Tuesday, November 20, 2007

writer's block

lately i'm suffering a bit of writer's block. i simply don't have anything to say. i've tried to fight through it with a couple of half-assed memes, but that's not really working. so today, i'm going to tell you about the outstanding dinner i made for rose's birthday last night. alas, i'm not nerdy enough to have taken photos, so you'll have to imagine what it looked like.

the main course was buffalo steak in a tart cherry sauce; the sides were butternut squash and wilted spinach with caramelized onion. the cherry sauce was a huge experiment, and i'm pleased to say that all reporters either enjoyed it or lied convincingly. it was the first time in a very long time that i cooked without tasting the dish all through the process, so even i was pleasantly surprised. however, we did start all three dishes with the 2 crucial steps of melting 2 tbsp butter and pouring 2 oz wine into the cook, so it was hard to go wrong from there.

i sent rose to the store for all the odd ingredients that i don't keep in my kitchen, like sun-dried oregon cherries. i have maraschino cherries, but those aren't quite the same and could never be classed as 'tart'. unless maybe they were in a beverage called a 'tart' because of its umm... effect on chicks who drink fruity things with cherries in them and umbrellas on top. rose had to call me three or four times from the store for direction and substitution options because Whole Foods doesn't prominently display plum wine or sun-dried cherries. as a result, we ended up with some Organic Tibetan Goji Berries, which i thought was a hoot. according to wiki, the "tibetan" part is probably a big fat lie marketing strategy because the tibetan plateau is remarkably unsuitable for commercial fruit production, even if it were organic production. the goji berries were very close to the cherries, and were quite prominently displayed, according to rose. for those who wonder, they are quite tasty little boogers, kinda like a dried cranberry, but with just a hint of savory about them and not so fruity-sweet. think of an early strawberry that's ripe enough to be red, but not ripe enough to be particularly sweet yet.

the squash was tasty and uber-simple. i halved it and scraped out the seeds and pulp (which are remarkably pumpkin-like) and then scored the flesh deeply with a knife. i smeared it with butter, dropped a tablespoon of extra butter into the hollow, sprinkled it liberally with nutmeg, covered each half with foil and set it foil side down on a cookie sheet to bake at 350 for an hour. yum! i love me some winter squash. rose had never eaten it before, so she now has a new seasonal food addiction. plus, it's a nice carrot-free source of beta carotene. have any of you noticed how grocery store carrots taste these days? they pretty much taste like dirt. bleh.

for the spinach, i minced some garlic and slivered some onion into about 2 tbsp of olive oil in my honkin' weapons-grade cast iron skillet. then i tossed in a bag of baby spinach until the whole mass was about halved in size. i pulled it off the fire and put it into a bowl where i drizzled it with balsamic vinegar and LOTS of lemon juice. probably about the juice of half a lemon, if i were one of those nutty cooks-from-scratch types. but i'm not, so the juice came out of those darling plastic lemon-shaped bottles with the long pour spout. i guess that's there just so you don't inadvertently grab the unnaturally shiny yellow bottle thinking it's an actual lemon. as far as i can tell, the spout serves only to make it look like a lemon with a strange protuberance that might be a tumor...

the buffalo steaks were marinated in equal parts balsamic vinegar and worcestershire sauce, with a generous addition of lemon juice, black pepper, pickled ginger, and bavarian herb mix. for the cherry sauce, i used 1/2 a medium sized sweet onion, sauteed in butter, about a cup of apple juice, cup of cranberry juice, 3 tbsp sweet red wine (i used a beaujolais nouveau because we couldn't find plum), a cup of dried cherries, and a half cup of Genuine Organic Tibetan Goji Berries. then i made a sachet out of cheesecloth and into it i put a bay leaf, 4 black peppercorns, 3 whole cloves, 1 clove garlic and all the pickled ginger i could fish out of the marinade. i simmered the whole lot for about 20 or 30 minutes. i removed about 1/2 cup of the cherries from the sauce and set them aside. i pulled out the sachet, as well. then i put the sauce into a blender and made it smooth. i topped each steak with the sauce and a few of the whole cherries.

nom nom nom!

rose was in charge of cooking the meat, which i assume she did on the grill outside. she ran off with the marinating dish when i told her she had about 10 minutes left, and when she came back, there was a plate of medium-rare buffalo steaks in her hand. it is good to have a sous chef, no?

happy birthday, love!

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