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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 7


Sometimes, even those of us who live to cook - just are not all that into it.  I know, try to contain your astonishment....and this may not be "nothing" but one morning, I took out the following for supper...


Yes, it looks very nice...but quite frankly, come suppertime, I just had no energy to be creative, or spend hours in the kitchen whipping up some gourmet seafood feast.  I perused the Pixie-library of cookbooks for a while, but did not see anything that struck my fancy.  An Internet search using some of the ingredients I had on hand produced a recipe for "Portuguese Fish Supper", from Rachael Ray.  As an American of Portuguese descent, I was a little concerned about its authenticity, to say the least.  However, it did look quick, hearty and filling, and since I was rapidly running out of both time and heart (the most essential ingredient, of course), I decided to make it.  Click here for the recipe.

It is a relatively short ingredient list as well.  Sometimes, just getting everything together to even begin a recipe is a chore...not so here...


Clockwise from bottom left; fresh parsley and thyme, chicken cubes, olive oil, diced tomatoes and sauce, garbanzo beans, Old Bay seasoning,  pepper, salt, nutmeg, and onion, garlic and a package of Spanish-style chorizo. (Not shown, a handful or so of fresh spinach, chopped).  The recipe calls for kale, but spinach was the green that I had on hand, and thrown in during the last minute of cooking, does quite well in this. You can find those shelf-stable (!) chorizo in the Spanish section of your local mega-mart, as well. Really not too ingredient-heavy! Now, we cook....


Chop the onion, garlic, spinach, parsley and thyme.  Cube the chorizo into small chunks, dissolve a cube of chicken stock in hot water, open your cans & prepare your seasonings and you are in business!  Now, start to cook the chorizo...do not jack the heat up here, just warm enough to get the chorizo to crisp up a little, and release some of their paprika-and-garlic flavored goodness....like so,



Add in the onions and garlic. I apologize for the blurry photo....but this is real cooking...heat happens!


Now, add in your parsley and thyme, tomatoes and sauce, garbanzo beans, salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Note: I am not fond of nutmeg, so I just added a pinch. Bring this to a nice simmer...look at the beautiful, vibrant color of the stew!



Place your cod fillets, rinsed and patted dry, on a plate and sprinkle on both sides with Old Bay seasoning..


Slide the fish into the stew broth and simmer for ten minutes, covered, until the fish is cooked through.



  At this point, I carefully broke the fish pieces into more spoon-sized chunks.  When the fish is just cooked (make sure your heat is just at a simmer, you don't want that beautiful fish to get tough, or overcooked), throw in your spinach for the last two minutes of simmering...



The results? Well, with a piping-hot, crusty loaf of French bread, I must admit....this was a satisfying, easy, hearty winter stew! The only changes I would make would be to add shrimp for the last five minutes of cooking time, and some canned diced, or leftover cooked potatoes.  Here was a stew I could get into!


Whether or not this was "authentic Portuguese" no longer mattered...as always with cooking, taste was what it was all about.

Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for week 8, and the two-year Anniversary of this blog!  Love and kindness to all,

Pixie

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 6

Dear Husband knows me best. To include the fact that although we have what we need in life...e.g., food, clothing, and a home...cookbooks come a close fourth with me. My need to collect cookbooks probably stems from the time when there was no Internet, and the printed word was all one had to refer to.  In a totally ego-centric way, however, I think I need this blog MORE than the cookbooks...to preserve for my children what their Mom was/is all about! Long story longer....for the Holidays this year....and since I'm not fond of chaining oneself to any organized religious affiliation...I'm calling it:  "Christma-cha-kwanzicah" (Festivus fans take note) I received a COOKBOOK from Dear Husband for above-mentioned holiday.  As it happened..I was defrosting a couple of hot Italian sausages for reasons unknown at the time...(insert joke here). Really, though...I thought I'd make my spaghetti sauce or something...but here are the lonely sausages...uncased, and awaiting their fate...


