"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." ~Unknown

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Taking Us Half A World Away

     For the last Sunday Dinner of 2012, Cyrus broke out a meal from one of his favorite genres: Vietnamese food.  Not only that, but he used two of the four mini-Mark Bittman cookbooks that Uncle Clark and Aunt Diane got me for Christmas.  The main course, Vietnamese lemon grass pork.  The small, pork medallions they made took barely half an hour for them to make.  The other dish Cy picked out, a pan fried noodle cake, was also very quick.
     When we all sat down to eat, Dad and Cyrus had also prepared a wonderful salad, with a handful of frilly greens, and some of satsuma sections to liven the basic lettuce.  The noodle cakes were hard to eat with a fork, but once you got them to your mouth they were quite good.  The curly, relatively sweet noodles set off the soy sauce topping, which was flung about by the now-crunchy noodles.  The pork was good, garlicky, with just a hint of the lemon grass underneath.
     It would have been better, Dad speculated, if it had been prepared by a woman squatting over a small grill on the cracked, buckled sidewalk half a world away on the streets of Hanoi.  Or we could have just grilled it ourselves.  Though, at this time of year, our own grill also feels like it's half a world away.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Simple, Does Not Mean Boring

     With Christmas just around the corner, it felt like a simple, not too big meal was more appropriate.  This morning, with no meals that wouldn't stuff us full to bursting coming readily to mind, Mom stuck a ripped out magazine page in front of me.  She said, "Does this look good?"
     "Sure," I said, only a handful of words from the recipe had registered, but two of them were "grits" and "andouille."  And the recipe said it only took half an hour.
     Dad and I started cooking around five, washing kale and stripping out the stems.  We boiled the kale, which was a little odd, but worked very well.  We made cheesy grits, and cooked the andouille sausage in a frying pan, throwing shallots and red bell peppers in the drippings.  Once the vegetable were soft, we threw back in the sausage, as well as the kale to warm up.  After a few moments, and the grits were ready, we tossed it all together on plates.
     The collection of kale, red bell peppers, grits and sausage made a festive sight, and a festive meal.  The warm, thick, creamy grits, were right at home with the sausage, and all the veggies toned down the fat of the grits and sausage.  Mom and Dad's favorite part, (and any other parent's I'm sure) was that any kid will eat kale (or broccoli, or brussel sprouts, for that matter) when it's covered in the delicious, concoction that is cheesy grits.  For a quick, easy, small meal, this one took us all by surprise.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

One-man Pirogi

     Dad's in Sinaloa, with the wildly fun, interesting and slightly dangerous job of looking at zuchinni in hoop-houses.  Mom and I figured Cy would take the week a little easier, Cy doesn't roll that way though.  Instead, he's single-handedly put together one of our favorite, most complex dinners.
     There are three plates of pirogi, ready to be cooked, and a pan full of onions sits on the stove, alongside one of sauerkraut, warming up, and kielbasa for the three of us.  It's cold and rainy outside, though not cold enough for snow.  There's a fire in the fireplace, next to the tree, with it's warm lights and shiny ornaments.  It's not yet five, and dark as night outside.  Inside, in here, the bright colored lights cut the gloom of a December day.  Holiday lights do something to the season that normal, yellow, lights cannot.

    After the flurry of activity right before the end of any meal, Cy dished up the pirogi, sauerkraut and kielbasa for us, as we set up the Elf.  We ate dinner in front of the TV, with one of our favorite holiday movies.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cal Pep, Their Recipes

     Earlier this week, I got an e-mail from Cal Pep, a restaurant in Barcelona with which we became enthralled when we visited about a year and a half ago.  While there, we signed up for their e-mail newsletter, and at irregular intervals since then, we've received recipes, translated into three different languages, from them.  Despite the fact that I, we, consider Cal Pep one of our favorite restaurants, we've never before attempted any of their recipes.
     The recipes are written for professional chefs, truly intended for the guys working behind Cal Pep's counter, and Catalan and Spanish have cooking euphemisms that Google translate quite simply doesn't understand.  Ultimately, we decided that a "coffee cup of sherry vinegar" meant an espesso size cup, or just a little bit.
     After guessing on all sorts of details, the two dishes we were making, "Chanterelles with Vinaigrette" and "Tuna Steak with Tomato and Pepper" (Cal Pep's names) came together.  Both were good, capturing the essence of the food at Cal Pep.  Rich in olive oil, with a spice burning long after you'd swallowed, they tasted like the real thing.  But it wasn't the real thing, not without the cooks behind the counter, and the several dozen people from countries near and far breathing down your neck for a seat.  Without the cacophony, the cramped space, the laughter in half a dozen languages, the flames shooting up from the stove, it wasn't quite like the restaurant.  Despite this, it was still good food.