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Price vs. Value

Sunday was Julia’s birthday. I was on my way back in town from a nanny conference (and awesome dinner with APW twitter friend Sarah, yay!) in DC and stopped at our favorite grocery store on the way home so I could cook something nice for a celebratory dinner. I made this Salmon with Roasted Fennel and Lemon Vinaigrette, a perennial favorite of ours. Now, I could get into a lengthy discussion of the difference between a good price and a good value, but I think you’ll get my point when I say this:

GET THE WILD ALASKAN KING SALMON!

(Even though it is, yes, more than twice as expensive as the salmon we usually buy. And it totally caused us to screw our food budget for the month before it was even a week over. I spent $37 for 4 servings and I would do it again in a heartbeat.§*)

Image courtesy of Real Simple. Sadly, this is not a photo of the beautiful piece of salmon I purchased.

IT WAS SO WORTH IT.

And while we’re on the topic of salmon, I should really tell you about the dish I had at that dinner with Sarah – because it was also salmon. Yeah, I totally ate it two nights in a row and it was awesome. Because, what is not awesome about a glorious piece of buttery pink salmon, topped with crushed toasted pumpkin seeds, sitting on a perfectly-cooked pile of green beans, nestled in roasted pumpkin and squash, all enveloped in a pumpkin-butter sauce? That’s right, pretty much nothing is better than that. Thank you, Clyde’s of Columbia (Maryland), for an excellent gustatory experience.

§AKA next Tuesday, when I’m doing the weekly shopping, because salmon is ALWAYS on the menu.
*For the record, at $13.99/lb this is actually an excellent price for salmon in the midwest, period. and still better than the big chain stores. It’s just that we usually buy the other kind, which is only $7.99/lb.

Apples, Apples, Apples

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’re probably already addicted to our dear friend Keely’s Lollygag Blog. (If not, what are you waiting for? There is comedy, fantastic writing, and so much adorable kid-ness! Go.) And you probably already know that there is a very recent addition to their family. Last night, we got to meet three-week-old Susannah (Suzy or Zuzu for short) and hang out with the whole family for a few hours, which rocked, because they are awesome, and every time we hang out with them, we think, “yeah, we could do this kid thing and still be cool – after all, they’re doing it!”

Anyway, we thought it might be nice if they could eat dinner without having to cook it, so we put together a very fall* meal. Theme: Apples. It was two courses – Apple and Acorn Squash Soup followed by an Apple, Bacon, and Rosemary Tart. (In our fantasy world, there was Apple Crisp for dessert, but there is only so much you can do in 3 hours.)

So – the soup is a bit labor intense. Acorn squash is not easy to cut. But, it’s tasty and worth the effort. The tart is super easy, especially if you follow the instructions and use a store-bought pie crust (we don’t, duh) and it is delicious. Rumor on the twitters has it that you all might want these recipes, so here goes.

Apple & Acorn Squash Soup

What You Need:
1 large onion, diced
5-6 large shallots, diced
2 T. safflower oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 large acorn squash (about 3 lbs.)
6-8 apples, peeled, cored, and diced (enough for 3 cups)
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups apple juice
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper (preferably white)
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 cup cream

How to Make It:
1. Heat safflower oil in a large stock pot and sauté onion and shallots until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add acorn squash, apples, and ginger. Sauté 5 minutes more.
3. Add vegetable stock, apple juice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender.
4. Using an immersion blender (please, do yourself a favor and get one if you don’t already have one), puree until smooth and creamy.
5. Stir in cream and adjust seasonings if needed.

Recipe adapted from and image courtesy of Serious Eats.

Apple, Bacon, & Rosemary Tart

What You Need:
1 pie crust (you can buy it or make it; I use the Free Form Tart dough from Baking Illustrated)
3 apples, sliced into 1/4 thick wedges
1/2 lb of bacon, cooked, drained and chopped into small pieces
2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 T. butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
1 T. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Then do all the chopping and slicing while it warms up.
2. Roll out the piecrust. I put mine on a piece of parchment paper so it doesn’t stick to anything, but it really should be fine on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.
3. Spread the bacon around the crust, leaving about two inches around the edge free of bacon. Sprinkle with with rosemary.
4. Arrange the apples in a pretty spiral (see the picture above), starting from the outside and working towards the center.
5. Dab with butter and sprinkle sugar evenly over the apples. Fold the outside edge of the crust over the apples to enclose it. (Alternately, you can do this whole thing in a tart pan, like the picture, but who has one of those?)
6. Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Open mouth, insert yum. Enjoy!

*Naturally, we were there on the one fall day where it was 75 degrees and sunny out. That’s Chicago for you.