Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pistachio, Cranberry, and White Chocolate Cookies

I baked! :D I went to a friend's cookie swap before Christmas and baked cookies for probably the fifth time in my life.  This recipe is perfect for a novice baker because there aren't a lot of ingredients and there is a little room to change it if you want.  For example, I used cranberries instead of cherries and added a little extra white chocolate.  I prefer the tartness of the cranberries over sweet cherries. I used white chocolate chips because it was faster than chopping a baking bar. The dough can stay in the freezer for a week or so if you want to make another batch later.  These cookies are small and crunchy, it's hard to eat just one.  I think they're perfect for Christmas because of the red and green from the cranberries and pistachios.

Here are all the ingredients you need!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dinner FAIL (Dan Dan Noodles)

I love dan dan noodles.  So, when I saw Martin Yan's recipe in my copy of Feast, I was eager to try it out.  However, I made one critical mistake.  I saw "sesame paste" in the ingredient list and figured hey, tahini is sesame paste, right? Wrong.  Well, yes, tahini is sesame paste.  But, it's not the same thing as East Asian sesame paste, as I was about to discover upon eating my rather unappetizing looking creation.  The sauce smelled quite good when it was sitting harmlessly in a bowl.  Sesame, soy sauce, and  hint of spice.  But, as soon as I cooked in the work with the chicken, it became a gooey, sticky mess.  It was even harder to toss it with the noodles.  But I soldiered on, determined to enjoy my noodles.  After taking a few bites, I found myself trying to like it, but the rational part of my mind realized that this was a massive dinner fail.  The tahini was too creamy, it felt like I had taken my noodles and smothered them in bleu cheese dressing.  The sesame taste was overpowering.  The texture was weird. And it just looked nasty. 

This does not look like the pictures on Google image search...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Braised Chicken with Green Chiles, Chorizo, Turnips, and Leek "Noodles"

I'm not a fan of turnips.  I don't hate them as much as I hated cauliflower, but I avoid eating them.  I think it's because the only way I've ever eaten them is in my least favorite family holiday dish.  It consists of boiled carrots and turnips mashed together with salt and pepper.  Blech!  However, this Turkish recipe appealed to me because it left the turnips in larger pieces and there was no mashing involved.  Plus, it involved spicy sausage, which is always a good thing. The original recipe calls for sucuk, a Turkish sausage.  I couldn't find one, so I substituted another spicy sausage, chorizo.  I thought it worked really well.  But, I've never had sucuk so I have no basis for comparison. 

The chicken is braised with turnips, onion, tomato, long green chile peppers, and a bay leaf.  I thought the vegetable mix looked quite pretty in the bowl.   This was a great dish to eat on a cold night.  It was very hearty and had a nice kick from the chiles and chorizo and a little tang from the few squeezes of lemon juice.  It also made my kitchen smell wonderful!

This combination of vegetables is great for a cool fall night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

My posting has gotten sporadic lately, sorry!  My recent dog adoption took up a lot of time in the beginning, and then I bought The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim  and since then I've completely failed at adulthood like a good little gaming addict!  Usually a new computer game means less time for cooking, or at least a greater emphasis on quick, easy meals.  Here's a dish I made recently that took less than 20 minutes!

My in-laws are foodies, which is nice because that means I never have a bad meal with them.  It's also pretty cool that they give us all kinds of high quality ingredients to experiment with.  Recently, they gave us some fregola sarda, which I had never heard of until I looked it up on Wikipedia.   It's an Israeli couscous-sized pasta that has been toasted.  As a result, this pasta is a variety of shades of brown and gold, and its toastiness sets it apart from other pastas.

The best recipes are ones that don't overpower the toasty flavor.  This one appealed to me because it contains lemon and I love tart and sour flavors. Since the pasta tastes so good on its own, I restrained myself and put in exactly the maximum amount of lemon zest specified in the recipe.  It was hard not to go crazy and double it, but I behaved myself. 

The only changes I made were to increase the amount of asparagus and use a little extra cheese.  I had more than 1/4 pound and I didn't want it to go to waste.  The lemon zest complimented the toasty flavor of the pasta perfectly.  If you can find fregola sarda, this quick meal is great when you're in a hurry!  This meal can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth. 

Monday, November 7, 2011


One of my favorite restaurants in DC, Zaytina, used to feature a dish called manti, which were tiny Turkish dumplings filled with ground meat topped with an amazing salty garlic yogurt sauce and paprika.  Sadly, the manti disappeared from the menu for a while, and is only offered as a special now, from time to time.  Ever since trying them, I've wanted to make them myself, especially for the sauce.

Over the weekend, I had enough time to finally try the manti recipe from Turquoise.  All I can say is wow, these things were good.  The sauce was even better than what I had at Zaytinya!  The manti themselves were very labor intensive, and were worth making for the experience.  Apparently, the smaller the manti, the better the chef, but I made large ones to save time.  In the future, I'd probably use wonton wrappers to speed up the process.  But the sauce!  So. Good.  It's really two sauces: yogurt sauce and paprika butter.  I'm going to make it to serve with other dishes, like kofte kebab and Turkish chicken with tomato rice pilaf.  The sauce is salty, garlicky, and the paprika butter gives it a great spicy, smoky taste.  I topped my manti with some Aleppo pepper.
The finished product, with the tasty, tasty sauce.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shirazi-Style Pan Cooked Lamb Kebab

I enjoy looking at the photos in Food of Life, but so many of  Najmieh Batmanglij's recipes are more appropriate for a feast than as dinner for two people.  But, this kebab recipe was easily scaled back for two people.

I know kebabs require skewers, but the only ones I have right now are metal and too long to fit in my largest pan.  So, I improvised! This Persian dish looks really awesome in the pan as it cooks.  It's a little less pretty as the tomatoes break down, but the lamb is so tender!  This dish is cooked by layering onion slices, lamb chunks, and tomatoes, to allow the tomatoes to release their juices over the meat and onions. 

Onions, lamb, and tomatoes layered in the pan.  Also look, my stove is clean!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

My husband and I are fighting the sick.  You know what's awesome when you're feeling crappy?  Chinese food!  Obviously, Chinese delivery or take out, because who wants to cook while sick?  I made this dish a few days ago, but it seems appropriate to post about now, since I had Chinese for lunch.  I think only college students do Chinese food twice in one day, so my post from tonight's dinner will probably be Easy Soup That Requires Minimal Effort.     

Appetite for China never fails to provide awesome Chinese recipes!  This recipe for General Tso's tastes like the real thing (well, as "real" as I've ever had, which isn't saying a lot).  The original recipe called for chicken thighs, which I'll use next time, but for this batch I used chicken breast and it worked fine. 

