after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

mission: sprouts and fennel

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t says: g and I were in the mood for a veggie-centric dinner, so we were set on grilling up some fennel and Brussels sprouts … until it rained.  Damn!  No outdoor grilling for us …  To the broiler!!

    Because I'm trying to cook anise and Brussels sprouts at the same time, I have made up a pretty involved manner to broil something, and not just "broil for 20 minutes, and you're done".  That'd be too easy.  AND, it'd result in unevenly cooked food!  So this is how I do it ...

Because I’m trying to cook anise and Brussels sprouts at the same time, I have concocted a pretty involved manner of cookery involving broiling … but it’s not just “broil for 20 minutes, and you’re done”. That’d be too easy. AND, it’d result in unevenly cooked food! So this is how I choose to do it …

0)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1)  Arrange halved sprouts in the center of a lipped baking pan, as above, such that all of the sprouts (~30 Brussels sprouts, therefore ~60 halves) have their cut side facing up.  Place the layers of fennel bulb (~2 bulbs worth) on the extreme right and extreme left of the pan, and arrange them such that they all curve upwards.  Drizzle with olive oil and aggressively season with salt and pepper.

2)  When ready, change the oven over to the “BROIL” setting, and get ready to start cooking with the oven door propped slightly open.  Now it’s time rock and roll: the cookery is a 4-step process …
2a)  Place baking sheet on oven rack ~6″ from the heating element, all the way to the left.  In a normal sized oven, this will place the right-most Brussels sprouts directly under the heating element, while the left-most fennel will be all by their loansome, barely getting any love/heat.  Continue until the sprouts right underneath the heating element are golden brown (~5-7 minutes).
2b)  Move the baking sheet all the way to the right.  Now the left-most sprouts will be directly under the heating element, while the right-most fennel (which has also been nicely browned) will be cooling off way away from the heating element.  Continue until the sprouts right underneat the heating element are golden brown (~5-7 minutes).
2c)  By now, all the sprouts are beautifully browned, but as usual for broiling, they are not yet cooked completely (you can try one to see how it is, and unless you got some really small sprouts, they’re probably very raw-crunchy (as opposed to cooked-crispy).  Thus, remove the baking pan from the oven and flip all of the sprouts over, so now the cut side is facing down.  Repeat steps 2a and 2b in an effort to brown this side of the Brussels sprouts.  When you are done, this is what you’re left with!

Voila!  Beautiful fennel.  And almost-copmpletely done sprouts!

Voila! Beautiful fennel. And almost-completely done sprouts!

3)  Remove the fennel and arrange on a plate in a dramatic fashion … like this:


Sure is pretty!

4)  Now, the sprouts have one problem left … when you turned them upside down to broil their undersides, the beautifully browned cut sides are now a little mushy!!  Boooooo!  Having crispy leaves is the best part!!  So now what you do is turn them all back over … stick them back under the broiler for a few minutes … and when you see that they’re getting to an almost-but-not-quite-burnt state, you take ’em out … and, of course, arrange them nicely on a plate:


Brussels sprouts can handle this amount of char – they taste awesome this way!

And there we go – roasted fennel and a broiled Brussels sprouts!  It seems like I’m nit-picky [and I am!] but it’s worth it!


Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 May 2014 at 9:30pm

bw > tk

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t says: Our newest castmember, bw, has been showing off quite a baking repertoire over the past 6 or so months.  But this time … he made a dish especially for me.  Ok, that’s totally not true, but it might as well have been – look at it:


bacon cheddar scones!

Ok … so … I don’t want to offend bw with this next statement, but I have to say it: it reminds me of a McDonald’s bacon egg and cheese biscuit.  Well – but it’s better!  It doesn’t have that mouth-coating-grease sensation, but packs a wollop of bacon and cheddar in a nice airy scone (and I didn’t even get ’em straight from the oven!).  Now I know what you’re thinking: “t … you like everything with bacon … so this isn’t fair”.    I figured you’d say that … so I brought out the one pig-eating person who doesn’t feel that bacon automatically increases deliciousness: g.  g ate hers in 60 seconds flat.  Afterwards she proclaimed, “wow – this is way better than at Bouchon Bakery”.

WHOA.  Hey there now.  Did she just go there?  Did bw just take down Thomas Keller?  Yea he did.

