Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Though this is pretty routine for me to do a big cosmetics run (it's more of an excuse to go to Fresh Choice) , it was the first time I explored the relatively new grocery store. I was all "whatever" until...Baby portabellas!?!?! on sale for 99 CENTS?!? ooh! ooh! ooh! (think Horshack) I actually ran back to the front of the store to get a cart, 'Shrooms are my current obsession if you haven't figured that out so even though I had a fridge full of giant portabellas queued up for the bourguignon, I had to purchase these babies. It was all I could do to limit myself to two, my own limit but also the limitation of the fridge at the house. It was already unusually full but it's been like Jenga in there since moving over my perishables and shopping. Yet I couldn't help but think of Jamies Bacon and Mushroom Cream so I immediately went in search of bacon and heavy cream. The first (and only) time I made the recipe I omitted the bacon...just forgot to buy it. I loooove me some bacon but I don't buy it or cook it because...well...it's one of my trigger foods. The previous attempt was delish without but I hate omissions and substitutions the first time out with a recipe. Since then though I latched onto a great tip from Cooks Illustrateds 834 Kitchen Quick Tips: Freezing bacon. Separate the strips and roll each one up and drop them in a freezer bag. Done.
I made the Bacon and Mushroom Cream for breakfast.
This house has a stovetop with a grill in the middle. I brought over some biscuits I had frozen, bought some ground chuck on sale at Target and grilled up a couple of sliders to top my freshly baked biscuits, heated up some of last nights bourguignon and spooned each 'shroomy sauce on top of its very own slider and voila! a seriously gorgeous take on biscuits and gravy, the smoky crunch of the charred burger puts it right over the top. I'm basking in the afterglow this very minute...aaahhh...oh yeah...channeling my inner Anthony Bourdain now...feeling very hedonistic...indulgent...gluttonous...satiated...what...ever. I almost want a glass of red wine and it's not even noon...and a cigarette....
OK, I'm back
The sun came out and I need to embrace it because though I do enjoy hunkering indoors on a rainy day cooking, drinking, watching movies or tooling around the internet (yay! wifi in da house) watching my favorite Live From Daryls House, I'm goin' a tad stir crazy. Between the holiday and weather related lethargy and using the car I'm getting seriously sluggish. Reminds me I gotta take the bike to get the flat fixed. I need to get pedalin' again especially after a meal like I just had.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
So. I was going on about my newly discovered love of the 'shroom. I had another epiphany with the same joy/sorrow head smacking episode I had with the whole freezer-cookie dough regret that I was sooooo late to the party.
Mushrooms. I just never knew how good they could be. They've always taken a back seat to the few dishes I ever used them for. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Well thats all changed now.
First it was SK's Mushroom Lasagne, then the Bacon and Mushroom Cream from Jamie Olivers Kitchen Revolution, then it was SK's Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms and then Dorie Greenspans Mushroom and Shallot Quiche now this. Mushroom Bourguignon, another, need I say, Smitten Kitchen glory. This was my first time with the portabello, a mushroom that well, really, just scared me. So big and uhm, mushroomy. While I'm admitting to my emergence from a culinary wasteland I'll also admit that this is the first time I've cooked with red wine. I've never particularly liked red wine. This goes back to a bad episode in my misspent youth for the same reason tequila was banished into a nearly 20 year exile. Get the picture?
Over the last couple of years or so I've managed to
On Christmas Eve at Little Sister Kitchen I was educated on the aeration of red wine and the concept of letting the wine breathe. OK, now I get it. Thus I ventured. This recipe surprised me the other day (SK's feature where with a click a random recipe will pop up) I was gung ho to give it a go. I did a little research on buying and cooking with red wine and bought two different bottles to experiment with. I did not go for the Two Buck Chuck as I most certainly would have done a year ago.
Thus I set up my own little taste test: Smart & Final had a Barefoot Cab on sale for $7 and Target had a Yellowtail Shiraz on sale for $5. I opened both up and let them breathe for about an hour, poured a little taster in each glass observing the color: the Cab was a little darker-meaning more rested I think. Tasting, the Barefoot seemed a slightly bitter compared to the shiraz so into the pot went the shiraz as of course everyone knows never to cook with a wine you won't drink. Not that the cab was bad but the shiraz was lovely. Smooth and sweet. Sold! AND bestest yet, it was the least expensive of the two. Hey! it's not Two-Buck Chuck.
The upshot of all of this is that not only did I get a little education and again ventured out of my comfort zone I created another winner... the Mushroom Bourguignon is a triumph! Wooohooo. I topped the gorgeous rich mahogany stew onto some egg noodles with a little crema fresca and some chopped cilantro and well, just bliss. Mushrooms and red wine. Who knew? Clearly everyone except me.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Some things never change. Hundreds of cookies have been baked over the last two weeks which were meticulously arranged onto the plastic christmas tree and santa trays snatched up from Walgreens for pennies on the dollar in the days after Christmas in years gone by when the sad picked over shelves are making way for Valentine hearts 'n flowers.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
the downside, Why? oh why? did I not think of this sooner? I've spent the last 10 years torturing myself during Christmas week by this crazy need to deliver fresh baked cookies to all my friends and loved ones as close to the 25th as possible. Three different cookies. I thought about freezing the cookies last year but that just seemed so wrong on so many levels but freezing the pre-baked cookies!?! That's just brilliant! I can have fresh baked cookies whenever I want them.
