September 30, 2004

everyone should have a good bakery just around the corner

In the late August we rediscovered a good local bakery. We had known it from before, had even bought their bread (mostly focaccia) now and then, but never really tried to actually go to the bakery; we would just buy from local natural food stores that carry some of their bread.

Before we found their bread, I would rarely buy bread from local supermarket. I don't eat bread every day, and when I do, I would want to have ones I really like - not cheap ones heavily loaded with preservatives, but more natural ones, preferably hard, dense bread for sandwiches and buttery sweet pastries.

It was at the farmer's market that we first discovered that our favorite bread maker was offering a bunch of different kinds of bread, not just focaccia. From their "branch" stand in the market, we bought a Jalapeno Cheddar loaf which we ate with spicy goat cheese from a local cheese maker. Both bread and cheese were really spicy and we both liked them a lot.

Our new favorite bakery, O'Keefe and Sons, has a satisfyingly large lineup of various bread and rolls, baked according to their monthly schedule, and a selection of pastries and ready-to-go sandwiches. When we first went to the shop, there were a flow of regulars coming in, getting bread of their choice, and leaving. That day we bought an Apple Sourdough, as well as a cream cheese Danish pastry and a small cinnamon pull-apart, or what I prefer to call monkey bread.

The monkey bread was extremely buttery and cinnamony - almost like a doughnut. mmmmm, yummmmy.

And I liked the Apple Sourdough, too. I cut it in thin slices, lightly toasted, and spread just a bit of Hawaiian white honey - I don't usually have honey other than in cooking/baking, but it has a very delicate flavor and went really well with the apple-cinnamon loaf.

We have since kept going back to the bakery, most often on Saturday. He eats more bread than I do (he eats sandwiches a lot), so tends to choose nice, hearty loaves for his lunches. On another day he got a Pumpkin Seeds Rye, with which he made a triple-decker loaded with turkey ham, cheese and onion slices.

I, on the other hand, seem to have a tendency to lean toward sweeter kinds. Once I got a heart-shaped Chocolate Sour Cherry loaf.

Well, it wasn't overly sweet, so I treated myself with an ice cream "sandwich", by filling slices of the bread with cherry vanilla ice cream.

There was one kind that we both anticipated to have from the very first day we walked into the bakery; Coconut Sweet Bread. It sounded like a really luscious, decadent bread. And a chance came on one day, we by chance went to the shop on a day that they were baking the bread. We got one loaf ourselves, and had one piece at a table right outside of the bakery. It was a loaf consisting of several sweet rolls, really fluffy and noticeably coconuty. We got a tip from a lady at the shop that the bread would make fantastic french toasts, so We did try that.

I might have made a mistake though, in making the french toast using cream, I figured. The bread was already pretty rich and creamy, and the addition of cream was just too much. He was nice enough to give me a rave, I liked it plain better, to be frank.

Overall we liked all the bread we got from the bakery, although there were a few mediocres. Their Challah, for example, turned out a bit too dry and bland, I thought. It might have been just the way any challah should be, and after all, I don't particularly fancy those brioche-y bread.

That said, their Chili Brioche was pretty good, in fact; the lightly sweet, cakelike bread subtly seasoned with chili pepper and charmed with small green chili pieces had a rather addictive taste... they offered this one as a sampler at the store, and we got one loaf after we sampled a couple of pieces. Samplers do work sometimes, don't they?

Well, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I don't eat too much of bread. Sometimes I can't manage to eat bread while it is good, and in such cases I would put the leftover in the freezer. I just made some decadent dessert out of one of such bread: chocolate-sour cherry bread pudding.

My friend Joyce was making this treat before, using La Brea Bakery's Chocolate-Sour Cherry bread. I wasn't sure if my local bakery bakes this kind as good as La Brea, but I wanted to try it out anyways.

