Saturday, April 21, 2007

One more dish, shamefully with no pictures: Chicken Legs.

Spring onions, chopped
Preserved lemon rind, chopped
Ginger, fresh, chopped
Soy sauce
Rice vinegar
White wine vinegar
Olive oil

Combined all these into a marinade for some chicken legs. Refridgerated overnight. The next evening, I put these into a braising sort of pan and cooked on 325 for about 45 minutes. They looked pretty good, but the marinade tasted BAD due to the spring onions - next time white onion, because it doesn't turn bitter like green onions when cooked. Bad idea. So I took out the chunky parts of the marinade to try to combat the bitterness (which could've come from the lemons, too, not sure, really), and cooked a bit longer hoping the marinade would thicken up more and the chicken would brown. Not so much, so broiler for 10 minutes one one side after basting the tops of the meat with the juices so it'd carmelize, then turn over and do same again for perhaps 10 more minutes. These were not 10 straight unmonitored minutes, though, I checked frequently to make sure there wasn't burning. The remaining marinade gelled into a sticky tarry mess on the bottom of the pan, which was delicious if ugly, so I saved it for later chicken-eating. They turned out great overall, juicy, fully cooked, tender, flavorful, not too bitter, interesting flavors. I'd definitely do this again.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Surprisingly good glop

I created another good glop. I don't know if I've mentioned the other name for this dish, "Sticky Brown," which I'm sure is just as appetizing as Good Glop. The thing is, they taste way better than they look.

Though I kind of like the look of the lavender rice. Earlier in the week, I cooked basmati rice with a bunch of red/purple cabbage, and it turned the rice a beautiful springy lavender. I wish I had taken pictures, but alas I did not. I served this rice (to myself, for lunch) with preserved-lemon/garlic/dill shrimp which were a bright saffrony color, and with roasted roma tomatoes, which were a rich tomato-ey red. A harmonious color arrangement to me, perhaps not so to the husband, but whatever. I had resisted buying tomatoes most of the winter, because it's just depressing, but as spring approached and there were still no proper tomatoes at the store, I gave in to my longing for that taste of summer and bought some crappy roma tomatoes, then roasted them with salt, pepper and olive oil for about an hour or hour and a half. They turned out well, and were a savory addition to many other dishes.

Back to the Sticky Brown du Jour, however. Purple rice, roasted tomatoes, some mushrooms sauteed with oregano, cumin and some garlic, and canned refried black beans with lime juice. I added avocado chunks and soft creamy goat cheese to serve, as well as a squeeze of real lime juice. The appearance of the dish was decidedly dogfoodish (with some lilac accents, for the most discerning of pets), but the taste was pretty good. The husband liked it quite well, which surprised both of us!

No proper recipe for this one, as it's more a process than a plan: What's in the fridge? How can I combine it? Do I have to buy anything else? No? GREAT. Let's EAT. Also no picture, due to the aforementioned gloppy appearance. Honestly, does anything involving refried black beans look good?
Pasta casserole

I had been imagining a creamy pasta dish for about a week. It would have pools of creamy cheese, between well-seasoned noodly areas, with the usual spinach and mushroom additions. It would have a pleasing tomato sauce throughout, which would perhaps pool up in certain areas. I think part of the inspiration for this was that dish where you make a tomatoey mess in a pan with onions and maybe bacon or something, and then put eggs in little puddles you make with a spoon, and then cook until the eggs are set - sort of Huevos Rancheros without the tortilla? The dish that actually resulted was not like that, but was pretty good regardless.

I sometimes visit the chinese market down the road, and find all kinds of cool stuff. One surprising thing is that the apples there are huge and cheap. Where do they get these apples that the chain grocery stores don't get and if they did would sell for 3 times as much - China? Some other attractive items at the chinese market are all the noodles, and all the tofu. So many varieties! And yet, I have no idea what I'd do with most of them. So I restrain myself, and only occasionally purchase the one-off tofu experiment or noodle bunch. Once I got this seasoned tofu "snack" that I kept looking at for a month before I gave up and threw it out. I'm a chicken sometimes, and it bugs me, so I try not to buy things from there without a plan or an immediate urge to eat the mysterious item Right Now.

On my most recent shopping expedition, I got some fresh spinach noodles, and resisted even touching the Durian. Because if I am afraid of a little tofu, or if I fear that the amount of bok choy I get will spoil, I am deathly afraid of what would happen if I got a Durian, and stored it until it spoiled in my fridge. From what I hear, I suspect we'd actually have to move to escape the aroma.

I combined the spinach noodles, uncooked, with some spinach and feta chicken sausages from Central Market, some ricotta that I mixed with an egg or two and some italian seasoning, some bottled spaghetti sauce (like Classico or Barilla, one of the ones without added sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup because it pisses me off that HFCS is in pasta sauce - why???), sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and some grated romano cheese. I baked all this until it was bubbly.

