Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I cooked this week, Episode 12

Well, I made up for the previous week by cooking up a storm this time. Best news of the week? There is an awesome farmers' on Wednesdays that's larger and closer to my apartment than the one I go to on Sundays! Unfortunately it only runs through October, so I need to make the most of it!

Episode 12, August 23-August 29

Chicken stuffed with chevre and sage and pan-grilled corn
Goat cheese chicken, pan-grilled corn, and peaches

I've been making this chicken recipe since my first year of college: pound some chicken breast thin, spread with goat cheese that's been mixed with herbs, roll up the chicken, bread it, and bake it. I used crushed TLC 7 grain crackers for the crust this time, and we could have use more of them (hence the patchy effect), but the chicken was still delicious. The corn I "grilled" in my La Creuset dutch oven in a bunch of butter, which was fabulous. We enjoyed fresh peaches and some out of season grapefruit on the side.

Corn-zucchini-lentil stir fry
Corn and zucchini "stir fry" with lentils

We had a cob of corn leftover from the previous dinner. I cut the kernels off the cob and sautéed them in bacon fat with some zucchini. I added half a can of lentils at the end, to give the dish some protein, and topped with some cayenne pepper. Not a bad lunch.

Chicken enchiladas with red sauce and red cabbage slaw

I can always tell when my husband really enjoys something I've cooked because it's the only time he eats more than I do. It was true with the ribs a few weeks back, and it was true with these enchiladas.

Enchiladas - a cross-section

My mother recently gifted me two cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, who is probably the leading expert on Mexican regional cuisine. All the recipes sound wonderful, but some of them are a little intimidating, so these "enchiladas sencillas" sounded like a great way to get my feet wet ("sencillo" means "simple"). The sauce is tomatoes, serranos, and garlic with creme fraiche; the enchiladas are filled with shredded chicken and diced onion; and it all gets topped off with a little cheese (veggies and chicken and from farmers' markets). MAN these were delicious, and true to their name they were pretty easy to make. The slaw is red cabbage, carrots, scallions, and cilantro, with an olive oil-lime-garlic-mustard dressing. Crunchy!

Lamb-bulgur burgers with feta and pan fried brussels sprouts
Lamb-bulgar burgers

Inspired by last week's chicken burgers, I decided to make naked burgers again, this time with some ground lamb I bought at the Wednesday farmers' market. I used a Mark Bittman recipe as a starting point and bulked up the patties with bulgur, since I had a bunch left from the tagine. I also added a bit of crumbled feta to the patty mix. Next time, I'll skip the bulgur, but they were pretty good. I have a couple extras in the freezer. The brussels sprouts were from the Sunday market.
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Chicken quesadilla

I had tortillas, chicken, and cheese leftover from the enchiladas, so I made myself a quesadilla for lunch. I added some canned hatch chiles that I had in the cupboard.

Breakfast tacos
Breakfast tacos

To use up the last of the tortillas I purchased, we had breakfast tacos for a weekend lunch. I made scrambled eggs with creme fraiche and cooked some bacon. We piled these onto the tortillas with some cilantro and store-bought mango-peach salsa. (No egg scare for us--we buy local small production eggs at the market!)

Eggplant ricotta and garlic bread
Eggplant ricotta and garlic bread

This dish would be more accurately titled "Ricotta eggplant" as it ended up a little heavy on the ricotta side. Imagine lasagna, except that instead of noodles you have slices of tomato and roasted eggplant. Pretty good, but I didn't use enough oil on the eggplant slices when they went in he oven so they were a little dry. The garlic bread, on the other hand, was surperb. I used a baguette I purchased from the bakery stall at the market and prepared it the way I learned to make garlic bread in elementary school:

1. Slice the bread almost all the way through but leave the slices attached.
2. Melt butter with minced garlic.
3. Spoon garlic butter in between the slices and pour over the top.
4. Wrap in tin foil and bake briefly.
5. Unwrap, tear off slices, and enjoy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's in my fridge right now?

Jelly thumbprint cookies
Hint: not these.

As you've probably noticed from previous posts, when coming up with ideas for meals I try to use up leftover ingredients. Curious what I've got to work from right now?