I got all the doughs made up and cookies formed in two short evenings earlier this week. Froze the first two batches and left the thumbprint batch wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer. It was so much easier and less messy to roll the cold dough into balls, they're also a lot firmer and toss around in the egg white and crushed nuts quicker because they're not as delicate and then they're really quick to "thumbprint".
I've still got gougeres and scones in the freezer too.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
This week I'm luckily loaded with home made bread that must be used up pretty soon...time for some more kale and toasty tuscan croutons. Anyhoo...yesterday I tossed a couple of slices on the grill pan (no oil or butter), then some shredded cheddar and two eggs scrambled up with some fresh basil and finally salsa!
This is an awesome easy breakfast, unless you're making your own bread. Yet even then, through all the ups and downs of the breadmaking process, I bought more bread flour at Whole Foods last night.
Not that there will be much time for bread this week. Christmas is a week from today and I've not done a damn thing...well that's not entirely true. I'm trying to get a jump on the cookie cookery by making everything up just to the baking point and then freezing.
As usual I've made the chocolate thumbprints, Mexican Wedding Cakes and Chocolate Chip Cookies. The big changeup is the chocolate chip recipe came from Amateur Gourmet/Top Chef this year.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I picked up Ruhlmans Ratio a few weeks ago and it's pretty much been with me every day. Bread is the first chapter and he makes it sound so easy once you've figured out the ratio. 5 parts flour to 3 parts water, add a little yeast and salt and you've turned glue into bliss.
The key to the kneading is clear. Tear off a small hunk of dough and if you can stretch a small square to translucency you're done. Yeah...well a half hour of kneading later it still hadn't gotten to that point and I just let it go and put it in the pot anyway.
I left it to rise in the dutch oven on the stovetop for the rest of the afternoon as I went out about my business and came back to plump mound of dough in my pot. Perhaps a little too much? I guess the pilot gives it enough heat to double in half that time. It had more than doubled. Rulhman says that if it rises too much it'll be harder to rise the second time. First rise can also happen in the refrigerator if you want to leave it overnight. I punched it down rounded it out again, slashed an X and spread some olive oil over it and topped it with a little salt and let it rise for another hour and a half.
It baked in the dutch oven for 30 with the lid then 30 without. I checked it after 15 minutes and it looked like the dough around the slashes seemed a tad raw, so I left it in until the top was golden and crispy looking. When I dumped it out of the pot the bottom was burnt though 10 minutes too long perhaps? Once it cooled down some I sliced off a hunk and tore into it. The top was a little too salty and the bread was a little more dense than I would have liked but it tasted really good.
Was it worth it? Yeah it was. I made bread! That's no easy feat. Some lessons learned. I made some mistakes but it ended up tasting pretty good for a first go. I want to explore the variables and see if I can get this right. The density of this boule made up a pretty good grilled cheese sandwich yesterday. Last night I buttered some up to have with my butternut squash soup.
I got a good upper body workout too.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I got this recipe a while back from Smitten Kitchen which she got via Americas Test Kitchen. Those are my two favorite foodie sites. ATK is a little more basic and they do have a tendency to complicate the waffle but the results are always worth the effort. I do have a peeve about the whole Cooks Illustrated Country Test Kitchen empire. The two magazines & the three websites must be subscribed to separately and there doesn't seem to be any discounting for cross over or multiple subscriptions. They're each about $25 a pop. Then there are the multiple books and DVD's. There's a lot of repetition but enough individuality to lure in the addict.That's where the foodie friends come in handy.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Okay...so now I'm about six months into my I Heart the Veg cookery ummmn what? lifestyle? awareness? smackdown? I was gonna call it the Veggie Challenge but it's not so much a challenge anymore. It's pretty damn easy actually and I'm actually digging all this cooking and baking. Now I just gotta get my ass back to Weight Watchers and see how well (or not) I'm managing these kitchen forays into my life and health. So far the clothes are still fitting comfortably so I'm not really feeling any urgency...yet. I do sorta miss the meetings. There are some new changes in the program that I'm curious about, but I think it all comes down to The Veg. Zero points for most fruits and veg, but I suspect their adding more points elsewhere. All that managing, worrying and questioning of point values is so tedious and the time it takes up in meetings is punishing. I take a note from Sam the Cooking Guy on the lo-cal aspect of his recipes: if it says it serves 4 it serves 4. Portion. Portion. Portion.
So here's a little goodie from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Before I almost had to have the library come and pry this book outta my hands, I challenged myself to pick 10 recipes to copy and make. I had 30+ marked but in a rare attempt to face reality I knew recipe collection is not the goal.
I started with the tart. I got what I think is the perfect sized tart pan at Kamei last week. It's a 7" pan. The recipe calls for a 9-9 1/2" pan so I was left with some extra tart dough and some extra cream and egg mix when this was done but I got all the shrooms in there. Perhaps I will attempt a note from Ruhlmans Ratio and see if I can mathematically scale this down to fit my pan.
