20 October 2009

Sunday Dinner: Mushroom Pasta

This past Sunday, I was in the mood for some mushrooms. I saw a recipe last week on Twitter from Foodista for porcini ravioli with sage brown butter sauce, which, by the way, sounded amazing. I don't have a pasta maker and I was too lazy to go to Pastaworks to buy fresh sheets of pasta, so I improvised using the base of their recipe. I understand the Spaghetti Factory has a similar dish...I like the idea, I despise the Spaghetti Factory.

Mushroom Linguini with Sage Brown Butter sauce
1 lb. linguini
1/2 sweet onion
1 garlic clove
10 fresh sage leaves (2 chopped, 8 left whole)
1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley
1/4 lb. crimini* mushrooms, chopped
1/8 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, chopped
1/8 lb. king oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 c. olive oil
reserved pasta water
salt & pepper to taste
mizithra cheese

Cook pasta according to directions. Try to time this to finish at the same time as the mushrooms.

Slice onion very thin. Heat 1/2 the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then lower the flame and cook until onions are caramelized. Add garlic near the end and cook until fragrant. Set onion and garlic aside in a medium-size bowl.

Chop the mushrooms (I prefer to leave the pieces pretty large, about the size of a quarter). Add the rest of the olive oil, heat to medium-high again. Throw in your mushrooms and cook until they are slightly brown, but still firm. Throw the mushrooms into the bowl with the onions and toss with the parsley and sage. Add pepper, but I recommend not adding salt until later. Set aside.

Put your butter in the pan and melt down over medium heat. Add the remaining 8 sage leaves and allow the butter to brown slightly. Add the mushroom mixture and toss until well coated.

Drain pasta, but keep about a cup of the water. Put the pasta back in the pan and add the mushroom mixture that is coated with the butter sauce. Shred some mizithra cheese over the top and mix. Add hot pasta water, as needed. At this point you can test to see if you need more salt. The cheese was so salty, I didn't need any extra.

Add a little extra cheese, and some parsley (if desired), and serve!
Sorry the color is a little off. I had a bad setting on my camera phone when I took this picture.

I made another loaf of No Knead Bread a la The New York Times. I prefer this recipe over the Test Kitchen one as there are fewer ingredients and it's much easier. The Test Kitchen recipe is, of course, delicious, but there's (pun alert) no need to take that course when the simpler NY Times recipe is just as good.*Note: New Seasons sells an 8 oz. variety package of mushrooms for $6.99. The contents change regularly, but it is a great way to go if you're unsure what kind of mushrooms you want. I padded mine with the crimini mushrooms since the other can be so expensive.

12 October 2009

Fall Fest Dinner: Sopes, Pozole Verde, and Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Saturday, we hosted our good friends the Rices for our annual Fall Fest dinner. Each year, we go out to the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island to do the Corn Maize, hunt for the perfect pumpkins, and pump ourselves full of sugar at the various food stands. After the patch, one of us cooks dinner and we enjoy a less-popular (read: crappy) horror movie, care of horror-movie aficionado Shawn.

It was our turn to host this year and rather than do our usual American comfort food, I opted to mix things up and do a more fanciful Mexican dinner. One day, I was listening to a story on NPR about an American ex-pat who lived in Mexico City and wrote a book about his experiences, including food, which is obviously a large part of Mexican culture. When he mentioned pozole verde, I knew I had to find a recipe for it. Unlike the traditional pozole I grew up with, this version uses a sauce involving tomatillos and pumpkin seeds. It sounded perfect. I set about my task of finding as authentic a recipe as I could find. Considering my mom was not familiar with this dish, it became a rather daunting task. I ended up settling on one from Epicurious, mostly because it sounded about right, was healthy, and didn't cost a fortune to make.

I made the pozole on Friday night since we wouldn't be getting back to the house until later in the evening AND these kinds of soups always end up being better the next day. I think the most surprising thing about this soup was that it was so spicy. To make the sauce, you use two whole jalapeƱo peppers, seeds and all, and then puree them with your tomatillos, cilantro, and onion. It turned beautifully. The color of the soup is so vibrant and then paired with all the toppings--cabbage, avocado, radishes, queso fresco--it was practically a piece of art.
Top with shredded cabbage, avocado, lime juice, radishes, fried, tortilla strips, queso fresco, sour cream...whatever sounds good!

