Monday, December 28, 2009

Pistachio Arugula Pesto

I have a large container of shelled pistachios in my freezer, because I needed some for something else, and decided to buy in bulk. But what to do with them all? I've been wanting to make a new pesto for awhile, and I figured "surely someone's used pistachios in pesto instead of pine nuts!" So I googled, and sure enough, there were several candidates. The ones that caught my eye were the ones with arugula as the herb/green. And since I am an elitist liberal, I love arugula, and thought that the peppery lettuce would go nicely with pistachios! I kind of winged it instead of going by a single recipe... For one I wanted to try making a pesto without cheese, as I always thought the nuts and olive oil give pestos plenty of richness on their own. So I put this together tonight... it was easy and fast and really tasty. I sauced some store-bought gnocchi with it and ate it on a bed of more arugula.

Pistachio Arugula Pesto

-A couple handfuls of shelled pistachios (approx. 1 cup)
-4 cloves garlic
-5 or six handfuls of baby arugula (approx. 6 cups unpacked)
-1 large lemon, for zest and juice
-Olive oil, about 1/2 cup
-Salt & pepper to taste

Toast the pistachios on a cookie sheet in a preheated 400ºF oven for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Let cool about 5 minutes. Combine nuts and garlic and 1-2 teaspoons of lemon zest in a food processor , about 6 pulses. Add the arugala a couple handfuls at a time, until a paste forms. Squeeze in about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, run the processor, and drizzle in olive oil slowly until the pesto is about the thickness of a pudding. Taste and add salt pepper to taste. Add to cooked pasta, using some of the pasta cooking water to thin it out as you sauce the pasta. Or spread on crusty bread as it is!

Other Iron Stef posts involving pesto and/or gnocchi:
Pepita Pesto
Gnocchi with sausage & arugula
Giant smooshed sandwich
Purple basil pesto
Stuffed gnocchi
Sweet potato gnocchi with ham & walnuts
Gnocchi with gorgonzola and walnuts
Bright pink beet gnocchi
Gnocchi with salsiccia and vegetables

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 Cookies: 2 simple, 1 EPIC

'Tis the season for cookie baking. It's cold outside, and the appeal of an oven-warmed house smelling of cinnamon and butter is deep and undeniable. Baking is not one of my strong suits. It's much like math, which makes my brain shut off, all precision and measurements. But who doesn't love baking cookies? Not as demanding as, say, baking a cake or bread.

Now there is this one cookies... you might call it my mecca of cookie baking. My Nonna's fig cookie. My absolute favorite cookie ever. EVAR. Since I can remember these have been a holiday staple at my Galesburg, IL family (my Dad's side). My Nonna (as if you couldn't guess by my use of the term "Nonna"), is from an Italian background. Nonna has always been one of my biggest influences in both cooking and art. Last Christmas, my aunt put together family recipe books for everyone, with several of my Nonna's recipes as well as other great-aunts/grandmothers/etc. The first recipe takes up 2 pages, the only one in the booklet that does so. It's the fig cookie recipe. I was SOOO excited to finally have this, though intimidated to actually try it out. I mean, it's a lot to live up to... my favorite cookie ever for gosh sakes! Nonna's baking!

My Nonna's fig cookies, made by my Nonna herself. These I have been hoarding in my freezer since Thanksgiving.

I'm on vacation this week, with no huge plans. I decided this would be the year I would finally tackle the fig cookies. But first, I had to build myself up (procrastinate). First with one of my other favorite Nonna cookies, Ginger cookies, then with a super-simple recipe I came across in a random cookbook, using Nutella (how could I resist?) So I will write about those 2 first, as a lead in to cookie mecca. Most of the cookie recipes from Nonna have Oleo as an ingredient. I knew I could not merely substitute butter for oleo, as some recipes have both. So I used margarine, even though I never use it for anything else. Yes, I bought "I can't Believe it's Not Butter" sticks. Well, Fabio's Italian, right?

Nonna's Ginger Cookies

3/4 cups Oleo (margarine)
1 cup sugar (plus some for rolling the dough in)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together. Roll into balls (I used a melon baller as a scoop. this made a good size, and made it easier to work with the sticky dough.) Roll the balls in sugar and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Do not flatten... they will flatten as they bake. Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 8-10 minutes.

These are a soft ginger cookie, not a ginger snap. They'll warm your soul.

