Thursday, July 28, 2011

Take that, Trisha.

I've been working on not eating anything fried over the past couple months. It's not good for me, it really doesn't make things taste better (with the exception of calamari), and I for some reason always dwell on some comment somewhere by Trista Sutter about how there is never a reason to eat fried food and for some sad reason, it now shames me when I do. (I am also shamed that I know who Trista Sutter is, though in my defense, I googled Trisha Sutter when trying to find a link for this rant)

Anyway, Hubby started pestering asking for my favorite version of Coconut Shrimp recently, and it literally wasn't until we sat down and I started shoveling them in my mouth that I realized, Hey jackass...have we forgotten the concept of FRIED??

Oops. Whatever. Once in a while won't kill you. My new rule is no ordering anything fried. Except calamari. Cause there's no way I'm attempting that one at home.

As for the shrimp, buy large ones, and if you can, have the butcher de-vein and butterfly them. Otherwise, make sure you at least de-vein them yourself. It's gross, but less gross than eating shrimp poop. I don't care of it's plankton. It's still poop. And it doesn't make it better to call it a vein, thankyouverymuch.

If you don't know how to do this...ugh. How do I explain this one about I let someone else do it for me. (Thank you Umamimart!!)

Read the ingredients through before you start-since you have to dip the shrimp in several things, I'm posting each step's ingredients should make prepping for this one a little easier, hopefully.

Coconut Shrimp
About 1/4 cup flour (rice flour works better than white, but whichever you've got)

BOWL TWO (combine the following)
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/2 cup flour (see flour note above)
2/3 cup beer (one with some taste is better than, say, Coor's Light.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flaked coconut (should be in the baking aisle by the chocolate chips)

24 large, prepped (deveined/shelled) raw shrimp
3 cups canola oil
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp horseradish (add more to taste)
2 tsp mustard

Tip: Use one hand for the dipping. If you use two you will make a horrid mess, get coconut all over the place, and be annoyed at the world. Trust me on this one.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or aluminum foil.

Hold a shrimp by the tail, dip it in flour to coat, and gently shake off excess flour. Dip in egg/beer batter, and allow the excess to drip off. Gently roll shrimp in coconut, covering both sides, and place on the baking sheet. When all the shrimp are dipped, place baking sheet in the fridge for an hour or so. (The freezer for 15 min. will work if you're in a pinch)

To make the dipping sauce, combine marmalade, horseradish and mustard. It's not exact, so use more of less of each if you want.

In large, deep saute or other pan, heat oil over high heat. To test whether it's hot enough (at least 350 degrees), drop in a piece of coconut. If it sizzles immediately and soon turns golden brown, you're good to go.

Add shrimp about 6 at a time (or less, depending on the size of your pan). Cook, turning once with tongs, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve hot with sauce.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't piss me off. I do it well enough on my own.

I am not what you might call 'graceful.' In the past six months or so, I've punctured my scalp on the medicine cabinet, had X-rays taken after landing chin first in a midnight fall, fallen teeth-first into my towel rack, and stubbed more toes than I can possibly remember. Within the first three months at my agency, I ended up at Urgent Care twice with Exacto blade-inflicted wounds (one resulting in a now permanently numb fingertip and a note in my medical file immortalizing my "self-inflicted stab wound"). I'm like a walking worker's comp suit.

Tonight was, of course, no different. Granted, it was only me slamming the back of my head on the bottom of the freezer door as I was digging around the fridge for the asparagus, but the resulting headache, mixed with Ramona's fondness for bitching nonstop at the back door about the sad state of her spoiled indoor cat life (You wanna live outside, Cat? Really? Really??) just pissed me off tonight.

Apparently, Hubby had somehow foreseen this evening's events, and requested pasta with Arrabiata ("Angry" in Italian) sauce. Luckily for him, he didn't piss me off, Arrabiata sauce is easy (even though it's made basically from scratch), and I really needed some recipes this week that will help use up the red Fresno chiles that are growing like crazy right now before that starts annoying me too. (They're right next to our tomatoes, which are NOT producing, but that's a complaint for another day)

If you don't have fresh chiles, and don't feel like buying them (why?) then just use a tsp or so of dried red chile flakes. Or enough to make the sauce angry. And if you want, just buy a can of crushed tomatoes. Hubby had the gall to ask why I hadn't done just that as he watched me stick my (clean) hand in the can to squeeze the whole tomatoes, but dammit it was fun and made me feel better.

Pasta with Arrabiata Sauce
Olive oil (less than a tbsp)
3 large garlic cloves, smashed (I used the back of a wooden spoon)
One brown onion, diced
2 red chiles, finely chopped
Half a carrot, shredded with a cheese grater (or about 6 baby carrots, but a regular one would have been easier and saved my fingers)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2-3 tsp fresh)
1 large can whole tomatoes
salt to taste
1 package fresh linguine or other pasta
Freshly shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, to top

In large stock pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic, and stir often for about a minute. Add onion and chiles, and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add carrot and thyme, and cook another 3 minutes or so.