I made the tart shell the night before and froze it though there was really no need to do that as the shell will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Dorie recommends freezing the shaped tart in the pan, thus requiring more pans if one should become a big fan of the tart. Well this one was so good that I may just do this. This pan was $4.
I partially baked the tart while I was cooking up the shrooms and shallots with some thyme. Thyme is also sprinkled on the bottom of the crust before adding the shrooms. Cream and egg mix gets poured on top then scallions and cheese get sprinkled on top then it gets baked for 30-35 mins.
This was really good...welcome another new addition to the Little Kitchen arsenal.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
A rainy day with nothing to do but tool around in the kitchen and eight episodes of The Amazing Race? How cool is that. I can't remember the last time I stayed in the house ALL day. I usually get a little squirrely around four and need to get to Tia's somehow someway. I thought about it but nothing seemed worth getting all wet over and the kitchen needed me. I started off dusting off the old waffle maker. I think I use this once a year. I had a recipe from ATK for The Best Waffles Ever. As ATK tends to do it complicated the process with the folding in of stiffly beaten egg whites, but since I had nothing but time I did it and got some really fluffy waffles. Nice! One happy accident was after messing the crap outta my waffle iron with oozing batter, then an under calculation the next time I really like the visual effect of lacier misshapen waffles. I still haven't cleaned off the waffle iron yet.
The kitchen day rocked!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I almost tossed some stale bagette and remembered the croutons, fished the foil wrapped heel outta the garbage, chopped and tossed it in some olive oil then onto the grill pan and voila!
I'd been sitting on this recipe from Dorie Greenspans book. Endives, Apples and Grapes. Oh My! I started off at the farmers market on Sunday when I found the grapes for $1.50 a pound. I don't buy grapes a lot but that seemed like a reasonable price. I got some fuji apples for 75 cents a pound another good deal as I've been seeing them at Richmond Produce for 99 cents I think. The only element that was eluding me was the endive. I've only ever bought it one other time and I recall being a little put off by the price...so when I couldn't find it I figured it was a seasonal thing and I almost gave up thinking that it wouldn't be worth a back track to Whole Foods. I gave it one last shot at the little corner market at 25th & Clement and there it was. I think it was $3.49 a pound but two plump endives don't weigh much so I ended up paying about $1.80 for the two.
Got everything home and cooked it all up thinking "This is the weirdest recipe, cooking grapes and endive?" but then I reminded myself of the awesome grape foccacia and the brilliance of Dorie. No worries. It's all good.The result? Not so good. The grapes and apples were nice but the endive? uhmnn...not loving it. I kept eating, trying to identify it's wrongness. Bitter and bland...can those two things happen at the same time? and the texture...just floppy and unappealing. Oh well...moving on. So far 2 outta 3 ain't bad. The carrots and the gougeres were amazing.
So many more recipes to try. Before returning the book, I picked 10 recipes to copy. I want to make a tart. Well first there's a mushroom and shallot quiche that starts in a tart shell. I bought a new tart pan at Kamei the other day. Tart's it is!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I love this farmers market. It's called The Heart of the City Farmers Market and it operates on Sunday and Wednesday at the Civic Center or The United Nations Plaza more specifically. It's a lot smaller in Winter of course, but it's such an amazing resource and I'm loving the awareness of seasonal produce. This is a whole new source of inspiration.
Lately I've been drawn to all these recipes I'm seeing using squash and apples. The soups and risottos...oh my. I'm also seeing sage pop up frequently. I've never used sage before so of course off I go...after what was appearing to be a fruitless search I find a basket full of these amazing smelling branches. It didn't look like the sage I'm used to seeing at Whole Foods in those little plastic boxes and though I'm not that familiar with the scent of sage, I was pretty sure that's what it was. White sage as it turns out. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it but for two dollars it filled up my market basket and if I only get a couple of days of a dreamy smelling kitchen it's all good.
I've saved and scratched out a couple of recipes using sage so for the next couple of days I'm All About Sage.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
So many recipes, so little time...
I don't have cable so I can't watch the foodie shows. That's probably a good thing because I'd have them on all the time. I used to catch a couple in the morning when I was at work but the new boss put the kibosh on that. Go figure.
I found this amazing turkey burger on Elie Kriegers show. The turkey meat is mixed up with panko breadcrumbs and a bunch of herbs-mint, parsley and some dill I think, then formed into thin patties which are then stuffed by sandwiching a sauteed onion & spinach mix ( with some feta added in after) together to form a big fat turkey burger.
Then I mixed up a little tzatziki and stuffed it all inside a pita with some cucumber, tomato and a bit of basil. It's as awesome as it is messy, but lordy it is bliss.
I wish I'd found something like this when I was in Greece, well I did I guess...it's called souvlaki.
Friday, December 3, 2010
I made a big pot of this chili the day before Thanksgiving and even though I gave almost half of it away, I finished off my remainder within a couple of days. Whilst passing by the meat case on my way to the fat-free yogurt at Whole Foods the other day, I noticed they had lean ground beef for $2.99/lb. and I knew that this chili was once again to make an appearance in my near future.
