Despite the title, this post isn't only about food. But I'm starting out on a butternutty note:
A couple of Fridays ago, I made a terrific salad inspired by this recipe from Martha Stewart Living. I'd never considered eating butternut squash raw. I really dug it. My salad also included chunks of cooked beets and micro beet greens.
I made several variations of the salad over the following week. One time, I included the shaved carrot called for in the recipe in addition to the shaved squash. And at least once, I substituted pine nuts* for the sunflower seeds.
I put a pinch of ginger in the citrusy dressing that first time. Another time, I added cloves.
For the main course after that original salad, I made veal cutlets (the meat came from a farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket) seasoned with Penzeys Bavarian Seasoning (brown mustard, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and sage) and carrots roasted in blood orange juice, grapeseed oil, and, if I remember correctly, Penzeys Bangkok Blend (ancho chili pepper, garlic, ginger, Tellicherry black pepper, galangal, crushed red pepper, lemon grass, cayenne, paprika, basil, and cilantro). I got a really nice crust on the cutlets. Tony thought they were out of this world.
Dad and Granny stayed with the nephews a week ago while Tracey and David were on vacay in Puerto Rico. I paid a visit on Saturday and Sunday.
The 'phews made chicken parmigiana with homemade marinara and a salad for dinner on Saturday. It was delicious.
The only gripe I had is that I would have liked some pasta on the side. Even after everyone let me eat the extra piece of chicken, I was still hungry. I'm a growing boy! :-)
Here's a shot of the guys working their chicken-breading assembly line.
I had thought about making some cookies to take with me, but they existed only as a thought. I did take a very good Italian red wine: the 2008 Azienda Agricola La Torre di Luigi Anania Ampelio, which I purchased from MCF Rare Wine. I had asked for something that would go well with chicken parm because I knew M&M were going to be making it for dinner, and the wine did pair quite nicely with the supper. Dad enjoyed it too. I'll be buying more so the Tonester can try it.
As usual whenever I hang out with M&M, we played video games. This time, the focus was on Lego Batman 2 for the Wii. I had fun with this game even though the controls were complex and I sometimes didn't know what I was doing.
We also played Muggins—the game of luck and ... paying attention—with Dad. Mike won, but Matt said he felt like he won because he called a Muggins on me. :-)
Gran didn't want to play cards with us. Earlier in the day, she had told me that she had been keeping an eye on this pile of snow.
That night, we got a coating of snow that made the pile seem less lonely.
While Granny entertained herself by watching snow melt—or not melt—I took a bunch of selfies with my third-favorite dog, Molly.
Michael told the story of how he pretty much saved the life of a junior he's teamed up with in his cooking class at school. This goofball was going to wash a hand mixer while it was still plugged in! Mike said No! and filled the clueless guy in.
Chelsea Market is displaying a series of photos by Dolly Faibyshev taken at dog shows. I snapped my own photos of the two photos of bassets that I saw. The description of the first one calls them bloodhounds. Not with those short legs, they ain't!
Last week, I was jonesing for lemon bars, so I searched the web for a gluten-free and dairy-free recipe and settled on this one, from the blog called smashed peas and carrots. They turned out like lemon bars are expected to look, and they had the right texture, but the lemon flavor just didn't come through for me. I decided to try making them again on Sunday with some tweaking of the recipe. I added some xanthan gum to the crust to see what that would do. The biggest difference was, I added some salt to both the crust and the lemon topping. I hadn't noticed the first time that the recipe hadn't called for any. I also incorporated some lemon zest into the topping and sprinkled the bars with powdered sugar at the end. I liked them better this time. Predictably, Tony preferred the first attempt.
For dinner on Sunday night, I made roast chicken with butternut squash puree seasoned with Penzeys Chinese Five Spice Powder. The chicken was done in a Peruvian style, loosely based on this recipe that Tony liked the look of, with lime juice, Penzeys Tuscan Sunset (because it has a lot of oregano in it, and I couldn't find any plain oregano in our cabinet), and garlic. (Yeah, we use a lot of Penzeys herbs and spices. Especially this time of year, when we can't get fresh stuff from the Greenmarket or our own garden.)
On Tuesday evening, Tony and I went to a wine tasting called Planet Bordeaux: A Goldmine of Wines. We enjoyed ourselves.
I was surprised at how much more I tended to enjoy the white wines than the reds. Tony said that was because of the low price point of the wines; just about all of them retail for less than $20.
Sadly, a good number of the wines we tried aren't sold in New York at all. Our favorite red, the all-merlot 2010 L'Esprit Couvent 100 Pur Cent, isn't available anywhere in the U.S.
Our favorite white was the first wine we tried: the 2011 Cheval Quancard Réserve Bordeaux Blanc. It was vibrant and playful, with notes of coconut and citrus. It's not available in the city either, and wine-searcher said it's not available anywhere online. Sigh.
I see that another white we enjoyed a lot, the 2012 Dourthe La Grande Cuvee Bordeaux Blanc, is available at Sherry-Lehmann for only 12 smackers. I'll try to hunt down some other ones that we enjoyed, even if they aren't our top picks.
Here I am at the end of the tasting, with a bottle and a glass of the L'Esprit Couvent.
That bottle was in a group of wines in the middle of the room that had been set aside as winners of a film-making competition. A friendly straight couple told us that that was the one to try among the group, and we're very glad they told us that. We, in turn, recommended it to a couple of women who wandered over that way as we were preparing to move on to another table.
After we'd tasted just about everything there was to taste, we had dinner at Rosa Mexicano. I got beef enchiladas, and Tony got duck tacos. As always, the food at RM was winning.
Here's my special guy with his pato platter.
The next night, I made turkey burgers using the usual mix of light and dark meat from DiPaola Turkey Farm that I spiced the hell out of. I added garlic, Penzeys Bangkok, paprika, and a little canola oil to prevent the burgers from drying out and blowing away. Plus some shallots in the pan toward the end of cooking. The burgers rocked the house, except for maybe a little too much salt. Tony said that they were better than the food at Rosa the night before. Yeah, the boy likes my cooking. :-)
*I got the pine nuts at buon Italia in Chelsea Market. They were crazy expensive, but we're leery of buying pine nuts whose provenance is unknown because Tony once lost his sense of taste for a week after eating them. It looks as though pine nuts from a tree whose nuts are inedible, Pinus armandii, are the culprit. I also bought some sundried tomatoes at BI that turned out to be incredibly salty. Soaking them in water for several hours helped a bit but not as much as I'd hoped.