overhaul / undertow

Thursday, November 14, 2002

being domestic is fun when done once a year

tonight's menu:

crostini tuscan style with brie (yeah, fusion. whatevah.)
-There's only one right way to make crostini / bruschetta. (Which, by the way, is pronounced broo-skeh-tah. and you thought you were bein' all Euro by saying it like "bruSHEtta." It's weird, but in Italian the "che" is pronounced "keh,"--that is, hard, not soft--while the sound we pronounce in the US as "che" (think Guevara) is spelled c'e`. Insane Italians. Gotta love 'em....)
So anyways, there's only one right way, as is the case with much Italian cooking. Cut a tiny oblong thingy of heavy-duty bread (the tuscans make their bread without salt, like the etruscans before them. So their bread ends up...well, not bland per se, but tasting like bread and not salt, not savory.
Cut each round about a third of an inch thick. Then rub a crushed or sliced-open clove of garlic--or two--over the top of each round. The garlic juice should get into the bread--sniff real quick to check (whoo!). If yer bread falls apart as you do this, your bread is not badass enough. Go find a better loaf. I'm talking gnaw-thru-the-crust-to-the-warm-yet-resistant "to the tooth"-on-the-inside kinda bread. Al dente bread.
Once you rub on the garlic, slob a little olive oil over the top of each round. Yeah, slob it. It doesn't have to be perfect. I pour a little in my cupped palm, then smudge it on with the fingers on my other hand. Hey, it does the job. Then toast it. Watch close--you want it crispy in the outside, kinda soft still on the inside. Doesn't have to be brown, or even golden too much, altho it'll prolly turn a nice golden anyhoo. Mmmmm. Then I put the rounds on a plate and glopped the brie on after they had cooled a bit. Brie is served close to room temp (I believe) and you can eat the rind. I didn't think you could, but I recently was told by a cheffy type that you can, and I'll be damned if the stuff ain't tasty.

next on the menu: Brussels sprouts, steamed in water with garlic, salt & pepper, garlic, and rice wine vinegar (yeah). Oh, did I mention garlic? The vinegar cuts the astringency of the sprouts, making 'em edible and even savory, which is weird but works.
If you don't like these things it's 'cos you haven't had fresh, well-cooked ones. I got mine fresh from from whole foods market. Don't buy frozen unless you really, really like 'em. You know they're done when you can stick your fork in easily. No one wants to stab at their vegetables. Eating veggies is enough of a bitch. We shouldn't make it any harder.
Then I tossed 'em in a sauce made from, among other thingies, capers, balsamic vinger (only a little--the better it is, the less you need; it ain't like white vinegar--but maybe you like a lot, so add it to taste), olive oil, and, um, garlic again. Yum. Being from some Tyrolian lineage, I threw in the tiniest bit of nutmeg. Weird, but it does good stuff for everything, sweet and savory alike. It's good on meat dishes too.

And then: baked apples and pears stuffed with brie, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and brown sugar, served with a sweetened reduction of sangiovese red wine (sangoivese is a tuscan red grape used in most (I believe) chiantis and northern reds. In its absence, use a shiraz, NOT a merlot--too sweet) and, most importantly, balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar adds a richness and depth to sweet dishes you normally would not think to pair with vinegar. When I was in Italy, the big thing was to serve a bigass bowl of the best, sweetest, most luscious strawberries ever and then splash it with balsamic vinegar. It made the flawless even better. Give it a try--just the littlest bit of the vinegar will go along way--when it's good, it's as rare, precious, and impactful as gold. Go for it and buy the good stuff, kinda expensive, but from Italy--try to get the kind both made AND bottled in Italy.) I used the brown sugar liberally and sprinkled it over the fruit too, along with a concoction simmered from corn syrup cut with water, ground ginger, and allspice (poured over). Bake it at around 400 or so. I donno how long--just 'til you can stick it with a fork and it feels soft enough that you could eat it without a knife. It took me a while, but better to bake it slowly at a low temp, allowing the juices to steam the fruit from inside, than to burn the things. I don't remember how I made the red wine / balsamic reduction, but there was sugar and corn syrup involved again, and a hella lotta liquor. Mmmmm. That'll provide a nice bite to cut the sweetness of the fruit, cheese, and sugar. If you don't want to bother with reducing the sauce, just splash a little bit of balsamic vinegar over the fruit and its juices before you serve it.

Yeah, I know I didn't make a "main dish" but i didn't eat any of this stuff anyway, not yet... something about smelling it for hours fills you up. I cook to relax. It's a zen activity for me. I don't have the cash or the wearwithall to attend cooking school like some other bloggers out there, but I don't mind so much, not right now. I cook by smell. You can tell if things go together that way. ;)

I put the Brussels sprouts in a tupperware and left the baked fruit and their sauce to cool on the stove. I'll prolly eat them tomorrow, and will feed them to my friends and my roommate (who is my friend too, yay for Tana, the New Job Girl!!!).

Food is fun.

Cooking seems to modulate me into the realm of the maneageable. Rah!


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