7.29.2010

Roasted Bell Peppers

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I'm not sure why red, yellow and orange bell peppers cost more than the green ones. But I hope there's a good reason. Because they are considerably more. So, I tend to use a lot of green peppers. When the rainbow ones go on sale, I stock up. This time, I decided to use these pretty peppers for a roasted bell pepper salad. My mom always makes this, and there's really nothing to it. That is, once you finally get your peppers charred.
I started the roasting in a pan. But. After 10 minutes of almost no results, put them directly over the burners. That considerably sped things up. But this is not a quick process, so sip some wine and be patient.
Once they were perfectly charred, I placed the peppers in a bag, sealed it, and waited for 10 minutes, for easier peeling. Note that I said easier, not easy. Because no matter what method I have used, it's never really easy to peel these, unlike on TV. They are simply messy.

Once peeled, I removed the seeds and sliced the peppers thinly, then coated them with olive oil. That's it. No seasoning, no nothing. Just the pure, sweet taste of the peppers. I like these on their own, or over salads, and pastas. Even the husband, who doesn't care for bell peppers ate them up, leaving me with a lot less than I had hoped.

Flying Pig Adventures (Finally It Flew Close Enough for Us to Try)

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I am not a food truck person, simply because of laziness. I do not like to stand in lines, or stand while eating. And I especially don't like standing next to hipsters. I am pretty sure I'm allergic to American Apparel. But, a friend of ours is behind The Flying Pig Truck, so we have been curious to try it, we just refused to drive out of our way for it. Finally, the Flying Pig made it to Whittier. So we went.

Our chef friend has received acclaim for his creative menu (Food & Wine, Jonathan Gold), but lets face it, he's been probably waiting for my opinion. I was curious to try his creations, mostly because he's so frustrating to deal with when I ask for any type of recipe advice. I know he has all the fancy training, and can actually cook, but he offers zero direction. Our conversations go something like this:

Me: Hey, Mr. Chef. I want to try this recipe, what do you think I should do? Should I add this ingredient?

Mr. Chef: Hey, KK. Sure. Sounds good.

Me: Hmm, which part sounds good?

Mr. Chef: All of it.

Me: Thanks. How about switching these ingredients? Or trying this cooking method instead.

Mr. Chef: Yeah, that sounds good.

Me: Sigh.

Easy going people are so difficult!
I put all that aside last night as we pulled up in front of our old High School, where the cute pink truck was parked, and sighed in relief that there was no line, no hipsters. And there were plenty of stairs for us to sit at. This was worth the nine-month wait.

We ordered a variety of items. I of course left my camera at home thinking I would have my hands full of food, so these pictures were kindly provided to me. Here's what we tried in the order of most deliciousness: duck taco, crab balls, pork bun, spicy pork burrito, spicy pork taco, smoked chicken burrito.

I liked how well things were spiced, and how fresh tasting the duck taco was. It still had a rich flavor, but there was a nice lightness to it. If I was the type of person to use the word delightful, I would in this instance.

So my official opinion? I would drive up to 25 miles for this truck. I might even wait in a short line. But my hope is, since their food is so good, they will have more trucks, and this reduce my driving and waiting time.

7.27.2010

Pizza and Caesar Salad

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There's nothing more satisfying than pizza and salad. And beer. The easy thing to do would be to order in. But, why take the easy route when the husband is still obsessively seeking for the perfect pizza dough recipe?

I had little to do with this meal. I sliced the toppings, made the pizza sauce and put together the salad. The dough and the Caesar dressing, the time-consuming tasks, were handled by the husband. I supervised and offered my expertise. Like a consultant. Here's the type of advice I would give - don't over sauce or over top. Things get wet and mushy if you don't restrain yourself. Pretty good, eh?

Caesar Salad Dressing
Adapted from the Food Network

1 clove garlic, smashed with a pinch of salt and a little olive oil
4 anchovy fillets or paste
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the anchovies, egg yolks, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and water into a blender and process for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify. Stir in the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables

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Sometimes I run out of dinner ideas. For that reason alone, I keep shrimp in the freezer. Shrimp are easy to throw in stir frys, add to pastas, or top salads with. I had nice, jumbo ones around, and decided to grill them, along with the never-ending supply of squash we have in our fridge. As soon as I'm almost done with the squash we have around, somehow, more appear. I am convinced they are reproducing on their own.

I like to marinade my shrimp with lots of garlic, nice sea salt, olive oil, red pepper flakes and right before grilling, lemon juice. These were nice and juicy, and we topped our watercress salad with them.