I used this recipe, but since I was horrified with the number of egg yolks used (eight!!!), I halved everything - I wanted to make it even smaller, but I don't own an oven-safe baking dish smaller than an 8-incher.

Today I used Scharffen Berger's unsweetened baking chocolate. I'd reduce the amount of sugar almost always when using an American recipe, but this time I used the exact same as specified in the recipe, since I thought it should make up for the unsweetened chocolate instead of bittersweet.

The recipe tells us to make sure that the bread pieces should completely soak the pudding liquid, and so I tried. It still looked like there was too much liquid.

After the 35-minute baking, however, it turned out that I hadn't done a very good job. When I pressed a knife into the still warm pudding, I found that the pudding mixture hadn't been absorbed in some parts of bread.

Oh well, that's that, and the pudding tasted so good I wouldn't complain much. It was unarguably very chocolaty, and the way it was bitter and sweet was just right for me. The texture of cream was so light it was almost like mousse (it was by no means "light" dessert, though, with all that much of egg yolks, cream, and chocolate). I would have liked it even better if the bread had more cherries (I couldn't taste much of cherry), but other than that, it was a great way to use bread in dessert.

Good bread obviously makes good dessert - well, only when you can't handle it all while fresh. Now the problem is, when I was suffering from the lack of sources of good bread, I managed to bring myself to bake some bread myself, and though I had been pretty bad in bread making, I was beginning to be a little more successful. But now that I can buy good bread just around the corner, why should I bother?? (Maybe I should, because I still have a lot of yeast left...)

beer like champagne

Wednesday, September 29

We opened some Belgian lambic (spontaneously fermented beers) as we watch the sky and clouds changing the color this evening.

Lindemans' raspberry lambic had a lovely, deep purplish red color with creamy, thick form of the same shade on top. Very very fruity, it tasted definitely like an ale but also somehow winelike... and they look pretty, too.

Well we liked the peach one even better. (Cherry was fine, too, but not as exciting as the other two.) They sure make great aperitif.

September 29, 2004

moon-viewing dumplings without the moon

Tuesday, September 28

For the Mid-Autumn Festival, they have mooncakes in the Chinese culture. In Japan, they traditionally often have tsukimi dango, or red bean paste-filled rice dumplings for viewing the moon.

To tell you the truth, I don't like those dango, because I just don't like red bean paste. So it might have been strange that I suddenly felt like making some dango myself, but I actually made dango filled with black sesame. That is whole another thing.

A week ago or so I came across this recipe (in Japanese) for black sesame dumplings in lime syrup, a dessert served at a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo (which I have never been to). I was instantly tempted to try to make them, but I didn't have sweet rice flour at hand, and came to forget about it until recently when I saw pictures of tsukimi-dango all over in blogs from Japan. So I decided to take this opportunity to go buy sweet rice flour and make some dango.

First I made the black sesame filling by mixing black sesame paste, sugar, and butter. I also added a pinch of salt to enhance the sweetness. It was just a matter of mixing everything together well, and after a few minutes I put the bowl of paste in the freezer to harden the filling so that it would be easier to divide and make into balls.

Meanwhile I prepared the syrup and the dumpling dough. Everything went fine and here came the fun part - filling dumplings. I am such a poorly skilled cook when it comes to filling/stuffing things, unfortunately. Well I managed to make them into individual balls of irregular shapes, trying to make sure the filling is completely covered, and cooked them in nearly-boiling water.

The recipe suggested that we should have the dessert while the dumplings are warm and the filling inside is melted (well, the dumpling dough will harden as it cools, so it is better eaten warm anyways). I finished the syrup for which I made some changes in the recipe to my taste, by replacing half the water with sparkling wine and adding a lot more lime juice (the amount of lime juice specified in the recipe seemed to me just way too little - 2g of lime juice in 100g of water, what is that??). I assembled the dumpling and syrup topped with a half-moon slice of a lime (I should have left the slices as a full moon for the full-moon watching, shouldn't I?) in the glasses. Here we go.

