Friday, October 31, 2008

Maria Makes Risotto.

Maria called me the other night, "I'm making the risotto. So I cook the rice with stock not water and I saute it beforehand?" She sounded a bit frantic, as if she was calling mid-saute. My first reaction was excitement, "Someone is making something from my blog!" Then I thought, "Wait, that risotto was so-so, what if she doesn't like it and never comes back?!" "Maria, are you putting any meat in it?" "No, remember I only like chicken." "OK, put some other seasonings in it." "Can I use garlic?" "Sure, why not." Conversation ensued on whether it was acceptable to use bouillion cubes (I said yes). Fortunately, it seems that Maria's risotto was a success. Maria used pinot grigio instead of marsala (a good choice) and added broccoli and carrots to the squash and apples. She seasoned with thyme, salt and pepper (note: no garlic). Still creamy, still excellent. Thanks to Maria for demonstrating the versatility of this recipe. Maria's cat Ollie apparently likes Food Eaten just as much as she does. Well maybe not quite. Food Eaten is still accepting submissions for recipes (note: you will not be turned down, providing your dish is not obscene). Or, even better, you can invite me over for dinner and I will write about how wonderful you are. lrseyler at hotmail dot com.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Back in college, we used to joke that I should host a cooking show called cooking with the clutz. Back then, every time I cooked something I made an enormous mess. There was the time I dropped an entire bottle of olive oil on the kitchen floor. What do you use to clean that? Water? There was the time I left the soup cooking on high and came back from a run to find it burned to the bottom of the pan. And there was the time I made 200 sugar and gingerbread cookies for a Christmas party. We didn't have a rolling pin ... so I used a glass ... that broke while I was rolling ... we still ate the cookies.

Lately though, I thought I had grown out of it. I can brag about my chocolate chip cookies. I only use the recipe on the chocolate chip bag, but I promise they are the best cookies you ever ate. The difference is in two things: butter (not margarine) and Mexican vanilla. Joy of Baking says,

The Mexican vanilla bean is a thicker and darker bean that has a smooth, strong,rich fragrance and flavor.

I don't know about the chemistry and makeup of the Mexican vanilla bean versus hothouse vanilla beans, but I do know that these cookies are usually awesome. It all started out fine with the wet ingredients, but then Eric and Mark came over to watch Obama inspire the nation and it all went out the window.

This is the first batch of cookies I pulled out of the oven, at which point I realized I had only added half the flour. OK, so I added more flour, stirred (a lot) and threw another batch into the oven. I pulled that batch out 8 minutes later. Still not right ... because I hadn't added the salt or the baking soda. Third time's a charm, but these were definitely the (second) worst cookies I have ever made. (There was the time I forgot the flour completely, the cookies melted, ran off the baking sheet and started a sugar fire in the oven). Sorry to Megan, Eric or Mark who may have inadvertently biten into a pocket of salt and/or baking soda. Eric said he liked them and obligingly took some home. Chocolate Chip Cookies: 1 cup softened butter 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon (Mexican) vanilla 2 1/4 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels Pre-set oven to 375 degrees. Mix butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat it (while singing and dancing to Michael Jackson songs). Sift together all of the flour, baking soda and salt. Add gradually to the wet ingredients while mixing. Mix until the consistency is smooth. Add chocolate chips. Place spoonful of cookie mix a couple inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Enjoy. (And don't forget to turn off the oven).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taco Night

Recipe for successful taco night: Step 1: Pick a venue. Preferably one with a friendly dog and a big dining room table. Step 2: Call some friends together. (It's best (though not necessary) if said friends have experiences with church potlucks, they know the protocol). Step 3: Assign each person an ingredient (or two) to bring. If you're lucky, like our group, one couple will bring seven pounds of taco meat, that way you don't have to worry about conserving your portions. Don't forget to assign a dessert, and if possible, ask someone to bring a baby (not to eat, just to hold). Step 4: Set the table. Here's where the big dining room table plays in--everything fit: guacamole, cheese, beans, meat, tortillas, lettuce, tomato and 12 people. Step 5: Pass food to the left. This will break down at some point, and you will have to start making loud requests for more salsa and sour cream. Step 6: Eat and enjoy. Step 7: Play with the baby and/or the dog (but not both at the same time). Step 8: Wash and dry dishes (this is a three-person job). The rest of the party should sit on the couch and digest for a few minutes. Step 9: Bust out the games. Cranium, Imaginarium, Trivial Pursuit, Nintendo Wii ... Step 10: Say goodnight, declare what a great time you've had, and promise to do it again soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Autumn Risotto

