Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shrimp Scampi, v1

I've been thinking about a lot of version 1, version 2 dishes lately. I have Shepard's pie, banana cream pie, and now shrimp scampi (and maybe others...?). The next time I make this I'm gonna try Alton's recipe. It's my goal to perfect shrimp scamp (a Shepard's pie, and banana cream pie) because they're all some of Jeff's favourites. Jeff has a lot of favourites.

But really, that's not the only reason. They're all delicious things with flavours that are originally very subtle and simple and they're things that with just a few little changes-- well, you could make it from everyday to amazing.

This recipe was one that I cooked up. I looked at about 10000 different scampi recipes (over the course of this last year) and decided I like this, not this, and this. So there's a ton of that going on. The white wine I used is the same white wine I've used for pretty much everything recently... when Jeff starts SP again I'm sure I'll be going through more bottles (that sounds desperate, but really, it's not, I just prefer drinking my wine when I have more of my own meals, as Jeff doesn't drink). That way I'll have NEW wines to experiment with, hurray!

I had Jeff do all the peeling and deveining. He wanted to get some naturally pink shrimp (from the gulf, like him!) which didn't come peeled and deveined. I haven't really peeled and deveined shrimp much (maybe ever? I can't recall) and he has. He did a good job!

Our shrimp were obviously naturally pink. This one was all alone. He's actually rather cute, don't you think?

In the end we had shrimp scampi! Tada! It's amazing how a little bowl of shrimp like above can turn into such a gigantic meal. We ate it all too. I'm not going to begin to imagine how bad it was for us. The noodles we used were also used for jeff's lamb meatballs a few weeks ago... they're cool because they're like telephone cords. The original plan was to use angel hair, but I didn't have any and we have so much pasta (right now I have telephone cords, penne, and farafelle) that we went with what we had. This pasta always has a sort of bite to it.

So tasty, with garlic, with onion, with lemon, with shrimp (still pink).

At this point this was about half eaten. Everything was shiney from the lemon/wine/butter sauce that makes scampi.

Shrimp Scampi, V1

1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used a bit more than this though)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1/4 small onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garliv
1/4 lemon, juiced
1/8 tsp dijon mustard
1/8 cup and 1 tablespoon white wine
1/8 cup and 1 tablespoon chicken stock
2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter
a sprinkling of chopped parsley leaves
Lemon slices, for garnish
Cooked pasta, determine your own amount

Season the shrimp thoroughly with salt and pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough oil to lightly coat the pan. Add the shrimp and quickly saute until just starting to turn pink, but not cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and saute just until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, white wine, and stock, and reduce by 2/3, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp back to the pan and swirl in the butter. Finish with the parsley and check for seasoning. Toss with the pasta and serve with lemons as garnish.

Topping Optional: I like red pepper flakes and Parmesan (just a bit) on my scampi.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Banana Cream Pie: Version Simple

Jeff's roommate is a health conscious kind of guy. He goes to the gym, he rides his bike to work, he drinks protein shakes, and he eats a -lot- of eggs. Except he mostly eats the egg whites. He'll make six eggs, but use 1 egg yolk and throw the rest away.
That's a perfectly good waste of egg yolks, I told him. Save some in the freezer for me to make pie out of, and custards, and creme brulee, I said. And that's just what he did. I found myself with 5 egg yolks and about 300 frozen bananas sitting and waiting for me in Jeff's freezer.

Andrew, the roommate, was making Hungarian Goulash for us for dinner (I sadly didn't get pictures). A stew made of potatoes, pork (this time), parsnips, carrots, peppers, and paprika, it's got a spicy flavour that really needs to be toned down with bread. Which we had. Jeff thought a banana cream pie would go excellent afterwards, and so I whipped out my banana cream pie recipe from last year's super bowl, made some changes, and tried at it.

But I didn't want to do a simple banana cream pie anymore. So I've decided with all the egg yolks Andrew is saving me, and the bananas in Jeff's freezer, I'm going to try my hand at this version: my simple, easy to make banana cream pie, and more of a gourmet version with more blending and vanilla -beans- (or paste) and all sorts of other things.