This was another Smitten Kitchen recipe I wrote about last month when I'd made it with her recipe for Cheddar Sour Cream Biscuits. This time I topped it on my first batch of Sweet Corn Spoonbread...the original batch that came out a little
This chili is not only delish but it cooks up fairly fast, about an hour all total. I've made chilis in the past that have simmered away for hours and as much as I love the smell of a kitchen with chili cooking away, the friends and family only care about the chow down and the beer.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Acorn squash makes it's Little Kitchen debut. It's been posing in a pretty bowl as part of my kitchen still life for about a month now and this morning I finally attacked it with my chefs knife and some butter and brown sugar, you see, I'm trepidacious when there are strangers in my kitchen. After an hour in the oven it became a super sweet warm guest I would welcome back again. I'll try roasting it next time with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
The Sweet Corn Spoonbread was that persistent guest and I discovered it's beautiful purpose...to be topped with a little butter, heated up and drizzled with a little agave nectar for breakfast. That was absolutely sublime. All that time was worth it!
The surprise guest teamed up with the late guest and that became another lovely breakfast. The surprise was the new approach to the won ton wrapper by baking it into a cracker. The late guest was the herb & goatcheese ball that had been forgotten in the freezer and missed Thanksgiving.
Then there's my special guest...unsweetened applesauce, that which did not make it into the spiced applesauce cake. This is perfect with my favorite Trader Joes fat free yogurt. The bonus with that yogurt is the containers are perfect when the Little Kitchen has to go on the road.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Anyhoo, I mentioned how this was a time consuming process for the Little Kitchen. The frozen corn needs to be thawed and drained (I dumped it in a collander lined with a paper towel then squeezed it out a bit. Then it goes into the dutch oven that contains the melted butter where it cooks on a medium heat to brown. That took a real long time...more than 10 minutes. Meanwhile the cornmeal has been stirred into 3/4 c. of milk and left to sit so the cornmeal gets really moist.
Once the corn is browned add the sugar, salt, cayenne and the rest of the milk (2c.). I'd run out of reduced fat milk and ended up using 2 c. of evaporated milk (1c. with 1c. water) and bring it to a boil and to simmer for a while then let it cool off a while (15 mins. instructions say) so it can go in a blender or food processor-an emersion blender is recommended a time saver and a bowl saver but that's one thing I don't have yet. Then this mixture needs to be returned to the pot and the cornmeal mix is added, then it all gets brought to the boil again...then brought down to room temp. in order to add the eggs and fold in the whipped egg white/cream of tartar mixture.
Then it all gets baked for 45 minutes. I was in the kitchen for 2 hours with this...not that there's anything wrong with that. I got much of Jamie Olivers Food Revolution marked up with little orange post-its. The upshot is that I doubt I would make this for any kind of gathering or Thanksgiving with all the other stuff going on there-as the timing needs to be spot on to get it on the table immediately before it starts to deflate. SK said hers had dropped a little in the time it took her to get her camera.
I do like the idea of it for breakfast though. Prepare the batter the night before then add the eggs and bake it in the morning. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Smitten Kitchen posted this spoonbread a few days ago and it looked amazing. She'd baked it in lovely little white souffle dish and it looked all fluffy golden and crack-y like a good souffle should. Her mouthwatering description had me dying to make this. It's a cross between cornbread and Chevy's sweet corn tamalito. I don't have a small souffle dish but she also suggested using an 8 x 8 inch pan. Done and done.
I've made this twice now. The first one was a hot mess... it tasted great. It just looked like any old cornbread...well, a slightly heavy cornbread. It would have been perfect under a ton of chili. The recipe is from Cooks Country, which I love. Having never made any kind of souffle before, I kinda knew early on where I went wrong. First, I didn't realize I didn't have any cream of tartar, which is whipped into the egg whites for fluff. Then I was a little sloppy when I separated the eggs. There was a little yolk in the whites and I do know that yolk is the enemy of fluff. The two margaritas I had on the way home may have contributed to it's ultimate uuuuh demise.
Anyhoo...realizing that the mess was of my own making and having nothing better to do on my day off, a very chilly day off, I tried this again this morning. It definitely turned out better. Tasty and very spoonable. It just took waaay too long, though SK does mention this obstacle as well as the number of bowls and stuff this recipe seems to call for. The batter has to be boiled and cooled down to room temp twice... well the first cooling is to get the cooked corn and milk down for the puree, recipe says about 15 minutes. The pureed corn/milk/seasoning has to be brought back to the boil with the cornmeal mix. The second cooling is just before you add the egg yolks so you don't cook 'em. It says about 20 minutes. Even after transferring the batter to two different cooled bowls and stirring frequently to release some steam, there was still more steam coming from this batter after 20 minutes. I let it rest for close to 30. After whipping in the yolks you fold in the peaky egg white/cream of tartar mixture. Could I have over folded?.
I'm still not sure if I got this right. I baked it for 40 mins. though the recipe said 45 mins. I took it out 'cuz the top was looking more brown than golden. It's to be served immediately, which I did. The texture seemed a little underdone but kinda consistent with the Chevy's sweet corn tamalito. My sense is that this should be fluffier. I WILL attempt this one more time in a casserole dish...and only because it tasted so damn good. Maybe I'll just go to Ross and pick up a 1 1/2 qt. souffle dish just because I need this to come out just like the picture. It's so good I feel a challenge coming on to get this right. I'm competitive like that.
