Friday, July 31, 2009

Birthday Boy Dinner

Today celebrates the 109th anniversary of the birth of my betrothed!

**photo credit Scooter**

Looks good for his age, doesn't he?

For his birthday dinner he requested one of his favorites - Moules Frites!

I added some CSA fennel to my usual recipe - delicious! I also served the frites with some garlic bread for sopping up the mussel juices. Derek topped the frites with some of his ketchup.

The mussels were perfectly cooked - plump and juicy!

Dessert was a little bit of an experiment. Instead of making a whole pie (the birthday boy prefers pie to cake), I made 2 individual peach raspberry pies. I lined 2 8oz ramekins with pie crust, then filled them with chopped peaches and raspberries tossed with a little lemon juice, sugar, and a sprinkle of corn starch. THEN I topped the fruit of with 1 egg beaten with 1/2 cup milk and a little more sugar. So it was sort of a custard in a pie.

It was quite a successful experiment. Got a little messy, but it sure tasted good. Especially topped with vanilla ice cream.

Also worth noting...a few nights ago I tired to make a dent in our surplus of beets with this yummy pasta dish.

Steamy! I tossed some roasted golden beets with sauteed beet greens, goat cheese, toasted pecans and whole wheat pasta. Beets...its what's for dinner.

Tonight we'll be celebrating the birthday with friends.  It also happens to by Harry Potter's birthday today.  Appropriate, since my fiance is truly magical....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Mom Could Kick Your Mom's Butt

This weekend we went out to my parent's house to watch my mother compete in the Danksin triathlon on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (also known as Webster Lake).
My mom totally kicked butt! I'm so proud of her! My aunt and uncle who live in Mexico were also staying at my parent's house for the weekend. The night before the race we had a big meal of pre-race fuel. No carbo loading - my mother wanted a healthy meal of fish and veggies.

I made a big salad with greens, radishes, blueberries, gorgonzola, and pecans.

We served this with grilled striper (still left from the boy's fishing trip), grilled corn, and roasted broccoli.

For dessert I used some peaches grown right over in Sutton, the town next to my parent's.

I made this Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie from Smitten Kitchen (who got the recipe from Martha Stewart - gotta love Martha).

I used the other half of my vodka pie crust as the base, and the peaches are covered with a crumb topping and dotted with creme fraiche.

We watched the sunset on the lake while we enjoyed dessert.

The next morning we all got up early to head over to the other side of the lake and watch my my mom compete. The tri started with a 1/2 mile swim.

Then she sprinted to the transition area to hop on her bike for the 12 mile ride - and she was off!

She did so well on the bike, we were hardly paying attention when she came back for the run. We thought we had another 15 minutes before we'd see her again! She threw on her sneakers and headed out for the final 3 mile run.

And she finished strong!

Her goal was to finish in 2 hours - and she completed the race in 1:40! She finished 4th in her age class! We were all SO proud of her.

Seeing my mom working so hard to complete this challenge totally put me to shame! I told her I would compete in the triathlon with her next year. So now I just have to learn to swim and ride a bike :) But first, I'm planning on completing a half marathon on October. The 8 mile race was the longest I've ever run, but 5 more miles - that's nothing!

After the race we had a late breakfast and then took a tour of the lake on my father's new (old) boat. We were going to head home in the afternoon, but ended up hanging around until dinner. I fed the goldfish in my parent's pond.

While the boys looked on...

Then we had another big spread for dinner.

Tomato and mozzarella salad, curried carrots, grilled shrimp, salad made with celery and endive in an anchovy dressing, and there's some grilled steak back there - but you don't need to see that.

Last night I was inspired by another Martha recipe. I've been talking about making ratatouille lately, which is basically a French vegetable stew made with zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes and lots of herbs. My mother had pulled a recipe from Living that had ratatouille on grilled bread topped with a poached egg. Last night's dinner was a variation on that. I didn't make a full ratatouille - I'm waiting until all the veggies are in season and I still haven't gotten eggplant from my CSA. And I wanted to use the grill as much as I could because its just too hot and humid to turn the oven on right now.

I halved some zucchini and summer squash and cut half an onion into big chunks. I brushed them and some pieces of baguette with olive oil and grilled it all lightly. I also wrapped half a head of garlic in foil and let that roast on the grill as well.

