Menu for the Week of November 12, 2017

This Week’s Menu: Two at the Table Menu Week of November 12, 2017

We’ve been doing our usual amount of cooking the past few weeks, but just haven’t had time to post our menus. For example, one great dish we made the week before last was Food Network’s Peppercorn Rubbed and Grilled Flat Iron Steak. This recipe uses a LOT of pepper (1/4 cup of coarsely ground black peppercorns and 1/4 cup of coarsely ground green peppercorns), but somehow manages not to be overwhelmingly peppery. We made a few hearty salads that same week, so we were able to combine left over steak and left over salad to make some pretty awesome lunches.

We also made Ina Garten’s Roasted Cauliflower Snowflakes to go with the steak. Neither one of us is a fan of cauliflower — we’ve both eaten enough mushy and bland florets to put us off the stuff for good — but we were willing to try this recipe. It turned out great and totally and completely changed our minds about cauliflower. We used a white head of cauliflower for this dish, but have seen some very pretty purple and gold versions in our local farmers’ markets, so we’re going to have to experiment. 

That said, we have six new recipes to try out this week, so we wanted to post our weekly menu and share them all.

On Sunday night, we’ll make Food & Wine’s Chicken with Charred Rosemary Vinaigrette. We had originally planned to have this last night (Saturday), but just didn’t feel like cooking, so we moved it to Sunday night. We’ll have the chicken with The New York Times’ Kale Salad with Apples and Cheddar. We plan to make the full recipes, so we’ll have enough for lunch a day or two this week.

We’ll have seafood on Monday night, specifically Ina Garten’s Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables. We’re making two changes to the recipe, one a bit major and one a bit minor. For the major change, we will use cod instead of the striped bass or halibut called for in the recipe. This will save us a little money, and we think it won’t impact the recipe too much. We’re also going to eliminate the potatoes from the “autumn vegetable” mix. This is partly because we’re trying to watch our starch intake and partly because the other vegetables in the recipe (butternut squash, parsnips, and carrots) sound more exciting than potatoes.

We’ll return to a chicken dish (and a Food & Wine recipe) on Monday night, when we make Food & Wine’s Chicken, Wild Mushroom, and Roasted Garlic Sauté. This a “test run” for this dish, in that if it turns out well — and we have no reason to think it won’t — we’re going to experiment with different kinds of mushrooms and see what we like best. Again, we’ll make the whole dish, so another yummy lunch to look forward to!

We’ll go vegetarian on Wednesday night when we make Tasting Table’s Winter Greek Salad. As we mentioned above, we’ve made quite a few salads in the past few weeks, including Half Baked Harvest’s Roasted Squash, Caramelized Fig, and Feta Salad and Epicurious’ Sautéed Kale with Kohlrabi, so we’re excited to try another one.

Kim will be on her own on Thursday, as Tony will be away on day trip to Washington, DC. We also have plans for Friday night, when Kim, along with six of her fellow volunteers, will be officially announced as one of the New York Junior League’s 2017-2018 Outstanding Volunteers.

We’ll be back in the kitchen Saturday when we make The Kitchn’s Easy One-Pot Chicken Taco Soup. We always like having soup around in the fall and winter and if the weather next weekend is like it’s been this weekend (i.e., COLD!), having a big pot of soup to warm up the apartment sounds just about perfect. This recipe also sounds like the kind that makes us look for excuses to walk down the hall (“I’m going to go recycle this Post-It note!” and “I need to ask the neighbors if I can borrow a cup of water!”) so we can walk back into our apartment over and over and enjoy just how great our home smells!

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Special Feature: Oktoberfest 2017

Two at the Table Menu for Oktoberfest 2017

We don’t have much cooking planned this week, so we thought it would be fun to tell you about this year’s version of Oktoberfest.

On Friday the 13th (!) , we continued our several-years-old tradition of having friends over for an Oktoberfest dinner and beer tasting. Our friends Lynee and Rich were able to join us this year. We can’t claim everything was authentically German, but we had a great time and a very nice dinner.

We started, as we have in past years, with Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft Pretzels. This is not a very hard recipe. It certainly does help if you have a little experience making bread or pizza dough, but it’s not absolutely necessary. This is definitely a time and labor-intensive recipe, however. First, you have to make the dough — a stand mixer is a HUGE time saver here! — and then let it rise. Next, you have to roll out the dough and form the pretzels. Then, you boil each pretzel for 30 seconds in water with baking soda; brush the pretzels with a mix of egg yolk and water; and sprinkle on plenty of coarse salt. Last but not least, you bake them for about 12 to 14 minutes.    