I just downloaded the Nikon software to get my new digital in the mix. The pics are way better than my cell cam and I just played with this groovy collage feature. I still haven't figured out the placement of photos within one post.
Live and Learn! Such is life.
Well I managed to get everything loaded properly...I think, so this is the first pic from the new camera.
This was the other cheeseball that I forgot to bring to the Little Sister Kitchen for Thanksgiving. I'd left it in the freezer where it sat for three days before I moved it down into the fridge. I remembered to buy the chives last night and tried to turn out a ball as perfect as the Beer Cheeseball but it turned into a hot mess. It was way too gooey. I slapped it around my bowl of chopped chives and just let it be. It tasted like a dream. Tangy, herb-y & cheesy.
This morning I thumbed through Sam the Cooking Guy and found his uh recipe for Won Ton Chips: slap sheets onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake @350 for 8 minutes until they just start to brown. Yum...breakfast!
Sunday, November 28, 2010
My sis and I cooked up a whole lotta piss-elegance this Thanksgiving with mom hovering close by. I believe we did her proud. The mimosas didn't hurt either.
The flurry of activity commenced Tuesday night in the Little Kitchen beginning with making applesauce for Spiced Applesauce Cake (from Smitten Kitchen), then onto a Chili and Sour Cream Cheddar Biscuits (SK again) care package which I planned to drop off to a friend Wednesday morning. Then I prepped the Mushroom Lasagne, containering up its elements: sauteed mushrooms, bechamel & grated parmesean to transport to the Little Sister Kitchen for its assembly & baking Wednesday evening.
The best and newest addition to the Little Kitchen arsenal came in the mail a few days before T-Day and I practically squealed with glee to find my introductory copy of Cooks Country magazine. I'd forgotten all about it.
The minute I saw the picture of the cheeseballs I knew at least one of these little beauties would be adorning the Thanksgiving table. Wednesday morning before heading off to the Little Sister Kitchen, I made two of these babies. First up was an herb and goat cheese ball. I tossed it in the freezer to firm up while I prepared this beer & pretzel ball. But hmnnn no beer (I actually had some old pretzels that had not gone stale), so I run down to the corner market at 9am to buy a bottle of brew, which is right next door to the Hockey Haven, one of those neighborhood bars I call "Old Man Bars" where there were about 5 or 6 guys standing outside smoking and several others inside. I didn't feel so freaky about buying a bottle of beer at 9am.
The recipe only calls for 3 tablespoons so what do with the rest. I actually took a couple of sips and decided to save the rest for my ride who was coming to pick me up in 10 minutes. He never feels freaky about a 9am beer.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Many weird coincidental happenings these last coupla days. In the wee hours of the early morning after my recent Little Kitchen meatball debacle I was in between Smitten Kitchen posts and ventured over to Matt Bites where I was greeted by a gorgeous picture of some glistening carrots. Dorie Greenspans carrots! I had only just earmarked it that verysame morning for the Little Kitchen Thanksgiving Table. I loved Matts glowing raves of the book and of Dorie (who even commented on the post with her thanks-did I already mention I Love Dorie Greenspan?) and I felt like The Good Foodie for having possession of it right in front of me. This book could make me recant my promise not to buy any more cookbooks. Anyhoo I'll be cooking my way through this for the next couple of weeks.
There was also another interesting post on Matt Bites. A cookbook author had tweeted her disappointment at her latest Amazon rating. A 3 for lack of photos. She tweeted the question: Do cookbooks need photographs? Responses were mixed but seem to lean heavier toward the Yes. This coming only hours after my meatball debacle only confirmed my Yes. Several commenters stated that good writing, citing Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, can overcome the lack of photos. Another cookbook in my possession...and yes, I can agree with that too. The Celery Root and Apple Salad turned out lovely.
I've got these two paragon cookbooks in my hot little hands and though Dorie has a deadline that's where my comfort zone lies.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Now the upshot of these two recipes is that I've learned a valuable lesson about myself and recipes. First: I need pretty pictures. This particular recipe in Foods of the Greek Islands didn't have a picture. I saw the word "meatballs" and since I love meatballs and had some ground beef that needed a home beyond the freezer I pretty much locked onto it without thinking it through. Second: read the recipe! duh... not just once and don't just skim. Visualize the steps. Yet through all that is that I can fix a clunker.
The recipe was titles thus: Soutzoukakia Lemonata (meatballs with rice and herbs in lemon broth). I sorta missed that last word. All the elements were appealing but the final result was a bunch of tepid looking herbey spheres with rice poking out of them like some weird sci-fi planet or medieval weapon floating in a soupy herbey broth. The broth looked and tasted delicious and the meatballs tasted amazing but boiled meat is boiled meat no matter how you dress it up. I'd totally glossed over the fact that this was supposed to be a meatball soup. I understand why there was no picture.
