Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm ready for my close-up!

I just got a phone call to confirm that I will be attending my MasterChef audition this weekend!  Eeep!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Long-Lost Readers

I have missed you all!!  It's been a long, busy summer, and my blogosphere, while often on my mind, has not been on my schedule.  Enough already, it's coming back!!  

My big news for the week is regarding the show MasterChef.  That's the Gordon Ramsey television baby that I applied for back in it's first season here in the US, but who was clearly not convinced of my genius.  The show is gearing up for its 4 season and auditions are already underway.  This weekend auditions are being held in Hollywood, CA and.....I'm going!  I've decided it's time to challenge myself once again, and am in the process of creating the most amazing dish that the world has ever seen...or more correctly...tasted.  I'll bring you all along with pictures, updates, and likely countless rants of frustration.

My apologies.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pasta Pesto

I love pesto.  When I visit my sister in Santa Cruz, I have to stop by Pizza My Heart at least once for their pesto pizza.  Sigh.  Green food.  :)  This is a very basic pesto, but you can easily switch out the green and the nut for a different effect.  For example: Switching out the basil for arugula, and the pine nut for pecans, you can then have a pesto that's perfect for topping grilled chicken.  Another option is to use walnuts or pepitas, and split the basil with half spinach.  I like this with fajitas.  The spinach also makes for a very bright and springy pesto.

2 well-packed cups of basil, and 1/3 c. of pine nuts which I always toast and cool first.  Pulse a few times to chop, but don't go crazy here, 6-8 times max.

This is how it should look.  Then add in 3 cloves garlic, minced, and pulse a few more times.  Then, begin to slowly drizzle in 1/2 c. of olive oil while to motor is on, until the mixture looks like a wet paste.

Like this.  :)  Then scrape down the sides, and mix in 1/2 c. of grated Parmesan, then season to taste with SnP.  Sometimes I add a little lemon if it needs to brighten up.

Toss with hot cooked pasta, I used Orecchiette, but use what ever you like best.  I just like saying Orecchiette.
 Serve with more Parmesan, a salad, and if you'd like, some hot bread.  I also love pasta pesto with grilled chicken slices, or even shrimp.  Do what you will.  :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

The sauce makes it :)

I grew up eating my mom's ziti, and I remember that for a time it was my favorite thing for her to make.  While this isn't exactly her version, the flavors still hold a lot of memories for me, so I think it will always be a nostalgic dish, regardless of how it's prepared.  

In olive oil brown 2 oz. of diced pancetta.  Mirepoix, yada yada yada.  10 minutes on med-low until soft.  Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, turn the heat to med-high, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

When I'm adding a few ingredients to a dish all at once, I like to combine them ahead of time, just so I don't have to think about it later.  To your pot, add 28 oz. diced tomatoes, 2 Tbl. fresh basil, 1 tsp. tomato paste. Season with SnP, and once it bubbles, turn it to low and simmer 15 min.  Then puree, and taste for SnP again.

In a large saute pan, brown 1 lb ground beef until almost cooked.  Add in 1 chopped onion, and saute over med heat, about 5 minutes.  Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 Tbl. Italian seasoning, 1 tsp. rosemary, and SnP. Stir until fragrant, then add in all of your tomato sauce.

Preheat oven to 350.  In a 9x13 add a little sauce, and crumble in some ricotta (from a 16 oz container) across the bottom.  Toss 1 lb. cooked ziti noodles with a ladle of sauce, pour into your baking dish.  Cover with the remaining sauce, the rest of the ricotta, 1/2 lb. of grated mozzarella, and enough Parmesan to make you happy.

Bake until the cheeses are melted and bubbly, about 20 minutes.  My kids killed this, they loved it.  :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lentils are good luck, right? Right???

In Italy you eat lentils on New Years Day to give you good fortune for the year, as the lentils symbolize money, or coins.  I understand that it's not New Years Day, and this isn't Italy.  But what can it hurt?  ;)

Prep a mirepoix of some kind, I used leeks with the carrots and celery, but you can use a regular onion of course if you'd prefer.  

Cook down 2 oz of bacon or pancetta cubes until crispy, then add a small pat of butter and your mirepoix, cook until soft, about 10-15 minutes.  

Add in 2 bay leaves, fresh if possible, 12 oz of rinsed green lentils, 1 qt. of stock (I used chicken), and 1 1/2c. of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until lentils are tender.  It took me about 35 minutes, but it will vary depending on what type of lentils you are using.  Toss the bay leaves, stir in 2 tsp. Dijon, 1 tsp. cider vinegar, and season with SnP.  Cover, set aside.

Cut 1 kielbasa into 8 sections.  In a pan large enough to hold them all, bring 1 1/2c. beer to a boil, along with 2 bay leaves and 2 cloves.  I used a Hefeweizen, but a Belgian would be killer.  Add in the smoked sausage, and lower to simmer for 10-15 minutes, rotating once or twice to heat through.  Remember this type of sausage is already cooked, so you are just heating.  

