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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fusilli alla Caprese, Take 2.

So I bought a different type of mozzarella cheese for this recipe, one seasoned with herbs and marinated in olive oil.  When I tasted it, the cheese had no flavor but olive oil.  I was frustrated, but willing to try it in the dish.

As it turns out, that particular version of the mozzarella blossomed after being heated, so it will forever be a part of this recipe as long as I can find it.

Fusilli alla Caprese

Ingredients (2 Servings)
3 oz fusilli pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
7 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn
4 oz fresh mozzarella marinated in olive oil, diced

Boil a pot of salted water, add the pasta, and cook according to box directions.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Smash the tomatoes with a fork as they cook to make a chunky sauce, and cook for 4 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce to the bowl with the pasta, and toss to combine.
Stir in the basil and mozzarella, and serve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lemon Risotto

A risotto is a dish, often served as an appetizer in Italy, that consists of rice slowly cooked in a broth.  The end result should be creamy, and not mushy.  I had made a risotto last year that involved shrimp and scallops, and it had tasted pretty good.

This risotto involved heating chicken broth and lemon juice so it would be ready to be poured into the rice. In a saute pan, shallots were cooked in butter, and rice was added to toast slightly.  Wine and lemon juice are added to the mix to be absorbed by the rice, and then the broth was added until the rice was done.

One of the things I had trouble figuring out was when the rice was actually cooked correctly.  I had run out of liquid and had started to create more when I decided the rice was a good level of al dente.  Part of my concern was also that the instructions said to cook for 20 minutes, and my liquid had only lasted 10.

After I had decided the rice was cooked, I added more butter, parmesan cheese, mascarpone, and lemon juice to complete the dish.

The final product had a very rich flavor, but I found that I couldn't eat the proportion on my plate.  This would definitely fare well as a side dish, and I wonder how well it would pair with the lemon pesto chicken I made last summer.  I'm going to try it with a smaller proportion next time paired with the chicken.

Savory Beef with Pickled Vegetables (New Picture!)

I made this dish recently and was able to take a new picture.

One of the things that I am working on besides my cooking skills is my food photography skills.  I know there's a whole profession for staging food and taking pictures of it, but a lot of that is based on illusion.  I think that it's more fun (and more of a challenge) to do it with real food, and to be able to enjoy it afterwards.

Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad

In the Cooking for Two book that I own, a long time ago I had grabbed a recipe for using up the other half of the cucumber from here.  From what I can tell, it's fairly classic in it's use of dill and sour cream, but it was very tasty, and super easy to make.

To create the salad, I tossed the cucumber and a chopped shallot with some salt and let it sit for an hour in a colander.  The sauce consists of sour cream, dill, apple cider vinegar, and sugar mixed together.  When the cucumber is done draining, mix them with the sauce, and serve.

One of the things I wasn't expecting was how little this recipe actually makes.  It was alright for two side servings (which is appropriate, considering the name of the book it came from), but thankfully it can be easily doubled.

Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad

Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced thin
2 shallots, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons dill, minced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
pinch pepper

Toss the cucumber and shallots with 1/8 teaspoon salt in a colander and let drain for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Mix the sour cream, dill vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl.
Stir in the drained cucumbers and shallots season with salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate until chilled before serving.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fusilli alla Caprese

This recipe from New Italian Favorites was the second Caprese dish I've made in my history of cooking, but the only one that I've blogged (as of this exact moment).  Caprese dishes are fairly consistant in containing pasta, tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella, and often times served warm instead of hot.

As with a lot of the dishes I make, I sample the raw ingredients (not the meat) before I cook them to be able to note the difference after heat is applied.  The last time I had gotten fresh mozzarella, it was the BelGioioso brand, and I found it to be flavorful, if not a little rubbery.  In hoping to ditch the rubbery texture, I tried a different brand, called Mozzarella Fresca.  While this brand had less of a rubbery texture, it had absolutely no flavor.  I'm not sure how lucky I will get in finding a flavorful cheese as mozzarella is a relatively bland cheese.

