Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seafood Risotto

One of my favorite things about cooking is that moment when you finally make the meal you loved in a restaurant at home and it tastes just as good, if not better than the professional version.  I'm adding this seafood risotto to my "restaurant quality" list.

Prior to making this dish, I had risotto less than five times in my life.  One, a lobster risotto, was excellent and the others were mediocre.  Risotto is creamy Italian rice dish that actually doesn't include much dairy.  The creaminess comes from slowly stirring the arborio rice while slowly adding hot liquid.  The result should be a creamy rice base flavored with anything from vegetables to seafood.  Unfortunately, many risottos taste more like plain rice and I was worried that mine would fail as well.

The most annoying thing about risotto is that you need to stir it for 30 minutes straight.  That's right.  Thirty boring minutes of standing over a hot stove with a wooden spoon.  I strongly suggest you enlist a friend or loved one to help with this one.  It got old quick.

In spite of all my concerns, this risotto was impressive.  Since I made it myself it had a lot more seafood than I would get from any restaurant.  Every bite was loaded with decent chunks of scallops and shrimp.  If you try this recipe, be ready to serve it immediately after it's finished.  It tastes best when it's fresh.

This is yet another recipe from Josie at Pink Parsley.  She has great taste!

Seafood Risotto
slightly modified by Keeley, based on the Pink Parsley version

1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and ground black pepper
2/3 cup Arborio rice
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed, each cut into 3 pieces
6 ounces bay scallops (about 1 cup scallops)
1 tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
lemon wedges, for serving

Combine the chicken broth and clam juice in a medium heat proof bowl. Cover, and microwave until hot, 1 to 3 minutes.

Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, 1-3 minutes. Stir in the rice and tumeric and cook until the ends of the rice are transparent, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until it is completely absorbed, 1-2 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the hot broth mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has absorbed, and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. This will take close to 10 minutes.

Adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until almost all the liquid has been absorbed between each addition. Be careful not to let the bottom of the pan dry out. Continue to stir often, and repeat until the rice is al dente, about 10-15 minutes. You may not use all the broth. I just began tasting after about 10 minutes, and kept adding broth and stirring until it was done.

Vigorously stir in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter until it has melted. Gently fold in the shrimp, scallops, tomatoes, basil, and 1/3 cup of the broth mixture. Cover the skillet, reduce heat to low, and cook until the seafood is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir once halfway through cooking. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Applesauce Cake

Happy Fall, ya'll!  I realize that autumn arrived last week, but I'm just getting around to making a seasonal recipe.  It was difficult to get into a fall mood because it was 90+ degrees around here last week.  I don't feel like making warm and cozy meals when I'm running errands in a tank top and flip flops.

I just "discovered" yet another fantastic food blog, Pink Parsley.  Josie at Pink Parsley has delicious recipes and killer food photos, so I've already bookmarked many of her postings.  She's a big fan of Cook's Illustrated and she shared this cake recipe.

I've made a lot of apple desserts and many of them have been cakes.  Aside from my apple cobbler, none of them have wowed me.  This cake lived up to the hype.  It's super moist, has the perfect balance of fruit and spice, and yields the perfect portion for a small family.  I was skeptical to even call this a seasonal recipe since there are no fresh apples in the cake.  All of the apple taste comes from apple cider, dried apples, and applesauce.  It's actually better that there are no fresh apples in this cake.  When I've baked cakes with fresh apples they ended up shrinking down and leaving holes all over the cake.  This cake relies on a smooth puree of apple cider, dried apples, and applesauce, so there are no holes, just thick, moist cake.

My only complaint about this recipe is that it calls for special equipment: a food processor.  I think you could puree the apples in a blender in a pinch.

We enjoyed this cake for dessert, but you could absolutely keep it around for breakfast.  I think it would be fantastic with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or just a cup of coffee. 

Applesauce Cake
from Cooks Illustrated by way of Pink Parsley
makes one 8-inch square cake

3/4 cup (2 ounces) dried apples, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves I substituted ground ginger
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.

Bring dried apples and cider to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until liquid evaporates and the mixture seems dry; 15-20 minutes (it might take a little longer depending on your stovetop and the pan you use)

Sift flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. In a second medium bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Measure out 2 Tablespoons and set aside in a small bowl for the topping.

In a food processor, puree the dried apples with the applesauce until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Whisk together the egg and salt in a large bowl. Mix continuously with a hand held mixer, add the sugar mixture; beat until it is well-combined and light yellow, about 20-30 seconds.

