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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

We’ve been making a ton of guacamole lately. Which is kinda weird for us – not something we usually eat. Thought I’d post the recipe here.

Do you really need a recipe for guacamole? Probably not. It’s kinda like salsa – add a little of this, a little of that and voila. But anyhoo, here it is just for fun:

Guacamole

Ingredients:

1 Haas Avocado (ok, those ones usually in the store) – a little squishy to the touch

1 medium sized tomato seeded and chopped

1 T red onion or so

1 clove of garlic minced (pressed, whatever)

1 jalepeno seeded (wuss) and chopped

1/2 lime

1 T or so (give or take) cilantro chopped

salt. Do.Not.Forget.To.Salt.Your.Food

Steps:

Combine. Eat it. The end.

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A composed salad served over mixed lettuce with a Dijon Vinaigrette

A composed salad served over mixed lettuce with a Dijon Vinaigrette

As a Singleton, I used to eat little pieces of this, bits of that for dinner. Standing at the fridge, I’d grab a jar of olives, tub of hummus to go with pitas in the pantry, maybe a hunk of cheese. Voila! Dinner! Perhaps that is why I have an affinity for composed salads? A little of this, a little of that. Enter Salad Nicoise – the Queen of all composed salads.

I’m sure that traditionally, Salad Nicoise is composed of a particular set of ingredients – and most often I’ve seen canned Tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs and Nicoise olives – but I think the genious in these types of salads is that you can use whatever you have on-hand that is fresh and good (ok, regardless, I’m pretty much sticking with the aforementioned list because it is just so good as is).

A really sweet trick

Tomatoes aren’t quite ripe here in the Midwest, so I’m using a pint of grape tomatoes. Halving an entire pint of grape tomatoes is a ROYAL PITA. But I recently learned a cool trick from non other than Rachel Ray when I was home sick a few weeks ago – so I can no longer say she’s taught me nothing (I kid! Personalityquirks aside, she’s actually done some rather admirable things).

Anyway, here’s the trick to slicing an entire pint of grape tomatoes in 1 minute flat:

1. Grab a small tupperware lid (takeout containers from the deli would work well) and place it with rim side up.

2. Place your tomatoes on the lid – the rim will keep them contained.

3. Put another tupperware lid on top of the tomatoes.

4. Press down pretty firmly with one hand and with your other hand, take your SHARP knive and CAREFULLY slice horizontally through the middle of the tomatoes. You may have to saw back and forth a little to get it going, but once it goes, your knife will slide through all the tomatoes at once.

How flipping cool is that??!! Ok, I thought it was. I used to slice them individually like an idiot and bemoan how long it took.

First contain your tomatoes so they don't roll around.

First contain your tomatoes so they don't roll around.

Then put a lid on them before slicing horizontally through the middle.

Then put a lid on them before slicing horizontally through the middle.

Ok, back on track

So back to the salad. You could used canned tuna for this recipe. I was a little overwhelmed in the canned tuna section at the store – so many options! – and I knew I should really get some imported brand packed in oil. But alas, my store didn’t carry that and there was no way I was going anywhere else. So I thought I’d grab a cheap tuna steak and throw it on the grill. You could get a really nice piece and sear it on each side, or be cheap like me and get a not-so-nice piece and cook it all the way through. Your choice!

Grilled Tuna Salad Nicoise

Serves 2-4 (depending on if you serve anything else with it)
Salad Ingredients:
2 lb potatoes
1/2 lb green beans
1 pint grape tomatoes – halved
6 hard boiled eggs – sliced
6 oz tuna steak
olives – I only used enough for me cause my husband hates them. Use your own discretion.
salt and pepper to taste
serve over – 5oz mixed greens

Salad Dressing Ingredients:
1/3 cup minced chives or green onions (less elegant, but it’s what I had on hand)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 t kosher salt
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t honey
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 T chopped fresh basil (kind of optional, but I threw it in)
1 t chopped fresh thyme (again, optional)

Steps:
Get your grill ready
1. Make vinaigrette – in a bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic, honey, and mustard till well combined. Add oil in a small stream while continuing to whisk until emulsified. Add basil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Boil potatoes till desired doneness – approximately 15 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to touch, quarter and toss with 2 T of vinaigrette. Set aside.
3. Steam green beans till desired doneness – maybe 5 minutes. Transfer to ice bath to stop cooking process. Drain, dry, toss with 1 T of vinaigrette and set aside.
4. Salt and pepper tuna steak and grill over high heat till desired doneness. Depends on how rare you want your tuna and how thick it is – maybe 4 min ea side for medium. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice.
5. Compose your salad – toss lettuce with 2 T of vinaigrette and arrange on dinner plates. Place tuna, eggs, green beans, tomatoes, and olives on a serving platter. Add bits and pieces to your dinner plate as desired. Toss with more vinaigrette on your plate if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Naan

Chewy, delicious and so easy to make at home.

