Archive for December, 2006

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Save the silverware and eat roast beef and carmelized onion panini!

December 11, 2006

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Dispense with the fork and the knife. Away with that white dinner napkin.

Sometimes you just want food you can pick up with your hands and gnaw on. Among these foods, hot pressed sandwiches (and french fries) must be royalty.

Since our former panini press met an unfortunate end (involving a three foot drop and untimely meeting with the kitchen floor), we’ve been deprived of hot pressed sandwiches. I blame faulty construction of obviously flimsy sandwich presses that can’t stand one small toss off a kitchen counter. My husband prefers to blame me for creating circumstances where said press could topple off said counter. You say banana, I say tomato.

Anyway, we now have in our possession a far superior (and sturdier) panini press that can conquer the great heights of my husband’s roast beef-havarti-carmelized onion-spicy mustard-Italian bread-style sandwich. Even the name is a mouthful. The sandwich may sound simple, but it is oh-so-satisfying. The trick is to combine quality ingredients — a mound of lovingly carmelized onions, freshly roasted sliced beef, a big thick crusty loaf of bread, and superior brown mustard with those little mustard seeds strewn throughout. Pile those ingredients high and fire up your panini press. You won’t be sorry — and, bonus, you can use your bare mits to heave that sandwich right up to your maw. Enjoy!

Click here to download the recipe for this panini.

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Top Chef Week Seven: The raw, the open pit, and Frank washes out.

December 7, 2006

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Behold, the power of estrogen. Yes, women flexed their substantial cooking biceps on tonight’s Top Chef – and the man who uses the most hair product didn’t do too shabby, either.

The show began, as usual, with the QuickFire challenge, where we were quickly made to remember that this show was taped long ago on the West Coast. Our intrepid contestants had to concoct a meal using only ingredients bought for $20 from the well-stocked Redondo Beach Farmers’ Market. The twist? They weren’t allowed to cook said ingredients. Yawn.

The contestants rose to the occasion and arranged their fresh ingredients (and not a small amount of seafood) admirably. And in a trend that continued during the episode, the top three weren’t the usual suspects: Elia (concise and simple tuna), Frank (excellent presentation) and Marcel (cool concept, dude). Marcel won for really using his ring mold – I mean, brain – in creating a “watermelon steak” and some other very nicely plated veggie/fruit stuff. In victory, he uttered a word we’d never heard before, not dissimilar to a pig call. (Swaniet? Help us. Does anyone speak Marcel?)

The Elimination challenge tasked the contestants with coming up with a delicious breakfast item to feed unnamed athletes at an unnamed location using unnamed cooking implements. Head scratching among the chefs ensued. Trolling the aisles of Wild Oats (thank you, obvious product placement), they gambled on whether there’d actually be a place to cook all those eggs they bought. They drove up on the beach in Malibu in their shiny Toyotas (another winning placement as it emerged from behind the rocks with Elia waving out of the sunroof) to face cooking over fire pits and serving hordes of surfers.

Some had chosen dishes that could be adapted to this sandy medium… some had not. To make a long story short (too late), the people who did not were surprising: Cliff and Sam struggled, and the three cooking beauties Elia, Betty and Mia turned out the top dishes. Surfers loved Mia’s crab cakes Benedict, the judges dug Betty’s eggs in a ham roll, and everyone enjoyed Elia’s savory-sweet waffle/egg creation. There was even a heart warming moment were everybody gave Michael some eggs – except Frank, who was very disturbingly gleeful at Michael’s distress. (Even we thought it was mean, and we pick on Michael all the time.) Elia rode the wave – to use the show’s forced surfing metaphors – and Cliff, Sam and Frank wiped out. Guess who got booted? Not hard, right? Goodbye, Frank. It’s been real.

Did Michael just become more loveable?

Husband: Yes, Betty Crocker and Charles Manson’s boy had my favorite line of the night. As Frank was “vigorously” grating some sort of vegetable, Michael’s watermelon napoleon kept toppling over – leading him to observe in frustration that Frank was “humping some gorilla on the prep table.”
Wife
: Chef Boyardee has become more loveable (although where was my favorite chef’s hat tonight?). When he was rooting around his cooler looking for eggs that he had, no doubt, left on the counter at the dorm, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the big lug. And clearly, other people felt the same way… Yes, he’s grown on me.

Favorite consequence of having surfers as judge?

H: Obviously, it was the “surfer lingo” rodeo between Marcel and Michael. Both seemed to fairly fluent in stoner, so I doubt surfer was too hard for them to pick up. Also, the beach setting set the scene for Tom Colicchio appearing to flirt with surfer girls in bikinis.
W: In addition to the totally bodacious vocabulary we picked up, I enjoyed the opportunity of seeing Marcel’s lower-back tattoo (that was a tattoo, wasn’t it?), and his strange attempt to “toss” Elia into the water – which looked more like misdemeanor assault.

What’s with the girl power?
H: I guess I’m a cynic or a misogynist. They seemed to go on about Ilan’s food and not even mention Mia’s, yet there was no Ilan in the end. Part of me thinks it’s a ploy.
W: Clearly my husband is a she-hater. (I kid.) It was refreshing to see the women in the winner’s circle, even if one of them may have taken Ilan’s spot. It was also nice to see Sam and Cliff humbled a bit, if only for this week, since they had been cruising for most of the show. Will it last? Have I sold Elia short in the past? Who knows…

Winners and losers?