You'll notice a lack of meat and fresh vegetables. I try to buy these things either at the farmers' markets Sunday or Wednesday, or else on the day I'm going to use them, and I try to buy only enough to use in that meal, unless I'm planning to use them again--this way, I can avoid wasting anything. Eggs and fruit are also acquired at the FM. Furthermore, we don't tend to keep bread and pasta around the house.

So, what's in my fridge?

  • 1/4 bottle Chardonnay
  • orgeat
  • Punt e mes
  • grapefruit juice
  • ginger beer
  • root beer
  • bacon fat
  • BBQ sauce (homemade)
  • butterscotch sauce (homemade)
  • tahini
  • strawberry jam
  • honey mustard
  • mayonnaise
  • Thai red curry paste
  • fish sauce
  • unsalted butter
Top shelf:
  • mango-peach salsa
  • 1/2 can lentils
  • 1/8 cup creme fraiche
2nd shelf:
  • leftover lemon-sage brussels sprouts
  • leftover red cabbage slaw
  • pickle relish
  • mayonnaise (someone didn't realize we already had some...)
  • leftover shredded chicken
  • bulgur wheat
Cheese/meat drawer:
  • Parmesan
  • Feta
  • white cheddar
Bottom shelf:
  • filtered water
  • whole milk
  • chicken stock (homemade)
Crisper drawers:
  • Cilantro
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage
Not in the fridge:
  • Aborio rice
  • brown texmati rice
  • jasmine rice
  • dried chickpeas
  • dried cranberries
  • yellow onion
  • Yukon Gold potatoes
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • limes
  • (flour, sugar, spices, etc)
So, what am I doing for dinner tonight?

Ordering Indian food.

I'm going out of town toward the end of next week so my opportunities are limited, but see if you can spot how many of these items I was able to use in Episodes 12 and 13!

What's in your fridge? And what are you doing about it?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I cooked this week, Episode 11

As I mentioned previously, I was out of town much of last week and so didn't have many opportunities for cooking. But I got a little bit in over the weekend.

Episode 11, August 16-August 22

Chicken burgers with sage white wine butter sauce
Chicken burgers

Another recipe from The Stone Soup, this one had its up and down for me, though these ups and downs had little to do with the recipe and more to do with my technique. The burgers were lukewarm by the time I finished the sauce, which I had to make in a separate pan because the oil burned under the chicken and wouldn't have tasted good, and the sauce need more butter. I want to make this again, and I'll probably put more salt (and maybe some garlic) in the chicken, and more salt in the sauce. Otherwise, the patties weren't dry, and I love the idea of eating a burger without a bun. Also, this recipe was a good excuse to drink white wine (we usually drink red).

Scrambled eggs with onions and zucchini sauteed in bacon fat
Sunday brunch

Every time I make bacon, I save the fat that cooks off in a jar and stow it in the fridge. I'm saving up to make a pie. But I have quite a bit at this point, so I thought I would liven up this otherwise-vegetarian breakfast with essence of meat. It was not a mistake to do so. Eggs, zucchini, onion, strawberries all from the Divisadero farmers' market.

Getting back into it this week; expect a full post next time!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What I cooked this week, Episode 10

Posting early this week, as I'm leaving for a business trip.

Look--bigger pictures! There are also buttons down at the bottom of each post to make them easy to share, if you so wish. Expect a few other blog tweaks here are there over the next couple of weeks, but nothing major.

Episode 10, August 9-August 15

Brussels sprouts with lentils and prosciutto
Brussels sprouts with lentils and prosciutto

As promised, this is not a Smitten Kitchen recipe! It came from a blog I've just started reading, The Stone Soup, which focuses on minimalist cooking (and minimalist living in general), with most of the recent posts falling into the "5 ingredients, 10 minutes" category. This particular recipe came from a post about using sweet and sour flavor profiles to season dishes, in addition to the standard salt and pepper. This dish called for red wine vinegar; I used champagne vinegar because that's what I had, and I feel like a minimalist would approve of me not running out to buy a bottle of vinegar just for this recipe. I really liked this dish, and will consider experimenting with the vinegar next time--I also have balsamic, which would probably be too heavy, and apple cider, which might be too tart. We'll see!

