Sunday, August 28, 2011

M's version of Potato Salad

If you've ever been with me at a picnic or BBQ or cookout or whatever the damn kids are calling it these days, you may have noticed I don't eat the cole slaw, macaroni, pasta or potato salads...this is primarily due to my dislike for mayo, though the fact that the mayo has been baking under sun also makes me want to hurl. That being said, I sort of never eat potato salad and I decided to create a new strand so that I can offer it up for those that crave the standard BBQ fare at my house and dislike my offering them homemade hummus or couscous rather than a mayo-globbed broccoli salad (yuck!). 

For my take on potato salad, I use the same main ingredient - namely, potatoes - and I always opt for red ones, but that is negotiable. So you boil the potatoes and when they are cooked but still firm, you let them cool for at least an hour or more. PS - do not peel the potatoes, the skin is the best part, come on!

Served here with some pepper-crusted albacore tuna steaks.
So once the potatoes are cool, quarter them and then toss them in a bowl, skin and all. Now you want to douse them with olive oil (maybe 1/3 cup), some chopped onion that you can sauté for a few minutes if you're so inclined (I am), about 2 cloves of smashed/minced garlic, some gently torn basil leaves, a little bit of thyme and lastly balsamic vinegar (also about 1/3 cup). You mix it all up and tada - a new take on a standard where the only technical step is boiling the damn water. One caveat, don't add the olive oil and vinegar until you're fairly close to serving it or else it will get mushy.

- Melissa

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garlic Spears with Pasta, Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes

So admittedly, I made this maybe two months ago and have been holding onto it for a time when I was low on blog fodder - namely due to my own vacation, my co-bloggers having taken a sabbatical and, well, just cooking for one a lot of the time. (No, I will not admit on here what those 'menus' sometimes entail, though suffice it to say, wine and bagels are high on the list.) 

Anyway, I made this when garlic spears were in season and now they are not - sorry. Some of you may recall that I attempted this awhile back and it didn't work {} but this second time it was a huge success. In the meantime, since you can't get your hands on these babies till sometime in spring, you can substitute asparagus and then just dump in loads of actual garlic and it will still be yum. Deal? 

For starters, I opted for boneless chicken breasts, sliced into thick strips which I then began to lightly poach in some chicken broth, adding in just a pinch of onion powder and garlic. After they began to turn white (so semi-cooked) I drained the broth from the pan and then added the chicken back in with enough olive oil to just coat the pan and about 2 tbsps of butter, plus salt and pepper. Let this cook for about 5-10 minutes, turning the chicken at least once and letting it sear a little. Then you want to reduce the heat a little, add 1/3 cup white wine (please make sure it is a DRY WINE!!!) and then another 2-3 tbsps of butter (to be honest, I am sure I added more to create the sauce, but I am also using light, olive oil-based 'I Can't Believe Its Not Butter', so choose accordingly, I'm not advocating Paula Dean gluttony here.) Let that all stew together and meanwhile, make your pasta (I used whole wheat penne).

Now, I also added some crushed almonds into the chicken and sauce mixture, but that is totally not necessary if you're not a fan. You can likewise add some breadcrumbs if you want, I just prefer the almonds. Once the pasta is close to done, the chicken is cooked and the sauce is resembling sauce, you want to place the garlic spears in the sauté pan with the chicken and sauce. To prep them all you need to do is trim the ends and rinse - the entire head and bulb is edible! Let these cook for maybe 5 minutes*. I mean, you want them to get warm, seep into the sauce and then that's it. Anymore than that and the garlic flavor begins to loose its bite and the dish will take on another taste.

*If you are using asparagus instead you'll want to cook it longer, so add it earlier in the process...though for that, more than 10 minutes and you'll have mush.

Lastly, I grated some asiago cheese on top and arranged the sun dried tomatoes as garnish.

- Melissa

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce with Shrimp and Stirfry

This was requested by a lovely reader that I call a friend and I have been remiss in getting around to making it happen. Yet, I found the time this week and I must say, I did a hell of a job making this dream come true! (Even if saying it was her dream is hyperbole, let me bask in the glow of satisfying a request, ok?)

So I made a homemade Thai peanut sauce and while there are hundreds of recipes out there, this is the one I use, which is a tweaked combination of two recipes and, in my humble opinion, is amazing without being complicated.

For starters, start your rice as it will take the longest. If you are besmirching this sauce and using microwave rice, which is ok (not really), ignore this and start the sauce first. For real rice, start the sauce when the rice is about 3/4 way done.

Now, in a sauce pan (mine is pictured above since I feel you all might be confused but what I refer to as my sauce pan...) over medium heat you want to pour 2 tbsp of sesame oil, crushed ginger (about 2 tsps) and then about 1/2 cup of peanut butter. I use chunky peanut butter, and I suppose you could use creamy, but trust me it loses something in comparison. Anyway, let it cook until the peanut butter starts to melt and thin out a little. Then turn down the heat to low and stir in 1 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tsps of wasabi paste (it comes in a tube in the 'international aisle' at the grocery; store it in the fridge, it is terribly useful!) and let it all cook together, while stirring frequently. Now, as always with my cooking, you'll need to taste and see if it needs more wasabi or more peanut butter and then add accordingly. After it is more liquid, remove from heat.

Meanwhile, as the sauce is simmering, heat up your wok to high heat (um, don't have a wok? $10 at Ikea, go for it) and drizzle it with some more sesame oil and a little soy sauce. Then add in 3 cloves of crushed garlic and let it all start to smoke just a little. Then add in the shrimp (if you are using chicken, add this in first and let it cook longer before the veggies since it will take longer) and veggies. Admittedly, I used frozen veggies for the ease of it...Trader Joe's makes a fine oriental blend that works for me. But if you are more energetic, I'd suggest chopping broccoli, carrots and adding in some onion, string beans and water chestnuts.

