Hey Bubba!

02Apr11

Peoples!

Have you seen Forrest Gump?  Can you believe that I actually haven’t?  Yep, it’s true.  However, I did acquire the fabulous cookbook from Bubba Gump and am currently spreading the joy of shrimp over at DimpleArts Photography.

What are you doing still reading this?  Go look!


Do you ever go out to eat, and constantly see something on the menu that looks intriguing yet you never order it?  No?  OK, then it’s just me.  The meal is brunch.  The item is huevos rancheros.  The problem is that I associate brunch with either pancakes and waffles or an omelette with potatoes (followed by pancakes and waffles).  I’m not quite sure what it is that fascinates me about those huevos.  Maybe it’s the fact that they are influenced by one of my favorite cuisines.  Maybe it’s the fact that everything other than the egg itself screams dinner.  Regardless of the reason, I came to the sad realization that if I stick to my “next time” plan, I probably won’t be having any huevos rancheros in the near decade or two.  So what to do?  Make them yourself, of course.  While making something you’ve never had might seem like a challenge, there are clear advantages I quickly realized would work in my favor.  I have never seen the dish, so if it looks horribly unappetizing, I can pretend that that’s exactly how it is supposed to look.  And I definitely have no idea how it is supposed to taste, so if it turns out completely uneatable, I can pretend that huevos rancheros are just not favored by my palate.

Huevos Rancheros, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

the stuff:

- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped white onions
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp minced jalapeno
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes and their juice
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
-  4 large corn tortillas
- 1/2 cup warm refried beans*
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 8 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese

what to do:

For the Ranchero Sauce, heat the oil in a pot, add the onions and bell peppers, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin, salt, cayenne, jalapeño, garlic, and and the can of tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro.

* If you notice, my refried beans look a little weird.  Don’t panic, I decided to make my own version with black beans instead of pinto but feel free to go traditional on that one.

In a skillet, heat 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil, add 1 tortilla and cook until warmed through.  Turn and cook the other side and repeat with the rest.

In a skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter.  Break 2 eggs and fry until they begin to set.  Sprinkle the eggs with the cheese and cover to finish cooking.

To assemble, spread 2 tbsp of refried beans on tortilla and place 2 eggs on top.  Finish with the Ranchero Sauce and start eating asap!

As a seasoned non-chef, I make my husband try everything I make before I taste it.

Husband (chewing slowly with a look of utter confusion): “Wooooow…uhm..interesting”
Me (bug eyed and panicked): “Interesting? What do you mean interesting?! Good interesting?!  Is it awful?!
Husband (clearly choosing his words carefully) : “No No, just so many flavors… it needs steak!”

So how did it turn out?  Hell if I know, I’ve never had real huevos rancheros.  Success?  Sure, why not!



I have a new love in my life.  He is strong.  He is French.  He can really cook.  And he comes in a lovely shade of light yellow.  He is…my new Le Creuset cast iron French oven!


Now, I would like to preface this by saying that light yellow was never my preferred shade but  when I saw it beautifully shimmering on the “discontinued – extra 20% off” table, I just knew that this was the color I had always wanted, but didn’t know existed.  After making the usual neurotic overly excited phone calls to my mom, grandma, and long distance carrier to share the wonderful news of my new acquisition, I realized that at some point, I’m going to have to start cooking.  But it’s so shiny and clean… And for no logical  reason that I can adequately explain, the only appropriate thing I could think of making was chili.  (This is where the French shake their head in shame).  I’m right there with them and all, but the thought of making something in 1 piece of cookware that would last at least a few days was just too appealing to pass up.  Plus I heard it was illegal to eat chili without cornbread and who am I to break the law?  (No, missing jury duty twice in a row does not count).  So as usual, I set out on a quest to find the perfect chili, or at least one that didn’t require me to drive all over seeking out ingredients I couldn’t pronounce.  And without further ado, here is the byproduct of me and my new love:

Modified (yes, this time it’s really modified) from here.  Don’t get scared of the long list of ingredients.  You have most of them and basically just have to dump them all into one pot.

the stuff:
- 2 pounds ground beef chuck
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
- 2 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce (couldn’t find spicy)
- 2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped
- ½ cup beef stock (I opted out of the bouillon cubes so I guesstimated the amount.  You can adjust based on desired consistency).
- 1/2 cup beer
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon white sugar

what to do:

Cook ground beef and sausage until brown in large stock pot.  Drain off grease.

Pour in the beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, beef stock, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary.

