Category: Cooking

District 9 + Pita

Julie and Julia was followed immediately by a screening of District 9, because tales of culinary gusto should always be followed by allegorical science fiction.  District 9 is an excellent little film.  Tight, thrilling sci-fi with aspects to thrill all viewers: gross-outs for those who liked The Fly, plenty of action, tight political commentary, excellent acting, and a somehow-adorable child alien who plucks at the E.T. type heartstrings.  I also appreciated the telling of a story that is typically ignored–what we do to them, as opposed what they will do to us like in ID4 etc.

After a bit of alien goodness we headed into the mall, more specifically to William and Sonoma, and Jon bought the knives to end all knives, the sort of knives that cut through anything as though it were butter.  They are beautiful knives, and they are now his babies.

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The precious.

We used said knives to make a light dinner of a grilled chicken pita.  Said pita was stuffed with a mix of cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and spinach and topped with a cayenne-greek yogurt mixture that was tangy and just the right amount of spicy.  An easy, light summer meal, especially with the assistance of the knives of glory.

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Crepes for Julia.

Saturday I was privileged to attend Jon’s cooking group, the Finer Things Club, where crepes were made.  I did not participate in the making of the crepes, mind you, I just ate them.  And they were awesome.  Although a warning if you are making crepes: they can smoke up an apartment rather quickly.

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After the French feast we caught a showing of Julie and Julia which was full of food porn and Meryl Streep and was therefore good.  Yes it is a chick flick but I know many men who enjoyed the movie thoroughly.  Because it is about food.  And to a smaller degree, sex.  Basically it is about senses and enjoying life and acknowledging that dieting is stupid and butter is awesome.

Tarts making tarts.

You would think that being unemployed and on the job search with minimal things to do would be conducive to blogging, but it isn’t.  I don’t do much more than cook and watch episodes of True Blood/Firefly/Star Trek: The Next Generation and none of you really want to read about that.  Well, maybe you want to read about the cooking.

The other day (Wednesday?) Jon and I decided to use up that which was in our respective refrigerators.  So that involved making pasta (mine) with the various ingredients such as cheese (Jon’s), tomato sauce (Jon’s), spinach (mine), and onion (mine).  Also, tons of garlic.  The result was whole wheat pasta with tons of garlic and spinach and onions and tomato sauce all mixed together.  Surprisingly tasty, for a thrown-together ordeal.

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I also needed a way to kill the second puff pastry that was hanging out in my freezer.  Jon wanted peach tart, so a peach tart I was to make.  Luckily all I really needed was peaches, since peach tarts are hella easy y’all.

I sort of followed a recipe.  Well, not really.  I took bits of this recipe and this recipe and this recipe and then ended up disregarding them all and just sort of dumped three wedged peaches in a bowl with a ton of brown sugar and cinnamon sugar and vanilla extract and a little bit of flour.  And then I mixed all of these ingredients together until it smelled like happiness.  Then I sort of arrayed the peaches on the puff pastry and stuck it all in the oven.  And crossed my fingers.

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The peach tart was fine, of course, easy, excellent, mm peaches and sugar and pastry.  The issue was the mixing liquid I poured over the peaches.  The bottom of the mixing bowl was filled with a lovely layer of peach juice and sugar and I decided to dump it on top of the peach tart.  Unfortunately, during baking, the liquid fled the tart and made a charred pile around the puff pastry.  Not a total disaster, since I was baking on a piece of parchment paper, but still, a little messy.

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I’ve come to really love fruit desserts as of late.  Maybe a new trend?

Goat cheese, zucchini, and mushroom tart.

Monday I cooked a goat cheese, zucchini, and mushroom tart from this recipe.  Extremely easy.  Saute up some zucchini, make a mix of tons (seriously, I used tons) of mushrooms, though I substituted vermouth for the madeira because I had no madeira and didn’t feel like hunting for it.  Goat cheese.  Pre-made puff pastry sheet.  Bake away, done, delicious.  Seriously, a winner, and you could sort of feel okay about the richness of the dish because it was filled with veggies.  I also roasted a whole bulb of garlic and added it to the tart, because I love garlic, but, you know, that’s a personal thing.  Do what you will.

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Cooking with the Uncles: Grilled Lamb with Vegetables and Mushrooms

Spent Friday, Saturday, and this morning eating around Chapel Hill and not taking pictures of it.  Friday night was take out from Ming Garden, the better-than-usual Chinese place up the road from me that is always a good standby for lazy nights.  Didn’t take pictures because take out isn’t attractive, but we had veggie spring rolls (always good), lettuce wraps (good, the filling was well-spiced ground chicken with red and green peppers), walnut chicken (a favorite of mine, chicken and walnuts in a sweet but light sauce with brocolli, carrots, squash, peppers, etc.), and chicken pad thai, which wasn’t as good as it usually is but, whatever, carbs.

Saturday night involved a group outing to the Carolina Brewery for a 25th birthday.  I didn’t take pictures because sometimes you just need to chill and relax and socialize and not worry about taking pictures of your food.  I had a rather excellent veggie burger that was on a rather disappointing kaiser roll; you’d think they’d find something more interesting, like a toasted multigrain roll, I don’t know, maybe I am picky.  The veggie burger came with a side of ruffle-cut sweet potato chips which were excellent and liberally covered in brown sugar.

Sunday was brunch at another Chapel Hill institution, Breadmen’s, which is like a diner/greasy spoon place from which I received perfectly cooked eggs-over-easy (I can never do them perfectly, I always break the yolk), reliable if under-seasoned home fries, and a few slices of buttered wheat toast.  Also, they do breakfast all day.  Who doesn’t like breakfast all day?

Sunday evening, though, was the culinary highlight of my week: dinner at the uncles’.  My uncles live in a beautiful house way out in the country, past Hillsborough, in the little “township” of Cedar Grove.  The house is about a half an hour from my apartment, so I usually eat/mooch dinner from there once a week or so.  They always cook awesome things but Sunday’s dinner was particularly awesome: grilled lamb that had been marinated with rosemary and garlic and some other things, grilled yummy vegetables, and yummy sauteed mushrooms.  Yes, yummy is a proper culinary term.

The lamb was great, crusty on the outside, tender on the inside, especially my piece; Larry was nice enough to pull a section off the grill early for me, as I prefer my meat on the bloodier side.  My contribution to the meal was the cutting of the squash, peppers, and onions for the grilled vegetables.  Grilled vegetables should happen all the time.   Salt, pepper, and olive oil, and they are awesome.  The mushrooms rocked too, Sam added some garlic and some vermouth and I assume some salt and pepper and he used the mushroom medley that you can find at any grocery store.

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Dessert was a peach tart made with puff pastry, peaches, and a base of cream cheese mixed with almond paste.  We ate the tart at room temperature.  Larry found the almond taste to be too strong, which it was, but I didn’t mind.  It made the tart a little bitter–not really bitter, but just enough to give the sweetness some depth.

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Sam and Larry sent me home with some leftover tart, which was used for dessert after tonight’s cooking adventure.  Will post on that shortly.