Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Which Melisa Comes Out as an Omnivore

There have been a few changes in my kitchen of late. I've written recently about my changing body and my increasing need for protein. I have been madly craving meat in recent months much as I did through two of my pregnancies. I'm pretty sure it's all about the protein and meat is doing the trick.

Vegetarians, I love you, and I'm glad to have you here. But this might be a good time for you to go elsewhere because this post is going to be flesh-heavy. But come back soon, OK? I promise the meat posts will be few and far between.

Anyone still here?


There are only two beef dishes I know how to make and I'm rather burned out on one of them (brisket) which leaves me with my second specialty: beef stew. I recently scored a lovely enameled cast iron Dutch oven which goes from stovetop to oven to table and this purchase was responsible for a sudden glut of beef stew.
I first started making beef stew many years ago during my second pregnancy. Julia Child's recipe in The Way to Cook was so very good that I've never really bothered looking for another. The key? Most of a bottle of red wine. That and tomato puree make for tender meat in a very flavorful sauce.

I make this on the stove top and then transfer to the oven for long, slow cooking, though a crock pot would also be an option. Either way, served with a green salad and some crusty bread, it's hard to come up with a simpler, more satisfying meal.

The recipe is here.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bollywood Dal

Finally! My love of Bollywood films comes, with complete legitimacy, to Magpie Eats!

I can't even remember where I came across this link, but when I saw that Anil Kapoor was recently a guest on Martha Stewart's show, my curiosity got the best of me. Most of you will know Anil Kapoor as the slightly sleazy game show host in Slumdog Millionaire, but he's made over 100 Indian movies. He has an impressive mustache, very puffy hair, and a rather charming goofiness in the roles I've seen. I think my favorite Anil Kapoor movie must be Nayak which is a wild and occasionally surreal romp through the pitfalls of political power.

But Anil alongside Martha? Not to be missed! He shared his wife's recipe for a very rich dal and appeared to give Martha a run for her money.

Honestly, this isn't the best dal I've made. It's very rich, due to the addition of heavy cream, and the spicing was not as intriguing as I'd hoped. But it's my first recipe from a Bollywood mega-star so I how could I not write about it?

Monday, April 13, 2009

News to Me

I realize that Romesco Sauce is hardly new on the food scene, and it's one of those things I've been meaning to try for years--maybe even decades. I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to it. Now that I've made my first batch I feel terrible for all the time I've not had this punchy sauce in my life.

I was given the potato assignment for a Passover dinner with friends the other night. Normally I love my potatoes in pretty much any form but I wasn't feeling all that enthusiastic this time around. This may have had something to do with the potato disaster earlier in the week. I'd planned a big pot of simple steamed baby potatoes to serve at our seder. Seder meal planning can be a bit tricky as the pre-meal part can be quite long though we never know exactly how long. This means you want dishes which aren't fussy in terms of timing and heat. I'd thought the steamed potatoes would be a snap but things ran a bit long and next thing I knew people were asking if something was burning. The steaming water had boiled away, leaving my tiny new potatoes well cooked but with a distinctively smoky flavor.

Perhaps it was thoughts of that smokiness that got me thinking about how to mix up my potato assignment just a bit. They had to be simple, of course, for the kids. But a sauce alongside would allow the more adventurous of us to have some fun. Leafing through Martha Stewart's New Classics I came across a recipe for roasted potatoes with Romesco sauce that sounded perfect: smoky and nutty with just a little bite. Also it didn't include the bread which is part of many recipes--something to keep in mind at Passover (and when feeding the gluten-free).

I made only a couple of changes. I used a kosher-for-Passover balsamic vinegar rather than sherry vinegar and even though I had the fresh mint called for in the recipe, I forgot to add it. Once I tasted the delicious sauce I didn't think mint would do anything positive for the overall flavor so I left it out.

The sauce was a huge hit. It perked up the simply roasted baby potatoes nicely. I can't wait to try it on grilled fish or chicken, alongside my basil aioli and a platter of grilled vegetables, and of course once Passover ends, spread on nice, crusty bread.

My version of the recipe is here. Let me know how you use it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pesach Brownies

The seders are over, but there's still plenty of time for Passover treats. Much as I adore it, even I can only eat so much matzoh crack (though I must say that this year's addition of coarse sea salt was brilliant).

I needed a quick dessert to share with friends last night and decided to look through a new cookbook I found the other day at the library: Jewish Holiday Cooking by Jayne Cohen. Its subtitle A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisation pretty much says it all and I'm enjoying coming across the twists on classic dishes.

The Rich Fudge Brownies are lovely. Rather than a dense slab of heavy chocolate, these puff slightly in the oven and feel lighter than any Passover baked dish should. The cocoa flavor is deep and rich and the brown sugar provides a lovely moistness and depth of flavor but they aren't overpowering. I'll admit I'm not a huge brownie fan and I'm not sure these particular ones will make brownie lovers all that happy. But they worked for me. I guess we'll need to put these head to head with the Baked brownies to determine the new house champion.

You'll find the recipe here.