I want to note though that I don't think banana cream pie is good enough when it's vanilla + bananas. I want my custard to have banana flavour, so I add banana to it. This is great when you have a strainer to mush out the chunky parts and strings, but I didn't, so our banana cream pie came out a bit too moist and too lumpy. But it was still probably the tastiest thing ever. Next time I have to either cook it longer or change ingredients.

Of course, this banana cream pie still isn't simple. I'm not using instant pudding mix. Why should I? Making a custard in this method isn't hard, I don't double boil it, and I've never had a problem with the eggs curdling. It just takes a little patience, and time-- normally I don't have either, but with cooking I have both.

Banana Cream Pie: Simple

5 egg yolks
3/8 cup sugar
¼ cup corn starch
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups milk
3 frozen bananas, mashed
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 banana, sliced
1 prepared pie crust

Beat the egg yolks, 3/8 cup sugar, and corn starch in a small bowl until creamy in colour and well mixed.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk, salt, 3/4 cup sugar, and mashed bananas. Bring to a slow boil, stirring often. Low heat to a simmer, and take about 1/4 cup of liquid at a time and mix it into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk the hot liquid in, 1/4 cup at a time to equal about a 1 cup, until the egg yolk mixture is fully incorporated. Mix the egg yolk mixture into the rest of the hot liquid in the pan, and stir frequently while simmering, until thickened.
Remove from heat and allow to cool momentarily. This would be the time to strain the pudding if you have a strainer.
Pour about half the pudding into prepared pie crust. Top with sliced bananas, and alternate until all pudding is used, finishing with the pudding. Chill for at least four hours, though the longer the better. Topped with whipped cream and serve.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Food Network: Clafouti

Alright, so I've been bad. I haven't updated in awhile. Honestly, I haven't made a lot-- but I have a few things to update with this week.
Last week, I was quite busy. You see, I sent in a video to Food Network and was chosen to go onto Dear Food Network, which was totally fun. I mean, obviously I know how to cook, but you can always learn something, and that was important to me. I asked (Alton Brown) how to grill baked desserts... well, there was some miscommunication from one person to another, but we grilled a dessert that was amazing anyway-- grilled clafouti. And I learned a lot, and had a LOT of fun, which was the most important thing.

Oh, yes, and spent a day with Alton Brown: ie, my personal hero.

Anywho. I can't post the recipe, because I don't know if I'm allowed (and I'm not exactly sure what it is, I can only guess from what I saw, I don't remember the increments). However, I took two photos of the leftover clafouti I brought home to Jeff. So I will post those, and my picture with Alton.

I will say, however, we cooked it with pears and pineapple and that it was done in a dutch oven. Tune in Memorial Day Weekend to actually watch it, though, because this recipe is worth it, it's delicious.

Oh, and yes, to see my goofy self on TV. I'm insane.

(I am probably the most excited happy person right now. Can you tell?)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saffron Marsala risotto with herbed chicken, braised kale, and caramelized onions.

Have I mentioned how much we love risotto? Considering I've made it three times in the last 50 days it may not seem like it. But oh, we do. Risotto is just one of those things that you make when you feel fancy. Or at least that's how I feel-- but I realized... it doesn't have to be that way. Risotto isn't really difficult, it's especially easy if you have leftovers you just want to throw in. I didn't, not this time, so it turned out 'fancy'. But really, you're just making rice and giving it a little extra love and a lot of flavour.

I like taking risotto and making it 'different'. Risotto is typically made by cooking the rice (sometimes with onions) in oil to soften the outer hull of it's short grain deliciousness so as to allow it's glutens to enter and leave more easily. Then wine is added, white, to give it a boost of bright flavour, and it is cooked in stock, stirred frequently, so the gluten responds and give sit a creamy texture and the stock of course, gives it flavour. Then cheese is added, because cheese is amazing (and also creamy, and salty) and a bit of butter to make it shiney (oh, and delicious).
But I don't think risotto needs to be with white wine always. Even when I was making the cabernet risotto, the original recipe called for white wine then cabernet in the end. But why do that? Cabernet will soak into the rice. Whenever I make my lamb risotto (which I haven't made for Foodival yet, but I will), I always use red wine (a merlot I think) and lamb stock. It boosts the flavours and gives it a heartier feel, much less like the tang and bite of original risotto (which pairs well with mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, fish, though mushrooms would be good with a red too, a burgandy?). But I had marsala leftover from Thanksgiving, and I hardly cook with it. So I decided to use it. What goes with marsala? Well, chicken, that does, that's a good protein... and I had kale leftover still, and that's a good italian style vegetable. Yeah, that would do the trick. Oh! And some caramelized onions... that sweetness will pair very well.