After her comment, I brought her attention to the truth: bw actually used the recipe from Bouchon Bakery cookbook (probably reproduced accurately here)!  So … bw versus full-time paid professionals … and bw for the win!  We tried to figure out how/why this could happen.  g suspected that it was due to the larger bacon pieces and larger size of the scone, allowing it to have more substance in the center.  I feel that bw’s was seasoned more aggressively, with brighter chives.  Well, whatever it was, we give him an A+!  And … because [according to TK] “you really only begin to learn the second time you prepare a dish” … we eagerly await the second time … although not too soon: my cholesterol levels are still recuperating from the 2.5 I ate this time …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 January 2013 at 3:46pm

Our Philly Diner en Blanc Primer

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t says:  Ah yes.  Diner en Blanc.  Pictures are everywhere.  We have some, too, but a lot of them have our mugs on ’em, so we’re not going to be able to show those off.  Instead, we’re going to treat this kind of like a “how g-&-t-&-a-&-v do Diner en Blanc”.  Hopefully this post will be helpful for our planning next year …

g and I easily sourced our table and chairs, but we had to decide what was going to go on the tabletop.  There were so many options of glasses and utensils that we needed to visualize it.  Fortunately, Dr. Moody (a gift from lc) was ready-willing-and-able to help out:

Dr. Moody lends a helping hand by modeling different dinnerwares …

Eventually, we did decide on our tabletop selections, and everything looked pretty darn spiffy:

our tabletop!

The ONLY regret we had was that our selections were damn-heavy.  The glasses: real glass.  The dishes: real porcelain (and there were two!).  The silverware: real metal.   That bottle our water was in: real glass.  g and I are not World’s-Strongest-Man material – we can say that by the time we got to the site, we were quite pooped.  And we can only imagine what a was going through, as his table was even heavier than ours!  Of course, part of why we were pooped was due to stupid-as-crap route they took us to go from 30th street to Logan Square, but that’s another rant …  (“To the Main Line!”)

The official g & t mascots of Diner en Blanc … hiding under the shrubbery … we should have won “best table” for them alone … nevermind the edited, classy display of properly placed utensils, a single vase, a single candle, real steak knives, antique cheese spreader-thingees, big wine glasses …

The four of us also brought our own home-made food.  There were others who did the take-out thing with some classy-looking foods (table next to us had some sliders, I saw some Italian take-out elsewhere).  I saw there were a lot of people there trying to be “unique” by bringing sushi, but that ultimately ended up being as “unique” as getting a butterfly tramp stamp <re-read this sentence and play the effect at for full effect>.  Ultimately, v and g took it upon themselves to craft a meal that was built especially for DeB.  The food needed to be able to be served at room/outdoor temperature.  It needed to be transportable.  It needed to be light.  It needed to be filling.  It needed minimal number of components (i.e. minimal number of gladware).  It needed to lack any sauces that would dribble everywhere or leak in our picnic basket.  It needed to be pair-able with wine.  It needed to be shareable in case we got friendly with neighbors.  It needed to be eaten with fork and knife (after all, this is a classy event …)  This is what they came up with …

quinoa salad

v made a quinoa salad and it was scrumptious.  v said that it was based on a recipe she found here – except no gouda and a different vinegar; it turned out to be a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.  We paired it with a rose that a picked out from the PLCB and we were in heaven (seriously, this may have been the best rose I’ve had all year … it’s been such a tough year of roses for me – nothing like a legit Bandol to really show the world how to do a proper rose).  I could not think of a more fitting start to an outdoor summer meal.

“g surprise”

g whipped up a pasta dish inspired by something her mom crafted the other day.  The main idea was pasta and cheese and chorizo and wilted spinach and multi-colored bell peppers for some crunch.  g’s still got it!  And, of course, we microplaned some more cheese at the table.  For this course, a pulled out a delightful red he found at Moore Bros.  I was worried at first that it was going to overtake the summery pasta, but the tango was pleasant (there was a good amount of cheese in the pasta, so there was some richness and flavors in there to compete with the red).  The pairing probably wasn’t “perfect”, but of course a also had no idea what was going to be in the pasta, either (we literally called it “g surprise” when we made up the sample menu).

