Monday, April 18, 2011

A bit of a struggle... so thank you delicious DeLaurenti's

I had sort of a rough time with my new recipes this week. I bought some very expensive ingredients to try some dishes outside my typical repetoire, and ended up being pretty disappointed in the results. It probably started with the foreboding death of our immersion blender as I attempted to blend garbanzo beans and flour to make a cracker appetizer. I would still like to try this recipe, but I can't revisit it until the sting of burnt-out kitchen applicance has subsided.

Next up was gumbo, something I'm not especially fond of anyway, but a particular favorite of Will's. It got off to a great start with a deep brown roux, but when I had to add the okra, even though I used frozen, already sliced pieces, the slime was still oozing from it. (If you don't know what "slime" to which I'm referring, check out this great article by Monica Bhide and prepare to be completely grossed out. I thought the article would have prepared me enough to stomach the actual process, but it didn't. By the time it came to eat the gumbo, all I could think about was slime.) We'd also bought was looked to be lovely smoked mussels from Central Market's excellent seafood section. And while they had great flavor, the texture was so chewy we ended up chewing them and then spitting them out. And even worse, the first night Will ate it, he had a cold, but for the leftovers the next day, his comment was "I'm surprised it's so bland..."

Two culinary disappointments in one week is very rare for me. But speaking of rare, that's what happened next. I purchased excellent beef at $25/pound to try these Asian Beef Wonton Cups. Again, with the bad omens, when I went to bake the wontons, they had spoiled. I threw them in the compost and determined to simply proceed with the recipe, and serve it over rice noodles. I prepared the tenderloin as directed, but when I went to slice it into pieces it was of a flesh tone I absolutely can not stomach. I ended up stir frying it with the vegetables and noodles. It tasted fine, and I'm not a beef connaisseur anyway, but I know that for a beef lover, this dinner must have been a terrible waste of ingredients.

So, by Saturday, my capacity for taking on a new challenge had been significantly diminshed. Not to worry! We went downtown for some other errands, and finally happened to be at the Pike Place Market during business hours for DeLaurenti's  market. I'd been craving some Amaretti cookies, and Will and I both wanted to explore what other Italian specialty items they have. In their refridgerated section, they had some house-made raviolis filled with blue cheese and figs. We snatched up a package and started plotting dinner. Do I feel sorta guilty writing about some purchased ravioli I made for dinner? Yes, a bit. But these were so delicious, and it was an actual creative process to determine how to serve these... they couldn't simply be boiled and topped with a jar of tomato sauce!

Instead, walnut oil immediately came to mind as the dressing. Figs, blue cheese, and walnuts are a classic combination. I melted a bit of clarified butter in a pan, and added some raw chopped walnuts to toast them. When they were golden and fragrant, I set them aside, added a bit more butter, and some walnut oil to the pan, and sauteed thinly sliced onion and slied mushrooms. Because the raviolis were fresh, I only left them in boiling water for three minutes, then transferred to the pan with the vegetables and tossed them until they were glistening. Served alongside asparagus roasted in a shallot-mustard vinaigrette and a green salad, then sprinkled with the toasted walnuts and just a bit of parmesan cheese, this was heavenly!

Phew, week redeemed.

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