Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Tequila Pork Chili Verde

April 30, 2008
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Even though April is not really chili season, it was a bit raw on Sunday night and I decided to warm up by preparing this green chili (from Cooking Light Magazine). It had a great bright flavor–almost TOO bright. Maybe next time I’ll add some beans, which would make the dish thicker and meatier-tasting. The spice was great, and anything that has large quantities of cilantro has my vote, so I’d definitely make this again. You could easily substitute chicken for pork, or you could cut the meat altogether.

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
    3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
    1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
    1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
    2 cups coarsely chopped fresh tomatillos (about 12 ounces)
    1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped mild green chiles, drained
    1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
    1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    2 tablespoons tequila
    1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine cornmeal and chile powder in a medium bowl. Add pork, tossing to coat. Remove pork from bowl, reserving any remaining cornmeal mixture. Add pork to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in remaining cornmeal mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatillos, broth, chiles, and jalapeño; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook 8 minutes or until tomatillos are tender. Stir in onions and remaining ingredients; simmer 1 minute.


Recipe: Manchego, Herb, and Sun-Dried Tomato Scones

April 29, 2008
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I’ve never made scones before–hell, I don’t even LIKE scones that much–but the combo of Manchego cheese, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes was just too yummy to pass up. In the end, the flavor was definitely there, but the texture was a bit off. I think I overkneaded the dough, which resulted in extra (unwanted) density, and I definitely made the scones too thick. Anyway, lessons learned! As with all baking, at least in my world, perfecting this recipe (from Cooking Light magazine) will just take a few more tries. Maybe one of my talented readers can get it right on the first attempt!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
    1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Manchego cheese
    1/2 cup chopped ready-to-use sun-dried tomatoes (2 ounces)
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
    2 large egg whites
    Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese, tomatoes, and basil. Add buttermilk and egg whites, stirring just until moist. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 times with floured hands. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut dough into 8 wedges, cutting into but not through dough. Coat top of dough lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until scones are golden.


About the blogger

April 28, 2008
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Miss Lemmonex tagged me, and, because I love her so, today you’re getting a meme!  Thank her if you like it, blame her if you hate it.  :-)  This is going to be hard, since I have my “101 things” list already published on this site, but I should have enough neuroses to go around.

1) When I change the volume on the television set, it has to end up on an even number.  I get really freaked out otherwise.  This behavior simultaneously annoys and fascinates my roommates.

2) Here are the things I’m most looking forward to as I prepare to move to Atlanta: living closer to my folks, never being more than a few miles from Chick-fil-a, the Georgia Aquarium, greater grocery store variety, accessibility to live college football, cooking in my parents’ HUGE kitchen, reuniting with wonderful old friends, warmer weather, bring driving distance to Charleston and Savannah, and having the space to get a dog.

3) Here are the things I’m least looking forward to: driving (and paying for gas and car insurance), living so far away from my sister (though she’s moving to San Fran, so that’s her fault), living so far away from New York, not being able to buy beer on Sundays, leaving my amazing DC friends, not having as many farmers market options, not having as vibrant of a restaurant/foodie community (though I don’t think it’s as lackluster as people claim), and the anxiety of starting a new job.

4) Speaking of my new job, while I am anxious and have a lot to learn, I am really looking forward to the challenge.  In a nutshell, I’ll be helping severely disabled veterans (for example, those who are in wheelchairs or who have lost limbs) obtain grant funds to adapt their homes.  I can’t imagine a more rewarding position, though I will probably have to invest in the Kleenex corporation due to the amount of crying I will do on the way home from work every day.

5) I met my boyfriend on Craigslist.  We’ve been together going on three years.

6) I enjoy really bitter, hoppy beers and dry, acidic wines, but I like my coffee and tea insanely sweet.

7) I’ve decided to take the Georgia bar exam in February 2009, even though a) my job does not require it, b) I’m already licensed in Maryland and DC, and c) it will be incredibly costly and unpleasant.  My boyfriend will be taking it then as well, so I decided it would be great if we could serve as each other’s support system.  Plus, it never hurts to have something like that as a “just in case,” ya know?

Back to the food soon, y’all…have a great Monday!


