Saturday, November 24, 2012

Roast Pork & Apple Cider Reduction

A Stereotypical Thanksgiving Post

Yesterday was the first time I've ever spent Thanksgiving away from home.  It was a situation I never thought I'd ever be in, but after three months of 12+ hour school days, the only wish I wanted this year was to have a quiet weekend to myself, away from the stress of cooking for 25 people in a kitchen equipped with a single oven and five burners, and instead have a quiet retreat where I could catch up on all of the hobbies I never have time to do (and for once getting a head start on studying).

A low key Thanksgiving for three people was definitely a first for me, but having such a relaxed and intimate dinner in a college apartment was the exact thing I needed to make sure I wasn't going to burn out by the time the quarter is over.  This meal helped me remember that no matter how filled up my iCal is for the day, how empty my gas tank seems to constantly be, or how much sleep I lack throughout the week, I am truly a fortunate person.  I go to a school that I am extremely passionate about, participate in activities that give me a true sense of fulfillment, have a family who has an unwavering amount of support, and have the privilege to know a group of friends I truly adore.

Cooking for only three people also afforded me the luxury to go balls to the wall- quite frankly this might have been one of the best Thanksgiving meals I've ever had.

 Butternut Squash Soup with Croutons and Fried Sage
Herb Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus
Classic Sage Stuffing
 Caramelized Apple Croissant Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Souffle

1) Yes, we had 3 rounds of dessert

2) As much as I was tempted to document this entire meal, for once I decided to forgo the status of food blog whore yesterday night in order to concentrate on the fact that I was spending time with some of my favorite people in the world, and getting the chance to cook for them.   Oh, the power of food.

This pork loin was another item from my daring meal this summer.  As much as I love a blistery, succulent hunk of roasted protein, the real hero of this entire carousel of fall ingredients was the reduction... oh the reduction.  Savory and sweet at the same time, with a splash of umami from a little dash of soy sauce, and maple syrup to round out the acrid burn of the vinegar, it was hard not to douse the plate in the glossy elixir.  

So while I am thankful that one of the things I am passionate about is an activity I get to do everyday (it's pretty awesome when you get a kick out of making a sandwich for lunch), I think that I'm more grateful for the fact that I have people so ready and willing to enjoy the results of said passion as much as I do.  I would have been happy eating ramen for Thanksgiving as long as I had my friends close by to slurp up some MSG laden broth alongside me.

One Year Ago: Crabcake Salad, Nectarine Frangipane Tart, Chocolate Blackout Cake

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bacon and Cremini Mushroom Tagliatelle

In Season
the happiest city in america

Yesterday I paid $1.25 for a soggy bag of red leaf lettuce from Food4Less.  After delicately trying to dry the leaves from the cascade of water misting from the sprinklers overhead, I stored it in the fridge only to find that the next day the lettuce had already wilted and turned into a soppy puddle.

It was a funny occurrence, especially because last week 75 cents at the farmers market bought me a positively massive head of crisp lettuce that made entree sized salads for dinner every night... Oh the price of conveniently going to a chain megamart. 

But if you somehow need convincing that shopping locally is exponentially better than browsing the produce section of your nearby value-chain supermarket, look no further than the weekly San Luis Obispo farmer's market.

 edible jewels

Aside from the stunning quality of the produce at grocery outlet prices, all of the downtown restaurants line up their booths next to all of the produce sellers and hawk whatever they specialize in, whether it be tri-tip sandwiches, homemade tamales, wood-fired pizza, or bowls of strawberry shortcake.  (Though by the time dinner rolls around you're positively stuffed from all of the samples you're allowed to have.)

avila valley barn apples (a.k.a. the only ones I eat now)
There's always some staples I get each week: a pound or two of crunchy apples, a vibrant head of said lettuce, and bunches of grapes that are guaranteed to snap with each bite.  Occasionally if I want to splurge I'll buy a bag of addictively salty garlic pistachios or garlic almonds.

The best part (as cliche as this sounds) is that when you go to the farmer's market you're part of a community... The vendors remember your name each week, strangers take the time to make eye contact and say good evening (something that never happens in L.A.), and for everyone it's just another Thursday night. 

I could get used to this

I finally chose to post this recipe from my daring dinner because to me it's such a cozy autumn dinner... No fuss, simple, and unpretentious (Not to mention the fact that there's some kick ass mushrooms at farmers).

I'm finally starting to get used to making a decent fresh pasta.  What has become one of the banes of my existence is now a fun past time (I'm a dork alright), and there's nothing more therapeutic then turning a powdery volcano of flour, eggs, and olive oil into satiny sheets of toothsome noodles.   

bacon roasted mushrooms