armadillas


To the birds

(Allison stuck the cake topper onto his chest)

My best friend left us for Seattle. Left us for good. So he can go study Comparative Literature in a cozy grad program. We’re all excited for him, and perhaps just a tad bit jealous. Needles to say, we had to throw a little get together since Seattle is on the other side of the country. No more driving down the street to see each other!

Originally, the get together was supposed to be some sort of potluck, cookout thing. But it rained. And for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to try out a gnocchi recipe I had. Bad idea. The gnocchi didn’t exactly turn out, and it’s not really cookout food either, is it? But that’s okay. I managed to do something resourceful. See, the best friend decided to make quinoa salad.

I don’t know about you guys, but in my very good opinion the quinoa he brought into my home looked like a bag of birdseed. I was not excited, not at all. But I watched him cook it up. He roasted a red pepper to chop up into it and opened a can of beans. It now looked like fluffed up birdseed mixed with veggies. Poor guy! He didn’t make a sauce/dressing to go with it and that quinoa was one of the plainest things I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t bad per say, but as bland as a econ book.

When I discovered the stuff sitting in my fridge the next day untouched, I decided something had to be done. It already had red peppers and limes, why not continue a southwest theme? Only problem was a lot of recipes I found called for lime and I had just used the last of my limes not too long ago. Same goes for my lemons. But I had some Greek yogurt. And some BBQ sauce.

I also had a couple tomatoes from the garden. I’m not that much of a gardener, but I encourage everyone to buy a tomato plant. Right now. Do it! So delicious and I’ve never been one to just bite into a tomato

A little more BBQ sauce and we were in business.  The quinoa was now reminiscent of a chopped BBQ salad I’d had at a couple restaurants. Not too shabby for something meant for birds…

I also made up some of these muffins because I had no idea they existed. Reese’s are my favorite candy, especially the holiday ones. Oh. baby!

Here’s to lasting friendships!

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Direct heat

I have an announcement to make! Today I entered to win a KitchenAid Stand Mixer…along with some 60,000+ other people. My odds are slim, but they’re better than not entering at all. My fingers are tightly crossed.

But that wasn’t my real announcement. What I really wanted to say is that the broiler and I are becoming fast friends. I have grown to love my broiler. She is teaching me wonders about cooking tender, juicy meat. First the steak and now the lovely pork chops I made for dinner tonight. I will never cook on the stove top again! Okay, that’s probably not true but I’m certainly feeling that way at the moment. And it’s so fast. Tonight my dinner was done under ten minutes (not including the time it took to marinate the chops). Aaaa-maaaaaazing! Let’s not forget that the cleanup is pretty easy, too. Oh, yeah!

It seems to me that recently I’ve been borrowing a lot of recipes, some of them tweaked, some of them not. Today was no exception. I knew I wanted to make some pork chops, but had no idea how to do them up. Pan fried, smothered, baked, grilled, Asian style, Italian style (which almost happened), Southwest style. The possibilities were endless and yet I could not settle on a single idea. SO I turned to the web. Smitten Kitchen to be precise. I stumbled upon a lovely haiku she had written about her pork chops and was inspired to write my own:

Tender, soft, juicy

Pork chop how I enjoy thee

Melt in your mouth glory

I can’t take all the credit. The boyfriend helped with those lines! He can be cute when he wants to be. Anyway, so the recipe I used belongs to Deb Perelman with slight changes. I jumped the gun and ended up throwing all my spices in with the oil at once, but it turned out superb. I was a little iffy about using cumin because it just isn’t one of my favorite spices, but the more bites I took, the more I loved it. Mmm hmm!

Recipe courtesy Deb Perelman

Ingredients:

  • 3 in-bone pork chops
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat olive oil in skillet with garlic on medium-low heat

In a small bowl, mix together your spices. Once you can smell the garlic (it only takes a couple minutes), mix the spices into the skillet with the oil

Stir together for about another minute

Make sure you cleaned your shops. Habit, what can I say. Then pour the sauce over them in a large bowl

Now get your hands dirty!

Allow your little chops to marinate for about 30 minutes. I think I shaved off a few minutes. A girl’s gotta eat! Preheat your broiler. Spray a broiler pan with (none other than) PAM. Arrange your pork chops onto the pan as best as you can

Alright, stick those babies under the broiler for about four minutes. Oh, and don’t forget to move your rack to the upper part of your oven. I put mine one above the middle slot. I feel like the top slop is just too close. Maybe one day. After your four minutes is up, flip

Stick them back under the broiler for another 4 minutes. Easy as pie, I tell ya! Be sure to let your beauties rest for a few minutes, enough time to whip up a side salad. Pick your favorite chop and dig in. Serve with your salad and some mashed potatoes

I’d say this is another meal to add to the I-want-to-impress-someone pile. So tender and juicy! Didn’t even need a knife. Slrrp! Finish it off with a slice of Farm Fresh tiramisu that you just know you could make better. Time to pull out the notebook

Tijuana


The Forbidden Question

You see that? That’s a chicken. A very lovely chicken if I do say so myself. I’m rather fond of chicken. It dominates the meat selection in my fridge. But we’ll get back to her in a moment. I have a story to tell first!

Not so long ago, an acquaintance of mine proceeded to ask me what my favorite food was. I’m not one for exaggerations, but I’m pretty sure the whole room quieted and stared at her. It was like a scene from a movie. Sharp intakes of breath were gasped all around us. Then all those faces turned to me expectantly. Suddenly, I was in the Old West, gun poised to defend my honor. Sweat trickled down my brow as I waited for the town clock to strike, or at least for the gears in my brain to turn and impossibly narrow down a single piece of food to be my favorite. Somehow, as if watching from afar, my mouth opened and I managed to squeak out a choice for my audience. A girl next to me applauded my selection and then the duel was over.