So I used a bit of regular white wine to not overpower the rice with sweetness, and the rest marsala. I added some in the end too. I also added saffron-- a spice with a lot of mild (to me) flavour that goes a long way. I wanted it to pop the colour and give something else. Saffron seems to be paired with lobster a lot, which to me is slightly sweet. It goes well with sweet or savory things, and (like cinnamon, and cardamom) it's a spice from more easterny/persian origins that I really really like to use. I cooked the chicken with just some generic spices and a bit of marsala and braised the kale. I added it all in at the end and topped with caramelized onions.

The saffron gave it a pop of flavour, which was very apparent to me. I don't know how to describe the taste of saffron, I just... know what it's like. The wine was sweet, but not overpowering (like in the cabernet risotto), and it all melded together very well. I probably could've emphasized the flavour of the chicken more, gave it more umph, like a glaze. But hey, I'm sick and didn't feel like doing much of anything, so this was an achievement.

Anyway, we love risotto. I think everyone should make risotto at least once a month, and experiment with it. Experiment with all flavours, that's what makes cooking fun. :)

Saffron Marsala risotto with herved chicken, braised kale, and caramelized onions

5 large leaves of kale
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/4 cup of the chicken stock (taken from the quart listed below)
1/8 cup water
salt to taste

1 chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1/4 cup, approx, of flaked Parmesan cheese
a small pinch of saffron threads
caramelized onions

In a medium sized pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil. Tear the kale into smaller bits and add into the olive oil with the savory and salt. Stir for just a few moments, and add the chicken stock, water, and lemon juice. Cover with a lid and braise until tender and wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the same skillet, drain the liquid and add the 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil for the chicken.
Cut the chicken breast into slivers. Rub the chicken breast with half the spices for each side. Place into the pan and cook until no longer pink and juices run clear. Towards the end, add the Marsala wine and shake around some to loosen and deglaze. When chicken is finish, set aside and use the pan to caramelize some onions.

Place the chicken stock in a small pot or sauce pan and warm over low heat.

In a larger pot or sauce pan warm olive oil and butter over medium-high/medium heat (depending on the range). Stir in onions and sautee until translucent and fragrant, add garlic and cook for one minute. Add the arborio rice and stir, cooking until outer portion of the grains are translucent. Use a rubber spatula and stir in the wines, stirring occasionally and allowing to cook until completely absorbed. Stir in the warmed chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until each portion is absorbed and the rice can pull away from each other. Continue this process until the rice is tender and cream. Stir in remaining Marsala wine, saffron, cheese, and butter. Season with minor amounts of salt, and mix in the kale and chicken.
Serve topped with caramelized onions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Apple Crumb π

My apologies for not posting for awhile. I haven't been feeling too hot (still going) and I made this amazing apple pie that I then lost what I jot down for the recipe. So I felt a little less inclined to do anything with it.

However, I got off my laziness and went ahead and made it. And you should too, because it's kind of amazing.

Jeff is in love with apple pie. He also is a big fan of streusel/crumb, so he'd been asking me (more or less) to make him an apple pie for awhile now and together we came up with the idea of this Apple Crumb pie. We totally made this last week and ate it all up-- breakfast, lunch, etc. Be ready for a picture fest.

I have a small workspace. This is where I combined apples with amazing. You can see the recipe I jotted down as I worked on a yellow post it. I then promptly threw it away-- so I'm not really sure how I made this pie but I tried to make sure I remembered as carefully as possible. I'll be sure to make a second post when I remake this pie with more carefully followed instructions (if I follow these instructions and it turns out bad I will alter it). But I'm pretty sure this is how I made the pie.

