Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Excuses, risotto, and a blog recommendation.

Sorry it’s been so long between posts, I went through a bout of stomach problems in February that made the idea of eating abhorrent and had me rushing to the bathroom in between efforts to keep down some kind of liquid – the thought of actually cooking food and documenting the process was out of the question.

In any case, in February me and R. decided to try Foods From Around The World. Whatever theoretical joy I delighted in during the plans of these fourteen meals from around the globe was quickly squelched by a combination of sour stomach and the reality check of fine dining – dishes, prep time, ingredients. We ended up creating mounds and mounds of dirty pots, pans, and skillets, spent $400 dollars on overpriced specialty items like grapeseed oil (which does NOT make the recipe, contrary to popular belief), and slaved for hours over a hot stove only to find our results less than thrilling in comparison to our favorite standbys like black beans and homemade tortillas with avocado and tomato.

Here’s the semi-failed experiment in summary:

Our disasters: Uyghur polo (ugh, whoever decided raisins and cumin together was a good thing? And the crunchy rice!), a sickly-sweet pea soup that looked like something straight out of The Exorcist (did not help that I was already vomiting profusely on Turkish Food night), and a sesame chik’n mock meat recipe that was edible, but nevertheless lacked that essential Chinese restaurant je ne sais quoi.

Our triumphs: Silky eggplant parmesan with roasted red pepper risotto and chevre, a Cuban picadillo that we ate on for three days, and the best lasagna of my life. It is probably no coincidence that R. was responsible for all of these grand slams except the risotto, which was sort of so-so and lukewarm after missing that critical right-off-the-stove period.

(Is it any secret at this point that we favor umami flavors?)

We only made it through 4 of the 14 countries, with major revisions to the menus – Turkey, China, the Caribbean, and Italy. However, I am hoping to get back into some kind of a regular posting schedule, one that does not revolve around so much delivery pizza and so many jalapeno kettle chips.

Coming Recipes:
Eggplant Parmesan
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Five Treasure Fried Rice
The Best Lasagna of My Life™

But until then, try this Roasted Red Pepper Risotto from The Pioneer Woman Cooks – we’ve made it twice since I found the recipe, which is high praise in this highly experimental household. I’ll make the following recommendations for this recipe, based on my vast (twice) experience:

Suggestion A: Go ahead and spring for the chevre (goat cheese). It seems as expensive as some devious black market item when you first see the sticker, but it’s worth it.

Suggestion B: When Ree says serve this immediately, she ain’t kidding. Let it go room temperature and it turns into a goopy (yet still luxurious-tasting) mess. It’s still highly edible at this point, but does not compare to the melty nirvana that is piping hot risotto straight from the pot.

Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 30 Minutes Difficulty: Intermediate Servings: 8

8 cups Chicken Broth, Low-Sodium
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ whole Medium Onion, Diced
2 whole Red Bell Peppers, Diced
1-¾ cup Arborio Rice
¾ cups Dry White Wine
Salt To Taste
5 ounces, fluid Goat Cheese
½ cups Grated Parmesan
½ teaspoons Turmeric (optional)

Preparation Instructions

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pan. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add red peppers and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add uncooked rice and stir for a minute or two, allowing it to be coated with the other ingredients.

Pour in wine and cook for a minute or two.

Now, start adding broth a cup to a cup and a half at a time, stirring gently and allowing each addition to absorb into the rice. Repeat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is al dente. (You might not need to use all the broth.)
At the end, stir in a little more liquid and turn off heat. Stir in turmeric if desired.

Add cheeses and stir. Serve immediately!

Go check out Ree Drummond's cooking blog The Pioneer Woman Cooks immediately as well! Some of the dishes are a little meat and dairy-heavy for me personally (being a vegetarian and trying harder to lean vegan every day) but the recipes I *have* used from Ree I visit again and again. My favorite is definitely her Crash Hot Potatoes - seriously, these might make you cry a little. They're kind of ridiculous.

Original recipe found here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/06/crash-hot-potatoes/


Friday, January 15, 2010

Colcannon that is not colcannon. (Egg Noodles with Yellow Pepper Sauce)

Last night was a joint effort in the kitchen, after much exasperated, "I don't know what I want for supper, what do YOU want for supper?"

Well, it turns out while neither of us knew what the hell we wanted for dinner, both of us could definitely get behind a pasta meal, so here was ours - egg noodles with sauteed yellow peppers and onions, mushroom gravy, boiled cabbage with fried onions, steamed snow peas and carrots, and garlic bread with Swiss cheese. It was totally satisfying.

I wanted to do something with the head of cabbage I picked up for 75 cents, because I was under the impression that I hate cabbage by itself and could fix this simple fact with an appropriately elaborate dish. I had aspirations of cabbage rolls, kraut, colcannon, anything but plain old boiled cabbage.

So I found a colcannon recipe that looked good, but I didn't want to make potatoes (since we were already cooking noodles and one starch is plenty). I told R, "I think I'm going to make this colcannon, except that I'm going to leave out the leeks and potatoes and just use the fried onions and butter."

"How do you cook it?" he said.