Gianduia Sandwich Cookies
from Desserts 1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold

1 Cup Nutella
1 extra-large egg (I just used a reguar ol large egg.)
1 cup self-rising cake flour, plus additional for dusting
(I used 1 cup of regular cake four and added 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt)

Preheat oven to 375ºF

In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup of Nutella with the egg well (I used electric beaters). Slowly add 1 cup of cake flour until a wet dough is formed. Dust a board with a little more flour and transfer dough to board. Knead gently, adding a little more flour if necessary. Dough will be sticky. Roll dough into 18 balls, flouring your hands as you go to make rolling easier. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, several inches apart.

Bake 12 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, split cookies in half horizontally. Spread bottom with 1 teaspoon of Nutella, then replace top.

*deep breath* okay... fig cookie time. this is a big deal people. you may even want to do a drum roll to yourself before you read this.... go ahead, I'll give you time...

Let me remind you of what these cookies look like when my Nonna makes them. So you can laugh later:

Nonna's Fig Cookies (i.e. Iron Stef's favorite cookies)

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup oleo (margarine)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk (room temperature)
3 eggs (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 cup nuts (I used pecans)
2 14 oz. packs dried figs
8 oz. dates
1 cup white raisins
1 cup black raisins
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon or so of orange juice (the mixture has to be moist enough to handle and be able to spread on dough)

1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

rainbow sprinkles!

For the dough:
Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder. Blend in oleo and butter to resemble pie crust (I used my hands...look for a pebbly-sand kind of texture that holds together when squeezed). Mix together the rest of the ingredients and add to flour mixture. Mix until dough is smooth. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes (I refrigerated it).

For Filling:
Soak figs in warm water. Grind nuts to a course texture in a food processor, then add figs, raisins and dates. Add spices, honey and orange juice to make a moist texture. (I did this in batches, it's very very sticky).

On a floured surface, roll out dough (I worked in 3rds) thin and cut into long strips, 3" wide. Put fig mixture down middle of strips. Fold dough over to cover filling. Cut into 2" segments. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, seam-down. Bake at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes.

Mix together Icing ingredients until smooth. Spread a thin coating of frosting on each cookie and sprinkle with nonpareils while frosting is still wet.

Sooo.... I did it!!! they did not turn out nearly as pretty as my Nonna's. I'm gonna call them "rustic." But really they are a mess. They tasted just about right, though...yum. I think I just need to make these for Christmas every year, like Nonna, and maybe someday mine will be just as perfect as hers!

See? "Rustic." :)

More Iron Stef cookie posts:
Coconut Curry Peanut Butter cookies
Butter Pecan cookies and Almond crisps
Underwear Drawer Cookies
Dulce de Leche Cookies
Yummy Butts

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweet Potato Chipotle Enchiladas

There's not a very exciting story behind this meal... just a lazy cold Sunday dinner that I put together from what I had in my fridge and pantry. I had some sweet potatoes that I needed to use up. And I was in the mood for enchiladas. So I combined the two for a spicy, sweet, comforting dinner. That's it.

Sweet Potato Chipotle Enchiladas

3 sweet potatoes, cut into approx. 1-inch pieces
Olive oil
salt and pepper
poultry fat skimmed from the top of cold homemade stock
1 can black beans
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped very fine + about 1.5 Tablespoons of the adobo sauce
2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano
2 teaspoons cumin

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
2 Tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotles
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 Tablespoon Tapatilo hot sauce
2 cups homemade chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

12 corn tortillas

For the filling: Toss the sweet potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper and chicken fat. Roast on 400ºF for about 30-40 minutes, until the edges brown and the potatoes are soft. Combine with other ingredients and set aside.

For the sauce: Cook the garlic and onions in a little bit of oil in a sauce pan until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the adobo sauce and spices and cook a minute or so, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Let cook and reduce about 10-15 minutes.

To assemble: pour a little bit of the sauce in a 9x13 casserole dish, just enough to coat the bottom. Dip a corn tortilla in the sauce, put about 1/4 cup of the filling in the middle, roll it up and set it seam-side down in casserole dish. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Pour he remaining sauce over the rolls and bake at 375ºF for 30 minutes. Serve with Queso Fresco, Sour Cream and chopped fresh cilantro.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pork Belly Cucumber Stir-fry

Inspired by my recent experience making (well, she did most of the work, really) and eating Momofuko's pork belly steamed buns with Kelly, I bought a small slab of pork belly to cook myself. I was anxious though, and all the recipes I came across required marinating. Then I flipped through a Food & Wine Best of the Best book (Vol. 6) I had gotten from a garage sale. In the section featuring David Thompson's cookbook Thai Food, there just so happens to be a pork belly recipe that didn't require me to wait overnight! And it involved stir-frying cucumbers... intriquing. It's a simple recipe, getting most of it's flavor from pork fat and fish sauce. Oh, fish sauce. Truly one of the most off-putting yet magificent ingredients out there. Such a pungent smell! But when used right, a flavor that can't really be described.

