Archived entries for garlic

The Manliest Dinner: Steak au Poivre and Garlic Fries

Objectively speaking, this was definitely the manliest meal I think I’ve ever cooked. Beef, potatoes, and fire. Sure, it also had a dollop of Dijon, and some cute little diced up shallots. And parsley. I will admit, the parsley lowers the manly rating a little bit. But for a guy who just wants to make some totally manly man food for a nice romantic dinner with his boyfriend, this totally takes the cake. (Also there was cake. Cake Batter ice cream. For dessert.)


I actually started with the recipe for the fries, which I came across online and instantly fell in love with. I made a few modifications (as I tend to do) and ended up with possibly the second-best taters I’ve ever had, just behind the Mascarpone and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes that are my standard for Thanksgiving. Certainly these were the best fries, and I am thinking of trying it again with home-style-cut potatoes for a really easy side dish. I added Dijon as a last minute inspiration, and I think it helped both to adhere the bits of garlic to the fries, as well as mellow out any potential oiliness. Now, for a main to go along with, my lovely dinner guest was actually the one to suggest steak au poivre.


I had never cooked a steak stovetop, and had also never had an opportunity to light a pan on fire, so this seemed like an ideal opportunity to do both. The result was epically good: a gorgeous sear on the outside, absolutely melting tender on the inside. The peppercorns were neither too…peppery, or too crunchy, like I was a little worried about. Bashing them into submission with the bottom of my mortar did the trick — which I tried after I found out that bashing them with a pestle in the mortar was, frankly, never ever ever going to work. Let’s hear it for the miracle of plastic baggies + heavy things, shall we?


I will say that lighting a pan on fire was exactly as fun as I suspected it would be. However: if you’re using a cast iron skillet like I was, remember that if the recipe tells you to “shake the pan vigorously until the flames subside,” it is significantly more difficult with a pan that weighs 20 pounds. The effort was worth it, though; cast iron is hands down my favorite surface to use if I’m trying to get a beautiful crust on something, and there is nothing that beats it for even heat. You may just want to stretch a little before all that vigorous exercise. Besides, I said this was the manliest dinner, didn’t I? Be tough! And remember that you too can have an ice cream sundae when the work is all over.

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All the Garlic, All the Time: Garlic Chicken Risotto

“What’s for dinner?”

The way that you somehow know which food sounds good to eat at any given moment kind of astounds me. Do I want Italian tonight? Burritos? Maybe a banh mi? Or just an open box of Triscuits, a jar of Nutella, and a handful of Craisins? Sometimes I want something light and delicate and citrusy and green.

And then sometimes: sometimes I just want garlic.


If this garlic-loving mood ever strikes you, I have the exact perfect thing: a gorgeously thick risotto with garlic two ways. It’s not delicate, it is not subtle; this pops you upside the head with flavor. Sharp pops of heat from the finely minced bits, and a soft, oozing unctuousness that tastes like nothing so much as sweet, mild honey, from the slow-cooked whole cloves. They are seriously magical, and you will probably wish that you had more than what the recipe calls for.


I ended up skipping on the risotto-standard cheese finish — it was already easily rich enough, and I honestly kind of didn’t want the cheese to interfere with my garlicfest. The same restraint didn’t apply when it came time to consider the white truffle oil. (Sidenote: regardless of what unabashed berk Gordon Ramsay, et al. have to say on the matter, you can try to pry my white truffle oil out of my cold, dead hands…but chances are good I will reanimate as a zombie to prevent you. And then I will eat your brains. With white truffle oil on top.)

I will admit that I ate this on a pleasant solitary evening, curled up on my couch with a Doctor Who marathon, so i can’t speak to the state of one’s breath when all is said and done…so I’d probably suggest dishing this up DURING a date, to spread the garlicky wealth, instead of scarfing down a solitary bowl by yourself beforehand.
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Fresh pasta with lemon-ricotta-garlic sauce

I’m a big fan of a lot of things, but high on the list is a dish that can go from grand, dinner-party craziness to an easy Tuesday night treat, just by changing one component.  Extra doubleplus bonus points if the entire meal has only a handful of ingredients; even MORE bonus points if it helps feed my insane addiction to garlic.


