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Sometimes, you need an easy weeknight meal. And this can be an easy weeknight meal with just a smidge of forethought.

This dish comes together in the time that it takes to boil pasta PROVIDED you have some roasted garlic. So just make sure you have that ready, m’kay?

How to roast garlic: preheat your oven to 350 degrees, take a head of garlic, lop off a little of the stem (not the root) end, put it in a piece of foil, coat it in oil, close up the foil tightly around the garlic and roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle – squeeze roasted garlic from each of the cloves.

Store: use right away, freeze or refrigerate in airtight container for up to a week tops.

Anyway, I had a craving for pasta with peas in a cream sauce and came across this one from Wolfgang Puck that sounded like it would fit the bill. He uses goat cheese, I use mascarpone. I like feta, but plain old goat cheese is a little too rank for my likings. Hence the swap.

Pasta with Peas and Prosciutto in Mascarpone Cream Sauce

Adapted from Wolfgang Puck
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
3 T olive oil
1/2 medium white onion (4 oz), chopped fine
2 T of roasted garlic
1.5 cups Chicken stock
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz Mascarpone cheese (Puck uses goat cheese here)
1 T butter (Puck uses 4 T…I couldn’t do it)
1/2 t minced fresh oregano
1/2 t minced fresh thyme
12 oz pasta (Puck uses Penne)
8-10 oz shelled peas (Puck uses 8 oz, but a bag has 10 so…)
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes cut into strips
1/4 cup prosciutto cut into strips
chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook till al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large saute pan, heat the oil. Over medium heat, saute the onions until golden.

3. Stir in the garlic, stock, Parmesan, Mascarpone and butter. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with the oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the cooked pasta to the saute pan. Stir to coat.

5. Stir in the peas and tomatoes and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Just before serving, stir in the prosciutto. Adjust seasonings. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley if desired.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Bagels!

Boiling bagels gives them a crisp crust

Boiling bagels gives them a crisp crust

Do you like your bagels steamed or boiled? That is the question.

To be honest, before I made them myself, I didn’t have a clue. If someone had told me – I know the place to get the best hand rolled, steamed bagels, I would say GREAT! Lead the way! Being not from Bagel-land, I had no idea what makes a great bagel. A little research has unearthed the fact that bagel afficionados prefer the boiled bagel. It’s the way they “used to do it” before places with the 6 inch Cinnamon Crunch bagel took over the world (not naming any names here).

What does boiling do exactly? Well, it gives the bagel a little bit of a chewy crust. And really, you when you make these, you will realize this makes all the difference in the world. The water doesn’t really penetrate very far into the dough during boiling (something about the starches gelatinizing), so there is this very slight crust that is formed that forms when baking. You will notice the little bit of crunch on the crust that you just don’t get from steamed bagels. And the bagels themselves are chewier. To be honest, they rule. The little bit of crust is the “holy cow – these are so much better” that willl set your homemade, boiled bagels apart from the ones you get at the local bagel shop (well, alright, unless you are lucky enough to live by a place that actually boils their bagels. Most don’t though  – it is too labor intensive a process).

Next up, of course, there is the water controversy. As in, “bagels can only be made from water from Brooklyn. The End”. Well, what’s a Chicaogoan to do? I mean, I COULD import water like this Bagel place. Alas, I think good old Chicago tap will have to do.

Alright, making your own bagels takes time, but it isn’t hard. It is a two day process. Which is actually ok because you want your bagels fresh, first thing in the morning, right? So get to it. You won’t be disappointed.

The recipe I used is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, which, if you haven’t already checked this book out and are interested in baking, GET THIS BOOK PRONTO (and if you don’t want to get the book, head over to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe). It is bread making demystified. And if you are interested in learning bread making with a whole mess of people from around the world, get in on the BBA Challenge (I, personally, cannot bring myself to bake bread every week, but I will s-l-o-w-l-y work my way through the book on my own).

