Monday, August 30, 2010

Lemon Polenta Cake with Pouring Cream

Nothing goes better with cake than new toys. Right. What? It turns out Eric is obsessed with finding reasons to by new toys. Tools, gadgets, gizmos, every project or endeavor seems to need just one more. Want to put new floors in? Have to buy a nail gun. Fix the fence, need a new saw. Fix the other fence, gotta go get a different saw. Start a food blog? Must get a new camera, new lens, new flash, new tripod, new computer, another new camera, one more lens... and you get the picture. Sometimes the new toy tool costs more than the rest of the project but ends up in the cart because it has to. This is exactly the kind of thing that puts a real gleam in Eric's eye whenever theres a new project or something gets broken, which is exactly what happened to our camera flash last week. We were getting ready to start shooting this Polenta cake when the camera took a tumble and the flash when flying into about thirty six million different pieces.  While bits where still flying around the room was online looking for a replacement, as a broken gadget meant it was time to upgrade to something bigger, faster and better.
It was during the week or so we spent waiting for the replacement that we came to realize how much of a difference the flash really made. We like to get action shots, liquids getting poured, batter getting beaten, sliced things getting... sliced. The additional flash really actively freezes the action, giving a super clear picture in great focus, something the built in flash just can't do. When Eric was processing this weeks pictures there was a clear level of frustration as many of the shots we consider our staple "bread and butter" photographs were blurred or the action was not quite frozen. Even though we were pretty disappointed about how the pictures came out, the cake did its part and made the day. Yet another use for lemons (fast becoming the 2nd most used ingredient here, behind butter) this cake was a tangy, textury wonderland for your mouth. We mixed our preserved lemons with a regular lemon for the flavor and the cornmeal give it a super unique texture. We're big food-texture people so when the two don't pair well, neither of us tends to like the dish. In this case the cornmeal really changes each bite, providing a different experience bite to bite.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anniversary Scallops

Earlier this month we celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a dinner and some sparkling wine that Eric's parents dropped off. Eric likes to joke that we ran to Vegas and came home married, but in reality we spent a year planing it, and it was spectacularly fun. Fun was actually the key, we wanted everyone who came to really enjoy themselves something that doesn't always happen at weddings. It was pretty exciting to see everyone who came, about 100 of our closest friends and family on both sides. The Wynn Hotel, where we had the ceremony and reception was really good to us and we had 4 full days of fun. The hotel had a really pretty outdoor venue and the coordinator there was wonderful. The wedding is actually a topic that still comes up at dinner parties and BBQs, so much so that everyone keeps insisting that we get married again, but once was enough for us, unless someone else is paying this time! Even though we're not getting married again, we're still up for celebrating every chance we get! In addition to the dinner here, we're planning on heading out to Nick's on Main in Los Gatos, one of our favorite restaurants in the south bay. We've been waiting to do something with some Sol and Scallops we had in the freezer (and more of Monica's lemons) we managed to put together a very lemon themed dinner, and boy was it good. Try our "Anniversary Scallops" which are scallops and pancetta on a faux hollandaise and let us know what you're celebrating!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pork Loin with Brandy Peppercorn Sauce

This week, Eric celebrated his new job in Sunnyvale, which is a really big deal over here in Petruno land. When we lived in San Francisco, Eric's job was a solid 15 minute walk away. He had lots of opportunity ahead of him and things were good. Then, there was that whole "economy" thing, his start up became part of a bigger corporation, and we had the opportunity to get a house back down in San Jose. When we moved down the commute once measured in blocks (and not that many of them) was measured in miles. 55.9 to be exact and 15 minutes turned into 3+ hours a day. With the economy where it was, finding another job was in the "not gonna happen" box and so Eric commuted from 5:30am until 6:30pm 5 days a week. A few weeks ago, he was offered a new job in Sunnyvale and the rejoicing lasted nearly 2 weeks. Among the festivities was this pork loin, which turned out to be something we really need to make again. It also turned out to be not enough but that probably would have happened no matter how much we made of "The other white meat". Actually, Eric can't stand that slogan. The tagline that has doggedly followed pork around since 1987 not only wrongly labels the meat as "white meat" but it is giving it a good left handed complement. By implying that it is just an alternative for when your tired of the real thing, something that is just as good. Pork, for all intents and purposes is a moist, deliciously flavorful meat that at our house is a first choice come dinner. Eric would probably have it as first, second and third choices if he could have his way, but Charisse usually insists on other things on the plate besides meat. Go figure.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cheesy Zucchini Scone

