Friday, 28 September 2007

We heard recently that there's a new restaurant in our area of town called Nutshell, and that it's all vegan. Now, I probably wouldn't have tried it if we didn't have a vegan in the family, but we did tonight. And I have a message for non-vegans and non-vegetarians: if you love good food, go to Nutshell! It was amazing food. The only complaint I have is the very slow service. And I do mean *very slow*. Don't arrive very hungry. Though we perhaps should have expected to wait for awhile because we did get there at 7:15 on a Friday evening, but I've seen lots of other reviews saying the place has very slow service.

Anyway, three of the four of us loved the place. Zachary did not love the place, but even he had things he liked about it. He didn't like waiting so long--we got there at 7:15 and put our name on the waiting list. I don't know how long we waited, but it was a long time. We were finally seated, and then quickly ordered, but it was again a long time before our food came. We were in our car driving home at 9:30. That's slow service!

One word about the price: some would consider the price to be a negative. It was a bit pricey. My entree was $14. But I say it was worth every penny, plus the wait....well, I could really get rid of the wait and be much happier!

But on to the good stuff. After we ordered, I saw the olive oil menu sitting on the table and remembered that I'd seen a review that talked about their olive oil menu. So we ordered some. You can select from about 5 different breads or an assortment, about 6 or 7 olive oils from all over the world, and a ton of different salts. We chose the assortment of bread, the Chilean olive oil, and a volcanic salt. Well, I know what good olive oil and salt and bread taste like. But we were all blown away by how good it tasted! "Like and explosion of flavor in my mouth!" were the words uttered by my jaded 13 year old. I'd like to go sometime and just have something simple like soup, along with a variety of breads and olive oils and salts.

After the long wait, our entrees finally came. Zachary didn't like his spaghetti, but the rest of us did! It was spaghetti with a creamy porcini and truffle sauce. It was just how you'd imagine it to taste, with the very pungeant truffle flavor throughout the spaghetti. It was delicious. I've got the leftovers in my fridge for my lunch tomorrow. :-)

Hibi had a grilled pineapple and avocado sandwich, which came with bamboo fries. She really loved it. I was interested to try those fries, but I have to admit, I was expecting them to be...well, woody. Not at all! Very interesting flavors and we all enjoyed some.

Paul had the potato pancakes, which he also enjoyed. They were very interesting, too--they were basically like puffs of mashed potatoes, with interesting toppings. I don't remember much about them because I was so focused on my own and the kids' meals.

I had the Jamaican BBQ and it was all delicious. It had lots of different things in beans and rice, corn fritters that were SPICY!, something like a hash browns but I'm not sure it was potatoes. Boy, I sure wish I'd remembered what all was supposed to be in it! Then there was an orange half that was hollowed out a bit and stuffed with a mixture that could have been potatoes or yucca or something like that....but it definitely had coconut in it, and it was nicely sweet but not overly. Oh, and grilled squash and onions.

We did not stay for dessert, as we'd already been there a long time! Though it's just a half block from Pix Pattiserie, which I was thinking of going to after....but after I did not give a second thought to this idea. I was already sated with some of the best food I've eaten in a long time.

The Citysearch review we looked at for Nutshell says it's a good place for kids. I'd have to disagree, unfortunately. Though it's probably fine for kids to make noise, as it's a pretty noisy place, there's not much that's kid-friendly on the menu. They did offer to make Zac plain spaghetti with vegetables, but he chose the truffle spaghetti because I told him that truffles are very expensive. ;-) But really, I felt a bit out of place there, myself, and not just because I had kids along (they were the only kids in the restaurant). It is a very trendy, hip place where it's cool to be in your 20s and hanging out with friends.

But don't let that stop any of you non-twenty-somethings from trying it! Because why should the twenty-somethings get all the good vegan food?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Doughnuts at Patrick's Point!

Here is the promised doughnut recipe that I used when we went to Patrick's Point. It was pretty easy to make these while camping, even if it did take forever because of the cool weather. But they're just as easy to make at home.

Here's the recipe, just as I sent it to the campers' email list.

Hey doughnut-eaters,

So, here's the recipe I used for the doughnuts. I don't think I'd
used this recipe before, and when I looked at it originally I thought
"no milk? I'm not so sure..." But Joy of Cooking was the only
cookbook I brought with me, so that was it. And they were
scrumptious, no? I had to make more when we got home, since I didn't
get my doughnut binge in at PP (the real reason for making doughnuts...)

Yeast Doughnuts ala Joy of Cooking

JoC notes that these would be perfect for filling with jelly,
especially how I made them with no holes. It also notes that as you
add the eggs, the dough will fall apart and then come together. (So
don't be alarmed.)
Also, this recipe does best if all ingredients are at room temp, and
especially the butter.