The dumplings were extremely good, or so I thought. Both black sesame and lime have always been my favorite ingredients for dessert, but I never paired the two. It turned out that the rich, dense taste of black sesame paste is contrasted by tart lime juice, putting some zing in the glass. Sparkling wine added a nice, subtle touch to it, too. I like plain black sesame dumplings, but this a little sophisticated version sure made a lovely treat.

The glasses are my aunt's souvenirs from Okinawa. Each of the pair of hand-crafted glasses came with a coaster and a small figure of Shiisa, or a lion-dog symbol of Okinawa, both in the color matching to the glass.

By the way, the moon-viewing in the evening was hopeless over here - it was rainy as always. But when I woke up in the middle of the night, at around 3 o'clock, the rain had stopped and the moon was ever so shiny, even through the thick clouds.

I wish I had been able to take a better shot, but oh well.

September 27, 2004

in the mood for white pizza?

Sunday, September 26

I don't know how come I have been eating so much pizzzzzzzza lately (well I do know, sadly). This is a piece of pizza from Cafe Pesto, the most well-known and touristy Hawaiian-Italian restaurant in town, where we dined last night. I ordered Ahi gumbo (in which I couldn't spot ahi, but it was tasty most importantly) and a 9" pizza with my choice of toppings; I asked crab and Maui sweet onion, without pizza sauce, hence making Pizza Bianca, or white pizza. Back in the day when I was working for a Tokyo Italian restaurant and making pizza there, I always liked pizza bianca with mozzarella and pecorino, topped with a bit of anchovy fillet or prosciutto di Parma, circumstances permitting. Crab-onion white pizza turned out delicious, too, especially seasoned with Hawaiian red sea salt. Yum.

September 26, 2004

mint-fresh surprise

Friday, September 24

Today I had light lunch and was starving by the late afternoon. I looked into the fredge to look for something to cook with, and found a bagful of small ugly (but tasty) carrots from farmer's market and just a bit of mint left from making the mint-infused panna cotta the other day. Carrots and mint, hmmm, I thought of something; carrot and mint soup.

When I first saw the story and recipe about it on Clotilde's blog, my initial reaction was ambivalent; I like carrot soup, but I don't really like mint in cooking.

But somehow the soup always stayed somewhere in my mind, and since it was one of those rare occasions in which I do have mint in my fredge (I don't buy them much), I brought myself to try it out.

First I sauted onion and garlic in a casserole, and while cooking it I peeled and chopped a lot of carrots (they were so small I neede a lot of them, you know). I also added a stalk of celery, beceause I like the onion-carrot-celery trio in soups. Then I threw in a few springs of mint - leaves detached. I for a moment had a thought flash through my mind that I should use thyme or parsley instead of mint - but resisted. Good job.

After having the soupe pureed in a blender, the soup got a little too smooth to my taste - I would have liked it chunkier better. But I found the soup really lovely, to my surprise - the smell of mint was faint enough not to annoy me, and fresh leaves added only at the very last moment, right before eating the soup, gave a nice, sweet scent to the rustic soup.

Thanks Clotilde for a nice recipe, and for making my posts - two in a row!

September 25, 2004

cookies, compared

Thursday, September 23

I am fortunate to have some friends who have shared tempting food and cooking ingredients that are hard to find on this island with me, and the other day I had some fleur de sel, fine sea salt, of not just one but three different origins (Camargue, Guerande, both in France, and Portugal). Among a neverending list of things to use the precious salt for that I had had in my mind, I particularly wanted to try lemon and fleur de sel sable cookies.

It was a while ago that I read Clotilde's post with recipe on sables au citron a la fleur de sel, it instantly became one of my most-anticipated items to try out. I love lemon, I love lemon cookies, and I have had a slightly salty lemon cookies before, so I knew this is going to be my favorite.