Chewy, delicious and so easy to make at home.

This post is gonna be straight and to the point. I whipped up some Naan a few months ago – ate most of them right away (some of it as I was making it – it was so good) and froze the rest. I had a recipe set aside for a dish I wanted to make with the Naan, but it so far has not happened. So instead, we’ll just have this fabulously chewy Indian bread on it’s own.

Do you have any idea how ridiculously easy it is to make Naan? Well, you would if you’ve made it before. Make your dough, let it rise, separate it into mini loaves for the second rise, stretch out the dough and fry it up. Easy! The hardest part is realizing you have, oh, I don’t know, 13 more loaves to fry up before you are done.

But it is totally worth it.

Oh, you don’t have a tandoor? Yeah, me neither. I used a cast iron skillet and it worked out just great.

Here’s the recipe. Whatever you do, don’t get the bright idea to add garlic powder (yeah, don’t ask). That was a bad, bad idea on my part.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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A long rest, sprinkle of sea salt and thin discs of chocolate make the difference in these cookies!

A long rest, sprinkle of sea salt and thin discs of chocolate make the difference in these cookies!

So I had heard rumblings about the amazing cookies at Jacques Torres. Then a co-worker came back from a trip to Brooklyn and said she had this fabulous cookie at, you guessed it, Jacques Torres. So I just had to bump the recipe to the top of the “to make” list.

I had read that the secret to these cookies was a long rest in the fridge. 36 hours to be exact. Supposedly this rest dries out the cookie dough and makes for a toffee taste in the cookie. But yikes. THIRTY SIX HOURS?! Who can wait that long?

Torres also uses thin discs of chocolate (couverture – used in truffle making to be exact) instead of chips or chunks. This makes for layers of chocolate in the cookie. After a visit to a local chocolate factory to pick up the obligatory chocolate discs, I was on my way. However, I’m quit sure using regular old chocolate chips would work out well too.

Oh yeah – did I mention the sprinkle of salt each cookie gets before baking? How smart is that??!

Ok, admitted – the recipe is a little picky in that it calls for a mix of flours. It’s kinda funny cause he mixes cake flour (low protein) with bread flour (high protein). One would wonder – can’t we just use all purpose since it’s in the middle and call it a day? Well, I found a Q&A that says sure, although to be honest, I’m not really sure if he is saying just use all-purpose for the bread or use all-purpose for the whole dang thing. So I did a sub for the cake flour (basically subbing 2 T of cornstarch for 2 T of flour in each cup of flour) and used all-purpose in place of the bread flour since I was not in the mood to go back to the store.

The verdict?

Damn good. And the sprinkling of salt on top is pure genious. The cookie bakes up crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle. I cut the baking time to 16 minutes (cause I want more chewy, less crunchy) and that worked out fine. I’m totally converted and will now make no other cookie. Oh and those chocolate discs? Yeah…I’m converted to those too. Gonna have to hit up that chocolate factory again…

Oh – AND eating the dough straight up out of the freezer (cause that’s the way we eat cookies at my house)? Wow. Yep. These are my new go-to cookie for sure.

The recipe – since someone else was nice enough to type it up. Make it. Now. Especially since you have to wait 36 hours to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

Quick – name a food you could eat every day for the rest of your life.

Ok, I’ll go first since I’m here, and since I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed my answer (ahem…plantains).

This past spring we took a trip to Costa Rica and our hotel served fried plantains every.damn.day. Yes, it was a buffet, but that’s even better! I could load my plate up and still go back for more.

Fried plantains = heaven

I mean really, what other dish can you describe as an appetizer, condiment, garnish, side dish AND dessert?

So what do you need to know? Ok, there are different outcomes for your fried plantains based on the ripeness of the fruit. You know how a banana starts to get dark and you immediately toss it in the freezer to save for banana bread? Yeah, you want the plantains to go FURTHER. All black if you can wait that long (tossing in a paper bag for a day or two supposedly speeds up the process, but that STILL is asking for a lot of patience IMO). Slice ’em up, fry them in oil and finish with a sprinkle of salt. Called Maduros, these are the kind of fried plantains I like.

