20 November 2008

men after my own heart

These guys are pretty much my heroes, combining two of my great loves, BBQ and bluegrass.

18 November 2008

it's not all about the 'za

It appears that my last post caused confusion in the minds of many of Pete’s devotees, who, prior to this post, were under the impression that his cooking repertoire usually involved an oven and a box of frozen Stouffer’s pizza (and FYI, Stouffer’s is in some serious danger of being replaced in Pete’s heart by California Pizza Kitchen). To further confuse, I will now tell a story.

Last Saturday night, after I spent a few hours in the kitchen with the pudding, Pete offered to cook dinner. Working from a recipe from my fave Food Network gal Ina Garten, he added his own little twists and whipped up some penne pasta with grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes, basil and a parmesan lemon cream sauce that was creamy and tangy and all sorts of delicious.

And to prove that Pete can throw down in the kitchen with the best of them, and that he is worthy of donning the Jules apron, I offer this photographic evidence:

See that plating? We had to buy special white plates at Target last year, because Pete said it made the food "pop" better and regarding the basil, I taught Pete how to chiffonade, and now everything gets chiffonaded (is that a word?)

Then Sunday morning and the apple pancakes rolled around, and we all know how that turned out. Obviously impressed by his culinary abilities he must have decided to go for a hat trick, because when I came home from the bookstore that night, I found him standing in the kitchen, open cookbook in front of him, mise en place (I love using that phrase!) set out on the counter. It was truly a beautiful sight. On the menu? Chicken with red peppers, onions and carrots in a black bean sauce over rice with cherry tomatoes and basil. I didn’t take a picture because I was too hungry, but it was of course, delectable.

So, to wrap this up, it is only sometimes about the 'za.

11 November 2008

Pete's House of Pancakes

I love cooking. I love trying new recipes and feeding people. But sometimes I just don’t want to. Usually those times occur on weekend mornings, when all I really want to do is sleep a little longer. Sunday was one of those days, which great because that was also the day Pete surprised me with tasty apple pancake goodness.

Studded with chunks of apple, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and drizzled with maple syrup, served alongside a mug of freshly brewed coffee, could there be a more perfect Sunday morning breakfast?

While we are on the topic of maple syrup, I need to speak for a moment of my sweet sweet love for the pure maple syrup. Maple syrup and I, we are besties, he is my secret pretend boyfriend and I just need to say that if you are still swilling that fake maple flavored crud and haven’t made the change to the amazingness that is pure maple syrup (preferably from Vermont, this place is my all time fave) then I may need to reevaluate our friendship.

This weekend was actually a Pete Cooking Extravaganza, I guess someone had to pick up the slack after Budino Bummer '08. Stay tuned for more tales of Pete channeling The Barefoot Contessa.

oh, by the way, did I tell you about how I went to pick up my camera, and it was still broken? yup, still rocking the old camera, and not liking it one bit.

08 November 2008

butterscotch budino-go

I always have a hard time with failure in the kitchen. I take it very personally when something doesn't work, I am almost always convinced that it was something I did, or didn't do. I have gotten better lately, reminding myself that some recipes are just duds, destined to go into the trash before I even lift a spoon. But this one, oh I had high hopes for this one.

I had already half written this post before I even started the process of making this. I was going to wax poetic about the creamy pudding, the smooth caramel, the pop of sea salt and the fresh tang of the whipped creme fraiche topping. I was going to boldly proclaim that I should just hang up my Julia apron because this was the best thing I had ever made and I probably couldn't ever make anything better ever again.

and then I made it.

It's not that it wasn't good. I tasted every component of this dish as it was made and they were all totally delicious, but somehow when combined, well the whole was not greater than the sum of it's parts. It was just too much, way too rich, so much so that Pete could only take a few bites before backing away. It was partly my fault, the recipe said it served 10, and I only had 6 serving dishes. I figured that more is always better but in this case, I would definitely have made the serving sizes way smaller, maybe half the size.

It's probably better off though, because had I discovered that I could now make my favorite dessert at home, well, let's just say I'd need to go out and buy some new clothes with an elastic waistband. I guess some things are just better left to the professionals.
edited: after scraping off the sticky sweet caramel sauce and letting the custard chill out in the fridge overnight, I do have to say, that in small portions, this pudding is slammin', all by itself. at least it wasn't a total wash.