cheese plate

For the cheese plate, we had some Pecorino Fulvi, a triple creme goat/cow blend from GTC, and garrotxa.  This was accompanied by garlic dulce de leche (not pictured), some pistachios, prosciutto, and fig.  It was a very interesting assortment of mild cheeses – fun to mix-and-match with accompaniments and wine.  By now, we moved on to Erath “Le Jour Magique” White Pinot Noir … it rocked my socks again.

dessert …

We finished with an apple tart that v made (recipe here).  It was beautiful (and somehow we managed to transport it still intact).  I topped it with some crushed heath bar, and we would have had some diced cherries had I not forgotten them at home (my one actual regret!)  Nevertheless, the tart was bold enough to stand on its own, proudly proclaiming its appleness and showing off a crust that kept me coming back for more.  The dessert, combined with a Vouvray bubbly (NV Francois Pinon Brut, of NYT fame) was a solid outdoor sparking wine (not that I could drink the bubbly … but I’m told!).  I heard so many positive things that I bought another bottle!

In all, DeB was a great time.  We liked our food choices.  We liked our wine choices.  The “lows” of the evening were probably the lugging of our stuff to Logan Circle/Square and trying to manage a cracked cork without spilling red wine everywhere (I hope a’s official DeB attire is ok!).  The people around us were nice enough.  Fun was had by all.  Can’t wait for next year!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

31 August 2012 at 12:39am

a serious tofu post

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t says:  I like tofu.  I don’t like it because of some health-related reason (i.e. it will never replace meat in my book).  And I certainly don’t like it because eating it is sometimes hip/cool/fashionable.  But sometimes, I just need a little tofu in my life.  g doesn’t like it.  sr doesn’t like it (he points out that it sounds remarkably like “dogfood”).  lc, despite being tricked into eating it, doesn’t like it.  But man-o-man, put it in a good kimchi jige and I’m a happy guy.

The thing is, what do you do with tofu that’s nearing the expiration date but hasn’t yet been used?  My mom likes to make something that she calls “tofu steaks”.  Don’t be misled by the name – there’s no meat in it.  Actually – I’m confused because as far as I can tell, at no point does the cooking process resemble that which one could use to cook a steak.  Thus, I decided to find a recipe that does …

The one I settled on was this one.  It’s pretty simple and has some nice pictures.  I followed it and got the same result:

fried tofu

The golden crust was sweet and crunchy.  The consistency was kind of like a scrambled egg (it wasn’t just watery mush).  And as for taste, it was probably some of the best unadulterated (i.e. un-sauced) tofu I’ve ever had.  I don’t know if it was the olive oil, the salt, the pepper, or the crushed red pepper flakes I added, but I’d buy some tofu and try it again just to make sure it wasn’t some kind of mistake (maybe I was really hungry?).  I do need to note that I wasn’t eating all that tofu completely solo – I had it with some rice and bulgogi and kimchi.  g didn’t even try it it – she doesn’t know what she’s missing.  Oh well – maybe I’ll trick her into it next time!  Or maybe I’ll try this!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 March 2012 at 10:02pm

cm gives up the family cranberries

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t says:  I made cm an offer he couldn’t refuse.  Here is his family’s cranberry sauce recipe from our recent Thanksgiving get-together.  But now we owe him g’s mom’s lasagna recipe …

Separately, rumor has it that a is a cranberry sauce connooissieur with a secret recipe of his own … guess I’ll have to evaluate it at our upcoming holiday party?  It’s on like Donkey Kong.

__ 12 oz bag of cranberries
__ 1/3 c H20 (we had apple cider so used instead and used less sugar)
__ 2/3 c sugar (most recipes will call for 1-2 cups)
__ zest and juice of one orange
__ 2 cinnamon sticks
__ splash of orange liqueur


0)  Combine berries, water, sugar in a pot and bring to a boil.

1)  Add zest/juice/cinnamon and simmer until all cranberries have popped.  You can simmer as long as you want – the longer you boil the thicker it will get.

2)  Splash the liqueur in a few minutes before it is done.

cm says:  Also sometimes i throw in random other stuff like vanilla to mellow it out a bit (or the apple cider as noted above).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 November 2011 at 8:35pm

Turkey Meatballs

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g says: Homemade meatballs are my thing. They are one of my favorites to make for friends, and I think I like eating them more than any other meat dish. Growing up (and still now) everyone in my parents’ house — especially dad– would hover around the kitchen as mom neared completion of her meatballs, for we all knew that we were in for a special treat to snack on. As soon as those balls hit the pot of tomato gravy and mom turned her back, they were up for grabs — and you needed to be ready to pounce, bread in hand to soak up your extra sauce, or else. I am still tickled by this ritual, and am glad that it has caught on in our home (t loves to be the meatball taste-tester).

