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Archive for October, 2008

Before I lose my carnivore readers, please, give tofu a chance. I believe tofu is an acquired taste, like coffee, olives, or stinky cheese. Sure, it is jiggly, white, and made of bean curd, but what’s to say it can’t be your new bff?

Tofu and buckwheat noodle salad is a perfect make-ahead brown bag lunch. The tofu will absorb the sesame and tamari vinaigrette and the salad’s flavor improves over time.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. buckwheat noodles (rice noodles would be good too)
  • ½ pkg. extra firm tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1-2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • ½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • ¼ raw peanuts (almonds or cashews work good too)
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil (untoasted)
  • 2 tsp. peanut oil
  • 1 ½ Tb. rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. tamari
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/8 c. chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Boil noodles, strain, and allow to cool. Add scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, peanuts, and cukes to noodles.
  2. In a small bowl, mix tamari, rice vinegar, and sugar. Whisk in sesame and peanut oil. Toss with noodles. Serve chilled.

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Tomorrow will be my first post with the Barefoot Bloggers, but I couldn’t resist blogging about this Ina recipe as well. I will admit, I was fairly skeptical of the dish. Unless its barbecued or slathered in hoisin sauce, I usually pass on pork (with the obvious exception the bacon/ham/prosciutto food group). However, this week pork was on sale at the market and I couldn’t stomach $5/lb chicken breasts so I figured I’d give it a whirl. I am glad I did. The result was pork with a salty and tangy mustard crust, which paired beautifully with the sweet, tender caramelized vegetables.

The recipe is originally from Barefoot Contessa Parties!, and is reproduced below as written. I did, however, make a few alterations. I just about halved the amount of vegetables to feed 4 people and still had some leftovers. If you reduce the vegetables, don’t forget to reduce the oil and butter. I also found the cooking time to be off (I have found this with several Ina recipes, I wonder if anyone else has had the same experience). The internal temperature was nowhere near 138° after 30 minutes. Furthermore, I am convinced I will be one of the .0001 percent of people who develop trichinosis so I wanted to cook the pork to 160.° I did not watch the clock as well as I should have since I was using my handy dandy Williams Sonoma digital thermometer with voice alert (cruise control for cooking), but I think it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 (3-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
  • 8 carrots, peeled, and thickly sliced diagonally
  • 10 small potatoes (red or white-skinned), cut in quarters
  • 2 yellow onions, thickly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. With a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind together the garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and thyme leaves. Add the mustard. Spread the mixture over the loin of pork and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulbs in thick wedges, cutting through the core. Toss the fennel, carrots, potatoes, and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add the pork loin to the pan and continue to cook for another 30 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork reads exactly 138 degrees. Remove the meat from the pan and return the vegetables to the oven to keep cooking. Cover the meat with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thickly. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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Apple Cake

You will probably be seeing a lot of apple recipes from me lately, though I will try to space them out. Apples are one of my favorite fruits, but there is no doubt they are best this time of year. I fancy myself a wannabe apple connoisseur. The US grows about 100 varieties of apples commercially. Of course I usually stick to the usual Cortlands, Macs, Galas, and Granny Smith’s, but it is always a treat to go to a farm stand and find Honeycrisp, Paula Reds, Macouns, and Ginger Gold’s. I will admit though, I don’t get most of my apples at the grocery store or farm stand. No, I am a sucker, I pick them myself. You see, there is something immensely satisfying (er, crazy) about paying $12 admission to a pick-your-own farm in order to fill my baskets and then fork out another $4 a pound. Why I pay about $40 for fruit that would otherwise cost me $10 is a mystery likened to why Americans pay for bottled water when the tap is practically free and just as good.***

Anyhow, I have roughly one zillion apples, so in addition to this apple cake, I will be posting some other treats in the upcoming weeks utilizing the fruits of my harvest (pun intended).

***Disclaimer: I do not purchase bottled water. You shouldn’t either, it is the leading cause of plastic waste in the country. And don’t think you’re innocent because you recycle – that still uses energy. Click here and here and here. Ok, sorry, very off topic, back to your regularly scheduled cooking.

Ingredients

  • 3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2/3 c. apple sauce
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 1¾ c. white sugar
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.°
  2. Sift together all dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, stir in vanilla, eggs, apple sauce, and oil until incorporated. The batter will be very thick.
  3. Stir in apples.
  4. Bake in a lightly greased and floured tube pan for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Two nights ago, Boston Red Sox fans were cursing at their TV, their team, and those pesky Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays). After losing game one of the ALDS, the Rays have absolutely spanked the Sox. Up until the seventh inning on Thursday, the Rays were winning 7-0 and it looked like the Rays would clinch the Pennant and be headed to the World Series. But in true Red Sox fashion, the team staged a comeback to end all comebacks and won game five 8-7.

Tonight the Sox face in Rays in their house. This is not only troubling because the Rays are 9-2 against the Sox at home, but also because TB fans have a fetish for cowbell and thunderstix. As if the clangor of noisemakers was not enough, tonight we have the added pleasure of another 9 innings of Chip Caray’s brilliant (snicker) broadcasting.

