Wednesday, August 31, 2011

aw, shucks

There are times I enjoy a simple bowl of cereal for dinner, and then there are nights like this...

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Corn Relish
This takes that friendly, innocuous bowl of cereal and blows it out of the water.  The recipe came from a local restaurant called Robert's Eatery and Bakeshop.  It's actually a restaurant that focuses on healthy eating for diabetics and other folks, so it's really good for you.  I'll share the simple recipe (serves 4, though it can easily be adapted for less):

3 shucked ears of corn
1 cup diced bell pepper (I used red)
1 cup diced tomatoes
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets

1. Prepare grill.

2. Soak corn for at least an hour in the shucks.  Place corn (with shucks still on) on grill rack coated with a little oil, grill 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally.  The outside will be nearly black, but fear not!  It gives it amazing flavor.  Let cool a bit, then cut the kernels from the cobs.

3. Combine corn, bell peppers, tomato, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and lemon juice and toss gently.

4. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and cumin and mix well and rub over both sides of the salmon.

5. Place salmon on grill rack (you can also line the grill with foil so the salmon doesn't stick or fall apart) and grill about 4 minutes on each side.

6. Serve that smoky sweet salmon over the tangy corn relish.  I added a little basil just to make it look nice.  Divine.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

table for one

image via

There's a particular culinary phenomenon that only occurs with us single folks: not wanting to go to the trouble of cooking only for ourselves.  Working in churches, I often chat with wonderful women who cooked all the time for most of their lives, but now that it's just them, they don't want to cook anymore.  This makes sense in a lot of's certainly fun to cook for someone and eating alone can be a daunting thing after being so used to company at mealtimes.  There are also people a bit closer to my age who just happen to be single and find cooking to be way too much trouble and recipes only geared for family cooking (i.e. "serves 4-6").  

To both groups of people, I share a bit of wisdom from my great friend Ashley.  We were having a discussion (via text, actually...which is sometimes my generation's version of a heart-to-heart), and I was saying that I was cleaning house for my friend coming to visit.  I commented that I only seem to really clean when I have a friend coming over.  She concurred, and then said something profound: "I wish I'd be my own friend and clean just for myself!"  As minister-folk tend to say, "that'll preach!"  

The same could be said of cooking.  Yes, it's a lot of effort to tailor recipes to a single portion. Yes, eating alone can be lonely and cooking can remind you of that fact.  Yes, it can be more rewarding to cook for others than ourselves.  But, you know what?  You're worth cooking for, all by your lonesome.  So, I encourage those of you who find yourselves flying solo, embrace it.  Be your own friend, cook things only you like and make any regular weeknight special by treating yourself to a nice homemade meal. 

 I'll share my craving and creation tonight.  It's really simple.  As my random stream-of-consciousness would have it, it rained today, which of course reminded me of Belfast.  I immediately craved tea and through a Facebook chat with a friend over in that wee dote of a town, champ was suggested for dinner.  Champ is a staple of Irish cooking with (you guessed it), potatoes.  It's essentially mashed potatoes with lots of scallions.  But that thought reminded me of something I would make on particularly rainy, sleepy nights in Belfast.  I would simply make some divine mashed potatoes with whatever yummy vegetables in them I felt like.  (It helped that a green grocer stand was seconds from my door.)  I'd also add a bit of bacon or proscuitto.  I'd call that mashed masterpiece a meal, get a glass of wine and be all set for a little solo supper.  Today's rain awoke that memory in me and so I decided to make it.

Broccoli looked great at my grocery store (and you can buy broccoli in one teeny head: very solo-dining friendly).  I also used a small onion, 3 potatoes (Yukon gold I think) and 3 cloves of garlic. *A little tip on produce purchasing, especially if you're just cooking for you: it's nearly always cheaper to buy loose produce than the pre-bagged/packaged stuff.  And let's be honest, do you really need a 5 lb bag of potatoes?

Having procured my produce, I trimmed up my little trees nicely...

And sliced my halved onion...

...and tossed them with the garlic, some evoo and salt and pepper.  I roasted it, turning every 5 min or so, for 20 minutes at 400ºF/204ºC.

Here the veggies are all golden and roasted.  Try to resist eating them all right off the baking sheet (though, when I roast brussels sprouts, they rarely all make it to the plate from the baking sheet!).

While those veggies were roasting, I chopped the potatoes in large pieces (I never peel potatoes when making mashed potatoes...I like the skin on them).  I boiled them for about 15 minutes, until fork-tender. 

I drained the potatoes and then returned them to the hot pot for a few minutes, so all the extra water evaporated (soggy, gluey mashed potatoes are no way to treat a friend, and remember, you're you're friend).