Add the butter in 3 additions, beating after each. Stir in the applesauce mixture and vanilla to just combine. Add the flour to the wet ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the batter. Only stir until it is just combined and evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with remaining sugar-spice mixture. Bake until a wooden skewer comes out clean and cake has set, 35-40 minutes.

Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Run a knife along the edge to release from parchment. Life parchment to remove cake; cut into squares and serve.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chima Brazillian Steakhouse

Last Sunday E and I had a fun dinner date with friends.  We enjoyed a great meal at Chima Brazillian Steakhouse in Philly.

It's a chain, so there may be a location near you.

We celebrated E's birthday last year at Chima, so this was our second visit, but it was a first for our friends.  It was Restaurant Week in Philadelphia, so we enjoyed a special lower price for our dinner. 

The dining style at Chima is unique.  Once seated, you are presented with appetizers (Brazillian cheese bread - my favorite, little meatball-like appetizers).  You can place your drink order, then head for the huge salad bar.  In addition to all types of salad options, there's also soup, beans, and two kinds of rice.  You can continue to visit the salad bar throughout your dining experience.

Your server provides you with a list of eighteen (!) different meats that are served in the dining room.  They have chicken, beef, pork, fish, and lamb.  I don't even eat beef or lamb and there were plenty of options for me.  My favorites were the salmon, bacon wrapped chicken, and the parmesan encrusted pork loin.  E loves the bacon-wrapped filet mignon.  You get a card that is orange on one side and black on the other.  You flip the card to orange when you are ready to be served and then the fun begins...

Servers walk around the restaurant with huge skewers (more like swords) of meat.  If your card is flipped to orange, they stop at your table.  You tell them how you like your meat (rare to medium well) and they slice off a piece for you.  It only takes about five minutes before you're completely overwhelmed with the selection and you have to flip your card back to the black side.

It's so wrong, it's right.
Once the meat starts visiting your table, you also get some starchy hot sides delivered:  fried polenta, fried bananas, mashed potatoes, and, for me, more cheese bread!

After multiple trips to the salad bar and wayyyy too much meat, there were still some items that hadn't been offered to our table.  Our server simply asked us what we wanted (sausage, lamb chops, filet mignon) and within five minutes these meats were offered to our table. 

Now, you'd think that you would just eat way too much in this situation, but between the huge salad bar and the starchy side options, you really can't eat but so much meat.  Still, this is an indulgent, special occasion dining place and I'd only visit once a year. 

Another great group date!  We normally entertain at home, but we decided to take advantage of restaurant week and have a night out on the town.  It was well worth it.  If there's a Brazillian steakhouse in your neighborhood, consider trying it out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kindle Review

Two weeks ago I mentioned that I haven't been spending as much time cooking and blogging because my new Kindle 3 arrived.  Since I've spent the past week getting familiar with it, I figured I'd share my thoughts on it before I get back to the cooking and baking.

First, what is a Kindle?  It's an e-reader, or an electronic device designed to take the place of traditional books.  It's smaller than a paperback and allows the user to download books instantly (for a fee) and save them on the device.  You don't even need an traditional Internet connection to download books, since the device is equipped with free 3G wireless access (the same stuff that lets me get Internet access on my BlackBerry).  There are other tons of e-readers on the market.  The most popular are from Barnes and Noble (the Nook) and from Sony.  I opted for a Kindle 3 because my coworkers love theirs and a new Kindle was released (at a lower price point) just as I was making my purchase decision.

Kindle in leather case.

An e-reader is by no means a necessity.  I consider this item a luxury or a treat and as someone who loves gadgets, I love this new toy!  I had several doubts and concerns when I was considering investing in an e-reader.

1.  The device costs too much.  At $189 the Kindle 3 with Wi-Fi + 3G isn't cheap.  There's a Wi-Fi only version available for $139 (meaning you have to be in a wireless hot spot to download new content - not a problem if you plan your reading ahead of your outings), but I went for the full $189.  Plus, I opted to purchase a cover with a light (the device isn't backlit) for $59.99 to protect my investment.  On the positive, just a few years ago, e-readers were more than $300.  I believe that there will be options under $100 very soon.  Plus, there's always eBay.