I next went on to making the toppings for the sopes. The first time I had these, my mom made them with oysters and they were heavenly. I am not that good...yet. I opted for a refried bean base, chorizo and potato topping, and salsa de jitomate topping and queso fresco. You can get the recipe from the Food Network. I was not crazy about the masa cake, but I think in retrospect, I will not try to make the dough ahead of time. It was dry and crumbly, even though I wrapped it in a wet paper towel, let it sit at room temperature for a while before using it, and added a little more water before frying. Mom--I'm still the apprentice. You are still the master.
Without salsaWith the salsa (and blurry)

Finally, I made a pumpkin bread pudding with dark chocolate chips. I got the recipe from Epicurious, but altered a bit after reading the reviews. Normally, I wouldn't mess with a recipe my first time around, but the overwhelming opinion was that it was a necessity. At the request of Tobias, I added the chocolate chips (this is what happens when you give a sugar addict a choice between pumpkin and chocolate--he says, "both"). I cut down the amount of butter used to coat the bread, used about 1.5 times the amount of bread needed and threw in an extra egg, a little more cream and whole milk, and spices for good measure. I kept the sugar at just 1/2 a cup as I knew the chocolate would more than make up for it. I used Dagoba organic 70% chocolate chips throughout and spinkled more on top for good measure. I threw that together in the morning, wrapped it tightly, and threw it in the refrigerator. I don't know if you're supposed to do that, but I did, and it tasted good.
Le Creuset baking dish still holding strong despite the large crack on its side

Happy Fall everyone!

07 October 2009

Sunday Dinner #2: Beef Stew & Rustic Rolls

I skipped over last week's Sunday dinner (the first of fall) as we just grilled pizzas again and it wasn't the most exciting thing ever. I did, however, find a good use for my leftovers with that menu--meatball and mushroom, pesto and chicken, and fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella. Sound familiar? So, on to this weekend's dinner.

It was a rather chilly day, despite ending up as a sunny day. I spent part of my morning meeting up with my high school friend Kristel as she finished the last 4 miles of the Portland Marathon (go Kristel!). It was a strange way to catch up after 11 years, but I had a great time being there for it. After coming home chilly from running outside, beef stew sounded just perfect. I also wanted to make my first attempt at making rolls. They couldn't be too much different than making bread, but something about their little perfect shape intimidates me.

I used the Test Kitchen as my basis for both recipes. I had never tried their beef stew recipe and found it unusual to throw it in the oven after browning the meat and adding the liquid. Don't doubt the Test Kitchen, though. The meat was unbelievably tender. One thing I don't understand, though, is the lack of celery in their recipe. I added it, but I find it unusual that they don't bother with it. Personally, I love celery in my stew. I failed to recognize the fact that I needed to cook the stew in the oven when planning my meal. It only became an issue when I was to heat the oven to 425 degrees for the rolls. Oops. I have a good Dutch oven (William Temple house--$5!) and finished it on the stove.Can't beat a $5 find like this! Not pretty, but man can it cook.

The rolls were pretty easy, actually. I started a sponge on Saturday night. The recipe is very similar to any rustic bread (I just found out that "rustic" actually means "simple"...interesting). the only difference is after letting the dough rise the first time, you divide it into equal parts (it was supposed to be 18, I got 17) and let the individual part rise again. The dough seemed wetter to me than my usual bread dough, but that might have just been operator error.
Rest little rolls.

After heating the oven with the baking stone for a half hour, I slid my rolls and parchment paper onto the hot stone to bake for 20 minutes until golden. I was impatient and ended up doing all of them at once. I don't think it made too much of a difference, but I should probably rotate them out next time. The recipe says to allow them to cool for a half hour before serving, but who doesn't want a hot roll out of the oven?? C'mon.
Better than fresh from the bakery

01 October 2009

Ciao Vito

To celebrate the great success at the Race for the Cure Health Expo, my friend and our significant others wanted to go out to Toro Bravo for dinner. Much to our dismay, the restaurant was packed (not surprising on a late summer Saturday evening) and we were too hungry to wait for an hour and a half. Knowing this was a possibility, I thought of a few alternatives, one being Ciao Vito on NE Alberta. I had never been and we all thought it be a reasonably substitute. We gave them a call to find out if there was a wait and were told there was not.

After driving around traffic barriers and maneuvering around parked cars in the Alberta district (just our luck, the street fair was that day), we finally made it only to find out there was a 15-30 minute wait. However, we could sit outside. What happened in the 15 minute drive over to make the restaurant go from dead to full, we didn't know. We opted to freeze our rear ends off outside in order to get some food.

The appetizers were very well made. Shawn got the meatballs--pretty basic, but done well. Eve-Maridy ordered the caprese salad, which was also nice. I definitely hit the jackpot with my salad, which had Spanish chorizo, butter lettuce, and cheese (can't remember what kind...this is what happens when I wait a couple of weeks to post). I sopped up every drop with the bread.

After eating our appetizers, we were finally seated inside to defrost. I ordered the special of the day consisting of halibut over gnocchi (my favorite) with porcini mushrooms. The presentation was beautiful, the fish was perfectly cooked, but the gnocchi fell short. Very short. They were hard and did nothing for the dish. I was disappointed by everything but the fish. Shawn ordered the eggplant parmesan and said it was good, but not great. It seemed odd to me that after such delicious appetizers, we would leave less than impressed.

Overall, I may try it out again, but I'm not overly anxious to try it out again. After all, this is Portland there are so many restaurants to try and never enough time or money to hit them all.