Thursday, August 30, 2007

vodka inspiration

At the store last weekend I spotted the new Absolut New Orleans vodka.

It has a mango black pepper flavor! I did not buy a bottle, but it did make me rethink the plain ol' mango sorbet I had made (Actually just pureed fresh mangos that I ran through the ice cream maker...they didn't need sugar.)

So I let the sorbet sit in the fridge for a day so it returned to a liquid state, added a can of lite cocnut milk, for a bit of fat so it wouldn't freeze so hard, and a teaspoon and a half of freshly-ground black pepper. I also added a splash of Absolute Vanilla, as an ode to my inspiration (and also for a bit of flavor and another way to keep the sorbet a softer texture...oh and a friend had told me his grandmother used to add gin to her lemon sorbet...which I've gotsta try). I also should give a shout-out to foodgoat's peppercorn ice cream, which helped put the idea of peppered frozen treats in my head.

The resulting sorbet is totally fun! I might use regular coconut milk next time for a creamier texture, but as it is, this is a great summer treat. It's sooo cold and fruity at first, then it melts a little in your mouth and that certain mango richness comes through, along with the creamy coconut. After you swallow, the pepper leaves a nice heat on the back of your tongue. Neat! I think I'll be purchasing some Absolut New Orleans for some weekend festivities. 100% profit goes to New Orleans, can I say no? :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I don't know what all to write about this dish. It's so easy and fast...Cook some sort of Italian flavored sausage (this was a pesto flavored chicken sausage), cut up, take out of pan, cook chopped garlic and some ol' frozen pesto you have hanging around in the sausage drippings, add the chopped sausage back plus some cooked gnocchi (not home made...the shelf-stable was a weeknight, afterall) then put a bag of arugala in until it wilts. Voila! Oh, I also tossed some toasted pine nuts in at some point, and topped it all with Pecorino Romano cheese...of course. Too bad the sausage was too salty. Otherwise a great weeknight dish. So simple, there's nothing left to do but show photos of it...

I must've had this gnocchi dish in my memory as inspiration...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Well read, well fed (installment 10) Another Summer Reading Update

I still haven't been reading in the quantities I'd like this summer, however the quality of the books I do get to makes up for it. I recently read two very interesting and enjoyable books.

First was The Zen of Fish, from samurai to supermarket by Trevor Corson. Trevor joins a class at a small California Sushi School, where students are taught the art of Sushi Chefing over the course of a few months. Traditionally, Sushi chefs are required to train for at least 5 years. With the high demand for Sushi joints in the US, however, this quick schooling became a must.

The book is! You have the drama and humanity of the students and teachers at the Sushi school. You have humor. You have lots of information. Information-wise this book could fit in on a reference shelf easily. I learned so much! In fact, I'll have to re-read parts because there was so much to take in. But it doesn't feel like you're reading a fish encyclopedia or something. It's actually fun to read, because there are characters and good writing and humor. The information comes in tidbits, most of which made me exclaim "Oh man!" or "Ah-ha!" or something dorky like that.

If you are at all into Sushi or seafood, read this book. You will learn so much. It will also make you both want to try your hand at making sushi, and eat lots of it. After reading the book, I wanted to be more adventurous/savvy about my sushi eating. Last weekend Jack and I went to our regular sushi place, and instead of ordering like we normally do, I told the chef we wanted to try out "Omakase" which basically means "I leave it in your hands." So he chose what we ate and in what order. It was probably my favorite Sushi meal ever. Apparently the guy who spends all day every day making sushi really knows what's good. Go figure :)

Trevor's website is great! Here's a video about how to eat sushi.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

A funny essay on how he came to pick Sushi as a book topic.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell is a book I've seen lots of places. I finally got around to reading it, and am very glad about that. It's Julie's story of her struggles with turning 30, being a temp worker, and general New York married life. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, she takes solace in Julia Child, specifically the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She discovers blogs, and decides to give herself a project. Make every recipe in the book in one year, and chronicle the journey on-line.