Anyway, I have a small workspace. That's my side of the counter. The apples I used were a combination of a few different types. Pink Ladies are my favourite apple: for eating or cooking, and so I make sure to use them whenever we're in the market. In season, I use a lot of honeycrisp too-- but I find that honeycrips out of season has no flavour, unlike Pink Ladies, which are always amazing. So I used a granny smith (flavour + texture) and some random ones: pinata and pacific rose (or beauty?). I may have used another apple, but I don't think I did. Whatever the case, I'm a bigger fan of red/yellow mix apples, which tend to be decently solid and both tart and sweet. Not as tart as granny smith's, not as combo as golden delicious (or as soft), nor as sugary and soft as red delicious. They're a good mix.

Nobody has to use these apples in particular, I think it's good to experimenting. But staying away from softer apples is kind of good, because they'll mush up in your pie and you won't get as many of those nice crisp bites of flavour.

I made the dough the night before. I really wanted to work some wheat/health into this pie (more than the oats that I slipped in. Oh, and the apples), so I decided to go with a wheat crust... which I keep experimenting with, and am slowly getting better results. The wheat flour I had was a mix between whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour, and I should've just gone with the pastry flour, but alas, I had already combined them some time in the past. Whatever the case, it might be a bit -too- wheaty, it wasn't quite as flaky as I'd like and that may be my method or the flour. More experiments underway.
However, it was still pretty flaky and tasty. Jeff had no complaints, he ate the crust in general and isn't usually a big fan.

Jeff took this picture of me rolling out the dough on the kitchen table.

Jeff also sculpted an apple and a pi symbol for the top of our pie. :) They kind of faded in (I should have egg washed them), but it was fun and a cute idea.

Jeff places the symbols, and it on top of the pie. Again, kiiind fo faded in, especially with the mixed texture of the crumble.

The inside was loaded with apples, the generally thin slices made it explode with apple flavour. I decided I wanted to add a bit of pizazz to the filling, and thus I added... cardamom. Cardamom is one of those spices that goes good sweet or savory. I use it on chicken with salt and pepper, and bam! Tasty. I use it in sweet potatos and bam! Tasty. In apple pie? Oh man, it's divine, it's aroma melds well with the cinnamon and the all spice (I chose instead of nutmeg, this time, I thought it might compete less with cardamom). It made this pie taste unique, and I felt it upped the sweetness a bit.

We eat ours with dollops of whipped cream. I also like ice cream, but all I had was pumpkin flavoured and Jeff has peppermint: Neither are the best for melding with apple pie.

I found the recipe! The sticky notes were not thrown away. So the spices/measurements for the following recipes has been adjusted accordingly. :)

Apple Crumb π

1 granny smith apple
1 pacific rose apple
1 pinata apple
3 pink lady apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a big bowl with cold water in it
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon and a dash more cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 prepared 10" pie crust
Streusel crumb topping

Mix the lemon juice into the bowl of water. Carefully peel, core, and very thinly slice each apple and place the slices into the bowl of water. Once finished, in a separate but also large bowl, combine all the dried ingredients. Drain apples thoroughly, reserving a little water in case the crust needs it upon rolling out. Carefully mix the apples into the dried ingredients, tossing lightly with your hands. Mix in the vanilla extract and fold a few more times. Carefully layer apples into a prepared pie crust. Pour remaining apple sugar liquid into the pie once all apple slices are set.
Top with crumb and bake on 375 for 20 minutes and 350 for about another 25 more, until inside is bubbling and it seems thoroughly browned and set.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Streusel Crumb Topping

1/2 cup oats
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1 rounded tablespoon of white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix the butter into dries until crumbly. Sprinkle liberally over the pie.

Pie Crust

6 oz butter
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Cut butter into cubes and chill. In a separate bowl combine all the dries and also chill. Once cold, using two knives, a pastry mixer, or what have you, mix the butter into the dries until the smallest pieces are pea sized and the rest are a little larger. Marble to pea size.
Add water until not even really forming together. Chill for 5 minutes, then set out onto a non-stick surface that would be, ideally, cold. Use the palm of the hand going from one side of the dough to the other to cream the butter into the flour, ribboning it throughout, until just combined. Pull into plastic wrap and wrap into a ball then refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Once ready to bake, ie when the filling is ready, roll out and put into the pie dish, removing edges.

