Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sometimes simple things are the best.

One of my favorite breakfasts is what Marlo and I call "Dipping Eggs." The British call these "Eggs & Soldiers." That is, in American Speak, soft boiled eggs and buttered toast cut into strips for dipping.

If you haven't tried this, and enjoy sunny-side-up or over-medium eggs, you'll like it. If you are a "my eggs have to be cooked until they resemble hockey pucks" type of person, you'll probably want to pass this by.

Quite simply, you boil eggs for 3 minutes if using large eggs, or 4 minutes if using extra large eggs. While the eggs are cooking, toast and butter your bread. When done, put into egg cups, slice off the top and add a little salt.


This is what Marlo and I consider breakfast comfort food.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Cambodia

This week's My Kitchen, My World flight headed to Cambodia. The destination was selected by Lauren of I'll Eat You who is the new My Kitchen My World moderator.

In order to better understand our trip, I have obtained the following information from Cambodia's wiki page (and see original wiki page, linked above, for all citation sources):

The first civilization appeared in Cambodia in the 1st Millenium AD. In its more recent history, Cambodia was a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, administered as part of the colony of French Indochina. After war-time occupation by the Japanese empire from 1941 to 1945, Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953. It became a constitutional monarchy under King Norodom Sihanouk.

Unfortunately, Cambodia's happy independence was quickly interrupted by the Vietnam war, which spilled over into Cambodia. The communist Khmer Rouge fought for control and finally reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975, changing the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot. The Regime, heavily influenced and backed by China, immediately evacuated the cities and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on the model of the 11th century. They discarded Western medicine, destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered western. Any person with trained skills, doctors, lawyers, teachers, were especially targeted. With that result, hundreds of thousands died from starvation and disease there were almost no drugs in the country.

Estimates vary as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime, ranging from approximately one to three million. This era has given rise to the term Killing Fields, and the prison Tuol Sleng became as notorious as Auschwitz in the history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands more fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand.

In November 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to stop Khmer Rouge incursions across the border and the genocide in Cambodia. Violent occupation and warfare between the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge holdouts continued throughout the 1980s. Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament.

On March 17, 2003, the United Nations reached a draft agreement with the Cambodian government for an special criminal tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. The agreement came after five years of negotiations and 24 years after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power. Under the agreement, the panel of judges will include a majority of Cambodians. Human rights groups argue that the government's ability to impose its will on these judges poses an unacceptable obstacle to justice. On the other hand, with many likely defendents over the age of 70, time is running out for justice to be served. (Source: Global Policy Forum.)

The first trial is expected to begin in early 2009.

Despite its recent tragedies, Cambodia is a historically rich country, which is reflected in its cuisine. Many recipes have influence from Vietnam, Thailand and also its French colonization. Ultimately, I selected curry, mostly because I had most ingredients on hand.

First, I cut peeled and cut white pearl onions into quarters. Then, I sauted them in oil and butter with two teaspoons of minced garlic. Even though I was following the recipe's instructions on this, if I could do it over again, I would begin by sauteing the onions well before adding the garlic because the garlic began to brown and burn well before the onions were soft. Also, I grated a teaspoon or so of fresh ginger before I realized that ginger wasn't on the ingredient list (brain was running on slow-mode that day). So, I went ahead and added it. Good for flavor, but a big mistake to add it when I did because ginger browns and burns even more easily than garlic.

Anyway, before the onions were really soft, but before the garlic and ginger were too far gone, I went ahead and added the coconut milk, meat (I used pork) and potatoes. I then simmered it very gently for a long time (lower and slower than called for in the recipe since I was using pork). I think that if I had used chicken instead of pork, the meat would have been done long before the potatoes. Another addition I made to the receipe was to add petite green beans a while before the meat was done simmering.

My friends, Anjali and Jeff came over for dinner. We all really enjoyed the curry, served over brown rice. I will say, though, that after cooking the recipe, I realized that it couldn't possibly be that authentic. Why? Because each serving has a whopping 1,200 calories. Holy cow! Needless to say, although the curry was supremely tasty (with all that fat, what wouldn't?), I won't be making it again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Failed, but not from my lack of execution.

Last night I made a steelhead fillet for dinner. For those of you not familiar with steelhead, it apparently is related to trout, but has a nice red firm flesh very similar to salmon. I put it in a shallow baking dish, topped with lemon slices, pats of butter and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Baked 10 minutes per inch of thickness at 400 degrees.

I bought the fillet from a local grocery store, not normally where I buy fish, because I just don't think their fish looks that good. However, this one appeared fresh in the package, and had just been packed the day before. Big mistake. The fish wasn't very fresh and had a very fishy taste, which is unusual for good, fresh fish.

