Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 65 - Red Wine Vinaigrette, Pureed Mixed Vegetable Soup, Frico, Pan-Seared Steak with Balsamic Sauce, and Poached Apricots

I'm leaving tomorrow for Memorial Day weekend to visit FNBF on location in New Mexico, which is great! But it leaves me kitchenless and cooking-free for five whole days! How can I live without my Martha?? I'd better cram in five recipes before I go!

It's another Marcy veggie special, but I threw a steak in there for myself.

Red Wine Vinaigrette (p. 357)

This is the last of the vinaigrettes, the only one to be made in a blender. Interesting... I liked the idea of macerating a crushed garlic clove in the vinaigrette and then discarding it. It's just enough garlic to provide flavor but not overwhelm.

This is SUPER easy. I kept the blender on the lowest setting, and poured in the oil in a slow stream, as directed, and it worked perfectly. Who would have thought that this dressing would turn out yellow? I was expecting something very red, but then I always think red wine vinegar is going to look like balsamic. It doesn't. It's quite light.

This is going to get a LOT of play in my life, especially if I need to make a lot of dressing at one time. Easy, fast, and delicious!

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Pureed Mixed Vegetable Soup (p. 67)

This is the main event tonight, at least for Marcy. (I have a steak coming.) Marcy wants hers dairy-free, but I'm going whole hog, or whole cow. I didn't put cream in hers, but I forgot to tell her about the butter. Oops.

This is another very straightforward recipe, although there's a small detail missing in the book. The recipe begins with onions and garlic being sautéed in butter, and Martha says to coarsely chop the onions, but for the garlic, she merely says “peeled.” I doubt she wants me to throw the clove in there, whole, so I coarsely chopped the garlic, too. Martha, care to specify?

Martha says you can use chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water as the base of this soup. I opted for half chicken stock and half water.

This cooks up quite quickly, and pureeing it makes for a nice velvety texture. I ended up adding all the reserved liquid back in at the end, but I like the technique of putting it aside to use only if needed.

The one thing I didn't care for in this soup was the taste of very-cooked broccoli. I like my broccoli barely-cooked; if it goes too long, as I think it did here, it gets that hospital-food smell and flavor. Marcy's plain version was just a little less tasty than mine, to which I had added cream and extra salt. (It’s amazing how significantly even a small amount of cream can enrich a soup.)

All in all, this is a very respectable, hearty, veggie soup.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Frico (p. 75)

Martha has a whole page of soup add-ons, sweet little touches to fancy up your soup presentation, and I thought I’d do one tonight.

Frico was the name of a restaurant that used to be on the corner of 43rd and 8th, where Esca is now. Their specialty was this eponymous Italian delicacy: fried cheese, crisped in the oven and served almost like a flat bread. Unbelievably delicious. All the great taste of cheese, with a lot of the naughtiness (i.e. fat) cooked out of it, and with an amazing, crispy texture.

Martha’s version involves creating lacy circles of grated parmesan on a silicone baking mat and baking it for a few minutes. Next – get this! – you peel them up while still hot and press them into the molds on a mini-muffin pan, where they harden. What could be cuter than delicate, little, fried cheese cups??

Again, Martha scores big with an easy, delicious, and elegant touch.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Pan-Seared Steak with Balsamic Sauce (p. 259)

Here’s a variation on the Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce, which I absolutely loved. It would be hard to top this sauce, or even compete with it. It was perfection.

Couldn’t find strip steak, so I tried a different cut, sirloin tip, which was a definite disappointment. When I do the last variation, I will hold out for strip steak again.

This sauce couldn’t be simpler. After removing the steak from the pan, you pour some balsamic vinegar in there, deglaze, add butter, and serve, with a rosemary sprig garnish.

What a surprise! This sauce was incredible! I never thought this would taste like anything, but now I can’t wait until I can do this again! This is a must-try for anyone who can’t be bothered with complicated recipes. Fabulous! Even Marcy tasted it and loved it!

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Poached Apricots (p. 490)

I wish you could have seen Marcy’s eyes as I poured all three cups of sugar into the pan… “You know, fruit has a lot of sugar in it already,” she said cheerily, hoping to get me to hold back on some of the sugar. Silly girl, doesn’t she know I’m doing this by the book? Literally?

The traditional apricots at Whole Foods were terribly unripe, but I noticed another kind of apricot with dark red skin, called Red Blush, and these were riper, so I bought them. They are absolutely beautiful! A little more expensive, but worth it for the novelty. They taste just like apricots, but they look more like plums. And when you poach them? Gorgeous! They stain the poaching liquid a bright pinkish red!

Speaking of the poaching liquid, it’s amazing. It’s a syrup, with a sugar and water base, a bit of lemon peel, a cinnamon stick, and some sliced, fresh ginger. Flavor galore! The apricots come out tart, sweet, spicy, zingy, citrus-y, ginger-y – like the lemon sorbet, there’s almost too much flavor per square inch. Perhaps a nice simple vanilla ice cream could calm these down....

Martha suggests mixing some of the syrup, post-poaching, with seltzer water for a refreshing spritzer, which of course I had to try. The syrup is so heavy that it requires some serious stirring to incorporate. The flavor is a little weird for a spritzer, almost too complex. (I think it’s the ginger that put me off.) But I want to use the syrup to make some sorbet. That should be amazing!

Jeff: A
Martha: A
Red Blush Apricots: A

That’s my creamed-up soup on the right, and Marcy’s darker, plain version on the left. And a plate of fricos!!

Bad steak, great sauce!

Are these BEAUTIFUL or what??!!

No new entries for a while! I'm on a cooking break! Catch you next week-

Until we eat again....

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