Now, in order to adhere to my New Year’s resolution of getting into shape (insert mocking laugh here), I decided that low-cal, low-fat, and low-carb was the way to go.  So you can imagine how elated I was when I found the perfect recipe: buttery cornbread!  What, you didn’t know that buttery is synonymous with low-fat?!  I know! I couldn’t believe it either!  My friend was a tad skeptical at first as well, but once I explained that the nutritional content of the cornbread is roughly equivalent to that of celery, we were all on the same page.  (Next up: Food and Honesty: How Not to Lose Friends Over Blog Material).

the stuff:
- 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 1 cup sugar (I used a little less, as usual)
- 3 eggs
- 1 2/3 cups milk
- 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- honey (optional)

what to do:

Mix sugar and butter.  Hmmm…I wonder how that tastes?  Mix eggs and milk.  Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and add to the buttery mixture “alternately with egg mixture”.  Uhm…I might have just dumped the three mixtures all together but don’t quote me on that.  Add a bit of honey to batter, if so desired.

Bake at 400 degrees for 22-27 minutes in a greased 13×9 pan.

Now…time to go give that French hunk of steel a bath…


A few weeks ago I made dinner for some friends (please stop yelling “Where the hell was I !@#$%?!).  I was really excited that for once I had more than 11 minutes to throw together a dinner, and was actually able to produce a lasagna, a Cesar salad, a caprese salad stack, and a pie.  OK fine, the pie was left over from the night before but that’s completely irrelevant at the moment so stop dwelling.  After proudly placing my beautiful (me? biased? noooooo) lasagna on the table, my friend (male friend nevertheless) quickly and politely declined.  *insert shocked facial expression with wide eyes here*  My reaction?  Totally normal – cold sweat, anger, fear. What?! Why?! Does he already know it’s horrible?  Is he allergic to…lasagna?!  Should the serving spatula in my hand accidentally fly across the table? I quietly sat down and began to mindlessly curse chew, all while periodically shooting angry glances at my so-called guest.  And here, amongst my thoughts on the trajectory of that spatula, my Satanic expression quickly turned into an idiotic grin as I noticed the rapidly disappearing plate of bruschetta.  Yes, the boring ol’ chopped tomatoes with basil on toasted bread bruschetta.  And guess who consumed 97% of it?!  That’s right!  My previous frenemy, now turned bff who spent the next 3 hours asking if I had any more left over.  Read between the lines: there are guests who are unbelievably excited about a tomato sandwich for dinner!!!  These are the keepers people!  Not those so called childhood friends who constantly ask about their lobster risotto.  However, I am no guest, and far from perfect, so I set out on a search for something that would satisfy both guest and moi.  Searching technique, you ask?  Easy, I just add “shrimp” to whatever it is I’m looking for, excluding chocolate and fruit tarts (hey, even I have some sort of standards).  And thanks to my fellow chocolate lover Giada De Laurentiis, I am now able to incorporate my favorite food group into my bruschetta V2.0.

The Carb:

- Ciabatta bread, sliced
- Olive Oil
- garlic clove

Top It:

- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 lbs shrimp, peeled and devained (yea yea, of course I used more)
- 6 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves*, chopped
- 1 cup arugula, chopped
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese**
- salt and pepper

* I used to laugh at anyone who described tarragon leaves as being similar to licorice.  Upon purchasing the leaves, I took a small bite to see what it really tastes like.  Well, uhm…no comment…but who the hell would have thought that leaves could taste like candy?!

** Original recipe calls for 1/2 cup but 1/4 is enough for me so taste and adjust as you like.

Directions:

Drizzle bread with olive oil and bake in oven until golden brown; rub with garlic while warm and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet, add shallots and garlic, and cook until soft for a couple of minutes.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and remove once they are pink/cooked through (about 3-5 minutes).  Chop and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the tomatoes,  season with salt and pepper, and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften (about 4-5 minutes).  Turn the heat to high and add the wine, making sure to scrape up the stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Cook a few minutes, then add the stock, and let it reduce.  Remove from heat and add the tarragon, arugula, mascarpone cheese, and shrimp.  Stir until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper, and place over toast.

P.S. Note to self, next time skip the lasagna.


Dear Chipotle,

I cannot go near you between the hours of 11am and 2pm.  You are visited by people from all corners of the earth financial district so it was only natural for me to jump on the bandwagon, and join the phenomenon that I had apparently been missing.  The efficiency in taking orders and paying while people are still in line is absolutely ingenious, as is the assembly line that allows you to pile on whatever your little heart stomach desires.  But tragically, I must reveal that there is one issue I cannot overcome which prevents me from sprinting down the block during that magical hour of the day we all wait so dearly for.  Namely, your rice.  I have traveled taquerias all over and have come across some very unique finds, yet cannot overcome this hurtle.  I can look past the corn; I can accept the lettuce; but white rice?!  Really?!  Why!?  I know the cilantro and lime gives it the south-of-the-border influence, but I hold firm to my beliefs that using white rice in a burrito is just plain wrong.  Why, oh why must you diverse on this very important staple of the burrito, I ask.