I know there are a lot of Sox haters out there, but what are you going to do, root for Tampa Bay?!?!?! What has Florida contributed to the culinary world besides o.j. and key lime pie? Well la-de-frick-in-da. Show your appreciation for this state, without us there would be no Boston cream pie, Fluff, chocolate chip cookies, Thanksgiving (!), and New England Clam Chowder.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 c. diced yellow onions
  • 1 c. diced carrots
  • 1 c. diced celery
  • 2 c. fresh chopped clams (not canned, you can probably get this for about $5 prepackaged in the fish section of your grocery store)
  • 4 c. clam juice
  • 3 c. fish stock
  • 3 c. potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 c. light cream
  • 8 Tb. flour (divided)
  • 4 Tb. butter
  • 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • Red wine vinegar

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium low heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to a small dish using a slotted spoon, reserving fat.
  2. Cook the onion, carrots, and celery in bacon fat until softened, but not browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 3 Tb. flour to the vegetables, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Cook for about 3 minutes. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if it is really sticky and dry.
  4. Pour in fish stock and clam juice. Its also fine to do all clam juice if you can’t find fish stock. I have subbed half vegetable stock before to save money and it was fine.
  5. Bring to a boil and add potatoes and thyme. Reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are done.
  6. Stir in clams, reserved bacon bits, and light cream. Season with salt and pepper. Heat slowly on low.
  7. In a separate saucepan, make the roux. Melt 4 Tb. butter and add 5 Tb. flour to it. Cook over low heat until brown. Take a couple ladles of liquid from the soup pot and whisk it into the roux. This will thin it out and make it easier to add to the chowder. Add the thinned out roux into the chowder, stirring constantly. Don’t let the chowder boil!
  8. Stir in a drop or two of red wine vinegar before serving.

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My post about pizza was only two entries ago, but my second attempt warranted its own post. Instead of baking two thick, bready pizzas in the oven, I was able to thinly stretch that same amount of dough into four thin-crust rounds to be cooked on the grill. Two pizzas were left simple with just homemade sauce and mozzarella. The third pizza I topped with goat cheese, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and grilled chicken. The fourth pizza was topped with sliced black olives, pepperocini, and chicken. Grilling the pizzas was quicker than oven baking and yielded a crispier crust.

The homemade pizza sauce is simply tomato paste, onions, wine, and spices. See the recipe here

Delicious caramelized onions

Before putting the dough on the grill, brush it with a bit of olive oil. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes, flip, and then top with sauce, cheese and toppings. Cook covered another 5minutes.

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This recipe from Martha Stewart came to me via this blog. I am always on the lookout for inexpensive recipes to add to my repertoire, and this meal delivers, feeding four for about $12 (plus pantry items). Like any good Chinese takeout, this is even better the next day. The recipe, listed below, is modified to reflect how I prepared it.  Sorry about the horrendous photography – it was after dark when I made this.

Ingredients

  • 1¼ lb. beef flank steak (sliced thinly across the grain)*
  • 4 Tb. soy sauce
  • 1 Tb. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tb. apple juice
  • ½ tsp. untoasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 4 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 Tb. corn starch
  • 2 heads broccoli, trimmed, with florets separated into bite sized pieces
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

* Pop the beef in the freezer for an hour or two before slicing, it makes it easier to slice thinly

Directions

  1. In a large, shallow bowl, mix soy sauce, apple juice, sesame oil, grated ginger, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. Let marinate 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate; reserve marinade.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook meat until lightly browned, turning once, about 2 minutes per batch. Remove meat. Add 1/2 cup water to pan; stir up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour contents of the pan into the reserved marinade; whisk in cornstarch.
  3. In same skillet, fry broccoli in remaining teaspoon oil over high heat until bright green and crisp, tossing often, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water; cook until broccoli is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Stir marinade, add to pan, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until thickened, 30 seconds. Return meat to pan; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over brown rice or Asian noodles topped with sesame seeds and scallions.

Ingredients all came from the pantry besides beef and broccoli

The thinly sliced steak takes just one minute per side. Remove and sautee the broccoli

Add back in the sauce and beef and you’re done!

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As much as I love to cook, at times my laziness gets the best of me and I, like many others, succumb to the convenience of the pizza parlor across the street. While making my own pie was not nearly as convenient as takeout, it was not the arduous task I envisioned it to be.

Making sauce and cutting up toppings is the easy part. What has always prevented my (and I imagine most others’) success was making the crust. I recall the first time (as a child) being introduced to Boboli and my excitement that came topping the crust with mozzarella and sauce. As I sat in front of the oven window watching the cheese melt and salivating at my creation, there was nothing else in the world that could match my excitement (perhaps besides a new Cabbage Patch Doll or a new episode of Punky Brewster). My hopes and dreams of delicious homemade pizza were shattered at that first bite. Not even a child’s palate could be impressed by the glutenous and impossibly chewy Wonder Bread masquerading as crust. Many disappointments followed with store bought doughs and, given my lame bread making skills, I never dared to try making my own crust. Until now.

While I cannot say I was one hundred percent satisfied with the result, I did make a pretty tasty meal. The pizza dough was easy enough to make, though stretching it was a bit difficult. I made a little “test” pizza first (to check if I was spot on with the oven temperature and baking apparatus) which turned out crispy and delicious. I had slightly more difficulty stretching the dough thinly when it came time to make the big boys, leaving me with a slightly bread-ier result. Nonetheless, it was still tasty and I will use this recipe again taking more care to stretch the dough out thinly.

After cooking the crust for a few minutes sans toppings, I brushed it with some garlic infused olive oil, added a zippy homemade pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and then topped with leftover chicken, kalamata olives (a vice of mine), and thinly sliced roma tomatoes.

Read on for photos and recipes

(more…)

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