Thursday, August 28, 2008

More love

(See below for more info on this post)

My wonderful mom, a foodie, cookbook writer extraordinaire, and generally all-around amazing woman, has lovingly donated FIVE signed copies of her delightful (and super-useful) cookbook, Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas! I think it seems like something Nie would like.

I will borrow Gabrielle's bidding protocol:

How this silent auction works:
1) Please place your bid by leaving a comment with your bid amount in the comments section. Check the comments to see the most recent High Bid. Bidding starts at $10. The FIVE highest bidders will get their cookbooks.

2) Following the close of the auction, I will contact the winners (make sure your comment bid includes an email address or link to your blog or some way to contact you). The winner will pay the amount of their winning bid to the Stephanie and Christian PayPal account. The winner will then forward the PayPal receipt to and I will send you your book!

3) Please bid in increments of whole dollars. The auction will end at Midnight CST on Sunday, August 31, 2008.

4) Thank you for participating!

For a Great Cause

It's funny how this blogging thing become connected to perfect strangers, and there is an amazing bond between people who just like to talk to cyberspace and hope someone is listening (or, reading, I guess).

From one lovely blog, I found out about a woman named Stephanie Nielson who has another darling blog called the NieNie dialogues (how clever is she? her nickname is the last 3 letters of her 1st name and the 1st 3 letters of her last name). She and her husband have four beautiful children, and Nie would write about their sweet little life in Utah.

Last week, Nie and her husband, Christian, were in a terrible small-plane crash. The pilot was killed, but gracefully, Nie and Christian survived. They both suffered terrible 3rd-degree burns and are doing OK, but are going through the struggle of their lives.

Nie's blogger sister, Jane, has been keeping the rest of the blogging community abreast of the situation with daily updates. Through her wonderful sisterly love and kindness, Jane and her husband have taken in three of Nie's kids (the fourth is staying with another sister, I gather). The whole story has really touched me, even though (as I said above) these people are perfect strangers.

All this to say that today is officially (in the blog world) NieNie day. Design Mom came up with the idea to host a silent auction—a lovely way to help raise money for the long and difficult recovery the Nielsons will be going through. I'm amazed at the kindness that spread...165+ blogs are also hosting auctions! Everything from signed BYU football gear (the whole family are big BYU fans) to a signed Maroon5 guitar, to beautiful jewelry, edible goodies, art, and photography packages...

If you feel so inclined, head over to Design Mom, find something you might like to have, and maybe make a bid. I've got my eye on a few things, myself. You'll be getting something fabulous AND helping a perfect stranger who lights up the blogging world, and has touched a lot of other people with her story. It's totally random, yes, but that's how this blog thing works, and I have to say, I love it.

It's me...

...your long-lost blogging friend. I've had a kind-of off week, and no recipes for now, but I do have something to share. A few years ago, I read in the NY Times about cold-brewed iced coffee, and I was intrigued. I am an iced-coffee lover from way back (I have this memory of drinking an iced Barnie's coffee and running into some kids from school who thought it was so weird that I liked coffee. But I digress...)

I have been meaning to try to cold-brewed coffee (which is apparently a staple in New Orleans), but I just hadn't done it. Then yesterday I saw a post on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen about the process, and I was inspired. It's so simple, really. Here's the original recipe.

And now, I am a convert. There is no comparison between hot-brewed coffee chilled and poured over ice, and the rich, smooth, chocolatey stuff that is the result of cold-brewing. I really didn't think there'd be much difference, but trust me on this one. Try it, just once, and I have a feeling you'll be a believer, too. I'll be making this again (and again, and again...).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday - Tom Kha Gai my way
Monday - Spring greens with seared scallops, pancetta, croutons, and a poached egg
Tuesday - Chicken piccata, broccoli, salad
Wednesday - jason's out of probably pasta
Thursday - ditto...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spice and Easy

What could be easier than mixing a bunch of dried spices, rubbing it on some chicken, and grilling it to perfection? It's the perfect summer supper. Spice rub mixtures are about as varied and different as the number of spices that exist, but when you find just the right one, you know it. Just pick spices that go together, adjust the amounts depending on your preference, and you've got your own blend. (This one is almost identical to what I put in my chili.)

I paired our chicken with a side dish my wonderful friend Maggie showed me a long time ago. When she came home after spending a college semester in Spain, she had our friend Lytle and me over for dinner, and she cooked us a dish she had eaten in Spain. Since then, this dish (I think it's served in tapas bars) has been one of my favorites. The mineral flavor of spinach and the creamy/nuttiness of the chick peas is a flawless combination. It's even great as a light lunch...

Smoky-Spicy Chicken
serves 2

This rub makes more than you will use, but it will keep a long time in the pantry.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne

With a mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken lightly between two sheets of wax paper until the thickness is mostly even. In a small bowl, combine all the spices. Generously sprinkle some of mixture on first side of chicken, then use fingers to rub the mixture to cover completely. Flip and repeat on other side. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.

