Saturday, July 11, 2009

Potluck Wine

We have a number of parties throughout the year where guests will bring random bottles of wine. Most of the guests that come have good taste in wine - some - not so much. After a party we will take the left over wine and store it in the "potluck area." We tend to choose wine from this section on weeknights (when you don't want to drink $13 or higher bottle) or if it is just one of us alone.

Tonight, I am alone and wanted a glass of wine. I know what I REALLY want to drink - Rosenblum or Seghesio Zin - but it doesn't make sense.

I tried the left over bottle from last night that we vacuum sealed - yuk. Decided to try the potluck section - bottle 1 - yuk, bottle 2 - double yuk.

At this point, screw the potluck wine, I DESERVE a nice glass of wine. Rosenblum here I come!

So many things, so little time

There are so many things I want to do. So many things I want to learn and be good at. How do you decide what takes priority? How do you decide what to focus on?

When learning something new there is a certain amount of time and energy that needs to be put into it to get past the awkward "I suck at it" stage. I tried skiing a number of years ago and gave up - it was SO much work. I was never able to get past the awkward stage to make it enjoyable. It was always an enormous effort with frustration that left me feeling worse about myself and not better. You need to be able to invest enough time and effort to get past that stage so you can truly enjoy.

I have many interests that I really would like to spend more time on. I would love to resume my photography and drawing, learn how to salsa, learn more about wine, spend more time cooking, learn to make pasta from scratch, make more breads from scratch, develop my yoga practice further, knit more often and more complex projects, learn how to throw clay, learn to be fluent in Spanish, read more books and on and on and on. There is so much and I feel like there is never enough time. In order to concentrate on one and be more proficient I need to give up something else (even if only for a little while.)

I feel like there is never enough time. I always have to compromise - really it feels like sacrifice or giving up something. How do I make it work? How do I find the balance?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Grilled Baby Octopus with Butter Bean Salad

A good friend and foody came over for dinner Friday night and was so kind to bring me a new cookbook - Italian Grill by Mario Batali.

I spent my Saturday morning reading the book, marking various recipes to try. Saturday was a gorgeous summer day so I selected the Grilled Baby Octopus Salad as my 1st recipe from the new book to make. What a great choice! It was super easy to make, so simple and so tasty.

I made a few modifications to the recipe. I couldn't find gigante beans so I used butter beans. Scott and I are both not fans of thyme so we substituted rosemary in the bean salad. The recipe calls for a vinaigrette of olives, orange zest and other ingredients. I didn't care for the vinaigrette and was VERY happy that I tasted BEFORE I drizzled over the platter. In place I simply drizzled the platter with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

We had plenty left over. I chopped up the octopus and it made a wonderful side dish to bring to a barbecue on Sunday.

Adapted from Italian Grill by Mario Batali.
If you can't find baby octopus, you can use a full-sized octopus. Just simmer it in salted water about an hour, or until tender, and then cut up the tentacles before grilling.

For the bean salad:
2 (14-ounce) cans gigante beans or butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 garlic cloves, thinly sliced - originally called for 3 cloves raw - I cut to 1 clove and would recommend sauteing or roasting to lighten flavor
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the octopus:
2 pounds baby octopus
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch chives, cut into 1-inch lengths

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.

Make the bean salad: Roast or saute garlic in oil. Combine the beans, garlic, scallions, rosemary, and olive oil in a medium bowl, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. (The beans can be prepared a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.)

Grill the octopus: Toss the octopus with enough olive oil to coat lightly, and season well with salt and pepper. Arrange the octopi on the hottest part of the grill, leaving at least 1 inch between them, and grill, turning once, until crispy, about 4 minutes per side. [Only 1-2 minutes if you're using adult octopus that you've already simmered.]

Mound the bean salad on a large platter. Arrange the octopus over and around the beans. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle with chives.


Vinaigrette option if you choose:
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup pitted Gaeta olives
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
grated zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Make the vinaigrette: Combine the shallots, olives, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and orange zest in a medium bowl and and mix well. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
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