Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Recipe: Risotto with Tomato and Goat Cheese

Risotto gets a bad rap as a laborious and time-consuming dish, but the truth is, I secretly enjoy making it. Maybe it has something to do with the the fast pace and busy workload of a typical weekday, but I find that the whole process of infusing hot liquid into rice is incredibly relaxing. For twenty minutes, all I have to do is stand in front of the stove, wait, and occasionally stir. The best part? At the end, I get to enjoy a creamy, rich risotto.

I almost always have Arborio rice in my cupboard, but I rarely have chicken stock. For a long time, this kept me from making risotto as often as I'd like. For some reason, it never occurred to me that a quick vegetable stock - or even hot water! - could create risotto equally as well as chicken stock. A couple of weeks ago, I read a Mark Bittman article on how easy it is to make risotto with any hot liquid. Lacking chicken stock (as usual), I decided to take his advice and make garlic stock.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Food & Wine Finds: August 27

Hi everyone! I'm off to Kansas City today, but thought I'd throw together a quick round of food & wine finds before I go. By the way, I keep hearing conflicting opinions - really, what's the best barbecue in Kansas City? Arthur Bryant's or Oklahoma Joe's? I know Anthony Bourdain is a big Oklahoma Joe's fan, which tends to sway me. Let me know in the comments if you feel otherwise (or if you have any other fun KC recommendations for me).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

For a quick summer meal that's fresh and seasonal, there's nothing tastier and easier than gazpacho. The term 'gazpacho' usually refers to a tomato-based soup which doesn't require cooking and is served chilled; beyond that, there are infinite variations. More often than not, gazpacho recipes include liquids like chicken stock, tomato juice, or even water to thin out the vegetable puree. Because it's August and the farmer's market is filled with truly wonderful heirloom tomatoes right now, I wanted to make a gazpacho that would allow their flavor to shine through. I added a little olive oil and red wine vinegar for texture and taste, but all the rest of the liquid in this recipe comes from the tomatoes themselves rather than from stock or purchased juice. Because it highlights the flavor of the fresh vegetables so well, it's the perfect vehicle for my best farmer's market finds.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Food & Wine Finds: August 20

Happy Friday! Today marks the start of Restaurant Week in Des Moines, which means $25 three-course dinners all week long from some of my favorite spots around town. (Most restaurants are also offering 2-for-$25 lunches, but since I'm never in Des Moines during the day, I won't be partaking in any lunch specials and thus I like to pretend they don't exist.) 

To celebrate the best week of the year, I've decided to devote this edition of Friday Food & Wine Finds to highlighting the best-looking Restaurant Week menus around town. Since Restaurant Week actually runs for ten days (August 20-29), I'll choose my top ten destinations, one for each day. Just for fun, I'll also tell you what I would order at each restaurant. Here they are!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Recipe: Caramelized Onion, Shiitake, & Goat Cheese Ravioli

I grew up in a strict no-onion household. My dad has harbored a lifelong aversion to onions, aided first by my grandmother, who routinely makes a small "Scott-only" version of every dish she prepares, and then by my mother, who was never a big fan of onions anyway and was quite happy to ban them from her kitchen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Recipe: Homemade Pasta

I've written before about how dried pasta is my go-to meal when I'm too tired to put anything else together, but fresh pasta is a whole new level of kitchen mastery. Ever since I first made gnocchi and marveled in amazement at how potato and flour could form a concoction of legitimate shape and texture, a pasta machine has been on my wish list. In awe, I would watch shows like Top Chef Masters where someone whips out a pasta machine and, moments, later, fresh ravioli emerges. I couldn't wait to try it myself.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Travel: Atlanta

I travel pretty regularly for work, and generally speaking, I enjoy it. I love having the opportunity to get lost in a brand-new city: exploring new places, creating new experiences, and leaving with a long list of favorites to revisit next time around. But when I found out I would be heading to Atlanta during the absolute hottest part of the year... well, let's just say I wasn't exactly rushing to pack my bags. Never having been to Atlanta, I didn't know a lot about the city, but you don't need to be a travel expert to know that visiting any place nicknamed "Hotlanta" in late July is not exactly going to be pleasant.

