Eric and I are such homebodies. It’s definitely a seasonal thing for us and with all the snow and cold weather, there are few things that can motivate us to go out. For Valentine’s Day, we stayed in and plowed through the second season of House of Cards (yeah, we’re a part of the 2% that finished it in the first weekend) and chowed down on a massive platter of sushi.
This last week, however, was full of social engagements. A few months ago, we’d made plans with Eric’s brother and his wife to go out for an adults-only dinner. It’s been years since the four of us have gone out without the kiddos and, as much as we love the little ones, it was nice to have a night where we could have some uninterrupted conversations. Then there was dinner with friends at Alden and Harlow, a recent addition to the Cambridge restaurant scene… and, folks, if you make it out this way, you must try it. This is my kind of food, seasonal dishes made with local ingredients, creatively prepared and, yet, completely unpretentious. There was a roasted yam that blew my mind. Oh, and if you’re a meat eater, definitely get the Secret Burger (I couldn’t resist a small bite and I’m so glad I did because it was fantastic).
Now, this was an especially busy week for me. Six shoots, three of which happened on one day. But it was nice having social events to look forward to after all that work. Friday was particularly wonderful. I helped dear friends of ours cook for a dinner party. There was a ton of food: spicy peel and eat shrimp, guacamole with mango and avocado, Cornish game hens, and a wonderful pisco and pineapple cocktail that made for a very relaxing evening. My contribution was this coconut rice pudding. Even though we were completely stuffed after consuming multiple courses (the dinner lasted over four hours), the dessert was a wonderful and surprisingly refreshing way to end the night. I think the fresh mango puree and orange zest really brighten it up.
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I’m so glad I got over my hatred of mushrooms. Between you and me, I don’t think I really had an issue with their taste or, as I often complained, their spongy consistency. The real reason, I’ve come to accept, was because my sister loved them so much. Therefore, I had to hate them. Makes sense, right? The funny thing is that I ate everything as a kid. I never turned away food. Except, that is, if it contained mushrooms. I’m not sure when I decided how silly it was that I said I didn’t like them. I guess I started giving them a chance as a teenager, especially when I stopped eating meat. Their texture, the umami notes… all the things I missed from eating a steak… I found I could get all of that from mushrooms.
Sometimes the best dishes come when focusing on a single ingredient. I started with an assortment of fresh mushrooms and built off that. A bit of butter and red wine helped to build a flavorful and very satisfying sauce. The creamy polenta, rich and comforting. Nothing wrong with a little fat this time of year. We’ll get back to salads later. Right now, this is what we need.
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The more I talk to people about the house we just purchased, the more it hits me: oh my gosh, I’m an adult. Actually, it’s not the purchasing of the house that makes me feel this way, but all the other things that come with it. Getting quotes for refinishing the floors. Finding someone to take down wallpaper and paint the walls. Then there’s the furniture we’re ordering. Eric and I haven’t spent much money on furniture for our current place, instead decorating with what we’ve acquired over the years. Nothing matches. And most of it’s from friends or CraigsList. It’s time to upgrade a few items. We’ll find out in the next week or so when we’re actually moving, at which point the packing process will begin. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed tossing out stacks of papers we no longer need. And cords to electrical devices that we’d gotten rid of a while ago.
So, here’s the backstory on why I’m providing a recipe for sous vide salmon. The whole thing started a few years ago, when Eric and I went out to a restaurant to celebrate my birthday. On the menu was a salmon entree with beet and crème fraîche. This was the first time I’d been served fish so perfectly prepared… it actually felt like it was melting in my mouth. I asked the server how it was prepared, at which point he described the sous vide process. And my mind was officially blown.
Ever since then, I’ve dreamt of recreating that dish. Or, at the very least, something resembling that dish. A few months ago, I decided to reach out to one of the leading producers of sous vide water ovens, SousVide Supreme, to see if they’d be willing to let me test out one of their units. Last month, I heard back from them saying they’d be happy to send one over. Now, I was thrilled… but Eric was elated (he’s been eying a few recipes for sous vide steak and smoked brisket).
So the unit arrived and I got up the guts to take the thing out of the box. Now, I’m terrible at following directions and often ignore the instruction manual. But, in this case, I decided to read up. To my surprise, the process seemed simple enough: vacuum seal the ingredients you want to cook, fill the unit with water, add the ingredients, set the temperature and timer and let it go.