Pork Belly Cucumber Stir-Fry
(adapted from Thai Food by David Thompson)

-4 oz. pork belly
-2 Tablespoons oil
-3 cloves garlic, minced and crushed with a pinch of salt
-1 medium cucumber cut into fat bite-sized sticks
-2 eggs, beaten
-1 Tablespoon fish sauce (really, measure this and don't use too much... so strong!)
-1 teaspoon sugar
-salt and pepper
-cilantro, chopped

Steam the pork belly for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Slice fairly thickly then cut into bite size rectangles, roughly the same size and shape as the cucumber. Cook garlic in oil until it starts to brown. Add the pork belly and fry over a high heat for about 5 minutes, until it has some good browning. Add cucumber and stir-fty until it begins to become transluscent. Add eggs and stir-fry for another couple of minutes. Add fish saice and sugar, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over jasmine rice (I used brown jasmine rice) with a generous sprinkling of cilantro.

I still have a nice portion of pork belly left... think it's time to make more bacon?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Pioneer Woman... I'm a fan.

Pioneer Woman. Heard of her, for sure. I follow her on twitter, and I shook her hand at the Blogher Food blogger dinner this summer, knowing I was shaking the hand of someone who is kind of a big deal. I admit, I have been a blog-reading slacker lately, so I haven't delved into Ree's fantastic website/blog as much as I'd like to. However, when I heard she was coming to St. Louis for a book signing, I for sure wanted to go. I am glad I did, even though it was so crowded that we didn't wait around to meet her in person. She is hilarious! So sweet and humble and down-t0-earth, but with a sharp wit and awesomely wicked sense of humor. Basically I could understand why the place was so full of people who were gaga over this woman. I mean, wow. Ladies LOVE the Pioneer Woman, for reals. Many almost creepily so. But, again, I get it. She's funny. She's real. She has some delicious homey recipes.

Like I said, my friend Julie and I waited for more than an hour in our seats after the Q&A session, but realized if we tried to to wait for our books to be signed, we would be there forever. There were lots of people there, and they all had something they wanted to say to Ree... and I think Ree, being the sweet lady she is, obliged them all. So we left our books behind to be signed and picked up later. This was fine with me... it was plenty to see PW's kids running around and Marlboro Man chasing them around. Also I got to sit with Alanna and the previously mentioned Mamaphunk!

We did, however, while waiting, get our books signed by one of her boys...

So, I am a fan now. The book is neat. The recipes are for the most part very family-friendly comfort-type eats. I made the "comfort meatballs" the other night. They are a fairly reasonable weeknight feat if you plan well. The ingredients are simple. I used my mandoline to grate the onions, which made for quick work. The main ingredient in the sauce is ketchup, really. Yes. These are 60's meatballs! Those sweet, sticky meatballs that are a hit at potlucks. I made similar meatballs for a party a few years ago and so many people told me that they reminded them of childhood. Which is why meatballs like these are comforting.

Since I had been weighed at the doctor' office earlier in the day (ugh!!), I limited the number of meatballs I ate (it would be so easy to just keep popping these tasty morsels into your mouth!). I had them with some rice and a simple slaw of red cabbage, carrots, green peppers, salt, pepper, vinegar and a wee bit of olive oil. Colorful and crunchy, this slaw was made easier because I used my mandoline again to shred everything.

So, Pioneer Woman. Her food is legit. Her humor is legit. She is legit. I like her. So many of the people at the signing wanted to be like her... bloggers who looked up to her and asked her how she did it all and what made her blog so successful. She really couldn't answer these questions with specific technical tips. What people need to realize is that people who are successful at blogging and/or writing are usually not out to make a buck and get as many followers as they can. Ree just loves her family, and cooking, and ranch life. She genuinely finds all this stuff fun and interesting. That comes through in her writing. And that's why hundreds of people will pack into a church and wait in hours-long lines to say hello to her.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Frankenstef's monster... Tackling Turducken!

I'm not sure exactly when I had this great idea, but at some point in the last month my brother, his wife and I decided we wanted to have a Turducken party. They had bought a partial turducken last year and loved it. I have never had a turducken, but man, I sure have been fascinated with them for years. For those who aren't aware, a turducken is essentially a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. Yes, it's ridiculous. And I just HAD to make one. Well? mark that off my bucket list, because last weekend, I built one of these monstrosities. And to save you the suspense (I was in suspense for 2 days with this bugger! I know how painful it is), it actually worked! And it was delicious! I was shocked, to tell you the truth.

