Friday, January 30, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast!

Grow a Rubber Ducky
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats

Almost 2 months ago I started growing this rubber ducky in a milk bottle, suspended by a roach clip (er...Kelly Clamp, else I offend the medical professional in my midst).

Here is a link to rubber ducky's humble beginnings:

Just look at him now!

In other news, I'm hoping for a sushi-fest on this last Friday of the month, but perhaps the man will be too offended at the size of the pants I bought him to oblige.

In any case, tomorrow we leave for Nashville. It will be my first time, and as the Dinnerman will be at a conference much of the time, I will have a chance to explore on my own - one of my favorite things to do in a new locale!

More Random Notes:

  • Sunday, February 1, 2009, would have been my mother's 60th birthday.
  • I was born in the year of the Ox, and hope this bodes well for my luck this year! (and no, I'm not turnung 12 or do the math, folks...)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homemade Unorthodox Stock

Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
What I Did Yesterday With All My Freezer Bones

Yesterday I made stock from all the bones in the freezer. They were starting to scare my boyfriend, with whom I happily cohabitate. I can't say that I blame him - he knows I'm not normal, but all those baggies of bones can raise the question of just how far off the beaten path I've gone.

Plus, it was deceiving. The freezer looked full, but it wasn't exactly full of things to thaw for dinner!

Genesis of My Decision to Save Bones in the Freezer

Over the past year or so, I started saving chicken bones in a freezer bag until there were enough to boil away for a few hours with some herbs, garlic, and onion ends (and carrots and celery if they are on hand). The results are amazing - far and above any of that canned, cubed, or boxed crap they sell on supermarket shelves. It's true what has been widely said in the 'foodie' community: water is better than store-bought imitation stock.

What I Did Differently This Time in My Stock-making

This time, I did something quite unorthodox. On a rather recent trip to Hong Meas, a Cambodian-influenced pan-Asian restaurant in East Providence which I frequent and love (and about which I've written before, the lovely owner Sofia told me a secret of her magic broth. She uses not only chicken bones, but a combination of whatever meat bones she has on hand, which mostly includes pork.

This caused me to start saving pork bones from all the takeout bbq ribs we've been eating from United BBQ, which opened a couple of months ago and now delivers.

I understood the risks involved. This method could have made a stock that tasted like bbq, which obviously would not be good!

Results of My Unorthodox Stock-making Approach

But that didn't happen. What did happen was something wonderful, and something I would definitely do again. I think it's important for the chicken bones to outnumber the pork rib bones, and in this instance I felt some brightening was called for, which came in the form of fresh cilantro (mostly stems).

It can definitely be argued that I am certifiably nuts, but what cannot be argued is the quality of my stock results. I only wish I had as much command over the stock market as I do the stock pot!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Educated Guess

Educated Guess
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
This stuff is delicious, and I love the label!

We've been drinking a lot of it in these parts, and I must say, it improves my Wii bowling technique considerably.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shrimp 'Pil-Pil'

Shrimp 'Pil Pil'
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats

Just to prove to you people that our dinners consist of more than 'beef one thousand ways', here is an appetizer that made us very happy one recent evening.

I had made a run to Whole Foods on Waterman for some fish, and ended up buying some of the most delicate and flavorful cod ever, plus some of their lovely mustard-flavored panko crumbs. (What can I say, it's become a habit of mine. Habit and routine lead to a dull spirit, I agree with Mr. Samuel Beckett on this, but I cannot help falling over into that abyss every now and then...I am weak, and severely lacking in the self-discipline department, especially in snowy, cold winter. But I digress.)

Whole Foods also had an array of unusual-for-them whole fish, some cleaned and gutted, some not. There were gorgeous smelts, whole halibut, whole sea bass, whole grouper, and the rarely-seen-in-these-parts whole sardines!

But what jumped out at me and whispered sweet nothings in my ear were the fresh Maine shrimp. I'd had them before and remembered the briny - almost nutty - flavor, the tender texture, the taste of the crisp winter sea.
Plus, they were I think $3.99 a pound. So, I bought a pound, thinking I'd figure something out - maybe lunch for me? Maybe an appetizer for us?

My altruism took over and I decided to share. (The man even offered to help peel the little buggers! I think perhaps he didn't expect me to say yes to this offer, but say yes I did.)

Inspired at the 11th hour, I chopped some fresh garlic, mixed it with some chili oil that we'd saved from a recent Little Chopsticks delivery (they have the best hot oil, by the way...and homemade Chinese mustard, and it's so worth it to eat their food even though it makes you so bloated for at least 2 they are lightning-fast in their delivery and so so nice...but this is clearly fodder for another post), and popped the whole concoction under the broiler. They were done in no time at all.

I called it 'Pil-Pil' because when we were in Spain last May, every seafood appetizer that was garlicky and spicy (and usually shrimpy as well) was called Pil-Pil. The man got sick of it, but that was then. This is now. Try it, if you can.

You won't be disappointed.