It has been quite a while since that time, and suring then I came across another recipe for lemon and seal salt sables in Amanda Hesser's book Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.).

The two recipes of lemon cookies were interestingly different from each other: while both are rich in butter and use lemon and sea salt, Clotilde's uses egg white on one hand and Amanda Hesser's uses egg yolks on the other; and the former uses ground almonds and lemon juice other than lemon zest, the latter doesn't. Also, Clotilde's finishes cookies with lemon icing, whereas the other decorate the sides of cookies with granulated sugar before baking. Furthermore, the flour used in Clotilde's recipe, while it isn't so specified, might be pastry flour and cookies for Mr. Latte are clearly made using all-purpose flour.

I had made up my mind to try both of the recipes, and it was now a matter of which one to try first; since I couldn't decide, I just made them both at one time - this way I could compare the two! To control factors that are not directly related to the difference in the ingredients between the two, I used butter, eggs, and sugar of the same brand in the same package, and also used Meyers lemon and fleur de sel de Camargue, for both of the recipes.
As Amanda Hesser says that the cookies need time to develop its flavor and thus taste better, I saved the cookies in a ziploc and stored them in a cupboard.

Okay, here comes the time to taste the two:

I started off with an Amanda Hesser's cookie, which was lemony (as she clearly mentioned) with just a hint of saltiness.

They were good cookies, although they felt a bit too dense, which might have been because of the flour (all-purpose flour tends to make baked stuff too dense) and the fact that I made them a wee bit too thick and baked them a little too long. Also I slightly reduced the sugar, but I could have reduced it further - they were pretty sweet to me. But they were fine.

However, the other cookies were just fabulous; light but just rightly moist, perhaps thanks to the ground almonds (I actually ground unblanched almonds at home, so the cookies have brown stains here and there - but that was minor).
The lemon icing boosted the lemony flavor of the already lemony cookies, and the subtle saltiness was perfect with it. I fell for them at once. (He apparently couldn't choose one from the two - they are both excellent, he said.)

Well, you might have noticed that on the plate in the picture above, there seem to be three kinds of cookies. And there were. I whipped up pistachio and orange cookies using whole, raw, unsalted pistachios that are also from the same friend of mine. That was a disaster, though. The cookies tasted good, with a plenty of freshly-ground pistachio paired with orange zest in the batter, but they didn't turn out how they were meant to be at all.

I am too embarrassed to indicate the recipe that I used here, but I might give it a revenge sometime and should it turn out successful, I will disclose the "hidden" recipe. Perhaps.

September 23, 2004

potatoes go drunk

Tuesday, September 21

Thanks to Donna in Harrisburg, the latest edition of IMBB has given me a lot of fun, not only the part of joining in, but the resulting good variety of recipes featuring wines and spirits (and beers and ales and alike). As someone who spends more alcohol in cooking than drinking straight, I was absorbed in looking and reading entries from other bloggers out there, and took a mental note to try some of them in the near future. Among them, somehow Renee's boozy potatoes particularly caught my attention.

Adopted from Eric Gower's book The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen: Inspired New Tastes (Kodansha International, 2003), the recipe tells you to overdose potatoes on sake (Japanese rice wine). It's not that I have never used alcohol in cooking potatoes, but I don't think I have ever cooked potatoes - only potatoes - using this much of alcohol. That seemed thrilling. I knew I had to give this a try.

But let's face it, I don't like sake. That's one of the last choices when it comes to choosing a drink. Admitted, I'd use some sake in cooking Japanese dishes in Japan, but as far as this particular dish is concerned (Renee says it was "truly very boozy"), I'd rather not use sake since I didn't think I would like potatoes smelling so much of sake. So I decided to use white wine instead. (The one with monkeys playing around in its label and looking up from on the top of the bottle.)

Today at the store, the only kind of potatoes (other than sweet potatoes/yams) were baking potatoes. I wasn't really sure what the baking potatoes are (don't they have some "real" name??) but I had no choice.

