31 January 2009

A group dinner at Pazzaluna, St. Paul

In January, a group of co-workers had a group dinner at Pazzaluna, an Italian restaurant in St. Paul. While we were eating, someone asked me if I was planning to do a blog post on the restaurant. I replied that I was not planning to. First of all, I was not the host. Second, I don’t think that a group dinner is the best way to judge a restaurant.

Truth is, the only times I’ve eaten at Pazzaluna have been group dinners. I’ve always kinda liked it.

Well, one thing lead to another, and I finally relented … sort of. The host said he was ok with doing a post on the dinner. So I said that I’d post comments from all the other diners at dinner. To add to the challenge, I imposed Twitter rules. Everyone had to hold their comments to no more than 140 characters.

So here are the comments submitted from the diners. (Some of them didn’t conform to the rules, so I edited them to make them fit.)

Judi: Salmon was gr8! Rite up there w/ what my son-in-law makes.

Luis: I thought I'd just try a bite of the Tiramisu... but one bite led to the other... ;)

LaDonna: Truth be told, salad was my favorite course – Balsamic, oranges, onions, pepper and salt. Kicked off our dinner with a tour de force!

Tara: The salad was also my favorite - the combo of citrus & vinegar provided a salty-sweet juxtaposition. I especially enjoyed the grated red onion & fresh sea salt!

Martha: I'm not much of a salad person, but the "ensalata nonna" was wonderful, it's on the regular menu - & I ate it, dressing & all. Can't go wrong with a tasty tiramisu either.

Well, not everyone bothered to submit a comment. But it was a fun evening. I’d recommend Pazzaluna for a group dinner.

14 January 2009

A new blog to recommend

I have a new blog to recommend. It's called Beef Daily Blog. Not a very creative name. Beef Daily is an e-newsletter that I receive, and this is its blog.

But don't be put off by the name. The writer is a college student named Amanda Nolz. She is the daughter of a South Dakota cattle rancher. She is a good writer. But what makes the blog compelling is her candid and honest depiction of issues affecting the beef industry - everything from the challenges of farming in frigid weather to vegetarianism to misperceptions about the nutritional value of beef to the satisfaction of working hard to produce a good food product.

Like me, Amanda has a resolution to include more recipes in her blog (see my Jan. 6 entry). Her first recipe is for beef and black bean chili. Click here to read it. And I encourage you to read Amanda's posts on her blog. It's worth it.

06 January 2009

2 New Year’s resolutions

I have two food-related resolutions for 2009.

First, I want to learn how to eat slower. I’ve always gulped my food and it makes my wife crazy. If I don’t pay attention, I could easily be done with my meal before she’s even half done with hers. And by the way, I’ll have done it without uttering a word of conversation.

My strategy is to force myself to put my fork down after each bite. I suppose polite people do that anyway, but that’s not what I typically do. So if you’re having a meal with me and you’re annoyed by how fast I’m eating, you have my permission to remind me to put down my fork between bites.

My second resolution is to include more recipes on Krik’s Picks. It was my intention all along to do that. But I only ran one recipe in all of 2008, and that was in March. So my goal will be to run at least one recipe a month in 2009.

The next post includes my first recipe for the year.

Our family holiday celebration; homemade turkey broth

We alternate hosting the family Hanukkah celebration every other year with my wife’s sister and her family. We did it last in 2006, so this year was our turn again.

In preparation for the party, we had our traditional cookie factory. We actually have the cookie factory every year, and I bring the cookies when the party is at my sister-in-law’s house. (Click here to read about our cookie factory in 2006.)

Our dinner menu included a turkey roasted on the Weber grill, latkes (see photo below), corn, challah, and homemade applesauce. I blogged about making latkes in 2006; this year my daughter and her husband helped with the frying.

Everything turned out nicely, and we had a fun party. After we were done cleaning up, we had this nice turkey carcass, ideal for making homemade turkey broth. Here’s the recipe I used.

1 turkey carcass

1 large carrot

1 medium onion

2 stalks celery

2 teaspoons peppercorns

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

2 bay leaves (or other herbs)

Break down the carcass to fit in a large soup pot. Cover the carcass with water. Cut the carrot and celery into 2-inch chunks. Quarter the onion. Add vegetables to pot. Add seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 5-6 hours until the carcass is thoroughly cooked and any meat that was clinging to the bones falls into the soup. Strain into containers and freeze.

Seasoning: I don’t salt my stock, but you can add salt if you prefer. (I feel you can always add salt when you use the broth.) In my garden, I had some lemon basil that produced lots of buds by the end of the season. When I harvested the basil, I stripped the buds from the stalks and froze them separate from the chopped basil leaves. I used the buds as seasoning for broth instead of bay leaves. You could use any combination of herbs that you like.

Cooking time: The broth would have had a lot of flavor after only and hour or so of cooking. But I like the depth of flavor that you get if you cook it longer. By the time the remaining meat is falling of the carcass bones, you’ve extracted about as much flavor as you can. (We reserved the chunks of turkey from the soup and froze it for future use in turkey salad.)

Storage and use: I freeze the broth in plastic containers, usually 3 cups in volume. That’s just about right for use in risotto or most of my soup recipes. You can freeze in any size container that you like.