This is much better than grocery store buffet General Tso's because even though it's fried, the batter is light and the chicken pieces aren't gristly or fatty. I doubled the sauce (which is reflected in the recipe below), and used chili garlic sauce instead of chili paste, which I couldn't get.  The extra sauce is great on rice! The tomato paste makes it tangy, the sugar adds a little sweetness, but I added some extra chilis for a kick. Not only is this good, it's easy.  I don't make a lot of fried crispy food, but I'll definitely keep this recipe around for when I do!  I served it with some steamed broccoli like in Chinese take out. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My First Omelet - Success! (Except for the flipping part)

People might ask me, how can you be so obsessed with cooking, and never have made an omelet before?! I consider omelets to be a breakfast food and I am way too lazy to haul my sleepy butt out of bed in the morning and cook something. Second, I always considered omelets to be kind of bland.  My mom's omelets were fabulous, but then I went to college and ate omelets from the campus cafeteria.  You know, one ladle of eggs from a giant vat containing who knows what else, toss in some onion, green pepper, and tomato that definitely could have been chopped more finely, and then drown in Tabasco sauce so you can't taste that the eggs have been in the vat since dinosaurs roamed the earth. But, a recipe from one of my Indian cookbooks caught my eye: a garlicky mushroom omelet that contained a hot pepper and some cilantro. It was enough of a departure from the traditional omelet to tempt me to make an omelet. This picture represents my first attempt ever at one!

My "flip" wasn't very successful. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sriracha Mac and Cheese

I like spicy food, but I have my limits.  I discovered sriracha sauce a while ago at a local Thai restaurant.  In small doses, I love it!  It can make anything taste good.  I wish I had a bottle at work for when I eat my crappy frozen meals.  I bought a bottle and it languished in my sauce cabinet for a while.  After reading this comic over at The Oatmeal, I was inspired to find some ways to incorporate sriracha in food I actually enjoyed eating.  I discovered that there is a sriracha sauce cookbook.  I'm not brave enough to purchase it at this point, but I found a recipe for sriracha mac and cheese and it is AWESOME. 

The blogger (Sarah for Real) I got this from tweaked the original recipe, and then I did some tweaking of my own (extra cheese! more pasta!  more onion!) and it turned out really well.  I've made this twice.  The first time, I used the recommended amount of sriracha sauce and it was a little too spicy to eat in large quantities.  So the second time, I used just a bit less and it was perfect!

No one can resist the spicy, cheesy goodness!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Antep Lamb Not-Kebabs with Sumac Onions and Asparagus

Okay, so the plan was to make Antep kebabs from Turquoise, my awesome Turkish cookbook.  Too bad we forgot to turn the gas grill off the night before and all the propane escaped.  Since the grill was out of commission, my only choice was to use my Le Creuset grill pan.  The problem is that my metal skewers are way too long for me to use them with it.  So, kebabs were out of the question.  Also too bad: I bought lamb loin, not ground lamb, because apparently I don't know how to read.

But, this dish was still very good, and eliminating the step of skewering the meat may have made it easier to prepare.  The Lamb Spice Mix is fabulous, and would work really well outside of this dish. 

Since I wasn't skewering my meat and onions, I decided to thinly slice the onion and cook it with a little sumac for a tart punch.  I wanted some side dishes, so I made simple steamed asparagus and used some previously made hummus with pita. 

This salvaged meal turned out pretty awesome!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lamb Chops with Spicy Chocolate Rub, Balsamic and Sage Onions, and Jalapeño Roasted Potatoes

I love lamb chops!  They're a bit of a pain to cook though.  I'm always worried that I'll overcook them and end up with dry, gray lamb chops that taste like they've been microwaved.  Thankfully, the grilling rules I found on the internet have been very helpful and so far, I've managed not to destroy any meat.

A few weeks ago, I went to a chocolate party.  That's right!  A party at which someone sold all manner of awesome chocolate products.  In addition to the usual bonbons and chocolate covered nuts, there were chocolate martinis, brownies, and a spicy chocolate meat rub.  When I first saw the sample of this at the party, I was immediately skeptical.  I thought the chocolate would be overwhelming.  But, it smelled more spicy than chocolatey.  I was intrigued, and for some reason the first meat that came to mind as an experiment was lamb chops.

This meal came together surprisingly easily, most of it was made while the potatoes were roasting.  The spice rub is awesome!  It's just a hint of cocoa mixed in with chili powder, garlic, and onion (and probably some other spices I couldn't identify).  It works very well with lamb! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Guest Post on

People actually read my blog!  :)  A few weeks ago, I was invited to write a guest post for a new cooking iPhone/iPad app, Trufflehead.  The app is very easy to use and helps cooks of all levels make tasty, healthy meals.  Each recipe has nutrition information, difficulty level, and gives an estimate of how long it will take to make.  All the recipes and ingredients have photos.  A lot of the techniques (such as seeding a hot pepper) have instructional slide shows.  My favorite feature is the shopping list, which lets me pick all the recipes I want to make for the week and puts the stuff I'll need in one convenient list.  For those of you who have seen my handwriting in real life, you know how useful a shopping list on the iPad would be. 

Dave and I both love bison, so I volunteered to try the Bison Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup.  I should warn you, we both became addicted to the Chipotle Ketchup.  It's so easy to make and it scales well.  We ended up buying a bottle of ketchup and making an extra large batch and then just putting it back in the bottle for subsequent use. 

Here's my guest post:  Bison Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup!  Check it out! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fettuccine with Tomatoes and Crispy Capers

So, there's a reason my posts have recently been more sporadic.  Dave and I adopted a rescue dog!  He's a beagle and German shepherd mix.  He's our little sous chef, he loves sitting in the kitchen while I cook.  Usually, he likes laying right up against the back of my legs so if I move without thinking about him, I'll fall on my butt.

Look at my ears!  No one can resist my floppy ears!

Last weekend, I made a fettuccine dish and didn't use up all of my fresh pasta.  I saw this recipe for Fettuccine with Tomatoes and Crispy Capers in the most recent issue of Food & Wine.  I've made a dish with fried capers as a garnish before and they're really awesome.  They crisp very nicely, but retain their tanginess. 

The original recipe didn't call for sundried tomatoes, but I thought they would be a good addition.  I used enough fresh pasta for two people and the vegetable and meat amounts for a full recipe. I omitted the anchovies. 

This dish was quick, simple, and really really good.  The simple addition of some crushed red pepper made the prosciutto taste almost like capicola ham.  This dish was pretty quick to make because there wasn't much chopping and the tomatoes and garlic don't cook for very long.  The most labor intensive part of the meal was frying the capers, which isn't very complicated. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Success! Pork, Ginger, and Cabbage Stir Fry

Tonight the plan was to make a ginger and carrot stir fry dish that Dave and I enjoy when we don't have a lot of time to cook, but want a healthy dinner.  Too bad I forgot to buy carrots.   The rice was already cooked, so I felt pretty committed to a stir fry over rice dish.  I improvised, and it turned out really well! 

There isn't a lot in our fridge right now, we've got a lot of dinner plans in the next few days that don't involve cooking at my house.  I found some random ground pork in the freezer.  I decided to use the giant piece of ginger that I bought for the original stir fry.  The only vegetables in the fridge were half a red cabbage, a few sickly looking scallions, an almost used up head of garlic, and an onion that was past its sell by date.  I ended up using everything but the onion. 

