Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rosemary's a start...

After a gorgeous Spring day, I felt inspired to cook with some lovely herbs and vegetables! I had already decided I was making a lovely bread roll recipe from Delicious UK called Pandiramerino. It is a sort of Tuscan bread roll made of olive oil, rosemary and sultanas. A combination of the best flavors in the world, no?

I must have read CL's Risotto chapter countless times because just from memory I had remembered that one of Tom's risotto recipes involved rosemary, and I knew that this particular risotto would go wonderfully with the mellow-flavored pandiramerino.

45. Leek and Sheep's Cheese Risotto - *Risotto*

The rosemary does not show up in the title of the risotto because it is a very subtle flavor! I had some leftover homemade rosemary oil from making the bread rolls, so I decided to use that as my base, rather than ordinary EVOO. (In a Rachael Ray type of way, I will tell you for the hundredth time that it means Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.)

The base of the risotto involved leeks (durr!), garlic, and rosemary. Here is where I make my blog confession that I am not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to 'newish' ingredients. I have never bought, nor ever eaten, leeks, ever! In fact, I didn't even know what they looked like so I had to do a Google Image sort of thing for them, sent the pic to Rafa's Blackberry, so that he could pick me up four leeks at the grocery store on his way home. He did a great job, and we did indeed have leeks that night!

some lovely rosemary oil (isn't that green fabulous!) and the spring colors of the leeks (I think leeks are actually a winter veg, as Tom says the risotto is a wintry meal, but they look Spring-like to me) ;)

I sweated down some leeks and garlic with rosemary in the rosemary oil and butter. After just a few minutes, the leeks became lovely and soft and ready for the rest of the risotto ingredients.

I then added arborio rice, tomato pureƩ, and mixed it all around the lovely leek juices, before adding some white wine to fizz and bubble for about a minute. The rest of the risotto was quite simple; I kept topping up the risotto mixture with chicken stock, and it was ready after 30 minutes or so! I added grated pecorino romano (the sheep's cheese of the evening!), but didn't add any more butter as I don't like my risotto too buttery.

Finished risotto with bread in the background.

Close-up of bread

The risotto was very lovely, though I think it was a bit saltier than I am used to. I think this was due to the fact that I made the stock too concentrated -- see, I bought a big jar of it at Costco a while ago, with instructions of how many teaspoons per cup of water. But I threw out the jar when I transfered the powder to my lovely Living Kitchen storage jar, and it's been guesswork ever since then. I think I've learned my lesson, and have an inkling of how much powder per liquid there should be in the future!

However, the richness of the cheese with the rosemary went perfectly with the bread!! Since the bread had only a touch of sweetness and provided an unbelievable crunch from the olive oil, it was the most wonderful accompaniment to the soft and warming risotto. Another risotto hit, courtesy of Tom N-D!

(And in a couple of days shall make arancini with my fabulous mozzarella!)

Spring in Full Swing!

Springtime in New York, or more specifically, at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I went there today with my sister and mom and nephew, and we spent a lazy Sunday among the tulips and cherry blossoms... Just to show you that Brooklyn is not just a bunch of concrete, a flower does grow in Brooklyn!

My favorites - tulips!

In full bloom

The cherry blossoms

Eating al fresco is the best way to eat, isn't it? Even with our modest picnic we managed to do alright. Ever had pretzels dipped in natural peanut butter and jam? Perfection!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hope you like curry!!!

Friday night had finally arrived, and it was time to get my curry cooking underway! I had decided to invite my wonderful friend Rosie, who is probably the most appreciative person in the universe when it comes to food, and my sister and brother-in-law with nephew in tow. My bro-in-law couldn't come because my nephew wasn't having a good day, so was instead put to bed early, and my B-I-L stayed with him.

I knew that all of my guests love some good Indian food, so I knew that the meal would be a hit, provided nothing went totally wrong!

