Monday, September 27, 2010

Welcome to the World, JW!

I made this tomato basil pasta and red velvet cupcakes for a baby welcoming party for some friends.

Chicken Soup

Duty called. My boyfriend was sick. I made him chicken soup. But, this was the only pic I took because I was also making a Tomato Basil Pasta and cupcakes for a baby welcoming party (next post). It was a busy morning in the kitchen on Sunday. Basically, chop the veggies and simmer in broth. Brown the chicken and simmer with veggies. Good for the soul. I also make what I call my witch's brew to help ease his sore throat. It seems to be working...

Seared Scallops over Saffron Rice & Veggies

It's been almost a year since our trip to Spain. While in Spain, I bought some (very expensive) saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Here's a photo I pulled from the archives of me in La Boqueria buying saffron from the spice lady:

I decided to pull my precious bottle out and make some saffron rice. But, then I had to figure out what to eat with the saffron rice. And I thought scallops! So, I pulled the saffron out of it's dark, hiding place:
I got this bottle at La Boqueria in Barcelona. The spice lady wrapped it up really nice for me. This little bottle cost me a pretty penny (or should I say pennies). It's sealed with candlewax, as you can see here:
So, to make the saffron rice, I started by soaking a few strands of saffron in hot water for about 15 minutes.

Saffron Rice:
A few strands of saffron
1 cup rice
1.5 cups of stock (I used chicken stock)
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves of minced garlic

1. Melt the butter. Add garlic and cook until brown. Add rice and cook in garlic butter for about 5 minutes.

2. Add stock and saffron water. Let it come to a boil. Cover. Lower heat, and cook for about 30 minutes.

While rice is cooking, prepare scallops and veggies. Wash and rinse scallops. Dry scallops in paper towels to absorb water. Wash, cut and dry veggies. I used bok choy, green beans, snow peas and red bell peppers.

When rice is ready, saute veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper. Plate veggies and rice.
Sear scallops. Heat pan (supposedly a stainless steel pan will result in better coloring than a nonstick pan). Melt butter and place scallops in pan for about 3 minutes. Do not move the scallops once they've been placed on the pan. Also, make sure to leave space between scallops in the pan.
Flip over and sear the other side for another 3 minutes or so.
That's it! Plate the scallops over the saffron rice and you're ready to eat. The saffron rice brought me back to Spain and the scallops and veggies were just really good. I ate a total of 5 scallops because I'm a pig, but it was so good :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Do you know what the secret to making a good grilled cheese sandwich is? Other than good bread and good cheese, that is...

Low heat. That's right. The low heat allows the cheese to melt and the bread to toast at the same time, so you are not burning the bread. Make your next grilled cheese sandwich this way, and you'll have a perfectly toasted, perfectly melted grilled cheese sandwich.

Bread, butter, shredded cheese

1. Heat pan in low heat. When pan is hot
2. Butter the outside of first slice of bread (I eat whole grain wheat bread, so you'll get a different golden color if you use white bread). Place the buttered side of bread on pan and then
3. Sprinkle shredded cheese onto bread (non buttered side).

4. Butter second slice of bread, place buttered side on top. Cover. The cover allows the heat to melt the cheese while the low heat is toasting the bread.
5. When bottom side of first slice of bread has turned golden, flip sandwich. When the second side of bread is toasted, your sandwich is ready.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Indian" Night - Chicken Tikka Masala, Chana Masala with Basmati Rice and Naan

I put "Indian" in quotations because Chicken Tikka Masala is not an authentic dish. I believe the British or British Indians conceivedthe dish.

Dinner for two:
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chana Masala
Basmati rice

I also had to throw in the veggies I got at the farmer's market that morning, too! I love veggies.

I had all the spices needed to make the Chicken Tikka Masala except the garam masala. So, I went to the Indian market, and it was there that I found a pre-mixed spice box. So, I decided to get that (it's kinda like using Mama Sita's to make Chicken Adobo).

A few simple ingredients: chicken thighs (can use breast, but I like dark meat better), a few tablespoons crushed canned tomatoes, half a chopped onion, and the spice mix.

1. Brown the onions and add chicken and spices.
2. Cook chicken.
3. Once chicken is cooked, add tomato sauce and 2 cups of water, lower heat, cover and let simmer until liquid reduces.

Once the juices have reduced, your Chicken Tikka Masala is ready!

At the same time I was making the chicken, I was also making the Chana Masala (chickpeas). The ingredients are essentially the same. I picked up a mix for the Chana Masala and they were spicier than the Chicken Tikka Masala blend.

