Monday, March 26, 2007

guest chef series #3: beef stew

Alhambra R&D invited us over (well, we kind of crashed an existing party) and a good time was had by all.

beef stew
Rich, melty beef with lots of gravy leads to overeating. It was so good. We turned down their offer to give us leftovers, but regretted it the next day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


What's the difference between gnocchi and dumplings? This came out of the freezer (there are still 2 more blobs), leftover from this. That's kind of embarrassing, now that I know how long it's been in the freezer.

butternut squash dumplings
Again, I fried them in butter and sage, which is really an amazing combination. I made a quick Caesar salad to go with it. (I won't tell you how long I've had that Romaine lettuce. I'll just say that I'm surprised it was in such good condition.)
[butternut squash dumplings, butter, sage, salt, parmesan; romaine lettuce, egg, mustard, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

tuna helper

This one is not from the box, but it is a result of the pantry cleaning madness.

baked pasta with tuna, corn, and peas
Growing up, we never really had tuna helper, but apparently it sustained D through his college years (that, and Hamburger Helper). So I figured I could make a reasonable simulation of it. I think it was a success because D pretty much ate the entire pan.
[pasta, tuna, milk, corn, peas, cheddar cheese, flour, butter, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper]

to peel or not to peel?

I love having a food processor.

I read somewhere that if you peel the translucent skins off of chickpeas, it makes for a smoother hummus. So I tried it, and it really does make a difference. Unfortunately, it's kind of a pain, so I think that I would opt to just keep the skins on. They're easy enough to peel off, but they tend to stick to your fingers, and you can only really do it one at a time. We ran out of garlic, so this is one was garlic-less.
[garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, salt, olive oil]

cornbread mix

I'm generally not a mix user, but a gift is a gift, and when you find it during your pantry-cleaning frenzy, it can't hurt to try it. Turns out, it's really good. No wonder people use mixes - no measuring involved!

cranberry cornbread
I was inthe shower and I figured that D could handle making this himself. But when I got out, he had started the oven, dumped the mix in a bowl, and was completely confused by the directions. "Put cornbread mix in a bowl and blend. Add 1 cup of water and mix thoroughly." That first part really messed him up, and now that I think about it, it is totally redundant. Anyway, we figured it out in the end, and it turned out well. Even better with lots of butter.
[Harry & David gift package cornbread mix, water]

Thursday, March 15, 2007

more freezer goodies

Some things from the freezer: two short ribs, one frozen block of short rib braising stock.

short ribs with carrots
When the stock is premade, this is really an easy thing to do. I browned the short ribs, deglazed the pan with some port, and threw the block in on low heat to melt. Then the short ribs went back in for a few hours, and then the carrots for the last half hour or so.
[short ribs, braising liquid (not exactly sure, but i think it has: water, tomato paste, red wine, parsley, thyme, onions, canned tomatoes), carrots, port]

blue cheese potato gratin
This a basic gratin, I threw the blue cheese on for the last 5 minutes and broiled it. I used whole milk instead of heavy cream, so it was much less rich than a traditional gratin, but it still had a luxurious mouthfeel.
[russet potato, milk, salt, pepper, blue cheese]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

vegetarian option

I'm still on my campaign to clear out my fridge/freezer/pantry.

mushroom risotto
I had some truffled rice hidden in the back of my fridge which I had been saving to make mushroom risotto. Since I clearly had forgotten about it, I figured it was time to put it to use. Especially considering I had some crimini mushroom which needed to be eaten asap. This turned out to be really, really good, considering I didn't have any chicken stock around.
[truffled arborio rice, crimini mushrooms, water, parmesan cheese, onions, white wine, leeks, salt, pepper]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"things that never go bad" pasta

It may be an unfounded myth, but anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes never seem to go bad.

