Monday, October 27, 2008

Thai Chicken Soup

I was watching America's Test Kitchen the other day (awesome show, if you've never seen it), and a relatively simple version of a dish that I enjoy a great deal came up. The cooks devised an easy and relatively quick method to make a Thai flavored soup without some of the key ingredients that can be difficult to locate - like kaffir lime leaves - unless you live right next to an international market of some kind. I decided to make the recipe, partly because it sounded delicious. but also because I had gone on a rampage making stock (chicken, vegetable...more to come shortly) and I needed to use some of it up. And, me being me of course, I doubled the recipe to ensure that it would feed the army of people I was cooking for (i.e. the hulking rugby player that my brother is) and of course, modified it slightly to include the rice noodles that would make the soup "heartier" (again, the brother...).

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 stalks lemongrass
6 shallots
2 large bunches cilantro
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 cans coconut milk
6 cups chicken broth
1 lb white button mushrooms
6-7 chicken thighs, skinned and deboned (keep the bones for stock)
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 package rice noodles, about 1 lb (optional - you can use any style, I used wide ones however)

Utensils: several cutting boards; sharp chef's knife; very sharp boning knife; salad spinner; 2 large saucepans/pots;

Prep work: 1) Debone the chicken thighs - be very careful about not slicing off your fingers! - by first removing the skin/fat on the top, and then cutting the thigh meat down to the bone, and simultaneously pulling the meat away from the bone with one hand, and gently slicing it away using the knife with your other hand. If you do not feel comfortable deboning the thighs yourself, buy boneless skinless thighs, or substitute chicken breast. After deboning, slice the thigh meat into thin, even strips. 2) Wash cilantro in water and dry in the salad spinner. 3) Chop one bunch of cilantro, stems included, and set aside. Leave the other bunch for use as garnish. 4) Mince shallots. 5) Chop up lemongrass and thinly slice. 6) Juice limes (about 2).

Heat the saucepan up and add the oil to it. Saute the lemongrass stalks and shallots for about 2 minutes, then add the chopped cilantro and 2 tbsps of the fish sauce for about another 5-7 minutes. Stir in one can of coconut milk and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the soup into the 2nd pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the second can of coconut milk and allow the bubbles to break the surface of the broth, then reduce the heat slightly. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the chicken and cook until down, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, and add the last 2 tbsps of fish sauce, the lime juice, and the Thai red curry.* If you want it spicier, simply add more red curry paste.

Serve with wide rice noodles (prepared according to package directions). Make sure to have a plate of garnishes on the table, including cilantro, lime wedges, Siracha hot sauce (or sliced chiles).

*So that the Thai red curry paste would disolve quickly into the soup, I simply whisked it into the lime juice first, to ensure no clumps of paste would be present in the soup.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Revised Chicken Salad

I know I have already posted a Chicken Salad recipe before...but this one is far superior. I used mayo this time (yes, yes, I generally have an aversion to mayo, but when using the homemade stuff and applying it the right way, it works extremely well), and adding a few other simple ingredients makes it absolutely delicious. I promise to try to stop posting similar stuff but I cannot guarantee it...

1-2 cups cubed chicken breast (I used chicken that had been boiled previously)
2 tbsp homemade mayonnaise (store bought is fine too, but then add about 2 tsps mustard to it)
1/2 or 1/3 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 tbsp shelled pistachios (raw or roasted)
1-2 tsp Curry Powder

Utensils: spoons, a bowl, a knife, a cutting board, salad spinner (optional)

Prep Work: 1) Fill a bowl of water and add the cilantro, washing it of any dirt or dead leaves. Spin it dry in the salad spinner, or use towels to pat dry.