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

You can also fry green plantains. Often called Tostones, they aren’t the sweet kind. Basically, you slice up your green or barely ripe plantain, fry it, flatten it and then fry it again. It’s crispy and used more for savory purposes – often accompanied by a garlic sauce. These, admitted, aren’t usually what I have in mind when I think fried plantains. But I’m sure in the right place at the right time…

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t warrant a recipe, does it? You’ll probably want to pick a neutral oil with a high smoke point for the frying part. I used a cast iron skillet. Tossed in an inch or so of oil. Waited for it to get good and hot. Threw in the plantains (no overcrowding please!) and fried them for maybe 3 minutes or so on each side.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy them HOT!

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Shrimp and Pork Steamed Beggars Purses

Shrimp and Pork Steamed Beggars Purses

I enjoy blogging challenges. They often get me out of my comfort zone and trying something new. Case in point: Asian dumplings and potstickers for the latest Daring Cooks Challenge. This is my first time making potstickers. To be quite honest, it’s one of the first times I’ve ever eaten them too. For whatever reason, they aren’t the first app I think of when dining in Asian restaurants.

The challenge involved making the dumpling wrappers as well as the filling. I made two different kinds – standard potstickers (fried) and steamed beggars purses wrapped with a blanched Chinese chive. In retrospect, I will say I’m glad I did it once, but probably not doing it again. Can’t help it. It’s a lot of work for the outcome. I’ve also had quite enough experience in my past making wontons, raviolis, etc etc and I’m not the sort that finds it therapeutic. Granted, today was the last day I should have attempted doing this. After gardening with my condo peeps for five and a half hours, the last thing I wanted to do was make these dumplings. And of course, I had to make Szechuan Green Beans as well. But more on that later.

Shrimp and Pork Potstickers

Shrimp and Pork Potstickers

Anyway, my dumplings turned out alright. A little gummy – but I think I made the dough too wet? And again, maybe they aren’t my thing? Perhaps there is a reason I never order them when I’m out??

The dough recipe came from sponsor of this challenge, Jen at Use Real Butter. Really, go to her site cause she’s got so much fantastic information regarding dumpling/potsticker making that I won’t even bother to repeat it.

The filling came out of a fabulous book my husband picked up for me awhile back – The Cooks Book by Jill Norman. I love this book – it’s all about technique and is filled with great recipes by top chefs. This is where the idea of the beggars purses came from. The recipe also recommended serving with a ginger vinaigrette, but I preferred using the sauce from the Szechuan Green Beans instead. I would recommend any soy based dipping sauce.

Alright, since I already gave you the link regarind how to make your own dumpling wrappers, I’m just going to share the filling recipe here.

Shrimp and Pork Dumpling Filling

From The Cooks Book by Jill Norman
Ingredients:
8 oz peeled, deveined shrimp
5 oz ground pork
1 T veg oil
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 t chopped ginger
1 Thai green chile minced
8 Shitake mushrooms thinly sliced
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
2 t Oyster sauce
1/2 t ground white pepper
3 scalllions
1/2 bunch cilantro minced (I left this out).

Steps:
1. Finely chop the shrimp.

2. In a saute pan over medium heat, add the oil and saute the garlic, ginger and chile briefly. Add the mushrooms and saute till softened. Remove from the heat and add the sauces, season with pepper. Let cool.

3. When cool, add shrimp and ground pork.

4. Fill dumpling wrappers according to whatever directions you are following.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Use half the lemon in your salad, half in your vinaigrette. No waste!

Use half the lemon in your salad, half in your vinaigrette. No waste!

So it’s almost the end of Meyer Lemon season sniff sniff. Since this year seems to be the year of the Meyer Lemon for me, I thought I’d say goodbye with just a few more dishes using the fruit – if I can sneak them in before it’s too late (is it too late? Admitted – I made this a week or two ago). Today we are showcasing a fresh salad perfect for celebrating the best produce of spring.

Did you know you can eat the rind of Meyer Lemons? Well, now you do. They make for a pretty presentation in your salads. One I made recently consisted of paper thin slices of meyer lemon, asparagus spears, leaf lettuce and a lemon walnut vinaigrette. The whole thing just screams SPRING!

