Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Season for Soup

Today was one of those days that you wanted to stay inside -- it was windy, and rainy, for a bit. A day that cried out for soup!

125. Potato, Watercress and Nutmeg Soup - *Soup*

This soup is one of the 'jazzed-up' potato soups in CL. It is, indeed, just the basic potato soup recipe, with the inclusion of nutmeg, and then watercress at serving.

Like the other soups in this chapter, Tom doesn't use a ready-made stock as the base. Instead, the 'stock' resulted from the sweating of the initial ingredients. These were chopped onions, garlic and salt in a little bit of olive oil.

Then, the chopped potatoes were added with some grated nutmeg, and a little bit of water is added.
This was left to simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes were close to falling apart. At this stage, a bit more water can be added to get the desired consistency. I didn't end up adding that much more water since I added more than enough in the beginning.

Tom says to make the soup cute and 'two-tone', it would be a good idea to chop up the watercress extra finely and kind of swirl it into the soup. I was mechanical enough to get it chopped extra small -- that's what a mezzaluna is for -- but not enough to really get the swirly action going. Here's my honest attempt at 'cute':

Well, nevertheless, it was delicious. A hearty and feel-good soup to warm the soul on a crappy day outside. The sun soon came out after we ate the soup, and that truly reflected my mood. :) Thanks, Tom!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It looked pretty...

I usually have high hopes for dinner. I think that my meal is going to be so fantastic that Rafa will do one of those silly dances seen in musicals and cry from every rooftop how remarkable his wife is. I'd be Wife of the Year. Erm, that doesn't happen. Which is not to say that Rafa doesn't appreciate my cooking at all - it's just that there are certain things that he doesn't like, actually many things. I have been dying to cook out Cupboard Love but haven't found the inspiration at all because I'm running out of the recipes that are begging to be made. Also, our dinner schedules have been complicated as Rafa usually works very late, which would mean, if we ate together, I'd have to wait until then to eat, or we would eat in shifts, but then that would only be worth it if the food was cold to start with or able to be reheated OR if it is something we both like. As you could see, complicated stuff. Dinner shouldn't be that complicated. And this coupled with the feelings I get every once in a while that my life is meaningless and I'm wasting it away and I can't get out of the vicious circle of overeating and feeling like crap about how fat I look ....
haha, sorry for that. But really, blogging is a lot cheaper than therapy! LOL.

So....... back to dinner. We had some leftover sausages from Nigella's One-Pan Sage-and-Onion Chicken and Sausage (FEAST), and I thought it would be cool to jazz them up a bit with a relish from Tom's Junk Food chapter.

124. DIY: Make your own sweetcorn relish - *Junk Food*

Tom writes that this relish makes a burger, more so than the dill sauce I had made earlier in this project. Well I didn't have any burgers, but taking some inspiration from the hot dog vendors around these parts, a relish sounded like a good topping for some sausages. I don't eat sausages, so this meal was for Rafa. (You'll see what I ate further down below.)

I really didn't know what to expect from this relish. Usually, relish is a pretty generic term for a kind of pungent topping. But, I wasn't sure if it would be spicy, vinegary, sour, salty, etc. See, even though this is a DIY recipe, implying that it is something one could purchase somewhere, I had never heard of nor seen sweetcorn relish. But then again, I'm not really a toppings kind of person. So, I was cooking blindly, and I also had no idea how Rafa would react to it.

On to the process: You first blanch some frozen (or fresh) corn in a lot of boiling salted water. That didn't take very long, and after draining the corn, I put it back in the pan. To this, you add sliced onions, some chilli (I used just a dash of chilli flakes), white wine vinegar, salt and sugar.

You let this boil on a high heat for about five minutes, and then you lower the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

While this was going on, I got started on the thickening agent. It was basically just mustard powder, corn starch and water all mixed together.

After the relish had its simmering time, the mixture was added to thicken up the sauce. This boiled on a medium heat for another five minutes so that relish would get glossy and thick.

And that was it. It was then just a matter of putting it on the desired meat of choice.

I really thought it looked pretty. It was shimmering and sticky at the same time. I tasted a little bit of it, and it was sweet and had heat. Definitely a punch. As you could see, I put a lot on Rafa's sausages. And though he said it tasted nice, it overpowered the actual meat. Rafa said that he had a hard time actually tasting the meat. Hmmn, should have exercised the 'less is more' style of plating up. Well I could not really argue with that; I saw what he meant after tasting the relish again. So it was not a hit at the Ilana-Rafa household.

I don't think this recipe is a total waste, because it really is tasty, I am just not sure what it should accompany. I'm thinking maybe a simple chicken breast that has been sauteéd in olive oil and nothing else. That might actually be pretty good.

