Monday, March 31, 2008

Cooking Blitz

Dumpling Production Central

Yesterday, Dr Colin and Mandie were married. As part of the weekend festivities and since all of their friends arrived in town on Friday and Saturday, Dr Colin asked me and Phineas to cook dinner for an informal gathering. So, aside from my San Francisco hiatus, we've been in a cooking frenzy preparing a Chinese banquet/buffet for the last 2 weeks.

The pan fried dumplings really went fast

We had a freezer full of wontons and dumplings and an array of sauces in the fridge, all ready to be popped into oven or pan or used to garnish. I think the dishes that disappeared fastest were the dumplings and also the deconstructed peking duck - a modern take on the classic. I fried leftover wonton wrappers into crispy rounds and then topped them with duck confit, hoisin, scallion and crackling duck skin.

The major catastrophe of the night was when the oven died. Just like that it stopped working. Thank goodness there's a second oven and a rather hearty toaster oven!

Wonton Production

We ended the evening with Chocolate covered strawberries, wontellas, which Miss Julia helped me make last weekend, and pineapple. A sweet ending to a great evening.

After the wedding, all the family who had flown in from Jamaica, Miami, Toronto and Pennsylvania came over for leftovers. By the end of the evening all that remained was 2 strands of lo mein noodle and a snow pea sitting in an otherwise empty bowl. Mission accomplished.

'eatings from the Left Coast

Since I was in San Francisco, I had dim sum for lunch every day. I figure its good "training" for Hong Kong and Taiwan.

UUH-MAZING pea shoot and shrimp dumplings

Before you go thinking this is glamorous, let me remind you that traveling for work is not the same as traveling for fun. The vomiting 3 year old sitting next to me during the flight and the excruciating pain from wrenching my back lifting my laptop, and then still having a job to do in spite of it more than made up for the fringe benefits.

Amazingly fresh har kow

Then again, it was really excellent dim sum.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Dinner

The problem with blogging about food and cooking is that I remember to take photos of the work in progress, but not the final product before it is devoured. For example, my dad asked me and Phineas to recreate one of our favorite dishes from our Italy trip - pappardelle al porcini - for Easter. Phineas made the pasta and I made the sauce.

Here is the pasta dough in various stages:

Phineas making the pasta dough.

Rolling it out and cutting it into ribbons.

And then here are the remains.

After the hoard has gorged.

See, there is no picture of the beautiful bowl of pasta, all sauced and garnished and steaming hot. I just can't seem to remember to photograph my finished works before devouring. I 'lose" more blog entries this way...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Four Eyes

So I officially have joined the four-eyes crowd.

My photo skills do not include self portraiture.

I feel like my IQ goes up every time I slip my new glasses on.

Thanks to Magenta for helping me pick out my stylin' new specs, and Phineas for finding them on-line at an affordable price.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chocolate Covered Love

Yesterday was Calliope's birthday. As a special treat, Orpheus and I made chocolate covered strawberries for his mom, the birthday girl.

Orpheus is a wonderful little chef. He is great at measuring and stirring, and he listens to directions very well. We always begin our cooking projects by remembering the 3 B's of cooking: Be Careful (let grown-ups do the grown-up jobs like cutting and touching hot pots), Be Prepared (read the recipe so we know the steps and have all the ingredients), and Be Clean (clean our hands and our work area, and clean up after ourselves).

Anyway, here is our master recipe for Chocolate Dipped Strawberries.
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels (extra for nibbling)
1 quart strawberries

- Wash your strawberries and carefully pat them dry.
- Pour the morsels into a bowl. Sample a few to make sure they are good before you put the bowl in the microwave.
-Microwave on med-hi for 2 minutes and then take the bowl out and stir. Microwave and stir as much as needed, in 1-2 minute intervals, until the chips are melted and smooth.
- Dip the strawberries one at a time into the chocolate. Use a bamboo skewer or fondue fork to do the dipping if you want. When you lift the strawberry from the bowl slowly twirl it around to catch any dripping chocolate.
- Put strawberries on a pan in the fridge so the chocolate will harden.
- Lick the spoon that you used to stir the melting chocolate.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Magenta!

"The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age." - Lucille Ball

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Boss

A few months ago, Calliope had a few drinks at a Muses sister outing and made a startling confession: ever since we were kids she has secretly wanted to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. Maybe it had to do with his tight jeans in the Born in the USA video or pulling a very young Courtney Cox on stage in Dancing In the Dark. I don't know. But in honor of her birthday, we went to see Bruce and the E Street Band last night.

Because the Night was actually written by the Boss for Patti Smith. The concert was awesome!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bunny Business

Yesterday was Bunny Business day for Mom and the Muses: our annual pilgrimage to Itgen's, a family owned diner and soda shop in Valley Stream. When I was a kid, mom and Nana would return home from a long afternoon of Bunny Business, collapse onto the couch and be dozing withing half an hour. I always imagined that Bunny Business must be such hard work.