Then I chopped up the grilled veggies and tossed them with some chopped tomatoes, chives, fennel fronds, and EVOO and red wine vinegar.

I smashed the roasted garlic onto the grilled bread, which had become very soft and sweet. Then topped the bread with the veggies and a fried egg. With a runny yolk, of course - I love a runny yolk on just about anything!

Topped with a little grated parmesan this was the perfect light summertime meal.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This Week in Dinners

I haven't been very good at sharing this week. Blame it on being an only child. But I certainly have eaten well this week, so let me share this week in dinners.

But first, I want to talk about lunch. For the past couple weeks, since I found some juicy ripe tomatoes at the farmer's market, I've been eating tomato sandwiches just about every day. Fresh whole grain bread, slathered with mayo and spread with slices of cheese (I've been using aged gouda) and thick rounds of red tomatoes. Its simple, its fresh, its heaven!

OK, back to dinners!

Monday night I picked up my CSA from Lucy and Jon, who were kind enough to collect it for us while we were in Vermont. I came home and whipped together a quick dinner that used up some of my beet greens. I'm way behind on my beets! I can't eat them fast enough!

I started by simmering a can of organic blacks bean in a pan with EVOO and minced garlic, then stirred in the chopped beet greens, some cumin, and the juice of 1 lime.

I then piled the mixture onto corn tortillas, sprinkled on some cheddar cheese, topped with another tortillas and grilled in a pan with a little EVOO.

Beet green and black bean quesadillas!

I took the night off from cooking and got sushi with Liz and Remi.

My favorite way to prepare green beans - a French bean salad, inspired by Jamie Oliver. The recipe usually calls for petite, slender haricots vert - but my CSA beans are whoppers right now!

French Bean Salad

This recipe is very simple and delicious. Just blanch a bunch of green beans in boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes. You want them al dente. Drain the beans and then return to the pot.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1 tsp dijon mustard, the juice of half a lemon (or 1 Tbl good white wine vinegar), and 1 small minced shallot. Slowly add 2 - 3 Tbls EVOO, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the beans, put the lid on the pot, and toss until beans are well coated.

Can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

I served the beans with grilled striper topped with mango salsa, and grilled corn (picked that day!) slathered with our sea-salted Vermont butter.

We have been putting this butter on everything we can find!

It requires all my willpower not to eat straight spoonfuls of it. Especially since my mother got me this cool little butter keeper, which allows you to keep butter out of the fridge and still keep it fresh. That way you always have soft, spreadable butter ready to slather on everything in sight.
Its a bit dangerous.


More butter! I made a batch pie crust dough using Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe. This is the first time I've tried it - I'm usually a purist and make my crust with a basic flour/butter/water combo. But my mother has been making this crust for a couple years and swears by it. The theory behind the recipe is that when water and flour combine, they form gluten, which makes the crust tough. But the ethanol in the vodka prevents gluten from forming, and the alcohol cooks off during baking. I think I'm a convert! The crust was flaky and tender and so easy to make - unlike most Cook's recipes, which I usually find to involve way too many fussy steps.

I used half the dough to make a swiss chard tart, inspired by Smitten Kitchen and the tart that Lizzy made last week.

I added some sliced fennel to the tart - look at the beautiful specimen I got this week!

I sliced the bulb and sauteed it with EVOO and minced garlic until soft and tender, then added a big bunch of chopped swiss chard and sauteed a few minutes more. Then I scooped the mixture into the par-baked pie crust ( and had a minor disaster involving hot pie weights covering the kitchen floor). I topped this with 4 eggs beaten with about a cup of milk and a handful of chopped fennel fronds.

Then baked the tart at 350ยบ for about 40 minutes, until set and golden, topping with grated parmesan after about 30 minutes.

Served with a beet salad - its a good thing we love beets!

The other half of the pie dough will make a special appearance this weekend - stay tuned!

Monday, July 20, 2009

She Came, She Ran, She Conquered

This weekend, Derek and I went up to Vermont for my 8 mile road race in Stowe. We drove up late Friday night and stayed at his friend Peter's gorgeous house in Waitsfield. I woke up Saturday morning to discover that the house was very secluded, up on a hill with an amazing view.

You can see Sugarbush from the front door.