Looks rather gross, actually...but then I remembered that I had just purchased some of THESE....in a mid-winter, mis-guided Chile rellenos kinda way...some beautiful Anaheim chilis...



The answer was clear....a recipe in the cookbook given to me that was an Italian-inspired stuffed pepper...first, we roll those beautiful chilis in extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt...


I roasted them until tender...then assembled the ingredients for the dish....remember, you are all about your mise 'en place....short for "getting your )(&*%$ together" before you cook...


Here we have..(clockwise from bottom right) the roasted and cooled peppers, 2 Tb. garlic, 2 Tb. finely chopped red onion, 2 Tb. chopped walnuts,  2 Tb. grated fresh Parmesan cheese, 2 slices white bread, crusts removed, 1/4 cup milk, olive oil, tomato sauce, an egg, chicken granules, salt, pepper, and some fresh spinach...

Although the recipe did not call for garlic....I TOTALLY knew that if you are going to make an "Italian stuffed pepper" recipe....garlic would, and quite frankly should be required...by law.  So a quick saute' of the fresh spinach...with garlic and olive oil...was required...


Ninety seconds later...


Turn off the heat...and set it aside...you may not think so, but that little bit of filling just became an integral part of the dish...

I skinned the newly roasted peppers, and laid them in an olive-oil coated baking dish..like so..


Then proceeded to add the chopped up white bread, egg, milk, and Parmesan into the mixing bowl..



The recipe said to mix this into a "paste"...introducing you, the reader...to the "paste"...


Yeah, I hear you...not pretty. But, being intrepid chefs...we press on...


Adding the sausage, the sauteed, chopped spinach, the chopped onion and walnuts....and then we mix...


The recipe called for stuffing the peppers and then frying them, filling-side-down..in some oil. Now, I don't know about you, but that part was just asking for disaster, doom, and spilled filling everywhere...so I filled the peppers in the baking dish...



 I then baked them for about 40 minutes in a 375-degree oven..until the sausage was crispy brown on top....in the meantime..per recipe, I simmered some tomato sauce and chicken stock and water...


It just did not seem "Italian" enough to me...so before service, I added dried oregano, garlic powder, and dried basil...The results?


And...


Let's put it this way..when Dear Husband asked if there would be any "leftovers" from this dish...the answer was a resounding "no". If only because we kept going back to munch on it all night...

Eat well my friends, I will try to find the copy of this recipe and post it...and we have the 2-year Anniversary of the blog coming up.....and you know what that means, right? That's right....something I want to make for MEEEEEEE! Ya gotta take care of number one, right? Love and kindness to all,

Pixie

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 5

Yes, I have decided to pick back up where I left off. In these tough times, too many people have emailed me to let me know that making "something from nothing" is a much-needed quality!  So, I have answered the call in the only way I truly know how......cook! 
I was recently faced with the type of "leftover" that is my favorite. A scary leftover as well, because when something is a quality ingredient, well, you just don't want to screw it up, frankly.  So when I took this out of the freezer, I really had to put my gourmet thinking cap on....


Leftover rib portion of my New Years' prime rib roast!  There is a small amount of tender and delicious meat between those bones, and as I always do, I think of Pho...(Vietnamese noodle soup, pronounced "fuh"). There is absolutely nothing on earth as wonderful as that steaming hot bowl, filled with meats and vegetables, spicy and noodle-filled, that I do not love.  On to the preparation...first, I 
covered the remaining rib bones with water, after carefully separating out the lovely tender bits of prime rib meat, in a large stock pot.




While that was starting to heat up, I stuck a few pieces of onion with some whole cloves, sliced some ginger root, tossed all with vegetable oil and placed on a baking sheet covered with foil. 



Under the broiler this goes, to get nice and charred...then, I gathered up some dry ingredients from the Pixie-Pantry for soaking...dried shiitake mushrooms, and rice noodles...


