Pork Meatballs and mushroom gravy

I had dinner with my uncle last night in the senior retirement apartment complex he and his wife moved into a couple of months ago. We ate in their restaurant. Which isn’t so much a restaurant as a semblance of one. Someone serves you but the selections are pretty much cafeteria and it smells exactly like the hospital kitchen I worked in. I suppose the choice of “veal oscar” is something you wouldn’t find in the lunch line. On the other hand, the dried-out cooked “baby” carrots were disgusting and nothing that could vaguely approach “gourmet” as they tout their restaurant as being. The salad was small squares of iceberg (not that I have anything against iceberg lettuce), small squares of tomato and a disproportionately large amount of cold, not crisp, bacon squares as if all these were punched out with the same grid system. This theory was disproved by the 2 tiny cubes of onion. All of this was scattered lightly on the plate and drizzled with bottled dressing.

I had the pork meatballs with the smear of fake mashed potato and congealed mushroom gravy. I ate it.

The dessert was chocolate ice cream. You can’t miss with that.

Stuffed mushrooms

These were awesome. A mixture of bratwurst, bread crumbs, egg and swiss cheese. I added nutmeg, cardamum and nutmeg which makes it taste like Swedish meatballs. Stuff the meat where you took out the stems and bake at 400 for twenty minutes.

This is the raw version, ready to go in the oven. After they were roasted, I piled on additional cheese.

Friday night pizza

This is not good. I have rarely in my life ordered any food for delivery. It is seductive. At least Pizza Shuttle Pizza is. And no dishes to clean up. I discovered when I called that all my former orders are available for the person answering the phone to see. He asked if I wanted what I had had the last time. I said yes, I got a similar pizza. Way too much pepperoni. you can only have so much on a pizza before it becomes just a pepperoni pizza and you can’t detect the cheese. And this one had double cheese. I don’t know how that happened since I would NEVER order something like that. But when he read my my last order he clearly said “double cheese.” I didn’t correct him.

This time though, I only ate half of it. I picked most of the pepperoni off and ate it by itself. No sense wasting it.

Parade of dinners

Last night I ate at Eddie Martini’s. In a series of birthday dinners which began with my private birthday pizza on Monday, my third dinner was at the, not exactly venerable, but oldish steak house near the medical school. Of course there was a table of loud, self-involved doctors, half of whom were obese (the fattest of whom was drinking iced tea, I noticed) right across from us. So the loud bellowing, gas bagging and ranting in that doctoral way they have of not caring about anybody but themselves, or perhaps the show they like to make so everyone can know they are doctors was kinda distracting but I was with my sister Ann and the food was good and the doctors were a somewhat amusing spectacle to make fun of. She pointed out that a year ago we were in Paris for my birthday.

I had a flank steak, it was done perfectly and a pommes anna kinda thing that was also good. The best thing though, was the spinach. Seriously.

The night before I went out with Sue, Terry, Michael, Anne and Bill to Odd Duck, an odd little place, newly opened. It was packed. The food was good and the service was good, if intense. We shared food and what really sticks out in my mind was the banana ice cream. It was amazing.

Sitting outside Eddie’s having a disturbing conversation with 

my sister Mary Kay while looking at the medical school.

Ratatouille Petit Sejour

Eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms. Mushrooms are not really in ratatouille but that’s tough, this is my recipe. The thing about most ratatouille is that it’s just a sloppy mess. Dump everything in a pot cook it till it’s cooked and call it ratatouille. But then the eggplant and zucchini are mush and it just tastes like the mess it is. The trick here is to cook everything individually so they retain their various shapes. 

This is the kitchen of my former apartment in France. There were 2 hot plates essentially. I didn’t cook there all that much but if I can make ratatouille there, I could make anything. I made BBQ beef once on a cocked up grill using sticks to make the fire. My vegetarian banker ate 2 sandwiches.

I got the skins off the peppers with this ingenious method of putting aluminum foil (tissue alu) right on the burner. It did not smell as good as you might imagine. I got the skins off the tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water which does not smell.

These lovely mushrooms, called chanterelles, aux etats unis, are called girolles in France. And they are luscious. And cheap, in spring, anyway.

A s each thing cooks you drain it. I saved the juices in a bowl and added them to the sauce, I am not sure if that’s right but I did it and the French Gourmet Society did not arrive and shoot me.