Derek went for a hilly bike ride in the morning, while I explored the local farmer's market and picked up a jar of zucchini pickles. The we grabbed lunch at the Green Cup Cafe on our way to check out Burlington. I had a Thai shrimp sandwich with spicy kimchee pressed on whole grain bread.

Not your average sandwich! We were pretty impressed for rural VT. We spent the afternoon exploring Burlington, a funky college town on Lake Champlain. I had wanted to stop at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory on our way up, but we ended up nixing that and heading straight to Burlington. Of course I was now craving ice cream, so I got a cone of cookies & cream when we arrived.

I also got some on my shirt. We took our cones down to the waterfront and watched the boats coming in.

And we saw some tents set up for a huge beerfest along the harbor.

We weren't interested in drinking any beer, but were quite pleased to find a swing where we could sit and watch the drunk festival goers passing by and look out over the lake.

I think we sat here for hours! The weather was perfect and we were very content to just people watch. I realize I'm stating the obvious, but there are a lot of dirty hippies in Vermont. I mean, I consider us to have a little bit of a hippy side, but we're nothing compared to these folks. We also discovered this weekend that Vermont men really don't like to wear shirts. I don't think I've seen so many shirtless men in my life. Luckily, Derek didn't try to blend in and kept his on. I kept mine on too, even though it was covered in ice cream splotches.

After walking around Burlington a bit more and buying some truffles from Lake Champlain Chocolates, we drove over to Stowe to check out the race course and have dinner. I was nervous that the course was going to be really hilly, but it actually didn't look too bad. We had dinner at The Partridge Inn, which is a nice seafood restaurant. I know it seems kind of silly to come from Boston to Vermont to eat seafood, but it was actually really good. They gave us popovers to start the meal and I had trout stuffed with crab and basil.

Sunday morning we got up early to drive over to the race. I was hardly able to sleep at all the night before, so I was a bit nervous before the run since I did not feel well rested. I faked it for the camera!

Then headed to the starting line.

Derek was an excellent race photographer.

He rode his bike along the course and would stop and wait for me to come by, then ride up ahead and wait for me again. It definitely helped motivate me, knowing that I would see him along the way. And once I got going, I actually felt pretty good!

I started the race towards the back of the pack, but quickly realized I was running way too slow and started passing people - which was fun!

I lead the pack powering up the first little hill.

Overall the hills were not bad at all. Somehow, it seemed like there were more downhills than uphills, which doesn't really make sense. But all the uphills were either very gradual, or steep and very short, so they were manageable. And the scenery was beautiful! The worst hills were actually in the last mile, which was just mean.

I still finished strong!

I came in a little over 1:17, which I was quite happy with. My goal was to break 1:20 and run faster than 10 minute miles, which I did!

After stretching, refueling and cleaning up, we started the drive back to Boston. On our way home, we stopped at The Farmer's Diner in Quechee, VT.

Its a classic diner that prides itself on serving only local food from Vermont farmers and suppliers. They support their local community and serve delicious, fresh food.

I love their motto - "Thank Locally, Act Neighborly"

Derek and I both ordered thick chocolate milk shakes.

Which, of course, I dribbled on my shorts. To match Saturday's ice cream stained shirt. To eat, I got a black bean burger topped with Great Hill blue cheese - one of my favorite blues!

It came on a freshly baked bun with amazing fries. So much better than your average diner food! This place was great - I highly recommend seeking it out if you're ever in VT. They also have a location in Middlebury.

By the time we got home, I was exhausted and did not feel like cooking or eating a lot. So I made up a very French dinner with an assortment of goodies we'd picked up over the weekend. Appropriate since we ate while watching the Tour de France.

This board includes sliced apples, radishes, chopped olives, the pickled zucchinis I got at the farmer's market, 3 VT cheeses, and some amazing butter from Vermont Butter & Cheese. The cheese includes a cloth wrapped cheddar which had a very earthy flavor, along with a soft, stinky cheese similar to camembert, and a maple smoked gouda. But the butter, which was spiked with crunchy bits of sea salt, was definitely the highlight. I just finished Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life, which is just adorable. She talks about how the French eat hunks of baguette spread with butter and topped with thinly sliced radishes. I served this tray with a crusty whole grain baguette, and Derek and I agreed that we would have been content just eating the bread with butter and radishes. Honestly, I could have been content just eating the butter!