Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Huxley CK452 Superdog

Dave commissioned this painting for my birthday. I was blown away! He was very mysterious for months, hinting at something big and I never could have guessed what it turned out to be. The artist is Sirron Norris who did some murals in the Mission district that I've long admired.

Everything in the painting really happened in real life. Huxley was CVFBAE the research beagle, who tested experimental heart medication CK452 before he retired from research and got adopted by us. He's got a permanent tattoo on his ear that marks him as CVFBAE. He hates cats and water, and his favorite toy is his rainbow ball. He loves visiting Lucca Ravioli with me and plunging his head into my shopping bag and sniffing the cheese and salami in it. He loves to lick the remains of anything I've made in my trusty orange Le Creuset pot. And, we all know he is a wine cork connoisseur! We also like to imagine that the drug he was testing gave him superpowers so that he has a double life as a superhero during the day while we are out working.

Time to take Huxley out for a long walk! He's been cooped up all Christmas with relatives visiting and would really enjoy a long walk and a chance to sniff out more chicken bones left by the mysterious Chicken Bone Man all over the Mission!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tripas À Moda do Porto

The story goes that when Henry the Navigator was preparing his ships to conquer the port of Ceuta in North Africa in 1415, he asked the people of Porto to donate supplies to stock the Portuguese navy and they did, so generously, that all that was left to eat was tripe. Thus, the people of Porto became known as "tripeiros", or "tripe eaters". "Tripas À Moda do Porto", or Tripe in the style of Porto, is a traditional Porto dish that we knew we absolutely had to try when we were in Porto. This we did, appropriately, at a restaurant called "Tripeiria".

It was really quite delicious. Tripe wasn't even the main ingredient, it was almost a garnish next to the white beans and the sausage that made up the main part of the stew. The stew was served over rice.

When I got home, I decided that it was time to try my hand at cooking tripe. I live in a neighborhood with a butcher that carries three types of beautiful, snowy-white tripe next to the other cuts of meat that I buy, so it was not a problem to procure some good tripe for my experiment. The recipe came out of my Jean Anderson Portuguese cookbook:

I have grown to appreciate this somewhat previously under-used cookbook more and more since our trip to Portugal. The recipe for Tripas À Moda do Porto is quite time-consuming: the tripe is first cooked very slowly in the oven for 3 hours together with aromatics, before the beans, proscuitto & sausages are added and cooked further for another hour and a half. The result is a little different from the tripe we had in Porto, being much more tomato-y than we remembered, but retains the essential character of the authentic dish. The recipe made so much tripe that we were eating leftovers for quite a few days. I forgot to take pictures the first night we had it. The picture below was taken after the 3rd reheating in the oven, after which the stew had lost a lot of liquid. It was originally more soupy, perfect over rice, like the authentic dish we had in Porto.

The wine was, unfortunately, a rather uninspiring red, one of a few bottles of Portuguese red that we had bought to try out. I was glad I got around to cooking with tripe. It isn't as scary as it might seem at first. Although, the recipe was so time-consuming I don't know if I would make it again. Perhaps for a special occasion! A dinner party, perhaps, with adventurous eaters? I told my mother-in-law, who is a pretty adventurous eater, about the dish, and even she said that it would be OK if I didn't make it for her the next time she visits!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Portuguese dessert in search of a better name

Why would you name your dessert "Rancid Cake"? This is precisely what we saw on the dessert list at a popular neighborhood restaurant in Lisbon. After a huge meal of garlic bread soup and salt cod baked with potatoes, we weren't really interested in dessert but took a look at the menu anyway, and this cake, because of its unusual name, caught our eye. Dave made up his mind immediately that he had to have it. The waiter explained that that the name had come about because of the use of "rancid butter" but followed with the promise that it was a very good cake. We decided to focus on the waiter's assessment of its deliciousness rather than on the potential rancidity of one of the ingredients, despite the opposing nature of these two details. And it was very good. I couldn't detect any hint of rancidness in it at all.