39. A (kind of) Prawn Korma - *Indian*
40. Peas Braised with Indian Cheese (Muttor Paneer) - *Indian*

41. DIY: Make Your Own Paneer - *Larder Salads*
42. An Easy Pilau - *Indian*
43. Mint and Onion Chutney - *Indian*
44. Tropical Shake - *Afters*

You may recall that I had already made the Mango Chutney, but I needed to get the rest of the stuff done just before eating so that it could be lovely and fresh. Usually curries are best left in the fridge for a couple of days, but since I was working with prawns and cheese, I didn't want to cook the meals too far in advance. So the whole thing was a bit of a rush but I am not one to shy away from a challenge.

As soon as I got home from Queens, we started getting ready as we weren't sure when my sister would arrive. I chopped up the onion for the chutney as it needed to sit in milk for about an hour to get rid of its acrid taste. (After the hour, all I did was add chopped mint and salt, and that was it!)

I then sliced up another onion for the garnish for the Easy Pilau. I added the thinly sliced onion to a pan of warm vegetable oil and slowly fried it until golden brown.

In the short time it took to brown, I defrosted the prawns for the korma. Once the fried onion was done, I removed it with a slotted spoon to a plate, and then I started on the actual pilau. Using a few of the tablespoons of the oniony oil, I slowly fried a cinnamon stick, cloves, and some cardamon pods to release their aromatic flavor. To this I added the rice, sultanas, a saffron-infusion made of water, and enough water for the rice to steam. I let the mixture boil and then reduced the heat and covered the rice. After about fifteen minutes, the rice was lovely and fluffy, and I let it sit covered until the rest of dinner was done. (The final stage was to add some butter and salt to the rice, but I did that last, shortly before serving.)

While the rice was cooking I was sweating some onions, garlic, and loads of spices for the Muttor Paneer. Once they had released their juices, I added passata, water, and peas. This simmered gently for about fifteen minutes. I then took it off the heat, so that I could add the paneer (lovely Indian cheese) later. You will notice that I added the DIY version in my recipe count and included it in here, as well. Well, Tom has a few DIY recipes; I gather they are a way of showing anyone they can make lovely shop-bought ingredients from things you have at home. I'm taking these suggestions with a grain of salt, as I find sometimes shop-bought would be ten times better than my concoction. I am not being overly modest; I am just really clumsy, and a bit lazy! So although I will be only making some of the DIY recipes, I have included all of them in my recipe count -- how naughty am I! Before you start throwing your CL's at me, I have to say I have counted some recipes in the count that I now find aren't actually separate recipes, like the 'raw toppings' for the pizzas, which I intend to make. So the count still stands at 201 as it is approximately how many separate recipes there are in the book... Phew, back to cooking!

It was at about this time that my sister arrived, and quite hungry, so I put the pedal to the metal and really cranked it up a notch! We put the naan and samosas in the oven to warm a bit, and then it was time to cook the korma, which didn't take very long at all. It involved also sweating some onion and garlic with water. To this I added some spices, and then the prawns. The final additions were yogurt, ground almonds and some water. The korma thickened slightly, I added the paneer to the muttor, Rosie did an excellent job with her pyrotechnics while charring the poppadums, and then it was time to serve it up!

muttor paneer - absolutely luscious and delicious -- fantastic!

Clockwise from far left -- fresh naan, mango chutney, easy pilau, mint and onion chutney, prawn korma, and lovely poppadums prepared by my pyromaniac friend (and aren't the chutney bowls so cute - courtesy of Patel Brothers)

Fabulous Rosie -- lover of fire, eater of everything, and the perfect sous chef always asking how she could help -- that is the pilau on the left, my favorite part of the meal

Another view of the table - better view of the pilau

My plate - poppadums with mango chutney and the spiciest samosa known to man!