One of my dinner guests was my friend Corey Woodruff and his wife, Tracy. Corey is a photographer. He is responsible for the above gorgeous photo, and others throughout this post (I will note which are his, though you'll be able to tell, because I was too covered in bird juices and sweat to take many decent ones!).

I asked a chef friend who I knew had tackled turducken before about recipes. He told me to use Paul Prudhomme's... said it was a true New Orleans turducken... Paul may have even invented the concept. Did you click that link? To the recipe? Please do.... okay now, pick your jaw up off the floor. Yes, it's an ass-ton of ingredients. Each bird gets a different stuffing! that's 3 stuffings from scratch. Yikes. I started planning and shopping a week before Turducken Sunday. On the thursday before, I baked some cornbread for the cornbread stuffing (confession time... I used box mix and added seasoning, milk and heavy cream....), and got to chopping up the bagillion veggies for all the stuffings. So many onions! My poor poor eyeballs. I had hoped to crank out one of the stuffings that night, but chopping took me late into the evening, so I packed everything up and refrigerated it until Saturday.

Saturday was a marathon day of cooking. It was THE day everything had to get done. You see, the turducken cooks at a low temp for 8 HOURS, so I had to have it ready to put in the oven first thing in the morning Sunday. OMG Deadlines! The first dressing I made was the Cornbread. Now this one calls for ground chicken gibblets. I bought gizzards and hearts at the store, thinking I could chop them up really fine. Wrong. I forgot how tough gizzards are, and I did not want my guests biting into big chunks of it. Blech! Luckily, I had found a mint condition manual meat grinder while thrifting this summer! I had yet to use it, but luckily it worked. It took awhile, but after some gory horror-film-like work, I had a plate of innardsburger.

Chicken Innardsburger.

The next stuffing I made was the andouille sausage stuffing. This also called for ground smoked andouille. However, I was pretty sure my guests would not biting into little tiny cubes of spicy andouille, so I simply chopped that up. This was my favorite dressing of them all! Andouille in St. Louis is not all that easy to find. At the grocery stores they MIGHT have fresh andouille, but the smoked variety I rarely ever see. I used the handy-dandy twitter to ask where I might procure some of the real deal. Kelly tipped me off that Bob's Seafood had it, and Josh Galliano, chef at the fabulousMonarch, offered me some of his homemade stuff! I loved both options, so I got the Bob's stuff for the turducken, and Josh's I simply sliced for my guests to savor while we were waiting for the monster to cook.

Josh Galliano's homemade andouille. Photo by Corey Woodruff. Hand model: moi.

Speaking of Josh's andouille, I had to leave to go pick it up, so I left my Sister-in-law Samantha alone to make the shrimp dressing. She did great! The only tricky part about all of these Paul Prudhomme recipes is that they all call for his line of spice blends and hot sauces. I have plenty of spices, so we were just using a hot seasoned salt (Uncle Lou's Corruption), garlic powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika and some cumin and a couple kinds of hot sauce (louisiana hot sauce and tapatio) to flavor these to our liking.

By the afternoon, all the stuffings were made and chilling in the fridge. Now it was time to *cue scary dramatic drums* bone out the birds. I had the turkey and ducky sitting in a clean sink filled with salty water all day... my lazy way of brining them... every time I looked at them, my chest would tighten a little. Really? What was I thinking? I gotta take the bones out of a turkey?!?! *Deep Breaths* After much procrastination and watching some youtube tutorials ( this one's good. Andrew Zimmern has one, too... he's cutting the bird up so it was of no help to me, however he does say "stiff boner" with a completely straight face, therefore this vid must be linked), I just went for it. I started with the turkey, because it's the biggest, so I would be able to see and find everything a little easier. I basically tried to follow the bones with my knife and just take my time. This was HARD work, people. I broke into a sweat, and not just from nerves. Popping turkey joints out of socket takes some muskles! But I did it! The duck and chicken were a little easier because they were smaller and practice makes perfect. I will definitely be deboning chicken more often and making neat stuffings for them.

So I have these floppy boneless piles of bird flesh. Time for building!! The website has step-by-step instructions of how to build a turducken, but I kind of went a different route. I layed the turkey out, seasoned it (I had my SIL be my "clean hands"... two people is ideal for this job) and spread the cornbread stuffing in an even layer all over it, stuffing the leg cavities also. I then layed the duck on top, applied the andouille stuffing, layed the chicken on top of that and covered it with the shrimp dressing. From there it was just improvisational rolling and tucking, with the help of some skewers and extra hands and in the end some butchers twine around the whole thing.... then manoeuvred it into a giant roasting pan, fold sides down...

ewwwww!! :)

Holy Hell we just built a gosh darn TURDUCKEN!! Much excitement and paparazzi!

