Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MouseBouche on TV: TOMORROW!!! 12/1

Dear Mouse,

It's here. Our moment. TOMORROW, December 1, 2011, 11AM on the Hallmark Channel.

THIS GUY!!!!!!!!!!!!
(So, these shorts never again. Live and learn. I was like 10lbs heavier. But not from Emeril!)

I saw an old friend for drinks the other night. He had just come from his costume fitting for his first Law & Order and was sort of bemusedly reflecting on the fact that finally, finally, he was working in TV!! which he'd been working toward forever! and making a little bit of money!! and yet ...

"I'm not really acting," he said. "Like, at all." Pause. "They have me wearing pasties."

And, scene.

The grass is always greener. I mean, I get it. MY FIRST MOVIE (don't blink or you'll miss me) is coming out in about a week. The two-day shoot last fall was very exciting, I ate a ton of snacks, met famous people, made a small pile of money ... and spent most of the time on the set glancing around wildly trying to figure out where the camera was and if I was supposed to be "doing something".

My point, and I do have one, is that maybe that's the deal on the small screen. Every commercial I go in for pleads for some variant of "less is more", "throw it away", or "don't act", whatever that means. And sometimes that's weird, and sometimes...

... LIKE ON EMERIL'S TABLE...!'s a pleasure. Sake, true chef starpower, fake eyelashes, and mounds and mounds of noodles for the slurping, set up for us before noon ... and our only job is to look interested and happy? DONE. Who needs to pretend?

Tune in tomorrow, 12/1, 11AM, Hallmark Channel, to see us Not Acting with the best of them. I'll bring the soy sauce.

The Boo

PS Anyone who misses it can make it up to me/us by attending the upcoming Winter Solstice Concert at the legendary Joe's Pub NYC. TICKETS HERE.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

With thanks to the millions of green beans who will give their lives for Thanksgiving dinners everywhere

Dear Boo,

Did you see this article in the Science section of the Times on Tuesday? It's all about how good an 'attitude of gratitude' is for our health. It's an age-old sentiment found in ancient texts and espoused by new-age gurus alike, and yet somehow I always feel I need to be reminded of just how essential gratitude is to our overall happiness. It's like going to the gym--I know it'll make me feel better, and I know it's good for me, but somehow, somehow, I'm pretty much always tempted to skip it. Sure, I give good lip service to gratitude, saying thank you probably hundreds of times a day, and often following a complaint with a quick disclaimer that I know, I know, this is a good problem to have, and I know, I know, I should be grateful for what I do have instead of focusing on what I don't. But how often do I actively practice gratitude? I'll be honest. Not very. The Husband and I tried to start a habit of silently naming three things we're thankful for, just before bed. It came out of an effort to sleep better, to put aside the worries of the day, and to reset our brains to focus on the good (and there's a lot of it). And it was great for a while, until, well, we forgot. But, rather than beat myself up for doing Life wrong or having the luxury of taking my blessings for granted, I'm taking a gentler approach. I'm going to take tomorrow as an opportunity not only to slip comfortably and guilt-free into a turkey/sweet potato/gratin/pumpkin flan/pecan pie coma, but to reintroduce conscious gratitude into my life. It doesn't have to be the major things always--sometimes being consciously grateful for Health and Privilege and Freedom feels to immense or too abstract to be genuine. I have a lot of big things to be thankful for this year: love, a new family, a new marriage, a new job, my education, my artistic community. But all those big things are made up of lots of tiny bits of grace, and they all deserve some acknowledgement. So I'm starting small. Because isn't life, and gratitude, really in the details? And maybe being grateful for the small things will help me keep the big stuff, good and bad, in perspective.

So, here we go. Today's Moment of Gratitude:

yes, really, I'm talking THAT small.

This green bean recipe, which is so, so much yummier, and healthier, and more interesting than the traditional casserole, and which as a bonus, can be made ahead and served at room temperature. With tiny bits of minced garlic, lemon, parsley, and parmesan mingling together over slowly sauteed silky beans, there's a lot of things to be thankful for in this one simple dish. You're welcome.
I mean, Thank you!!
(still learning)

Happy Thanksgiving!


