My first meal in the house came after the Fathers' Day/Anniversary hooplah. I've been wanting to try this recipe for oven-baked cauliflower for a while, so I gave it a shot. You blanch the full head of cauliflower for about 6 minutes and let it cool. Then you place it in a pan, base-up, and pat in some breadcrumbs that have been cooked with olive oil and shallots. Bake this in the oven for about 25 minutes until it is fork tender. The sauce on the side is mostly plain yogurt with some Dijon mustard and fresh chives blended into it. Though just a side dish, this came out very nice and the cauliflower seemed very meaty, if that makes any sense. The other side was some oven-baked French fries with Italian spices. I made sure to use my mandolin this time so the fries were about the same size.
The main feature of this first meal is oven-fried chicken. I used the tenderloins instead of breasts for a more chicken finger-like presentation. First you crush some corn flakes and add to them whatever spices you want. I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley, paprika, and smoked paprika (the last two gave it all a nice subtle kick of heat). You dip the chicken into some buttermilk and then (with a dry hand) roll it around in the corn flake mixture. Arrange them in a pan and bake them until they are just done. This was a nice alternative to frying or pan-frying the chicken and is pretty low in fat compared to other methods.
Next meal is for my dad's birthday. The main dish is called fettuccine geechee rosa (I don't know why). It is spinach fettuccine with its healthy green color in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, clams, clam juice, lemon juice, and sun-dried tomatoes. The dish, in the end, needed a little extra punch of some sort. Next time, I would add a little more salt or some lemon zest to it to see if it helps.
The side dish of the meal is an Ina Garten recipe for zucchini gratin. This may sound familiar because of the similarities to potatoes au gratin, a deliciously cheesy and calorie-packed side. This version starts with cooking 2 sliced onions in copious amounts of butter until tender. Then 4 sliced zucchini are added to the pan and steamed a bit. Some flour, salt and nutmeg (surprise) are added and mixed thoroughly to make a bit of a roux. Then milk (I used 1%) is added and allowed to mix with the roux until the sauce thickens a bit. This is poured into a smaller baking dish and topped with a mixture of breadcrumbs and shredded havarti (or gruyere, if you prefer). Bake it for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and the top is browned. This came out very delicious and I will need to remember it for future occasions.
Dessert for dad's b-day is one of his favorites: bananas foster. They often make this dish in nice restaurants right next to your table for the theatrics of it. I actually had a little difficulty with the dish on getting the proper stove temperatures, so this will take a little while to perfect. You first melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium to medium high heat. Then you add in 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir this together until the sugar is fully melted. Add 4 bananas that have been sliced in half lengthwise and then cut in the middle. Stir them around until they are tender and brown. Here's a picture of what they should look like at this point:
Add 1/4 cup of banana liquer to thin out the sauce. Then add 1/2 cup of dark run, stir it around a bit and take the pan off the stove. Ignite the pan and let the fire burn off the stove until it goes out. Serve the bananas with some sauce over vanilla ice cream. Eat it fast before the ice cream melts, unless you like it that way. I had an idea of mashing the mixture at this point and then putting it into an ice cream maker to make bananas foster ice cream. Maybe I'll give it a shot one of these days.
Last, but not least, is this meal: Japanese basa and coconut rice. I've never seen, heard of or cooked basa before, but it looked very delicate, so I cooked it like orange roughy or some thinly filleted tilapia. I sliced some baby bok choy and cubed up some graffiti eggplant (it's mottled purple and white). I mixed together, in a bowl, mirin (sweetened sake), rice wine and rice vinegar. I don't normally taste test my sauces, but I figured if I'm cooking for other people, I should probably check to make sure it tastes good. Good thing I did cause it was way too vinegary. The final product had a slight Asian taste but it was mostly on the sweeter side. I tossed the veggies in this and then arranged the veggies in mounds in the center of large pieces of foil. On top of this, I placed the fish fillets. I minced some ginger and rubbed into the top, poured a little sauce on the fish and added some salt and pepper. After sealing the packets, I baked them in a 400 degree oven for about 16 minutes until they were done but still moist. In the mean time, I made some coconut rice. You basically make jasmine rice like you normally would, except you substitute half of the water for lite coconut milk. This makes the rice a little richer and slightly coconutty in flavor. I added the toasted coconut for garnish. This is probably one of my favorite ways to make an easy rice, which matched well with one of my favorite ways to cook fish. After the fish came out of the oven, I drizzled on some sesame oil and some sesame seeds, making a very delicious dish indeed. And clean-up is a snap!