Sunday, May 13, 2012

Klutz in the Kitchen

Caramelized Onion Tart - 578 Washington St #3, Brighton
Attempt #2
      Sometimes I wonder how I ever am successful in cooking. I just make the stupidest mistakes. The multiplication party for my faith group was coming up, so Andi and I decided to cook together. I was going to take a whack at a caramelized onion tart from a recipe out of Taste of Home (thanks Grandma). One whack turned into 4 whacks. Between feeling the need to double the amount of butter and going through 3 heads of garlic, this recipe.... was still worth it. Absolutely amazing. In short, you create a buttery, garlicy crust, layer it with parmesan cheese, pour in a goat cheese mixture and top with caramelized onions, more cheese and basil. Such a savory dish. I've never roasted a head of garlic like this before and took way too much pleasure out of squeezing the garlic cloves out of their skin. I'm not going to even mention what it reminded me of, because then you'll think I'm gross and never make this onion tart for your friends. The flavors in the crust should be forbidden, the goat cheese flavor is far from subtle and is accentuated by the sweetness of the caramelized onions and reduced balsamic vinegar. This went beyond what I expected and everyone loooooved. And thank goodness it did, because it cost me more time and money than anticipated. I definitely recommend it as a dish to pass. Here's the recipe.

Caramelized Onion Tart

1 whole garlic bulb
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds sweet onions, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt

10 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 eggs
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup minced fresh basil

1) Remove papery outer skin from garlic (do not peel or separate cloves). Cut top off of garlic bulb. Brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Wrap bulb in heavy-duty foil. Bake at 425° for 30-35 minutes or until softened.

2) Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook onions and vinegar in remaining oil over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until onions are golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside.

3) Cool the garlic for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze softened garlic into a food processor; add the flour, butter and salt. Cover and process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 11-in. fluted tart pan with a removable bottom 
(I just used a glass pie dish) . Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.

4) In a food processor, combine the goat cheese, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper; cover and process until blended. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese into crust; top with basil. Spread goat cheese mixture into crust.

5) Arrange onions over top; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. Yield: 16 servings.

NOTE: When it says 3/4 cup cold butter... USE 3/4. Not a cup and half. Your crust... will boil in the oven. Guaranteed. Also, use a fresh head of garlic. An old one will dry up in the oven. 

My First Rub - 578 Washington St #3, Brighton

     When Karl finds a good deal on meat, he doesn't just buy a breast or two, or a cutlet or five... no. He buys the whole dang pig... or whatever dead animal it is. So this time Karl decides to buy a pork loin the size of my leg. Not joking. He says it was 5 pounds but I beg to differ. Finally we try to figure out what to do with it all and I decide that I'd like to try a rub. Now, I probably should have let it sit for a while, but it looked too good and it was getting late. There was no time for fooling around. Thanks to the "Pork Kitchen Companion" pamphlet I got from the Boston Marathon expo (thanks to the "Pork... Be Inspired" campaign, I really am inspired), I found a decent looking rub recipe that I had all the ingredients for. Here goes:

Southwest-Spiced Roasted Pork Tenderloin

pork tenderloin, about 1 pound (our hunk was about 2 pounds but it was covered)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (I used whole cumin seeds)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1) In small bowl, stir together paprika, salt, brown sugar, sugar, chili powder, ground cumin and black pepper until thoroughly blended. Makes 1/4 cup.

2) Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Season tenderloin with 2 tablespoons rub. Place tenderloin in shallow pan and roast for 20-27 minutes, until internal temperature reads 145F. Remove pork from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Slice tenderloin to serve.

     After sitting in the oven for almost a half hour, we pulled it out and let the juices sink in like they recommend. That was torturous. Finally, we cut that baby open. Oh. My. Gosh. The flavors of the rub seemed to just infiltrate the entire hunk of meat. It was a tad spicy, but salty, and so aromatic. The meat was juicy and I was happy. Great success. So easy! Next time, trying it on the grill.

