Friday, September 26, 2008

No Soup for You.

So as the leaves are beginning to turn, I know you all are craving soups. I asked this in an earlier post, but can someone recommend a soup cookbook? My mom (and I) is looking for one. Leave suggestions in the comments section below. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New and Improved Shrimp Scampi.

This is the second meal I made from a recent Gourmet magazine. It just looked so enticing in their photos.
It reminds me of shrimp scampi, but I find it appealing in that garlic is not an ingredient. Don't get me wrong, I love garlic. I put it in anything that should be salty (so not desserts). I recall making shrimp scampi one time in college right before going to lacrosse practice. It was during the winter, so we were practicing indoors at the rec center. As we were running around the track, I burped. Someone (Pauts) came up behind me right afterwards and said, "What is that smell?" It was my garlic. I've been wary (or not so much) ever since.
I, predictably, strayed from the recipe when I discovered we didn't have cilantro or sherry. Basil and marsala were my substitutions. And oh my, the garlic was not missed. The ginger gave the dish a mild sweetness tempered with the butter that I haven't experienced with the root herb before. (I'm used to it with spicy and citrusy Thai food). And the marsala added depth you don't get with just a butter/garlic combination.
Shrimp in Ginger Butter Sauce:
6 ounces large shrimp, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon grated (or crushed) ginger
2 tablespoons marsala cooking wine
2 teaspoons dried basil

Heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Saute ginger 30 seconds. Add shrimp and saute two minutes. Add marsala and saute until shrimp are just cooked through (one to two minutes). Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper.

You Say Frittata.

Instead of letting my leftovers waste away to mold in the fridge like I normally do, I rehashed them in a frittata. This was according to Craig's recommendation. Dare I say that it was better than the original version as the original batch of green curry was so freaking spicy. Adding eggs and milk tempered the heat to edible.
I have this theory about eggs and omelets: Every European country seems to have their own delicious version. Everybody like eggs. In France its quiche. In Spain its tortilla espanola. In Britain it must be the omelet. And in Italy its the frittata. (OK, I haven't covered all of Europe, just the countries I have been to). I'd have to say that the frittata is the easiest because there is no flipping involved (reducing the chance that I'll be making a mess). You just mix the eggs and a bit of milk with whatever other food you'd like to add (obviously anything goes since I felt so inclined to make it with green curry), cook it on the stovetop until the bottom is done and then transfer it to the broiler to finish it off. And voila. Finito.

Cloudy With a Chance of Grilled Cheese.

I went to my mom's today for lunch and a short therapy session (that is a joke because it's true). She made the best grilled cheese sandwich, EVER. I don't even know why I try to cook, my mom already does it so well. I could still (hypothetically) go over to her place for every meal.
And today could not have been a more perfect day for such creature comforts as grilled cheese and tomato soup. Driving to work, the fog on the interstate was as thick as pea soup (reference to another great mom moment, the children's book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs). For a moment near the 72nd Street exit, the cloud parted and I saw sky blue sky above only to plunge once again into grey grey grey. It was the sort of day you want to stay home and watch sappy romance movies.
So it seems fitting that I went home for a one-hour lunch break. Both the dog and the cat greeted me upon arrival--much more enthusiastically on the part of the dog. And my mom immdiately handed me sun tea spiked with mint herbs. It was just a kick of freshness, a remant of summer.
She used Rotella's sandwich bread, made at their factory just up the street. And with plain ole cheddar cheese and summer's best tomato, she crafted my sandwich. Gosh, the cheese just melted over the sides of the tangy tomato. (There is no replacement for quality ingredients, like this tomato that came from my mom's garden). And there were steamed snap peas with warm tomato soup. I'm mad I didn't take a photo as the food was so colorful--something my mom always strives for in her dishes.
And she gave me cookies. Mint-chocolate chip cookies. She always makes them so soft and chewy; I didn't even need milk.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ein Tomaten.

I have tomatoes. Correction: tomato. This is the lone cherry tomato that I have eaten from my enormous plant. I was so excited about seeing this one, orangey-red tomato that I plucked it from the vine a little prematurely. One tomato really isn't any good for making anything substantial, but paired with some cheddar cheese and a cracker this unripe tomato was pretty good.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Megan Made Dinner ... All By Herself

Megan offered to make dinner for me and Eric last night; she claimed she owed me from all my culinary output during the last couple weeks. And I was told to note that Megan made the entire dinner all by herself without the assistance of Eric or Erica (who was miles and miles and miles away). She made a deliciously fresh arugula salad, tilapia seasoned with herbs and lemon juice and a creamy risotto. Excellent. And I must say, it is nice to have someone else make dinner for you. (thanks mom for all those years of underappreciated food). Eric made his mom's apparently famed graham cracker delight for desert. I must admit that I am not a big fan. Too mushy. The quick treat is made by putting milk, graham cracker and chocolate morsels in the microwave and then blending them altogher (hope I'm not giving away a big family secret here).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Soups On.

