Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Asian Cucumber Salad

I'm in Thailand now, but leading up to my trip, I've a)been watching what I eat and b) been feeling very inspired by anything to do with Asia.  Here's a recipe that I cheffed up out of the Food & Wine Cookbook.  It made a lot of cucumbers and I portioned them out for weekday snacks.  It's actually Joann Chang's recipe, so I knew it had to be good!

Asian Cucumber Salad
  • 2 cucumbers, sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 scallions


See food porn - 2011 F&W cookbook..... yum.
Start by chopping up your cucumbers.  The recipe calls for spears, just like pickles, but I like cucumbers that are thin and sliced on the horizontal. I also put my cucumbers in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm them up a bit.  The recipe suggested it and I didn't think it was a bad idea.  ??


Mix the sesame oil and rice vinegar together in a bowl.  Whisk well.  Taste test.  This will be a matter of preference.  I preferred mine to have a bit of a tangy, vinegar-y flavor, so I added a bit more rice vinegar.  If you like it sweet, you could also mix in a bit of sugar to balance out the tangy vinegar.  Toss the dressing in the bowl with the cucumbers.


In a food processor, mix salt, sesame seeds and red pepper.  Process until fine.  I have to admit, next time I would skip this step.  My seeds were tiny and it didn't really process like it should have.  Nor did I think it really affected it at all in the end.


Add mixture to cucumbers.  Add in a bit at a time, so you don't overwhelm the cucumbers.  I think I only ended up using half of mine or so.


Top with scallions and serve!  I portioned mine out into fours for a quick roughly 100 calorie snack at work!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Creamless Corn with Mushrooms and Lemon

Before my latest grocery store run, I found myself reading through my new 2011 Food and Wine cookbook and clearly drooling every time I flipped a page.  While my cookbook collection is growing, this one is like food porn to me, mostly because of all the pictures.  Who needs a man next to you in bed at night when a girl has her cookbook to read?

Please, someone else tell me that they like to read cookbooks?  In bed?

Hello?  Is this thing on?

Judgers.  Either way, I found that a majority of the things I have cheffed up lately are more like side dishes than entrĂ©es.  Which in my house, side dishes are fair game as entrĂ©es, but, to each their own.  The recipe below is my interpretation of F&W's Creamless Corn recipe.  You'll definitely be seeing a lot more creations from this book coming out of my kitchen.

Creamless Corn with Mushrooms and Lemon:
  • 6 dried shittake mushroom caps
  • 10 ears of corn or a bag of frozen sweet corn
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon
  • salt and ground black pepper




The recipe calls for corn on the cob, but I cheated because it's not in season.  I subbed out a bag of frozen sweet corn instead.  This clearly altered the recipe, but I still felt as though it is a solid side dish.


I am a huge shiitake fan lately.  Give these beauties a good chopping.


In a heated pan, with EVOO, on medium heat, add your chopped shallots, mushrooms and your garlic.  Saute for a few minutes until soft.  While this is happening, you should be working on your corn.  If you are following the recipe, it actually asks you to grate five of the ears along a cheese grater.  Make sure you get all the "corn juice" as well, but scraping down the side of the ear after you grate.  This will help the "creaminess" texture.  The other five ears can just have the corn sliced off.  Since I went the frozen corn route, I defrosted as needed and then tried to smash up the corn the best I could, to release some of the juices.  I'm not sure how well it worked, but I got a good workout using the back of that spoon!


Once you're sauted, add in the corn and heat thoroughly.  Then add in the lemon juice, zest and top with cilantro.  Reduce heat and allow the flavors to mix under low heat.  I don't have a zester (note to self), but I used a potato peeler and then, finely, finely chopped with a knife.  Zest can be used very sparingly because it does have so much flavor.   Once you salt and pepper, you can serve as a side dish.


Don't be alarmed - this got sectioned into four tupperwares for future lunches and snacks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spicy Shrimp Noodle Bowl

I'm SO excited to be going to Thailand in just a few short days here.  In fact, I haven't felt this amount of anticipation and excitement since the Christmas mornings of my youth.  Anyone else remember waking up at an ungodly hour (4:45 am) and laying there in bed waiting sosososo patiently for your parents to hurry up and get up?  There are PRESENTS to be had here people!  Get to gettin'.


Either way, my excitement lead me to prep a Thai shrimp noodle bowl from Cooking Light's October 2010 issue.


