09.30.07

Pasta salad with pesto

Posted in food, home cooking at 10:24 pm by wingerz

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I’m always on the lookout for good side dishes. Caroline and Brandon introduced me to this one, and I made it again to go along with steak tips. Like Brandon, I substituted arugula for basil in the pesto. This is a very flavorful, colorful pasta salad.

Pasta salad with pesto
from America’s Test Kitchen

3/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
Table salt
1 pound farfalle (bow ties) pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 1 additional tablespoon
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about 4 ounces)
1 cup baby spinach (packed), about 1 ounce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pint cherry tomatoes , quartered, or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)

1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in large pot. Toast pine nuts in small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. When water is boiling, add garlic and let cook 1 minute. Remove garlic with slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop cooking; set aside to cool. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to water, stir to separate, and cook until tender (just past al dente). Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, drain pasta, toss with 1 tablespoon oil, spread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. When garlic is cool, peel and mince or press through garlic press. Place 1/4 cup nuts, garlic, basil, spinach, pepper, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 cup oil, and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl of food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Add cheese and mayonnaise and process until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to large serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.

4. When pasta is cool, toss with pesto, adding reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until pesto evenly coats pasta. Fold in remaining 1/2 cup nuts and tomatoes (if using); serve.

09.23.07

Steak tips

Posted in food, home cooking at 11:27 pm by wingerz

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This recipe sounded good so I decided to make it this past weekend. The marinade is great, though it could be just a bit saltier. Each of the flavors (garlic, ginger, orange) is pretty subtle, but they combine nicely. Unfortunately, uncut steak tips don’t look all that beautiful.

Steak tips with garlic, ginger, and soy marinade
From Cooks’ Illustrated‘s Grilling book

2 pounds flap meat sirloin steak tips, trimmed of excess fat

1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated zest from 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium scallion, sliced thin

1. Combine the marinade and meat in a gallon-size zip-lock bag; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour, flipping the bag after 30 minutes.
2. Remove the steak tips from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Grill, uncovered, over the hotter part of the fire, until well seared and dark brown on the first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flips the steak tips and grill until the second side is well seared and the thickest part of the meat is slightly less done than desired, 4 to five minutes for medium rare (about 130 degrees), 6 to 8 minutes for medium (about 135 degrees); if the exterior of the meat is browned but the steak is not yet cooked through, move the steak tips to the cooler side of the grill and continue to grill to the desired doneness.
3. Transfer the steak tips to a cutting board. Tend the tips loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the steak tips very thin on the bias. Serve immediately with orange wedges.

09.16.07

Peach cobbler

Posted in food, home cooking at 11:38 pm by wingerz

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The peaches at the farmers’ market have been my obsession this summer. They have been sweet and succulent week in and week out. I felt kind of guilty for turning last week’s crop into a peach cobbler rather than enjoying them in their natural state. The cobbler was quite delicious, but also quite labor intensive. The only thing I’d do differently next time is not serve it with vanilla ice cream because it just detracts from the peaches.

Peach cobber
From America’s Test Kitchen‘s The New Best Recipe

Filling
2 1/2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (6-7 medium)
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
Pinch salt

Biscuit topping
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. For the filling: Peel the peaches, then halve and pit each. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out and discard the dark flesh from the pit area. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Gently toss the peaches and sugar together in a large bowl; let stand for 30 minutes, tossing several times. Drain the peaches in a colander set over a large bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup of the drained juice (discard the remaining juice), the cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt together in a small bowl. Toss the peach juice mixture with the peach slices and transfer to an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until the peaches begin to bubble around the edges, about 10 minutes.
3. For the biscuit topping: While the peaches are baking, in a food processor pulse the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl; add the yogurt and toss with a rubber spatula until a cohesive dough is formed. (Don’t overmix the dough, or the biscuits will be tough.) Break the dough into 6 evenly sized but roughly shaped mounds and set aside.
4. To assemble and bake the cobbler: After the peaches have baked 10 minutes, move them from the oven and place the dough mounds on top, spacing at least 1/2 inch apart (they should not touch). Sprinkle each mound with a portion of the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cool the cobbler on a wire rack until warm, about 20 minutes, serve.

