Monday, March 28, 2005

Easter Dinner

I am still recovering from the feast. I love it when my roommate gets more involved in food preparation. However, this means that the amount of food we prepare increases exponentially.

Here's what we had for Easter Dinner yesterday:

- ham. Plain ol' grocery store ham (6.3 pounds!) baked about 2 hours and basted with honey and mustard. Kinda salty, but that's all that seems to be available these days. I'll be making sandwiches (and omlettes, maybe?) with it all week. That's my favorite thing about big hunks of meat: the leftovers.

- green bean casserole. The standard: canned beans, mushroom soup, onions-in-a-can. That really IS all of the ingredients! I remember not liking this as a child, but it was good yesterday. Have my tastebuds matured or atrophied? Laura was in charge of this (Ben helped). I'm glad she insisted on it.

- asparagus. Nice fat spears this time. I have figured out the secret to good asparagus. Blanch in salted boiling water 90 seconds (less the skinnier the stalks get). Put immediately in ice water until cool. Reheat over low heat with a bit of butter or garlic-infused oil. Salt. EAT. They end up nicely green, and cooked but still toothsomely crunchy.

- bread. Thyme-foccacia from the store.

- deviled eggs. No special recipe: mustard, mayo, cayenne, a bit of salt. However, I have also figured out the secret to good hardboiled eggs. Cover with water, bring to a boil, take off heat and cover for 16 min. Cool immediately in cold water. Much less fiddly than trying to maintain a consistant simmer, and no chance at all of greenish overcooked yolks. These eggs are cooked, but slightly soft and very creamy. I can't remember where I got this method, but it's the one I'll use forever.

And for dessert:

- cherry Jell-o w/ fruit cocktail and Cool-Whip.

This is a VERY traditional Easter (or grandma-type) dinner. It was awfully satisfying, though. Sometimes it's nice to be sumptuous without being fancy-schmancy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cheese and wine.

Inspired by a recent Lyonnaise foodblog at, I've been thinking a lot about cheese lately. MMMMMMMMM...cheese. Is there anything better? I used to think chocolate was better, but now I think not.

Here's my reasoning: even when you add things (milk, flavorings, fruit, etc.) to chocolate, it retains it's essential "chocolate-ness". Most people that like chocolate can handle it in most of it's forms, although they might prefer one to another. Maybe they don't like coconut, so they don't eat a Mounds bar - but their objection is to the coconut, not the chocolate itself.

Cheese, on the other hand, just has a much wider range of flavor, texture, etc. And therefore it is perfectly possible for someone to love one cheese and gag at the thought of another. Do you see the difference?

Plus, fermentation is just sooo cool.

What inspired me most about this foodblog written by the lady from Lyon was her cheese tasting plate. In France (and in higher brow establishments elsewhere), the cheese course is "dessert". She had close to 9 different cheeses arrayed on the plate (and such a pretty picture they made, too). I want a cheese-tasting plate like that! Perhaps 9 is a large number, but I would love to replace sweet desserts (which I rarely eat for dessert, but snarf down any time of day) with a pretty cheese plate. YUM.

Most hi-falutin' folks have wine with cheese. There are certain wines that go with certain cheeses, etc. I always despaired of trying much of this at home. I was not about to buy both multiple cheeses AND multiple wines, only to drink half of each bottle. And I had no idea how to put together a decent tasting.

Thankfully, the folks at have taken care of this for me. They sell cheese assortments (some under $20, some insanely expensive) of about 3-4 cheeses that go with a particular wine. SCORE! I am going to order the Riesling selection at some point - it was quite reasonably priced. Furthermore, Laura and I have found a great (fairly cheap) Riesling that we both really enjoy, and I'd love to have a "get happy and eat cheese" evening sometime in the near future.

I am so hungry right now, thinking of the hunk of Manchego I have sitting in the fridge at home. Is it wrong to make a meal of only cheese? If so, I don't want to be right...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Tuna Sandwiches w/o Mayo

Being that it's spring, and that I'm trying to cut down on gratuitous fat - that is, fat that is not part of an amazing cheese or absolutely necessary to a dish - I was happy to find this recipe in Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". I actually added some fat to it, because the tuna seemed a bit dry to me. But it was certainly less that I would have used if I had made my traditional (very mayo heavy) tuna salad sandwich. This also has a Mexican flavor, which I like.

Tuna W/O Mayo

Tuna Salad
2 6 oz. cans albacore tuna in water (you can use regular tuna, but it won't be near as good)
3 scallions, minced
1/2 c. minced cilantro leaves
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper
a BIT (1 T.?) of olive oil

other sandwich fillings

Mix the salad ingredients together. Make sandwiches, or use wheat tortillas to make wraps.

This is really tasty, especially if you like tuna (which I do), and quite light.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Cook's Garden

It's been awhile since I've written here. Not that I haven't been cooking - I've been cooking a fair amount, but nothing worth sharing recently. Also, the majority of my planning energy has been focused on the garden. I finally got to pick out my little piece of ground last weekend. They gave me a sheet of graph paper...I'm thinking I'll need about six more sheets before I get the layout that I want. Definitely included in the garden: radishes, beets, carrots, peas, tomatos, nasturtiums (they are flowers w/ edible blooms and leaves, and they repel insects; these are a must for the organic garden). Possibles (I can't include them all, I don't think): eggplants, sweet peppers, cucumbers. I'll plant lettuces/greens as well, but since I do have some room at home and they did so well in boxes last year, I think I'll go with containers again this year too. It will be more convenient, when making a salad, to have the greens right outside the door.

I have, at least, worked out a schedule for planting. The garden will not be ready until early April, so that's when I'll start with the radishes. And maybe some salad greens close to home. I found out last Saturday that the garden's got SPRINKLERS, and they'll water twice a day. Oh my gosh. The actual gardening part of this might be easier than I thought. No need to water every single day. It feels like cheating, but I'm not complaining much.

One added challenge in planning is that I'm trying to plant companion herbs along with the vegetables as much as possible. For instance, carrots go with chives; basil goes with tomatos; etc. Apparently these herbs not only repel pests, but can make the vegetables grow better and tastier. Additionally, there are plants that DON'T like each other (such as cucumbers and sage). What's particularly interesting about these companion plants is that a lot of times, the companion herb is one you would actually use in cooking/eating the vegetable (esp. tomatos and basil). I don't know how this developed (and some resources seem contradictory), but it's kind of cool. Though a real PITA when it comes to planning.