Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Poke a Nom, Nom, Nom

This weekend I made a Poke Cake, and forgot to take a picture before it was eaten by a friend and family and me. (Mostly me.) So the picture at the left is NOT of my cake, but it gives you an idea of what it looked like. In case you don't know, the basic idea of Poke Cake is a regular cake with holes poked in it, into which you pour Jell-o. And then you chill it until the Jell-o is set.

I made the angel food from scratch, my first attempt at one. The recipe I was going to use called for cake flour, but since I was making this at 10 P.M. on a Friday night I didn't really feel like trudging to the store to buy some, so I found a recipe that used regular flour and confectioners sugar instead. Here's something I learned: trying to get powdered sugar out of a box is a pain in the ass, and inevitably results in a kitchen that looks like it's being used to cut cocaine and baby laxative together. Pour it in a container first and then scoop it out.

I used a carton of egg whites because really, what was I going to do with 12 egg yolks? Make a custard to pour over my fat-free cake?...Actually, that sounds pretty good. I love the rituals involved in making an angel food cake. The frantic whipping of the whites, and how you need to invert the cake in the pan for an hour before serving it. But let's be frank. Angel food cake is kind of dry. So Jell-o is the perfect addition, resulting in an extremely moist cake that is still fat free. Win!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Relish It

Don't let the Valentines fool you, this was not my sad Valentine's Day dinner. I had this tonight. It was inspired by a recipe for chicken with tomato relish from Everyday Foods magazine. Very lightly inspired, I should say. First, I used fresh tomatoes instead of the canned the recipe called for because I hate the way canned tomatoes taste when they aren't being used in a cooked sauce. I used everything else in the relish recipe--lemon juice, parsley, capers, olive oil--but it probably would have been better if I let it sit overnight, to turn into more of an actual relish. As it was, it was really just a tomato salad. Which is fine.

As for the chicken portion, I wanted the chicken to be crispy since it was being paired with something kind of mushy, so instead of just pan searing, I decided to coat the chicken in flour, egg white, and Panko, and lightly fry it. ("Lightly frying" sounds like an oxymoron, but I really didn't use that much oil). Pounding out the breasts yielded two pretty big pieces, resulting in the virtual feast you see pictured. I also skipped the spinach portion of the recipe because I thought I didn't have any spinach. (Turns out I did. Derrrrr.)

I forgot to put a lot of salt and pepper in the flour coating, so the chicken was badly in need of some seasoning once on the plate, but other than that, it was really good! I mean, come on. It's basically fried chicken. You can't go wrong!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Had Michael Lee Aday For Dinner

The last time I made meatloaf, it was a recipe using ground turkey and tomato soup. Problem with that was it turned the loaf into a permanently pink color, so there was no way by looking at it to really tell when it was done. I cooked it as long as the recipe called for, but turns out that wasn't long enough and I ended up getting sick from eating the undercooked turkey. (That's the only time I've gotten sick from undercooked meat. I'm pretty sure it was because of the ground nature of the turkey. I don't live in fear of undercooked pork chops or chicken breasts that are slightly pink. Just saying.)

So, when I decided to make this meatloaf recipe from Every Day Foods I bought a quick read thermometer since it states in the recipe what temperature the meatloaf should be when it's done. I followed the recipe pretty much, just adding a little Worchestire sauce and some garlic to the meatloaf, and cutting the (store-bought) barbecue sauce with some ketchup. For the sides I didn't have buttermilk so just made standard mashed potatoes (butter, salt, some half-and-half) and I blanched the green beans instead of steaming, just because it was easier (fewer pots).

Getting that meat thermometer was a good idea because cooking the meatloaf for 30 minutes was not long enough in my oven, and it took about 45 minutes before the thermometer even got near the 160 mark. (Yeah, I probably need a new oven, but the thought of trying to finagle an oven in and out of my kitchen just gives me a headache.) As for the meatloaf itself: not the best I've ever had, but not bad either. I'm sure meatloaf that uses a fattier meat instead of lean sirloin tastes better; fattier is always better! But I liked having the slight crunchiness of the vegetables in there, and since there was only a quarter cup of panko crumbs used, it was pretty moist. And I'm sure it'll make good meatloaf sandwiches this weekend!