Ummmm..... that's not gonna fit in the fridge.

crap! coolers? nope, still too small. PANIC!!!

We finally figured out we could put it out in the garage in a giant rubbermaid container surrounded by bags of ice. Crisis averted. Time to drink copius amounts of beer and party.

The next morning I set my alarm for 7:45, got up, put the monster in a 225ºF oven, and went back to bed. At 1:30 I checked on him, and had another little panic moment because there was fluid about 1/3 up the side of the pan! Too much! I was able to ladel out most of it and reserve it for later gravy making. Then I left it alone until 4:00, except for the occasional basting (only twice), when I carefully lifted the beast from his cave. It was golden and it smelled gooood. I took his temperature, and he was well over the recommended 160ºF in the middle. Uh oh! Does that mean it'll be dry?! We'd wait and see.

After it rested for an hour, I was excited to put it on a cutting board and carve it up all nice and pretty. Did I consider how I was gonna get it out of that deep roasting pan before I started? Nope. Did I consider that my cutting board was way too small? Nope. Hmmmmm.... We rigged up a cutting board on a large cookie sheet, then my brother and I attempted to use our hands to lift the turducken out of the pan. It started to fall apart in my fingers. Crap again! Well, at least I knew it was not dry and tough! I just carved it up in the roasting pan and let people do with it would they would.

My "Holy crap, it actually worked!!!" moment.

Me carving the beast. Photo by Corey Woodruff.

Instead of the sweet potato eggplant gravy in Paul's recipe, I gave up and just made a simple roux-based gravy using the drippings and stock from the bird. With three stuffings, I figured, why bother adding yet another step and flavor profile?

best photo of what a slice of turducken looks like. It ain't pretty. But tasty? YES!

And it was a success! It was juicy, and the flavors of all the dressings were distinct yet complimentary to each other and the meats. I couldn't believe it! My guests loved it! I loved it! So worth all the work and planning. Of course, it's really really rich, and after all the excitement, I cannot bring myself to eat any of the leftovers. Ha! All-in-all, Turducken building was a fun experience. I'm glad to have it under my culinary belt (I say as my stomach rolls over my actual belt). Phew. Wait... one more thing... I MADE A DAMN TURDUCKEN!!! ridiculous.

Other Iron Stef "Big scary projects"
Steamed Buns
Coq Au Vin
Cream Puffs
Chicken and Noodles

Monday, November 09, 2009

Squeee! Meeting the Forking Fantastic Gals

Remember how I was contacted by the authors of the new cookbook Forking Fantastic? Well a couple weeks ago Zora and Tamara came to the Lou to do a little reading and discussion of the book and sign some books. I skipped my bowling league night (and it's 8 for $20 whiskey sours) to go, because having chatted with them a bit on twitter and such, I felt I just had to meet these crazy ladies. I'm glad I did! They are so genuine and nice and hilarious. I really really want to go to one of their infamous Sunday Dinners in New York sometime (girls, maybe you could do a St. Louis theme! We have all kinds of regional specialties.... toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, st. paul sandwiches, pork steaks.... I'll bring the Dad's cookies!!)

I went to the signing with a friend of mine who is a vegetarian (see? I'm open-minded!), and during the Q&A part, he asked how they deal with veg guests at dinner parties. It was then they revealed that there is a top-secret vegetarian chapter in the book which their editor insisted they include. Now, a lot of the recipes in the book are side dishes that can easily be made veg. They said there's never a problem at the dinner parties, because they serve family style, so people can take what they want, and there is always 2 or 3 vegetarian friendly dishes. But you know editors (no... no I don't, but I can pretend)... they want to make sure books are hip and trendy and have appeal to all sorts of people. So they came up with a few more recipes to make this chapter. As an excuse to post the photo of me with Zora and Tamara, I made one of those vegetarian recipes. My favorite part of this recipe? BACON is an "optional" ingredient. Ha!!!

And since you should get the book, I won't quite post a recipe.... not that this dish NEEDS an actual recipe. It's so simple. I had my brother and sister over for dinner that night and they asked me about 5 times "what is this sauce again?" "It's just yogurt," I would respond every time. They couldn't wrap their heads around it. But yes, yogurt... they recommend the thick creamy awesomeness that is Greek yogurt, but my grocery store did not have that, so I used regular plain yogurt, which I let drain through paper towels in a colander while I prepared the rest of the components.

