Monday, January 28, 2008

Flamingos? Cilantro? Dinner?

Ever since I started this blog, I have been wondering how I would figure out what to post. Would I allow my ideas for my blog to determine what I cook? Would my cravings control what I post? Would I just have inspiration? Would I post only the meals that photograph well? Then I realized that I know what will heavily influence my budget. Like many others, I am very conscious about how much I can spend monthly on food. Although I am definitely more liberal in this area, I have been trying to cut back and be smarter with leftovers. While I can't wait to share with you my chicken-thyme-pear-brie sandwich or my shrimp feta pasta sauce, I also must work within the confines, or put more optimistically, the possibilities of my fridge.

A few weeks ago, I made a mango-avocado salsa to go with some halibut for some friends. I had a large amount of cilantro left and no idea what to make so I came up with a cilantro pesto. When I saw the event, Leftover Tuesdays, hosted by Project Foodie, I decided to enter this recipe. The pesto will last for about two weeks if you keep it in the fridge and the lemon juice helps prevent discoloring. I have eaten about 4 dinners already from this one recipe. In keeping with the Leftover theme, I used some flamingo shaped pasta that I have had lying around.

Cilantro Pesto

1 ½ cups packed Cilantro leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
¼ cup walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth. If it is not smooth, you may need to add more olive oil.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Toss with pasta and sprinkle with some extra grated Parmesan.

P.S. Do you need/have some meat? Poach a chicken breast in a deep frying pan or sauce pan. Place the chicken in the pan, cover with water so that the chicken breast is half-way submerged, bring to simmer, cook on one side for about 5 minutes and then flip over the chicken breast for another 5 minutes. Continue to do this until the chicken is completely cooked (the meat will be white with no pink visible). Cut it into small pieces and mix with your pesto and pasta.

Click Here for Recipe...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When the moon hits your eye...

So the other day, when two of my good vegetarian friends, Jennifer and Sarah, came over for dinner...I was puzzled by what to make. How do you have a dinner party without meat? Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the well loved pizza stone peeking out of the cabinet and it hit me...PIZZA!!!!!!

It is easy and yummy and fun to make with friends. So, I threw together a pizza dough recipe and left it to rise, as I ran to the store. Where I bought half the produce department thinking we would need plenty of options. When Jennifer and Sarah arrived, we blared some music to dance and sing to while we cooked. Before we knew it, we had created Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions. It was delicious!!! Not too overpowering with garlic and onion but just the right combination of flavors. I was very happy to have leftovers the next day.

(picture by Jennifer)

Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions

(recipe makes one 12 in pizza)

Pizza Dough

I use Tyler Florence’s recipe because the dough for a pizza is ready in about an hour. I only use ½ tablespoon of salt or I think it is sometimes way too salty. In addition, if you don’t have a mixer (I don’t), mix in the flour by hand and then knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elasticity.

If using yeast scares you or making bread is not quite at your skill level, Whole Foods, Trader Joes or other grocery stores make good ready made pizza dough.


½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 ½ cup Mozzarella

¼ cup Parmesan

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tomato sliced

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant (see below)

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (see below)

  1. Preheat oven to 475º with the pizza stone in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the pizza dough on a flour surface so that it is about inch thick and in your desired shape.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and using your clean hands or a spoon spread the olive oil around the dough.
  4. Once the pizza stone has been heated, open the oven and put the dough on the pizza stone (be careful not to burn yourself- I burnt one finger this time!).
  5. Very quickly without burning yourself or making a huge mess, spread the basil and ½ cup of mozzarella over the pizza (place the basil under the cheese or it will burn)
  6. Then put on the vegetables (depending on the size of your pizza and personal preference you may have too many toppings so put on as much as you desire).
  7. Top the vegetables with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust browned.
  9. Take out and enjoy! Yummy!!!!

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant

1 small eggplant

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Peel the eggplant and chop into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Place the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle heavily with salt. Place a bowl or other heavier object on the eggplant to weigh it down.
  3. Let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse all the salt off the eggplant.
  4. Using your hands squeeze the excess water out of the eggplant.
  5. Peel the garlic clove. Either chop it into very small pieces or crush it with a garlic press.
  6. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic until browned.
  7. Add the chopped eggplant and continue to sauté moving around the eggplant with the spatula.
  8. Once the eggplant has softened and browned, remove it from the heat.

