts in toaster (overcooked so long I kept thinking they were black beans while I was eating… ate them anyway), rinsed and broke about a cup and a half of broccoli florets into the spaghetti water; added maybe 1 Tbsp raisins to pasta water just before draining. Tossed everything with red pepper flakes. Delicious despite the burned pine nuts.


Written by orata

April 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm

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I love Slow Food

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Monday’s family dinner at UW Slow Food was: shiitake-ramp puff pastry galette topped with fresh watercress and preserved Meyer lemon vinaigrette; tender rounds of braised lamb wrapped in pork caul fat and browned, its richness offset by nutty red sunchoke and bitter black radish hash with snipped chives and wilted kale; and a dense, dry, crumbly, sweet gooey butter cake with sticky sweet bourbon-poached apricots and some kind of thick table cream. Cooked by the chefs of Merchant restaurant and “urban grocery”–one of the best meals I’ve had in Madison. And all for, as usual, a grand total of $5. Excellent.

Written by orata

April 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm

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culinary wonderland

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31st birthday party last night. Here’s the invite (was decorated with a pic of Lady Gaga in her egg):

“Nobody can eat fifty eggs.” –Cool Hand Luke, 1967.

In honor of the momentous occasion of my birth, and the Spring season of holidays of regeneration and rebirth, I would like to cordially invite you to a dinner celebration on the evening of April 23.

Since it’s Easter weekend, and my earlier idea of rabbit in chocolate mole sauce was vetoed, I thought it would be nice to have an egg-themed dinner party.

There will be food made with eggs and/or shaped like eggs. There could potentially also be drinks involving eggs: this idea was hatched (ha ha) over a Wisconsin Beer Bomb at the Old-Fashioned… for those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this yet, it’s a PBR with a pickled egg in it. (There will probably also be some food not involving eggs at all, for the sake of our digestive systems.)

Let me know if you have any food restrictions or special requests. Gifts not needed, but if you would like to bring something to drink other than wine or water, or if you are inspired by the theme and are dying to bring along a boiled ostrich egg or board games or something, please feel free.

Attendees: Jeanne, Steve, Lizbert, Stephanie, Josh, Kelly, Matthew, Tim, Ivan, Aaron, briefly Tim’s lady friend Elizabeth, and of course me and Rahul

A main dish roughly inspired by this shakshuka: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/04/shakshuka/

Soffritto of diced onions, carrots, and celery sauteed in grapeseed oil till almost browned and then I added plentiful garlic and fresh jalapenos, minced; dumped two big 28-oz cans of drained diced tomatoes in, seasoned it with sugar, cumin, and oregano, and simmered with a bay leaf and cinnamon stick for an hour or two. I pureed it with an immersion blender after taking out the cinnamon stick and then simmered meatballs in it and poached eggs directly in it. I garnished it as suggested, with feta and chopped fresh flatleaf parsley.

1 1-lb package ground lamb (the halal lamb was cheapest! From Willy St. Co-op)
1 package ground turkey
About 3 handfuls pine nuts, toasted in a pan over medium heat
A big handful of raisins, rehydrated in hot water, then drained and coarsely chopped
1 egg
About 1 cup instant potato flakes (I normally would use breadcrumbs moistened in milk, but I thought Mary would be coming so tried to keep it gluten-free)
Zest of 1 lemon
1-2 green onions, chopped
Seasonings: salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin
Mix everything together and shape into golf-ball-sized meatballs. Poach in tomato sauce and/or bake in 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes, till cooked through.

White long-grain rice–although washed till the water ran clear, the grains were not as fluffy and separate as I was hoping. I need to find out what kind they use at Zuzu.

Meringue mushrooms
The recipe is the one I posted earlier for hazelnut macarons with chocolate frosting filling (from Knitcircus); I piped small rounds for the caps and pairs of little tubes for the stems. The stem halves get flat on one side, so have to be glued together first with frosting, then the “gills” smeared with frosting and attached to the stem, and the whole mushroom anchored to a sheet of parchment paper with extra frosting. Steve and Jeanne and Rahul helped make these. I arranged these on two cookie sheets and scattered malted milk eggs and sprigs of fresh mint around them to make it look like a woodland scene.

