I love to travel - I really do - and not in the sense of "I love going to see new places and new things". I love travel in the sense that I actually enjoy sitting in cars and airplanes undisturbed in my own little world of excitement. I know: insanity you say. But it's true, and I haven't met many people who would say the same thing. There was even once an extended argument that occurred with a hardly memorable ex-boyfriend about how anyone could possibly enjoy air travel for something other than the sake of Where They Are Going To. Was there something wrong with me, the hardly memorable He wondered? What could I say?
Since I was very young, it was what my father and I did together. Our traditions always involved car trips: small mining towns in Arizona, beautiful desert mountains and, every once and a while, a trip out to nowhere. There was an undefinable "cool" factor in it for me - we were escaping the boundaries of what held everyone else down. I have always felt that traveling people are people who are headed somewhere, in a way that means more than their physical destination. As I grew up and found myself struggling through embroiled teen angst years, my car (a 95' Thunderbird) was my escape. In it I would go, and away my troubles I would leave. When I moved out of my parent's house and picked up a rescue dog, Tori, there were two of us in it together: lonely, bored, and in need of late night adventure that didn't involve booze. Out onto the Phoenix freeways we drove. I would dream of missing my exit and ending up in California, though I am sure Tori merely enjoyed the warm desert air. When I moved to New Haven and the loneliness seemed to overwhelm me once more, my $300 car and I would hit I95, north, south, and back again, 91 towards Hartford and turned around towards the coast. Movement was escape, freedom and excitement.
From my young moments and on, I have enjoyed the sensation of being oriented in a known direction, headed so quickly towards it. Regardless of the path, even sometimes regardless of the destination, I like feeling that I'm going somewhere. Nowadays, I'm not lonely anymore, but I still savor the feeling of motion. The best part about going to Toronto for a week? Coming home - traveling towards something truly worthwhile.
(Thanks for the 'Future Mrs. Sirianni' sweatshirt, Leslie! Greg is scrubbing a salad spinner - what more could I ask for? What a guy : ) )
Philosophical reflections aside, I think I could have been spared Friday Night's travesty of a flight from Toronto to New York. I warned you that something unexpected would happen, and it did, this time in the form of an 8 hour delay spent sitting next to the two most obnoxious and morally offensive women I have ever had the unfortunate opportunity to be within earshot of. I left my hotel room at 12pm and sat in the tiny airplane at Pierson International from 4pm to 12am. I was finally dropped off at my front door by the airport shuttle at 3am on Saturday. It was excitin', let me tell you (what the hell does "your captain has been 'detained'" mean anyway?): having the wings ice over, the fuel run out, the crew leave, the flight canceled, a funny smoke fill the cabin room, being given customs forms to re-enter Canada, and oh, so many other things I honestly can't even remember. I even stood up to One Of The Obnoxious Women and gave her a piece of my mind. It was that bad. By the time we took off I was more than ready to be home.
Other than my desire to form an I Hate Air Canada Slash United Club, Toronto was great. I spent most of my time doing things for work, though I did get to wander around the city in the evenings. I ate at an absolutely wonderful French Bistro on Tuesday night, a place where the waiter was friendly and sat me in the best seat with a garden view. I ate my perfectly prepared meal while I watched the snow delicately flutter onto a fountain. It felt like I was in a snowglobe: I was Mrs. Snowman eating seared scallops in some sort of wine butter concoction that I feel like I'll never be able to recreate. Once I got back, of course, I went straight to the grocery store and picked up all sorts of ingredients to prepare for a week of cooking. I present to you tonight a trio interesting recipes, a Threefer if you will.
On Sunday night we had our upstairs tenants (Travis and Kristen, also our friends) down for a meal: Fried Gnocchi with Sundried Tomato and Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce and Chocolate Minks with Coffee Ice Cream for desert. I am a little proud of the roasted pepper cream recipe in all honesty - it was really, really good. The sundried tomatoes and roasted red peppers brought a rich, hearty sweetness that was complemented by zesty tomatoes. Cream rounded together the flavors, giving the sauce a smooth flavor that took a while to develop in your mouth. To add that necessary punch to each first bite, the gnocchi were fried in a tiny bit of butter with plenty of red pepper and salt. All and all, it created a perfectly palette-filling flavor. For desert, I found a recipe in Gourmet that was truly drool worthy. Called "Chocolate Mink", it is a flourless chocolate cake (AKA Amazing Gooey Pudding) served alongside melting coffee ice cream. It made Greg speechless (Unless, "uhhhhhhhhhhhh" counts as speech) and me contemplate licking my plate clean. If I had to live on one dessert alone, this would be the one.