To those who hold Chipotle near and dear to their heart, I ask for your forgiveness but mostly importantly, I just want to know what is it that makes Chipotle your shrimp?


The pom…

11Dec10

I love pomegranates.  Not in the add-a-few-seeds-to-a-salad type of way, but more like a rush-through-dinner-nearly-choking-on-my-food-so-I-can-consume-a-few type of way.  Hold on, it gets weirder.  I’ve met many people who like pomegranates and I always tend to ask these people the same question: “How do you eat them?”.  Now, I have to admit I’ve spent some time pondering whether I actually want to disclose how I eat them, but after that whole eggplant-plum fiasco, I figured it can only go up from there.  So here goes…I cut them into slices, peel back the white skin, and bite into it like an orange.  Sounds boring?  Well let me elaborate by adding the fact that due to the nature of the pom, I create a diy bib made out of paper towels, resembling those crab shacks bibs but on a much lower budget.  And despite my attempts to remain clean and dainty, I end up looking like a 2-year-old who has fallen into a bucket of red paint face first, as I politely remind my husband that he married me “for better or worse”, as he glances at me with sheer panic.

And here it is:

You didn’t actually think I’d post a picture of me in the tragic state described above, did you?

So, of course, I’d now like to know…how do you eat them?!


Today, I was the perfect wife.  It’s that one day out of the year when you truly want to do something nice for your husband, just to make him happy – his birthday!  A couple of weeks ago I told him I’d bake him a cake (I assure you it had nothing to do with the fact that I’d be consuming excessive amounts of chocolate).   In my quest for becoming the perfect wife, I asked him what kind of cake he’d like.  When he said he wanted tiramisu, I smiled and politely told him that his choice of cake will be chocolate with a raspberry filling and chocolate ganache on top.  I assured him that he is going to like the cake and will be more than happy to show his gratitude by cleaning up the kitchen sty.  (Now if that doesn’t win me the Wife of the Year award, I don’t know what will).  Now let’s get to the good stuff…

the chocolate cake (courtesy of allrecipes):
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup  vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for a few minutes.  Pour into 2 9 inch cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (or the whole toothpick inserted comes out clean thing).  Tell me that’s not the easiest recipe ever.

the ganache:
1 cup of heavy cream
9 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)

Bring the heavy cream to a boil, pour over chocolate, and.mix until melted.  No seriously, that’s it.

the filling:
raspberry preserve (OK that’s sort of cheating but common people, I just baked a cake from scratch!)

the assembly:
Cake –> filling –> cake –> ganache.  I also decorated the cake with some whipped cream and strawberries, but only because I got carried away with all the excitement of baking my first cake  and couldn’t stop myself.  Good thing I don’t own a bedazzler.

Note – sampling is key!  I sampled the batter, the ganache, the batter again, the spoon, the bowl, and anything that ended up spilling on the counter.  What? I just wanted to make sure it tastes good.




Let’s call them what they really are – a hassle! 

You spend an hour making one at a time, with approximately 10% of them looking decent, all while cursing yourself for ever embarking on this guaranteed-to-fail adventure. Your only bit of relief stems from the fact that you can finally justify the purchase of that crepe pan you swore you needed but haven’t used in over a year. Why did I do this to myself, you ask? Well that would be due to the only valid reason for ever getting up at 8am on a Sunday morning…visitors!

The recipe is relatively easy, while the technique is definitely not. I must have modified the temperature 684 times (yep, I counted) and with each one the end result was still a surprise. So with that, I offer you my first piece of advice: roll ‘em, fold ‘em, replicate the Eiffel tower, but whatever you do, do not lay them out flat, as that only emphasizes the imperfections of the circle that most likely isn’t (unless yours are perfect. In that case, lay them flat, take a picture, and send it to me to rub it in). My second piece of advise is to add something on top to make compensate for the other 90%. I added a berry topping, not only to make it look prettier, but..well actually yes, just to make it look prettier. OK fine, it tastes good too but really, at that point you are just too tired to care. To make the topping, take a frozen bag of berries, warm them up in a sauce pan and pour them over the crepes (who the heck needs culinary school!?).