Makes a little over 1 pie crust for a 10" deep pie.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Surprising! Pumpkin brown rice!

A few times a week Jeff spends the night at his house, I spend the night at mine, we do our own things. This usually involves me whipping up something super easy for myself to eat (leftovers, a cheese quesadilla, macaroni and cheese, pasta and cheese... catch a trend? Or I sprinkle Cajun on anything and tada! It's a meal!) and reading a book and goofing around on the internet.

It's not because I 'cook for my man', as some might say, as much as it's that I just don't cook for myself. I don't like it as much. When I cook, I do it for my own joy, but the most satisfying part is when other people enjoy it. Having a roommate who likes to cook with you, a best friend, or a significant other--they're good for that. I cook for Jeff with Jeff because it gives me a chance to make things that are really good and someone else is there to see what it's like to. I like -sharing- things. When I go out to eat, I always want to share. I want to try everything and have everyone try my thing. Food for me is as much social as it is pure joy.

But in any case, last night I made myself something. It was meant to be quick. My new year resolution was to eat a bit healthier. I already eat pretty well, but this meant incorporating flax seeds, a few more whole grains, a few less hamburgers, and eating more chicken like I used to. Oh, oh, and actually working out. It's not that I feel like I'm overweight, I know I'm not, it's just that I feel best when I have more vitamins and essential bladeblas. However, I'm still going to eat doughnuts, pie, cake, hamburgers, and fried things.

Whatever the case.

I made a quick baked chicken, very briefly soaked in lemon juice, brown sugar, olive oil, and ginger. Since I had kale in my Italian Wonton Soup I had sauteed/braised Kale with garlic (and a splash of marsala wine and lemon to keep it green). The rice... well, that was the best. I still have a whole load of pumpkin in my freezer. I guess I forgot my pumpkin quest-- but it's fine with me if it lasts. I know I'll want pumpkin things in the middle of the summer (maybe I should make pumpkin muffins soon?). But I decided it'd go good with my brown rice, so I added some in while it was cooking, with thyme and fresh basil at the end. Oh! So good! It wasn't sweet, it was really quite savory, but it was much richer than my brown rice normally is. Much richer than chicken broth makes it.
I enjoyed it. And felt healthy. The chicken came out a bit dry (I admit I over roasted the tiny piece I made). The kale was good, and delicious with the brown rice. I think I'll work on the recipe for the chicken -then- post it, as opposed to giving ya'll what I have now, which I think would be disappointing of my culinary talent.

Pumpkin Brown Rice

1/4 cup short grain brown rice (I used a tad bit less)
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon marsala wine
2-3 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot with a lid, combine the rice, water, pumpkin puree, thyme, salt, and wine. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to low/medium-low and simmer for about an hour, until rice is soft but with a bit of a bite.
Remove from heat, tear up the basil leaves and gently stir them in, season to taste and serve.

Serves 1

Garlic Braised Kale

2 large kale leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon marsala wine
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
some chopped pecans, for garnish

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat, once warm add the garlic and tear up the kale into bite sized pieces and add with the lemon juice and (about) 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sautee until just starting to wilt and then add the water and wine. Cover with a fitting lid and let braise over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes until tender.

Serves 1.

I have to apologize that my instructions here are a little bit... well, they're not exact (cooking times, etc). I admit when I was making this I wasn't planning a Foodival dish, I just happened to make one.

If you wanna try your hand at the chicken, I just used a small cut (probably 4 oz) of chicken breast rubbed with salt and pepper and threw it in a ziplock back with a lot of lemon juice, a little ground ginger, a little olive oil, and a small palmful of brown sugar.
Yeah, I know, those sound like Rachel Ray instructions. Sigh.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

(Italian) Wonton Soup

When I made Alton Brown's Feta and Artichoke Wontons a few days ago, did I mention I made like 40 of them? Because we did. Jeff has had a few for lunch, and I took a whole Glad container full home with me to use as leftovers for something. Not too long after I then decided that something would be Wonton Soup.

Most of America is experiencing very cold weather still. It's not too cold here, but chillier than other seasons, so that still means soup to me! Wonton Soup was never my favourite, I usually prefer Hot and Sour or Egg Drop, but if you have wontons.... Anyway, the idea was definitely a fancy tickler.

