Wednesday, March 25, 2009

sea kittens

My dear friend Schwatts came to visit weekend before last. She's not only one of my favorite people on the planet, but also a/an:
-real good time
-awesome chef
-hi-freakin'-larious lady
-sweet as all get-out

I wanted to, nay, needed to make a fantastic lunch for her arrival. She's fed me so many fabulous meals over the years, taught me lots, and I wanted to impress her while making it all seem, you know, effortless.

She arrived at noon that Friday (I'd taken the day off), and Barbara got home from work not long after that. After a tour of our place, a little walk with the dogs, and some chatting, I got our lunch on the table. I made:
-watercress salad with fuji apples, Cypress Grove Purple Haze chevre and a lemon vinaigrette
-Spicy Autumn Vegetable Burgers with sharp cheddar on homemade hamburger buns
-carrot and sweet potato oven fries with chipotle-orange dipping sauce
-chewy-chocolate ginger cookies for dessert

Those hamburger buns were amazing. One of my favorite things I've ever baked. They came out so well, and were so soft and tender. Loved them! I think I might make some more this week.

The cookies are heavenly. I made them for my holiday cookie exchange at work. They have such a fantastic flavor and texture, and the little crust of sugar is super. YUM.

After lunch we just visited until it was time for our next meal--a stupendous feast at Eleven. I was extra excited about the dinner because they'd just received a really fantastic review the day before.

I'd been considering starting to include some seafood in my diet for a while. A month or so ago I tried a few bites of a delicious tuna dish E-dawg was having at Kaya. So, I decided to indulge at Eleven. I know that they have options that are sustainable, and preparations that honor the ingredients.

But, I never do anything halfway. I had four courses of seafood. It was stellar. A truly memorable meal. My guts hated me for about a day and a half while they were readjusting to fish and the like, but it was truly fantastic. Eleven's food is so thoughtful and so precise that I think I had an Eleven-hangover that still lingers.

Here's the menu:
1/2 dozen Long Island Sound oysters on the half shell
(we each got a cocktail - mine was the Badlands-hattan and she had something cucumbery)

then the Chef's Tasting with Wine pairing:
-Spicy Tuna Tartar & Yellowtail Sashimi
kumquat ponzu, seaweed salad, lemon miso, cucumber, radishes, spicy soy
(the ponzu was served in a tiny little kumquat half!)
served with champagne (Leon Palais Blanc de Blanc, Doue La Fontaine)

Wild Striped Bass
calamari, Israeli cous cous, oven roasted & sundried tomatoes, watercress and caperberries
served with some delicious red wine that tasted like dried cherries and smoke (2003 Poderi La Collina Platinum Nebbiolo-Barbera)

Chatham Cod
Jonah crab risotto, forest mushrooms, leeks
served with a really great white wine (not sure what this one was, but I just emailed the restaurant to ask)

Black Forest Trifle
dense chocolate cake, dried cherries, Kirsh, milk chocolate cream, a little fudge on the bottom and a cocoa nib tuile
served with an unbelievable sparkling dessert wine (2007 Castello Banfi Brachetto d'Acqul Rosa Regale)

Wow. Just wow. Chef Derek Stevens is a rock star.
Eleven on Urbanspoon

So, anyhow, to get to the title of this post, Katherine (aka "Schwatts") said that she'd read that PETA are now referring to fish/seafood as "sea kittens" to discourage people from eating them. And, we talked about the irony in that anytime anything is Super Cute we want to bite and/or eat it--you know, like babies' toes and, well, kittens. Oh, those wacky PETA-ers. I was down with them when I was younger, but the parade of blatantly sexist shock ads over the years, among other antics, soured me on them. But, that said, I do feel a little guilt at eating fish. I've been a vegetarian on and off since I was 13, largely because of the treatment of animals. But, I've also constantly and consistently missed the fish. My plan now is to occasionally eat seafood, but still primarily with a vegetarian diet. And, to make sure that the seafood I eat is sustainable. Just fyi.

Okay, so back to the incredible Schwatts. I mentioned to her that I have a problem with groceries. I buy A Lot of groceries. I spend a lot of time reading cookbooks and food magazines and food blogs and such, and every time I read about some new exotic or esoteric ingredient I feel like I.Must.Have.It. Even though, I already have a pretty bangin' pantry. I want to change this because I want to spend less and not overflow my space. So, she marched me into the kitchen with some boxes of glass jars and a sharpie, and we went through the entire kitchen--pantry, freezer, refrigerator--and cleaned out stuff that was old and/or unused and labeled and dated everything. And, then we went grocery shopping, and got some things to make some bulk snacks for the week. She made an enormous fruit salad, and we roasted four pans of veggies. She labeled all my leftovers. It was brilliant and such a lovely sight to behold! I feel so much more organized, and prepared to cook from my beautiful and well-stocked pantry. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Schwattzie-Bear.

I took fruit salad to work every day, and some incarnation of the roasted veggies. Here are some pizzas I made last week. One used the roasted veg, the other some sauce from a big batch I made, and I made a big batch of pizza dough, and froze some, so we've been able to just grab it and make a quick lunch or dinner any time.

I'm trying to be better about planning out our meals ahead of time, and having yummy stuff already ready to cook and eat. AND, trying to eat down the huge stockpile of food from the pantry.

Last night I made a variation of this wonderfully simple recipe from Mark Bittman's column "The Minimalist" in the NYT. I started my water boiling with some carrot, onion and garlic, and then swapped out the rice wine vinegar for an umeboshi vinegar, added cubed nigari tofu, swapped out the egg noodles for soba, and added some frozen peas right before serving. All told it probably took me twenty minutes, and it was completely delicious (and pretty low-fat and low-cal) and super fragrant. I brought the leftovers for lunch today, and it was even better. I love this recipe!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is what a hurd is talking about. Yes. Good eatin', indeed! Nom nom.