Notice the ingredients in the background getting ready for their part in this tasty soup. In the next photo you see the noodles and mushrooms on the right....I then poured boiling water over them both, to let them soak while I prepped the rest that you see here...


Clockwise from plate. The broiled and cooled onion and ginger, some pickled jalapenos, some fresh basil, fresh cilantro and in back; Thai chili garlic paste, hoisin sauce, pepper, cinnamon sticks, Chinese five-spice powder, and salt.

I added the soaked rice noodles, the drained and chopped shiitake mushrooms, and the thinly sliced prime rib pieces to the prep...


I added the cinnamon stick and the five spice powder to the broth, which had simmered for three hours by now, after straining and putting back into the stock pot...it looked like this..


Keeping it at a nice, hot bubble, it was finally time to start building the bowl...first, prime rib pieces..


Then, in rapid, and getting-ever-so hungry fashion, rice noodles, cilantro, basil, jalapeno, shittake mushrooms, and a dollop each of Thai chili hot sauce, and hoisin sauce...



Now, we ladle over that wonderful beef stock....and let the heat of it finish cooking the beef, and mix all the sauce and noodles in with a spoon...

The results? PHO-TASTIC! hahahaha...if I do say so myself! A warming, comforting, yet exotic spicy broth with tasty additions...that has me craving it again already.  See?


Yes, it was the fulfillment of a craving, and a wonderPHOl one at that. What's that? Oh, OK, I'll stop with the PHO references....but it is really.....really....good. Next time you are faced with a cold, snowy Sunday at home, take the time, and make some real, authentic soup. 

On to our visit...I went to go and find Kitchen Angel to let her know that soup was literally, on....and just what do you think she was up to now?  That's right, that selective and presumptuous lady was strolling down the aisles of my pantry! Selecting what SHE thought were the very best items to use in the next post!


Gotta keep my eye on that one, I tell ya.  Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for the next "Something From Nothing" post ~ which has a decidedly Italian flair!  Love and kindness to all,

Pixie

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Attack of the Killer....Broccoli?

Yes, broccoli. A vegetable that like Brussels sprouts, people simply love to hate. I have never shared this particular aversion, and love broccoli it all its manifest glories. I recently bought an embarrassingly large head of broccoli, and then became busy. I mean busy to the point where my broccoli began to...um, "age" as it were.  See?


It's not inedible......yet. I knew I had to act fast. Well, other than steamed with lemon and butter, what could I do to use (and not waste) this cancer-fighting, delicious vegetable? I will show you my other favorites, but the first solution was......Cream of Broccoli soup.  First I broke the vegetable down into its constituent parts. And yes, this humble vegetable has more than one edible part ~ more on that, later.


I cut the top into florets, and peeled and sliced the stalks. Broccoli stalks are incredibly tasty ~ like a broccoli-esqe water chestnut. More on their use later.  Then I assembled the goodies for my soup....


Clockwise from bottom; salt, pepper, and chicken bouillon cube (vegetarians substitute veggie stock), parsley, onion, water, garlic, olive oil, butter, sherry, broccoli and carrots.

Now, we cook....melt 2 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. oil in your saucepan, and add the onion, chopped, and the garlic, minced. Note: you do not have to worry about chopping these too finely, as we are going to puree' it all later. Saute' on low until soft and fragrant. Sprinkle with a pinch of that salt, too.....to make for a quicker saute'.


Then, dice up the carrots, chop the parsley, and take approximately 3 cups of those broccoli florets...like so...


Add to the pot along with the chicken bouillon, water, salt and pepper...


Cover and simmer until the broccoli is tender, approximately ten to fifteen minutes...then, get your carrots, and seasonings ready. From bottom to top I have cayenne pepper, thyme, paprika and white pepper. Add one half of the chopped carrot, and 2 Tablespoons butter, mixed with 2 Tablespoons flour. I melt the butter with the flour for thirty seconds in the microwave (a pixie-approved usage of said device, by the way), and mix together with a fork before putting into the soup.





