Sunday, January 31, 2010

Good Hygiene

This weekend was "Hygienic Weekend" here in New London. The Hygienic, for those who are not familiar, is a downtown art gallery and arts association. (The gallery itself has a very interesting history, which can be read here.) Although the Hygienic has shows and exhibits year-round, their biggest show by far is the annual "Salon des Ind├ępendants," based on the French Impressionists' movement of the same name (again, read the history here).

The rules for the Salon des Ind├ępendants are simple: Anyone can enter. 1 piece per person. Get to the gallery at the appropriate time the day of the opening to jockey for prime wall/exhibit space. No judge, no jury, no fees - just art for the public by the public.

Although the art is displayed over several weeks, the opening night reception has become a huge event in New London, often resulting in waiting in line for admission to the gallery (despite traditionally frigid temperatures). Other art-related events have sprung up around the opening - all kinds of art, including music, fashion, and performance. Downtown is truly alive on Hygienic weekend.

Last night I hit the town with my friend Loree (whom you may recognize from several food-related posts) to catch some of the festivities. The photos below were all taken by Loree.

We started out at the Rock Fix at the Crocker House Ballroom. Presented by local record label The Cosmodemonic Telegraph, the Fix featured a line-up of eight popular local bands each taking the stage for a 30-40 minute set. Not your typical rock concert, a wide range of sounds were presented at the Fix - everything from roots to a sort of jazz-rock fusion. I arrived just in time to catch my friend Jonas take the stage with his band, Above/Below. Loree somehow managed to get a few photos; I'm not sure how since we were dancing for the entire set.



We took a break from the music after A/B finished and headed over to the gallery (we were trying to avoid some of the massive crowd). We were pleased to find the Hygienic pleasantly packed but not too jammed, and were able to really take in and observe some of the offerings.



The night took a random detour when we ran into a friend of Loree's on the way back to the Crocker House. Brian invited us up to see some studio space above the El & Gee, where after-hours preparations were under way. Local artist (actually, one of the Hygienic resident artists) Ania Simpson had her photographs projected onto a large screen in the middle of the room and a DJ was selecting appropriate music.

The night (well, MY night - I believe Loree continued her evening) was capped off with a drink at the Dutch Tavern,  former haunt of literary great Eugene O'Neill and one of my favorite bars in town. Beer and wine, cash only, and a stamped tin ceiling - what more could you want from your neighborhood tavern?

Hygienic-related festivities will continue over the next few weeks. (I am particularly looking forward to Re-Vamp, a fashion and music event also at the Crocker House, next weekend.) However, it's hard to beat New London on Hygienic opening night - the energy running through downtown is infectious.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lunch Lady

For the past few weeks I've been making a pot of soup on Saturday or Sunday and eating it for lunch throughout the week. You might think that this would get boring, but truth be told, I tend to go through phases with breakfast and lunch and eat the same things for a month or more at a time. Making a different soup every week is actually nice variety for me. Usually there is enough for Noe to get some lunches out of it as well.

Today - perhaps inspired by my fab fifties skirt apron - I went back to Julia and made the very first recipe that appears in Mastering the Art of French Cooking: leek and potato soup. (Actually, it probably had less to do with inspiration and more to do with the fact that I had leeks and potatoes left over from other recipes that we getting to the "use or throw out" point.)

Julia's leek and potato soup is the easiest thing in the world:

1. Slice up some leeks (about 2 cups).

Sliced leeks

2. Peel and chop up some potatoes (3 or 4 cups).

Chopped potatoes

3. Put in a pot with a tablespoon of salt and 2 quarts of water (I actually cheated here - I had one quart of homemade chicken stock left, so I threw that in there instead of one of the quarts of water).