Here's what I did: I skimmed out the meatballs and reduced the broth thickening it with egg and lemon juice (an optional note at the bottom of the recipe) to end up with a gravy chock full of onions and herbs. My own fix-it note was to brown the meatballs in a skillet with some olive oil and drop them back into the gravy. The dish ended up looking like herbey swedish meatballs and it tasted amazing. It looked a little too oily but I managed to scarf it all down anyway. The leftovers reheated well and I finished the whole thing off the next day.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I do have to give myself kudos for when I flipped to the recipe for the Mustard Vinaigrette I had most of the 12 ingredients on hand including capers!
There was another recipe I'd been coveting for about a week now from Foods of the Greek Islands: Soutzoukakia Lemonata (or Meatballs with Rice and Herbs in Lemon Broth). I'd originally been looking for a different use for the ground beef I had in the freezer. Again I pretty much had all the ingredients on hand and really needed to use up a drawer full of herbs that were teetering of the edge of freshness. The only thing I needed was white wine.
Just as I was beginning my bike ride home, it started to rain. I did not let that deter me. I made my three stops, getting wetter & colder with each stop. I was determined as I'd put kitchen night off a couple of times and had already transfered the meat into the fridge. "You WILL cook tonite"
First stop was the library for Dorie Greenspans Around my French Table which I'd almost forgotten I'd ordered. Perfect timing since Thanksgiving is five days away.
Next stop Richmond Produce (I love this place 'cuz the prices are always low and the quality is comparable to the farmers when I can't get there). I don't know what I first thought when I looked at that celery root. It was hideous. I passed right over it the first time. I was expecting something that looked like a fennel bulb I guess. The idea of tackling that root was repelling and thrilling. So game on Evil Looking Celery Root! Got my granny smith then onto the wine shop for a bottle of Barefoot chardonay...on sale. Sweet.
Five minutes later I bungle my wet self and bike into the lobby of my building and trek my grocery bags up the stairs. A hot shower and a cold glass of wine later I tackled the celery root with a little instruction from VC4E. The salad was lovely and deliciously crunchy and that Mustard Vinaigrette? gorgeous.
Friday, November 19, 2010
I didn't care that it involved making a pie crust and I didn't care that I had to blanch, peel, de-seed and juice all those tomatoes. I made the mistake of using plum and campari tomatoes, which didn't leave a whole lot of tomato meat to create the two layers of slices the recipe calls for. Stick with the beefsteak just like the recipe says.
Now to the corn. Can I just say that I have loved corn above all else since I was a wee little girl. My mother used to say I'd be a cheap date because all a guy needed to feed me was cheeseburgers and corn and I'd be happy. That's still kinda true. I will suffer the indigity of knawing my way down a salty, buttery cob. I always have frozen corn in my freezer. My go-to comfort food when I'm not feeling well is to make a pot of white rice, mix in some frozen corn, a blob of butter, salt & pepper. No matter how dazed and feverish I am, just thinking about a hot bowl of rice and corn will lift me outta my sickbed. Yet, I have never cut corn off a fresh cob! In my entire adult life I can't remember even buying fresh corn.
So this was sort of a first for me. Anyhoo, this pie involves layers of slice tomatoes, fresh cut corn, fresh chives and basil topped off with lotsa cheese. Yum! oh yeah and there's this curious addition, just before you add the last (top) layer of cheese you drizzle over the top a mixture of mayonaise and fresh lemon juice. I have no problem with mayo but several people in the SK comments took issue with it. It's only 3 tablespoons but apparently it's ommission makes a huge difference.
I'm not one to follow blindly even when hitching my tail to a star and if there's one thing I've figured out in the few short months I've been an amateur foodie, is fooling around in the Little Kitchen is fun and it's ok to make mistakes and though Smitten Kitchen recipes are pretty much perfection, I'm attempting my own adaption of the Tomato and Corn Pie. I'm working on a Tex Mex version. When I first bit into this pie it reminded me of a tortilla pie that I used to covet from Good & Plenty in NYC. They called it a Tortilla Flat. It was baked in a ceramic pasta serving bowl. My first attempt I added black beans and cilantro replaced the basil, added cayenne & cumin to the mayo-lemon and replace the pastry with corn tortilla. The only problem was getting the tortilla layer on top looking pretty. I'm also still trying to figure out the right baking dish that conforms best with the tortillas.
This is my current work-in-progress and my first attempt at adapting an already perfect recipe. My last attempt tasted great but didn't look so good. It's all about the pretty.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuscan Kale Salad, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This blurry bit of goodness comes from 101 Cookbooks and was my inspiration to give kale a try. These days I'm all about trying new things and stalking my farmers market where I snagged a giant bunch of kale for a dollar. The dressing consists of olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, sea salt and parmesean tossed with the slivered kale and rustic toasted french bread croutons.The red pepper flakes enhance the peppery flavor of kale and it's hearty curly texture grabs hold of all that lemony cheesy goodness. It's a keeper and I suspect this will find its way onto the family Thanksgiving table next week.
There are two cookbooks on my shelf that I find myself pulling out more so than others. Local Flavors and Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone both by Deborah Madison. I've had these for years and I'm pretty sure they came from some cookbook club subscription I signed up for and never paid for.
