Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Busy week, whirlwind day


...or, We are a full-service establishment

Ok, I owe you some serious blogging!

Where to start?

Company Comes

Amanda and Tim arrived early Saturday...around eleven.

It was good to see Amanda...our schedules have been so crazy, we haven't seen each other since September of '02, when I was still pregnant with Alex!

We were able to offer them Italian sodas, made with Torani syrups (we like to keep a nice variety on hand. Currently, raspberry, grapefruit, vanilla bean, cherry, and peach; as well as rose syrup and grenadine, from different companies), to cool them off.

After a week of camping in state and national parks, what our guests were most interested in was a shower. Sure, we can do that.

Once everyone was clean, and temporarily sated with my multi-state famous chocolate chip cookies (yes, I decided, at the last minute, to make them, as well), Matt and I busied ourselves with the preparation of lunch (Amanda and Tim filled the time sorting through over-flowing email accounts).

Sushi for Four

Matt had made the fried rice the night before, as well as the tamago. He then worked on the sushi rice.
I had made both a konbu and a shitake mushroom broth the previous night, hoping one or the other would make a decent base for miso soup.

Once the rice was ready, we really got going. I prepared a tempura batter, and fried up tiny asparagus stalks, green beans, shitake mushroom and chunks of sweet potato, which had been parboiled.
Matt made a variety of rather lovely sushi's...the tamago was perfect. He made tiny (using half sheets of nori) rolls of cucumber and carrot, all matchsticks. Lovely beds of rice with three stalks of the small, blanched-to-a-perfect-green asparagus, large avocado maki (we finally got a good avocado!)...and he even took the time to match the sushi with appropriate plates.

***side note***

We have a rather large collection of sushi or otherwise Asian dishes. All shapes and sizes (Leaves? Sure. Fish? Yep.). We almost never use them. But...we had company, and were preparing enough food to justify the subsequent clean-up. It was beautiful. Everyone had their own place setting, with dishes for soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger, a small cup filled with rice crackers for snacking, a bowl for the soup, a small plate to hold your chosen sushi, chopsticks, mug for green tea...it was great.

***end side note***

I wrapped the fried rice in lettuce leaves, and while not exactly fitting in with the sushi theme, it was one more little, yummy, thing.

I decided that neither broth really impressed me, so I decided to combine the two, then add the miso paste.
While still not meeting up to the standard set by Isobune, it was probably the best miso soup we've made at home so far. In close to three years of trying. So, I wasn't embarrassed to set it out for company.

I'm not sure about Tim (he's currently living and working in LA, so his opportunities to eat different foods are much greater), but Amanda had never tried sushi before.
She's also a recent vegetarian.
But, eating at our house, she was safe. There was nothing on the table she couldn't have.

To put it mildly, they were bowled over by the spread.

The phrase I kept hearing was 'This is amazing'. They ate a lot of sushi, trying different kinds. Matt got to be Information Guy, and explain the proper, traditional way to eat sushi, which made him happy.

We got to impress our guests, and stuff them, which made me happy.

It was light but filling. They were able to take only what they wanted, and not worry about waste.

They had clearly enjoyed the dinner, and we'd certainly impressed them (what did they expect when they came to our house? peanut butter sandwiches?).

Sweets for the Sweet Tooth

But...we weren't finished.

With obvious enjoyment, Matt asked them if they would like dessert.

The two previous nights, I had made both a lime sorbet, and a chocolate peanut butter malted ice cream. With peanut butter cups.

Matt gave them a choice of ice creams, and proceeded to offer them a variety of toppings...hot fudge? Ganache? Mini M&M's? Sprinkles? Nuts? Vanilla sugar whipped cream? Caramel? Cherry on top???

That was fun. They all had the chocolate, and I had a small bowl of the sorbet. Everyone cleaned their bowls, so I'm guessing it was ok.

Greek Food

We went to Greek Fest a few hours later...it was a total mob scene (as Matt repeatedly called it). We did manage to snag a few trinkets ('Little Greek God' tee for Alex, and a black and silver wrap for me...goes quite well with the belly dance outfit Matt bought me a couple of years ago), Matt got a half dozen baklava, and we all had something to eat.
I had a small 'Greek' pizza...I suppose it was Greek because it had feta cheese, black olives and 'Greek' spices, Matt had some sort of wrap (I was too distracted watching Alex to really notice), and Amanda and Tim had spanikopita. I also ate the saganaki Alex was too hot to be bothered with.

It was fun and crazy, and we headed home after a few hours (Alex, my darling child who doesn't care for sleep under the best of circumstances, and never nods off in the car, was caught with his eyes closed just as we got home. Poor kid.) because we were all tired and Tim and Amanda needed to get some sleep before they headed to Wheeling the next morning.

So, after another round of Torani sodas, they headed off to bed, and I whipped up a coffee cake and a rosemary/garlic focaccia.

On Their Way

The next morning, I was able to feed them breakfast, and provide the bread (focaccia) to make sandwiches for the trip.
A bag of chocolate chip cookies for each, and they were ready to take off.

It was a very short visit, but I was so happy to have them. Amanda is an absolute sweetheart; she's always been one of my favorite people. And Tim was just a nice guy. Glad to have met him.

Matt and I didn't do much the rest of the day (I actually dozed on the couch while Alex ate dinner...and Alex gets his sleep-block from ME); but it was all worth it.

However, we may just live off left-overs for a bit...I'm avoiding cooking for the time being!

3 Thoughts for food:

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sushi is all about the quality of the ingredients and the sophistication of technique, so what we had was OK but not great. Still, the nori was cooperative and I'm getting the hang of using the half-sheets, which make cute little maki. I rather liked the miso, although next time we'll have to experiment with a somewhat more complex base (say, a little ginger and a few other flavors) and try to get enough tofu to throw in a few cubes.

The cookies, as usual, were wonderful.


At 3:48 PM, Blogger dexygus said...

matt, where did you get all your knowledge of these eastern cuisines? japanese, indian. do you cook other asian foods as well? you guys are so lucky to have one another. making food with your s.o. is a wonderful thing.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's mostly just stuff I've picked up here and there. I was raised by food snobs and academics, which got me started on both exotic cooking (I have the peculiar distinction of being able to sample cuisine of almost any ethnicity and say "Mmmm, just like Mom used to make!") and valuing the knowing of lots of stuff, and perhaps my background in history and anthropology has had something to do with my noticing whenever something about other people's foodways comes onto the radar. Mostly, though, I think it's just reading lots of cookbooks (see, for example, the long list to the right) all the way through, actively seeking out complexity and unfamiliar ingredients and techniques, and making the occasional conscious attempt to synthesize that knowledge. For example, I've got some musings posted (http://www.cabbagesandkings.us/fish; you'll have to work your way back) on the remarkable technical similarities between Indian and Mexican cooking.

I probably have more experience in Indian and Japanese (specifically sushi) than any other Asian cuisine. I've done some Chinese, but that's such a huge field that I'm hardly more than a novice, and I'd *like* to do more Southeast Asian cooking, specifically Thai (which I'm ready to nominate as one of the world's three best cusines for serious eating along with Italian and Indian), but it's difficult with Stephanie. Just about everything out of that part of the world has nam pla, which is right out for a vegetarian, and soy sauce isn't a good substitute.

But I'm certainly lucky to have her for any number of reasons, the culinary being one of them. We took it as a sign that things would work out when, not long after we moved in together, we made a many-course meal (Six dishes? Seven? Plus three desserts) in a 10 x 10 foot kitchen and didn't get in each other's way. Even ignoring never-ending array of baked goods, she's wonderful to cook for and with.



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