It all started last Thursday with one of the best days I’ve experienced since moving to Oregon: Momiji’s all-you-can-eat sushi night. They were celebrating their one-year anniversary (I remember being just as excited when they posted their Grand Opening sign), and Rob and I definitely took advantage. For about $28 a person, we were able to order and eat as much sushi, sashimi, and cut-rolls as we wished. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, by itself, $28 worth of sushi is still a whole lot of sushi to eat, and we started realizing this as our bellies quickly expanded. But did that stop us? Heck no! It’s all-you-can-eat sushi, baby!
An hour and $126 worth of sushi later, we rolled ourselves out the door, drove home in a foggy state of fullness, and plopped on the couch to let digestion do its thing. While, Rob can avidly tell you, I was a kid in a candy store in the restaurant, it’s going to be a long time before I eat hundreds of dollars worth of sushi again (by a long time, I mean, like, maybe a week).
As Good Friday called for its traditional Fillet O’ Fish (and late-night helping of moose tacos – not so traditional), and the weekend rolled around, I was given another opportunity to indulge in fantastic food. After all, it was Easter weekend. Growing up, Easter was always a big deal in our house. My sister and I searched the house for hidden eggs, only just a few years past the point of being “too old,” and my mom would always give us a Cadbury Cream Egg, even though she couldn’t stand the sight of them (it looks like a chocolate covered raw egg!). So this year, while I knew we wouldn’t be searching for eggs, I thought we could still celebrate the season with great food.
There are certain times when I’m in the kitchen, or when watching one of the many cooking competition shows on TV, and think nothing bad better happen right now. It’s usually during crucial moments of poaching or toasting or can’t-walk-away-from whisking. Usually, nothing bad happens. Usually.
When I woke up, I didn’t feel quite right. The weather had graciously changed for the better, and I was still a bit sinusy from the past week’s cold. As I was making breakfast – one of my favorites: poached egg on top of mustardy roasted asparagus with English Muffins – I decided to take a moment to relieve some of the pressure in my sinuses by blowing my nose. So, with water starting to boil, asparagus almost finished roasting, and the English Muffin nestled warmly in the toaster, I quickly ran to the bathroom. What followed was the definite oh-bleep moment I had in past times wondered about. A bad thing had happened at the wrong time in the kitchen.
To spare any of my more queasy readers (and, this is a food blog after all), I’ll skip the gory details just to say that I had a nose-bleed of epic proportions. Simply, it was gross. Also a mess. And as I’m standing over the sink trying not to faint from rapid blood loss, the very familiar ring of the smoke alarm sounds, reminding me that 1) I have very specifically-timed food cooking, and 2) I’m about to burn the house down. Again.
So with tissue rammed against my face, I ran to yank the over-heating toaster cord out of the wall, push some button on my range hoping it turned off the oven, killed the flame on the stove, and started wildly flapping a towel around the air near the alarm, trying to herd the smoke towards the open back door. Finally, silence. With a physical and audible sigh, I made my way over to the kitchen to survey the damage. The only burned items were some small asparagus spears and a beyond-crisp English Muffin. At which point a second realization kicked in – oh yeah, my nose was still gushing.
Easter diner was much less dramatic, and much more comfortable. But it did test my skills in the kitchen. We had Lamb Two Ways: shanks braised in red wine, and a leg roasted with herbs. Simple spring veg of green beans, asparagus and mushrooms in a simple white wine and butter sauce accompanied just perfectly, with a sweet potato and thyme soufflé to round out the meal. Dessert was also a hit (that is, after a boil-over of butter and milk) consisting of Almond and Cardamom Rice Pudding with Rhubarb Compote. With enough Easter candy to go round, our friends, their 2-year old son, Rob and I had a great time. In taste-testing the two techniques used on the lamb, we preferred the texture of the Roast better, but both had amazing flavor.
So, after an exciting weekend, last night was easy: Broccoli Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with homemade Tomato Soup. It was fast, easy, comforting and yummy, so I’ll include it here for you to enjoy. But while cooking, please don’t hope for something bad NOT to happen – you just might jinx yourself and end up with a bloody nose! Enjoy!
- 4 slices whole wheat sourdough bread
- 1/2 c Broccoli Pesto (recipe to follow)
- about 3-4 slices Pepper Jack cheese
- 1 slice prosciutto
- 1 tbsp butter, divided into fourths
Broccoli Pesto (makes about 2 cups)
- 1 med head broccoli, florets cut off
- 4-5 bunches fresh basil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
To make the pesto, boil water in a small pot and drop in the broccoli florets. After about 1 minute, strain the broccoli and “shock” them in ice-cold water (this is called blanching – it keeps the bright green color of the veg). After completely cooled, dry the broccoli as best you can, and add it, plus the basil leaves, garlic, and a pinch of s&p to a food processor. Add some olive oil to get the blade moving, but then slowly pour in the rest of the oil while processing, until the mixture resembles a paste. Taste for seasoning, and either use immediately, or store in fridge for 2-3 days.
To make the sandwiches, spread a layer of broccoli pesto on each slice of the bread. Add the cheese and slice of prosciutto, and top the sandwich with the other slice of bread. Butter the top of the sandwich before putting on the grill. Place the sandwich on a hot grill pan, butter side down, with a weight on top (another heavy pan or heat-proof dish). After browned on the bottom, butter the other side, and flip, and weigh down again. After both sides are golden, cut and serve with Tomato Soup.
Tomato Soup (serves 6)
Note: this is a very bright, tomato-y soup. If you enjoy a richer soup, roast the tomatoes for about 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees beforehand, and add cream after blending the soup.
- 10 c cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 c fruity white wine
- 2 c low sodium chicken stock
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- grated parmesan cheese for garnish, optional.
In a large pot, saute the onions in the olive oil with a touch of salt and pepper. Once translucent, add the garlic, and stir (do not let the garlic burn). To deglaze the pot, add the white wine, and then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to medium, and cover, until tomatoes have popped and given off a significant amount of their juices in the pot. Add the herbs and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then, turn down heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
To blend the soup, either use an immersion blender, or process in a blender in batches. Once blended, simmer for another 5-10 minutes, and serve.