The Mouse

Green Beans with Lemon, Garlic, and Parmesan Gremolata
Thanks to the Splendid Table

Serves 10 to 14 as part of a large meal (like the one we'll be having tomorrow).

extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed

Salt and fresh-ground black pepper

1 cup water

5 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 cup water
Shredded zest of 2 large lemons (organic preferred; after all, you are eating the entire rind)

1 tight-packed cup Italian parsley leaves
1-1/2 cups coarsely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Lightly film the bottom of 2 straight-sided 12-inch sauté pans with oil. Heat them over medium-high heat. Add the beans and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 minutes, or until the beans begin to brown. Add 1/2 cup of water to each pan and immediately cover it. Turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the beans for 15 to 20 minutes, checking them often for burning and adding a little water if necessary. You want the beans very tender.

As the beans cook, make the gremolata. Put the garlic and 1/3 cup water in a coffee mug and microwave 1 minute, or simmer in a small saucepan to 1 to 2 minutes (this mellows the garlic just a little). Then, in a food processor, mince together the garlic (with its liquid), lemon zest, and parsley. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.

When the beans are tender, uncover them, cook off any liquid in the pan, and turn them into a serving bowl. Toss the beans with the gremolata and the grated cheese.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All Hallows Risotto

Dear Mouse,

Happy (Belated) New Year!

Halloween 2011. Myself as an obscure character from Game of Thrones, and a bottle of The Kraken rum, which is the only thing to put in your mulled cider, and which coincidentally also makes an appearance in Game of Thrones (though I think they mean the actual kraken).

Anyone who knows me knows that in some circles, Hallowe'en is seen as a New Year's Eve of sorts, and that's the way we do it Chez Boo. The season changes, the sun recedes, the Dark Half of the year begins. Out with the old, in with the new. Winter is Coming. (Ok I'm done.)

For I think seven years now??? I've made the same dinner for you all: Chase's Vegetable Tian --for some unknown, completely unseasonal reason-- and, to make up for that, the sensational Pumpkin Raviolis from Russo's on the Lower East Side. Served up with melted butter, torn sage leaves, and toasted hazelnuts, they always seemed to be the perfect tribute to Fall.

"Halloweenies" (mini pigs-in-blankets) at Mr. and Mrs. Mighty Hunter's Party.
Pictured here for no reason at all except come on, that's hilarious.

This year, in the spirit of "in with the new", I went in a different direction. My lovely friend KG had just given me The New York Times Cookbook as a very belated birthday gift and it is full of gems. Mouse, I see your pumpkin bread (which I have now baked THREE times since your post) and I raise you:

Jamie Oliver's "Pumpkin, Sage, Chestnut, and Bacon Risotto". Yeah that's right.

This was my first risotto! and I'd like to report two things: One, it is NOT as difficult as you think it is at ALL. It's simple, just a bit labor-intensive. Two, that there is almost nothing more halloweeny than having to stand over a simmering cauldron, repeatedly pouring in cups of steaming broth and stirring, stirring, stirring. I tried to get in a good menacing cackle to go along with the whole scene but I was just too happy about making this.

A few tips: 1. You can use butternut squash in place of pumpkin. It's easier to find and tastes almost the same. 2. Dont bother with fresh chestnuts. 3. I cut the amount of butter in this recipe by half and it was still oh-so-rich and fabulous. I know it's unorthodox, but it happened. 4. I dont think you need the mascarpone, but it is nice. 5. Get your sister, if you have one, to share the labor of stirring. Your arms will thank you.

All photos in this post taken by Mr. Mighty Hunter, who didn't want me to include the one of the risotto but I did anyway.

Jamie Oliver's Pumpkin, Sage, Chestnut and Bacon Risotto

1 small sweet cooking pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, about 2 1/2 pounds
(Or just buy it cut up already.-The Boo)
Olive oil
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Sea salt and ground black pepper
12 slices bacon or pancetta
2 ounces shelled chestnuts (vacuum packed are fine)
15 fresh sage leaves
4 cups chicken stock or canned broth
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
5 small stalks celery, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
About 1 cup mascarpone, optional.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Halve pumpkin lengthwise, and remove seeds; rinse seeds, drain, and reserve. Cut pumpkin lengthwise into thick slices, and spread in a layer across a large baking sheet. (If using squash, cut into quarters.)Again, you could just buy in already cut up. Sprinkle pumpkin with olive oil, and set aside. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the coriander seeds until crushed. Sprinkle over pumpkin along with salt and pepper, and bake until soft, about 40 minutes.