2.  It costs too much to download books, newspapers, and magazines to a Kindle.  I'm frustrated that many books cost the same price in physical form as they do for Kindle download.  Amazon says that the publishers set the prices.  On the positive, many books by my favorite authors often go on sale for $1.99 or less.  Plus, any book published before 1923 is free.  While I don't consider myself one to read the classics, I think this is a great option for college students (hello, English majors!).  Believe it or not, I'm enjoying Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself.  And yes, the book is over 100 years old.

3.  I won't be able to share books with people.  Well, this is semi-true.  I'm a die-hard library user and I've always enjoyed getting books for free, even if I had to wait for weeks (months) and pay late fees when I forget to return them.  In addition, my mother and I often share books and I knew I'd miss passing a favorite book on to my mom.  We bought two Kindles and I put my mom's on my account.  Yes, all of her purchases get charged to my account, but now any book we purchase shows up on both Kindles.  We can both read the same book at the same time (or at different times) for one price.  The only things we can't share are magazines and newspapers.  Not bad.  Now that $9.99 New York Times bestseller seems like it was just $5.

4.  It's just not the same as a hard copy.  Well, that's true.  I find it better.  The Kindle is completely silent, the screen doesn't have a glare (it's not backlit), I can adjust the font size (so I can read without glasses), and I can carry thousands of books with me at one time.  In addition, the Kindle has a basic web browser, the ability to play mp3 files, and some books have a text-to-speech option.

I protected my investment with a leather case from Amazon.
Bottom line?  A Kindle (or any e-reader) isn't taking over the world (yet), but it makes reading more portable and more convenient.  I look forward to my quiet time with my Kindle each evening.  I can read in the dark while my husband sleeps, thanks to the built-in light on my leather case.  I can download a new book while I'm on vacation and not carry a ton of books in my carry-on bag.  I can read the newspaper without spreading it all over the table.  I can even carry PDF files of articles with me, which increases the likelihood of me actually doing some research instead of spending my days blogging, talking, and doing everything else other than working on my schoolwork. 

The built-in light on the leather cover makes it great for road trips!
There are some reading materials that I believe I'll always purchase in hard copy.  I'm not giving up my food magazine subscriptions or my cookbook collection.  However, when it comes to novels, I'll absolutely use my Kindle.
Did you jump on the e-reader bandwagon?  Did you go with the Kindle or did you prefer the Nook or something else?  Do you even think these gadgets are worth it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

I have a weakness quick takeout food like Chinese and neighborhood pizza (by "neighborhood" I mean locally owned businesses, not national chains).  When possible, I also love to pick up Thai or Vietnamese.  There's something about the salty, slightly-greasy flavor of not-so-healthy takeout food that is really appealing after a long day at work.  As much as I love to cook, I will break down and buy a $7.99 neighborhood pizza and enjoy it with a bottle of wine or indulge in a couple of Chinese takeout combos with fried rice every now and then.

General Tso's Chicken is one of those yummy Chinese takeout food choices that you know isn't good for you.  The chicken is fried and then doused in this sweet and spicy sauce.  As far as vegetables, you're lucky if they put three broccoli florets in your takeout dish.  Yummy?  Yes.  Good for you?  No.

I've recently started following Good Things Catered and in searching through the archives I found this recipe for Lighter General Tso's Chicken.  The recipe was originally featured in Everyday Food.  I made this a few weeks ago when fresh green beans were still plentiful at the roadside markets in my area.  You can get fresh green beans all year at the grocery store and I highly recommend fresh over frozen.  The original recipe didn't call for any veggies, but I was trying to made this a bit healthier. 

I enjoyed this dish.  My husband found it to be a bit sweet, but I don't agree.  Plus, it must not have been too bad because we ate it all and there were no leftovers for lunch the next day!  I love the way the sauce thickens up like real Chinese takeout with the addition of cornstarch.  This was easy to make and the only fresh ingredient I had to pick up on my way home from work was green beans. 

Here's my adaptation of Lighter General Tso's Chicken

Lighter General Tso's Chicken
as seen on Good Things Catered, originally from Everyday Food, modified by Keeley

1 Tbsp cornstarch
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated and peeled
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 3), cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Fresh steamed rice for serving

-In medium bowl, add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and 1/2 c. cold water until smooth; set aside.
-Add garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes.
-Toss to combine, and set aside.
-In a work or large skillet, over medium heat, heat oils to almost smoking.
-Meanwhile, season chicken pieces well with salt and pepper.
-Stir pan to coat bottom with oil and add seasoned chicken pieces.
-Once bottom side cooks through, about 3 minutes, flip chicken pieces to cook other side.
-Cook chicken until almost done, then toss in green beans.
-Cook for about 3 minutes until chicken is done and green beans are crisp-tender.
-Turn to almost high heat, add cornstarch mixture and stir to combine well.
-Finish cooking, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.
-Remove from heat and serve on fresh steamed rice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Just a few weeks ago my baking world was rocked by my "discovery" of the no-knead method of bread making.  Ever since my family enjoyed that fantastic (and easy to make) loaf of Rosemary and Garlic No-Knead Bread I've been imagining other possibilities for this method.

