Tuesday, December 29, 2009
My lovely basil plant, Maria has sub come to my black thumb. Unfortunately, this is not the first time plants have not faired well in my care. This is my third try at herbs!! I feel like that little kid we all knew growing up whose pets always died. After saying that, I will admit I am NOT giving up!!!!
So, I am in the market for a new basil plant. I figure if I keep trying, maybe one day I will be able to have a full herb garden that or a maid to care for an herb garden. (just kidding…kind of!!!) I would love to have a fresh garden with thyme, basil, dill, chives, rosemary, and lavender. This would enhance all my cooking and plating. Presentation can be improved by simply adding a sprig of herbs on a plate.
Right now I am still impressed that Maria 1 lasted over 3 months of my care/torture. However, it is winter time, even in Atlanta we do get freezing temperatures, so I am a little concerned. But I guess time will tell. First, I need to find a basil plant. I had no lucky at trader joes or my local grocery store.
Please keep your fingers crossed for the future Maria 2, she needs all the help she can get!!!!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Even today, I always keep pre-made dough in my fridge or instant pizza dough in my pantry. This is just a staple for me. Sometimes, I go all gourmet and make a Florentine pizza with chevre (goat cheese) and fresh tomatoes topped with a sun side up egg. Other times, like tonight, I make a simple pepperoni pizza with salad. Tonight, I made a super easy salad that was full of flavor. It seemed quite decadent despite the fact that there were only 6 ingredients.
Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad with a Truffle Champagne Vinaigrette
1 tsp of Champagne Vinegar
¼ cup of olive oil
1 clove of zested garlic
Truffle salt to taste (I love SALTY so my measurement is not the most accurate)
2 cups of arugula
Goat cheese..... crumbled
Whisk the champagne vinegar, oil, garlic, and truffle salt to taste. When the vinaigrette is created, toss the argula in the dressing. Top the dressed argula with goat cheese.
The great thing about this salad is argula. When dressed, it does not wilt as fast as most salads. This is a great salad to consider when entertaining BECAUSE you can make the salad well in advance. If you would like another element, then add some crunch. I recommend adding walnuts
The holidays..... from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas to the up coming New Years....I find myself falling prey to those fattening traditional. I just can't say no foods.
Especially when it comes to special foods there are only made for holidays.
My boyfriends mother, whom I love very much, makes this cauliflower dish that is so simple, but rich and delicious. Cauliflower is drowned in a cheddar béchamel sauce then topped with bread crumbs. I love this holiday favorite but my butt grows at the smell of it!
My mom normally makes latkes for Hanukah. Tons and tons of grated potatoes made into little cakes then fried in oil. I know this sounds similar to hash browns, but the end result is quite different. The center of a latke is much more moist and creamy.
This year I decided to make latkes for my friends. Now when I say myself, I mean I fried them, but my friends HELPED. I had my bff peeling potatoes. My other friend “volunteered” to grate the peeled potatoes. Her husband and my boyfriend then squeezed the water out of the grated potatoes. I then took the potatoes that were peeled, grated, and waterless and magically turned them into latkes.
It was humorous to me, when my turn came in this production line. I was a little lost. I have made latkes almost EVERY year for the jewish holidays. I am not big on measuring and I don’t remember the women in my family measuring when making these potato pancakes. I remember dice onions and crying!!! I have fond memories of peeling potatoes until my hand hurt and all my nails broke. However, without my mom and grandmother present, I lacked guidance. I had to call my mom. Yes, I who have altered all my moms family recipes to adjust to my taste, called her. After a pep talk, I was no longer lost. I just followed my gut. Now the first batch turned out a little “blackened.” However, the second batch was AMAZING!!!!!!!
I think I may have to do this every year. Or that is what my friends requested…. There is nothing like food to bring people together…
Happy holidays everyone!!!!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I enjoy making fried rice.
