Wednesday, August 31, 2011

notion

Last Saturday evening, SP & I made the nearly hour long drive (there was Steelers pre-season game traffic) from Robinson to Oakmont for a long awaited dinner at notion. We met up with our friends D & J for a wonderful evening of food & friendship.

I had read a lot about notion before we went. I knew Chef Dave Racicot had previously worked at several Nemacolin Resort restaurants, perhaps most notably at Aqueous & Lautrec. In December 2010, he opened his own restaurant, notion, at 314 Allegheny Boulevard in Oakmont. The notion site says he strives to focus on 'modern techniques,' which to us, right or wrong, loosely translates to 'molecular gastronomy' experience, although it seems many chefs are not fond of that term for what they do. Perhaps I should instead repeat what J said, which was that we should probably expect some kind of foam to arrive on one or more plates!!! And that many items would be cooked sous-vide.

However you wish to categorize the style of food at notion, it is different from that which Pittsburghers are accustomed. Sorry, no fried zucchini or stuffed banana peppers followed by a pound of pasta covered in a gallon of red sauce - not that those foods cannot be yummy and don't hold any appeal to me - I love a good fried mozzarella stick doused with marinara sauce! This blog is my personal opinion, and to me, notion is very refined, elegant, high quality ingredients, meticulously prepared & presented. Service is attentive, never intrusive, personable & friendly but not overstepping.

And to be perfectly frank, our meal at notion was, in our opinion, one of the best dining experiences we've had. But you need to go in understanding what notion is and what it isn't. It is, by Pittsburgh standards, a pricey meal. It is not, by Pittsburgh standards, enormous portions that yield leftovers for your next 2 meals. It isn't a 'basic meat & potatoes' kind of place. It is a lot of flavors blended in unique ways. It's a place where you need to be open - and I'll be the first to admit I am in some ways very conservative in what I will/will not eat. As much as I wanted to try notion, I was also very nervous - my picky palate, my sensitive stomach - but I took a deep breath as we got in the car and thought, stop being such a food wimp! Time for something new.
Like the lime amuse bouche we were served to begin our meal. Tasted like lime. But the feel/texture was like latte foam (to me). Everyone scraped their bowls clean.

Before I go on, I should remind readers that while I am obviously OK with photographing food in restaurants, I draw the line at using a flash. I don't. Ever. If my flash goes off, it's because I goofed. Since it was 6:45 pm and notion is softly lit and the walls are shades of gray with some red highlights, my photos are dark and fuzzy as the camera struggles with a long exposure time.

Also, before I go on, while we all thought about doing the Chef's Tasting Menu (which can be enjoyed with or without wine pairings), we opted for a la carte. Menus are presented inside black envelopes. You withdraw your sheet of paper on which are printed 4 appetizer options, 4 entree options, and 2 dessert options. There is a separate binder with cocktails and wine. Each of us had 2 glasses of wine, all white. I cannot remember the specifics, but we ordered by the glass. There were 3 kinds we ordered - a sauvignon blanc (the receipt says Magneau Graves), pinot grigio (Lechthaler), and a blend of whites called a Mittnacht Gyotake (I think, I remember there was a fish on the label!).

Also - keep in mind I didn't take notes or steal a menu and the menu currently posted online is different from the menu last Saturday evening - so I cannot remember all the ingredients in each dish.

On to the first courses! All four made appearances on our table. D ordered the Tartare.Of course I kept thinking tartare = raw, and I got that part right, but I was surprised to see raw ground beef. Turns out I was confusing tartare with carpaccio. Whoops! There was a lot of 'stuff' around the tartare for flavoring and some lettuce leaves in which to scoop the tartare & accompanying goodies:D & J enjoyed the tartare. SP doesn't eat beef and I never eat raw meat, so we did not try any.

SP & I shared the Quinoa:That's sassafras foam and the green liquid is green apple. I think there also was sesame. This was delicious! I like quinoa, but I'm not a huge fan. This, however, was really tasty. It seemed light. That's the only way I can think to describe it. The quinoa was light, not like our at home quinoa which seems heavier compared to the quinoa at notion.