Putting everything together in the stock pot

4. Bring it to a boil and then simmer it partially covered for 50 minutes, remove the cover, and simmer for 15 more.


5. Puree it using a food mill, immersion blender, or food processor.

6. Stir in a few tablespoons of heavy cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adding cream and seasonings

That's it! It's probably the least-complicated - and possibly least fattening - recipe in the whole book (maybe that's why it appears first!) I'm looking forward to a week of good lunches.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cod pieces

Last night, I combined part of my CT Farm Fresh Express order with my current favorite cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver. The result? Cod fillets seasoned with rosemary, salt, and pepper, wrapped in bacon, drizzled with olive oil and baked in a very hot oven. I served these fillets with Jamie's recipe for baby potatoes (basically standard boiled potatoes tossed with some butter, salt, pepper, mint, and lemon juice). The result was delicious - even with the bacon, you could tell that this fish was fresh.

Can't wait to cook my steaks!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Farm Fresh

I just received my first order from CT Farm Fresh Express. CTFFE is a great service that some of my Facebook friends turned me on to - basically, they work with a number of Connecticut farms/fishermen/etc to offer local, seasonal product for purchase on a website, and then deliver them right to your door.

I know, it sounds too good to be true, right?  That's sort of what I thought, too. I mean, how good a selection could they possibly have? And were they really going to bring these products to my house?

Well, it turns out the selection is great - and updated every week. It's like going to twelve different farmers markets without ever leaving your house. And, although there is a shipping fee, it's very reasonable. Obviously, the groceries are more expensive than going to Stop & Shop - but they are no pricier than a farmers market and of much higher quality that factory farmed goods.

I just got my first order today. I am so excited to cook with and eat these wonderful, local ingredients. I will keep you posted on how it tastes!

My order: butternut squash, organic salad greens, beef roast,
locally caught cod, and two ribeye steaks - YUM. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Soup-er Woman

A few weeks ago, I had to go the bank during my lunch break. I do most of my banking at Bank of America on State Street, across the street from where I used to work. Since I was already parked downtown, I figured I might as well head over to Thames River Greenery and grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to the office. I had in my head that I really wanted soup that day, so that's what I ordered. The soup of the day was split pea with ham. Split pea soup has never been one of my favorites, mostly because of its resemblance to baby food, but it smelled good, so I ordered it anyway.

Wow, was that soup delicious. It was possibly the best soup I've ever had. And ever since that day. I've had it in the back of my head that I was going to make split pea soup. I happened to find a recipe while flipping through an old Sara Moulton cookbook, and, since I had a starting point (I almost always modify) decided that tonight was the night, mainly because Noe was at tennis and would eat whatever I made when he got home without complaining about the lack of meat.

The first thing I did was chop up an onion and cook it in olive oil until is was soft. Once the onion had been cooked enough, I put two ham hocks, a quartered ham steak,  a pound of split peas, some chopped up carrots and celery, and eight cups of chicken stock into the pot, brought it to a boil, and let it simmer for about an hour.

Cooking the onions

Ham hocks


Adding everything to the pot and bringing to a boil

After I determined that everything was sufficiently simmered (mostly because it smelled so good I just couldn't take it anymore), I fished out the meat and pureed the soup in batches in the food processor. I added some heavy cream while I was pureeing to thicken it up a little (it looked slightly watery) and to smooth out the texture a bit (I didn't add a lot - maybe a quarter cup).

The meat removed


Halfway pureed

After I pureed the soup, I put it back in the pan and back on the stove on low. I shredded the ham steaks and the little meat I could get from the hocks and added it to the pan. I also dumped in about a palm full of sea salt and a few generous grinds from the pepper mill.

I finished it off Sara Moulton-style by adding a quarter cup of dry sherry. Just for fun, because the sherry bottle said "try over ice with a twist," I decided to try some, over ice, with a twist.

Sherry on ice with a twist

Yeah. That ended up down the drain pretty quickly. Polly Duncan in the Cat Who mysteries may have been a sherry drinker, but she was also a boring 50-year old small town librarian. I quickly determined that sherry (at least the $5.99 variety) was NOT for me.

Anyway, after thoroughly rinsing my mouth out, I tried the soup. It was tasty. It wasn't quite as thick and meaty as the Greenery version, but it was good. The sherry really added a nice dimension to it and gave it some depth that wasn't there before I added it. I didn't feel like the meat had a lot of flavor, though - it seemed like it was just kind of there.