Here's another Italian dish from my repetoire. Risotto is one of my favorites, probably because of the abundance of parmasan cheese (ask any of my roommates--I'm obsessed with it). And I make a kick-ass risotto. However, this batch was one hitch kick shy of amazing. My theories on the less-than-stellar performance: 1) no meat, sausage or pancetta adds another element of savory, but I didn't have any, 2) I accidentally grabbed vegetable stock instead of chicken stock at the store, and 3) I totally spaced out on adding the sage, so the only seasoning was parmasan cheese, not necessarily a bad thing, just not all it could be. I also made a rookie mistake of confusing butterCUP squash for butterNUT squash. Who named these? (Butternut squash is yellow, buttercup squash like a small, green pumpkin).
Even so-so risotto couldn't ruin my Monday night. My Monday-night ritual involves coming home from work dragging myself outside for a jog (made significantly better by the addition of Coldplay's Viva La Vida to my music collection), after which I cook a something new and then sit down to watch Gossip Girl. It's beautiful.
Squash and Apple Risotto: (adapted from Food & Wine and Giada di Laurentiis)
4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
2 ounces pancetta
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 butternut (or buttercup) squash
1 1/2 cups arborio or short-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used marsala, which is not at all dry, it was alright since a lot of the other ingredients are a bit sweet)
1/2 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup grated parmasan cheese
1 teaspoon dried sage (you could experiment here with other fall-ish herbs/spices, thyme for example)
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pan, bring the stock to a boil, reduce heat to low while sauteing the vegetables and rice. In another sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the pancetta, onion and squash until the onion is translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oils. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated. Ladle in 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the rice mixture and stir until stock is almost absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock. I added the apple about halfway through. The rice should be creamy and tender to the bite. Take off heat and add cheese, sage (or other herbs), and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Is The Reader Crazy?

I'm a bit nervous about announcing this. (I'm sort of afraid I'm jumping the gun, and it won't end up working out.) But The Reader has at the very least offered me a position as the, ahem, contributing editor of the Dish Section, and I have taken it. When I told my mom about the job, she said, "Oh you'll love it because you'll get to be in control." (I confess, I am a typical oldest child).
No worries, I am not quitting my job at Home & Away Magazine. This job is in addition to Home & Awizzle (as coined by the Baker sisters). It turns out a career as a writer isn't as lucritive as J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and Steven King would make you believe. Shocking. I know.
But this means I will (essentially) get to run the restaurant review section of the Omaha-area newsweekly. And I apparently write a column? And another blog? And manage a dining Web site? And send out a weekly newsletter? Oh my god, what was I thinking?!
Just kidding. I'm cool with it, nay, I'm stoked. But yes, a bit nervous that I'll do a good job covering the entire Omaha metro area including Lincoln and CouncilTucky, I mean Council Bluffs. I was driving home from work on Friday and sitting at a stop light, I became a little overwhelmed/veclempt. I mean, as little as two years ago I was just starting out with this whole getting-paid-for-writing thing. It's strange to get to do something that you dream about, and it's definitely not exactly what you think it would be. It's great in a different way.
But I need help. I don't think I need writers. But I do want ideas. So if you have a neighborhood restaurant that you just love and you think would make a good story for The Reader. Or, if you want to join me for a good meal in Omaha, let me know. Thanks to Josh and Jill, I've already got a headstart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Easy and Tasty Tomato Sauce.