My local Shop Rite used to carry a whole wheat raisin bread, but I guess it wasn't popular because I seldom see it on the shelves these days.  I always loved this bread.  It combined the slightly sweet flavor of raisin bread with the heartiness of whole wheat.  Good stuff.  With this bread as my inspiration, I decided to make my own.

I used the same basic no-knead recipe as last time, but I made some modifications and ended up with a completely different loaf.  I added cinnamon, raisins, whole wheat flour, a bit of sugar and I coated the exterior with old fashioned oatmeal instead of flour.  The result was another beautiful, round artisan loaf.  I slathered it with cinnamon honey butter and enjoyed it with my coffee all weekend.  I had to give half the loaf to my mom to save myself from eating the entire thing!  Bake this for your weekend brunch.  Imagine the possibilities... plain, French toast, even grilled cheese (yes, on raisin bread, that's another post)!  You won't be disappointed.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread
a Keeley Original, based on the No-Knead Method

2 cups all-purpose or bread flour I used bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
old fashioned oatmeal, for dusting

1. In a large bowl combine flours, cinnamon, raisins, sugar, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with oatmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chicken Soup with Orzo

It's been quite a week!  I was under the weather for the past few days, so I got behind on so many things.  I spent today playing catch up.  My husband had to work all weekend and I missed him so much.  To add to the "blah" mood, the weather has cooled and today was a rainy day.  I woke up this morning to find my summer vegetable garden pretty much dead and in need of clean up.  I didn't get a chance to preserve my precious fresh herbs before they dried up in their pots.  I guess that's why they make farmer's markets.

With E working all day and me spending most of this Sunday on errands and house chores, I decided to make soup for dinner.  Soup allows me to use up several fresh ingredients from my fridge and some meat from the freezer.  It also reheats well for lunch for the following few days and homemade soup is much healthier than the canned stuff, plus it makes your house smell great.  As an added bonus, it's low maintenance cooking when you have other things to do.

E and I both love chicken noodle soup, but I switched it up and used orzo this time.  Actually, we used orzo because the only small pasta in our pantry was an expired box of Barilla orzo.  Guess what?  It still tasted fine.

First off, I needed some cooked chicken.  Some days I have chicken breasts left over from a grilling episode or some roasted chicken from Costco, but today I was starting from scratch.  I just pulled two bone-in breasts from the freezer, thawed them, seasoned and oiled them up, and roasted them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.   You could absolutely use any pre-cooked chicken for this recipe.  Just pull off the skin, remove the bones, and chop it up before dumping it into the soup.

I emptied out the produce drawer:  onions, carrots, celery...

Threw in some chicken broth, water, and dry white wine...

Then I added cooked chicken and dry orzo, boiled it for a bit, and topped the pot of soup with some fresh parsley.  It's always nice to add a little freshness at the end of a slow cooking pot of soup.

E didn't get home from work until 8:00, but when he did, I made us both grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Chewy, crusty sourdough bread slathered with a light coating of butter, filled with gooey American cheese and toasted to perfection.  We love grilled cheese at this house, but this one took it to new heights.

I only wish I could find a way to pack this sourdough grilled cheese sandwich for lunch at the office.  But this post is about soup, so here's the recipe:

Chicken Soup with Orzo
a Keeley Original

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 quarts of low sodium chicken stock (homemade, or boxed)
1 quart of water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup orzo, or other small pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup fresh parsley

In a large pot, heat oil to medium.  Add onions and cook over medium heat for 6-10 minutes, until translucent.  Add carrots and celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add chicken stock, water, and wine to pot.  Bring to a boil.  Add chicken.  Add orzo.  Simmer for 10 minutes. 

Check for seasonings.  Top finished soup with fresh parsley and serve, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kindle 3

I'm taking a short break from cooking (as in 2-3 days) and I'm enjoying playing with my new Kindle 3!