I challenge myself to this: I will venture my way through Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and I will go back to Weight Watchers (so I can brag about it) and it goes without saying, blog it.
Monday, November 15, 2010
This leaning tower of de-lish came my way via The Amateur Gourmet which came his way via chef Eric Wolitzky, currently a contestant on Top Chef Just Desserts. These cookies were in the elimination challenge and the recipe can be found on amateurgourmet.com or on the Bravo TV site. I haven't figured out how to add links and until someone actually asks I've got other fish to fry before I start tackling recipes and the legalities and whatnot of including them in my blog.
I have to say that so far these cookies seem to have the slight edge over the previous ATK cookies. Though now I've got to go get me some of those Guittard chocolate chips that the folks over at ATK seem all gaga about now that I find I've been using inferior chocolate chips all these years.
This recipe gels for a couple of reasons.
First: it uses weights so I got to break in my new digital kitchen scale, weighing out gluttonous grams of sugars, butter and chips. 21 ounces of chips...way more than I had on hand after baking the ATK cookies the night before. I only had 10 grams left. What to do? I chopped up most of my freezer reserve dark chocolate to what looked to be close to 4 cups of chocolate.
Which leads to the second reason I like these cookies: Chocolate, chocolate and mo chocolate. Nothing wrong with that. It seems my taste testers preferred this second auditionee for that very same reason.
I did lift a technique from the ATK recipe which is to brown the butter...though I've actually been browning butter for all my baked sweets since making Smitten Kitchens Peach Shortbread.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
But, since the chances of me getting my cooking groove on in the wee morning hours and have it all fresh and pretty at THE precise moment and sunlight to illuminate (which is pretty much an anomaly in this part of the city) are slim at best, I guess my next step is calling up my mad skills, not to mention but I will, an NYU Theatrical Design MFA (which I am still paying for) and set the stage in a little corner of the Little Kitchen with the help of a couple of clip lights and some old curtains I've got stashed somewhere and unleash the Food Stylist lurking somewhere in OCD land.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
...well, they started selling like hot cakes so my curiousity got the better of me and I gave it a go. They offered up three choices: Ancho, Bacon or Black Bean. What appealed to me right from the get-go was the presentation. After an initial blast in the microwave they throw the burrito in the panini press and then slice it diagonally. It's crispy and easy to eat with your hands.
Ingredients were simple: black beans, potatoes, eggs, salsa and cheese. Result: seriously tasty and filling. I'm hooked.
Instead of spending $5 a pop I decide to make my own, keeping my Weight Watchers food tracker in mind. I start with a low-fat, high-fiber whole wheat tortilla and Cabot reduced calorie cheddar cheese. I roast a couple of potatoes with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary then mash 'em up a little with some salsa. I cook a cup of black beans in the slow cooker so I'll plan that in the night before. When they're ready the next a.m. I mash a little salsa in with the black beans, scramble up 3 eggs then mix in more salsa. I get everything around the cutting board in bowls and finally I steam 4 tortillas in one of those plastic tortilla warmers in the microwave for a minute. Then start building the burrito.
As much as I've tried I can't get an appealing photo because the innards are a mess but they sure taste great. I make enough for the week so all I have to do is nuke one for a minute then I throw it on my little stove top grill pan. I like that I can nosh on it while I'm getting ready for work.
One of these will fuel me through my 30 minute bike ride to work and some pretty intense work activity.
The best thing is that in Weight Watchers world these are only 6 points. Thanks Simple Pleasures!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
In serious weekend mode I threw together my favorite Paris hotel breakfast. Homemade applesauce & yogurt with some cream cheese and blueberry jam on a crispy baguette. Oooooh-la-la and magnifique. Good stuff. I bungeed up my market basket and pedaled off on my bicyclette a la biblioteque then on to la marche then stopped off at my favorite margarita bar before heading on home for some Little Kitchen time. Was that my first mistake?
I'd been sitting on this particular recipe for a week or so after having purchased all the ingredients. My hesitation was that I've really been trying to avoid recipes that are substitutionally (is that a word?) low calorie/low fat, but when this one came to me via email, I was intrigued: Fish & Chips. One of my faves that I rarely eat 'cuz I have to have it smothered in tartar sauce and malt vinegar not to mention the fried aspect of it. I mean how good it that? Especially with a Guinness.
One of my, whadayacallit, foodie resolutions is to learn to appreciate fish in a healthier way. Cook it. Eat it. Like it. Fish.
Hungry Girl is a site that my pals at Weight Watchers seem totally gaga for. I've had a lot of success on that program and I'm always looking for more ways to embrace it and be motivated by it. Since I've only recently gotten on the cheffy track I've been more focused on the fruits and veggies. The site looks like fun and I love the 60's Bewitched animation graphics on the HG site.
The chips are oven roasted butternut squash. I embraced the squash this year and just happened to have one sitting on my table. So far, so good. Usually when I roast veggies I toss them with some olive oil, salt, pepper and some fresh herbs. This recipe instructs to spray the squash fries with non-stick spray and a sprinkle of kosher salt then bake for ten minutes on each side. Fries came out limp and soggy. Fries will become soup tonight.