J ordered 3 first courses as her entire meal. She started with the same quinoa that SP & I enjoyed and then was served the English Pea. It listed manchego as an ingredient - and that white squishy stuff visible in the photo is the manchego! There also might have been banana.J's third first course, served when we were served our entrees, was the Risotto with sweetbreads and the large black thing that looks like seaweed but is really a blackened Parmesan crisp.For my second course, I chose the Chicken with almond custard, Parmesan, arugula, and maitake:
Oh my gosh. So good. The chicken on the left is chicken breast, I think, while the chicken on the right is wrapped in fried chicken skin. I try to not eat chicken skin, but this was so crispy and tasty and not especially greasy. It tasted simple, and yet also complex, no one ingredient outshining the others, just meshing together in delicious harmony.

Both SP and D chose Fluke for their second courses:Fluke is a white fish, also known as summer flounder. I cannot remember the other flavors in the dish. They both enjoyed it.

There are 2 desserts from which to choose. D and I both chose Chocolate and shared with our significant others:It might be juvenile of me, but I kept thinking the blue blob was minty toothpaste! It was mint flavored, and quite tasty. I was happy that there wasn't a strong, overwhelming coconut flavor since I don't like coconut very much, and SP sampled the white/coconut part of the plate. Light, airy chocolate cakey bits and denser, creamy milk chocolate dollops, cocoa sprinkled about - very tasty and a nice textural contrast between the elements on the plate.

SP & J both chose the Blackberry dessert:I think it involved honey and a yogurt cake but I can't fully remember. I tried a pinkish/purple chunk and it was yummy.

We all enjoyed our meals.

I have to say I'm a little... saddened by some of the reviews I've seen on urbanspoon. As far as several reviewers who mocked/questioned the 'guy in the suit pouring the wine,'... ummm... you mean the sommelier? That's his job. A professional sommelier is supposed to be pouring the wine and interacting with the customers.

Our service was excellent. I can see why some people would complain about the prices for the quantity of food, but again, that's the kind of place notion is, and the portions are in line with portions we've enjoyed at similar 'fancy' restaurants in other cities. At restaurant like notion, we never think we will have leftovers and we never do - but we also never leave hungry. We were 'comfortably full' after our meals. Quite honestly, given the amount of information/reviews/apps/food blogs/restaurant sites out there these days on cell phones/ipads/netbooks, etc., I find it inconceivable that someone would walk into notion without knowing what kind of restaurant it is. It has been reviewed in 4 Pittsburgh based publications (see links for those reviews at the bottom of this post).

We would definitely go back to notion. For us, given the budget we've set for ourselves and the number of times we like to dine out in a month, notion will remain a special occasion place. For four people, including tax & tip, the bill was a tad over $400 (5 first courses, 3 second courses, 4 desserts, 8 glasses of wine, 1 coffee, 1 iced tea). Of that, I'd say 25% was wine.

As much as I'd like to say otherwise, I'm not sure I would enjoy this kind of meal more than a few times a year. For me, it's not a weekly or monthly kind of place. But it's definitely a special place.
Notion on Urbanspoon
Reviews:
Pittsburgh Magazine Review here
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review here
Pittsburgh City Paper review here
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review review here

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Petite Nutella Pochettes

Nutella. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say they do not like 'The Original Hazelnut Spread." Usually, people swoon over nutella. A few weeks ago, SP saw that GEMD had a sale on nutella, plus I think we had a coupon, so he paid a bit over $1 for a jar. That seemed like a good deal.The only problem is that I do not swoon over nutella. Several times, I have tried nutella on crepes (at Paris 66) and waffles (at Waffalonia) and invariably I am sort of disappointed and I think, what the heck is the deal with this stuff? Why do people get so swoony over it? So I was a bit surprised SP bought some. As usual, I was sort of excited about the nutella. I must be missing something, right? Maybe crepes and waffles just weren't the proper vehicles for nutella. So I went to the Food Network site and searched for nutella recipes, specifically nutella cookies, and found a recipe for Petite Nutella Pochettes by Melissa d'Arabian.The dough is just flour, butter, and cream cheese, much like the Mushroom Turnover dough from last Christmas. SP was in charge of rolling the dough and cutting out the rounds. I spooned on the nutella, dampened the edges of the rounds with water, folded them in half to make a crescent , and used a fork to pinch the edges shut. We baked them and patiently waited for them to cool so we could dust them with powdered sugar. And then we sampled a few.These are good. I am enjoying them. I ate 4 yesterday afternoon for a snack and then another 4 for dessert in the evening. SP likes them as well. But somehow... I still don't loooove nutella the way most people seem to loooove it. I even scooped out a blob of nutella on a spoon and licked it off. Nothing. Just kind of, yum, this is nice.I think the problem is this: Nutella is chocolate colored, so I always get excited about chocolate spread. I know perfectly well it's a hazelnut spread and there's not enough cocoa in it to be a chocolate spread, but the color... it tricks me. My brain is thinking chocolate spread with a bit of hazelnut flavor. But what my taste buds perceive is hazelnut spread with a bit of chocolate flavor. Hazelnut spread. Nut spread. Nut butter. Peanut butter. I loathe peanut butter.

