Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rosemary Peas and Pasta

A vegetarian option from the book Quick & Easy meals, this recipe was a promisingly simply concept: cook pasta, cook vegetables, mix.  It was indeed easy to create, however, the timing of everything was off.

The recipe in the book said to cook the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Then, take 8 minutes to cook garlic, onions, frozen peas, and dried rosemary covered in a large skillet.  Then, add the pasta water, cook for 3 more minutes, add pasta and top with some Parmesan.

Seems foolproof enough...until you realize that the final product will be luke warm because the pasta has had too much time to cool.  There's two ways to combat this, one would be to cook the pasta at the same time as the vegetables (for you multitaskers out there), or to heat the oven to about 200 degrees and stick the cooked pasta in there while you do other business.  I chose the first one.

As for the vegetables, I ended up with a slightly charred final product.  The time should have been closer to 5 minutes, but that could be a variable that is due to my own stove.

So, after putting the pasta water in with the charred vegetables, I had a nice charred...sauce.  I ended up adding the pasta to the dish with the pasta water so the pasta would have some of the flavor of the dish.

The final product  It had a very dark flavor to it, and I think that it was more than slightly overcooking the vegetables.  I think it was the rosemary, and I believe if I was able to find a brighter herb to use instead, it would be a lovely dish.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Broccoli with Sweet and Sour Tangerine Sauce

As I flipped around my new cookbook, I randomly came upon this recipe for a side dish.  Since a lot of what I cook doesn't naturally have side dishes, I decided to experiment with the recipe as a entree instead.  That might have not been the best decision ever, but more on that later.  

The recipe itself was super simple.  The recipe suggested using 2 cups of broccoli florets (which is a horrible way to measure broccoli), and steaming them with a saucepan.  How exactly to steam them over a saucepan, wasn't specified.  Meanwhile, a sauce was made of orange marmalade, rice vinegar, ginger, and hot pepper oil was heated in a smaller saucepan.  Then the sauce was poured over the broccoli, and time to eat.  

My first task was to find out how much 2 cups of broccoli might be in ounces.  My guess was about 8 ounces, but I had another 2 ounces of broccoli left over so I just used the extra 2 ounces in the recipe.  The hot pepper oil was another interesting addition to this recipe, as when I was in the grocery store, there was nothing in the Asian section labeled as such.  I did a quick search on my phone (I love my Droid) and found some recipes for the type of oil, and found that a similar item was called hot chili oil, which, conveniently, was available on the shelves in front of me.  After tasting a drop off of my finger, it had a slightly nutty taste, with the spice heat coming slowly afterwards.  

To follow the recipe, I set up a pot of boiling water and put a metal colander over it with the broccoli in it.  I don't know if this is what they meant, but it kind of worked.  About half way.  I ended up having to double their guestimate of 6 to 8 minutes steaming, so I need to try a different method next time.  I have been able to cook broccoli very successfully in the microwave by placing it in a bowl with some water, covered with some clear plastic wrap, and cooking it for a few minutes.  I will try that next time.  

Cooking the sauce was very easy, and I had no problems with it.  I added the ingredients, and heated them, and stirred.  

It was very difficult to judge this dish accurately due to the broccoli being undercooked.   After a while, both Jeff and I found ourselves very tired of eating this dish, even though the sauce flavor wasn't too bad.  We both found ourselves craving meat.

I think that if I added chopped chicken and reduced the amount of broccoli by half, I should be able to create an actual meal from this.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Shrimp Marsala, Part 1

Tonight's dinner was a shrimp dish with a few new twists.  The new ingredient for this dish was marsala wine, which is a sweet dessert wine.  The taste and color reminded me a lot of sherry.  The other new thing was coating the shrimp with flour before cooking them.

To create this dish, I coated some large (in comparison to my normal choice of medium) shrimp with flour, and seared in a skillet with olive oil for 1 minute on each side.   After each side of the shrimp were seared, I added in some sliced mushrooms and the marsala wine.  I let the sauce thicken for about 5 minutes, and finally mixed in some chopped parsley.

One of the issues with this recipe is that what I actually did was quite a bit different then what was actually written, and I think part of the issue was because I reduced the number of servings, and things don't always translate well.  This was particularly true with the amount of marsala they recommended to add; they said to use 1/4 cup, but I ended up adding about 3/4 cup instead.  I also used a smaller size of shrimp than they probably recommended, so I had to adjust the searing time for that.

The completed dish tasted very sweet, and the flavor combination would probably work very well with pineapple added to it.  I'm not entirely sure whether it would really make it better, but the pineapple wouldn't be out of place.  Jeff and I didn't care for the taste of the "breading" on the shrimp, but we agreed it was likely necessary for the sauce to thicken like it had.  

