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.