Sometimes your body just craves fresh, clean ingredients right? Do you ever notice when you’ve had a meal with ingredients that are in season? Or can you taste the difference between fresh fish versus frozen? I think most of us couldn’t tell the difference. You know what you know right? I’ll tell you though.. Once you’ve tasted the good stuff.. and I mean the highest quality of something, you will know.. and everything else will just seem mediocre. But, hey, I guess that makes it that much more special when you do have the good stuff.
This week I was craving ricotta cheese for some reason. I was being a bit lazy and didn’t want to make it myself. But I knew I wanted a dish where you could actually taste the ricotta.. not something like lasagna where the flavor gets lost. I was excited to find that my local supermarket (Sunflower Market, joint with Sprouts) had freshly made ricotta. So I bought some sweet cherry tomatoes on sale. They’re nearing the end of their season I believe. And I grabbed a fresh French baguette and some garlic. I wanted super simple.
- The Bread – thick slices, drizzle extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, toast in oven after you’ve removed the garlic to cool
- The Garlic & Tomatoes – slice the very top off whole bulb of garlic so the cloves are exposed, put in center of large foil pouch (~size of paper), slice tomatoes in half, arrange around garlic, throw in 2 bay leaves, drizzle extra virgin olive oil all over (especially garlic), kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, seal the foil, roast at about 400F for about 30-40 min depending on your oven.
- The Ricotta – it should be great on its own, but you can always add a bit of salt and pepper
- The Assembly – once the toast is out, spread the ricotta, squeeze the garlic out of the bulb and smash it with your knife (if not soft enough), layer on top of ricotta and spoon on some of the tomatoes.
And there you have a super simple dinner for one or appetizer for a few. Add some freshly torn basil if you have it! And remember another drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil is always delicious! Now doesn’t that just look like summer on a plate?!
PS. You’ll have a nice sauce from the cherry tomatoes. After removing the foil to cool, take out the bay leaves and garlic. Then gently pour all the sauce and cherry tomatoes in a small bowl and dip your toast! This is also a great way to start a marinara sauce. Just add to some sautéed onions and you’re done!
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My new favorite thing to make at home is mayonnaise. It was part of a class a couple weeks ago, and I promise it is extremely easy and takes no more than 10 minutes! All you need is one (or more for richness) egg yolk, a splash of white wine vinegar, a small teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, (preferably white) ground pepper and vegetable or Canola oil. Garlic mayo is just a small step further. Simply infuse some olive oil at low heat with smashed garlic. There’s no need to chop it as you’ll remove it once it’s done its job.
- Separate the egg yolks and place into a large mixing bowl. The best way to do this is to use the eggshells and pass the yolk between the shells until the whites have separated. Keep them for a great egg white omelette!
- I used three yolks here for richness but you can easily do it with more. For one litre of oil, you can add up to 8 egg yolks. Add just a splash of white wine vinegar. You really don’t need much and can always add more. When you add the salt, be sure to add it to the mustard and not directly on the yolk since it will start to cure it and creates dark spots.
- Put a damp towel under the bowl since you’ll be whisking quite fast. You don’t want to slip!
- Now if you want garlic mayo, combine the garlic-infused olive oil and vegetable oil. Measure about 300ml or about 1.25 cups of oil in total. You can always add more! Whisk the egg yolk(s), vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until the salt dissolves. Then very gradually whisk in the oil. Be sure to whisk very quickly (this is your workout!). Make sure the oil is fully incorporated before you add more. If it splits (the oil looks separated), just add a little cold water. If it gets too thick, you can add a small splash of white wine vinegar.
- Once you’ve got the consistency you like, make sure you wrap in plastic directly on the surface to avoid a ‘skin’ forming. You must use this within one day!
Now as promised (for Leah and Tae!) – a great use for this garlic mayonnaise is a pesto dip! There are so many variations of pesto, but you can’t beat a classic basil pesto. Here’s a good recipe, but I honestly don’t measure. You need:
- Basil, roughly chopped
- Garlic, roughly chopped
- Parmesan (preferably a block), freshly grated or roughly chopped
- Pine nuts, lightly toasted (just a bit of color on them)
- Salt (rock or sea preferably), go easy because Parmesan is salty!