Take the cubed chicken and add it to a bowl, along with the mayonnaise, and stir gently to incorporate. Add the curry powder, a small pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cut the cilantro leaves from the stems by gathering the cilantro in a bunch, and angling the bunch downwards, take your knife and "scrape" the leaves off quickly (if you prefer, you can also just cut the leaves off from the stems, or pick them off). Chop them up on the cutting board, as fine or as rough as you like (I prefer more texture myself), and add to the bowl with the chicken. Chop up the pistachios as finely or as roughly as you prefer as well. Mix everything together, taste, and add any spices/condiments as you see fit.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for a couple of hours (no, you will not get salmonella or food poisoning or whatever, don't get your panties in a twist). Serve by itself or spoon the salad into lettuce leaves, onto toast, on a bed of spinach...the options are limitless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Feel-Good Lentil Curry

So I know there is already an entry on Curry, but as autumn comes around and settles in, preparing us for winter, I made another one that is, to say the least, a nice bowl of warm, fuzzy deliciousness. Lentils are pretty easy to cook (and also cheap), and by adding just a few more staple ingredients, voila! A steaming bowl of love.

2 large yellow onions
2 cloves garlic (I used the frozen crushed kind this time)
2 plum tomatoes
1 beefsteak tomato
1 bag (1 lb) red lentils (you may substitute other lentils if that is what you have)
3 cups chicken stock (I had my own but the premade stuff is fine too)
1 tbsp Curry Powder (see the end of the recipe)
2-3 heaping tbsp Patak's Hot Curry Paste (Cumin & Tomato)
Olive oil

1 large heavy saucepan/pot; heavy, sharp chef's knife; cutting board; wooden spoon;

Prep work:
1) Dice up the onions and set aside. 2) Dice the tomatoes, and after dicing, roughly chop them further on the cutting board. Do not throw away the liquid. 3) Mince the garlic if using the fresh kind.

Heat the heavy saucepan on high. When it heats up, add the oil and let it heat up for about 10 seconds (until it shimmers), then add the onions and saute with a pinch of salt. Let them cook down for about 10 minutes, and then add the spices and the curry paste. Cook the spices for a couple of minutes until a "fond" develops. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for about 2-3 minutes, then add the bag of lentils. Let the lentils "toast" a little in the pan (they will not toast totally, as there is liquid in the pan), and add the chicken broth. Bring the pan to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Let the lentils cook for about 30 minutes, checking halfway during cooking time and adjusting if necessary the heat.

Serve in a bowl with yogurt, cilantro, fresh diced tomatoes...the list goes on.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Broiled Wild Salmon

Yikes!! It's been 4 MONTHS since I last posted. Apologies all around - I think most people have stopped reading since I haven't been posting. Well, it's due to a couple of factors: 60% my laziness, 15% being gone in August on vacation, and 15% stress from working and not cooking lately. But I hope this recipe redeems myself slightly...

About 1 lb Wild Salmon, either one whole piece or cut into equal pieces
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp (or less...) soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
2 tsps dijon mustard

1 cookie sheet (or small baking sheet); 1 small bowl; pestle (mortar is optional); aluminium foil to cover the sheet

Prep work: 1) Peel the garlic. 2) Turn the broiler on to "Low"

Cover the sheet with the foil and lay the salmon on it. Put the garlic in the small bowl and using the pestle, gently (but firmly) pound the garlic until it is mashed. Add the sesame oil, dijon, and soy sauce and mix together. You may want to add less soy sauce and add as you taste, as it can be salty. Reserve some of the mixture, and spoon the marinade onto the fish and spread it to cover the surface. Place the rack in the oven about 4 inches from the broiler and place the pan so that the salmon is directly underneath the flames. Broil for approximately 7 minutes or until the salmon flakes but is still moist.You can spoon some of the reserve marinade on the salmon, or leave it as a dipping sauce.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer-time Peach Salad

Wow. It really has been ages since I posted. To be honest, I haven't been cooking much (or anything that I have cooked has been stuff already posted) and for whatever reason, I also haven't had the heart to cook lately. In any case, I had a glimmer of inspiration today, and put together a salad that I think you will enjoy - it's fresh, it's simple, and each bite has a taste of summer in it.

