Tuesday, August 24, 2010

seared salmon in a luffa gourd sauce reduction

this blog is eons overdue!! i made this dish (and took photos) back in august (2010) - it was while cooking this awesome meal that i, while washing the knife, sliced my thumb and ended up in the ER, 8 months pregnant, for stitches!! disclosing that antic may not be the most appetizing way to start a food blog, but all devoted cooking lovers experience disasters at one point or another, so i figured i'd share that little tidbit!

i was inspired to cook this meal because my boss offered me some fresh luffa gourd from her garden.
i had no idea what it was, but was intrigued and am always happy to try something new! i asked her for tips on preparation, and she suggested this salmon dish!

on with the recipe!!

1 luffa gourd
3 cloves of garlic, freshly chopped/pressed
1-1.5 pounds of salmon
olive oil

1. peel and chop luffa gourd 2. heat olive oil in a frying pan on medium high heat

3. saute garlic

4. sear salmon on both sides 5. place salmon with skin facing down, reduce the heat to low/med-low, and distribute the luffa on top of the salmon. add a bit of olive oil and basil.6. simmer until the luffa looks translucent

7. serve and enjoy :)

unfortunately, i cannot provide a photo of the finished product. i had to stop cooking in the middle of reducing the luffa, cover it, and go to the hospital for stitches!!! i left it on the stove, and when my husband and i returned home, i heated it up until the luffa cooked down quite a bit, and then we ate and went straight to bed. i failed to take a picture! the luffa provides a mild but sweet flavor. it was delectable!

tomato puree

it's that time of the year where those with tomato plants find themselves overwhelmed with large quantities of the awesome fruit! i am envious of such people, as my yard is too shaded to foster growth of much other than weeds (and hence i bought tomatoes from the local farmer's market)! if you don't have the time to make sauce, salsa, or some other concoction, might i suggest something less time consuming? simply clean, cut, puree, and freeze them for future use.

1. if you're not a fan of the skins, then start by blanching the tomatoes and removing them:
-boil a pot of water
-place several tomatoes at a time in the boiling water for 10-30 seconds
-remove (w/ straining spoon) and immediately place in cool water
-easily remove and discard the peels!!

2. whether or not you keep the skins, the next step is to quarter them and cut away the cores. 3. prepare tomatoes to preferred consistency. depending on what you prefer to prepare at a later time, you may choose to fully puree the tomatoes (perhaps for a smooth marinara), or leave it chunky for salsa or textured sauces (or mix it up so that you have options)! a food processor is best for chopping it to a smooth liquid. or you can use a food processor on an intermittent setting to chop them slightly, or use a manual food chopper for the chunkiest cuts.

4. break out the quart-sized freezer bags, and label several of them (i use a description and the date).

5. find a container or bowl that will house the quart-sized bag, for support while filling. 6. i also recommend using a funnel - the one that i have for canning is perfect for filling the quart-sized bags! i always hold a corner of the bag to prevent it from collapsing during the fill, and then just ladle it in!

7. be sure to leave some head space - i typically fill the bag within a half inch from the bottom of the zip. 8. then zip up the bags, removing as much air as possible

9. place them flat in the freezer. (if you have a deep freezer, i find it easier first to freeze them on a flat shelf and then pile them up for longer storage subsequently). the next time you're ready to make a soup, salsa, or sauce, just throw the frozen pouches of your garden-fresh tomatoes into the fridge (or leave on a counter) the night before, and you'll be ready to go!!!

roast chicken

bake yourself a little roaster chicken, and you can easily add a little protein to your meals all week long :) i buy free range roaster chickens, about 6-8 pounds, and use them as a great addition to salads, or even as the main protein component of a quick dinner. the prep is easy, as the oven does most of the work for you!!

1 roaster chicken (6-8 pounds)
3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed through garlic press
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 C free range chicken broth

1. pre-heat oven to 350F

2. remove neck and organs from chicken (they are stuffed inside). i toss the neck, but cook the organs for my dog - see the end of the blog for details.

3. rinse chicken (inside and out) with warm water

4. place chicken in small roasting pan, or a 9x13 baking dish (i use 9x13 stoneware)

5. pour chicken broth over chicken

6. sprinkle pepper and garlic over chicken (and some into broth surrounding chicken) 7. bake approximately 20 minutes per pound. (for my 6-8 pounders, 2 to 2.5 hours is sufficient).

8. remove from oven. remove wings, legs, and pick the rest. i recommend doing so while hot because the task is faster than waiting until it cools. store in a closed container in refrigerator, or freeze for later use! (personally, i enjoy eating a wing or leg immediately, you know, for energy while picking the chicken)!!

for your canine:
1. place the organs in a small baking dish 2. do NOT season with garlic, as garlic is toxic to canines, but add a little pepper if you care to

3. bake alongside the roaster chicken, but only for 20-30 minutes, or until "done" (use your discretion)

4. let cool before treating your furry friend :-)

Monday, August 23, 2010

mini beef sliders

while dining at cafe muse a few weeks ago, i enjoyed two excellent free range, organic beef sliders: one with grilled balsamic onions and gruyere cheese, the other with exotic mushrooms and boursin cheese. this inspired me to make some at home, though i didn't take the pains to add mushrooms or onions, and i settled for munster cheeses. ingredients:
1 pound ground free range beef
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp freshly ground garlic
6 slices munster cheese (any cheese) - fold or break to fit small burgers
6 whole grain dinner rolls (or other roll of choice)

