Saturday, February 27, 2010

Week of Menus number 5

Finally, I have managed to get my act together and put together another menu with recipes and shopping list. Whoo, what a month it's been!

I've gotten some interesting feedback from a few folks on these, the two most common being 1.) "This has really cut down on my grocery bill!" and 2.) "We can't get to everything on the menu in a week." There's still a lot of eating out and grabbing stuff on the run. But it is still apparently helpful, so that's encouraging to me.

So here are four more meals, all of which are pretty quick. I have done the shopping list myself, rather than relying on the PERFECTLY USELESS ingredient/shopping list "feature" in Living Cookbook. It sucks more thoroughly than Stanley Steamer. I'm going to have to completely strip it out and rebuild it, which is going to take me a while. It really is horrible. For example, why would it list seven different kinds of canned shrimp, but leave out fresh shrimp entirely? I like everything else about that software better than MasterCook, but MasterCook definitely had one-up on them on the shopping list feature.

Thanks to a suggestion from Ben (holla!), I'm also providing the recipes and shopping list in a .pdf format that you guys can print out more easily. I'm not sure why Ben didn't want to include my wonderful blog writing along with it, but I'm going to pretend it had to do with not wasting paper.

Here's a note about salads. I haven't included many recipes for salads because I figure a lot of you peeps have kids with very definite preferences on what goes in there and what dressing they like. But if you are interested in my posting recipes for salads along with the rest of the meal, shoot me an email at or leave a comment (they're moderated because you wouldn't believe the spam I get) and I'll be happy to toss a salad in there. (heh, heh. Get it?)

Day One:
Green Salad of your choice
Spicy Chicken and White Bean Chili

Day Two:
Pork Chops with a Dijon-Rye Crust
Parmesan Grits
Stewed Cabbage and Apples

Day Three:
Green Salad of your choice
Creamy Shrimp Grits with Prosciutto

Day Four:
Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli with Black Bean Sauce
Steamed Rice

Day One:
Spicy Chicken and White Bean Chili
Recipe by Tony Rosenfeld (I have a harmless, old married lady crush on Tony Rosenfeld. His recipe style really couldn't be much more perfect for me, and everything of his I've cooked has turned out to be wonderful.)
This is from Fine Cooking (of course)

1 ripe avocado, cut in a medium dice
1 large white onion, finely diced

Juice of 2 limes, about 6 Tbs.
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 chipotles, plus 2 Tbs. adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, or 3-1/2 cups shredded store-roasted chicken
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup lager beer, such as Corona (which leaves you a little leftover. :) )
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)

1. Toss the avocado, about one-quarter of the onion, 2-1/2 Tbs. of the lime juice, and 2 Tbs. of the cilantro in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

2. Season the chicken with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or casserole over medium-high heat until it's shimmering hot. Add the chicken (the thighs should just fit, evenly spaced) and sear without touching until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until also golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Take the pot off the heat and set aside. When the chicken has rested, shred it by hand or chop it coarsely.

4. Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the remaining onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin and stir for 20 seconds. Add the beer and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits, until it almost completely reduces, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white beans, the tomatoes and their juice, the chipotles and the adobo sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the chicken along with any accumulated juices on the bottom of the plate. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes so the chicken finishes cooking and the flavors mix and meld. Stir in 1-1/4 cup of the cilantro and the remaining lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Ladle into large bowls and serve immediately with a generous spoonful of the avocado mixture, a dollop of sour cream (if using), and a sprinkling of the remaining cilantro.
Day Two:

Pork Chops with a Dijon-Rye Crust
Serves 4
This is another from Fine Cooking. It's one of Phillip's favorites.
3 slices rye bread, crusts trimmed
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
4 bone-in, center-cut pork chops, each 1-inch thick (about 2 lb. total)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs coarse-grained Dijon mustard

1. Position one rack in the center of the oven and a second rack directly under the broiler. Heat the oven to 400°F.

2. Pulse the bread in a food processor until it forms coarse crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse a few more times to evenly moisten the crumbs.

3. Season the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil for 1 minute in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over high heat. Put the chops in the skillet and cook until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

4. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the chops to a plate. Spread the mustard on one side of the chops and then gently press on the breadcrumbs.

5. Return the chops to the pan, crumb side up, put the pan in the oven, and cook until the centers of the chops are slightly firm to the touch and they register 145°F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and switch the oven temperature to high broil. Let it heat for about 3 minutes. Put the skillet full of chops under the broiler just long enough to brown the crumb crust, 30 to 60 seconds. Serve immediately.