04 November 2008

so proud

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer." President-elect Barack Obama

thirty one-derful

I learned quickly when we first started dating that the quickest way to Pete’s heart was most definitely through his stomach. In fact, he once told me that a certain thai sih I make would be his final meal. Nothing says love like saying “Honey, if I were on death row I would want the last thing I ate to be something cooked by you”.

To celebrate we went to Pizzeria Mozza, Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton’s new pizza restaurant. Since it was a special occasion, we went crazy and ordered everything that sounded good (I’m not going to lie, we actually always do this, it’s a problem we both have, that problem being very little self control. We enable each other). It was all excellent, the pizza crust was nice and crispy and the toppings were all top quality. But the thing I really want to talk to you about is the butterscotch budino. You know a dessert is great when you lick the bowl clean and immediately contemplate ordering another one (we didn’t, I said we have little self control, not none at all), or when, the next day, you can’t stop thinking about it and stare longingly at pictures of it online and google it until you find the recipe. Needless to say, I will be attempting to recreate this masterpiece sometime this weekend although I am sure mine won’t come even close.

To cap off the day of gluttony, I made carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Seriously scrumptious and decadent, but yet, you still feel okay about eating them because there’s carrot in there! And carrots are vegetables. And vegetables are healthy right?? Pete took some to work on Monday and one of his coworkers stated that she doesn’t believe that vegetables and cake should ever be mixed together. I just have no words for that statement.

01 November 2008

cooking from memory

When I close my eyes I can still see my Oma's kitchen. The wall of cookbooks, her words neatly scrawled in German in the margins, or on index cards tucked into the pages. The canisters on the counter for zucker and mehl (sugar and flour). The closet full of every kitchen gadget available, including the special edition Kitchen Aid stand mixer with her name engraved in the silver bowl that I lusted after as a child, the one she gifted to me before she passed away. 

Rouladen, rotkraut, pfannkuchen, linzertorte; my childhood is filled with memories of foods in a foreign language. A language I couldn't and still don't understand, but is still one of the most comforting sounds in the world to me. 

This kartoffel suppe and dampfnudelen was a staple of our visits to Oma and Opa's, all of us gathering around the table, sopping up the hot soup with the rolls. I learned to make it with her standing by my side, guiding me through the process, it's one of the last things we did together. Mine tastes almost like hers, but nothing ever tastes quite as good as when your Oma makes it.

Kartoffell Suppe 

6-8 yukon gold potatoes
3 medium carrots
3 ribs of celery
1 medium onion
2 beef bouillon cubes (you can also use chicken or veggie)
1 slice of rye bread, ripped into pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

Dice the vegetables into roughly the same size. Saute the in a deep stockpot with the olive oil for 4-5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the vegetables plus an inch or so. Add the bouillon cubes and rye bread and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and puree, either with an immersion blender or in a blender (be careful, it's hot!). Add sour cream and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Dampfnudelen.


The soup can definitely stand on it's own, but I think you need these rolls, with their pillowy tops and crusted salty bottoms.

2 1/2 cups
1/2 cup, plus 1/2 Tbsp milk, warmed
1/2 package active dry yeast
1 egg
pinch of salt

1 cup warm water with 2 Tbsp salt mixed in

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with a little bit of sugar sprinkled on top. Make a well in the flour, pour yeast into the well and let it stand for 1/2 hour. Add milk, pinch of salt and eggs and mix until dough starts to come together. If it is really sticky, add more flour a little bit at a time. Knead well until dough is smooth. Set in a oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap and let sit in a warm spot for an hour. Cut off 1/2 fist size pieces, roll into balls and let rise on floured surface for 15 minutes. In a dutch oven over medium low heat, arrange dumplings in one layer touching each other. Pour warm salt water into pot, until it comes about halfway up the dumpling. Put the lid on and walk away! Wait for 15 minutes, and remove the lid (this is where Oma would slap my hands when I tried to get an early peek, the steam is what makes these work, so don't lift the lid!!). They should have a golden grown crust on the bottom when you remove them.