Anyway, had the fish been fresh, this would have been a fantastic dinner. I served the fish alongside steamed green beans and couscous. Couscous is so very easy to make when you want a side dish that takes no time at all. You just pour boiling water over the couscous grains and let sit covered for five minutes and then fluff with a fork. You gotta love any recipe that ends with instructions to "fluff."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash & Carmelized Onion Galette

I subscribe to several cooking blogs. On Saturday morning as I scrolled through the unread items in my Google Reader, I saw a recipe for a Butternut Squash Galette, which is a free-form tart. I cannot remember whose blog it was at this time, so you'll have to hit Google for the exact recipe.

It looked so good that I just had to make this recipe! I had all the necessary ingredients, except for some Fontina and fresh sage leaves, which Mom sent over from her fridge (the cheese) and my sister's herb garden (the sage, obviously).

First, I peeled and cut up a butternut squash. Then, I roasted it in a 350 degree oven until soft.

While the squash was baking, I sliced a Walla Walla sweet onion thin and then carmelized it in a cast-iron pan. If I re-do this recipe, I would use a regular yellow onion to provide a bit more contrast to the squash's sweetness, especially since carmelizing onion makes them sweet as well.

I mixed the squash, onion, shredded Fontina and chopped sage leaves in a bowl.

I placed the filling in the center of a pre-made Trader Joe's pie crust, leaving a margin around the edges. I folded the dough up over the edge of the filling, pleating it as necessary to make it fit. (It is at this stage that the photo was taken.)

The tart is then baked at 400 degrees for about a half hour until golden brown. It was heavenly and, again, smelled so good that I forgot to take a final photo.

My cousin Julie had some into town to stay the night, and Marlo graced us with her presence for dinner (sometimes a big victory with teenagers on a Saturday night). Everyone enjoyed it very much.

Julie ate some of the leftovers for lunch on Sunday, and I had some for Monday's lunch. It wasn't nearly as good re-heated, but still very tasty.

Will you marry me, Joe?

I've written before about my obsession with Trader Joe's, but last night's dinner really cemented my love affair.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the required fixings for pizza such as whole wheat pizza dough, shredded Italian cheeses, pizza sauce, and these spicy chicken Italian sausages. Yesterday was the expiration date on the dough so I placed pizza squarely on the menu for dinner last night.

This was so easy, yet so good and satisfying. All I had to do was spread the pizza dough out on a pan. (I used a sheet pan, but it would have been even better with a pizza stone.)

Then, I spread out the pizza sauce I bought from Trader Joe's. This pizza sauce was so much better than canned and way better than anything I could have made myself. It had a long-cooked tomato flavor, nicely spiced, with a hint of sweetness.

On my last trip to Trader Joe's, I had picked up a package of grilled zucchini and eggplant from the frozen vegetable section. I defrosted several slices of each and then cut them up with scissors for the top of the pizza. Originally, I was just going to lay them whole across the top, but once they were defrosted I realized that they were much more liquidity than I anticipated. I thought whole slices would have made the pizza soggy, so I cut them up into small bits.

Then, on one half of the pizza, I laid slices of the chicken Italian sausage, and on the other, julienned strips of salami. (This is the stage at which the photograph was taken.)

A sprinkling of cheese over the whole thing, baked for 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees and Voila! (Okay, that's French, but I don't know the equivalent expression in Italian.) Fresh pizza for dinner in less time than it would have taken for delivery and at far less expense.

It smelled so good when it came out of the oven, I forgot to take another photo! Marlo thought it was really good and preferred both sides of the pizza equally. I preferred the side with the Italian sausage as the salami didn't end up having as much flavor as I would have liked.

I actually wish I had bought two pizza dough packages because I have some leftover pizza sauce and cheese, and this seems to have triggered some sort of wild pizza craving. Maybe they put some addictive pizza chemical in the sauce?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Argentina

Yes, yes, sometimes I am just very lame. This week's My Kitchen My World foray is a good example. Theresa of I'm Running to Eat selected Argentina as the country of the week.

Now, all I know about Argentina can be summed up in a few sentences:

  • It is a South American Country.
  • My dad used to spend weeks at a time teaching there for Boeing.
  • A military Junta ruled the country and caused the "disappearances" of thousands of people. The Junta would come in the middle of the night driving green Ford Falcons, the sight of which still causes a jolt of fear in the hearts of Argentineans.
  • Nazi's escaped from Europe after WWII and sought refuge in Argentina.
  • Argentineans eat beef - lots of it.
I googled the Internet a bit searching for recipes. Meanwhile, I asked Dad to bring over some beef since I don't normally cook it at home unless it is in the form of Beef Burgundy, Pot Roast or Burgers. He dropped off some steaks.

