Sunday, July 31, 2011

2 Meals, 1 Post

This is the beginning of the school year for me (already? yikes!), so it's crazy at our place.  The other night I finally went to bed when I realized I had fallen asleep at my work computer (fortunately I didn't do a face plant into the keyboard; imagine explaining THAT computer malady to tech support).
So, this last week, I didn't do much in the kitchen other than make a mess.  I made up for it this weekend, making some tasty suppers for the hubs and myself (HRH is choosing to stick to a diet of peanut butter & Nutella® sandwiches, Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish, and Craisins®).
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Friday, I picked up some lamb shanks.  I just love lamb, but we never make it at home, as usually it's a little too pricey for this cheapskate.  However, I was, a few months ago, the fortunate winner of Table for Two, a cookbook by Warren Caterson.  It's a cookbook designed to make 2 servings of the dishes presented, which is nice for our family, as someone (I'm not gonna name names, but his title rhymes with shmusband) doesn't care for leftovers, leaving someone else (this person would be me) to try to fight her way through eating the same meal for about a week.  Anyway, he has some lovely braised lamb shanks recipes, and, well, those shanks at the store just kind of sang to me - like the sirens did to Odysseus.
I elected to make the red wine version, as we had almost all the ingredients (I substituted dehydrated orange slices for the lemon wedges, but that was my only sub).

Pretty shanks, snug on a bed of onions
Red wine and balsamic vinegar make the sauce
oh, so very rich and (dare I say it?) decadent.
Tomatoes and basil give the shanks even more love.
Forty-five minutes in: I had taken a shower after getting the Dutch oven (are Dutch ovens really Dutch?) into the oven oven.  When I came back downstairs, there was already a smell so incredible that I felt sorry for Zooey; her coonhound nose must have been on overdrive, and I'm amazed she didn't try to get into that oven, to find the source of that delectable smell.
So by the time the allotted three hours had passed, I think everyone in the house (except HRH, who was sticking to her special diet STILL) was chomping at the bit for dinner supper (trying to use the proper term here).

Oh, dear heavens, someone hold me;
isn't that insanely yum-a-licious?
(insert Emeril joke about smell-i-vision here)
The lamb was flat FANTASTIC - falling/fallen off the bone, with a sumptuous sauce.  It made the side I had prepared, a summer squash gratin that was more just like summer squash with scrambled eggs, seem so pitifully disappointing for its lamb-y glory.

You know you want some.
Yeah, sure, this is probably more of a fall/winter dish, but who cares - it was tasty tasty tasty, and I've been working on lamb stock with the bones/scraps/leftover sauce bits today, so I'll be able to include that lovely richness to future dishes.
And speaking of future dishes, I actually used a bit of it in tonight's supper, which was a lighter, simpler fare.  I had gone to my favorite local bookstore, Changing Hands, to acquire Peas and Thank You, a vegan cookbook (yes, I realize the irony of that statement in the same blog post that talks about lamb shanks, but whatever).  I'm looking into Mark Bittman's "policy" of going vegan until dinner/supper time, so I'm really needing a collection of good recipes to sustain me (one can live on chickpeas only so long).  Alas, they were out (but will have it for me by Friday), so I picked up a used copy of Mr. Bittman's Kitchen Express (to my family members - I would really, really, really also like to get his books How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, in case you are wondering what to get me for Christmas/my birthday/no reason).
Flipping through the pages in the store as I am wont to do (I also read the entirety of Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, which I purchased for HRH), I found, in the summer chapter, a zucchini and dill soup.  Ooooooh - that sounds yummy.  And we just happen to have gotten a ginormous zucchini from our CSA this week that needs to be used up (and I'm already planning a sweet bread - not sweetbreads, please note - with the summer squash).

Ready to meet its maker in the form of Julia,
my Cuisinart®
What did I do to shred things before Julia came into my life?
I did have to swing by the local grocery store to get some dill, but I can use the rest to make some pickles with all the bazillion cucumbers that we've been getting lately (I love pickles - this is NOT a complaint at the quantity of cucumbers here), so it's a win-win.
What IS IT about the smell of onions cooking in a little bit of butter that makes me want to stop right there and eat that for dinner?
Just a touch of cracked pepper
In place of the veggie or chicken stock (which I have, but not in un-frozen form), I simply splashed in some of that lamb stock that was cooking over on the other burner.  Since it's pretty rich, I used half stock and half water, as I didn't want the lamb flavor to overtake the lightness of the zucchini.
The end result was something appropriately rich (I used a splash of half-and-half when I pureed everything) but still clean and fresh with the addition of the dill right at the end.  The soup reminded me a touch of vichyssoise, but it was lighter (well, after all, there wasn't any potato, and I didn't use cream).  All we had with it was some chewy bread dipped into avocado oil and some chardonnay, and it was a lovely evening meal - something that I will place a gold star next to and make again.
I can only guess that this will be better the next day, and I have two servings to help me get through this first week of classes (I am notoriously bad about forgetting to have lunch).

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