Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cooking with Nicole, part deuce

Last week, Nicole's friend Courtney joined us as we tried to figure out what to do with the gigantic, two foot long summer squash that my friend Beth gave me. Besides whacking each other over the head with it, of course.

We eventually decided to make a stuffed squash. I found a recipe that involved portobello mushrooms, quinoa and ricotta cheese... but Trader Joe's was sold out of the latter two, and we wanted to add whatever we'd gotten in our CSA pickup, so we wound up just mixing together some couscous, some strange, chewy grains from TJ's, tomato, green pepper and onion from the CSA, portobello mushrooms and queso blanco from the bodega. (Oh, and an egg to bind everything together... and a bunch of red pepper flakes... and some other spices I found in Nicole's cabinet.)

It reminded me of the kind of hippie meals we used to have at the co-op in college. Veggie- and grain-centric, cheap and tasty. It was good, especially for something that we basically just made up as we went along.

Dinner with Monica this week started out with Nicole's warm Brie and hot pepper jelly on crackers - an indulgent appetizer before a lighter main course. We got beets and tons of apples this week, so Nicole and I decided to make an apple, orange and beet salad with toasted walnuts and a side of corn. I roasted the beets, sliced everything up and drizzled it with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Yum...

For dessert, the pendulum swung back to indulgent: warm, cinnamon-y apple crisp. I think I went a little too heavy on the brown sugar, so none of us could really clean our plates... but I think it'll be a good topping for some oatmeal later in the week.

I've still got last week's pears kicking around, so sometime this week, I'm going to follow Nicole's lead and make some pear-applesauce. (Her version was sooo good.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dinner at Matt and Batya's: five courses of CSA awesomeness. First up are homemade jalapeno poppers. Like a moron, I sliced the jalapenos with bare hands and promptly rubbed my lips. Whoa, homemade collagen injection! The rest of the meal was eaten through my newly puffy Olsen-twins-style lips.

We stuffed the CSA jalapenos with a mixture of cream cheese and super-sharp cheddar cheese, dipped them in egg wash, rolled them in breadcrumbs and fried 'em up.

Soup course next: Batya's spectacular vegetarian red pepper soup. I had absolutely nothing to do with this so I don't know the recipe, but I've definitely got to get it out of her ASAP. That evening, we ate it with a slice of sourdough bread, but she says she usually serves it with grilled Gruyere sandwiches, which sounds like heaven in a bowl.

Fresh corn, tomato and herb salad. Super simple, super fresh, super tasty.

Eggplant and caramelized onion pizza with mozzarella and pizza dough from Monty's. We cooked these on Matt and Batya's pizza stone.

And finally, Batya's famous chocolate chip blondies. I could eat these every day for the next five hundred years and still want more.

Now for some picture-less menu bragging! A few days ago, my friend Adam and I hosted a farmer's market-focused dinner for a few of our coworkers, to rave reviews all around. Adam suggested that we just go to the farmer's market on our lunch break, pick up whatever random stuff looked tasty and figure out what to make out of it. This is what we came up with:

Heirloom tomato, peach, pancetta and basil salad with bacon-balsamic viniagrette
Corn, wild mushroom and cilantro salad with seared scallops
Grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella stacks with homemade pesto
Potato, onion and red pepper frittata with garlic aioli and chorizo
Apple upside down cake and fresh whipped cream

It wound up being a totally lovely meal, served slowly and in courses and with lots of wine and laughter and compliments to the chefs. Cooking for friends is so nice - we not only get to be creative with the menus and flex our culinary skillz for an audience, but we also get to enjoy a fancy-pants meal with our friends for a fraction of what it would cost in a restaurant. We can't wait to do it again! But next time, we'll be sure to take pictures.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The last few days of summer have been good to us. Our CSA share this week is full of corn; heirloom, non-heirloom and grape tomatoes; onions and potatoes and collard greens and lettuce. Even our fruit share is exciting - bunches of nectarines and plums have replaced the endless parade of undersized peaches. The bags of veggies have gotten so full, it's hard to haul them home!

It's been years since I've been in school, but Sunday nights are still kind of icky. I love my job, but I'm always a lot happier on Friday nights, with two whole glorious days of sleeping in, socializing and sloth lie ahead, than Sunday nights when you know the next day is gonna be full of alarm clocks, long commutes and to-do lists.

All the more reason, though, to have a lovely Sunday dinner. For this evening's fancy meal, I cooked the strip steak I'd ordered through the CSA's naturally-raised meat delivery service. It was a beautiful steak, unfortunately cooked by someone who really has no idea what to do with a nice piece of meat. Ten minutes, two smoke-detector alarms and three open windows later, what I thought was going to be a medium-rare steak was basically still moo-ing. So I sliced it up, tossed it back in the pan for a couple of seconds on each side, and wound up with a bunch of less-attractive - but perfectly pinky-red on the inside - slices of steak. On the side - buttery corn off the cob and a really simple salad of sliced tomato, parsley, salt and pepper.

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my DSLR's battery this week, so I wasn't able to get a decent picture of dinner. I suck. Instead, please accept this picture of the delicious peach and plum crostada that I made for dessert:

And also, the picture of the sliced nectarine, butter and maple syrup on Trader Joe's whole-grain waffles that I had for Saturday breakfast:

(Those nectarines aren't fluorescent in real life... only in the flash of my point and shoot. Though I guess if I hadn't been too lazy to pull out the Nikon on Saturday morning, I would have realized the battery was dead long before Sunday dinner.)

Coming soon: a full accounting, with pictures, of last Thursday's CSA feast at Matt and Batya's! Homemade jalapeno poppers, whaaat?!