Last week we went down to Gretchen’s to help with Knut Christiansen’s latest cooking class. Once again the theme was tapas and paella, but he mixed it up with some different dishes and approaches this time. Sadly for me, a lot of this meant almonds, but I was hardly in danger of starving.
As usual, Knut did his shopping on the way down to the class and arranged his ingredients as beautifully as possible. It almost seems a shame to chop the things up to cook them.
A few nights ago some dinner guests arrived supplied with ice wine, goat cheese and four of the biggest Asian pears I’d ever seen. We managed to eat two pears between the six of us, but there were still two left. On Friday I was mucking around with the camera, fruit and various backdrops for an assignment, so I decided to do some fruit portraits.
Admittedly those apples are a bit small, but look at the size of that pear! And I adore the texture of its skin.
[Last year for NaBloPoMo I ran food-related comics on Sundays, but I haven’t been able to find many good new ones, so instead I thought I might show some of my food photography projects that don’t otherwise fit into food posts – JT]
As the days get colder and shorter and wetter, I think we can all get behind the idea of burrowing down under pillows. The last few mornings this is where Mickey has been, just his ears showing. Smart cat.
Back in April when we were visiting family in Santa Cruz, we stopped in at the Bonny Doon tasting room and tried just about everything. One bottle that caught our fancy was the Pommeau, a mixture of apple cider and brandy. It’s more apple-y than apple brandy, more like wine than cider, but with a similar alcohol level to port. We loved it and bought one with the intention of bringing it out this autumn for cocktail mixing. Recently we decided the time had come to try it out.
Our first thought was to use it to make a Jack Rose. Normally made with applejack and lime juice, it’s an old-fashioned cocktail with a subtle apple tinge to it. Adding lime juice to the Pommeau, however, was frankly nasty. After that we tried a cocktail called (enticingly) Fallen Leaves, which is apple brandy with sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and lemon. This was more successful, but once again the clarity of the Pommeau’s apple flavor failed to balance the other ingredients. I did finish my Fallen Leaves, but concluded that perhaps cocktails were not the way to go after all. We served the remainder of the Pommeau simply chilled in wine glasses as dessert after an autumnal dinner of butternut squash risotto. It was hard to improve upon.
In general I live by the motto, “When life gives you pears, make pear custard pie.” But sometimes pear muffins are a good substitute, especially if you only have one pear that needs using.
I’ve posted this recipe before (ripped off from a Williams-Sonoma catalog many, many years ago), in the form of part-whole-wheat rhubarb muffins. This time I just used all-purpose flour, replaced the rhubarb with one bosc pear, peeled, cored and diced, and added a heaping tablespoon of chopped crystallized ginger. As usual, the muffins baked up perfectly. Pear is a more subtle addition than rhubarb, but it goes nicely with the ginger and makes charming pockets of soft sweetness. We have a bag of these in the freezer now, ready for quick weekday breakfasts.
After a lifetime of pretending that organized sports don’t exist, I’m beginning to be at least slightly interested in soccer. We’ve been going to some high school girl’s soccer games, and much to my surprise I’ve quite enjoyed it. Of course, the games always seem to take place on the coldest and/or wettest days of the season. I’m sure everyone else in the universe already knows this, but I’ve found that it’s helpful to lay in some good warming food supplies.
Last weekend we were at a game at Everett Memorial Stadium on a filthy wet day. On the way there we stopped at our favorite barbecue joint, the Depot Smokehouse, and picked up a quantity of Gil’s extremely fine brisket, slaw and hot barbecue beans. Those beans (plus a heavy wool and fleece blanket) got me through the game, although my feet did finally start to go numb during the penalty kicks. Whiskey would probably have helped more at that point.
For those of you who aren’t new to the world of stadium seating, what are your favorite foods or drinks to take to outdoor games?
There are certain colors that food just isn’t supposed to be, particularly blue and black. Admittedly there are some black foods that most people don’t have a problem with, such as licorice or caviar. But when a food that isn’t normally black suddenly is? It’s really hard to convince yourself that it’s OK to eat – some sort of primal response to Bad Food. Someone brought these black devilled eggs to a Halloween party we went to, and it seemed to take the guests quite a while to work themselves up to trying them. Once they did, though, they disappeared rapidly.
Or as I originally wanted to title this post, The Annual Pumpkin Ravioli Cock-up. It seems like we get worse at this every year.
The first thing that went wrong was the pumpkin. As usual we cut in in half, scooped it out, rubbed it with oil and stuck it in the oven. Instead of getting soft and caramelized, however, it dried out and got stiff. It was too hard to mash by hand, so Jon ran it through the Cuisinart. A little balsamic vinegar and grated Parmesan and it seemed fine, but it was much more work than usual.
Then the pasta. I made one egg’s worth, using all-purpose flour and semolina, and it felt fine. But it dried out very quickly, and once again the #5 setting on our Atlas pasta maker seemed to rip the sheets to shreds (I wonder if the calibration is off?) When we tried laying a sheet in our ravioli mold and added the squash filling, the pasta cracked and tore under the weight. We dumped the broken ravioli into the compost and cut up the rest of the pasta into ribbons. I cooked the pasta ribbons and served them with a scoop of pumpkin puree on top, with a hot Italian sausage on the side and a spinach salad. It was delicious. But it was assuredly not ravioli.
Here’s to a fun and safe Halloween evening – what’s everyone dressing up as? We’re doing something piratical, but details are still getting ironed out.
You may be interested to know that I have once again lost my mind and signed up for NaBloPoMo, so I will be posting every single day for a month, starting tomorrow. Stay tuned!
For those who have a novel inside them waiting for its chance to come out, there’s NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. For those of us who blog, there’s National Blog Posting Month: NaBloPoMo! The idea is that, for the month of November, participants will blog every single day. I decided to take part this year. Am I crazy? Probably.
The good news (for me, not necessarily for you) is that it doesn’t matter how much I post, or what I post. The important thing is that I do post something each day of the month. We’ll soon see if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
If there’s anything you’d like to see me post on this month, I’m open to suggestions. Photography stuff? Cookbook reviews? An essay on My Favorite Spatula? Tell me what you’d like to see on the blog!