Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mushroom mania

I need to learn to moderate my ambitions. One complex recipe is enough for a meal. Two or three just lead to stress and mistimings.

Thankfully, Antonia stepped up and offered to be my sous-chef. She did a marvelous job, other than putting the tarragon and parsley in the wrong dish. Oh well.

I didn't look at the cooking times closely enough in the beginning, so I started with the four vegetable soup. I had to make the broth first -- carrot, celery, onions, shallot, leek, garlic, thyme, pepper, parsley. Rather than the canned chicken broth that the recipe called for, I used some of Darien's homemade vegetable broth made from leftover trimmings from various meals. After the broth was made, I added the potatoes, leeks, peas, and spinach. I had to cut up some more tarragon and parsley, after my sous-chef's misappropriation.

Antonia actually did most of the preparation for the main dish, a mushroom risotto. It called for over a pound of crimini mushrooms, in addition to a dried porcini (which Darien couldn't find, so she found a nice substitute). I should have started on this dish first, since I had to keep adding liquid, stirring, and cooking until the Arborio rice was plump and tender. The Parmesan and fresh parsley at the end were nice additions.

The last dish was a fresh broccoflower salad. What really made this dish was the tart dressing -- oil mixed with a yellow hard boiled yolk, garlic, and sherry vinegar. The broccoli was tossed with watercress, scallions, celery, pimento olives, capers, parsley, and the remainder of the egg.

I didn't have everything ready to go at once, so some things had to sit while the rest of the dishes caught up. After having eaten spoonfuls of rice as it was cooking, I was no longer in the mood for bread, so I dropped that from the menu. I also realized that rice in the risotto and potatoes in the soup was probably not the wisest decision. The meal was still tasty, however, and afforded us plenty of leftovers.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Peter's special meal

Peter was coming home for spring break, so I decided to try and make him something. I initially wanted a crock pot recipe, but wasn't coming up with anything that appealed to me, so I settled on a shish kabob. I selected lamb since we don't have it often, and built the rest of the dishes around that.

I diced the lamb and then marinaded it for 24 hours in yogurt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cilantro, minced garlic, curry powder, and ground black pepper. But before the meat was even ready for grilling, disaster loomed. Peter's ride to South Carolina got complicated, and he decided not to come home. Like any good chef, I improvised. I invited the Speckled Bird over instead and the dinner proceeded.

The next evening the rest of the meal went together fairly easily. I started with the cucumber salad, since I had to leach much of the liquid out by salting the pieces and weighting them down in a colander for three hours. The bismati rice pilaf called for cardamom pods, which I didn't have, so I substituted powder, the only real variation I had to make. The cloves and cinnamon stick that I cooked in gave the rice an unusual flavor. While the pilaf cooked, I finished up the salad with a yogurt dressing, adding oil, mint, cumin, and garlic. Antonia cut up some fresh vegetables I had purchased. I rubbed oil on them and added some mint, then grilled them in a basket next to the lamb. I had some mini whole wheat pita pockets that I wrapped in foil and warmed up in the barbecue to complete the meal.

After dinner, the band broke the silence of the lamb and practiced in the front room. I think this was my best meal yet, both for the food and the company. Next time, Peter, you better come home when you say you will. I only have a few of these up my sleeve.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Darien Defaults

I think I might have missed a week or two somewhere. But anyway ...

I flunked the bedtime last week. Totally. But that inspires me to do better this week.
On the gym front I didn't do too well either ... only two days.

On the Good News front I totally rocked with my new, New Year Revolution, which is to throw out one item a day. I have achieved this goal for the past three weeks, and have pictures to prove it.

Week six tackled by Darien

Ok, I kind of failed on the early to bed routine last week. Just one or two nights out of four. I'll do better this week ... starting tonight!

On the exercise front, I made it to the gym four times. My session with fitness coach Camille was really worthwhile, and I'm finding that forgotten muscles are talking to me.

As far as my Valentine's Day Revolution, a picture is worth ... how many words?


So, for Valentine's Day I made another "revolution" and "gave" it to John.
My new resolution is to throw out one item a day. I start a new pile each week, adding to it each day and documenting it with a picture on Sunday. Then, everything gets sorted into three piles in the staging room: Goodwill, consignment, trash. Some weeks there is a give away to family members pile too. Staging room, you ask? That's the advantage of having a house that is too big. My goal is to get rid of enough stuff to enable us to move into the Condemnation Plantation--yay!