Taking index of my blog postings, it's pretty clear I favor Italian cooking. It makes sense to me: Italian is pretty easy and pretty tasty. And (even though no one believes that Italians can be blond), I am 1/4 Italian. And in this day in this country, that's practically ethnic, right? Well this isn't a family recipe (or at least not yet). I got it from a really hee-larious blog The Amateur Gourmet that has become my new mid-day distraction. I had all the ingredients in my pantry (which never ever happens to me), and it really took about 15 minutes to make--so unlike my homemade ravioli recipe, is actually mom-friendly. I only deviated from his recipe when I used diced tomatoes instead of whole canned tomatoes--not sure that qualifies as "recipe development." But it is less messy. I have also come one step closer to acheiving my goal of making and mastering the grand sauces. As yet I've only attempted hollandaise (disaster), bechamel (eh) and tomato (conquered here).
(Lainey's Take on Adam's Take on Lydia's) 15-minute Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound dried pasta (rigatoni in my case)
Chop or mince garlic. Heat oil in pot. Add garlic to pot and saute until it is light brown. Add red pepper flakes and saute a bit more. Add tomato paste and toast until it turns orange. (Mine actually burned right away, so you should turn down the burner, but there was really no problem with the burned paste, so worries). Pour in diced tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. When pasta is soft to the bite, drain and stir into sauce for another 5 minutes. Serve with plenty of parmasan cheese.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Musings on Costa Rican Food.

Alright alright, it's been almost two months since I got back from my trip to Costa Rica and I'm just now posting photos. Whatever. I'm even further away from actually writing the cover story and the reason why I went to Costa Rica in the first place. When I travel I am usually preoccupied with thoughts of food. I worry about when the next meal will be served, if it'll be too spicy and if I'll like it (which I always do). I guess I like my life's mundane predictability (yes, I eat a sandwich for lunch just about every day). I've gotten better with traveling for Home & Away as the journalists are grossly overfed on organized press trips--not that I'm complaining. And Costa Rica wasn't much different. I must confess that I'm not too familiar with Central American dishes. I mean, I get the Mexican food: enchiladas, mole, burritos, tequila, etc. Unfortunately, I can't lie that I wasn't too impressed with Costa Rican fare. I actually liked the food in Honduras better, even though it may have given me traveler's diarrhea for the first time ever in my life. The baleadas I ordered to the Habitat for Humanity worksite were amazing: a tortilla filled with beans, peppers, rice, eggs and mild goat cheese. In Honduras we ate at restaurants, while for the first couple days in Costa Rica we ate from a buffet. So that's probably the reason why I'm not ranting and raving. But that doesn't mean Jenny and I didn't share a few good meals. We did decide to splurge on a nice meal at Volcano Arenal. The photo above is/was a plate of ceviche. Ceviche (for those who don't know) is what I would call a "salsa" of fish, lime or lemon juice and usually cilantro, some peppers, onion or any sort of variation. The thing that would likely freak my dad out is that the fish is "cooked" by the acid in the lemon or lime juice not by conventional heat. But it lends the ceviche an incredibly fresh flavor. We destroyed the appetizer before I even had time to snap a photo. The remainder of the meal was memorable, but plating wasn't so great (thus no photos). The only bad thing about the restaurant was the absolutely ridiculous music. They were playing Kenny G-instrumental versions of Bette Midler songs in a sorry attempt to create an ambience. Yikes. Below is a photo of me rolling my eyes and wanting to gag myself.

Another thing I was completely fascinated with was this banana factory we stopped at. It happened to be a Del Monte packing "plant," which made me even more excited. I was like, "We eat these bananas! I used to peel those stickers off the fruit and put them on my shirt!" I'm not really sure why this intrigued me, considering I live in the middle of an ocean of corn stretching from Illinois to Eastern Colorado, so farming shouldn't be out of the ordinary. And even more especially since I've been trying not to eat fruit from the nether reaches of the globe. So I'm pretty sure I don't actually eat anything from Del Monte.

Another reason why not to eat these bananas: The factory with in the middle of rows and rows and rows of banana trees. However, our tour guide warned us not to step one foot in the plantation. Why? Because the trees are heavily sprayed with "toxic" chemicals that would make us sick/possibly kill us. Hmm ... But this produce is somehow safe to eat. OK?