Recipe: Basic Marinara Sauce

April 25, 2008
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I love throwing together a pot of pasta and sauce–it’s filling, it’s tasty, and it’s easy to make when there’s nothing else I feel like cooking. However, while this simple staple certainly gets the job done, it always makes me feel a little bit hollow. After all, tossing boxed pasta into a pot of boiling water certainly isn’t rocket science, and the hardest part about making the sauce is opening the jar.

I’m not ready to make homemade pasta–yet–so I decided last night to tackle the sauce. Again, I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light magazine, and it turned out really well. There’s not a lot to say about it other than that it’s a great base for doing other things–for example, it will work perfectly with my eggplant parmesan, and it would taste even better over pasta with some ground beef or sausage and fresh basil added at the end.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    3 medium chopped yellow onion
    1 tablespoon sugar
    6 cloves minced garlic
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons dried basil
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    2 cups chicken broth
    3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

There’s no photo, since, hey, it’s marinara sauce, and you know what that looks like. Do you make YOUR own pasta sauce? What sets it apart from the pack?


Recipe: Asian Chicken Thighs with Minted Cucumbers

April 24, 2008
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This is a summery dish if ever I saw one–spicy, yet refreshing, and really good on the grill (or so I imagine–I was stuck with my indoor grill pan, of course). Even though I got serrano pepper in my eye and then cut myself while chopping mint, the great flavors of this meal made all of my pain subside. Well, not really, but it was darn tasty.

Note: In Cooking Light magazine, this recipe is called “Seoul-ful Chicken with Minted Cucumbers.” Love the dish, hate the pun.

Cucumbers:

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup minced shallots
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
    1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
    1 tablespoon honey
    1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
    1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
    1 serrano chile, seeded and minced

Chicken:

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds)
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
    1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    1 tablespoon honey
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    Cooking spray
    1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

To prepare cucumbers, place cucumber slices in a colander; sprinkle with salt, tossing well. Drain 1 hour. Place cucumber slices on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Combine cucumber, shallots, and next 6 ingredients (through chile) in a large bowl; toss gently. Cover and set aside.

To prepare chicken, combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to soy sauce mixture in bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 4 thighs in pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 thighs. Place 2 thighs and 1/2 cup cucumbers on each of 4 plates; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions.


Egging Me On

April 22, 2008
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A while ago, Metrocurean posted a gorgeous picture of this recipe (from the blog of Marriott’s corporate chef).  Asparagus?  Good.  Poached eggs?  Good.  FRIED poached eggs?!?!  Goooooood.

Sadly, I was only halfway invested in this recipe last night–roasting the asparagus was no problem, and I definitely wanted to fry a couple of poached eggs, but I wasn’t in the mood to fiddle with the brown butter sauce.  So, my end result didn’t photograph or taste nearly as lovely as Mr. Hotel Chef Man’s did.  However, I did learn a few important things…

1) Asparagus is the bestest.  I roasted mine (under a low broiler) in just some olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper, and they were delicious–soft, but not mushy, and bursting with flavor.

2) Poaching eggs is hard.  I read somewhere that putting them in plastic wrap “sacs” (and then dunking them in boiling water) was the best method for cooking the whites all the way through AND keeping the spherical shape.  Well, the whites were cooked all the way through, and the shape WOULD have been spherical–had half the whites not stuck to the plastic wrap.  D’oh!  Next time, I’ll be using some non-stick spray on those bad boys.

3) Frying poached eggs is even harder.  Once the eggs were poached, I put the sacs in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make them easier to work with.  After removing them from the plastic wrap, I coated them in an egg/milk mixture and then rolled them in seasoned breadcrumbs.  This would have been a lot easier if half of the aforementioned whites hadn’t stayed with the plastic, making the yolk precariously exposed.  Nothing burst, thank goodness, and I fried those suckers in olive oil until they were just golden brown.

4) There’s a reason this recipe called for a brown butter sauce.  Even though the asparagus were flavorful and the eggs turned out to be rich and texturally interesting, there was definitely something missing.  Next time, I’ll do what the Marriott chef says and attempt the whole shebang.  In the meantime, here’s how it all looked–not half bad for a first effort!


Eggplant Parmesan: Variations on a Theme

April 18, 2008
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When I got two lovely eggplants in my weekly produce delivery, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them–eggplant parmesan.  Sure, it’s the obvious choice, and it doesn’t involve a lot of culinary creativity, but it’s one of my favorite dishes.

