Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recently Made

Looking through the pictures of food I've taken recently and the recipes I've been talking about, it occurred to me that I've been doing a good job of cooking and trying new things more frequently in the first few weeks of 2012.  Below are a few highlights and links to the new dishes I've made.  

The first two were technically put together on December 31, 2011, but the leftovers bridged the transition into the new year.  I wish I'd remembered to take pictures when everything was on display in pretty dishes, but we're stuck with the image of this awesome Asian Slaw in tupperware.

I loved all of the colors in this slaw, the crunch of the peanuts, and the abundance of edamame.  I'll eat just about anything with edamame.  The dressing was flavorful and coated the veggies lightly, and the leftovers retained the crunch from the first night we ate it.

For some reason, Gourmet Live's dairy-free chocolate layer cake recipe was especially enticing during the holiday season.  New Year's Eve was my excuse to make it, and though I didn't have quite enough corn syrup and the frosting was runnier than anticipated, the cake was incredibly moist, and the icing rich and chocolatey.  The "secret" dairy-free component is coconut milk, which I'd never worked with before, but it definitely gave everything a velvety texture, as seen below.

I'm blanking on where I first read about fromage fort, which is essentially a fancy-sounding way to use up the odds and ends occupying your cheese drawer, but it was a welcome alternative to cooking on a night that Davy wasn't feeling well and I didn't want to be in the kitchen.  

Based loosely on this method, I chopped the cheese, added some garlic and white wine, and let the food processor work its magic.  The fromage fort and slices of local bread, brushed with olive oil, all went under the broiler.

And no, this is not creme brulee. 

The cheese was warm and spreadable, just as I'd hoped, but the white wine flavor was a little bit sharper than I wanted.  I think next time I'd use less than 1/4 cup, or try sherry, which was suggested in different recipe.  I'm looking forward to making this again in the future as an alternative to using the cheese in sandwiches or eggs.  It's nice enough to serve to guests, and no one would ever know that it's made of neglected cheese pieces.

My original plan for the fromage fort dinner was pan-fried fish, and Davy and I were both glad that we didn't abandon it completely.  On the following evening, we assembled two breaded flounder filets using flour, egg, and panko, for a very quick meal.  This is especially good if the fish is extra fresh, and ours certainly tasted like it was - we didn't even need tartar sauce.

I also bought fresh fish, halibut this time, for a braised dish one of my friends  has been raving about.  I neglected to take pictures because I was so excited about how well it turned out, but I will say that it's pleasing both to the palate and the eyes.  We served it over whole wheat cous cous, but I'd love to try it over rice or pasta.  Using fresh tomatoes and basil made such a difference, and I'm guessing that it would have turned out even better when those ingredients are in season.  

My final offering is Bon Appetit's "Special Sunday Roast Chicken." It seemed like the perfect meal for a lazy Sunday, and its flavors were luxurious and healthy at the same time.  Instead of mustard greens, which weren't available at Ellwood Thompson's on Sunday, I purchased a large bunch of local chard, which held up nicely to the roasted root vegetables and chicken.  The picture below was an afterthought (literally taken after I'd already plated our food), but I think it represents the dish well.  It's served family style, and is intended to be nourishing and comforting.  Despite the fact that it looks like Davy and I ate nearly a whole chicken, that's not the case.  A lot of it was reserved because I knew it wouldn't fit on the platter.  

Here's to continuing to branch out and eat well in 2012! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weak Brunch at Stronghill

Brunch "appetizers" are one of my very favorite things to order at a restaurant.  They're usually ready quickly, and can stave off a worsening hangover or just rescue you from overeating and feeling sick afterwards.  They can also solve the sweet/savory debate I tend to go through every time I'm getting ready to order brunch.  

When I read that Stronghill has Monkey Bread on the menu, I couldn't wait to try it.  I'd experienced Monkey Bread as a brunch starter a few years ago, on a cold Saturday in Philadephia, and have been seeking it out ever since.  I was so intent on having it that I dragged Davy and a few friends with me to the restaurant on Sunday afternoon.  

Stronghill has high ceilings, an impressive chandelier, and a welcoming atmosphere.  Unfortunately, most of its positive attributes end there.  Our server was unevenly attentive.  She took awhile to take our order, didn't mention the specials and forgot a few minor things.  She refilled coffee regularly, but didn't provide a spoon with my tea, and didn't check our water.  The water for my tea wasn't very hot, even though it arrived in a cute pot settled into the mug underneath.

The Monkey Bread was a disappointment.  It wasn't very warm, and while it did have a healthy amount of cinnamon flavor, the texture was on the crumbly side; the balls of dough really would have benefited from a glaze. 

My main dish was an omelet with goat cheese, onions, and peppers.  I took a peek inside and couldn't detect any vegetation aside from a sprinkling of minced, sauteed onions.  There was plenty of goat cheese, and as much as I love cheese, the omelet needed more of a balance between its vegetables and dairy.  

Unfortunately I won't be returning to Stronghill for brunch anytime soon, and while I'll have to eat at venues without Monkey Bread, I'd rather just make it myself and get it exactly right.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NYC Highlights

Last weekend I took a trip to NYC for a good friend's bachelorette party.  Aside from being tons of fun, she and her fiance have a deep appreciation for food, and I always eat well with them.  

The night before the festivities officially began, we ate pho and visited Ayza, a wine and chocolate bar.  Below is the spread of chocolates our table ordered, and I sampled all except the Lovebug (in the bottom left corner) because it's white chocolate with a key lime filling.  My favorite, without question, was the "King Tut."  The two pieces on our board are the only two in wrappers, and I'm happy the picture captured the shape of the chocolate.  The  "King Tuts" were filled with gianduja, the glorious combination of chocolate and hazelnut.

Our activities for the bachelorette party included a stop at Eataly, which was overwhelming in the most wonderful way.  Fortunately, after a bit of browsing, we scored a table in the middle of the establishment and selected a variety of food to nibble on while sipping some wine.  Fresh mozzarella, olives, a variety of cheeses and meats, razor clams, roasted calamari, and an endless supply of bread were almost too much for us to handle, but we left feeling sated and very happy.

We experienced our fair share of alcoholic indulgence, of course, and stopped at the scandalous Museum of Sex to try a cocktail from OralFix, the Aphrodisiac Bar in the museum's dungeon-like basement.  Most of us tried the "Hot Sex in the City," pictured below, which was made with "X-rated liqueur," Combier, lime juice, and jalapeno-infused vodka.  The drink was pleasantly tart and sweet, with the appropriate amount of spiciness.

I can't speak to the museum itself, because we didn't have the chance to tour it, but if you're in need of a treat, cocktail, or an edible oral fix, any of these venues are worth a try.