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
I use a food processor since it’s much easier. To help out with the process I roughly chop everything. Toasting the pine nuts help to bring out the flavor, but be careful because they’re very oily and can burn quickly. When you add the pine nuts, they’ll be quite warm so I add them on the side and not directly onto the basil leaves (so they won’t wilt). Blend everything but the olive oil. Then gradually pour in the oil while the food processor is on. Go easy because you may not need that much. Make sure you taste! Then adjust to your preference. If you don’t like to eat raw garlic, you can use the garlic-infused oil instead.
Just mix with the garlic mayonnaise and voila you have pesto dip! The mayo will take 10 minutes to make and the pesto another 10. But if you don’t have 20 spare minutes, you can always buy both parts at the store and combine! You could also combine store-bought pesto with creme fraiche or try this sour cream/cream cheese combo. Since I made the pesto mayo for a BBQ, I used it on my burger instead of ketchup and it was delicious! I highly recommend for spicing up a boring sandwich too!
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Posted in American Cuisine, Latin American Cuisine, Sandwiches, tagged breakfast burrito, cauliflower, cheese, chicken, cilantro, comfort food, corn, crostini, eggs, fajitas, garlic, salad, salsa, sandwich, sausages, spinach, sprouts on February 27, 2010 |
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This time around I decided to stop being redundant and put up my recipes first. This way on my posts you can look at the more important thing – the pictures
Next up in my cooking for one was a spinach salad. Spinach just happen to be on sale the other day, so I bought two huge tubs of it and it lasted me more than a week. Basically I’ve been super loaded up with iron these days. But I never get tired of it somehow. I love it in a salad, or sandwich or sauteed. And I might just stop using frozen spinach if I can help it. The flavor just isn’t the same. Anywho – you can find the recipe here.
This time I tried something a little different and made my super basic balsamic vinaigrette with white wine vinegar instead. As you can see I’m not super creative when it comes to salad dressings. I stick with my basics because normally when I feel like a salad, it’s a last minute thing and I want it to be simple. I also used some of the leftover chicken I bought on sale (and used in the last post). Because I didn’t want to mess up my Dad’s grill, I decided to just quickly pan “grill” it. I pounded it thin since I find it cooks faster and I like to take little bites. Seasoned it with garlic salt, black pepper and chili flakes. After cooking, I sliced into strips, used some in my salad and saved the rest for another day.
Healthy chicken fajitas
Chris arrived the next day and because I had so much darn chicken I decided we were going to have fajitas! In the spirit of being healthy, I decided I would make my own seasoning since it’s pretty easy to look up online and allowed one less ‘store-bought’ thing in our meal. I didn’t really measure and kind of just threw in an assortment of ingredients I found in various recipes online (the basics really). Find the recipe here.
For veggies, I decided to go a slightly different route since I’ve been reading lots about how bell peppers give you heart burn (aka make you gassy, not exactly romantic). Even though it is a summer squash, I’ve recently read about the benefits of eating zucchini (or known in the UK as courgette). It’s low in calories and a good source of vitamin A.
Healthy, homemade chicken fajitas
I also used mushrooms since (1) Chris and I both love them, (2) they also have great health benefits like being low in calories and a good source of potassium, and (3) we were at Costco and decided to get a huge box of them.
As you can see, we had a corn salsa with our fajitas. I decided to omit the black beans and bell pepper this time to make it a little lighter.
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Posted in Italian Cuisine, Sandwiches, tagged avocado, beets, blue cheese, cheese, cherry tomatoes, chicken, croutons, fruit, garlic, mango, marinara, mozzarella, parmesan, pineapple, sandwich, sausages, spinach on February 18, 2010 |
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This past Tuesday, my parents headed out for a little trip down under and left me in charge of our three little dogs. Of course, I was very excited since this meant I had the kitchen all to myself for 10 days. It was only after they left that I realized I’d be cooking for one. This is quite a challenge, but I was determined to take advantage. I wanted to balance making things I’ve been craving and be healthy at the same time. Also since I’ve been eating loads of Vietnamese food recently, I absolutely had to feed my craving for Italian. Now my real craving for Italian would be Carbonara with homemade pasta at Mario Batali’s Otto Pizzeria at One Fifth or the gnocchi with marinara and roasted garlic cream sauce at Supper in the East Village (both in New York). Sadly, I couldn’t magically transport myself to NY and those dishes aren’t exactly healthy.
