Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Strip Steak for Bruni

That saucy Bruni is at it again! Today's one star review of Robert’s Steakhouse in the Penthouse Executive Club may have just made Jeffrey Chodorow's head explode. Part of me wondered if I should be offended at his trivial treatment of the objectification of women and the fact that my subscription money is paying for his dinner at a strip club and blah blah Andrea Dworkin blah, but I just can’t take myself that seriously.

Bruni. Makes me. Laugh.

In other news, this sandwich made my heart sing with joyful glee.

Torta Milanesa de Pollo (with black beans, jalepenos, avocado, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes) from a secret location that I will not disclose! Wha ha ha ha ha ha.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Joys of Pregnancy

Foods I suddenly can't live without...

and, of course,

Arby’s bacon cheddar deluxe with cheddar curly fries.

No pickles at 2am, yet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fire Up the Deep Fryer

Some of you may know of my fascination with extra-large cephalopods.

The largest colossal squid EVER was caught in Antarctic waters south of New Zealand earlier this month.

Dr. Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology, said that "if calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Vegetarian Lasagna

Some days you are lazy, and you don’t want to spend hours standing over simmering sauce and bubbling béchamel; instead you want to take a nap. Other days, you watch too much Molto Mario and everything must be homemade and fresh and organic and you want to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen, teensy as it may be. Fret not, mercurial reader, lasagna is there for you whatever your mood.

It all started with this Epicurious recipe and a last minute vegetarian dinner party. Four elements – marinara sauce, no bake noodles, spinach with pesto, and creamy cheese – make up the basic recipe. In a pinch, you can easily make the recipe as written, using jarred sauces and ricotta mixed with parmesan for the cheesy layer, and it’s really pretty tasty.

If you have the time, though, this recipe is the perfect springboard for creating your own lasagna. The key to the homemade version is the béchamel or, since this dish is Italian, besciamella, sauce.

And I have something to say about béchamel. Frankly I'm just sick and tired of hearing people complain, lambasting it as some kind of deadly liquid fat, acting like it's impossible to make, moaning about cream sauce and cholesterol. Just stop it right now, because béchamel's bad rap is totally undeserved. Do the math – this lasagna recipe uses 4 T of butter, 3 cups of milk, and makes 8 to 12 servings. That’s about 1 teaspoon of butter per serving. And milk – milk is good for you! Milk is healthy. Who can argue with milk. So I say bring back the béchamel as the new health food!

(steps off soapbox)

Here's the recipe.

I started by making a double recipe of marinara and a single recipe of pesto

Dad's Marinara

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 T olive oil
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried parsley
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. black pepper

Drizzle oil into a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, approximately 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, stir and cook for 15 more minutes (still stirring occasionally) or until sauce has reached desired consistency.

Simple Pesto

2 small bunches basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
½ tsp salt
olive oil

Add garlic and salt to mini food processor, process until minced, add other ingredients and process until desired consistency is reached. Alternatively, mince the ingredients by hand and mix together. Mix pesto with two 10oz. packages of frozen spinach (thawed and drained).

Next, prepare the béchamel sauce.


4 T butter
4 T all-purpose flour
3 cups milk, scalded but not boiled
salt to taste

Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan and add the flour. Cook until bubbling and golden brown, stirring constantly. Add milk and lower heat – do not allow the sauce to boil. Keep at a low simmer until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

I added at least ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano to the béchamel just before taking it off the heat and then let it cool a bit (it will thicken) in preparation for assembly.


Layer as follows:
1.) Marinara

2.) Noodle
3.) Spinach

4.) Bechamel. Repeat 3 or 4 times, ending with noodle. Add one more layer of marinara.

Bake, covered with foil, for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and top with shredded fontina cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes and then broil for 3-5, until top layer of cheese is crispy and brown. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 - 12 servings (twice amount shown in photo above).

If you're not having vegetarians over for dinner, just substitute browned hot Italian sausage for the spinach pesto mixture and/or bolognese for the marinara.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Or Perhaps the Alien Invaders are to Blame?

For the past week I’ve been eating grapefruit for breakfast and it’s far sweeter than I remember. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a grapefruit, but certainly not long enough for it to have evolved all Darwin-style into a more yummy citrus product. I am suspicious, and I’ve narrowed it down to a few possibilities…

1.) Grapefruit is actually getting sweeter.

There’s some genetic engineering hocus pocus going on and they’re cross breeding grapefruit and Skittles to create a more delicious breakfast for me.

2.) Fresh Direct has special grapefruit.

Unlikely, because I’m just buying the cheap one from Fresh Direct; it’s not even organic. For the sake of science, I’m going to purchase a grapefruit from Whole Foods and one from the dirty Gristede’s on the corner and have a little taste test. I’ll report back.

3.) It’s not you, it’s me.

Perhaps my palate has changed? Is this part of some bizarre adult rite of passage signifying that I’m now mature enough to appreciate what was once a very unpleasant tasting food? If this is the case, please send gifts. (One of those grapefruit knife/spoon combo things would be particularly appropriate.)

4.) Global Warming

I don't know how, but I'm sure it's to blame for this too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Simple Salad

Sometimes you can create pretty interesting combinations just by trolling through the fridge for random odds and ends. For example, the other night I made a surprisingly delicious salad of sliced cucumber, blood orange supremes, and basil.

Just toss together the above ingredients, along with some olive oil, salt, and lemon juice if you need extra acidity. I served it with SPICY chicken and the flavors were very refreshing. I would've subbed mint for basil but it's about negative 500 degrees right now and there was no chance I was going back outside just to spend $3 on mint.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Sound of 2,000 Samurai Swords Crashing to the Ground

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a Bruni Steakhouse Smackdown (password required). In case you haven’t made it through the Times today, Bruni gave Jeffrey Chodorow’s Kobe Club a deadly “Satisfactory,” finding that “it presents too many insipid or insulting dishes at prices that draw blood from anyone without a trust fund or an expense account.” Bruni correctly reasons that if you’re going to charge hundreds of dollars for beef and go through the foolishness of hanging 2,000 samurai swords from the ceiling, the food better be outstanding. It wasn’t, thus the dreaded “Satisfactory” (why mince words, change it to Sucks!)

While we’re on the subject of Kobe beef, anyone else out there dream of being reincarnated as a Wagyu cow ? Daily massages and ample feedings of beer to fatten up? Yes please.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Get Your Can Openers Ready

Look at the treasures I just added to my cookbook collection…

And a closeup of my favorite…

A big thank you to s’kat who sent me these terrific books as part of her bookshelf cleanout project. I love old cookbooks and I can’t wait to start tearing through these.

Frankfurter casserole, anyone?