3 handfuls of spring mix salad
1 large yellow peach (any variety), relatively firm
1 Armenian cucumber
2-3 tablespoons Feta cheese
1 lemon
1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1 medium sized bowl; 1 sharp knife; 1 lemon juicing device

Prep work:
1) Juice the lemon, set aside.

Add your handful of mixed greens to the bowl. Take your knife and cut your peach in half, twisting each half in opposite directions so they split apart. Take one half, and slice it to make 2 quarters. Cut along the edge of the peaches to create thin slices; you should be able to get about 6-8 thin slices out of one quarter. Set aside the other half of the peach. Add the sliced peaches to the salad in the bowl.

Take the cucumber, and slice it thinly on a bias. Add them to the salad. Take your feta and crumble it into the salad if it is not already crumbled. Add a few turns of the salt+pepper mills to your salad, and add both the lemon juice and the olive oil. Toss very well to ensure proper coating of the dressing.

*You can substitute the feta for another kind of cheese, such as a mild goat cheese or thin slices of parmesean. Some toasted almonds or walnuts would also make a nice addition.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I have always loved's seriously the best food (or as Alton Brown says, Good Eats!) that one can find in this world. And it seems like most cultures all have their own versions of sandwiches too. Actually, sandwiches are indeed the perfect meal - one part carbs (the good kind, of course), one part protein, one part veggie, and one part dairy...this will definitely cause an explosion in the pants.

2 slices whole wheat/grain (the kind where you actually SEE the grains inside) bread
1/2 grilled chicken breast
1 tablespoon goat cheese
1 tablespoon Olive Tapenade
2-3 roasted bell peppers strips, 1-2" wide each (any color, I used red and yellow)
Handful of fresh basil leaves

Utensils: two butter knives

Prep work: none

Assembly Instructions:
Toast your bread until it is golden brown - depending on your toasting device, this can take from 3-10 minutes (in my toaster oven it took 10 minutes). While the bread is toasting, slice the half chicken breast into two thinner halves (meaning cut the chicken as you would a layer cake). Once the bread has toasted, spread one side with the goat cheese, and the other side with the olive tapenade. Lay the peppers on the goat cheese-side, then the chicken on top of the peppers. Arrange the basils leaves on top of the chicken, so that the leaves lay flat. Top off with the other slice of bread, and serve with your favorite side items.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Curry that Cures

I have always loved eating Indian food, and it is only the past couple of years that I have tried my hand at making it. Indian food, at the base, is not that separated from Arab food - there is a strong reliance on lots of onions and garlic; vegetables are often the centerpiece; and the food often cooks for long periods of time to get that perfect flavor - the only difference is in spicing and style.

This curry has been in the making for a while now - I have made it several times, with only a few minor variations the other times. The only reason why I did not post this recipe earlier was because I kept forgetting to measure how much of each spice I used. Now you can thank me when you are lying around in a state of delirious happiness that can only appropriately be called, "food coma."

3 tbs butter
3 tbs light olive oil
2 medium sized onions (any kind)
4 garlic cloves
4 tbs "curry" mixture (recipe follows)
2-3 bay leaves
7 chicken drumsticks
1 lb frozen peas
1 jalapeño (or any pepper)
3 cups water
1 cup milk (any kind, I used 1%)
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Black pepper
2 tsp PATAK Hot Curry Paste, Tomato and Cumin flavor (optional)

Utensils: large/extra-large saucepan; wooden spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; measuring cups and spoons

Prep work:
1) Chop the onions and set aside. 2) Crush the garlic with the side of your knife, pull off its skin, then mince. 3) Slice jalapeños in half, lengthwise, and slice into half-moons. If you do not want the curry to be too spicy, remove the seeds and the ribs with your knife. Remember to not touch your eyes with your hands after handling peppers! 4) Remove the skin from the chicken drumsticks and set aside.

