Sunday, January 20, 2008

Asian-Inspired Dinner - 1/19/2008

At a local fresh market, I found some Keffir lime leaves, so I decided to make a dish based on that and this meal ensued.

Asian-Inspired Dinner

On the right is the aromatic rice I made with the leaves. You saute some onion, add the jasmine rice plus cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and a cinnamon stick. Cook these for a couple of minutes to release the flavors. Add the lime leaves and some chicken broth, cover, and cook until tender. The overall flavor of the rice was a mild lime-cumin flavor, but it was not overwhelming and it was different than if I had used lime juice or zest. It was a different but very good dish.

To the left is caramel-garlic chicken. It is Asian-ish in that it uses turmeric, soy sauce and rice wine to marinate the chicken. Then it is breaded, cooked at a high heat and set aside. Brown sugar, garlic and rice vinegar are combined and heated to make a caramel sauce that is tossed over the chicken. The outside of the chicken was nicely crunch and savory-sweet while the inside was still moist.

Last on the plate, in the back, are roasted root vegetables. Cut up some veggies (I used potato, carrot, onion, and sweet potato...though if you use sweet potato, you have to microwave it for about 10 minutes since it is a little denser) and arrange on a greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-4 hours, mixing every 30 minutes or so. You want them to not only be soft, but slightly caramelized. Once they are done, remove them from the oven and place them in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine about 2-3 parts olive oil with 1 part balsamic vinegar. Then mix and add honey to taste (you want a tangy sweet dressing). I used Tupelo honey from north Florida since I got some on my last vacation. Pour this over the veggies and toss to combine. The is a very delicious dish that could easily become a staple side on many tables.


My dessert of the week is banana eclairs. I did not have the right piping equipment, so they turned out smaller than I wanted, but they were still good. They were fairly labor intensive and I should have made them on a day when I wasn't committed to making so many other dishes too. They still tasted good, though, so in the end it all turned out okay.

Toad-in-the-Hole - 1/19/2008

I made breakfast yesterday morning and decided to share my mom's "secret recipe." Don't start drooling yet because it is very simple, but still quite enjoyable.


These creations go by many names: Toad-in-the-Hole, Eggs in a Basket, Eggy in a Toasty, Birds in a Nest. You can see them in the movie "V for Vendetta." All you have to do is cut out some holes (any shape you want) with a cookie or biscuit cutter. Butter the remaining piece of bread and the cutout and put them in a hot pan. Add an egg to the hole in each piece of bread. Cook until it is flippable, then flip and finish cooking. Be sure not to overcook them so you can dip in to the runny yolk with your bread cutout. It may not be anything fancy, but it is a recipe that always reminds me of breakfast at home.

Turkey Burgers and Baked Beans - 1/16/2008

I have been cooking, but I have just been lazy about making blog posts. Earlier in the week I made turkey burgers and some baked beans.

Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers can be good if you make them right and do not overcook them, but the same is true for almost any food. Usually, you have to flavor up the burgers pretty well to get some good results. To the meat I added, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a vegetable dip mix (one of the packets you add to sour cream to make a dip). I grilled them on the stove using my new grill pan (shown in the picture) I received for Christmas. They turned out nicely moist and delicious, though I probably should have made them a little smaller so they cooked faster.

BBQ Beans & Tofu

Also for Christmas, I received this nice oven-safe pot. I used it to make some BBQ baked beans with tofu. After softening some onion, you mix together the beans, BBQ sauce, tofu, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I baked it until it was bubbly. I like my beans to be softer than these turned out, but it was pretty good anyways. The tofu added a different texture to it all.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Italian Feast - 1/12/2008

I wanted to invite a couple of friends over for a nice meal, so I was brainstorming ideas for a nice, full meal. Here is what I ended up with:

Herb Focaccia

As an accompaniment, I made this herb focaccia. It was originally going to be a grilled vegetable focaccia, but I forgot to pick up a couple vegetables at the store. The dough itself has some oregano, thyme and caraway seeds. On top is fresh basil, garlic salt, rosemary, and romano cheese. In the past I have made focaccia using store-bought pizza dough, but it is always very difficult to work with and turns out rather puffy. I would be good for sandwiches, but for breadsticks like the ones above, it doesn't cut it.

Tortelloni Salad

As a starter/side dish, I served this tortelloni salad. In the salad are chicken tortelloni, fresh mushrooms, spinach, croutons, basil, and a dressing made with white wine vinegar. It turned out nice, although I do realize that it is just an excuse to get some vegetables in while still eating pasta.

Pesto Chicken Parmigiana

Now for the main course: pesto-stuffed chicken parmigiana. You pretty much make a chicken parmigiana, but before you cook the chicken, cut a pocket into the breast. After pan-frying for a nice golden brown, put a prepared pesto (leave it thick) into the pocket. Continue as you normally would including baking in the sauce covered with cheese for about 20-25 minutes. On the side you will also see some penne with a pasta sauce on top. I know what you're thinking: "Two pastas?" I just wanted to make sure we had enough food and the penne made a nice side dish.

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart Slice

Dessert came from the baking book I received for Christmas: a dark chocolate tart. The dough is a chocolate tart dough which I managed to make well. If you've seen my apple pie on this site, then you know that I do not have the best luck with pastry doughs. This dough, though, came out very nicely. The filling is a chocolate ganache with a little bit more cream than the typical 1:1 ganache ratio plus some coffee to amplify the chocolate flavor. It turned out quite delicious and very rich. After eating the slice show above, I thought I should have made it only half as big. So if you try this at home, be warned that this is not something to serve in giant pieces.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Arroz con Pollo - 1/11/2008

I've always wanted to try to make arroz con pollo (Spanish, arroz with pollo...just kidding, it literally means rice with chicken). So here is my stab at it.