Oh – one note – I caramelized some onions to use as a topper. I would not recommend doing that. They are just way too greasy. Instead – I would probably purchase onion flakes or some sort of dehydrated onion product.  Just my two cents.

Finally – storage. I stored mine on the counter on a plate…loosely wrapped in plastic wrap for maybe 3 days. I would have stored them in the freezer, but we had company that weekend and managed to blow through the whole batch pretty quickly. I would not, under any circumstances, stick them in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

Ever been to one of those olive oil/vinegar bars? I know they are popping up all over the place – even the local mall. When I was in Door County, WI a few months ago, I finally visited one.

If you live in, say, the Chicago area, you should be quite familiar with Door County. It’s one of the 20-some destinations in Wisconsin that frazzled Chicagoans escape to on the weekends during the summer. And as such, yes, there is a bit of Chicago-Wisconsin animosity. I know – I used to live there. I readily used the term FIB* and yet…now I am one.

Anyhow, Door County is filled with little shops and restaurants. I am a bit nostalgic about the place – having gone there almost yearly since birth (in my pre-FIB days). As I said previously, on my most recent trip, I came across a little olive oil/vinegar bar called Fish Creek Oilerie. They had all kinds of oils and vinegars to sample. I came across their aged balsamic – did a shot and…swoon! This is some of the best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had. Especially for the price. So I scarfed up a bottle.

Now what to do with it? Tons of things. I’ve been meaning to glaze some chicken with it. But for today, we’re going to throw it on some berries.

I wish I could give a recipe for this, but I really don’t have one. I eyeballed everything.

More or less, this is what I did:

Ingredients:
Berries
Balsamic Vinegar
Sugar
Mascarpone
Vanilla Extract

Sliced some berries.

Poured a few tablespoons of balsamic into a bowl. Added a smidge of sugar. Tossed in the berries and stirred to coat.

Then I grabbed another bowl – threw in maybe half a cup of mascarpone cheese. Then maybe 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. And maybe some sugar. Stirred it up.

Then I put the berries in a serving dish and served them with a dollop of mascarpone.

Good stuff! Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

*For your education: FIB.

DIY Spice Storage

My new tins all lined up nicely.

Oh… my old spice rack. What a piece…

Well, let’s back up and first start with my kitchen and its faults. It is tiny, but it is efficient. There is not a lot of extra space to put stuff though. I have one very high cabinet that I use for spices. Since it is so high, there are times when even I (taller than your average woman) need the step ladder. Most notably, when reaching to the back of the spice rack. Invariably, I will knock a bottle over and the five bottles in front of it will also come tumbling down.

This was driving me insane.

I mean, sometimes I felt like if I just breathed wrong, they would projectile at my face.

My old solution to organize my spices was one of those step rack contraptions purchased probably at Ikea/Bed Bath and Beyond/Buy More Crap for Your Home places. The way it works is – you precariously balance all of your top heavy spice bottles on the rack in the cabinet. Then you shut the cabinet door and you hear them falling on top of each other. That’s about the gist of it.

So then you swear and swear and swear some more.

And then you get back on top of the step ladder, CAREFULLY open the door and catch all of the spice bottles that have displaced themselves before they fall and dent the stove. Again.

Old spice cabinet - sure is fug, no?

So I googled a solution to my predicament.

My requirements:

1. Not easy to knock over spices. So, containers need to be wider than tall.

2. Easy to get measuring spoons in/out.

3. Big enough to accommodate ALL my spices. Yeah – even you Sumac-that-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with. Some day I will find a use for you.

4. Um, cute? And designerly in some way?

So many options…

There was the cute, albeit totally impractical test tube rack. Then there was the racks of little tins held and the variation which was a board with the tins held on by a magnet – which unfortunately only allowed for maybe 20 spices which is about 30 short of my total. I did see one solution that I was intrigued by – the pull out shelf. But I kept coming back to the cute little spice tins. However, the pre-made sets were never big enough.  Then I came across a DIY spice tin solution and thought it was just too cute to pass up. Even if it was a little impractical.