My first notion for the sauce was to do a variant on potsticker sauce.  We make it all the time and it's super tasty.  Then Dave suggested a spicier sauce.  

The verdict: success!  The ginger and red cabbage softened in the wok, but were still crunchy enough to add some texture to the dish.  The ginger was very powerful, I'd probably use a little less next time.  The sauce went perfectly with the pork and veggies, it was the right combination of tangy and spicy.  I would definitely make this again.  I'm happy that I improvised something tasty from an almost empty fridge. 

Colorful and tasty!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rib Eye with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts

I don't cook steak very often since I don't eat a lot of red meat.  That said, every once in a while, I crave steak.  Perhaps it harkens back to my college days when I subsisted off substandard salad bar and ramen because the "meat" served in the cafeteria was of dubious quality and cooked beyond recognition.  Whenever my parents came to visit I wanted STEAK every night.  I'm sure Outback made a killing during Parents' Weekend. 

This recipe is from The Wine Lover Cooks with Wine, which is a great book if you like using wine as an ingredient.  This steak dish also lets me eat blue cheese, which is one of my favorites.  The original recipe called for Roquefort cheese, but the store was out of it and I bought some blue cheese instead.   I also topped it with hazelnuts instead of walnuts.  It's served with a side of jalapeno roasted potatoes, which are simple to make!

The wine sauce has a great flavor, and the cheese goes very well with it.  It's also a good match for the potatoes.  Looking back, I don't know if I needed to keep them separate in a bowl, the sauce was good on them!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Homage to the 80s: Cream Cheese and Mushroom Chicken with a Twist

Last month, I made some home made cream of mushroom soup.  While it tasted okay, it wasn't thick enough for a meal.  The blog where I found the recipe also suggested using the soup in a recipe for cream cheese chicken.  Working ahead, I made a large batch of the soup and froze it.

I remember growing up in the 80s when my mom cooked all kinds of stuff with canned cream-of-something soup.  I know that a lot of canned soups have a ton of sodium in them, and so using my own soup sounded like a good idea.  The picture of the cream cheese chicken from A Year of Slow Cooking did not look appetizing to me.  What made me want to make it? Cream cheese!! Also, pasta.

Now, my picture isn't very pretty.  This dish looks kind of scary.  It's also not healthy, since it contains a ton of cream cheese.  That said, holy crap is it good!  I will definitely make this again, especially in the winter, it's very hearty.  The chicken, cooked in the slow cooker, shreds very easily and incorporates well into the sauce.  I think I may have overshredded the chicken. Looking back, I think I should have left some larger pieces. The mushroom flavor is earthy, but not overwhelming.  The cream cheese makes it awesome.  I won't be serving it to guests because it's just not attractive, even with chives (chives make everything look better!).  But don't let it stop you from making it!  It's basically effortless if you make the soup ahead. 

I promise, it doesn't taste like Klingon food!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chicken Noodle Curry with Fried Noodle Cakes

This is seriously hands down the best Thai dish I make.  I first tried it a few years ago when I bought my copy of Quick & Easy Thai.  The cover of the book is a picture of this dish.  When I was learning to cook, this dish was intimidating.  The first few times I fried the noodles, I made a giant mess in my kitchen.  I think fire was involved at one point as well. 

I was drawn to the fried noodle cakes, they looked so...professional.  But the star of this dish is the curry broth.  The noodle cakes are simply a sauce-to-mouth vehicle, because this sauce is so good that you'll want to shovel it down in huge quantities.  I make extra sauce and noodle cakes.  The sauce is a great combination of coconut, lime juice, and spicy curry.  The lime juice is absolutely essential if you want this sauce to be amazing.  All of the garnishes work very well with the sauce, especially the shallots, definitely don't omit those. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Green Chicken Curry with Zucchini

I'm still here!  I've made lots of tasty new dishes, but haven't had time to post until now.  I've been camped out on my couch reading the newest installment in my favorite book series, A Song of Ice and Fire.  A Dance with Dragons came out almost six years after the last book in the series; I've been waiting for a long time!  I'm finished reading it now, and can get back to writing about food. 

It's been a long time since I made a curry with coconut milk.  It's not the healthiest thing on earth, but it's soooo good.  This is a green curry with zucchini and chicken thigh meat from Quick & Easy Thai.  Normally, I use boneless skinless chicken breast, even when thigh meat is called for, but this time I decided to do what the recipe asked and use thigh meat.  I did remove the skin and cut off as much of the fat as I could, though.  The verdict: thigh meat is better!

I used to buy the small jar of Thai Kitchen green curry paste at Wegmans, but they stopped carrying it.  So I ended up going to the nearby Korean supermarket and buying the real deal.  My first lesson: the curry paste from the Korean market is significantly more spicy than the stuff I buy at Wegmans!  But, this curry still turned out really well.  It was spicy, but not overly so.  Usually, I make a side of rice to go with my curry, but it slipped my mind to put rice in the rice cooker until I was almost done.

This simple, quick curry is spicy, creamy, and filling.  I love zucchini so I enjoyed the flavor that it added.  The fresh basil adds a nice touch, but next time I'd consider adding some Vietnamese cilantro for a stronger, more lemony flavor. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Harry Potter and the Fabulous Chocolate Frogs

The final Harry Potter movie comes out next week, and it's bittersweet for me.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published when I was in college, and I haughtily dismissed it as dreck that was aimed at tweens.  And did so until the first movie came out during law school.  One of my classmates wanted to go see it to make sure it was suitable for her kids to watch, and several of us tagged along.  I was highly skeptical.  Coming out of the movie theater, I remember telling my friends how I wanted to read the books right away.  The next day, I went to the bookstore and bought the first four books, Order of the Phoenix hadn't come out yet.  I was converted; I turned into somewhat of a Harry Potter fangirl.  Now, all of the books have been published, and the last movie is coming out in a few days.  As cliched as it sounds, it's the end of an era. 

Thankfully, I have friends with similar interests, and over last weekend, I had them over to watch Deathly Hallows Part 1 before we see Part 2 (at midnight!) when it comes out.  One of the foods that has always amused me in the Harry Potter books are chocolate frogs.  Margaret brought over some frog shaped candy molds and I quickly became obsessed.  Making frog shaped chocolate is remarkably easy.   I nuked a measuring cup full of broken Hershey's milk chocolate bars, poured it into the molds, and froze it for 15-20 minutes.  Then, I repeated with Hershey's dark chocolate.  The result were some adorable chocolate frogs!  Even though I froze them, they got a little melty on the plate.  So, I served them in a Pyrex dish filled with ice and topped with tinfoil to keep them cool.  I guess that once I heated the chocolate, it made it more prone to melting.  I made extra frogs and kept them in the freezer until all of these were eaten.  These were a fun way to eat chocolate.
These might not hop around, but they're still cute!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Caspian Fava Bean Omelet

Or, more accurately, fried eggs amidst fava beans and dill.  That's not a bad thing, but I definitely feel like the description in my new book was a little off.  Maybe my definition of "omelet" is somewhat rigid, I was imagining using beaten eggs.  After actually reading the recipe instead of just skimming the ingredients and thinking, "this contains fava beans and a ton of garlic, awesome!" I realized that I'd basically be pouring four eggs into a pan filled with fava beans, dill, and spices.  I was a little concerned about how this vegetarian dish would turn out. Of all the new types of cooking I've tried recently, Persian seems the most challenging right now.  The ingredients are mostly familiar (except for some spices and fruits that aren't available), but the cooking methods are completely different from anything I'm used to.  So, I was a little apprehensive about cooking this dish.

