Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Season and Seasonality

"Hello... Woah. You look like a wet cat." This is how I was greeted tonight. Granted, I probably looked a fright. It was raining pretty hard. There's no shelter where I wait for the bus. I had cold, wet water running down my head, ears, neck, back for longer than I care to think about or admit.

Good thing I was already planning a delicious, soul warming dinner. Truth be told, I've been planning this meal for about two weeks. First time, the fish didn't look good. Then we kept needing this or that, almost always including the fish. Finally, I thought it would happen last night. However, yesterday ended up being a disaster of a day and having a weird eating schedule. Such is life - this meal was meant for tonight.

What is this meal, you ask? Nutty, wonderful Butternut Squash Risotto with Mustard Crusted Haddock and lightly dressed oven roasted beets. This is a shockingly sustainable for the Northeast in January. The fish is from a sustainable co-op and all the vegetables are from our CSA.

As with any good risotto, you must keep the broth warm. This broth had the butternut squash whisked in so that it was added in intervals together. I, with all my wonderful planning, used the largest of my three pots to reheat some soup that did not take up even half that pot. I like to live on the edge with my broth precariously close to boiling over.

For the risotto, after the butter hits the pan, add the onion and saute until soft. Then you want to throw in the soft, fragrant fresh sage. After a few minutes, the rice is added followed by wine a few minutes later.

Next you get to every so carefully ladle the broth out of your way too full pot. Oh wait, that's just me. Thankfully, for all the poor planning and frantic stirring, it smelled wonderful. Paired with the earthy aroma of the beets in the oven, I knew I was in for a treat. Oh? Did I not mention that step one is wrapping your beets in foil and putting them in the oven? Well, it is. I had that much planning done. Next time, though, I'll have my fish ready to go in the oven before The Stirring commences.

I am consistently amazed by the last phases of anything. Just when it seems like whatever it is you've been working on (cake, risotto, a building) won't come together because it's too near the end and it's just not right, you do one little thing and *poof*. Your project is completed and the end result is just magic. Risotto is no exception. Before the parmesan, it's just sort of soupy rice with an okay, but not great flavor. Add the parmesan and you have this amazingly flavorful, cheesy, nutty dish. This shit practically writes its own infomercial.

Other than the forethought required to get the beets in the oven, they couldn't be easier. Wash, wrap in foil, roast, skin and slice. The dressing requires only a little dicing, measuring and whirring. Unless you can't handle plating and drizzling, these beets are a delicious no brainer.

The fish was pretty easy too. The recipe, though sounding perfect on paper (computer screen), needs a little tweaking in the seasoning department. I'm going to give you the recipe as I would modify it next time I make it. My other regret is that I was trying to put this dish together while watching risotto that craved constant stirring lest it stick to the bottom of the pan.

Together, this dinner was out of the park fantastic. The risotto is creamy, nutty and just a little sweet. It paired perfectly with the vaguely citrusy, earthy beets. The fish was light and the crumb topping added a wonderful texture. It was just one of those nights where everything on the plate worked.

Lemon Mustard Roast Beets

1 lb Beets
1/2 - 1 Shallot, minced
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/3 c. Lemon juice
1/3 c. Olive Oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the beets well and wrap in foil. Place in oven until tender, about 40-45 minutes. While the beets are roasting, place all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blend with your favorite immersion blender/bullet/regular blender and whir until completely emulsified. Take the beets out of the oven, unwrap and allow to cool until you can easily handle them. Peel the beets using a peeler or push the skin off with your fingers. Slice about 1/2" thick. Plate and drizzle lightly with the dressing.

Mustard Crumbed Haddock
Adapted from a recipe provided by Cape Ann Fresh Catch

2 1/2 tbs Unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 Shallots, minced
1/2 c. Dry white wine, divided
1 1/2 lbs Haddock fillets
1 tbs Lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. Breadcrumbs
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbs Dried parsley
Lemon wedges, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour 1 1/2 - 2 tbs of the melted butter into a baking dish large enough to hold the fish fillets in a single layer. Sprinkle shallots over the butter and pour in 1/4 of the wine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the fish fillets on top. Sprinkle each with a little lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the remaining melted butter. Mix in the mustard and parsley. Pat the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top of the fish fillets. Drizzle the remaining wine over the fish.

Bake until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted loosely from Williams-Sonoma

4 tbs Melted unsalted butter
2 medium Yellow onions, diced
2 tbs Sage, minced
6 c. Vegetable and/or chicken stock
2 c. Butternut squash puree
2 c. Aroborio rice
1/2 c. Dry white wine
1/2 c. Grated parmesan cheese (or more)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Simultaneously, heat place the stock in a large sauce pot over medium-high heat and whisk in the butternut squash. Bring to a simmer and maintain.

Once the butter is melted, add the onions. Saute until starting to turn translucent then add the sage and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Add the aroborio rice. Stir until the grains are well coated with butter and begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, stirring until it's almost completely absorbed.