I forget where I saw this inspiration – Apartment Therapy? I have no idea. Which sucks cause the person I glommed the idea from had really cute pix.

Ok. Seriously, I’ve got to find that link…it was so freaking cute. You’ll just die.

So anyway…

The tins

I decided to buy a whole mess of tins from Specialty Bottle. They were very nice and easy to deal with. I, however, really didn’t know what I was doing. I knew from a little research that I wanted lids that screwed on – the kind that just push on/pull off apparently get spices crusted in them and get hard to open after awhile. Some are unlined, which is bad. Also, sometimes the tins have a tendency to rust (I think this is mostly the ones that are unlined). This might happen if you live in an especially humid environment. I’m hoping for the best up here in the Midwest….

Anyway, I bought the 3 oz twistlug tin. They are food safe. In retrospect, these might be just a smidge too small. But I’ve got 50 of them now, so I’ll make do.

The labels

Next up – the labels. I bought some labels from Paper Source (they have a nice little template for printing that you can download at their site). In retrospect – perhaps just plain paper labels is not the wisest choice. I am the kind of person who makes a gigando mess when I’m cooking and invariably, my hands are wet when I grab the spice tin. So, some sort of protective coating on the label would have been smart…

The font

Ok, the font. I got all picky and googled and googled and googled and found some lovely design sites. This site in particular – Eat Drink Chic – has some lovely font ideas. I swoon over people who are good with typography and this woman is killer. I chose one of the fonts she has listed on her site (Ecuyer DAX I think). Downloaded from Dafont.com – my favorite font site – and typed them up.

Then I slapped the labels on the tins. Only to find out…my labels are a smidge too big. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. And from afar, they sure are cute, n’est ce pas?

Whoah...that's a lot of spices!

DIY Spice Tins

Halibut with Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce

Halibut with Ginger Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce

Ever walked into a higher-end restaurant and just get the feeling that your meal is going to be average? Something about the decor maybe or the clientele is turning you off?

And then had your socks literally knocked off? Yeah, I sorta had that experience a few months ago.

I was taking a much needed break from the city with my parents in Door County, Wisconsin. For those of you who do not know, Door County is the peninsula of Wisconsin. It’s a vacation get-away for people from Milwaukee and Chicago (note Chicagoans – yes, you are called FIB by Wisconsinites. I am now a FIB myself and am coming to terms with it. Google it if you must know) . Filled with cute shops, antiques and quaint little restaurants, such as Al Johnson’s with the goats grazing on the roof , it’s perhaps the Mid-West version of Martha’s Vineyard.

One of the quaint restaurants was the Inn at Kristopher’s located in Sister Bay. We walked in and the interior seemed a little old. Not terribly out of date – but maybe early 90’s. And well, Door County really isn’t the hippest place on the planet. Needles to say, I guess I wasn’t expecting much.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

My father and I both had the blackened Ahi Tuna (we are both suckers for raw tuna – still…even though the dish is seriously done way too often) which was absolutely fabulous and served with wonderful tender crisp Asian vegetables. But the real standout was what my mom ordered –Salmon with a Ginger Beurre Blanc sauce. I’m not one for salmon…ever…but the sauce was outstanding. Seriously wonderful combination of flavors that I had never had before. Words cannot describe how good this was. I HAD to replicate this at home.

So off to google and I came across this wonderful recipe for a Citrus Ginger Beurre Blanc sauce and I must say, this was pretty dang close. Of course, I’m so not in the mood to reprint the recipe – and I didn’t change a thing so head over there if you are interested.

Give it a whirl some time.  I served it with Halibut and some shaved cucumber and carrot over a bed of jasmine rice. At the restaurant, it was served over whipped potatoes. Do whatever you wish. 🙂

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

Culinary School Day Seven

Instead of hacking up our fine feathered friends, we’ve moved on to creatures of the sea this week.