"You boil it for ten to fifteen minutes, then mix in butter and fried onions and it's done."

"So just like regular boiled cabbage then."

"Right. Not like colcannon at all, really," I replied (a bit sadly).

Colcannon or not, it was hella delicious. Here is how we did it...

Grocery List:
several cups of green cabbage, shredded
one large white or yellow onion, sliced thinly
double handful of snow peas (snap the snow peas in half)
double handful of baby carrots
egg noodles
mushroom gravy (we just used the packet kind 'cause we're lazy)
one large yellow bell pepper (deseeded and sliced)
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed
salt and pepper
butter or margarine
4-6 slices of white bread (or whatever kind of bread floats your boat)
a few handfuls of shredded Swiss cheese
garlic salt

- Saute your yellow pepper, half the onion, and garlic together until tender. While this is cooking, set up a stock pot of water to boil for the egg noodles. Set up a separate pot or Dutch oven with the shredded cabbage, putting about two or three inches of water in the bottom. Bring it to a boil while you saute your pepper mixture.

[Note: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.]

- Boil the cabbage for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain (leave a bit of water in the bottom of the pot though) and put in a generous helping of butter - a couple of tablespoons should do it. Salt and pepper that baby and leave it on low to simmer, making sure to stir regularly.

- Put your egg noodles on to boil (they cook fast, so watch them). If your yellow pepper mixture is done, remove it from the pan and start cooking the other half of the onion (this will go in the cabbage).

- While the egg noodles cook, set up a small saucepan and prepare your mushroom gravy according to the directions on the package. Also, set up a pot with a very small amount of water in the bottom and get it to boiling. Once this water is boiling, toss in your carrots and snow peas and cover, then reduce the heat and cook about ten minutes.

- While everything is wrapping up, butter your bread, dash a little garlic salt on it, then sprinkle each slice liberally with the Swiss cheese. Pop it in the oven and it should be out around the same time everything else finishes up.

- When the pasta is finished, drain it and toss in the pepper mixture and mushroom gravy, stirring thoroughly. Mix your fried onions in with the cabbage and stir THAT. Then serve the noodles with steamed vegetables, boiled cabbage, and cheesy bread on the side.

Verdict: Awesome supper. It made a lot of dishes (all those pots!!!) but it was totally worth it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On simplicity (Bean Soft Tacos with Tomato and Avocado Salsa)

I will admit the sordid truth: Hello, my name is Kellye, and I am an over-spicer.

I believe this is a response to my father's training in the kitchen when I was younger; while making spaghetti, he would throw in wine, spices, and all manner of other things into the pot with enthusiasm. My mom, who has simpler tastes and likes her food more bland, was less than enthusiastic.

But I don't like my food bland. I put in every seasoning I can find that will concievably marry well into my dish. My roommate, R., takes an entirely different approach to seasoning.

He's the one who cooked dinner last night, giving me a much-appreciated break. Using his mad quasi-Hispanic skills, he whipped up fresh homemade tortillas (recipe NOT to follow, since he doesn't use one) with mashed kidney beans, quesadilla cheese, Spanish rice, tomato and avocado salsa, and Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream.

These were seriously the most delicious(and most simple) tacos of my life. When I asked him, "By the good of all that's holy, Batman, what did you put in the tomatoes and avocado?" his response boggled me.

Salt and pepper. That was it. To a kitchen sink vegetarian, this borders on blasphemy.

It was a revelation.

Grocery List:
flour tortillas
a can or two of pinto beans or black beans
2 avocados
white or yellow onion
white rice
vegetable oil
Taco toppings: lettuce, salsa, taco sauce, tomatoes, quesadilla cheese, mock sour cream
a lime or two
salt and pepper
Optional: cumin, taco seasoning, extra chili powder, Coronas (sling 'em if you got 'em)

Simple Soft Tacos:

- Flour tortillas. You can make your own if you have a recipe handy, or you can just pick up a package of them at the store; either way, these will be delicious.

- A can or two of pinto beans or black beans, heated on the stovetop and mashed with a spoon (add spices like cumin or taco seasoning if you want, but I'm pretty sure that R. didn't)

- Avocado and Tomato Salsa: Chopped tomatoes, cubed avocado, and chopped white or yellow onion. Mix it all up good, then add salt and pepper. (THAT'S IT.)

- Any other taco toppings you like: shredded lettuce, sour cream (or mock sour cream), salsa, whichever.

Also integral to this meal is Spanish rice, which is made as so:

- Toast however much white rice you feel like you're going to need, putting a little bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan. Stir the rice in a hot pot (or wok) until the rice begins to brown (but don't let it burn!) When it starts to develop darker brown bits and smells toasty, it's ready.

- Add water (twice as much water as rice), chopped tomato (however much you want in proportion to the rice - we use a few handfuls), chopped white or yellow onion, a dash of chili powder to taste, and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Give this all a good stir and put a lid over it; let it simmer about twenty minutes, or until all the water is thoroughly absorbed. Fluff and masticate!

Assemble however you deem necessary and heartily enjoy. This meal is a Mexican masterpiece!