Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

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31-recipe challenge Day 14: The day I ate a beet and roasted beef

I did two things I’d never thought I’d do on Saturday: I made a roast and I ate a beet.

OK, so maybe that first one wasn’t so out there, but it wasn’t something I foresaw for the near future. There’s something about pulling a big roast of meat out of the oven that makes me feel like I should be wearing heels and pearls with a lace apron and a beehive. Instead I’m pretty sure I was wearing Converse. But the roast was still good.

I pulled out all the stops for a super-fancy (ish) dinner that night, complete with Cesar-crusted roast beef and a blood orange, beet and fennel salad, both courtesy of Bon Appétit.

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Although I ate beets, I’m still not going to be running out to buy them again anytime soon. I discovered I like golden beets more than red beets, but they still have that distinctly “beet” flavor that turns me off. It’s kind of weird, my distaste for beets, seeing as I have a MAJOR sweet tooth and beets are nature’s candy. But I just don’t care for them. I actually ended up tossing the last of the red beet that was leftover after I finished the rest of my salad. The best part was the blood orange, which is just so sweet and citrusy and flavorful.

The only “modification” that I made to this salad, though, was that I halved it. (This doesn’t really even count anymore) and I, in a very uncharacteristic move, forgot the cilantro. Ugh. That probably would’ve made it better, because cilantro makes everything better.

And for those wondering, no, this is NOT the recipe which prompted my disdain for the mandolin. That was the next day…

Now here’s the part where I make a big confession: I didn’t make a roast beef tenderloin, like the recipe says. I made a rib roast. Yes, I know those are VASTLY different. Here’s the (quick) story:

Beef tenderloin (aka chateaubriand) is, apparently, super expensive. (I really should’ve done more research before I dove into this challenge.) I’m talking $50 for a two-pound cut expensive.

Now, I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: I don’t make that much money! I’m not exactly in a financial position to spend $50 on one roast. So, after some iPhone research and a discussi0n with the butcher, I went with a much more reasonable rib roast instead. It was much fattier, and a different shape, but it was good in the end. Would the tenderloin have been better? Duh, that’s where filet mignon comes from, but I’m not exactly capable of shelling out for four filets.

Another, far more minor tweak, is that I made this gluten-free. Instead of using fresh bread crumbs, I used gluten-free cornflake crumbs so everyone could eat it. I also (surprise, surprise) halved the recipe, because I don’t have eight people to feed. As it is we have about half a roast left over.

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Because of the change in the meat, I had to play around with the cooking time a bit, and just keep watch–and temperature. This taught me the unfortunate lesson that my oven does not cook things evenly. When the roast finally seemed to come to temperature, I took it out of the oven and let it rest a while, but when we finally cut into it, one end was red, nearly rare, while the other was almost all brown, a solid medium at least. Lesson learned: always, ALWAYS rotate things in this oven. (For the record, I was shooting for a nice medium-rare.)

We sliced up the whole thing and seared off the pieces that were on the undercooked side to finish them up.

Now, I’m not a big roast/steak eater, but I must say, this was a pretty lovely piece of meat. It was juicy and still quite tender, considering I used a lesser cut of meat. It got the stamp of approval from the two carnivores, so that’s always good!

I felt like such a big girl, and a classy one at that, pulling off not one, but TWO Bon Appétit recipes and making such a sophisticated meal! Don’t expect it to last.

31-Recipe Challenge Day 7: Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto

I MADE RISOTTO! And it didn’t suck! Alas, risotto was a notorious downfall for the cheftestants on Top Chef, and I’m not sure this would save me from the wrath of Tom and Padma, but nonetheless, I made risotto on the first try and it wasn’t horrifically awful. As a matter of fact, it was downright edible! (Of course, I’m being modest…I’ve already tucked into the leftovers, so that’s always a good sign.) I also made brown butter for the first time, which also didn’t suck. As a matter of fact, I expected to need at least two tries to not burn it, but first time was a charm.  My apartment smelled delicious that night.

Sweet potato risotto 1

Cue happy dance number 3 of the month. (3? Or is it 4? I lost track…)

I didn’t just make any risotto, mind you. I made roasted sweet potato risotto from How Sweet It Is. This recipe basically combines all sorts of good things into one: risotto, which is obviously fabulous, sweet potatoes, bacon and cheese.

I was super-concerned during the cooking process that I was going to mess something up. If I didn’t feel like the stock and wine were absorbing at the right rate, I got worried. If I burned the garlic and over-toasted the rice, I freaked. (I mean, not that I did that…I totally did that. It still came out fine in the end.) Moral of the story? Don’t freak, you’re probably going to end up with a beautifully rich, creamy risotto at the end.

Cooking arborio rice

It made for a very good way to end the week and welcome in a snow storm–yup, we got hit by “Nemo,” though it wasn’t nearly as bad as what we’ve had in the past. And not having a driveway to shovel makes it even better. I also moved from a very quiet suburban street to a pretty busy local road, so we were plowed out before 9 am Saturday. That was nice.

So, the next time snow is coming your way (you can pretend if you live in a warm climate. Also, you can invite me over.), cook up a batch of creamy, wintery risotto, snuggle up with a glass of wine, and then head out and hit the bar before the snow really starts. Or you can just do the first part…(Yes, I did the latter, but granted, the bar’s only about eight blocks away and the snow didn’t even start til right before we left. Apparently Nemo’s a night owl.)

I feel like this night was the night I moved up a rank in the cooking world. Maybe I can call myself at least “intermediate” now. After all, I made brown butter AND risotto with it and both turned out on the first shot. Or maybe I’m just getting cocky. Either one.

Sweet potato risotto 2

 

31-Recipe Challenge: Day 4–Butternut Squash and Kale Salad

I kept it simple on Monday. Coming off my marathon-cooking weekend and a late night thanks to the Super Bowl, I hadn’t done any extra shopping and was feeling pretty low-key. Luckily, I had planned ahead on my last shopping trip and picked up extra kale, butternut squash and almonds for the week ahead. All I needed was some cheese and I had everything on hand to recreate Northern Spy’s Kale Salad (recipe courtesy of Food52).

Kale and squash salad 1

I sent my wonderful and adoring boyfriend out for some cheese to complete this meal, and although he could not find the Cabot Clothbound cheddar that Kristen of Food52 so vehemently praised, he did come back with some Kerry Gold two-year aged Irish “distinctively sharp” cheddar. And I wasn’t complaining. That’s some knock-your-socks-off good cheese. If it’s possible for a cheddar to taste like a Parmesan, this does. Kevin, you hit this one out of the park. Good work.

This recipe calls for oven-roasted butternut squash, and, unlike Sunday’s undercooked squash disaster, this time it roasted up nice and sweet and soft. Mix into chopped kale and almonds, add the cheddar and shaved pecorino, dress with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and dig in. It’s crunchy-chewy, salty-sweet, oily-acidic. It’s perfect. This was one of the best kale salads I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good kale salads. I get why Northern Spy keeps it on their menu. Serve with anything, or on its own. We ate it with leftovers from the weekend.

And although the squash takes about 30-40 minutes to roast, this is otherwise a super-speedy lunch or dinner, and simple. Chopping and roasting the squash is the brunt of the prep work.

This one’s a clear winner in my book, and a nice break after a day of heavy eats. Also goes to show sometimes simple is best. Thank goodness I needed to leave to walk the dog, or poor Kevin may not have gotten any of this salad. I couldn’t stop eating it. I wasn’t even hungry anymore and I still found myself digging in.

Seriously, I’m still thinking about this salad. And drooling. Over SALAD. Yeah, that happened.

Kale and squash salad 2

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