Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baja Shrimp Tacos from Goop + Mango Margaritas from Ellie Kreiger

Another simple and yummy dinner idea from baja shrimp tacos with a side of black beans.

You can find the recipe here.  I made homemade pico de gallo (which turned into chunky salsa because I was too lazy to chop and used the food processor), and guacamole.  Sauteed some shrimp (no grill inside).  Put it all in a corn tortilla with some Cholula hot sauce, as recommended.  Simple and delicious.

Instead of canned beans, I used homemade black beans I had in the freezer for a night like this.  I just reheated them as directed with a crushed garlic clove and cilantro stems.
I also saw Mexican night as a perfect opportunity for some frozen margaritas.  They're one of my favorite drinks, yet for some reason I've never made a perfect-tasting margarita at home.

I stumbled upon Ellie Kreiger's recipe for frozen mango margaritas, which was perfect since I had a bag of frozen mango chunks in the freezer.

They were really good, but nothing beats the original. :-)

Very nice dinner, but it will be a long time before anything can top last night's dinner!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bibimbap from Goop

Been wanting to try this bibimbap from Gwyneth Paltrow's for a long, long time.  Finally did.

Verdict: I've long been a fan of build-a-bowls with rice.  This one is amazing.  You better go try it, NOW.  And make sure you make that red miso sauce. Holy amazing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cajun Quinoa

Normally I like my grains simple, simple, simple.  I cook them all - rice, quinoa, barley - with only water.  I don't even add salt.

I do this because I know I'm going to top them with something very flavorful, like spicy curry, garlicky black beans, or a tangy vinaigrette.  I love the contrast of the soft, warm, subtly nutty grains with cold, vinegary olives, acidic-sweet tomatoes, or toasted seeds.

But, sometimes I want a hot, savory, rib-sticking grain dish that doesn't even need contrast; it just IS mouthwatering and flavor-packed alone.

You can accomplish a crazy-flavorful grain dish with any aromatic vegetables, spices, and grain that you like.  All you need to do is apply the basic principles.  Start by sautéing aromatic veggies.  Add your grains and spices to toast and deglaze.  Add something protein-y, like tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, or field roast sausage.  Cover with 2 parts water or broth (to 1 part grain) and cook until done.  That's it!

This particular quinoa dish has a bit of a cajun or creole thing going on, I suppose.  It's a simple weeknight meal, and I suggest you serve it with a side salad and be done with it.

Cajun Quinoa

1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 field roast sausage, sliced
1 1/2 cups quinoa
big pinch garlic powder
big pinch chili powder
cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 big tomato, diced (or a few cherry tomatoes, chopped)
1 splash red wine
3 cups vegetable broth

1. heat oil and butter over medium heat in a pot
2. meanwhile, chop onions, peppers, celery, carrot, and garlic, in that order, and begin adding them to the pot with a generous pinch of kosher salt, as you chop.
3. while the veggies soften, slice the sausage and add it to the pot.
4. add the quinoa, stir to coat, and let toast a little while you add all the spices to the pot
5. deglaze with red wine
6. add tomatoes and broth, bring to boil, cover and reduce to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, fluff with a fork, and your quinoa is ready.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stir Fried Udon Noodles, Tofu & Veggies

Stir fry with udon noodles, tofu, broccoli, onions, peppers, carrots, napa cabbage, and a yummy sauce. Stir fry tips here.

Here's the counter with all the ingredients prepped.
The sauce is delicious, and I got the inspiration here.

1/2 c hoisen sauce
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet red chili sauce
1-2 Tbsp sriracha
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 nub grated ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
black pepper

Mmmm. I would like some more of this right now.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pistachio rosewater date brownies with himalayan pink salt

I'm telling you right now, you won't find THIS much flavor in such a tiny package anywhere else. These little date squares are IN-SANE. And the credit goes to my co-worker, Patricia, who came up with the genius idea and brought them to the office to share with everyone.  We couldn't stop running back to the refrigerator to pop "just one more" little square of deliciousness into our mouths.

But let's start from the beginning.  I've shared with you the wonder of date brownies, and date truffles before.  Patricia's idea is a spin on the classic.  But something about the rosewater, pistachios, and pink salt elevate these treats to an entirely new level.

So start with the original recipe, and try Patricia's or your own spin on it for a healthy and decadent treat.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Seafood Gumbo

Growing up I always loved soup, and I always loved seafood, so I ordered lots of seafood gumbo at many restaurants while on vacation with my parents.  I've never not been a food critic, so I judged very bowl by flavor, thickness, and whether or not it contained generous chunks of seafood (good), or token slivers (not good).

I also remember my Uncle Hal making duck gumbo and chicken gumbo for family when we'd come to Gray, Georgia to visit.

My exposure to gumbo continues because my boyfriend is somewhat of a gumbo connoisseur.  That's to say, he has never made it but having lived in New Orleans he has eaten lots of it and he continues to order it at every restaurant where it appears on the menu.  I've put off making it, because a) we weren't eating seafood for almost a year and b) his standards are high; it would have to be perfect, and we all know what perfectionism becomes in the hands of a procrastinator.