I don't know who told me everything would be cheaper in Costa Rica, but they were wrong. Maybe it was because we were staying at resorts so all the cocktails cost what they would in the States and were just as diluted, maybe we just got hosed for being tourists. Our driver stopped for lunch at the place pictured below, and it was only $5 for both our meals. And I thought it was one of the best meals we had the entire trip, complete with fried plantains, mixed rice and fish. The best/strangest part of the meal was the "vanilla juice" we had, recommended by our driver. It tasted like melted ice cream. Yum.
Fortunately, there's more than one reason to visit Costa Rica (i.e. monkeys, turtles, sloths, beaches, volcanoes, etc.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stop, Thief.

You know my tomato plant? The one bestowed upon me by my mother? The five-foot-tall plant that, as yet, has produced one edible tomato? Welp, someone stole it.
I went to sit on our back porch to read and spy on my neighbors, er. And I recalled how I hadn't watered my tomato plant in ... a couple days. I looked down to the landing on our dangerously steep staircase and no tomato plant.
I suppose this isn't the worst thing that could happen in our Midtown neighborhood, and my Zen-y yoga instructor noted that perhaps the person who stole my tomatoes needed them more than I do.
I have my suspects. Chiefly, the neighbors who disappeared around the same time as my plant. I'm guessing they got evicted from the basement of the tenement house next door. Not to judge or anything. Hope they make some fine bruschetta.

Most Extreme Cooking Challenge 08.

I will take this moment to reminisce about a scene that happened in my life pre-blog (thus there is only one incriminating photo). It involved two of my best friends and a lot of rice.
Craig flew all the way from Atlantie to Omaha in August just to visit Megan and me (and Eric) for a most excellent four-day weekend. We didn't do any of the typical things I make people do when they visit me in Omaha (in my attempt to impress them that this town is cosmopolitan and not all about cows and Cornhuskers, even though it sort of is). So instead of going to the zoo or the Old Market or Dundee or a concert or or or something, we decided to have a cook-off, to be judged by Megan's (completely biased) boyfriend, Eric.
Let me give you a hint of how dangerous this idea could have been to our friendship: I am the least competitive of the three. Not exaggerating. Before we really started planning the meal and after we designated a course for each of us to cook (Craig drew dessert out of the hat), we had to set down rules. Rule 1: The dish had to be one we had never made before. Rule 2: In the vein of Iron Chef America, we would all use one ingredient in our dishes: rice. (Megan and I both broke rule number two).
Craig decided to make rice pudding. I made an orzo/tomato/ mozzarella salad. Megan made fish tacos. Technically orzo isn't rice, it's pasta. But it looks like rice, and I bet the Iron Chef peeps would let it slide. And we totally forgot to make the Spanish rice portion of Megan's meal. At any rate, Eric deemed Craig's "the most delicious." Craig was a gracious winner (for about 3 seconds) and was so excited about his new masterpiece that he made it the following night for Megan's family who was in town for her graduation.
He cooked the rice on the stove and then with the eggs and cream and whatever else in the oven. And really, his presentation was by far the best of the previous night's dishes. A small helping in a cute little ice cream bowl was topped with a dollop of whipped cream and (drum roll please) a cinnamon stick and nutmeg.
So Craig and Megan are taking orders and dolling out the dessert while Krista and I are talking about boys in the kitchen. Craig comes back to dish out his own rice pudding and picks up the nutmeg to discover that it's not nutmeg at all. It's chili powder. I almost fell off the counter I was sitting on, and Megan ran out into the living room shouting, in true Anne of Green Gables fashion, "Don't eat it! Don't eat the rice pudding!" (remember when Anne finds a dead mouse in the flour and doesn't tell anybody ... or maybe not, was I the only one raised on PBS in the 80s). It was too late. They had already devoured the rice pudding and hadn't even noticed the chili powder. Classic kitchen moment.
Photo credit: Food Network

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Mushrooms.

