Archive | December, 2013

Best hits and what may come for the Gruel: Opinions wanted

31 Dec

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Happy happy! It is a new year. Yayza. In this delightful little post I am going to recap part of vacay, make a proposal, and then recap a few favorites on this lil’ blog of mine.

I went to St. Louis for Christmas. Whilst there, with my lovely fwife Eleanor I went to the MOST awesome of places, Blood and Sand. The MOST friendly of people work there. They can deduce exactly what you MOST want to drink, even if you do not know.

I drank the two MOST fantastical drinks, along with eating some MOST delightful truffled tater tots. One of the drinks had the MOST awesome of names: “Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives”. It was so much the MOST of the most-ousitous of times. The drink consisted of Rittenhouse rye, brown sugar simple, Punt e Mes, lemon juice, allspice dram and rosé sparkling. If rye and apple pie had an alcoholic child, this would be it. I am contemplating if the different elements of the name stand for different ingredients of the drink, and if so, which. I intend to recreate this come heck or high water. Clearly high standards I have for 2014.

I want to get y’all’s opinion on something. What if I did little restaurant/bar/food reviews from time to time? I do like to get out of the house to dine, shockingly enough. Between trying new recipes for the Gruel and also for my Hello Giggles column The Book Cook, I am getting a bit stressed. And much as I love writing and food-oriented opportunities I want to keep my mind on the acting game and not get too distracted. I still would still do mostly recipes, and I have some exciting theme weeks like a “Carrot Caked” week planned, but I’d like to have the options. I’d like to try new things, maybe even recommend a wine or two from time to time. Could be fun. Why am I nervous about this? I feel like I am asking you to go on a date or something.

It’s my blog and I can do what I want, obviously, but I want to know if there are any major objections out there to the review thing. Ooh, I may not be asking you on a date but maybe I could even go on some blogger dates and tell you about them. There are some LA bloggers I’d like to meet. That would be fun for all. I think.

Okay, now a little bit of year end wrap-up. Because I can. I am going to link you up with some of your most favorite-est recipes. I’m basing popularity, or at least reader interest, on the stats of what was clicked on the most. I’d also like to round up some of MY favorite things, especially from the early days of the blog when my photography sucked even more and not many folks were reading. I could revisit the less viewed recipes and get some better shots of them. Maybe next week. The blog may be a bit more sporadic in January and February, so don’t freak out or anything. I’m still here.

Oddly enough, the recipe that got THE MOST hits this year was this one for a clear chocolate martini. Quite frankly I am a wee bit distressed by y’all’s standards. Is a clear chocolate martini really what you want? With a photo like this?:
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I am disturbed. But my hope was renewed when I saw the second most clicked upon recipe was for Mark Bittman’s Creamed Bulgur and entitled Bulgur Not Vulgar which of course means it was NOT a chaste entry. But delicious:
20131009-210958.jpgNext up was a Pumpkin Polenta Pizza I would deem to be worthy, taste-wise if not aesthetically, of a few more clicks:
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Next-most clicked upon this year, and the most clicked upon of all time is this pumpkin soup:
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It helps that the photo was pretty, I imagine. But I was proud of my recipe too.
The least popular recipe, at least as I write this, was from the long-ago waffle week. I waffled a bran cracker. Enough said.
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This is a process

19 Dec

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Life is a process. And it is worth it.

As is this cocktail.

And other deep thoughts.

Let us infuse some shit.

But first a shameless plug for my positively adorable in every way improv group:
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This is our sexy face.
Improv is a process. It takes a long long long time to not suck all the time. I have recently been trying to really FOCUS and put the time into doing what I do. I am aiming for quality of activities over quantity.

And that was my segue into saying that this cocktail is a process. I saw it posted on The Table Set podcast and I knew I wanted it. It takes about a week of patience. The creator, Nathan Hazard (great name), calls it the December Dilemma and I am calling my minor adaptation December Do. As in “just do it”. Do. DO.

Normally the minute I see a cocktail that requires an infusion, or making a big batch of some alcohol I can only fathom using in one or two instances, I eschew the idea of making it. But I could not run away from this. It was too perfect for the season.

I adore wine. I adore cranberries. And bourbon. And I am madly, madly in love with Campari. You can run off down darkened alleys with Aperol and claim it is preferable all you want, but Aperol will take your money and run.

Campari will be there. Ready to amuse you with it’s bitter wit and dazzle you with it’s colorful personality.

So even though this recipe involves handmade wine-sugar-infused cranberries in lieu of my adored Luxardo cherries, and cranberry-infused-Campari, I could not resist because I began to imagine the many delights I could make with what I decided to call Lux-erries and Cran-pari.

I had to adapt a bit. I wanted to get cracking the night I saw this and it felt too late to be running to the store so I did not use the Manischewitz wine. Instead I used a lovely Ravenswood Zin. I also did not feel like laying out the funds for the Punt e Mes so I used a slightly smaller amount of Martini and Rossi Rosso vermouth plus a bit of regular Campari.