To me, this is perfect hangover food, it is good for a relaxing sunday afternoon, or a quick dinner for expected guests. I know you could easily order fried rice at a restaurant, but I find it dry and bland at most restaurants. Plus, if you are a vegitarian, most fried rice recipes have pork in them. Crazy...I know!
So, I like to use veggies I have in my fridge already. This makes the perfect meal when you are feeling lazy and do not feel like going to the grocery store. If you don't have fresh veggies, toss in canned water chestnuts, little corn cobbs, and canned straw mushrooms. Whether you use fresh or canned veggies, it doesn't matter, this recipe will turn out GREAT!!!
Tonight, I had peppers and mushrooms laying around, but please feel free to add whatever is in your fridge. Anything from asparagus to spinach, carrotts to onions will be delcious.
1 package of sliced and washed mushrooms..(You can buy whole mushrooms then slice and wash them yourself.)
10 small sweet peppers or 2 bell peppers diced
2 cups of cooked rice
1 garlic clove
4 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
salt to taste
Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee or clarified butter in a LARGE sautee pan (or wok) on medium! Please do not try to use a small or medium size pan. Things will not cook through all the way through. If you don't have ghee, do a fifty fifty mix of butter and oil to make sure the butter does not burn!!!!
Add mushrooms and peppers to melted butter. Cook for 3-5 minutes until browned. Zest in 1 clove of garlic. Mix in 2 cups of cooked rice. Stir until mushrooms, peppers, and garlic are well intregrated into the rice.
Once mixed, stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and the rest of the ghee. Let cook for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
While rice is cooking, crack the eggs into a seperate bowl and whisk until the yolks are blended with the whites.
Make a hole in the middle of sautte pan by pushing all the rice to the edges. Then pour 1/3 of the whisked eggs into the center hole of the pan. Let the eggs cook through. When the eggs go from bright taxi cab yellow to a pale pastel yellow, stir the eggs into the rice. When complete, make another hole and pour another 1/3 of the eggs in. Repeat this process untill the eggs are all used. Once the eggs are mixed in let the rice cook for another 5 minutes. Stir when needs. After the fried rice is ready!!!!
Salt to taste!!! I recommend serving with soy sauce!! This dish is great on it's own or with any protein from tofu to steak!!!!!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Now adays people are pinching every penny they can therefore eating out every night for a week is not really an option. Or at least, I am watching my spending. Eating out adds up quickly!!!!
If, I was not too tired to make it to the food store on my way home, I am a fan of buying the grocery store roasted chicken. I would just serve this with a pre-mixed bag of salad. TA-DA dinner is served. It is not fancy or sophisticated but it is healthier than pizza if you take the skin off.
In my house, I am only feeding two people. That means leftovers and an easier dinner the next night. First, I pull all the chicken off the bones and rip into fork size pieces. Though not exactly scientific, it is a great way to release some tension. Ripping is theraputic…..Trust me !!!! If I was super tried, I would throw the chicken on top of the left over pre-mixed salad. Then add a ton of parmesan cheese (which I LOVE) and grated is fine. I normally have grated parmesan cheese in my fridge at all times. Dress with Caesar dressing and then call it a night. I know Caesar dressing is not the healthiest thing in the planet, but I tend not to care much when I am tired. If you are super concerned with the calories, use a reduced-fat Caesar. I personally LOVE the Ken’s Caesar dressing when I don’t make my own from scratch.
Now if I have a little more energy, I make chicken salad. Instead of tossing the chicken onto lettuce, I mix the chicken with mayo, a clove of garlic, a little lemon juice, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, whatever nuts are around, and avocados if I have them. Lemon juice, sun dried tomatoes, mayo, and nuts are kitchen staples for me like the parmesan cheese. Then I serve this with saltines or on bread.