Broiled Garlic Ribeye
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
It's been quite a week around here! Last Tuesday we had a leaking pipe declare itself by dripping on the Dinnerman's head while he was using the downstairs facilities. (It was funny actually - I could hear him singing 'Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head')
Holes in the ceilings and walls ensued; loud fans and enormous dehumidifiers occupied our living room, bedroom, and 2 bathrooms for 5 days!

We were going gaga from the noise. It was impossible to sleep without earplugs, and we were tripping a circuit each time we turned on the tv. That especially sucked since we just got a Wii and have a mild addiction developing!

So, you can imagine our relief when Providence Fire Restoration came to take those suckers (blowers, whatever) away. They wheeled the machines out the door at a fitting time - just as our new president was giving his oath. (I thought he was nervously forgetting the words, but later learned the truth! It was being read to him incorrectly. And I heard that Obama is so thorough that he had the swearing in process repeated correctly! I love that, as I would do the same.)

Anyhoo, back to the food!

Last night I broiled steaks - ribeye for the Dinnerman, sirloin strip for me. I loaded them with garlic and olive oil and broiled them until they were perfectly medium rare.
Along with the meat I roasted up some red potatoes with garlic and sliced red, yellow and green hot peppers in plenty of olive oil. I also threw together a simple salad of baby spinach, red onion, tomatoes, and feta.

Steakhouse meal in a snap, complete with the pre-dinner Maker's Manhattan, in a quiet home.

Still, I can't wait for January to end. February promises a couple of trips to warmer climes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Broiled Steak Tips

Broiled Steak Tips
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
We had this last night: broiled steak tips with garlic cloves and jalapenos; spinach and onion salad with feta; mashed potatoes; Jonathan Edwards Zin.

I guess it's rather boring, but it's simple to prepare and easy to clean up. With all this plumbing bullshit that's been going on this week and the frigid temperatures, I want comfort and ease, please!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Originally uploaded by whatstepheats

Yes! My upstairs bathroom is leaking into my downstairs bathroom!

Yes! The problem is not straightforward and the plumbers are confounded as well!

Yes! The solution will likely involve a very large hole in my ceiling!

Yes! Said solution will also likely cost a lot of money!

Yes! I waited around all day for the plumbers to arrive!

Yes! I waited around all day on the day of the scheduled fire alarm testing!

Yes! Experiencing the all-day fire alarm testing in my building has left me with a residual pounding headache!

Yes! It's cold and dreary outside!

Yes! I'm tired and cranky!

Yes! The man is even more tired and cranky!

Yes! I wanna be sedated!

Yes! This book is clearly not helping any more than a couple of Klonopin washed down with some bourbon would!

Yes! That's my next plan of action for the evening!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Broiled Sirloin Tips, Roasted Broccoli Salad

I dropped the man off at Theodore Francis Green Airport yesterday afternoon for a quick business trip to Hotlanta. Hopefully the snow we're expecting tomorrow will not interfere with the 'quick' part of that equation.

I then made a beeline for the gym, where I actively participated in an hour long Pilates mat class and a 45 minute spinning class! I hadn't worked out that much all year, so I felt deserving of something more decadent than PB&J, or green eggs and ham, or Fellini's.

I'd picked up some 'singleton' provisions for cases like these, when sudden powerful hunger and/or strong inspiration loom. Last night I wasn't so much inspired as plain hungry, so a simple prep with easy cleanup seemed just the thing. The broccoli was roasted with a splash of olive oil and some garlic, and then went into a salad of baby spinach, a leftover baked potato, and some tiny tomatoes. The sirloin tips went under the broiler with nothing more than a sprinkle of kosher salt. Easy peasy.

Well, wait. Let me back this up a bit. My original plan had to do with a certain vegetable that had been hanging out in my kitchen since October - a long, curvaceous butternut squash.
I thought
I'd finally use it in a very healthy concoction including brown rice and red lentils, thereby preventing any potential unused vegetable remorse as well as creating a large batch of a healthy dish I could pick at over the next few days of dining solo, which is not my dining method of choice, to say the least. It was an attempt to assuage my spirit through the catharsis of cooking in a big pot, use up a withering squash, and make a healthy dish that our resident obligate carnivore would no doubt abhor.
Guess what? It didn't do any of the above. It tasted fine, if a little blah, and I have no doubt it will get eaten - whenever I become really hungry with no other immediate plan in sight. It just wasn't moving my spirit last night. Maybe it just needs some cheese. Or bacon. Maybe I can make it into croquettes, or soup!

So, there it is. That's the open book of my exercise and food consumption last evening.

(Anyone want to come over for some butternut squash, red lentils, and brown rice? No? What if I called it 'curried butternut risotto'? Still no? What if I bring it to you? I could pick up some libations on the way, and a dvd or two...)

Happy Friday, guys. There's a re-run of Tuesday night's 'new' Nip/Tuck that has my name all over it on FX at 10. I hope to stay conscious for the entirety of this one.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Baked Sea Scallops!

