Friday, January 29, 2010

Bechamel Sauce p. 57

I was a little intimidated at first by the fancy name, but this is not a complicated sauce. In fact, I don't even need to look back over the recipe to remember how to do it.

Start off by melting two tablespoons butter (you can use olive oil if you want). When its melted, add in two tablespoons flour and whisk quickly. Whisk for a couple of minutes. The book says it should turn tan, but mine never really did. Then slowly pour in milk or cream. I used about a cup and half. Whisk while adding a bit at a time. Let it cook until the sauce is a thick. Season to your liking and serve.

I wish Mark Bittman would have given a few suggestions for use of the sauce because I would love to use it more in the future. I had purchased some creamy pumpkin ravioli from a local shop and served the sauce over it. It was perfect together. Creamy and rich.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shrimp Stock p. 159

After making spicy shrimp, I saved the peels to make stock. Put your shells in a pot with onion, carrot, and celery or whatever you have or not. I love it when things are optional. I had carrot and celery and that's all I used. For this stock you only add about 5 cups of water, so it doesn't make as much as say chicken stock.

Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Once cool you can refrigerate or freeze it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chili con Carne with Tomatoes p. 429

We had some very cold weather not too long ago and every time it gets really cold I crave chili. My mom makes the best chili, but I had never tried making it myself before.

This recipe calls for using dried beans, which is not how Mom makes it, but I was up for the challenge. Put the beans in a pot and cover with water. Let it boil then turn the heat down and let it simmer until the beans are soft. Drain the water once the beans are tender. Add in chile (if you want), cumin, oregano, and garlic. I opted to add tomatoes, so I added 1 can of chopped tomatoes. I also opted for ground beef. Throw your browned meet in at this point as well. Let it come to a boil and then cover and turn to low. Let it cook for another 15 minutes before serving.

Mark Bittman suggests serving with cilantro, which was nice, but I can't have a bowl of chili without a huge sprinkling of cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mixed Spicy Vegetables, Thai Style p. 374

This is an interesting vegetable dish for a week night. Its also very flexible to what you have and what is in season. While not exactly in season, I used squash.

Start by cutting your vegetable into chunks. The recipe calls for onions, but of course, I had to leave them out. Heat some oil in a pan and throw in your onions if using. Let them soften. Then add chopped garlic, chiles, and your vegetable. Cook until the vegetable softens. Add coconut milk and lime leaves (I used zest. I had never heard of using leaves before.) Let it simmer for a few minutes and add soy sauce or fish sauce. I had recently purchased fish sauce out of curiosity and found in this dish that I do not like the flavor. Use soy sauce instead.

Serve warm.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pizza!! p. 178-181

Bryan loves pizza, I don't care for the chain pizza or the frozen stuff, so I'm never really up for pizza. But one night, I wanted to surprise him. So I prepared some pizza dough and got out a variety of toppings.

To make the dough you mix flour, yeast, and a pinch of salt. I mixed mine with my new stand mixer to make it easier. Once it turns into a ball remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for just a minute until its a nice ball of dough. Put it in a bowl, cover it, and let it rise for an hour or two.

Once its risen, divide it in half. Each batch of dough makes two decent pizzas. Bryan ate his in one sitting, but I saved a few pieces for lunch the next day. So prepare accordingly. I made two batches of dough at the same time (different bowls though) because we were having company for dinner.

Once divided, wrap it in a towel and let it sit for another 20 minutes. I'm not sure why, thats just what the book says.

Now we're ready to make pizza. On a floured surface or on a pizza pan, roll or form the ball of dough into your pizza. I rolled out one, but found the best way for me t was to work it out with my fingers. It was also, weirdly calming.

Mark Bittman gives lots of variations and ideas for pizza toppings, but I just pulled out anything I thought might work and let each person make their own pizza. Once topped put it in the oven for only 6 -12 minutes, keeping an eye on it. Pretty easy.

We used pepperoni, left over cooked chicken, sun dried tomatoes, cheese, olive oil, marina sauce, and fresh rosemary.

The crust was delicious. I love a bread-y crust and thoroughly enjoyed each bite.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Spicy Broiled Shrimp p. 574

Ingredients:garlic, salt, cayenne, paprika, olive oil, lemon juice, shrimp.

This was an easy recipe that is great for either appetizer or light entree. I'd love to try this at the beach with really fresh shrimp or scallops.