Open the can of tomatoes and pour the liquid into the onion mixture. Make sure your hands are clean, then stick one in the can and get to squeezing. They should be soft enough to kind of explode on impact, so just squeeze until you don't feel any big chunks left. Add tomatoes to sauce, stir, and bring to a boil.

Once it starts boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about a half hour or until it's thickened up and doesn't seem very liquidy (wet?). You can cook it longer if you want; it's going to be edible right away, so don't worry too much about the timing here. Add a bit of salt to taste—probably about 1/2 tsp or so.

When it's just about done, bring a large pot of water (add a good pinch of salt) to a boil, then cook the pasta 2-4 minutes or according to the package's directions. Drain, but don't rinse, then add the pasta to the sauce. Toss pasta and sauce gently, then serve with a sprinkle of cheese on top. And some parsley if you want to be fancy.

(I served with trimmed asparagus that was coated with cooking spray, drizzled with balsamic and sea salt, then roasted in the oven about 12 minutes at 400)

I will try harder to be more helpful.

I love Google analytics. Not only can I see which of my posts have been most popular and which make you turn and run screaming, I can also see what Google search phrases take people to my blog. Apparently, a whole lot of peeps are searching for Jamie Oliver's gumbo (and so I hope my version didn't disappoint). Also, people (yes, more than one) wander over to Yum after searching

I dropped a knife on my foot

Well, then. I mean, we all need ways to distract ourselves while waiting for the ambulance to show up. Dinner planning would probably be on my list, too. So I hope I was able to help. And that you got to keep all your toes.


Monday, July 25, 2011

It's falafel...sort of?

I guess you can call this a Mexican version of falafel...cause I have no idea what else to call it. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical while making it...the "avocado spread" was a little weird (needed some heat and did not need the sour cream—or greek yogurt, in my case-I've adjusted for this recipe), the patties were super sticky and needed to cook way longer than the recipe called for, and I didn't have any greens...but really, it tasted pretty good.

So, you know, follow theirs, follow mine, don't follow at all. Up to you.

Pinto Falafel & Avocado Pita Sandwich
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup crushed low-fat tortilla chips
2 tbsp or so coarsely chopped red onion
very small handful cilantro
about 1/4 tsp cumin
1 large egg white
small squeeze of lime juice

1 peeled avocado, mashed
2 tbsp chopped tomato (or about 5 chopped cherry tomatoes)
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp 0% greek yogurt (optional)
squeeze of lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of fresh black pepper
dash of hot sauce (Tabasco works)

Canola oil
Whole wheat pitas, cut in half crosswise
Thin red onion slices, separated into rings

In food processor or blender, combine first 8 ingredients (beans through lime). Pulse until blended. (I have a mini food processor, and everything fit perfectly in it, though I had to add the beans a bit at a time.) If you don't have a blender, just cut everything really small and then mash it all up with a fork.

In large skillet, heat a bit of canola oil over medium high. When oil sizzles (test it by throwing in a drop of water-it should go crazy), take a smallish handful of bean mixture (1/4 cup or so), shape it into a patty-like shape, and fry it about 4 minutes a side or until dark golden brown on both sides and they stick together.

While they cook, combine the avocado ingredients. Open the pita and spoon in some avocado, top with a cooked patty or two, and arrange a couple onion slices (and green stuff if you've got it. I think even lettuce would work).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I have no idea what they really eat in Cambodia.

As you know, I love me some Cambodian Kampot pepper...and I'm always intrigued by the recipes that Pepper Project posts on their Facebook page. So when I saw one for black bean and corn salad, which reminded me of a similar salad I've made and loved, I jumped on it. Plus, the parents were in town for the evening, and I wanted to try something good yet reasonably parents claim to be adventurous, but then I'll discover that my mom doesn't like fish. Or goat cheese. Or cucumber. Sooo...

I changed this up a bit from their recommended recipe (which they don't have posted for me to link to) and it was delicious and super easy. My mom went home ready to make it the very next day. The flank steak was easy, too. I rubbed the herbs and spices on the night before, let it set in tupperware over night, then handed over to Hubby, since he's the grillmeister.

Cambodian Bean & Corn Salad

1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
About 3/4 carton cherry tomatoes, halved
About 1 tsp. kampot pepper (or just use freshly-ground black pepper)
About 1/2 to 1 tsp. cumin
Small handful chopped cilantro (less than 1/4 cup)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Dash olive oil (less than a tsp.)
About 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Juice from half a lime
Dash of salt to taste

Combine all, serve. I think you can handle that.