And with that introduction, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to make you aware of my new favorite pasta dish, spaghetti with lemon-ricotta-roasted garlic-sauce. It started as one of those “hey, let’s clean out the fridge” endeavors, but quickly took on a life of its own; using only those three ingredients, you can create a sauce that is so luscious, so unctuous, that you just want to eat it with a spoon. Warm it up with a little nutmeg and wake it up with a few capers, and, well, if you’re anything like me, you will be hard pressed to *avoid* eating it with a spoon. Serve it over a box of prepared spaghetti, and you have a wonderful weeknight meal.


When you have a little more time, however…I highly recommend dressing it up with homemade pasta. The difference is *incredible*. Those of you who have read this site long enough might remember tell of my struggles with homemade pasta. Well, fortunately for this recipe, those days are drawing to a close. I have found an amazing, nearly idiotproof recipe for pasta, courtesy of the brilliant Lidia Bastianich. Her no-nonsense approach to pastamaking is almost as good as learning the skill at the knee of your Italian grandmother; infinitely better for those of us whose grandmothers were decidedly NOT Italian. As an avowed pasta junkie, I will eat it in any form, but: something truly magical happens when you make it yourself.

If you’re enterprising and roast your garlic in advance, you can toss this meal together (using boxed pasta) in fifteen minutes…but you will be equally rewarded if you take the advanced class and make your own noodles. I highly recommend trying it both ways.

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Picnic Grail: Mediterranean white bean salad

Spring has sprung! Or so they tell me; I haven’t had much opportunity to get away from my desk of late. What little I have seen, however, makes me desperate to put on some sandals and get me to the park with a picnic and a paperback. Seriously. It’s an explosion of cherry blossoms and greenery around here! Crocuses and fresh asparagus! Magnolias! Hay fever! All kinds of things that make me want to slap on some sunscreen and abuse some exclamation points! And, as I mentioned above, pack up a picnic and go to the damn park.


Which, of course, begs the eternal question: what to bring on the picnic?

Now, in my mind, there are two major criteria to consider when planning a dish for a picnic: 1. it needs to be able to languish happily in the sun without creeping risk of salmonella poisoning, and 2. it needs to be simple to make–bonus points if 95% of the cooking means throwing everything in a bowl. If you can also achieve bonus criterion number three (it gets better the longer it sits in a bowl marinating, which means you can make it a few days ahead of time), then you have stumbled across Picnic Grail.

And that’s what this dish is. Mediterranean white bean salad=Picnic Grail. It’s mayonnaise-free, ludicrously simple to make, and gets better the longer it sits in your fridge–it’s amazing. It’s also fantastic on toast or tossed in some pasta–but really it’s best when inhaled directly from the bowl. And it really couldn’t be easier–silky white beans tossed with seared asparagus, cubes of fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes, woken up with a bright rosemary-garlic-lemon dressing. I personally tend to make my dressing kind of lethal–the garlic is raw, and I use lots of it. Those of you with a more delicate palate (and all you vampires out there) might want to dial back the amount you use–and you adventurers may want to add more! Just mess with it until it tastes the way you want it to. It’s light, bright, and perfect for a searing hot Saturday picnic.

Just add sunshine.

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A pistou-packin’ outlaw: Whole wheat spaghetti with walnut-mushroom pesto

Ok. It took a lot of greenery and a lot of fish to get me here, but I think I am at last recovered from National Grilled Cheese month. Which is tremendously convenient, because as Maggie has shown us with her divine asparagus soup, my favorite vegetable is at last in season!


Asparagus is one of those things that I will happily eat with every meal.  Typically, I favor it roasted, but sometimes it’s just so green, so fresh, that such heavy treatment is practically blasphemy. At this time of year, when perfect asparagus is a daily occurence, I prefer to sort of wave it over a hot skillet and eat it with as little adornment as possible; usually this means tossed in with some pasta.

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