Friday, February 27, 2009

Hail Caesar

While having lunch out with a friend last week I was appalled at the price we paid for a Caesar Salad. My salad which consisted of romaine lettuce and an oil based vinegar dressing on a dinner plate with a roll on the side was $8.95. My dining companion opted for grilled chicken on his and it came with 4 slices of chicken breast at the astonishing price of $12.95. Can you believe it?? Prices like that for lunch!!

This experience got me thinking about our current horrible economic status in this country and the fact that if some people just understood how much cheaper it is to cook meals from scratch instead of going out to restaurants or take out delis, they would save so much money. I know time is a big issue for folks with kids at home but I work full time and I manage. You just need to put a bit of effort into planning your menus and making sure you have well stocked pantry with the basics.

I decided to make my own Caesar Salad this weekend to go along with our Fettucini Alfredo pasta and it probably only cost me $3.00 for a huge salad bowl full. Granted I already had some stale french bread in the house to make the croutons but still and all.....a mere pittance the cost of restaurant food. Okay, I'm going to get off my soap box now and give you my recipe. This was a new recipe I tried out for the dressing and it was delicious. Very lemony and flavorful with the touch of anchovies and Parmesan cheese. I also liked this recipe because it doesn't have the traditional raw egg in it which tends to make me a bit nervous when cooking with raw eggs. I was lazy this weekend though and didn't put out the ingredients to photograph as I normally do.

Caesar Salad
Cubed stale french bread (approximately 1/2 loaf)
1-2 minced garlic cloves
1 heaping tsp. lemon zest
2 heaping Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Put the garlic, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir together. Add the bread cubes and pour over enough olive oil to lightly coat the bread and mix all the ingredients together until the bread is well coated. Bake the bread in a single layer for 10 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 10 minutes until they are light golden brown. Put aside to cool.Caesar Salad Dressing
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2-3 medium anchovy fillets or 2-3 squirts of anchovy paste
1-2 medium cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor mix together cheese, lemon zest, mustard, anchovies, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice until well combined. With machine going, slowly pour olive oil in and process until creamy and blended. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

To assemble salad, tear up a large romaine lettuce into 1 inch pieces into a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss until all the leaves are well coated. Top with the croutons and some shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seattle's Pike Place Market

We just got home from a lovely vacation in Seattle and we had the opportunity to spend the afternoon at one of my very favorite places, the Pike Place Market. Unfortunately it was a holiday and packed with people but still fun to wander the rows of wonderful produce, fish and flowers and recall when this use to be where I did a lot of my regular shopping. I don't know if I would have it in me anymore to hike up and down the hill from my apartment as I use to do, lugging sacks of groceries but it is always fun to go back and reminisce. No recipe with this entry, just a couple photos that I took on the beautiful sunny Seattle day at the Market.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Improvisational Cooking

The Husband and I were discussing jazz over dinner last night. In particular, Miles Davis and the 50 year anniversary of his groundbreaking album Kind of Blue. One of the things it is best know for is it's amazing improvisation from all of the artists who contributed to the album.

This conversation made me think about certain dishes I make where I don't have a recipe and the final product never turns out the same but with improvisation, I always enjoy the cooking process and the end result. Spaghetti sauce is one of those dishes for me as is macaroni and cheese. I start with a basic premise and then forage the cupboards and fridge and come up with something usually wonderful, though not always!

Another improvisational dish for me is stew. I never know which vegetables will end up in it or which herbs or spices, but what I always know is that there will be a hearty, meaty pot of stew to enjoy for our supper.

Beef Stew
2 lbs. stew meat (I cut up my own using chuck roast)
4 medium russet potatoes, diced into cubes
4 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery stacks, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
1/2 bag of frozen pearl onions
1/2 bag of frozen peas
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1 small can of diced tomatoes with juices
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leave
1 Tbsp. Worcesteshire sauce
1/2 cup red wine
32 oz. beef broth

Coat beef cubes in a seasoned flour (salt, pepper) and saute until beef is browned on all sides. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn down to a gentle simmer and let cook for 2 hours or until vegetables are soft and beef is tender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes a generous pot of stew to serve 6-8.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Funions Funions, Oh Oh Oh

Today with our plain, run of the mill hamburgers, I made some out of this world onion rings. I saw Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa show making this recipe with one of her ever so attractive gay men who are forever hanging out with her. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against gay men, in fact I am envious she has so many attractive gay men to hang around with. I too use to hang around attractive gay men when I was single and living the urban life in Seattle, oh so many years ago.

But I digress. The onion rings. They were very good and crispy, with a great flavor thanks to a shake of cayenne pepper I added in addition to the salt and pepper that Ms. Garten calls for. You do have to be committed to deep frying with a substantial amount of oil which is somewhat troublesome, what with all the grease which manages to fly all over the kitchen. Also, you have to watch these things like a hawk because they are done in a flash. Well worth the effort though, if I do say so myself.Onion Rings

1 large sweet onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pint of buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup finely ground corn meal
Vegetable oil
1 large dutch oven

Cut the onion in 1/4 inch slices and separate into rings and put in a bowl. Cover with buttermilk and add seasonings and stir the rings around in the milk. This can be done several hours in advance. When ready to fry, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Mix the flour and corn meal together in a shallow dish and dip the buttermilk coated onions in the flour then carefully put in a single layer in the oil. Monitor the oil temperature with a candy thermometer and adjust the heat as necessary to ensure it stays around 350 degrees. Fry and turn the rings until they are nicely browned on both sides. Place the finished rings on a paper towel lined cookies sheet and finish the rest of the onions in batches. The finished product can be kept in a 200 degree oven for up to 30 minutes and still remain crispy good.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hit and Miss

Sometimes I make something that sounds so delicious and I think it will be something both The Husband I will like and, alas, it doesn't turn out to be so. This is one of those dishes. We both love Chile Rellenos and often order them when we go out for Mexican food. I actually had never even thought to order such a think prior to tasting it when The Husband ordered it once.