What I love about eggplant parmesan is that everyone makes it differently.  Some people salt the eggplant, some people don’t.  Some people slice it thin, some people prefer thick.  Some people bake the whole shebang, and some people bread and fry the eggplant.  The possibilities are endless, and each variety has its own special deliciousness.

For mine, I slice the eggplant in thick rounds–skin on–and then salt them for about an hour (this draws out the water and also prevents me from having to season much later).  I dry the slices well, bread them in egg and Italian breadcrumbs, and pan fry them in olive oil until they’re browned but still fairly firm.  Then, I layer a baking pan with, in order: sauce (usually canned, though one of these days I’m going to make homemade marinara and freeze it for just such an occasion), eggplant, grated parmesan cheese, and shredded or sliced mozzarella.  Usually, I have two full sets of layers (either by using one large eggplant or two small ones), and the mozzarella always goes on top.  Then, I bake everything at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and I finish under the broiler for a few minutes, just until the top layer of cheese is golden and bubbly.

How do you make YOUR eggplant parmesan?


Choose Your Own Frittata!

April 17, 2008
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It’s kind of like “Choose Your Own Adventure,” only with food. :-)

Seriously, the lovely Lemmonex and I were chatting the other day about our dinner plans, and I was STARVING. I had ingredients for eggplant parmesan (to be covered in the next post), but I hadn’t yet salted the eggplant and I didn’t want to wait. So, I decided to improvise and make a big ol’ frittata.

There’s really no recipe to follow, because frittatas are SO easy. Decide on your ingredients, cook them (if necessary), add eggs and cheese, cook till the eggs are pretty much set, and then pop in the broiler to brown and finish.

In my case, I roasted the asparagus under the broiler with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, just until they started to soften. While that was going on, I caramelized a yellow onion (with high heat, butter, and a couple of teaspoons of sugar) and chopped some Canadian bacon. When the onions were ready, I transfered them to a bigger skillet and sauteed them with the asparagus and ham for a couple of minutes. I scrambled six large eggs and mixed in about a cup of fresh-grated Gruyere, and then I dumped it over the veggies in the skillet (which was over medium high heat). Every so often, I used a spatula to lift the edges and make sure that all of the eggs got some quality time with the surface of the hot pan. Once the top of the egg was nearly “jiggle-free” (very scientific, I know), I threw the pan under the broiler and let it get golden and bubbly. Voila!

If you can’t follow that impeccably researched “recipe” (ha ha), there are oodles of versions online and some tutorials to show you how it’s done (ah, the power of teh Google). If I do say so myself, my version was delicious–and it had enough protein oomph to fill me up all morning when I reheated it the next day for breakfast. Feel free to shoot me any questions!


Brazilian Brunch

April 16, 2008
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On Sunday morning, before heading to the frog exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (side note: the exhibit was small, but it was very well done and worth the trip), boyfriend and I brunched at The Grill from Ipanema for the first time. We are learning Portuguese, so he wanted to try out the food of the country we hope to visit very soon.

From the start, I was worried–we were the first customers of the day (though, to be fair, they had just opened), and we were only joined by two tables during the entirety of our meal.  I chalked it up to the fact that Brazilian food may not be the best hangover cure.  There is a brunch special of a salad, entree (from a smallish, predetermined list), glass of champagne, and dessert for $18.95, so Jason decided to go that route.  I didn’t want the salad or champagne, and none of the set-aside entrees really excited me, so I ordered a la carte.

We started with Coxinha de Galinha ($6.95), described as “Brazilian croquette stuffed with chicken and cheese, lightly breaded and fried, served with a spicy sauce on the side.”  They were awesome, with a crunchy, non-greasy shell and a soft, flavorful center.  Jason’s feijoada (the national dish of Brazil) was good, but it paled in comparison to home-cooked versions I’ve previously enjoyed.  The star of the show, however?  The Passaro Preto ($14.95), which was “Crispy fried chicken pieces on the bone marinated in olive oil, garlic, and basil, served with rice, black beans, collard greens, and farofa.”  Absolutely delicious–so juicy, not greasy at all (seriously, this place has a great fry cook), and totally infused with fabulous basil flavor.  The collards were wonderful; I’m sure they were blanched, as they had a bright green hue and a crispy bite, despite being cooked through and tender.  The rice and beans were pretty standard, and I could have lived without the farofa (a ground yucca concoction), but the chicken was just great.  My boyfriend, a proud Southern boy who knows about such things, said it might have been the best fried chicken he’s ever had.  High praise, indeed.