Stop & Shop ciabatta

  Mmm, mmm good!

I ate this with some crusty bread. I thought it was pretty good, but want to continue to play with the recipe and see if I can get that rich meaty thing happening. If you have any tips, let me know!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Skirting an issue

I don't know if I am suffering from too much Julia Child or what, but lately I've become obsessed with aprons - skirt aprons, to be exact. I even decided to find vintage skirt aprons to give my girl friends for Christmas. This proved to be slightly more difficult that I thought, as the antique store in New London didn't have any. But all was not lost - the Noblesville Antique Mall in Indiana and Salt City Antiques in Ypsilanti had plenty to choose from.

After picking out black and white checks for Amanda, blue checks for Katie, lavender checks (with fun black embroidery) for Sophie, and obnoxious yellow and red flowers for (who else?) Jess, I still had these two left for myself (I would have taken pictures of me actually wearing them, but Noe wasn't home to to do that):

This pink and white check has a great sweetheart hem

This one was going to be a gift but I couldn't bear to give it away

I have been wearing these more or less every night that I've cooked. I adore them. If anyone has any good tips on where to find more vintage skirt aprons, please share!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble - Fire Burn and Caldereta Bubble

With memories of Eduardo's still fresh in our minds, Noe and I decided to start perfecting another Filipino recipe. We decided on beef caldereta, a rich beef stew simmered in tomato sauce. Much like the adobo, we combined recipes from several Filipino cookbooks and made some personal modifications.

We started with 2 lbs. of beef stew meat. Both recipes mentioned using less stew meat and also using beef or pork liver. We didn't do this because the grocery store was actually out of liver, but if you're squeamish about liver, this would be a good alternative for you.

I browned the meat in a couple tablespoons of oil, then dumped the meat, oil, and beef drippings into a stock pot.

2 lbs. of cubed beef


Browning the beef in oil

After I transferred the beef to the stock pot, I added a chopped up onion (a large one), four cups of beef stock (I used Emeril beef stock- it had less additives than the other grocery store stocks and I just have not had the time to make beef stock lately), and a couple cups of water. I brought this all to a boil and then let it simmer.

Adding onions and stock to the beef
While my pot of beef and onions simmered away, I added a little more olive oil to my beef skillet and threw a whole head of minced garlic in there (tip - if your hands/knife/counter/cutting board reek of garlic after this chopping bonanza, rub them with half a lemon before washing - it neutralizes the odor). The recipe said to cook the garlic until fragrant; as my kitchen was already pretty pungent, I just sort of winged it.

Garlic browning in oil

After I determined the garlic was fragrant enough, I added about 1.5-2 cups of tomato sauce or puree and 1/3 cup of white vinegar. After giving it a stir, I added some grated parmesan (one recipe said cheddar, one said parm - I had parm in the fridge, so parm it was), salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of sugar. I stirred this together and simmered for about six or seven minutes.

Adding vinegar to the garlic and tomato sauce 

Parm, sugar, salt, and pepper

After the tomato mixture came together, I added it to my simmering stock pot of beef and onions. I let that all simmer for 30 minutes, then gave it a quick stir, added some tomato paste (to thicken it up) and some chopped up carrots, then let it simmer for another 30 minutes. At that point, I threw in a chopped red pepper and let it go while Noe cooked the rice. When the rice cooker light went off, we determined dinner was ready.

The finished product over rice

All in all, this turned out pretty well. It had a nice richness, probably from the beef stock along with the drippings and oil added at the beginning. The tomato sauce was nice and tangy, but Noe and I agreed that perhaps more sugar to balance out the acidity would have made this even better. Both recipes had various things that we did not add (one had peas, one had olives, one even had pickles) which may have enhanced the overall flavor, but Noe and I were happy with just the onions, garlic, carrots, and pepper.

If you're into comfort food and looking for an alternative to beef stew, this recipe might be a good option for you. Play with a little bit - Noe and I will be!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fun Finds

I love sea lions, as many of you know from my posts about volunteering at the aquarium. I also love vintage salt and pepper shakers shaped like animals. Imagine my delight when, over my Christmas vacation in Michigan, I found not one but TWO pairs of sea lion salt and pepper shakers for my collection! I found both at Salt City Antiques on Michigan Avenue (Salt City will be mentioned in more detail in an upcoming post about antique stores). Can you believe my luck?

