Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


We kicked off last weekend with a martini (dirty of course) and rental of the movie “Skyfall.”  We’re not huge James Bond fans (I think this is the first Bond movie I’ve seen start to finish), but it’s an entertaining and fun movie, perfect for a Friday Movie Night.  Plus it provided an excellent excuse to indulge in a martini.

Turkey pepperoni

Dan has perfected his homemade pizza dough recipe.  We think.  Maybe.  Dough can be tricky — sometimes it gets too done while the toppings are still cooking, other times it’s not done enough.  But the dough we made last weekend, using a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, was perfect.  Whether it will turn out perfectly the next time we make it remains to be seen.  We definitely found the perfect-every-time pizza sauce recipe, also from Cook’s Illustrated — blend the following ingredients in a food processor:  1 (28 oz) can whole peeled San Marzano (or other good quality) tomatoes, drained; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon dried oregano; and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.  No cooking required!  We also discovered (thanks Steve!) a genius method for re-heating leftover pizza — place it in a dry non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, cover just the pizza loosely with a sheet of foil and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  The cheese and toppings will get warm and the crust will be crispy — just as good as fresh from the oven!

Leftie knows he is dinnerWe stopped by Whole Foods last weekend to pick up a few groceries and these branzino fishes were so beautiful that we had to bring them home for dinner, even though we had planned on an entirely different meal.  Branzino (or “branzini” — tomayto, tomahto) is the least fish-y tasting fish I’ve ever had.  Stuffed with slices of lemon and shallot, drizzled with olive oil and grilled whole — branzino is our favorite fish dish by far.  I don’t even mind it looking at me before I eat it, it’s that good.





Butter Lettuce Salad w/ Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Confession time:  I used to scoff a bit at people who exclusively make their own salad dressing, especially those who insist that their homemade versions are so easy and soooo much better than the store-bought variety.  Since I am more of a follow-the-recipe-and-measure-precisely type of cook, I figured it was a LOT easier to just buy dressings from the store — rather than research and find a recipe, procure the ingredients and execute the recipe — especially since the pre-made dressings taste just as good.  Dan definitely disagrees with me on the latter point, and his (more discerning) palate can almost always detect an artificial quality in store-bought salad dressings.  Considering the fact that many dressings have a (quite literal) shelf-life of many months — if not years — they likely contain a lot of preservatives that cause the artificial taste and aren’t the best things to be putting in our bodies.  I’ll probably never get to the point of being a “glug of olive oil, splash of vinegar, dashes of spices, bit of this and bit of that” kind of dressing-maker, but I’m slowly coming around to using homemade vinaigrettes more often and we’ve tried a couple of recipes that are both easy and delicious.  Don’t get me wrong — I still believe that a lot of store-bought salad dressings are great (we almost always have a bottle of this French vinaigrette in our fridge), but sometimes a homemade dressing really does make certain salads taste better.  This is one of those times, and one of those salads.

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Slow-Cooker Beef Burgundy

This is one of the more elaborate slow-cooker meals we’ve tried from the book “Slow Cooker Revolution” — the recipe involves a lot more prep work than the typical set-it-and-forget-it crock pot meal — but it’s well worth the time and effort.  Beef burgundy (also called “beef bourguignon”) is a stew that originated in the Burgundy region of France (hence the name.)  Its claim to fame is beef chuck roast (or similar cut of beef that lends itself well to braising) cooked slowly for hours in a red wine broth, then finished with a decadent sauce made with more red wine, mushrooms and pearl onions.  Cooking a little bacon to provide the fat for sautéing the carrots and onions and toasting the aromatics (garlic, tomato paste and thyme) makes for a hearty and flavorful base of the stew, even before adding all the wine and beef.  Although beef burgundy tastes similar to “company pot roast,” we found it to be more sophisticated (and even more worthy of company) with the rich sauce, earthy mushrooms and delicate, braised pearl onions.  Both dishes are comfort food at its best, but we like to think of pot roast along the lines of a comfy jeans or sweatpants casual family dinner, while beef burgundy is more like the dressed up, serve with china and crystal for the fancy guests kind of a meal.

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Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week: Spring has sprung! One of the earliest signs of Spring in our neighborhood is a tree with beautiful, big pink and white blooms that we can see when driving through our alley.  The tree is unremarkable (and goes un-noticed) all throughout the rest of the year, but when I see the blooms appear on those bare branches in late February each year, it makes me happy that my favorite season is just around the corner. iGrilling! Something that makes Dan happy is the acquisition of a new kitchen toy gadget, even more so when that particular device is related to and interacts with his baby iPad.  He has long been on the hunt for a reliable remote thermometer for grilling purposes — the kind where you place the thermometer in the meat while it’s on the grill and can monitor the temperature from a separate device away from the grill.  Lo and behold, the iGrill.  This extremely handy tool syncs with your iPad (or iPhone or iPod) and allows you to do cool things like research and program the correct temperature for whatever kind of meat you happen to be grilling (and I’m sure it does countless other really awesome things that justify its purchase.)  You just insert the thermometer into the meat, set the desired temp on the iPad, then keep an eye on the screen to notify you when the meat reaches that temperature.  You can even set an alarm (with a variety of ringtones!) to sound when the meat is done.  Technology continues to amaze.  On a related note, Dan requested that I issue a bit of a PSA here for grilling novices that meat will continue to cook for a bit, even after you remove it from the grill, sometimes increasing in temperature up to 10 degrees.  So be sure to adjust your desired done-ness temperatures with that fact in mind, and happy grilling.


We try to eat breakfast every day, and we’re big fans of the Kashi brand of cereals (annoying commercials aside), since they have a lot of fiber and protein but don’t taste like cardboard.  Mixing the “Go Lean” cereal with Greek yogurt is one of our favorite on-the-go quick breakfasts.  Recently we discovered that Kashi also makes frozen waffles, so we had to try them.  With 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 24 whole grains per serving (2 waffles), they are a relatively healthy alternative to the usual breakfast routine, especially when craving something a little on the sweeter side.  They’re also quick and easy to make — straight from the freezer to the toaster to your plate.  With a little butter and maple syrup, these waffles are an easy, yet decadent way to start the day.

We dream of sushi too

Based on the recommendation of a friend in Chicago (Hi J.M.!), we watched the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” this week and thoroughly enjoyed it (subtitles notwithstanding.)  The movie tells the story of Jiro Ono, a master sushi chef (some consider to be the best in the world) in his 80s, whose 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant in a Tokyo subway station was the first of its kind to receive 3 Michelin stars (the restaurant/hotel guide’s highest rating, given to eateries “worth a special journey.”)  The film is about more than sushi, however, in that it also explores Jiro-san’s incredible work ethic and drive for excellence, as well as touching on his relationship with his sons, who have followed in his footsteps, becoming sushi masters themselves.  If you’re into food, like sushi even a little bit and appreciate excellent documentary filmmaking, we highly recommend it.