Taqueria El Carrizal - Allston, MA

     Happy Cinco de Mayo! Unsure as to what the reason for celebration of the 5th of May was, I did a little research online, started thinking about the homemade tortilla chips from Los Tres in East Lansing, and was overcome with the inexplicable desire to seek out a restaurant with chips that take me back to my college days. Kena had mentioned something about Taqueria El Carrizal the other day and I had always wanted to try it out, so I recruited Karl and we went over. This restaurant is known for their Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadorian cuisine. This was different and I was super excited. Aside from the fact that the service was terrrrrrible (they basically had one waitress for the entire restaurant... which was small anyway... but on Cinco de Mayo? Really?), the food was awesome. I called ahead of time just to make sure they had chips. They did. No Los Tres chips, but they were alright. For an appetizer and to take me back to living in the cloud forests of Ecuador, I order the fried plantains. They were so good. Cut thick with crisped edges and served with some weird dipping sauce. It was sweet, but sour like sour cream and I wasn't really a fan. 
     Then for my meal, I got the Combinacion Salvadorena. The first thing on it that I just had to try was the pupusa. Basically I think all it is is pork and cheese formed into a patty. Maybe there's some cornmeal in there. I don't know. But it was fried. And probably 3000 calories. But it was soooo good. This dish also came with a chicken tamale. I could tell it was homemade because of the imperfections of the cornmeal casing. The meat inside was mildly spicy. It was tiny and I feel like I just shovelled it in my mouthwithout really thinking too much about it. Oh well. Next was a salvadorian echilada. Truthfully, I have no idea what this thing was. It came on what looked like an opened hard taco shell. On top they layered meat, corn, beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. I also had no idea how to eat it. So... I picked it up, took a bite, and everything spilled all over. Slob. But, "if at first you don't succeed, try and try again." So, I picked up the pieces and chiselled away at it bite by bite. It was fantastic. It was like a mountain of flavors and the intense flavor of the meat was accented by the cool sour cream, the rich guac and the smooth cheese. It all came with what I think was some sort of pickled cabbage/carrot salad with jalapenos. It was surprisingly hot. This whole meat was unlike anything I'd ever had before, and I was muy bien. 

The Fat Cat - Quincy, MA

     I'm not going to go into the story about my nature quest, but towards the end of my 8 mile hike I started to feel a little famished. Well... who am I kidding... I was hungry from the start. After asking about 6 different people along the beach in Quincy for recommendations, I steered away from the overpriced and unhealthy clam shacks along the water's edge for what ended up being an even more calorie laden meal inland in downtown Quincy. As a party of one, I sat by the door for nearly 30 minutes awaiting a table small enough to accommodate little me. Unbeknownst to them, the amount of food I was about to order would not easily fit on the table such a small size. The room was dimly lit and full of families feasting upon epic proportions of macaroni and cheese. The smell of seafood filled the air along with a subtle hint of class. I belonged here. While waiting, I had ample time to peruse the menu and had a bunch of questions to ask my waitress. In the end, she recommended the spicy tomato mussels and the half order of the lobster and crab mac n' cheese. I had to get my hands on the mac n' cheese and my tongue was longing for some seafood. Heeding here recommendations, I waited patiently for my meal and was presented with a bread display unlike any I had seen before. In my swirly twirly bread basket sat two slices of some kind of fancy bread, a sweet roll, and a hunk of corn bread. I couldn't of asked for anything better. Alongside the basket came a plate with an ice cream scoop of their homemade honey butter, and a splat of their blackbean hummus. What? Crazy. Crazy awesome. The butter was PERFECT. Smooth, sweet, easy to spread. I'd be lying if I said I didn't just sit there eating some of the butter by itself once all my bread was gone. The black bean hummus was good too. Different, and not as smooth as a typical hummus but it was very unique. Really tasty when you topped your bread and butter with a little dollop of it. 
     Finally my mussles arrived. A huuuuuuuge plate of 'em steaming hot. I got some glares. "Is she really going to eat all that?" Missy, you have no idea who I am. I dug in. Good thing I had my chair under me or I would've hit the floor. These mussels were by far the best mussels I've ever had. They sat in a pool of a thin mildly spicy, garlicy, tomato broth. At the bottom of the pool of broth sat hidden treasures. I'm not even sure what was down there, but I finished off every last mussel (cooked to perfection) and proceeded to scoop the broth up, making sure to rescue some of the garlic/tomato/basil chunks hiding on the bottom, and drank it out of the shell. 
     Then came the lobster and crab mac and cheese (no picture because my phone died). Big curly noodles infused with cheese, mixed with hearty hunks of lobster and crab meat, topped with tomato slices, light bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. My half order was still enough fit for a king... or for me. They had topped the mac and cheese with all those fixings and browned the cheese on top.....................................Alright. I'm just sitting here thinking about how to describe this, but I can't I don't even know how to explain how it tasted. I was in awe. It wasn't too cheesy. Didn't make me feel like a brick after (I was worried about that). But the way the seafood paired with the cheese and was accented by the fresh tomato ... ooooo. So good. I also took some of my left over broth from the mussels and poured it on top. Just ridiculous I tell you. Madness. I was satisfied, refreshed, and fat.... beyond all measure. The waitress came back and said, "You ate all of that? I thought for sure when you ordered all that food that you'd be surprised at how much it was." No ma'am. You had me mistaken for some other lightweight female rower. So I hopped back on the T and headed home. 
Zinga - Boston, MA