2. Remove pumpkin from oven (leave oven on), and spread bacon over it. In a small bowl, combine reserved seeds, chestnuts, sage and salt and pepper to taste. Add tablespoon olive oil, and mix well. Sprinkle over pumpkin and bacon. Place back in oven until bacon is crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Remove pumpkin from oven. Scrape bacon, chestnuts, sage and pumpkin seeds onto a small plate; reserve. Finely chop about half the pumpkin. Chop other half so that it is slightly chunky; reserve.

4. Place chicken stock in a small pan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to very low to keep warm. Place a large saucepan over medium heat, and add tablespoon olive oil, shallots, celery and a pinch of salt. Stir, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, and add rice. Stir constantly until rice is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in wine until it is absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Begin adding broth to rice, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly. Allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding next; process will take about 20 minutes. When ready, rice will be soft with a slight bite. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Remove rice from heat. Add chopped pumpkin, and stir vigorously until mixed; fold in pumpkin chunks. Mix in butter and Parmesan. Place a lid over the saucepan, and let sit for 2 minutes. To serve, place a portion on each of 6 serving plates. Top each portion with crumbled bacon, and sprinkle with mixture of chestnuts, sage and pumpkin seeds. Add a dash more cheese. Garnish each plate with a dollop of mascarpone if desired, and serve immediately.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Long Overdue

Dear Boo,

I cannot believe how many times on this blog we have mentioned the unbelievably good pumpkin bread which is a staple of fall in our family, without giving the recipe. It's positively criminal.

I can't remember a time before this autumnal treat graced our Thanksgiving table, and how many countless years did we set off to school with loaf upon loaf wrapped in colorful cellophane and tied with a bow to be bestowed upon our teachers before the holidays? It's truly the perfect baked gift--it travels well, freezes well, and doubles or triples well. I brought six loaves of these, carrying them on the plane, through a day of sightseeing in DC, and in the car, to the very first Thanksgiving I spent with the Husband's (then, Boyfriend) family, winning me instant cred and a repeat invitation (now they're stuck with me, loaves or no. mmwwahahaha!)

This recipe comes from our beloved Aunt, an incredible baker and cook, of Arlene's Bakery soon-to-be-fame. And we're in luck! Since re-creating anything you grew up eating and loving, never quite works out as perfectly as you remember it, we can get the actual real deal from the source at our cousin's super exciting and unbelievably tasty new spot for a perfect sandwich or cookie, The Commons in Chelsea! More to come on this, for sure. I can't wait to plant myself at their adorable counter and eat my way through the menu. If you happened to stop by their Organicoa concession stand at the Hudson River Park this year, you've gotten a delicious taste of what we're in for at The Commons.
Also available at The Commons (though pictured here at home), are Arlene's Bakery's massive and perfect chocolate chip cookies. Get thee to The Commons.
You know what I'm talking about.

As our auntie pointed out recently, the beauty of this recipe is its simplicity. It's got few ingredients, and sure, it's sweet, but not overly so; rather, the pumpkin flavor itself is front and center, with just a hint of warmth and spice from the cinnamon. I would have to agree its virtually perfect on its own, with one exception. I happen to love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate, and in past years I have taken to adding a handful of chocolate chips to one of the loaves for a more decadent version which is often the first to be polished off. I also like adding some cranberries to one of the loaves for a tart little kick. I remember mom used to do this with cranberries and walnuts, but I'm not a huge nut fan so I just do the berries.

Here's how I see it:

cranberry loaf = to be eaten for breakfast
plain loaf = to be eaten with dinner
chocolate loaf= to be eaten for dessert

In my book, this bests over-rated pumpkin pie any day of the week. (I'm willing to go head-to-head on this in the comments. Bring it.)

Stay tuned for more news from The Commons in the coming weeks! Wanna go with me for lunch on opening day?

The Mouse

Pumpkin Bread
Courtesy Arlene's Bakery for The Commons

Makes 3 loaves

3-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3 cups sugar

1 cup oil (corn or vegetable)

2 cups pumpkin puree

2/3 cup water

4 eggs

Optional: chocolate chips, frozen cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°
Combine first 5 (dry) ingredients in a large bowl. Add last 4 (wet) ingredients and mix until smooth. Divide into 3 well greased & floured loaf pans (disposable aluminum foil ones work great, as do the paper loaf liners you can find at specialty baking stores). Mix in chocolate chips or cranberries to your liking. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*And if you've got leftover pumpkin puree after making this, here are some great ideas for how to use it (other than making some more loaves and bringing them to me.)