According to my new cookbook, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, the Persian name for this dish is "baqala qataq." There are several different ways to spell "baqala qataq," but from my searching, I learned that it's a dish from Gilan, a province along the Caspian sea.  I really wanted to see a picture of how this dish should look, but despite my fearsome google-fu, it took me several minutes to find a picture of what this meal should look like.  Thankfully, my meal looked somewhat like the picture, except that I mauled my eggs.

One thing that I will absolutely do the next time I make this: use fresh fava beans!!  The book specified fresh or frozen fava beans. My grocery store had neither.  So, I bought a 1 lb can of fava beans.  While the dish still turned out well, I think that the canned beans added more salt, and their texture was probably different from the real thing.  I also suspect that canned fava beans don't absorb water as well as fresh or frozen.  And lastly, removing skins from canned fava beans is a huge pain in the butt.  With fresh ones, a few minutes of boiling and they slide right off.  Not so with the canned beans.  I don't recommend them.

I should warn you that this picture is not pretty.  Canned fava beans are beige.  Also, one of my egg yolks broke.  And at the end, I wasn't quite sure if the yolks were done, so I stabbed them a few times with a butter knife.  And my pan was too big.  Despite its homely appearance, this dish tasted quite good!  I love fried eggs, and I'd venture to say that if you like them too, you'd enjoy this dish.  Think of it as fried eggs on top of some tasty sauteed beans with spices.  There is a ginormous amount of garlic in this dish, but its bite is taken out by the long cooking time.  And it's balanced out by 2 cups of dill.  Overall, this is a very flavorful, garlicky, dill-y way to eat fried eggs.  I made the full recipe this time, and it was too much food.  One egg per person is definitely okay, especially when serving this dish with rice and a small salad.
Maybe stabbing the eggs wasn't the best idea ever. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that Rick Bayless is my culinary hero.  I love Mexican food, and every single one of his recipes that I've tried has been fantastic.  Especially the salsas.  Because of him,  I have at least five kinds of dried chili peppers in my pantry right now.  Although his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, has a good number of authentic Mexican dishes that look intriguing, I usually end up making tacos or enchiladas because it's an excuse to make salsa or sauce.  These red enchiladas are the more traditional cousin of his red enchiladas with jalapeno tomato sauce

This sauce uses fire roasted tomatoes and guajillo chiles.  You need a really good blender to make sure that there aren't huge chunks of toasted guajillo in your sauce.  Rick Bayless recommends pushing the sauce through a sieve after using the blender.  If your blender is good enough, this isn't necessary.  This sauce isn't very spicy, but it has a great flavor from the guajillos.  You can kick it up a notch by adding some chili powder or cayenne if you're feeling brave.  Although the recommended cheeses for these enchiladas are Mexican melting cheeses such as Chihuahua or quesadilla, I use aged cheddar.  I think the cheddar is much more flavorful.  My cheddar was more on the medium side, I think sharp or extra sharp would be too strong.   To make the filling, the chicken is mixed with some of the sauce before placing it inside the tortilla.  The first few times I made this recipe, I thought the chicken needed something extra.  Now, when I cook it prior to shredding, I sprinkle some adobo seasoning and ancho chile powder on it. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My First Foray into Persian Cooking

I just received my copy of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies.  I've been intrigued by Persian cooking since I came across a few Persian recipes in a Middle Eastern cookbook.  Main ingredients in Persian cooking include a lot of foods I really enjoy: pistachio nuts, pomegranates, onions, garlic, dried fruits, and fresh herbs.

Instead of starting with something simple, I decided to throw myself in and make pistachio soup and Caspian olive and pomegranate salad.  Realistically, I should have picked just one of these and then accompanied it by something simple.  Instead, I spent a long time in the kitchen.  In the book, the picture of the soup is a nice, light green.  Because pistachios are green, right?  The recipe called for raw pistachios, and I can only get roasted.  So, maybe that's why my soup wasn't green.  Regardless, when I first sat down to eat, Dave and I were extremely skeptical because it didn't look anything like the picture.   The color, was, in fact, kind of off putting.  But, we were wrong to doubt the soup!

The spice mix was perfect, a nice body from the cumin and coriander and just a little kick from the cayenne.  The soup didn't taste like cream of pistachio, instead, it was pistachio with a little garlic, some cumin, and a little bit of sour tang from the orange and lime juices added at the end.  I didn't deviate from the recipe other than to omit the garnish entirely because I can't get barberries without ordering them online.  This soup can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for for chicken broth.  Even though I was halving the recipe, I added the full amount of garlic, spring onion, and leek, so the recipe below is how I made it.  If you want your soup less leeky, just use half a leek. 
I can't walk from the kitchen to the dining room without sloshing my soup all over the place.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mapo Ramen

Who didn't live on ramen in college?  You could eat ten meals for a dollar, and most of the time it was better than what they were serving in the cafeteria.  My 18 year old self didn't care that I was eating my monthly salt intake in one convenient, microwavable Styrofoam cup.  Technically, my first "cooking" happened while I made ramen in my dorm room during my freshman year of college.  I invented "gourmet ramen," which was a Styrofoam of instant ramen with one packet each of soy sauce and hot mustard from the previous night's Chinese delivery dinner. I think once I went so far as to get some scallions from the salad bar to put on my ramen after I nuked it. 

This ramen is different.  No super salty flavor pack or Styrofoam is involved. Oh, and it also tastes really good.  I've posted before about how much I love mapo tofu.  The same blog that created the awesome mapo tofu recipe I use added one for mapo ramen.  The thing I love about this dish is that it's a soup flavored like the spicy mapo tofu sauce I love so much.  Plus, it has noodles, and you can't go wrong with noodles.  This is enough food for a meal in itself. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011


At my grocery store, fresh Chinese noodles come in one pound packages, which is too much for two people.  So if I make noodles, I've always got half a pack sitting around.  This recipe from Harumi's Japanese Cooking is specifically described as a way to use up left over noodles, so I had to try it! Harumi's yakisoba recipe has a mild sauce, though you can spice it up by adding a splash or two of rice vinegar and a spoonful of Japanese or Chinese mustard.  Don't use yellow or Dijon mustard, it'll taste weird.