Chartreuse sea lions from Miami 
(according to the sticker)

More traditional black sea lions
(and a Ralphie paw)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A little bit of the islands, nestled in Indianapolis

Even though I live with a native of the Philippines, I have not been exposed to a lot of Filipino cuisine. Noe and I have done a few experiments, most notable our ever-evolving Adobo recipe (which we think we're getting pretty good at). Other than adobo, we haven't really tried out any other recipes yet. So when Joan (Noe's sister) told us about a Filipino restaurant in Indiana that she swore "tastes like mama's cooking" we had to check it out.

Exterior of Eduardo's

Eduardo's doesn't look like much on the outside. It's in a pretty run-down section of town. It's actually pretty confusing, because the sign next to the door says "Charlie Bigg's Chicken" - you have to look at the door itself to see "Eduardo's" spelled out in barely visible red letters. Inside, it looks like a (remarkably clean) fast food chicken restaurant - which it is. Apparently, the owners do a lot of regular weekday business with the fried chicken and fish crowd. However, when they started putting their Filipino dishes on the menu, a new crowd started seeking them out.

The owners actually have a Filipino catering business and a cart that they take to fairs and events. Seeing how well the food went over at these events, they decided to add several Filipino dishes every day to their otherwise standard fried chicken menu. On weekends, they have a whole buffet spread of Filipino food, but we were there on a Tuesday afternoon, so we had about four dishes (rotating daily) to choose from.

The woman behind the counter (one of the owners) was kind enough to let us sample everything before we made our decisions. Although the pork adobo was excellent, Noe and I were both swayed by the beef caldereta.

Beef Caldereta

Beef caldereta is basically a tomato-based beef stew that includes vegetables such as onions and peppers and is served (like many Filipino dishes) over white rice. Eduardo's caldereta was extremely flavorful - I definitely could taste some garlic, and there was some spice I couldn't exactly pinpoint in the background. It was warm and filling and perfect for a cold winter's day (which is exactly what we were facing, weather-wise).

Noe's brother Jan ordered the adobo, which, with it's pickle-y vinegar tang and subtle soy sauce flavors, did not disappoint.

Pork Adobo

We all ordered pancit noodles, which I had never heard of prior to this trip. Pancit noodles are skinny rice noodles, fried with soy sauce and a bit of something else (citrus? I couldn't quite pinpoint it, but it added some depth to the soy) and served with some shredded meat (in this case, chicken) and thinly chopped vegetables.
These noodles were amazing. I could probably eat them for lunch every day.

Pancit Noodles

We rounded out our meals with some mini lumpia (egg rolls) - which the Eduardo's staff fried up specially for us so we could have them extra-fresh and extra hot.


I couldn't resist finishing off my meal with a dessert. I ordered flan. I have a love-hate relationship with flan. Sometimes it can be slimy - more like Jell-O than a custard. I am pleased to report that Eduardo's flan was of a non-offensive consistency. In fact, it was almost creamy when it hit the tongue.

Possibly the best flan I have ever had

I have to give one more mention to the cleanliness of the building and the friendliness of the staff. I have been in sit-down restaurants that haven't been as clean and where I haven't been treated nearly as nicely as we were at Eduardo's. Ask questions about the food if you're not sure about something - not only will you get an explanation, but you'll probably get to try before you buy.

Noe enjoying his meal at Eduardo's
Eduardo's may not look like much, but if you're in the Indianapolis area and are interested in Filipino food (or if you're just looking for a warm, filling meal or an interesting alternative to Chinese, Thai, or other rice/noodle-type cuisines) I would highly recommend it. The three Filipinos in our group all gave it two thumbs up. Don't let the fast food atmosphere fool you - this is quality comfort food, island-style.

2412B East Raymond Street, Indianapolis, IN 46203-4557
(317) 788-9615