Cooking instructions:
Heat the pan over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. When it gets hot, add the oil and butter; once the butter fully melts and starts to crackle, toss in the onions. Stir occasionally for a few minutes, adding one or two pinches of salt. Stir in the garlic, and after one minutes, add your spice mixture, bay leaves, optional Patak paste, and black pepper to the pan.* If the spice mixture seems to be sticking to the pan too much, add enough water (from the 3 cups) to coat the bottom. Allow this to come to a simmer, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then, add the rest of the water to the pan, and let it come to a simmer. Gently drop in the chicken, one by one so you don't splash yourself with hot water. Turn the chicken every 5 minutes or so, and during this time add in the milk. Leave this over medium heat for about 30 minutes to reduce and thicken. Add in your frozen peas, stir, and let cook until the curry reduces further, about 20 minutes. The curry is done once it has reduced by about half and has a thick sauce.

Serve with freshly made basmati rice and/or naan bread.

*If you add the jalapeños now, the spiciness will only increase during the cooking time. If you add them later, the curry will be less spicy.

Recipe for Curry Spice Mixture:
3 tbs Cumin
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs coriander
1 tbs turmeric
1 tbs oregano
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Add all spices, mix thoroughly to combine. Makes about 6 tbs.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mixed fruit Mojito

So I'm apparently on a blogging binge today (not quite Georgetown-girl style, but almost). Last night, when hanging out with one of my dearest and best friends, we decided to make mojitos, but not having mint or limes, we decided to go the fruit way. I think you could use any fruit you want, but I like this mixture in particular. My recipe is for 3 people, but you could obviously change it to serve as many or as few people as you like.

2 Kiwis
1 pint blueberries
1 large handful grapes (red and green)
Pinch of sugar
About 3 shots of good, aged rum (Bacardi is what I used)
crushed ice
ginger ale

Large plastic cup; ladle that fits inside said cup; knife; shot glass; 3 glasses to serve in

Prep Work:
1) Peel the kiwi and cut into large chunks. 2) Rinse the grapes in cold water and slice the grapes in half, lengthwise. 3) Rinse the blueberries, set aside

Mixing Instructions:
Gather your fruits, with the pinch of sugar, putting them in the large plastic cup; then take the ladle and mash the fruits. You should stop mashing when about 2/3 of the fruit look pulverized but there is still about 1/3 in chunks. Fill three glasses halfway with crushed ice, then ladle some of the fruit mixture into each one. Add one full shot of the rum to each glass, then top off with ginger ale. A nice spring drink to enjoy with a couple of friends...

Za'atar Manoushi: food of the gods

Za'atar (زعتر) is a wild thyme mixture (blended with some other herbs) from the Middle East - the people who use it the most are the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and Jordanians. It comes in many different styles and flavors - meaning every person who makes their own blend customizes it to their preferences, making it more sour, more grassy/green, etc by adding more of the other herbs to the mixture (like oregano, mint, sumac...). Za'atar also has sesame seeds mixed in with it. Ultimately what you do is either mix it with some olive oil to create a liquidy paste, smearing it on a soft, chewy piece of pita bread, or sprinkling some on top of other foods. It's one of the foods that I absolutely cannot live without, and you will never go to the house of an Arab family and not find several jars of it - if you don't find it, clearly they are infidel Arabs and you should leave their house ASAP.

1-3 tbs of za'atar, any kind (you will find different varieties at Middle Eastern stores, bagged according to where it comes from)
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 Package Trader Joe's plain pizza dough
Extra olive oil for the baking sheet

baking sheet; 1 small bowl and spoon

Prep Work:
1) Preheat your oven to 425 or whatever it says on the package. 2) Leave the dough out for at least 20 minutes or so to warm up. 3) Put a few drops of olive oil on your baking sheet and rub it around with your fingers, covering the entire sheet.

Cooking Instructions:
Take the pizza dough and gently stretch it with your hands until it is about the size of the baking sheet. Lay it on the oiled sheet; mix the za'atar with the olive oil (زعتر و زيت) until it forms a paste, albeit a rather liquidy one. If the dough has disobeyed you and shrunk to its original size, teach it a lesson by stretching it out again. Try to stick the edges of the pizza to the edge of the pan so that it stays put. Spread the paste across the dough so it covers its entirety. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has turned slightly golden on the edges. If you prefer a crispier crust, bake it for longer; for a softer crust, bake for less time.