I mashed 'em up...

...adding 3T of butter and about 1/3 cup of milk (but adjust as needed to get them as creamy as you want them).  Now, dreamy fluffy mashed potatoes with roasted veggies in them are divine just on their own.  But, I tend to think that bacon makes everything better.

I crumbled two slices of bacon.  Mmm.

Then, I added the roasted veggies, bacon and a combination of smoked gouda and parmesan (as much as you like, whatever cheese you happen to have) to my mashed potatoes and incorporated it all together until it was one cute little pot of love-yourself-happy.  It made enough for a generous serving for me and leftovers for another meal (it's fantastic as leftovers, I promise!).

All it needed was a nice little pat of butter melting silkily on top...

...and a crisp pinot grigio to wash it down with!  Now, that's a way to dine solo, friends.

Bon appetit,

Friday, August 19, 2011

roasted red pepper pasta

Get ready for some roasted red pepper and pine nut pasta perfection, y'all!  That's some delicious alliteration.  I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe, which I really loved.  I've made roasted red pepper pasta sauce before with olive oil, but this sauce was much more flavorful and decadent with a bit of cream (yum), pine nuts, sauteed onions and garlic.  

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 lb penne pasta (I like penne best for this because the sauce really clings to it.)
2 red bell peppers (have to be red, folks)
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
extra virgin olive oil
3 T pine nuts
1/2 c heavy cream (decadent, I know!)
parmesan & basil (to garnish)

It makes about 4 servings.  If you're Texan, well, let's call it 3.

 Take a small onion...

...and peel and finely dice it.  You'll also want to finely mince 2 cloves of garlic.

Heat about 2T evoo in a deep pan on medium-low... 

Saute onion and garlic slowly with a little s&p for about 10 minutes, until soft.

Get your bell peppers rinsed and ready to be broiled in the oven.  You may want to give 'em a pep talk.  Broil (with - it may go without saying - your oven on "broil"), turning frequently, for about 10 minutes until charred on all sides.

They should look burned.  Burned = flavor (except later on in this'll see.)  Let them cool for a few minutes.

Put the roasted peppers in a large ziplock bag and seal it.  You're essentially giving them their own little sauna so you can peel them easily later.  This is a good time to cook your pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente (about 8 minutes).

Then, toast your pine nuts in a dry skillet on medium heat.  I urge you not to change your Facebook status whilst doing this, otherwise they'll look like mine did. In this case, burnt does not translate to flavor.  Burnt = burnt.

Let's try that again...they'll only take a few minutes to toast, so turn them often and just get a light brown on them (like this picture).

Peel those gorgeous red peppers, deseed them and roughly chop.

Puree in a food processor or blender with 2T of the toasted pine nuts (you'll use the rest of the pine nuts as a garnish).

It will get velvety but still have some texture to it.  Such a gorgeous color!  Add this puree to the onions and garlic, season with s&p and cook together for a few minutes.

Then add 1/2 c heavy cream...

 ...and some chopped basil and cook together for a few minutes.  Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss together.  Adjust s&p as needed.  Top with more basil, whole pine nuts and parmesan shavings.

The result: creamy, hearty roasted red pepper pasta that will make you want to do a little happy dance.  It's possible I did one.  Okay, highly probable. :)

Bon appetit!

Friday, August 12, 2011

my momma's chicken

Lemon and chicken get along famously.  They're great together in all sorts of ways, but I have never tasted a lemon chicken that is delectable and fragrant as my mother's.  Oh. My. Goodness.  It's fantastic (and so easy!).  And it makes you feel like a Julia Child-esque rockstar when you pull that golden perfect bird out of the oven.  My mom uses Ina Garten's recipe.  I'll walk ya through it, folks.  

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

  • 1 (4 to 5-pound) roasting chicken
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 cups (3/4-inch) bread cubes (I used leftover french bread)
Serves 4-6.

  • (Go ahead and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F/218 degrees C.)

Slice the onion into large rings.  Layer them on the bottom of a large roasting pan with about 1T olive oil.

Quarter those vibrant lemons.

Take the giblets (no giblets for me, please) out of your chicken and wash and dry it (with paper towels - don't get icky raw chicken on your kitchen towels) and place on top of the onions in the roasting pan and brush with 2 T of melted butter.  Stuff the lemon halves inside the chicken.

Season generously with salt..

...and freshly cracked pepper and then tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the bird.  (This helps him roast evenly without burning.)  Roast in the oven for about an hour and a half, until the juices of the chicken run clear.  

When the chicken in almost done, heat 2 T of olive oil in a large skillet and add the bread cubes and a bit of salt and pepper.  