As soon as I started peeling first one of those small-medium potatoes, I noticed that they were kind of soft and guessed that they were going to get mushy when cooked. And they did. I didn't even boil them for 5 minnutes, but they looked like they're done.
I roughly followed the recipe (i.e. I didn't really measure oil or butter or soy sauce) except that I substituted white wine for sake. It was fun to see my potatoes drown in a pool of wine - being excited just how boozy they would become.

Probably because I was being pretty nervous trying not to mash potatoes as they cook, I couldn't quite have them browned nicely as seen in Renee's pictures. Well, they tasted fabulous none the less - not so boozy as I had expected, though. It was in fact hard to tell they were cooked in white wine, despite the nice aroma of something that you can't tell. When used in cooking, white wines tend to be softer in flavor than reds and certainly sake, so maybe that was why. They were pretty adictive, by the way; potatoes seasoned with butter and soy sauce has become a huge popular flavor in Japan, but with the adding of booze turned this to a nice snack for adults - I'll definitely be making this again (I might even try it with sake, just to see how it turns out...).

Another dish for dinner today: goya champuru, or stir fry bitter melon with tofu - one of Japan's favorite dishes originated in Okinawa. I usually make it using bitter melon, tofu and some source of protein (pork, tuna, egg, etc.) only, but today I threw in onions and carrots too (can't see much of it because of the pile of dried bonito I put on top), to complement the veggie-less dish (potatoes). I like bitter melons bitter, but they could be more than a handful for some people, for sure.

September 22, 2004

ugly luxury

Tuesday, September 21

Shiso used to be one of the hardest-to-find herbs (to me, at least) around here, until very recently when I found out that there is one merchant who's selling them (they're quickly gone, though). Shiso they carry look a bit different from the ones I'm used to see in Japan; fresh shiso leaves commonly seen in stores or in our backyards would be of bright green, while the ones I get here are more of purple. Either way, they smell and taste like shiso, so I've got nothing much to complain about.

They are typically sold in a large bagful, and sometime I just can't use them up while they are fresh... well, today I made pesto using shiso and that emptied the bag easily. That's sort of luxury for me, being able to splurge on something that I used to seek for just a while back!

They sure aren't as pretty as arugula pesto, specially when chopped into paste, but tastes good. Nice change to regular basil pesto.

September 19, 2004

(almost) champagne dinner: IMBB8

Sunday, September 19

It is time for another edition of Is My Blog Burning? (IMBB). I have been enjoying reading food bloggers' posts on past themes for this series of collective blogging event, and now it is its 8th edition and it is about time for me to actually joining in, not just reading - specially, if the theme is Lift your Spirits High!

Hosted by Donna in Harrisburg, the rule for this time around is to use wine or spirits as a central component of the recipe. Excellent idea, although raising one major problem; which one to choose? I seem to use wine and spirits a lot in cooking - red wine for boeuf bourguignon, white wine for beef in wine casserole, cider for porc au cidre, tequila & lime chicken, beef in Guinness, just to name a few (okay, cider and Guinness don't count as spirits).

Having too much to choose from, I have settled down with something that is a bit special and that I truly love: champagne. That said, I wasn't brave enough to use a nice bottle of real champagne in cooking, I actually used a bottle of Freixenet. Not a champagne, but still is a great sparkling wine.

I made "champagne" chicken casserole for this evening, based on a recipe from Trish Deseine's book mes petits plats preferes (2002, Marabout), one of my recent favorite and reliable recipe sources. The original recipe is called Poulet 8 a 8 (anyone knows why?) that is basically pot-roasted chicken with minced shallot in white wine. I have made this simple dish before using sparkling wine (really cheap kind) and it turned out okay, but this time I tried to enhance the flavor a bit more, by using a better wine and by adding in minced onion, leek, and celery (other than shallot) and mushroom quarters.