Perfect Summer Salad: Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella

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I don't recall if I mentioned it here, but a few months ago, I spent a small fortune on fancy balsamic vinegar. I chalked it up to helping the economy, but for months could not go through with actually opening the pricey bottle. What type of meal deserved to be drizzled with this syrupy nectar? Should this be saved for special occasions, or secretly sipped straight from the bottle in the middle of the night? These very important questions have been filling my head.
Then last weekend we picked pretty garden tomatoes and colorful basil, and I knew it was time to pop open the balsamic. I made a quick, layered salad with the addition of mozzarella, and drizzled the vinegar over the top. Needless to say it was simple and amazing. Everything tasted fresh and the balsamic was sweet and rich. We ate the entire platter between the two of us.

7.22.2010

Summertime Picnics

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I love eating outdoors. I love napping outdoors. And I love taking it easy. All those things make me a lover of picnics.

Equipped with a small cooler, a bottle of champagne and goodies from our local cheese store and Italian deli, a few weeks ago we celebrated the start of summer with a delicious picnic at a nearby park. We went on our Friday off, and let me tell you, picnicking during the work week is great, because no one else is around, except for squirrels.
The next day, I broke my elbow. So summer is officially on hold until I can picnic again.

7.20.2010

Cobb-izo Salad

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Dear Readers,
If you're looking at the photos above and thinking, hmm, these are not the usual pictures found here. Well, then you are very observant. You see, this guest blogger, hasn't gotten the hang of taking photos yet. So, I had to pull some images off the web. And when I suggested to her that she keep her camera handy for future posts, her reply was,"I'll guest blogger your face".

Despite the lack of nice photos, I do hope you enjoy her latest post. I personally cannot vouch for this salad, but I can't imagine anything with chorizo and feta not tasting good. I was also entertained by the number of times she used the word "dumped" in the second to last paragraph. Appetizing.

-KK

My confession: I am a cheapskate. It's not about being frugal, because I will way overspend on crap at Old Navy or Target or more dangerously Nordstrom Rack. But when I am posed with the option of buying face soap I will, nine times out of ten, always buy the generic brand even if I love the name brand version. I know that doesn't sound bad. But, my cheapskatedness does not always work logically. It only sees bargains in the short term. Costco, buy three get one free deals, spend $80 and get $20 off -- those things don't work for me. Even if they are things that I use all the time like beans, deodorant, or coffee.

Newest manifestation of said cheapskatedness: use all the food I buy. This probably doesn't sound bad either. But it means that I am eating cheese sandwiches and capers and every other weird thing I felt compelled to buy at the grocery store one time or another. All my frozen pizzas are gone, as is all the cereal. And I'm commited to not buying more food until everything is gone (which, thank god, will be tomorrow).

So imagine my surprise, when I accidentally made something good with the monster of Frankenstein food items I had in the fridge. Enter the Cobb-izo Salad.

It happened a day last week when co-workers invited me to get barbecue for lunch. I came back to the office so full of delicious, greasy food that I declared to anyone on Gchat, who would listen, that I was going to have a salad for dinner.
But what did I have at home? I had spinach. A whole tub full. But what else? I had just eaten my last avocado last night and had no bacon, so unfortunately I couldn't make a cobb salad. Or couldn't I?

I got home and heated up a skillet, dumped a little linkful of chorizo in and cooked it up. Mmmmm. Into the sizzling chorizo I dumped a can of garbanzo beans and let those soak up the chorizo oil goodness. I also hardboiled an egg. As those cooked/boiled, I dumped nearly an entire container of pre-washed spinach onto a plate (to counteract the chorizo! smart!) and cut up some green onions. When the egg was done, I peeled and cut it, then dumped it on the spinach. Then I did the same with the chorizo and beans, and sprinkled feta over the top. (I also added just a teensy bit of asiago cheese dressing on this, but chorizo oil probably doesn't warrant needing much more.) And ta-dah! BAM! the Cobb-izo Salad was born. And consumed. It was really good. I would probably eat it instead of queso or cheeseburgers any night of the week.

But thankfully, I am going shopping tomorrow to replenish the frozen pizzas because thinking about cooking is hard.
-ST

Party Leftovers: Calamari, Croatian-Style

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I like my calamari fried. Or battered and fried. Basically prepared in a way to make it less squidy. So when my brother-in-law (BIL) prepared this Croatian-style calamari dish for the first time, I wasn't really excited.

However, my only other seafood option that day was grilled baby octopus. And I know I don't like octopus. I've tried. It just didn't work out between us. So I tried the calamari dish, and it was delicious. I really should have known better, I like almost anything with potatoes.

BIL made this dish again a few weekends ago. This time I was excited. But, we had plans for dinner at my folks. I asked BIL to save me some calamari, and he did. I took it home, and we had it for dinner the next day. I reheated the dish in plenty of olive oil, and served it with a harvest grains mix. It tasted great. And reheating it got rid of the raw garlic taste I didn't especially like in the original recipe. I was a little sad there wasn't much potatoes leftover. But I got over it.
After deciding to blog about his leftover squid, I asked BIL for the recipe, and stole some of his photos (below) from his first-time making the dish. Included are his step-by-step instructions on cleaning, and cooking the calamari.
Croatian-Style Calamari
Courtesy of BIL

First, get a squid. Get squid plural actually, of the kind whose length ranges from 4 to 6 inches, and figure on a pound per person if this is a main course, or half a pound per person if an appetizer.