Now listen. This is IMPORTANT!! If you put a skillet in the oven, REMEMBER TO USE A HOT PAD TO TAKE IT OUT AND KEEP IT ON THE PAN ONCE IT'S BACK ON THE STOVE!! I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!! (Yeah, I've done it, and that burn HURTS!) I'd almost rather you take these out of the skillet and put them on a rimmed baking sheet for that part.

Parmesan Grits
Serves 4
1 1/3 cups Stone Ground Grits I'm serious here. Get these if you can. If you can't, at least use the long-cooking grits. Please don't use the instant ones. They're nutritionless, watery and tasteless.
4 cups Chicken stock
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. Boil chicken stock in a medium pot with the salt. Add the grits and turn the heat to low to simmer.

2. Simmer until most of the water is absorbed, about 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate. Serve when the grits are the consistency you like. Longer for thicker grits.

Red Cabbage and Apples
Serves 4

1 small head red cabbage
1 Granny smith apple
1 small onions, sliced
1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 slices bacon, chopped

1. Slice the cabbage, apple and onion thinly crosswise.

2. Put a medium pot over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil, then add the
bacon. Cook the bacon about four minutes, then add the cabbage, apple and onion. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir until the cabbage and onion are well-wilted, about 5 - 7 minutes.

3. Add the chicken stock and turn the heat down to medium low. Cover the
cabbage and simmer about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

4. Before serving, add the vinegar and stir to incorporate.

Day 3:
Stir-Fried Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Sauce
Recipe by Ivy Manning Yep. Fine Cooking again
Serves 4
11 oz skirt or flank steak, sliced across the grain 1/4 inch thick

1 Tbs soy sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted in 1 cup boiling water for 20 minutes
1/4 cup black bean garlic sauce (such as Lee Kum Kee brand)
2 Tbs Chinese rice wine
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 tsp Asian chile sauce or paste
2 Tbs vegetable oil
4 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 lb broccoli, crowns cut into florets thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1. Combine the steak, soy sauce, and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Drain the mushrooms, reserving 2/3 cup of the soaking liquid. Discard the stems and thinly slice the caps. In a small bowl, combine the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and the black bean sauce, wine, cornstarch, and chile sauce. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch and set aside. Heat 1 Tbs. of the vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the beef and its marinade, and stir-fry until the meat is just browned, 45 to 50 seconds. Transfer the beef to a small bowl.

3. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat.

4. Add the ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, 15 seconds. Add the broccoli and 1/4 cup water, cover, and steam until the broccoli is just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the black bean sauce mixture, the stir-fried beef and the mushrooms and cook until the sauce is thick and bubbly, about 1 minute. Add the cashews and toss to combine. Serve with steamed rice.
Just a note on the rice: I always cook mine in chicken stock. It tastes better to me than plain water.

Day Four:
Creamy Shrimp Grits with Prosciutto
Serves 4
4 1/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cups stone-ground grits

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup dry white wine
15 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
4 oz prosciutto, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

1. For grits: Bring chicken stock, whipping cream, butter and garlic to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually whisk in corn grits. Return to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until grits thicken, whisking often, about 15 minutes.
2. For shrimp: Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to large bowl. Add white wine to skillet and boil until reduced to glaze, about 5 minutes. Add drained diced tomatoes and half of prosciutto and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, chives and sautéed shrimp and simmer until shrimp are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Thin sauce with some of reserved tomato juices, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon grits into shallow bowls. Top each serving with shrimp-prosciutto-tomato mixture, dividing equally. Garnish with remaining prosciutto strips and serve immediately.


Shopping List:

3 yellow onions
3 - 4 shallots
1 head garlic
2 limes
salad greens
ingredients for your own salad preference
2 lbs. broccoli florets
1 small head red cabbage

4 oz. Prosciutto (do try to get prosciutto in the deli - bacon just doesn't do it for the shrimp and grits dish)
Rye Bread

lager beer (like Corona)
white wine

1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 ea. bone-in 1" thick center cut pork chops
11 oz. skirt or flank steak
2 lbs. large shrimp

Asian Food Aisle:
Asian chile sauce
Chinese rice wine
Black bean garlic sauce
Soy sauce

Spice Aisle:
Kosher Salt
Olive or vegetable oil
chili powder

Other Aisles:
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans canellini beans
1 can chipotles in adobo sauce (usually in the Mexican food section)
Salad dressing (your choice)
Stone Ground or non-instant Grits
Coarse grain dijon mustard
Small package dried shitake mushrooms
rice (I prefer Jasmine)
2 qts. chicken stock

Parmesan cheese
whipping cream

For a .pdf copy of the menu and shopping list for easier printing, click here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Indonesian Spiced Chicken Thighs and Chickpea and Cauliflower Kind of Casserole Thing

