A very kitchen weekend

Kim or Matt related February 17th, 2014

I could really get behind this three-day weekend thing; I’ve had two in a row, and that extra day helps my productivity enormously, especially in the kitchen. Last week, Matt and I got chard and spinach at the farmer’s market, and, miracle of miracles, actually used it. We made a gratin with rice, and  I had high hopes — the filling was delicious. I was disappointed, however, to find that the final product tasted more of rice and egg than greens. (Matt disagrees, but I’m sure I’m right.)

So I spent the week plotting how I could make better use of the filling, and came up with a lasagna. Layers of pasta noodles mean less starch compared to greens, and a white sauce to bind rather than egg (I don’t really care for eggs). In order to get a head start, Matt and I opted for the Saturday market, rather than the bigger Sunday market. We went out in search of chard and spinach. . .

. . . and found romanesco! I haven’t been able to find any this year (or last year, for that matter), and I love it. So we snapped it up (figuratively; no pic, as it wasn’t very pretty) and added my Jamie-Oliver-inspired casserole to the weekend cooking list.

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(By the way, we only have one well-lit place in our house for food photography. . . and it isn’t in our house.)

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We did the romanesco yesterday, and the lasagna Saturday. The lasagna prep took forever — trim the chard, parboil for two minutes, ice bath. Wash the spinach, parboil for 30 seconds, ice bath. Squeeze out excess water and chop greens. Chop chard stems. It doesn’t sound so bad that way, but it takes a really long time to process two large bunches of chard and a large bunch of spinach. And I actually cheated and used a box of frozen chopped for half the spinach (fresh tastes a lot better, by the way).

The lasagna itself went together in a snap, since we’re pretty good at cheese sauce (well, Matt is, anyway). Even with a sticky lasagna noodles problem (not enough water), the assembly was quick, and the lasagna itself is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

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Inspired by our culinary successes, we decided to tackle something new, and, in retrospect, a bit ambitious. Kevin’s brought us cupcakes from his favorite place in the Bay Area a few times, and the s’mores flavor is our favorite. So when I ran across a recipe for marshmallow frosting, our next baking project seemed like a no-brainer. We chose an Alton Brown chiffon cupcake recipe, since Matt prefers a lighter cake, and made an easy graham cracker crust for the bottoms.

The batter came together easily enough, and the graham cracker crust was predictably simple. We had logistical problems, however, in that we could only find one cupcake pan (we’re not sure whether the other is lost in the disaster that is our kitchen or lost in the disaster that is my classroom, still waiting to come home after Pi Day last year).

We decided to bake the cupcakes in batches, even though I feared (correctly) that the egg-white leavened batter would deflate. As it turned out, baking two batches was a blessing in disguise, because the 30 minutes of cooking time the recipe called for was way. too. long. The finished cupcakes were dry, dry, dry (think desert, rather than dessert), and the graham cracker crust was burnt. Very, very burnt.

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For the second batch, we set the timer for 20 minutes, and then checked the internal temperature of the cupcakes. The recipe says it should be about 205-210; ours were only at 200, but I pulled them anyway. That turned out to be a mistake, too. But the graham cracker crust is perfect, and the cupcakes themselves are much better, if rather flat.

Since the cupcakes turned out so poorly, we didn’t bother with the frosting. So now I’m looking forward to a whole additional round of disasters.

Maybe s’mores cupcakes weren’t such a good idea after all. Maybe I’ll just stick with macarons.

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