The “fried” banana was a nice sweet finish; it was caramelized well and served with what was either a very light ice cream or a very heavy whipped cream or mousse (we really couldn’t tell).  Service was good, portions were huge, and prices were pretty reasonable (though some of the seafood dishes gave me sticker shock during lunch hours, I would have gladly paid such sums for dinner).  The food is a little heavy for an everyday excursion, but we left satisfied and I’m sure we’ll be back.


A real sausage-fest

April 9, 2008
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No, not THAT kind of sausage-fest, you dirty birds.  An actual festival of sausage, courtesy of Chef Gillian Clark and the fine folks at Colorado Kitchen!

When we visited for dinner a few weeks ago, we noticed that the table tents were advertising an event called “Bangers and Beer.”  Intrigued, my boyfriend and I coughed up the $45 per person fee and got our names on the list.  I must admit, I was skeptical that we’d get our money’s worth.  However, when we returned on the eve of the blessed event (which was held on a day when the restaurant is usually closed), we were treated to an incredible variety of sausages and suds, the latter of which came from the Oskar Blues Brewery and were all in cans.

The first round was homemade (by Chef Clark) seafood sausage with braised cabbage.  The sausage was delicious, and the cabbage was tender and mild.  The second round was maharlika longanissa (a Polynesian pork sausage) with pineapple salsa.  YUM–probably my favorite of the evening, the meaty sausage meshed perfectly with the sweet, slightly tangy pineapple.  Both of these dishes were paired with the Ten Fidy Imperial Stout (10% ABV).  I was VERY concerned about how a stout would taste with something as delicate as seafood sausage, but it was a wonderful pairing.  I don’t normally like dark beers like that, but despite its motor oil-esque consistency, it was actually quite good.

The third plate of sausage was New York-style with caramelized onions and potato salad.  This one was just okay for me (though the gentleman from the Bronx sitting to my right thought it was quite authentic), but the onions were sweet and tasty.  The fourth plate was a boudin blanc with smoked onions.  I wish I had kept some of the caramelized onions to compare with the smoked, as both were really good but very different.  The boudin’s texture was out of this world, but it was incredibly rich and I couldn’t finish more than a few bites.  These courses were served with the Gordon Strong Ale (8.7% ABV).  It had a great amber color, was quite floral, and managed to be hoppy without being overwhelmingly bitter.  Probably my favorite beer of the night.

The fifth type of sausage?  Hot links, served with cole slaw.  The links were just okay, and I didn’t like the cole slaw as much as the braised cabbage from the first plating.  The sixth variety was andouille with curried potato salad.  Hooray!  The sausage was incredibly spicy, but the potatoes cooled the tongue and added great dimension to the dish as a whole.  The beer for these rounds was Dale’s Pale Ale (6.5% ABV), which was similar to the Strong Ale but had a more honey-like color and a lighter, mellower, more effervescent taste.  I still liked the Strong Ale the best, but Dale’s came in a close second.

The meatstravaganza closed with sausage numbers seven and eight, a venison and juniper berry version (served with baked beans) and a wild boar, black currant, and blueberry version (served with German potato salad).  I liked both of these sausaged VERY much, although I think the wild boar slightly edged out the venison because you could really taste the interplay between the meat and the berries.  I also didn’t really care for the baked beans (they were a little dry), but the potato salad was quite good.  Our last beer was the Old Chub Scottish Style Ale (8% ABV).  To be honest, I was so full and drunk at this point that I didn’t taste much of this beer–but I recall that it was way too heavy for the end of the meal (at least in my personal state).  I’d like to try it again, though, as I’m sure it would have been good on an emptier stomach.

Dessert did not contain sausage, thank goodness–it was chocolate and nut stuffed tuilles, and it was the perfect finale to a wonderful evening.  After sipping some coffee and thanking the chef and her staff, we ambled to the bus stop, fat and happy.  If you haven’t been to one of Colorado Kitchen’s special events, you should definitely do so–you will get more than your money’s worth, you’ll learn a few things, and you’ll have a helluva time.


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