Well I promised to show you what I ate. I was quite proud of myself because had about four things cooking at once and was quite pleased that I was able to be in control. Here is Bill Granger's Spaghetti with Garlic and Spinach. I think it may be from his new book, but I got the recipe from the UK Delicious, November 2006.

It's a very basic and delicious recipe. All you do is boil up some spaghetti, or linguini, in my case, and in a separate pan fry some garlic slivers in olive oil and then add white wine. The pasta goes into the oily sauce with some baby spinach (yes, we can eat it again!), and then is topped with parmesan at serving. It was lovely and really flavorful even though not many flavors were added to the pasta. It was a bit on the oily side; but that's not a bad thing necessarily. With the heating in my apartment, it tends to get pretty dry, and this was great at moisturizing my lips. LOL.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Life in the fast lane!

Ilana and Rafa are proud to announce a brand new addition to their family -- a Cool Blue Honda Accord!!! The bouncing new baby did not come into this world without complications; steep insurance rates, various trips to the non-borough, Staten Island.

And I've realized I've become the worst back seat driver!!! Why are drivers in New York completely maniacs??! I mean, do they want to really kill themselves and everyone else around them?? I'm not too sure if getting a car is good for my mental health. Now instead of being crazy, neurotic, paranoid Ilana, I am now crazy, neurotic, paranoid Ilana with a car. I hardly slept last night and this morning, even though I was horridly late to work already, I still found time to go out of my way to check on my new baby as it slept among the falling rain of early morning. She looked OK, but there was a fat van parked eerily close to her, just nearly touching her pristine license plate. Rafa and I are both anal-retentives -- oh, what fun are we! -- so I fear we're going to turn into those people that won't let others eat in our car, come in with wet boots, etc. Well only time will tell.

With this new car, I hope, will come new freedom, so if we feel like driving off to the 'country' for a weekend, we can. I hope we get to do that.. I don't want it to be one of those things where we say we will do it, but never do. Like in When Harry Met Sally, when Sally tells Harry how her and Joe always said they would fly off to Rome on a moment's notice or make love on the kitchen floor, but they never did.

Hey, now we'll be able to fly off to Ikea on a moment's notice. So watch out for the next installment of the Magical Culinary Tour: Ikea... hahaha.... no, I'm not kidding! :)

Monday, October 16, 2006

A woman can't live by one blog alone...

I've done it again -- made risotto! Check it out here!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Gold in a Bowl

Continuing on with my color-themed thread titles, I am indeed cooking by color as my lunch today was lovingly golden.

The luminscence of my dish comes from the gorgeous spices of India.

123. Spicy Potatoes and Cauliflower (Aloo Gobi) - *Indian*

I had some cauliflower leftover from the soup, so thought it was smart to use it up for this recipe. As with many Indian dishes, the spices were left to develop and then the rest of the ingredients were added.

So, I heated up some light olive oil and butter in a non-stick pan. Then, I added cumin (Tom says to add cumin seeds, but I didn't have any), garlic and ginger. I let these fry for a minute or so, and then I added garam masala, turmeric, salt and chilli flakes. For the heat, Tom recommends green chillies actually but I am a woose when it comes to spicy foods. Then some chopped waxy potatoes go in along with some chopped cauliflower. Finally, water is added along with tomato purée. This is left to simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, and the aloo gobi is finito!

I topped the aloo gobi with chopped parsley and waited for it to cool down a bit so I can dig in.

This is really lovely and with a nice spicy kick. Did wonders to my sinus infection! LOL! Tom says this could be eaten cold for a retro potato salad in the summer. I'm inclined to agree with him. This dish is fierce and would be welcome at any type of occasion.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

BETA is bettah'!

Hey fellow Bloggers! I switched over to Blogger Beta recently and just love how easy it is to customize the page and other little things. You will notice the Chapters and more... sidebar that I created. It has links to all the posts organized by CL's chapters, so if you're in the mood for soup tonight, for instance, you could link up to all the posts of the soups I have made in Cupboard Love. Anyway, lots of lovely features, and I'm recommending it not because Google needs any more money, they have enough already!, but only because it makes life easier for technophobes such as myself!! Enjoy!

Really yummy bread!

I find that my search for the perfect bread can be equated to my search for the perfect pizza slice. I think it is because when bakeries get it right, they get it really right, and the same goes for pizzerias. The search also includes the home. When it comes to baking bread or making pizza, I want to better anything I could get outside. Ay, there's the rub. I live in a great city where it is easy to get a great slice of pizza or loaf of bread; and I bow down before these manufacturers of heavenly delights because I know, as hard as I try, I can't recreate the best. But I try...