Spicy Shrimp Noodle Bowl as adapted
  • 1 pd tail on shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cups water
  • 2.5 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 8 ounce bottle of clam juice (if you can't find this, I just subbed in equal amounts chicken broth)
  • 2 1/4 in slices peeled ginger
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 2.5 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 ounces uncooked rice sticks
  • cilantro
  • lime wedges
The biggest pain in the neck on this recipe was the shrimp.  I had purchased what I thought was a stellar deal on shrimp from whole foods, but let me tell you, there's certain a price for convenience.  Ever time I use these shrimp, I have to spend a painstaking amount of time shelling them and then deveining them.  Total buzz kill.



Here we go!  Start with ripping all the tails of of your shrimp and chopping up a few medallions of ginger.  You dont' need alot - but both of these ingredients are going to add to the richness of the broth you are going to create.

And add in your broth, water and clam juice (if you found at the store).  Bring to a boil and them simmmmmeerrr on low for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Once the broth is going, start slicing up all your veggies, if you haven't done so already.  Throw the onion and peppers into a sauce pan with a bit of heated EVOO and start sauteing.  Keep the heat low as you don't want your onions to burn, you just want to soften them.

Before Saute
After Saute
Once those are nicely sauted, add in the broth mixture (be sure to scoop out the tails and the ginger medallions first!), your shrimp, sugar snap peas and the rice noodles.  Allow to simmer until the shrimp are fully cooked and the noodles are soft.  When it's ready to serve, add in the chili garlic sauce (more if you like it HOT, HOT, HOT).   

Sprinkle with a bit of cilantro and give yourself a pat on the back.  This is incredibly low cal, fresh and filling.   



I hope every meal I eat in Thailand is 5 times better than this - but obviously, it's nice to be able to create at home!





Monday, March 14, 2011

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

I decided to make the Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars recipe from the March Bon Appetit. I didn't have any peanuts, so I used chopped cashews.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup jelly (I used grape.)
2/3 cup chopped peanuts or cashews

Preheat the oven at 350. Line a 8x8 metal pan with foil. I think that a metal pie pan would also work. Grease the foil with nonstick spray.

Start by whisking the flour 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a small bowl.

In your mixer, mix the brown sugar, peanut butter, and butter (at room temperature). Then, add the vanilla and egg. Beat until smooth. Remove the dough and split in half. Put half in the freezer for 10 minutes. Put the other half in the greased pan and spread evening onto the bottom of the pan.
Next, spread the jelly over the dough.
After the dough had been in the freezer for 10 minutes, split it into small pieces of about 1/2 inch. Evening distribute these pieces as a layer over the jelly.
Then, sprinkle the chopped peanuts or cashews.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

I somehow lost the photos of the final product, but I promise you that the bars were really delicious. If I made these bars again soon (likely because I always have these ingredients), I'll update this post with more photos.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Butternut Squash Spicy Bisque

This recipe is for people who can handle heat!

This recipe is modified from a recipe that I tore out of a magazine. It looks like the recipe was strangely part of a Kahlua ad.

Ingredients:
1 large or medium butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, chopped
1 medium white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
3 heaping teaspoons of green chiles from a can of chopped green chiles
2 tablespoons of hot sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
Coarse salt
Black pepper

Start by preheating the oven to 400. Halve the butternut squash lengthwise. Be careful with your knife. I've had a few close calls when cutting squash. Remove the seeds, and set them aside for later. Remove the pulp and throw it in the garbage.

Grease a Dutch oven or baking dish with one tablespoon of olive oil. Flat side down, place the squash in your dish. Stab the skin of the squash just like you pierce a potato with a fork. To roast the squash, put it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Let the squash cool. Remove the flesh and set aside. Don't burn your fingers.

In your Dutch oven or other pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add in the celery, carrots, and onion. Tenderize these veggies. This will take 10-15 minutes. Now add the minced garlic. Saute for three minutes. Then, add flesh of the squash. Stir well and add chicken broth. Boil, and then reduce the heat to low until the vegetables are tender. This will take about 30 minutes.

While you wait, toast the squash seeds on medium-low heat in a small pan. Let the seeds toast for about 30 minutes. Salt the seeds.
Take the soup off the heat to cool, and use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the soup. After all of the soup is blended, add 2 teaspoons of the chopped green chiles and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of the chopped green chiles and sour cream. Season with salt and black pepper.