Mix together all ingredients except for shrimp. Then dip or coat your shrimp in the sauce. Broil or grill until cooked.

Yep, that's it. It was indeed spicy, but you can control the heat by how much cayenne you choose to use.

Be sure to drizzle some fresh lemon juice over the finished product for an added zing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chicken with Yogurt and Indian Spices p. 650

Ingredients: chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, cayenne, cumin, coriander, cardamon, tumeric, cinnamon, yogurt, cilantro.

Start off by heating your oil. When hot, throw in your chicken pieces (I used boneless breasts) and brown them on all sides. Remove from the pan. Next you will cook your onions if you are using them, I did not. Next you will throw in your chopped garlic and ginger as well as spices. Stir in the yogurt. (I have tried several similar recipes and those all called for the yogurt towards the end with minimal cooking time. I was worried about this step and I think my fears were not for nothing.)

Add in your chicken pieces and lower the heat. You will cook until the chicken pieces are thoroughly cooked through. I had to rearranged my chicken pieces every 5 minutes so that they were all evenly cooked.

In the end, my dish had a very weird consistency that I fear was from over cooking the yogurt. Everything tasted fine and it was delicious, but I just don't think it was supposed to end up this way.

Served over Rice Pilaf

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rice Pilaf p. 460

This is a simple post for a Wednesday.

Melt butter or heat olive oil over medium heat. Throw in your rice so they get a nice coating of fat and wait until they start to change colors to a nice bronzey color. I used basmati rice because I was serving an Indian chicken dish over it. (Hopefully to post tomorrow.) Salt and pepper and then add water. Cover and let simmer until the rice is done and liquid is gone. Let the rice sit off heat for 15 to 30 minutes before serving. I'm not sure why, the book just says so, okay?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Braised and Glazed Radish p. 348

Braised and glazed radish... say that 10 times fast. For weeknight dinner, I was searching for some new vegetable to try. I was feeling experimental. So I happened upon radishes. I'm not sure if I've ever really had a radish. If I had it was on a salad and I had missed a piece to pick out. But I was feeling adventurous and so we wrote down what we needed from the grocery and headed out.

Once we arrived at the grocery we were unprepared to begin our radish hunt. Neither of us could think of what they looked like and it took several tours of the produce section to find them.

This is what a radish looks like. (Image:

Back in the kitchen, it was smooth sailing. Wash your radishes and then cut into chunks. Which isn't easy given their size. One cut was all that was needed for some of mine. (It was unclear to me in the book if I was to peel them or not, so I did a few and then realized it was a big pain and decided against doing the rest.)

In a pan put your radishes, some butter, and stock or water. (I used water because we have been going through stock faster than I can make it.) When it gets to a boil, cover it. Let it simmer until all the liquid is gone and the radishes are tender.

Its hard to describe the taste, other than a savory root vegetable cooked in butter. But it was good and we both ate our share. Served here with spicy broiled shrimp and roasted asparagus.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Roast Chicken with Herb Butter

I love a roast chicken. Its so easy to cook and produces a pretty and delicious meal. Not to mention, the left over bones are great to make chicken stock from. I've made the simplest whole roast chicken several times, but I was curious to try different versions.

For this variation, I mixed chopped fresh parsley with softened butter. You will use most of the butter to stuff between the chicken meat and the skin. Which reminded me of what I did with our Thanksgiving turkey. I find it difficult to get it to spread evenly underneath the skin, but I guess it doesn't have to be perfect. Once it gets hot, the butter will melt into all the crevices. Also smear some butter on the outside of the bird.

Roast until the chicken is done.

While, its not the prettiest, it was one tasty bird.

This dish was served with quick glaze carrots and simply cooked spinach.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Beef Daube p. 738

Apparently this is a classic French stew. I had never heard of it before. Nor had anything quite like it. But its always excited to try new things. Especially things you aren't sure of how to pronounce. It makes me feel fancy.

Start off by cooking some bacon in a dutch oven until it is crisp and then remove, leaving the fat behind. To the fat add about 2 lbs brisket cut into cubes. Our brisket was seemed fatter than usual, and our end product had a lot of fat. I would suggest using beef chuck instead. Brown all the cubes, this might take a couple of batches to get them all done evenly. Remove once browned.