Bacon nests
Thanks to Kelly’s advice, I did what Brian Boitano would do and made these over upside-down muffin cups after a few unsuccessful experiments with ramekins. Rahul brought home a package of turkey bacon and I’d bought 2 packages of regular bacon at TJ’s. These all got cut into long, thin strips on the diagonal and shaped over the muffin cups. I think the most successful ones were a mixture of the two kinds of bacon. It shrinks a lot, so you need to use a HUGE amount of bacon. I baked the nests at 400 degrees for probably half an hour per tray, till the bacon seemed crispy. Oddly, it stuck like crazy to the cups despite all the fat, so I’d recommend using silicone muffin cups or greasing the cups first (as counterintuitive as that may seem). I felt like I was dressing Lady Gaga, and I never want to touch so much bacon again. Some cups broke or shrank too much and had to be combined to make more-or-less whole cups. I sliced several green onions first lengthwise and then into 2-inch lengths to make “grass” to line the nests, then laid a single hard-boiled quail egg in each one. (The eggs were from a can from Midway Foods; Jeanne said they tasted too metallic, but you can’t tell if you’re eating them with the bacon nests, since the bacon flavor is so overpowering)

Guacamole with tortilla chips
I had nothing to do with this one (RPK and Steve), but assume it’s the standard avocado/lime/cilantro/salt/chili powder recipe.

Deviled eggs
Jeanne made these with organic mayo, Dijon mustard, and a dab of homemade horseradish. Sprinkled with paprika, of course. YUM! I could probably eat a dozen deviled eggs in one sitting.

Hummus, served with broccoli, pita chips, and celery. Blend together:
1 can white beans (I ran out of chickpeas)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup? extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Garnished with green onions and paprika

1 bag Spring mix
1 head Romaine lettuce, cut up
Slivered toasted almonds
Feta cheese

Dress with a dressing made from:
Whole-grain mustard
Walnut oil
Lemon juice and zest

Liz brought chocolate chip meringues, Matthew brought lemonade and soda water, Tim brought some very popular peanut butter/Rice Krispie eggs covered in chocolate and sprinkles, and Kelly and Josh brought egg cream fixings–Bosco syrup and whole milk, while we supplied the seltzer–and disposable bowls (and three-month-old frozen and reheated raccoon, which tasted like heavily spiced beef stew, almost like it had been soaked in cloves or allspice). Rahul got me a cookie cake and a Boston cream pie–we haven’t even unwrapped the latter yet.

It was all pretty awesome.

Written by orata

April 24, 2011 at 11:34 pm

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Rahul took me out to the most fantastic dinner at L’Etoile tonight for my birthday. I was wearing this strapless dress from Target that I need to get rid of post-haste–whoever invented strapless dresses was not as flat-chested as me, because by about 10 minutes into the meal I was squirming around trying to prevent a wardrobe malfunction–and was kind of uncomfortably shifting around when he said, “Look at the menu!” And I looked down and saw this:

So awesome. Here’s what we ended up eating:

  • 2 amuse-bouches: Wild ramp and watercress soup with crispy La Quercia prosciutto and toasted pine nuts; and a Sarvecchio cracker with cream cheese and caramelized onion jam. RPK said he liked the Trader Joe’s cheese sandwich crackers better, but I thought everything was delicious. The prosciutto was especially wonderful, crisp, tiny, salty slivers in the warm creamy soup (which Rahul said tasted like Lipton cream of chicken soup from the packet, but I disagree.)
  • Fried Sweet Water Organics perch, Asian slaw (this seemed to be a sweet and sour red cabbage with lots of sesame oil), nuoc cham, and smoked chilis cut into filaments. The chilis were mysterious and beautiful–an auburn tangle of threads, almost like really long, coarse saffron strands, but I couldn’t figure out what they were until I asked the waitress. They looked a bit like the dyed straw they put in nests on Pottery Barn coffee tables. The battered fish was crisp and delicious, and the nuoc cham tasted sparkling and fresh. With the high-quality ingredients and layers and layers of flavor in harmony, I didn’t feel cheated the way I sometimes do with nouvelle cuisine restaurants trying to appropriate low-end ethnic dishes.
  • Hidden Springs sheep’s milk cheese agnolotti, truffled pork meatball, San Marzano tomato sauce, boulot, basil chiffonade: also delicious. The agnolotti were perfect little pyramids, truly al dente, the meatballs were springy without being too firm or chewy, and the sauce was savory and bright. However, Rahul said it brought to mind Chef Boyardee ravioli, and I had to agree–obviously, it was far more complex and delicious, but I couldn’t help thinking of those little meatballs in tomato sauce glopping out of the can. Maybe it was just the visual, or the ratio of meatball to pasta.
  • Black Earth Meats lamb rack, grilled Kalamata olive sausage, sun gold tomato-butterball potato hash, Hidden Springs sheep’s milk feta & kale gratin, brown butter caper sauce. The lamb, served medium-rare, was just amazing. It tasted of lamb without being too gamey, and was juicy without being fatty. I used to dream about lamb like this when I was a vegetarian. It went beautifully with the caper-brown butter sauce. The tomato-potato hash was also fantastic. I found the sausage a little too salty, and the feta gratin was a misstep, I thought–the semi-melted feta turned into rubbery lumps, and was far too salty. The kale tasted fine, though, and its bitterness was at least good to offset the saltiness of the cheese.
  • Fountain Prairie grass-fed NY strip, creme fraiche mashed Kennebec potatoes, Snug Haven spinach, wild ramp and mushroom ragout, blue cheese-bone marrow compound butter, cabernet jus. Rahul got this rare and I think it might have been better medium-rare, but it was incredibly tender and rich. I only got one bite, so I can’t say much about the various sides.
  • Tiny dessert bites: chocolate ganache with cinnamon, “fiddle faddle” = caramel corn with hickory nuts, and a strawberry-rhubarb pain de fruit gelee. Nothing incredibly delicious, but it at least felt like a sweet little treat since we hadn’t ordered dessert.
  • I don’t have a copy of the drinks menu, but I had a cocktail called something like The T.M. Flip, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, maple syrup reduction, cherry juice, and egg white. Too bourbon-y, next time I’ll just go for the girliest drinks.
The ambience is upscale, of course, but it’s still friendly and down-to-earth. The service was a little slow, but unpretentious, aside from one thing that bothered me–our waitress kept coming by and asking “How are the flavors?” People kept walking by and waving at friends through the big glass windows up front.

Written by orata

April 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

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Salmon, cabbage, rice

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I made miso-glazed salmon using the glaze from this recipe:


  • 1/4 cup red or white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

Smeared it over a couple of salmon fillets from TJ’s, broiled on high in the toaster oven till cooked (maybe 10 mins?) and dressed with fresh cilantro.

Made short-grain brown rice in the rice cooker.

Braised red cabbage:

Thinly sliced 1 onion and 2 garlic cloves and sauteed in butter over medium-high heat. Added one head of red cabbage, shredded, and a glug of white wine. Let the wine cook off, then added a splash of apple cider vinegar, a large spoonful of sugar, a small spoonful of salt, and a cup of water, and braised over medium heat till tender.

I have to try this corn pudding baked in an acorn squash–looks very interesting.


Written by orata

April 10, 2011 at 10:15 pm

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fake scallops

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Inspired by Steve and Jeanne, we made fake scallops from king oyster mushrooms tonight: just slice up the fat, meaty stem into scallopy sections. I heated butter with garlic slices till brown and sizzling, then cooked the mushroom slices with a dash of soy sauce and sugar until caramelized on both sides. Ate it with white rice, furikake, stir-fried broccoli with black bean sauce, and fresh cilantro sprinkled over the top. TJ’s soy ice cream sandwiches for dessert.

Written by orata

April 5, 2011 at 11:53 pm

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