Cook, turning frequently, until golden and crispy, about ten minutes.

Does that take your breath away, or what?  Perfection.
Take that glorious chicken out of the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.  Then, cut the chicken up and layer with the onions and cooking juices on top the croutons.  It will have an amazing, delicate lemon flavor and the croutons will soak up the chicken juices.  You'll never think chicken's boring again!

Bon appetit!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

you put the honey in my jar

Hey honeybees!

Look at what my mamacita got me!  My very own honey pot (ahem, Le Crueset honey pot with nonstick honey dipper), fit for a Wild Honey bloggin' gal.  I'm very excited about it.

Thank you, Mamacita! :)

(p.s. Recipe coming soon: oven-baked lemon chicken with seasoned croutons that will blow your mind.  Really.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

spaghetti bologneasy

I'm Scotch-Irish and English in my heritage but I'm pretty sure that in my former life I was Italian (Presby minister talking about reincarnation: scandalous!).  I say this because, when I think of comfort food, I dream of a heaping plate of homemade spaghetti with lots of fragrant basil and salty parmesan.  Now, I have my standard can-make-it-in-my-sleep spaghetti sauce, but when I came across this recipe from Ina Garten, I had to deviate a bit and try something new.  And boy was it dee-licious.  

Barefoot Contessa Weeknight Bolognese
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta                                                    1 pound/500g lean ground sirloin                                                                              1 medium onion
4 tsp minced garlic (I used 2 large cloves)
1 T dried oregano
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
1 ¼ cups dry red wine, divided (Chianti!) 
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 T tomato paste
Kosher salt & black pepper
¾ pound/375 g dried pasta (I used spaghetti of course)
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Let's get comfort-food-cookin', y'all.  We have lots of pictures to guide our way.  
First, don a favorite apron (being as careful to match as I clearly am).

Here's most of what you'll need: pasta, san marzano tomatoes, garlic, onion, chianti & evoo.

Heat the evoo in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add ground sirloin and onions, season with a little s&p and cook using a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat until it's starting to brown, 5-7 minutes.

Add chopped garlic (how Texas-sized are those garlic cloves?!)...

...and 1 T dried oregano and 3/4 t red pepper flakes.  When using dried herbs (like oregano), it's a good idea to rub it between your fingers before adding.  This wakens up the flavors a bit.  Cook for 1 minute.

Now it gets really tasty!  I used Chianti for my sauce because, well, it's Chianti.  I once traveled through Tuscany solo (brave one, I am) and stayed at a little hotel in Siena (in the Chianti region).  They teasingly put a glorious bottle of Chianti in the room, for the super reasonable price of 10 euro.  I couldn't resist and thus had a generous glass and carted the bottle with me the rest of my trip. There's nothin' classier than toting your own bottle of Chianti on the train!  

Anyway, you can get divine, economical Chianti here in the States or elsewhere, but I have a tip for you.  When you see this pink label on the top of the bottle, it means that this wine was approved by the Italian government for export.  Wine can be exported without the dandy little sticker, but the wines approved by the government are generally better quality.  So grab some Chianti with the pretty sticker on top. :)

Add a cup of it to the sirloin mixture and stir it to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan (these have the most flavor).

Then add your tomatoes.  Buying crushed tomatoes like the recipe suggests is easiest, but you can just mash up whole ones like I did as well.  San Marzano tomatoes when compared to regular canned tomatoes are like Ghirardelli dark chocolate compared to a plain Hershey bar (taste-wise and culturally, too!).  

Add 2 T tomato paste, 1 T salt and 1/2 t pepper.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  I simmered mine for 20 to get it a bit thicker.

(This is a good point in the cooking process for the chef to have a glass of that delightful, pungent Chianti.)

Cook your pasta in boiling, salted water (with a splash of evoo so it doesn't stick) until al dente, about 8 minutes.  

While the pasta cooks, add some finishing touches to the sauce: 1/4 c fresh chopped basil...

...1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg, 1/4 cup more of chianti and 1/4 cup heavy cream.  This is very different from my usual recipe, but adds a layer of flavor and creaminess that I loved.

Simmer for as long as it takes the pasta to cook (about 8 minutes).

Put cooked pasta in a large serving bowl and toss with the sauce and 1/2 cup parmesan.  I also added a few large parmesan shards on top and basil because, if you're gonna go to the trouble to cook it, you might as well make it look good!

Enjoy your pasta with yummy ciabatta bread (and that divine wine).  It'll take you right to Italy, I promise.  (Incidentally, this plate was brought back from Italy by my Aunt Karen decades ago!  Pasta tastes better on it.)

Buon appetito!