Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Weekend in the Central Coast: Meals at Home

We weren't motivated to go out and we also made the mistake of shopping hungry. The result was an enormous amount of food that lasted all three days. Ironically, Morro Bay (a few miles south of Cayucos) is home to the best Albertson's I've ever shopped at. It's well-stocked with surprisingly high-quality selections from the seafood, wine, and deli areas.

Thursday night, we made pasta with sauteed squash. We picked up spaghetti and butternut squash at a farmer's market and tossed it with onions, garlic, Italian seasoning (didn't buy any fresh herbs), salt, and pepper. The big kick this dish received was the California varietals olive oil from Pasolivo.

It isn't really squash season anymore, but perhaps that worked in our favor. The squash we bought were small, but very tender and fresh. I hate peeling and chopping butternut squash, but this was really easy. Spaghetti squash is a new favorite of mine. I love how it's crunchy and shredded when cooked. We served it with pasta, foccacia, and Meyer lemon olive oil for dipping.

For Friday's dinner, the MB Albertson's had American-farmed shrimp for $9.99 a pound and they were really fresh.

Ah, I love shrimp. I know shrimping involves a lot of by-catch, but it's still a favorite. I haven't given it up completely, but I eat less of it and look for U.S. farmed or wild-caught. It was marinaded in the Meyer lemon olive oil with honey and dukkah seasoning, all purchased from Pasolivo. Salt and pepper were also mixed in, of course. I was hoping the dukkah would toast nicely to give a fragrant crust, but I didn't use enough for that to happen. We could taste the cumin, though. The shrimp were cooked with garlic toasted in the California varietals oil.

Shrimp was served with a Spanish rice mix (pasta for Indira and Kirkleton) and rolled in flour tortillas with leftover squash and sauteed onions for a Moo-style burrito. I should note that the pasta was not rolled into a burrito.

Albertson's yielded two other good buys, a whole roasted chicken from the deli section. Normally, I'd be leery that a roasted chicken that's sitting in its package on a heated shelf all day would result in dry and flavorless cardboard. However, this was anything but. This was the salt-and-pepper crusted chicken and it was very moist. Even the breast meat was more than decent. I had fun practicing my carving skills. Home roasting is best, but this is a very good alternative.

Saturday's dinner was the Spanish rice, chicken, and Indira's freshly sauteed asparagus from the farmer's market. The asparagus was coated with Meyer lemon olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic. Yum.

The other great buy was a bottle of Chumeia's 2006 Chardonnay. With the white-wine-friendly dishes we had, this was an excellent choice. We also didn't have a chance to visit Chumeia during our wine-tasting, so this was a chance to try their offerings. I think this winery's high on the list for the next trip.

On Sunday morning, we decided to do brunch at home instead of going out. With long drives ahead, there wasn't much time to have a leisurely brunch out. Using the challah from the previous weekend, we made creme brulee French toast with this Epicurious recipe. The photo doesn't do the French toast justice, because I didn't photograph the gooey underside, but the egg/half-and-half mixture baked up into a sweet custard, which is the "creme" part, I guess.

Excellent recipe! Definitely one to repeat in the future.

Some resources that I find helpful:
San Luis Obispo County Farmer's Markets and other Events (search for specific dates and "Farmer's Market" under "Type of Event")
Monterey Bay Seafood Watch

2 bites:

Kim in the Kitchen said...

I can't believe you'd never tried a grocery store roasted chicken before! We don't get them often, but when we do it's a treat. I thought about roasting my own chicken once and looked into the prices, but the price difference was so minimal that, for me, it was a no brainer.

Meandering Eats said...

Hehe! Believe it or not, I've never had one growing up, but for another hilarious reason. My mother bought a Ronco rotisserie years ago, when Ron Pompeii (sp?) was just starting out. The thing still works and she used to roast chickens regularly.

I find that roasting your own isn't necessarily cheaper, but it can be a lot better. The Albertson's chicken was very good, but I liked the Thomas Keller recipe I tried a while ago more. :)

2 bites