This was a 5:00-what-am-I-cooking-for-dinner-that-involves-a-new-vegetable-prep things. One of my loose goals for 2010 was to cook vegetables with more forethought and less afterthought, so I stepped up to the plate last night. (heh, heh.) It's Thursday, so the pickins are getting slim around here for fresh veggies and I was just not in the mood for salad. I'd already decided on Pam Anderson's Grilled Indonesian Spiced Chicken Thighs. That's one of my standbys and you'll be seeing that one again on a weekly menu post. It's quick, easy, and gives you a chance to use some of that turmeric you may have bought for the Arroz Con Pollo.

So having established the primary flavor area for dinner, I sat down with my copy of Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Special thanks here to my neighbor Morgan, who loaned me her copy so I could see what use I could make of it for preparing better vegetables. I flipped through it for cauliflower recipes since that's about all I had that was fresh. And I found a great looking recipe for cauliflower baked with chickpeas.

No, of course I know that chickpeas aren't some hybrid chicken/pea combination. I wouldn't eat it if it was. I hate peas. (Yeah, you heard me.)

I didn't take pictures of this dish because it wasn't very pretty. And you people know if we started out not pretty, with my photography skills, there's nowhere to go but down. But it was quite tasty. I put dinner in front of Pootie and he ate a little and said "Wow. This is good. I'm surprised. I didn't think it would be." It always surprises me when he says stuff like that - he's such a great eater - will try anything - and almost always is just happy to eat whatever I cook. Turns out, he DOES have an opinion sometimes. Of course, I was pushing cauliflower on him again, and he doesn't like it. If he did that to me with peas, I'd probably refuse to eat.

Indonesian Grilled Chicken Thighs
This is a slightly modified version of Pam Anderson's original one. I've removed the accompanying salsa because I didn't have mango. Also, I always cook these on a foil and parchment lined pan on the grill instead of straight on the grill. I'm willing to give up the pretty grill marks in exchange for not having to clean that thing.
Recipe By : Pamela Anderson who you can follow on Twitter @ThreeManyCooks
Serving Size : 6

1 Tbs ground ginger
1 Tbs ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbs vegetable oil; more for the grill
1 Tbs Asian chile paste (like sambaloelek) (I used Sriracha)
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about -- 8 large, 10 medium, or 12 small)

1. Mix the ginger, coriander, turmeric, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in an 8-inch skillet over low heat. Add the spices to the hot oil and heat until they bubble and become fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Return the spice blend to the bowl; stir in the chile paste, brown sugar, and salt. The mixture will be thick and pasty. Add the chicken and toss to coat evenly.

3. Now. Listen. This is where we part ways. I do this, as I mentioned, on a foil and parchment lined baking sheet on my gas grill. You could do that, or you could also bake it in the oven at about 400F since it's February and I know some of you don't have easy access to the grill this time of year. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill with all burners on medium high for 10 min. Clean the hot grate with a wire brush (see? I'm just too lazy to do this part.) and then lubricate it with an oil-soaked paper towel. Put the chicken on the grate  and grill (covered on a gas grill or uncovered over a charcoal fire) until one side has dark grill marks, 5 to 6 min. for large thighs or 4 to 5 min. for medium and small thighs. Turn and continue to grill until well marked on the other sides and cooked through, 5 to 6 min. longer for large thighs or 4 to 5 min. for medium and small thighs.
I don't flip them, since I don't put them directly on the grill. They cook about 10 - 12 minutes total.

Baked Cauliflower and Chickpeas in Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce
Modified from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 6
2 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tbs. minced fresh jalapeno
2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. chili powder
large pinch sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped roughly
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Put a medium pot over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno and saute until the onion is limp, about five minutes. Add the garam masala, the chili powder and the sugar and stir until incorporated. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until they have rendered their juices a little, about 3 minutes. Add the cilantro and the coconut milk and stir. Add the chickpeas and cauliflower and stir to evenly distribute.

Pour all of this into a 9 x 13 pyrex baking dish and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through.