This was, without a doubt, the best batch of pretzels Tony has ever made, for a few reasons. First, Tony let the dough rise a little longer than in the past, which made the pretzels fairly light. As our readers know, we have a very small kitchen, so there is not enough space to roll the dough out to the 24-inch length called for in the recipe.  Tony got creative this year: once he had rolled out the dough as much as he could, he picked it up by the ends and let its own weight stretch it out a bit further. After doing that, forming the pretzels was very easy. Working with a longer strand meant the pretzels also retained their shape better after cooking. Unlike past years, Tony also used a low-sided pot for the water bath, which made it easier to fish out the pretzels after they were boiled. (You should be aware, though, that regardless of what kind of pot you use this step is messy, as any boiling water that spatters out of the pot — and there will be some! — is going to leave a white mark wherever it lands because of the baking soda. If you follow a clean-as-you-go approach, you can wipe down your stove and counter tops while the pretzels bake.) Tony used a lighter touch when brushing on the egg wash than in past years, so the pretzels had a nice shine without being eggy, but a heavier hand with the salt, so the pretzels were nice and flavorful. He also let the formed, boiled, brushed pretzels sit for about 15 to 2o minutes before putting then in the oven. As you can see below, they came out beautifully.

We served the pretzels with grainy and smooth Dijon mustards and Food 52’s Beer Cheese. We had never made the beer cheese before, but it was fantastic. It was smooth and creamy with a bit of heat from cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce and a nice kick from the Worcestershire sauce and beer. It was a big hit; the mustards were more or less ignored. We had the pretzels with Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier, which was our favorite beer of the night. It was crisp, not too heavy or too sweet, and a perfect complement for the salty pretzels and spicy beer cheese.

For our main course, we made Epicurious’ Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples and Onions. This was a very easy recipe and, as we hoped, turned out to be a great choice for a dinner party. One of the keys to a successful dinner party is that the hosts pick recipes that don’t force them to be in the kitchen the whole time. Because this dish is completed in four simple steps, it was very easy to complete half the work before our guests arrived. We seared the pork in a cast iron skillet and then cooked the apples and onions in the same pan. While the apples and onions cooked, we let the pork cool a bit, than rubbed the top and sides with grainy mustard and sprinkled on fennel seeds. We put the pork on top of the apple-onion mixture  and covered the pan before our guests arrived. While we enjoyed out pretzels, we only needed to get up for 20 seconds to preheat the oven and another 20 seconds to put the skillet in the oven and cook everything, The last steps, further cooking down the apples and onions with some apple cider, slicing the pork, and then serving everything, took less than 10 minutes. We were able to spend most of out time with our guests and very little in the kitchen. Also, in the interest of not spending the whole day cooking, we made dessert and the beer cheese the day before and served some store-bought green beans and roasted red potatoes as our sides.

Dinner turned out very well. The pork was cooked nicely and the apples and onions were a nice accompaniment. We served dinner with three beers: Blue Point Oktoberfest, Goose Island Festbier, and Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest. Everyone ended up ranking the three dinner beers in that order as well: Blue Island as the best of the three, Goose Island as second, and Sierra Nevada as third.

For dessert, we made Stone Gable’s Raw Apple Cake. We had this at a friend’s house not too long ago and we knew immediately that it would be perfect for our Oktoberfest dinner. It’s very easy, even for an inexperienced baker. The apples that go into the cake don’t have to be peeled, which saves a lot of time. Plus, it’s a “dump cake” as in, you dump the wet ingredients into the dry, mix them together, and dump the dough into a cake pan. (Dough is the right term here; the cake starts out more like cookie dough than cake batter.) The cake takes a little while to cook, about an hour or so, but we knew the time would be worth it because the cake was so good. Plus, having the apartment slowly fill with the warm smell of apples and cake was a huge bonus! The cake was a hit, as was the fresh whipped cream that we served along site it. The best part was we had plenty of leftover cake (and pretzels, beer cheese, and pork!) to keep us happy for the following week!

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Menu for the Week of October 15 2017

This Week’s Menu: Two at the Table Menu Week of Oct 15, 2017

We have yet another very busy week, with a visit to see our friends Tom and Sharon in Maplewood, New Jersey and a talk/interview by Jeffrey Eugenides at the 92 Street YMCA. We also have several nights where either Kim or Tony is out for dinner, so we won’t eat together those nights. So, we only have new recipe this week, but it should be a good one.