Anyway, after we came home, I saw an entry for "Putrid Cake" or "Bolo Podre" in another one of my Portuguese cookbooks:

The recipe does not use butter, but olive oil. The author theorizes that perhaps in the old days, the olive oil might have gotten rank or rancid, resulting in the unfortunate name, but prefers the alternative meaning of "podre" ("depraved" or "corrupt") to describe the influence of a rich and decadent cake.

Naturally, I had to make it to follow one of our Portuguese dinners. The list of ingredients is very interesting: finely ground anise seeds, 5 eggs in a total of 2 cups flour, olive oil, honey, and almost two cups of booze from a combination of tawny port, white wine and brandy. The top is supposed to crack as seen here:

We paired it with a semi-sweet madeira that we had brought home from Funchal, Madeira. This wasn't even the best madeira from our total Portuguese vacation haul:

but even so it was way better than the average bottle you can buy at your local wine store back at home. I can't wait to get into the other, better stuff!

So, what was the rest of the dinner like that I made to go with the Putrid/Corrupt Cake? I started this post backwards with dessert, but the rest of dinner was no less good. We had the Portuguese meatballs that I've made before again, this time paired with green beans with garlic, fresh coriander leaves, olive oil and lemon from the same cookbook that gave me the cake recipe. This is one of the best ways to prepare green beans that I have come across!

The Douro wine, made with Port grapes, was from our local gourmet purveyor of all things Iberian, The Spanish Table in Berkeley. It was a winner!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meatballs XIV - Portuguese meatballs

This is a catch-up post - about a meal I made a few months ago, but it was a meal made in preparation for our Portuguese vacation, so it seems to fit in with the last post. I ordered this cookbook to prepare for our culinary adventures in Portugal:

And, of course, since I was still on a mission to make as many types of meatballs as I could, the recipe for Portuguese meatballs caught my eye. They are supposed to be made from ground lamb, but I didn't have any around in my freezer and so I used ground beef, which was flavored with ginger, orange zest, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and chopped fresh cilantro. The browned meatballs are then simmered in a wine and broth sauce flavored with the same spices that were in the ground meat mixture, and finished off with more fresh chopped cilantro. As a side, I made spinach with toasted bread crumbs (also from the same cookbook), one of the best spinach sides I've ever tasted!

I have to say, we didn't have any meatballs in Lisbon or Porto and the meatballs we had in Madeira weren't at all like what I made (but then lots of dishes that we did try had different interpretations in Madeira), but it is a delicious dish all the same!

I'm back again, this time after vacation

I knew I said I was back, and then disappeared for another 3 weeks. This is because we'd been spending the first two weeks of November on vacation - in Portugal!

Huxley Beagle got boarded for two weeks at a dog daycare/boarding place. Within the first 5 days, he got bitten by a German Shepherd dog that he was attempting to hump. What an ambitious beagle! - or maybe the German Shepherd was just really hot! Anyway, the folks at the daycare took care of him and he got all his stitches out the day we came back. Since then, he's been EXTRA affectionate and clingy. I think he's afraid we will leave him again! Anyway, I think he had fun despite his misadventure. Here are some pictures of him "on vacation":

Dressed up as a bunny on Halloween (what humiliation!)

I made a corduroy pea coat for the mild November weather in Lisbon and Porto, where we spent about 5 days each. (Will post about the pea coat in a bit.) We spent the last 4 days of our Portuguese vacation in Madeira, where it was very warm and pleasant. Why Portugal, and those particular places in Portugal, you ask? Well, we always like to take vacations in places where we can learn about a new cuisine or wines. Last year, we enjoyed visiting sherry bodegas in Andalusia so much and learning about the different kinds of sherries and how they were made that we decided to visit Porto to learn about Port wine and Madeira to learn about Madeira wine. And how can you visit Portugal without visiting Lisbon! Of course, we also had lots of chances everywhere to sample the dizzying array of Portuguese table wines made from all sorts of interesting grape varietals that we had never heard of. And, the best part was all the food we got to eat! One thing we learnt - Portuguese portions are HUGE! You will see this shortly from pictures we took of almost every meal. We are on a sort of exercise regimen now, to try to lose all that weight we gained. Not that it wasn't a strenuous vacation - Portugal (including Madeira) is a very hilly country and we took some steep hikes that were really good workouts.