The components? Caramelized onions (I used 4.... 2 red and 2 yellow, sliced thin, cooked over medium-low heat with a bit of oil in 2 batches, making sure not to scorch them, but to cook them nice and slowly so they were soft and brown, not crispy or black... there are great instructions for this in the book...), bacon (in cut into small pieces and cooked with some grated garlic) and parmesan cheese. Cook some fettucine, add about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to your yogurt, top the fettucine with yogurt, onions, bacon and cheese. Boom... a really rich and yummy dinner! With the added bonus of filling your home with 2 of the best smells in the world... caramelizing onions and bacon. And yes, that sauce? It's just plain yogurt!! Crazy!

Other "Squeeee" moments in Iron Stef history:
Trevor Corson
Rick Bayless

Friday, October 30, 2009

taste & create: rassa sabzi

It's been awhile since I participated in Taste & Create, a monthly blogging "event" where food bloggers are paired up and have to cook something from one another's blog. It's a fun way to find new blogs and new food adventures. Of course I'm a few days late posting mine *bad blogger*. I was paired up with Supriya (awesome name!) and her blog Celebrating the Little Things in Life. Supriya made my spiced zucchini bread, and I'm glad because it reminded me how good that is, and that I should make it again! Perfect for fall.

Anyway, browsing through her blog of mostly Indian food, it was hard to choose a recipe. Being a sucker for cauliflower, I chose this Kolhapuri Vegetable Curry/Rassa Sabzi. I had most of the ingredients already, except for the Tamarind concentrate, which I am excited to now have in my fridge! Now, Supriya used whole spices and ground them herself. I already had the spices in ground form, so rather than buy more, I adjusted the recipe a bit to accomodate what I had. I also left out the peas, used canned tomatoes and, of course, added garlic. It turned out really well. Here is the recipe as adapted by me:

Kolhapuri Vegetable Curry/Rassa Sabzi

1 green pepper
1 large red potato
3 cups cauliflower cut into big pieces of 2 inches each
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can whole tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon coriander
4 green chiles
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoon grated coconut
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
6 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
oil for frying
salt and pepper for taste

Cut green pepper and potato into two inch and fry for 5-10 minutes till brown on all sides, set aside. Fry cauliflower for 4-5 minutes on high flame till crisp. Chop onion into small pieces. In a tablespoon of oil add chopped ginger, garlic and onion. Fry onion till brown. Chop tomatoes into small pieces and add, with juice, to the onion. Add spices, chiles, coconut and tamarind concentrate. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetables in the curry and cook the curry till the vegetables are soft. Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot with roti, rice or naan.

Previous Taste & Create Posts:
Wonton Soup
Crockpot Apple Butter
Steamed Buns
Egg Curry

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

of logs, fun guys and fate

This past weekend, my aunt and uncle, who live on lots of pretty acres near Fulton, MO had their annual Harvestfest. This is one of the much-anticipated family parties of the whole year... who am I kidding? Most of our parties are much-anticipated. Like Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt, we like to party. Anyway, my uncle is very much about living off the earth. He hunts, he butchers, he fishes from his own lakes, and he grows lots of his own vegetables. Past the lake and the farmland, there are woods. So what does uncle do, but start growing mushrooms! Have you ever?! This is very cool. He drilled some holes in logs and got some spores online, and voila, a shiitake mushroom garden, a nice leisurely walk from their house!

He was kind enough to let me gather some of these big, meaty fungi. I took them home, racking my brain for some appropriate way to cook them. Pasta? Tart? Casserole? Then, Twitter came to my rescue yet again! Micheal Ruhlman tweeted that he had just made a blog post about cooking mushrooms! In this post he described his favorite way to cook good mushrooms... basically a very simple saute in a hot hot pan with some shallots. To me it was fate. This sounded like the best way to make use of the excellent shiitake's I had gathered!

It's simple... not even a recipe... I had about 2 lbs. of mushrooms, which I cut into bite-size slices and dried with paper towels as best I could. I heated some vegetable oil, a generous amount, in a skillet over high heat until it was quite hot. I threw in half of the mushrooms (I did not want to crowd the pan or the shrooms wouldn't brown), added some salt, thinly sliced shallots, minced garlic and a bunch of fresh thyme leaves. Thyme and mushrooms is one of my favorite flavor combinations EVAR!!! I let everything cook on high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms and shallots were soft and browned. I repeated this with the other batch of mushrooms. I served it it on sliced artisan bread that I toasted with butter in a skillet. A simple and hearty meal for a cold rainy fall evening.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Squeee! Meeting Rick Bayless!

As soon as I found out that Rick Bayless was coming to Schnucks Cooks Cooking School, I sprung into action getting tickets for me and Kelly (just in time for her birthday!). I've always admired Chef Bayless for his knowledge and passion for cooking and teaching about Mexican food. I was pleased to see, in the class and the following book signing, that he is indeed very genuine about his love for what he does.