Shopping List:

1 small head Cauliflower
Fresh ginger (you need about an inch, so a small piece)
1 - Jalapeno

2.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs

Spice Aisle
Chile powder
Garam Masala
Ground ginger
Ground coriander
garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper

Asian Food Aisles
Asian Chile Paste (you can use Sriracha)

Other Aisles
Vegetable or olive oil
Dark brown sugar
28 oz can Chickpeas
28 oz. can Whole Tomatoes
1 can coconut milk

If you would like a printable, .pdf version of the recipes and the shopping list minus my brilliant commentary, click here. You must have Adobe reader installed on your computer to view this file.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dinner Parties and Other Disasters

Yesterday I spent the day putzing around here at 305, prepping for a dinner party I'd been looking forward to for quite some time. Liz and Bob and Paul and Melissa were all coming over for dinner. (Liz and Paul are pretty hardcore food peeps, by the way - they know a LOT about food and cooking and are excellent cooks themselves.) Needless to say, I was stoked. Pootie decided to get the heck out of dodge for the day and went kayaking with Jack. So I had the whole place to myself to just take my time, clean a little, and mess about in the kitchen.

Pootie Pie walked in at about 5:00 and said "I don't feel so good." I asked him what was wrong and he said his stomach was just really bugging him. (Insert ominous music here.) I'd felt pretty under the weather myself a day earlier, so I began to suspect we might be looking at a bug, rather than a gastrointestinal anomalie. And I got seriously concerned. He always gets this stuff much worse than I do, so this had the potential to end very badly. He went to lie down for a few before our guests arrived, and I tried not to worry about it and went on with dinner prep.

Assorted olives and pickled vegetables
White Bean Dip with Pita

Salad with Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette

Sichuan Cod
Wild Rice

Chocolate-filled Ebelskivers with Mint Ice Cream

Limoncello (deliciously prepared and graciously donated by Paul)

I got Pootie up before folks arrived, and we had our nibbles and some conversation outside on the patio around the fire. It was a nice night for it. We've had a pretty cold winter and the weather is starting to warm up enough that a fire outside is perfect. We talked about all kinds of stuff, from highways to kayaking to food (of course). Things were going pretty well and I was having a great time.

I pulled everyone in the house for dinner a short while later. The salad was fine. Then I served the main course. Dammit. Too much salt in the rice. I hate that. The cod was OK, though. Out of concern for Pootie's stomach, I put his sauce on the side. When it came time to clear the dinner dishes, I noticed he hadn't touched his dinner. Not a good sign. Then during dessert, he was up and pacing a little and looking through the fridge (I discovered later he was searching for ginger ale, which I got for him.) Then he started doing the Pootie "My Stomach Hurts Fidget". He rocks back and forth a little and kind of rubs his knees. He was deteriorating rapidly, and I knew we were down to the wire on saving everyone's evening, including his.

So it was time to face The Hostess Horror - I had to fold the party. And not during a lull, either. Everyone was talking and having a good time and so it was a rather abrupt ending. But it was definitely in everyone's best interest. 305 is tiny, and there is one bathroom. So there are worse ways that party could have ended. (Liz is convinced the whole thing came about because we were talking about pig's feet. )

It was a LONG night after everyone left, and as of right now (9:45 AM EST), my husband is still sleeping and seems to be on the mend. Hopefully I'll be forgiven, for booting everyone out to take care of my sick husband AND for the awful rice.

Sichuan Braised Cod
This is a modification of a Tony Rosenfeld recipe from Fine Cooking. He uses fresh chiles and I substitute Sriracha hot sauce. He also dredges the cod in egg and cornstarch and fries it in a skillet. Since that makes my vent-a-hoodless house smell like fish for days, I grill the cod plain and serve with the sauce.

Serving Size : 4
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbs rice vinegar, more to taste
3/4 cup low-salt canned chicken broth (I used vegetable because Bob's a vegetarian)
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs ketchup (yes! Really!)
1 Tbs. Sriracha Sauce
1 1/2 lb thick cod fillets (“cod loins”), cut into 4 uniform pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green,  parts separated
1 1/2 Tbs minced ginger

In a small bowl, mix the 2 tsp. cornstarch with the 2 Tbs. vinegar. Add the broth, soy sauce, ketchup and Sriracha sauce. Season the fish with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Place the fish on a foil and parchment lined pan and cook on a hot grill (about 500) for 7 - 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Add the oil to a medium frying pan and over medium heat, add the white parts of the scallions, and the ginger. Cook, stirring, until the scallions become translucent and browned in places, about 2 min. Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir and then pour it into the pan. It should come to a boil and thicken quickly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the fish to the pan, and flip it a couple of times to coat it in the sauce. Serve immediately with the sauce spooned over the fish and sprinkled with scallion greens.

Shopping List

Fresh Ginger
1 bunch Scallions (green onions)

Fresh Fish
1 1/2 lbs. cod filets

Asian Food Aisle
Sriracha Sauce
rice vinegar
soy sauce

Other Aisles
vegetable oil
chicken or vegetable broth

Friday, February 19, 2010

Triggerfish. Triggerfish? Triggerfish.

