The Trattoria Project and Spectaculars: June 2008

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lamb Almighty

I have to admit, I have no idea what lamb medallions are. They're what's left on the fresh lamb section besides the surplus amounts of terrible looking marinated chops and racks of overpriced skinnies. I desperately needed lamb so I had to get some. This happens when you're still brooding over an overdone lamb with an outrageous sweet potato puree the night before.

We all learn from mistakes. It came to me that cooking in a drunken state doesn't better my prowess. It only makes it unimaginable.

Five hours worth of caffeine induced thoughts later, I gave man birth to a dish of orgasmic proportions I would love to call, "the super lamb jesus wants you to sacrifice to". Mightily delicious as it sounds, words will not do justice to my shamelessness until you try this yourself. If you do, please do not hesitate to mail me the results and I will publish it good or not.

Pan Seared Lamb Medallions on Butter Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
serves 2

600g Lamb Medallions or Lamb Steak, visible fat trimmed
a handful Rosemary leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Tumeric
1 Tbsp crushed Black Pepper
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 knob of Butter
1 cup Chicken Stock
Sea Salt

-Mix all ingredients together except salt, evoo, stock and butter. Marinate 15-30mins.
-Get pan hot on medium high heat. Add a little EVOO and butter. When it starts to smoke a little, sear lamb at 3-4mins a side for medium. Baste continuously with pan oil and butter when searing. Set lamb aside and drain oil.
-Deglaze pan with chicken stock and set pan jus aside.

Bean Stew
400g can of Butter Beans, drained
2 rashers Pancetta or Bacon, chopped
1 Carrot, minced
1 stalk of Celery, minced
1 medium Red Onion, minced
2 cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 sprig of Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Sea Salt

-Get dutch oven hot on low heat. Render bacon fat for 5 mins. Turn up heat to medium and add carrots, onions, celery and a little EVOO if it's too dry. Saute 5 mins.
-Add tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, garlic and pepper. Toss. Saute until vegetables are lightly caramelized.
-Add beans and toss. Saute 5 mins. Add stock and bring to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered until right consistency. Season to taste.

Salsa Verde

1 cup Basil
1 cup Italian Parsley
1 cup Mint
3 fillets of Anchovies
1 Tbsp Capers
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 small Shallot, peeled
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 cup EVOO

- Throw everything in a blender. Blitz and set aside. No salt.

Putting it altogether:

-Make bean stew until half way through last step when it's simmering.
-Sear lamb and set aside. Deglaze. Add pan jus to bean stew.
-Blitz salsa verde.
-Bean stew is ready. Fold in 1 Tbsp of Salsa Verde.
-To plate, ladle stew in the middle of plate, top with lamb. Drizzle remaining Salsa Verde if desired.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Evaluation Four, The Critics Who Shall Not be Named

Lady S, Lady P, J Dude & R Dude. They insisted to remain anonymous.

First Dish:
Duet of Tapenade Bruschetta, Grilled Portabello with Truffled Arugula Salad, Garbanzo and Zingy Herbs.

Lady S: 8/10. "Mushroom is perfectly done. Soft tender and flavorful. Awesome."
Lady P: 6/10. "Perfect mushroom. But I'm not big on Garbanzo beans. Smaller bread next time."
J Dude: 8.5/10. "The chickpea bruschetta is really unique and the acidity from both dishes were perfectly balanced."
R Dude: 8.5/10. "8.5 for the mushroom. 8 for the Garbanzo."

Second Dish:
Nicoise Salad - Haricot Vert, Milk Poached Anchovies, New Potatoes, Quail Eggs, Seared Tuna, Brazil Nuts.

Lady S: 7.5/10. "It can be improved. Tuna is too bland."
Lady P: 7/10. "I love the Tuna and the Quail Eggs. However I wished there were more greens."
J Dude: 7/10. "Tuna is lacking of depth and intensity. Again, the seasoning and acidity is perfect."
R Dude: 8/10. "Those nuts are really working, very fragrant. But this is a little too salty for me."

Fava Bean and Mint Risotto with Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Prosciutto Di Parma.

Lady S: 6/10. "I prefer my asparagus to be crunchy. This is not creamy enough. Good try."
Lady P: 4/10. "Don't like it. No comments."
J Dude: 7.5/10. "Ham goes really well with the risotto. This would be perfect with some lamb!"
R Dude: 7/10. "Your presentation is lacking and this might be too watery. I don't really like risottos but I finished the plate. Yes! Lamb!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My one steady Tomato Bruschetta recipe. Try, impress and make merry.

You can't go wrong with this.. You better not.

Make sure you've got ready fresh ingredients before you attempt this very delicious recipe. That means no orangey Asian tomatoes, no pre-grated little sticks of Parmesan, no olive oil from China and no supermarket mass produced bread! Otherwise, the result will be like the homemade-lesser-than-average meal you, your friends and/or families silently wish they never had. Tested and painfully proven.

Tomato Bruschetta
serves 4

4 ripe Roma Tomatoes or any Vine-Ripen Tomatoes, diced
8 slices of freshly baked Baugette or Ciabatta
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled, finely chop 2 cloves
1 cup Rocket Leaves
1 Thyme Sprig
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Tuscan EVOO or any other high quality fruity EVOO
shaved Italian Parmesan
Fleur de Sel or any Flaky Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

-Mix tomatoes, 1 Tbsp EVOO, thyme sprig, chopped garlic and pepper in a bowl and let it marinate for 15 mins. Stir occasionally.