Ingredients: 1 can of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) - washed and rinsed, a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, half a chopped onion, and the Chana Masala spice blend.

The steps are essentially the same as well:
1. Brown onions
2. Add tomato sauce to pan of browned onions:
3. Add the beans and spice:
4. Mix well. Once mixed, add 1.5 cups of water. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer until water has reduced significantly (approx. 30-45 minutes)

After both the chicken and the beans were ready, I made the naan bread. The Indian market had the frozen naan bread, and all I had to do was heat them and brown them in a pan. The meal was served with a side of basmati rice.

All in all, this was a great meal. Easy to prepare, and relatively inexpensive. We would have spent around $15-20 a plate at our local Indian restaurant. My bf said "the chickpeas are badass." He really liked the heat from the spices. The chicken was nice and tender as well. Yay for happy tummies :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The World is a Mean Place. Let's Bake!

Over the last two days, I've encountered some shitty people. Shitty enough to bring me down. So, in order to keep my mind off the world's ugly people, I decided to bake some cupcakes. I used the recipes from The Hummingbird Bakery book I got for my birthday. I don't know who's going to eat all these cupcakes (these are about half of what I baked). I certainly won't be able to, and my bf is "trying to stay away from goodness." But, they were fun to make and occupied my mind for a bit.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Apple Pastries

I decided I wanted something sweet. I had these apples my brother gave me from his yard that I've had for awhile and I needed to do something with them. It was pretty late in the evening, and I didn't have time to make the dough, but good thing I had some frozen puff pastries in the freezer. I had bought them once with the intention of making a baked brie (that never happened). So, it's a good thing I had the frozen puff pastries in the freezer. I let it thaw and made me some apple pastries using apples from my brother's backyard.
I know there's a peach in that picture. I was going to use it too, but decided not to.
Just a couple of ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg).
Combined with thinly sliced apples.
Add a few cubes of butter and bake.
Quick and easy dessert for a weeknight.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Goodness, Part II: Buttermilk Fried Chicken ala Ad Hoc at Home

It was a Monday evening and I was really wanting to visit Ad Hoc in Napa for their bi-weekly Buttermilk Fried Chicken. I had no idea whether it was even Fried Chicken Monday...but, I did know that I wouldn't be able to make it to Napa that evening. So, I did the next best thing and decided to bust out my Ad Hoc at Home book and tackle the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It took a lot of prep work (the night prior) and I ran into some unanticipated road blocks (smokey house), but I always prevail! Anyway, I prepared the chicken brine and let it sit for exactly 9 hours (the recipe said to brine for no longer than 11 hours).

The brine:
Below are some shots of the batter as well as the dipping station I set up. As you can see there was a variety of herbs used.

I heated up the oil, and noticed how the entire house got smokey - uh oh. I really don't like the smell of oil or frying anything, but I figured Thomas Keller's chicken is worth it. I decided to resurrect our deep fryer (which have not been used in about 6 years). All in all, the chicken was super juicy and tender and was a good meal. I'm sure the chefs at Ad Hoc make it a thousand times better than I, but that's because they are professionals. Me, I'm just an amateur. I served the fried chicken with the mac & cheese I made earlier in the day for lunch.

* I made a total of 6 pieces of thighs, but we ate 3 of them (the reason why there's only 3 pieces of chicken in the first photo)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Goodness: Mac & Cheese w/ Corn on the Cob

I have been craving mac & cheese for a few days, so I went to the grocery store last night to get the ingredients. It was a little strange grocery shopping at night because I usually do it during the day. I made the mac & cheese today for lunch and will have it again for dinner along with some Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Ad Hoc at Home (the chicken is currently brine-ing in the fridge).

1 (16 oz.) pkg. macaroni (whole wheat)
1 cup milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup swiss cheese, grated
1 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
2 tsp. onion salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup flour
Panko crumbs (enough to cover)
*original recipe found here

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
I started by shredding the 3 types of cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack). You can also buy the pre-shredded cheeses, but I actually like to do the prep work myself (plus, it's cheaper if you buy the block).

Cook pasta for about 5-6 minutes. Drain.
Here are the ingredients:

Combine milk, chicken broth with pasta. Stir.
Combine the rest of the ingredients.

Pour in a baking pan. I also used two ramekins (for lunch).

Place in oven. Cook for approximately 35 minutes.
For the last few minutes, turn oven to broil and sprinkle a layer of Panko crumbs and cook until crumbs are golden.
Let cool slightly before serving.