Of course this is assuming I was not too tired to go to the store. There were nights last week where all I wanted to do was go home, take my shoes off and melt into the couch. On those not too pleasant nights last week, I wanted comfort not tuna fish or something frozen. I want tomato soup with grilled cheese. There is something about the warmth of the soup paired with melty cheese that makes me happy. Now, I use a can of tomato soup, but I doctor it. I add milk to make the soup creamier. I would say cream or half and half however, I normally only keep milk around I throw in a can of diced tomatoes or fresh if I feel like dicing, to give chunkiness along with dried basil, garlic, and chili powder. You could add an onion, though that involved a lot more effort. I stir and let simmer while I make grilled cheese with whatever cheese I have in my fridge. As, I have written, I love cheese. In my frig last week was Swiss, Jarlsburg, cheddar, provolone, mozzarella, and parmesean. I just butter the bread on all sides then use whatever cheese I am in the mode for. If I make the soup spicier I use cheddar in the sandwich. When I finish with the grilled cheese, I pour myself a bowl of soup and proceed to relax in yummy goodness.
Overall, I have learned if you tweak pre-made things like tomato soup a little, they taste homemade, without all the effort. I am not saying that they taste better than recipes made from scratch, but they’re not too far from it.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Worst Pick of the Week
This was a California White Wine that was okay. The wine tasted cheap and it sold for $8.99. The bad after taste was strong. I would recommend getting any of the Two Buck Chuck white wines (this is the Trader Joe wine that is always under $3)
Best Pick of the Week
Other great wines
This Montepulciano pairs perfectly with steak and mushrooms. Many wines that pair well with Steak and mushrooms can get pretty expensive. Barolos are can run upwards of $40 for just a basic bottle. This wine cost $5.99. I use the wine to saute the mushrooms while the steak cooks. Wine adds great depth to the mushrooms that enhance their natural earthiness.
Fun bottle of the week!!!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
After eating steak tartare last week at Flip Burger, I was inspired. I have previously eaten raw beef before in beef capriccio, but I have never prepared raw beef on my own. I read about tartare, in “Beard on Food.” Also, Publix had some great ribeye on sale, so tonight, I decided to be adventurous.
I should warn that eating under cooked meat and eggs has some risks. Please be aware, these risks are very small and unlikely, but shouldn’t be taken lightly. To decrease the risk of food poisoning, I suggest purchasing the freshest ingredients from a store you trust.
Now that I have finished with my FDA approved warning, I feel confident that I can continue. The first thing to do is chose the right piece of beef. You want a good cut of meat. Please do not buy pre-ground meat if you plan on consuming it raw. I chose rib eye because it was on sale and looked fresh. Please don’t be afraid to ask your butcher or meat counter attendant which meat is freshest. Even at Wal-Mart, there are people you can ask. Freshness isn’t the only consideration. You want a steak with appropriate fat content and good marbling. You will need to cut off any large fat strips. Please keep these criteria in mind when selecting your meat.
Before you start cooking, please sample a small piece of the raw beef. The texture is similar to raw fish and definitely not for everyone. Plus, the dark meaty raw color can be a turnoff. I recommend trying the meat first before you waste a piece of perfectly good steak. If the texture, color, or look is not to your liking, it isn’t too late to toss the meat in a pan and have steak for dinner. No money lost!!!!
For me, the color and texture were a little weird, but still edible. If you can stomach the sample, then proceed!!!
Like the beef, please select eggs that are fresh and from a grocer you trust. If raw eggs concern you, you can par cook the eggs for two minutes in boiling water, then place them in an ice bath. This will eliminate some bacteria and make you feel like the eggs are not raw. I personally don’t see the point, but to each his own.
2 raw egg yolks
½ cup Olive Oil
8oz of raw beef with the fat cut off
½ tsp Worsheshire Sauce
½ tsp Dijion Mustard
Pepper and Salt to taste
1 tsp Lemon zest
2 tbps Capers
If the beef is a little tough, when you do your beef tasting, please pound out the meat with a mallet, rolling pin, or your fists. Once, the beef is tender, cut into very small pieces..