For our first dinner together this week will, on Tuesday night, we plan to have the last of the leftovers from The New York Times’ Chicken in Mustard Sauce. This dish was  a real winner, but we’ll have to make more mustard sauce, as we’ve finished that already! We’ll serve this with some green beans sautéed in olive oil and garlic, and, since we have plenty on hand, slivered almonds. (Note: This didn’t quite work out, as Tony was invited to the Yankee playoff game and Kim worked very late, but Tony will make this for himself on Wednesday, one of the nights this week when Kim is out.)

Our other dinner together this week will be on Saturday night. We looked for an easy recipe that would use two chicken breasts we have in the freezer, and we think we’ve found a good one: Food & Wine’s Chicken Breasts with Olives-Artichoke Sauce. The recipe uses Kalamata olives, which we almost always have around, and feta cheese. It also calls for using frozen artichoke hearts (this is a big part of why the recipe is so easy), but we decided to go with canned. We’re going to ask our friends at Columbus Wine and Spirits to suggest a white wine to pair with dinner. They may select something from Greece, but they always have a surprise for us up their sleeves, so we know better than to guess!

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Menu for the Week of October 8, 2017

This Week’s Menu: Two at the Table Menu Week of October 8, 2017

It’s another busy week for Two at the Table, with the Yankee game on Sunday, an alumni event on Wednesday, a photography lecture on Thursday, and a special dinner on Friday, but as always, we’re going to try to make a few new dishes to keep things interesting.

We’ll start the week by making Fine Cooking’s Skirt Steak with Mushrooms and Shallots and Roasted Broccoli with Lemon on Monday. We had planned to have list last week on Friday, but received some fantastic news that was cause for a celebratory dinner out: Kim had been named one of the New York Junior League’s 2018 Outstanding Volunteers! 

On Tuesday, we’ll make a dish that should leave us with enough leftovers for dinner on Thursday as well: The New York Times’ Chicken in Mustard Sauce. This simple meal, which came to The Times from famed French chef Jacques Pépin, involves making a mustard and onion sauce in the same pan in which you cook the chicken, which will certainly save clean up time. 

We’ll end the week with a batch of vegetarian chili. We’ll make Ellie Krieger’s Vegetarian Black Bean Chili with Ancho and Orange. We don’t remember if we’ve made this before–it may be one of this dishes we planned to make but just didn’t get to–but we’re excited to make it either way.

Our special dinner on Friday night will be…Oktoberfest! We’re continuing our tradition, which extends all the way back to at least 2014, the year we started our blog, of making a Oktoberfest-inspired dinner and pairing it up with several different Oktoberfest beers. As in past years, we’ll have friends over to join in the fun. We’re finalizing the menu, but Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft Pretzels will most definitely be on it. We’ll likely have a pork dish for our main course and an apple dessert, but we’re still figuring out all the details. Check in later this week for an update/report on dinner!

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Menu for the Week of October 1, 2017

This Week’s Menu: Two at the Table Menu Week of Oct 1 2017

We have a few baseball games this week (the last regular season game of the 2017 season on Sunday and the American League Wild Card game on Tuesday). Kim will be out Wednesday and Thursday and we are planning dinner with friends on Saturday. So, we won’t be doing a ton of cooking this week, but as always, we don’t think that’s a good enough excuse not to try a few new recipes.

We tried to make The New York Times’ Spicy Thai Pork Tenderloin Salad last week, but when it came time to make it, we found that we didn’t have any pork! We substituted some chicken legs, which worked out really well. The salad is so good, and the dressing so flavorful, that we think it will work with a wide range of meat and fish, like chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, salmon, and tuna. We have a lot of salad left over and some dressing as well, so we’re going to try the recipe again on Monday night, this time with pork tenderloin as intended.

We’ll have dinner at the ballpark on Tuesday. The Yankees seem to win whenever we eat at Mighty Quinn’s barbecue, so we have to eat there. And Tony has to wear his blue Yankee hat, not the beige one. And Kim has to wear all her Yankee bracelets and her pink Yankee hat, not the black one. Not that we’re superstitious or anything…

On Wednesday and Thursday evenings,  Tony will continue the Asian cooking theme. He’ll make the New York Times’ Thai Peanut Chicken Wings, which should be great food to eat during the ballgame he will no doubt be watching on TV. He’ll also make Food & Wine’s Bok Choy with Garlic as a side, so he can honestly say he had a vegetable. (Plus, it will allow him to use up the giant head of bok choy he bought be accident last week, when he forgot we had already ordered some from Fresh Direct!) Tony might dive into our trove of recipes (2200 and counting!) and see if he can find a variation on the wing and bok choy recipes, but for the time being, he’s content to enjoy this dinner twice.