Eric's been falsely accused of many things over the years like forgetting to pick up his clothes, forgetting to do the dishes or being too loud watching Sharks games. Being cheesy is not something he's ever been falsely accused of nor has he been falsely accused of being a big fan of cheese. In reality anything with the word "cheesy" in the title is something he will probably really enjoy. Hence he had 3 pieces of this giant scone, and enjoyed every last bite and was quite thankful to Charisse for getting the idea. Actually the thanks went to our neighbors, Bob and Nancy who grow a number of different things in their backyard garden. When we mentioned in the last post that Charisse's parents lemon tree puts out an amazingly large crop every year, we weren't thinking about what comes out of Bob and Nancy's garden. They have a simple little garden in the backyard, and when the apocalypse comes, were moving in with them, because they always have food growing. Lots and lots of GIANT foods. They are constantly dropping off baskets of tomatoes (or Bob's famous salsa made from those tomatoes), zucchini and any number of other veggies. There is nothing like cooking with really fresh veggies, they always taste better than store bought. Could be our imaginations, but I don't think so. Especially then they come from Bob and Nancy's, which always produces a huge crop, and sometimes huge veg. Our last present was a zucchini the size of a football, which provided more zucchini than we could every use normally. And while zucchini is one of our favorite veggies we can only cook so many meals in a week. After a few days, we had zucchini in pasta, zucchini on the side, zucchini leftovers for breakfast and half a dozen other things, and there was still half of it left. A lot of it when into this giant scone. The rest we had for breakfast the next day. And lunch. And dinner. For 2 more days.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Asparagus Salad with Fried Lemons

We're not usually huge fans of deep fried food. Baked, grilled and skillet cooked are our specialties but every now and again we come across something lifted out of fry oil that just screams EAT ME. Twinkies are not a part of this group. On the other hand, deep fried lemons? It sounded fun and now we've decided that from here on out these are a must eat. We came across this idea while we were figuring out what to do with the Farnsworths' bumper crop of lemons as their tree is a strange mutant that produces about 6.4 billion lemons each year. Not that having more lemons that you know what to do with is bad mind you, but you can only have so many lemon drops in a week. Ok, maybe you can have one more than that, but that still leaves more on the tree. We preserved some of these a while back and those are just starting to come ready (we hear they make for an excellent lemon drop). Anyways, with the Farnsworths coming over with more lemons, we wanted something different to go with dinner and hit across these fried lemons with asparagus salad from Food52 and decided to go for it. Monica loved these lemons. Something like a soft Lemonhead candy, but a little more tart. Eric and Pat thought they quite good but could only get through 1 or 2. Like mother like daughter Monica and Charisse made sure the rest didn't go to waste! 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sugar and Citrus Cured Tri-Tip

The top two questions we get asked at parties are 

"When can we come over for dinner?" (Whenever you want)


"So are you trying to be like that blogger from that Julie and Julia movie?" (No.) 

Its a really strange phenomenon though, its seems like everyone's seen that movie, but nobody seems to have read the blog (still readable here, or her new blog here). Not exactly the same thing (we don't swear... as much). These blogs are all about someone's life, but we decided early on that we wanted instead to share our food with everyone, hearing about all the goofy stuff that goes on in our lives is more a side, or gravy. Pick your own analogy. We strive to tell the story of how our dinners came to be or what the dish means to us (we love food so much it gets put in that same nostalgic place as childhood toys and Reading Rainbow). One of the blogs we've come across that really stuck us as a great blog is Cookie Loves Eating, from which we adapted our Sugar and Citrus Cured Tri-Tip. Hit the break for the recipe, then pop over and see what they've got going today! 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mint Glazed Carrots

Eric is a fan of mint. That is a pretty odd statement, but it is very very true. Mint (chocolate chip) ice cream, mint toothpaste (there are actually non mint flavors, he won't touch them), mint M&Ms, heck he even once ate a whole tin of Altoids in one day, simply because they tasted good. Looking back, he admitted that this was pretty gross but pointed out that he had amazingly fresh morning breath the next day.Anyways, when we hit across these carrots, glazed with mint, Eric was all for it. It also helped that this is a super easy way to spice up an otherwise normal side dish. Now don't get us wrong, normal is not bad its just that, normal. You've had it before and you'll probably have it again. We like it when every now and again we can take something so every-day and quickly and easily turn it into something that makes you go "wow". We use carrots pretty often in every day cooking often as an afterthought. They usually get picked with a discussion like this:

"We need something else besides just meat"
"How about carrots?"
"Oooh-kay, we'll just steam them in the microwave real quick".

