Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oven Risotto and Brussels Sprouts

Last night I made what my father would call "Detroit Rice" and what the rest of the world knows as risotto. (Don't ask.) Or maybe it should be known as cheater's risotto; no slaving over a hot stove stirring for 45 minutes for me! This version brings the mixture to a boil on the stove, then uses the oven to keep it hot while the rice is absorbing the broth. Super-easy.

This time I pre-cooked some Italian chicken (removed from the casing) and mushrooms, and let them absorb a little white wine. Then I started the dish as usual - sauteeing shallots and a little celery, mixing in the rice, adding the broth and bringing it all to a boil. Just before sticking it in the oven, I added the sausage and mushrooms, made sure it was still boiling, and then baked for 20-25 minutes. Stir in cheese, and voila!

The brussels sprouts were a crazy impulse purchase at the grocery store, wanting something different. The recipe is from 101 Cookbooks, but I think I didn't leave them in the initial covered cooking phase long enough, since they weren't as tender as I would've liked. They're awfully purty, though, aren't they?


From the backlog: Thursday 2/26

Fourth and final variation on the flank steak - a fritatta with steak, mushrooms, orange sweet peppers, and goat cheese. It turned out a little crumbly, but it worked. I'll have to try the broiler method to cook the top, one of these times.

Served with tomato "salad" - sliced tomatoes, a spritz of olive oil, a glug of balsamic vinegar, and sprinkles of sugar, salt, and pepper.

Green Salad with Steak

From the backlog: Tuesday 2/24

This was the third incarnation of the steak - tossed on top of a lettuce salad with tomatoes, orange sweet pepper, goat cheese crumbles, and celery seed dressing.

Quinoa-Couscous Salad

From the backlog: Sunday 2/22

I had never tried quinoa before, but this recipe looked good enough to give it a try. Sure enough, it was.

Quinoa-Couscous Salad with Lemon-Cinnamon Dressing
adapted from Paulette Mitchell's The 15-Minute Single Gourmet

1/4 c quinoa
1/2 c water
1/4 c hot water
1/4 tsp Better than Boullion broth base

For the dressing (doubled from original recipe, since I was packing servings separately):
little bit of finely-chopped lemon zest
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp water
scant 1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper

2 Tbsp chopped celery
1 scallion, chopped
a few baby carrots, finely chopped
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp dried cranberries
pine nuts

Rinse quinoa. Place quinoa and 1/2 c water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or as package instructs.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 c water, stir in broth base, whisk in couscous, cover, and let sit 5 minutes to absorb water.

Mix dressing.

Chop veggies. Mix quinoa, couscous, veggies. If serving immediately, toss with dressing; if saving for later, store dressing and salad separately.

Makes 2 medium servings; may want to increase amount of couscous and quinoa to make heartier servings. The dressing is really good, and you can mix in any veggies you like.

The second serving of this salad was also incarnation #2 for the flank steak - mixed in a bit of chopped leftover steak.

Flank Steak, round 1

From the backlog: Saturday 2/21
Tonight's appetizer consisted of freshly-baked no-knead bread, with Spinach-Artichoke Dip (subbing some plain yogurt for most of the mayo, and it worked out fine)...

... followed by the main course of flank steak prepared a la Simply Recipe's Hanger Steak with Shallots, sauteed green beans, and Trader Joe's wild rice pilaf.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Made-Up Chicken and Noodles

From the backlog: February 18
My constraints that night were that I wanted to use up the breaded chicken breast in the fridge, and that I didn't feel like going grocery shopping. I came up with a sauce for whole-wheat egg noodles, topped with the chicken.

Impromptu dish outline:
Saute onions, finely chopped celery and carrots in a bit of olive oil. Add mushrooms and stir until cooked. Add a splash of white wine and let evaporate. Add larger splashes of chicken broth and half-and-half; heat and allow to thicken slightly. Season with salt, pepper and a couple shakes of Herbes de Provence. Toss with cooked egg noodles, top with heated chicken breast.

Not the best meal I've ever eaten, but it met the constraints and filled me up!

Eggplant Stew

From the backlog: February 16th

Until recently, Cafe Ole served a really tasty Eggplant Stew mezze that made a great light lunch with a side of pita bread. Since it's no longer on the menu, I got inspired to try to recreate it. My first attempt was based on this Moroccan Chickpea and Eggplant Stew from Recipezaar. I played with the proportions a bit (more chickpeas and tomatoes) and got reasonably close. I don't think Ole's recipe used nearly as much cinnamon, if they used it at all. Of course, my memory of the original will fade over time, but at least I can get the basics - eggplant, chickpeas, and tomatoes. The first time I served it over couscous, and I ate some leftovers with warm pita bread.

Valentine's Day Feast - Honey Walnut Bread, Swordfish Kebabs, Baked Apple

Backlog from 2/14:

This year I fended off any possible Valentine's Day depression with a kick-ass dinner and a Battlestar Galactica mini-marathon.

Appetizer: Freshly Baked Honey-Walnut Wheat bread with Goat Cheese Brie
I just made a half-batch of the speedy no-knead bread, substituting white whole wheat flour for half of the bread flour and adding 1 Tbsp honey and about 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

The entree was swordfish kebabs, based on a recipe in The Fifteen Minute Single Gourmet, borrowed from the library. Swordfish chunks marinated in a soy sauce/tomato paste/honey mixture, then threaded onto skewers alternating with fresh pineapple chunks, onions, and orange sweet pepper, and broiled to juicy perfection. The main course was rounded out with leftover brown rice and sauteed green beans garnished with pine nuts.

And for the finale - a baked apple from Simply Recipes, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

With a meal like that, who needs a man?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chicken Puttanesca

Backlog from Thursday 2/12:

This meal is a combination of leftovers from a couple of previous meals. The chicken was from the Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Caper Sauce two nights before, when there wasn't enough sauce for two chicken breasts. The puttanesca sauce was from the previous weekend's festivities, first used as an entree pasta and then as pizza sauce. Oh, and the spinach was raw bagged spinach, but was in danger of aging ungracefully.

Yes, some might frown on chicken and pasta... too bad for them!

Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Backlog from Tuesday, 2/10:

The zing in this dish is from the sauce. This chicken itself is pretty basic - chicken breasts dipped in flour, then beaten egg, cooked on the stove in a little oil. Yawn. But, the sauce is quite tasty - a few lemon slices, lemon juice, garlic, white wine, and capers plus the drippings from the pan. I made the mistake of trying to halve the ingredients for the sauce, since I halved the chicken from the original Good Housekeeping recipe. Oops - with a 12" pan, the ingredients evaporated too quickly to form enough sauce. Next time I'll know.

Served with brown rice (prepared with onion and broth, of course) and green beans with pine nuts.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Pizza from scratch! The most processed part of these meal was the fresh mozzarella, and come on - who makes their own mozzarella? The sauce is leftover puttanesca sauce from last night, giving a wonderfully complex flavor. Otherwise, just some fresh mozzarella, grated romano, and sliced mushrooms. I've got to freeze some pizza dough - this could be a really simple weeknight meal if the dough is made in advance.

Credit where credit is due: the dough and general directions came from Smitten Kitchen's really simple homemade pizza.

Puttanesca pasta sauce

Last night I made a puttanesca sauce for pasta, from Emeril Lagasse courtesy of the Food Network. There's something about the combination of olives, anchovies, and capers that's just addictive.

Walnut Torte

Yesterday I got around to trying "the" walnut torte in my new kitchen. Amazingly simple ingredients - walnuts, eggs, sugar, lemon rind, that's it - for amazing results.

However, I no longer have half the kitchen conveniences that I used to use to make it. The food processor and the stand mixer sadly are no longer in my possession, but the cake turned out perfectly fine without them. It took a bit longer to process the walnuts through a rotary nut grinder, and they were a bit coarser than I was used to from the food processor, but they served the function well. It had been a nice convenience to have the stand mixer and a hand mixer, since you have to be sure the beaters are clean in order to beat the egg whites to a stiff peak, but it was fine to use the hand mixer's whip for the whites, then the standard beaters for everything else. So - I think I'm coming around to the view that you don't need to stock your kitchen with a bunch of gadgets, especially if it's a small kitchen. Someday I'll have counter space...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Seared Tuna with Avocado

The other night I made a recipe that I had tried once before and remembered it to be very tasty, and fortunately it lived up to my memories! Seared Tuna with Avocado, adapted from an original recipe from Tyler Florence of the Food Network, by way of Simply Recipes.

It's basically seared tuna, topped with a sauce, with sliced avocado served on the side. But, oh, this sauce! The ingredient list sounds like a Mexican cookbook and Japanese cookbook got mixed up in printing - cilantro, jalapeƱo, lime juice, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Who uses lime and soy sauce together? Well, you should. This sauce is amazing. Now if I can keep myself from overcooking the tuna next time (I definitely didn't have sushi grade, so I had to cook it through) then it would be even better.

Zeus thought it smelled good, too!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pan-Fried Pork Chop

My cooking style has never relied heavily on Meat-And-Potatoes meals, but after seeing how easy and tasty tonight's dinner was, I may have to reconsider! It helped that I could reprise the sherry potatoes and boiled carrots from last week's dinner.

Items prepared especially for this meal were steamed broccoli and Elise's Mom's Perfect Pork Chops. I didn't bother to make the dry rub, but just with some paprika, salt, and pepper and following her technique, the pork chop came out juicy and flavorful. I probably could have left it on the heat just a little longer, but I was scared of drying it out.

Longer-term challenge: since I'm taking night classes, I'm going to need to find some foods that can sit in the fridge all day and then taste good cold or at room temperature for dinner. The chickpea/green bean salad paired with some carrot and red pepper sticks sufficed last night, but I need to be on the lookout for something that might be more satisfying. I stumbled on a bento box blog, which I thought might provide inspiration, but a.) most of those foods are unfamiliar -> don't want to try them when I don't have a good plan B available, and b.) they generally only need to sit until lunchtime, not dinner. Things to ponder.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stuffed Zucchini

Last night I made Stuffed Zucchini based on the Stuffed Zucchini with Turkey Sausage recipe from Simply Recipes. I didn't feel like doing the math to divide the recipe, so I just guesstimated the amounts of ingredients. It ended up a bit heavy on the meat (based on the chunk of ground turkey I had in the freezer) but still quite tasty, served with a side of brown rice.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baked Oatmeal

Apparently baked oatmeal is a dish with a relatively small natural habitat, consisting of Lancaster County, PA, where I grew up. Which is a shame, because if an oat isn't fortunate enough to be steel-cut, the next best fate it can hope for is to be baked into this dish. (Oatmeal cookies sans raisins are their third-best possibility. Teaism's salty oat cookies might be their second-best outcome, but I think those cookies may call for steel-cut oats, too.)

Oats, oil, sugar, milk, egg, baking powder, and salt - these forces combine with the power of heat to form a relatively dry, cakey texture. Top with some warm milk and preferably some fresh fruit and nuts, and you've got a delicious breakfast. The leftovers reheat better than Irish oatmeal does, too.

Baked Oatmeal (from Lancaster County Cookbook)
1/3 c. cooking oil
1/2 c sugar (can easily cut back to 1/3 c.)
1 large egg, beaten
2 c. uncooked oats
1 1/3 tsp baking powder [who has a 1/3 tsp measure??]
1 tsp salt
2/3 c milk

Combine all ingredients, pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350∘F for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

Chicken Quesadillas and fresh Guacamole

Inspired by cheap avocados at Magruder's, I decided to whip up a batch of guacamole to serve with a chicken, mushroom, and red pepper quesadilla. I used whole wheat tortillas from Giant, that actually weren't too bad. (Remember: it's not about authenticity, it's about making tasty food that isn't too bad for me!)

The guac was based on my vague memories of how J. made her amazing amazing guacamole - avocado, tomato, salsa, and salt. I probably didn't use nearly as much salt as she would have (I think I had to look away during that part of her cooking!) but it was pretty darn good anyway. And I have a bit leftover to serve as a snack this afternoon, if I make some oven-baked tortilla chips.