They had it at Fresh Market. I was buying stuff for my big dinner tomorrow night, and Pootie saw the Triggerfish. "Triggerfish?" I said. "Uh... yeah. Sure. Triggerfish.", he said. "These guys?", I said.
"Yep.", he said. Except of course, I didn't have a picture with me, so that last part's a lie. I don't usually go to the grocery with visual aids. Anyway, kind of pretty, I suppose, except for the sharp, pointy teeth. (They bite, too, evidently.)

Well, OK, maybe not like that.

Maybe like this:


No, that's just Dinky, trying to "help" with dinner.You know, in case anything fell off the counter. Always helps to have an open mouth.

Here's a real triggerfish bite.

Ouch. Worse than a paper cut.

So Triggerfish. I've never had it. And a quick search of my ridiculous multitude of cookbooks offered nothing. Neither did my old standby Fine Cooking. Or Bon Appetit. So I resorted to Wikipedia, which at least described the flavor of the fish for me.

"Some species of triggerfish, such as the titan triggerfish (oooo! A titan!), may be ciguatoxic (what?) and should be avoided.[1] (we have not dropped dead yet, so my assumption is we didn't get this kind.) Others, such as the gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus), are excellent table-fare. Their flesh is white, firm and flavorful, with only a few bits of red flesh which may be scraped off easily at the base of the ventral and posterior dorsal fins."

At least that gave me something to work with. Looking at the fish, it WAS pretty firm, with a little pink tinge, which said "Cod" or "Grouper" or "Monkfish", not quite "Tuna" (thank goodness - I really dislike steaky fishes). So I decided on a pecan-breadcrumb crust for it.

See? Kind of pinkish under that crust.

I threw that on a foil lined pan with some parchment so it didn't stick, salted and peppered it on both sides, then patted on the crust and grilled it on high heat for about 8 minutes.

I served this with some Pearl Couscous (or as my very very young friend Liza called it "coops coops") and some lima beans. I know. The lima beans didn't really "go", but when your husband begs you to cook lima beans for him, who can say no to that? When I tell my brother's wife Natalie we've had lima beans, she says "Were you bad?"

Pecan-Crusted Triggerfish
Pearl Couscous
Lima Beans

Pecan-Crusted Triggerfish
I almost hesitate to put this up, simply because I don't guess Triggerfish is all that available far and wide, but what the hey. You can substitute any other fairly firm white fish for this.
2 medium Triggerfish filets (about 3 - 4 oz. each)
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup whole grain bread, torn into pieces
1 Tbs. cold butter
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Salt and pepper each filet generously. Put the bread, pecans and butter in a food processor and whirl around in there until you've got a small crumb. It will be a little moist and should stick together. Cover the top of the filets with the bread crumb crust. You may have a little leftover. Place on a foil and parchment lined pan and put on a grill on high heat for about 8 minutes. You could do this in the oven instead at about 400 for the same amount of time, but if you don't have a good vent-a-hood, (I don't), your house is going to smell like fish for a couple of days, which I can't stand.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the Proverbial Weeds

I'm so there. It's been a really challenging couple of weeks, some good, some bad. Family upheaval, TONS of work sprinkled with a decent dose of frustration and stress of deadlines, and a demanding new workout schedule have done a fairly effective job of keeping me from blogging. (But hey - ask me how many unassisted chinups I can do!) The spare time I've had, (when I'm not fighting crime) I've spent reading - I finished Kurlansky's Salt and have finally got round to reading Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef. I know. I'm like a decade late. It's been on my list forever.

So here are a couple of highlights from the good stuff the past couple of weeks.

Snow!! In Wilmington! Gotta say, that was way cool, and I was seriously stoked. We got four inches overnight, and by the next evening, it was pretty much gone. Didn't stick on the roads or sidewalks - it was perfect, in other words.

The dogs liked it too.
Steamboat made it his personal mission to try to eat all the snow in the back.

But by afternoon, it was melting. It was so short-lived that we went kayaking the next day.

Our friend and kayak instructor, Robert, breaking the ice at the launch ramp

OK, so it was still a little cold. It warmed up considerably throughout the day, and by the time we hit afternoon, it was comfortable. Here's a video summary of the trip. It was really beautiful. We went down Rice Creek to Town Creek and most of the way down that. It was a five hour paddle plus a 45 minute lunch stop.