Some Men Like Cheese...

I always wondered why listening to "Camina Burana" made me hungry....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Big Ass Salad

Tonight I made one of my favorite no-cook meals: a big ass salad. The core ingredients are mixed greens, of course, as well as tomatoes (heirloom if they're available), a hard-boiled egg, kalamatta olives, and canned tuna. That last bit is a crucial ingredient, because it has to be tuna in olive oil, preferably imported. I think regular tuna packed in water is pretty gross unless it's mixed with a ton of mayo, and I've tried some American brands packed in olive oil, and none have tasted as good as Genova Tonno. I could eat it straight out of the can.

But in this case I add it to the salad, along with any leftover vegetables I might have in the fridge, which today was some broccoli (which I blanched in the water the egg was boiling in) and half an avocado. For a dressing, I just make a vinaigrette in the salad bowl by whisking Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little sugar together. If it's too tart, I add a little water to mellow it out, thus lowering the amount of oil you need. Salt isn't needed for this dressing because of all the salt in the tuna and olives, and also because Dijon can be pretty salty in and of itself.

It was soooo good. A lot better than the picture makes it look. (My camera began to screw up after that picture, so I couldn't take another, more appetizing shot. Alas.) A perfect dinner for nights you just can't be bothered to cook.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Nice Spot Of...

Today, Michele and I went to tea at relatively new spot called Crown & Crumpet. It's located in Ghiradelli Square, but don't let that scare you off. Once you step inside you'll totally forget you're in a touristy part of town.

I LOVED it. I'm not afraid of the color pink, which is a plus because the place is quite girly. Really. Just take a look at their photo gallery. We had the tea for two, which came with two pots of tea (I had one called the Paris blend, which was vanilla flavored and absolutely the best pot of tea I have ever had) as well as tea sandwiches (two egg salad, two cucumber, one smoked salmon, one pesto chicken salad, one blue cheese and pear, and one roast beef), three scones (probably some of the best scones I've ever had; not those huge, dry, suck-the-moisture-out-of-your-mouth things that pass for scones around here), two toasted crumpets (I love a good crumpet), and assorted sweets, including tiny madelines, cupcakes, and tarts. All for 42 bucks. Total. Not bad for such a feast! The only complaint I would have is there wasn't enough of the spreads--the clotted cream, butter, jam, and lemon curd--to satisfy this whore-for-cream. (That sounded a lot dirtier than I mean it to.)

The couple who run it are super friendly and not at all stuffy. You can tell they have a good sense of humor about the place, but still take their tea very seriously. I chatted a bit with Amy, (she owns and runs the place with her husband Christopher), who is from San Francisco, and she had some great stories about the guy my high school was named after (J. Eugene McAteer) as she used to live next door to him and his family. Four years at that high school and I never really had any idea who the dude was, until now.

I'll definitely be back, perhaps to try some of the later dinner-like fare, which includes sausage rolls. Mmmmmm.....sausage rolls. Next time you've got a hankering for tea and tiny sandwiches, definitely give this spot a try!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dip In the Choke In the Dip

An artichoke, just a plain artichoke, doesn't seem like a hearty dinner, but this artichoke was HUGE. Seriously. Like a baby's head. I was afraid that if I didn't eat it, it would clone me as I slept. So, that was dinner tonight.

I steamed it, and it took about 20 minutes. Of course the success of an artichoke depends on the success of the dippin' sauce. For this I used Ojai Cook's Lemonaise, Dijon mustard, lots of fresh lemon juice, and my secret ingredient, boiled garlic. I put two cloves of garlic in the pot of water the artichoke is steaming in, and when they get soft I take them out, remove the peels, and smash them into the sauce. They're garlicky, but a lot mellower than raw garlic.

