Monday, October 24, 2011

So I'll file this one in the "completely off the cuff" and "has potential but needs refining" categories.  I had some thinly sliced steak that I planned to use in some carne asada/rice and beans/tacos type thing tonight.  Before I headed off to the gym I whipped up a quick marinade with some chile, lime juice, salt, cumin and oregano.  I had every intention of popping into the grocery store to grab some tortillas, but just didn't feel like it when I drove by and went straight to the gym.  I figured instead I'd do some rice with lime/cilantro and black beans.  Then I got home and discovered I was out of black beans (unheard of!) and didn't really feel like rice after all.  As I was spinning my grain and starch lazy suzan and pouting at my rice selection, my container of egg noodles caught my eye.'

I love egg noodles.  I think it's a childhood thing.  You know, those fond memories of cube steak and egg noodles that really should remain memories because I don't really crave cube steak.  Or noodles and butter. Now that I'm an adult, I love me a good beef stroganoff.  Odd, I know, for a mushroom hater, but I just pick them out.

All of a sudden I really wanted egg noodles, and I had beef but the flavor profile of my marinade seemed a little, well, not quite right.  But I figured what the hell...

I sauteed some white onions, garlic and cubanelle peppers, then tossed in diced steak and an extra squeeze of lime juice and tossed a cover on the skillet.  When the noodles were just about done, I tossed them in and let everything cook together.  The juice from the steak made a nice, light sauce and I only had to tweak the seasoning a bit.  I didn't bother to take a picture - the steak was a tad gray and only the cubanelles added some color.  I think next time I will use a different cut of meat and give it a good sear.  The chiles were a good addition, I will likely play around with the combo and maybe toss in some corn.

For something borne out of not really wanting anything I'd planned on, dinner didn't turn out so bad.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oven-dried tomatoes


For all my bragging about speedy meals, I really love laboring over something that takes hours.  Taking the time to make a good risotto is one of the most therapeutic things ever.  Tonight, I decided to take my first stab at oven-dried tomatoes.  I snagged a bunch of plum tomatoes at the market this weekend for a good price.  You may recall that my friend the Tomato King passed along a jar of these last year and I loved them.  His approach involves roasting all night.  I've struggled with keeping the temperature in my oven low enough to pull that off, but not quite three hours in and I've made some progress.  Once again the house smells awesome and I have something I can check on and fiddle with for hours.

About two hours in
I quartered the tomatoes and cleaned out the seeds and guts.  Then I stuck them in a strainer over a bowl and gave them a good sprinkle of kosher salt and let them sit for a bit to draw some more moisture out.  Then I tossed them with a count or two of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, finely chopped garlic and a bit of oregano.  I think I have a little way to go but they're starting to taste great.  I doubt I'll preserve them, they will either end up on a pizza or in a pasta later this week.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Navy bean and ham soup

Last weekend I grabbed a small ham from Oscar's when I was up north closing up camp.  Of course, it would be a mortal sin to let any go to waste, so today I decided to use some in a soup.  The nascent idea involved white beans, spinach and the ham, but other than that I had no idea what I was doing.  It came out great and I did a little social network bragging about how awesome my house smelled, prompting recipe requests.  Y'all know me when it comes to measuring anything, but here's my best shot as describing the process..

I started by building a nice sofrito base, cooking down some chopped onion, garlic, and black pepper in a little bit of chicken stock.  When the onions were getting all nice and melty, I added about half a bag of dried navy beans, rinsed but not soaked.  I think this is the first time I've ever cooked with dried beans.  As long as you have the time, it's great.  For the next hour or two, I just let the beans slowly simmer in the sofrito, chopped rosemary, thyme, a bay leaf and stock, adding a bit more stock and then a couple pints of water as needed.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do about adding the ham - I wanted the smoky flavor to build into the soup but I didn't want the ham to get all chewy or anything.  In the end, I put the ham in about an hour after the beans, maybe a little less.
Still bubbling...

That was pretty much it.  I just let the soup simmer until the beans softened up, playing around a bit with the spices along the way until it seemed right.  A pinch of kosher salt here.  A shake of boquet garni there.  Once the beans were finally soft, I tossed in some chopped spinach, let it cook just a bit more, and that was it.

While the soup was cooking, I whipped up a quick apple crisp.  Although a normal person would eat soup and then dessert, I'm not going to lie.... straight for the crisp for dinner.  Like magic, the chill in the air seemed to drag me right back into the kitchen.  Yay!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dried Milk?! No, it's not 1963

I've been very neglectful of Green Peccadilloes lately.  In all honesty, I've felt fairly uninspired and haven't spent much time in the kitchen, and when I do, it's nothing to write home about.  I've also been fighting this change of seasons bug or something for a week or two, which has had my palette all messed up.  I mean, who wants to hear about ramen and ice cream for dinner. (Although I know you all secretly love it too...)

Tonight I decided to get back on the horse and come up with a way to cram a whole bunch of vegetables down my throat in a last ditch effort to get back on track.  I figured some spice wouldn't hurt either, so I planned a thai red curry/vegetable dish over rice.  Easy to make and good for me.

Typically I just stir fry up some veggies, dump in some coconut milk and a healthy dollop of red curry paste and I have an easy, inexpensive, reasonably tasty dinner.  I'm often frustrated, though, because I only use about half of the can of coconut milk and the rest goes to waste.  What the heck do you do with leftover coconut milk?? I've searched for smaller cans to no avail.  One day I found a powdered version and was intrigued, especially as it's really only a vehicle for the curry paste.

I had some serious flashbacks to home ec while playing with the powdered milk.  Was it just my school that was super cheap and only used milk in a box when teaching kids to cook?  Unsurprisingly, the result was less than perfect and my sauce wasn't nearly as creamy as it normally is.  The flavor was fine though and the meal served its purpose.  I did feel better that I wasn't as wasteful, but it's certainly not something I'd serve to company.  Ah well - maybe I'll just keep searching for smaller portions of coconut milk that's actually hydrated.  Lesson learned.