Thursday, June 28, 2007

I've Got a Rocket in my Pocket!

With Independence Day right around the corner, who could resist a recipe with the word rocket in the title? Not me! Any guesses about what the American equivalent of rocket might be? Arugula. It sort of makes sense, with the spicy, assertive, attention-getting taste of this green.

I'm continuing my Sunday Game of the Week quest by cooking exclusively out of Donna Hay's Modern Classics I. Tonight, I made two recipes--the Spaghetti with Lemon, Capers, and Rocket...and...Garlic Prawns (aka Shrimp Scampi). Both were very, very good. The pasta had all of my favorite flavors, so there was no way that one was going to be bad. The shrimp were rich, succulent, and had plenty of garlicky olive oil/butter for dipping. Had we had some crusty bread, it would have been great to soak up some of that yummy goodness.

This post will pretty much wrap up the week for me. We're off to Sedona tomorrow, where four generations will enjoy time together, good food, and the beautiful scenery. If we cook anything exciting, I'll post it, but so far, everyone is just choosing tried and true favorites. So...I'll see you back here in a week!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Don't roll your eyes! What if they get stuck that way?

But I couldn't help it. I cooked again tonight out of Donna Hay' Modern Classics, and my eyes rolled back in my head after the first bite. The Thai Pork with Noodles delivered everything the Bolognese Sauce lacked. This dish was vibrant with flavors--browned pork, thinly sliced red chilis, lemongrass, red onion, and mint leaves, and a sweet-sour snap from a dressing of fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime. There was just as much variety in the textures, with the crisp, fresh vegetables contrasting with the chewy mung bean vermicelli. This one is a definite keeper.
Since we don't exactly have a thriving farmer's market here in the summer (my car thermometer registered 117 degrees outside while I was running errands, and it's still 101 here at 10:15 tonight), I have to get my summer produce fix at places like Whole Foods. This afternoon, I couldn't resist the heirloom tomatoes. I also picked up a basket of black figs that are at their succulent peak, bursting with juice and tasting like candy. I do envy those of you, though, who can stroll through the stalls and talk to the growers, buying locally. Somehow, talking to the Whole Foods produce guy just doesn't feel the same.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Britain and Italy do not Good Bedfellows Make

Although we're still reeling a bit from the loss of our furbaby, we had to re-enter the real world today. On top of everything else, the Husband had a two-hour dental procedure done, so I knew he needed something for dinner that would nourish his body and soul, without being too hard to chew. When someone needs comfort food, it would probaby be best to stick with tried and true, but I didn't. Instead, I decided to honor his request for spaghetti with meat sauce by pulling a recipe (yes, beloved daughters--a recipe. For spaghetti sauce) from Donna Hay's Modern Classics: Book 1. Ordinarily, I would make my own rich, flavorful sauce, but I wanted to play the Sunday Game of the Week on the Cooking Light boards. This game has been going on for over a year, and it just hasn't worked out. The basic premise is that a number is picked, and you go to your cookbook shelf (or shelves), find the book that holds that position, and cook something out of it.

So, Ms. Hay, being the British cooking princess that she is, had earned spot #47 on the shelf, the Husband wanted spaghetti, and there it was--Classic Bolognese Sauce. When I looked at the recipe, I knew better. I really did. It had no oregano. No basil. No balsamic vinegar. No tomato paste. In other words, it wasn't the way I--or anyone else I know--makes it. What it did have, that was new to me, was a cup of beef broth added with pureed tomatoes, to cook down and create a sauce for the sauteed garlic, onions, and minced beef. A final stir-in of chopped parsley, salt, and pepper were all the spices designed to flavor the sauce. I tried it. Really. Then I got out the oregano, basil, and balsamic vinegar and flavored away. I'm not even posting the recipe unless someone asks for it, because I just don't think it was worth it.

In the end, the sauce wasn't bad--it just didn't have the rich, thick, tomato-ey taste we love. I plan to mke a couple of other recipes from the book, so hopefully, they will be better.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rest in Peace, Sweet Boy


November 2, 1998 - June 23, 2007
Today, we lost a faithful friend to the ravages of Valley Fever, a disease unique to only two areas in the world. Although our beautiful boy could be a stinker, we loved him very much, and had to make a very difficult decision to end his life peacefully and humanely. Although we weren't there when he was born, he most likely popped into the world with tail wagging, and left it the same way. We know he will be waiting for us on the Rainbow Bridge when our time comes to enter Heaven. He loved all creatures, and seemed sure that every human on Earth was put here to love him back. He also loved food, and learned to open the pantry door--along with any other door in the house. Although much of our house looked empty because he would take down and eat anything within six feet of the floor, it was full of his very big heart. We miss him already.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Embracing the East While Rooted in the West

Apparently, we like Thai food. Who knew? That's one of the things I like about cooking through a cookbook. As long as I don't have to eat lamb. I'm not making those recipes. Or rabbit. I'm not into rabbit. And scallops, salmon, brains, tripe....okay, I'm only so adventurous. Anyway, we traveled the Thai road again tonight with a dish that, in its basic form, has graced many a Midwest Sunday dinner table--roast chicken. This roast chicken, however, was generously rubbed with ginger, lemongrass, and onion before roasting, then drizzled with a glaze of coconut milk, lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, nam pla, sesame oil, and basil, simmered to a thick, rich reduction. I don't even know how to describe the way these flavors dance across the tongue. Every bite of this Roasted Chicken with Coconut-Lime Glaze delights the palate as it moves through the mouth. There's the vague sweetness of the brown-sugar sweetened coconut milk, the acidic bite of lime, and the hints of anise in the chopped basil. This would have been great with coconut rice, but I made the roasted potatoes from the Greek Lemon Roasted Chicken again. The flavors were a nice compliment to one another. And a bubbly glass of Pelligrino with a twist of lime was the final touch to a delightful meal.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Tower of Terror

It was about this time a year ago that Nonni moved back into our house while we, along with the doctors, tried to figure out what was going on with her health. Well, one brain/skull/spinal surgery later (last August), she's good as new--at least as good as she's going to get, and flew out of the nest again a few weeks ago.

