Monday, August 31, 2009

Corn, Tomatoes, Potatoes and Bacon

Lately, the recipes I've found appealing for dinner stray from the traditional protein/veggie/veggie or starch formula I picked up growing up. We always had three things on the plate, a meat -- most frequently chicken, but seafood, beef, or pork sometimes too -- a starch, Mom and I preferred potatoes or macaroni & cheese (Kraft, please!), but sometimes we had rice to appease my Dad and sister -- and a green vegetable, beans or peas in the colder months, salad in the summers. This makes it sound overly simple, and reduced, not nearly as appetizing as it was, but we ate well and healthfully.

One of my favorite dinners, I'm realizing now, was more of a one (ok, 2) pot meal, like the ones I've been drawn to lately. It's my Mom's version of Chili Mac, and it's still a homey favorite. It's basically ground beef browned with onions, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Throw in a can of tomatoes (I always preferred crushed, but sometimes they were chunkier), season, serve over noodles (we like tricolored spirals and elbows), and coat with a healthy layer of shredded cheese. Yum.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, tonight I had plans for a simple recipe I found on Epicurious called "Corn and Potatoes with Heirloom Tomatoes." We had lots of corn and tomatoes (though not heirlooms) from my abandoned inclination to make Smitten Kitchen's corn and tomato pie, and after reading the blurb,
This recipe alone is reason enough to grab your tote bag and head to the farmers market. Blackberry Farm dresses up the dish with parmesan foam and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar, but the ingredients stand on their own beautifully. Slip a fried egg on top, and you have an easy summer supper.

I started cooking.

First, brown some chopped bacon.

Pull out the bacon with a slotted spoon, then sautee a minced shallot in the fat.

Add a little white wine, then some water and the chopped Yukon Golds. Cook down for a bit, and while you're waiting, blend 1 of your 4 cups fresh corn with a bit of water, then strain out the solids and keep the milk. Add the corn and some more water, a bunch of sweet smoky paprika, fresh thyme, and salt (at just about every stage, you add a bit more salt).

Cook down till the liquid's nearly gone, then pull off the heat and add the tomatoes, the corn milk, and salt and pepper.

Top with the crumbled bacon, and add a sunny side egg to the top, if you're so inclined. We were, and the yolk made this homey meal luxurious. If I'd thought to add the parmesan and balsamic, it'd have been even more so, but it was delicious as you see it -- especially once I added some Sriracha.

I hope I revisit this recipe. It seems infinitely modifiable, and like the sort I'll be able to internalize quickly enough and free myself from constant recipe consultation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Homemade Soup

Why have I spent so much time not reading Orangette?

Unlike a lot of the (tiny number) of people who read this blog, I wasn't with Molly Wizenberg from the beginning. I'd heard of her Orangette, but I never read her properly till she appeared on my desk in hardback form, A Homemade Life. Her book is thoughtful and spare, sprinkled with recipes and stories about what makes the dishes special. It's beguiling, really, and after I devoured it, I, of course, checked out Orangette. Just once. And then I left.

I'm not exactly sure why, but I revisited it last week and was smitten anew. And tonight, in a long overdue move, I made one of her recipes. Of all things, in this season of sweet Maryland corn and tomatoes, stone fruits and all things fresh and good, I made her broccoli soup with lemon-chive cream. It was simple, fresh and delicious, perfect for Sunday dinner after a weekend of excessive celebration (another lovely wedding, of course! Cam's sister wed her love in a brief, giggly ceremony, followed by food and dancing.). I joked to Cam that it could also be called onions five ways -- you'll need leeks, onion, spring onions, chives, and garlic for this soup. And, having made it, I wouldn't leave any of them out.

Never fear, tomorrow night's dinner's already planned, to take advantage of said corn and tomatoes: A sort of corn/potato/tomato hash, cooked in bacon fat, topped with crumbled bacon and a fried egg. Mmmmm.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quit Hasslin' Me, Pip

See that little girl down there, the one who's complaining about her sedentary lifestyle and trying to goad me into a run?

She's a bit of a pip.

She's also a liar! I have been running. I didn't while we were in California, but in the month since we returned, I've gotten back on the 'mill. It never fails to amaze me how much easier it is to build up my (modest, but important to me) mileage once I've established a foundation. Before we left, I was running 3+ miles 2-3 times a week. After almost four weeks off (2 weeks on vacation, followed by two bouts of sickness in quick succession), I could struggle through two and a half miles. But within 2 weeks, I'm now back up to 3+. It feels amazing!

Anyway, my little Nike+ girl (did I ever give her a name? How about Pip? Ok. Pip.) has been getting some bad information. Somewhere in California, I lost the receiver that my Nike+ transmitter talks to. It plugs into the bottom of my Nano, so it seems that'd be a logical place to keep it, but it drains the battery so I packed them separately (and used neither). Now I can't find it. I'm lucky, because my transmitter will also talk to my iPhone, but I don't want to run with the phone, and I have a spotty record of remembering to start the program when I'm on the treadmill. So Pip's a liar, I have been running.

Incidentally, it doesn't seem I can buy a new receiver, only a receiver and a transmitter, or just a transmitter. But not a receiver alone. What?

A weird thought to wrap up this ramble: Some mornings I work out before work, and use the toiletries (shampoo/conditioner/body wash/lotion) provided by my swanky gym. Then all day long, I feel like someone else is standing near me, just out of eyesight, because I don't smell like myself. It's bizarre.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Welcome To The Family, Robot!

Hello, lover! Or, more accurately, hello birthday gift from Cam. He's too much, I swear. This thing is freaking gorgeous. World, meet Robot (the "t" is silent), short for Robot Culinaire. Combined with this little beauty...

...We are in business! Maybe literally. But that's a story for another time. This is the story of our first dinner with Robot. Shrimp Cakes with Chili-Lime Cream Sauce, from Bon Appetit. I think it's supposed to be a first course, or appetizer, but did that stop us? Of course not. So, while Cam peeled and cleaned the shrimp (exceptionally grody ones - half of them had orange stuff lining their, um, tracks - roe? We'd never seen that before.), I mise'd the place.
Green onions and an egg, some butter, of course.

White wine, chopped ginger and shallots, and lime juice form the base for the sauce.

Those formerly icky shrimp.

The cakes! 12, as the recipe promised. Very simple, really - just 16 large shrimp, a green onion, some dijon mustard and Sriracha, salt, pepper and panko. We omitted the cilantro - I have the tastes-like-soap issue with it from time to time. Robot 'em up, form cakes, roll in more panko, and refrigerate for a bit to firm them up.

If you looked at the recipe, you may notice two more ingredients we "omitted." An egg, and some lemon juice. Oops!

Fry 'em up in peanut oil. I tried not to watch. One of Cam's favorite things to torture me with is the Fry Daddy. We do NOT have one, and I maintain we don't ever need one - fried food should rarely be consumed, and you should have to leave the house for it. Anyway...

Plated with the sauce, which I would've eaten over dirty socks, it's that good. Started with the above foundation, then made ridiculous with butter, cream, and about two tablespoons of Sriracha. I die!

So, yeah. Easy recipe, and delicious, even without the egg and lemon juice. My only real critique is that the cakes were a little dense, but I'm sure that's all about me forgetting the egg. I'd make them again, and serve them to anyone. You, if you're lucky.