Itgen's is the kind of place that grinds their own beef, makes their own homemade ice cream, and you can still get a really good chocolate egg cream. Oh, and they make all their own hand molded chocolates at the holidays, including this clutch of peanut butter and caramel filled chocolate bunnies.

After indulging in all of the above, I came home and collapsed into a chair and immediately started nodding off. Bunny Business is such hard work.

Calliope's Purse: The Revenge

Jack, the Seam Ripper

On Saturday, I realized that I had spoken too soon when I said "all this purse needs is some insides". You probably thought that I meant that I would be done with the project soon. And to be honest, so did I. But we were both mislead.

It turns out that making the insides has been a real learning experience. And by "learning experience", I mean one in which I had to redo the whole thing twice, at one point chucking out what I was working on and starting from scratch, only to finish (for a 3rd time) and realize that the stupid f***ing thing was too short and too thick to fit into the outer shell of the purse! Efff!!! I had even added the pen holders and lipstick holders! Serenity now...serenity now.... serenity now...

After I ripped out about 2/3rds of the seams, I figured out how to fix it - I could remove the interfacing (so it would be thinner) and alter the pocket folds so the whole thing would be longer (and thus fit correctly). Here it is looking like a worthless scrap of brown fabric with smears of white chalk... (negative? who, me?)

At least I didn't have to remove the lipstick holder loops.

I left the project there rather than try to sew while I was so irritated. At least I've figured out how to fix it. Sigh. There sure is a lot of un-sewing in sewing.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Duck a la Phineas

Ducklings in their "natural" habitat

A few weeks ago I was annoyed when NY Times food writer, Florence Fabricant, finished an article by writing, "Do not even think of making duck confit from scratch. Buy it prepared, from a fancy food shop or online."

Duck confit is incredibly easy for the home chef to make! It does take a bit of advance planning, but there is absolutely nothing difficult in the preparation. Last night, I silently leaped for joy when I opened the fridge and discovered a new batch that Phineas had just made. Here is his recipe as he texted it to me:

Trim duck leg of all excess fat. Chop excess fat and render slowly over low heat until you get crispy skin and a vat full of fat.

Season duck legs liberally with kosher salt and pepper-place in fridge overnight (you also can add herbs like bay leaf, thyme etc). Next day or days rinse thoroughly.

Heat up oil until warm (duck fat will "melt" from a semi-solid form to a liquid). Pour over legs to cover (if not enough add some oil of your choice). Optional: toss in a couple cloves of garlic in skin, bay leaf, sprig of thyme.

Set on low, walk away for at least say 2 hrs. Check with fork. When fork tender (think pot roast, potatoes) turn off heat and remove from pan. Layer in storage container and cover with fat.
Store in fridge. done

Ducklings a la Phineas*

A few things he didn't say: After rendering in the first step you should save the fat for cooking the legs. Also, the crispy bits of skin left over from rendering can be used as garnish or topping for a variety of dishes or salads; think of them as a very upscale pork rinds.

Since confit is actually a method of preservation, you can make a batch and store them for several weeks. The fat forms an air-tight barrier that keeps them from spoiling. When you want to use the confit legs, unearth them from storage, scraping off the fat. Crisp them in a pan until the skin is crackling, the meat is warm and any remaining fat has been rendered out. Use those luscious legs as a main protein course, in salad, in a noodle soup, or tossed in pasta - like Florence Fabricant's recipe. A little goes a long way.

* All photos taken by Phineas. No rubber duckies were hurt in the making of this blog.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who knew?

Did you know that? Neither did I. But there is even an official logo (above). I guess I should hurry up and get crafting!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pillow Talk

Where to begin... this is what I get for worrying about not having enough sewing projects.

Terpischore is getting married in September. Rather that having a bridal party, she has opted for a single maid-of-honor and a "bridal committee". This is genius. Not only does everyone important to her get to be included on the committee, but the very name itself implies that we can and will be put to work. And no ugly dresses!

On Saturday, the muses went wedding dress shopping and then out to lunch, where the bride updated us on plans and also assigned some tasks. Terp and her beau, John, really are DIY kinda people and are planning on decorating their non-traditional venue themselves. John is making two large works of art (murals? paintings? I'm not sure), goldfish bowls with live fish will be the centerpiece, photos of family and friends will adorn one wall, and there will be red, gold and orange flowers in places. But I digress! Back to the tasks...

Calliope will help with honeymoon planning since she lived in Europe, where they plan to go. Polyhymnia will help with invitations, since she made her own and they were gorgeous. Erato, naturally, is in charge of accessorizing the bride - shoes, bag, etc. And that leaves me. My job (drumroll please) is to make 30 pillows. Huh? Yes. Apparently, the venue has lots of banquettes, and they want it to have a lounge-like feel. So, making pillows - lots of them - in red, orange and gold is my task.

I am kind of freaking out. I don't yet know what I am doing - how large they have to be, how long it will take to make them. And once I started looking at fabulous pillows on the internet, I really started freaking. I want these to look good. Anyway, the other muses have offered to help and I will most definitely be putting them to work! I wonder what Terp will do with the pillows after the wedding.