Saturday, I made several loaves of no-knead bread, and a butternut squash & roasted onion galette (blog post coming soon). By the time evening came around, I was too beat to find an Argentinian recipe and make it. So, I ended up frying the steaks in a hot cast iron pan, served along side green beans, a slice of the galette and the fresh baked bread.

Considering these were the first steaks I have cooked in my own house, by myself, for at least 5 years, I'm considering the consumption of unadulterated cow my nod to Argentina.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Morocco

I made last week's My Kitchen My World recipe tonight - late because I have been sick since last Friday. I made Moroccan chicken as Morocco was the country selected by fellow Chef with Passport Judy.

This was a great recipe. I modified it only by cutting way back on the cayenne pepper from 1/4 teaspoon to a dash since I didn't want a repeat of my Curried Zucchini Soup over-hotness. Also, the recipe says to brown the chicken until nearly cooked, to simmer the mix after adding the tomatoes for 10 minutes and then for another 15 minutes after adding the zucchini. I added the tomatoes, chickpeas and zucchini at the same time and then cooked until the zucchini was done. The chicken was perfect and not overcooked, which I think would have happened had I followed the recipe exactly. Also, at the end I thickened the sauce up a little bit (very little) with cornstarch. I served it over couscous.

Marlo said, "It was good, fresh and colorful. The only thing I would suggest is to cut the ginger very fine or you'll be chewing little bits of it."

Monday, October 13, 2008

MKMW Update

I haven't gotten this week's My Kitchen, My World recipe done as I have been ill all weekend. This week is Morocco and I was supposed to make a Moroccan stew to take to an all-girls retreat at my friend Karol's family's lake house. Not only did I not get the stew done, I also missed the retreat.

As soon as I'm well and done feeling pathetically sorry for myself, I'll make the stew and post about it. :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Ecuador

This week's trip around the culinary world from the My Kitchen My World blog was Ecuador, selected by Shelby of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. Mom sent me a bunch of links of recipes she found, but none of them appealed to me exactly. However, I noticed that some of the recipes featured quinoa. I was intrigued. Why? Because I've had a box of it in the pantry for a long time. I googled "Ecuador and Quinoa" and found a recipe for Ecuadorian Quinoa Soup in The Atlantic.

It doesn't sound appetizing to say, but the most appealing thing about this recipe was the number of ingredients it was going to use up from my fridge and pantry that needed to be used: Green onions, cabbage, 1/2 a yellow onion in a ziploc bag, the aforementioned quinoa, avocado and russet potatoes. I only had to borrow some cumin from my mom since I wasn't going to the store.

The recipe is simple (I'll let you get it from the Atlantic since it is copyrighted material):

I started by sauting the green and yellow onion with the cumin and paprika. I cheated a little where the receipe called for dried oregano and used Herbs de Provence since I had forgotten to borrow some from mom.

After the onions are soft, you add the quinoa, potatoes, cabbage and water and cook until done.

We topped ours with diced avocado, but you can also use cilantro or peanuts.

I shared this meal with my wonderful friend Theresa who came over to go shopping at Ikea, and Tristyn, a lady that I had hired to help me get my house cleaned and organized following the move. We needed to add more salt and pepper to the soup, but all of us found it very tasty.

Click here to see what the other Chefs with Passports have created.

(Because I'm up blogging at 2:30 a.m., I can tell you that next week's country is Morocco!)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Super-Easy Flavorful & Healthy Dinner

Tonight, I made taco soup. Instead of using the standard recipe floating around the Internet, I made up my own so that I could use up a bunch of ingredients that I had in my freezer and pantry.

I had about a pound of leftover turkey taco meat in my freezer that I had previously browned and made using a commercial taco-seasoning mix. I popped that into a soup pot, added a large sized can (28 oz) of pinto beans, a normal size can (~14 oz) of diced tomatoes with jalepenos, and a can of whole kernel corn. I let it simmer while I finished baking the no-knead bread dough that I had mixed up yesterday night before going to bed.

Marlo came in while I was cooking and asked me if I'd make some roasted garlic to go on the bread to eat with the soup. I had exactly enough time to roast the garlic while my Le Creuset dutch oven was pre-heating for the bread and the bread was baking.

I can't believe how easy it is to roast garlic, and it was so good to eat! I cut off the tops of two heads of garlic, peeled away most of the paper skin around the heads, drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then wrapped them in a foil packet. These took about an hour because the garlic heads were extra large. We then pinched out the cloves and spread them on the no-knead bread just out of the oven. Nummy!

I garnished the soup with diced avocado and sour cream, but you could also use cilantro, salsa or shredded cheddar cheese.