One of the things Jeff was bothering me about while looking at the fresh cheese in the produce area was if it was just easier to buy the shredded stuff.  I explained to him that the recipe asked specifically for the fresh stuff, and that the shredded cheese that covers pizzas is different.  I did research on this later on, and found out that the shredded version is a lot drier, which means the end result would be significantly different.

In this recipe, a unique aspect was that the tomatoes were quartered, heated over a saute pan, and mashed to create a sauce.  Then, the basil, mozzarella and pasta were added to create the final dish.

The finished product was delicious; I'm going to attempt to find a better tasting mozzarella, then I'll post the recipe.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Mushroom soy chicken of amazingness"

A while back, I did a recipe from KNACK Quick and Easy Cooking that involved chicken on kabobs, called Asian Chicken Kabobs.  The only thing Asian about it is that the recipe involves ginger and soy sauce, so I'm looking to ditch the title.  The title above in quotes is the working title for now, suggested by Elizabeth.  I'm surprised she didn't suggest something like "Rufus" or "Carly".  My only concern about the working title is that it could imply that the chicken is made of soy, which it certainly wasn't.

The recipe for the kabobs was very simple; marinate chicken and mushrooms in a mixture, then grill.  Because grilling isn't something I can do all year long (well, I could, but I really don't like the idea of standing outside in 10 degree weather), I wanted something that I could enjoy inside with the same great flavors.

I started out by marinating the cut up chicken and mushrooms, just the same as with the kabobs.  The marinade consists of soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, garlic, ginger, and green onions.  After the 2 hours had passed, I heated up the saute pan, and poured the chicken, mushrooms, and marinade onto it.  After cooking it for about ten minutes, it was ready to be served.

The dish tasted delicious.  There were things that it was lacking, such as rice, and frankly, colors besides brown.  I think that the addition of carrots and tomatoes (not during the marinade) might offer a little more color and taste.  Thankfully, there isn't much taste-wise that I need to work on with this recipe, so it should be very easy.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Penne with Vegetable Bolognese

I was able to retry the "Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese" recipe with similar success as last time.  The only changes I made was in the preparation.  I chopped everything by hand, rather than using the food processor, and I also switched out the color of bell pepper to yellow instead of red.  And, everything tasted wonderful.  So, without further pause...

Penne with Vegetable Bolognese

Ingredients (2 Servings)
1/3 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup very hot water
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper
2 oz mini bella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 oz penne rigate
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with hot water.
Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil, in preparation for pasta.
In a bowl, combine the carrot, onion, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet.
Add the chopped vegetables and cook over medium until tender, about 6 minutes.
Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the liquid.
Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste; continue cooking until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms soaking liquid and the red wine.
Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, cook the pasta.
Add the mascarpone cheese to the skillet, and stir.
Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Add pasta to the mixture, adding the pasta water if necessary.
Toss with the Parmesan.

Michael the Microwavable Meatloaf

First, I have to explain the title.  Since this is the final rendition of the recipe, I wanted to give it a name rather than "Meatloaf".  So, I posed the question to Elizabeth, "What should I name the meatloaf?"  She replied in all seriousness, "Francesca?" "No, I mean something like 'Awesome Meatloaf'."  "How about Michael the Microwavable Meatloaf?" "Done."

I was able to make use of Jeff's sister's christmas gift, which was a pasta maker attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer.  The attachment doubles as a meat grinder, and after reading reviews of the product online, I think that will be it's only use in my kitchen.  (The reviews for it's intended use were mostly negative, something involving the pasta sticking to itself too much and poor design.  The reviews regarding the meat grinder function were all shining, however.)

