Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

A few weeks ago I was studying the contents of our refrigerator. Sometimes stuff gets shoved in the back, hidden behind other stuff, and then when it is rediscovered, it's, well, gross. Toxic. A lab experiment. So I try to be good about taking a quick inventory on trash night and lining everything up neatly so we can see it all. By the next trash night a week later, it's all a mess and I repeat the process. Usually. Sometimes I forget or don't feel like doing it and by the time I do get around to doing it, the lab experiments have started. Yuck.
That's what led to me thinking about a way to use the leftover ricotta that didn't involve pasta. Since I had recently been flipping through Mario Batali's Farm to Table, Raspberry Ricotta Pancakes came to mind and we planned to make them for brunch one Sunday. Of course I didn't actually read the recipe ahead of time and Saturday night I discovered we were lacking a few ingredients. Oops. But then I remembered a recipe from Cook's Illustrated for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. I checked and we had everything.
So we made them. They're a little extra work because the recipe involves whipping egg whites. It's so worth it and it's not too much extra work if you use a stand mixer. These are my new favorite pancakes.
Light, airy, fluffy, lemony, sweet enough to not need syrup, not too thin, not too thick, not dry but not wet. We couldn't get enough of these. They'd be good with a fruit served alongside or on top, but I ate the fruit (and bacon) before the pancakes were ready, so I ate my pancakes plain. It was just the two of us so we weren't going for a picture perfect brunch with food all ready at the same time and plated nicely. You can't possibly cook bacon and place a plate of it on the table in front of me and expect me to wait until everything else is ready before diving into the bacon.
We don't make breakfast/brunch too often, but these are now at the top of the list for Sunday brunch at home.

Recipe here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lallapalooza Restaurant (Monterey)

During our stay in Monterey. CA, we took 2 day trips. One was down to Big Sur and Hearst Castle and the other was up to Santa Cruz. Both days, we got back to Monterey around 8 pm and were super hungry so after parking at the hotel, we set off walking down Alvarado Street. Both times we ended up at a restaurant called Lallapalooza.
Usually after these long sight-seeing days, we're almost too exhausted to eat but also we're hungry and can't wait to eat. Lallapalooza was very welcoming and seated is right away. There are a lot of cocktails and bourbons, but we ordered iced teas. The iced teas were huge and mango flavored, which was nice. We started by sharing the House Salad (local organic greens, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, candied pecans, & Italian dressing). The salad came with wedges of a cheesy bread, which were yummy. It was a nice sized salad and tasty.
We also shared Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta (with roasted wild mushrooms). Lots of mushrooms and a creamy sauce over cheesy polenta. This was really good and a pretty big serving.
Finally we shared Classic Margherita Pizza (fragrant basil and fresh mozzarella cheese top a light sauce made with Naples’ famous San Marzano tomatoes). It was good and we fought over the slices with the bubbles! We both were stuffed after sharing those three dishes.
The second time we went for dinner, we shared Calamari (lightly fried and tossed with lemon juice, garlic, Italian parsley, and red-pepper flakes). I liked that it was wedges of a calamari steak and not the usual rings and tentacles. The red pepper flakes made it a little spicy/hot for me but SP didn't think it was. They made it without garlic for us, which was great.
After the calamari, we shared the Cobb Salad (grilled chicken breast, avocado, hard boiled egg, tomato, spinach, Point Reyes blue cheese, chopped bacon, and Italian vinaigrette). They were kind enough to put the blue cheese on the side since SP doesn't like it but I do. There was more cheesy bread on this salad. We both really liked the cheesy bread! It was a very good sized salad to share.

We both really liked Lallapalooza. Both times, the hostess and staff were smiling, friendly, helpful. They had no problems accommodating our food requests (garlic, blue cheese). We didn't have reservations but were seated right away (Tuesday & Thursday around 8 at night). We'll definitely go back the next time we're in Monterey.


Lallapalooza Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

The roof project is ongoing. It's been a little frustrating. We had to contact the electric company to disconnect power while they replaced the fascia where the power line connects to the house. EC insisted the disconnect had to be arranged days in advance but the roofing schedule depends on emergencies & weather so they couldn't give us a definite day with a lot of advance notice. EC also couldn't tell us the disconnect fee over the phone - ?! They said we had to make the request and then wait for a tech to call us and tell us the fee. The roofers said they only needed it disconnected for 10-15 minutes. EC said they don't hang around, they leave and then you have to call when you want them to come back. Then they told us they couldn't schedule the disconnect until we paid the fee and they would not accept payment via credit card, it had to be a check, and unless we wanted to wait for snail mail, we had to hand deliver it to their office. The fee? You don't even want to know. It was way more than I expected. I feel fleeced.