Well dinner was a complete success!! Everyone seemed to really enjoy everything, but as usual I made too much! Tom's recipes served 2, so I doubled all of them, but I think since we had extras like naan, poppadums, and chutney, we could never finish everything, though the prawns and the rice were almost finished. I have to say I enjoyed everything except for the prawns. Tom commented in the beginning of the recipe that his was not a typical Anglo-Indian korma that many Brits, and Americans I daresay, are quite familiar with. I found his particular korma too watery; perhaps I didn't thicken it enough, or maybe I should have added a thicker type of yogurt, like greek yogurt. It was still pretty darn good though, piled high on top of the pilau. Speaking of which, the rice was so perfect, lovely with the scent of cinnamon and cardamon, and the added sweetness of the fried onions and sultanas. I am going to be making this again, curry night or no curry night.

After some lovely dinner conversation and lots of laughing, I got started on dessert. I hadn't planned on anything heavy due to the large amount of courses, and wanted something cooling after the heavy curry. The Tropical Shake was the perfect candidate. It was a blended mixture of vanilla ice cream, pineapple juice, ice cubes, and bananas. It turned into a perfect, cooling shake, and so unbelievably yummy!

We all had a fair share of the shakes, and then my sister finished all of them off in her lovely slurping manner.

So the verdict from last night's curry night: Yum, and fun! And I was lucky that my guests loved to eat, a lot!

Magical Culinary Tour: Little India

After work on Friday, I met up with my good friend, Rosie, to take a small excursion to a very unique part of New York, Little India. So we met on the F train platform at 57th street, and headed to Jackson Heights, Queens, home to fabulous Indian supermarkets, sari shops, and the best Indian food in New York.

The beautiful colors of the sari shops on 74th street, Jackson Heights.

I wanted to head to Jackson Heights after work because I needed last minute goodies for the curry banquet that night. We headed straight to Patel Brothers, which is an Indian grocery super-store. It has literally everything you could ever imagine you'd need for curry night!

whole wall full of dhal (lentils)

and rice!

I picked up some paneer, poppadums, naan (packaged) for impromptu curry nights, and a couple of condiment bowls for the chutney!

On the way to get some fresh naan and samosas, we did some more window shopping. Check out the bling, Bollywood-style.

We finally got to a nearby restaurant to get some takeout naan and samosas for our dinner.

The lovely man at the restaurant let me take a shot of him. Here is retrieving some naan from the tandoori. The procedure, I observed, was to take that dough to his left, dimple it a bit, put it on that white spongy thing in front of him, and use it as a sort of mit to stick it into the oven. Then he would retrieve the cooked naan with that stick. The result is a lovely, fluffy, and warm piece of perfection!

We got back on the F with bags in tow to get home and start cooking!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

101 Ways to F*** Up a Pizza!

I really should have known better. On a night when I literally had no time to spare to make dinner I choose one of the most consuming of all recipes in CL. Why, why, why??? Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, or perhaps I am just a space cadet that doesn't think time exists in this world. Well I was determined to make it, so last night, I made pizza!

35. Pizza Dough - *Junk Food*

36. Quick Tomato Sauce - *Junk Food*
37. Margherita - *Junk Food*
38. Raw pizza topping (ham, rocket and parmesan) - *Junk Food*

Before I go into detail (because, as we all know, brevity is not a quality I possess!), let me just show you the aftermath of the evening.

Before I reveal how such a thing happened to my poor book, let me start off the beginning of the night. I still needed to get lots of things for tonight's dinner, and also for last night's dinner, so I decided to take the subway to Stop 'n' Shop after work. I can't ever spend just a few minutes there. Happily, I found all the things I needed but time did not stand still and it was getting quite late. After schlepping home with my unbelievably heavy bags (lots of canned goods, adds up!) I set to work making the pizza dough at 6:30pm. That is usually when we eat dinner!! I was feeling faint and quite hungry at this point, but I didn't let that stop me.

So I got on with the dough. I have to say the recipe for the dough worked a treat. I just mixed up flour, yeast, salt, tepid water, and some olive oil. After the dough kneaded for about five minutes in my KitchenAid, it was gorgeous and silky.

