Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mushroom Bourguignon

There are three reasons I have always stayed away from anything called a "bourguignon".
1) Isn't it obvious? The name is so intimidating, who would want to make it?
2) One of the main ingredients is wine...and I typically don't cook with wine.
3) It's traditionally a meat dish. We don't love lots of meat in our house, so I don't experiment as much as I should with it.
SO, this all added up to three bourguignon-free decades. They were happy decades, I might add. I didn't know what I was missing...until I found this. And this.
Oh. my.

It's official: I am smitten with Smitten Kitchen. I love the ingredients, I love the experimentation with food, I love the food. My goodness, this dish was simply amazing!It was a little more time intensive than I like to get on any given day, so I just made it a project with my son - we took turns dumping things into the pot together and and stirring, etc. We had a lot of fun together and it kept his attention for quite some time. It ended up taking probably 45 minutes total and it was worth it. Simply amazing. A beautiful blend of flavors, and I loved that it was a meat-free dish that didn't feel meat-free. I will definitely be serving this for years and years to come. A new staple in the house. My husband even thought that it was better than a beef that is saying something.I looked up a few different substitutes for red wine and decided to go with red grape juice mixed with just a couple tablespoons of vinegar (I used rice vinegar, but I think because you reduce it so much that white vinegar would do the trick). I just filled it mostly full (as you can see in the picture) with the juice and then added the vinegar. I thought it tasted worked beautifully. What a pleasant surprise! I did simmer it a little long, to try and reduce some of the extra flavor and get a stronger flavor from the juice/vinegar mixture, and it was just heavenly.Here is a picture of reducing the grape juice - reducing is simply a technique where you let it steam off the liquid for a few minutes until you have a more concentrated form of the flavor from whatever liquid you started with. It's just a fancy word for "cooking off ".
Here's where you can find the recipe:
I'll be making this again soon, I was just absolutely craving it the next day!
Oh, and my grocery store was out of thyme, so I used rosemary and I thought it worked out just fine.
What a relief to know that you can make an alcohol-meat-free bourguignon and just love it - just LOVE it!
Bon Apetite, if you will.
My very first 5-star dish.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew

Have you been introduced to Smitten Kitchen? I just recently was, and I'm sort of wondering how I ever culinarily survived without it. Wow. Love the commentary, love the experimentation with various foods, love the healthiness...just love it. I've tried a few recipes from their site - stay tuned for more reviews!I recently tried their Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew.
It was healthy! It was delicious! It was...easy. No really, I bet you have many of the ingredients on hand. I find Moroccan food to be a very delicate balance of sweet and savory at the same time and most places I've eaten it don't seem to achieve that balance perfectly. However, this recipe balanced the flavors beautifully. The crunchy chickpeas (I left out the almonds), the savory potatoes, the sweet butternut squash (which I bought pre-peeled - awesome!), the cinnamon and cumin all added up to perfection.
I was skeptical of the green olives, but if you make this, you must put them in. I bought a cheap brand, so they don't need to be anything special, but they really made the dish in a serious way. Even if you don't like green olives, humor me. They really are perfect in the dish. With a dollop of yogurt (or sour cream if you're like me and you meant to buy plain yogurt, but you inadvertently bought vanilla...hate when that happens) it was just delicious, hearty and healthy. This dish is one I'll make over and over again!Mmmm...
4 Stars

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rating System

Ok, so, now that I am re-vamping this website and it's no longer all about the menu, it's just about what I make, I figured my reference points should be different. SO, I'll be rating the dishes on a 5 star system.
I'll be pretty strict about my ratings as in, you could probably trust 3 stars to be pretty good, although I suspect that most of the dishes I'll get around to posting will be my favorites that I want to remember, so they'll probably mostly be 3 and above. Here's how the rating with go:
5 stars: I could live off of this stuff!
4 stars: I'd make it again, for sure, and you should make it too!
3 stars: It'll be in our rotation here and there, but was worth making.
2 stars: I could take it or leave it - and definitely won't make it again.
1 star: Bleck.