So SP hand delivered a check to EC. It was scheduled for the desired roofing day. But then the roofers said they weren't coming that day. So we had to reschedule with EC. Everyone arrived on the scheduled day, power was disconnected, and roofers were told that EC would be back in 45~60 minutes to reconnect. Did they get the one piece of fascia, the one that was supposed to take 10-15 minutes to install, installed? No. So EC left, again, and came back 30 minutes later. Fortunately the work was done & my head exploding was averted. But seriously people - it took you 1.5 hours to do 10-15 minutes of work after you were told to do it ASAP because the house was without power.

So. Progress on the last 20% of the project is slow. Nothing much happened yesterday due to rain and they are starting late today because they had to go on an emergency call. They are supposed to be here now but I don't hear them. Huh.

Of course after being without power for 1.5 hours Tuesday morning, early Tuesday evening a wicked storm blew through and knocked out power to the neighborhood for 4 hours. Ugh. So SP had to stop and get dinner on his way home. Dining on DiBella's by candlelight was not very romantic. It was more squinting to see your food and then gazing out the window looking for the EC truck (we knew where the downed line was). Of course power was restored just as we gave up and started to get ready for bed.

So. Fun week.

Books: I finished reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and started Brighton.

TV: Well we sort of had satellite service - SD, not HD, and OTA channels, but moments before The Night Of Sunday night, we lost all signal so we've been watching Netflix all week. Hopefully, this will be fixed tomorrow, but who knows if the roofers will be done working in that area. We just finished episode 7 of OITNB Season 4 and episode 4 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Movies: We saw Suicide Squad over the weekend. I'm also catching up on Netflix DVDs I've had for 2-3 months. I watched Joy, Triple 9, and Eye in the Sky.

Dinners this week: Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart, Ribs, Macaroni Salad, garden tomatoes, DiBella's subs, and leftover food from dinner last Saturday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart

Ever since my mom gave me a copy of Ina Garten's Make It Ahead, there has been one recipe I've really, really wanted to try: Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart. We finally made it.
Mostly, I fell in love with her beautiful photos of overlapping, concentric zucchini. But also, goat cheese. Yum. On homemade tart crust. Yum. And also, it's zucchini season & we had 3 from the garden.
Our tart did not turn out round. It also used more than 1.5 lbs of zucchini (more like 2+ lbs). And, our zucchini slices were not the same diameter. Funny thing about garden zucchini: some are skinny, some are fat, some are fat on one end and skinny on the other, or skinny on the ends and bulging in the middle.
Since our zucchini were "misshapen," I had some trouble slicing them. They kept wobbling around. So some slices are thin and others thicker and some are half slices. Whatever. Just makes the tart look more rustic and homey, right?
Did we use more than 8 oz goat cheese? Of course. We weren't going to slice off 2 oz from a 10 oz log and save it. Did we use more than 1 tsp fresh thyme? Absolutely. We weren't going waste thyme we went out in rain to snip. More than 1/4 tsp grated lemon? Of course. Zest from an entire small-ish lemon.
Was our goat cheese creamy? Debatable. It was more crumbly than creamy. Maybe it would have been creamier if it had sat out at room temperature longer.
Did I spread the goat cheese over the tart? Well I tried to but owing to slightly warm & soft tart crust and slightly cold & crumbly goat cheese it was more of a gentle smushing of goat cheese.
Was our tart round? No. I think SP started out intending to roll a round crust but as he rolled the dough, it became apparent that a rectangle shape was more easily achieved. Above photo, ready to bake. Below photo, baked.
We used a pizza cutter to slice it into 8 wedges. I think this is meant to be an appetizer, but we made it our meal.
Delicious, crisp, flaky, golden crust. Lemony, thyme goat cheese, creamy at last from baking. And cooked circles of zucchini piled on top of one another.
It might not have been round. The goat cheese might not have been creamy. And the zucchini were of varying thickness and diameter. But it still tasted darn good. We'd definitely make this again.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Old Fisherman's Grotto