The class was just one hour long, but he packed in LOTS of good information and recipes and tips! Kelly took notes, thank goodness, because I was busy taking photos and being starstruck, and probably missed a few things. You can see her recap and notes in this Barbaric Gulp post. Basically, he showed us how to make his multi-tasking salsa, and then demonstrated ways to add to it and make stuff using it. The last dish he made was chipotle cream shrimp. So good. We all got to taste a shrimp, but when he recommended serving it over pasta, I knew I had to make it the first chance I got.

The Shrimp with chipolte cream sauce we were served in class

This was quite a simple recipe... the most labor goes into making the salsa, which you can do days ahead of time. OR you can buy the Frontera chipotle salsa... Chef Rick assured us that all his products are made from scratch with no pre-processed ingredients. Though it's quite simple to make yourself as well.

Chipotle -Tomatillo Salsa

-1 pound (about 11 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
-2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
-1 canned chipotle pepper with about 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce it's canned in
-1 small white onion, finely chopped
-1/4 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
-salt, about a generous teaspoon
-sugar, about a generous teaspoon (if needed)

1. roast the tomatillos under a hot broiler on a baking sheet. When they blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 5 minutes, turn them over and roast the other side, 5 to 6 minutes more. Cool completely. In a dry heavy griddle or skillet, roast the garlic cloves* over medium heat, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots, about 15 minutes. cool and peel.

2. Pour the tomatillos and any juice from the pan they were roasted on into a food processor or blender, along with the garlic and chipotle and adobo. Pulse until it's not quite smooth, but not really chunky. Add puree to a bowl with the onions and cilantro. Taste and add salt and sugar to taste.

Chef Bayless making Chipotle-Tomatillo salsa

Frontera's Shrimp with Chipotle Cream
-1 medium red onion (this isn't part of the original recipe, but he garnished the dish in class with grilled red onions, so I took a cue from that)-1 1/4 pounds peeled and deviened large shrimp
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-1 recipe or 1 (16 oz) jar of chipotle salsa (see above)
-1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream or créme fraiche
-chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cut red onion in half and slice thinly. Cook in a skillet over medium or low heat, stirring frequently, until thoroughly softened and shrunken, sweet, and slightly browned... this takes about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

2. Pat shrimp dry. Heat the oil in a large, heavy non-stick skillet over medium-high. Add the salsa and heat to a boil. Cook and stir until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring often, until barely pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream and return sauce to a gentle boil. Season to taste with salt. Remove heat, serve over pasta (I used cavatappi ... I like the similarity in size and shape tot he shrimp), sprinkled with cilantro and carmelized red onions.

Me and Chef Rick Bayless! Woot!

One more shot of the Chipotle Cream shrimp and pasta. So yummy! Rich, spicy, smoky!

*Um, yeah... so I had an article published in Sauce Magazine... It's about roasted garlic.... So exciting!!

Some more links related to this post...
Follow Rick Bayless on Twitter
That Time I met Micheal effin Ruhlman
That time I met Trevor Corson, sushi hero
Iron Stef cooks Mexican
Tomatillos and more Tomatillos

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Forking Fantastic

The authors of the new book (out today!) Forking Fantastic!, Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds, contacted me a little while back and asked if they could send me a copy for my review. I know bloggers get books from publishers all the time, but this was a first for me. Of course I said yes... free cookbook! I wasn't sure what I was gonna do if I didn't like it... do I still have to review it just because they gave it to me? I certainly wouldn't do a positive review just because it was given to me for free. Luckily, it's a totally fun romp of a book. So no worries.

Zora mentioned there is a ham recipe in the book that she wishes she had called "Skank Ham" because it is full of booze and sugar. Ha! The book indeed has some good entertaining recipes. It's not all recipes, though. Lots of tips/motivation for throwing lively, interesting dinner parties. Not like, Martha Stewart pretty perfect place card type dinner parties, but dinners where the conversation gets spicy and the characters reveal themselves. The way they talk about how to salvage trash chairs for seating, shopping at thrift stores for eclectic table-ware, making make-shift buffet tables from a door, etc., made me feel like I could be an awesome dinner party host! Me, a 30 year old single gal who lives with mom, most of my serving ware being packed up in the basement... yes even I can have 10 people over and have it be Forking Fantastic.

The section on why people should cook struck a chord with me, too. They compare cooking to sex, art and power. YES!!! This book is free of pretentiousness, and there's even plenty of cussing. Not to mention menu plans, recipes, kitchen supply tips, etc.