I know. I'm odd. How can anyone who will eat almonds and walnuts and cashews in cookies and on salads (although I prefer my cookies/cakes/baked goods to be nut-less) not like peanut butter? I really don't have an answer. It grosses me out. I cannot recall ever liking peanut butter. I've always gagged from the smell and been repulsed by it. When I was a kid, breakfasts were sometimes torturous because my brother and dad would make peanut butter and banana toast sandwiches and as a kid, I also despised bananas after the banana split incident (I was about 5 years old and overindulged on a banana split at my grandma's house; I got sick and the food item I never wanted again was banana, I was OK with the ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream). My brother loved to make 'mmmm' sounds, wave his sandwich under my nose, and take over-sized bites and chomp loudly. I gagged.

I still gag. SP often eats peanut butter from the jar with a spoon, or he scoops it out with a celery stick, and it disgusts me. Everyone loved trading Halloween candy with me because I always wanted to get rid of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. To this day I think peanut butter and chocolate is an abomination. A complete waste of good chocolate. I also know I am the odd one and that most people consider peanut butter & chocolate a marriage made in heaven.

If you looooove nutella, you'll love these cookies. If you like nutella, you'll like these cookies. I like them. I would make them again.

I found a post for similar cookies at Marzipan. She made her nutella cookies for World Nutella Day in February 2011 and hers included chopped hazelnuts on top the nutella inside the dough pocket. That would give these more hazel nutflavor and a little crunch.

Petite Nutella Pochettes
Recipe courtesy Melissa d'Arabian

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
Water, as needed
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Special equipment: 3-inch fluted biscuit cutter

In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until light and creamy. Add the flour slowly until the dough forms. Do not over-mix! Shape the dough into a ball and cover. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

On a lightly-floured surface, using a lightly-floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch fluted biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Form the scraps into a ball and re-roll to make more circles. Fill each dough circle with a small spoonful of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Dip your finger in tap water and spread on the edge of half the circle to help create a seal. Fold the dough over to create a crescent. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool, then sift the confectioners' sugar on top and serve.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wholey's Live Lobster

Yesterday afternoon, about 45 minutes after he left for the Strip, SP called me.

Me: "What's wrong, did he pinch you?"
SP: "No, but he's a lively one."
Me: "Well where is he? Why are you calling?"
SP: "He's on ice in a bag on his way to the car."

About a half an hour later, SP returned home.

SP: "Honey, I'm home!"
Me: "Where's Lloyd?"
SP: "You named our lobster?!"

Lloyd really wasn't much to look at. His claws were banded shut. He was on ice. In a bag. Pretty lethargic at that point. After a quick glance, Lloyd went into the freezer. SP assured me that he did the research and it was OK to put our live lobster in the freezer to kill him before we cooked him. I think we both were a little squeamish about dunking a wiggling lobster into a pot of boiling water. Somehow, freezing him first seemed... umm... nicer? For us, anyway.

Last week I saw a tweet and an ad in the newspaper for live whole lobsters $5.98/lb at Wholey's in the Strip. I mentioned it to SP, and we thought that seemed like a good price. Especially after he priced GEMD live lobsters at $14.99/lb. So Sunday afternoon, he took a drive to the Strip in search of dinner.That's Lloyd, after cooking. Turns out Lloyd was not a boy. Lloyd-ette was tasty. Steamed in some water and lemon juice for 10-12 minutes. SP got to... dissect our lobster.We shared the 1.25 lb lobster. We didn't get 2 because we were a bit apprehensive about cooking live lobster at home. This was our first time cooking a live lobster. We didn't want to under or over cook it. So we just got one. Now that we know how simple it is, we'll have to keep an eye out for more lobster deals!We also grilled some fresh bay scallops from GEMD. SP put them on skewers, brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled on some lemon-pepper seasoning and grilled them.He's really good at grilling scallops. These were, once again, perfectly grilled. Just cooked through, still juicy, not dried out and hard. So good!
Along with the lobster and scallops, we made a salad. Lettuce, carrots, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, green olives, almonds, basil microgreens, and some mozzarella.

