Archive for March, 2009

30
Mar
09

pizza.

I go through some pretty public food phases. In college, I was all about the tuna casserole, which I found in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and made some version of bi-monthly for four years. My favorite version had cannelloni noodles, green beans, cheddar cheese, and crushed Baked Lays on top. I used to nuke it in the microwave and drown it in whatever honey mustard I had on hand. Sophisticate, I was not.

A few months ago, I graduated to a much classier pizza phase. Trader Joe’s sells dough for $0.99, so it became my go-to poor man’s food. My roommates even got me a pizza-themed birthday gift this year, complete with a pizza pan, a pizza slicer, and pizza-shaped storage bags. Cue my Mexican phase. Timing is not my forte.

I set all things pizza aside for the past two months, save for the pizza bags which I’ve been using to store all my half-used avocados. Last week, I decided it was time to christen my virginal pizza pan. It looked all lonely pressed up against my two slutty pots and three trampy skillets. Also, I got this amazing looking smoked mozzarella at the cheese shop, and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to introduce it to my belly.

At first, I tried to roll out the dough directly in my fancy nonstick pizza pan, but that proved moronic. Instead, I rolled it out on my floured counter top and transferred it with surprisingly little difficulty. I topped it with sliced eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme), and the aforementioned mozzarella. Then I drizzled it with olive oil until it looked like this:

pizza in the raw

pizza in the raw

I’m not so fantastic at the even distribution of olive oil, as you can see. The TJ’s dough says you’re only supposed to cook it at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes, but whoever decided that obvs loves it raw. And that’s not really my thing. Instead, I set the timer for 10 minutes, and then kept tacking on two minutes at a time. I think I ended up cooking it for like 16 minutes when all was said and done. It could have been its predisposition to being smoked, but the mozzarella smelled too smoky to go on. I cut an absurdly big piece and served it dipped in honey mustard. Good with casserole, better with pizza. See below:

pizza, baked

pizza, baked

24
Mar
09

soup and sandwich.

I spent a decent amount of time touting the brilliance of the Panini Press recently, and then I packed it away for, like, weeks. It wasn’t very gracious of me. Is that how I treat objects that were created simply to delight and ask for nothing in return?!

I guess it is. I’m greedy :(.

Luckily, my Press isn’t one to hold a grudge, and so it rose to my panini craving occasion last night. How sweet. I’ve been on a continuous soup high (stop judging me) since the success of my butternut squash, so I decided to make potato leek soup. I had a half dozen of leftover red potatoes, so I just bought a couple of leeks and some veggie broth. DONE. Well, basically.

I sauteed a couple of cloves of minced garlic with butter, two chopped leeks, and my peeled and chopped potatoes. They aren’t super scenic, but have a look down below:

pre-soup ingredients

pre-soup ingredients

They sauteed for about 10-15 minutes until they turned into a bunch of softies, and then I pureed them with my handheld mixer. Then, I threw that mix back into the pot and added a few cups of veggie stock. How easy is THAT?

On the side, I was to make spinach, apple and brie paninis. Mostly because I’m fancy, but also because I got $0.99 brie slices at the cheese shop and that’s just so very recession friendly. I cut up a loaf of ciabatta and drizzled each piece with olive oil, and then toasted each slice for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, I added sliced gala apples (fn delicious), honey, spinach leaves, brie, salt and pepper. Before pressed, it looked like this:

pre-pressed panini

pre-pressed panini

Don’t you wish you lived in some kind of alternate post-industrial universe in which that panini was the answer to re-population? No? I’m the only one? Ha, it was a joke…..

Moving on, I pressed that lovely panini while stirring my soup occasionally until mixed. The soup turned out pretty good, although the color is a little disconcerting. I think I can blame its hue on the combo of the red potatoes and the veggie broth. The panini though? The brie was melty, the apples crunchy, and the spinach got just the right amount of wilty. No complaints. See below:

potato leek soup and a brie, apple and spinach panini

potato leek soup and a brie, apple and spinach panini

23
Mar
09

baked salmon and roasted potatoes.

It’s important to note that I made the following meal last week, but I’ve been so busy re-discovering morning workouts that I am just now getting around to posting. In the past, I had good intentions with a morning routine, but I attended one unsettling spinning class and quickly pegged the a.m. as the red-headed stepchild of time frames. It’s been several months since that manic class, so I decided to give it another go.

My new place of business is close to one of the nicer gyms in my chain (I have a passport gym membership, meaning I can go to any in the city), so I started my day with said gym twice last week. The vibe there is surprisingly great for the morning, and it was way less vom-inducing than the gym of morning workouts’ past. I was able to run two miles and do a full weights routine before my day even started. I dare say I’m hooked.