The noodles are supposed to be cooked until they're crispy, which takes a long time, at least it did for me.  The bok choy adds some extra crunch if the noodles don't cooperate.  I used baby bok choy, it comes in bunches of three and it was enough for two people.  Aside from cooking the noodles until crunchy, this dish is pretty quick!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Smoked Lasagna. Or, My Dad is Awesome for Humoring Me.

Last Sunday was Father's Day.  My mom is in Ireland with her cousin.  At my parents' house, she's the cook.  So for the past two weeks, Dad has been eating Bachelor Chow.  He's always been willing to eat my experiments, so I decided to feed him a few times this week.  For Father's Day, I made lasagna.  Now, one of my rules of cooking is never to experiment on guests.  Normally, I only cook tried and true recipes for my friends and family, because I know some of my experiments end up looking like Klingon food, and sometimes they probably taste like it, too.  But, I was having problems choosing the perfect dish to cook for my dad.   He's the opposite of a picky eater, but I wanted it to be special.  

I got it in my head that I would make lasagna.  Prior to this, I had made lasagna once in my entire life.  And that, according to the date stamp on my picture, was in June 2008.   So pretty much three years ago.  It was a spinach lasagna.  My dad is a meat fan, so I decided to use a new recipe, thus violating my rule about experimenting on family.

After extensive googling, I decided to make Michael Symon's lasagna recipe.  I love Michael Symon, to the point where I happily fangirled all over myself when I went to his restaurant, Lola, with my husband and in-laws.  Anyway, I picked his recipe because it wasn't super complicated.  And it was Michael Symon, how could it go wrong?!

The lasagna looks awesome.  But you should smell my house.  And my hair. 

This recipe seemed like it would make enough lasagna to feed a family of 25 for a month.  But, somehow, it all fit into this dish.  It's not deep enough to be a lasagna dish, but it's the most appropriate dish that I have. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Silken Chicken with Spinach and Wild Rice

This is a great recipe if you want to make something that looks impressive but with little effort.  The chicken itself only cooks for about 15 minutes if it's fresh or completely defrosted beforehand.  Baby spinach doesn't take very long to wilt, and wild rice needs 50 minutes to an hour to cook, but you can just ignore it on your back burner.  This recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  The book's title is accurate unless you want to cook lamb, in which case a pressure cooker is required for the "quick" portion.  I don't have one, so I've only tried the poultry and vegetarian recipes, but they've all been great.  This is one of my favorites because it doesn't take long to cook and it has a complex flavor that tastes like I slaved away in the kitchen. 

The best thing about this chicken is the sauce.  The chicken is punctured several times with a sharp knife and has slits cut across the top, into which salt and lemon juice are rubbed before the sauce is poured on.  It's thick and creamy, so it clings to the chicken while it bakes.  It's slightly spicy, and sprinkling the extra cayenne, garam masala, cumin seeds, and mint gives it extra depth.  I serve it with rice and spinach, like the picture in the book. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meatless Monday: Fattoush and Fava Beans

I love the idea of Meatless Monday, but it doesn't always happen.  My goal is to make at least two vegetarian meals each week, sometimes I make more.  Whenever I make kofte kebab, I always have leftover pita bread.  It doesn't keep for very long and it's too tasty to let go bad.  Making fattoush is a good way to use up leftover pita, and it's healthy!  Fattoush is a bread salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, and herbs. The recipe I used from Arabesque also included romaine and mixed greens. The dressing is made with lemon juice, sumac, salt, and pepper.   I have a "sour tooth" so I love using lemon juice in salad dressing.  One of the many things that drew me to Middle Eastern cooking was that lemons are a popular ingredient.  Ever since I started experimenting with Middle Eastern food, I buy up to six lemons a week, it's awesome.

The side dish is a result of an impulse buy.  I was on my way to the green beans when I saw the fava beans.  I had no idea what to do with them at the time.  I boiled them for 5 minutes and sauteed them with some canned artichokes I had in the pantry, a little crushed red pepper, and a little too much harissa.  I'd definitely do it again since it was so easy, but I'd go easier on the harissa.  They were too spicy for my husband and almost too spicy for me.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Goulash: A Spicy Way to Use Leftover Ground Meat

I love goulash! It's a great way to use up leftover ground meat.  You can use ground beef, lamb, veal, or a combination to make this dinner.  I think I've used ground pork, too.  My love for goulash began when I was a kid and my mom made a dish called "American Chop Suey," which was shell pasta, ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes, and spices.  Later on, I started calling it "goulash" because it reminded me more of Hungarian goulash than it did chop suey.  (Who was it that said if you order chop suey, you get what you deserve?)

This recipe began as one of Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals.  But, I've been making it for years and now it's very different.  The basic ingredients are the same, but I've changed the spices and ratios.  The original recipe is here, but it won't taste nearly as good as mine! ;)  This is a great comfort food, and it's easy to make if you've got some random leftover ground meat in the freezer.   

Goulash! Also a great way to use radishes

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sea Bass in Creamy Tomato Sauce with Tabbouleh

Sea bass is one of my favorite fish, I love its buttery texture.  I'm always looking for interesting recipes for sea bass, and this one for fish with creamy tomato sauce caught my eye.  The original recipe used swordfish, but it mentioned that sea bass, bluefish, or any meaty fish would do.  The sauce itself is quite flavorful, but it's not what I would describe as "creamy," as it only required 2 Tbsp of cream on top of 1/2 cup water and a can of diced tomatoes.  There was a hint of creaminess, but the dominant flavor was tomato.  I paired this with some homemade tabbouleh and store-bought dolmas.  The tabbouleh is labor intensive, but tasty.  It's also easily found in a lot of large grocery stores.  The fish dish itself doesn't require a ton of prep work, and to cook it you just throw it in the oven and ignore it except to turn the fish over.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shiitake Risotto with Lemongrass and Ginger

I've watched enough Top Chef to know that risotto needs to be made perfectly or people will be grievously offended.  After the most recent season, I learned that risotto is supposed to "spread" when you put it in the bowl.  When I was on vacation in St. Barth a few months ago, Dave and I went to an Italian restaurant.  The owner had imported the entire staff - waiters and chefs - from Italy.  I had some wild boar risotto and prodded at it for a few minutes before eating it. It was *fabulous,* and nothing like anything I'd ever made.  I thought I could make a great risotto before I tried this stuff.  It definitely spread out nicely, unlike the risottos I've attempted.  My risotto tends to "pile," which means that I make it too dry, probably because I get impatient and declare it finished when it looks like risotto in the pan instead of giving it some extra liquid to finish it.  So, when I made this shiitake risotto, I tried to make it with additional chicken broth so that it would "spread."  Initially, it did, but I made a ton of it, and by the time I got it all in my bowl, it looked like Mt. Risotto.  So, it's something for me to work on. 