09.03.07

Cape Cod

Posted in personal, photos at 10:40 am by wingerz

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After Jen finished finals way back in May, I took a few days off work so that we could go to Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard. We had a very pleasant, relaxing trip, staying at a delightful bed & breakfast (The Inn on the Sound) and doing a lot of biking.

In Falmouth we biked the Shining Sea Bike Trail, which runs about 3 miles to Woods Hole. It’s pretty short, but it was in good condition and ran alongside the water. The next day we took the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard (with our bikes). The first leg of our ride was from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, and it was absolutely beautiful, with water on both sides for a significant portion of it. After wandering around Edgartown we headed northeast to Vineyard Haven. While the bike path was separate from the road, this was not as scenic, and there were small caterpillars dangling from the trees. In Vineyard Haven we wandered around and ate dinner. We biked back to Oak Bluffs before an evening thunderstorm raced past.

The Martha’s Vineyard towns were small and quaint. There are a few chains that have locations in every town. Would love to go back some time to spend a night or two there; this trip we were confined to the northeast part of the island. I’ve posted a few of my favorite photos.

09.02.07

Super Paper Mario

Posted in games at 8:39 am by wingerz

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Way back in April, I received Super Paper Mario as a gift. A part of the Paper Mario series, it depicts the world and characters inside it using 2D paper cut-outs. Paper Mario and Paper Mario 2 were RPGs with some platforming elements; Super Paper Mario is a platformer with some RPG elements. Over the past few months I’ve been playing through it, one or two hours at a time, and I finally finished it last night. It has a lot of charm and some cute ideas, but the lack of challenge made it a lot less enjoyable and satisfying to me.

+ Good gameplay ideas. You can rotate the normal side-scrolling view to get a side view of certain objects, reveal new paths to explore, and dodge enemy attacks.
+ Play as Bowser. He’s the funniest character to join your party, and he also breathes fire.
– Weak use of the controls While I did like the fact that the Wii remote is held like an old-school NES controller, it’s obvious that this was a GameCube title ported over to the Wii.
– Too easy. I can’t recommend this game to anyone who is reasonably good at video games because it just wasn’t hard enough. For much of the game I felt like I was just going through the motions to finish it rather than taking satisfaction in playing it. There are also some parts of the game that just are really boring and pointless (World 6 in particular). I will say that World 8 is quite good in terms of challenge and using the 3rd dimension, but it doesn’t make the game worth playing through.

Overall, quite disappointing. I’d recommend Paper Mario 2 over it, and won’t be coming back to play through this one again. I’m a bit surprised by the high review scores that the game got.

09.01.07

Picnic chicken

Posted in food, home cooking at 8:22 am by wingerz

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This chicken was in the same episode of ATK as the grilled shrimp I posted a few weeks ago, and I made both the shrimp and chicken for one meal. It is supposed to taste good after being chilled as well (so that you can take it on picnics), but we ate it right off the grill. Somehow six of us managed to finish off 6 pounds of chicken and 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp that evening.

Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken
from America’s Test Kitchen

5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, or a mix with breasts cut into 3 pieces or halved if small), trimmed of excess fat and skin
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Use sharp knife to make 2 or 3 short slashes in skin of each piece of chicken, taking care not to cut into meat. Combine salt, sugar, and spices in small bowl and mix thoroughly. Coat chicken pieces with spices, gently lifting skin to distribute spice rub underneath but leaving it attached to chicken. Transfer chicken skin side up to wire rack set over rimmed foil-lined baking sheet, lightly tent with foil, and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours.

2. Secure skin of each breast piece with 2 or 3 toothpicks placed near edges of skin.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Roast chicken until thickest part of smallest piece registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees and continue roasting until chicken is browned and crisp and thickest parts of breast pieces register 160 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes longer, removing pieces from oven and transferring to clean wire rack as they finish cooking. Continue to roast thighs and/or drumsticks, if using, until thickest part of meat registers 170 to 175 degrees, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven; transfer chicken to rack and let cool completely before refrigerating or serving.