Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spicy Arugula

Arugula has got to be the tastiest lettuce out there. It’s really versatile and has a peppery taste that stands up well to other flavors, especially citrus ones. My go to arugula dish is simple- roasted red onions with a lemon vinaigrette drizzled on top. Trust me, it’s absolutely divine. We eat it once a week, at least.

Yesterday at Whole Foods I was debating what to make for dinner and came across an organic arugula bunch that was far too beautiful to pass on. Normally when I buy arugula I get the little leafs that come in the “ready to serve” package. I do this not for simplicity but because it is all they have. So, imagine my excitement when I saw a full, thick leafed bunch, hidden amongst the romaine and swiss chard. After re-reading the label twice I still wasn’t convinced arugula could look like that and had to tear off a piece to taste. I was not let down- it was every bit as delicious as the little leafs and had far more crunch. I threw it in my basket and went perusing the store for a meal idea.

I never ignore the bakery when I visit Whole Foods. Usually I do a quick walk through to get my taste buds flowing and to tease my sweet tooth. However, yesterday it wasn’t the sweets that caught my eye but the scent of freshly baked bread. Greedily I felt every single loaf until I found the Ciabatta to be warm.

Ciabatta is square bread that is often used to make panini’s. I have been eyeing the panini grill’s since they came back in style and while I haven’t yet bought one, I’ve read plenty articles that offer advice on how to make your own without the grill. Thinking panini’s and arugula I got some additional ingredients then went home to experiment. The recipe that follows is what I came up with. It was so good and filling that I know I’ll turn to it again and again.

Chicken Pesto Panini

1 loaf of Ciabatta bread
2 chicken breasts sliced thin
Arugula leaves
1 tomato sliced thin
¼ cup pesto
Monetary jack cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

For Seasoning: Pepper, Salt, and Poultry Seasoning

Season the chicken breasts with pepper, salt, and poultry seasoning. Fry in olive oil until cooked through then top with thinly sliced monetary jack cheese. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan to let the cheese melt.

Slice the Ciabatta in half and cover both sides with pesto then top with tomato, arugula, and parmesan cheese. Place the chicken in between the bread and squeeze together. Put sandwich on hot grill pan and press down with skillet. Grill on both sides until brown / black char lines appear. Slice and serve!

The combinations are endless when it comes to panini’s and I already have some ideas on what I’ll do next. (An Italian- with salami, capicola, ham, red sauce and mozzarella / A Greek- with feta cheese, peppers, lemon basil pesto, kalmata olives, and artichokes / A Curry with tiki masala, chicken, parmesan, tomatoes, and spinach)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Comforting Spaghetti Sauce

After class on Friday Alex told me his friends were coming in for dinner. I love cooking for people and usually these impromptu chances to entertain are happily welcomed. However, Friday happened to be numbingly cold and the high winds left me dreading the trip to the grocery store.

Having no idea what to make and very few ingredients on hand I looked to my cookbooks for help. Since our apartment and kitchen are small, I don’t like to separate myself from the group by being tied to the stove with a complicated recipe. I also get claustrophobic when people crowd into the space. You know what they say, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” Therefore, I always opt for meals that I can create beforehand and then throw into the oven once everyone’s hungry.

On Friday, I was initially drawn to the lasagna recipes but ultimately decided that a hearty pasta dish would be easier and equally satisfying. Normally when I make red sauce I make a spicy Bolognese with chunks of tomatoes floating throughout. I wanted to do something different this time- something smoother and more comforting. I decided to create a pureed red sauce with vegetables and heavy cream thrown in at the end. Rather then mixing the meat throughout the dish like in a Bolognese, I made meatballs. I figured this way they’d be easy to remove if someone should prefer their pasta meatless.

The recipe that I referenced to create this sauce is from Cooking Light’s new “Annual Recipe” book. They suggest that you puree the vegetables in a food processor but our processor is tiny and it would have been far too time consuming to keep transferring the sauce in batches. Instead, I pureed the vegetables before putting them in the pot and then used an immersion blender to create consistency. (Alex was not too happy about this immersion blender idea since we didn’t own one and he had to bear the cold windy weather and make a trip to Economy Hardware to buy one for me.)

For the meatballs we used ground lamb and ground beef. If I made this recipe again I would use ground chicken and turkey instead. I think that the lighter mixture of meat would better compliment the sauce. One thing I ALWAYS make sure to do when creating meatballs is to add a slice of bread that has soaked in milk. This trick is one of my favorites but it must be followed by a frying in olive oil. This way, the meatballs have a crispy brown outside and a soft center. They are truly delicious.

If I made this dish again I’d also be sure to throw in some red pepper flakes and Tabasco sauce. It was homey and comforting as is but I like when there’s a bit more bite. There is nothing better then a thick pasta sauce that makes your nose run!