Next you are going to cook chopped onions, carrots, celery, as well as thyme rosemary, orange peel and salt and pepper. Let it cook for a few minutes and then add red wine and red wine vinegar as well as your browned meat. Let it simmer covered for about an hour. Add your bacon at that point and cook for a while longer.

Now I'm not sure if this is traditional, but we added some cooked shell pasta to our bowls. We had it on hand and the dish by itself seemed to need something. The flavors were amazingly delicious, but overall seemed really fatty. Again, it could be the cut of meat, or the bacon, but I found it difficult to finish. Also, I sliced my carrots pretty thinly. Cutting them thicker might be a better idea for next time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jim Lahey's No- Work Bread

Homemade bread is one of those things that I have always felt was over my head. Or overly domesticated. I mean, unless you use a bread machine, who has the time to deal with making your own loaf of bread.

I had heard and read several things about Jim Lahey's No-Knead bread both here and here. And as much as we love and eat bread, I figured it was about time I face my fear of homemade bread. Plus I was out of work for a week and had time to let it rise.

I'm not going to go through the whole process. Other than to say it had to sit for 18 and then about 2 hours. Which isn't a big deal, but not do-able when you work and have an hour to get dinner on the table. So I guess this is a weekend deal for us work people.

After rising, it bakes in a dutch oven. I found this provocative. But then again, what do I know about bread making? Nothing.

The bread turned out totally edible. Not the most delicious bread I'd ever eaten, but good.

It was excellent lightly toasted, with some jam or pumpkin butter smeared on it.

Overall, my first bread making experience was a success!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Noodle Soup

Just after Christmas and at the new year, I was sick, for almost a week. Sick people need soup to get better and unfortunately, I had to make it for myself.

Ingredients for noodle soup: noodles, oil, onion, carrot, celery, stock,parsley, parmesean cheese. I also added chopped, cooked chicken to my soup.

Start off by cooking your noodles seperately. In another pot saute your onion, carrots, and celery. I skipped onions, as usual. Once they are soft, add your stock and bring to a boil. Add your noodles and chicken once the soup is warm. Serve garnished with parsley and parmesean cheese.

This noodle soup is easily amenable to many variations. I added some chopped canned tomatoes as well as sugar snap peas.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Herb- Roasted Chicken Cutlets p. 672

This was one dish I wasn't too crazy about. Perhaps it was the herbs I used and the flavor.

Start off by heating the oven and then mix herbs. The recipe calls for tarragon, dill or chervil (what is this? I've never heard of or used before) and parsley. I used everything dry because that was all I had. Cover chicken breasts with herbs and cook with a cup of stock to roast in the oven.

It is a super easy dish to make, however, I don't think I care for the flavor of tarragon. I will tweak the flavors to my liking next time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baked (Shirred) Eggs p. 798

I've seen several baked egg recipes circulating cooking blogs lately. It was a totally new concept to me. Baked eggs. Eggs are usually scrambled or fried ... but baked?

Baked eggs are incredibly easy and perfect for weekday breakfast or a leisurely weekend breakfast. There are also many ways you can vary them.

Mark Bittman gives a 30 minute prep and cook time in the book, but it shouldn't take you longer than 16 minutes, 15 of those are cooking.

Start off with a ramkin or small baking dish. Butter it or rub olive oil all over. Then break an egg in there and bake for 10-15 minutes.

He also suggests adding a bit of cream to the bottom of the bowl if you wish. When its done add a little salt and pepper to taste.

There are tons of ways to spice it up or vary it:
- You can add cooked or uncooked meats or vegetables. I've used proscuitto. But I'd love to try some asparagus with baked eggs.
- Add cheese!
- Fresh herbs
- Your favorite spices.

For this particular baked egg dish I add proscuitto to the bottom, cream, and a little parmigano on top. With both the proscuitto, cheese, and salt it was way way too salty, but still delicious.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hot and Smoky Corn Gratin p. 332

I was looking for a casserole type dish to take to a holiday potluck and came across this dish. It is more of an appetizer/dip than a casserole or side dish, but it was definately delicious.

The main recipe is Chile Cheese Gratin, but I have a fear of peppers, both of picking them out and having to actually cook with them. One of the variations suggests using corn and canned chipotle chile with adobo. That sounded do-able to me, so I set to work.