1. fire up the grill to medium heat
2. mix beef, pepper, and garlic in medium-sized mixing bowl
3. divide mixture into 6 equal parts
4. form into small patties
5. grill on lowest rack until desired doneness is reached
6. add 1 slice of cheese to each burger, and place halved rolls on top rack of grill. for a propane grill, kill the flame and close lid for several minutes
7. place on dinner rolls, and serve!!!

i recommend two sliders per person :-) i actually kept two burgers for later (did not add the cheese). i microwaved them at work and added cheese - made for great leftovers!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

portobello mushroom "sandwich," with sides

i bought portobello mushroom caps when i made risotto, initially planning to chop them up along with the baby bellas. i then decided against it, stuck with the baby bells for the risotto, and dreamed up a little concoction for the portobellos.

the overall menu includes a bed of red & white quinoa adorned with a portobello "sandwich," a side of steamed russet potatoes with butter and basil, and a salad of greens, fresh cherry tomatos, cucumber, and yellow sweet pepper with trader joe's red wine vianegrette. and here's how to do it!ingredients (for two):
1/3 C quinoa (i mix red & white)
2 C salad greens (i prefer spinach)
1 large russet potato, washed, unpeeled, sliced
2 large portobello mushroom caps, washed and dried
1 red sweet pepper, cut in half, remove stem and seeds
garlic, dried & ground
freshly ground pepper
brie cheese (cut into thick "slices" that will cover mushroom)
free range organic butter slices
balsamic vinegar
olive oil

prepare quinoa & potatoes:
1. in rice cooker, add 1/3C quinoa, 1 C water, garlic, black pepper, and basil
2. place potato slices in steamer basket
3. turn that baby to cook and let it do it's thang!!

grill mushrooms and peppers:
1. fire-up the grill to medium heat setting
2. place mushroom caps and red pepper halves (inside facing up) on a plate, in a small pool of olive oil
3. fill mushroom caps with balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil, then add a bit of each to the peppers as well
4. place on middle shelf of grill (about 20 minutes - check periodically)

put it all together!!
1. make a bed of quinoa on the plate
2. place potatoes on plate, add a few slices of butter, sprinkle of salt, and a bit of basil
3. place salad items in the remaining space on the plate
4. place mushroom cap (top down) on the bed of quinoa
5. add brie to mushroom, push in slightly to facilitate melting!
6. place the red pepper half on top of the brie (inside of pepper facing down)
7. serve & enjoy!!!

*variation: add tofu! i had planned to include a layer of sauteed tofu to the portobello sandwich, but sadly the tofu in my fridge had expired. simply heat olive oil and fresh garlic over medium-high heat. slice tofu long ways, but rather thin, and fry until golden brown. add it to the mushroom after the brie!!

**vegan potential: just omit the brie from the mushroom (it really is quite delicious without the cheese), and substitute the butter on the potatoes for vegan butter, or your favorite herbal/oil seasoning!

Monday, August 9, 2010

mushroom risotto, take 1

ever since i enjoyed a most delicious risotto a few months ago while in amsterdam, i was determined to try to make it myself. i have heard people complain about the tedious nature of preparing risotto properly, but wasn't particularly turned off by that :) at a friend's going away party, i met the husband of one of my work friends. this gentleman, steve, just so happens to be a chef! one conversation about tomatoes led to another and i picked his brain about risotto. he was kind enough to offer up the following advice:

1. use vegetable stock in lieu of chicken
2. use arborio rice
3. add broth, reduce, repeat, and at the end, add your seasoning and such

i picked up the appropriate ingredients over the past 2 weeks, and finally gave it a go last evening. i scoured a few recipes online to get an idea for how much broth i would need, and i settled on planning for 8 cups. i also opted for store-bought organic veg stock this time, but intend to make my own in the future.

8 C veg stock
1.5 C arborio rice
2 C baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/3 C parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp minced garlic
4 tbsp butter (room temperature)
black pepper, freshly ground
olive oil

1. warm the veg stock in a sauce pan, and keep it on low heat

2. heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, saute mushrooms until they soften, scoop mixture out into dish and keep to the side until the end

3. heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat; saute the garlic, and add the rice

4. stir the rice continuously for 5 minutes, or stop once lightly browned

5. add veg stock, 1 ladle-full at a time, stir the mixture continuously until broth has been fully absorbed (do not let the mixture stick to the bottom of the skillet)

6. repeat step 5 over an over again, until the rice is al dente (approximately 20-30 minutes) - sample often :-) you'll notice the mixture becoming more and more starchy, which is a good indication that you are nearing the end

TIP: if you need to take a break, simply remove the skillet from burner (briefly), the come back and pick up where you left off

7. remove skillet from heat. add butter, parmesan cheese, ground pepper (to taste). mix thoroughly. add mushrooms.

plate it up, and top with a bit of parsley or basil, and serve!!

it serves 5-6 people, and overall (with prep and cook time) required approximately 45 minutes.


**vegan potential - just omit the parmesan cheese, and replace butter with vegan butter!!!


i was recently encouraged to start a cooking blog by one of my gal pals (lo), and with her gracious compliment about enjoying my cooking, i figured i may as well!!! i enjoy cooking and baking, and am anxious to venture into the world of canning, and also making homemade baby food (once my unborn fetus is born and of age to enjoy solid foods)!!