When preparing the fish for the vacuum sealer, I lightly seasoned the fillet with Kosher salt, though a slice of lemon might work nicely in there as well. You really don’t need to do much and, when working with fish, I’d recommend keeping the seasoning to a minimum. Sauces and additional spices can always be added later. Though my roasted beet sauce was was different than the restaurant’s and I used Greek yogurt instead of crème fraîche, the meal was superb. This definitely won’t be the last time I use the machine. In fact, I’m already brainstorming other recipes.
SousVide Supreme has also been kind enough to provide a $50 off coupon for a water oven to readers of A Thought For Food. During the check out process, just be sure to include this code: ATFF50.
Notes on discount code: Limit of 1 discount per order. Discount expires on 2/28/2014. Discount applies to SousVide Supreme and SousVide Supreme Demi water ovens, but does not apply to promo packages. Offer valid only at Sousvidesupreme.com website and for US orders only. No adjustments to previous purchases. Free Shipping applies to US mainland orders only for standard delivery.
Disclosure: While SousVide Supreme did provide a unit, I was not monetarily compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.
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I’m pretty good at keeping secrets. However, this one was hard to hold in. But now… finally… I can make the announcement: after months of looking at properties, Eric and I have purchased a house. Our home.
Since the fall, our weekends have been spent going from open house to open house looking at places, many of which were out of our price range or in a bad location or in complete disrepair. Eventually, we got pretty good at going through these quickly, but it took a lot of time and energy and left us feeling like there wasn’t much on the market.
A couple of weeks ago, we were sent a listing from our agent that looked promising. The location was great and the pictures presented it well enough (though you can never tell how a place is until you’ve seen it in person… photos can be deceptive). As soon as we saw the house, though, we knew it was the right one for us and immediately got an offer in. That weekend was a roller-coaster of emotions; the excitement of waiting to hear if our offer had been accepted, the let down when we heard that we’d been outbid. By the time Sunday came around, we were totally exhausted and spent the afternoon distracting ourselves from thinking about houses for a bit. We ran errands and got makings for a nice dinner. That evening we cozied up on the couch with Maki and zoned out on some TV. And that’s when we got the call informing us that the initial offer had fallen through. Were we still interested in the house? Yes… yes we were.
Everything since then has gone smoothly. The report from the inspection presented exactly what we’d expected. The house was in wonderful condition and was obviously well loved.
We now begin the process of packing and figuring out what we take with us and what’s left behind. Until now, I’ve just been relishing in the excitement of purchasing a home, planning exactly how we’ll decorate each room (Eric’s been a sport and has gone along with most of my ideas). But there’s lots of work to do and the time between now and the closing will be here before we know it.
Amidst all the house activity and photo projects, I spent a little time digging into some recipe development. While we’ve been seeing a lot of root vegetables and citrus, there have also been substantial amounts of greens in our CSA box. Now, if you’ve never had dandelion greens, you should know that they’re bitter. Like, really bitter. Which I don’t have a problem with, but I just wanted to prepare you. I’ve seen a lot of recipes that call for sautéing them, and while that’s fine, I really had my heart set on a salad. I found that by dressing the greens and letting them sit for a little bit, it cures them and removes some of that bitterness. The dressing is sweet as well and, once the whole salad is topped with bright citrus, you almost enjoy the bite from the greens.
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Maki looked up at me with her dark brown eyes. I know this look well. It’s the one telling me she desperately wants a nibble, a lick… anything. She came over to me as soon as I’d taken the mackerel out of their paper. “No. It’s not for you.” I told her sternly.
Blank stare. Licks lips.
“No. Now, go away.”
Cocked head. Blink, blink. Licks lips.
As I stuffed the mackerel with fresh herbs and lemon, my pal sat patiently beside me. Shortly after I placed them in the oven, the whole house began to fill with a soothing aroma that only roasted dishes can provide. It’s the comfort one feels when they smell wood burning from a fireplace on a crisp winter night. It was all I could do from sticking my head in there.
The wait was worth it. By the end, the fish was sizzling. I let it cool for a minute and then carefully pulled back the skin to reveal the meat. I went in with my fingers, not caring if I burned them. The first bite reminded me that fish prepared simply is often the best; that uncomplicated meals can be the most flavorful. A small, but important, revelation.
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