I don’t make a lot of fish at my house. And if I do make it, it is likely to come in nice little fillets. The reason for this?

It’s right here Ray… It’s looking at me.

Yeah, see, that’s the part of this that totally unnerves me. The fish have EYES. They…know things. Ugh… I mean, even in restaurants when the fish head will be served, I ask for it to be nicely lopped off beforehand. My food should not be able to look back at me.

Anyway…

Fillet of Sole, Baby, it’s my favorite dish*

So that aside, we had to tackle another one of my many “issues”. Some people like cute furry bunnies. I am partial to animals that live in the ocean. Jellyfish, rays and sharks are my favorite animals. Followed closely by flounder and sole – partly cause of the aforementioned song and partly because I love how they burrow in the sand. So I have a bit of an issue cutting them up. Plus, as I said earlier, these animals come to the school pretty much intact – all “innards” are, well, in there. I had to put on my brave face.

Cool facts:

Generally when we are talking about fish you cook, there are two types.

Round fish – are generally more, um, round. They have eyes on both sides of their head. And when you fillet them, you get 2 fillets. Examples – most fish – tuna, salmon, grouper, etc etc.

Flat fish – these are really cool. They start out their life as round fish – meaning they have an eye on either side of their head. Then when they are maybe like a month old or so, one eye migrates to the other side of the head so both eyes are then on one side. The fish, which used to be round and swam upright, starts to flatten out and swim on it’s side. Usually the fish is light colored on the bottom and dark on the top for camouflage purposes. Anyway. How cool is that? Oh – by the way – you get 4 fillets out of flat fish. Examples of flat fish – flounder, sole, halibut, turbo.

So maybe you fish and want to see how to fillet your own fish? Or maybe you’ve gone down to that really cool fishmonger that all the high end restaurants buy from and you don’t want to seem like a wuss buying the pre-filleted fish? Ok, here’s some video for you.

Filleting round fish

Filleting flat fish

Things to keep in mind:

A flexible boning knife is generally better for filleting fish.

Fish fins are very sharp – so use caution!

Also – some fish skin – especially that of flat fish – can be very tough. Again, use caution so you don’t cut yourself!

*Courtesy of The Dead Milkmen. One of my favorite bands in my youth. “Filet of sole baby. Is my favorite dish. Filet of sole baby. When the dish is fish ‘Cause, oh, I lose control. When you serve filet of sole.Yeah, I have issues. I know.

Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki chicken wings... er...thighs.

A few years back, my cooking club made these fab chicken wings with teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro. I loved the flavor of the sauce but I do admit, I’m not all that keen on chicken wings. Gnawing on bones is so not my thing. So I’ve decided to make the recipe using chicken thighs instead (more meat, less gnawing) and served the whole shebang over rice.

But since I’m SOOO not in the mood to translate the recipe into EXACTLY what I made (and I alright, I don’t totally remember but I did follow it pretty closely), I’m putting the exact recipe down here. I halved it and used pineapple juice instead of grapefruit juice (alright, it was orange pineapple blend if you must ask!) and googled the chicken thigh cooking time.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings (Thighs)

From Tyler Florence
Serves 12 cocktail servings
Note: I halved this recipe when I made it
Ingredients:
Wings:
2 dozen chicken wings, about 3 1/4 pounds, rinsed and patted dry (I used thighs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Teriyaki Sauce:
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup grapefruit juice (I used pineapple juice)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 fresh, hot red chile, halved
5 garlic cloves, halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a large knife

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season the chicken wings with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil on them to prevent sticking. Lay the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin gets crispy and the wings are cooked through. NOTE: Chicken thighs will take longer – maybe 35-40 minutes. Use your thermometer and your best judgement!!
  4. Meanwhile, combine the teriyaki sauce ingredients in a large saucepan.
  5. Simmer over low heat and reduce until slightly thickened.
  6. Pour the sauce into a large bowl. Dump the wings into the bowl and toss to coat them with the sauce.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve hot.