Whisk the 2 raw egg yolks together, the slowly start drizzling in the olive oil . When all the olive oil is added, the mixture should be a light pastel yellow with the consistency and texture of mayonnaise.
Add yellow emulsion, dijion mustard, capers, lemon zest, and ½ tsp Worshcester Sauce\ to the finely chopped raw beef. Mix gently. Taste the rosey pink mixture than season to taste.
I recommend serving with bread but this is great with lettuce or cucumber slices. A nice sparking dry rose would be the perfect pairing. You can also garnish with microgreens to help hide the pinky red rawiness.
You can substitute the Worcheshire sauce for a little apple cider vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar will “cook” the beef/eggs similar to a ceviche and give it a little bit of a different texture and flavor profile.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Today marks my basil plants three week birthday!!! That is right; I, Allison kept a plant alive for three whole weeks. . I know it’s sad to be celebrating a plant surviving 21 days in my care, but I like to celebrate the little things!!! Normally, I have a black thumb. Many herbs have perished under my care within only a couple days. My last herb garden succumbed to disease. I am not kidding
To celebrate the birthday of my basil plant, whom I loving call Maria, I decide to harvest her to make pesto. (I don’t like tomato sauce and yes, I am quite serious.)
One of the things, I enjoy about this dish is you can prep the dish to be ready in 8-10 minutes. With little notice, it can be prepared for your loved ones. You can even precut the tomatoes and mozzarella, precook the asparagus, and make the pesto all in advance. Once your friend or roommate comes home, the hard work is finished. All that remains is to boil the pasta.
½ cup fresh basil
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup of parmasean cheese
¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 clove of garlic
Salt to taste
Place all ingredients into a blender and thoroughly blend
Pesto Pasta with mozzarella, tomatoes, and asparagus
Yes, this recipe is vegetarian. That is simply because I did not have time to go to the store for protein. However, I find the multiple servings of vegetables and cheese exceptionally filling.
Serving for 2
8 oz of fresh mozzarella
8 oz of pasta (I like Barilla Plus)
5 small tomatoes
1 cup of asparagus
Pesto from above
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350
Cut the asparagus into inch long pieces and then place them on a cooking sheet. Drizzle with a little Olive Oil and freshly ground sea salt. Cook for 5 minutes for crisp asparagus. Increase cooking time for softer asparagus.
Dice the fresh mozzarella into bite-sized cubes or strips. (You want the cheese cut small, so when mixed with the warm pasta it will get gooey and yummy)
Dice tomatoes into fork size pieces.
Cook pasta and drain. Mix pasta with pesto, diced mozzarella, tomatoes, and cooked asparagus. Place on a plate and serve. To spruce up the presentation, try garnishing with a few pine nuts and fresh basil leaves.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The design of the restaurant is ultra modern with white tables, silver chairs, and bright red accents. This is not your normal burger joint. I would not recommend going to FLIP with non-adventurous eaters. The menu is very creative however, there is a basic beef burger. Just in case.The milkshakes come with dry ice and in bakery fun flavors like krispy kreme.
Though the milkshakes looked so yummy as they came out of the kitchen, I decide to keep my calorie count reasonable. I ordered the Steak Tarte Burger with the parmesan fries and a diet coke. Hey, I skipped the milkshake. My date ordered the lamburger with tempura fried okra. Then we did one of my favorite things, shared.
The steak tartare burger was my first steak tartare. That is right, I have never had the raw beef dish before. The burger was served with a raw egg on top. Needlessly to say the burger was messy. Thank goodness my date was my boyfriend, otherwise I would have been a little embarrassed. The combination is very rich and surprisingly not tough. The texture of the steak reminded of me of sashimi. So, my verdict of raw egg with raw beef…..WONDERFUL. The beef was seasoned with capers which added the perfect amount of salty tang which compliments the smoky mayo. The smoky mayo tastes just like normal mayo, but has a hickory warm aftertaste. The aftertaste gives the steak more of a burger feel.