H: I’m finally going with the glasses (Ilan). I said during the QuickFire that there is something about him that just seems to nail it every time. I’m edging toward the wife’s favorite now. The next off? Michael. I know I said I wouldn’t pick him again to avoid the split in the space-time continuum, but I’m running out of folks to kick off and the judges may not want to kick any of the ladies off if they can avoid it. I’m risking a black hole and saying Michael.
W: How about Sam? Sure, he stumbled this week, but maybe it will motivate him to tighten that samurai bun and sharpen his sword. I think Mia may be next off. Despite the fact that her food looks like something I’d eat, her presentations never seem artsy enough for the judges.

Winners? Next off? Would you eat scallop carpaccio? What would you have cooked for a fire-pit breakfast on the beach? And how about Padma’s outfits?

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Breaking News: Wife claims fennel and sausage pasta as meal of champions, Husband abuses metaphor.

December 6, 2006

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Pasta. It’s the food of champions, isn’t it? Or is that Wheaties?

Well, then, besides chemically enhanced breakfast cereals that come in orange boxes, pasta may be one of the few fast foods that is actually good for you. (Atkins dieters please ignore this statement and resume your regular avoidance of bread and bread-like products. These are not the carbohydrates you seek.) And when my husband gets out his pasta press and opens the fridge, pasta is not only fast and delicious, it’s also fresh and healthy.

I’ve noted a few favorites of mine in his pasta repertoire (artichoke and tomato, special sauce, stuffed ravioli), but I have no objections to his adding more. Hence, I can recommend his fennel and sweet sausage pasta. This offering makes the list because it includes the necessary healthy bit (the fennel) and adds that extra tasty bit, too (the sweet Italian sausage).

Tossed with fresh fettuccini, this concoction makes a fresh, healthy and fast dinner that was ready when I walked through the door. And that, friends, is one of the main criteria for food that I can wholeheartedly endorse. “Good food now” is my motto, you may recall. And in the spirit of Queen’s stadium anthem (and Wheaties), pasta is the champion.

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It’s fennel slaw-tastic…

December 5, 2006

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Even the fiercest of us carnivores have to get our roughage in. And while I’m not a huge salad fan, I can be persuaded to chow down on some tossed veg, if the right ingredients are in the offing.

Enter the husband’s fennel slaw salad.

Pecans, carrots and fennel. An unexpected salad trinity perhaps, but quite tasty indeed. The fennel provides a delicious, crunchy bite, the carrots lend their sweetness, and the pecans add their nutty richness. Bathed in a dressing that contains the perfect mix of spicy, salty and sweet, it’s a refreshing entry point into any meal.

So, fellow meat-eaters, pick up your fork and get your veg on.

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The food pyramid commands you: Roast chicken and quince and sausage stuffing

December 1, 2006

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Stuffing is one of the more perfect side dishes. Think about it. Not only is it hot and delicious, but the best stuffings also have representatives from the major food groups: Bread, vegetable, meat, and in this case, fruit. Translation: Stuffing is totally good for you.

So when you’ve grown more than a little uncomfortably full and the zipper on your pants is starting to show its teeth — and yet you’re still contemplating that second helping of grandma’s stuffing … don’t hesitate. Remember your food pyramid, and fork up that stuffing, soldier. After all, our government says it’s good for you.

So now that I’ve convinced you that you not only like stuffing, but that you need stuffing, let me tell you about my husband’s latest grand design (featuring all four major food groups): Sausage and quince stuffing. Yessir.

Baked in that warm, fatty crevice that is the inside of a beautifully brined chicken, the stuffing’s many flavors — sweet and savory — mingle to create a stuffing piece de resistance. I’m a savory stuffing kind of gal, so I enjoyed the aroma and earthiness of the fresh herbs and sweet Italian sausage. But the nuggets of quince were wonderful players in this ouevre, and added their sweet song to its soaring medley. It was like a stuffing symphony arranged on the molars of my gaping maw.

Am I waxing poetic (and silly) about stuffing? Sue me. If you’d had it, you’d be spouting verse, too. And if stuffing can be a muse, I think you’ll agree, it must be damn good stuffing. (Not to mention the chicken. Oh, the chicken…. But that’s enough swooning for one post, don’t you think?)

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New Feature: MHC’s Recipe Index

December 1, 2006

We are introducing a new feature—our recipe index page. My wife made this great suggestion a couple of  weeks ago, and I said I was going to take care of it and never did. I think at this point you can enter your own domestic comedy metaphor (like a wife suggesting the grass needs to be cut) to give her suggestion context. So seeing as I was so on the ball, last night, she put together the page. I have to say she did a great job and I’m pleased to see so much of our work organized. It contains links to all of our recipes and tries to give them a good-old breakdown into useful categories. I hope you enjoy it. We’ll try to keep it updated so it’s as current as possible. You can find the page here or under the sidebar “Looking for Some Old Favorites.” Let us know if you see something missing or if you have any suggestions!

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