Serve the soup. Throw a dollop of the sour cream/chiles mixture into each bowl (mine sunk) and garnish with the toasted seeds.This was quite delicious in a spicy, flavorful way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kale, Potato and Onion Frittata

I've never made a frittata before, so when I stumbled across this recipe from Epicurious, I thought it would be the perfect thing to chef up on the weekend.  Vegetarian + Kale + (relatively) Low Calorie = yes please.  I'm not sure what the difference is between a frittata and a quiche is?  Maybe that a frittata doesn't have a crust on it?  Either way, I love the basic idea of it - you can really be creative and chef up any sort that you're feeling that day.  Asparagus, goat and arugala?  Sure!  How about we add some proscuitto in there as well?  I was feeling vegetarian, so I went with something that included my latest love:  Kale.

Kale, Potato and Onion Frittata (as adapted from Epicurious)
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 1 yellow or white onion, sliced
  • 1 pound kale, trimmed, blanched 3 minutes in boiling water, drained, squeezed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups boiled diced potatoes
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked) - I used cumin because that's what I had on hand

 While the ingredient list is relatively short, there is some prep involved.  With the Kale, make sure you remove the spines - you can easily do this by folding along the spine and slicing down the side of it.  Blanching is easy, but once it's cooled, you really have to do a good job of squeezing out all the excess moisture.  I then coarsely chopped.    I also subbed out sweet potatoes because I love their flavor.  You'll need to boil and chop these ahead of time as well.  Once all your ingredients are prepped, you're set to go.

 

 

Fire up the oven to 400 degrees and coat a skillet with cooking spray.  Saute your onion for about 5 minutes, until translucent.  Add in your kale and garlic, keep moving for another 5. 


In a separate bowl, mix eggs, egg whites, 2 tbsp water and the paprika (or cumin, or whatever your little heart desires) and whisk well.

Add the potatoes to the skillet.  Here you can go two ways, you can fire up a bigger cast iron skillet and add the egg mixture OR you can do what I did and add the egg mixture straight into the frying pan you used.  Basically, now you combine all the ingredients together in a way that works for you.  I didn't include any pictures because this baby was FULL.  It was messy.  I had to be extremely careful not to get this mixture all over the stove.   

(Seriously, I need to invest in bigger cookware.  Fancier cookware.  The issue is, where the heck will I put it?!  Sigh... the life of living in a studio....)

Cook the mixture on medium heat for about a minute and then transfer to your greased baking dish.  I used this 9 by 9. 

 


Transfer to the oven and bake for about 6 to 8 minutes until the eggs are set and the center is slightly runny.  Then broil the top for about a minute.  It should look a little something like this when done.


 

All set!  I ended up topping mine with a bit of freshly grated parmasen cheese and then I devoured as a perfect Saturday lunch.  I froze two portions and ate one the next day.  I have to be honest, I think it tasted even better than next day!

 

What sort of frittata makes your mouth water?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Crock Pot Wild Rice & Ham Soup

I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that I'm still obsessed with soups. :) This recipe is delicious and low in calories.

This recipe is modified from another Betty Crocker soup magazine.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups diced ham
3/4 cup wild rice
1 medium or large white onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, julienned
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups of water
1 can of cream of celery soup (about 10.75 oz)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup cashews, halved
2 tablespoons sherry
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Start by greasing your 4-quart slow cooker with oil or cooking spray. Toss in the ham, rice, carrot pieces, chicken broth, water, cream of celery soup, and pepper. Cook covered on low for 7-8 hours.

Mix in the half and half, cashews, sherry, and parsley. Turn up the heat to high, and let these ingredients blend for 15 more minutes.Serve!

I will definitely be making this again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eating My Way through NoLA

My fabulous stepmom turned 50 this year, so the family decided to have a little trip to celebrate.  Her and my father took a cruise out of New Orleans for a week, so my sister and I flew down over President's day weekend to meet them in port and spend a few days seeing the sights of NoLA.  I, of course, took every opportunity to overeat and try the local flavors that we just don't get up here in Boston.

I arrived late Saturday night and met my sister and her boyfriend at a restaurant on Bourbon Street, just down and around the corner from our hotel.  I've never been to New Orleans before and I must admit, being on Bourbon Street on a Saturday night made me feel like an old prude lady!  The whole beads-when-it's-not-Mardi-Gras thing and the flashing.... wow.  I suppose I had always pictured young co-ed girls doing the flashing thing, but we are talking about middle aged women.  People who have ZERO business doing these types of things.  Either way, we struggled through the crowds and ended up a a little restaurant, La Bayou.