***If you do not have access to pizza dough, you can also spread the za'atar on a piece of pita and toast it in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until it's golden. This method makes it more chip-like, and is the perfect way to dip into labni (or other dips).

You have many options in which you can eat your manoushi: spread or dip it in some labni (yogurt, drained of its water, that is roughly the consistency of cream cheese); slice up cucumbers and tomatoes and make it into a sandwich; add some other types of cheese and roll into a sandwich; the list goes on. Za'atar's versatility, along with its inherent delicious properties, is what makes it one of the best foods in the world.

Chicken salad with edamame

So the other day, we had some leftover grilled chicken drumsticks sitting around. Now normally no one wants to eat slightly old grilled chicken that is a little dry and bland...but then I realized that it is the perfect item to turn into chicken salad! And since I'm not the biggest fan of mayo, I decided to change things up a bit. Here is my healthy-ish and damn delicious version of chicken salad.

3-4 chicken drumsticks, grilled (cooked in any way, or any piece of chicken that is about 1 cup of chicken pieces)
2 tbs yogurt
1 tbs fresh squeezed lemon
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup edamame (shelled)
Sea salt
Black pepper

bowl; spoons; sharp knife

Prep work:

Cooking Instructions:
Take any skin off the chicken and discard; pull off the chicken meat and put it into a bowl. Once you have done that with all the chicken, add the yogurt, stir, and add the lemon juice to it. Once they have been mixed, add the curry powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt and some black pepper to the bowl. Once everything has been mixed together, add the edamame to the bowl, mix to incorporate, and it's ready to serve. Tastes great in a pocket pita, or for something really fresh and crunchy, spoon the salad into a large lettuce leaf (iceberg, romaine), or for some extra color, red cabbage.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Goodness

I know that I haven't been posting lately - apologies for that. Work has been rough and I'm still getting used to living with my back the way it is. Anyway, this recipe is pretty simple - I've always loved roasting vegetables, because they taste amazing and also, because they make great filler for just about anything, such as pastas, sandwiches, on top of salads...the possibilities are limitless.

1 bunch asparagus (look for asparagus with very thin stalks, those are the best)
1 medium red onion
7 large mushrooms, or 10 medium sized mushrooms (any kind, I used white-button)
2 zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1-2 cups frozen (or canned) artichoke hearts, halved or quartered
Sea or Kosher Salt
Fresh Black pepper
Olive Oil
Juice from 1 medium lemon or 1/2 large lemon

large, sharp chef's knife; cutting board; large roasting pan (larger than 12X12); tongs

Prep work:
1) Preheat oven to 400F. 2) Defrost or drain the artichokes and set aside. 3) Chop the red onion roughly - cut in half, from root to tip, then slice each half into about 6 large chunks. 4) Cut off woody stems of asparagus*** 5) Wipe the caps of the mushrooms, and quarter them if they are large, halve them if they are medium sized. 6) Cut both bell peppers into inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3 pieces. 7) Cut the zuchinni into 1/2 inch circles. 8) Juice the lemon

*** The easiest way to find out where the tender asparagus ends and the woody, crappy stem begins is to bend one asparagus in half until it breaks. It will look like about half or one-third of the asparagus is broken off - that is what you are looking for. Line up the asparagus up by the tips, and cut off the stems using your "broken" asparagus as a measuring guide.

