Friday, August 31, 2007

Pizza Friday

After a few weeks off we return to Pizza Friday with an excellent rendition:

... using slow-cooked onions and mushrooms (expertly prepared by SP) and pepperoni with a thick tomato sauce and just a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese. We both agreed this is one of the best pizzas we've made so far.
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Chicken Marsala with Lemon Broccoli

Last night we tried two recipes from the latest issue of Everyday Food, Marsala Chicken with Sage and Cremini Mushrooms and Lemon Broccoli:

We were both wowed by the flavors in these dishes. SP said the marsala sauce was outstanding and I thought it tasted like the dish at my favorite Italian restaurant growing up. Both were really easy to make as well.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Beef Stir Fry

Over the weekend we saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they made a Thai Chile Beef recipe that looked sensational. We didn't feel like buying all the necessary ingredients but we still wanted similar flavors, so I decided to wing it and threw this together using ideas from various recipes:

I have to say, I was shocked at how good this was. I've never made a stir fry before so I wasn't expecting to be wowed the first time out of the gate. All the flavors were excellent and it wasn't too salty or too sweet - it was just perfect. A tad on the spicy side, but we like it that way.

The one very important tip we got from ATK was to use blade steak, which has excellent marbling that keeps the meat tender and moist even when it's fully cooked. The only thing you have to remember to do when using blade steak is remove the tough tendon that runs down the center of the meat.

I don't really have a recipe because I just eyeballed everything, but here's what I did: With stir fry you have to prep all the ingredients before cooking so I started by thinly slicing the steak, a green pepper and half a large onion. I also minced a bunch of garlic and grated a 1-inch piece of ginger. My mom gave me a hot pepper from her veggie box so I removed the seeds from half of it and finely minced that as well.

For the steak I made a quick marinade using soy sauce, a little chicken broth (I would have used beef broth if I had it but chicken worked just fine), maybe 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and some rice wine vinegar. I also made the sauce for the stir fry using soy, broth, a pinch of red pepper flakes, two finely minced scallions, brown sugar and more rice wine vinegar.

When it was time to start cooking I patted the meat dry and cooked it in batches in a very hot non-stick skillet. The beef let off some moisture as it cooked so I drained the pan in between batches. Once all the beef was cooked I add the onions and both peppers to the pan and cooked until they were soft. Then I added the ginger and garlic and once that was fragrant I added the sauce. Once that started to thicken a bit I put the beef back in and added some torn basil and a handful of cilantro. As soon as the herbs were wilted the dish was done. I served it over basmati rice.
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Pork Chops and Corn Fritters

On Monday SP made the Whiskey River Pork Chops and Corn Fritters we enjoyed earlier this month:

While I hate to admit it, his version was better than mine. The sauce had a better consistency and flavor. I was in charge of the corn fritters. I learned my lesson from last time and let them sit undisturbed in the pan so they could get nice and crispy. The sweet corn I've been getting from the farmer's market has been excellent and I love using it for these fritters.
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Spaghetti and Meatballs

My mother-in-law's birthday was yesterday and when we invited her over for dinner to celebrate she asked that I make spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. So that's what I did.

I decided we needed a vegetable other than parsley in the meal so I made a grilled vegetable salad:

... using produce from my parent's vegetable box. I marinated green peppers, eggplant, yellow squash and zucchini in a dressing made with shallots, rosemary, red wine vinegar and olive oil and then grilled them. Once they were cooked I cut them into bite-size pieces and tossed them with the remainder of the dressing.

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Fry Up

We wanted a hearty breakfast this morning so I did another English fry up:

... with fried eggs, sausage patties, mushrooms and tomato.
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Paninis and Melon

For some reason I'd been thinking about prosciutto and melon all week, so when it came time for my weekly trek to the farmer's market with my coworkers I made sure to pick up a cantaloupe. It was perfectly ripe when SP cut it and I wrapped the half-moons in ultra thin slices of salty prosciutto:

... which we ate as an appetizer before embarking on a panini experiment. We wanted to see which would be a better way to cook them - using a waffle iron or a regular skillet. While the waffle iron heated up I prepped the ingredients: tomato, basil mozzarella and the rest of the prosciutto:

... before assembling the sandwiches on thick slices of crusty bread. The batch made in the waffle iron were crispy and tasted good:

... but the huge crevices didn't really work well for us. The second batch made in a nonstick skillet and weighed down with a foil wrapped brick came out much better:

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage

Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage is one of SP's favorite dishes. He made it tonight using hot Italian sausage:

... which was slightly spicy without being overpowering.