What does any of this have to do with cooking? Not a damned thing. That's my problem. I've been doing a lot of "Protein/Carb/Veggie" dinners that have been lacking in imagination. My day starts at 6:30 with work, then a workout fit in there somewhere, more work, more work, then it's 5:30 and I take about a half hour to read or mess with my ukulele (!) and then it's time to cook dinner. And during the work time, I'm not really in a position to think about what I'm going to cook. Work has just eaten my lunch- I'm in the weeds, as it were. Then after dinner, I just haven't been motivated to blog, read recipes, gather info - do much of anything, really. We've actually been watching the teevee, which is not like us. (The BBC's Wild China was REALLY good, by the way.) Then bed, a little reading, and there's a day. Gone.

I know a lot of you are reading this and saying "Welcome to my world! Try that with two kids!" True dat. Don't know how you do it most of the time.

But I need to get back to cooking and posting and getting some menus together, so I'm striving to do that this weekend. We have some fun food peeps coming over for dinner Saturday night, so I'd by golly BETTER get my butt in gear and put something decent on the table, or my street cred is taking a huge hit.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Week of Menus

I know, I'm kind of late. Those of you who are also on Twitter with me and Facebook know it's been a rather challenging week. (See? Hit the weekend and my attitude is already much better!) But yesterday, the software went more or less in the bag, and I am a little better rested and can think about cooking again.
Some of the feedback I've gotten is that for those of you with teenage kids, five meals a week is too many to get to. So today I've got four for you. Enjoy!

Day One:

Crisp Pancetta Baked Pork Tenderloin
Black Kale with Garlic and Onion
Day Two:

Green Salad with Cranberries, Pecans, Goat Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Maple Syrup and Mustard Glazed Hens
Parmesan Potatoes
Day Three:

Beer-Braised Sirloin Tips with Mushroom Sauce
Steamed Rice
Day Four:

Chicken Coconut Soup
Day One:
Crisp Pancetta Baked Pork Tenderloin
Serving Size : 4
2 lbs Pork tenderloin
1/2 lb pancetta, sliced thin (you can use bacon if you can't find pancetta, just remember to swap it out on the list)
1 each Granny smith apple, sliced
2 Tbs maple syrup
salt and pepper

1. Line the bottom of a pyrex baking dish or other roasting pan with the apples. Drizzle with maple syrup.
2. Salt and pepper the tenderloin, then wrap in the pancetta. Place on top of the apples.
3. Bake at 350 F for about 35 minutes, or until pork is done.

Black Kale with Garlic and Onions (a good one from Fine Cooking)
Recipe By : Bill Telepan
Serving Size : 4
1 lb kale, washed and dried and stemmed
2 Tbs butter
salt and pepper
1/2 cups yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cups chicken stock

1. Fill an 8-qt. pot with 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add a good pinch of salt and add the kale. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and cook on high heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Turn occasionally. The kale should have still have a little bite but shouldn't be stringy or tough.

2. Drain in a colander and press with the back of a large spoon to squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible. When the kale is cool enough to touch, chop it into small pieces.

3. Melt 3 Tbs. of the butter in the 8 qt. pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the broth, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for five minutes.

5. Return the kale to the pot, stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. butter, season generously with pepper and cook until the flavors are blended, about 7 minutes.

Day Two:
Green Salad with Cranberries, Pecans, Goat Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette
As usual, you can make your own salad here, but I really like this one, and you do already have the maple syrup
Serves 4 - 6
4 cups red leaf lettuce
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup Goat Cheese
1 Tbs maple syrup
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
4 Tbs salad oil
kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

1. Mix the maple syrup, cider vinegar, salt and pepper together. Whisk in the oil.

2. Tear the red leaf lettuce into bite-size pieces. Add pecans, dried cranberries and crumble the goat cheese over the top. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to dress evenly. All the dressing may not be needed.

Maple Syrup and Mustard Glazed Hens
OK, for this one, I almost never marinate these guys as long as it says to, and trust me, it's not a deal-breaker. But if you remember to do that, go, you! Also, you can cook them in the oven in a pyrex baking dish if you are lucky enough to have your grill buried under three feet of snow. The one thing you'll need to think ahead on with this is that the hens are usually frozen, so you'll want to thaw them in the fridge beforehand. (obviously)
4 cornish hens
2 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 Tbs dijon mustard
2 Tbs soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the hens and mix thoroughly.
2. Butterfly the hens. (Split them in two - I like to use poultry shears or heavy-duty kitchen shears for this.) Marinate butterflied hens in maple/mustard mixture one hour at room temperature or in the fridge overnight.

