Saturday, May 29, 2010

Long, long ago at the Roses

It had been a hairy week at work.  I'm not sure why, other than I was recreating the feeling of being a grunt associate in private practice, staying late to finish a brilliant (or not-so-brilliant-but-maybe-with-another-hour-of-work-it-will-become-brilliant) brief, and racking up the billable hours.   It was, in my own twisted, sadomasochistic sort of way, a fantasy.

So there I was, Wednesday night, getting home late, long after my local pho shop closed, and my only options were to scrounge up something from the fridge or go to bed and start over in the morning.  Oh my!  What's this?  Lucky me!  Two thick pork chops, collard greens, fennel, and pancetta.  I'm not big on the pig, but I'm even less big on going to bed hungry, especially when I've been working hard.

"How would you like your pork chops prepared?" I asked Mr. Rose.

"I dunno.  I don't really like pork chops.  How would you recommend they be prepared?" he responded.

"I dunno.  I'm not really into pork chops either." I admitted.

"Well where did these come from?" he asked.

"The pork fairy," I replied, "the marvelous wonderful, pork fairy."

I opened my spice cabinet and found my fairy dust.

Five minutes later, I had two 10 oz pork chops cut about an inch thick, each wearing a rub of sweet paprika, powdered onion, garlic, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper and sugar.  There's something infinitely pleasing about a thick cut of meat dressed in a speckled coat of spices.

Excuse me while I step outside to preheat the grill and open a bottle of wine.

At 10:30 on a Wednesday night, I'm not a very good conversationalist until I'm on my second glass of wine -- it's an elixir of good conversation, a potion to lubricate the brain and the tongue.  Luckily, Mr. Rose had good dinner company as the pork chops took 18 minutes on the grill (ample time for the collard greens to have their ribs removed and to be sauteed with minced garlic, pancetta, and fennel, and most importantly, to sip indelicately on a juicy glass of wine).

We went to bed with full stomachs and happy hearts and slept happily ever after the alarm went off.

*the end*

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Faster than lightning

They say nothing worth doing is ever easy.  This might be why I perceive the making of a kale chip as difficult.  It seems like it would be so easy, to rip up some kale, toss it in olive oil, and bake it.  But somehow, the baking of kale into a perfect chip feels like demanding work.  It requires painstaking effort to dry the kale leaves after you've washed them, so they crisp up evenly.  Then the act of gingerly flipping them over halfway through the bake.  My little child-like fingers have all the strength and dexterity in the world, trained as a child-prodigy concert pianist, capable of knitting for hours on end, and well-practiced at unfurling perfect little gnocchi for a dinner for 10.  But I'll be damned if they didn't cramp up as I flipped three trays worth kale chips over one by one with a pair of chopsticks.

The results were heavenly.  Crispy, earthy, and slightly salty, these light morsels melted in my mouth in mere seconds.  Worth doing?  Absolutely.  Easy?  Not as easy as it looks.  And in a flash, the kale chips were gone.

You guessed it.  They disappeared before I could charge a camera battery.

Monday, May 17, 2010

No foodtography yet again.

Saturday afternoon, I went to three places in search of lamb, including my usual butcher, and could not find the right cut of lamb for the popsicles.  Where did I end up finding them?  Where else?  Whole Foods.  I am both saddened and relieved that there is not a Whole Foods that is convenient for me to get to.  On the one hand, they almost always have what I need.  On the other, there's a hefty price tag attached to what I need.  No matter.  After scouring all of North Denver in a fruitless search for racks of lamb, I finally marched out of the Belmar WF triumphant, with a lovely package of lamb tucked under my arm.

No challenge is quite complete without incredible feats of strength, so on Sunday morning, I hopped on my bike and rode 40 miles, from the Platte River at elevation 5280 ft to the top of Lookout Mountain at elevation 7064 ft, and back.  I sped down the back side of Lookout Mountain, down Hwy 40 at 35 mph, blinking only once.  And then I came home to french the rack of lamb, cut it into "popsicles" and marinate it in wine and mustard, all while still wearing my bike shorts. 

