Posted by: Erin | June 20, 2010

Grilled Lamb and Berry Salad with Goat Cheese

I do so hate being disappointed by a meal that looks like such a good idea.

I intended to make lamb burgers, similar to the recipe I saw on the Primal Grill, and I was going to make a salad to go with it, using some mixed greens I got at the Copley farmers’ market on Friday. Instead, I mixed about a teaspoon each of minced garlic, oregano, sea salt, pepper, and thyme into the ground lamb and made three burgers, which I grilled on my little Foreman Grill. I cut one up, and added it to the salad greens once it had cooled off, and threw in raspberries and strawberries. I topped it off with some goat cheese, and *poof* – dinner.

I thought about adding some dried cranberries and pecans, but I thought the lamb made the pecans somehow unnecessary. I also had some blackberries I’d intended to use, but they seem to have gotten moldy, much to my great dismay.

The salad wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I’d hoped. I’m not sure what was missing. Maybe I should have added some raspberry vinaigrette instead of (or in addition to) the goat cheese. I’ve got two more lamb burgers left, so perhaps I’ll try another combination this week.

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Posted by: Erin | June 2, 2010

Postal Chocolate

Yesterday, I got a nice little surprise in my mailbox. A Canadian buddy of mine sent me something, and he decided to throw in some chocolate (always welcome in my house). He sent me a bar of Beschle chocolate. They are, apparently, Swiss. I’ve never heard of them, or had their chocolate before, so I was intrigued. (And after looking through their website, there are a number of flavors that look good – I’m particularly curious about the pistachio and sea salt combo, and the rosemary/thyme/lemon one.)

The bar he sent me is their Grand Cru Arriba aux Oranges bar – it’s orange and (supposedly) hazelnut flavored. It’s 72% dark chocolate from Ecuador. Normally, I don’t like orange-flavored chocolate (but oranges covered in chocolate, sure). This one kind of works, though. The orange is much more subtle than some of the other kinds I’ve tried, and it adds a brightness to the chocolate without overpowering it – it is very much still chocolate, not a fight between flavors. I’m not sure why the packaging seems to think there’s hazelnut in there – if there is, I can’t taste any of it.

I suppose I must now revise my views on orange-flavored chocolates. An exception to every rule, I suppose. (Thanks, Derek!)

Posted by: Erin | March 18, 2010

Pre-Spring Indoor Plant Cleaning

I’ve been meaning to post forever, but as usual, I got sidetracked. I discovered a disgusting thing growing under one of my lemon-lime dracenas, on the bottom of the pot, a few weeks ago. It was nasty. It must have been mold of some variety, probably caused by the fact that I’ve had small clear plastic plates under most of my houseplants, to keep them from dripping on the rug/fridge/counter/floor. I cleaned that up and thought that maybe if there was some air circulating under the pots, it would prevent that from happening again. So the wrought-iron-looking plant stands I bought for my kitchen are now living in my living room. (The crotons I had in the kitchen died a while ago, and I never found anything I liked to replace them, so I wasn’t using the plant stands anyway.) I don’t love them there, especially since there is a bit of detailing on the ceramic pots the dracenas are living in, but they don’t look too bad. (The ceramic pots in the kitchen are solid, so the plant stands look better with them.)

It occurred to me that I should also check under the other plants, so this weekend, during a probably-storm-related power outage, I cleaned under the rest. I found some of the same mold-like stuff under the Christmas cacti, and the peace lily. The aloe, zebra plant, and pothos seemed fine. But as a precautionary measure, I cleaned all of the bases of the pots, and I used some of the “vase filler” (black/gray stones) I bought from Target forever ago to prop up the pots on their plastic saucers, sort of like makeshift pot feet. Hopefully that will work, and allow enough air to circulate under the plants so the gross off-white moldy stuff won’t come back, because seriously, that stuff looked disgusting, and it was slimy when I wiped it off. Ick.

On a happier note, I noticed something exciting on my way out the door today. We’ve had crazy rain last weekend – three days, non-stop. I have six pots out on the porch with dirt in them, covered in garbage bags. (I’ve learned my lesson about leaving dirt outside uncovered over the winter – it won’t ever dry out, a total waste of dirt.) I also left out the infamous day lily that rose from the dead last year. This year, I did make an effort to cut it down before the winter hit, but with all the rain we’ve had, I was beginning to wonder if perhaps the bulb had drowned and/or rotted. I noticed crocuses blooming yesterday (awesome!), and it got me thinking about the lily. Well, this morning, I looked outside, and low and behold, there are little green things poking out of the soil! Very exciting. I’m thinking I need more practically-no-maintenance stuff like that that’ll just come up out of the ground on their own every year. I had a grand time going through the latest Burpee catalog a few weeks ago (I seriously want to grow EVERYTHING). I need to narrow down my choices to a more reasonable and rational list, but perhaps I’ll throw some day lilies in there, too, since they seem to like me and not require much attention.