I sauted chicken thighs (half with bone and skin, half without) in olive oil and butter, added in the vegetable, seasoned it with sea salt (fleur de sel de Camargue this time) and pepper, and poured in Freixenet, and off it went to the oven. It can hardly be simpler.

It was smelling wonderful while cooking, and came out - looking not excactly gorgeous, but appetizing nevertheless.

And well, I didn't use real champagne in the cooking, but we did open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that we had luckily found on sale in one of our neighborhood store (I haven't been able to buy champagne much over here - somehow they're a lot cheaper in Japan). We enjoyed a glass with some Chambord Liqueur, a nice twist to this moderately dry champagne. Too bad we don't have nice champagne glasses, but that's that.

I served the chicken with a few drops of creme fraiche as is suggested in the book, and that just worked incredibly well. The chicken was done perfect and tasted great on its own in a sauce with a rich aroma of sparkling wine and the mixture of vegetables, and the creme added the richness to it in another dimension. We were both impressed with how big difference in fact the wine made - the last one wasn't bad, but the better wine did make the dish better. I wonder if it would make a further improvement if using a real champagne - I guess it might, but I don't think I will be able to try to prove it anytime soon. This was for sure just great with Freixenet.

And, oh, dessert. Since I didn't make the chicken casserole in a full amount and didn't use up the whole bottle of wine, I had a bit of leftover. While I could have drunk it up, I instead made small dessert with it; "champagne" chiffon cake! (you might think we have had enough of chiffon cakes lately, but we haven't.) I used a yet another recipe (in Japanese), and this one has more eggs than most other chiffon cake recipes, and uses no baking powder - I think sparkling wine might help the leavening of cake.

Served with mint-infused panna cotta that I had made the night before (recipe (in Japanese)), the chiffon cake made a nice small dessert. The cake surprisingly reserved a distinctive aroma of the sparkling wine, while the panna cotta was almost overly flavored with fresh mint leaves - an interesting combination.

September 18, 2004

fried rice? no, it's pasta...

Friday, September 18

I bought a box of tiny egg pasta called grattini earlier this year in Rome, and have since saved it in a cupboard - not because I forgot about it, but I wasn't quite sure how to cook it. As I couldn't find a good recipe using grattini, I just sort of followed the directions written on the back of the box.

It seemed that this kind of pasta is generally cooked in, and served as, soup. I cooked bacon and some vegetable in a skillet, poured in water and cooked the pasta in it - I should have put more water so that it would make a soup dish, but somehow I never used enough water and as a result ended up with a bowl of what looked like fried rice. It tasted like fried rice, too - or rather pilaf - but either way, the pasta absorbed the cooking liquid from bacon and vegetable, which can't be bad.

airy "ginger bread"

Wednesday, September 15

I was being extremely busy with my work over the week, and today was another stressful day at work. I just couldn't ignore my inner voice any more, though; I want to bake something! Right now! Now!!

So I listened to it. I just made something simple and not so time-consuming or labor-intensive, like chiffon cake. Yes, it's not over yet.

Today I made spice & tea chiffon cake from a cookbook by Makiko Fujino (in Japanese). The recipe of the cake is slightly different from the ones for the last couple of times (herb & lime and pina colada chiffon cakes), in terms of the egg yolk-white ratio (this one uses relatively more egg white than the other one), and the amount of baking powder and sugar (I reduced them both, though).
The spices used were ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and cardamom along with tea leaves (I used Earl Grey). As is often the case, I used fresh ginger for ground (dry) ginger (why not?) and reduced the amount of cinnamon, as it seemed too much to me.

Due to the numbers of egg yolks/whites (4/7) called for in the recipe that is sort of inconvenient for me who typically halve the amount of ingredients and make as little as I can (so that we can finish the cakes soon and I can make another one), I ended up making them full this time - creating a ridiculously hefty amount of batter, almost too much to handle. Oh well.