Arroz con Pollo

I usually think of this dish as prepared with chicken and yellow rice, but this recipe called for white rice and turmeric, which gave it its distinctive color. You pretty much brown the outside of your chicken pieces and remove it from the pan. Cook up one chopped onion and a couple of minced garlic cloves. Add salt, pepper, tomatoes, thyme, a bay leaf, and your chicken. Let it simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add chicken broth, rice and turmeric. Simmer, covered, until rice is done (about 20 minutes). Remove the lid, mix in the peas and let simmer, uncovered, for about 5 more minutes, and it's done.

I'm planning a nice Italian spread with a special dessert for tonight, so expect another post in the near future.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Raspberry Souffles

Since I brought the truffles I made to a friend's house but forgot to make a dairy-free alternative for his sister, I was challenged to make a raspberry dessert. Using my new favorite baking/dessert cookbook, I managed to concoct my first souffle.

Raspberry Souffle

This dessert was a little labor intensive. I had to make a raspberry-merlot sauce first, which took some time although it was easy. Then you have to whip up some egg whites to medium peaks and attempt to fold the liquid into the foam (which I did not do completely, but then again I had to transfer the recipe down the street so it was inevitably not going to be perfect). Pour this into some ramekins and bake. I was worried I would do something to cause the souffles deflate like in all the movies, but they were pretty sturdy. The water in the mixture turns to steam to cause them to rise. They then have a soft, airy and creamy texture to them.

The chocolate sauce is a basic ganache recipe (same cookbook) that has been thinned out a bit. The "master" ganache is 8 ounces of chocolate to 8 ounces of cream. I made this using 4 ounces of chocolate (2oz bittersweet and 2oz semisweet) and 6 ounces of soy creamer. It looks good but it had small bits in it that you could tell it was not a perfect emulsion of chocolate in the creamer. I think it is because the soy creamer did not have as much fat as regular cream. But it all tasted very good, which is what counts.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ginger Sea Bass & Spinach - 01/06/2008

At the store I saw some nice cuts of Chilean sea bass, so I decided to pick some up. After a general search on Food Network's website, I found a recipe from one of my favorite chef's, Giada.

Ginger Sea Bass

One way to keep fish moist and delicate is to bake it in a pouch with some veggies, spices and some liquid for steaming. In this case, the veggie is spinach, the spices are ginger and garlic, and the liquid is Marsala wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. Afterwards you add some basil and fresh lime juice on top. The dish was quite scrumptious, though I did not make a portion big enough for myself so I had to supplement with some unsalted peanuts, dried cherries and yogurt-covered raisins. Worth noting, though, is that the sea bass still had bones in it. I really don't like having to pick things (bones, shell pieces, etc.) out of my food, so this made the eating process a little slower. I would definitely recommend finding cuts of fish without the bones, if possible.

Truffles - 01/05/2008

After dinner comes...

Truffle Box

...a flower? This is one of Martha Stewart's favor boxes. The directions were so anal that I felt dirty afterwards. But the question remains, what is in the box? Let's find out.


Tonight's dessert was truffles. The base recipe came from a great new cookbook I received for Christmas. The nuttier looking truffle is flavored with cherry (grenadine) and rolled in toasted walnuts. The other one is lavender and rolled in cocoa powder. The cherry truffles were nicely flavored, though they did not set up quite right so they were a little soft. The lavender ones were a good consistency, but the lavender flavor was a little overpowering. I think the lavender ganache used to make it is more appropriate as an accent in a dessert as opposed to the main feature. The cocoa powder helped to balance it out a bit, though. I am pleased with the results of this. I cannot wait to try the other techniques in my new dessert bible. Thanks go to Christian for letting me use the gift box for the truffles.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Poached Salmon & Cucumber Sauce - 01/05/2008

Today's dinner consisted of poached salmon and a cucumber-dill sauce. Dill and salmon is one of those easy, classic combinations of flavors. They usually serve lox (smoked salmon or gravlax) with fresh dill as well as some capers, lemon, onion, and hard-boiled egg. Luckily, I omitted these other ingredients from the sauce because I think they would taste very bad together. Anyways, enough rambling, here are the goods:

Poached Salmon with Cuke Sauce

The salmon was poached (simmered) in a brine made from water, red wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and salt. I thought it would turn out bland, but it tasted pretty good and no flavor was overpowering. The sauce contains shredded cucumber, sugar, salt, red wine vinegar, dill, sour cream, and pepper. I made some changes to the original recipe which turned out rather meh in the flavor department. I pretty much added a bit more salt, vinegar and dill to give it a better flavor. On the side is leftover couscous (scroll down for its first appearance).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Middle Eastern Chicken - 1/2/2008

Happy new year, everyone!!!. For 2008, I am trying to eat out less and cook more at home, which should mean more blog posts (in theory). The first dish of this year is Middle Eastern chicken.

Middle Eastern Chicken

I think I got this recipe from one of my stir fry books because it follows the usual stir fry method: cook meat, set meat aside, cook vegetables, make sauce, return meat, serve. The chicken is accompanied by onions, garbanzo beans, tomato, pistachios, orange juice, and parsley. On the side, I made some whole grain couscous flavored with olive oil and garlic. I meant to cook a vegetable, but I forgot until I was almost done cooking. The meal turned out pretty good and I the the only aspect I might change in the future is adding another spice or two to the mix.

I hope everyone has a fun, productive 2008.