Mac and Cheese

Jennifer’s Mac and Cheese over at Last Night’s Dinner looked so good, that’s what I had to have for dinner.

Instead of bacon, I went with Chanterelle Mushrooms from Far West Fungi.

Well, that is a closeup, isn’t it! Well, at least it is in focus! Beggars can’t be choosers.

I’d post a recipe, except mine is pretty much the same as the one Jennifer posted earlier this year. If you want me to put it up, please post a comment.

Giant Potatoes

Hey, there’s a burger in the background.

Ugh, I dropped Mrs. Underhill’s digital camera just before she went on a trip, so I had to sacrifice my camera for the greater good.

Now I am trying to make do with my barely functional old Konica Minolta Camera.

Ahem, I accidentally also dropped the Konica Minolta a couple years ago, just after Konica Minolta decided to exit the camera business. They sold their service and repair department to Sony, who will charge you the price you paid for your camera NEW to repair it for you.

After the fall, it no longer properly focuses. Basically, it will only focus at one distance, depending on the zoom of the lens.

It will be interesting to see if I can manage to get any half way decent photos out of it this week.

Plus, I am slightly grumpy because the sound on Bioshock doesn’t work properly on our new computer. It’s all breaking up and stuttery.

Well, the burger was tasty, even if you really can’t see it, and Bioshock seems pretty creepy cool so far, even with crappy sound.

Edit–>

You will, I’m sure, be thrilled to know I worked around my sound problems in Bioshock last night. I needed to install the OpenAL Libraries from creative labs, and then I had to set the “Bioshock.exe” application to run in “Windows XP SP2″ compatibility mode. Now I get to start the game over again, so I can be even more creeped out.

Wheee!

Whip It Out

The other day I was whinging over Instant Message to Mrs. Underhill.

I’d had lunch at a restaurant near work, and they’d made a pasta with Sicilian Cous Cous, Asparagus, Fava Beans, Fennel, Spring Onions and Pancetta.

I was kind of disappointed that the vegetable mix was pre-cooked.

Here you have ingredients that could be served in a 3 star restaurant and they are ruining them by pre-cooking them. To make matters worse, they weren’t really saving any time.

I thought I could do better, and told Mrs. Underhill so.

She said, “Oh, yeah, Mr. Cheffy Chef, let’s see it. Whip it out.” Or words to that effect.

Weeknight dinners don’t lend themselves to fava beans, so I subbed in Edamame.

Spring Vegetable Pasta

1/2 bunch Asparagus, in sliced on the bias, about 1″
1/4 Pound Pancetta, thick sliced, roughly chopped
1 bulb fennel, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 bag frozen Edamame
crushed chile flakes
1/2 cup Chicken Stock, water, or vegetable stock
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh marjoram
Olive Oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Goat Milk Feta Cheese

8 oz Linguine

Heat water for pasta.

Heat pan, add olive oil, and saute asparagus until fragrant and bright green, seasoning with salt. Remove from pan.

Heat pan again, and add olive oil. Add Pancetta and saute until it begins to give up oil. Add fennel and onion. Season with salt and crushed chili flakes cook until tender. Add Edamame, thyme, marjoram, and chicken stock, cover and saute until beans are tender.

Drop pasta in rapidly boiling water.

With a spoon or mashed potato masher, mash a portion of the beans. Pull linguini from water and drop into veggies adding some pasta water if it seems dry. Add reserved asparagus and toss. Briefly cook to allow pasta to absorb flavors, and stir in most of the feta, reserving some to top the dishes.

Serve in warm pasta bowls and top with a little more crumbled feta and black pepper. A loaf of crusty bread, a light red wine, and dinner is done.

Not bad, if I don’t say so myself. I didn’t even mind having almost the same thing twice in one day.

Spicy Simmered Tofu

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Jeffrey Alford.

His big picture looks at food and its significance for cultures and peoples are a pleasure to read. And his wife, Naomi Duguid’s, wonderful pictures just add to the pleasure of reading their books.

One of the dishes from their “Seductions of Rice” book, which we come back to again and again is a version of their “Spicy Simmered Tofu”.

It’s a fun recipe, that lends itself to improvisation. Most recently, we had some romano beans to add; but, use whatever you have on hand. Broccoli, bitter greens, green beans, etc. Just chop it into bite size pieces.

I’ve even served this to people who claim to hate tofu. They were converted. So I’ll hear none of that sort of “tofu is boring” sort of whinging.

While their version includes ground pork, most often we leave that out in favor of a fuller palate of vegetables.


Spicy Simmered Tofu, underhill-lounge stylee

Ingredients:

About 1 pound firm tofu in 1/2 inch squares
Peanut oil
3 scallions, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
6 brown mushrooms sliced
1/4 pound Romano Beans, sliced
Handful Spinach, roughly chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons Hot Chile Bean Paste
6 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Shaoxing Rice Wine
1 Cup Chicken Stock (or veggie stock, if you’re a vegetarian)
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat wok or saute pan over highest heat. Add the oil, and when it is hot, add mushrooms. Cook until they give up their water and start to brown nicely. Reserve.
Reheat work or saute pan, add a little more oil, and saute beans until lightly browned. Reserve.

Heat wok or saute pan again, add oil and when hot, add in ginger, garlic, and scallions. Cook until fragrant. Add tofu, and toss with minced seasonings. Add Soy Sauce, Rice Wine, chile bean paste, and Chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, and add reserved vegetables. Heat until simmering, and then lower heat and stir in dissolved corn starch. It will thicken quickly. Turn off heat, stir in spinach. Continue stirring until spinach is wilted, and serve over steamed rice. Sprinkle on chopped cilantro.

Quillback Rockfish

I am lucky to have a boss who fishes in the Pacific Ocean off Half Moon Bay.

If I’m lucky, I sometimes get to share in the catch.

So far I’ve had Dungeness Crab once and Lingcod a couple times.

Last week he brought in 3 small-ish Quillback Rockfish he’d caught over the weekend.

He described how his wife usually prepares whole fish, and not wanting to disappoint, I knew I had to do something with them.

Now, I can’t remember the last time I had to scale a fish. Maybe when I was 10?

When I was little my Dad and I used to go fishing fairly often. But, I almost never caught anything. I do remember having to clean a mess of bluegills or crappies at least once.

Anyway, I cut off their significant spines (they aren’t called Quillback Rockfish for nothing!) with a kitchen shears , got out the paring knife, and gamely started scraping off the scales. As the scales flew everywhere in our kitchen, I remembered why we used to do this in our basement sink.

Eventually got them as scale-less as I could manage, put them in a dish, covered them inside and out with minced ginger, scallions, and cilantro. Poured on some rice wine and sprinkled with kosher salt.

By this time the steamer pot on the stove was chugging away nicely at a low simmer, so I lowered the dish with the fish in, and covered it up.

At about the same time I minced some garlic, ginger, and scallions for seasoning the greens. Started a pan for that, briefly sauteed the seasoning herbs, and added the chard stems. As soon as they had begun to cook, I added chard leaves, soy sauce, rice wine, and a bit of chicken stock, and covered them to steam.

After 15 minutes I checked the fish, and the seemed done. Smelled wonderful!

Briefly heated some sesame oil, added scallions and garlic, and then poured over the plated fish.

Chard was about done, so I plated that up, along with some steamed rice.

Boy, what a tasty meal!

The fish was a bit bony, so you did have to be a bit careful while eating. Still, a delicious, and relatively fast to prepare, weeknight meal.

When I came in the next day and proudly told my boss how I had prepared them, he beamed and said, “You made a real Chinese dinner!”