I made a dressing called Summer Vinaigrette. The recipe was in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review here.I omitted the garlic and used only half a shallot. It still has a strong shallot flavor! I made it in the food processor so the basil, parsley, and chives really got pureed with the mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil.

This was such a tasty meal, and light, which was great since we both feel like we've been eating a bit much lately!

Summer Vinaigrette


•1 medium-size shallot, finely chopped
•1 medium-size garlic clove, minced
•1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
•1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
•1 teaspoon finely chopped basil
•1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
•1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
•3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
•3/4 cup olive oil
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the shallot, garlic, parsley, chives, basil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and red-wine vinegar in a medium-size bowl and whisk until well blended. (Or, place in a food processor and process until well blended.)

Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously (or processing) until blended. Add the salt and pepper, and taste for seasoning.

Makes 1 cup.

Advance preparation: This could be prepared and kept for as long as one week in the refrigerator. Whisk before using.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cherry Hand Pies

After last Sunday's Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies disappointment, I was sad. Sad because there wasn't any dessert for the week. It would probably be good for my waistline to not have dessert for a week, but emotionally, well, that's another thing. I really, really, really like a little something for dessert every night, and I don't mean a couple M&M's (those are a good afternoon snack, with a latte).

Sunday afternoon I had started to go through all the recipes I've ripped out of magazines since last February. After the yucky twig cookie tasting, I again tackled the mass of clippings and I saw a recipe for Cherry Hand Pies (Bon Appetit, July 2011). Using puff pastry. It looked pretty easy. It sounded good. We had just bought a lot of puff pastry. And we still had a lot of cherries that were nearly a week old. So I cornered SP and waved the recipe in his face. He's no dummy. He clearly remembered my face when I ate the twig cookie (of course it had only been about a half an hour earlier and I'd been complaining ever since about how gross and disappointing the cookies were and how could there be such a thing as yucky shortbread). He grabbed the cherries, the cherry pitter, and a saucepan and got to work.These are easy to make, just a bit time consuming. It takes a bit of time to cook the cherries with vanilla, cornstarch, and sugar, and then the cherry mixture has to cool for a bit. We made the cherry mixture late on Sunday evening. There wasn't enough time to cool the mixture and then make, chill, and bake the pies, so we put the cherry mixture in the refrigerator overnight.

Monday evening we got the cherry mixture out to warm while we ate dinner. After dinner, SP rolled out the puff pastry. I am terrible at rolling dough, so I like that SP does it, though I suspect he wishes he could make me do it. But he's seen me wield a rolling pin. It's not pretty. Since the filled puff pastry packets need to chill for half an hour before baking, the mini pies didn't come out of the oven until nearly 11pm.Then it was decision time. We've been trying to get to bed earlier, so really, I should have headed off to brush my teeth, wash my face, etc. But... yummy looking & smelling pies. They just needed to cool a bit. But that would mean going to bed later rather than earlier. What to do?

Well anyone who knows me knows it probably took me all of 5 seconds to 'manufacture' some before bedtime chores, and when those chores were finished, well what a coincidence, the pies were cool enough to eat! SP and I shared one before bed. The next morning, we shared one for breakfast, mostly because I wanted to take photos in the morning light and I wanted to break one open to photograph the inside.These are quite tasty. Much, much, much tastier than those Earl Grey Shortbreads. No complaining from me, just happy sounds. One night we warmed a couple up in the oven and topped them with little scoops of vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Cherry Hand Pies

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted (or about 12 ounces frozen pitted cherries, unthawed)
2/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry (preferably Dufour), thawed in refrigerator
Flour (for dusting)
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons raw sugar

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl to blend. Combine fresh cherries and next 4 ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to an 18x15" rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into nine 6x5" rectangles. Whisk egg white and 1 tablespoon water in another small bowl for egg wash. Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Scoop 3 tablespoons cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meet, forming a 5x3" packet. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with raw sugar. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