Cooking instructions:
Place all vegetables on the roasting pan, spreading then out in an even/thin layer. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice all over the veggies. Sprinkle salt and pepper over them, then toss to coat with your hands (you could use tongs as well but your hands are better for the job). Sprinkle again salt and pepper. Put the roasting pan in the oven on a rack in the middle of the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes, tossing to stir about once or twice, until you hear a lot of sizzling and see a fair amount of liquid on the bottom of the pan. Take the pan out of the oven, position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler, and turn the broiler on HIGH. Put the pan back on the rack, tossing once, and cook until the veggies get a nice caramel color and look like they have been grilled. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chicken Sausage and Penne

This recipe first came into being when I went up to Boston in January to visit a friend. He had made something similar prior (without the pasta), and then when we cooked together, it was a sausage, bell pepper, and onion concoction (no pasta either) that became absolutely amazing after I deglazed the pan afterwards. Deglazing the "brown bits" from the bottom is what gives the sauce the flavor that makes you wet your pants. I modified this basically by adding penne to it and then by adding more liquid to the sauce so it would coat the penne. Mmmm, delicious....

1 package of chicken sausages (aprox. 5 sausages, any style - I had used Andouille)
1 medium onion
1 red bell pepper
2 small to medium sized zucchini
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups penne pasta, or any short cut pasta
1 ladle pasta water
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Chile flakes (optional)

2 wooden spoons; 1 large and 1 medium sized saucepan/pot; cutting boards; chef's knife or any sharp, heavy knife; 1 plate

Prep work:
1) Slice the onion into thin strips. 2) Mince the garlic. 3) Core the bell pepper and slice into thin strips. 4) Slice the sausage at an angle, cutting them into 1/2 inch slices. 5) Do the same with the zucchini as the sausage. 6) Pour the wine into a measuring cup or just leave the bottle next to the stove. 7) Set aside the pasta in a bowl or other container.

Cooking instructions:
Heat the large saucepan on the stove with a medium flame, and fill the medium pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. Add the olive oil to the large saucepan after it has heated up, about 3-5 minutes. Allow the oil to heat up for a few seconds, then add the chicken sausage, but do not crowd the bottom - do this step in two rounds if necessary. Brown the sausage for about 2 minutes on each side, and once done, move it to the plate. After all the sausage has been browned, add the onions to the oil with a pinch of salt. After sauteeing for a few minutes, add the garlic, black pepper, peppers and zucchini (optional chile flakes here too). Saute for 5-7 minutes - there may be plenty of brown bits at the bottom, which is a good thing.

* If it starts to burn, the heat is on too high - reduce the heat and take the pot off for a couple of minutes if that happens *

During this time, when the pasta water comes to a boil, add plenty of salt to the water - this is your only chance to flavor the actual pasta itself.

Back to the sausage: add your white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon - after a minute, the sauce should be a brownish color and the alcohol evaporating. Add the sausage back in, stir, and reduce the heat to a simmer (low). Make sure you have added your penne to the pasta water - it should take about 9 minutes. You want to cook it just shy of al dente, because you will be adding the pasta to the sausage concoction to let it soak up some of the the sauce. Add the penne (drained) to the sausage mix, along with one ladle of the pasta water that you saved before draining the pasta - using the pasta water instead of regular water gives the sauce some starchiness, which thickens the sauce and also keeps the salt level balanced. Turn the heat back up to medium and allow the mixture to cook without a cover for a few minutes, until the penne is just al dente and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Now, eat it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tantalizing Tapenade

I discovered making this tapenade almost by accident. I was initially making a pesto out of sun-dried tomatoes (that recipe will follow later) when I realized some of the ingredients were missing. So, being the innovative college student that I was, I just decided to throw in some black olives instead and turn it from a pesto to a tapenade. Voila!

*The difference between the two is as follows: a pesto primarily coats pasta, gnocchi, etc. A tapenade is usually spread on toasted bread, crackers, etc and eaten that way.

1/2 lb (or about 8-10 oz) sun dried tomatoes packed in oil*
8-12 oz jar of black Moroccan olives (not packed in water or oil, and pitted)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Freshly cracked black pepper

*I make this myself by buying dried tomatoes and packing them in olive oil myself. Much cheaper than buying them already packed in oil in jars.