While this was very, very tasty, I'm still searching for a creamier fettuccine alfredo. As our friend D told us over dinner last weekend, "saucy" alfredo isn't authentic but I just don't care. I like a thick, creamy sauce with my alfredo; otherwise I feel like I'm eating plain old pasta with butter and cheese. Yes, I know authentic alfredo is just butter and cheese, but if I'm making the caloric commitment I want sauce, damnit!

So the search continues. If anyone out there in blogland has a creamy, saucy fettuccine alfredo recipe please let me know. Thanks!
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Meat and Potatoes

We bought a family pack of sirloin at the supermarket for the kabobs we made on Sunday so tonight we decided to grill the other steak. He rubbed the steak with just a smidge of cumin, salt, and pepper:

Since we're coming up on the end of Jersey tomato season I served sliced tomatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper:

... as well as some green beans:

... and mashed potatoes made with my new treat, Plugra:

I'd heard about this butter on various sites and in other blogs and my darling husband was kind enough to buy me a brick when he went shopping this week. When I was mashing the potatoes the smell of pure butter wafted through the entire kitchen. And the resulting potatoes were some of the best I've ever tasted. I'm planning to buy a loaf of good, crusty bread and just have that and some of the Plugra as a snack over the weekend.
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Chicken Fajitas

QUESTION: What do you get when you combine grilled chicken marinated in lime juice, cilantro and garlic:

... shredded sharp and tangy cheddar cheese:

... homemade guacamole made with two beautifully ripe avocados, a dash of lemon juice, cilantro and garlic:

... soft, sweet strands of green bell pepper and Vidalia onion:

... homemade salsa with chunks of grape tomatoes, Vidalia onion, cilantro and lemon juice:

... and a dab of tart and tangy sour cream all layered together on a warm, soft, lightly singed flour tortilla:

ANSWER: One of the best batches of chicken fajitas I've made to date.
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Monday, August 20, 2007

Cuban Sandwich Redux

The last time I made Cuban sandwiches SP and I decided the recipe needed some tweaking. Tonight I made all the changes:

... and they were much, much better. We had them with Terra chips, those fantastic chips made using things like beets and parsnips as well as potatoes.
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A Hawaiian Inspired Dinner

I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a BBQ menu for dinner on Sunday. We were having our friends C and D over for dinner and this was the first time they were going to taste my cooking. I wanted it to be special but I didn't feel like making burgers, hot dogs and potato salad - my usual BBQ fare. Then I remembered the excellent meal we'd had at C and T's last month and decided to use that as my inspiration.

For starters SP wanted to do a taste test of two different wing sauces: the traditional Frank's:

... and Texas Pete's:

The consensus was that Frank's was world's better. We all liked the tang of the Frank's and found that while Texas Pete's was spicy, there was no zip, no pizazz.

For side dishes I made a Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad that I first saw on JoJo's blog:

Once I saw the recipe I knew it would be good, but I had no idea how good. This was fantastic in every way. The only changes I made were that I grilled the corn (and probably used way more than 2 cups since I had 5 ears of corn) and I used seeded fresh Jersey tomatoes but otherwise I followed the recipe. SP thinks it was the fact that the salad was served at room temperature that made it so great. Honestly, I don't know. All I know is that this is now my go-to corn salad. The corn I got at the farmer's market was sweet and succulent and it married perfectly with the creamy, buttery avocado and the ripe tomato. The brightness of the cilantro and lime juice brought everything together. Our friends couldn't stop eating it. A definite winner.

I knew I wanted to serve pineapple rice and luckily a friend had a good recipe.

I used basmati rice because we love the flavor (and it smells divine while it's cooking), but I misread the recipe and ended up with 4 cups of rice instead of 2. It made plenty for 4 hungry people with enough for leftovers, but there wasn't enough pineapple, cilantro and serrano for my taste. Next time I'll double those ingredients to match the rice.

I also made skewers of various vegetables:

... including pineapple, mushrooms, green pepper and red onion, as well as chicken and sirloin steak marinated in lime, lemon and pineapple juices, ginger, vodka and garlic:

Unfortunately it rained while we were grilling so we couldn't eat outside, but we had just as much fun indoors. Here's my plate:

... with plenty of pineapple rice, corn salad and skewers. As if that wasn't enough, C made chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing:

By now you should know of my obsession with cake, so this was the perfect ending to a scrumptious meal.
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I made myself a cheese quesadilla for dinner Saturday:

... filled with cheddar cheese and scallions and topped with a dollop of sour cream, fresh Jersey tomatoes, cilantro and a few liberals sprinklings of tapatio hot sauce. One word - yum!