Next, clean your squid:
1. Pull the head and arms/tentacles from the tube.

2. Being careful not to rupture the eyes or ink sac, pinch off any gunky material (including the brain) attached to the head above the eyes.

3. Squeeze out the squid's beak from the center of the arms and tentacles. This is akin to popping a pimple. The beak is a hard part amid all the softness, so you'll know when it's been expelled. Discard the beaks and put the cleaned head and tentacles, complete with the eyes, into a covered casserole dish that you can use on top of a range.

4. Then, clean the tube (the mantle). Pull the "quill" out of the tube first; this is a translucent, plastic-like structure whose point just sticks out of the tube. Discard the quill.

5. Use your fingernail to gently scrape out the inside of the tube under running water. There should be no gunk in the tube when you're done; discard any of the material you find inside.

6. Gently pull the fins of the top of the tube, and peel the spotty purple-pink epidermis from the white meat of the tube. Put the tubes into your pot with the cleaned head and tentacles.

Cooking the squid:
Toss your cleaned squid parts with some olive oil, so that all the parts are coated with olive oil fairly well. Put the covered lid on your dish and cook the squid on a range set a medium heat. After 20 minutes, stir the mixture. Cover the entire mixture with thinly sliced (i.e., no thicker than 1/4 in.) wafers of a peeled potato. Cook the covered squid for another 20 minutes.

After about 40 minutes, check a tube. The squid is done when the potato pieces start to break up, and the tubes have turned purplish, are fairly firm, and tender enough to cut with a fork edge. If there is any leftover water, cook or drain it off. Next, mix minced garlic, minced parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil together. Toss the cooked squid and potatoes with this mixture. Serve immediately.

(As I mentioned earlier, I didn't love the raw garlic taste, so I would recommend cooking the garlic and parsley mixture for just a couple of minutes. Also, since I like plenty of potatoes, I think I would add more if I was to make this.)

7.18.2010

Fancy Chili Beans with Garden Vegetables

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I hope this post will prove to you I am not an exaggerator, and until two days ago, I was making myself some pretty creative meals, with one arm, and an almost empty fridge. Besides the beans (a pantry stable) and a small amount of sour cream I found on the bottom shelf of my fridge, everything else came from a garden. Or rather gardens.

Now you might think tomatoes, green onions and a green bell pepper are not the ideal toppings for beans. And you'd probably be right. But, this combo was super refreshing and light. But more importantly, it's all I had.

Luckily, two days ago, we went shopping. Next week there shall be more rounded meals.
I like to season my beans with paprika, cumin and oregano. And to make up for all the freshness, and lightness, I did enjoy these with greasy tortilla chips.

One-Arm Spaghetti, with a Zucchini-Eggplant Sauce

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There are benefits and drawbacks to a broken elbow. Benefit 1: unlimited TV watching. What else could I do possibly do in a vicodin haze? Benefit 2: not doing dishes. And that's where the benefits end.

Drawback 1: not driving. Drawback 2: not driving while living with someone who insists we should only eat food grown in his gardens (squash and turnips) and avoid grocery shopping. Drawback 3: vicodin makes me hungry, and not for squash.

But what can you do with one functioning elbow? Suck it up and made do with an almost empty fridge.
My goal was to not to chop anything. But, the only fresh vegetable I had was a zucchini. So, after 10 minutes of working slowly, I had my zucchini in bite-size pieces, and sauteing in olive oil. Once they were nice and brown, I added a store-bought eggplant spread, dried Italian herbs and tomato sauce.
The sauce came together nicely, with the eggplant adding a deep flavor. I used a thin spaghetti and topped my plate with fresh mozzarella. This dish was so simple and satisfying, I might make it again with two functioning arms. 

7.16.2010

Crab Cakes Over Greens, with More Greens On the Side

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I love crab cakes. When the husband and I go out, and there's crab cakes on the menu, I aways want some for an appetizer. And he's always like, "I know you want some, but too bad, I don't." And he's all jerky about it. I'm not sure what he has against these delicious patties of the sea, but I sure don't appreciate him taking it out on me.

So when I make them at home, I refuse to share. You might think, that's jerky too. And you would be right. But how else is he going to learn?
Trader Joe's has surprisingly delicious Maryland-style frozen crab cakes. They go straight from your freezer to a hot saute pan, and are ready in 10 minutes. I like to eat my crab cakes over a bed of greens, and drizzle them with a shallot and mustard vinaigrette. This time, I also had nice-looking green beans from one of the husband's gardens. I blanched these, and topped them with the vinaigrette as well.

Having all that green on my plate made me feel a lot better about wolfing down two good-sized crab cakes, all by myself. I did share the green beans, since they were from his garden and all.