Basic Pizza Dough

I let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, and then started on the Quick Tomato Sauce. Basically, I warmed some garlic slices in a bit of olive oil over a low heat. Meanwhile, I squished some canned, peeled tomatoes to oblivion until I got a sort of pureƩ. I had forgotten what juicy little suckers these were, so while I squished to oblivion, I also got tomato juice squirted on myself, my hair, the floor, the sink, etc. The sink looked like I had just stabbed someone to death.

Massacre in south Brooklyn!!!

Then the 'assaulted' tomatoes were added to the garlic with some salt. I chopped up some parsley and added this as well to make the sauce.

basics of the sauce: tomatoes, garlic, oil and parsley

This sauce was allowed to simmer for a few minutes, and it was done!!! Looked fabulous, if I do say so myself.

Quick Tomato Sauce

At the time the sauce was done, the bell in my oven dinged that the dough had enough rising. At this point, I was also chopping up mozzarella and talking to my gorgeous friend, Lisa, on the phone. Multitasker, I am!

It's important to mention now that my kitchen was running out of space, and fast!!! The one reason I like to keep dinner simple is because I just do not have a lot of room to have a few cooking stations. Everything basically needs to be done in the little space between the oven and the sink and on my tiny counter space near the fridge. Bad planning, being extremely exhausted (I had swept the entire apartment while the dough was rising too!), and hungry, made me really start freaking out at this point.

I put in a couple of pizza trays into the oven and cranked it up to its highest setting. Those who have heard me describe my nuclear reactor oven should get an idea of how hot it got in my kitchen at this point.

So I started working on the pizza dough. I punched the dough down and divided it into four. It is at this point that I read in the recipe that each circle was to measure around 24 centimeters!!! What???!!!! When I had drooled over the pictures in CL I had never noticed the pizzas were so large, I mean relatively. I thought they were little personal pizza types, so to make four would mean a lot of counter space for rolling. I did the best I could but I honestly was getting very annoyed with myself at this point. With limited space I could only get about 18cm diameter for each, and then I was really cursing myself because there was no way I could get a baking sheet to hold all four. I had put in two baking sheets into the oven, but I couldn't work out how I could transfer the pizzas when the sheets were so hot already. I guess all of this could have been figured out if I was in the right mind, but I just wasn't. It was already something like 8:30pm and dinner was nowhere near ready.

But I perservered. I got the toppings on the pizza. I left the toppings off two of the pizzas as they were going to have the raw filling, meaning they would go into the hot oven for about 10 minutes and then get the raw fillings put on for another 5 minutes of cooking.

The Margherita had fresh mozzarella and grated poorman'sgrana, while the raw pizza toppings, suggested by Tom, were parma ham (I used serrano!), rocket (arugula), and shaved parmesan.. Whoopsie, forgot the parmesan, even though it was right there and I had already used it on the other pizzas. Sheesh!

Raw pizzas ready for cooking

The raw ingredients

So the cooking did not go well at all. Only one of the pizzas seemed to brown and I couldn't exactly figure out how to get each to brown evenly since I was working with two very hot pizza trays. Then, I realized that I did put the oven to the highest setting, THE GRILL/BROIL SETTING, so of course the pizzas weren't getting brown, they weren't being cooked, only the grill part was functioning!!! Errgggh! Or maybe they were, I don't know, I still haven't figured out this oven after three years of living in my apartment. I quickly switched it to the highest setting, but not the Broil setting.

So instead of the raw toppings being, well, raw, they were instead cooked to a fine crisp. I guess in the end all pizzas looked OK. Rafa seemed to like them; but at 9pm I was so hungry and tired I didn't care anymore!!!

If you're wondering what happened to my poor book above, well I was seriously running out of room when rolling out the pizzas and I thought a book would be an ideal place to continue rolling out pizzas... Erm, well it wasn't. Thinking about it now, I have no idea what I was thinking. Oh well, a sign of love for a book is that it looks completely demolished, so I have achieved my purpose!

I am not usually this manic; last night just wasn't my night. It's OK; Tom has another sauce recipe for pizzas and loads of other topping suggestions, so as Arnie says, I Will Be Back!

In Living Colo(u)r!