I'll try this again next week with the revised changes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orange Sesame Pork, Part 2

Because the leftovers of this dish were pretty decent, I'm going to post the recipe.  I don't think it's a shining example of what could be done with a pork tenderloin, but it was very easy to do and the results were yummy.

Orange Sesame Pork

Ingredients (Serves 5?)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup orange juice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
1 package of pork tenderloins (should contain 2 of them)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Wrap a 13x9 dish in tin foil (or use cooking spray on the glass).
Trim fat off of pork tenderloin, and remove the silver skin; place in baking dish.
In a bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Pour the mixture over the pork.
Roast for 10 minutes in the oven, then turn over.  
Roast for 10 or 15 minutes more, or until 150 degrees.
While roasting, in a small skillet, toast sesame seeds over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Transfer the pork to the cutting board, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Cut the meat diagonally in long, thin slices.
Transfer pork to plate, and spoon the juices over; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Orange Sesame Pork

I haven't had much of a chance to write for the past few months because of school work, so I thought it might be a good time to pull out one of the cookbooks in my arsenal that was waiting for me, called Quick & Easy Meals by the American Heart Association.  I purchased it in an effort to learn how to make healthier meals in a reasonable amount of time, so it could work better with my busier schedule.

The first recipe I tried from this book was called Orange Sesame Pork.  It's very simple; all I did was mix a few ingredients, and bake a pork tenderloin for about 25 minutes.  The most challenging part of this was learning how to properly trim the pork tenderloin.  I knew Alton Brown had mentioned this in one of the episodes of Good Eats, so I did some quick research and found this: .  The part of the video that was the most useful was the reminder to remove what is called the silver skin, which is the inedible silvery part on the meat that is not fat.  One of the other things I learned (that Alton also mentioned in the video) is that the packages of pork tenderloin come with two loins, which means....leftovers.

Jeff does not like leftovers, and I'm not fond of them either.  I've gotten very good at cooking the exact portions for a meal just to avoid them.  However,  I was stuck in an odd place, because I had three options:  Cook the second loin, repackage and store the second loin, or trash it.  I figured the safest bet for me was to cook it along with the first, that way the idea of having it for dinner tomorrow might actually happen.

By the time I was done letting it rest and had everything sliced, the meat was luke warm, but tasty and tender.  Jeff made the comment that this recipe wasn't particularly quick, so I explained to him that this new book has varying levels of quick and varying levels of easy.  This one wasn't quick, but it was very easy.  Whether or not I will post the recipe will depend on how well the leftovers taste tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce, Take 2

Instead of cooking the shrimp before I cooked the sauce, I cooked the shrimp in the sauce, and it made an amazing difference.  

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce

Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 oz penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 clove garlic, minced
1/6 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch pepper
9 oz whole tomatoes (from a 14oz can), drained and roughly chopped
1/6 cup basil, chopped
1/6 cup parsley, chopped
pinch red pepper flake
1/3 cup white wine
1/6 cup clam juice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/6 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, and cook pasta according to directions; drain pasta, and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat; add garlic and cook until browned, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, 1/2 of the basil, 1/2 of the parsley, and the red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the wine and simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the clam juice and cream, bring mixture to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer for 7 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Add 1/2 of the parmesan cheese, the shrimp, the pasta, and the remaining basil and parsley.  
Stir and cook until shrimp are pink.
Top with remaining cheese and serve.

Oatmeal Cookies (Kind of Fail)

I normally get the urge to make cookies whenever I spend an abnormal amount of time with Elizabeth, and this time was no different.  My recipe was from Alton Brown's oatmeal episode, which featured a cookie that was more oatmeal than anything else.

The first thing that his recipe asked for was to toast the oats in the oven.  Unfortunately, I over-toasted the oats simply by following the instructions.  I figure if I had checked more often, they would have been alright.  (Can't blame AB too much on this, ovens vary from place to place, so it's more my fault for not paying attention closer.)  After the oats were toasted, half of them were placed in a food processor to create an oat flour.  

In the mixer, sugar was creamed, and an egg and vanilla extract was added. Cinnamon, baking powder, and salt was added to the oat flour, and the oat flour was added to the mixer.  After that, I spooned it out onto a pan, and baked for 12 minutes.  

The cookies tasted...interesting.  Unfortunately, because of the over-toasted oats, the cookies had a slightly burnt taste to them.  Besides for the off taste, the best word I can put to describe them was "organic".  The use of oats instead of flour (therefore making it gluten-free) gave it an interesting nutty flavor.  After a few samplings of the cookies, I began to enjoy them, but because I'm not completely sold on the flavor of the cookies I'm not planning on posting the recipe.  If you want to find it, however, it's on