There is a restaurant in Corvallis, Oregon called Bombs Away Cafe where they make the most wonderful Chile Rellenos I have ever had. They use these fresh, big chilies and stuff them with cheese and then bake them and serve them with a choice of red or green sauce. They are really to die for. Well worth the 40 mile round trip!

Anyway back to this recipe. It's a Chile Relleno Souffle and it looked like it combined all the components of a good Chile Relleno without having to do all that frying. I did learn a new cooking technique I had never tried before which was charing the peppers in order to get the skins off and it worked very well. The bottom line is this; I loved this dish and The Husband, not so much. He didn't like "all the peppers" which is ironic, don't you think? If you're a fan of Chile Rellenos I would highly suggest trying this recipe.Chile Relleno Souffle

1 1/2 lbs. whole green chilies (Anaheim or New Mexico)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. salt
4 corn tortillas (6 inches each) cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 lb. Monterey jack cheese (I used a Mexican cheese blend of shredded cheeses)
4 large eggs, separated
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Hot sauce and/or salsa and sour cream to serve on the side

Preheat broiler. Arrange chilies on a baking sheet in a single layer and broil on all sides until charred. Wrap in foil and let sit 15 minutes. Remove charred skin, stems and seeds, then chop chilies into small pieces and set aside.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat, add onion and 1 tsp. salt and saute until onions are soft. Add the tortillas and stir to coat. Transfer this mixture into a greased 8 x 8 baking pan. Sprinkle half the chopped chilies and half the cheese on top.

In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks with the flour. In a large clean bowl, beat egg whites and remaining 1 tsp. of salt until soft peaks form. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites and mix until combined. With a spatula, spread half the egg mixture on the casserole. Sprinkle remaining chilies on top then cover with rest of egg mixture and sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake until golden and puffy, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with hot sauce or salsa. Serves 4 generously.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Navy Beans

I have a real affinity for navy beans on many levels.

First. I grew up in a Navy town and I always wondered if they were so named because they were served in the Navy. Does anyone know the answer to that?

Second. I haven't spoken at all about the cooks on my fathers' side of the family because quite frankly, I don't think there were any. I can't remember a single meal ever prepared by my paternal grandmother other than perhaps a sandwich. Not the domestic type. Her sister, my great Auntie GiGi on the other hand, use to make wonderful navy beans and it's the only thing I remember her cooking. They were flavorful and hearty and she would make a huge potful which would handily serve our large family.

Third. They were one of my fathers' favorite dishes. He loved the navy beans and would sometimes make sandwiches using them on our very, very white sandwich bread which was the usual fare in our home. A navy bean sandwich. Can you imagine? He also liked a fried bologna and peanut butter sandwich. You see, good taste did not necessarily course though his genes!

Having made a wonderfully tasty ham for Christmas dinner and freezing the ham bone and tidbits, I pondered what to do with the leftovers. A pot of navy beans came to mind and as I had my first taste I thought fondly of my hometown, my great auntie and especially my beloved dad!Navy Beans

1 ham bone or ham hock
2 stocks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 bay leaf
32 ounces of liquid (I used half chicken stock and half water)
1 package of navy beans
salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight. Saute vegetables for 5 minutes until translucent. Add ham bone, liquid and drained beans to pot. Bring to boil then turn down to a simmer and cook until beans are very tender. Cut any meat off the bone and return to pot. Serve with crusty bread or crackers. P.S. This is a very economical meal.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Good Dog

In honor of my friend Patti and her love of all dogs, I name my take on the traditional cocktail, The Salty Dog , to The Good Dog. This cocktail traditionally is served in a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt. I have revised the recipe and serve it shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice then strained into a glass, rimmed with superfine sugar. I find the sugar a wonderful compliment to the tart grapefruit juice and a garnish with a wedge of grapefruit is a perfect accompaniment.

The Good Dog

3 oz. pink or white fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 1/2 oz. vodka
superfine sugar

Take a wedge of grapefruit and rub it around the rim of a glass then dip the glass in a shallow dish of super fine sugar. Set aside. Combine the juice and vodka in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake for 1 minute then pour into prepared glass. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit. Enjoy!

How Exciting

I just received notice from Foodbuzz that they have sent me my first check for being one of their featured publishers. Mind you, the amount paid isn't much, but it's just the thought of being compensated anything for this little hobby of mine that is exciting.

If you enjoy reading food blogs, check out the Foodbuzz web site by clicking on their icon on the right side of my blog. There you will find hundreds more blogs to enjoy and inspire.