Ribeye with Broccolini and Beer Cheese Sauce

I love cooking in the new kitchen. The combination of the new pendant light and the hood provide enough illumination that the overhead lights aren’t absolutely necessary which allows the warmth of the tung-oiled pine counters to really wrap their cozy arms around you when you’re working at the stove.

These tv trays have been a part of so many projects over the years. I think we’re down to two of the original four now. I’ll replace them one of these days, but until then I really do appreciate the layers of paint, stain, and (now) tung oil that have accumulated over the years.

Phase One

The bases, counters, and major shelves are done. I’m hoping to get the final two shelves done this week. Both require boards longer than I can carry alone, so I’m dependent on the kindness of my neighbor.

There are still a few things to do…

  • Oil the hood shelf
  • Add corner round in the corners
  • Add crown trim
  • Add counter trim
  • Sew and install base curtains
  • Make hood duct cover
  • Install sink pendant light
  • Repair ceiling

Citrus Syrup (Oleo Saccharum)

The Oleo Saccharum experiments have been super fun. I started with the Sweeties my partner picked up from Sam’s Club the other week. She wasn’t as fond of eating them as she thought she might be. When I discovered Oleo, I was super excited, but when I discovered Jeffrey Morgenthaler‘s technique using a vacuum sealer I was in. I had been contemplating a vacuum sealer anyway and this seemed as good as any to finally jump in (the Noma fermentation book is the other reason I was planning to pick one up).

I made a batch with a half dozen or so of the Sweeties (aka Oroblanco, similar to a grapefruit). The bitter and floral notes of the fruit were really strong, almost overpowering. At first I was a bit disheartened, but the cocktail I made with it using some Mexcal and elderflower tonic water was pretty delicious and gave me a bit of hope. YouTube did me a solid and recommended the How to Drink video for making this magical elixir.

Greg macerates his oleo for a day, then simmers the result with an additional cup each of water and sugar. I decided to re-macerate the Sweeties zest I had and try again. I also prepped an entire bag of Lemons for their own batch while I was at it. I’m sure I’ll eventually blend various citruses, but right now I’m keeping them separated as I learn the process and begin to understand the potential of all these intense versions of these flavors.

After macerating in a vacuum bag overnight, I poured the entire contents of the lemon bag into a medium sauce pot. I used the water to rinse the bag. It finally dawned on me after processing the Sweeties, that I should only cut a corner so I could really slosh the water around and pick up all the sugar and citrus oil left behind. Pot on medium high to bring it peels and syrup up to temp. After about ten minutes of constant stirring, I poured the syrup through a fine strainer and funnel into a bottle for storing in the fridge. The Sweeties got the same treatment.

An ounce and half of the lemon syrup into ice and topped with club soda made a nice non-alcoholic drink. Adding an equal measure of vodka and you have a nice version of a Lemon Drop.

The leftover peels went onto parchment where I coated and tossed them with granulated sugar. I’ll dry them in the oven and jar them for garnish and treats. They won’t be as flavorful as more traditionally processed candied peel, but the tester tastes I had were pretty good already.

Oleo Saccharum is another super easy way to add a flavor option to your bag of tricks.

A Flight of Vinegar

Over the last month or so I’ve been aging some wine into vinegar. Last night we had a friend over so I pulled them out for their weekly tasting and set us up with a tasting flight.

Each one had a unique and delicious flavor, even the youngest of the bunch, the red wine vinegar. You can still taste the wine as it’s turning, and the blend of flavor is interesting.

I think my favorite right now is the Muscat. Very mild nose, and super delicious light, sweet tartness.

Vinegar is an easy way to explore fermentation. It’s basically foolproof… add twenty-percent of live vinegar to a volume of alcohol that’s no more than 7% abv and wait. In a few weeks you’ll have the beginnings of your own home brewed vinegar.

Kitchen Update

Over the last few months we’ve been slowly revising our kitchen. In October I added some new shelving and counter space where there hadn’t been any and relocated our fridge to the opposite side of the room.

Last weekend I installed a new vent hood over the stove. Next month I’m planning to rip out the rest of the cabinets and counters and replace them with new shelving all the way around. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s been an incredible upgrade for us already. Both of us can work in the kitchen at the same time now… Something that hasn’t really been possible before. Next for the overhaul is to remove the dishwasher we never-ever use and install a new much larger farm-style apron-front sink that’s been stored in the kid’s room since November… waiting and taunting.

We’ve also replaced and added some new small appliances. The toaster recently got swapped out for what I thought was a better choice for us. I found out quickly that it was a major downgrade. Long story short: another toaster is on the way to replace the replacement. I’ll write about it soon (further evidence that I’m a big fat liar and this is just a food blog® masquerading as anything else). We also picked up a Ninja Creami after discovering it’s an arguably better consumer-focused version of the commercial PacoJet (I’ll probably write about that soon, too).

This post is really about the new blender and food processor that will be joining our happy little family in a week.

Food has always been important to us, but over the last four years especially we’ve been upping our game… working to seriously level-up the food that we’re able to eat through improved ingredient quality and elevated technique and cooking skills. This is partly because we’ve both worked hard to lose a lot of weight (450-plus pounds between us) and we just can’t eat the volumes of food we did before. Figuratively we can’t because if we do, we’ll go back to where we were… and also–the literally, in my case at least–my designer-inspired tiny stomach literally can’t hold much beyond two slices of toast at a time. For the record, mine was surgically assisted in 2011, but hers has been au naturel, baby, since 2017.

We eat out a fair amount. We like fine dining… small portions, big flavors. What we don’t like, though, is paying someone to make something in a restaurant that we can make at home ourselves. We try to save our dining out dollars for experiences and meals we wouldn’t or couldn’t think of because we’re not fulltime chefs who make their living inventing new flavor combinations that inspire their patrons.

I’m losing the thread…

Anyway, we took the leap on a new blender and food processor last night. After a fair amount of research we decided on the Vitamix A2500 Ultra Smart Prep Kitchen System bundle. I was originally planning to cobble my own set together from a reconditioned A2500, an additional 48-ounce container, and the food processor attachment kit, but once I did the math, it made sense to go with the new motor, and add the blender cup and bowl for basically nothing. The five-year warranty for their reconditioned items is almost unheard of, but the ten-year warranty for their new machines means I probably won’t ever have to think about buying a new blender again. All of this will replace a moderately-okay Hamilton Beach food processor and a $25 Oster blender that’s been treated terribly over its surprisingly long, but pathetically unimpressive life. All I can say for it is that it makes a passable hollandaise.

I can’t wait for our new toys to arrive. Standby for new food adventures.

Eggs Benny

Our version of Eggs Benedict. My partner and I aren’t very keen on poached eggs (making or eating them), so we church this up with a runny fried egg. Oh… And crisped serrano ham instead of a slice of soggy Canadian bacon.

I’m less a fan of a Wegman’s English muffin than I expected I’d be. They’re too… Too Much. Too heavy, too tough. It took too much effort to get through it with my knife. The flavor was meh. Thomas’s are no major improvement, but at least I can get through it with a knife and fork without tearing the stack to shreds.