After the shrimp (or chicken) and veggies are looking a little more cooked/defrosted, dump in the peanut sauce and let it all marry together in a joyous thick clump of rich goodness. Once everything is coated with the sauce and you've let it cook for about five minutes together in the wok, serve it up. I used brown, sticky jasmine rice.

In order to up the heat for myself, I sprinkled the finished plate with some crushed red pepper, which does the trick if you're into that sort of thing.

- Melissa

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fish Tacos with Spicy Peach Salsa

So here is something I threw together the other night....we'd defrosted some 'fish pieces' (happened to be Alaskan Cod) and were trying to think of how to serve them. I recalled we had some pretty ripe white peaches and so I decided to make some salsa, from scratch.

First off, if you don't have access to fish pieces, you can just make some filleted white fish and then break it apart. Cod, mahimahi or even halibut if that's how you roll. To prepare the fish, I put it on a cookie sheet, drizzled some olive oil and then sprinkled it all with salt and pepper before baking it at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. Once it looks white and not translucent you're safe, but you really want to leave it in there just long enough so that it begins to almost brown on the edges.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat up some olive oil and some chopped white onion, about 1/4 of a larger onion will do. Next dice up half a serrano pepper (um, this is HOT, you don't need more than this), one tomato and two peaches. You want to stir in the peaches first and then let them simmer over medium heat with the olive oil and onion. Pour in some apple cider vinegar (say 1/3 cup) and about 1 tsp of sugar (splenda works as well). Continue to simmer it away and after it gets soft and starts to gel together, toss in the diced pepper and tomatoes. After another 5 minutes, stir in some cilantro; if it is too sweet, add vinegar and if it is too tart, add sugar/splenda. Then let it all cook on low heat for close to 15 minutes and then remove it from heat and let it cool. You can make this in advance and put it in the fridge for up to a day or two.

This was served with shredded lettuce on whole wheat tortillas.

- Melissa

Friday, August 5, 2011

White Bean Tomato Dip

This is a quick, can prepare ahead of time, and easy dip that is great for company coming over or even to bring to someone's house. It is a little spanish influenced, so really, consider it a great Cinco de Mayo (or Agosto!) appetizer.
First you need to get a can of Northern White Beans...not Fava, not Kidney and not Pinto....Northern White, ok? Try the Goya aisle of the grocery store.
In retrospect, I wish I'd had some broccoli florets on hand to replace the carrots. Oh well!
Heat 1/3 cup of veggie broth in a saucepan until it is almost boiling, but not quite. Then add 1 to 2 cloves of minced garlic (depending on your love of the stuff) and let it simmer. Now you want to pour the broth/garlic mixture into a food processor, along with some olive oil, the drained can of beans and about 1/4-1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes. For the tomatoes, I used the ones that come in the jar with oil and did NOT rinse or drain them. Blend this all together until it is sort of smooth, then slap it in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or more at least. 

Top it with some parsley and/or cilantro when you're ready to serve.
I served it with a sliced baguette that I toasted in the oven, blue tortilla chips and carrots. The carrots were because I forgot to get broccoli - so learn from my mistake! - though really, most vegetables will work, even though the chips and bread was far more complimentary in my, I mean mind. 
- Melissa 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Espresso Steaks

So. I've been away...not from my home really...but from my kitchen a lot lately, and for that I am sorry, dear readers. To make it up to you, I will be posting a few things this week and know for certain that my co-bloggers will be doing the same.

Today we're going to talk about a meal that is on the sweeter side, at least by my palate's leanings, but that may be because I combined these two items together. Feel free to separate them and pair with different partners, like the sweet potatoes with chicken (should've done that!) or the steaks with regular red potatoes. Anyway, for starters, you want to slice your sweet potatoes (2 large potatoes makes plenty), almost as if you were making little rounds. Not too thin though because they need to not fall apart during cooking. Then you want to coat them with olive oil, cinnamon and chopped shallots, about say 1/2 cup, and throw it all in a pyrex dish. Bake that at 350, and check on them to shift the potato slices around, for close to 35-45 minutes. Though if they start to get mushy, pull them out!

Now at the same time you want to create the rub for your steaks, speaking of which, a thinner cut here without a bone is better so look for the round cuts of tenderloin. Best part, those are typically the less expensive cuts and this rub makes them seem a lot more 'decadent' than they really are. So what you want to do is mix ground black pepper (1 tsp at the most), 2 tbsp brown sugar and 3 tbsp of ground espresso. Yes, you can use coffee if the espresso fairy hasn't visited your kitchen lately, but it does lose a little flavor. Simply dredge the steaks in the mixture until they are pretty well-coated on both sides and let those sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes so the rub sticks.

Once the potatoes are far enough along, you want to get a pan ready to sear these steaks - I used my cast iron skillet. Get that extremely hot and then pour in a little olive oil and toss those steaks in. You really want the middle pink and the outside charred, so you need to keep a close eye on these. It should take about 5-6 minutes per side, maybe less. Walk away for five minutes and I promise you'll lose the pink since they are thin cuts. While that is sizzling away, get those potatoes out of the oven and heat up a smaller teflon frying pan and then dump the potatoes into the pan with whatever oil is left in the pyrex dish. This sort of crisps the potatoes just a little bit...but if you think it is overkill, skip it!

PS- we totally had a salad with this and I should've added it the plate above for color contrast. Oh well.

- Melissa

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