Pork Buns and Lemon Meringue Pie
Food post! Most of these dishes were made before our Mammoth and DC trips; I just never got around to posting about them.
1. In order to use up the last of the frozen cherry tomatoes from last summer, I made a batch of hearty Tuscan bean stew from a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated (the cherry tomatoes were very easy to peel after thawing, for future reference). Alongside, we had plates of pears and pecorino cheese, and for dessert we had gingerbread (also from the freezer) with lemon curd. The stew turned out well. The beans (Rancho Gordo runner cannellinis) were just the right texture, and the garlic-rubbed Acme baguette slices were the perfect accompaniment.
2. To use up some frozen bananas, I made a double recipe of Dorie Greenspan's black and white banana loaf (from Baking). When my bananas thawed, they released a lot of liquid, and I decided to add that to the batter along with the bananas, since it was in them to begin with. However, this was a bad choice, as the bread turned out too moist, with a strange dense texture. I'll try to remember to drain the liquid from thawed bananas next time. I pawned the first loaf off on my coworkers, and the second loaf is in our freezer, looking at me resentfully every time I open the freezer door.
3. Continuing the freezer cleanup, I finally made pork buns with some of our frozen char siu. We ate them with broccoli rabe braised with garlic and a simple salad of sliced blood oranges drizzled with honey. A few of the buns turned out underfilled, and the bites that didn't have filling were pretty bland, but the well-filled buns were very nice. This was my first time making pork buns, and I enjoyed the experience, though it was pretty time-consuming.
4. To use up the anchovies leftover from Valentine's Day dinner, I made beef fillet with red wine, anchovies, garlic, and thyme (from Nigella's How to Eat) atop Massa brown rice (from our box!). On the side was fennel braised with thyme and black olives (and more anchovies), from Molly Stevens' All About Braising.
The beef was pretty good, but it tasted a little fishy (maybe I used too many anchovies), and it was a little bit overdone. I may have used the wrong cut of meat; I wasn't really sure what Nigella meant when she called for beef fillet, so I used a top sirloin steak from Marin Sun Farms (also delivered in our box--I love how many local items we can get delivered to our door!). I liked the fennel, but Patrick didn't (not a surprise, since he doesn't like olives, and he's not crazy about fennel).
5. To celebrate the end of a series of painful design control meetings at work (I actually enjoyed them, but the other attendees did not), I made a batch of Dorie Greenspan's Korova cookies (or World Peace Cookies, depending on which cookbook you're looking at). It was definitely a good choice. These cookies were delicious--sandy, chocolatey, and rich--and easy to make. They disappeared quickly.
6. There was still a little char siu left in the freezer, so I made char siu lo mein once again, along with sunchoke-carrot soup. I had been thinking about sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) for a while, and I decided to finally buy some (delivered in our box, but of course) and see what they were like.
The soup was pretty boring, and I couldn't taste any sunchoke (or could I? Not sure, since I don't really know what they taste like). The lo mein was yummy as before. This time I used pea shoots instead of tatsoi, because that's what I could find at Nak's (plus they looked exciting!). I had a lot of extra pea shoots leftover, and I stir-fried those with oyster sauce and a bunch of Chinese chives for a tasty side the next night.
7. To use up 12 frozen egg whites (leftover from all the ice cream I made in 2007), I made Emily Luchetti's espresso-chocolate chip angel food cake. I like the idea of adding espresso powder to chocolate desserts, even though neither of us likes coffee-flavored things. The espresso powder here mostly underscored the chocolate flavor, as I'd hoped. Normally I don't like angel food cake, but this was very nice. I'd be happy to make it again when we've collected 12 more egg whites.
8. I had been wanting to do a breakfast-for-dinner night, so we had Lorna Sass' sesame-ginger spelt waffles, sliced blood oranges, and spiced chicken apple sausages (from Whole Foods, because I left work too late to get to Dittmer's before they closed; they definitely weren't as good as Dittmer's sausages). The waffles may sound a little unusual (I was excited about all of the crazy ingredients, but I can see how some people might be put off by them), but they were actually really nice. They're hearty from the spelt and sweet from the crystallized ginger. I'd definitely make them again. Like all waffles, they freeze well. I like taking waffle halves to work with me for a mid-morning snack.
9. Next up was another Sass recipe, this time from Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way--oat- and amaranth-crusted ham and cheese quiche, along with roasted asparagus. I made this with a fraction of our massive frozen ham reserves. Normally I like Lorna Sass' recipes, but this one was only okay. The crust, while crackery and slightly sweet as promised, just didn't do it for me.
10. After a span of a few weeks of no cooking at all (because of our weekend trips), we got back into the swing of things with a simple meal: spinach salad (with grapefruit sections, goat cheese, and Tracy's shallot-balsamic vinaigrette with Meyer lemon juice instead of vinegar) and pasta with chicken-green onion sausage, mustard greens, and green garlic. For dessert we had the first strawberries of the year tossed with sugar and mounded on top of toasted pound cake cubes (frozen leftovers from our New Year's fondue dinner). Good dinner! The pasta was a little dry, but it was very nice apart from that.
11. Yesterday we attended a party at my coworker's house. He owns a smoker, and he smoked up 25 lb of pork shoulder from Dittmer's. It was so good! We ate it on hamburger buns with a variety of BBQ sauces. It was a potluck kind of party, so I brought two desserts: Cook's Illustrated classic brownies (half with pecans, half without), and lemon meringue pie.
I have made the brownies before, but this was my first time making lemon meringue pie, and I was really happy with how it turned out. It's not my favorite kind of pie, but I can see its merits, and I certainly enjoyed eating it. I used Meyer lemons instead of regular lemons to make the filling. After I had already started making the filling, I thought maybe I should have reduced the amount of sugar, since Meyer lemons tend to be sweeter than regular lemons, but it turned out fine. I especially liked the crust--it was a normal pie crust coated with graham cracker crumbs. What a good idea! The meringue smelled nice and toasty sweet when it came out of the oven. I would definitely use this recipe again.
12. For dinner tonight, we had omelets (basic approach here) filled with sauteed beet greens, freezer ham, and goat cheese; roasted skinny asparagus; and braised fava beans with bacon. We used eggs from TLC Ranch (from our box), and the yolks were a beautiful yellow, giving very colorful (and yummy) omelets, what with the pink beet greens inside.
The fava bean dish was pretty good, but I couldn't really taste the beans. These were special fava beans, as they were our first harvest from the plants growing outside our apartment. One day we took a close look at them and realized that there were fava beans hiding underneath all those leaves. So exciting! I collected a bowlful this morning, but our bean yield was pretty pitiful. I probably should have waited and picked them when the pods were larger so the beans would have been larger (most of the beans we got were less than a centimeter long). One good thing about picking them small is that the beans were young enough that we didn't have to blanch and peel them.