Simmer for another five to ten minutes....just until the carrots are tender. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and get out your immersion blender. Use a regular blender, in batches, if you do not have an immersion blender.



Puree' the soup until it is a nice, velvety texture. Leave chunks of broccoli, if desired. Toss in the remaining carrot pieces, all the spices, and two Tablespoons sherry. Cover and simmer for another five to ten minutes, just until the second batch of carrots are tender. 



The results? Well, served attractively in a soup tureen with a garnish of fresh basil.....



Or....chopped fresh parsley, or your herb of choice...


This would be a soup I would entertain with! Freshly served in a hot mug, with nice, Italian bread, toasted and buttered is how I rolled with this one!  It was creamy without having to use cream....the broccoli flavor became more subtle, yet still tasty, and it was a satisfying winter lunch! Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for what became of the rest of the killer (delicious!) broccoli, a catch-up of "something from nothing" posts, and of course, a visit from our favorite audience member, Kitchen Angel. Love and kindness to all,

Pixie



 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tuna and Ketchup

NO....NOOOO! NOT "ketchup", but, CATCH-UP. As in, I know I have failed to blog since November 6th, and "gee, was committing to a weekly post about making something from nothing a really good idea while working full-time"? Ahem, that answer clearly, is no. I will attempt, however, to reinvigorate my "something from nothing" posts, beginning this Sunday. Clearly, though, I have been busy. I DID manage to prepare this as well, on that end-of-November holiday that we foodies look forward to so much....


Yes, it was a very traditional Thanksgiving supper, shared with the awesome company of Son B., Daughter S., and Dear Husband. Moving on...Recently one cold January weekend, I saw Giada DeLaurentiis preparing a tuna sandwich that was anything but routine.  The recipe is called "Open-Faced Tuna Sandwiches with Arugula and Sweet-Pickle Mayonnaise". Well, the sandwiches looked so delicious, I simply HAD to, was COMPELLED to re-create them for lunch.  What is interesting is that within one day of seeing that episode (go here for the recipe), I found this gorgeous piece of tuna....


I sliced it in half lengthwise, as this piece would be way too thick for a sandwich, and saved the remainder for my next adventure in tuna. Then, gathered up the following ingredients...


Clockwise from the tuna...kaiser rolls, arugula, kosher salt & pepper, mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, extra virgin olive oil, chopped fresh parsley, tarragon, basil and thyme, and cheddar cheese.  If you read the recipe you shall see that I may not be using precisely the same ingredients. That's the whole point of cooking creativity! Substitute! Play around a bit...you will find it gastronomically rewarding, I promise.

After drizzling the tuna with the olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and herbs, and place on a preheated grill pan like so...


While it is doing it's thing, mix some mayonnaise with sweet pickle relish, or large chunks of sweet pickle per the recipe....



Flip your fishie to begin grilling the other side after about 3 minutes...you want it nice and rare in the middle...



Butter and toast your roll of choice when the fish is almost done...



Add your cheddar after removing your bread, and top with a lid to melt. Here's mine before lidding...



Then, spread your toasted bun with the pickle mayo...


Top with a piece of the tuna (as you can see, I cut that piece into two)..


Finally, top the tuna with some arugula sprinkled with kosher salt, black pepper, and olive oil...


The results? Well, first have a peek....


I almost regret making this sandwich. How will I ever eat canned tuna again? Ruined, I tells ya, ruined! I made a second sandwich with the remaining piece of tuna faster than you can say "sorry Charlie" lol! Eat well my friends, and stay tuned for Portuguese fish stew, something from nothing catch-up (not ketchup!), and a winter visit from Kitchen Angel! Wonder how she is spending the colder months...hmmmm. Love and kindness to all,

Pixie