I learned the age-old technique of mixing together foods that are potentially hazardous when raw, but taste like heaven when properly combined and cooked, from my mom (who, despite her protests, is indeed a great Italian cook). There is nothing more satisfying than being able to use my hands to mix together a multitude of textures in a bowl, sniff the mixture every now and then to make sure all ingredients are in proper ratio, and have results I can be proud of, every time. I am sure there are some secrets to great meatballs — some say a teaspoon of sugar, some swear by their brand of bread crumbs (I do) — but I think it’s all about the proportion in which the ingredients are combined to achieve the salty, cheesy, peppery, fresh  scent of a good meatball mix (can’t really say taste, as raw meats and eggs are involved, so it’s all up to the nose). And I have quite the schnoz, thanks to my dad and gran, two of the greatest smellers of our time, who have passed the talent on to me. You can ask t — my nose knows.

On Friday, we are planning to host a godfather party — friends will gather at our apartment to feast on spaghetti and meatballs, biscotti, maybe some cannoli, and watch The Godfather. It should make for a great time, and as the token Italian of our group of friends, I am of course in charge of preparing the meatballs. The only catch is, not all of our guests eat red meat. So, I decided to get creative with my traditional meatball recipe (which is an adaptation combining both mom’s and aunt beabea’s recipes). Today I tried using ground turkey in lieu of beef, and added some ricotta cheese for smoothness after tasting some veal ricotta meatballs at craftbar in nyc. The results were truly delectable, and I may have to add this recipe to my personal repertoire permanently.

I’ll turn it over to t, as he insists on formatting the recipes his way.

t says: Here’s the recipe.  It tastes better every time g makes it …


__ 3 lbs ground turkey (85% lean)
__ 1 egg
__ ~1 c Progresso brand “Italian Style” bread crumbs (but you may need more because it’s a texture thing)
__ 0.75 c grated cheese (Kraft brand Parmesan and Romano mix)
__ 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
__ 1 large yellow onion, diced
__ 0.5 c part-skim ricotta cheese (you could use whole milk as well)
__ a few tsp each of of salt, pepper, and olive oil


0)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1)  All of the following mixing must be done by hand (it’s easier and more fun than using utensils).  In a bowl, mix together turkey, onion, and egg.  Then add breadcrumbs and combine until mixture is workable and not too sticky.  Add parsley and grated cheese and mix.

2)  Smell the mixture to get an idea of how much salt and pepper to add (it’ll “smell” right).  Ballpark estimate: ~ 2 tsp each.  Add the salt and pepper and re-smell to check.  If this is your first time letting your nose guide your meatballs, smell the mixture, add only 1 tsp of each to start, and smell it again (to see the difference); there will be a chance to add more seasoning in step 3.  Add the ricotta and mix until smooth and homogeneous in appearance.

3)  Make a small test meatball (~1″ in diameter) and cook it fully in a frying pan with some olive oil.  Taste it to check seasoning and consistency.  Decide on whether it needs more salt, pepper, cheese, or breadcrumbs.  Smell the mixture before and after adding ingredients (start to build up a library of smells).  If adding salt, combine thoroughly because, depending on the size of the grains of salt, it might take a few minute to dissolve.  Re-test another sample meatball and tinker with your recipe until you are satisfied.  Make a mental note of what the mixture smelled like right before you cooked that perfect meatball.

4)  Line a baking pan that has a lip (to prevent spills) with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup).  Rub the pan with olive oil.  Roll meat mixture into balls (we prefer ~1″ for hors d’oeuvres, 2″ for pasta, 2.5+” for sandwiches) and place on pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until underside is moderately browned, and flip.  Bake for another 20+ minutes, until meatballs are cooked through (bigger meatballs will take longer).  This may require rolling them periodically to prevent burning the side contacting the pan.

5)  Remove from oven, and cool.  Put into sauce/gravy, and lightly simmer for at least a half hour so that the meat flavors will infuse into the liquid.  Serve with your favorite pasta shape.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2010 at 12:07am