Anyway, I will be posting about Portuguese food and wine shortly, as well as some sewing topics related to our vacation. Stay tuned!

The red balloon marks the location of Madeira.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Metaballs XIII - Turkish meatballs with eggplant puree

This is a most unusual, and delicious!, recipe from this cookbook

It's sort of like meatballs cooked in baba ghanoush!

The meatballs are made from a mixture of ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, allspice, cumin and black pepper, and are first browned in oil and then cooked in an eggplant sauce, prepared as follows. The eggplants are first roasted/grilled over the stove top gas burner until the skin blisters and blackens and the flesh is soft. The skin is removed and the flesh, which has become pleasingly smokey, is mashed up. Sliced onions from a large onion are sauteed until golden and soft, and then the mashed eggplant and a bit of tomato paste is added. The browned meatballs are simmered in this mixture.

I made some tabbouleh (from the same cookbook) to go along with it and served everything with some pita bread. This was a good recipe! - I might have to make it again soon!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meatballs XII - Indian meatballs/koftas

These meatballs are different from your regular meatballs not just because the ground meat has a lot of spices mixed in, but mostly because they are also stuffed with an aromatic mixture of green chillies, garlic, ginger, scallions, lemon juice and salt and pepper. The stuffed meatballs are then browned with yet more spices (cinnamon, cardamom...) and then cooked in a tomato-based sauce with yet more spices. It was really quite delicious, served over rice boiled with a bit of butter and salt to soak up the sauce. Here is a picture of it

The recipe is from the oldest cookbook I own. I bought it in 1992 or so, when I moved out of grad school dorm into an actual apartment where I'd have to cook my own meals instead of eating in the dining halls. I still remember that I bought this cookbook because my good friend Melissa owned it and had invited Dave and I over for dinner at her apartment, where she cooked the "Chicken with tomato sauce and butter" recipe. It was so good it made an impression on me! - and I bought the cookbook as soon as I had a kitchen of my own.

I'm back

Well, it's been a really long time since I posted anything. The job sort of got in the way, and then when I had free time it seemed more fun to spend the precious time actually really cooking and sewing than to blog about these activities. I have been actually sewing a lot, a whole summer's wardrobe really, because it has been unseasonably warm in San Francisco and I didn't have anything appropriate for warm weather! And I have been working my way through the meatballs theme, and taking pictures, so there is a lot of meatballs posts for me to catch up with!

So here we go, a meatballs extravaganza...

And here is a picture of Huxley, just because. Isn't he just the cutest, little wudgy doggy?!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Meatballs XI

Meatballs three days in a row!!! We had meatballs again last night. OK, maybe tonight I will make something else. I saw a most unusual meatball recipe using peaches and knew I had to make it. It was from this cookbook

The meat mixture was pretty standard, containing breadcrumbs, parsley, onions and garlic, but it was the sauce that absolutely transformed this dish! The browned meatballs were simmered in this sauce made from caramelized sugar, butter, browned pears, sherry vinegar, broth, cinnamon and toasted pine nuts. It was like a really, really amazing rendition of familiar sweet-and-sour flavors. I also made a standard Spanish side of spinach with pine nuts and raisins. The wine was an Albarino from Spain, which turned out to be a little too delicate to stand up to the robust flavors of the meatball sauce. Perhaps a heavier white, like a slightly oakey Viognier would have been a better match. I offered the remains of an apple gallete to Dave, but he said he didn't need dessert because the peaches in the sweet sauce was dessert-y enough!

Meatballs X

I finally cooked out of a cookbook I'd owned forever and never used.

Earlier, I had passed up on the meatball recipe in there before because the meatballs are poached, and I thought, boiled meatballs can't be any good! However, after meatballs IX, which were roasted in an oven, I became more open to new ways of cooking meatballs so I decided to give these ones a try. Besides, the meatballs are poached in broth, which can't be all that bad!