To reward myself for my pre-dawn energy, I decided to make my favorite food last week. Well, Rice Krispee Treats would totally counteract all that hard work, so I settled for my second favorite: salmon. There was a restaurant in my college town that served fish with different chutney-like fruit salsas (i.e. kiwi, mango, pineapple, etc), and I always thought it was, like, equal parts colorful and delicious. As an homage to Cabana Cove, I made baked salmon with avocado, mango and black bean salsa.

The salsa is absurdly easy to make. I started by chopping half an avocado, half a can of black beans, and chunks of frozen mango. Then, I added a little lime juice and some cilantro until it looked like this:

salsaaaa

salsaaaa

Meanwhile, I cut some red potatoes into chunks and tossed with olive oil, a couple cloves of minced garlic, chopped shallots, salt and pepper. I tossed them onto the top rack of the oven at 400 degrees.

I patted the defrosted salmon with salt, pepper, lemon pepper, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. My potatoes had been cooking for about 10-15 min when I reduced the heat to 350 to accommodate my salmon. At first, I placed the salmon on the bottom rack of the oven while my potatoes sat high and mighty on top. They were in those positions for maybe 5 minutes, during which time I had like 5 conscious nightmares about my salmon getting charred and inedible and generally undesirable. I decided to flip racks, which of course resulted in a little burn on my right arm. I got my first sweat and spicy battle scar 😦

It was worth it, I guess, because my salmon emerged looking all tempting and, I hate to say it, far superior to Rice Krispee Treats:

fishy

fishy

They say looks are subjective, but I challenge someone not to be attracted to that fillet. If I had more patience, I would have let the potatoes cook for longer, because they came out only slightly crispy after 35 minutes in the oven. The shallots and garlic were charred beyond recognition, of course. The fruity/spicy dynamic was dead on, though. See below:

fruit salsa, roasted potatoes and spicy salmon

fruit salsa, roasted potatoes and spicy salmon

15
Mar
09

stuffed bell peppers.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I’m a die-hard Trader Joe’s ho. I almost never cheat on that grocery, and it’s seriously 80 blocks from my apartment. I’m devoted to my store. NO ONE takes care of me like TJ’s. They have bananas for $0.19. It’s unreal; I’m like on a euphoric high every time I go in there. One time I spent less than $20 on a week’s worth of groceries, and I almost made out with my cashier in celebration. I was just that thrilled.

That said, I love making stuffed bell peppers, because one red and one green bell pepper set me back just $1.99. Can DO. I’ve been slacking on the spicy side lately, so I decided to make vegetable and wild rice stuffed peppers baked in jalapeno juice. As the rice was cooking, I gutted (AKA cut out the ribs and seeds) and par-boiled the peppers for about 10 minutes like so:

peppers in hot water

peppers in hot water

I timed it pretty well, because my rice finished cooking as my peppers were still boiling away. I mixed the rice with spinach, grape tomatoes, feta, and a few chopped jalapenos. I seasoned with just salt and pepper, letting the jalapenos dominate the flavor. My innards looked like this:

pepper innards

pepper innards

Aren’t my innards beautiful? I drained my peppers and stuffed them with the rice mixture, and then put them in a pan. I poured the juice from my jalapeno jar in the bottom on the pan, and then covered them in aluminum foil. They baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, during which time my entire apartment reeked of jalapenos. I removed the foil and baked for 10 minutes uncovered until they looked like this:

baked peppers

baked peppers

Seriously, they were the best I’ve ever made. The tomatoes were cooked to where you bite into them, and the juice explodes in your mouth in the most delightful way. At the risk of sounding Lechter-esque, I was a huge fan of the tasty skin. It was perfectly browned and juicy due to the jalapeno marinade. I would have made it into a dress if that weren’t, like, much too impractical. I don’t really need to attract every rat in the city. Alas, see below for the cross section of the entire thing:

stuffed bell pepper

stuffed bell pepper

11
Mar
09

edamame burgers.

I loathe faux meat. There’s something deceitful about spaghetti and “wheat”balls, right? I find it offensive. If one feels the need to eat meat-shaped tofu, I feel like he or she should probably cut the cord on the vegetarian lifestyle. It’s not meant to be, jackass. I’m doing this for your own good.

That being said, veggie burgers are fantastic. Is that a double standard you see? Maybe, though I tried really, really hard to bury it in all my glibness. I’ve made black bean and tofu burgers several hundred times (slight exaggeration), and I once made eggplant and tofu burgers that came out ever so crumbly yet edible nonetheless. Once I figured out that egg whites and bread crumbs can do WONDERS for patty-binding, I was golden. I can’t really be trusted around french fries, so I’m a fan of making zucchini, eggplant, or polenta fries to accompany. SO good.