Stir together in a medium bowl:
1 cup warm (105-115 degree) water
2 envelopes active dry yeast (for heavens sake, buy bulk Bob's Red
Mill yeast and save yourself the trouble of yeast that doesn't work
right, and use 4 teaspoons)

Let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add and
stir until the mixture is smooth:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (I just use a dinner plate)
and let rise in a warm place until bubbly, 30-60 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds (if you're using
a mixer...):
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
Gradually add and beat until light and fluffy:
2/3 cup sugar
Add, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition:
3 large eggs
Add and beat until blended:
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange (optional; I didn't use it at PP)

Add the yeast mixture along with:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (at home, I'd run out of white flour,
and use whole wheat pastry flour. No one knew any different!)
Mix until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough, which will
be very soft and golden, wraps around the dough hook or paddle and
comes away from the sides of the bowl. (If you do not have a heavy-
duty mixer, the batter can be beaten by hand with a wooden spoon.)
(Here the book says to butter a large bowl and then add the dough,
but I just leave the dough in the same bowl to fine results.) Cover
the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (again I use a dinner plate) and
let rise in a warm place (warm place at PP? Yeah, right. That's why
it took all day) until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch
the dough down, wrap tightly in plastic (I just left in the same
bowl) and then a large plastic bag (just the bowl and plate) and
refrigerate (leave out on the camp table) for at least 3 hours (until
it doubles) or overnight.

Working on a lightly floured surface with half of the dough at a
time, pat or roll the dough out 1/2 inch think. Cut with a well-
floured doughnut cutter (or biscuit cutter, for no holes) and place
the doughnuts and holes on wax paper. Repeat with remaining half of
dough. Let rise, uncovered, in a warm place (ha) until soft and
puffy to the touch (until you can't stand it anymore), about 30 minutes.

Heat vegetable oil or shortening (I use Spectrum shortening) in a
deep pot at least a couple inches deep to a temp of 365. Drop in 3
or 4 doughnuts at a time and fry until golden, turning to fry on both
sides. Drain on paper towels (I used an overturned cardboard box
that I'd wiped pretty clean, and at home I used paper bags) and dust
with powdered sugar or shake in a bag with sugar. (Actually,
shaking in a small paper bag with either one works quite well. You
can also make a glaze if you wish, by mixing powdered sugar with
water. Or use cinnamon sugar. Or honey. Possibilities are endless!)

Make sure and eat these within a few hours, or a day at most. They
won't be good for too much longer than that.


Thursday, 6 September 2007

Egg Custard for One

No, I don't live alone, but my family doesn't always share my food obsessions. :-) I've been enjoying this one solo. A nice little dessert that uses an egg from my huge supply from my hens. :-) It's pretty quick to make in the microwave. I'm not a big fan of microwave cooking, and most of the time would be content without one. But custard is a perfect dish to make in the microwave--no bain marie required.

Egg Custard for One

Use a microwave-safe cereal or soup bowl. Crack one egg into it and beat with a fork. Add two tablespoons sugar and a tiny pinch of salt and stir well. Add 3/4 cup milk, a tiny pinch of nutmeg, and a few drops of vanilla. Stir very well, making sure the egg is incorporated. Put in the microwave for 15 minutes, power level 3. (Make sure not to cook this on high!) It should be set, with just a bit of jiggle in the middle.

I suppose you could top this with fresh fruit. But I enjoy it as is in all it's eggy glory. And you can wait until it cools, but I eat it--carefully!--right after it comes out of the microwave.

One added thing I've been using with this recipe that's really delicious--a little luxury--I bought some vanilla salt at The Meadow on Mississippi and it is *perfect* for this use! I top the finished custard with a small pinch before eating it. Yum!

Pasta with Pesto

I realize that most of my readers probably already know how to make this dish. But I thought I'd post it, because it's my favorite dish for a quick summer dinner. I usually make it on marketing day, for two reasons: one, it's easy to make for the end of a long day, and two, when I'm using basil from the farmer's market I want to use it as soon as possible to preserve the good flavor and freshness.

A food processor works best here. You don't have to have one of those big fancy ones--a simple mini-processor can be had for $50 new, or find one at a consignment shop or garage sale. If you don't have a food processor, a blender will do in a pinch. You could try the old-fashioned method--a mortar and pestle, but I've never had that work for me.

Pasta with Pesto

Start a pot of water to boil for one pound of pasta. We like angel hair, but you could use any kind of pasta. Angel hair cooks very quickly.

Use a colander full of fresh basil from your garden, or one bunch of basil from the farmer's market. Pull the leaves off the stems after you wash it and place in the bowl of your food processor. Add two cloves of garlic and a small handful of pine nuts or other nuts. I sometimes toast the nuts before I add them--be careful not to burn pine nuts! They are very small and burn easily. I have become quite the pine nut burning expert. :-P Process these together for just a few pulses, then add olive oil through the feeder, about 1/4 cup. If you aren't serving a vegan, you can add about 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese now.

Remove the pesto to a large pasta bowl.

Cook the pasta until al dente. When it's almost done, remove about half a cup of the cooking water. Add some to the pesto and stir. You want it to be a nice, spreadable consistency. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the pesto. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top, then drizzle a bit of the cooking water over that. Then toss the pasta and pesto together.

I love to top this with halved cherry tomatoes, but I also serve it with roasted zucchini when the cherry tomatoes aren't in season yet. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle.