January 20, 2013

Christmassy Dinner Menu

This Saturday I'm having friends over for a "Christmassy" dinner, but I haven't decided on the menu yet. At first I was thinking of doing a more Italian twist, with either lasagna or another baked pasta  with bechamel. Then I saw this amazing recipe on Italian tv with a molded rice dish with sauteed zucchini and shrimp, which just looked beautiful. But then, I started wondering if maybe a roast would be more traditional. I've never really made a roast, but I know it's not that hard. Now I need to make a decision between pasta and a roast, because I think both would be too much since these friends aren't such big eaters.
What do you think? Can it be Christmas dinner without a roast?

January 15, 2013

January calls me to cook. again.

This year I'm going to try for short but frequent blog posts, keeping track of what I'm making, and keeping me on track to keep cooking.

This morning I finally decided to make that acorn squash that's been living in my fridge. I cut it in half, drizzled it with evoo, sprinkled some s&p and dried thyme, and put it in the oven at 400 degrees F. It's probably going to bake for at least an hour.

I'm still wicked jet-lagged from my trip to Europe, so having this ready to eat for later will be awesome.

December 23, 2011

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!

Last week I made Nutella sandwich cookies from a recipe I found on an Italian website. They were delicious. I doubled the batch, and I used the 2nd half of the dough today.

I did 12 with Trader Joe's Cherry Preserves inside (and topped them with an almond sliver) and filled the rest with Nutella. You just can't go wrong with Nutella.

These cookies are delicious warm, but also at room temperature, and they are awesome with coffee.

June 29, 2011

Tinkering with Indian

I bought At Home with Madhur Jaffrey several months ago, but have been waiting for some reason to cook anything from it. Partly because I needed about one million spices that I didn't have. Thanks to a generous gift card I received for Penzey's Spices, I was able to buy many of those exotic spices. Anyway, I recently tried my first two recipes from the book.

The first, Chicken Karhai with Mint, was a total success. It was... DELICIOUS. Jaffrey suggests for some recipes that you use a homemade garam masala, so this was also my first chance to use the Cuisinart coffee grinder that I also bought several months ago to grind my spices. (I'm not using it for coffee.) I'm not even really a chicken lover, but I'm trying to eat lots of protein lately and I find that I feel better when I'm eating it. Anyway, for a starch I used Trader Joe's Frozen Brown Rice Medley. Instead of the microwave (ready in 3 minutes!) I put it in a pot, added some water, and some chopped dried apricots, and let it simmer about 10-15 minutes. It was a really delicious and EASY side, and I highly recommend that rice, even if you don't add fruit to it. And I don't even like brown rice.

The next Indian dish I tried was Tandoori Style Chicken with Mint. I think my biggest mistake here was using white meat instead of the legs that the recipe suggests. (Only had chicken breasts in my house.) I marinated it in its yogurt mixture overnight, and then cooked it in a 500 degree oven in a pyrex dish. It wasn't until later that I thought, hm, I wonder if that dish can go up to 500 degrees? Anyway. One note about this dish: don't put the marinade in the baking dish. She does say "remove chicken from marinade" but I thought, hmm, maybe some of the sauce should be in the dish. This is a mistake, because the sauce basically burns to the dish at that temperature, and becomes difficult to scrub off afterward. Just put the chicken into the baking dish. I got a little of the Tandoori flavor I know from restaurants on the browned edges of the breast, but as you can see, most of it stayed white. This is why I think it's really important to use smaller, dark meat pieces of chicken (like she suggests.)

The rice I made was also from her book, Yellow Basmati Rice with Sesame Seeds. This was made yellow from ground turmeric (my spices at work!) The only ingredient I didn't have was urad dal, or yellow split peas, but it only called for 1 teaspoon, so I figured it was not THAT essential. You are supposed to put mustard seeds into the pan with some oil, and when they start to pop, you add the rice. Well, for those of you who've never used mustard seeds, they really pop! As in, right out of the pot! So be ready :)

I like this book a lot, especially because of the background information about where the recipes originate (they are not all from India), and because they are all easy. With a little planning ahead next time, I'll be sure I have all the ingredients when I try my next recipes.

May 30, 2011

Moules Frites a Washington, DC - Oui Oui!

Last night I ate at Brasserie Beck in DC. I love their Classic White Wine Moules Frites, but I wanted to try something new, so I ordered the Fennel and Chorizo Moules instead (top left). Apparently this is a very popular choice. Well, just fyi, if you like chorizo, you should order this. It's a little spicy, which I liked. But there was SO MUCH sausage - like, probably twice as many pieces of sausage as mussels. It was a little overwhelming. Also, for me it wasn't the chorizo that was calling me to order this dish, it was the fennel. And that's where I was disappointed. I did not get even one taste of fennel in the entire pan of mussels. In fact, I'm not really sure there was any fennel. The tiny pieces of pale veggie I found resembled celery, which tells me either it was celery, or it was the stalk of the fennel and not the bulb, which... really, what is the point? I will stick to the classic white wine next time.
My dining partner ordered the Moules a la Irwin Mushroom with bacon and truffle (to left). He had tried them before and decided to stick with a favorite.
The frites as usual were awesome, although salted a little heavy handedly, and the mayo trio featured their delicious curry mayo. The middle mayo, the tomato brandy one - I'm not sure who eats that one, because at least at our table it's always the one that's still almost full when we're done eating.
For a starter we ordered a half dozen raw oysters, a mix of East and West coast, and they were very delicious. I'm a cocktail sauce on oyster girl myself. We also shared the Slow-Roasted Beet salad which is served with a delectably creamy whipped goat cheese and caramelized walnuts. We had this salad last time and were just as happy with it last night.
For dessert we followed the waiter's suggestion of trying their special dessert, "strawberry shortcake." I'm putting that in quotes because it wasn't strawberry shortcake. It was some sort of panna cotta served with biscuits with duck fat. The biscuits were good, a little heavy, but this dessert just wasn't strawberry shortcake. When I think of SS, I think of a light and refreshing dessert, (even with cream or ice cream.) This just left me feeling heavy and regret for not ordering the Pear Tarte Tatin, the Bread Pudding, the Waffle with Strawberry Compote, or pretty much any other dessert that was on the menu.
Bottom line - go there and eat their awesome mussels and fries, and try their beers (we had the Antigoon Double Blond Ale with the mussels last night - good choice).

May 29, 2011

Mustard Bâtons

I made another catch-up recipe in the ffwd game this morning - mustard bâtons. I practically burned my brain the other day when I put my trader joe's dijon mustard on both sides of a sandwich, so I was scared to use as much mustard as Dorie suggested. This was a mistake because after baking, I couldn't really taste any mustard at all. A let down. I also twisted half the batch just for a little visual diversity. There's one twisted baton on the bottom left of the photo. I would definitely make these again, but next time will not skimp on the moutarde!
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May 27, 2011

Cardamom Rice Pilaf

This was a delicious, healthy, light and refreshing dish for a hot day. I absolutely love the flavor of cardamom, so I was excited about this dish. I'm trying to eat light these days, so for lunch today I had one serving of the rice, one serving of asparagus (boiled as in the Bacon, Egg, Asparagus salad), and then I ate two Vanilla Eclairs that I had leftover from yesterday. Haha!