Pepper-Garlic Flank Steak
1 tbsp canola oil
3 minced garlic cloves
2 tsp fresh, chopped oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp kampot pepper
About 1 tsp salt (I actually used about 1 tsp+ course grain sea salt for the rub, and then lightly sprinkled regular salt on right before grilling, so adjust accordingly)
Flank steak (I think mine was around 20oz)

Combine oil through salt. Rub mix all over steak, place in tupperware or large ziploc, refrigerate as long as possible (at least a few hours). Spray grill with cooking spray, and cook over high about 3-4 minutes a side or until cooked as you like. Slice thinly widthwise (across the grain) to serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back in the saddle.

I'm kind of amazed that today is only the 20th...I've been to New York and back, spent two days at the beach, wasted a week being sick, read about a million books, and watched far too many Lifetime movies to admit. The only thing I haven't done enough of is cook. And so here we are again.

How was New York? Fantastic. I don't really feel like it was New York as much as it was Hanging Out at the Parallel's House, but that was the whole reason I went. I even brought some Buffalo home with me...the world's most adorable child sweetly gave me her baby cold (how does something that has only been on this planet for 4 weeks have access to germs I haven't yet encountered?), which would have been fine with me, except for the fact that it was the gift that kept on giving, day after long, sneezy day. (Hubby says thanks for his share, as well.)

And so, rather than cooking, I spent last week eating meals that were more dorm-style than anything else.

Mac & Cheese out of a box is totally a meal. Especially the Three-cheese kind. But it's not exactly creative. This week, I'm making up for it. My plan is for Thai, Cambodian, falafel, and tropical chicken. In that order...and I'm excited, cause if everything is as good as Thai night, we're eating well this week.

This one takes a ton of basil; it's hard to give it an exact amount. I used one of the large containers from the grocery store, then just cleaned and stripped the leaves from the stems. You can chop them if you want, but they work fine if you leave them whole, too. I'd guesstimate I used about 3 to four cups of whole leaves.

Basil Pork
2 tbsp canola oil
6 cloves minced garlic
2 minced chiles (more or less according to your taste)
1 lb ground pork (or ground chicken or turkey)
5 tbsp fish sauce
Large package basil, washed picked from the stems (a good few cups worth)
Half a cucumber, peeled and sliced
Half a lime, quartered
Cooked rice, to serve
Cooked spring rolls (whatever frozen ones look good)

Heat oil over medium high, cook garlic and chiles a couple minutes. Add pork and cook until it turns completely white and not at all pink, about 8 minutes. Add fish sauce, then stir in basil leaves. Turn off heat. Serve over hot rice with slices of lime, cucumber, spring rolls, and dipping sauces (below).

Dipping sauces
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 shallot, minced
1 chile pepper
juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp chili paste
pinch of salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp water
And microwave 30 seconds at a time until dissolved

Friday, July 1, 2011

If he can't handle turning on the oven, he's basically worthless.

I'm leaving the hubby all by his lonesome next week, as I'm off to Buffalo to play with the parallel and her brand new bubba for a few days. Um, and according to the forecast, just in time.

I really don't worry about him when I'm out of town...he's a big boy—he knows his way around a kitchen. And if he's lazy, I know he'll be just fine with a bowl of frosted mini-wheats for dinner. But since he's going to have to deal with all the cat-related fun I normally take care of, I figured I'd be Nice Wife and make him something that he can just pop in the oven one night and pick at for a few days. Or take with to a 4th of July potluck. Or give to the cats...Whatever, I don't care, as long as it gets eaten.

Plus it was good practice-I'm planning on making a few dude-friendly freeze-and-bake meals for my girl and her hubby...with a 4 week old, I'm guessing they aren't doing a whole lot of cooking. I'm not going to attempt Italian in their kitchen, but the hubby will let me get away with not-quite-authentic here.

Cheese, Basil and Sausage Stuffed Shells
Dash of olive oil
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pre-cooked Italian-seasoned chicken sausage link, diced (use 2 if you want it meatier)
1 regular sized container of low-fat ricotta
2 cups shredded mixed Italian cheese (2% or part skim if possible)
1 egg
salt & pepper
dash of nutmeg
small handful chopped parsley
large handful chopped basil (about 1/4 cup or so)
Package of large pasta shells (or manicotti shells, either will work), cooked according to package directions
1 bottle of marinara

Preheat oven to 375.

While your pasta cooks (if you haven't done that yet), saute the onion, garlic and sausage in a little bit of oil for about 5 minutes or until the onion is a little transparent. Let cool. In large bowl, combine ricotta, 1.5 cups of shredded cheese, egg, nutmeg, a good pinch each of salt and pepper, parsley and basil. Stir in onion mixture.

Coat a large baking pan with cooking spray. Spread about a half cup of marinara across the bottom. When pasta is done, drain well, and fill each shell with a big spoonful of cheese mix, and place each stuffed shell cheese side up in cooking pan. When you've used up all the mixture (or you run out of room—either way, you may have a handful of shells left over), pour over remaining pasta sauce, spreading gently with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese.

Cover loosely with foil, and bake about 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 10 minutes or until cheese and melted and sauce is bubbly.