We cleaned out the freezer this weekend and found some compound butter left over from when we made The New York Times Skirt Steak with Shallot Thyme Butter, so we tried to find a recipe that would let us use that. We think we have a winner in Fine Cooking’s Skirt Steak with Mushrooms and Shallots. We’ll make it on Friday along with Fine Cooking’s Roasted Broccoli with Lemon as a side.

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Menu for the Week of September 24, 2017

This Week’s Menu: Two at the Table Menu Week of September 24, 2017

We have another busy week ahead of us, with several nights where one or both of us will be out, but we will still make three new recipes.

We’ll try the first of these new recipes on Sunday night when we make Ina Garten’s Roasted Ratatouille with Polenta. With the summer winding down, we thought this would be a good choice. As the name of the recipe makes clear, this dish features a unique way to prepare the vegetables that will go into the ratatouille: roasting them, rather than sautéing them. We’ve made ratatouille several times before, but have almost always had it with fish, so we’re excited to try it with polenta. 

We really enjoyed the Jamie Oliver dish we made two weeks ago, Tender & Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes & Basil. It was easy and delicious and perhaps best of all, made the apartment smell fantastic for the rest of the night! We’ll try another one of his recipes on Tuesday night, when we make Jamie Oliver’s Ginger Shakin’ Beef. We are going to make one major change to the recipe, however. The recipe calls for using miso paste as a coating for the steak. Rather than buy a container of miso just to have it sit in the fridge, we tried to find an alternative. We found an idea on the Food 52 website, which suggests using a combination of anchovy paste and tahini (both of which we already have)  instead of miso paste. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and see how it goes.

Kim found a fun pizza recipe and since we already have some dough in the freezer, we thought we would give it a try on Saturday night. It’s Half Baked Harvest Brussels Sprout Mushroom Pizza with Crispy Prosciutto and Sage. It’s not a very traditional pizza, but we know all the toppings, including the apple butter, burrata cheese, and provolone that aren’t mentioned in the recipe name, will go great together, We can’t imagine that putting them on a pizza will make them worse. We will definitely pay a visit to our friend Michael at Columbus Wine and Spirits to see how creative he can get with a wine pairing!

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Menu for the Week of September 17, 2017

This Week’s Menu: Two at the Table Menu Week of Sep 17 2017

We’ll only be making two dinners at home this week — we both have plans on multiple nights — so we thought we would throw in a breakfast recipe and a lunch recipe to round the post out a bit.

Our “breakfast” recipe is the The New York Times Strawberry Sour Cream Streusel Cake. (We say “breakfast” simply because when it’s around, we’ll (this means Tony) often have it for breakfast with some fresh fruit on the side. We’ve never actually made it “for breakfast,” but instead have taken it to Tony’s mom Maria’s house as dessert when she’s made dinner for us.) This was only the second time Kim made this cake, but she’s already mastered it. It was moist and fruity and not too sweet and, as the photo below shows, very pretty. We took it to Tony’s mom’s house yesterday. Tony’s sister’s godmother, Flora, was visiting Tony’s mom and waited for us to arrive, so we all had a small piece with afternoon espresso. We also had some after dinner and left some behind for Maria and one of Maria’s neighbors.

We’ll be at the Yankee game Sunday afternoon and typically don’t have a big dinner after games. We also both have plans Monday and Tuesday evening, so we won’t make dinner until Wednesday. Since we won’t be able to have fresh peaches for much longer, we decided to try Real Simple’s Chicken Legs with Peach, Shallot, and Watercress Salad. This easy recipe promises to be delicious, plus, it will make leftovers! Sadly, we won’t be able to use any peaches from Tony’s dad’s peach tree — they were all stolen! Tony and his brother are working on some advanced security measures (like, um, a padlock) to prevent this from happening again next year.

Kim also found a fun lunch recipe that we’re going to try this week. It’s for Spinach Hummus Lunch Wraps, a recipe Kim read on the Love and Lemons blog. Kim has an excellent hummus recipe that has become her go-to, but we thought we would mix things up a bit and try this version, which incorporates spinach into the mix. It should make for some fun lunches and a nice change of pace.

Last but not least is Friday night’s dinner, when we’ll make The New York Times’ Spicy Thai Pork Tenderloin Salad. We’re big fans of pork tenderloin because it cooks so quickly, so we’re always on the lookout for new recipes . We’ve never made this version before and we’re looking forward to it. Tony is already trying to figure out how to convert the leftovers into some type of banh mi sandwich for a weekend lunch!

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