Other random update stuff I forgot to mention:
The small peace lily finally kicked the bucket a month or so ago. The big one is fine, but the small one just kind of gave up on life. Oh, and all of the Christmas cacti bloomed in January-ish, which was nice to see. Only a few flowers on each, but it’s nice to know that they’re all still alive and capable of blooming. Also, two of the three dracenas in my bedroom died, much like the tall spiky dracena I had originally did last year. The one left looks fine, though, so I took out the dead ones and centered the living one in the pot. So far, it seems fine there.

Posted by: Erin | February 5, 2010

Winter Wine Round-Up

Over the holidays, I had some fairly good luck with wine. On a visit to the local wine place, I stumbled across a moscato I had a year or so ago at Finale. It’s called Nivole, by Michele Chiarlo. I was very excited about this. I didn’t recall the exact taste, but I remember liking it quite a lot. I bought a bottle to bring back to Boston with me, planning to save it for New Year’s. (It’s not super expensive, but it’s not a cheap wine either – I think I paid about $13 for it – so I didn’t want to just drink it without some sense of occasion.) The wine was good, though not as spectacular as I remembered it. I would buy it again, though, if I could find it in Massachusetts, which, thus far, I have not been able to do.

At the same liquor store, I also found the elusive Sutter Home moscato that I’ve been looking for for ages. I didn’t know they made one until last year when I saw it on their website. But for some reason, it’s nearly impossible to find, at least in Massachusetts. So, as you might imagine, I gleefully snatched up a bottle of this moscato as well. This one was much cheaper (about $6), so I decided to share it with my mom before I came back to Boston. It was sweet, but not cloying, a nice dessert wine. (I had it with chocolate chocolate cake, and it paired nicely.) I would definitely recommend making sure it is properly chilled before drinking, though. Room temperature does nothing for it. I prefer the Nivole to the Sutter Home, and I think I preferred the Macari moscato that I can no longer find since the Martignetti’s in the North End closed to both of these, but for a $6 wine, it’s a decent dessert wine.

As most people know, I’m not really one for red wines, but I did try two new ones over the holidays as well as the moscatos. (Admittedly, I had sips of other people’s wine, not my own glass, but that’s hardly the point.) First, I tried a wine called Carmenere by Concha y Toro. (I’m fairly sure it’s the one I’m linking to, but the label looks a little different – I believe it had the more multicolored sunset Frontera label like this one, but I think they’re the same wine.) Unfortunately, I don’t remember a whole lot about the wine, but I do remember being pleasantly surprised by it. I probably wouldn’t drink an entire glass of it myself, but it was one of the more tolerable reds I’ve had.

I also tried a malbec. I’m not sure what kind it was, as it was ordered at a restaurant and I wasn’t paying attention to the reds on the menu. I liked it better than the carmenere, but I don’t remember it well either. (This is why you should blog about food-related things less than two months after the fact.) I think I would prefer either with food rather than alone, as I generally don’t find reds to be all that great on their own. (During the holidays, I also rediscovered the Portuguese red table wine that was my first tolerated red wine. That, too, I prefer with food – we had it with an excellent rib roast.) If anyone has recommendations on a malbec for me, feel free to share. I really don’t know anything about that variety, and have no idea what I tasted.

A few weeks later, a bunch of us went out after work to Toro in the South End (which I have blogged about before). I decided to be adventurous and try a new wine there. After much debate, I decided to try the NV Marques de Gelida Rosé Cava. Like the Nivole I had at Finale, it came in a tall, slender flute, causing everyone at my end of the table to inquire as to what I had ordered. The wine’s color was gorgeous, a deep transparent red. I admit, I felt quite classy drinking it. Sadly, it was nowhere near as good as I’d hoped. Again, it wasn’t awful, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. I tend to put too much stock in the descriptions of wine that involve fruits – I always think of it more in terms of how the flavors would play in a juice rather than a wine, so I tend to get a little more disappointed than I probably should. This one was described as “ripe raspberries, silky finish.” I didn’t taste raspberries at all, and I’m not entirely sure I tasted any sort of fruit in it, really. So that was a disappointment.

My final recent discovery is that there are a few vineyards that produce both moscatos and rieslings. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi and Barefoot make both; Gallo has a moscato under their Twin Valley label, but no riesling. At random, I decided to buy a bottle of the Barefoot moscato. (I didn’t like their chardonnay when I tried it last year, but I also don’t really like chardonnay in general, so I’m not sure it’s their fault specifically.) I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be good. I may try the others next, though after trying Gallo’s white merlot a while back, I’m not too optimistic about theirs.