Goodness gracious! Never, never ask a cook such a horrid question. As someone who appreciates food with a good portion of my soul, I find it impossible to select a single item and declare it to be my favorite food. I’d much prefer to hand you a list. Naturally, I have a favorite something within a given category. I have a favorite ice cream flavor (vanilla or pistachio) and I have a favorite soda (ginger ale) and I have a favorite berry (blackberries). But to choose a  number one is quite unreasonable. Perhaps I could manage a top ten…if I was being forced onto a deserted island. Food is like music. It’s a mood thing. Depending on your mood, you might prefer jazz to rap one day and indie to classical on another. I might seriously be digging some artichoke dip for lunch one day. Then by the time dinner rolls around all I want is lo mein.

I do have a weakness for Chinese food, it’s true. Well, I have a weakness for most Asian cuisines really. My father may be Italian and instilled in me a deep passion for Italian cooking (which comprises my personal best dishes), but he also shared his love for take out with me, the result being that fried rice, pork dumplings, and soy are never far from my mind. In fact, it was kimbap that I chose as my favorite food that day. My Korean aunt introduced kimbap to me several+ years ago and I became instantly addicted to it. It’s a rice dish that, in my opinion,  resembles a Califronia roll…only much tastier. My favorite filling consists of rice, carrots, cucumbers, artificial crab meat, pickled radish (yummy yummy danmuji) and spinach all wrapped up in seaweed. I need to find a Korean bakery or restaurant around here. It’s been awhile!

As much as I love Asian cuisine, I”m not very good at preparing it. I’ve attempted to make kimbap three times now, each of which led to disaster. My fried rice is a hit or miss. My pho ga was thrown out almost immediately. I think the only thing I’ve engineered successfully to date is lumpia (an entry just dying to be posted). But I haven’t given up the fight, as proven by this:

Please, don’t stop drooling on my account. I’m right there with you! This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I shall call Chinese Black Chicken. Ah man, it was good. It was ambrosial. It was, without doubt, a winner! I mean, just look at it. Look at that caramelized color. Notice the browns and the reds and the blacks. You’re staring at a work of art. And it was so juicy! I’m going to have to make it all over again right now if I keep going on like this.

Breathe. Focus. Continue.

Chinese Black Chicken is very easy to make. After a little marination, you pretty much let her do her own thing and go on about your business. There’s some extra interaction involved half way through, but other than that this is a perfect meal to cook when you don’t feel like hovering over the stove for half the night. Even the most ardent chef likes to step away from time to time. I’m also sure it would impress anyone you’re trying to impress. Parents, friends, in-laws, love interests. Feel free to let chickie here use her powers of persuasion.

Ingredients:

  • A relatively small whole chicken, 4 lbs depending on how many you want to feed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs garlic
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 4 tbs oyster sauce

Whenever handling raw chicken from the store, I always wash it in cold water first. Helps me sleep better. So take your whole chicken and give her a good rinse down. Don’t forget to remove the innards. I discarded mine, but do with them what you will. Pat your chickie dry with some paper towels. Isn’t she a beaut?

Place your chicken in a container or bowl large enough to marinate her in and give her a s&p (that’s salt and pepper) spa treatment, inside and out. Rub, rub, rub! Then mix all other ingredients together in a separate bowl. If you’re trying to take pictures like I was, put the rest of the ingredients on a plate. Or you could just dump them directly on your chicken. Your choice

Now that your marinade has been well photographed, your chickie would appreciate you to get on with the spa treatment. Rub her down real good, taking special care to get some of the marinade inside the cavity as well

This is one happy girl! Let her luxuriate for a few hours. The longer she marinates, the tastier she will become. Buuuuut, I stuck her in the oven after only an hour and a half. It was a lazy day. I didn’t even start the marinade until 3. Oops! Anyway…once you’re ready to roast your bird, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (that’s right, a cookie sheet!). Gently, as not to slop marinade all over your kitchen, place your chicken onto the cookie sheet. There is probably some left over sauce in your bowl. Douse her with it. Don’t waste good flavor!

Alright, roast that chicken! After 20 minutes, turn your oven down to 375 degrees and pull your rack out halfway. See all that juice on the bottom of your cookie sheet? Brush it back onto your chicken. This, my friends, is called love. You gotta love your chicken if you want her to love you back. She will dress to impress with a little bit of extra love

Roast your chicken for another 45 minutes. The skin is going to be nice and crispy on the outside yet super juicy on the inside. It’s like magic. Let’s not neglect to dote upon her lovely coloring

I give you a 10! An A++

Do you know what else would impress? A salad with homemade Sesame dressing! I love making my own vinaigrettes. It’s so simple and only takes a couple minutes. Go ahead! Try it for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2 tbs sugar
  • A bit of fresh or powdered ginger

Pour everything into a jar. Shake jar vigorously. Put jar in fridge for a spell. Serve with your greens! I love a good sour, tangy vinaigrette, so I do equal parts oil and vinegar. But make this to your own tastes preferences. Experiment! Just please make sure to taste it before you decide to pour the whole thing on your salad. Also, these measurements make a decent amount of salad dressing so feel free to downsize a wee bit. Note: the chicken tastes quite fabulous dunked in this vinaigrette as well.  Mmmmm

I wish I had more veggies for my salad…

Tijuana