I must admit the fries were good but nothing amazing. I could not taste the parmesan. I guess after the wonderful burgers, I expected more from the fries.
The lamburger was moist accented with an olive relish and a raisin ketchup. I have never had raisin ketchup before. The sauce is the same texture and consistency as tomato ketchup , but it tastes like raisins. The olive relish with the cucumber yogurt added classical Mediterranean flavors. Overall, the burger was a success.
I have never had fried okra before. Please try to hide your shock. I lasted over two years in Atlanta, the south, without trying okra. This was sliced long ways to look more like fries. The sauce, srirachi ranch, was the perfect combination of creamy and spicy to compliment the salty crispiness of the tempura batter okra. After this, I am an okra fan, who would have guessed.
If you find yourself in Atlanta, I highly recommend trying this fun trendy burger joint that many people are raving is the best burger in town. Check out the website, for more information.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Over the weekend, a friend's mother moved into the next building over. She is a diabetic. So, I decided I would make sugar free cookies to bring over!!! There are many problems with this idea. One, I am not big on cookies!!!! I won't turn a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie down. However, I don't have self control problems when I walk through a bakery. The second problem is probably the biggest. I have this little dilemma when it comes to baking. I just cannot follow a recipe. It is great when I cook because I am always improving and changing dishes. With Baking, there is this chemistry part that does not work when changed.
Yes, Buying sugar free cookies would have been easier. However, I think the thought counts.
I looked online for sugar free recipes. I did not find many that sounded good!! I wanted to be careful not to use chocolate which has sugar. My decision limited my already limited options. I decided on one recipe- banana oatmeal nut cookies. The other recipe I decide to wing it. I used a variation on a basic chocolate cookie recipe(can you guess which one). I switched out the chocolate chips for pecans. I used splenda instead of brown sugar and sugar and added a little extra. I through in 4oz of applesauce to make the mixture extra moist.
Don't laugh- The banana Oatmeal turned out Okay. I followed the recipe I swear. I guess it just was not my taste. I chose a vegan friendly recipe!! So no eggs or milk. I mean the cookies were edible.
However, my pecan cookies tasted great. They were not too sweet like a pecan pie can be. The cookies tasted delightfully yummy. I figured it might do some good to post a GOOD sugar free recipe. These cookies would be a nice addition to any party. Now if you are a cookie lover, I am not saying these are better than chocolate chip. I am saying this is a great option when you are have a party or a girls night in. It is always nice to have a healthy or sugar free option, in case someone is on a diet or diabetic. I notice when I don't have a backup that is always when I need one. So here is the recipe
Pecan Sugar Free Cookies
· 2 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
· 1 tsp baking soda
· 1 tsp salt
· 2 sticks of butter softened/left out of the frig for 20 minutes
· 2 cups of chopped unsalted pecans
· 2 1/2 cups of splenda (I know it seems like a lot but trust me)
· 1 tsp of vanilla extract
· 2 large eggs
· 4oz (one individual container) applesauce
Preheat oven to 375.
Mix dry ingredients, flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Mix butter, splenda, and vanilla extract together until thick and creamy. Add the eggs to the creamy mixture. Slowly, mix in the dry mixture a little at a time. Lastly stir in the pecans. Now the cookie dough is ready to by dropped onto the baking sheets and cooked for 9-11 minutes.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Now, you would think that my craving preferences would have nothing to do with how I cook. Oh, no!!!!! I learned very fast the way I like food is not always the way other people like food. Though strangely, my brother likes food as salty as I do. My poor mom would slave away in the kitchen for hours only to have her children fighting over who could use the salt first every night.
This is a small problem that leads to over seasoned foods and unhappy guests. I tried not adding salt but that leads to unseasoned foods, unhappy guest, and an empty salt shaker. I am a fan of moderation. I put little salt in my cooking. However, I ask everyone who enters my kitchen to taste test everything. I am getting better with my sodium quotient but not perfect. Every once and awhile, I create something inedible to the average person. Please don’t ask my friends about the Asian Salmon catastrophes of 2005.
