Thursday, March 25, 2010

On leftovers, and dining alone...

Tuesday evening before the concert, we ate dinner at Carnevor, the downtown "Steakhouse Moderne". It really is visually, in all its acidic 70's yellow, moderne: a rack of curved logs hanging above the narrow space like a rib cage, and a classy black-dressed staff and clientele that more than a little intimidates me. I have eaten there before, but not for some time - and I credit them for my full return to red meat.

When I ate a steak there about 3 years ago, it was a near epiphany for my reformed vegetarian self. That meat was so GOOD, and properly cooked that it was an event. I've looked forward to going back ever since, though it just didn't happen until this week. My Husband had the surf and turf: an enormous lobster tail and 8 oz. steak, which he precluded with a lobster bisque. I opted for amazing pea soup with Nueske's bacon and scallops and the Strauss veal, a whopping 9 oz. that I knew before I began would be at least partially coming home with me. It was served on a bed of rainbow chard, had some baby potatoes with mushrooms on the side, and had a really nice reduced wine sauce. I ordered it done however they recommended, and it did turn out a bit on the rare side. But I knew that the leftovers could be seared to perfection, and I was right.

I had one small slice atop the sandwich I made for lunch yesterday out of the few leftover greens, potatoes and mushrooms. Probably one of the best leftover lunches I've had in quite awhile.

For supper last night, I made my Husband the remainder sliced and served with eggs. He topped it with an appropriate amount of hot sauce.

Tonight, I was dining alone, since we are in the throes of the NCAA tournament. I actually like eating alone once in a while, and I especially like cooking for myself. It's a liberating thing to not worry about anyone but myself. My Boy-O only wanted a couple of graham crackers with peanut butter and a pickle for supper, so I was truly on my own. After he ate, I decided I would actually cook for myself instead of picking at whatever is around - it is easy enough for me to do that and be satisfied. I had a little container of leftover creamed spinach from the Carnevor dinner, and figured I could doctor it into a pasta worthy of a dinner to myself.

A month ago, I started a jar of preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are lemons and salt, that remain tasty and perfect for cooking with for about 6 months. Every week or so, I take off the lid and smell them, completely astounded that they are floral and deliciously lemony smelling. They are probably one of the easiest things to make, and have the biggest payoff reward. I have to thank innBrooklyn again, for making them look so delicious that I had to try them for the first time.

In tagines, which I have a particular affinity for, I always substituted regular lemons. Never again. These have such an amazing flavor and texture that they are like a exotic relative of a common lemon. My first batch was made with organic, regular lemons, but I started another batch this morning with organic, Meyer lemons which I scored from the co-op yesterday. If you are interested in making a quart jar, pick up about 10 of the nicest organic lemons you can find, a box of kosher salt, and arm yourself with a method such as this, and in a month's time you too will be swooning over lemons of all things.

I sauteed a quarter of a Spanish onion in some olive oil while some pasta cooked, and then added a quarter of a diced preserved lemon (first rinsed well to rid of extra salt). There was enough garlic in the leftover creamed spinach to ward off a trove of vampires, so I only seasoned with salt and pepper. I tossed the warmed mixture with hot pasta, grated some Parmesan over the top and in ten minutes time, dinner was served.

I used to eat alone often when I worked and lived the life of a blue collar person. I'd get home from a first or second shift life and usually make something for myself, eating in the quiet calm of my kitchen alone, in front of the window usually. Now that I've 5 years of marriage under my belt, it seems hard to remember those days, and the ones where occasionally I was so tired that I decided to sleep instead of eat. Anything after enough time can be romanticized, I guess, and now I almost relish a night to myself of concocted dinner - no one to please but myself. The only downside could be that instead of good conversation, my dining companions were Brian Setzer, a bit of Curtis Mayfield, and a side of Miles Davis, but even that one way conversation isn't so bad once in a while.

I know that March Madness will soon subside, Wrestlemania will be over, and life around Casa Rcakewalk will return to normal until closer to my birthday when the inevitable football begins again. Meanwhile, baseball is in there, but blessedly it is the one sport (kind of like boxing) constant enough that the DVR can be relied upon. Admittedly, I kind of like baseball once in a while, too.

It's easy to eat too much in restaurants, the portions are usually always larger than you would eat at home. I think I may be onto something ordering red meat a little more rare than I normally prefer. It caused me to eat only the more well-done edges (though who am I kidding, I did eat more than half of it), and save the very rare amount to remake. Three whole meals, and another lunch of leftover pasta tomorrow, is not bad from a small box of takeout leftovers. Just think what I could have done if I saved a bit more to take home. Maybe I'll remember that next time.


  1. The pasta looks and sounds so amazing with all the great preserved lemon flavor you added...

  2. Just bought a batch of Meyer lemons at Outpost yesterday! And I'm gearing up for my own jar of those perfumed delights. Am excited to think of all sorts of uses for them.

    P and I eat dinner together almost all the time, but occasionally he has evening work obligations that keep him from being home for dinner. On those nights, I find it's sometimes a nice respite to throw together a little something for myself and eat in peace and quiet. It can be a bit like a meditation in some ways...

  3. Yay for preserved lemons! Yours look lovely, thats a gorgeous photo of them. I love the sound of the creamed spinach and pasta with them... and luckily enough I have a whole batch of them almost ready for eating!
    I wish my whole foods had meyer lemons though. I have been sort of thinking of getting a little miniature tree, but i don't think we have the space for it by a window in the living room :(
    I'm sending my friend sarah over here to check out your ode to the preserved lemons, shes never canned but wants to and I've told her this is the easiest food preserving ever and a good starter project!

  4. Preserved lemons do sound really good. It is very common to have spicy preserved lemons with Indian food, though I never do, because I am a spice wimp! I love what you did with the leftovers -- the pasta looks delicious. I too love making "real" meals out of restaurant leftover -- it let's me be creative.


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