Of course, these wontons were artichoke and feta stuffed, and thus decidedly Mediterranean in my mind. I didn't really want to combine it with classic Asian flavours, but I wanted to make a western spin on something eastern, and so I thought long on flavours that would combine well but still be similar. I thought back to the last wonton soup I had, which contained shitake mushrooms (I think) as well as a few shredded carrots and maybe some peas. Once, long ago, I had some with bok choy.

This led me to thinking about things I've wanted to try recently, that of which is Kale. I keep reading Kale this, Kale that, so I thought... well, kale would be a good addition. It will sub for the bok choy, it will be nice and light but super healthy-- and it's a winter green! Perfect!
I also used criminis, to sub for shitakes, which I cut into quarters. To compliment their meatiness I added mustard (the idea stolen from Bread & Honey). For the artichoke and to give it a bit more tang I added lemon. To still give it an eastern flair I thought to add tamari and soy sauce and ginger. I thought, to finish it off, serving it over fresh basil leaves would be delightful. Thus I created an Italian Wonton Soup.

I don't like buying big carrots unless it's for something specific. I find I don't eat them. So I always purchase a big bag of baby carrots which I bring to work with me a lot and for soups and sides I cut them into pieces. To "julienne" carrots I basically half a baby carrot, then quarter it, then eighth it. Tada! Manageable pieces. This isn't typical, of course, and not actually julienned. But it works for me!

Anywho, the soup turned out super flavourful. The wontons were less rich when in the soup, which was a good thing-- they were almost too rich to eat on their own and toning them down made my stomach happy.

While I was cooking I kept thinking the broth needed something. I couldn't find the soy sauce at first so I subbed some Worcestershire, which I love to use anyway-- then it still wasn't really salty enough (I used an extremely low sodium organic free range chicken broth). So I found the soy sauce and used some of that. In the end, it worked out really well, the broth was rich and flavourful, flavoured in part by the feta that spilled from the wontons that soon unwravelled in the broth. There were pieces of artichokes and bacon, and the carrots added a sweet touch. The kale was a good leaf to provide, the basil was a bright burst of flavour whenever chomped.

The mushrooms were meaty and the soup was extremely filling. This made probably two very full bowls, which Jeff nor I could finish. I have leftovers for lunch today at work. I didn't really search up Italian Wonton Soup so I'm not sure how common it is, but it is worth a try. If you feel like subbing an ingredient or striking one all together, go for it-- I was sort of playing chemist while making this, and since it turned out good I just used every step I did. Normally I cut down things to make it more manageable if I added too much stuff that I don't think was necessary, but I'm really not sure what changing various ingredients would do. Probably not much, but it was super good as it was.

This was also my first time using Chicken Broth in a long while. Usually I get the big yellow canister of Chicken Stock but they didn't have it at Whole Foods and I was too lazy to go to Ralph's. Sigh. I think I prefer stock, it's more flavourful to me. Broth seems like water?

(Italian) Wonton Soup

1 cup julienned baby carrots
3/4 cup onion slices
3 large kale leaves
1/2 cup quartered mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 quart chicken broth
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon lite soy sauce
a splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
about 14 artichoke and feta wontons
salt and pepper to taste
a small handful of basil leaves

In a pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and a small sprinkle of salt and cook until the onions are fragrant and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, then add in the chicken broth, lemon juice, tamari, and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and mustard. After a few minutes of cooking, tear up the kale leaves, leaving them stems, and add them to the soup mixture as well. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the precooked wontons. Keep until just warm, and serve warm over freshly torn basil leaves.

Edit: Thinking back, I was going to add wine to the broth to give it some pop but forgot, and used other things instead. Someone should try this and tell me how it is, or I'll just wait until the next batch. :D

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Banana-Walnut Pancakes

Jeff did something special for me. :) He often makes me cinnamon rolls and occasionally makes me omelettes (he's better at not turning them into scrambles than I am), but he decided he wanted to make me another breakfast and made me banana pancakes. I admit, I helped a little-- but mostly by adding spices and mixing the liquids for him. But he did most of it, and I'm so proud of him.