And that sums up my latest wine-centric adventures, which, in retrospect, makes me feel like something of a lush when I write it all out in one big blog post. 🙂

Happy Groundhog Day, kids!

It’s been a while since I updated, obviously. Things got a little crazy around the holidays, and getting back in the swing of things has taken a little longer than expected. I have not abandoned the blog (not permanently, anyway), I’ve just got a backlog of things to post about that I haven’t had time for, and I haven’t been cooking anything particularly noteworthy recently. I’ll do my best to get some of that backlog sorted in the next week or so to keep you all entertained until I’ve attempted something interesting in my kitchen.

Posted by: Erin | November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, kids! In honor of our illustrious holiday of turkey, I present photos of last year’s Thanksgiving feast, which I never got around to blogging. I used to get my Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods, but as of a year or two ago, they stopped letting you pick your side dishes, and I am not really a fan of stuffing, and I could live forever and be all too happy to never see another green bean. (I do not understand the obsession with green bean casserole either, by the way – is that a New England thing? I’ve spent the better part of 10 years in Massachusetts, but I’d never heard of this odd dish until I got to Boston.)

Anyway, last year, I decided just to order my turkey from Whole Foods, because that is the one part of the Thanksgiving feast that I do not have any particular desire to do myself. I am secure in my culinary adventurousness to be okay with letting someone else take care of the dirty work of dealing with the turkey. So I got my turkey, and made everything else. I don’t remember much except that I did not time things well, and I was cooking essentially all day, and I didn’t eat until some ridiculous hour of the evening. (This was compounded by the fact that I was trying to document my first attempt at really cooking Thanksgiving dinner by taking lots of photos while cooking.)

I now leave you with pictures while I go off to start my somewhat better planned meal for this year.

Basic Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Completed dinner (with edamame and mashed potatoes)

Amaretto Apple Crisp with Pistachio Gelato

Posted by: Erin | November 14, 2009

The Zinnias Want Vengeance!

Started this post on October 21st, but forgot to finish it. It’s close enough to a full entry, though, so I thought I should just get over myself and post it. That, and I really don’t want to think about the taste of the cooked broccoli and arugula again. I did try the pizza with tomato-basil soup, and it did help mask some of the cooked veggie taste. I will not be making this one again. I like my veggies crispy. Cooked veggies and I are just not going to be friends, and I’m okay with that.

==================================================================

Tried Eating Well’s Green Pizza. Broccoli has looked awful at the store recently, so I was thrilled to find some at the Copley farmers market today. (I also got a mesclun mix from a different farm, and an Herbs De Provence mix and lavender honey from the lovely people at the Herb Lyceum. It was a good day at the market.) So of course, when I get to the grocery store tonight, there’s broccoli, and it doesn’t look half bad. Not as pretty as my farm broccoli, but much better than it has in the last two weeks for sure. So I buy some store broccoli, thinking that if this pizza experiment goes horribly wrong, I’d rather not waste the “good” broccoli on it. I also needed to use the once-beautiful arugula I bought on Friday from the same stand that I bought the mesclun mix from today (Atlas Farms in South Deerfield). I meant to use it for salads over the weekend, but between the rain and the pears not being ripe, I forgot about it for a day or two. I salvaged enough for the pizza, though. Since the arugula gets cooked a little bit before putting it on the pizza, it didn’t matter that the leaves weren’t all as crisp as I’d want them for a salad.

Note: store pizza dough horizontally, or you’ll end up with a deformed pizza like mine.

I’ve never really liked cooked veggies, aside from corn. In fact, I’d have to say I’m opposed to cooked vegetables. I prefer them ripe and crunchy, if I’m going to eat them. (If I were in charge, it would be a punishable offense to cook celery.) I was rather forcibly reminded of this fact when I uncovered the steamed broccoli. After I added the arugula, I felt like I’d murdered my garden. That’s what the smell reminded me of: plant death. I was certain the zinnias were plotting revenge even as I stood in my kitchen. I made up for this by putting a little more cheese than called for over the green things, and I probably could have added more pesto as well.

In the end, I overcooked the pizza both before and after the toppings were added. I burned a bit of the dough, but only because it was thin in spots (due to my not storing the tube horizontally for the entirety of its time in my fridge, I imagine). The pizza wasn’t awful, and I imagine if you actually LIKE cooked broccoli and such, you’d like this just fine. I’m not sold, however. I am wondering, though, if perhaps it would go well with the tomato-basil soup. And by “go with,” I mean, “maybe if I dipped the pizza in the soup, I could mask some of that vegetable taste.” We shall see.