Then came time to blanch the spinach and mince it up for the noodles.  I donned my trusty red apron, and made a tidy little mess of it (after a shower).  From scratch, sans recette.  The Tangoista (or tangoera?) and Four-sides showed up around then.  Perfect timing because I was getting thirsty for wine.  N.B. There is no wine glass on the butcher block.  Not good.

I got to making the sauce, and as it turns out, I wasn't in love with Vij's sauce.  So I went back to my spice cabinet and doubled down on the fennugreek, added some indiscriminate amount of garlic and cayenne, an extra dash of turmeric, and an extra half a lemon.  I found Vij's lamb recipe in need of more than a little embellishment.  But his dessert recipe was spot on: Jasmine basmati cardamom rice pudding.  Simple and aromatic and delicious.  It was a good way to end the evening.

My foodtographer was having battery problems with her camera, but Mr. Rose did come to the rescue when I was gifted with this bad-ass mutha of an apron.

No food shots or biking shots to show for my efforts, but note the jaunty pose and glass of wine in the foreground.  It's obvious that a good time was had by all.  Especially me. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spring sprung

When the rain, sleet and snow hit town, then lingered, this week, I forgot the lovely spring-inspired foods I'd been daydreaming about and reverted back to belly-filling wintery nibbles.  I got a hankering for lamb.  Lamb curry.  On thick, chewy noodles.  And who would be the perfect dinner company for such a meal?  Tangoista Darcy and Four-sides Reynolds, for sure.  That would be delightful!

As with any highly-anticipated dinner party, I went through multiple iterations of the meal.  The weather, at the time of the invitation, was cold and dreary, calling for stewy comfort food.  Picture this: a long-stewed lamb curry, with generous hunks of lamb, falling off the fork, served on a bed of some kind of thick noodle, so thick it's a dumpling, maybe spaetzle or gnocchi, perfect for receiving the rich, tasty curry sauce.

Now check the weather report.  It'll be sunny and spring-like the day of the dinner.  I've been anticipating this meal for several days, but the thought of eating a wintery stew on a warm spring evening seemed like a betrayal of the seedlings in the vegetable garden that we'd so lovingly protected from the snow.  There's no turning back.  Spring has sprung.  Time to revamp the menu.

Spring begs for lightness and simplicity.  Neither of these qualities would be found in a heavy lamb curry, with no fewer than 20 ingredients, and gnocchi, no matter how light and fluffy it is (and I do make an inexplicably light and fluffy gnocchi, if I do say so myself).  How can I make good on my promise of lamb curry without inviting winter to return for another couple of weeks?  Vij's in Vancouver offers an elegant lamb popsicle that could get me there.  Fortunately, I happen to have Vij's cookbook.  I also happen to find making pasta to be as therapeutic as making gnocchi, but less messy.  So spinach garlic linguine will be the way to go for this meal.

And how will this meal end?  I had originally planned on chai bread pudding with cinnamon creme anglaise for dessert.  There's nothing quite like a warm bread pudding, except when it's warm out.  Then something chilled might be nicer, like a rice pudding...

This dinner party happens tomorrow.  Anything can happen between now and then.  I'm going grocery shopping.  (To be continued...)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Succumbing to peer pressure

At the behest of my doppelganger (who alternately calls me "Twin" and "Friend," as in "Hello, Twin" and "Hello, Friend"), I have decided to give the blogging a real go.

This blog has been hanging by a thread for 4 years now.  And since my semi-biographical book smells more and more like an Amy Tan novel before I get to writing the second page, I figure my food blog gets to live as well.  It's not that original, but it's affordable.

I missed an opportunity to blog about the cathartic process of making saffron pasta and seafood bouillabaisse this weekend, a mealinspired by a trip to the Denver Aquarium ("You look yummy," said I to the fishes), but not to worry.  There's more where that came from.

Oh yes, doppelganger. You asked for it.