He even decorated them (except the brown sugar, that was my idea). And plated them. I think my foodie ness is rubbing off on him. When we first met he would hold 'waffle nights' that was him making waffles from a box mix and serving them without anything to random people. Which was awesome. But this is totally cute and I'm gooshing over it.

The pancakes turned out really yummy, too. They had banana flavour, though it wasn't the strongest (that surprised me, considering the banana content).
I think if I had to nitpick, I'd say I want them a little fluffier. But these were really good--they reminded me of the pancakes my dad used to make (admittedly Aunt Jemima), but with an extra banana flavour.

We pretty much eat bananas all the time. Every morning. I add them to my cereal, or have half of one with yogurt (Jeff usually eats the other half), or with cinnamon rolls or pancakes or waffles. We eat sooo many bananas, and I'm not sure why other than they're delicious. It's a good source of potassium, and I like that.
I also don't understand why a lot of people don't make pancakes from scratch. It's super easy, it only takes like 5 minutes longer than pulling out the box mix, and usually they taste a lot richer. I always added spices to mine, because I'm a cinnamon fiend, but it's so easy to make faux buttermilk waffles by using milk and vinegar and simple ingredients. :D I recommend it!
Banana Pancakes
A collaborate effort with Jeff as the chef. :)

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg
a pinch of ginger
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon walnuts

1 banana, sliced, to top
brown sugar, to top

Heat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the walnuts out on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes until just toasted, shaking occasionally.
In a small mug combine the milk and apple cider vinegar.
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
Mix the milk with the egg, oil, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Mix in the mashed bananas. Combine all ingredients, including the toasted walnuts, and whisk together, leaving some lumps.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick spray. Spoon or pour the batter into the skillet (about 1/4 cup) and cook until golden brown on both sides.
Serve with sliced bananas and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Artichoke Stuffed Roast Chicken Breast

Over Christmas I made, as some have read, artichoke stuffed mushrooms. When I ate them I was inspired to use a similar basis for a stuffed chicken breast.

Which turned out lovely!

It's no secret that artichoke, cheese, and chicken go well together, and I know I'm not the first to craft this idea, but I really enjoyed it anyway. I really like artichoke stuffed chicken, and it made for a really simple, easy meal. We decided it was so tasty that we ate the whole entire two chicken breasts, which was a lot of meat. We served it with (microwaved) broccoli and (stove top) cornbread stuffing (formed into balls with my hands). Jeff was in charge of the stuffing. :)

The chicken we used wasn't uber high quality, I admit, I kept finding veins in it when I was cutting, which is something that always makes me squeemish, and as such even when fully cooked to a safe internal temperature the crust had a 'rosy glow'. Neither Jeff nor I got sick from it, so I'm sure it was safe, and it did lean to a pretty picture (even if somewhat strange).
The breadcrumbs and pepper left a nice texture. They gave it a bit of crunch. I feel like this would be really yummy with a light lemon cream sauce, which I'm still in the works of making. Once I make it, I'll repost it so that the whole recipe is up here. It's not that it needs it-- this is quite delicious on it's own, and I highly suggest making it as such, but for plating I could see it giving it some colour, and I also think it'd be nice. The chicken was moist, it didn't need to be dipped, but... it just... felt like it should be.

I think if I were to make this a fancy meal I'd serve this over sauteed greenbeans and mushrooms. Maybe a nice quinoa pilaf on the side. But I'm still conisdering that. :) As it is, heck, it's a great yummy meal for anyone to throw together real fast. You could put it together on the weekend and keep it in the fridge to use midweek. After all, you just throw it in the oven and roast it.

Artichoke Stuffed Roast Chicken Breast

2 chicken breasts
1/2 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 4 oz container shredded parmesan, romano, and asiago cheeses
1 teaspoon dried parsley
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, divided in half.

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl combine artichoke hearts, garlic, cheese, parsley, and nutmeg.
Lay out the chicken breasts and trim. Using a meat hammer, flatten the chicken breasts until very thin, approximately 1/4" thick. Spread cheese mixture, half in each chicken breast, staying about 1/4-1/2" away from the edges. Roll up the chicken breast tightly, trying to contain all the filling, and secure the seam with toothpicks. Repeat with the second chicken breast. Season the outside of the breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place on prepared baking dish, 2" deep, and top each with 1/2 tablespoon of breadcrumbs then 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until meat has reached 160 degrees. Let rest 5-10 minutes, serve.