Posted by: Erin | November 11, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

It seems it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I haven’t been trying much new stuff in the kitchen, and life has gotten crazy again (which is why I’ve been spending less time in the kitchen). I also decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, which is taking up most of my free writing time this month. I intened to post some backlogged entries so the blog wouldn’t be totally dead while I was off chasing my inner novel, but I clearly didn’t get to it. Hopefully I’ll catch up a little this weekend, both on the novel and updating the blog. The novel is woefully behind (I’m just over 4,500 words), but I’m trying to stay optimistic.

Posted by: Erin | October 7, 2009

Chicken Cherry Spinach Salad

You know it’s been a long week when you almost pour your wine on your salad and your dressing in your wine glass. I’ve been insanely busy as of late, so there has been little creativity in my kitchen. But I got distracted last weekend and bookmarked a ton of new recipes to try while trying to figure out what to make for dinner. One of them is the one I made tonight, a Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherries.

cherry_chicken_salad

The other day when I was in the supermarket, I noticed the heated stand near the self checkout. It’s always been there, but I always seem to just pass by it without really comprehending it. It’s where they put the ready cooked rotisserie chickens (wow, spelled “rotisserie” right on the first try – gold star for me!). So I was trying to think of what I could use one of them for, since, while I like chicken, I don’t like cooking it, because raw chicken is slimy and gross. This salad sounded like a perfect candidate. However, I ended up not going that route because I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the dark meat that I assumed would exist, what with it being a whole chicken and all. I thought about using pork chops, but the store was woefully understocked, so I went back to the chicken idea. Due to my own laziness, I bought the pre-cut “great for stir-fry” package, which, come to think of it, is also rather great for salads – it cooks up quickly, and you can pretty much use it as is without all the chopping or cutting or whatever.

The other issue was the cherries. Fresh sweet cherries are wonderful, amazing things. I’d never really thought about cooking with them before – I never really think about putting them with anything. I could easily just sit and eat a bowlful of them cold (and when they’re in season, I often do). This looked like a reasonably low-risk dish to start with, but cherries aren’t in season now, so I used frozen ones. On the upside, they defrost pretty quickly, and you don’t have to take the pits out. (Though do be careful with the frozen ones – the machines don’t always get all the pits out. I found one pit, but the rest were fine.) The downside is that, like most frozen fruit, they get a little squishy if you let them defrost too much. I ended up slicing a few, but I left most of them whole – they were hard to slice, but they were fine.

The recipe calls for “gourmet salad greens,” so when I was at Whole Foods yesterday to get the frozen cherries, I picked up some Olivia’s Organics 50/50 mix (baby greens and baby spinach). The photo with the recipe actually looks more like an herb salad mix, but the 50/50 mix was the best-looking variety at the time. Unfortunately, when I opened it tonight, half of it was bad. (It seemed to be mainly the reddish leaves – not sure what they are.) So I ended up putting the cherries and chicken on a bed of mostly spinach. I also don’t measure my greens when I make salads, I just put what looks like a good amount for the meal. I think I ended up with roughly 2 cups of baby spinach, which worked out quite well.

As I was plating the salad, I had the idea to add some goat cheese to the mix. Goat cheese goes well with fruit over baby greens, and I had some in the fridge. I wanted to add some pear slices to it also, but the ones I bought yesterday aren’t ripe enough to eat yet. (Pears are tricky to get right. Too firm/green and they don’t taste right; too yellow, and they’re mushy and mealy. You really have to be on top of the pears, figuratively speaking.)

The dressing had a bit of a kick to it. I’m suspecting the Dijon mustard, but I was probably a bit liberal with the black pepper and/or the shallots, too, so I can’t be certain. I liked the dressing, but it’s got a… not sour taste, exactly – maybe “savory” is the word I’m looking for. In either event, to my brain, it’s the diametric opposite of the cherries’ taste, which was quite sweet. It worked, but it sort of clashed a little. It’s hard to explain. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good dinner, and I’m sure it’ll go more quickly next time (I think the key is to already have minced shallots for something else ahead of time), but I almost feel like the dressing would be better on the salad without the cherries. I’m not sure what I would substitute in – maybe just pears? They’re sweet as well, though, so I don’t know if that would do it. It bears further experimentation, but the dressing itself is good, and the salad was a good meal. I had it with a glass of my current favorite wine, the Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling I mentioned back in the Bacon Mac and Cheese post. (And yes, I did catch myself before I poured it on the salad.)

I also took pictures before I put the dressing on, so here’s the picture with the dressing.

cherry_chicken_salad_closeup

Posted by: Erin | September 25, 2009

Unimportant Milestones!

Wow, with that last post, I hit 1,000 tags! Either I’m too specific or awesome. You decide.

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