Lemon Walnut Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 T) – this works out great cause you can slice up the other half for your salad
3 T Walnut oil
1 t dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Steps:
1. Whisk lemon juice, 1 T of the oil and mustard till an emulsion forms.
2. Slowly whisk in the remaining 2 T of oil.
3. Salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Smoked chicken, caramelized pears and camembert white pizza

Smoked chicken, caramelized pears and camembert white pizza

So whenever I visit the parents for the weekend, my mom always tries to pawn off her groceries on me. Like I’m a just-out-of-the-nest, starving college student or something. Never mind that I’m in my 30’s and fully able to grocery shop for myself. On a recent visit, I arrived back at my condo toting a wedge of Camembert, a bundle of asparagus, shredded Parmesan, mango salsa, and cut-up fruit salad. All courtesy of my mom. Not that I’m complaining, but sometimes I have to come up with ways to use things that I might not otherwise have sitting around. Case in point – the Camembert. I tend towards super-duper aged cheeses myself. Fresh, double cream cheeses are not really my thing.

When in doubt, throw it on a pizza

At least that’s my motto. A google search on camembert told me pears go well – so I figured Camembert, caramelized pears and the smoked chicken from the previous day’s indoor smoking debacle would go nicely. I thought a white sauce would be too heavy, and olive oil alone too boring. So another Google search unearthed a versatile garlic herb pizza sauce that I also used on pasta later in the week. Finally, I threw a little arugula on top – just cause I always wanted to do that.  The result was damn tasty if I do say so myself!

Pizza

Parts:
Pizza crust – my standard Mario Batali
Smoked chicken – maybe 1/4 lb (see Smoked Chicken Indoors for more info. Otherwise, leftover rotisserie or roast chicken would be great)
White pizza sauce (see below – I used maybe half that recipe)
Caramelized pears (see below)
Camembert – maybe like 4 oz sliced thin (this is pizza people – use your best judgement!)
Arugula or some sort of lettuce – a small handful – this goes on AFTER the pizza comes out of the oven

I put it all together and baked at 450 degrees for 13 minutes or so on a pizza stone.  Throw your arugula on top and serve!

White pizza sauce

(really – garlic herb infused oil – great as a pasta sauce too)
From:http://www.recipekitchen.com/Pizza/pizza21.html

Ingredients:
3 T butter
3 T olive oil
1 T white wine
1/2 t rosemary (I used fresh)
1/2 t basil (I used fresh)
1 garlic clove, minced

Steps:
1. Sauté garlic in butter and olive oil.
2. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside. Can be refrigerated maybe for a week – bring to room temp to use.

Caramelized Pears

Ingredients:
1 pear – cored, seeded and sliced
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
1. Melt butter in saute or cast iron pan over medium heat.
2. Saute pears for a few minutes on medium heat
3. Add brown sugar and continue sauteeing to caramelize the pears till your desired doneness (I did maybe 10 minutes total).
4. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper (very important! don’t forget the pepper! freshly ground please!) to taste.

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Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills. 

Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills.

I love reading cookbooks written by chefs. Interesting ingredients and techniques enthrall me. More often than not though, these books aren’t translated for the home cook. Take the Alinea cookbook – I know there is probably just ONE recipe in the entire book I could make at home without expending major effort.  And trust me, it’s not that lavender smoke pillow thingy.

Restaurant recipes dumbed down (well…sorta)

So what’s a home cook to do? I’ve come across a couple of books which help translate restaurant recipes for the home – Chef Interrupted by Melissa Clark and Restaurant Favorites at Home by the Editors at Cook’s Illustrated (aka America’s Test Kitchen, aka ATK). Trust me though, the recipes in each of these books are still quite time consuming – but always worth it. 

Oh yeah, did I ever mention Nuevo Latino cuisine is my absolute favorite? Do we use that term anymore? Latin fusion? Was that totally random and seemingly off-topic? Whatever. Maybe you’ve forgotten the title of this post. I’m just saying I love food with Latin and Caribbean flavors more than just about anything else. Give me a fried plantain any day of the week and I will be one happy girl (I feel a craving coming on!).

One of the most stellar recipes of all-time

The one recipe that I make over and over again that is based on Latin flavors is the Grilled Lime Chicken out of the Restaurant Favorites book. There are a bunch of accompaniments listed in the book, but I never bother with them any more. It’s the cilantro lime sauce that I covet. It’s a perfect blend of spicy, sweet and tangy. The chicken is bathed in this superb sauce post cooking so it retains all its fresh flavors. It is, without a doubt, the best chicken grilling sauce there is. And it’s the freaking easiest thing you’ll ever make.  Oh yeah, and it makes a fantastic salad dressing too.