One of things I like to do in Monterey is walk up & down Fisherman's Wharf with all the other tourists and sample all the clam chowders. Each restaurant has a cart outside and offers free samples of their clam chowder. You could fill your belly sampling all the chowders. We ate at only one restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf during our stay: Old Fisherman's Grotto (but we sampled chowder every time we walked the wharf!).
In addition to offering chowder samples, on one of our earlier walks OFG was handing out coupons for a free appetizer. We chose Fried Calamari (tender Monterey Bay calamari strips and tentacles, lightly seasoned, floured and deep fried, served with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and lemon). Have I mentioned how much I love calamari in Monterey? It's where I first tried calamari and started liking it. This calamari was excellent. I could have ordered and devoured a second serving.
We also shared a bowl of their Original 'Monterey Style' Clam Chowder. It is delicious. To us, the clam chowders in Monterey are more flavorful than those we ate in San Francisco, They have more of a bite, more seasoning perhaps. I asked our server what makes Monterey chowder different from other chowder and he said lots of garlic. I almost had a heart attack but then started reassuring myself that it was OK, it was probably just cloves plopped in for flavor and they had simmered for a long, long time, so I'd be OK, right? I was OK. It's raw or slightly cooked garlic that sets me off instantly. The chowder doesn't taste garlicky.
I don't see it on the online menu, maybe it was a special, but SP ordered Abalone with onion risotto and vegetables. He'd never before tried it and said it was delicious.
I chose the Fisherman's Wharf Platter (1/2 Dungeness Crab, Grilled Shrimp, Scallops and Crab Cake, served with caramelized onion risotto  and sauteed organic vegetables). I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so this seemed like a good idea, plus I knew SP would help me eat it. And help me crack the crab. Well, crack it for me in exchange for eating some! The entire platter was delicious. Fresh seafood, creamy risotto. I didn't have any problem eating it all.
We had room for dessert. I don't see this on the online menu, and I don't remember exactly what it was other than a chocolate shell filled with cream and berries and surrounded by swirls of berry, chocolate, and caramel sauces. It was really good. A light dessert, and good for sharing.

SP had iced tea for his beverage while I had iced tea and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (Blackstone, Monterey) which I enjoyed. Our server was wonderful, easy-going and friendly. The food was delicious. It might be a pricey meal, but the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. The view was nice, too. Even though we were not seated next to a window, we still had a nice view of the bay through the windows. We'd definitely go back.


Old Fisherman's Grotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rosine's Restaurant

Much as I love San Francisco, I love Monterey even more. Monterey is where I lived for 2 years during grad school. I hadn't been back since the summer after graduation so I was very excited for our trip. I couldn't wait to show SP around and to see what had stayed the same/changed. We arrived late afternoon on a Sunday and took a walk to my old apartment, my grad school, and down Alvarado Street. We hadn't eaten much so we decided to have an early dinner at a restaurant that was there when I lived there and that I ate at many times: Rosine's Restaurant.
Rosine's is just as I remember it. The incredible, huge desserts are still on display in a glass case when you walk in. The large windows along Alvarado still open when it's nice. Other than an albacore tuna salad sandwich, I don't remember what I used to eat when I dined there 20 years ago. This time we started with an order of Sweet Potato Fries, which were delicious.
I decided on the California Chicken Sandwich (charbroiled chicken breast topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese, sliced avocado, almond honey mustard sauce, served on a buttered, toasted sesame seed bun). It was really good. A very nice charred flavor on the chicken, lots of creamy avocado, the mustard sauce had a nice bite. For my side, I had a house salad, but the photo was too blurry to post.
I thought SP chose a chicken salad, Honey Crisp Chicken Salad (fresh greens with cucumbers, corn, diced tomatoes, sliced almonds and chicken tossed with homemade honey mustard dressing) but based on the photo and the menu descriptions, it looks more like Cobb Salad (garden fresh greens topped generously with fresh turkey, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, tomato, eggs and black olives, served with your choice of our homemade salad dressing). He would have asked for no blue cheese. Whichever salad it was, it was a generous size and he said it was very good.

We both enjoyed our food. Our server was very friendly and kept our iced teas/waters filled. It's the same casual, homey, tasty place I remember. We'd go back on our next trip. Hopefully next time, we'll have enough space in our bellies for dessert.

Rosine's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 12, 2016

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

It's definitely ice cream weather. I have been wanting to make a homemade chocolate ice cream, but not the Mexican Chocolate one, and SP wasn't excited by regular chocolate, so we compromised and made Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.
The recipe is, of course, from our trusty and much used copy of David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. The usual base ingredients (egg yolks, heavy cream, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla) plus the flavor ingredients (Guinness, chocolate) made with the usual method (heat the milk mixture, slowly add to yolks, cook the custard, strain cooked custard over chocolate, stir until melted, add other ingredients, chill, churn) and voila, ice cream.
I don't taste the Guinness much. SP says he definitely tastes it. It made a very nice smooth, creamy, not too hard ice cream. This ice cream is easy to scoop right from the freezer. It has a wonderful milk chocolate flavor. It's definitely one of our favorites and goes on the Make Again list.
Recipe here.