Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MIXED FEELINGS DAY: Lemon Risotto and Salmon Cakes...

So, I did what I set out to do today: went to the gym and cooked 2 new recipes. Of course, I didn't actually make it to the gym until around 4, and then it took me forever to find everything I needed at the Pathmark (I swear, that store is organized in a perfectly non-sensical way. No matter how many times I shop there, I still can't figure out where anything is...*sigh*). So, quelle surprise, dinner wasn't ready until 8, though I started cooking around 6...oh, how I've missed you, complex recipes!

I was really excited to try out some things out of Nigella Bites, which I poured through last night before bed, and I picked 'Lemon Risotto' and 'Salmon Fish Cakes' as my first forays. They both turned out...okay.

I should have known what I was getting into with the risotto, as Nigella includes the recipe in the "Comfort Food" chapter, partly because preparing it involves a "mindless repetitive activity" that she feels helps her to relax when she's stressed out. Now, according to Nigella, this repetitive activity (i.e. constantly stirring arborio while slowly adding hot broth) is only necessary for 20 minutes to make nice, creamy, al dente risotto. Lies!! I stood at the stove for 40 minutes, willing that rock hard rice to throw me a freakin' bone. It took foreeeeeeeeeeever. Not relaxing, especially when you're hungry, and have salmon cakes to fry. I also dearly missed my Julia as I was making this risotto, as Nigella is very sparing with her instructions. This is a big shock, and completely confusing, after the obsessively precise directions of MAFC, which I apparently had gotten much more used to then I realized. For example, Nigella never specifies the level of the flame under the saucepan as you stir the rice and add the broth. Should it be low, medium, high? Who knows!? This bothered me for the whole 40 minutes I was stirring. But, I can also understand how Nigella wrote her book. It's very casual, full of pretty pictures and funny little stories about why she included the recipes that she did. She often says that the way she cooks something at home, in real life, is actually different than the recipe in the book, and she encourages us all to use her recipes as guidelines, and to tweak things where we want to tweak them. Great, Nigella, thanks for the freedom, but can I learn how to do it the "right" way first? Please?
Alright, enough of my ranting...the risotto turned out pretty well in the end, not uber lemony, though cheesier than I thought it would be (Parmesan is added at the end, in a cream/lemon juice mixture). All in all, very tasty, but NOT worth the time. I won't be making lemon risotto again for a while.

I also made Nigella's Salmon Fish Cakes, which did not go well at all, and there are many potential reasons why. 1) I was supposed to use cold (i.e. left over) mashed potatoes, made of real potatoes. I didn't. I made 2 cups of instant potatoes in the microwave, then stuck them in the freezer for 20 minutes to make them cold. As evidenced by my ridiculously squishy fish cakes, I doubt that this is what Nigella had in mind. 2) Nigella says to make the patties, then chill them for 20 minutes or "considerably longer if that helps." Now, I thought she meant that they can stay in the fridge for however you need them to stay in there before you're ready to fry them, but what I think she really means is that they need to stay in the fridge for several hours if you don't want them to fall apart when you try to bread and fry them. Oh, now you tell me! I had poor hubby dealing with the mushy fish cakes while I labored over my slow-cooking arborio, and the experience left him...miffed, to say the least. Here's what the cakes looked like before frying (please note the mess they made all over the table!):

Very noticeably different than my beloved Julia, Nigella does not tell you when it's best to put something into a pan of hot butter and oil, nor does she tell you how long to cook something in a frying pan, not even an estimate! How rude. So, the fish cakes took a long time, and I didn't know if the inside was supposed to be firm or if just the outside needed to be crunchy, and the things kept falling apart while I flipped them anyway, so it really didn't matter. Blerg. But, ultimately, they were fried, and we ate, and this is what the plate looked like.

Whatevs, right? I know. All that work for rice that looks like macaroni and a fish cake. *sigh*

...I think this post is being tainted by the fact that I'm completely exhausted at this point, so let me be clear that the food did actually taste good, but the road there was vague and soggy. :o)

Tomorrow I'm making Cottage Cheese and Chive bread with our new bread maker, stay tuned!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vacay week!

This week, I am inexplicably and gloriously unburdened by official obligations of any sort, so I've decided that I am going to get back to 1) the gym and 2) the kitchen. The two might cancel each other out, alas, but at least I'll be sweating out some of the deliciousness I put in, for the first time in many, many a month.

For Christmas, I received Nigella Lawson's cookbook, "Nigella Bites" from my Dad and a fancy breadmaker from the in-laws (thanks family!), so I intend, today, to try out both of them. My plan is to go the gym, then to the grocery store next to the gym on the way home. Sooooooooo exciting, yes? I know, I can barely contain myself.

Stay tuned for pictures and overly detailed documentation of tonight's exploits!

Stumble Upon Toolbar