Spiced chickpeas with cauliflower
Spiced cauliflower and chickpeas
Another recipe from The Stone Soup, I was excited to try cooking cauliflower, a vegetable I don't think I've outside of an Indian buffet in ages. It's barely cooked in this dish, and the slight crunch is a nice companion to the soft chickpeas.

Cauliflower brussels sprout gratin with gruyère and italian sausage
Cauliflower and brussels sprouts gratin

Guess who had some brussels sprouts and cauliflower leftover from the previous dinners? Initially, my plan was to follow this Smitten Kitchen recipe to use up the rest of cauliflower (and gruyere left over from the gougeres a couple weeks ago) and then to cook the brussels sprouts with some bacon on the side. However, I discovered that I didn't have enough cauliflower left and, since buying a whole other head would defeat the original purpose of using up what I had left, I decided to just throw everything all together. Italian sausage replaced the bacon, and I cooked it up like a casserole.

Cauliflower and brussels sprouts gratin

Yeasted waffles

In the interest of using up some buttermilk I had in the fridge, I decided to make some waffles. I used this recipe from my friend Jeters, with a couple changes: I used the aforementioned buttermilk instead of sour milk (seriously, isn't it the same thing?), and I had instant yeast instead of active dry. Instant yeast can be added directly to the other dry ingredients without having to take a warm water bath, so I added an extra 1/4 cup of regular milk to compensate for the missing water. The waffles turned out perfectly.

As I mentioned at the outset, I'll be on a business trip next week and so won't be doing any cooking. I may get around to whipping something next weekend, but don't surprised if you need to wait an extra week for Episode 11 to show up. I'll try to get a post or two of some kind up in the meantime, though.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What I cooked this week, Episode 9

Episode 9, August 2-August 8

Chiang Mai noodles with beef
Chiang Mai noodles with beef

I had high hopes for this dish, another from Nancy McDermott's Quick and Easy Thai Cooking. Unfortunately, I overcooked the beef, didn't have the right kind of noodles to make "crunch noodle nests," and had an upset stomach before I even got to take a bite. So, kind of a disappointing evening. And even though none of these are the recipe's fault, I probably won't try it again.

Crispy-skinned broiled salmon and mixed greens, heart of palm, avocado, and mango in lime-cilantro dressing
Crispy-skinned salmon and salad

This meal, on the other hand, was thoroughly satisfying. The salmon took maybe five minute under the broiler, and I just threw together a bunch of fresh produce for the salad and whipped up a quick dressing using lime juice, olive oil (I would use vegetable oil next time) and chopped cilantro. This dish had a really summery feel; too bad it's in the low 40s outside.

Heirloom tomato caprese
Lunchtime caprese

My husband is not a fan of fresh tomatoes. I am. So, I took advantage of the face that I eat lunch at home by myself and bought some tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil for a quick caprese. It was okay, but the grocery store heirloom tomatoes made me long for the gorgeous ones I see at the farmers' market every weekend. Maybe next Sunday I'll indulge.

Omelet with Gruyère and heirloom tomatoes
Omelet with gruyere and heirloom tomato

Isn't it pretty?

Scrambled eggs, raspberries, and brioche
Scrambled eggs, brioche, raspberries

Sunday morning post-farmers' market brunch, with FM eggs, FM raspberries, and FM brioche. hooray!

Six-hour oven spareribs and corn-peach salad
Spareribs and corn salad

I no longer have the excuse of not having access to a grill--turns out you don't need a grill for great ribs. These, from a Smitten Kitchen recipe, were amazing. Andrew actually thought they could be a little spicier, and I think I'll enjoy tweaking the rub and, you know, eating them again. The corn salad, dreamed up by Jeters, also could have been spicier--I'd cut the jalapeño by half but wouldn't do the same next time. I'd also add the peach after warming the corn through; as it was, they sort of melted and got lost in the mix. Still, everything was delicious.

Chocolate cake
Chocolate cake and raspberry ice cream

We topped off the ribs and corn salad with Smitten Kitchen's everyday chocolate cake, with a side of Straus raspberry ice cream. This cake is basically a one-bowl recipe and perfect if you, like me, don't want something too sweet and also don't want to bother with frosting.