Why salt the eggplant?
My great-grandmother used to say that you have to "sweat the bitterness out." According to the Joy of Cooking, one must salt the eggplant in order to prevent the highly absorbent vegetable from soaking up a large amount of oil as it cooks. It also gives it a creamier texture, which most people prefer. Jennifer, Sarah, and I were too hungry to salt the eggplant and our pizza was still yummy. However, in the future, I would salt it because it would improve the texture of the toppings.

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (Jennifer's recipe)

1 Vidalia Onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Peel the Onion and cut in half. Slice the onions into strips.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautéed the onions moving the onions around with a spatula until they soften and brown.
  3. Drizzle the onions with the balsamic vinegar and mix with a spatula.
  4. Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the onions have caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

P.S. Have some leftover garlicky eggplant and balsamic caramelized onions? Make some pasta, toss with the eggplant and onions, top with some Parmesan or goat cheese, serve as dinner the next night.

Click Here for Recipe...

Monday, January 21, 2008

And so I begin...

Lately, a common refrain in my life (besides the “why do you want to go to law school?”) has been, “Could you teach me how to cook?” Most of my friends can feed themselves. Rarely, however, do they feel that they make something that is truly yummy and satisfying. The goal of this blog is to share some recipes, techniques and tips that I have slowly developed (and am still working on) over the years. It will not be perfect but I hope that it will help give you some ideas that you can use to develop your own style of cooking.

I have been cooking since I was very young. My mother raised us on the principal that “If you can read, you can cook!” (although I was cooking before that). I was always welcome in the kitchen. Learning to cook is about following the directions and then, as you become comfortable, learning to make substitutions and experiment. I tend to stray often and make up my own things so I am going to try to make my creations into actual readable recipes. I currently live with two scientists so they will make sure I follow the directions. It is important to remember that sometimes you will mess up but you need to have fun!

Ok, enough talking, you will never learn “if you don’t jump in and get floury” (Wow! That was corny! First and last time I will say that…).

I want to share with you, as my first post, the very first recipe I remember making and mastering: my brownie recipe. This has been adapted from the Betty Crocker Alpha-Bakery
, my very first cookbook.

Fudgy Brownies (as adapted from the Betty Crocker Alpha-Bakery Cookbook)

This recipe makes a 8x 8 pan of brownies. If you don’t have that (and I don’t), a round cake pan also works fairly well or double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan.

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ stick of butter

½ cup white sugar

¼ cup of dark brown sugar

2 eggs

⅔ cup flour

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease the pan with butter.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate together, over the stove in a saucepan on medium low heat.
  3. Once melted, remove from heat and mix in the rest of the ingredients. In the absence of a trivet, you can place a towel or pot holder on the counter to protect it from the heat. Add the vanilla last. Mix well to make sure there are no chunks of flour or sugar.
  4. Pour into pan and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes (if you use a cake pan, reduce the baking time to 25 minutes).
  5. After 30 minutes, insert a toothpick or knife in the center of the pan, if it comes out clean, the brownies are ready. If it is still gooey in the middle, put it in for 5 more minutes. Watch the edges of the brownies, they will be the first to burn.

Ginny’s Butter Rules:

RULE #1: USE REAL BUTTER (unsalted is normally better) IN BAKING!!! It will taste 100% better. If you are worried about being healthy, the trick is to have a small piece and bring the rest of it into work…your co-workers will love you and you will not eat the whole thing yourself.

RULE #2: NEVER CUT THROUGH THE PAPER WRAPPER TO MEASURE BUTTER—for example, you only need ½ stick of butter (4 tablespoons). Count on the outside of the wrapper until you reach the appropriate line, take a knife and gently press on that line, making an indention, but do not pierce through the wrapper just make it so when you take off the wrapper you will see the line. Unwrap the butter and cut the butter on the small indention. If you cut through the wrapper you often get pieces of the wrapper stuck to the butter, which you need to pick off (A pain!) or it will end up in your food (Gross!).

P.S. This blog is a work in progress as I figure out how to write about the food I make, how to take nice photographs of the food and how to use all this blog technology. I welcome all suggestions, comments and questions. Please email me.

Click Here for Recipe...