Many people in the U.K. have been fortunate to get a taste for Tom N-D, whether it be through his books or occasional appearances on TV and radio. I, and my fellow Americano compatriots, have not. It was through my good fortune, and some lovely person's kind generosity, that I obtained Cupboard Love and now that I have an inkling of the man through his writing, I wanted to get an idea of him in the kitchen. So, today at work, with my crappy dial-up connection, I actually found a web link to a cooking segment he did, and he even made a recipe from CL I have already done!!

Click here to see Tom cook Bean Curd with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber!
Now I'm sure you will notice his recipe on TV differs only slightly from the recipe in the book, but I dare say he does like those tofu pieces quite large!!! Or is that an overenthusiastic kitchen assistant?? LOL.

The main thing I came across from seeing even this small part of how Tom operates in the kitchen is how completely unpretentious he is! I read a little bit about him here, and what I found is here is this young guy, goes to Asia, comes back, and falls into cooking, and you know what, is actually pretty darn good at it!! He has instinct, he has a love for fresh ingredients and cooking seasonally, and I say 'Bravo'... It is obvious that Tom was a wonderful student of his mentors, and I feel I can cook quite confidently under his tutelage.

One thing that struck me about his cooking segment was that one of the hosts said something like this is not fancy, dinner party food... Ok, well I guess a stir-fry, for all intents and purposes, is not 'fancy', but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's not 'dinner-party' food. A lot of people my age, serious and driven professionals (haha, I'm not reallly serious and driven!), don't really take the time to cook simple meals for themselves and their friends. If they invite someone over, they order takeout, or if finances permit, they just all go out to eat together. Well I can count on one hand the number of friends I have in New York, so anytime I invite anyone over, it's a dinner party, no matter what I'm cooking!!!

With that in mind, watch this space for tomorrow's report of my curry banquet -- that is, if I don't have a sudden panic attack and go hide myself in my room. I really, really need to start drinking! ;)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hold the anchovies!

I noticed fairly recently that I don't include a lot of vegetables in my day to day. I don't know why that is, ate loads of veggies as a child, but I guess they were never presented as 'veggies' and I never really learned to cook them myself. As an adult, I have the option of eating whatever I bloody choose to eat, and I guess my subconscious told me no veggies. Well I decided for my general health I should go against my natural instincts and really dig into some.
For me, broccoli is the ultimate veggie! And Tom includes it in a lovely dish in the Pasta chapter.

33. Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies - *Pasta*
34. Frozen Summer Berries and White Chocolate Sauce - *Afters*

Now you're probably looking at the post title and at the recipe title and wondering what's up with the anchovies?! Well I'll tell you what's up! I loathe anchovies; there are no words to describe how repulsive they are to me... they are squirmy and hairy, they are the culinary equivalent of the smelly guy with greasy hair on the subway.

Ok, now that I've totally put you off eating ever again, let's talk dinner.

Tom says one should love his/her cupboard and kitchen. If I'm to love both I need to omit anchovies from my life. Maybe I am completely off (and I can imagine many of you shaking your heads) and they could be the most wonderful thing on this planet, that may be the case, but let's just agree to disagree. So, the recipe includes anchovies, but I took them out altogether.** I don't think the dish suffered at all.

This recipe is the first time I have ever eaten, or bought, orecchiette. I actually had no idea what they were. For the linguists among us, I now know they mean 'little ears' in Italian. Psst, Tom told me, right on page 26! In the intro to the Pasta chapter, Tom indicates that he really likes the De Cecco brand of pasta. Haha, check it out!

It's not some kind of telepathy thing -- it was the only brand I could find that made orecchiette!

While I had the water put on to boil in a pot, I started chopping the broccoli into small florets along with some garlic cloves. Then I put some oil and butter into a warm pan, and once these were warm as well, I added some garlic, chilli flakes, nutmeg, fresh thyme. I finally added the broccoli with a few tablespoons of water and a pinch of sea salt, and put the lid on so that the sauce could incorporate and the broccoli could steam.