CSA #20

This week in our CSA box:~3# saladette tomatoes, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ basil, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ crab apples, Crighton’s Farm
~ basil microgreens, Crighton’s Farm
~ 2# red onions, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, Blue Goose Farm, CNG
~ 2# peaches, Dawson’s Orchard
~ 1# pepper medley, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 4 ears sweet corn, Beacarri’s Farm
OG- Certified Organic CNG- Certified Natural Grown CF- Chemical Free

Turns out there weren't any peaches this week after all. We received an email last night apologizing and promising to make up for it next week. Look at all those tomatoes! Perhaps we will make another tomato tart, especially since we raided the Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry section at Walmart last weekend. Turns out the PFPP is much cheaper at Walmart than at Giant Eagle, almost $2 cheaper if I correctly remember, but Walmart doesn't always have it in stock so since we saw it, we bought more than one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Yucky

Life was busy last weekend. We're a bit off our 'normal' routine, which I suppose can be nice, being forced out of a comfort zone, but at the same time, I'm feeling... disconcerted lately. Things seem very up or very down. Good or bad. No nice middle ground. And not just in the kitchen.

One bad thing, a non-kitchen 'down,' is that the stink bugs have returned. They like to congregate on our kitchen windows and they somehow sneak their way between the screen and window, so I cannot open the window because then they'll be in the house. A few gorgeous days and I couldn't open the windows!

Then there is the sudden wasp invasion. Last week, I battled one in my bathroom. Those guys are hard to kill! I was afraid to shower with the wasp hovering around the window. Then last night we had 2 in our living room. I have no idea where they are coming in from. I had the living room windows open since the stinkies were on the kitchen windows (but for some reason they don't hang out on the living room windows) and we're wondering if the wasps came in through those windows.

Anyway, it seems I won't be enjoying the nice, cool, fresh air as fall arrives. Not unless I want to be battling stink bugs and wasps in the house.

Usually we have success in the kitchen. Sure, some things just taste better than others, some things are just 'meh' (like the citrus shortbread last Christmas) but I cannot remember too many 'yucks.' The one I do remember is when we made a Chicken Paprika - oh that was yucky. This past weekend, we had another 'yuck' and unbelievably, it was a baked good.

A while ago, I caught a wee bit of a Claire Robinson show on Food Network. She made Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies. I love shortbread. I love Earl Grey. Sounded good, although a wee warning bell went off - chopped tea right in the dough? Hmmmm. But I ignored the alarm and we made these cookies.

Yucky. That's what I think. I cannot believe these have a 4-5 star rating on the site and that reviewers talk about how great these cookies are. They do have good shortbread flavor, but I couldn't taste any Earl Grey flavor and worse, not all the tea got pulsed into super tiny bits in the food processor and some of the larger tea leaves were like mini twigs when I ate the cookies. It was gross.

I have no photos. I meant to take photos the next morning in the bright natural light, but we were so 'yucked' by these cookies that we decided SP should take them to work and see what people at work thought, if they'd even eat them. And they did. I was surprised the cookies vanished. I guess some people like mini twigs in their cookies - ?! Most people said they were good and could see why the tea twigs bothered me.

Anyway, we won't be making those again!

Last weekend there was birthday cake. Birthday cake is a good thing. Our youngest niece turned one and there was a party to celebrate. The cake was Bethel Bakery cake, my favorite, with kitty cats on top, and those kitty cats were made of icing and I love BB icing. Yum! At the party I also indulged in potato chips & pretzels dipped in a sour cream & bacon dip. And cheese & crackers. A whole bunch of unhealthy food and I sure felt it later on!

Later that night, after the birthday celebration, we went to Bocktown for dinner. We had our usuals, and they were, as usual, good.