I do wonder if people who like extremely spicy foods have the same problem of over seasoning. I definitely have been to a few parties where the food was to hot for me to handle.
Overall, I learned that everyone has a different palate with different preferences and dislikes. The trick to create satisfying food is knowing who I am cooking for. If I cook for my brother, then I add copious amounts of salt. If I am cooking for a large party go with moderation. And if I cook for my Grandfather I always use ketchup…..That is another story for another blog!!!
I guess everyone has a demon in their pantry ….mine just happens to sit in cute little shakers on my dining room table!!!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I promise, not all my blogs will start talking about my boyfriend, just the first two. My boyfriend returned from his trip to Washington DC with heirloom tomatoes. Now, I would love to type I am sophisticated, elegant and use heirloom tomatoes all the time. When in truth I buy whatever tomatoes are on sale each week.
I have NEVER cooked with Heirloom tomatoes before. I have eaten heirloom tomatoes once or twice at a fancy restaurant, so I had no clue where to start. I decided to consult my library of cookbooks… I have a large variety of cookbooks; Nigella Lawson, Rachel Ray, multiple cultural books, wine and food cookbooks, and so on. However, none of my cookbooks gave recipes SPECIFIC to heirloom tomatoes.
What do you do when you can’t find recipes for a specific ingredients?
Wing it! (Yes, I do know I could have Googled it but what fun would that be!!!)
I took classical food profiles like red tomatoes and balsamic or fried green tomatoes and goat cheese. Here is what I came up:
Fried Heirloom Green Tomatoes with goat cheese on Filo Parmesan crisp.
Heirloom Green Tomatoes
Cooking spray/oil/melted butter
Preheat the oven for 400 degrees
I diced the green tomatoes then cooked them in peanut oil on medium to medium high in a sauté pan for 10-15 minutes.
While the tomatoes cook, roll out the defrosted filo dough. Cut into bite sized portions. I made squares, but feel free to experiment with the shapes for your presentation. Spray the top with cooking spray or drizzle oil or melted butter, then top with parmesan cheese. Place on cookie sheet/pan and put in oven for 8-12 minutes. Cooking time varies with every oven. You are looking for a light, tan, crispy flakey texture.
Plate the dish by starting with the filo crisp then add the tomatoes. Lastly, dress the tomatoes with goat cheese.
This dish is simple but could be an appetizer on any menu. It also, looks pretty on a plate without trying.
PS- Feel free to switch out the Filo for toasted baguette or crackers.
Gourmet Roasted Heirloom Tomato Salad
Arugula/ Lettuce/Spinach/ a green of your choice
Fresh mozzarella (HEY, if I can find it affordably so can you)
Red Heirloom Tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat your oven for 400 degrees
Slice the Heirloom tomatoes than place on cooking sheet/pan. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and salt to taste.
Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until caramelized, juicy and dark red on top.
Toss the green of your choice in a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Place cooled roast Tomatoes on greens. Add mozzarella. Lastly drizzle with Balsamic.
Again, this is a simple recipe that you can find on many menus, but it is cheaper at home. Plus, both of these recipes easily lend themselves to entertaining.
That why this blog is “Somewhat gourmet.”
My big qualification is I love to cook and eat!!!! I tend to be that friend in the group who is always cooking and giving out recipes. I love watching food tv, reading about food, and trying to recreate recipes I have had. Basically, I spend most of my free time playing with my food.
I know…I know… my mother is so disappointed…..
I do have a lit degree but that is as far as my food qualifications go. So, I was not sure how this blog would pan out.
To be honest, I am not even sure what I am going to talk about…well, besides food…..
I figure I will write and see what comes out.
So please comment, ask questions, and let me know what you think.