Cashew Tilapia and Tabbouleh

Ok, so, here I am, the first day after my new year's resolution to write on this blog at least once a week. And I'm doing it! I'm sure by June it will be midnight on Sunday and I'll be typing up last week's entry, but that's how resolutions go, right? It feels good to be accomplishing something now, anyway. =)

SO, tonight we had Cashew Encrusted Tilapia and Tabbouleh for dinner. Uh*mazing.
Not only was it beautiful, it was delicious! Lots of flavor from herbs, lemons, nuts...lots of crunch and variety of textures. I just loved this whole dish, which is why I'm posting them together!

The fish could also be adapted for a number of dietary needs - you could easily make it gluten free by using only nuts to dip the fish in (and skipping out on the bread crumbs and flour). You could also use just Panko Bread Crumbs instead of nuts if you wanted the crunch but no nuts. I suppose you could also slice chicken thinly and use that for you non-fish-lovers out there (and you know who you are).

In either case, it was absolutely fantastic, flavorful, and healthy; three things that are a must in my house!
This Tabbouleh is something that we eat regularly at our house. It packs a lot of flavor without fat and tastes fresh and delicious. The recipe I use isn't strictly a Tabbouleh as it calls for more wheat than the traditional, but I like it this way, so that's how I make it! I also throw in pine nuts and feta usually, but they are most definitely optional.Just look at that chopping board - tomatoes, mint, parsley, green onions, cucumbers...mmmmm. Even my toddler eats it! Oh, and don't be afraid of Bulghur (cracked) wheat! You can pick it up at almost any grocery store in the cereal, baking, or bulk grains area and it's even easier to make than rice!
It's a very forgiving recipe that you can play with by adding more lemon juice or herbs until you get the flavor you like. I find it can be chilled for up to 3 days and still be delicious, so all the chopping's worth it if you have some downtime and make it early!

Ok, now, let's talk fish. Tilapia is really quite mild and delicious if you are a fence-sitter in the seafood department, but you really could use chicken for this dish as well.
I started out using a meat pounder to crush the cashews, but I was failing miserably at it, so I busted out the Magic Bullet and that did the trick. Any blender/food processor would work. I used salted cashews because that's all I had on hand - so sue me. =) I also used Panko Bread Crumbs because Costco sells them for cheap and I think they make your dish much more gourmet-ish. Really, they do. You can buy them next to the normal bread crumbs at any grocery store.
Look at the little line-up of coatings for my fish before they were popped in the oven - isn't it pretty, like playing leap-frog into the pan. =)So, then I popped them in the oven...then comes the universal question: WHEN IS THE FISH DONE??
I used to wonder the same thing - in fact, I used to cook fish until it was straight rubber because I was so nervous I was under-cooking it. Well, fish is a little different than normal meat, it's going to look a little plump, juicy, and even un-cooked when it is cooked. If you stick a fork in it and just separate the layers so you can see the thickest part, if it looks a little flaky on the outside and has gone opaque in the center, your fish is completely cooked through, and you can pull it out. Even if it's just a little early, it'll still steam for a few minutes once you take it out. Mine were perfection at 20 minutes.
Mmmm...just look at that crunchy, salty goodness. You know you want some!
Lastly, I whipped up a little sauce for these puppies with whatever I had in the kitchen - some brown mustard, honey, and a little barbecue sauce. It was delicious, although I think a mango salsa on top in the summer would be out of this WORLD.

I think I should probably rate these recipes, for ease in reference later on. I think I'll use the good old fashioned star rating, and I'll explain that in another post in just a moment. Here's how I'd rate them:
Tabbouleh: 4.5 stars
Cashew Tilapia: 4 stars

Ok, that's all folks! Let me know if you have any questions or if anyone tries it what you think of it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Roman Chicken

Ok, anyone who hasn't tried this recipe needs to. It's delicious, it's easy, it has 5 stars and 655 ratings on the it's dairy free, which I know is helpful for many of us!


New Years Resolution

Ok, OKAY!! I've been such a slacker with this website. The end of the year literally chewed me up and spit me out and I am just finally getting back to business as usual. And business as usual naturally involves New Year's Resolutions. SO, I am planning on starting fresh with this blog. I'm no longer going to type out my full menu - it's too exhausting, time consuming, daunting, etc...etc... Instead, at least once a week (and this is the resolution part), I'm going to write a review for at least one recipe that I make (or reference a few recipes) hopefully complete with pictures! I think this will be much more reasonable.

Hurray for cooking!