Julie is my age when she takes on this challenge, but I think people of all ages can identify with her. She's no domestic goddess...she describes her messy kitchen and poor housekeeping skills. She is funny and she cusses alot...especially when cooking the French food. She drinks too much and loves watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In other words, she's very normal (except her writing is fantastic.), and someone you can see yourself being friends with.

From the frustration of failed mayonnaises to the triumph a perfect chicken, the book takes you along on Julie's rollercoaster of achieving her goal. You feel her pain when she misses a step in a recipe and has to either start over or improvise. You cheer for her when she's near the end of her goal. It's a fun and inspiring ride.

Here is the original Julie/Julia Project blog. I'm looking forward to reading all the posts, after reading the book all about it.

A recent interview with Julie Powell. Looks like she's learning butchery for her new book project! Can't wait for that to come out.

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

"How To Read Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Six recipes Julia Child would want you to make." an article from Slate

Sunday, August 19, 2007

getting figgy with it

Today was a lazy Sunday. Nice. Earlier in the afternoon I whipped up some frozen yogurt using this recipe from 101 cookbooks. I had made some Friday night as well, and it was really good. We ate it all up quickly with frozen cherries on top. Tonight, I used a real vanilla bean scraped out instead of the extract. I also used 2 cups of 2% Greek yogurt and 1 cup of full fat Greek yogurt, instead of the mostly full fat I used the first time. The lower fat didn't seem to compromise anything. It was still soft and creamy. The best thing about frozen yogurt is it's extra had a more interseting flavor than ice cream does. Also, instead of just throwing on some plain frozen cherries, Jack concocted a sauce. He cooked the cherries with some honey and fresh-ground black pepper. I know! He's Brilliant! The cherries were sweet and rich, and the pepper gave it just a little bite that punctuated all of the sweet, fruity, and creamy flavors of the yogurt and cherries.

Oh, but this was dessert. We just made it all before dinner. Dinner was pizza. For the first time we tried some store-bought pizza dough. We usually get Naan bread from the International grocery or Indian store. The dough was a little hard to work with. The instructions made it sound so easy...just roll it out, add toppings and bake it!! But it didn't cooperate that easy. After some patience and various resting times, we finally topped our pizza. Jack opted for pepperoni and whole milk mozzerella and some of his yummy pizza sauce we had tucked away in the freezer. He thought going more normal was the right thing to do when trying out new crust. I, however, decided I would take this opportunity to try something completely different. Fig, Proscuitto and goat cheese with a little olive oil as the sauce.

So I have a new favorite pizza topping combo.

Sweet, earthy, salty, tangy. Do it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

adding to my collection

A couple of weeks ago, I hit my favorite thrift store and found some old cookbooks to add to my collection. There were these three Better Homes and Gardens books; Mexican Cookbook, copyright 1977, Fondue and Tabletop Cookbook, circa 1970, and Jiffy Cooking, copyright 1967.

I also got Crockery Cookery by Mable Hoffman, first published in 1975.

Here's Mable (she's my hero):

Of the three Better Homes books, Jiffy Cooking is the most amusing (if not disgusting). Something called "instant minced onion" is an ingredient found in about 90% of the recipes, and of course they use lots of "cream of" soups, and almost every recipe involves canned items. Perhaps this is where Sandra Lee learned her evil ways?

One of the best photos and recipes in the book has to be this "Easy Perfection Salad" which consists of pimentos, green onions and canned sauerkraut suspended in Lemon Jello. Scrumptious!

Check out the lovely "dill pickle-sicles" used as a centerpiece in this spread:

Classy! Speaking of Classy, The Jiffy Cooking has some international recipes in it, too! Here are a couple:

Tuna Oriental
Combine one 6 1/2 or 7-ounce can tuna, drained and flaked, two 15-ounce cans macaroni and cheese, one 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained, one 3-ounce can chopped mushrooms, drained, 2 tablespoons instant minced onion, and 1 teaspoon parsley flakes.
Turn into a 10x6x1 1/2-inch baking dish. Top with one 3-ounce can chow mein noodles. Bake at 350 about 35 minutes. Serves 6.

Oh, is that what they eat in the Orient? Really?