Thats about how it goes with our sides most nights, something to fill out the food pyramid and take up space on the plate. With dinner together being the centerpiece of our nights, having the same thing over and over gets down right boring. It's probably that way with most families though, keeping food interesting is a big struggle, something that is probably a huge stumbling block for a lot of people when it comes to cooking.  Cooking dinner and having everyone sit down to eat together is such a hugely important part of being a family that can get brushed aside partly by boring, regular food. Especially with kids (and husbands) having food that is different and interesting as often as possible is a huge incentive to come together. Who would skip out on something like Mint Glazed Carrots? Not us!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nectarine Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

Today's entry, titled "Nectarine Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting" (or as Eric called it "A plate full of Oooooh yeeeeaaaah") is one that almost didn't happen. How could that be you might ask, since we are right in the middle of nectarine season here in Silicon Valley. This is something we'd wanted to do for some time, ever since the first little buds started growing in on the nectarine tree in the backyard. Tree? Sorry, we mean shrub-that-will-be-a-tree-next-year. See, everyone thought it had died some time ago and was basically cut down to a stump. But after a little (a lot) of TLC from Charisse and her green thumb it flared back to life this year, with a vengeance. It blossomed in the spring, looking so pretty we both knew we were in for a treat come mid summer. Sure enough, all summer long we've been watching dozens upon dozens of nectarines grow, bit by bit. Each day we'd be out there and Charisse would point to one right in the middle and say "That one, that one is MINE. There are many like it, but that one is mine" Okay, so maybe she wasn't quoting Full Metal Jacket over coffee at 8am on a Saturday but you get the point. That one was hers, and pity the fool who tried to take it. 

Just as the fruit was coming ripe Eric had some real estate related work to go over with Charisse's dad Patrick so we invited them over for dinner and Charisse spent 2 days coming up with a good meal we could blog about. With the nectarines ready to go and a big dessert recipe in mind, we discovered that Koda the dog also liked nectarines. Eric of course learned about this through a text message at work that read something like "do you know any good recipes for dog?". Yup, the dog had her fill and Charisse's recipe was shot, but she had come across the idea of a doing a cupcake with what few nectarines remained, so dessert was saved. We were wondering why Koda wasn't hungry for almost a day and a half and by now you'd think we'd have learned to be suspicious when she doesn't finish her breakfast. Charisse found her nectarine, untouched by the carnage, and promptly ate it, in her PJs at 7am. She said it was the best one she's had in years. Eric - When my wife talks about her tangerine, she has this look in her eyes where I think she imagines Koda helping herself to 95% of the years fruit while we sleep. I don't dare question her claim that it was the best nectarine ever. I also firmly believe that Koda is not the subject of this post only because she spared "Charisse's Nectarine". Charisse of course is sticking firmly to her claim that the dog is "a member of this family whether you like it or not". 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Honey Lime Drumsticks

For some reason both of us grew up avoiding dark meat like the plague. We were both "that person" at the BBQ, insisting on getting the BBQ'd chicken breast, using phrases like "I only eat white meat, its healthier for you" or "dark meat doesn't taste as good". If you'd ask were we learned to avoid dark meat, it was just one of those things that everyone knew. In retrospect, everyone was probably looking at use like we were crazy, but I don't think we're alone here. Its really more of a bigger issue than white or dark, this whole country has a really awkward relationship with food. Its like being 13 again, with the braces and the acne and the awkwardness and instead of asking out that certain girl or talking to the cute boy, you sit and doodle on your Trapper Keeper. Then the one time you go over there, your mouth starts moving and god only knows whats coming out, but its not what you had in mind. America's relationship with food is kinda like that, everything is low fat no carb sugar free bland blech blah, and we're still unhealthy. Chicken is one of those great foods thats gotten the raw deal on this exchange. Somewhere along the line dark meat got branded as unhealthy, something about more fat than white meat. In reality, dark meat is AWESOME and is just as healthy for you as white meat, if not more so. Actually, dark meat is unhealthy if you binge on a giant box of 20 deep fried drum sticks from KFC, but if you chowed down on 20 deep fried white meat chicken strips, your probably in the same boat. Dark meat has more good for you stuff than its white counterpart like more zinc, iron, vitamins A K B6 B 12 and stuff we can't even pronounce (pantothenic acid, whatever that is). Oh and did we mention, dark meat is super affordable? 5 good sized drumsticks (enough for the two of us) for $1.67. Thats a meal of steal right there. So why have we been on a big boycott of dark meat all these years? Who knows, probably because everyone else was doing it, but now, that boycott is over! Expect to see more and more delicious drumsticks and grilled wings from us!