-Lightly brush all sides of bread with EVOO and grill until golden brown. Remove from grill and rub all sides with the whole garlic clove.

-Remove thyme sprig from tomato mixture and serve on top of bread.

-Sprinkle salt, scatter Parmesan and Rockets. Drizzle a little EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Serve.

Rejects for the week. 8th -15th June. Because I'm only human.

Gnocchi was soft and fluffy, quite nice. The sauce however, was way too heavy. What a waste.

Avocado was crunchy. Enough said.

Looks are deceiving, people! :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mmmmm. Mhmm. Mhm!

What I absolutely adore about rustic cooking is the awesome combination of fresh flavors and the intense depth of character it brings. All you ladies out there correct me if I'm wrong, but this has to be the one style of food all real men should like. Real men. Not some douche bag with a pirate swagger. But that guy who pushes your buttons right and makes you feel like you're hanging out with a diamond in the rough. Of course, I'm not directly implying that one such individual is myself. I mean.. why would I do that?

What I also absolutely adore is sitting down with a luscious cup of Italian coffee and a good book for Sunday brunch. While many restaurants don't offer that here, people like me will develop a habit to have it at home or a friend's place. I make mine with whatever leftovers I have in the chiller from the past week. Nothing goes to waste, and I get the chance to work on my creativity.

Lying at the little cozy compartment of my fridge are a bunch of Bunashimeji mushrooms I had left from making some beef noodles early on last Friday. I thought making a pie out of these extremely delectable and fragrantly nutty mushrooms would be a hideous waste of food quality. In fact, I was just about to make a pie out of it until a quarter loaf of my three day old Pullman was discovered hiding under the dark roof of my lonely breadbox. You won't need fortune teller to predict what will happen next.
Holy vegan meatballs! It's a rustic dish!

Grilled Asparagus with Perfectly Scrambled Eggs, Balsamic Herbed Croutons and Roasted Bunashimeji Mushrooms.
serves 4

200g Asparagus, woody ends shaved
100g Bunashimeji Mushrooms or any wild mushrooms
4 Eggs, beaten
4 slices stale Bread, diced
1/2 stick of Butter
3 Tbsp Grated Parmesan
4 sprigs of Thyme
2 sprigs of Italian Parsley, chopped
4 whole Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Truffle Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Grilled Asparagus
- Toss asparagus with a little EVOO, season. Grill until lightly charred.

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

- In a small saucepan, add eggs, butter, parmesan and pepper. Turn on gas at low heat. Put pan on stove and stir. Do not stop stirring. When eggs reach a paste-like consistency, turn off gas and keep stirring for another minute.

- Toss diced bread in EVOO, balsamic vinegar, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Spread evenly in a single layer on baking pan. Bake at 200C for 10-15mins.


- Toss mushrooms in EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Spread evenly in a single layer on baking pan. Bake at 200C for 15mins. Remove garlic and thyme sprigs.

Putting it altogether:

1. Bake mushrooms and croutons.
2. Grill asparagus. 5 mins.
3. Make scrambled eggs.
4. Remove mushrooms and croutons from oven and serve with asparagus and eggs.
5. Drizzle truffle oil and season if needed.

As Gordon Ramsay would say, "Absolutely f**kin' delicious."

Monday, June 2, 2008

10 Minute Chinese Hot and Sour Soup For The Soul

I broke the rules. The doctor clearly tells me to abstain from cooking for another week before my highly sensitive post-surgery corneas rebel and turn me blind. But I made delicious 10 minute Chinese hot and sour soup for the soul. Any sane person capable of such a feat has to be doing it for an extreme cause, such as cooking the Last Supper or cooking the victory dinner for Barack Obama. The last time I checked, my insatiable lust for whiskey was still present and my love for women was still heartfelt. Therefore I am sane and my brain is doing great. I made this for a cause beyond any reasoning or doubt. I made this to soothe the most important and distressed soul of all. Myself.

Why am I in distress? Because I can't cook, that's why. A Chinese hot and sour soup something like what you see above should be clear with swirls of beaten egg, however, mine looks like an egg bloodbath. Clear sign of distress. But what the hell, it was bloody delicious. A soup like that refreshes your taste buds and warmly flows down your throat then to your tummy. When it is in the tummy, you'd experience "Chi" like how the Kung Fu masters in the movies described it to be. Your blood will circulate exceptionally better and you feel healthy, after a while your weak appetite will revitalize. (The fiery heat and the acidity of the soup.)

Cool balls, it's the recipe!

Serves 4 normal people or 1 distressed person

100g Boiled Bamboo Shoots, julienned
100g Enoki Mushrooms
2 tsp Dark Soy
2 tsp Light Soy
2 tsp Sesame Oil
1.5 Tbsp Cornstarch, dissolved in 50ml of boiling water
2 Tbsp chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
600ml Chicken Stock, if using canned get reduced sodium
2 Tbspn Dried Chili flakes
2 tsp Ground White Pepper
100g Char Siew or any sweet glazed roasted pork loin, julienned
2 Eggs, beaten

- Bring chicken stock to a boil in a pot. Add dark and light soy, chili, pepper, bamboo and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 mins.

- Stir in cornstarch. Add vinegar.

- Ensure soup is bubbly boiling. Using a whisk or a spatula, briskly stir the soup in a circular motion until you see a whirlpool. When that happens, drip in beaten egg a little at a time. DO NOT STIR for the next 2-3mins until egg is fully cooked.

- Serve and garnish with sesame oil, Char Siew and loads of cilantro. Adjust seasoning with soy sauce and white pepper.