Friday, December 18, 2009

A New (to me) Cheese, Hoja Santa from the Mozzarella Co.

I'm not usually a huge fan of fresh goat's milk cheeses. They are enjoyable, certainly, but I prefer the subtle complexities of a firm textured aged cheese or a runny ripe washed-rind stinker nine out of ten times in my state of cheese snobbery. For the most part, I just don't get from chevre much besides a mix of pleasant herbal tangy notes. They just don't make me think and I've never been wowed by one. I blame the laws regarding cheese-making and import in this country for this primarily. The fact that all raw milk cheeses must be aged for at least sixty days have for the most part ruins any chance of a goat's milk cheese from being anything more than just good because ninety percent of them happen to be aged under sixty days and must therefor be made from pasteurized milk.

Tamdhu 10 Year Speyside is a Delicious and Affordable Single Malt Scotch

The weather outside has indeed been frightful. Icy cold temperatures and chilly gusts of wind have been making it tough to warm up over these past few days. When I got home after work last night, I felt chilled to the bone despite the four layers of clothing I was wearing. I first made a pot of rice and heated up some gumbo that I had made earlier in the week. Then I cracked open a new bottle of Scotch to chase away the chill. It was a good decision!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Broadening My Culinary Horizons with Chicory

Plants in the chicory family include Belgian endive, frisee, radicchio, chicory, and escarole. All have a relatively bitter flavor and can be eaten year round because their growth does not depend on photosynthesis to a point. In fact, the only green one in the bunch is escarole. The others are grown deliberately without exposure to sunlight to avoid etiolation, the process by which they turn green, so that they maintain a milder and delicate flavor. In Belgium, endive is commonly sold wrapped in blue paper, even after the leaves have been harvested, to avoid exposure to light until the very last moment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Great Cookbook Sale

Today was the day. People began lining up early this morning for the annual cookbook sale at the Schlesinger Library, part of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. I found out about it through my friend and co-worker, Annie. She's been doing research at the Schlesinger Library for her culinary degree poring over and translating ancient French cookery tomes for the past several months. She somehow managed to tempt me to get out of bed at 7:30 this morning to head out into the cold for an hour long commute out to Harvard Square. This unique and rare occurrence may have had something to do with the siren song of a bargain, and of course there's always my lustful passion for cooking and all things related to food and wine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Week at The Majestic: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

This week I had soups, stews, and sauces on the brain, so there was lots of simmering and back burner action going on. Dan and I also have friends coming in town to stay with us for a few days, so instead of cooking for two, I was cooking for four. The more the merrier, I say. Groceries were twice as much as a result, but I still managed to get in just under $100 which isn't too bad considering that I bought twice as much food as I normally do. Here's what I ended up cooking: Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup, Roasted Pork Roullade, Gregoire's Christmas Gumbo, Braised Endive, Vermouth Poached Shrimp with Homemade Tarragon Lime Mayonnaise, Ricotta and Pesto Stuffed Shells, Fennel Salad, and Ragu Bolognese.

Pub Theater at the Brendan Behan

It's back! Last night I attended the return of Pub Theater at the Brendan Behan Pub in Jamaica Plain. It was actually my first time there, and I have to say that it was pretty much as I imagined from descriptions I'd heard. No frills, no fuss, no kitchen, no attitude, no TV, no video games... just a bar, a couple of tables, beer, whiskey, friends, and conversation. What more do you need from a neighborhood bar, really? I'd go again in a heartbeat!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Those Funny-Looking Vegetables Called Eggplants

The cookbook that I just received as a gift got me thinking about eggplant since there seem to be more recipes in it using that particular ingredient than any other. I really like cooking eggplants because they are inexpensive and have a mild flavor that goes well with lots of other foods. They are an interesting and delicious ingredient that a lot of folks don't really know what to do with aside from the usual eggplant Parmesan, so I'm going to include a couple of my own recipes that will hopefully give you some new inspiration.

Do You Know About O and Co.?

O and Co., short for Oliviers and Company, is a fabulous little gourmet shop that specializes in olive oil and other Mediterranean foods. Our local store here in Boston is located on Newbury Street where most of the best shopping in town can be found. I make a trip there two or three times a year to stock up on a couple of different high end olive oils to finish my cooking with. I'm always surprised at what other items I find to play around with. On my last trip, I picked up some white truffle oil and they always have delicious wildflower honeys that I like to use in vinaigrettes and stir into my hot tea. You'll also find an assortment of tapenades, relishes, and other prepared foods, along with soaps and lotions.

Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux? Book 2

When it rains, it pours! Another fabulous cookbook arrived in the mail a couple of days ago with some Christmas gifts from my aunt Donna! This one is also signed and personalized by the author - NEATO! It's the sequel to a cookbook that I received last year called "Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?" This one has the same title, but is subtitled part 2. It's written by St. Martinville native, Marcelle Bienvenu. Along with a myriad of fantastic recipes, she also chronicles some rather sweet personal stories regarding her friends, family, and childhood growing up on Bayou Teche.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beaujolais is NOT Bougey!

If you haven't guessed from reading my other posts about wine, I'm pretty into stuff that is usually off the radar for most folks. Beaujolais is another one of those types of wines that I feel has received a bad reputation over the years from the lake of insipid Beaujolais "Nouveau" that is released every fall. In my opinion, Beaujolais "Nouveau" is really only good for making sangria, cooking with, or getting drunk cheaply. It's a wine that has sadly made its way into our culture due to its appearance around Thanksgiving every year. It often shows up at our holiday table, or God forbid someone put a bottle down to age - I've seen it happen! Maybe I'm being a bit harsh; I suppose it does have it's pleasures. I, for one, would rather spend my $10 on something else that I know I would enjoy far more.

The Humble and Delicious Lentil

As the official date of the first day of winter rapidly approaches, my thoughts and appetite turn to hearty, homey slow foods. Things like braised beef short ribs, vegetable soup, and stewed lentils are all on the top of my list during the colder months. I especially love lentils because they are so easy to prepare, can be saved in dried form for a long time, are cheap, and are full of protein and nutrients. Perhaps, best of all is the fact that they are so versatile and go great on their own, or can also be served as a side dish or cold in a salad as a first course. You can add them to soups to stretch it, or mix them in with cooked rice. I could go on and on with ways to use lentils, but I digress...

What's a Cake Ball, You Ask?

Let me introduce you to the cake ball! I've recently discovered these delicious little globes of ecstasy that my friend, Rick Ryan, of Doris and Dixie makes. Rick and I have known each other for a few years now. We first met back when I was working in a retail wine and cheese shop and Rick was managing the restaurant next door. He would stop in and buy red bulls and we would chat a bit before he returned to work. He always had a kind word, a friendly remark, and fun shoes.