I have a few food-related posts lined up, but for right now I'm getting familiar with my new e-reader.  It's all charged up and I've already downloaded a few books.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Flour Tortillas and A VIDEO!

I'm feeling really accomplished right now!  I've accomplished two goals:  1. I learned how to make flour tortillas from scratch and 2. I created my first video tutorial!

It all started with the flour tortillas.  I am aware that corn tortillas are the more authentic choice for Latin American food, but I'm from Delaware (by way of New Jersey) and I'll admit that I can't resist a burrito wrapped in a thin flour tortilla or fresh sizzling chicken fajitas in a warm flour tortilla.  I even admit that I stockpile extra fresh tortillas when I visit Tex-Mex restaurants.  Sure, you can buy flour tortillas at the grocery store, but they aren't as moist, chewy, and flavorful as the ones served at the Tex-Mex places.  For years I just settled for whatever was in the refrigerated section of our grocery store, but now I've found an alternative.

About a month ago I found this tutorial online and decided to try the recipe.  I couldn't believe it only had four ingredients.  I made some slight changes and whipped up a batch one Sunday night.  We weren't even having Tex-Mex food, but these tortillas were so good that we pulled some grilled chicken off the grill and immediately wrapped it an the warm, soft, chewy tortilla.  My husband said they were perfect.  I think they're great.  I've stopped purchasing packaged flour tortillas at the store and I always take an extra half hour to make my own.  We've even eaten them three days later (after storing them in a Ziploc bag in the fridge) and they are still fine after 20 seconds in the microwave.

Just think of the possibilities:  tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos, enchiladas...

Here's the video, which just happens to be my first YouTube project.  I know nothing about making movies, so cut me a break on this first video.  E did all the filming and I took a few minutes and pulled together a two-minute tutorial.  Check out the video at the end of this post!

Flour Tortillas
adapted from John Mitzewich
yield 6 medium tortillas

1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening (a.k.a. Crisco)

Combine dry ingredients.  (I do this by pulsing in a food processor.)  Mix in vegetable shortening until the mixture resembles wet sand.  (Again, I pulse in a food processor.)

Mix in 1/2 cup of hot (not boiling) water until the mixture starts to form a ball.  Knead by hand for 2-3 minutes, then shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Shape dough into balls (8 for small tortillas, 6 for medium tortillas, 4 for large tortillas).  Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball as thin as possible.  Use a small amount of flour, if necessary, to prevent sticking (I roll these out on a wooden cutting board.  Silpat would work well, too.)

Preheat a cast iron or stainless steel skillet to medium high.  Do not grease.  Place flat tortilla in skillet and flip over when bubbles form on the surface (about one minute).  Flip again after about 45 seconds.  The tortillas should be light brown with the traditional dark spots.

Place tortillas on a plate covered with a clean kitchen towel (or a tortilla holder) until ready to serve.  Serve warm with fillings of your choice.  Refrigerate leftovers and reheat for 20 seconds in the microwave.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thai-Style Chicken Fried Rice

I recently "discovered" yet another great food blog, Good Things Catered.  Katie, the author, has some fantastic recipes and beautiful photos and tips.  In the past week, three of our dinners have been from her blog.

Last Friday I made Thai-Style Chicken Fried Rice.  I picked quite a night to attempt a new recipe.  I am off on Fridays all summer (due to an extended workday Monday-Thursday) and last Friday was my first day back on my "normal" schedule.  I ended up getting caught in beach traffic on the way home from work and my one hour commute took over two hours.  And it was hot.  Very hot.  There's no way I was in the mood to cook, so this is a typical evening when we'd call for takeout.  E was running late, too, so I decided to start cooking.  I talked to him on the phone for a half hour while I chopped and prepped all of the ingredients for the Thai-Style Chicken Fried Rice.  I ended up being really happy that we didn't call for takeout.

I've loved Thai food ever since I had my first Thai meal five years ago at Pru Thai in Clinton, NJ.  When I first learned to cook I was mystified by Asian ingredients and cooking techniques and I never seemed to be able to get the flavors quite right.  These days it is very common to find international foods in "regular" grocery stores.  I used to have to drive all around town to find sesame oil, fresh ginger, sriacha sauce, and toasted sesame seeds, but now I can pick them up on my way home from work.  I've been experimenting with stir fries for a few years now, so I had all of the ingredients for Thai-Style Fried Rice, so it became my Friday night experiment.