We're already aware of my affinity towards mushrooms. (I still can't believe I refused to eat these things as a child). The fungi is to me one of the quintessential fall ingredients. It's so hearty and earthy. This meal is certainly that. The recipe is from Food and Wine, the source of much inspiration for fall for me (more to come next week). Though I must boast that I one-upped the gourmet cooking magazine by substituting the called-for gnocchi with some homemade ravioli still in my freezer. Take that Food and Wine!! I know I've already talked about it, but HyVee only had two kinds of fresh mushrooms (portobello and cremini). They didn't even have shiitake when I went yesterday. So I had to buy dried oyster mushrooms and reconstitute them, which was fine because then I used the water to boil my ravioli in and my kitchen smelled like dirt all evening. At first, I wasn't really crazy about this dish. (I probably should have used real cream instead of buttermilk, as it did go a bit chunky). But at the end, I was literally spooning the sauce from the skillet into my mouth. Megan came home and I couldn't lick the plate. Ravioli with Wild (sort of) Mushrooms: (serves 6) 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons butter 2 pounds mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped 1/2 cup onion, chopped 1/4 cup marsala cooking wine 3/4 cup chicken stock 1/2 cup cream 1 teaspoon thyme salt and pepper to taste 2 pounds stuffed pasta 6 tablespoons parmasan cheese Heat olive oil with butter in skillet. Add mushrooms and onions, cook until mushrooms are browned. Add marsala and cook until evaporated. Add the stock, cream and thyme, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil Meanwhile boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta until the ravioli floats to the surface. Drain. Add the pasta to the mushrooms and simmer, stirring for one minute. Stir in parmasan cheese.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chili Is for Fall.

I knew it was coming. The outer leaves on oak trees are starting to fade to orange and then red, and there's finally got that "crisp" fall feeling when you step outside. So it is definitely chili weather. This is the chili recipe I grew up loving, straight out of a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook published back in 1975. Classic. I did have a couple issues making this ridiculously simple meal. One, I found a pound of ground beef at HyVee for a whopping $1.99. Woah! That's way less than a gallon of gas. You may be asking, What's the issue here? Well all I could think when I picked up the meat was: "This cow was abused and shot with loads of hormones, this cow was abused, this cow was abused." I felt bad. For a second. But come on, we are in an economic crisis (or so evidenced by the quarterly report on my 401k--down 20 percent for the year!!!!). Issue number two occurred while lettting the chili simmer for the allotted hour. I left it on the stove with the burner as low as I (thought I) could and settled down to watch Friends reruns. I went back to check on it after 45 minutes, and it was almost burned and parts of it were singed to the bottom of the pot. It's the stove, I tell you. I thought these burners were supposed to be the preferred choice of chefs because it's easier to control the heat. But our not-so-cutting-edge stovetop has two settings: high and off. Not to worry, I still ate the chili and it was/is still good. Megan also made chili. As she is a vegetarian, she's not going to be eating my stew laced with neglected cow meat (I don't blame her). I would argue that Megan's chili had more flavor and more kick than mine. As spices, she added a packet of taco seasoning and a packet of dry ranch mix. Good. And guilt free (unless you're talking about sodium levels). So I ate two bowls of chili on the perfect fall night. Not a bad life. Chili Con Carne: 1 pound ground beef 1/2 cup chopped green pepper 1/4 cup chopped onion 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes 1 14.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce 1 4-ounce can diced black olives 1 bay leaf 2 teaspoons chili powder salt and pepper to taste Brown meat. Saute onion and green pepper until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, covered. The olives are optional. They're my mom's addition to this recipe.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Maria and Garlic.

Maria is one of the first of my friends to get her own house. So she made this dish in a kitchen that she owns. Inferiority complexes aside (it's a bad market anyway, right?), I admit a bit of mouth watering over the dish. It's chicken and veggies in a garlic marinade. Surprised? Anyone who knows Maria understands her love (obsession) with garlic. She puts it in everything. It was sort of a joke back at the house on Florence and Jefferson in Kirksville. She even got one of this metal "bar of soap" thingy that washes off weird odors (like garlic and fish).