Here's the book's take on Mexican food:
Mexicali Casserole
1 1-pound 4-ounce can (2 1/2 cups) yellow hominy, drained
1 15-ounce can tamales, cut in thirds
1 4-ounce can Vienna sausages, cut in thirds
1 10 1/2-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 ounce sharp natural Cheddar cheese, shredded (1/4 cup)

Combine hominy, tamales, the vienna sausages, and soup. Gently mix; turn into 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over top; return to oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Makes 6 servings.

Ah yes, the Mexicans are famous for their use of Vienna sausages!

The fondue book helps you get ready for the "after-ski scene":

Maybe those swingin' skiiers would enjoy these creamy ham rolls:


As for the Mexican cookbook, I can't really make fun. Most of the recipes use real food and actually look pretty good. I think I'll even make this "Sopa de Pollo a la Mexicana (Mexican Chicken Soup)":

So, yeah, it looks like I've started collecting 60's and 70's cookbooks. I can't help myself. I hope there are many more Easy Perfection Salads in my future.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shrimp Paella

For dinner tonight I made the One Hour Shrimp Paella from April's Issue of Bon Appetit. It's no authentic paella, but darn it! It was simple to make, nice and quick, healthy and yummy. The only things I changed on the recipe were adding some red chile flakes, a dash of garlic powder, and a little bit extra bell pepper and onion. I did overcook the rice a little, but I'll blame my lame-o apartment issue electric stove for that...yeah...that's the ticket! Also, the "4 servings" it says it makes? Those are very generous servings. Less than one serving was plenty for me as dinner.

Here's the recipe:


Bon Appétit, April 2007

Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces 1/2-inch cubes smoked ham (about 1 3/4 cups)
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon (generous) saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika or hot Hungarian paprika
3 1/4 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1 pound uncooked peeled deveined large shrimp
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, halved

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add smoked ham, onions, and bell pepper, and sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in saffron and paprika, then 3 cups broth and rice. Bring to boil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is almost tender, about 15 minutes. Nestle shrimp into rice, top with olives, and drizzle with 1/4 cup (or more) broth to moisten. Cover and cook until shrimp are just opaque in center, about 6 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

simple chicken dinner

Last night I made roast chicken. It's one of my favorite things to make, because it takes very little effort and tastes wonderful. I use Nigella's method of rubbing it with butter, salt and pepper and cooking it in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes per pound plus 10 minutes. I usually put a halved lemon in the cavity also, but I forgot to get a lemon. I scattered some whole garlic cloves around the chicken also. It turned out good, as usual, with crispy skin and juicy meat. I put a bag of frozen brussel sprouts in the roasting pan after I took the chicken out, and roasted them for about 15 or 20 minutes. They got great flavor! I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking:

Thursday, August 02, 2007


The other day I went to get some lunch at a place I've wanted to try for a while. It's a Jamaican restaurant near where I live called Jamaica Irie. A small place tucked away in a strip mall, with Bob Marley posters all over the walls and Reggae pumping over the sound system. I tried to order the Ackee and Saltfish, but the guy said he has trouble getting ackee in anymore. Darn. It would have been fun to try a completely new food. Oh well. So I decided on the Jerk chicken.

I soon got over my ackee disappointment when I saw my lunch. A large portion of chicken, mostly the thigh and leg, bone-in, with a dark, fragrant coating on it, a huge pile of beans and rice, a little salad with some spicy looking dressing on it and a few slices of fried plantain.

The chicken was sooooo good. A good amount of heat with a bit of cinnamon flavor, and very moist (yay for skin-on bone-in cooking!!). The rice was flavorful as well. I thought there could be more beans, but that's probably just because I love beans way too much. The salad had good flavor, but I'm not a fan of iceberg lettuce. Still, it was a nice cool crunch contrast to the chicken. The fried plantains were sweet...a good accompaniment to the savory spicy chicken and rice. It was a comforting meal, yet still unique and new (to me). I'll definitely be visiting again. I'm excited to try the goat curry and the oxtail stew! Meanwhile, here's a good Jamaican recipe site with photos.