Food processor or blender; rubber or silicone spatula

Prep work:
1) Open jar(s) of sun-dried tomatoes and olives
2) Wash and dry the basil leaves

Cooking Instructions:
Place your sun-dried tomatoes (with the oil), olives (no oil or water), and basil in the food processor. Add your black pepper, grinding it directly into the mixture. Pulse the mixture until it is coarsely blended; open and stir, to ensure an even chop. Pulse again until the mixture is finely blended. Taste and season - if you prefer more basil or if the mixture is too dry and needs more oil. You should not need to add any salt, as the olives pack enough of a punch. If you add more salt, you will end up mummifying yourself, so lay off.

Pack it into a large jar, drizzle some olive oil on top, and store in fridge. It'll stay for about 1-2 months.

Note: Feel free to add or substitute different ingredients. Add more tomatoes or olives to your liking; perhaps some freshly grated Parmesan cheese (go easy, as it will add plenty of saltiness to the party) or, if you do not like olives, throw in some pine nuts or walnuts to the food processor instead. You can serve this with toasted baguette slices with fresh mozzarella or goat cheese, on a pizza, or as a pesto for pasta. Your choice.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Simply Amazing Tomato Sauce

Ever since I have had a functional memory, I remember my father always making tomato sauce: every other Thursday, he would mince carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and add approximately 17 gallons of crushed tomatoes to the pot, letting it simmer all day until we could eat it for dinner the next night and then freeze it for some later time. However, as delicious as it is, sometimes we don’t have 24 hours to make sauce – usually it’s more like 1 hour at most. An Italian boyfriend I had made sauce the following way when friends would randomly show up and he needed to feed them, and, well…he’s Italian - he knew what he was doing.

1 large can (28 ounces) plain crushed tomatoes
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs dried basil or 3 tbs fresh basil
1 tbs dried oregano or 3 tbs fresh oregano
2 tbs Olive oil
Sea/Kosher Salt and Freshly ground pepper
Hot red pepper (chili) flakes (optional)
1 package button or cremini mushrooms (optional)
1 red or green bell pepper (optional)

Medium-sized pot; chef's (large, heavy, sharp) knife; cutting board; several small bowls for chopped items; can opener; long wooden spoon to stir sauce; regular spoon to taste

Prep work:
1) Open the can of crushed tomatoes; set aside. 2) Chop your onion and your garlic; set them aside separately. 3) Gather your herbs: if they are fresh, roll them together like a cigar, and cut them into strips(this is called a chiffonade). If they are dry, set them aside in a small bowl. 4) If you choose to add mushrooms, bell peppers, or any other vegetable, slice or chop them to your size preference, and set aside.

Cooking Instructions:
Heat the pot on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the olive oil. Add the olive oil, then add the onions when the oil starts to smoke, or when it shimmers. Season with a dash of salt, stir, cover, and reduce heat to low – you want the onions to sweat, not sauté (a sweat is basically cooking the onions on a low temperature until transparent, which makes them sweeter – a sauté would brown them instead)

* The sweetness from this sweat will counter the acidity of the tomatoes, which many people often counteract instead by adding sugar. If you add sugar, this is blasphemy, and I will personally come after you and skin you alive *

Add the garlic to the onions, as well as adding your dried herbs and ground pepper (if you are using fresh herbs, do not add them now). Throw in the optional vegetables – cook for about 3 minutes. Dump your can of crushed tomatoes in the pot and stir – allow bubbles to break the surface of the tomato mixture, then cover and cook until thick, about 15-20 minutes; by all means, taste your sauce: it may be slightly acidic from the tomatoes but it should not be overwhelming – it should just taste damn good. If adding fresh herbs, add them now; stir, and take the pot off the heat after 3-5 minutes.

Serve over your favorite pasta, or if you are a really poor college student and have none, then add some hot water and eat it as tomato soup.

Note: This is a good chance to freeze your sauce - grab a couple of plastic containers or glass jars, and spoon sauce in after it has cooled. Take it out of the freezer in the morning for defrosted sauce for the evening

Sunday, February 3, 2008

It's all about the recipes...

No extraneous text - just orgasmic food.

Coming soon.