Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Serious Business

After looking over my recent posts, I've decided that I'm not doing a very good job of actually describing the foods we've been making and enjoying. In fact, I think I've been doing a terrible job. I mean, sure, the photos are nice, but if this is going to be a food blog, I need to include recipes and a heck of a lot more detailed analysis -- no more lazy "amazing" or "delicious" adjectives.

So, obviously, let's get rolling with the new, improved Viva Robusto with a picture of some guy with an accordion.

Okay, it's not just some guy, it's my dad's cousin Mark being coaxed into a song or two at a big family gathering to celebrate my grandfather's 87th birthday, and my grandmother's sister's 80th. He was a little rusty, or so he claimed, before ducking into another room to "practice."

Ah, but before he could get started, the real professional took over. This guy is not actually one of my relatives; he's a friend of the family who also happens to be an Italian-themed entertainer and singer.

He reeled off all the classics -- "Volare," "That's Amore," "Tarantella," etc...

And, as to be expected, there was a metric ton of food. However, the event was catered, so there weren't any special family recipes to photograph and share. Maybe next time.

Moving on, Liz and I went up to Seattle to visit our friends Tam and Elissa, and encountered this truck on I-5.

Yeah, that looks to be about two or three chopped up pigs in the back of that Silverado, just loose in the bed without even a rear gate! Not sure if they're going to or from processing, but this is another sobering reminder: Unless you grow it yourself, you really never know where your food has been or what it's been up to!

Speaking of homegrown food, we all checked out the Ballard Farmer's Market while in Seattle.

There was a great selection of fresh produce, and we picked up potatoes, onions, garlic, leeks and carrots for soup later that night. But this was what really caught my eye:

Yep, that's a Triumph Bonneville T-100, almost the *exact* motorcycle I've been pining after for years. Minus the windscreen.

The dinner that night worked out beautifully. We decided on a creamy potato leek soup, using a recipe we found on , a much more professional and useful food blog than mine. That link will take you right to the recipe, which is pretty standard except for the innovation (for us, anyway) of using thinly sliced potatoes (rather than coarsely chopped), which are easier to mash down to a creamy texture right in the soup once they've cooked.

We also made roasted carrots using the Barefoot Contessa recipe (olive oil, salt, pepper... not exactly rocket science) and a big spinach salad with her mustard vinaigrette.

Now, the mustard vinaigrette recipe is one that's worth listing here. I'm not much of a salad guy, but it literally makes me salivate in anticipation every time.

The following proportions will make enough dressing for two or three people, so adjust accordingly.

2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon spicy mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk at room temperature
pepper to taste

Finely chop the garlic, whisk chopped garlic and all other ingredients together. You can substitute different types of vinegar for a different taste -- we used Balsamic once and it was an interesting change of pace. You can also increase the garlic and mustard for a spicier dressing... I sometimes chop 3 or even 4 cloves of garlic, but I'm kind of crazy that way.

Oh, almost forgot: We topped off the dinner with homemade beer bread. This is one of the easiest bread recipes ever. Mix 3 cups of self-rising flour with a quarter cup of sugar and a bottle of beer. Transfer the batter to a greased baking pan and pour anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup of melted butter on top, bake at 350 until done (at least 40 minutes). It's impossible to screw this up. You end up with a nice, crispy buttery loaf of bread that goes great with soup.

Now that I've described our dinner in excruciating detail, I'm going to back it up with some glorious food pics, right? Uh, nope. Sorry. By the time we got everything done it was getting late and we just tucked right in. I completely forgot to take any pictures. My bad.

Not to worry, I've got some other mouthwatering food photos queued up. The next day we headed down to pike place to take this incredibly standard photo.

We were killing time while our wedding rings were being cleaned at EE Robbins, and we got a little hungry, so we wandered the market in search of my favorite fish & chip stand, Jack's.

Jack's doesn't offer too much in the way of ambiance or even seating, really. There are a few tipsy stools and a narrow aluminum counter. But the fish makes up for it. I usually get the Halibut, which is obviously the best, but since Liz and I were sharing, we went with a large order of Cod, just so there would be enough to go around.

Now, being a Halibut man, the Cod was actually a little bit disappointing. But it was still pretty dang good, thanks in large part to Jack's cocktail sauce. They usually reserve the stuff for prawns and so forth (you have to specially request it if you order fish and chips), but I find it goes best with the fish. It's tart and tangy and, I think, laced with horseradish.

Here's what it looks like. Word to the wise -- Jack's fish & chips are insanely greasy, which is just the way I like it. If you prefer "healthier" fish & chips, you might look elsewhere.

Back at home, planning our menus for the week. I wanted to experiment with some kind of a pesto pizza, and we figured we could use the leftovers in pasta later in the week, so I went out and bought a large box of basil and made some pesto.

This is only the second time I've made pesto (Liz usually makes it), but it's incredibly easy (if you have a food processor) and it comes out great.

Basically... pluck all the stems off your basil (about 4oz), wash the leaves and throw 'em in the food processor. Add maybe two or three cloves of garlic, a bit of olive oil (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup), some salt and as much parmesan cheese as you can grate before your arm gets tired. Fire that puppy up, then sample and adjust (add more oil, salt, garlic or cheese) according to taste.

Here's what we made with the leftovers... green basil pesto mac. This was just an improvised recipe -- I was trying to imitate the green basil pesto mac at here in Portland.

While the pasta is boiling (I would recommend using larger macaroni than this -- these were just what I happened to have on hand), melt some butter (I used 1/4 stick for about 1/2 a pound of pasta) and a lot of grated parmesan in a saucepan. When the pasta is done (al dente), add a bit of heavy cream to the butter/parmesan melt (I think I used 1/3 cup or so) and bring it up to medium/low heat. With the heat still on, toss in the pasta and a few cloves of raw, finely chopped garlic, a couple tablespoons of pesto and even more parmesan. Saute and stir for a minute or so to coat. Then grate even more parmesan on top before serving. Yeah, it's a lot of parmesan. That's how they do it at the Montage, and that's the way I like it.

Parmesan pro tip: Trader Joe's has the best prices on authentic Parmigiano cheese. They also have Grano, which is extremely similar to Parmigiano, and is in fact produced across the river from Parma, but cannot legally be called Parmigiano.

That's it for now. More pics and recipes coming soon.

1 comment:

The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm said...

I like the new and improved version...good job!

Regarding those pigs; they were probably on their way to the processor but that's a poor way to do it.