Dave recently decided that he no longer hates mushrooms, which is awesome because I love them.  He likes shiitakes, so I found this recipe for shiitake risotto.  It was very tasty, despite being more pile-y than spread-y.  It has only a few ingredients.  I didn't have enough chicken stock, and ended up using a mix of chicken stock and veggie stock.  I think that this dish could easily be made vegetarian by using veggie stock and a little extra salt.  If you love shiitakes, this is a great dish because the mushrooms flavor the rice, too.  I was skeptical of this recipe because other risottos I've made always included a ton of cheese, but I didn't notice its absence. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Japanese Meal

I bought Harumi's Japanese Cooking years ago, before I was ready to use it.  I was a little intimidated by the Japanese ingredients because I was still getting used to the idea that I could cook food that didn't get me a free ride in an ambulance.

I've been wanting to make chicken "kari kari" style from Harumi's Japanese Cooking for a long time.  But, I've never wanted to cut 1/2 cup worth of chives for one meal. Over the winter, I let my chives grow a little wild and they desperately needed a haircut.  So this was the perfect time to try it.  I needed a side dish, so I chose her green beans with black sesame sauce.  I also decided to toss in a Vietnamese appetizer because I wanted to try my new Vietnamese cilantro and I had rice paper in my pantry.  This meal was simple, healthy, and very, very good!  Leave out the Vietnamese summer roll and it can be made even more quickly. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Suburban Garden

When Dave and I bought our house, it was the first time in years that I had a backyard. I'd spent many years living in an upper floor apartment where my only plants were in pots on my minuscule deck, where I struggled not to water our downstairs neighbors' stuff.  At our house, we plant herbs in the one area of the backyard that gets a lot of sun, and then plant other stuff in the shade and hope that we can keep it alive. I don't have a black thumb per se, but I definitely have very limited knowledge of plants other than "living plant = (dirt + water) - squirrels."  When fall comes around, we generally harvest the last of the herbs and then ignore everything until the following spring. This year, I learned that parsley is a biennial and that sage, lemon thyme, and oregano are perennials. Because this is what my herb garden looked like after being dead during the winter:
In post-apocalyptic suburbia, parsley and sage shall take over the world.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Comfort Pasta: Orecchiette with Asparagus, Red Onion, and Goat Cheese

"Orecchiette" is the hardest pasta to spell.  It's also pretty hard to find decent orecciette recipes.  This one's a keeper though.  It's simple, vegetarian, relatively light, and a great way to eat asparagus. This pasta doesn't have a ton of sauce on it, so it's great with a salad when you want a quick dinner.  It would be a great meal to enjoy out on your patio or deck. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chicken with Apple Cranberry Chutney and Wild Rice

Part of the reason I started this blog was to give myself an incentive to create my own recipes instead of always relying on a cookbook or something shiny I found on the internet.  A few days ago, I saw one of the challengers on Iron Chef America toss some apples into a pan and flambe them in some kind of booze that I don't normally drink.  I was inspired!  I decided to try my hand at making an apple and cranberry chutney with some brandy in it.  No flambeing was involved, and for that my eyebrows and face are grateful.  I read some basics about making chutney and gleaned that most chutneys are sweet and sour with a ratio of vinegar, sugar, and water or broth with some garlic and/or ginger and fruit.  I figured that since I was using two types of fruit (and the dried cranberries had added sugar already), that I could omit the sugar and used a combination of vinegar, water, and the cheapest brandy I could find to make my chutney.  The result of my experiment was most definitely food, but I can see many ways that I could improve upon it by making a few small changes. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bison Meatballs with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

The White House Farmers Market is back!  Last year, I discovered the Gunpowder Bison and Trading Company.  I love bison!  It's leaner than beef and very flavorful.  The trick is to not overcook it.  I found this recipe for Middle Eastern bison meatballs when the farmers market first opened.  I bought the bison first and then needed to figure out what to do with it.  These meatballs are fantastic!  The recipe has a lot of ingredients and the meatballs themselves are pretty labor intensive, so this isn't for a work night unless you've got a partner in the kitchen.  Plus, it creates a lot of dirty dishes.  The sauce has a lot of ingredients, and the recipe says they should be chopped before tossing them in the blender.  But, if you've got a blender on steroids, it's fine to just toss everything in whole or very coarsely chopped.  The toasted ground seeds surprisingly add a lot of flavor to both the meatballs and the sauce, definitely don't leave them out if you make this.  The sauce isn't cooked, so I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt and it was fine.  I think this is a great summer dish because the sauce is cold and light (and a fun color!).    

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu is a staple dish in my house; I've been making it since I found the recipe for it on Appetite for China.  It's really easy to buy some ground pork and freeze it in 6 oz portions.  Three of the ingredients (black bean paste, chili bean paste, and Sichuan peppercorns) require specialty shops, but they don't go bad for a long time, so one you've gotten them, you're fine.  I can never find fermented black beans, so I buy black bean paste from my local Korean supermarket.  I buy the chili bean paste there as well.  I get the Sichuan peppercorns from Penzeys.  The sauce is a great mix of spicy and savory, and the Sichuan peppercorn provides an interesting tingle on the tongue.  That said, don't overdo it with the peppercorns or your mouth will feel strange.  I don't think this dish is terribly wine friendly, so I drink almond milk with it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Dessert Inspired by Game of Thrones

Look everyone, I made a dessert!  Try not to faint.  A fellow George R. R. Martin fan showed me Inn at the Crossroads, a blog about the food in Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.  If you haven't read the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, buy it immediately!  HBO made A Game of Thrones into a mini series and I've been watching it live every Sunday night like a good little nerd.  While browsing Inn at the Crossroads, I came across a dessert that sounded fabulous.  The list of spices reminded me of mulled wine, which I've always associated with the Middle Ages. I was inspired to make it last night to eat while watching Game of Thrones.

This plum and honey mousse was insanely good and easy to make.  It smells wonderful!  The spice mix of ground cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper definitely made this taste like sweet mulled wine.  I used purple plums and loved the resulting color.  I am definitely making this again!  The dessert glass is frosty because the mousse was taking a while to cool so I put it in the fridge for a little bit.  I used star anise as a inedible garnish because it looks cool and the original recipe suggested candied anise seeds. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Larb Mu, aka Holy ($*#&!@ This is Amazing!

One of my favorite Thai dishes is larb gai, a spicy ground chicken salad with lots of lime juice.  I came across a recipe for Larb Mu (pork instead of chicken) on Appetite for China and decided to give it a try.  HOLY CRAP THIS WAS AWESOME.  I'd never heard of toasted rice powder before, so I followed the instructions for making my own with some jasmine rice.  This salad tasted exactly like the larb gai I've had in Thai restaurants, except with pork.  It was the perfect mix of spicy, tangy, and minty.  The rice powder added some crunch and a tiny bit of toastiness.  If you make your own, make sure you grind the rice really well.  I had a few bits in mine that were a little too crunchy.   Aside from the chopping, this dish didn't take long to make because the herbs don't need to be chopped.  I made a half recipe for 2 people, but otherwise I didn't change anything.  Definitely have some extra lime wedges for squeezing after the salad is served.  When I make this again, I'll probably put some lettuce or cabbage under it and make less rice to serve on the side. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Conquering the Cauliflower

Cauliflower looks like broccoli's undead cousin.  It's the zombie of vegetables. I've never cooked it before.  I have only one memory from eating in a high chair, and that is eating boiled cauliflower and then projectile vomiting all over the tray and nearby kitchen table.  We're talking The Exorcist here.  I don't remember how it tasted other than I thought it was vile.  Maybe I had a stomach bug that day?  Who knows.  But my little mind firmly associated cauliflower with barfing.  Regardless, after that, I considered it to be made of pure evil and refused to eat it. Over the years, I would take a bite of someone's cauliflower gratin and find it similarly nasty. 