The cakes turned out just satisfying. They weren't as spicy as I had hoped, but had more of delicate flavor. They tasted almost like ginger bread, with a lot lighter, fluffier, and more fragile texture - not bad, but I'd rather like regular solid ginger bread in that respect.

unfamiliar combination of familiar items?

Tuesday, September 14

Today I was too busy to make anything fancy, too hot to use the oven, but too tired not to have something nice and refreshing - so I made coffee jelly, or coffee gelatin dessert.

It has definitely a lot to do with my childhood memory of summertime. My sister and I would make a large bowlful of coffee jell-o - no sugar or milk, please -, scrape it out as much as we wanted and ate it with condensed milk, or more likely milk and sugar. It was nice soothing company to survive a dreadful Tokyo summer.

While coffee gelatin dessert is such a common item in Japan, things look totally different on this side of the world. Although I have never personally asked anyone about it (except for him, who doesn't know anything about coffee since he hates it), I have heard about a lot of Japanese folks who have surprised Americans by mentioning about (or even serving) this "unfamiliar" dessert, and in turn been surprised by their reaction; eew! coffee jell-o? no way....

Apparently, this isn't exactly popular dessert in here, which was a bit of surprise to me, given such a variety of jell-o flavors available everywhere as well as the huge popularity of coffee as a drink. (I still remember Starbucks once had Coffee Jelly Frappuccino in Japan several years back. It was basically coffee frappuccino with coffee jell-o dice in it, and I loved it so much - but it was there for only one summer and never came back. I doubt Starbucks has ever had it on their menu in the US...)

I made just a large mug of coffee and put unflavored gelatin in it to dissolve, and then chilled it in the fridge. It disappointed him a lot when he came home and went into the fridge and said, "dessert! dessert!" and learned it was coffee jell-o. He was so disappointed he even sniffed at the jell-o to make sure it was coffee and I wasn't fooling him.

Today I tried a Hawaiian coffee liquor with the jell-o (which was fine), and of course with milk and sugar (I usually don't have sugar in my coffee or tea, but this is another thing). For fun, I put some sugar duckys on the jell-o, too... (they sank fast, though).

September 15, 2004

hearty (wintery) meal

Sunday, September 12

It was when we were having a friend of ours over for dinner, about a year ago from now, that it occurred to me that I might want to cook veal. I think it was because I just read about veal dish on the net, but in any case I found a recipe for veal in wine casserole which looked pretty nice and simple, and only thing that I couldn't find anywhere in town was, alas, veal.

As I was already totally into the idea of making that recipe, I just made it with beef. Not veal, but good enough, in fact, good enough to have become a regular in our house. I was more familiar with red wine for cooking with beef, but white wine The guest loved it, too.

One year having past, I still don't get to find veal in my neighborhood. So I still use beef - hence beef in wine casserole -, and it works fine. Today I floured the beef cubes before browning them in a skillet so that the beef can retain its juiciness when cooked for a long time.

The vegetables used in the recipe are only small onion and mushrooms, but I added celery and carrot, and used regular onion. I also used some dried black truffles, too, hoping that they would add depth to the dish. I didn't use chicken broth, by the way, and just used white wine - all the addition of vegetable and herbs, combined with beef and wine, should make the cooking liquid good enough, I was sure. I sauted vegetable, made sauce, and put everything in the casserole and it was ready to go in the oven.

After about 50 minutes of cooking in the oven, the it somehow got soupy despite the lesser amount of liquid used - it might have been vegetables that had given out extra liquid. I cooked another 10 or 15 minutes with the lid off, letting the excess liquid evaporate, although it was still pretty soupy when it was done.

Even so, the dish tasted good as ever, and to my surprise, the 1.3 lb beef, one big carrot, a couple of stalks of celery, two onions, a handful of mushrooms, cooked in oil, butter, and wine somehow all disappeared at once. To where? I can only blame one person....