To create a browner crust, as I should have done, consider putting the chicken in the oven at a higher temperature (450 or so) for 15 minutes or so, then cover with foil and cook on 350 for the remaining 25-30 minutes or until it reaches 160.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Artichoke and Feta Wontons

For Christmas I received Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food V 2.0, which of course delighted me, as Alton Brown is my hero-- which I've been saying for about a year now. I came back from Colorado last week, but I hadn't made much-- I find it droll to cook big things for myself. So once Jeff came back and after we did all our celebratory dinners and such, we settled down to choose a recipe for me to make out of my amazing new cookbook.

I'd only read about half of it so far. I'm still at that point. I'm in the "frying" section, and frying frightens me. However, when I found the recipe for these artichoke and feta wontons, Jeff nor I could resist.

To keep the potstickers moist we had to lay them all out on a baking tray after they were folded up. You place a teaspoon amount in the center and fold all the edges toward each other. Alton says to pinch, but I preferred folding the corners over each other, giving me a diamond or windmill shape.I found that, while I liked Alton Brown's recipe, the wontons were turning out more of my idea of potstickers (he specified the difference being that wontons are cooked on both sides, potstickers on one). None the less, a potsticker is a potsticker. To me, a wonton is deep fried, becaue I'm used to American Chinese. While it didn't matter to me, I'd enjoy them either way, Jeff wanted the more wonton style wonton, and so we upped the oil amount and pan-fried these suckers to give us a crispy texture.
Jeff's apartment is kind of small. He has one pan-- the one you see here, a non stick tiny skillet in which I was able to fry about six of these at a time. You can see one, which Jeff rolled up, in the far corner of the pan. I was tired so I sat down. I was cooking in my pajamas (tshirt and shorts). Frying all of these wontons-- it made 30 or 40 or so, was time consuming and I was getting weary and tired by the end of it, but they were so worth it.

What I decided was the crispy friedness had to be done, and the broth had to be added (though less at a time) to give it an extra boost of flavour. Jeff and I each ate a ton of these, but they made so many there's a lot left over. I think I'm going to use the wontons that we fried more like potstickers for a wonton soup this week.

The insides were gooey and rich. I have to say, that's the main feeling I have about these: rich. Feta is a tangy cheese, but it's also a rich one-- so with the combo of artichoke hearts (rich) and bacon (rich), these salty delicious yummies were very filling, and had to be eaten with lots of water. But oh, they were so good. I wish I had the leftovers now. At first I was thinking more filling was needed-- but after a couple I decided they were just enough as they were. I wouldn't change anything else about them.

Well, I could see myself using another cheese.

Artichoke and Feta Wontons
from Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food V 2.0 with minor modifications

olive oil
1 package wonton wrappers
1 can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 4 oz container crumbled traditional feta cheese
6 slices of bacon, cooked til crisp and chopped (I used thick cut)
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can of chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 200ºF.

Heat the broth in a tea kettle to keep warm.

Combine artichokes, feta, bacon, scallions, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
Open the package of wonton wrappers and lay out a wonton wrapper on a dry surface. Brush the edges with some water (I use my fingers) and place a heaping teaspoon (and only a heaping teaspoon, that's all that will fit) and fold up from the corners towards the center, folding the meeting edgets over so they look like diamonds. Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth, continue until all the filling is used up-- this made the entire package of wonton wrappers for me.
Note: Make sure to cover the wonton wrappers with a damp cloth while you wrap the wontons, so as they don't dry out.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once hot, drizzle some olive oil, about 2 tablespoons for a small pan, so that there is a thin layer in the bottom of the pan. Once the olive oil starts to smoke, add enough wontons to just cover the bottom of the pan with a little space in between. Pan-fry for 3 or 4 minutes per side, until each side is crispy and bubbly. Add a splash of the chicken broth, just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan, and cover, cooking until all the broth has evaporated-- this took a minute or so for me. Move the wontons to an oven-proof dish and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining wontons.

Makes about a million (or 40) wontons.