Preheat grill. Place chicken breasts on well-oiled grates, and cook for about 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. When it feels firm but still springy, remove from grill. Let side a few minutes before serving.

*Ancho chile powder is my go-to chile powder. It's slightly sweet and smoky without tasting like smoke. It has more depth than regular chili powder. You can certainly substitute regular, but give ancho a try—you won't regret it.

Spinach & Chickpeas
serves 2
You can add in some chopped garlic if you like, but if you're feeling lazy (like I w
as tonight), it's fine to just toss it all in the skillet and let it go.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (10-ounce bag spinach)
3/4 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained but not rinsed
kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and chick peas, salt, and pepper. Cook until spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve.

(How pretty is the fire? I love grilling!)

The Omnivore's Hundred

Fellow food blogger Andrew at Very Good Taste came up with a super fun meme for food-loving people (such as me.) If you want to play, too...

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out (or italicize in my case since I can't figure out how to cross out things) any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile (I second Jennifer Hess's question: does Alligator count?)
6. Black Pudding (I'm pretty game to everything, but coagulated blood turns my stomach.)
7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (not a cross-out, but maybe just a taste)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (thanks to dad's garden)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi (I've had it unsalted, but salted sounds even yummier!)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly (do Jell-o shots count? What, I went to the #1 party school!)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects (maybe if they were teensy, cooked, and covered in lime juice and salt...)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu (Not worth it)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I haven't done the meal, just the Mac...)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (thank you, Delerium Tremens)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin (yep, it's edible)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (This is iffy)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
(I've had them all!)
68. Haggis (I find offal...awful. Pardon the semi-pun.)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (see 68)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost, or brunost (yeah, it's as nasty as it looks)
75. Roadkill (seriously?)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I have been to a 3-M place but didn't do the tasting menu. I was also 7, so...)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (rabbit)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse (this is bordering on a cross-out, but i might eat it if i just had one taste)
90. Criollo chocolate (a fancy, extra-good kind of chocolate)
91. Spam
92. Soft-shell crab

93. Rose harissa (I've just had harissa, there was no rose in it...)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake (see 89)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's been one of those weeks where I just feel like we haven't had our fill of veggies. As I've said before, I never met a vegetable I didn't like, but sometimes it's just not the easiest (or, let's face it, tastiest) to eat a ton of good-for-you stuff in one meal. When I was in college, my quick remedy to this issue was to throw a bunch of seasonal veggies into a pot with pasta and cook them pretty much all at once. I finished it with salt, olive oil, and a handful of mozzarella cheese. I'd eat it for days. It was easy and tasty, albeit really plain.

So tonight I decided to take that idea and give it a little nudge in a more creative direction. I roasted the veggies, tossed them with cooked pasta, some tomato sauce, fresh basil, and a bit of cheese, and then baked it to bring it all together. I used Barilla Plus pasta (have you tried it?) it's got lots of fiber, protein, and even omega-3. Definitely better than regular pasta, and the texture is great, too.

Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

serves 2 with leftovers
For the sauce, you can use plain canned tomato sauce or marinara

1 small bunch broccoli, about the size of 2 fists
2 yellow squash
3/4 pint grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 lb short-cut pasta (penne, macaroni, rigatoni...)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
8-10 basil leaves, chopped
1 big clove garlic, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Cut the broccoli and squash into bite-sized pieces, and place on a baking sheet. Add the tomatoes, and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until everything is tender and brown in spots.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in well-salted water until just under-done. Drain, and then add roasted vegetables, tomato sauce, basil, and garlic. Taste, and add salt and pepper to taste. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a small baking dish. Add about half of the pasta-veggie mixture, then top with 1/2 cup cheese. Add the remaining pasta-veggie mixture, then top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Raise oven temperature to broil; broil until the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Let cool 3 minutes before serving.

(the veggies looked great even before they were cooked!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good Eats For the Week

Monday - Tostadas, cucumber-tomato salad
Tuesday - Thai-style chicken fried rice
Wednesday - Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables, salad
Thursday - Spice-Rubbed Grilled Chicken, Spinach-and-Chick-Pea Sauté, grilled bread

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pasti per la Settimana

Sunday - Good ol' burgers on the grill, garlic oven fries, salad
Monday - Shrimp and Bread Bowls, tomato-watermelon salad
Tuesday - Dijon-herb pork chops, Orange-Scented Couscous with Almonds
Wednesday - Italian meatball soup, salad
Thursday - Scott's birthday cookout!

Under the Provencal Sun

Soup just has a way of making you feel good. With minimal work and maximum payoff, soup is my go-to meal when I just don't really feel like doing much, but when I want something warm and soul-satisfying.

I found this Ina Garten recipe for Soupe au Pistou on Food Network's web site, and decided it looked like a nice, light summer soup. Well, it was one of the best soups I've ever tasted. In fact, the broth was kind of addictive. Fragrant with saffron and perfectly flavored with every ingredient, I could have had bowlfuls of just broth and been happy. But the creamy potatoes, crisp-tender haricots verts, and the combination of two onions (I used green onions in lieu of leeks, which cost almost three times as much at Publix) made the soup spectacular.