As a balance to last night's indulgences, I toned down the flavors for tonight's dinner: Ginger Spiced Carrot and Bulgar Wheat Stew. I broke in the brand new (in the right color) Le Crueset! Wow. That dutch oven can cook. Thanks again to the Boy That Is Perfect, for getting me such a great holiday gift. I slowly simmered a mayan onion with 2 pounds of carrots, an entire head of garlic, one cup of red wine, a little brown sugar, ginger and schwarma spice. I served this stew with leftover spicey gnocchi on top, and although my original intention was simply to use up what was in the fridge - the spicey flavor and crispy texture of the gnocchi were a nice complement to the sweet and slow-cooked stew. I think it would be just as good to boost the spice value of this soup with extra red pepper or some cayanne alongside additional schwarma spice. I also would have upped the bulgar wheat if I had more on hand (I only had 1/2 cup. I bet 1 cup would be perfect).
It's great to be home. Enjoy!
Sundried Tomato and Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce with Fried Gnocchi
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 16 oz jar sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, roughly chopped
1/2 8 oz jar fire roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup light cream
1.5 lb store bought gnocchi
3-4 tbsp butter (to coat bottom of pan)
1-3 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
Salt and white pepper to taste
Freshly grated Romano cheese
- Add 1 tbsp oil from the sundried tomatoes to a saute pan, bringing to medium heat. Saute the shallot until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add chopped sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, tomato paste, lemon juice and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a slow simmer and allow sauce to cook for 10-15 minutes (until flavors mellow)
- Puree sauce in a food processor until smooth, adding salt and white pepper to taste. Stir in light cream and set aside
- Start butter heating in clean saute pan with red pepper flakes. Fry gnocchi, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, so that the gnocchi are crispy and golden.
- Serve dishes with sauce, gnocchi and freshly grated Romano cheese
Chocolate Minks with Coffee Ice Cream
From Gourmet Magazine
4 tbsp unsalted butter
7 oz bittersweet chocolate (no more than 70% cocoa)*
2 eggs, separated
2 tbsp sugar
Coffee Ice Cream
Cocoa powder for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble double boiler: place a metal bowl on top of a saucepan with simmering water. Add butter and chocolate and melt slowly (be careful not to overcook - the chocolate can separate). Take chocolate off the double boiler and cool for 5 minutes, whisking occasioanlly
- Meanwhile, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Add sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks.
- Stir egg yolks and pinch of salt into now-cooled chocolate. Fold in 1/4 egg whites to distribute. Fold in remaining egg whites
- Divide chocolate into four oven-proof ramekins. Cover in tightly cripped silver foil and place in a deep baking pan. Add boiling water to halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 30 minutes (the center will still be wobbly). Cool slightly and then unmold onto ice cream, with cocoa powder to garnish
**Chocolate minks may be prepared ahead of time and either dipped in hot water to unmold or heated until warm and gooey again
Ginger Spiced Carrot and Bulgar Wheat Stew
Serves 2-4, depending on the portions
4 tbsp light olive oil
1 mayan onion, diced
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 head of garlic, crushed with the back of a knife and roughly chopped
2 lb carrots, sliced on the diagonal (1/4")
1/2 cup bulgar wheat (or more if desired)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp schwarma spice (available at specialty grocery stores)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp tumeric
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Heat oil to medium-high in a dutch oven. Add onion with sugar and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until color starts to develop on the onions
- Add garlic, carrots, bulgar wheat and tomato paste with two cups water. Cook, covered on high heat, for 45 minutes
- Remove cover and add red wine with the spices (ginger, schwarma, red pepper flakes, tumeric, salt and pepper). Cook for an addition 10-15 minutes, uncovered, or until stew reaches desired consistancy
- Serve with freshly chopped flat leaf parsley over desired carbohydrate*