What’s been cooking…

September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

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Without the use of Alex’s beloved camera (it has an error message that we need to get checked out), it has been harder to think it worthwhile to document our weekly cooking. However, I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with cooking recently, so, pictures or not, you are going to get a record of these experiments:

Picnic sandwich on ciabatta loaf with bologna, salami, pesto, artichoke hearts and havarti cheese
Lemon Crumb Bars

The above two items I made for Alex and my anniversary date to see Planet Earth: live! at the Hollywood Bowl.  The sandwich was made by improvisation, the lemon crumb bar recipe can be found here. It was quite easy, and they were delicious.

We had our friends over for dinner one night, and I had fun with the following recipes:
Goat Cheese Empanadas. For their July issue, Real Simple had a section featuring three-ingredient recipes. These had goat cheese, placed into store bought pie crust, baked and served with store bought salsa. Some things need to be simple. Alex actually made these while I worked on the main course.
Chicken with Olives. Thank you, Pioneer Woman. This was delicious (If I do say so myself). The chicken was quite moist and the olives complimented the flavors nicely. I served it over brown rice.
Blueberry Ice cream. What I love about homemade ice cream is that it is easy to make and loved by many.  Often ice cream recipes are only 3-4 ingredients, mixed together and placed in the ice cream maker which does its thing while you get on to more pressing chores. I also added chocolate chunks to this ice cream — what can I say, I tend to think things only get better when you add chocolate.

Random experiments:
Strawberry and Chocolate Gelato. Supposed to be Cherry-Chocolate Gelato. Fresh & Easy’s jam selections are limited. The flavor of this was not.

Moussaka. Greek dish. Eggplant, ground beef, cinnamon, Parmesan, bechamel sauce. It might sound strange, but it was quite good. Alex and I made a real supper of it with salad, french bread, and some red wine.

No-bake lasagna. Being the first time I made lasagna, I decided to do an entirely nontraditional version that was also less time intensive. This lasagna alternated layers of typical lasagna noodles with cooked zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and ricotta. I also threw in a few pieces of salami to add some flavor (for me) and “meat” (for my husband). As the title indicates, this lasagna does not need to be “popped in the oven.” Fresh and yummy.

Spinach Quiche with whole wheat crust. This was made on a Saturday night, out of a need to use up extra milk, cheese, eggs and spinach. I had pepper-jack cheese on hand, so there was a nice spicy kick to it. The simple, laid-back, yet strong flavors of a hot quiche really hit the spot, especially since the weather had become cooler that evening.

Pork Chops with Gruyere Polenta and cherry tomatoes. This was dinner for this week, or for at least two of the nights. In recent years I have come to really enjoy polenta, particularly the fine-grain version cooked fresh on the stove top (rather than the pre-cooked, shaped version). I still am not the biggest fan of pork chops, though I continue to try them when they are a part of recipes whose other parts look delicious. I love cherry tomatoes and eat them by the dozen.

Finally, Alex’s parents gave us a hefty supply of apples and plums from their fruit trees in Fresno. Even if each of us ate one apple and one plum per day, we might not have made it through them in a month’s time. Hence, the three recipes listed below:
Plum and Apple Sangria
Peach and Plum Shortbread
Plum-Apple Butter

Next-up…
Preparing for the Supper Club meal we will be hosting on October 23rd. In case you aren’t aware of the fun involved in this group gathering, the Supper Club requires a minimum five-course meal prepared for 8 people and themed around the book chosen by the couple who hosted previously. Alex and I will be experimenting with and choosing dishes centered around Wendell Berry’s Nathan Coulter. Tonight we are going to go out to a southern restaurant in Los Angeles called Tart (for inspiration) and then to Barnes and Noble to peruse the cookbooks. Wish us luck.

It’s not that hard to cook…

January 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

Alex and I have been going on quite the food adventure lately.  While I’m sorry to say that I have no pictures to prove it (camera malfunction), I do have words to describe these dishes. So I will use them. Bear with me, if you’d care to.

#1:  Bagels

On Saturday, we made bagels.  Basic how-to — Mix yeast, warm milk and a bit of bread flour in a bowl. Let sit. Add more bread flour, egg yolk, oil, sugar, salt. Let sit for longer, preferably somewhere warm. Roll dough into balls and poke out center. Let sit. Poach bagels (place in simmering water for 3 minutes each side). Brush with egg white and whatever flavor you want it to have.

Alex and I made 16 small(er) bagels in 8 flavors:

thyme, dill, oregano, cinnamon/sugar, salt, garlic salt, raisin, & cumin/oregano.  They are delicious. Warm with butter.

#2:  Slow-cooking. Simple instructions and few ingredients –   mix together dijon mustard and orange marmalade and pour it over pork-chops with thyme, salt, pepper, and a little bit of water.   Cook it on low for 6-7 hours. (Because our work days are more like 10 hours, I made this the night before and let it cook while we slept. Discovery: Cooking pork is NOT the first thing you want to smell at 6 in the morning).

#3:  Weeknight dinner by myself. Cooking just for myself allows me a little more freedom, as I don’t have to worry about accidentally feeding Alex things he might not like.  I can…experiment more.  So tonight for dinner I decide to try my luck at poaching an egg.  I had decided this before randomly coming across an article in a food magazine on how to poach an egg.  I knew it was fate.

For all the hype (see “julie & julia), it really wasn’t that hard.  I think the secret is (which my cooking magazine let me in on) to break the egg into a ramekin before you slip it into the boiling water.  Then, as you are placing it in, be careful to let water into the ramekin as the egg slides out.  Makes for a smoother transition, I think.  Once you have it in there, you just have to control the whites so they don’t spread out all over the pan. The only thing I would adjust next time is the length of time I leave it cooking.  I probably left it for about 3 minutes, but the yolk was very runny. Please imagine the rest of the dinner with a firmer set yolk. Please do not interpret that last sentence in any way but that which I intended.

The rest of the dish? Polenta fried in olive oil with tomato sauce, edamame, and cooked cabbage.  Seasoned with – dill and garlic salt (really, I use dill and garlic salt way too often for seasoning. But we like it. and it was good for the polenta/veggie mix). Oh, and just regular salt and pepper for the egg. Can’t be too creative the first time you poach an egg.

It’s health food, people, and it’s good. and economical. and not that hard to cook.

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