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Good-Bye, Carbs … Good-bye, Happiness …

I don’t even remember what we ate this week.

I seriously don’t.  It seems like forever ago.  I just finished my first day with a personal trainer, you see, and let me tell you, if you are thinking of doing it, hiring a personal trainer, be prepared to feel very awkward about how you see yourself.  The trainer won’t say anything, but when someone who is in perfect shape is advising you how to get in shape and there are mirrors … (fucking) everywhere, you start to feel pretty pudgy.

Anyway, we did have a good Sunday.  In anticipation for this new lifestyle change that I am putting myself through (why???), I made a dinner that would be a sort of send-off to carbs.  Not that I had committed to any kind of diet in advance, but I just figured the trainer would look at me and say something to the effect of, “Okay … so we’re going to be laying off the carbs for awhile, okay?”  (Which he did, but in a much nicer way.  He’s actually a really good guy.  Very supportive.)

On the Menu: Creamed Soup Florentine, Spinach and Hydroponic Lettuce Salad with Spring Onions, Radishes, and Hard Boiled Eggs, Garlic Bread with Basil and Mozzarella, Fettuccini Alfredo with Pan Seared Asparagus

Megan, Rene, and the gang went off to the Cozumel Air Show for the day and so I was alone in the kitchen.  Oh, except for Joseph.  (Who used to own and operate his own high-end restaurant.)  Except for him, I was completely alone.  I tackled the Alfredo sauce, while Joseph handled the soup.  The salad, Joseph also prepared, and the garlic bread was a team effort.

The soup was awesome.  Just the right balance to make it warming without being too heavy.  The salad was light and fresh and played off the spinach in the soup nicely.  The garlic bread went with both perfectly, the basil and the garlic complimenting the two appetizers well.

The fettuccini, I hate to admit, was a little on the disappointing side.  I had thought that we had parmesan at home, but we did not.  Alfredo without parmesan in the preparation is not really Alfredo and my sauce was judged to be lacking.  It was still good, but was missing that certain something that would have put it over the top.  (As evidenced by the tiny piles of noodles left scattered on various plates.

Alfredo should be something that you eat even when you know you should stop.  It should compel you to eat it.  You should get to the point where you feel full, your instincts are pulling you back, but your desire to finish what’s in front of you is like a pack of ravenous dogs, breaking their master’s chain, ignoring his commands, and gorging themselves on their helpless prey.  Without all of the ingredients, however, it just doesn’t do that.  Without all of the ingredients, it makes you feel a little like you are eating papiermâché.

The wine, on the other hand, was fantastic.  Let’s talk about that!

The Wine: Sancinos, Crianza Rioja, Spain, 2008, $230 MXN

Rating: Three Bottles

This wine was awesome.  Oaky, earthy tones mixed with plums and chocolate-covered cherries.  Peppery and deep, this wine immediately wakes up your taste buds on the first sip.

There is a slight harshness to this wine, but kind of in a warming way, like ginger, or port.  Megan and I got a little silly off this wine.  We’ve had rain for the past week or so, and the wine was kind of like a feeling in a bottle.  The rain be dammed, it seemed to say once uncorked.  Bring us your rain, for we car not!  Let’s sing a chantey, what!

And Megan’s mom is visiting!  She brought a bottle down from British Columbia, so we’ll tell you all about that next week.  (Wink!)

All right: that’s enough.  My body is screaming at me and my trainer promised me that my calves would cramp up excruciatingly at some point in the night, so I want to be all tucked into bed so I can enjoy that to the fullest.

Until next week,

Cheers!

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Lasagne, Spicy Tomato Soup, and Two Bottles of Wine Later …

Welcome back and Happy New Year!

We took a week off to recuperate from our New Year’s celebration.  It is amazing to me that having a kid can rob you of your ability to stay up past eleven.

Anyway, this being our first week back, I wanted to do something special.  I thought having a few courses would work nicely – start with soup, move onto salad, dig in to a main, and finish off with dessert.  Problem was, I was still grossly sleep-deprived from the week before.  Staying up until three-thirty threw my clock off, which gave me a case of the night owls, so I was up late all week.  By Sunday, I was a bag of dog crap.  I couldn’t focus on anything.  (Note to self: in future, read box of lasagne noodles carefully to see if they are pre-cooked or not … dumb ass.)