My other comment about this to note how healthy my friends/two-of-five faithful readers (doesn't anyone make cookies?). Also how much they seem to like alcohol (note the bottle of beer).

Again, send me some lovely, mouth-watering photos of your food, and I'll do a nice, complimentary post about you (even you, dad, gravy, gravy, gravy). lrseyler at hotmail dot com. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Amsterdam Falafel (or What Happens When the Seylers Eat Out).

The family (minus Emily) went out for dinner for my sister's (Al) birthday last Friday. Selecting a restaurant is always an interesting interaction, particularly when Al gets to make a decision as she is probably the biggest of all the people-pleasing children in the Seyler household--and everybody knows it. She initially says, "Let's go to Taste," (a favorite of all the Seyler ladies). Dad immediately quips that it will take too long, and we won't make 9:15 movie. So he suggests ... Jason's Deli. What?! While I do enjoy Jason's Deli (for lunch), it is not at all comparable to Al's first choice. I scoff. Then comes, "Well you pick a place, you're the restaurant reviewer." Ack! The pressure. I have lately been updating The Reader's database of all the restaurants in the metropolitan area, and it is freaking ridiculous. Fortunately, I rallied and made what was certainly the best choice (if I do say so myself). Amsterdam Falafel on 50th and Underwood is local and delicious (thus pacifying me), has good-to-decent design (pacifying Allison), is cheap (Dad) and is cool (Mom)--Emily doesn't care and had better things to do. But Dad remained a skeptic until he paid and had eaten his food. Upon entering the tiny establishment, Dad is baffled. There are three to five things on the menu, only one of which he understands (fries). He is whispering to me, "What is a falafel? What's on a kebab? Is there meat? Does it come with tomatoes?" I can feel his anxiety-level rising at the thought of getting something without meat and with those horrid, juicy red things. He must not have seen the giant spit of lamb meat in the open kitchen. The restaurant is small enough that our family of four practically overwhelmed it. Fortunately, the proprietor was happy to explain the process for making the more-than-sufficiently meat-stuffed (and tomato-less) kebab with a choice of garlic, herb and spicy sauces. Meals for four with two orders of fries and sodas all-around cost $26. And everyone more than enjoyed their enormous kebabs. These guys come stuffed with chickpeas, a red cabbage relish sort of thing, an herby tzatziki sauce and a grip of meat. We should have shared.

I love this establishment not just for it's food, but because it reminds me of the kind of place that would be in New York's West Village or, I don't know, Paris' Latin Quarter (which I have been to, and they do have Greek/Turkish food galore, so I'm not just saying this). It's small, and like New York dining establishments where space is a commodity, there is no lobby. And if you haven't experienced the late-night European scene, kebab stands stay open well after the bars close, serving hungry drunk people on their way home from the bars.

So the reason why I like this place is because it doesn't seem like the kind of restaurant Omaha would have (and they employ one particularly attractive fellow, and I mean particularly attractive, as in extremely). Yes, it's a lame reason to like a place, but I don't care.

Photo Credit: UNO Gateway

Jenny's Tilapia.

Jenny (photographic genious) sent me this in an email--not the food (unfortunately) just the photo. Tilapia with baked veggies. I have noticed the green beans are really delish this year (maybe they are every year and I just don't notice), plus mushrooms, hello, haven't I already posted at least once about my obsession with the fungi? My only question was if she drank that entire bottle of gewurtz in the background. She definitely should have invited me over to help out (too bad she lives in St. Louis). Send me photos and/or recipes of your food and I will totally post it--that way I won't have to cook as much, and you'll get the spotlight (we all win!). Send to lrseyler at hotmail dot com.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Homemade Pasta.