Last Sunday I got to visit with a friend from graduate school. That's a good thing. I hadn't seen him since grad school graduation! A long time ago. He's driving from Annapolis, MD to Monterey, CA with his SO and they detoured to Pittsburgh for a visit. They asked us about the 'famous sandwich' - Primanti's! We gave them directions to Primanti's in the Strip and directions to get on the roads leading north (their next stop was to see friends in Cleveland). After they left we both were hungry, and I had Primanti's on my mind. I'd never had a Primanti's sandwich. So SP went to the one near us and got us some sandwiches.Before I say any more about Primanti's, let me say that I have never liked french fries. Never. Yes, I would sometimes eat them, but I'd never order them, never make them, and usually when they came with a sandwich at a restaurant, I'd give them away. So there's strike one against Primanti's. Strike two: cole slaw. Also something I have not ever enjoyed. With the exception of my grandma's cole slaw, which was finely grated, not shredded, and contained carrot, too, I do not like cole slaw. So why I suddenly wanted to try a Primanti's, I don't know. I guess I suddenly felt ashamed that I grew up here and had never tried one.Thank goodness we ate our sandwiches at home so I couldn't be shamed when I ended up pulling off most of the fries & cole slaw. Look at that! That sandwich is 3 times the size of my mouth! My verdict - well, I liked the beef and cheese and tomato and bread. SP enjoyed his capicola & egg sandwich. I'm not sure I'll ever want another Primanti's - like I said, I just have never enjoyed fries and slaw, and that's really the point of a Primanti's sandwich.

After eating a Primanti's sandwich, neither of us wanted dinner. I think around 7 pm we snacked on some cucumber & tomato. That means that Monday night, we had to cook (instead of re-heat) dinner. SP stir fried the CSA eggplant:And we made fried rice. For me, white rice with farmers market green beans, eggs, CSA carrot, and shrimp. For SP, brown rice with the same ingredients plus some cabbage, celery, and leeks. It was kind of a 'clean out the veggie bin' fried rice!I have no idea what else we'll be eating this week. We are slowly cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer. We just tossed some meatballs we found in the freezer from last September! The veggie bin is empty and ready for the fresh CSA veggies arriving later today.

I'm still feeling kind of polluted after a weekend filled with too much salty and sweet foods so I think there will be an emphasis on veggies for a while!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Market District Dinner

Despite living so darn close to Giant Eagle Market District, and despite being there every week for regular grocery shopping since it's our local grocery store, we rarely purchase foods from their prepared foods area. It's a huge area, with lots of options. The exception is usually when SP gets together with his friends for a night of geek games and I stay home. I want something quick and easy. Such was the case last Saturday. As usual I went past every single prepared food area. And as usual I settled on a soup:Lobster Bisque. Pretty darn tasty.

I've wanted to try their Goat Cheese & Rosemary Cream Cheese for quite a while, so I grabbed some of it:I chose a honey wheat bagel on which to slather the cream cheese:It's a tasty cream cheese, very light, a whipped cream cheese, but pricey ($4), so it's not a frequent purchase. But a few times a year we buy some as a treat.

I also got a dessert. I think GEMD calls it a French Twist. I call it a Lady Locks.It was pretty tasty, too.I also made a spur of the moment purchase. In the store, I saw an ad for Milano Melts, which I have never tried and actually, after seeing the first ads for these cookies a while ago in some food magazines and getting excited over the new milanos and vowing to try them as soon as possible, I had forgotten they even existed. Until last Saturday. So I got a bag.They are just OK. Not really as soft and oozy, melty as I expected. And since the chocolate is entirely inside the cookie part, not like a regular milano which is like a sandwich cookie so you can see the chocolate filling, it's actually less chocolaty, which is disappointing. I prefer regular milanos and probably won't buy these Milano Melts again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

CSA #19

Week #19:~ cantaloupe, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ 1# Asian eggplant, Sunny Meadow Farm, CF or Crighton’s Farm
~ 1.5# field tomatoes, Matthew’s Farm
~ 1# carrots, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1/2# green beans, Hostetler’s Farm, CF
~ 1.5# peaches, Dawson’s Orchard
~ 1# heirloom tomatoes, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1/2 pint blackberries, Dawson’s Orchard
OG- Certified Organic CNG- Certified Natural Grown CF- Chemical Free We didn't get any blackberries. Instead, there were blueberries. I'm looking forward to our first heirloom tomatoes of the year and to trying the cute, little eggplants - this is the first time we've received this kind of Asian eggplant in our CSA box.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Farmers Market Fattoush

SP again raided the farmers market after work last Friday. Look at all the stuff he got! We used some tomatoes, eggplant, and red pepper in the Pesto Calabrese. Some tomatoes got roasted for the tomato tart. We made a galette with the peaches plus we've been eating them for breakfast. All the zucchini and eggplant got sliced and grilled:We also grilled some red pepper, green pepper, jalapeno, and tomatillos. The jalapeno & tomatillos will be used for a not-yet-made salsa. The other stuff was combined with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, kalamatas, and feta for fattoush, again:I think we made enough to feed an army. OK, enough for us to have 4 dinners. Served with some grilled pita and all those veggies are super filling! It never seems like there's that much on my plate, and I always think, oh, it's just veggies, not so filling, and then I am always wrong. I am always stuffed after eating this fattoush. This time we added eggplant, which isn't part of the original recipe, but it sounded good to us. The local farmers goodies are so wonderful right now. I will be sad when it's winter and we no longer receive a CSA box, the farmers markets are closed, and we choose to not freeze or shovel a path to the grill!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peach & Cherry Galette