Make a bed of lentils, top with the sausage.

Serve with one of these!  :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Breakfast Pasta"

Once when my daughter was little, she watched me make this pasta dish.  When she saw the ingredients going in she stated, "This is a breakfast pasta!"  I knew what she meant.  Bacon, eggs, cheese ~ these were three pillars of her favorite weekend breakfast plate, only toast being omitted.  We called it breakfast pasta for a while, but now that she's older we call it by the correct name ~ Spaghetti alla Carbonara, or pasta carbonara.

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and begin to cook 1/2 lb. of your favorite spaghetti.  Meanwhile, slice 2 well-endowed garlic cloves thinly.  I prefer to slice garlic for some dishes, mainly because it's a milder flavor than minced or crushed, but secondarily because it's pretty.  :)

Crisp 1/4 lb. bacon that's been sliced thinly.  Drain, pour off the fat & add in a splash of olive oil.  Cook the garlic gently along with 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes.  These are optional if you are cooking for whiny palates, or you can add them in and just ignore the whining like I do.  DON'T brown the garlic.  It will be bitter, and with such a simple dish, you will notice.  In a small bowl, whisk 2 eggs, 1 Tbl. cream or milk, a couple handfuls of fresh Parmesan, and SnP.  Save some Parmesan for the finished dish.

When your pasta is cooked & drained (Please, please save a little hot pasta water in case your sauce is too dry.  If it isn't, toss the water, but it's better to be safe than you-know-what) add the hot pasta into the pan you cooked your garlic in & add the bacon bits in as well.  Toss the pasta well to coat with the pan drippings, then add in your egg mixture, tossing continuously until well mixed.  If your sauce seems dry or sticky instead of creamy, begin to add in some of your reserved pasta water until the sauce looks creamy.  Taste for SnP, then top each dish with more cheese.  Because...who cares at this point?  If you're the kind of person who eats breakfast pasta, you already know that life is too short.  :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A souffle

For years, my husband teased me anytime dinner prep got away from me, and it seemed that dinner might never be ready.  He'd say, "What are you making, a souffle??"  Well.  I actually did make a souffle this time, and it actually did take me a really long time.  *shrugs*  You can't rush perfection.  Also, I might add, nobody starved.

The cheese I chose ~ a local chevre that I picked up at the Cave.  I initially used it to stuff zucchini flowers the other night, but it was PERFECT in this dish.  I'm so glad I had enough leftovers.

4 ears corn, simmered 5 minutes, then cut off the cob.  You should have about 2 1/2 c.  Simmer 2 c. of the kernals in 1 c. milk until reduced by 1/3, about 5 minutes.  Puree, bring to room temp.  Be careful.  This stuff smells like heaven.  :)

6 oz. chevre, 1/4 lb. bacon sliced and cooked until crispy, the remaining kernals, 3 egg yolks, SnP, thyme.  Add in the cooled corn puree.

Pour into a well buttered 1 1/2 qt. souffle dish, bake @ 350 for 45 min., until browned and still slightly jiggly in the center.

Serve hot, along side a microgreens salad w quickly pickled cucumbers & marinated grape tomatoes.  Anyone who complains about how long they had to wait for dinner ~ don't share with them.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sesame Chicken & Curry Noodles

I couldn't decide what to make.  Flank steak, pork tenderloin, stir fry....I just stood in the grocery feeling lost.  So I struck up a conversation with someone and stole their idea.  :)

Curry paste! In a food processor or with a mortar & pestle mix: 1/2 tsp. Turmeric, 3 cloves garlic, 2 fresh red chilies, 1 thumb-sized piece of peeled ginger, 1 Tbl. ground coriander, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 2 Tbl. fish sauce.

In a wok, heat sesame oil over med-high heat and add in the paste to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Pour in 2 Tbl. of the coconut milk, stir to combine.

Add into the wok: 1 each sliced red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, a handful of sliced shiitake mushrooms, a generous handful of fresh cilantro, 2 sliced scallions.  Cook until the veg are all cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the remaining coconut milk and soy sauce.

Add in 1 package of tofu, cubed, and 3/4 lb. of cooked whole wheat spaghetti, toss gently to combine and to allow the sauce to coat the pasta evenly.  Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime, and serve with chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, and lime wedges.

In a large skillet, cook 6 cubed chicken breasts in sesame oil until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

In a small bowl combine: 1/2 c. honey, 1/2 c. soy sauce, 1 c. water, 2 Tbl. cornstarch, 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes.  Be sure to mix until the cornstarch is well combined.  Pour over the cooked chicken, cook until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions over the top & serve with the curried noodles!  :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stop what you are doing. Make this.

Spaghetti & meatballs.  Who doesn't love spaghetti & meatballs?  This morning I got the spag bug, and headed to the grocery, then to the Cheese Cave for a very special side dish.  Who has had fried zucchini flowers.......

Saute 1 chopped onion in olive oil until tender, then add in 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf, and 1 cinnamon stick.  Saute over medium heat until the veg are all soft & the cinnamon is becoming fragrant.