I bought tilapia though the recipe called for cod. Was that my next mistake? I coated it with egg substitute and then a combination of panko bread crumbs and Fiber One cereal crumbled in the food processor and then seasoned up with some Old Bay, salt, pepper and garlic powder. I cooked it in the broiler as instructed, well a little longer (next mistake) as I'd gotten caught up in making my own tartar sauce (from The Joy of Cooking) so the fish came out really dry. The tartar sauce was pretty darned good though.
I'll try this again tonight just to be fair, but I'm reminded of something I read in Sam the Cooking Guy last week. When asked why he doesn't do more low-fat, low-calorie recipes his response was something like "...all of my recipes are low-calorie/low-fat, but when it says it serves six, that means there are six servings to the dish not two".
Monday, November 8, 2010
They are a loyal bunch. As much as they were okay with being my culinary guinea pigs, I would not have been allowed in the door without my old party war horse: The 7-Layer Mexican Dip. Everyone has probaby made a version of this at some point in their lives and if you don't you should. It's one of the easiest party favorites aside from mixing sour cream with onion soup mix.
I've always called it 7-layer though I usually end up with five. It goes something like this:
Layer 1: One 32 oz. can of refried beans mixed with a couple of tablespoons of any jarred salsa you like, then spread it on the bottom of a glass lasagne dish.
Layer 2: Guacamole-3 large ripe avocados mashed with 1/2 of a diced red onion, a couple of smashed garlic cloves, a diced tomato, juice of 2 limes, salt & pepper. Spoon dollops of the guacamole evenly over the bean layer then spread it carefully into a smooth layer.
Layer 3: Sour Cream: I usually use a quart. Dump it in a mixing bowl and squeeze in the juice of 2 whole limes and stir it until it's smooth. Dollop spoonfuls evenly on top of the guac layer and spread it carefully to form the next layer.
Layer 4: Shredded Cheese-I usually use cheddar but a mix of cheddar and pepper jack is good too, I do a pretty dense layer of cheese but this is up to personal taste I guess.
Layer 5: a sprinkling of diced tomatoes.
This is as far as I go but you can also toss some chopped up black olives and chopped cilantro on top of the cheese layer.
This was one of the first things I ever learned to make that my mother didn't teach me so when I came home from my 7th grade home ec class asking my mom if I could make it, she was all for it. The family gave it a rave and the rest is history. If you're lucky enough to have any left over, it makes an awesome omelet.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
First: I considered the source. That effen blog has been right on the money every single time and is the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing right now since I discovered that gold five months ago.Were the little genius behind that blog to walk in the door of my little coffee house right now I don't know whether I would screech in delight, run over and plant a big wet sloppy one on her or snatch her bald cursing "@#$%$!!!! What the &$#* have you %#$@ done to me you %&#?" See, I'm a little OCD
Second: "Remember your new credo" I remind myself, "Try Something New!" See, I'm also a creature of habit and venture out of my comfort zone all too infrequently.
Anyhoo...I've got this in my oven right now. After a couple of fits and starts on this recipe I'm taking it for a road test. I'm actually gonna foist this little puppy on friends, family and complete strangers. Today is my nieces 16th birthday party and there will be slumbering and brunch tomorrow and this is particularly awesome the next day.
Friday, November 5, 2010
This will be about my kitchen and all the things that go on in it. The Little Kitchen is also a little studio within my slightly larger studio. Within the Little Kitchen is a large table. I call it my work table/desk/kitchen table. It's here where the magic happens. Right now there's a brand new Singer sewing machine sitting on it. Last week I knocked off a Kate Spade skirt that Nordstrom was selling for $400. Although the fabric wasn't as glam the construction was pretty awesome. As soon as I figure out how to insert photos within the text of an entry, pics will be edited in here.
This will eventually be about what I cook, how I cook it, how I manage what I cook and most importantly who gets to share in it..
Mostly I just have fun playing around with my camera on my cheapo cell phone and a very rudimentary computer set up.
While getting this and my writing up to snuff I'm just gonna write about my pictures.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I spent the morning going through all the pictures I took of yesterdays Giants World Series Victory Parade. This San Francisco based blog, no matter what its theme, would not be complete without a tribute to my guys in Orange & Black.
Giants! You rock my world. Thank you.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Haig's Delicacies (Clement at Eighth Avenue) is one of the remnants of that era and still has some old artifacts to prove it. For some crazy reason I've never stepped foot in there. I guess I just thought it was yet another place to get exotic Russian delicacies and seriously, in the Outer Richmond, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an Eastern European market or bakery.
My curiousity was piqued last week when I'd picked up a Greek cookbook and Haig's was only one of two listings for imported foods listed in San Francisco.
Walking into Haig's is like a room in the Smithsonian (or the Lower East Side) . It's rustic wood interior feels like an old country mercantile store. All of their spices, dried herbs and teas are bagged up with hand written labels. The cook books have been around as long as I have. Six bucks for an antique cook book. Score!
If you're in the market for a mother of pearl inlayed backgammon board they're ten percent off.
If I try really, really hard I can almost imagine myself cooking in a little kitchen somewhere in the French countryside.