We've been eating a lot of peaches lately. The CSA & farmers market peaches have been so tasty. Every morning when I go out into the kitchen, I can smell the peach bowl - their smell just wafts all around the kitchen. We decided to make a dessert with some of our peaches. Originally, I wanted to make a peach pie with a lattice top because I still want to master making a pretty lattice top (all my previous attempts have failed miserably!) but SP wanted something less time consuming. So we settled on a galette.It was supposed to be a quick dessert to make, so we cheated and bought pre-made dough. Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust. We added some cherries we got at Costco, tossed the cherries & peaches with a little sugar, cinnamon, and arrowroot, dumped it all on the crust, folded up the edges, brushed the edges with egg wash, and baked.It's OK. I think SP likes it more than I like it. I thought that maybe I didn't enjoy it much on Sunday because I was tired from all the cooking & cleaning up, stuffed from all the food, and had a few too many glasses of wine. Maybe I was just too wiped out to enjoy it. But I tried some more of a couple days later, and it tasted better, but still not great. I think it's the crust, and I suppose that's what we get for buying refrigerated pie crust. I've used the same crust before for quick desserts and it tasted much better - maybe something changed with the crust? Next time, we'll have to plan ahead and make time to make our own crust from scratch. At least the cherries & peaches filling tastes really good!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tomato Tart & Pesto - Again (But Different)

I know we just made a tomato tart and a pesto, but they were so darn tasty and we have so many farmers market veggies and so many herbs on the deck that I just had to make a tart & pesto again - but different versions of each.

This time, I made the tomato tart I made last summer. I couldn't stop thinking about tomato tart after last week's tart was gone. I just had to have another one. The one with the roasted tomatoes. Oh my gosh, these roasted tomatoes are so tasty. The recipe says cherry tomatoes, but I used regular ones from the farmers market. Slice, place on parchment lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with fresh thyme and fresh rosemary, season with salt & pepper, drizzle with a wee bit of olive oil, and roast until they are moisture-free/starting to get a little wee bit black around the edges.The tomatoes took 1.5 hours at 350 degrees. I roasted them in the morning and let them cool all day. The assembly is even simpler than last week's tomato tart: roll out puff pastry to 14x12, cut into 2 14x6 pieces, prick with fork, bake at 425 until golden, top with tomatoes, return to oven and bake until golden brown and tomatoes are heated through, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with feta.I think I might like this tart better than the one we made last week. Last week's seemed more like a margherita pizza with the fresh mozzarella and basil. Both are tasty, and I'd make both again, it'll just depend on my mood/taste preferences at that moment in time!Pesto! That's right - non-green, non-moldy, non-sludgy looking pesto. SP came home with lots of tomatoes, red pepper, and eggplant from the farmers market last Friday and as with the tomato tart, I just couldn't stop thinking about the Pesto Calabrese.We made a huge bowl of pasta and this pesto. It's easy to make, but it requires more prep time before the food processor blending than the Walnut-Basil Pesto. We used a shallot instead of onion and a very generous 1/3 cup of basil. Come to think of it, we were very generous with all the ingredients, including a very rounded 1/2 cup ricotta. We used regular tomatoes, not plum, and again, probably used more than what 2 plum tomatoes would have been.Oh. My. This is so good. I couldn't get enough of it in my mouth fast enough. I think I was making happy food noises. Saveur suggests using this pesto as a bruschetta topping, and that would be quite tasty, but we mixed it with pasta and it was delicious. This time, we remembered to add in a few splashes of pasta water for added moisture.

PESTO CALABRESE
From Saveur Issue #140

MAKES ABOUT 1 1/2 CUPS

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
2 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup packed basil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place eggplant in a colander and toss with 2 tsp. salt; let sit for 20 minutes. Drain eggplant and dry on paper towels; set aside. Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat; add pepper and onion, and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add ricotta and basil; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.