Fall is just about here. It is my favorite season, even though I get horrible hayfever. I just love putting on sweatshirts, being comfortable in jeans again, sleeping under the covers and the smell of people turning on their furnaces. I also love soup. You can't eat soup in the summer, too hot. But fall, mmm. Butternut squash soup would have be the quintessential fall soup, you know, pumpkins, harvest, halloween.
I have indeed eaten pumpkin soup before, but I have never made it. And my experience with the vegetable is pretty limited to experiments this week and a butternut squash and risotto dish I made a couple years ago. I adapted this recipe from this amazing food blog and a Gourmet magazine recipe. (The Gourmet recipe called for either Turkish or Californian bay leaves. What? Who are these people.)
There's something intensely gratifying about chopping vegetables into tiny pieces. I do not feel the same about chopping acorn squash. The skin is thick. It would have been easier to open it with a hammer. And I did have to roast the squash for a while to soften it. I don't think I would have had the same problems using butternut squash, but seriously, I'm lucking I didn't cut my fingers off.
Also, and this is important. My mom is looking for a good soup cookbook. Leave recommendations in the comments section thanks.
Butternut (Acorn) Squash Soup:
2 small potatoes chopped
1 celery stalk chopped 1 carrot chopped
2 pounds butternut squash chopped
3 cremini mushrooms diced and sauteed
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
Sautee onions with salt and pepper in olive oil until tender in large pot. Add potatoes, celery, carrot, squash and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Turn heat off and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer soup to food processor and puree, bit by bit if necessary. Add sauteed mushrooms and serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Propah English Scones.

So the English are notoriously terrific at breakfast and that's about it. Really, the island is kind of the joke of the culinary world. Technically, I think scones would fall in the "tea" category (probably considered an actual meal in Britain), but I prefer them for breakfast (also, I don't drink tea, just loads of coffee).
I was pretty nervous throughout the entire process of making these scones. I asked questions (aloud): "Is this crumbly?" "Is this going to work?" "Have they cooked enough?" "Can I somehow add more sugar without screwing things up?" I ended up making a fairly big mess. The kitchen looked like one of those apartment adds on Craigslist--the apartments you don't want to rent. But it's fine. I cleaned it, it apparently was crumbly and cooked all through. And I decided against adding more sugar. Scones really are more like biscuits than muffins, which Megan and I both decided was a good thing. You can see how the finished scone is almost flaky. Mmmm. Too bad we don't have clotted cream to go with.
The originally recipe I followed called for raisins; I substituted blueberries. I realize September is exactly prime blueberry season, but they just looked so plump and juicy at the store though a bit on the tart side. Blueberries really are the perfect little fruit to go in baked goods. It did, however, makes things quite interesting when the recipe called for kneading the dough and rolling it flat. Said plump and juicy blueberries were exploding and oozing all over. It was beautiful. And this morning when I ate my scones, the blueberries bled all over the biscuit and my fingers, staining the plate and my hands. So much better than store-bought blueberry muffins, which someone lately told me were actually made with dyed pieces of apple! English Tea Scones: 2 1/2 cups flour 2 tablespoons sugar 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup butter, cut into pieces 2 beaten eggs 3/4 cup buttermilk 1/2 cup blueberries In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender (or fork), cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the middle. Set aside. In another bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk and blueberries. Add egg mixture to dry mixture. Stir until just moistened. Turn dough out on a floured surface. Knead dough by folding and pressing dough until it is nearly smooth. Roll dough into eight-inch circle. Cut into 16 pieces. Place pieces on baking tray. Brush scones with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

These are the remnants from the acorn squash from yesterday's green curry. I couldn't very well let them go to waste. Megan and I both thought it tasted like popcorn (which is practically it's own food group in the Seyler family).

Rinse seeds. Lay flat on baking tray. Sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper. I used the garlic-infused olive oil that Erica gave Megan (thanks Erica). Bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thai Food Is Spicy.

