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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Time flies

Where does the time go?!
A couple months have slid by, and I'm simply mortified by how easily I slipped into a vortex of work and regular old everyday life that did not include telling you about the things I am cooking, and eating!

So, here's a little catching up...

A family wedding in LA. The day after, a bunch of us went out for a delicious dinner in Thai Town at a completely nondescript restaurant (in fact I can't even remember what it was called). This confirmed how much I love Thai food and that the search continues for a great Thai place to call our own here in San Francisco. We were regulars at our favorite in Chicago, Opart Thai House, and have not really discovered an SF spot to put 'on the circuit' yet.

April included a continuation of the crazed work schedule that had enveloped me since March, but it was also about two key spring vegetables that make me very happy:
asparagus and artichokes.
I typically rotate through multiple preparations of asparagus...Roasted Asparagus, Asparagus Risotto (with, and without shrimp) and Blanched Asparagus Salad.
The roasted asparagus is the real keeper here. (I know -- I'm telling you this now that asparagus season is pretty much over in much of the land.) Pan roasted in a super-hot oven, then tossed with minced shallots towards the end and then drizzled with a squirt of fresh lemon juice--Meyer Lemon if you're lucky like me and have friends with Meyer Lemon trees in their back yards--and, if you want to get fancy... toasted sesame seeds. One taste and you'll never boil or steam asparagus again. Keep it in mind for next year. (Recipe below.)

And, speaking of roasting, my new favorite method for preparing artichokes? You guessed it.
Roasting! First, a quick boil, then, sear them in olive oil, along with the lemons boiled alongside, on the stove, and finally into a very hot oven to finish. Incredibly delicious.

Easter weekend included a wacky, late-in-the-game decision to make ourselves an Indian feast. Not sure exactly what prompted this, but I seem to recall some discussion and reminiscing about some wonderful friends who gave us what is an excellent guide when cooking Indian food -- Curried Favors -- an incredible cookbook which focuses on the food of southern India. So that Sunday afternoon, we threw ourselves into making the following:
Spicy Dhal with Tomatoes, a dry, golden curry of Cauliflower, Potatoes and Peas, another dry curry of Stir-Fried Shrimp, and a Raita. The meal was incredible...the shrimp were a snap to make, the cauliflower-potato combination was a perfect balance of spice and vegetables, and well... I've never met a dhal I didn't love.

Needless to say, we ate Indian food leftovers for roughly a week. Um...let me rephrase. Steve ate Indian food leftovers for a week, and I went to New York.

A bit of entertaining -- including a paella for Steve's cousin and her husband. Everyone needs to know how totally excellent this dish is for having people over! It can be anything you want, really...any combination of shellfish, chicken, chorizo (or not) and it always seems to turn out beautifully. I never use the same recipe twice, bouncing between the Food Network and Epicurious websites. This last time, we used clams, chicken and shrimp and the paella (thank you Tyler Florence) was gorgeous. Serving paella also gives you a wonderful reason to bring out the Spanish wines. In the past four or five years, we have really grown to love Spanish wines, in particular the wines of Ribera del Duero.
End of May included a short visit to Chicago. The magnificent new modern art wing at the Art Institute is worth the trip alone, but in my case, there were also plenty of friends and family to see. We grilled turkey burgers one evening with my extended family (those turkey burgers are worth another post devoted just to them!). I also had an incredible breakfast with dear friends at a new-ish restaurant in Bucktown called The Bristol which included the most delicious brunch concoction using smoked salmon -- Salmon Soldiers. Toasted, buttery sticks of bread, wrapped with smoked salmon sitting alongside a perfectly poached egg, some frisee, and a lovely bearnaise-like sauce, not to mention the incredible Egg with Biscuits and Gravy that followed. Oh my! If you are in Chicago any time soon, I urge you to check it out.

That's a quick rundown of the past couple months. In addition to all of the above, there have been banana breads baked (both regular and chocolate!), an attempt to re-create the legendary Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken (success!!!) herbs grown in pots (they don't call me Mrs. Blackthumb for nothing!), the purchase of one, long-awaited and dreamed about dutch oven (Le Creuset, and it is dreamy...), Bolognese prepared in said Le Creuset (yum) and, of course, more than a few visits to Trader Joe's (? you'll have to wait and see), there's more to come.

Be back again soon...but in the meantime, if you come across any asparagus...

Roasted Asparagus
(adapted from an ancient Gourmet magazine, from the late 70s? early 80s?)
serves 4

12-16 stalks of asparagus, trimmed and bottoms peeled
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon of finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon of lightly toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper in a baking dish or shallow oven-proof pan.

Roast for approximately eight to ten minutes -- depending on the thickness of the stalks you may need to adjust roasting time more or less.

While asparagus is roasting, toast sesame seeds in a dry, small skillet over medium flame. Keep on eye on the little fellas -- they burn fast.

Sprinkle asparagus with minced shallot and toss well before returning to oven for another several minutes, until shallots soften.

Remove from oven, douse with squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of sesame seeds and serve.

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