Baby, I’m-a want you.
The soup winner: smoky lentil soup with andouille and spinach, a riff on Farmgirl Fare’s lentil soup with smoked sausage. While not as photogenic as hers, it tastes fantastic and will be a great lunch tomorrow, which looks to be a prime soup day (wintry, wet, cold). It comes together really quickly and makes the house smell great, assuming you like your house to smell like smoked paprika.
Paradise City: Where the grass is green and the girl are pretty. Won’t you please take me home?
smackdown beatdown, courtesy of Sally Schneider’s The Improvisational Cook: Swordfish poached in shallot-thyme scented olive oil, leek “noodles” with creme fraiche and hazelnut oil, and crispy risotto cakes.
Unlike last week’s smackdown, with flavors that exploded on the tongue, this meal is full of melting textures and richly subtle flavors. Although I was defeated handily by the risotto cakes because of my own shortsightedness, we redeemed ourselves with clear victories over both fish and leeks to eke out the win.
First the bad.
Just an urchin livin’ under the street.
I made extra farro risotto earlier this week, reserving some without the artichoke hearts I added to that night’s dinner for these cakes. Unfortunately, I underestimated how badly the lack of starch-laden sauce would betray me when it came to keeping the risotto in neat little cakes for frying. Things started out okay…
Some of us – *cough* Brian *cough* – are not maintaining the sacrosanct nature of the Thursday Night Smackdown, and have scheduled other engagements for this evening. Thus, this week we are forced to hold a Friday Night Beatdown in its stead.
Leftover farro risotto and shrimp makes an *excellent* lunch, does not not make one’s office stink of fish when it’s nuked.
It’s midnight at the oasis.
For Brian’s birthday this year we went to dinner at Perilla, the new-ish restaurant in the West Village opened by Top Chef season 1 winner Harold Dieterle. I could easily wax rhapsodic about the crispy pork belly with pea shoots, trumpets, and banyuls-vanilla gastrique, which I ate entirely with my eyes closed so that other forms of sensory input would not interfere with the experience. But I won’t because I have opted not to try and re-create the pork belly; it would be too dangerous. We consume enough pork products around these here parts.
Instead, I’ve been thinking about the side dish of farro risotto with artichoke heart confit, parmesan and chili-grape salad we shared alongside the main course. It was wonderfully creamy, and the farro grains had a bite and nuttiness not found in arborio rice, the traditional risotto base. The grapes were strangely wonderful, and provided one of the perfect moments when you eat a combination of foods you would have never put together and find a whole new flavor you never knew you loved.
It’s been colder than a witches’ teat here in the northeast for the past few days, which always make me want hearty, comforting soups and stews. Today, I’m pondering lentil soup and looking for a new version of my standard lentils-onions and carrots-stock-bay leaf in a pot jobby. Our newly stocked pantry opens up a new world of flavor possibilities, so I’m searching for some new takes. These are all distinguished by virtue of not only sounding delicious and having some unique twists, but also by their beautiful photos which manage to look exactly like a comforting bowl of hearty lentil soup and not at all like something one of my dogs vomited up 5 minutes ago.
We are helpless in the face of cured meat products.
Saturday morning breakfast: scrambled eggs with chorizo and sharp cheddar, topped with leftover poblano vinaigrette from this week’s smackdown. English muffins and tea on the side.
The verdict: manchego might have been better, but this was damn good. Eggs with poblano vinaigrette is the perfect breakfast for the nose-stuffed among us: spicy, but the eggs and cheese moderate the heat of the peppers and punch of the vinegar with their creaminess, especially if you slow cook ‘em (Put the pan on heat so low you doubt it will have any cooking capabilities, and take anywhere from 10-30 minutes to scramble the eggs. Totally worth it, I swear, although best saved for weekend breakfasts).
The food in question, prior to battle. I’ll wipe that smug look off your face, pepper.
Tonight’s smackdown: Pan-seared striped bass with yellow-pepper hominy and poblano vinaigrette, courtesy of Bobby Flay’s new Mesa Grill cookbook. Except that the striped bass was really halibut.
This recipe is full of great flavor, with the sweet gentle heat and touch of acid in the poblano vinaigrette both cutting through and complementing the yellow pepper hominy. The fish sits perfectly between the two and its delicacy is a nice contrast to the slightly coarse texture of the hominy; this recipe wouldn’t be nearly as yummy with chicken, pork or beef. We had to stop ourselves from eating all the hominy right from the pot, so lured were we by all the sharp local cheddar that got mixed into it.