Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How We Do Leftovers at 184 B-

Lately, Elizabeth and I have been trying to economize and eat out a bit less. We try to be careful with our limited funds, but even still we enjoy eating well. Since we both had Monday off, we decided it would be nice to try the $17.50 lunch at Sel de la Terre. I love Sel de la Terre. I had never been to the new Back Bay location but I was familiar with the waterfront locale. My friend, Beth, enjoyed the food there and so we'd sometimes go for dinner, splitting the fries and loving the in-house made bread. I had fond memories of the first Sel de la Terre but only ever went for dinner, never went for lunch and thought it'd be fun to try.

Elizabeth and I walked from our apartment, one of the perks of city living, and found the day to be beautiful but really chilly. The next day it was 93*! Oh Boston! What a strange spring you have. Anyway, we opted to sit at the bar. The bartender was nice and competent enough. Elizabeth was able to get her sazerac and I tried something from the bar menu called "London Calling" it's a gin based cocktail that was light and refreshing. We both decided on the $17.50 prix fixe lunch. It changes everyday but when we were there it was a starter of salmon croquettes and then duck meatballs with harricot verts and potato puree. We also opted for a side of french frieds. Yum!

The bread from Sel de la Terre is really good. My favorite bread in the bread basket was the olive bread. It had a chewy crust and the flavor of olive was very prominent.

The salmon croquettes came and were clearly made ahead of time, taken out of the fridge and seared on each side for a nice crust. They did arrive a bit on the cold side, which I was cool with, but E wasn't so certain she was down with it. The little side salad that came with the croquettes are lovely. It wasn't your usual mixed green salad and included flowers and pea shoot leaves. It was nicely dressed and I really appreciated that they treated the salad as important as the croquettes. I really enjoyed the first dish because they took me back to the days of my Grandma E's salmon croquettes (her's will always be tops in my book!!).

I was pretty much full after the first dish but we still had duck meatballs and french fries coming! The meatballs were very good and came with an accompany compote of some sort. It looked like a bit of caramelized onion and since E doesn't do onions, she handed hers over to me. I prompted ate it and realized it was onion but citrus of some sort. Elizabeth tasted some and realized it was blood orange, her favorite fruit! She was crushed that she didn't know. It was a lovely accompany to the rich meal. The pureed potatoes were really just a pool of butter with a bit of starch for show. The french fries were wonderful. Hot and not too skinny for me but still skinny enough for Elizabeth.

All in all, it was a HUGE lunch. Both of us were stuffed and only finished half of the meatballs on our plates. We decided to take it home and do something fun with the leftovers.

I was hankering for some Greek food as I often do and thought the meatballs would be really good in a sorta gyro sandwich. I mentioned my craving to Elizabeth and told her I was thinking soft flat bread with a yogurt and cucumber sauce. Pita bread wouldn't cut it. How about naan? But would the grocery store even have anything like naan?

So last night E and I took a trip to the Shaws across the street in search of ingredients. And guess what? They did have naan. Elizabeth spotted it in the fresh bread/bakery section and it was the last one too! I was really impressed that they had it at all and that it was the last package. We also got some Greek yogurt (again so happy but so shocked that they had it at Shaws).

Elizabeth put together the sandwiches which consisted of the leftover meatballs and beans. These she put on the naan and threw into the oven. On top she put shredded carrot, roast red pepper and oil cured olives. She chopped some mint and cucumber and mixed it into the yogurt and when the meatball topped naan had warmed thru, she put everything on top.

It was a delicious meal and a great way to use the leftovers. I was so happy that I mentioned my idea to Elizabeth because it truly was a very yummy dinner. It was so yummy that I was 1/3 of the way thru and then took the picture. Sorry! (burp)

So if you're stuck with leftovers, don't ever be sad! Just think about something you're craving and see where that takes you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oatmeal with Soy Sauce

Given the fact that I've eaten this dish non-stop for two days it is a little sad that I don't have proper picture. But trust me when I say that this is a good, dare I say great, little dish.

A little while back Mark Bittman made mention of adding scallions and soy sauce to oatmeal. Little did he know that he'd started off a sh_tstorm. The comments all over the internet came pouring in. Some were curious, even supportive but the majority of people found it strange and gross to put soy sauce in a good associated with milk, brown sugar and raisins.

I admit to being very intrigued but never really followed up on the idea. I had grown up on oatmeal for breakfast as a child and actually never really cared for it. No amount of brown sugar or raisins made it sweet enough for me and it would often sit in front me getting cold and going uneaten. My mom, trying to get me to eat a proper breakfast, would often threaten that if I didn't eat the oatmeal that it would reappear for my dinner. And lo and behold, it would. For dinner I'd sometimes be faced with the very oatmeal I had not eaten for breakfast. Only this time, it was cold from the fridge. Bad childhood food memories indeed.

Oatmeal had a place in my kitchen but only as an ingredient in oatmeal cookies and it sat beside the sugar and flour in my pantry. But again, my curiosity got the best of me and I found myself hungry after a workout. I didn't have anything in the kitchen worth fixing before I had to scoot to work but I was tired of my usual pumpernickel bagel. Ahh, now seemed like a good time to try the Mark Bittman oatmeal trick.

I cooked the oatmeal according to the instructions but without milk and when it was finished I added a handful of chopped scallions and about three spoonfuls of soy sauce. I stirred it in and tasted. It tasted familiar and comforting. Infact, it was delicious! It was like rice congee but without the rice! The scallions added crunch as well as flavor. How could something so simple be so good or so controversial?

I went to work but thought about the dish all day. That evening after it had cooked I added a bit of sesame oil and another handful of chopped spinach. The sesame oil didn't really add much and provided a lesson in keeping things simple but the spinach added a bit more green crunch and was lovely. I imagine asparagus would be great as well. Later, I added a chunk of herbed goat cheese and some oil brined olives; it was wonderful as well. Not as good as the soy sauce version but different and still really tasty.

Not convinced? I say, "try it!". Considering how cheap oatmeal is, you have nothing to lose if you don't like it. Plus, if oatmeal isn't really your thing, you can just make some cookies with the leftover oats.

Leah's Riff on Mark Bittman's Savory Oatmeal Idea:
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups water
dash of salt
(cook oatmeal, water and salt as directed)

1 cup fresh chopped spinach
2 stalks of scallions
4 teaspoons of soy sauce (more if you're a salt fiend like me)

Once the oatmeal is cooked and still hot add the spinach, scallions and soy sauce. Stir like crazy and eat.

Leah's Second Try:
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups water
dash of salt
(cook oatmeal, water and salt as directed)

1 good sized nub of goatcheese
6 oil brined olives pitted and chopped (or if you're like me, ripped apart with your fingers).

Once the oatmeal is cooked and still hot add the goat cheese and olives. Stir like crazy and eat.

I'm still a big fan of the soy sauce version but if you're a goat cheese fan, the second version will probably win you over.