I've been checking out a new (to me, not in general) food blog, so I'll actually have some non-Smitten Kitchen recipes next week! Also, I'm growing increasing dissatisfied with the photo-taking light in my apartment; during the day pictures get washed out, and at night they turn out grainy. I've read some light advice and I know the basics, and I've tried pretty much every room in the apartment, but I don't know what to do besides investing in equipment. Halp?

Also, don't forget to request recipe tutorials! Just don't ask about the Chiang Mai noodles.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What I cooked this week, Episode 8

Look, we actually ate some green foods this week!

Episode 8, July 26-August 1


For our main course this night we had leftover chili, but I whipped up a bowl of guacamole to, you know, mix things up. You can get complicated and add things like fresh tomato, onion, cumin, chili powder... but usually I just like to keep things simple: avocado, garlic, lime, cilantro, salt.

Bacon risotto and balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts
Bacon risotto and balsamic roasted brussels sprouts

Andrew and I love Brussels sprouts, so I was really excited to try this recipe from White on Rice Couple. It was everything I could have wanted it to be, namely, easy and tasty. We paired them with my standard bacon risotto, for which I got to use my most recent batch of chicken stock. Before heating it up and adding some water, the stock had a jelly-like consistency--what might have caused that?

On Saturday, we had a party! And I made lots of food:

Party food!

Chicken satay with red curry peanut sauce
Chicken satay with red curry peanut sauce

One of Andrew's favorites and a standby of mine for when we're going to have company. I just broil the loose chicken pieces on a baking sheet because I don't have access to a grill (well, there is one in our laundry room, but I don't know if it's for general use. Also? It's cold out). Anyway, I can't recommend Nancie McDermott's Quick and Easy Thai Cooking enough.

Green bean and grape tomato salad
Greenbean and grape tomato salad

Were you worried about the lack of Smitten Kitchen recipes? Well, never fear. I loved the look of this one immediately, and it didn't disappoint. I deviated only in a couple places: grape tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, because that's what I could find, and champagne vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, because I didn't feel like buying red wine vinegar when I already have three or four different kinds of vinegar in the house.

Gougères with Gruyère
Gougeres with gruyere

I had been dying to make gougères again, ever since the first time I did so. Man, I don't think it gets much simpler, considering how impressive they are. They inspired the follow exchange:
Party guest: What are those things?
Me: Cheese puffs.
Party guest: Well, I'm going to eat all of them.
No more excuses--why aren't you making some right now?

Four-plum salad with lime and cilantro
Four Plum salad

Technically it's two-plum-plumcot-aprium salad (apparently the latter two are actually different fruits). Whatever you want to call it, it was inspired by a recent Mark Bittman recipe for plum-scallop ceviche with tarragon. I really wanted to make this ceviche, but didn't want spend the money to buy scallops for 15 people. So, I just cut up a bunch of plums and plum hybrids, drizzled them with some lime juice, and tossed them with some fresh cilantro. It was awesome.

Gluten-free chocolate financiers
Gluten-free chocolate financiers

When it came to dessert, all I knew was that I wanted to make something chocolate. I just done a search for "chocolate" on Smitten Kitchen when my friend Jeters happened to mention that her husband, who would be in attendance, was currently avoid grains. Well, lucky him, two recipes caught my eye: best chocolate pudding, and gluten-free chocolate financiers. Now,I love pudding, but I don't have 15 little serving vessels to serve it in, so that didn't sound like a great option. I didn't know what financiers were, but they sounded complicated. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a one-bowl recipe for little miniature brownie-like cakes (or cake-like brownies) that uses almond flour instead of regular flour (it's the almond flour that distinguishes them from other baked goods, as far as I can tell). I used regular unsweetened cocoa instead of Dutch process, but they turned out splendidly.

Spaghetti with cheese and black pepper
Spaghetti with pecorino romano and black pepper

Spaghetti and salad

After all that fancy (but easy-to-make!) party food, I wanted to keep things simple on Sunday. Spaghetti with a ton of pecorino Romano and black pepper, plus some butter, olive oil, and pasta water, and a salad on the side fit the bill perfectly. I made another champagne vinegar dressing, but this time added a clove of minced garlic. Yum. Oh, and yeah, it's a Smitten Kitchen recipe.

By the way, I do want to post more recipes and instructions. If you ever see something in one of my posts that you'd like me to do a recipe post on, just leave me a comment!