Last summer, my parents brought me a little glass vial of deep orange-red saffron. I saved it for the longest time, and recently cracked the bottle's little wax seal. Now I'm obsessed. In the somewhat unlikely event that you have saffron on hand, this is the place to use it. If you don't, I'd seriously consider "investing" in some (it's not cheap!) because it was the single best flavor in the whole bowl.

As a side note, I made the pistou, but the garlic was SO overwhelming that we left it out of the soup completely. It tasted grassy and spicy, and just not right for the delicate, flowery soup. If I were to make it again, I'd cut wayyy back on the garlic...

Late summer is the perfect time to drink rosé, a Provençal specialty. Lightly fruity, with just a whisper of tannin, it's not to be confused with that awful other pink wine. Anyway, with this soup, we thoroughly enjoyed Paul Jaboulet Aine Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 Rosé 2007. It was on sale at our local market for $8.99...but the regular price was $10.99, which is still pretty budget-friendly. It's delicious and oh-so pretty. I couldn't resist a picture...

Monday, August 4, 2008

An Evening in Marrakesh

The first night of our staycation was in Marrakesh, Morocco. Much like the food of India, north African cuisine is abundant in spices. Smoky, warm, complex, and robust, the foods of Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt often include more spices than any other cuisine, making the food of this region vibrant and full-flavored. One of the most quintessential dishes in Moroccan cooking is the tagine. Tagine is the word both for the cooking vessel and the resulting dish that comes out of it—food is slowly braised in the base while the tall conical lid collects and redistributes the steam. It's often made with beef, lamb, even pigeon; cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne are the main spices that give tagine its oopmph.

Since I don't have an actual tagine, and since foods cooked in tagines are often stewed for hours, I decided to go with the traditional flavors, but I did a quick roast in the oven. This was—as Paula Deen often says—stupid easy. A quick do-ahead marinade, superfast prep, less than an hour in the oven, and that's it. I have to tell you--Jason said it was the best meal he'd had in a long time. And if I may say so myself, I agreed.

The flavors were clean and defined. The earthy cumin, warm cinnamon, sweet coriander and paprika, and the slight spice of the cayenne all worked together in perfect harmony. The tomato sauce cooks down and marries with the spices into a brick-red, aromatic gravy that coats everything with a perfect slickness. The accompanying couscous, which soaks up every drip of the rich sauce, is definitely the best recipe for couscous I've ever done (again, if I do say so myself). It would be delicious with just about anything. Fudul! (That's Arabic for "bon appetit.")

Moroccan Chicken "Tagine"

serves 2 with leftovers
I had leftover tomato soup I had made last week, so I used that to pour over the chicken. If you have some tomato soup, or even leftover marinara, as long as it's pretty plain, it will be just fine as the base to your sauce and will bring a little extra flavor to the party. If you don't have those things on hand, just use plain crushed tomatoes from a can—there are so many spices in here, you don't need to worry about it being bland.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
3/4 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on heat preference
6 skinless chicken drumsticks or skinless chicken thighs
1 lemon, 1/2 thinly sliced, 1/2 zested and juiced

1/2 small onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup green olives, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a roasting pan, whisk together the oil, vinegar, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and cayenne. Add the drumsticks and turn to coat. Cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 6.

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove chicken from refrigerator and turn chicken to fully coat in the marinade. Tuck lemon slices in between and on top of meaty end of drumsticks. Sprinkle on the lemon zest, lemon juice, and garlic; evenly distribute onions on top, and then pour the tomato sauce over everything. Give the pan a shimmy to make sure the sauce is distributed. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, for good measure.

Re-cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until chicken is completely do
ne. Serve with couscous to soak up the sauce.

Orange-Scented Couscous with Almonds
serves 2 with leftovers

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup couscous
3 large green onions
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and crushed*
2 generous tablespoons orange juice, fresh or store bought

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine garlic and oil. Heat until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add salt and water, stir to combine, and cover pan. When water boils, add couscous, turn off heat, and set aside for 5 minutes.

Use a fork to fluff the couscous. Add green onions, almonds, and orange juice, and use the fork to combine everything. Taste and add salt, if needed. Serve immediately.

(my was yummy as lunch the next day!)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Our Staycation Menu

Have you heard of this new thing called a staycation? With the economy the way it is, a lot of people are forgoing the summer vacation, but still doing little things to make it seem like they're getting a break from the everyday. I decided this week I'd do some meals that remind me of the places I love, and the places I'd love to visit one day...

- Chicken yakitori, sesame soba noodles, garlicky spinach (Japan)
Tuesday - Soupe au Pistou, crusty bread, salad (Provence)
Wednesday - Pizza Margherita, chopped salad (Naples)
Thursday - Lemon chicken "tagine," orange-scallion couscous (Morocco)