Channeling grandma noni, I embarked on making my own stuffed pasta. I have done this recipe once before, so I knew it was possible and tasty. It's a Giada di Laurentiis dish--seriously, everything made by that woman is amazing. I want to be her and her cute wardrobe, plunging neckline, big hair/head, delicious food and staff of assistants. I imagine she has fantastic dinner parties five nights a week with 20 of her closest friends constantly reminding her how fabulous she is. I own two of her cookbooks, and everything I have made from them is exceptional. The dough recipe is too easy. Really, too easy. It's only flour and hot water. I knew from the first time I made this I would want the dough to be as thin as it could be without ripping. But let me tell you, rolling dough is a workout. And I think because this dough was so easy, it really tougher the more I worked with it. I think I was rolling the dough for half an hour, and I just kept getting hungier and more tired, so I added more stuffing to finish it off. It was nearing seven o'clock when I finally threw some ravioli in a pot of boiling water, and I kept thinking, "Gossip Girl is starting in seven minutes, Gossip Girl is starting in seven minutes. I wonder if Nate will be on this episode? Maybe Chuck and Blair will finally make up, and Serena will stop being a bitch." I finished just in time to leave an enormous mess in the kitchen and to realize that GG was a rerun this week. And it took me about 10 minutes to finish eating my pasta. I do have a lot leftover now sitting in my freezer, and I know it will only take 10 minutes to boil water to have another good meal. But it all seemed a bit anticlimactic. This is not a mom-friendly meal. I do not know how grandma noni did this--kids were probably better behaved back in the good ol' days, right? But I must admit, I would make a great stay-at-homer. *sigh* If only I were a wife *sigh* I felt like a real adult last night, making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning dishes and taking out the trash, aside from the whole working and paying bills part of adulthood. (Cooking is way more fun.) (I'm going to send you all to the Food Network site for the recipe, since I've already digress here enough).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Could Live On Salad Alone.

Oh man, I did not feel like cooking last night. For the first time I felt the pressure: "I started this cooking blog and I have got to update it, I need to make something good." But I didn't even feel like eating anything. Pasta? Had that this weekend--three times. Chicken? Too heavy. Soup? I wanted instant gratification last night; I did not want to wait for something to simmer on my moody stovetop. The only thing I wanted to eat was mushrooms. I used to loathe mushrooms. I thought they were creepy. Fungus? Edible fungus? I found them kind of slimy when sauteed, versus the almost starchy consistency of raw shrooms. You can't trust something like that, right? And I swear even the smell of them caused a gag reflex at age 10. But as with tomatoes, olives, eggplant, squash, garbanzo beans, beans in general, scallops, mussels, tofu, wine and other superior food (can you believe I didn't eat these at one point), I gained an appreciation for them from traveling. In Thailand, my chef/friend/adopted-mother would make me this all-vegetable dish with like seven different kinds of mushrooms: shittake (I love that word), those long and skinny ones, the ones with the lacy edges, probably button mushrooms. I die. There are only like three kinds of mushrooms available at HyVee. Alas, another meal I can never recreate. I finally gave in to my lazy, tired, whiny, I-don't-feel-like-it attitude and bought a rotisserie chicken for $5 at HyVee, feta cheese, portabello mushrooms (because that was all they had), bell peppers and Annie's Naturals Shittake and Sesame dressing (sort of expensive, but the freaking best dressing I have ever had). I made a salad. It took about 5 minutes, and it was awesome. I'm planning on using the rest of the rotisserie chicken to make a homemade stuffed pasta of sorts (or on a salad tonight). Disaster waiting just around the corner.

Saturday Basghetti.

Friday I went to this old neighborhood Italian restaurant for a review for The Reader. Best thing I can say about them: superb, sweet, silky red sauce. I wrote how it was as good as my mother's. True. Sort of. Mostly it's just completely different. My mom's sauce isn't smooth. It's chunky, with chopped onions, diced tomatoes and meat.
Bailey came over after we volunteered at the Hope Center. Spaghetti seemed the simplest option for a quick dinner. One thing my version lacked, however, was the Italian sausage. My mom always adds this to give the meal a kick. This is the thing that makes this recipe a favorite of Craig's. We made it for that first Valentine's Day dinner in 2004 at the guys' Riggan House (on their one functioning burner), Craig has been subtly requesting it ever since. (Here you go Craig, in case you lost the last recipe I gave you).
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce:
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
cooked spaghetti
1 pound ground beef, cooked
Cook onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in next 8 ingredients. Add meat. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes; remove bay leaf. Serve over spaghetti.