That broccoli is a-steamin!

While the sauce steamed, the pasta was cooking away in its pan, and each were done at approximately the same time. I drained the pasta, and incorporated the sauce into the pasta (I forgot to add lemon juice, whoops!) and finally added some grated poorman'sgrana. And then I was all ready for my veggie love fest!

The pasta was fabulous!!! I wasn't sure what to expect but it was very fiery and flavorful. The broccoli was the perfect texture along with the orecchiette. This pasta shape will definitely make it as a regular occupant of my cupboard. Yum! And the big bonus is Rafa liked it too! Usually pasta without meat or tomato sauce is not his 'thing' but he actually enjoyed this one a lot! (He said it would have been better with anchovies! The mandatory rolling-eyes-at-annoying-hubby commenced at that point)... And that was dinner done!

Afterwards, I was feeling like something sweet, and since Rafa was noshing on gummy bears whilst studying for his final tomorrow, I knew I was on my own.

The berries/white chocolate sauce combo was mentioned to me eons ago when a lovely 'English Girl' on said it was a great Tom Norrington-Davies recipe. I hadn't realized at that time it was in Cupboard Love, or rather, I should note, that I would be making every single recipe in CL!

This combo is pretty popular in Tom's circle, and is really as simple as it sounds. All it involves is adding white chocolate to some bubbling heavy cream, and pouring this over some frozen summer berries. Tom says, though, that one should use 'grown-up' white chocolate. I have to agree with him; any other white chocolate would be way too sickly for my taste.

my grown-up chocolate - Ghirardelli


For some reason, the chips did not melt fully, but that was ok as they provided a lovely crunch with the strawberries. I think that is probably because they were fridge-cold. No worries, it was still lovely. Tom said that in time, the chocolate would melt the berries, and the berries would thicken the white chocolate sauce, resulting in 'carnage on a plate'.

carnage in a wine glass!

**if you want to add anchovies, do it when the broccoli is added ;)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Curry Prep - The Chutney

This upcoming Friday night I am having a sort of curry feast, courtesy of Cupboard Love. The preparations, however, started today, because the chutney needed to be stored for 'a couple of weeks.' So what's a day, or nine! I'm sure if I got the chutney done today it will be ready and lovely for Friday!

32. Mango Chutney - *Indian*

Ever since getting CL, I have loved the Indian chapter and dreamed of all the lovely curry events I would have. I could pretend I was back in England, feeding chutney and biryani to my guests, as we would laugh gingerly sipping mango lassis.

The Mango Chutney was a lot easier to make than I expected. First, I chopped up a semi-ripe mango. Tom writes that Indians wouldn't bother making chutney with fully ripe mangoes, as they'd be happier to eat it right there. My mango was definitely verging on ripeness, and after nibbling on some I really had the inclination to forget the whole chutney business and eat the entire thing. But a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.

So after the mango was chopped, I cut up some onion as well.

mango and onion

I heated up some sugar and red wine vinegar in a deep pan, and once the sugar dissolved I added the onion and mango. The heat was raised to get a rolling boil for a couple of minutes, and then reduced again to get a simmer.

everything in the pot

The mixture was supposed to reduce on a low heat for an hour, but I found it reduced in half that time - probably due to the fact that I halved the recipe, as it would be only four of us eating the curry.

The texture turned out lovely, and I stole a taste.. yummy and sweet, but not sickly.

the finished chutney

Rafa, however, did not appreciate the vinegar smell throughout our small apartment. I had to open up the windows, as the smell was quite strong... Actually, Rafa didn't shut up about it for a couple of hours, proclaiming the chutney a 'shit-ney'... Well, let's see what he says when he dips some lovely poppadums into the chutney on Friday night. We'll see then who gets the last laugh. ;)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ilana Cook Thai!

Ilana cook Thai very well! (Meet the Parents reference). I had such a great experience with Tom's Stir-Fries chapter a few days ago, I thought I'd sample some more of what the stir-fry king had to offer!