The beef mixture was flavored with parsley, cloves and nutmeg, and the meatballs were poached very slowly, the recipe instructing you to keep the broth simmering "at a tremble". Wow! They came out really light, almost like dumplings! They were served with horseradish sauce and some more of the cabbage from our previous meal the day before (meatballs IX - yes, we had meatballs two days in a row).

Meatballs IX

I acquired a new cookbook:

and when Dave asked, "Is it time for more meatballs?" I looked in my new cookbook and found a recipe for lamb meatballs. Unlike all the previous recipes where the meatballs are browned in oil in a pan on the stovetop, this recipe instructs you to cook the meatballs spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven. Mixed in with the ground lamb was sauteed chopped shallots, garlic & zucchini, as well as fresh chopped mint and (this is the ingredient that makes the dish) preserved lemons. I had made a big jar of lemons preserved in lemon juice and salt years ago, and it was one of the best thing I ever did. It keeps in the fridge forever and I use it in stews, salads, and recipes such as this one requiring unusual ingredients. Dave liked the meatballs, he said it had good meat flavor. I also made a garlic-yoghurt mix to go with the meatballs, and side dishes of brussel sprouts and sauteed cabbage. The wine was a Cline Small Berry Mouvedre that we had acquired on a recent trip to Sonoma county. It was delicious, but we decided to let the rest of the bottles age for a few more years to bring out the complexity in the wine.

Dessert was an apple galette, paired with a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Vineyard. I had a nice time sipping it while sight-reading Jerome Kern on the piano. I sight read much better with a glass of wine! It was a nice end to a long Memorial Day weekend.

Meatballs VIII

Here's a recipe that seemed unlikely, but turned out to be one of those things whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's from one of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks:

The recipe for "Pork balls with beans and tomatoes" instruct you to serve the dish with polenta, which seems a little strange, considering that there was already plenty of starch in the form of cranberry beans (I used navy beans instead) in the meatball stew. But, I do love polenta (perhaps because I love grits from having gone to school in the south) so I did as instructed. The other change I made was to add some beet greens I had been saving (the beetroots had been roasted and eaten a few days earlier) to the stew for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Wow! The combination of the meatball stew, the greens, and the polenta was hearty and satisfying. Dave said that the beet greens were the best part, because they had picked up all the flavors of the meatball stew.

The wine was made from Lagrein grapes from Jacuzzi in Sonoma. It was very purple and hearty, perfect for the meal.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cute top

This cute top (#129) from the February 2009 Burda magazine has been reviewed favorably by many people and I suddenly had a desire to wear it to dinner this last Saturday:

So at about noon the same Saturday I wanted to wear it, I started tracing the pattern and got the fabric cut out and partly sewn, but of course I did not make it in time for dinner. What was I thinking!

I finally finished it some time this week. I love it in black-and-white print I finally decided on, which had been in my stash for a long time. I don't think the actual fabric, a cotton blend with a slight stretch, was a great choice, being a little stiff. Dave likes the top too, mostly because he likes black-and-white abstract prints on me.

The pendant on the necklace I am wearing is a likeness of a yeast zygote. See, I'm not just a domestic scientist, I am a real scientist who did yeast genetics many years ago. When yeast mate, they form this distinctive structure called a zygote. Here's a picture of a real yeast zygote, and below it, a close-up of my necklace.

I like the top a lot, so much so that I went out and bought some nice silk in a silvery color to make the same top to wear for fancier occasions. I think the pattern would work better in a softer, drapier fabric. The cotton blend I used is a bit stiff, and I also interfaced the bands, which is a bad idea. The stiffness causes the top to sort of poof out under my bust, which is precisely where you don't want your clothes to poof out!

Meatballs VII

After all the exotic meatballs I'd been making, I decided to go back to basics and consulted this cookbook, the most-used of my half-dozen or so Spanish cuisine cookbooks:

There are no fewer than nine meatball recipes in this book alone. I chose the one that appeared in the "Tapas" section. You can't get more basic than that!

Meatballs in Almond, Garlic and Parsley Sauce:

As you can see, Huxley Beagle thinks that the meatballs smell delicious! He didn't get to have any, though. A friend of mine who is a fan of my cooking once said that it must be torture for Huxley Beagle to have to live with all the cooking smells and not get to eat the food! He did get to lick the sauce off our plates and he did such a good job he must have thought it was delicious!