These scallops were originally intended to be part of a Christmas Eve pasta dish, but the man threw a little fit - insisting that the pasta be made with shrimp, not scallops, because that's how he remembered it from his childhood - so what could I do but relegate these succulent sea scallops to a temporary freeze and rush out to get some shrimp. I found the Salvation Army bells (and the rest of the human race) especially grating that afternoon. I wanted to hit the bell-ringer over the head with his instruments, in fact! Bah, humbug. Hey, I'm human.

We all get a little nuts around the holidays. I can't hold it against the Dinnerman, who can be rather volatile on a good day. Our life histories have ways of surfacing when we least expect them to, in ways we could never anticipate. Mom and dad may have tried their bests, but often what's embedded in the grown-up psyches of their posterity is not what they had planned. I am no stranger to this dynamic. He (or she) who is without blame...right? That's not me. My day-to-day is more often than not speckled with hauntings of my past.

So admittedly, the Christmas Eve shrimp linguini dish I made was made with a little more angst than love. It wasn't one of my best efforts, to say the least.

But these scallops last night? These babies are another chapter entirely. I thawed them out and they smelled so sweet.
I was actually looking forward to cooking as I hadn't been doing much in the way of cooking this past week.

So, when I got home from my first spinning class of 2009, I got to 'work'. I popped some red potatoes in the oven first. I wanted to taste that crispy skin.

Then I spread the scallops on a baking sheet and drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil on them. They got a dusting of the pistachio panko crumbs I am fond of from Whole Foods, and a pat or two of butter. Into the oven they went!

While the scallops cooked and perfumed our home with their sweet, sweet perfume, I prepared a salad of romaine lettuce, red onion, chick peas, grated carrot, thinly sliced jalapenos, tangerine zest, tangerine supremes, olive oil, and a splash of cider vinegar.

Yumminess on a plate!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Car 'faux' nara

Car 'faux' nara
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
I made this for lunch yesterday. Improvisation is my strong suit. Perhaps I should have pursued a career on stage! (Not kidding here...)

This was so simple: hot al dente linguini tossed w/ an egg, a splash of olive oil, a bit of butter, some diced soppressata, grated romano cheese, crushed red pepper, and the last few cherry tomatoes.

It hit the spot!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sesame Seared Tuna at Hemenway's

Apologies for being so scarce. Guess that's better than being scary, though I shudder to think how many are afraid.

The Dinnerman worked and worked with a sinus infection and nary a day off right through Christmas, so we've been enjoying his well-deserved time off around New Year's by doing a whole lot of nothing.

Nothing but eating and drinking, that is.

Today's foray was an impromptu one to one of our closest and well-loved yet under-frequented places - Hemenway's.

I have long been a big fan of Hemenway's. I am a huge seafood fan, so that's a natural draw right there.
Also, it's very close to home, but I guess I loved it even before that was true.

So what pulls me through that door? What makes Hemenway's roll off my tongue whenever I'm asked where I want to go - any place, any distance, any style of food, any price? What has made me choose Hemenway's for my birthday dinner - every year for a decade?

First of all, the place is comfortable. It boasts huge vaulted ceilings and lots of wood. The bar is elevated in the center of the space, and there is that huge lobster tank and oyster station right in front.
Then of course there is the matter of the food that makes its way to my table! I've not had a bad meal there, ever, and that says something. Nor has the service ever been lacking, and that really says something in Rhode Island! If you've eaten out anywhere around my hometown lately (or even long ago) you know what I mean. "Service with a smile" is not a ubiquitous concept in these parts. Many places treat you with contempt, even. And let's face it, the way you are treated is a huge part of the dining out experience.
At Hemenway's you are never rushed, talked down to, or neglected. Whoever is in charge of this place is doing things the right way.

They are also open early on Sundays, which in my experience is not common for restaurants of this caliber around here! For us old farts, that's a bonus.

Today we began with a selection of oysters in pairs: Duxbury, MA (concentrated and salty, small); Moonstone, RI; Raspberry Point, PEI (huge!); and Bluepoint. All amazing, served with a sharp mignonette and the more New England-ey cocktail sauce with horseradish. They really hit the spot! We hadn't had oysters in a while. While I've meant to get my ass to the farmers' market to try those from Matunuck, it hasn't happened yet. This Saturday, for sure, though. I've got a date with my foodie neighbor and his boyfriend in from Russia!

But I digress...

Entrees come with a house or caesar salad plus your choice of a side, which includes veggie of the day; baked, fried, or mashed potatoes; rice pilaf; or cole slaw.
We stick with the caesar salads whenever possible, and Hemenway's doesn't disappoint. They even do the extra anchovy thing. (Some restaurants that have caesars on the menu don't even stock anchovies...what's up with that?)

I ordered the tuna entree, prepared in the style of the tuna appetizer. The Dinnerman did this once; I have learned well from one of the masters of consumption.

The man (who, by the way, wants to be known as "Pudgy Funster" from now on) had the baked scallops. It just came to him as his first thought, and then we saw an order go by us to another diner, so that was that. So succulent, so sweet. Mmm.

That's all I have to say. Oh, and they do an amazing Stoli Doli. Watch out though, they pack a punch on a sunny Sunday afternoon.