It was delish, with a few drawbacks: the soft leaves in the middle of the 'choke were really spikey, so it took a lot of care getting the good bits out of those, and it probably could have used about five more minutes of cooking because the heart was a tad bit tough. But in all it was tasty, and surprisingly satisfying.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Burger Me

Well, tonight no cooking will be happening. I had a vet appointment after work, and when my parents offered to get me a burger for dinner, I said "OTAY!" I didn't want to deal with cooking AND forcing pills down my cats throat. So let's talk about burgers instead.

I don't think I've ever cooked a beef burger at home. I may have slapped one on a grill at a barbecue at some point in my life, but that hardly counts. The closest I've come at home is some pre-formed turkey burgers, and it's been years since I made one of those.

Of course this is probably a good thing since limiting one's burger intake is a wise decision. I usually have a burger once a month, twice at the most. My current place of choice is Burger Joint because they are right down the street from where I get my hair done every month, and there's nothing like having a burger after you've spent three hours sitting on your ass waiting for the hair dye to set in. That works up your appetite, yo. Burger Joint's burgers are your standard thin patty, grilled, and they also use Niman Ranch natural beef, which is a good thing.

Ideally, I prefer places that grind their beef on the premises, just because I also like to limit my feces intake every month as well, but that can be hard to find. One good place that does this is the Boulevard Cafe in Daly City. All their burgers are great and perfectly seasoned.

Tonight's burger was from the Holy Grill, which is my parents' burger place of choice. They use Meyer Ranch natural angus beef, and it's a tasty burger, that's for sure. My one problem with them is the buns they use. They're too sweet, too soft, and way too crumbly. I prefer your basic old fashioned sesame seed bun, preferably one that has been toasted on the grill.

Finally, speaking of holiness, my holy grail of burgers has got to be the one pictured above. One of these days I will drive my ass up to Sacramento and have a burger at the Squeeze Inn, because a burger with that much crispy cheese can not--nay, SHOULD NOT--be ignored.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is It Stir-Fry If You Don't Use a Wok?

First real food post! Woo!

Tonight I went with something relatively simple, although it's not as simple as one would think.

The basic recipe was this chicken and broccoli stir-fry on Cooks.com. I halved most of it since I was just using half a chicken breast, and omitted the ginger because I'm not a fan. Now, I say stir fries aren't as simple as they would seem because it's not just a matter of dumping everything into a wok and cooking. It's all about the timing. You have to brown the meat first, but not too much or it will turn tough when you put it back in the pan; and you have to make sure the toughest vegetables are sauteed the longest, so they have to go in the pan first; and you want most of the cooking done before you put the sauce in, lest the sauce all evaporate. So, yeah. Not that simple.

This one turned out pretty dern good as the chicken was cooked perfectly; really tender. I probably would have preferred the broccoli was a little crisper than it ended up being, but it wasn't too bad. I had it over brown rice, which was actually left over from some Chinese take-out I had this weekend. I reheated it by placing the rice in tinfoil inside a steamer, a trick I learned from my grandmother.

In all, a successful meal. Now I have to start thinking about what to make tomorrow. Horrors!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Because If Every Aspect Of My Life Isn't On the Internet, Then Do I Really Exist?

I thought I'd start a blog about the various meals I attempt to make, just because. Last year I resolved to start to cook more home meals after discovering it wasn't a hard thing to do as long as I went to the grocery store with a menu and recipes in mind. Some things I've made have been awesome. Some, not so much. Perhaps people can learn from my successes, and teach me how to improve on my blunders!

Since I decided to do this after my dinner tonight, I don't have a picture of the finished product, but it was broiled salmon (farm raised, unfortunately) over red quinoa (which is a really delightful alternative to rice or cousocous), and sauteed spinach. The salmon was a little bland, so I made a sauce of capers, dijon mustard, lemon, and a bit of mayo to put on top. It was all quite tasty, but the only thing I can't seem to get right when making salmon is getting the skin crispy (I love the skin) but not having it just end up stuck to the bottom of the pan. I used a cast iron skillet, sprayed it with some Pam AND rubbed olive oil on the skin of the salmon. It still stuck. It was edible--believe me, I ate that sucker--just not very presentable. What's the secret? (Besides a nonstick pan, which I feel doesn't yield as crispy a skin, and isn't good to stick in a broiler.)