Ingredients: corn, canned chipotle chile with adobo, tomatoes (I used two cans of diced tomatoes), cheese, salt, pepper, cilantro, tortilla chips.

Layer your corn, tomatoes, cheese, and chiles several times and top with crushed chips. Bake for about 25 minutes or until is bubbly.

Mark Bittman suggest using 2-4 tables of the chipotle chiles. Be sure you know your tolerance for chile because I failed to taste it until after I put together the whole dish. Ooops. It was a bit spicy, but everyone seemed to like it.

I would recommend it as an appetizer dip for a potluck or other gathering.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Aunt Big's Gingersnaps p. 897

Ingredients: butter, sugar, molasses, baking soda, flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt. (No kitty cats are called for this recipe and none were injured in the making of these delicious cookies.)

I'm not entirely sure if I'd ever had gingersnaps before. I've had one or two gingerbread men, but that's different.

Start off by creaming the butter, sugar, and molasses. Then add your baking soda and water. In a separate bowl add flour and spices together and slowly add to the dough.

When its combined put your dough on wax paper to refrigerate for a few hours or few days. Helpful tip: Try to spread the dough into an even log. The dough is very sticky and messy and I just tried to get it on there without making too much of a mess.

Once you have refrigerated the dough for at least a couple of hours, take out and slice. If I had an even dough log I wouldn't have ended up with whoppy cookie shapes.

Bake for about 10 minutes and cool. A vanilla frosting or orange glaze would be good, but I was lazy. So lazy I even forgot to take pictures of the after product.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mexican Wedding Cookies p. 896

Ingredients: butter, confectioners sugar, flour, salt, pecans (or any other nut you prefer), vanilla extract.

I was excited about getting to use my new Kitchen Aid mixer. Start off by beating the butter until fluffy before adding the powder sugar. In a bowl combine the flour, salt and nuts. Then you'll add those to your mixer. Once everything is mixed together it needs to refrigerate for a while. Mine sat in the fridge for a few days.

When you are ready to bake, shape the dough into about 1" balls.

Bake them for about 10 minutes until they start to brown. Let them cool for a minute or so and then cover in powdered sugar. Let them sit on a rack for another minute while you powder all the balls and then give them all a second coat of sugar.

I'm not a fan of Mexican Wedding Cookies or powdered sugar. Actually its probably the powdered sugar I don't like about Mexican Wedding Cookies. But I tried one and it was good. I promptly gave the rest away as gifts. Our neighbor raved about them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mocha Glaze p. 919

As I mentioned yesterday, I went on a huge baking spree before Christmas. One of the confections made were butter cookies. I decided to spice them up with a mocha glaze.

To make a glaze you simply stir together fresh coffee, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and confectioners' sugar. Then brush on your cookies.

We had some glaze leftover after brushing all the cookies twice. Bryan made me save it and we'll top some vanilla ice cream with it. Or drizzle it on some cake. Or cover a finger with some and lick it off.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Butter Cookies p. 892

Ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla, extract, egg, flour, baking powder, salt, milk.

One of my Christmas presents was a beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer (Thanks, Bryan!). So I did quite a bit of baking.

These cookies are an easy (I say easy, but cookies using a mixer are always easy, just dump everything in the correct order) and are great for everyday cookies or for dressing up.

Here are my cookies, dropped, and ready for baking:

Here they are naked:

They are great on their own, but excellent with a glaze or icing.

I opted for a mocha glaze (we love coffee around here) found on page 919 which I'll be posting tomorrow.

I gave each cookie two coatings and let dry. Easy and delicious!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Basic Bean Soup p. 136

Happy New Year! I have many goals regarding this project for this new year, one of which is to try more things that I don't like. The first of which is beans.

I actually made this dish several weeks ago, but being the bad blogger I've been the past month or so, I'm just now getting around to it.

As far as difficulty goes, this is a very easy dish to prepare. Bryan was coming home late, so I had time to "soak" my beans the day off. Soaking involves covering the beans in water and letting it come to a simmer over the stove, then covering and turning it off. Let it "soak" for as long as you have. I had about an hour to an hour and a half before cooking.

Once you are ready to cook add the following to your pot/pan: stock, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about an hour, until your beans are tender.

I had a bite and it was delicious, but I let Bryan eat the majority of this soup. But overall it was a hearty and delicious soup for very little effort.