Posts tagged dinner

Squash(ed) Resolutions

squash

New Year’s Resolution #1: Eat less meat and more vegetables.

New Year’s Resolution #2: Take better photographs.

Looking at the photo of last week’s winter squash gratin (above), I’m wondering if I should reverse the priority of these resolutions. That is one terrible photograph up there. And I wonder why I have such a small readership.

OK, so we’ve established that I will work harder on my food photography in 2009. But now let’s address resolution #1. I came back from the December holidays feeling meated-out. Beef Wellington, pasta and meatballs, pork three ways: You name it, I ate it. And I’m still feeling it. My focus for the new year is to get back on track with a balanced diet, eating as many different vegetables and healthy, home-cooked meals as I can.

Aiding me in this quest is the Fitness and Nutrition section of the New York Times, which I stumbled upon online a few months ago. Whenever I clicked around the Times’s site something from that section caught my eye, whether it was a delicious-sounding recipe or an intriguing article like that list of healthy foods all of us should be eating but aren’t. (There’s another resolution in there somewhere, but I just can’t deal with it right now.)

I decided that the section’s winter squash gratin would be my first vegetarian dish of the new year. Following the recipe closely, I roasted the squash, chopped the parsley and sage, beat the eggs and mixed them with the cooked squash, milk, and Gruyère cheese before topping the mixture with Parmesan and baking it for 30 minutes.

It emerged from the oven fluffy, bright, and steaming, and practically floated onto our plates. The two cheeses added a sharp, almost tangy edge to the sweet squash, but I have to admit, I didn’t fall in love with this gratin. It was missing something, and in retrospect I’m guessing it was the carbs. Perhaps next time I will sprinkle more Parmesan across the top to achieve a more intense brown crust. I’m also tempted to top the gratin with panko and see if it satisfies my yearning for bread.

Although my gratin was a rather lackluster attempt at vegetarian goodness, I haven’t lost faith in the Times’s Fitness & Nutrition column. I have a whole host of recipes to try in the new year, and I’m sure I will find a way to make this gratin work as well. I’m considering a stewed lentils and cabbage dish for next week. With recipes like this, I shouldn’t have any problems sticking with my resolution. To be honest, I’m a little more worried about the photography…

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Goan-Style Shrimp Curry

Maybe it was that rather ascetic dinner of red peppers with quinoa and goat cheese. Or maybe it was because I was halfway through Michael Pollan’s new book In Defense of Food, and I was struck by his point that many of us are so confused about our diets that we have lost the pleasure in eating. Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that this weekend I wanted to make something rich, fun, and exotic for dinner. And I satisfied that craving with a Goan-Style Shrimp Curry recipe from the New York Times’ One Pot column.

Goan-Style Shrimp Curry from the New York Times

The recipe is adapted from chefs Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur of Devi, an Indian restaurant on 18th Street in Manhattan. I’ve never been there, but after making this amazing curry, I’m definitely putting Devi on my list of restaurants to visit.

A historic city located on the west coast of India, Old Goa was the capital of Portugal’s once vast Indian empire from 1510 until the 1960s. It is located in Goa, India’s smallest state. Because of its proximity to the sea, it enjoys an abundance of fresh seafood; fish curry is one of the area’s most popular dishes. Goa’s cuisine is often strongly flavored with coconuts, red chilies, and vinegar.

The New York Times recipe uses two out of these three ingredients. A tomato-based sauce is quickly simmered with smoky red chilies, fragrant coriander, turmeric, curry, and fresh ginger to impart a mild, mysterious heat. Sweet, rich coconut milk tempers that warmth and slowly creates a gorgeous pink hue as it joins the tomatoes in the pot. A handful of chopped cilantro at the end adds a welcome breath of freshness.

I followed the recipe and used solely shrimp in the sauce, but this curry would work well with a myriad of food combinations, including vegetables, lobster, or scallops. Served over an ample portion of brown rice, my seafood stew emitted hints of warm chili in one bite, the strong presence of ginger in the next.

In the small article accompanying the recipe, Saran recounts how he discovered this addictive dish a few years ago while visiting friends in Old Goa. My most memorable meals are often ones that I have cooked and shared with friends and family. I’m starting to think that it’s the best way to put the pleasure back into eating, whether cooking with quinoa or coconut milk. I’ll have to see if Michael Pollan agrees in the second half of his book.

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Applewood and Applewares

Applewood in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Finally, fall is here! There’s a slight chill in the air and a light breeze swirling leaves around the sidewalks. Arriving just in time for Jim’s birthday, Friday night’s autumn-appropriate weather helped us celebrate at Applewood in Park Slope.

Established in September 2004 by Laura and David Shea, Applewood is known (and loved) for its use of sustainably-grown, local food products. Low lighting, yellow and exposed-brick walls, and small pots of herbs on each table contribute to the restaurant’s homey feel. After walking into the friendly warmth of the dining room on Friday night, I immediately felt my muscles relax, something I needed after an especially long week.

Reading through Applewood’s menu was to stroll through autumn’s natural bounty. Jim and I considered ordering some of their fabulous-looking seasonal cocktails, but in the end we shared a bottle of wine from the extensive list. We started with a roasted red beet salad, the ruby-toned root vegetables surrounded with toasted, crunchy hazelnuts, foamy fromage blanc fondue, and delicate red bowl lettuce ($10). The meaty, charred flavor of the sautéed Maine lobster with caramelized potato gnocchi and wilted pea shoots was an earthy contrast to our light salad ($15). It was also our favorite dish of the night. Throughout our meal we snacked on complimentary wheat and multigrain bread. Whether slathering it with Applewood’s french butter, cream cheese and garlic, and white bean and bacon spreads, or using thick slices to mop up broth from the lobster dish, we just couldn’t stop eating it.

The rest of our evening was spent in Vermont: Jim chose the grilled Vermont pork with rapini, caramelized pears, and mustard-pork jus for his entrée ($23) while I went with the grilled Vermont lamb special served with rainbow chard, white turnip purée, and lamb jus ($26). My lamb was soft in texture but strong in grilled flavors. It was perfectly cooked and heartily complimented by the tangy vegetables upon which it rested. The pork, while gentler in taste, was subtly accented by the sweet pears.

Then it was time for dessert: the Italian plum-chili cobbler with arugula ice cream ($7). Now I know I don’t need to explain our fondness for arugula again. Once we heard that the ice cream was made on-site at Applewood, there was no going back. And we didn’t want to, not after taking a bite of this spicy treat. To be honest, the ice cream didn’t scream arugula flavoring to me, but it wasn’t supposed to; just a hint was all we needed.

Even though it took us a long time to get to Applewood, now I can’t wait to go back. In between meals at the restaurant, I’ll have to make do with visits to its new cookware store, Applewares, around the corner from the restaurant. This airy, light-wood hued store offers all the basics: ceramics, pans, knives, appliances, and more. Now, do I really need another vegetable peeler?

Applewood: 501 11th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-768-2044
Applewares: 548 10th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-576-2484

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