3. Remove the hends from the marinade and grill the hens over medium heat on the grill. I put them on a foil lined pan so it doesn't gunk up my grill. Or you can cook these in the oven at about 400F in a pyrex dish. Either way, they should be done in about 40 minutes. Simmer reserved sauce on stove until reduced about half while the hens are cooking. Serve over top of hens.Parmesan Potatoes
4 large russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into eighths (wedges)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 375F. Place potatoes
in a large bowl. Add oil and red pepper, season with salt and pepper and parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake until tender on inside and crispy on outside, turning once, about one hour.
Day Three:
Make up your own salad
Steamed Rice
Beer-Braised Sirloin Tips with Mushroom Sauce
From Fine Cooking
Recipe By : Molly Stevens
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
Kosher salt
1 1/2 lb sirloin tip steaks, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms
2 Tbs olive oil or vegetable oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
4 scallions, (green onions) thinly sliced, white and light, green parts separated from dark green parts (save both)

1 cup dark ale or porter beer (such as Beck’s Dark)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1. Mix the mustard, brown sugar, thyme, ginger, paprika, and 1 tsp. salt in a small bowl until well combined. Coat both sides of the steaks with the spice mix.
2. Clean and slice the mushrooms 1/4 inch thick.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add half the steaks and sear them until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side (the steaks will brown quickly because of the sugar in the spice mix). Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining steaks.

4. Reduce the heat to medium, add 1 Tbs, of the butter to the pan, and let it melt. Add the mushrooms, the scallion whites, and 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the mushrooms soften and brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Pour in the beer and Worcestershire. Scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon, raise the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Return the steaks and any accumulated juices to the pan, cover tightly with a lid or foil, and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Braise, turning the steaks after 8 minutes, until tender and just cooked through (they should be easy to slice with a paring knife), about 16 minutes total.Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and slice them thinly. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into four peices and swirl them into the sauce. Stir in the scallion greens and taste for seasoning. Serve the steak slices over steamed rice. Top with the sauce.
Day Four:
Another one from Fine Cooking
This one is kind of ingredient-intensive, but it really is quick to put together and it's delicious.
Recipe By : Nancie McDermott
Serves 4
2 stalks fresh lemongrass

2 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 Tbs fish sauce (nam pla)
2 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and very thinly sliced crosswise
6 fresh or frozen wild lime leaves (also known as kaffir lime leaves), torn or cut into quarters. If you can't find these, use the zest of one lime.
10 to 12 thin slices fresh unpeeled ginger
8 fresh hot red and green Thai chiles stemmed and lightly pressed with the side of a knife (or 3 or 4 serranos, thinly sliced) for garnish (optional)
2 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 boneless chicken breast half (about 6 ounces), cut into bite-size chunks or sliced across the grain into strips
1/4 lb white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, and thinly sliced to yield 1 cup

14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk (shake the can before opening it)
14-oz. can low-salt chicken broth or 1-3/4 cups water

1. Trim away and discard the root end and the top 3 inches of each stalk of lemongrass, along with any brittle leaves. Pound each stalk lightly with the spine of a cleaver or an unopened can. Cut each stalk crosswise into 2-inch lengths and set aside.

2. In a large serving bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, and half of the wild lime leaves or half the lime zest. Set the bowl by the stove, along with small dishes containing the galangal, lemongrass, and remaining lime leaves or lime zest; the chiles (if using), the chopped cilantro; and the sliced chicken and mushrooms. Seriously people. Be careful with those chiles. Don't do like someone I know and get 'em all over your fingers then go take your contacts out. (Man that hurt.)

3. In a medium saucepan, commbine the coconut milk and broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves or lime zest. Add the chicken and mushrooms. Return to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors and cook the chicken.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, pour the hot soup over the seasonings in the serving bowl, and stir well. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve hot. Pass around the chiles for those who want them.

Shopping List

1 bunch Cilantro

Fresh Ginger (one large chunk - you need about 10 thin slices)
8 fresh hot red and green Thai chiles, or 3 or 4 serranos
2 lb fresh mushrooms

6 fresh or frozen wild lime leaves (also known as kaffir lime leaves), torn or cut into quarters (If you can't find these, don't sweat it - I usually can't either. Use lime zest. There are limes on the list)
4 limes (see?)
1 head Garlic
1 large Granny smith apple

1 bunch Green onions
4 large Idaho Potatoes
1 lb Kale
2 - 3 Yellow Onions
1 head Red leaf lettuce (or one of those boxes of the pre-washed kind)

Salad greens (for your other salad)
2 stalks fresh lemongrass (This is getting more common and can usually be found with the other fresh herbs hanging in the produce area in those little plastic boxes. If you can't find it, it's not the end of the world.)

