Posts tagged autumn
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

spicy swiss chard

looks can be deceiving

Oh people, I tell you don’t mess with a good thing when you know you have one. It’s like this – you have this amazing, perfect food that is best at its simplest preparation, and you love making it and in fact you make it all the time, but always feel a bit of a cheat. I mean, take for instance Swiss chard – perhaps one of my and KS’s favorite vegetables. We eat it a few times a month and our method has most often been steaming it. With washing and trimming off the stems, the whole process takes a few minutes, no more. We sprinkle a bit of salt over our steamed chard and eat it plain as a side to our meals. It’s a “meaty” green and tastes best, to us anyway, this way.

But I always feel as if I’m cheating and being lazy. Anyone can steam chard – it’s not exactly cooking, nor is it particularly “sexy” blog material. No one will read about steamed chard and rush to the kitchen to make it – it’s as easy as it gets, a “duh” of the recipes – too embarrassingly simple to write about. But it seems to be that the “duh” is the hidden “aha” in this case.

so much promise... such pretty colors...

The trouble was that this dish was like a good thing gone bad. Or as KS put it, I took a good, clean, wholesome dish, and turned it into a cheap, street hussy. And that’s kind of how I felt about it too – Swiss chard went from noble to common.

This recipe here was all kinds of wrong – the sauce was overpowering, it took over chard’s natural taste and flavor and as a result, neither the sauce, nor the chard were all that noteworthy. A disaster it was not, but really, it was a disappointment all around. Food Network, (Bobby Flay, even though this wasn’t your recipe, I’m looking at you!) I was hoping for a better recipe. I suppose a lesson learned here is that sometimes the simplest is really the best. Tomorrow, I will tell you about what happens when you mess with a classic, tried-and-true recipe by getting that last minute “creativity” spark – nothing good to say the least, but for that, you’ll have to tune in tomorrow. I hope the cooking blunders will stop at that for awhile.

dear swiss chard, i'm sorry

Continue reading spicy swiss chard.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

roasted acorn squash with cilantro dressing

Thanksgiving_2006 (7)

Among my favorite food, squash firmly holds its own. I like all kinds: spaghetti, butternut, acorn. While looking over a menu a few nights ago, I picked the tagliatelli mostly because it came with a butternut squash. My only complaint is that some squash can be so hard to cut. I’m a wee bit weakling and the squash is sturdy and hard. Trying to slice it feels like I am going to lose an appendage at any moment.

Unless of course, you have wonderful helpers, strong and manly, to do the dirty deed for you, leaving you to just waltz in and cook the vegetable – truly the easy part.

Acorn squash is both tasty and good for you. And if you took it, sliced it, and roasted it in the oven sans any spices, it would still come out delicious and great. And sometimes, naked squash, as I like to call it, is just what you need. But on other days, you might want to give it a little extra kick: some red, hot chile, and a dash of tabasco sauce to the marinade. Surprisingly easy to make and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser!

Continue reading roasted acorn squash with cilantro dressing.

Monday, December 4, 2006

pumpkin bread pudding souffle

Pumpkin Bread Pudding Souffle

I was introduced to bread pudding at an embarrassingly late age. The concept of bread pudding isn’t known in Russia and save for Victorian English novels, I was unaware that this comfort food staple of England was such a delicious treat. Now, the first time I ever had anything that bore the name “pudding” was at my high-school boyfriend’s house, whose mother carried the old English tradition of making fig pudding for Christmas dinner.

Never one to why from trying a new dish, I requested, ignoring my boyfriend’s father’s warning, a bowlful of fig pudding with some extra clotted cream.

The cream I consumed in a matter of seconds – give me fattening dairy products and I’m a happy girl. But with the actual fig pudding, erm, well, there I had a bit of trouble. I tried, afraid to offend the matron of the house, to shove spoonfuls of it in my mouth, but that caused a bit of a gag reflex. My next strategy was to try to eat little bits and swallow them whole without so much as letting the thick fig concoction hit my tastebuds. That made the procession move about as quickly as a turtle race. And then, oh Lord, then, I was informed, perhaps in an attempt to induce vomit, that fig pudding, according to the tradition, uses suett. At that point, my 17 year-old heart and palate, could take no more (though now the concept of suett isn’t nearly as frightening). I apologized profusely, offered to do dishes and various clean up, but firmly and politely declared that fig pudding was just not for me. As it turns out, even though the pudding was made every year, it was never actually consumed by anyone. Except for the unsuspecting dolts like me.

So you can understand why I would try to avoid pudding at all costs from that point on. My only point of reference regarding pudding was less than enthusiastic.

That is until one afternoon, while wandering around Nolita I stopped at Cafe Gitane, tempted to try what they called a brioche chocolate pudding. Since I liked both, the brioche AND the chocolate, it seeemed like an awfully swell thought. The order was placed. And I was all trepidation. What, by some strange thought, if the whole process of pudding-making made the brioche and the chocolate both vile on the palate?

But when the dish arrived and I put a tentative spoonful of it in my mouth, I melted into a blissful smile, eyes closed. This was pudding I could not only live with, but crave.

And so a few years later, when I came upon a recipe for Pumpkin Souffle Bread Pudding, concoted by none other than Charlie Phan of the famed Slanted Door in San Francisco (only one of my favorite restaurants), I had to give it a try.

Challah back, yo

Last Thanksgiving, I made a small batch to test on guests – and it was gone in minutes. This year, I tripled the proportions only to see the same result, and several requests for recipes.

Pumpkin Mixed with Butter, Sugar, and other Goodness

And yesterday, while at Whole Foods, picking up a turkey for our Thankgiving Redux meal (because we like turkey leftovers and there were none from 2 weeks ago), the boyfriend requested the bread pudding as well. And so, when a dish is this popular and is so good, how can you not make it over and over and over? Especially when it’s so easy? And especially when you get pudding, souffle AND pumpkin into the same dish!

Continue reading pumpkin bread pudding souffle.