Creamy Spaghetti Sauce:

2 16-ounce cans of diced tomatoes pureed in the food processor (I used one plain and one fire roasted as I like a bit of Smokey flavor.)
2 carrots, cleaned & pureed
6 stalks of celery, cleaned & pureed
3 cloves of garlic, pureed
1 medium white onion, pureed
1 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
¼ cup of heavy cream / half & half

Puree all vegetables and mix in pot. Place pot over medium heat and add spices. Cover and let simmer for at least thirty minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaves then add heavy cream and mix with an immersion blender until a smooth consistency is reached. Serve over thin pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Mini Meatballs:

½ pound ground lamb
½ pound ground beef (93% lean)
1 egg
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 slice of bread soaked in 3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp coriander seed
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix meats together. Beat egg and add to meat mixture along with the cheese, spices, and sauce. Mix completely. Roll mixture into ¼ inch wide balls and fry in oil until brown. Place meatballs in oven safe dish and bake at 350 degrees for at least forty minutes. Serve plain or transfer to spaghetti sauce.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Killer Sweet Tooth

Lately I’ve been browsing the internet for dessert and baked good recipes. It’s a strange thing for me to be interested in because I hate having them in the apartment. Since there are only two of us we end up eating way more sweets then we should. To prevent us from pigging out, I rarely buy sweets and when I make them I take the majority to work the next day. It’s become a joke around the office and on days that I have off my co-workers truly miss “me.”

Alex has a thing for cupcakes and so the past two times I’ve baked that’s what I made. I’m more of a cookie person but haven’t made those since Thanksgiving.It actually works out good not liking the same sweets because I can bake for him and easily pass them up. I’ve been trying to stick to a healthy diet for awhile now but have major set backs when it comes to eating dessert at night. I think I inherited that trait from my dad. As soon as I finish dinner it’s like my stomach is screaming for chocolate. Sometimes I’m able to trick it by sipping on tea. Other times hot chocolate works. On days when Alex brings home Ben & Jerry’s there is no stopping me.

I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that I used this year for Thanksgiving. I’ve been meaning to make them again and add coconut and toffee. I think I’ll allow myself the indulgence around Valentines Day. That way I can send the rest to my parents and grandmother as a gift. Thoughtful and better for my waistline.

I wish I had a unique recipe to post but I’m a cheat when it comes to cupcakes and just use a box. I used to blame this on my oven because it was old and didn’t cook things evenly. ( The one time that I made banana bread from scratch it burned the top and the raw insides spilled all over my floor when I went to remove it from the pan.) However, we complained to the landlord and we recently got a brand new oven. It works beautifully. Come V-Day when I make those cookies I’ll let you know how the recipe turns out… until them here are some yummy ones I’ve come across: (Look at the bogs too, they are brilliant and very entertaining. I spend hours browsing through them)

Here goes...

It seems that everything I enjoy and look forward to is somehow related to food. Sunday, the worst weekend day for so many people is actually my favorite. I love waking up to find a thick newspaper stuffed with coupons and grocery advertisements waiting for me.

Deciding what to make is always difficult and never final. After flipping through cookbooks and browsing several of my favorite websites I write out a list of dishes and ingredients to take with me to the store for reference. However, no matter how exact and precise I am, I wind up coming home with bags of groceries and produce that I’ve never cooked with, and no game plan whatsoever. I just can’t ignore the bumpy, irregular shaped veggies that get no love.

My inspiration for this site came Wednesday with the “Food” section of the Boston Globe. They ran an article on food blogging and suggested several sites. Being that I’m pretty caught up on my celebrity gossip I ignored for the day and went with the Globes suggestions. While not all of them kept me entertained there were two that truly inspired. and Both of these women are photographic geniuses and poetic writers. I wanted to be like that. I want to be that good.

Currently I am a senior at Northeastern University and soon I’ll have a degree in Journalism. The “real world” is creeping up a bit too quickly and I have no idea what “I want to be.” Actually that’s not true; I do know what my dream job is. I want to be a culinary journalist. I want to review restaurants and critique recipes. I want to take beautiful photographs of apple tartlets and caramel lattes…… unfortunately, I’m a realist. I know that saying, “I want to be a culinary journalist,” is just about equivalent to “I’m going to be a singer, actor, model, artist,” No, no you’re not. It’s one of those things that everyone WANTS to do, but even for those with brilliant palates, impressive degrees, and cooking experience- it’s unlikely that you’ll be one in the handful that succeeds.

I see this blog as my chance to experiment with writing and photography. Hopefully I’ll improve and develop a style. Hopefully it’ll direct me to a future career or at least cross off one of my options. Here goes!