Fresh thyme
Fresh basil
Any other produce you want in your salad you're making up yourself

2 qts low-salt chicken broth
14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
apple cider vinegar

cracked black pepper
Dijon mustard
Dried cranberries
Dry mustard
fish sauce (nam pla)

ground cinnamon
Ground ginger
Kosher salt
light brown sugar

1 pt. Maple syrup
Olive oil

Red wine vinegar
sweet paprika
Worcestershire sauce

Salad dressing (for your own salad)
Rice (I like Jasmine)

Parmesan cheese

Beer and Wine
dark ale or porter beer (such as Beck’s Dark)

1 lb pancetta, sliced thin (Or if you can't find this, grab some bacon)
Goat Cheese

Meat and poultry
2 boneless chicken breast half
4 cornish hens
2 lbs Pork tenderloin
1 lb sirloin tip steaks, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (You might also find sirloin tips already cut, in which case, save yourself the time.)

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Three C Pasta

I flew solo tonight for dinner. It was one of those extremely rare nights where my Pootie Pie and I had conflicting evening schedules. I had UKULELE CLASS (have I mentioned that a few thousand times?) at 6:00, and he had a history lecture (far more dignified) to attend at 7:00.

You have to give me a break. This was the first day I got the thing. I'm TONS better now. (ahem) Dinky seriously digs my playing. He goes right to sleep.
Pootie Pie ate before, I ate after. I'm not quite sure what he ate, exactly, but whatever it was made the house a smoky, slightly burnt-smelling haze by the time I walked in the door at 7:20. I do gather it involved chicken breast, by the open package left behind. And the crumbs of the charred remains in the frying pan resembled black beans. So I'm guessing he worked some Skillet Magic on the leftover black beans from this weekend and the chicken breast. Seriously, people. I should so totally be a spy, shouldn't I?

So tonight, while lonely, because I do love my sweetie, I got to cook to please only myself. Thankfully a rare occurence. So I decided on some pasta in my ravenous state. And what did we have, but an awful lot of things starting with the letter C! Someone would be so proud!

So I had pasta with Cabbage, Cauliflower and Chicken!  (No, not Cookies) And while I was cooking, I drank Champagne! (Well, OK, not technically, but it was a sparkling wine, so it sort of Counts. muaah haa haa haaaaaaaa!)

And also, I was listening to Chinese music! I honestly have no idea why. It was playing when I walked in the door from my uke lesson. The canines weren't impressed. They like my uke playing better, I think. My husband bought this album of Chinese music. It's beautiful, but I think the main reason he got it was because of that Steely Dan song. And it got annoying kind of fast, so I switched to... well, The Weepies. Sorry. No C there. They might play some songs in the key of C, though, so that sort of counts. (Muaah haaa haaaaaaa!)

Sorry. Hey! One of their songs is called Old Coyote. So there you go.

Now, this was totally a "what I found in the fridge" dinner, so if you want to play along, feel free to modify it as you like. But here's what I did, while I was sipping Champagne(!). It was nothing like this picture, though. First of all, I was alone, except for the aforementioned canines. Second, I'm not into guys my dad's age or older. Third, I don't wear dead pheasants on my head or garters, or those ridiculous petticoats. Khakis and Chucks are way more comfortable than that getup she's about to not be wearing.
Anyway, here's the recipe for the leftover pasta dinner I created.

3 C Pasta
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped
1/2 chicken breast, sliced thin across the grain
1 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. butter
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced savoy cabbage (slice crosswise into ribbons)
2 slices bacon or pancetta
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 cups egg noodles
1 cup cauliflower, broken in to very small florets
a bunch of water 
kosher salt

Set a large pot with a lot of water and a decent pinch/handful of kosher salt on a burner on high to boil.
You know, I'm not sure The Weepies are helping me with my current mood. "This Is Not Your Year" isn't making me feel a lot better about the crap code I got from the developer today. Just a minor interruption. Back to our recipe.

Sautee the shallot in a medium frying pan over medium low heat. Toss in the chicken slices. Brown. Add the pancetta or bacon and the cabbage. Look how pretty and green the cabbage gets! ooo! I do love that about cabbage. Add 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs. flour and mix together. Add the milk and the cheese and stir over low heat until all melts and thickens. Remove from heat.
By now your water should be boiling. Throw in the pasta and the cauliflower. Boil until the pasta is done, about 10 minutes. Drain. Put back in the pasta pot (minus the water) and scrape the sauce on top. Toss together with the warm pasta. Serve with champagne. (Or sparkling wine, if you're picky about your nomenclature.)

Now I will leave you and go put clean sheets on the bed and crawl in there and snuggle down with the last chapter of Mark Kurlansky's Salt. That's been an excellent read, by the way, and any of you interested in food history should give it a whirl.

Cheers, peeps!