Speaking of recipes, I made the roasted fennel side-dish from the book last night. Here's a paraphrased version of it... I'll be making it again. Yum.

Forking Fantastic Roasted Fennel

-4 large bulbs of fennel
-olive oil
-dry white wine (I used Bonnydoon's Big House White)
-Oil-cured olives (My store did not have these, so I used Kalamata and green cracked)
-crushed red pepper
-salt and pepper

Cut the fennel bulbs in qurters. Heat up some olive oil in a large, heavy pan. brown the fennel on medium-high heat on all sides (I did this in 2 batches to ensure good browning). Once you have some good brown spots, pour in a couple glugs of the wine (like a small glassful) and the olives. Cover, and let cook on a low heat for about 15-20 minutes until the fennel is fork-tender. Remove the lid and cook of most of the moisture, season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and serve.

So there we go.... my very first solicited book review!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

coconut curry peanut butter cookies

Twitter is full to the brim with fun tidbits, lame tidbits, useful information, stupid information, and as is happening more and more with me, food inspiration. Last week, Mathew Rice, the pastry chef at one of St. Louis' best retaurants, Niche, posted a simple simple peanut butter cookie recipe. You know it's simple if it's less than 140 characters (that's the limit on twitter, if you didn't know). He said: "Easiest cookie ever. 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg. Stir, roll into balls, flatten, and bake until set."

Awesome! I was excited to try it, but felt I had to add. You see, A new bowling league has started, and our team name is "It Burns." The first week my friend Jen made jalepeno chocolate chip cookies, and another week I made Mexican brownies. So we have a bit of a spicy baked goods theme going. How could I spice up peanut butter cookies? I immediately thought of Thai food for it's use of peanuts and spice. So I curried my cookies! Not much curry flavor comes through... just enough to make you think "what is it about these cookies?" And as you may know from eating, say Pad Thai, coconut, curry and peanuts are pretty good pals.

Coconut Curry Peanut Butter Cookies

-1 cup peanut butter
-1 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 teaspoon curry powder
-2 Tablespoons coconut powder
-sweetened coconut for topping

Stir everything except the sweetened coconut together, roll the dough into small balls (about 1 inch diameter), flatten on a cookie sheet. Press a pinch of sweetened coconut into the top of each. Bake at 350ºF until set, about 8 minutes or so.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

skank ham pie

After a hectic day at work, I wanted to come home and make something easy yet comforting... and yes, a little bit trashy. I wanted to make a casserole. In my collection of Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks from the 60's and 70's I had my answer. Behold the Casserole Cookbook from 1968. I have used this particular cookbook before with success.

Browsing through it for something that had a touch of kitsch but did not involve velveeta or condensed cream of mushroom soup, I found "Hawaiian Ham Pie." HAM PIE?!?! yes please. Not only did this satiate my need for an easy casserole, it also is the PERFECT way to introduce you to a new web comic I've started.

Skank Ham is her name, and smokin' and partying is her game! I actually came up with Skank Ham years ago, and just recently was reminded of her and decided to give her a blog. People seem to like her. She already has more than 100 followers on Twitter :)

So, yes, Ham Pie is VERY much up Skank Ham's alley. I changed a few things (added garlic, but of course, for instance...), but I'm pretty sure this would have been a good pie either way. Yes, believe it or not something called Ham Pie is quite tasty! The "spokes" of sweet caramelized pineapple and brown sugar on top contrasted perfectly with the salty ham.

Skank Ham Pie

-1 pie crust (home made or store bought is up to you... I bought mine.... it's what Skank Ham would do)
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 medium shallot, chopped fine
-2 tsp. olive oil
-1 lb. ham, chopped up pretty fine
-1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
-1 beaten egg
-1/2 cup milk
-small handful of sliced green onion
-1 large can of crushed pineapple, drained well (1 1/2 cups)
-1/4 cup brown sugar

1. Get pie crust ready in a pie pan.

2. cook garlic and shallot in olive oil in a skillet until just starting to brown. let cool a bit.

3. Combine the ham, garlic and shallot mixture, bread crumbs, egg, milk, green onion and 1/2 cup of pineapple in a bowl and spread it into the pie crust.

4. combine the remaining pineapple with the brown sugar, and arrange the mixture in a spoke patter on top of the pie. Bake in a pre-heated 350ºF oven for 45-50 minutes until everything looks set and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes before serving.

I served this with green beans which, keeping with the Skank Ham theme, "corrupted" with Corruption seasoning that I got at Uncle Lou's in Memphis, TN.

So there you have it, a very proper introduction to Skank Ham. Happy Skanking and Happy Porking!!