In the last few years, I started eating at nicer restaurants with chef's tasting menus.  I was eventually confronted with cauliflower soup, when obviously I would never choose to order it from a regular menu.  As someone who prides herself in eating pretty much anything, I was too embarrassed to tell the server that I didn't want to try something as innocuous as cauliflower.  So, I ate it, and was shocked to discover that it wasn't as repulsive as I remembered.  But, it had been presented in a different way instead of boiled into mushy flavorlessness (and then boiled some more for good measure).  I actually kind of liked it, but I didn't think about trying to cook it myself at that time.

Last week, Dave and I spent a week on St. Barth, which is a French island.  Being French, all the restaurants there are appropriately foodgasmic.  One night, while we were having a glass of champagne in a restaurant's bar, we were served a plate of raw veggies with a mildly spicy dipping sauce.  Among them, the craptacular crucifer.  But, I decided to give it a try since Dave was eating it and not dying.  The weirdest thing happened.   I liked it!

So, I decided to try and cook some at home, for the first time ever.  I picked a recipe that involved onions and some heavy seasoning.  Here is the result:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chicken, Vermicelli, and Lemon Soup

I'm back!  I was away on vacation last week and did absolutely no cooking whatsoever.  :)  This meal is from right before I left for my trip.  After a week in St. Barth, my cooking focus will shift to healthy meals for a few days since I need to make up for all of my gluttony.

This is a Turkish chicken, vermicelli, and lemon soup.  It reminds me a little bit of avgolemono since it has a similar egg and lemon flavor.  So many of my soup recipes admonish me to make my own stock, but I don't have time.  I use Kitchen Basics low sodium chicken stock and it works fine to make this quick dish.  This soup is very hearty because of the egg and noodles, and I sometimes prefer the vermicelli to the rice in avgolemono. Another thing that makes this soup interesting is that it uses grated red onion as part of the base, which I think gives it a complexity that avgolemono doesn't have. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tandoori Tofu and Red Cabbage Slaw

I've been super busy and am only getting up my post-work travel post now.  This dish is made from stuff that I had in the fridge with no special purchases, since I was trying to use up stuff before I went to the grocery store.  It's Tandoori tofu with a random red cabbage slaw that I made up on the fly because I had some cabbage and radishes that I needed to use up.  I've made the tofu before, it's a super fast, healthy vegetarian dish.  The cabbage slaw turned out really well, I'm very proud of it!  Both of these dishes take very little time to make and are great for a work night. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Anniversary Dinner! Pasta with Lamb Ragu and a Nice Bottle of Bordeaux

This weekend was my seventh wedding anniversary!  After all these years, my husband and I are as in love as we were when we met in law school (we met in torts, how romantic!).  Sunday was our actual anniversary, but we went out on Saturday so we didn't have to care about being out late.  Conveniently, A Game of Thrones premiered on Sunday night and we took the opportunity to cook something tasty and geek out in front of the TV.

This pasta dish is something we make a lot in the winter.  I've altered the original recipe a bit to make the spice mixture more to my liking and eliminate some waste.  Instead of using one rib of celery, I use a shallot because I always have one around and I rarely find a good use for random celery.  I added a clove of garlic and some extra ground fennel seed.  The fennel seed makes the sauce smell heavenly and it brings out the lamb really well. Instead of buying a tub of ricotta that would sit in the fridge until it achieved consciousness, I used grana padano.  Sometimes, we make our own pasta to go with it.  This time, we bought some fresh pasta from an Italian deli up the street.

This meal is a good excuse for a nice bottle of red wine.   Wine is a hobby of Dave's, so he decided to pair the dinner with one of his special bottles that we've had for a few years.  He picked a bottle of Chateau Tour St. Bonnet 2005 Médoc, which smelled wonderful and went well with the cheesy, fennel-y goodness of the lamb ragu. I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe the wine, it's definitely worth a try if you can get ahold of it.  It sells for around $20.  I would link to the official website but (1) it's in French and (2) it looks like it was designed in 1997 and my eyes can only take so much of the blink tag. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Swear There are Enchiladas Under All That Sauce!

Rick Bayless has another name for these enchiladas, but I nicknamed them "deconstructed enchiladas" since the tortillas are folded at the bottom and all the fillings are dumped on top.  I'm sure my use of "deconstructed" isn't entirely correct, but that's what I've been calling them forever.

This recipe is great if you like spicy tomato sauce and have some leftover chicken laying around.  I always tell myself that I'm going to buy a rotisserie chicken and use it as a source of shredded chicken and then I never do.  So, for this batch of enchiladas, I sliced some chicken breast, seasoned it with adobo, and cooked it in a nonstick pan.

This sauce is very flavorful, and it can be spicy if you use a whole jalapeno (or more!).  Definitely let it reduce enough, otherwise you'll have watery enchiladas.  I add less broth than the recipe calls for and eyeball it from there.  I use both the sour cream + milk mixture and cilantro as garnishes, I think they're both necessary to complete the dish.  The sour cream mixture has a nice cooling effect and the cilantro adds some green to the dish. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Grilled Chicken Salad with "Rustic" Guacamole

This is a good, healthy main dish salad.  The grilled onion guacamole and chili lime dressing make it different than the usual grilled chicken salad.  Plus, it's from Rick Bayless, so I know it's good. 

The original recipe called for hearts of romaine, but I use red leaf lettuce because it's my standard salad lettuce and I didn't see the point in buying a special type of lettuce for this salad.  I think it works perfectly fine.  The original title for this salad is "Grilled Chicken Salad with Rustic Guacamole, Romaine and Queso Anejo."  I can't get queso anejo so I used grana padano as a substitute because it's a good grating cheese.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chicken, Black Beans, and Rice

I'm in Texas this week for work, and apparently my iPad doesn't want me to post in compose mode. What little HTML I know is from years ago, so forgive my complete lack of formatting and lack of a proper jump.

Before I left for my trip, I made three Rick Bayless dishes. The first was Swiss chard tacos. The second was chicken with black beans and rice. Ive been making this for years. It's easy, hearty, and a great excuse to put salsa on rice!

The spice blend in this recipe is completely open to interpretation, I use a lot of extra chili power and have been known to add paprika to it as well. I make his smoky chipotle salsa because it's comparatively quick and doesnt involve a ton of ingredients.