pantry pasta
In an attempt to free myself of the hoarding instinct, I've refused to buy anything but fresh vegetables at the market for the past few weeks. We're slowly eating through the contents of our pantry and freezer. So far, we've used two cans of tuna, a can of tomatoes, half a bag of pasta, pork ribs, ham and frozen pork from Thanksgiving, and one can of garbanzo beans. Still a lot of pantry to go. So, in that vein, this meal was developed. Sun-dried tomatoes and anchovies sitting in our fridge finally got used up. I should have thrown in some of those olives, too. I minced the garlic, anchovies, and sun-dried tomatoes (and a stray jalapeño sitting around), sautéed those in the tomato oil, fried up the sausage and tossed it all with pasta.
[pasta, sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic, anchovies, oil]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

lemony lightness

I'll have to say that I impressed myself with this one. I was kind of worried when I unmolded it, and the bottom was a little gooey, but all fears were allayed after the first bite.

lemon chiffon cake
Cook's Illustrated does it again. This is an awesome cake. And surprisingly easy. I forgot the lemon juice, but it still worked out beautifully (and lemony). The texture is moist and extremely light. D, G, and I polished off about half of it before we realized it.

From Cook's Illustrated, May 1996
If the egg whites to be whipped are not at room temperature, set them in a pan placed in hot tap water and stir them until they are tepid. Coconut is very nice as a variation for this cake. Add 2/3 to 1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut, lightly chopped, to the batter before folding in the egg whites.
Serves 12

-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
-1 1/3 cups cake flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon table salt
-7 large eggs , 2 left whole, 5 separated
-2/3 cup water
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
-2 large lemons , zested, then juiced to yield 2 tablespoons strained juice

1. Adjust rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl (at least 4-quart size). Whisk in two whole eggs, five egg yolks (reserve whites), water, oil, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract until batter is just smooth.

2. Pour reserved egg whites into large bowl; beat at medium speed with electric mixer until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, then beat whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry, 9 to 10 minutes with hand-held mixer and 5 to 7 minutes in KitchenAid or other standing mixer. With large rubber spatula, fold whites into batter, smearing in any blobs of white that resist blending with flat side of spatula.

3. Pour batter into large tube pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity). Rap pan against countertop five times to rupture any large air pockets. If using two-piece pan, grasp on both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with thumbs to keep batter from seeping underneath pan during this rapping process. Wipe off any batter that may have dripped or splashed onto inside walls of pan with paper towel.

4. Bake cake until wire cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Immediately turn cake upside down to cool. If pan does not have prongs around rim for elevating cake, invert pan over bottle or funnel, inserted through tube. Let cake hang until completely cold, about 2 hours.

5. To unmold, turn pan upright. Run frosting spatula or thin knife around pan's circumference between cake and pan wall, always pressing against the pan. Use cake tester to loosen cake from tube. For one-piece pan, bang it on counter several times, then invert over serving plate. For two-piece pan, grasp tube and lift cake out of pan. If glazing the cake, use a fork or a paring knife to gently scrape all the crust off the cake. Loosen cake from pan bottom with spatula or knife, then invert cake onto plate. (Can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature 2 days or refrigerated 4 days.)

[from Cook's Illustrated, May 1996]

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

almost ultimate (canned) tuna sandwich

The ultimate tuna sandwich would be more of a tuna melt, with a tasty, melty cheese on top, but since we only had gorgonzola in the house, we had to do with "almost".

tuna and egg on an english muffin
The only tricky thing about this is working with frozen English muffins. I almost inevitably leave them in the toaster oven too long, and they become crispy bricks, rather than the fluffy bread they should be.
[tuna, mayonnaise, english muffin, onion (sautéed), pepper, tomato, egg]

Monday, March 05, 2007

chinese home cooking

I used to make this a lot, but haven't made it since we moved back to California. I think it's because I can get mom's actual cooking here, whereas while I was in Boston, I'd have to simulate it.

ma-po tofu
Yummy!! This is one of my favorites, and it wasn't as spicy as I usually make it. I think I misjudged the intensity of my mom's homemade black bean secret special spice mixture. But it's simple and cooks up in a flash.
[ground pork, tofu, onions, garlic, ginger, mom's secret special black bean stuff (or a chili will do), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, cornstarch]

steamed veggies
Steamed and briefly sautéed with garlic and oil. It doesn't get much easier than this.
[chinese vegetables, water, garlic, oil]