Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cuisine for Two

I am trying everyday to adapt to cooking for a small amount of people. Usually it is just me plus one and I generally "prefer" to cook for me plus anywhere from 3 to 5. For my budget and the earth it is uneconomical and wasteful. While shopping around Home Depot I grabbed a "Cuisine For Two" magazine. A complete impulse by and mostly just meat and fish recipes but a couple of vegetarian and definitely ways to change the meat with different veggies.

The recipe that stood out the most to me was a Zucchini cake with Diavalo sauce. I thought why not and modified the recipe to what I had. I grated two zucchinis, half of an onion, one clove of garlic, and a sweet potato. I twirled those around in the salad grater to get all the extra water out. I added some egg and panko and baking soda, also nothing is complete without a little bit of salt and pepper.

Diavalo Sauce is typically a spicy tomato sauce. You take a yellow onion and red bell pepper and saute those. I also added some red chile flakes to the oil that I was sauteing the Garlic is something that I never skimp out on. I have learned that it is best to add the garlic in once the other "mirepoix" like vegetables are almost completely finished. The recipe I had called for white wine vinegar and white wine to deglaze the pan with. I did not have the white versions in my sauce so I used red wine vinegar and some Merlot I had leftover from visitors. You then add some tomato paste and diced tomatoes. After everything has been added you cook it down on low temp for about a half an hour.

When the sauce was done I was good and ready to fry up the cakes. I heated olive oil in a non stick pan. A non stick pan is important in this case because when frying wet, gooey things you want to be sure they will not stick on the pan. I put a very large overfilled 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture into the pan smashed it down and fried each side for about 5 minutes. I prefer crispy fairly dark brown for color when I'm frying any sort of vegetable. These included.

I dished dinner up and brought it out to my "dinner guest." WOW! i thought it was so freaking good. Sweet fried veggie cakes complemented with a spicy tomato sauce. Healthy, cheap, and quick; A winning combination in my book. My "dinner guest" on the other hand liked the cake but didn't know why there was hot salsa on it. They suggested to make the veggie cakes again, but use it as a side dish to a piece of fish. Not filling enough and the "hot salsa" did not make it a big hit. But if I was cooking for 1, I would eat a version of this once a week!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Breakfast of Champions!

Thank you Nutella! My life has become a little bit more complete since the discovery of Nutella... I learned about this tasty product while living in Italy. Every morning one of my very dear friends Michela had Brioche (which in America we call croissant's) with Nutella and a cappuchino. I never once saw peanut butter. It was always Nutella. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this product; it is a chocolate hazelnut breakfast spread. The equivalent of peanut butter in places where there is no peanut butter.

For breakfast a common theme of mine is Nutella and Strawberries. I love these two things together and being inspired by brioche and nutella in Italy I have made my own version!
1. Crescent Rolls (Pillsbury or an all natural kind)
2. Nutella.
3. Strawberries sliced thin (these are optional)\

I pretty mush take the crescent rolls and put a spread of Nutella at the beginning of the roll before forming them into the crescent roll shape. You would also add a couple slices of strawberries at this point. You bake according the package and VOILA!!!! a breakfast masterpiece. Easy, simple, cheap and tasty.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Casserole. Who Would Have Thought?

A certain someone has been begging me to make Spaghetti Squash. I love squash but I have to admit Spaghetti Squash is by far my least favorite. I looked into the squash online because I wanted to make a complete meal with it and the squash being the center of attention.

I've been told that classically this squash is paired with marinara and Italian style things. I scoffed when hearing this and said"NO WAY...." Boy was I wrong when looking into it. I learned very quickly that almost every recipe idea that I could find was the squash pretty much being used as a replacement for noodles.

I did my shopping. I got what I would normally put into a sauce; mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions. I also got some carrots and celery. I decided that I was going to Caramelize my traditional mirepoix (2 part onion to 1 part Carrot and 1 part celery) then add shallots, garlic, mushrooms and the bell pepper and caramelize them as well. Caramelizing brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables though it takes a little while to do properly every time it is worth it. I got some whole milk mozzarella and the organic pre-made marinara sauce to finish this dish off!

To start I had to cook the squash and let it cool. I baked in the oven at 375, 45 minutes face down and then 45 minutes face up. Once it was cooked, pulled out of the oven and cooled off I proceeded to shred the squash out with a fork. It pulls out the width of the squash looking like spaghetti noodles but if you do it the length of the squash it turns into mush. I added my caramelized vegetables and a pinch of salt and pepper and made sure everything was mixed in evenly. Then I took about a cup of marinara and mixed it in as well. I did not make sure it was everywhere because I don't think that it was the most important ingredient. The most important ingredient was the cheese on top! Mozzarella was grated up and sprinkled very generously on top. I baked it up for about 45 minutes until the cheese was bubbly and turning brown on top. The brown cheese is my favorite part!

I had an extra guest over for dinner this night who hates mushrooms. I think it's just merely the idea of them because as I have proven if he doesn't know they are in the food he eats everything up and never complains. If he sees me put them in the recipe he refuses to eat it because there are mushrooms, even if the pieces are big and easy to pick out. What a phenomenon it is with foods people don't like. I hate having to adjust recipes for certain things that I love. Lucky for me the usual dinner guest eats everything (especially mushrooms) and just discriminates afterwards. But without fail will always try whatever I put in front of them!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thermometers. Keep them Calibrated!

What is Calibrating a Thermometer? Pretty much you are testing the thermometer to make sure it is reading the right temperatures, and then setting it to the right one. A couple things to keep in mind; boiling point of water is 212* Fahrenheit or 100* Celsius, and the freezing point of water is 32* Fahrenheit or 0* Celsius. Once you have these very important numbers in your head you are ready to check any thermometer to make sure they are on temp!

I prefer to use a thermometer that has the numbers listed on top and turns. The nice thing about these thermometers are they are easy to clean and easy to calibrate. Anytime you drop your thermometer it needs to be re calibrated. I suggest just checking the temp to ice water or boiling water before you use it. Some people get very worried about their internal temperature of meat, and from personal experience always checking poultry temps is a good habit to get into.

To calibrate a thermometer first you are going to want to boil water or prepare a cup of ice and add cold water to it. Then you are going to stick the thermometer into whichever method of water being sure not to touch the end of the thermometer to the pan or cup. If you do touch the tip to the bottom of the pan or cup you will get a wrong reading. The bottom of the cup or pan are always going to be hotter or colder than the boiling or freezing temp. Once the dial on the thermometer stops moving you want to turn the top to match the right temperature up with the dial. (232* or 32*)

Any time you drop your thermometer, have it in a cool or hot place for an extended amount of time, or if anything "out of the ordinary" you need to calibrate it. Having the temperature off could mean a dose of food poisoning for friends and family. Keep it smart and healthy by always having a thermometer handy for pork and chicken. (Pink pork is okay though many people think and say otherwise) A properly calibrated thermometer is a tool that every person cooking should have!