Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recipe for Steamed Eyeball

What do you do with fresh jalapeno peppers? It's surprisingly hard to come up with uses for 6 whole peppers that don't involve a giant vat of salsa. When repeatedly given peppers by my CSA I decided to try my hand at jalapeno cheddar cornbread to go with my world famous chili. Having a penchant for spicy food but no experience cooking with chili peppers, you can imagine that my first attempt was somewhat foolhardy. Everybody thinks they can handle more heat than the average person right? Especially when the recipe is from Ina Garten.

It wasn't the spice that got me. I still think I'm right in leaving some of the seeds and membranes in, otherwise what's the point? The problem arose when I attempted to put my contacts in. {Insert bloodcurdling scream here.} I immediately pried my eye open, took my contact out and put my glasses back on only to find that my glasses steamed up on that one side. You heard that right. My eyeball was literally steaming. My eye doctor thought it was hilarious. I did not.

Other than that, this is a good recipe for a beginner baker. I've actually made it twice, tweaking it to get the right texture. I really wanted a moist cornbread that didn't fall apart, so I used an additional egg. I also used less than the 2 sticks of butter suggested. Only certain southern Food Network chefs who shall remain nameless need that much butter in one batch of cornbread. I'm not sure what Ina was thinking.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beginners French

French food is an anomaly. I think a lot of home chefs are probably inspired by French cooking, but how often does one sit down and conciously make a French meal? (Or maybe you do, what do I know?) Other ethnic cuisines are very distinct in their ingredients - throw in some cilantro and call it Mexican or add some ginger and suddenly it becomes Asian.

But I think French is more about technique, culture, subtlety and intimidation. Even though I bought a French cookbook and find that most of the recipes are surprisingly simple and use few ingredients, the thought of making a Daube de Boeuf Provencal in my tiny kitchen fills me with dread. I think I need to ease myself into it with dishes that don't require any classical training, advanced knife skills, fancy gadgets, or pricey ingredients. Pair such a recipe with local, seasonal ingredients, slap a beret on me and cue the soundtrack from Amélie.

Inspired by some giant leeks from the farmer's market, a bottle of wine, and "Drunken Angel Hair with Leeks and Cream" from Serious Eats, I got to cooking. See them for the recipe because shockingly I followed it pretty closely. Ok, I didn't use the chervil. Oh, and I added a handful of frozen peas and some sauteed mushrooms.

Here's my mise en place, which incidently is French for "putting in place." The leeks, mushrooms, and cream were local.
Washing the leeks is the most labor intensive part. Leeks, and especially ones from the farmer's market, have a ton of grit. The only way to clean them is to slice them and soak in a big pot of water. Swish thoroughly and the grit will fall to the bottom.

Here is the finished product, topped with plenty of parmesan cheese. It made for plenty of great leftovers, but it's probably not a "Single Serving" recipe unless you've got time on your hands and people to share with.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Centennial Celebration!

In honor of my 100th post, I've decided to reflect on some of my favorite recipes. If you haven't noticed by now, I like lists and I like ranking things. I'm not really sure why. But anyways here are my top 10 favorite dishes that I've cooked. I've already written about some, but others are what I call "from the archives." I'll try to provide recipes and pictures at a later date. They're chosen for ease of preparation but mostly taste. And, if I might add, they are mostly vegetarian (or pescetarian for all you sticklers out there.)

10. Shrimp Scampi

9. Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

8. Roasted Fennel with Lemon and Parmesan

7. Eggs "Mi Rancho" (My version of huevos ranchero)

6. Panzanella

5. Southwestern Rice Casserole

4. Eggplant Parm

3. "Green" Caldo

2. Vegetable Lasagna

1. Vegetarian Chili

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's All Greek to Me

Ah Greek Lady. How I miss living near you so I can savor your delicious gyros and gigantic salads whenever I want. Your veg gyro is a magic meatless combination of crispy golden fries, creamy tatziki, lettuce, tomato and onions all wrapped up in a thick but fluffy pita. My mouth waters at the mere thought of it. (Although in my thoughts I get the lamb gyro instead.)

I figured it couldn't be that hard to recreate. The only part that requires thought is the tzatziki and I've been making a ton with the plethora of cucumbers I've received. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

1 containter plain greek yogurt
1 cucumber, small to medium
Juice of 1 lemon
Couple cloves garlic

Dice the cucumber- seeds, skin and all. Also mince or crush the garlic. Mix everything into the yogurt with some salt and pepper. Let sit for a little in the fridge for a little before eating with pita chips or veggies.

For these gyros, all I did was buy some flatbread, frozen french fries -of course you can make your own- lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Mine was veg (I swear) but as you can see Fred added some chicken. Clearly not as good as the original. I want to know what kind of bread they use because supermarket pitas and flatbreads are dry and bland. Other than the bread, it wasn't half bad though.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

At Home With the Hatrocks

Sometimes it's nice to go out, but most of the time I would rather cook and entertain at home. Alas, my apartment can barely fit 2 people and the seating option is my bed. Intimate, maybe. But not exactly the ambiance for a dinner party.

So any time someone wants to cook for me I'm there! I'm so excited to find people who appreciate home cooking as much as I do. I'm even more excited to find people who really know how to cook. When the Hatrocks invited Fred and me over for paella I knew I was in for a treat. Paella is an ambitious undertaking involving specialty ingredients like saffron and even a special type of pan. Surprisingly, the Hatrocks used brown rice. I don't eat a lot of brown rice, but I have to say it was the perfect texture and really held up to all the other ingredients in a way that more delicate types of rice might not have. It also created the desirable crust on the bottom of the pan.

Like me, the Hatrocks kind of made it up as they went using a little of this and a little of that. Maybe they don't have a recipe, but I'm hoping they will share the ingredients and maybe some tips. It was a spectuclar summer meal, and I can't wait to return the favor. Just maybe not at my place.