April was an unusually rough month for me. Some personal things came up that were pretty hard to deal with, followed closely by the bombings at the Boston marathon, and then a shootout and a manhunt for the bombing suspect in my normally very quiet neighborhood. It was all a lot to take in and I had been desperate to get out of town for a little bit and get some much needed R&R.
The opportunity finally came when my wonderful aunt and uncle offered up their beautiful house on the pond while they were visiting my cousin in Texas. Joseph and I spent the weekend taking it easy, sipping Champagne and eating cheese, reading, napping, and watching the birds on the pond.
A favorite part of the weekend was when the lighting hit the house just right and suddenly became an amateur photographer’s dream come true. I got so lost in the excitement of taking photos that nothing else mattered. All in all, it was a perfect weekend where the toughest decision faced was whether to sip on beer or wine while sitting on the porch with my feet up.
The other big highlight of the weekend was without a doubt this salad. Joseph and I both concluded that it was the most amazing salad that we had ever had. With the creamy avocado, luscious broiled pineapple, peppery watercress, and a hint of cumin in the tangy dressing, this salad has it all. While each component brings so much to the recipe, the sweet and tangy pineapple is particularly outstanding.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I should listen when my sister makes a food recommendation. So when she called me up nearly two weeks ago after the NFL conference championships to tell me about this fantastic layer dip, I was all ears. It seemed so perfect for the Super Bowl that I just had to whip it up so I could see for myself and share it with you!
The cookbook Truly Mexican has, count them, eight recipes for guacamole. Eight! If that’s not enough to get your blood pumping, then I don’t know what is. Pineapple seems to be on sale everywhere, and I’m a huge fan of fresh pineapple, so I was especially excited about the pineapple and cucumber guacamole.
Whew, this has been one crazy long weekend! When we weren’t busy seeing friends and family, running errands (including multiple visits to grocery and liquor stores), we were in the kitchen cooking. Trust me, you’ve got lots to look forward to in the coming days!
Joseph e-mailed me at work earlier last week telling me that he wanted to make some oven baked fries and a ligher, healthier aioli. I wasn’t going to argue with him. And let me tell you, he was a man obsessed. He picked up some potatoes before he picked me up at work on Friday and was ready to go home and make them right then and there as an appetizer to the pizza that we were going to make. These may be healthier fries and our homemade pizza may be healthier than a the pizza joint down the street, but I don’t know if the two of these things together is so healthy. I told Joseph he was welcome to make the fries, but I was heading to the back porch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And you know what? He decided to wait another day and joined me on the porch. And then another day became another day, and then another day, but today Joseph finally got to make his fries. And I have to admit, they were definitely worth obsessing over!
When we did finally get to the fries, I suggested that Joseph try the nice OXO mandoline that we got for Christmas but still hadn’t used. He sort of shrugged it off, but then came back to look at it and then decided against it once again. I told him he could go ahead and cut up all the potatoes by hand if he wanted, but what did he have against the mandoline? Turns out he just didn’t want to learn how to assemble and use it. He later admitted that the 5 minutes that it took him to figure it out was definitely worth the 10 minutes it saved not having to cut up the potatoes by hand. The mandoline is frankly nothing short of magical. It comes with a little handle thing to spear your food so you don’t have to hold it as you glide it over the razor sharp edge (I rather like having all my fingers) and just a few swipes and your potato goes from spud to beautiful pile of perfectly shaped fries! I’m just sad we’re just now using it. It was the winner in America’s Test Kitchen’s mandoline equipment test (and doesn’t cost $200 like the other one they loved), so we should have realized how easy it would be to use and enjoy.
Oven baked fries are often kind of soggy and less fun than fries from the deep frier. Joseph went to Cook’s Illustrated to find out how to make the perfect oven baked fries. (I know, here I go again. I promise, I don’t get any kickbacks from Cook’s Illustrated or America’s Test Kitchen, I’m just obsessed with them because they are right about everything). First, soaking the potatoes in hot water before cooking them removes some of the starch. Next, Cook’s Illustrated recommends letting the fries cook covered in the oven for five minutes so they can steam, and then letting them cook 20 – 35 minutes uncovered in the oven till they’re crispy and golden. Continue reading