There is nothing scarier to me than standing in front of a counter covered in cutting boards, knives, vegetables, and utensils, and seeing nothing but a mess.  The chaos of a nearly-organised dinner is magical.  Conversely, the abstract shapes and disparate colours of a nonsensical blend of culinary insanity assaults my senses like an Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Moving on.

After Cara threatened me that we weren’t going to have dinners at our place if that was the way I was going to talk to people, I calmed down, refrained from having a glass of wine yet (Megan wasn’t there with the camera anyway), and set about making dinner.

On the Menu: Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup, Rustic Spinach Salad, Garlic Bread, Spinach Lasagne, Amaretto Syllabub

The soup is very easy.

  • Pre-heat oven to 180° C.
  • Chop into quarters a dozen ripe tomatoes.
  • Stand them on end in an oiled roasting tray.  Don’t worry about spacing, since they are going to be turned into soup anyway.  Just as long as there is some air between each quarter so the flavours can move in between them.
  • Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, dried dill, dried basil, garlic powder, and about two tablespoons of ground black pepper.  (I use ground pepper, since I covers everything more evenly, as opposed to cracked, and because it will slip through the sieve later, giving the soup its characteristic speckling.)
  • Pop into the oven, uncovered, for about an hour.  (You want the tomatoes to be completely roasted and falling apart, but not so roasted that they are dried out.)
  • Remove from oven and scoop everything into a food processor.
  • Puree the hell out of it.
  • Run through a sieve into a pot.  (Don’t throw away the husky stuff, since it makes a great spread for your garlic bread later. Wink!)
  • Add one cup of whole milk, one cup of condensed milk, and one cup of water.
  • Simmer until thickened.
  • Taste and make adjustments.

The salad is just rough chopped tomatoes and onions with a balsamic and olive oil dressing.  (For kicks, try adding some melted butter and garlic to the dressing.  Nobody will know why the dressing rocks, but they’ll drink it like gravy.)

With the soup and salad served, we finally got down to the wine.

Wine: Finca, La Linda, Torrontés, 2010, $153 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Fruity and vibrant, this is a really fun bottle of wine.  With a heartier meal like lasagne, it doesn’t really pair as nicely as say, a really spicy soup.  Thank goodness we had one on hand!

For a white, it was a little more complex than we were used to – citrus blending with peaches and bell peppers – but it was a very pleasant wine and complimented the soup and salad nicely.

This wine would also go very nicely with seafood like sushi or ceviche, as the fruitiness and citrus flavours would be complimented by the subtly of raw fish.

And then the wheels (almost) came off …

Lasagne is one of my favourites to make, but as I alluded to earlier, you really should check the box for what type of noodles you bought since parboiling precooked noodles turns them into pasta shrapnel.  (Don’t believe me?  Try it out.  You’ll be a laughing stock.)  I managed to salvage the better noodles for show and saved the lesser noodles for the places where people wouldn’t see.  That being said, this lasagne is awesome.

First layer, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella.  Second layer, ground beef, ricotta, spinach, tomato sauce.  Third layer, spinach, tomato sauce, mozzarella.  Fourth layer, prosciutto, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella.  Fifth layer, tomato sauce, béchamel sauce, mozzarella.  Bake until golden.  I let it stand for about ten or fifteen minutes so the lasagne has a chance to set a bit.

Wine: Trapiche, Broquel, Bonarda, 2009, $209 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

This wine went very well with the pasta – dry, but the tannins weren’t so harsh that they were all you could think about.  A mix of black currant and cherries with a hint of blackberries and blueberries.  Very enjoyable, this was a substantial wine.

For the price, very enjoyable, and we are thinking of buying a couple of bottles and putting them aside as the tasting notes on the label recommend waiting a few years.  If it was this good now, imagine what it will be like then.

The dessert was an amazing find of Megan’s from Nigella.  Really incredible and perfectly Italian – Amaretto Syllabub.  For the recipe, visit Nigella’s Food Network page.  Basically, it’s a dessert based saved for after the kids have gone to bed.  Mostly because then you don’t have to share it, but also because it’s filled with booze.  Megan pulled it off to perfection, as usual.

Next week, a special treat, but you’ll have to read it to find out what.

Till then,

Cheers!

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