Last night I was home. Feeling sick, I really was in the mood to bake a loaf of bread. I have never attempted the basic white bread loaf before, so I thought that'd be a good recipe to try. I used Tessa Kiros' White Milk Bread recipe from Apples for Jam. The bread was different from your typical loaf as it contained melted butter, honey, eggs, and milk. I love eggy bread -- my favorite at-home creation is challah, and I'll blow my own Shofar by saying it is darn tasty!

Well Tessa's bread did not disappoint!

The crust was crunchy, the insides were soft and warm. Perfect with some butter!! The only bad thing about baking bread is that it doesn't seem to keep for very long. I cut up two generous slices this morning and spread some lovely Finnish strawberry jam in between. I had this for my breakfast at work with some vanilla soy milk. YUM! I think I need to add this bread to the items I'll make as holiday gifts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nigella reads my blog....

.... or not. But I found it funny how in the 2nd episode of Nigella Feasts, Nigella walks into Murray's cheese shop. For those that don't know, it is a mecca for cheese enthusiasts around the world as literally every type of cheese is there. I have to admit I have never been there -- cheese I like, but it doesn't do it for me. If it wasn't for my pizza addiction, I think I could happily live a cheese-less life. Plus, Murray's isn't exactly known for its mozzarella, which you could find everywhere!! Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so Nigella walks into Murray's and instantly focuses on a huge chunk of gorgonzola.

You will remember my aversion to gorgonzola and how I said at the end of my blog that day that you wouldn't catch me dead at Murray's shop -- that I'd happier go to Magnolia Bakery, its Bleecker Street neighbor.

Here's Nigella holding that brown Norwegian cheese I can't ever hope to spell or pronounce properly.
So I guess if I ever have the fortunate chance to bump into Nigella on the street here in NYC, it won't be outside of Murray's. LOL.

Speaking of which, talking of celeb sightings, yesterday I saw Dennis Leary. Why is it always that I see celebs I really don't care about in the slightest --- Isaac Mizrahi, Mila Kunis, Andrew McCartney!!! --- but I never see Chris Martin or Clive Owen or Ewan McGregor or Colin Firth or... mmmmm. Where are they hiding??

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Sunday was all mine since Rafa was working at the hospital. I was getting better at having three meals throughout the day, and I wanted to include a nice and healthy soup for lunch.

122. Leek and Potato Soup (Cauliflower and Saffron variation) - *Soup*

The variation of the soup is very similar to the original apart from some key role changes. For instance, the part of the leeks was played by cauliflower, onions, dried mint and saffron.

All of these ingredients braised in a bit of milk until soft. It turned a gorgeous creamy yellow color right away.

Then, the potatoes were added with some water and left to boil until very soft. I checked for seasoning, and the soup was done.

I ate it while watching Nigella Lawson's second episode of Nigella Feasts. It was really good to chill out, watch quality entertainment on the Food Network for once, and have some nutritious soup.

The color of the soup was beautiful - yes, quite like marigold - and it evoked a lovely Middle Eastern flair, with the hint of saffron and mint. I have to admit, though, I do prefer the original version, but that is indeed a matter of taste. I liked the smoother texture that cauliflower can't really give.

I am really making headway in the Soup chapter! I think I only have two or three left to go... Who would have thought I liked soup so much! I really have to give it, though, to this chapter. So many recipes and not one that tastes anything like the other. Good job, Tom!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Picky Eaters Club: Month 6

Well, it's been six months, so that marks the official end to this project.. see ya!

Haha, just kidding. Ok, Month 6, definitely better than Month 5, but still not up to scratch. This time, I made 7 recipes!! And here they are, in particular order. ;)

115. Penne with Gorgonzola and Walnuts - *Pasta*
116. Leek and Potato Soup - *Soup*
117. Halloumi, Rocket and Tomato 'Club' - *Toast*
118. Aubergine Tikka - *Indian*
119. Tomato, Bacon and Onion Sauce (Amatriciana) - *Pasta*
120. Chickpea, Bacon and Mushroom soup - *Soup*
121. Chickpea, Bacon and Mushroom soup (soup pasta variation) - *Soup*

This month I learned that I hate gorzonzola, but halloumi ain't too bad! As gorgeously as I disguise vegetarian food, Rafa will always prefer meat recipes -- and in that vein, chorizo makes a good subsitute for bacon! That's a tip for any of you that toss all night contemplating if it would.

Although I am about 80 recipes until the end of the book, the end of each chapter is drawing closer. In fact, I am only three or four recipes away from finishing the Pasta and Soup chapters! I think my goal for the next few months is to focus on the ethnic dishes of the Junk Food, Indian and Thai chapters. I feel I have neglected those recently.

Thanks to everyone still reading this blog. :)