31. A Thai-Style Noodle Fry-Up - *Stir-Fries*

Tom's 'noodle fry-up' is his take on the famous pad thai. From the look of ingredients I saw that I needed to take another trip to the Chinese supermarket I love. There, I picked up rice stick noodles, which are like white tagliatelle, some veggies, and crushed peanuts!

I started on dinner fairly early because I did not have much of a lunch, or breakfast for that matter, so I was quite hungry! First, I chopped up some veggies for the stir-fry.

chopped garlic, spring onions, and bean sprouts (the sprouts didn't need chopping)

After I was done with the chopping, I got on with the sauce for the dish. I mixed up some fish sauce (no one told me it was made from anchovies, euushh!), peanut butter, sugar, ketchup and lime. The sauce was to be the focal point of the dish since it incorporated sweet, sour, salt, and spicy elements!

I also beat a couple of eggs for the stir-fry shortly after finishing the sauce.

beaten eggs and sauce

While all this was going on, I had poured some just-boiled water over some rice stick noodles. They were left to soften for only about five minutes and then were drained under the tap.

And then the stir-frying began: First went in the beaten egg into an oiled and hot pan. This was mixed up to make dry scrambled eggs, and then the spring onions, chilli flakes and garlic went in. At this point, I knew I was in action as the smell was fabulous!

eggs, spring onions, and garlic -- MMMMM!

Into the stir-fry, the bean sprouts went in next, shortly followed by the noodles and sauce. This was left to stir-fry for another couple of minutes and it was ready to eat!! I garnished the top with chopped peanuts, as is customary in Thai restaurants.

This turned out really well! I definitely tasted all of the elements of the sauce and the chilli flakes. The noodles were wonderful, and I loved how the sprouts and spring onions complemented the dish quite well... and I love eggs in any Asian dish! It provides the blandness one needs after being hit with a flavor boost!

Yet another great stir-fry!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What a tart of a risotto!

The one thing I was craving during Passover was risotto!!! Any time I tried to take my mind off of it, it seemed like it was everywhere!!! So today for a simple lunch I decided to give in to my desires.

30. Lemon Risotto - *Risotto*

As I have written previously, Tom only has about six risotto recipes in the entire book. This fact plus my addiction to risotto means I will probably get through these recipes faster than the other ones. The Lemon Risotto is the easiest and most basic recipe out of all in the Risotto chapter.

It started with chopping up an onion very finely. I usually don't do a good job with this, so had some help with my mezzaluna to get my onions teensy weensy. These were sweated down with some oil for a few minutes while some water sat simmering on the next hob. (This recipe calls for water, instead of stock! -- important distinction, so pay attention, pupils, this information will become useful later!) Once the onions let off their juices, I added the rice and the zest and juice of a lemon. And then, the basic risotto making commenced. It ended with adding some butter and parmesan. And here is how it looked - I decided to fancy it up a bit by garnishing with the last remaining (and surviving) oregano leaves I had in the fridge.

Now the verdict: I really didn't love it!!! Can you believe it?! I thought there was no risotto I wouldn't love, but this was definitely not one of them! I knew something would be off with the taste because all the stock really was was lemon and water; it kinda smelled like lemon tea when I was cooking it, and I was worried the 'lemony' taste would be too much. I was right; the risotto was OK in texture, but too lemon-tasting for me. Maybe if it was paired with something fairly bland, like grilled chicken, it would have been a welcome addition of a strongly flavored item. On its own, the lemon flavor just overtook the dish. I think proper stock, whether it be chicken or vegetable, would have mellowed out the lemon taste.

I always thought Nigella's version of Lemon Risotto in Nigella Bites was quite rich (yet delicious) due to the addition of cream and butter and parmesan, but now I could see a certain richness is needed to cut the tartness of the lemon.. So that is why I declared this risotto one heck of a tart!!!

Well I haven't given up my hope; there are a couple more risotto recipes to try, and I am still looking quite forward to them!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pass the omelette, please!