Heaven can be yours if you wait.

December Do barely adapted from this recipe on The Table Set
Starting a week ahead make your:
Cran-pari:
1 cup cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. water
3 cups Campari
Heat the cranberries, sugar, and water over medium until the berries start to pop. Let them cool then add to a jar with the Campari. Store in a cool and dark dungeon like your refrigerator and shake daily for a week. Then strain two times. I strained from the jar into a wide-mouthed glass measuring cup with a spout, then placed the strainer over a funnel and funneled into the original Campari bottle.
Also make:
Lux-erries
1 cup cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups red wine, I used Zinfandel
Heat the red wine until it is reduced by half. Add sugar and heat and stir until it is well dissolved and you have a lovely syrup-y wine. Add cranberries and allow to cool. Allow about a week in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally if the cranberries are rising way over the wine.
For The Drink:
1 1/2 oz. Bulleit Rye
1 oz. Cran-Pari
3/4 oz. Martini & Rossi Rosso
1/4 oz. Campari
Lux-erries
orange zest
Stir the rye, cran-pari, vermouth, and campari in a chilled mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a Lux-erry or so. Run the orange peel around the rim, squeeze it over the drink and discard. Or don’t. Do what ya feel.

Pâtés for Vegs:

11 Dec

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I thought maybe the elegant butter knife would give my mushroom pâté a bit of class.

Lemme tell you. Pâté is something we should all eat, in some shape or form. Being a vegetarian I feel shame in saying this, but if you ever get your hands on some pâté de foie gras you should gobble that stuff up. Am I going to be arrested for saying that?

I ate it once. I was in a restaurant on Oahu. In my probably-wrong memory it may have had some stars. Or maybe it just had a lot of dollar bill signs beside it in the guidebook. I was twelve. We had planned the family vacation there based on the fact that my papa had a conference to go to at the Waikiki Hilton Hawaiian Village so hey, that was airfare and board for one person. My parents made the mistake of letting me do a great deal of the research on what there was to do. I voraciously devoured travel guides and made lists of what to see and where to go and most importantly…where we should eat.

I do not actually remember that much about the restaurant or the meal besides that pâté and dessert-they gave us a Diamond Head-shaped chocolate filled with chocolate truffles to take home.

We had the pâté on the table as an appetizer and I did not know what it was. I only knew it was some of the most divine stuff ever. Better than butter? Ye gods. Then I asked my mom what it was and promptly lost my desire for it when I found out it was goose liver. Then later that summer I became a vegetarian-which I had wanted to do for years, but it was a matter of being old enough to cook myself something separately from the family so my lifestyle choice wouldn’t be a pain in the butt for my mom.

I never much cared for meat in the first place, and non-leather shoes are cheaper than leather ones, so being a veg has not been hard. And just so you meat-eaters know, I don’t begrudge you your meat. I think different bodies need different things. Mine needs dairy, hence me not being vegan. It’s sort of sad. It used to be that people would be impressed by my veggie life, but now I just get “Oh, but not vegan?”. To which I emphasize that I buy cage free eggs and organic milk products as much as possible, but still…vegetarians have become the sad middle road, I guess.

Let’s get back to the pâté. I am giving you two meat-free options today, one of them even vegan. I am sure they probably don’t compare with foie gras, but they are not really trying to do that-they are impeccable in their own right. Mushrooms and eggs are two of the most perfect edible things on earth, and I stand by my pâté. Actually it is my dreamboat-cooking-crush Mark Bittman’s pâté. I stand by my man.

The egg one is considerably less chic in appearance than the mushroom I’m afraid:

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I think I just started gobbling it before it could be molded. I don’t mind if you do that too. Actually, please do that too. Go forth and gobble.

Mushroom Pâté slightly altered from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
Olive oil
1/2 c. chopped shallots
4-5 baby carrots, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 lb. white shrooms’ cleaned and roughly chopped
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 piece of bread, crumbled

Heat a skillet with a dash of oil over high heat. Add shallots, carrot, and celery and cook and stir until shallot is translucent. Sprinkle in some salt and grind in some pepper. Cool another couple minutes. Add tomato paste, then stir and cook about another ten minutes.
Turn off heat and allow to cool. Then put in your lover-that would be your sexy red Kitchen aid food processor you got for a song because it was factory refurbished.
Add crumbs and lemon. Blend until smooth, adding more bread crumbs if too thin or water if thick. It should be sturdy but spreadable. Give it a Tate and add more salt, pepper or lemon if you want.
Put in whatever mold or dish you want and chill. Find a snazzy serving knife.Yum it up.

Egg Salad Pâté adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (one yolk discarded)
3 Tbsp. reduced-fat mayo
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 slice bread and butter pickle, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried dill
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Mix it all up. Mix it good. Put in container shaped how you want it to be shaped. Or just get a fork.