I used to live in Thailand. I loved the food--aside from shockingly horrendous school lunches and a few too-spicy meals. There was a "restaurant" (using the term loosely) on the compound where I lived. The cook's name was Lek, which means small, which she was. Though tiny, she was spunky and spicy. I learned my lesson (ZIP code 46032 on the link) quickly with her food. She and her daughter taught me how to order food that wasn't hot. (It's pet nit-noi, and never forget it). I ate Lek's food just about every night of the week. I had a few staples; green curry was one of them. It's got a bit of a kick to it, but without the chilis, the cocoanut milk adds a savory and creamy element. It's all my favorite spices and herbs mixed together: cumin, coriander, garlic, cilantro, etc. Lek and her daughter Phet also taught me how to order food with proper pronunciation--probably just about the only thing I can pronounce correctly in Thai--ask me, I am an ace at pronouncing green curry with chicken (you'll be more impressed than you should be). Everyone makes green curry a bit differently. It's really hopeless for me to try to immitate Lek's most delicious version. But I had to attempt because Lek would add (when available) butternut squash to the usual mix of vegetables. I have never ever seen green curry with squash. I'm pretty sure I never will. But it is fantastic. Prior to living in Thailand, I had been completely unaware of the versatility of certain vegetables, namely eggplant, mushrooms and squash. I knew if I wanted squash and eggplant in my green curry, I had to make it myself. I followed fairly closely to a recipe by Tyler Florence. However, I could not find any kaffir lime leaves in this fair city. I tried Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, along with Indian, Oriental and a Mediterranean independent grocers. It's likely that Thai Kitchen carries it. I'm not going to include my proportions of vegetables, but I sauteed onions, peppers, those baby corns and eggplant (not on Ty's recipe). I actually used acorn squash, as that seems to be more available at the grocery stores right now. The skin/shell/whatever-you-call-it is pretty thick, and I ended up cutting it in half and roasting it in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper beforehand. I only used half the squash (expect to see the rest of the squash in a different dish later this week). I sauteed it with the rest of the vegetables. I did not use Ty's curry paste recipe--I bought some at the store. If I was to do it again, I would definitely make it from scratch because the store-bought paste was spicy. Seriously. Megan and I started out drinking wine and added water and milk to sate the hot-factor. (Not a particularly good combination). My nose was running a little bit even. It really was good, but I hate how spiciness overpowers the rest of the flavors. So now we have some extra green curry that I don't think I can finish.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Day (or Two) Late.

Labor Day was now almost two weeks ago. But I do still remember the food. I got back from Missouri just in time for dinner. Megan and I decided on a low-key meal, but it did involve the grill. There's an ordinance in Omaha prohibiting charcoal grills from apartments. Rather disappointing as gas grills kind of scare me with that propane tank and all. I am not proud to admit that I've only used my gas grill maybe twice this entire summer. A friend (Mark) left it in my possession when he moved out of Omaha and hasn't come back to claim it (I suspect he's moved on). I think he would be disappointed to know it's more useful as a shelf for my plants than to fire up burgers on a hot night. On this hot night in particular, we kept it simple. Megan heated up some leftover vegetables from Erica and Dave's wedding earlier that weekend--they turned out really well. And I made the recipe that caused me to be the only other fish-lover in my immediate family. I will never understand those people (father, sister, sister) and how they could turn up their noses at this dish. It's butter, lemon, herbs and fish. That's it. But oh so good. Here's the rough guide: 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon lemon juice dry thyme to taste seasoned salt to taste 2 white fish fillets (tilapia, catfish, whatever) Mix the marinade together. Add to fish. Place fish on aluminum tray. Cook on grill until fish meat flakes with a fork. I do have a photo of this meal. However, I misjudged the size of my parents' memory card, putting it into a slot in my computer where it is now stuck. Oops. Hopefully, will have it and some photos from Costa Rica after open heart surgery on my computer tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Slow Drive. Fast Food.

Heading out of town for Labor Day weekend, friend and driving companion Eric and I got to chatting about food. Mouths watered discussing the best meals of our lives. Mine was wild mushroom ravioli in a light sauce with some Finger Lakes-area wine at the Esperanza Mansion in Upstate New York. His was also a stuffed pasta from a restaurant in Buenos Aires paired with wine a la South America and followed by concert by an Argentinean folk singer (who was not Jose Gonzalez) adding up to one of the best days of his life. Then NPR reported on the Slow Food festival taking place in San Francisco. Made popular by sort-of celebrity chef Alice Waters, Slow Food is a movement that could be translated to “cuisine gone green.” The organization seeks to promote local growers and farmers. So it’s all that hippy stuff about organic, hormone-free, happy cows, happy chickens, free trade, it’s something I can really get behind because the food tastes better and I would potentially be helping my neighbors do what they do, instead of helping ... nevermind, I’ll keep my politically-tinged rants out of this. All this while making the interchange from I-29 to I-70 in Kansas City, Mo. There was little chance on this or any stretch of highway of finding much more than fast food. Eric googled Whole Foods on his phone, but the closest one was in Overland Park, Kan.—shocking. There was no Trader Joe’s to think of. I called a friend from KC who didn’t answer. We passed green highway signs, posting a list of all that awaited at each exit. Uninspired and a bit hungry, I gave up and finally pulled over at the next Subway. This Subway, somewhere after the Worlds of Fun exit in KC, was barely short of pathetic. The two workers in the establishment (originally designed to house a Pizza Hut) were just sad, as were our sandwiches. But what can you expect. Realistically, fast food is so much easier and cheaper than Slow Food. Too bad Kansas City doesn’t have my fav, White Castle.