First, I searched the kitchen to see what my parents left behind for me. It is SUCH a difference using a kitchen in a house versus a flat, especially my family’s house. The pantry never ends AND they have two refrigerators!
Using just items in the kitchen, I was able to whip up a nice salad.
While it doesn’t sound like the healthiest salad in the world, I was getting lots of dietary fiber and vitamin B with my beets, one of my five-a-day with the apple, and good monounsaturated fat with the avocado. * Note – my salad recipes will start going up in my Recipes section.
Beet, Apple, Blue Cheese Salad
Next up for breakfast was fruit. As part of Tet, there was loads of fresh fruit around the house. Strangely, I realized I had never cut up a pineapple before. So I had a little fun trying to avoid poking myself. The smell of fresh pineapple is so delightful. We also had a fresh mango which usually makes my throat itch but I absolutely love. Since there was so much pineapple I figured I’d only add a little banana and orange juice then blend away!
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Posted in American Cuisine, tagged beignets, bread pudding, Cajun, Creole, dessert, garlic, gumbo, Muffuletta, New Orleans, olives, oysters, pudding, salami, seafood, southern, sweet on January 25, 2010 |
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About a week ago, I was very fortunate to make an unexpected trip to New Orleans for the NFL Divisional Playoffs between the Cardinals and the Saints. Although I do like football, I love food more. So I jumped at the chance to visit the South for the first time.
When growing up, I would hear loads of stories from my parents about the amazing experiences they had in New Orleans. Of course in my family, those stories consisted mainly of crawfish, everything Cajun or Creole, shrimp and muffulettas. And naturally they loved the energy and hospitality that ‘Nawlins’ showed them every time. My experience was no different (despite the fact that I was rooting for the Cardinals). * I warn you that there is a whole lot of food that will be discussed in this post. That’s what happens when you unleash a foodie into New Orleans for a couple days!
But let’s just get straight down to business. Our first stop (immediately after checking into our hotel) was the Acme Oyster House (http://www.acmeoyster.com/). My parents and aunts and uncles had been here many times before, so my mom insisted we go here first. Now let me preface that I do love my shellfish but have only ever tried oysters once and wasn’t all that impressed. But now that I’m going to be going to culinary school, I’ve promised myself to at least try something no matter how scared or grossed out I might be. So first thing was first – raw oysters.
After a moment of hesitation, I swallowed my fear and then the oyster. It was slimy, kind of gooey and covered in hot sauce. Honestly, it didn’t taste like anything other than a delivery system for hot cocktail sauce. So I tried another with lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. Again, it didn’t taste like much. I really was expecting it to taste salty and kind of fishy, but that experience fell a little flat for me. So I moved on to the next thing.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the most beautiful picture because we started digging in immediately before I realized I wanted a picture. The first dish is a combo of beans and rice, gumbo and Cajun Jambalaya. The second dish is a wonderful assortment of fried goodness – fried shrimp, fried oysters, hush puppies and my all-time-new-favorite fried catfish. The gumbo and jambalaya weren’t particularly impressive compared to others I’ve had before. However, the catfish – oh the catfish – was exactly as I dreamed it always would be. From all the food shows and movies I’ve seen with fried catfish – my goodness it was ‘scrumptious’ as my good friend Anwar would say. It seriously melted in my mouth. You have to love fish that is so fresh it melts. The batter was cornmeal and was incredibly light and crunchy. The hush puppies were also fantastic although I honestly felt that if I had to feel guilty about eating fried food I’d prefer the catfish. The fried oysters and shrimp, sadly, just tasted fried – masking the actual flavor of the seafood.
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