Tonight was omelette night! Sometimes I am in the mood for breakfast food in the evening, as I find this type of food less stressful to make after a long day. And we all know I always have a case of the Mondays!

28. Elizabeth David's Tunny Omelette - *Toast*
29. Very Simple Vegetable Omelettes - *Toast*

I decided to make two different types of omelettes because I honestly can't stand tuna fish... It is one of the unmentionables that I find will be quite difficult to cook for this project. There are six tuna fish recipes, yikes! Thank god I have Rafa that loves tuna fish! So, I started on his omelette first!

I warmed some butter and oil in a pan and added chopped onions. When this was warm, I added lemon juice, chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and tinned tuna fish. I let this cook for a little bit and took it off the heat and put it aside into a bowl. I wiped the pan clean, heated it up again, and added barely beaten eggs. When the omelette was close to setting, I added the tuna mixture, and the omelette was ready to be served. I gave it to Rafa in a ciabatta loaf, as the man likes his bread! (He's not Jewish, and thus doesn't observe Passover.)

Rafa's Tunny omelette

Rafa declared his omelette 'very good', which really means that it was excellent! Now, I wouldn't touch tuna fish with a ten-foot pole, but as long as he's happy and I could get through six recipes with his appetite, I'm happy too!

My omelette was just as simple. After washing the pan (thoroughly, from all the tuna fish elements!!), I melted some butter and added some sliced mushrooms. When they were sufficiently fried, I took them out of the pan and to the side, while I added some lightly beaten eggs to the hot pan. When the omelette was setting, I added the mushrooms and also some grated poorman'sgrana. (Tom didn't mention cheese, but since I wasn't eating bread I wanted a little treat for myself.)

setting omelette

The last part of the recipe just involved folding the omelette and serving it. Now my verdict: it was delicious!!! A lovely and simple dinner with minimal ingredients. A cupboard's dream.

finished Simple Vegetable omelette

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Down With Potatoes!!

Ahhh, I have had potatoes coming out my eyes!!! (Sorry, no pun intended! -- ah, who are we kidding?! Of course it was intended, I'm Ilana!) So, I knew for dinner tonight we were in need of something different and refreshing.

25. Grilled Chicken Breasts - *Grills*
26. Lemon Chicken - *Stir-Fries*
27. Greek Salad - *Larder Salads*

The method for the Grilled Chicken Breasts in the Grills chapter is fairly similar to the beginning of the Lemon Chicken recipe, so I decided to include it in the count of recipes I have made.

I got started for the dinner a couple of hours before the cooking as I needed to marinade two chicken breasts. The marinade consisted of the zest and juice of one lemon, sea salt, chilli flakes, and chopped garlic. I left it to marinade for about two hours.

marinading chicken

Then, about a half hour before the proper cooking I decided to get on with the salad, as it also needed a short marinading time. I combined a sliced red onion with cucumbers and hollowed out and chopped tomatoes.

hollowed out tomatoes

To the vegetables, I added half of a mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and dried oregano. I let them marinade for about 25 minutes. I also marinaded some chopped feta with the rest of the dressing.

marinading veggies and feta

When everything was sufficiently engulfed in lovely juiciness, I added some lettuce leaves and combined everything together, with some torn up mint leaves on top. And that was the Greek Salad done. (I didn't add olives or capers, as we don't really like them.)

Then it was time to cook the chicken, as it didn't take very long and would need to be served warm. I heated up some oil in a hot frying pan (for the grilling method, the only difference is that the chicken would be oiled, not the pan) and seared the chicken breasts without their marinade. I then transferred the chicken breasts to a roasting pan with their reserved marinade and baked it in a very hot oven for about 15 minutes till lovely and juicy! (I cooked Rafa's breast longer, as he likes things, erm, really well done!)

The chicken was lovely and lemony. Tom includes this recipe for Lemon Chicken because he says it is usually done so poorly at Chinese restaurants. Tom's version puts those chicken dishes to shame! It was really fantastic! Paired with the mega-flavorful salad, the two are a match made in heaven! (And there are no potatoes in heaven, ever!)