And now for the recipe (modified from Alton Brown):

The stuff:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan
2 tbs sugar (my guests commented that it wasn’t sweet enough so you might want to add some more…oh and by the way, next time they are getting pancake mix!)

What to do:
Combine all of the ingredients (I simply used a whisk) and place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  Heat a small non-stick pan and coat with butter.  Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly (evenly? HA!). Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove. Told you it sounds easy.
Work in Progress:

Implementing advice #1 and #2:

Having been excruciatingly preoccupied with my crepes, my generous husband volunteered to photograph the few that were done. I didn’t pay any attention to what he was doing, especially since I sent him a wonderful article on food photography the week before. Despite the fact that he pretends not to receive most of my emails, I was sure I had nothing to worry about. And with that, I present to you the inspiration of the title…

I may not be a professional chef…but can somebody please explain to me what the heck a pineapple has to do with a crepe?!


Every morning I grab a few pieces of fruit on my way to work, mostly to make up for the crap I eat throughout the day.  This morning I grabbed an apple, a pear, and what I thought was a plum.  I got to work and began to retrieve my 3 out of 8 recommended daily servings, and what do I find instead of a plum?  A freakineggplant!!! Don’t ask how.  All I can do is plead lack of sleep and emphasize that I rapidly grabbed the bag of “fruit” and ran out the door, noting that I was supposed to be at work approximately 8 minutes ago (‘A’ for time management!).

I don’t usually post mid week (don’t you love how I say that like I’ve been posting for years versus post #4?), but I figured that since I carried around a stupid eggplant all day, might as well put it to good use.  To make story short – green curry over rice.   Up until now, I have always used the canned stuff, but seeing as how I went on and on about the store bought croutons, I decided to make the curry from scratch and save the hypocrisy for a later date.

Disclaimer (ie excuses): Never made before; insufficient time to research; will need refining.

Plum turned eggplant experiment:
- chopped veggies: eggplant (duh), mushrooms, bell peppers, and zucchini
- 6oz can of bamboo shoots
- whatever else you have lying around that may seem applicable

Green Curry:
- green curry paste (does paste mean it’s not really from scratch?)
- 13.5oz coconut milk
- 1tbs fish sauce

The recipe on the curry paste container suggested using the entire can of coconut milk (mistake #1, way too much sauce).  It then said to add 1tbs of the paste (mistake #2).  I like things spicy and ended up using 4 tablespoons.  Since everybody likes different levels of heat, I’d suggest tasting as you go along.  For the actual dish – mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl; heat up some olive oil, stir fry the vegetables,add the sauce, and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes.  I know I know, ingredients, measurements, and instructions definitely need some work.

 

Final product:

 

15 minutes later:

What the…?!  Now how did those get in there?!??? ;)


The anchovy.

04Oct10

hey’re slimy, they’re fishy, and, in my opinion, should be legally omitted from any recipe.  But seeing as how I once made a promise to myself to always try a recipe in its originality at least once, I had no choice but to finally accept these intimidating little things as an actual ingredient.  So with a simple Caesar salad, which I desperately hoped would overpower any sea-like taste, I’d like to introduce to you…the anchovy.

Sure they may look harmless...

I borrowed the recipe for the dressing from allrecipes.com, while improvising the rest of the salad (hey, tossing together lettuce, croutons and cheese is not as easy as it sounds!).

the dressing:

3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
5 anchovy fillets, minced (and let me tell you, I minced the crap out of them due to fear of biting into a nice large chunk)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (aka the sauce that nobody can pronounce)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and (lots of) pepper to taste

the croutons:

Yes I know what you’re thinking, but put down that box of “Restaurant Style Croutons” and give this a chance.  It’s easy, quick, and quite frankly tastes way better than the boxed ones (no offense to the people who actually make them).  I simply took white Ciabbata bread, cut it into little cubes, drizzled some olive oil, sprinkled with some spices, and baked at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  (I figured if I convert the recipe into a long run-on sentence instead of a list of ingredients and steps, it might seem like less work).  As for spices? I used garlic powder, pepper, basil, and oregano, but you can use whatever you like.

the rest of the salad:

Romaine lettuce
Parmesan cheese

Here is where it gets fancy: assemble the Romaine and croutons, and toss with desired amount of dressing; garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.

And here’s what I really mean: put everything in a bowl, even the pieces that fell onto the counter.  Grab a fork and take the whole thing to the couch.  If you see a big piece of anchovy, ignore it and chew really fast.  Also, make a mental note that you need to improve your mincing skills

The Caesar.

As for the anchovies, they really aren’t that bad.  Let’s just call them an acquired taste…




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