Sunday, February 22, 2009

Picture-tastucal weekend!

So... the weekend celebrating the anniversary of my 29th birthday is over.

Friday night we went out to dinner, a local place called Vittorio de Roma. We've been meaning to go there, well, since it opened several years ago, but I will admit I can do pretty decent Italian food at home, so we don't go out for it as much as we used to when our old Italian place was still standing. It's right in the area... right next door to the liquor store we usually buy from (owner is a sweetie) and the produce mart I go to almost every weekend. And it's one of those places where the parking lot is always full when it's open. Always a good sign.

We started out with cocktails. I got a gin martini with blue cheese olives, the hubby went for a beer. Awesome bread basket... some warm slices of Italian bread, and a wonderful foccaccia. Just enough rosemary to be tasty, but not enough where it was overpowering. Add to that some awesom olive oil at the table and some freshly shredded asiago for the bread. I was already happy (heck, after the last couple weeks, a couple more refills of the martini and the bread basket would really have been enough to make it a fantastic night for me).

We ordered some calamari, and I was not happy with the first piece I had. If you've never tried cooking calamari yourself, it is one of those things that goes from perfect to overdone in a matter of seconds. I think this was a case where someone was standing over the fryer with calamari in hand, someone asked them a question and they dropped a couple pieces in then answered the question, then dropped in the rest of the calamari. Because the rest of the calamari was perfect. Maybe a little oily, but they fried it in good olive oil, so it wasn't too bad to have the nice taste of the oil.

Hubby got the pasta e fagioli, I had the salad. The spoonful of his soup that I had was good, and my salad was very nicely dressed with a balsamic that gave a nice hint of the vinegar without feeling like I was sucking it right out of the bottle. And I had to laugh at the cherry tomatoes in the salad that were just like the ones I'd bought at the produce mart earlier that week.

Hubby got the zuppa de pesce, and I got a monkfish filet in a mushroom/cream sauce. Sadly (and unsaid on the menu) it came with a very uninspired baked potato. Would have preferred some pasta, especially with that wonderful sauce, but at least I know for next time to ask what the side is, and ask for a substitution.

We ordered some cappuccinos and the profiteroles for desert, and while we were sipping out coffee the waiter came out to tell us that unfortunately they were still frozen, and asked if we wanted something else. Nothing else on their desert menu sounded good (I'm not a creme brulee person, and everything else involves hazelnuts and I'm not a big hazelnut person). We finished our coffee and headed home.

Saturday, we had some snow that was coming in. It ended up not being as bad as first predicted, and I was actually thinking of heading out on Saturday, until I saw that Gone With the Wind was on.

Oh yeah. Bring it on.

Popcorn with a little black pepper and shredded parmesan, some Scarlett O'Hara, and my day was nice.

I did have to think about dinner though... luckily I had the makings for scrambled eggs for crabmeat and chives on hand, it was a back-up plan in case I ended up cooking on Valentine's day rather than ordering a pizza.

The mis en place.... really, it's all you need to make a tasty dish. There is something to be said about simplicity.

Eggs, claw crab meat (lump is way better, but at the time I bought the crab meat I though there was a very good chance I'd soon be jobless, so I figured I'd excercise a little frugality. And Trader Joe's only had the claw meat - no lump) chives and creme fraiche.

Started scrambling my eggs....

Add in your drained and picked over crab meat when the eggs look about half done...

Continue to cook, and when it's still a little wet in the pan (before your eggs have overcooked) add your chopped chives and creme fraiche. I had half a package of creme fraiche left, so I just added it all.

Tasty as it was at that point, I thought it needed a little hot sauce.

I just love hot sauce and the magic it performs. In small amounts, it's just the slightest bit of heat along with that touch of vinegar that can just totall balance out a dish.

Usually I serve this over eggs, I also heated up a baguette from the freezer for me, and I just scooped up the eggs with the bread. Served with a nice salad, and it was a happy dinner for all.

Today, I wanted to just stay home, but there were things to get done.

Oh, okay... I did goof off a little. The video poker game I have for my Palm is SO unfair. It's one of those games that was designed for mobile devices back when internet gaming was legal, so the "play without spending money" mode is obviously designed to make you think you're going to make out like crazy if you just play it "for real". I wish I could hit royal flushes as much as I do on this stinkin' game.

Oh... yeah... exciting news... we finally booked the next Vegas trip. Yay! With airline miles and a freebie room (THREE nights for free at Caesar's? We've never had an offer like that) our non-gambling out-of-pocket is minimal. We're actually going to be back at the scene of the crime... back in Vegas just a few days after our wedding anniversary. But I still think we'll try to go more low-key with everything... no plans for ultra-big meals or anything. Like most other times, the big excitement is just not being here for a couple days.

Today, in between sessions with the video poker games, I hit the grocery store. For my birthday, the hubby got me Jacques Pepin: More Fast Food My Way. I'm a fan of the PBS series and I have the last book, and this one may even be better than the first one. There were two recipes that I wanted to give a whirl right away... his brussels sprouts and turkey culets with a cream & morel sauce. Only snag was that turkey cutlets were eight bucks a pound.

Um, no.

Chicken cutlets were five bucks a pound. Much better.

I started with the veg.... is any recipe bad when it starts with bacon?

Add in the brussels sprouts that took a whirl in the food processor with my "I need to use it more" slicing blade....

Cover it, let it cook down, covered, then uncover and let any mositure cook off...

Very quick, very easy, very tasty.

Chicken, browning...

When that's browned, add shallots and some re-hydrated morel mushrooms (recipe says like an ounce... the package I had was a quarter ounce and it was fine).

Add the mushroom soaking liquid...

Added cream and I put the chicken breasts back in since if the slightest bit of pink is in the hubby's chicken, he'll call it underdone.

Recipe calls for chives or tarragon. I know tarragon is a no-no with the hubby and I wanted to save my chives for later in the week, and I have a LOT of parsley on hand, so I just added some parsley.

The hubby proclaimed it "a chicken dish I actually *like*" which is high praise coming from him. It was good... even though it uses half a cup of cream it was still pretty light, and my first time having morels and I liked them a lot. I'll make both these recipe again.

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