I made the third incarnation of my veggie burger last night using a pound of frozen and thawed edamame, one grated carrot, two egg whites, and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bread crumbs. I mushed the ingredients together with a hand-held mixer, and then got handsy with them to form six patties. I pan-fried them in some canola oil, which you see to your immediate right:

edamame burgers

edamame burgers

For my sexy side dish, I tossed some sliced cremini (AKA baby portobello) mushrooms with a chopped shallot, one minced garlic clove, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I roasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. I’m not sure the angle and lighting do my shrooms any justice, but see below:

shrooms

shrooms

I tried to make a wasabi vinaigrette to drizzle on my burgers, so I combined lemon juice, rice wine vinegar and wasabi paste. Unfortunately, I got cocky and decided to wing it. It came out MUCH too runny, and my last-minute attempt to add flour to thicken it proved futile. And yucky. I set it aside to use for a future salad dressing, and instead served my burgers with a squeeze of wasabi paste and hot mustard. I stuffed my burger in a whole wheat pita, and enjoyed oh so much:

edamame burger and roasted shrooms

edamame burger and roasted shrooms

10
Mar
09

ahi tuna steaks and fondue.

Please excuse my brief absence from all things blog, as I was super busy being a useless sack in Florida. Well, I’m talking myself up a little. I have a little thing called “creative license” and I do relish in it. I DID perfect my ass imprint on our leather couch, and I think we can all agree that’s exactly what the family room was missing.

My dad made a tremendous (to put it lightly) dinner the first night, although there’s nothing new there. We’re all well under 5’7″, yet we eat like the Windsor family on holiday. Highlights include the sauteed asparagus to your immediate right:

sparrow's grass

sparrow's grass

He prepared it with both olive oil AND butter, which Anthony Bourdain in “Kitchen Confidential” says is super common for chefs to do. Well, you’re not born knowing these things. I’ve been choosing one or the other like a moron for MONTHS, never knowing that the two could make such sweet, beautiful music once they awkwardly bumped uglies in the pan. No more, my friend.

The star of the meal was the Ahi tuna steaks, though. I maintain that, when seared, one of those steaks is fierce competition for one the Seven Wonders of the World. The Great Wall of China should sleep with one eye open. See below for the tuna mid-sear:

fishy

fishy

Luckily, I took a few breaks from my ass-imprint-perfecting (though I was dedicated to the cause) to run around the lake during my time at home. It’s a three mile endeavor, and I ran it three times while home. With 9 miles under my belt, I EARNED my dessert of dark chocolate fondue. My dad served said fondue with an array of strawberries, apples and bananas. See below for my chocolate coated strawberry, right before I assassinated it via my teeth and tongue and such. Oh how I love Asian/French fusion:

straw meets its 'due

straw meets its 'due

02
Mar
09

fish salad.

I’m going home to Florida in a couple of days for nearly a week (suck it, Winter), so I decided to forgo grocery shopping today. “I can live off of bread crumbs and half-rotten arugula for the time being,” I thought, planning to pan fry my two ingredients into some crunchy lettuce I could eat for the next nine meals. I scanned my freezer in the name of variety, and came up victorious with Tilapia fillet in hand. I had forgotten about the extra fillet I deemed too much for my fish tacos, and now it was swooping in to tell malnutrition where to shove it. How sweet.

Rather than fall back on the tired fish tacos, I decided to make a taco salad of sorts. I had habanero lime tortilla wraps on hand, which I cut into triangles and brushed with olive oil and salt. I then baked them in the toaster oven at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes on each side.

habanero lime tortilla chips

habanero lime tortilla chips

Meanwhile, I marinated my defrosted fish in about half a cup of lime juice, two teaspoons of cilantro, and probably three teaspoons of cayenne pepper. Spicy? Yes, please. I let it marinade for 30 minutes while I watched a little “My Girl” on TV. After Macaulay Culkin’s bee-sting incident (hello, depressing), it was time to bake my fish in an aluminum foil pocket like so:

Tilapia, getting baked

Tilapia, getting baked

I tossed the fish in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, and then cooked up the rest of my salad. I drained and rinsed a can of black beans, which I threw in a pan with some frozen corn and about half a red onion. Since it was a nonstick pan, I just cooked the ingredients in some lime juice and called it a day.

Twenty minutes had come and gone at this point, so my fish emerged looking delicioso:

Baked Tilapia

Baked Tilapia

I layered the chips with my black bean, corn and red onion mix, topped with about half of my fillet, some sliced avocado, and a healthy serving of chipotle salsa. The fish was cooked perfectly (seriously, that aluminum pocket deal is FOOL-proof), and everything else was flavorful and (at least to me) the right amount of spicy. See? Malnutrition is overrated.

Tilapia taco salad

Tilapia taco salad




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