     I wish I could say I have some sort of self control, but.... I can't. So after that huge meal, I wanted ice cream. After hopping off the red line, I emerged from the depths of the subway system to find a Zinga's Frozen Yogurt place sitting in the heart of Kenmore. God does answer prayers. It was my first time at a self-serve frozen yogurt place, and I was more than overwhelmed. Pay by the ounce? This could be dangerous. After sampling a few flavors, I began filling my cup. Banana, vanilla cream, strawberry, rocky road, triple chocolate, cookies and cream, and red velvet cake. I had to hold back on the flavors after I realized that behind me was what looked like 644565897 different toppings. I went ham. Peanut m&ms, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, heath bar, oreo, brownie bites, lychee balls, cookie dough, reeses cups, regular m&ms, strawberries, kiwi, and a couple blackberries... just to feel healthy about all this mess. After eating 3/4 of extra toppings as I went down the line, I approached the counter and it only ended up costing me $5.87. Bonus! The red velvet cake frozen yogurt was my favorite. SO GOOD. There was so much going on in that bowl that it even sparked a little jealousy in the man that sat next to me on the bus. How do I know? He told me. And plus, who wouldn't be jealous? This was heaven in a bowl. 

Experimentation in My Kitchen - 578 Washington St #3, Brighton

     The livestrong website provides some good reads and ideas sometimes.... sometimes. Protein powder pancake. The picture looks awesome. What's in it? Protein powder and water.  Can't be that bad, right? WRONG. VERY WRONG. BARF. I don't know if it's because my protein powder is a banana flavor, but ewww. I figured, "oh banana pancakes. Those are good. This can't be that bad." Seriously mistaken.

     Experiment #2. BIG SUCCESS. Thanks to Sir Jim Robinette, I've been slugging away at a delicious gallon of Robinette's apple cider that appeared at my doorstep last week. I made popsicles the other day... which are the bomb, and today I wanted to try a recommendation of Jim's. He said to mix vanilla ice cream and cider in the blender and... presto! A creamy cider shake. Oh man. Was he right. I don't even know what to compare this to. Maybe Jesus. It was just that amazing. Try it. 

1 comment :

  1. I just read your blog and for some reason, I feel exhausted and stuffed. I think I was reading between the lines, or shall I say I was "eating between the lines.