So don’t delay. Make this today. Unless…you don’t like cilantro. And if that is the case, I feel for you. I really and truly do.

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Just make the dish already!

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Quit picking apart my crappy photos and just make the dish already!

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Rewritten from Restaurant Favorites at Home
Makes about a cup of sauce

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
4 chiles de arbol (or 1.5 t red pepper flakes)
3 medium garlic cloves
1 small shallot roughly chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch fresh cilantro – leaves and some stems – roughly chopped (about 1.5 cups)
3/4 cup vegetable (or other mild flavored) oil

Whatever the heck you want to grill. The book recommends 6 8-10 oz bone in, skin on chicken breasts.

Steps:
1. This couldn’t be easier – take all the ingredients (minus the thing you are grilling) and stick in mini food processor, blender, whatever. Pulse till combined. OR, if you insist on doing things the hard way, chop them up. Put in a large bowl and set aside. That’s it!

2. Grill your meat (or veg! I suppose you could do that too). If you were going to do bone in skin on chicken, my method in the Pomegranate Chicken recipe works well – basicallly, 10 minutes skin down, 15 minutes skin up. Set aside to rest.

3. Dip your grilled whatever into the big bowl of sauce – make sure it is well coated. Remove and…

4. Serve!

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Hot stuff! Shrimp Piri Piri served with diced mango over jasmine rice.

Hot stuff! Shrimp Piri Piri served with diced mango over jasmine rice.

Note to all: No matter how pretty and inviting habaneros look, eating them raw may not be in your best interest. Unless you have a pint of whole milk standing by. AND EVEN THEN. Think twice.

I’m just saying…

I couldn’t help myself. Really, it was calling my name. Teasing me. Whispering “Don’t be such a wuss! Just a little bite! It won’t hurt! I swear I’m not hotter than a jalapeno”. So I popped a hunk into my mouth. Immediately on contact bad, bad things happened. Blisters formed. I swear to god (ok, I’m exaggerating a little). I paced up and down the kitchen repeating the same words over and over “bad. pepper. hot. oh god. bad”. My husband merely laughed at my misfortune. I recall something like “serves you right!” escaping his lips but the memory of the pepper might be playing tricks with my brain.  I finally gave in and took a swig of milk. It cooled the fire in my mouth, but my lips were still ablaze. A good 20 minutes later, the heat finally died down. 

All for the cause my friends, all for the cause.

So yeah. Shrimp Piri Piri is hot stuff.  We are talking numerous habaneros, jalapenos, hot paprika, cayenne all mixed togther and slathered over shrimp. The dish is African and Portuguese in nature, apparently came about during the time of the colonialization of Mozambique.

It is supposed to be served with lemon and butter, but I got the bright idea of serving it with a mango dipping sauce.   Alright, I admit I was scared that the shrimp was going to be so spicy I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Hence why I tried to tame it with the mango. In reality, after grilling, the shrimp wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. Next time, I’ll serve it the traditional way cause I feel like the sweet of the dipping sauce competed with the heat of the shrimp. I might even boil up the marinade and serve that over top too. Just in case I need more heat!

Grilled Shrimp with Piri Piri Sauce

From Some Like It Hot
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 habanero chiles
7 red jalapenos (I could only find green) or 4 red cherry or cascabel chiles
2 T cayenne pepper
1 T Hot paprika
4 garlic cloves
3/4 cup peanut oil
3 T fresh lemon juice
2 t salt
2 lb shrimp – peeled and deveined (I used medium sized shrimp cause I find them easier to cook – but use at least medium size shrimp since you are grilling them)

To finish the dish, mix together (but don’t do this till you are ready to serve):
6 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T fresh lemon juice

You’ll also need skewers for the shrimp

Steps:

1. Place habaneros, jalapenos, paprika, garlic, peanut oil, lemon juice and salt in blender or small food processor. Process till smooth. 

2. Transfer to a bowl, add in the shrimp and marinate for 4-6 hours.

3. Prepare your grill. Skewer shrimp leaving space between each. Grill shrimp a few minutes on each side to your desired doneness (I err on the undercooked side myself – it will keep cooking after you take it off the grill).

4. Remove from the grill and serve drizzled with the 6 T of unsalted butter and 3 T of lemon juice.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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