But one night, I bit the bullet.  And as insurance, I warned Chris that this gumbo was not going to be that great, that I was using a bag of Trader Joe's frozen seafood, not fresh, that I'd "give it a whirl" but that I wasn't putting much effort into it aka he should adjust his expectations accordingly.

Ahh. Pressure off.  Then, I proceeded to read recipes and watch gumbo how-to videos on YouTube until I understood the process.  Beyond the basic ingredients, I figured I had enough cooking judgement to season and measure how I saw fit.

The result: gumbo that stands up to any gumbo I've ever had.  Gumbo that you'll want to dip your garlic toast into to sop up every drop, like you would a good mussels dish (and I definitely recommend garlic toast as a side. This was Chris's excited recommendation, and I love when he gets excited about dinner!). 

*Two things. I used vegetable broth and it worked wonderfully. Homemade seafood/shrimp stock would be even better I'm sure.  If you have fresh seafood, simmer the shells of your seafood in water with anything else you'd like to flavor the broth, like garlic, herbs, and vegetables until the broth becomes fragrant and nicely flavored.  Also, traditionally gumbo contains crab in its shell, but I don't like this because I find a gumbo with chunks of seafood and no shells much more enjoyable to eat.  Besides, as far as I can tell, the only reasons for keeping the shells on are a)flavor and b)quicker.  You can get the flavor from the shells by making stock; you don't have to serve soup with shells hanging out of it.  Personally, I used a bag of frozen seafood and guess what - it tasted great.


¼ c oil/butter mix
6 Tbsp flour
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
4 cups fresh okra, sliced into thin rounds
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups stock
2 bay leaves
thyme, 1 generous pinches
oregano, 2 generous pinches
chili powder, 1 Tbsp or more
garlic powder
generous sprinkle cayenne
salt & pepper
3 6-in andouille sausages, sliced (here's an excellent vegetarian option)
1 can diced tomatoes
seafood of choice (I used a bag of frozen shrimp, scallops & calamari via Trader Joes)


1. chop all ingredients and measure spices, warm stock in a separate pan, so all is ready to go

2. Stir oil and flour over medium (or med low, depending on your stove). It will become thick like a paste, but keep stirring constantly and it will thin out and become more liquid.  Stir constantly until the color of chocolate or mahogany.

3. Add onions and kosher salt, and continue to stir for about 5 minutes.  Mixture will seem very thick; that’s okay as long as you keep stirring. If it starts to stick you can add a little hot stock.

4. Add bell pepper, celery, garlic, more kosher salt, and continue to stir the thick paste until the vegetables soften.  You may need to add a little hot stock again to loosen it up.

5. Add okra.  Mixture will become very slimy.  Stir, stir, stir until the slime starts to cook out.  This will keep your gumbo from being slimy.  It will take 5-10 minutes. Add some stock if you need to.

6. Add spices and sausage and stir a couple minutes to combine.

7. Add tomatoes, remaining stock, and S&P to the pot. Stir and simmer for at least an hour.  If your gumbo already seems thick, you can cover the pot.  If you want it to reduce some, simmer uncovered (I simmered uncovered).

8. Add seafood and simmer a few minutes until cooked through.
9. Garnish individual bowls with file powder if desired.  Don’t add the file to the pot, because the gumbo will become too thick.

10. Serve over a little brown rice with toasted garlic bread on the side for dipping (you’ll want to soak up all the juice)!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My stove on any given night

I have spent so many happy evenings right here!  This is a picture of the stove, right in the middle of me cooking dinner.

Now, this particular dinner was somewhat of a palooza.  Dishpalooza, is what Chris named it.  That happens sometimes.  I get pulled in too many different directions as I consider what to make, and I never quite reach a decision.  Then, I end up making something that never really had an end goal, and the result is, in this particular case, brown rice and chopped kale with caramelized onions, sauteed pattypan squash, black beans, and toasted sesame seeds.

The sum was much less than its parts.

Do you see the sweet red chili sauce and the whole grain mustard over there on the left?  That is how all-over-the-place my creations are, on occasion.

But I made up for it the following night.  Oh - and I don't normally like for the stove to be that crowded. Simple is best.

Speaking of simple, last weekend we went to our friends' home for dinner.  We grilled on the back patio.  The dinner ended up so spontaneously wonderful, with everything working out in courses that we shared, so we got a little taste of everything.  We ended it with espresso and strawberry shortcake.  We left around midnight, but we could have sat there longer just chatting.

At one point, our friend Derek went inside to get the barbecue sauce.  Little did I know he was whipping it up from scratch in a little pan on the stove, with ketchup, onions, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and I can't remember what else.  When I went inside to grab something though, there was NO sign of it being homemade.  No ingredients left out, no messes, no recipe, no stressed out look (thinking of myself here).  He simply whipped it up as if it were nothing.  That is the kind of cooking we should all strive for!