For the meat, I chose a USDA choice beef chuck eye steak.  It was recommended to me by my butcher because of how much fat was in it.  Jeff thought it looked nasty, but that's because he can't stand the idea of fat in meat.  (Not a bad thing as far as being healthy goes, but without fat some things about cooking just aren't possible.)  I put the beef into the freezer for about ten minutes for it to harden up before I cut it into long strips (they varied from 1/2 inch to 1 inch), then put those strips back into the freezer for 20 minutes to harden more.  I set up the attachment with the larger of the two meat grinding inserts, and noted that the instructions recommended two passes through the grinder for a better distribution of the fat.  Unfortunately, it didn't mention whether we should pass it through the smaller insert or the larger insert the second time.

When the meat was nice and hard, I put the stand mixer on setting 4 (as per the instructions) and fed it the strips of meat.  After a few moments of anticipation...holy crap, it's ground beef!  It was pretty quick, too.  I was able to put the meat through in about 5 minutes.  I decided not to give it a second pass, because of the final product; I figure if I were making something smaller, such as a hamburger, I would give it a second pass.  I only needed a pound of the beef, so I packaged the leftover pound and a half into different bags for later use.

There was a small amount left over from that, which Elizabeth suggested, "Why don't we cook it right now?"  "Ok!"  "Wow, every time I say something like that to my mom, she thinks I'm nuts."  "So, this means that I'm cooler than your mom!"  I figured it would be a good way to gage what the meat actually tasted like, in comparison to any other ground beef the both of us had previously tasted.  She sautéed the beef in a small pan, and let it cook in it's own fat.  The meat had a very rich flavor.

 I combined the ingredients with the freshly ground beef, and folded it in my microwave safe bowl.  I cooked it using the same instructions as my previous microwave meatloaf dish, in hopes that it would cook the same.

It turned out amazing; just as flavorful and tender as when it was baked for an hour and a half.

Michael the Microwaveable Meatloaf

Ingredients (Serves 2 or 3)
1 egg
1/3 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 1/3 teaspoons parsley
2/3 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/3 teaspoon ground sage
2/3 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/3 teaspoons garlic powder
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2/3 teaspoon dry mustard

In a microwave safe bowl, combine eggs, milk, and worcestershire sauce.
Stir in crumbs, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, sage, chili powder, and garlic powder.
Add beef, and mix using a spatula.
In the microwave, cover and cook for 10 minutes on high.
Mix ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard.  Spread over the meat and return to the microwave for 5 minutes, uncovered.
Let rest in the microwave for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kielbasa and Shrimp Creole, take 2.

One of the more useful gifts that I was gifted with this holiday season was a set of glass prep bowls (Food Network Brand, which I wasn't aware there was one), from the writer of  I wanted to take advantage of using them, even though all the ingredients for this recipe could be prepped in just one bowl.  Nobody will know.

I made a significant number of changes from the previous version of this dish.  Instead of using the food processor to slice and dice my food, I chopped it by hand so it would be chunky by the end of the cooking process, rather than mushy.  I switched the color of the bell pepper to yellow, because it's my favorite of all of the colors, and the least "peppery" tasting.  And, it's colorful.  To see how much the natural flavors of the dish stood out, I didn't add any seasoning besides for salt and pepper.  The last thing I experimented with was cooking the rice while I was working on the rest of the prep, and sticking it in the oven (at 200 degrees) to keep it warm until I needed it for plating.  

As you can see by the picture, there are actual chunks of food, rather than lots of mushy bits.  

The taste of the dish was a mixed bag.  The vegetables proved themselves well without extra seasoning, but the shrimp were surprisingly bland.  I think that my troubles with this recipe will lay with finding just the right amount of spiciness to make the dish brilliant. 

 Of course, Jeff says that the level of spice that the previous version had was perfectly fine for his tastes.  (This comes from a man who samples dog treats out of curiosity, meaning that he can tollerate tastes that make me want to wash my mouth out with soap.)

As for the rice experiment, the oven proved itself useful in keeping the rice perfectly cooked and perfectly warm.