Caramelizing tomato paste with garlic in olive oil and butter creates kind of a messy looking pan of slop but after it’s absorbed all the juices and oil and gets a dark red you add red wine and it becomes glossy and beautiful.

Then I added this tomato stuff, I have never seen anything like it in the US but it tasted like fresh tomatoes. I drank what I didn’t use for lunch one day. Once that’s simmered for a while I pour it over the vegetables and brought all of that to a light simmer for a few minutes. Then you let it come to room temperature and refrigerate it overnight. I have generally been served ratatouille cold. I don’t like that. And it’s not served with pasta. Ditto on not liking it. 

But either way, this is an awesome recipe.

I suppose I should mention that I used oregano and thyme liberally.

La Cambuse, best meal series

Last year I was in Paris on my birthday and although I love the food in France, I had my birthday meal with my friends and family at an Italian restaurant. It was awesome. My favorite restaurant in France is in Nice, supposedly the oldest restaurant in Nice, La Cambuse on the Cours Salaya. The food in Nice, while French is Italian at its heart. In September of 2010 I stopped in Nice on my way from Lucca, Italy back to my apartment in Hyeres, France and ate lunch there. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Mushroom stuffed, very home-made ravioli and some sort of beef falling apart in in its own gravy.

Pizza, breakfast of champions

The night before my birthday I ordered pizza for delivery. There are really only 2 places near me that have pizza that I like. Well, I like all pizza, but Zafirro’s and Palermo Villa are the best pizza in town as far as I’m concerned. They are utterly different and utterly wonderful. On the plus side for Zafirro’s is their fabulous salad. And for Palermo Villa, their deep fried eggplant. Anyway, neither deliver which is bummer and I have almost never ordered pizza for delivery so when I decided I would eat pizza while I watched Game of Thrones, and then Mad Men, I didn’t know where to turn.

On some old advice of Mr James Dines I went with Pizza Shuttle. Bad name, good pizza. the crust was like fry bread. Soft, vaguely crispy. Loads of cheese and delivered hot, cheese and pepperoni, my go to pizza. Too much to eat in one sitting, leftover pizza for breakfast, nothing is better.

Deviled eggs

Tonight is French class. It is also my birthday and so as une petite fete de mon anniversaire I am making a little repas. Deviled eggs are delicious and generally a pain in the ass to make but I like an undertaking. I bought new eggs since I’d used all the eggs making other stuff, most notably the mushroom bread pudding, and new eggs are often hard to peel but I simmered them for 12 minutes, then dropped them in ice water and they peeled like a dream.

I add mayonnaise, mustard and Miracle Whip to the mushed up yolks. Once that’s whipped smooth, I add sweet relish, chopped capers and green onion. Lookit how perfect those waiting whites are.

The olives in the center are just using up space.

Watermelon

I love watermelon. Any melon really, except for honeydew, which I totally don’t get. Growing up we had muskmelon in our garden. They were always the best, if you could get to them before the raccoons. The problem I have with melons I buy now, well, I have a few of them. You never know how it’s gonna taste, I hate getting one home only to discover it has no taste. They are huge in the refrigerator, and some of them make the refrigerator stink.

At least I have solved the problem of the crappy tasting watermelon. I put it in salad. Even lousy watermelon is good when you put vinaigrette on it. Last night, being lazy, I used vaguely passable bottled Italian. But when I made my own shallot, caper vinaigrette and used pretty good (as opposed to really good) olive oil it was AMAZING. Full disclosure, it is Karen’s vinaigrette recipe but I have made it mine.

Shallot caper vinaigrette

1 shallot chopped, about 2 TB

2 TB dijon mustard

2 TB wine wine vinegar

Whisk this all together and slowly

add while whisking:

6 – 10 TB olive oil

Salt and pepper

Once you have the vinaigrette to a lovely rich consistency add;

2 TB brined capers and a little brine

This stuff lasts for a while in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temp 

for a while and re-whisk before using.

Impossible to open, part 2

Seriously, WTF? Why is this ridiculous, unopenable protective cover on MIracle Whip (yes, Miracle Whip, I love the stuff) they don’t have it on Hellman’s mayonnaise, why does Kraft have to go to these idiotic lengths? There’s just no point to it and, as I’ve said, doesn’t anyone at Kraft use these products? What you are looking at is the top of the jar, the protective cover torn and opened, but not completely removed. And yes, my chip dip was exquisite.