Recent Meals, Flat Tires, and Durian
These past few weeks my main goal when planning dinner has been to clean out our cupboards and freezer. It's satisfying to use things that have been sitting around for a long time!
1. Stir-fried flank steak with bok choy (recipe from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook), topped with roasted peanuts and served on brown rice. Tasty! Cupboard/freezer items used: raw peanuts.
2. Mushroom-spinach scramble with homegrown cherry tomatoes, peppers, and Asiago cheese; toasted beer-rye rolls; Fatted Calf pork crepinettes; steamed corn on the cob. Patrick made the scramble, and it turned out very well. Cupboard/freezer items used: crepinettes, Asiago cheese, beer-rye rolls.
3. Spice-rubbed pork tenderloins (Sunset), farmers' market applesauce, onion and fontina beer bread (Cooking Light; used New Belgium Springboard as the beer and Parmesan cheese instead of fontina), frozen peas. I used the pork as an excuse to buy a spice grinder, which made quick work of the rub. The pork was very tender, but the spice rub was a little overwhelming. I liked the pork much better topped with the applesauce (which was awesome, by the way. I love real applesauce!). The beer bread was yummy and easy to make and didn't taste light at all (probably because of the cheese and half stick of butter involved). Cupboard/freezer items used: Parmesan, Springboard beer.
4. Basic bean soup (Cooking Light) made with a HoneyBaked ham shank and a mixture of white beans, yellow split peas, and Rancho Gordo marrow beans, tepary beans, and vallarta beans. I also added a parsnip, carrots, green onions, and a previously frozen Emmentaler rind. We ate it with some cornbread muffins. I'm still amazed that pork, beans, and water can turn into something so delicious. I love ham and bean soup! Cupboard/freezer items used: ham shank, legumes, cheese rind, cornbread muffins, canned tomatoes.
5. Black bean and hominy frittata (Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites) topped with fresh tomato salsa (also from Moosewood) and accompanied by more beer bread and some steamed greens. The salsa doesn't look so pretty because I used black heirloom tomatoes. It tasted fine. The frittata was good (I added a generous amount of grated Parmesan, which helped the flavor). This was my second encounter with hominy, and I enjoyed it. Cupboard/freezer items used: egg whites (left over from all the ice cream I made earlier this summer), Parmesan.
Earlier that day, we had our first taste of Pimientos de Padron from Happy Quail Farms. I had seen these peppers mentioned by some big-name Bay Area food bloggers, and I was excited to discover that Happy Quail Farms has a stand at the Menlo Park farmers' market (I had always just thought of that stand as the pepper lady; I never knew the farm's name). No trip to the Ferry Building required.
Pimientos de Padron are appealing because they are unpredictable. Most of them are mild and nutty, but approximately 1 in 10 is hot and spicy. I'm not really into spicy peppers, but I can't resist a food adventure! Plus we had just finished watching Casino Royale, so it seemed like a good time to do something a little reckless. I fried them up as directed by the Happy Quail Farms website, and we sat down with a big glass of milk (in case of overwhelming heat) and a plate of salty, delicious peppers. We ended up getting two hot peppers (one for each of us) out of the bag of 20. They weren't super hot, just nicely tingly. The rest were very mild, similar to asparagus or okra. It was a fun and delicious snack. I'll buy them again if I see them at the market.
That same day, I made dark chocolate meringues (meringue recipe plus shaping and baking instructions) to use up the rest of the egg whites. I had frozen 11 egg whites individually in an ice cube tray and then transferred all of the cubes to a bag once frozen, but I couldn't separate the cubes when I took the bag out this weekend (the problem was that I had to warm them a tiny bit to remove them from the ice cube tray, and then when they refroze in the bag, they all stuck together). So I just defrosted them all.
The meringues made the kitchen smell really nice and chocolatey (like I was baking brownies). We ate them with bowls of beautifully ripe farmers' market fruit (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and Black Mission figs). The meringues tasted really good, but the texture wasn't quite right--not soft enough on the inside. I think they got a little overbaked.
On the second night, to remedy the texture problem, I made parfaits of yogurt plus vanilla sugar, raspberries, strawberries, and crushed meringue. Much better. Those were some good parfaits. I didn't even miss the ice cream (much). I would definitely like to try Nigella's original chocolate pavlova recipe sometime.
6. Pasta, lentils, and artichoke hearts (Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites) topped with feta cheese, accompanied by cucumbers vinaigrette (also from Moosewood). Patrick made this dinner. It generated a lot of dishes (normally I dirty the dishes and Patrick washes them, but when Patrick cooks, the roles are reversed), but it turned out well. It was very meaty-textured and filling for a vegetarian dish. The cucumber salad was cool and refreshing and easy to assemble. Both recipes deserve a remake. Cupboard/freezer items used: canned tomatoes.
Our latest batch of granola is based on Heidi's honey-toasted fruit muesli recipe. I used Bob's 5-grain cereal instead of triticale. For the dried fruit, I used equal parts dried pears, apricots, and papaya. The granola turned out well, but the apricot added a tartness that I don't like. Even though I haven't found my perfect granola yet, we're certainly not suffering. Granola is hard to screw up.
I have been biking to work twice a week this summer. I still find it enjoyable (apart from waking up at 6am), and I'm part of a 2-month-long bike-to-work competition (guys vs. girls), so I have extra motivation to ride frequently. Unfortunately, I've been welcomed by a flat tire after work on my last two riding days. The first occurrence was last Thursday, and luckily Patrick was able to bike over and show me how to change my tire. I had my second flat yesterday, and I was able to change it all by myself (okay, I accepted a little help from my bike-savvy coworker, but I could have done it all myself). I may have punctured my tube when replacing the first flat on Thursday, which then would have led to my second flat yesterday. Hopefully I didn't puncture my tube again yesterday, or I'll be in for an unpleasant surprise on my next ride.
The reason I mention this is to point out how awesome Patrick is. First, he biked over to help me change the flat on Thursday. Then, yesterday, he biked down Bryant Street until we crossed paths so that I'd have somebody to bike home with. It was such a nice surprise, suddenly having him show up when I was halfway home. He works in the opposite direction from our apartment, so both days he biked many miles out of his way to help me out. That's totally above and beyond typical husbandly duties. I'm lucky :)
In other news, I finally had the opportunity to sample durian today. One of my coworkers grew up eating it and buys it every so often. She offered to bring it in and share it with us, and I figured I might as well try it once. When I came to work today, I noticed that our cubicle area smelled like a litter box, but I didn't want to say anything until I knew where the smell was coming from. Of course, it turned out to be emanating from a tiny Ziploc bag of durian. That is some stench; the Internet does not lie.
We took it outside before opening the bag so the smell wouldn't overwhelm everybody. I took a forkful of the stringy, white flesh, waited until my coworker had tried it first (to be sure it was edible), and then took a bite. Maybe I should have held my nose while eating it, because the smell really ruined any chance I might have had of enjoying it. My coworker insists that it tastes like vanilla custard. There may have been vague custardy undertones, but the overwhelming sensations for me were litter box mixed with resiny alcohol fumes. The flavor and smell permeated my mouth and nose, and even after downing an Altoid, that not-so-fresh flavor lingered.
So, I never have to eat durian again. I've tried it, and I didn't like it. I'm glad that's out of the way! After the tasting this morning, I briefly considered trying the durian ice cream at Polly Ann (maybe it doesn't smell bad and just tastes like vanilla custard), but after reading this, I am dissuaded.
Even though the durian ice cream is out, I would like to visit Polly Ann someday to try their jasmine ice cream. Or maybe I'd spin the wheel of ice cream instead. You know how I love my food adventures!