Add in 1 28 oz can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 tsp oregano, and about 1/2 of a jar of Trader Joe's sundried tomatoes.  Lower to a simmer, cover, and ignore it for an hour.  Don't mess with it.  It knows what it's doing.

1 lb. ground beef, 3 spicy Italian sausages crumbled, 1/4 c. fresh parsley, 2 cloves garlic minced, 1 Tbl. freeze dried oregano, 1 egg, SnP, and.....the most important part....1 slice of stale bread soaked in milk, then mashed into a paste.

Roll equal-sized portions of meat in panko, drizzle with olive oil, then bake @ 400 for 25 minutes.

Puree the red sauce, taste for SnP.

Ok....these...are amazing.  If you can get your hands on fresh zucchini flowers, stuff them with chevre & SnP, and dip in a batter of flour and sparkling water.

Fry in olive oil until lightly golden on each side.

Serve the flowers with red sauce, and top cooked pasta with red sauce, and a few of those crispy meatballs.  Your family will thank you.  (Even if they are only 3 feet tall.)  :)

Pork & Green Chile, two ways

Green chiles really do have something.  I mean, why are they so good?  Well, I'm not out to solve that mystery today, just to eat some.  I've shown a couple of different ways to serve this meal, but I preferred the second option.  You can also use a different cut of pork, as I used a lean tenderloin it didn't take long to cook.  It would be amazing with a pork neck or shoulder, and with an extended cook time, you could end up with some amazingly tender meat with way too much flavor for its own good.

Seasonings to rub on the meat, starting at 9 o clock: freshly ground cumin, freeze-dried oregano, smoked paprika, 4 cloves minced garlic

Saute 1 onion until soft, then add in 2 cans chopped green chiles, 2 pork tenderloins cut into chunks, spices listed above, SnP.  Stir, browning the meat and warming the spices.  Once the meat has developed color on its exterior, add in enough chicken stock to cover, and about half of a bunch of cilantro, chopped, and 2 cups of chopped tomatoes.  Lower the heat to a simmer & cook until the meat is tender and cooked through, mine took about 30 minutes.  Taste for SnP, add in lime juice to taste.

Long grain white rice, cooked with lime wedges, then once cooked and fluffed, tossed with lime juice.

Serving option # 1: Serve as a stew, with lime wedges, a scoop of rice, and warmed tortillas.

Fried Capers!!!  I love these, and I made them for option # 2: Pork tacos with lime rice & fried capers.  Just drain the capers, toss in fine corn meal, and fry for about 1 minute, or until the flowers start to open.

Serving option # 2: Blue corn tortilla, lime rice, chopped pork, chopped cilantro, microgreens, stewed tomatoes and green chiles.  Next time, I'll make a salsa verde was the only thing I missed.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Veggie Main

Often a vegetarian main dish leaves a carnivore wanting a bit more, and many can be found sneaking into the fridge for a late-night snack when nobody is watching.  This tart looks light, but with the cheese it is deceptively rich.  Also, it's spring.  I'm pretty sure that spring actually means asparagus in some cultures, so eat it up while you can!  :)

Blanched asparagus, chillin' on my patio on a cloudy afternoon, because there was no room in my fridge.  :)

Pre-bake a puff pastry about 12 minutes, or until golden.  Mix equal parts of grated Gruyere & Fontina with egg yolks, freshly grated nutmeg, SnP, and minced shallots.  Spread on the puff pastry, keeping a 1 inch border.

Toss the asparagus with olive oil & SnP.  Top the cheese with the prepped asparagus.

Bake @ 400 for about 12 minutes, or until the cheese has puffed a bit.  Zest a lemon over top & enjoy with a salad!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

*screams* A Squidie Post!!

Don' skerd.  It's just a squid!  :)  They aren't hard to break down into an edible form, but it's a bit tedious.

AAAGH they're swarming!!  lol

1. Pull out head
2. Feel for the sharp point near the large opening, grab ahold, and pull it out.  It will be a large, oval-shaped clear poky thing.  It's the spine, and trust me you don't want to eat it!
3.  Near the tip of the body you will see 2 fins.  Pull at one while holding the body, and the skin will pull away to reveal a white flesh.  Continue pulling it off until all you have is a hollow white cone.  
4.  Starting at the pointed end, squeeze out "the guts"  
5. Done!

6. Find a sous chef and make her do it.  ;)

Blanch arugula, then toss in ice water.

Chop basil, I used Greek basil but any would be fine.

Toast breadcrumbs, then cool.  Toss with blanched, drained, & chopped arugula, garlic, SnP, chopped tomatoes, and olive oil.

Stuff the calamari. tedious.  And hard.  I won't lie.  But you'll get there.

A tomato sauce in the making: tomatoes, garlic, oregano, SnP.  Blend.

Simmer, then cool outside on your patio if it's cold and rainy, because it's faster that way.  :)

Pour the cooled sauce over your calamari, add white wine, and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.  Serve with a salad and more white wine.  Of course.  :)