I loved the ambiance of the French Quarter.  Almost all the restaurants and bars in the area open right up onto the streets, which make you feel like you're still a part of the city and all it's action.  Sort of like I imagine cafes in Europe to be like.  Everything just opens right up - a luxury that we don't get in Boston due to our four very drastic seasons.  While the restaurant was on Bourbon Street, our little table was tucked away from the madness of the street.    Once we were seated, I took one look at the beers on tap and was instantaneous drawn to The Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale.  This was SUCH a good beer - I had it several times throughout the weekend.
We started off with an order of Boudin Balls, which were described as a "Cajun Tradition of ground beef, pork, rice, onions, peppers and seasonings all rolled together with a crispy coating, served with Creole mustard cream sauce for dipping."  These were excellent - the crunch on the outside actually had a nice crunch to it - rather than a deep fried, greasy feeling. 
For my entree, I ended up with the Creole Jambalaya.  This dish, while it contained tasty flavors, was a bit on the dry side.  This was also my first introduction the fact that every single meal I ate in New Orleans was served with an excessive amount of french bread.  One does not need that many carbs!


On Sunday morning, we woke up a bit on the later side, so we didn't get a chance to grab any breakfast en route to meet our parents.  I was starving, so I was grateful that our day included a ferry ride across the river to the neighborhood Algiers Point.  We walked around a bit, soaking in all the amazing architecture.  It's fascinating to see some of these narrow little houses, painted in all colors of the rainbow, showcasing amazingly intricate amounts of detail on all the woodwork.  I want to take one of the little tiny houses and transplant it up here!  Luckily, there is a little hidden gem of a cafe right off the from where the ferry drops you off:  The Dry Dock Cafe.

I decided to go with a Muffaletta Sandwich, which is a ham and salami sandwich, served with an olive salad and provolone.  I've never had one of these before, but I thought it was pretty good.  I think I just much prefer a sandwich that is light on meat and heavy on veggies.  I don't think you can go wrong with sweet potato fries - especially not when they are crispy like the ones I had here.


But the real gem, and probably the best meal of the trip, was the Barbeque Shrimp appetizer.  My dad ordered this and the sauce was out of this world.  The shrimps themselves were done well and taste, but the sauce.... good god, the sauce was heaven.  It wasn't barbeque like we northerners know it, but something slighly spicy and tangy.  Trust me, all of that french bread that came with it, was used to sop up every last drop of that sauce.  I will be doing some research to find out exactly how to recreate cajun barbeque. 

My family took a paddleboat tour down the river Sunday afternoon and once we were back on land, the three couples I was traveling with decided to head back to their hotels rooms and rest before heading out for my stepmom's 50th birthday celebration.  Because it was a gorgeous 75 degree day and the sun was shining, I set out upon the French Quarter to do some wandering on my own.  I had been hearing all these rumblings at Cafe du Monde - a local place famous for serving beignets and coffee.  I am often skeptical of any place that reeks of tourists, but I decided to wander over.

I waited in a massive to-go line for about 30 minutes.  I decided upon a little bag of three beignets because that was their smallest size.  I took my $3 bag and wandered back out onto the street to find a perch to people watch and eat my treat.  I had planned to eat only one and even went so far as to offer up one of my beignets to a local who was just taking in the day. 
All I have to say is, YUM.  These are doughy perfection, topped with enough powdered sugar to cause quite a mess, but the sugar is necessary to add sweetness.  It's not like a doughnut in the tradition sense, nor is it like fried dough, it's a cross and it's awesome.  Again, I had planned on only eating one.  In the end, I ate 2.5 and then felt incredible guilty.  Dear self control- you fail.
I ended up walking around the French Quarter, popping into the little shops and taking pictures with my new Nikon.  I love this camera and surprisingly, I feel less dorky carrying it around than I had expected!   The streets of the French Quarter in the afternoon are MUCH different than the streets at night.  They are clean and the people that are out are not drunken slobs.  There's no one standing on the balconies begging you to pay up for some beads.  You are able to wander through and appreciate the distinct and unique culture and architecture.



I cannot remember the name of the restaurant where we ended up having my stepmom's celebratory dinner - all I know is that I had more Southern Pecan beers and some terrific crawfish cakes and crawfish chowder.  I was stuffed from eating all those afternoon beignets, so I couldn't stomach much more than this!  The creole sauce on the cakes was a little heavy, but over all, both were really good.




The food in New Orleans is stellar.  I couldn't eat it all the time because it's not necessarily "healthy" or condusive to any sort of dieting, but it was a fabulous weekend of food and drinks.  You can't beat spending a weekend with the family exploring a new city.  I loved the live music jazz scene and would be thrilled to go back some time for Jazz Fest or maybe another random weekend sometime in the future.