Add the simmering stock mixture in 1-3 ladles worth intervals allowing the liquid to be absorbed almost completely before adding more. Stir very frequently. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through and tender. This process should take about 20-30 minutes. Stir in cheese, salt and pepper. If your taste prefers, you can add more cheese or butter at this point. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pinball Wizard, seriously.

Lies, all lies. I promised you design or food. This post is about neither.

This weekend, I went on a great adventure. The drive wasn't long. The company was grand and the place was effing amazing. I'm talking about an arcade called Pinball Wizard.

I'm not a big gamer. When growing up, we visited the mini golf courses more than the arcades. The beaches I visited didn't have board walks. The most I was exposed to video games were our NESes and the Pac Man my uncle has in his basement*.

*Which is, in a word, awesome.

Despite being something of a novice, I had a wickedly good time. There are so many pinball machines! Some of the new one associated with movies, TV shows, games and other copyrighted content. There are also a lot of great, original ones. Most play for only 2 tokens. Lord of the Rings gave me lots of pity balls.* Dr Dude at my tokens, so I decided not to give him a second shot and Bad Cats had lots of kitty screeching good fun. Twilight Zone and Red and Ted's Road Show were two of my favorite pinball machines. I can't wait to try more, especially some of the really old ones once they're up and running.

*Not a euphemism.

On top of pinball, there are a crap ton of other arcade games. I had my hand at Centipede, Dig Dug and Burger Time. There's Asteroid and lots of the classic fighting games. Many of the games here are, apparently, pretty rare. One that I was intrigued by was Baby Pac Man. It's this weird mash up between Pac Man and pinball. Weird, but fun. Have you ever heard of Exterminator? I know I hadn't. The best word for it is bizarre. But it's totally worth the token for the experience.

They only opened this past week. The date was Wednesday, January 12 to be exact. The timing was unfortunate, to say the least. During the storm, there was a power surge that knocked out a chuck on their games. Even with some of the games down, there was plenty of fun to be had. Plus, the staff was fixing machines all night long. You could tell they know their games and absolutely love what they do. It warmed my nerdy little heart.

If you're near Pelham, NH, this is definitely worth a trip. It's really fun, completely affordable and an over all great place. If nothing else, if you're like me, the song Pinball Wizard will be stuck in your head for a few days. That, in my book, is a good thing. My friend Russ is going to put up a great post about it. He's way more knowledgable than I am and talked to the owner for a bit, so probably got the real scoop.

Matt found two rogue tokens in his pocket. I guess we'll just have to go back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Please Pardon the Interruption

Hello, internet! It's been a very long time since my last post. I know. And for that I'm sorry. I am back now, for real this time, promise.

I've been talking to friends lately and doing a lot of thinking. The result is I really want to get back into writing. Over the past year, I haven't gotten back into it for a million reasons. All those reasons, for the most part, are resolved now. I have a new computer. It's beautiful, shiny and most importantly, fully functioning and mobile.

We even got a new camera. Remember all those posts where I had really,vtruly terrible pictures. I felt like an apology was owed in every post. Then I just stopped using pictures all together. I think we call all agree that that's just entirely too boring. But look, pictures!

Lovely turnips and carrots ready to contribute to Thanksgiving Dinner 2010

Bailey watching her favorite show, roast chicken.

Now that I'm equipped with laptop and camera, I'm ready to go. I even kind of have a direction for this place. I still love food, cooking and learning about new stuff. There will still be lots of recipes and such things on here. But I want to go further. I mean, food's great. But that's not my only passion.

I love design. I'm talking about good, practical, well thought out design. I've searched the internet for other blogs with a similar focus. From what I can tell, it's just not out there. There are a lot of home decorating blogs, fashion, and even architects who focus on high concept design. But I have yet to find anything that focuses on the realities of design.

Technology is impacting the way we live, work and learn in huge ways. Green is more than just a buzzword. I want to explore it all; have invigorating discussions about this new direction. Maybe even open a few eyes along the way.

Now that the scary "first post" is out of the way, I plan to move this forward. No more blathering on about lofty ambitions. I also promise not to start so many sentences and paragraphs with the word "I." Look for new posts. And eventually a new design*. In the mean time, you'll just have to deal with the template.

*Confession time: I almost left the new design thing be another excuse to further postpone starting again. The new design will require a little Photoshop and bringing my T-square home from work. Tantalizing, I know. But you'll just have to wait.

I want to know what you want to read about. What burning questions do you have? It can be about your home, office, car*, lab, colors, what to make for the new crush that's coming over for dinner. I'm happy to go it on my own, but I'd love to hear about any topics you'd be interested in hearing about.

On that note, I have to go check on the black bean soup and refried beans on the stove. I think something just boiled over.

*Okay, not cars. I know next to nothing about cars. I don't even own one.