Luckily, I was wrong. Well, kind of wrong; the weather was, in fact, miserable. It was the sort of suffocating heat that steams up your sunglasses the minute you step outside and doesn't let you take a breath until you're well within the safety of air conditioning. But the city itself was full of pleasant surprises.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Food & Wine Finds: August 13

It's the end of another week and time for my weekly compendium of what's new, fresh, and exciting in the world of all things food and wine (but especially beer this week. I should find a way to work that into the title of these posts). Here we go!

Are you a budding food star? Know someone who should be a TV Chef? The Food Network is now accepting applications for Season 7 of the Next Food Network Star. Yes, you too could be the next Dzintra. (No? No one else watches that show? Oh well. Suffice it to say she drove me crazy and got kicked off early.)

Believe it or not, you can now "get frosted" (really) at a new Pop-Tarts cafe in Times Square. While I can't imagine going all the way to NYC to eat pop-tart sushi (yes, that's a real thing), I got really excited at the mention of PUMPKIN pop-tarts. Really? There are pumpkin pop-tarts?? How did I not know about this?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recipe: Fried Chicken Livers with Tomato and Goat Cheese

I never had one of those "liver and onions" childhoods. (In my mind, being fed liver and onions goes hand-in-hand with "I had to walk five miles to school, uphill, both ways.") For me, liver of any kind was the stuff of legend - never touched it, never tasted it, never even saw it. I had the vague idea that livers were something disgusting served to punish children. Whenever I bought a whole chicken, I couldn't discard the bag containing the neck and livers fast enough. What else was I going to do with those things?? I had no idea how to prepare them. Chicken livers are notably absent from my go-to cookbook How to Cook Everything... and if they're not in How to Cook Everything, well, maybe they're not supposed to be cooked.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recipe: Avocado Salsa, or "Megan's Dip"

Though it's simple to make, this is by far my most-requested dish. Because I can put most of it together ahead of time and then store it in the fridge, I end up serving it at nearly every party - at this point, I could probably make it in my sleep. It's great with fresh summer produce, easy to put together, and it's even been known to win over a few avocado detractors. In fact, by posting this on my blog, I feel like I'm about to give away some sort of long-held secret recipe (complete with a proprietary blend of thirty-seven herbs and spices!).

There are several well-known variations on this dish (usually called cowboy caviar or Texas caviar), but it's only ever referred to as "Megan's Dip" in my family. At mom's recent birthday party, my sister and I tried to rename it "Avocado Salsa" thinking it would be more descriptive and helpful for party guests, but it didn't take. Mom continued to refer to it Megan's Dip, so I finally gave up - the name has stuck.

This leads to frequent protestations (not to mention eye rolling) from my brother. It was actually Trevor who first introduced a variation of this dip to our family after one of his friends shared it with him. Every time I serve it, I'm reminded of this fact. "Poor Marisa," he'll say with a rueful shake of his head. "The only good thing she's ever made, and now everyone calls it 'Megan's Dip.'" What can I say? Sorry, Marisa. The recipe was too good to leave alone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Food & Wine Finds: August 6

Happy Friday! It's time for another roundup of my latest finds, articles, and creative kitchen inspiration. I'm sticking to "Friday Food and Wine Finds" for now, though I think it lacks a little creativity. Naturally, suggestions are still welcome if you come up with a better idea!

Tonight, Des Moines is hosting this fabulous-looking al fresco dinner prepared by notable local chefs. Of course, it comes with an equally fabulous price tag, but it looks incredible and I would LOVE to go. Maybe next year! 

Building on last week's post on DIY barstools, check out this dining table made from shipping pallets. I am really taken with this idea... so taken that I am currently fighting the temptation to grab a pallet and build one myself.

I subscribe to too many magazines, which I never get around to reading until I'm traveling and have some serious airplane time to kill. I just finally read my July issue of Food & Wine this week, and I'm now obsessed with this barbecued chicken recipe from Tim Love. I'm not a big chicken person, but this recipe looks so, so good.  I truly can't wait to try it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Recipe: Rhubarb Ginger Frozen Yogurt

By now, I'm pretty sure my love for rhubarb is well-documented on this blog. Along with asparagus, rhubarb is one of my favorite harbingers of spring. As soon as the first farmer's market rolls around in May, I search out the brightest, reddest stalks and buy pounds of it every week - much to the chagrin of my mother, who is kept in constant, free supply by a generous friend with a garden and plenty of rhubarb to spare. Ahem. Step it up, friends with backyards.