It was very tasty, though I admit I had some texture issues with the noodles. I suspect I should've cooked them for 2-3 minutes before casseroleizing the whole thing. The husband, however, didn't mind the texture at all, and said it resembled gnocchi, in a good way. The dish froze well, too, and reheated well for lunch over the next two weeks.

No pictures, but just imagine lasagna. But maybe with green noodles instead.

Easter cupcakes

I have a coworker whose mother-in-law is Columbian, and makes the most fantastic food. Her rice is buttery and rich, her plantains perfectly cooked (mine always get too brown too fast), her yucca moist and tender, and I'll even eat pork chops if she makes them. I know all this because my coworker often gives me her food. One day I brought myself what I thought of as "boring veggie lasagna" for lunch, and my coworker brought typical MIL food but didn't feel like she could stomach it that day, as she was feeling under the weather. As we walked to the lunchroom we engineered a trade, and both were 100% more happy with lunch as a result. Any time coworker has extra, she knows where to bring it.

Due to all this feeding of delicious food by this coworker (let's call her B), I wanted to repay the favor and either feed this coworker or her mother-in-law. As Easter approached, I knew the other chief baker in the office (coworker J) would be traveling and thus not bringing in her thin, tender and frosty sugar cookies, so I had the baking field open for myself. I asked coworker B what kind of cupcakes I should make, and she selected Carrot Cake. Well, first she said strawberry, but then she said she's deathly allergic to strawberry and since I'd almost certainly use real strawberries, that wasn't the best option (and she was right, if you can consider Frozen Bag Strawberries "real"). And so, Carrot Cake it was.

And here's the funny part. I mixed up the icing into "easter-y" colors and almost threw up on myself with how cute they were. I got them to the office, and my boss and several other coworkers* were surprised with how cute they were, too. They're a little out of character.

I used the recipe my mother got when she was a teenager from Paul Newman's mom. No, not that Paul Newman, just the Paul Newman my aunt B used to date. My mother thought this recipe was pretty novel when she was a teen, because her family did not cook this sort of Weird Food. Her mother (my grandmother) still doesn't, though we've realized in recent years that my grandfather might've enjoyed the weird food all along, but never did and likely never will find out. I am not certain, but I suspect my grandmother finds something suspicious about pizza, and the closest she'll come to pasta is macaroni and cheese, or perhaps tuna casserole. You know, that ever-so-exotic Pasta.

Here's the carrot cake recipe, slightly modified from the Augie Newman family version, because I just cannot bring myself to put another 1.5 cups of vegetable oil into anything.

2.5 cups flour (some all purpose, some whole wheat pastry flour)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t soda
1/4 t salt
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg (gross - I substituted cardamom)
1/2 t ginger
1.5 c sugar (recipe called for 2 c, I think 1.75 would be a better compromise)
0.5 c vegetable oil
4 eggs (I may have used 3 only)
2 c grated carrots
1/2 can (14 oz?) crushed pineapple (with juice)
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c craisins (there may have been fewer raisins and craisins, don't go crazy on them, just enough to look right)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then mix in the carrots, walnuts and raisins so they get coated with flour and suspend a tiny bit better in the mix. Then add the liquid parts (oil, eggs, pineapple) and stir until everything's wet. Dispense into 24 cupcake wrappers (or a 9x13 pan) and bake "until done" at 350. I'm actually a bit perturbed at this "until done" because that's what's in the recipe, and I honestly can't remember how long it took to get done. Cupcakes, probably start at 25 mins. Large pan full of cake? perhaps 45? but check it sooner to see.

8 oz package cream cheese (room temperature)
4 T butter (room temperature)
0.75 t vanilla extract
0.25 t lemon extract
dash salt
2.5 c powdered sugar (perhaps more if necessary to get your desired consistency)

Cream the butter and cream cheese in the stand mixer, then add the flavor extracts and salt. Slowly add sugar a half cup at a time, until all is incorporated. I separated the batch into four parts, and colored them individually.

Cadbury mini-egg on top. The chocolate ones with hard candy shell, not the gross "Cream Egg," the grossest simulation of a food you wouldn't eat in that form anyway. Blech!

*Coworker B noted that said cupcakes looked like they had nipples, and almost made coworker D (no longer with us**) shoot coffee out his nose.
**Not dead, you sicko, just got a new job. In Austin, making me combine a number of clues together and realize I miss living in Austin sometimes. Mainly because the "farmers' markets" here in DFW are just terrible. The produce is labelled with the same stickers you see on store produce, right? This suggests to me that there's a wholesale produce provider that sells all they can to the chain grocers, then sells the rest to these smaller vendors, a few days later. I believe this because if you buy anything at the farmer's market, it will spoil about 3 days sooner than you expect. And the prices aren't that great either. In Austin, the farmer's market I like requires that the vendor produce the items being vended, which is lovely. Except for the Emu Oil man, who can go to hell for putting EMU OIL on my hands. Gross.