I originally intended to make a half recipe. But, I added extra green onions and made plenty of salsa. I also used the whole can of black beans because I didn't want to waste them. So, it was more food than two standard servings. The chili powder turns the rice a nice red color and seasons the chicken very nicely. The star of this dish is the salsa though.

Chicken, Black Beans, and Rice
From Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday
Makes two generous portions

1 large or 2 small chicken breasts
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed very well
1 generous Tbsp of ancho chile powder plus more to season chicken
1 tsp medium hot chili powder (or as much as you want, I added extra a few times as I cooked).
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I used a white onion here)
1/2 cup rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
4+ scallions, sliced
Rick Bayless smoky chipotle salsa (below)

1) sprinkle the chicken with salt and chili powder. Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet and brown the chicken on all sides. Then cut it into cubes. It doesn't matter that the chicken isn't cooked, it will get more time in the pot.
2) After removing the chicken from the pot, add the garlic, onion, and rice. Cook until the rice becomes opaque. No more than 3 or 4 minutes.
3) Add the chili powder and mix well. Cook for one minute. Then add chicken broth.
4)Bring to a boil and then cover the pot and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Then stir in the beans and chicken. cover the pot again and let cook for 12 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
5)Test to see if the rice is dine. If it's ready, stir in the scallions and then serve in bowls. Let people add as much salsa as they want.

Smoky chipotle salsa
From Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday

4 oz tomatilloes
1 chipotle from a can of chipotles en adobo, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled

1) Shuck the tomatilloes and rinse them off. Slice them in half lengthwise. Heat a nonstick
pan over medium heat. Put the garlic and tomatilloes in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes each side.
2) Place the tomatilloes, garlic, and chipotle in a blender and blend until it's the texture you want. Season with salt to taste.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Swiss Chard Tacos

As I've gushed before, Rick Bayless is my hero.  If I could clone him and convince him to live in my kitchen to cook for me, I'd be a happy puppy.  Alas, I have to live on only his books.  Whenever I buy a bunch of swiss chard, I always have to think of two meals that use it because it's gigantic and takes up half my fridge.  One of my favorite swiss chard dishes is Rick Bayless' swiss chard tacos with tomatillo and chipotle salsa.  All of the salsas in his book, Mexican Everyday, are fabulous.  This one is very simple to make, provided you have easy access to tomatillos and a kickass blender.  It's not a super hot salsa, but heat can be adjusted by adding more chipotles.  The taco filling is simple: sauteed onions and wilted swiss chard with vegetable broth.  The goat cheese adds a great tang to them.  I'd say leave it off for a vegan meal, but I really think it's not optional in this case unless you have access to a good vegan substitute.

I use store bought corn tortillas.  I've posted in the past about how annoying it is when they crumble, and I find that heating them in a small pan for 30 seconds or so prevents this, regardless of their freshness.  I was very pleased when these tacos didn't fall into a giant glorpy mess when I picked them up. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Smoked Chorizo with Red Cabbage and Asparagus Salad

It's spring, and dammit I am going to make colorful food!  If I make a pretty salad, it'll keep the nasty cold weather away and I can go running in clothes that are not insulated tights, two shirts, gloves, and my hiking socks. 

Ok, now that I got that out of my system, on to a colorful spring salad!  This salad is easily made vegan, simply omit the grated grana padano.  I'm not a fan of feta cheese, so I substituted grana padano on this salad, and although I enjoyed the saltiness it added, it's definitely optional and without it, this salad is vegan.

I wish I had made this earlier in the week when I was playing Dragon Age II, it's a quick dish!  Later this week, I plan to make an experimental apple and red cabbage slaw.  The original idea was to make a fennel and red cabbage slaw, but Wegmans was out of fennel.  So, I decided that an apple might work.  Anyway, I needed a way to use the other half of the red cabbage, so I found this recipe for red cabbage and asparagus salad.  Normally, I'd make this as an entree if I was trying to eat healthy. Sure, 1 Tbsp of tahini is about 90 calories and a good bit of fat, but it's just 1 Tbsp divided between 2 people.  So, no big deal!  Given that each head of red cabbage weighs approximately 600 lbs, this could have been an entree. 

But Wegmans has a sausage bar!  So I bought two smoked chorizos and decided to grill them in my grill pan and serve them with the last of my trio of mustards that I brought home from my trip to Paris: Maille Chablis and Morel Dijon.  If there was a Maille store in DC, I'd be bankrupt.  Since the sausage didn't need any prep work, this meal didn't take very long for two people to prepare (there is a lot of chopping involved so for one person it'll take longer). 

This salad definitely could work as a vegan or vegetarian entree!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gnocchi with Green Olive Sauce

I love gnocchi.  I love olives.  So when I see a recipe for "Green Olive Gnocchi," it definitely gets starred in my google reader.  It's been in the queue for a long time/  This week, I finally got my iPad 2.  One of the reasons we bought an iPad was to have quick access to the internet on the floor where the kitchen, living room, and dining room are.  I use a lot of internet recipes, and I end up printing them out because the kitchen isn't a good place for a laptop.  This recipe was the iPad's inaugural dish.  I have a book stand with a plastic splatter guard (a requirement in my kitchen, I tend to make a mess) which is big enough to cover an iPad very well. 

This recipe is from 101 Cookbooks.  The post mentioned that the sauce isn't especially pretty, but compared to my green onion sauce experiment, this looked pretty good.  I topped it with fried capers as suggested, and then added some extra sliced green olives so I wouldn't waste what I bought at the olive bar. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lamb and Smoky Chili Lahmacun (Turkish "pizza")

I'm a bit of a pizza snob and consider delivery pizza to be cardboard smeared with red sugar paste tomato sauce and fake cheese.  So, I've always wanted to make my own.  When I found this recipe for lamb lahmacun, I was intrigued because it involved a very thin, crispy crust and lamb, which I've always got in the freezer.  Lahmacun originated in Syria, but is popular throughout the Middle East.  Translated, it means "meat with dough." The first time I made this, I didn't think it was very pretty.  Then I did a google image search and saw that mine looked pretty good.  ;)  I make this every time I've got 5 oz or so of ground lamb in my freezer.  It's a treat on a weekend when I've got some time to let the dough sit for 2 hours.  It's also a great excuse to drink a light to medium bodied red wine. 

The dough has to sit for a while, but making the lamb paste doesn't take very long at all.  I add a little extra smoky paprika since I use more lamb than a normal portion would call for (a proper half recipe for this would use 3.5 oz of ground lamb and I use 5).   I could never figure out what a "long red chili" was when it was called for in this book.  Further, Wegmans never has red chilis other than the tiny Thai chilis, and I don't think they belong in Turkish cooking.  So, I substitute a long green chili hoping that they're similar.  The combination of lamb, onion, tomato, spicy chili, and smoked paprika is absolutely wonderful!  And it makes my kitchen smell good. 


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