The results were great!  Now, I'm not saying I'm an authentic Thai cook, but the rice was really nice and held up well as a full meal.  There were plenty of pieces of moist, sliced chicken and just enough spicy flavor to make you reach for your glass of water (but not enough to really burn you).  The lime juice and green onions added a fresh flair to all of the spices.  This recipe makes a lot (I'd say it can serve 4-5 as an entree), but we ended up eating it all over two days and fighting over the leftovers.  I made some substitutions (in red), based on the ingredients I had on hand.

Thai-Style Chicken Fried Rice
from Good Things Catered

6 c. jasmine rice
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 2in x 1/2in slices
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 c. canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
5 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 red pepper, cut into matchsticks (I used all red pepper, diced)
1/2 green pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/2 c. carrot, sliced on the diagonal (I substituted 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas and carrots, thawed, for the fresh veggies)
2 eggs
1 c. red and yellow tomatoes, diced (I didn't have them, so I omitted them)
1/2 c. steamed peas
1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
1/2 large lime, juiced
2 Tbsp Thai chili pepper sauce
3 green onions, white and light green portions sliced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced

-Prep all ingredients, vegetables, and in small bowl combine soy sauce, lime juice and chili sauce - set aside.
-In large wok over medium high heat, heat oil until almost smoking.
-Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly until beginning to brown.
-Remove immediately with slotted spoon and set aside.
-Add chicken, salt and pepper, and cook stirring constantly until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes.
-Add peppers and carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until veggies are crisp tender and chicken is cooked through, about 3 more minutes.
-Remove chicken and veggies and set aside.
-Crack two eggs into pan and cook, stirring constantly until beginning to firm up (not totally as you don't want it to overcook in the finish), about 20-30 seconds.
-Add rice, ginger mixture, tomatoes, peas, soy sauce mixture, chicken, veggies and stir to combine thoroughly.
-Remove from heat and fold in cilantro and green onion.
-Serve with lime wedge.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rosemary and Garlic No-Knead Bread

I love good bread.  Who doesn't?  On a typical summer weekend I purchase freshly baked (usually still warm) French bread at Costco, slice it, toast it, and top it with bruschetta.  I go out of my way to buy the Costco French bread because of it's crusty exterior and chewy interior.  The bread is heavenly.  After last weekend, that bread may have some competition.

I hadn't heard of No-Knead bread, but after reading about Monica's version on Lick the Bowl Good I added it to my "to-do" list.  I should point out that just one year ago I had never successfully baked a yeast bread.  I've come a long way in the past year, and I'll credit the food bloggers out there for making it look easy.

This bread is easy, I promise!  The worst part is that it takes nearly 24 hours from start to finish and that I ended up with flour all over my stove top and kitchen floor.  Otherwise, this was no hassle at all and the results look gourmet.

I read Monica's version and I also read the original from The New York Times.  I decided that because I have an abundance of rosemary growing on my deck that I'd do a garlic and rosemary version.  I took a few minutes before bed on Friday night to mix up the dough.  And by a few minutes I mean less than 5.  The result was pretty ugly and I was skeptical.

The recipe only calls for 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast.  I had never even heard of instant yeast, but sure enough it was in the baking aisle of my grocery store.  But just 1/4 teaspoon?!  I was sure this mess would not rise.  I woke up the next morning to this:

By early afternoon I was ready to continue with the recipe.  I baked it in my Dutch oven (which isn't a Le Cruset, but a $36 knockoff from Sam's Club) and I was still skeptical that it wouldn't work.  But, like magic, this is what I pulled out of the oven:

The bread was very dense with an exterior that sounded solid as a rock, but after cooling it for one hour, slicing it and topping it with soft butter, I was in heaven.  My entire kitchen smelled like fresh rosemary and baked bread.  Perfect European-style bread.  I have visions of slathering this with roasted garlic butter, using it for grilled cheese, topping it with bruschetta, or serving it with wine and cheese.  Yes, I would make this bread again!  It's going onto my list for Thanksgiving baking.  I'll still make the yeast rolls that were so successful last year, but this will be a nice addition to the bread selection.

Put your own spin on this bread.  You can do this!  You don't need to knead it and the dough seems very forgiving.  Special shout-out to Monica for calling my attention to this technique. 

Rosemary Garlic No-Knead Bread
based on No-Knead Bread from The New York Times

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting  I used bread flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons garlic powder
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
Extra flour as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, garlic powder, rosemary and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Related Posts with Thumbnails