When she came to live with us again, we had to do a little reconfiguring of the spaces in our house to give her a place to sleep and put her stuff. That meant that, among other things, my cookbook collection had to be incorporated into the rest of the house--somewhere. The only place that gigantamongous book case would fit was in the hall, which really wasn't a bad solution. Until we found out that the Beast had an appetite. For cookbooks. For vegetarian cookbooks, to be precise. I know labs will eat anything, but this one really pushes his luck--and my patience!

For the past few months, in an effort to salvage the cookbook collection, the book case has been wrapped in lovely green plastic garden fencing, with the dining room chairs pushed up against it for insurance. Just a few weeks ago, I came home to find that the chairs had been moved, the fencing unraveled, and at least 20 cookbooks in various states of "chew" were strewn around the living room. Good thing Nonni moved out, because those cookbooks had to be moved back to safety. In an interim attempt to protect them, I moved them into the granddaughters' bedroom, since they don't come over that often until school is out. The size of the piles they made was a little bit frightening. Oh, and that box you see in the room? That's new ones I ordered and haven't even unpacked yet. They're keeping company with the pair of shoes I ordered from Zappo's right before they casted my foot, so I haven't even tried them on to see if they fit. Hope so, because I think I would be stretching even Zappo's generous return policy to try to send them back now!

Anyway, after a couple of good workouts at the gym, it was time to move the bookcase and replace the books. The Husband helped with part A, but wasn't really interested in part B. That's fine, because it was a chance for me to get acquainted with old friends. The only hard part was to keep working, and not sit down in the floor, thumbing through all the cookbooks. Since he had a work function, it was a good night for me to just have my goat cheese and arugula sandwich and move books. It was a lot of work, but I'm enjoying the end result.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ketchup day...or is it Catch Up?

Where did the rest of the week go? It was just busy, busy, busy. Somehow, I find it almost impossible to work late, run errands, go to physical therapy or the gym, cook dinner and clean up...and post in my blog, all in the same night. So, I've done it all...except post here. Sorry, but today I'll recap. There is no dinner tonight, because I spent too much time planning and shopping, plus there are lots of leftovers in the refrigerator. Time to get rid of them!

Let's start with Wednesday. On Wednesday, I fell in love, but not with my husband. Oh, I'll still let him hang around, but if my new favorite sandwich is on the horizon, he'd better get out of the way! This one is from the deli section of Take Out Tonight. These Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese sandwiches are simplicity itself, but absolutely crave-able. Start with a crisp, toasted English muffin. My favorite is the Thomas Light Whole-Grain English Muffin. At only 100 calories and 8 grams of fiber, this provides a perfect, toasty background to a thick spread of goat cheese. A silky roasted red pepper and a bloom of peppery arugula top off the sandwich and provide layers of flavor. I've had this for lunch every day since Wednesday (and twice for breakfast, too).

Wednesday night, I ventured into the Greek section of the cookbook and turned out the Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken. All I can say is "Opa!" My only regret is not using kosher chicken. I've gotten so used to the moist, flavorful results from kosher chicken that I am never satisfied with grocery stick chicken any more. However, once I tasted the potatoes, the chicken didn't matter. Quartered red potatoes begin to brown in a hot oven by themselves, and after 20 minutes, the chicken is added on a rack, and the remaining garlic and lemon infused marinade and a bit of water are poured over the potatoes. They continue to cook until they are crispy and caramelized outside, but moist and silky inside. Portion control was very difficult for this one.

Do you notice what's wrong with this picture? Yep--there is a distinctly monochromatic look to the plate.I have an excuse though, really. It was 9:30 by the time dinner was ready, and the grilled hearts of romaine and grilled zucchini I planned to serve alongside just didn't happen. When I plated up dinner, the Husband looked at it and said, "Even I know the food isn't all supposed to be the same color." Everybody can be an armchair quarterback!

Last night, we had a fiesta with Skinny Chimichangas. In this dish, ground turkey (I used 97%
lean beef instead) simmers in tomato sauce, Mexican spices, and green chills. The mixture is rolled into tortillas (we used some high fiber ones) and sprinkled with a little grated cheese. The resulting burritos are sprayed with cooking spray and baked at 400 degrees until they crisp up, which they did surprisingly well. I served mine with a spoonful of nonfat Greek yogurt and a bit of salsa on top. We both really liked these.

In an effort to use up some odds and ends, as well as up the overall nutritional value of the meal, I put together a side dish consisting of a can of black beans, zucchini in a 1/4" dice, corn, minced jalapeno, minced onion, some chopped red and yellow peppers, and garlic. I started the zucchini first, letting it sit over a medium-low heat until it developed a brown, caramelized surface, then turning it to let the other sides brown as well. Only then did I add the fresh vegetables and turn up the heat, letting the flavors meld. I added the black beans at the end, giving them time only to heat up. I finished the dish with salt, pepper, and smoked Spanish paprika, which provided a nice hint of smokey heat. I think this would be fabulous served over brown rice, with a little bit of tofu, feta cheese, or diced chicken added in.

I went through the cookbook today, and it looks like it has about 30 main-dish recipes I'd like to make, so it should keep things moving along here for at least a couple of months. So...check back often. There are lots of delicious-sounding meals on the list for the coming week.