Meatballs VI

Maghrebi Veal Meatballs with Spinach and Chickpeas is from another excellent cookbook that I have lately been sadly neglecting:

The dish is more like a stew containing meatballs cooked with spinach and chickpeas. I used a mixture of beef and pork instead of veal for the meatballs, which were flavored with a complex Tunisian spice mix containing paprika, coriander seed, caraway seed, anise, cumin, cloves, turmeric, black pepper and cayenne.

It was very delicious and went particularly well with the Pinot Noir from Mendocino County that some nice friends had left at our house (Thanks, Beth and Tim!) A great hearty one-pot meal to make on a cold weeknight; all you need to complete the meal is some nice wine to drink with it!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sheer tunic

I found this great sheer fabric with an interesting geometric print and decided to make this Burdastyle February 2009 top #110

Here's my version, with fabric-covered buttons. I left out the elastic gathering on the sleeve bottoms, although I am thinking maybe I should put them in afterall with drawstrings.

The dritz button kit for making fabric-covered buttons came from Grandma Laura's stash of cool sewing gizmos and buttons. It is very cool, this is the first time I've made self-fabric buttons.

I'm not sure I like the tunic all that much, but then I'm not sure I like colors other than black all that much... on me, that is. Dave isn't a huge fan of the tunic style. He says that it makes me look like a worker on a farm collective. I wore this to a show and dinner with nice wool pants. Maybe next time I'll try it with jeans for a more dressed-down version which might be more my style. I do still like the fabric, though, just to look at. Perhaps I should go back and buy some more for a different kind of top. I still like the idea of having a top with those colors and crazy swirling print.

Meatballs V

Looking for a more basic meatball recipe to try next, I made Moroccon Lamb Meatballs from the following cookbook

The meatballs were made from ground lamb and flavored with cumin and paprika. They were browned and then served with the following essential relishes, cucumber yoghurt salad and a salad of dressed mint leaves, all part of the same recipe. I also made a classical Spanish side dish of spinach sauteed with garlic, pine nuts and raisins.

The wine was an imported Spanish white from The Spanish Table, made from moscatel grapes grown in Malaga, from where one can spy the Moroccon shoreline directly across the Mediterranean Sea.

Huxley Beagle, Wine Critic Extraordinaire

Huxley beagle has many talents, one of which is his discerning palate for fine wine. He doesn't get to drink any of the wine that the humans have with their delicious dinners, but he gets to enjoy the bouquet and taste a bit of the wine from the wine cork.

When the humans open a bottle of wine, they toss him the cork, which he gleefully runs after and sniffs delicately. Then, if he approves, he will settle down to enjoy it by chewing off the end of the cork that was in contact with the wine.

He doesn't actually eat the cork. He just chews it up to enjoy the aroma and taste. Here he is spitting out the cork bits after he's savored them.

Often, you can tell by the remains how much he liked the wine.

This cork got almost totally chewed up, so he must have liked the wine a lot. The end that is still intact is the end that was farthest from the wine in the bottle, of course!

He also prefers red wines to white wines, and he likes fortified wines best of all. He also rejects old, dried up corks (only a cork from a freshly-opened bottle will do) so we know he is really in it for the wine. Also, he will not touch a TCA-contaminated cork from a corked bottle of wine. No bad wine for Huxley Beagle, no sir!

Meatballs IV (Bacalao Croquettes)

Here's a very different kind of meatball than the sort that usually comes to mind, but fish is a type of meat too, right?

These are salt cod croquettes, made from a recipe from the first Moro Cookbook.

Salt cod (bought from our neighborhood Italian deli, at a good price!) was soaked for 24 hours with several changes of water, then poached, shredded and mixed with boiled mashed potatoes and parsley and formed into quenelles that were then fried in olive oil. It was served with a green salad and home-made aioli and a Oregon Pinot Gris from Lazy River Vineyard.

Dave really liked them, said it reminded him of the fish cakes that Grandma Laura used to make when he was growing up.