And since I know you love our cat here he is, fighting literacy every chance he gets:

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Chocolate Chip Pancakes

SP and I were both in the mood for pancakes Saturday morning so I whipped up a batch of the chocolate chip variety:

I do love chocolate chip pancakes. A nice sweet way to start the day.
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Shrimp Scampi

I wasn't in the mood for the heaviness of pasta on Thursday because it was just too hot, so I served my shrimp scampi over brown rice:

I'm starting to like the nuttiness of brown rice, although I still prefer white. The scampi was way too lemony (I got a little overzealous) but the flavor had mellowed a bit in my leftovers for lunch on Friday. The shrimp were perfectly cooked - nice and bursty and full of good garlic flavor.
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Cilantro-Tequila Grilled Chicken

I'm sorry for the lack of posts these last few days. We were enjoying the warm weather and taking long walks around the neighborhood after dinner. By the time we got back we had about an hour to relax with the paper before bedtime so my blog kind of fell by the wayside. But never fear, I've been taking lots of pictures.

Dinner on Wednesday was Cilantro-Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken:

... which had great flavor from not just the grill but the cilantro, cumin and tequila in the marinade. I toasted some buttered bread and threw together a simple salad and dinner was served. Light and very tasty.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stovetop Mac & Cheese

I wasn't sure what to make for dinner tonight so I improvised and came up with Stovetop Broccoli, Onion and Tomato Mac & Cheese:

... using leftover odds and ends from the fridge. I cut one head of broccoli into small pieces and sauteed that, along with roughly chopped onion and garlic, in a skillet with some oil. Once everything was cooked I blanched two tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped them and add them to the broccoli and onion mixture.

For the sauce I melted 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot, whisked in 2 tablespoons of flour and cooked it for a minute before adding 3/4 cup of chicken stock, 1/4 cup white wine, 1 cup of milk and whatever amount was left in a carton of heavy cream (maybe 1/2 cup). Brought that to a boil then turned off the heat and added about 1 1/2 cups of shredded Swiss, yellow and white cheddar cheeses, salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg.

Once the pound of rigatoni was cooked I mixed everything together and dinner was served. You can't go wrong with broccoli and cheddar cheese and I liked the addition of the tomatoes and the kick from the white wine. All in all a very tasty improvised meal.
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Monday, August 13, 2007

Burger and Fries

SP has been jonesing for hamburgers on the grill so tonight he grilled up a few meat patties.

I had mine on a toasted roll with a slice of raw onion, tomato, mayo, ketchup and some pickles. And because we felt like indulging, I deep fried some French fries. Here's an inside shot of my burger:

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Canning Tomatoes

This weekend my mom and I took part in our annual summer ritual of canning tomatoes. We've been doing this together for years and while we enjoy the quality time together, we also love the end product - jars of sweet Jersey tomatoes sealed at the peak of freshness just waiting to be opened and enjoyed some cold winter day.

This year we canned more tomatoes then we've ever canned before (and my sore body is still begging for mercy). We stood in the same place for more than 4 hours blanching, peeling and seeding all these tomatoes (plus another tray that was already in the kitchen when I took this picture):

... turning them into this:

By the time we were nearing the end of the fourth tray we were almost weeping in pain. After some serious stretching we cooked down all three pots of tomatoes and put them in these jars:

When all was said and done we had 31 jars of gorgeous ruby red tomatoes:

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Summer in a Jar

The essence of summer:

More photos to come...
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A Lazy Sunday, Cat Style

Whenever I can't find the cat it usually means he's lounging under our bed. I snapped this photo:

... before he realized I was there. A bird chirping in the backyard had caught his attention. A few seconds later he realized I was taking his picture:

... as evidenced by the alarmed look on his face.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Steak and Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

We wanted something simple for dinner tonight and since London broil was on sale at the supermarket we decided to do steak with that excellent marinade we used awhile back and another recipe from that same episode of Lidia's Italy - Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe:

... which is just spaghetti with pecorino cheese and pepper. The steak was fantastic, nice and rare with good flavor from the marinade, but the pasta was the real winner. It couldn't have been simpler - you just cook the pasta until it's al dente and then toss it with some of the cooking water, copious amounts of grated cheese and lots of crushed black pepper - and yet the flavor was outstanding. I could have eaten a half pound all by myself, which is why I only made a half pound in the first place. The desire to have leftovers for lunch always outweighs my gluttonous nature.

And for some added healthiness, salad with romaine, cucumbers, banana peppers and scallions with a light smear of blue cheese dressing:

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