Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chicken Tacos with Lime and Avocado

I admire this dish for its natural beauty, I love it for its kindness and I respect it for its intelligence. Pleasantly void of belly-bombastness, it has the good sense to allow simple flavors to shine and be recognized without stepping on any toes. Also, it's pretty.

I (again) use my lazy-ass, stove-top method of cooking chicken (in this case, boneless, skinless breasts): marinate, then cook in the marinade using med-high heat initially, then covering and reducing to a simmer for 15 minutes or so. Once it's cooked through, pull it apart with two forks and let it stew a few minutes on medium heat. If you're absent-minded and you let it go for 20-30 minutes, no sweat; it stews in its marinade and won't dry out too quickly.

Marinate it:
1 lb. chicken
Juice from 3 limes
2 Tbs orange juice
1/4 + cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Wait an hour, or don't, and cook it like I did (above).

Finish the tacos:
Shredded cabbage, diced avocado, tomato, cilantro and onion.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Less Cooking, More Chopping: Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta and Kalamata Olives

100° F for the last 2 months, next 2 months.  This won't keep me from cooking, but it will lessen my use of oven, stove and (due to drought conditions) grill. It's a good time to take advantage of seasonal produce from your local farmers' markets, and though some of it requires cooking, you can often get away with a quick blanch or saute job and have a fully functional meal with minimal cooking. In this case, your total cook time is under 15 minutes and on the stove top.

1/2 lb pasta (fusilli, bowtie, rotini, etc.) cooked according to package
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced (if large tomatoes aren't great, yet, use halved grape or cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
Top halves from 1 lb. asparagus, coarsely chopped, blanched or steamed for 3-5 minutes
1-2 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped

1/4 cup red wine and/or balsamic vinegar (I usually combine, about half and half)
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbs yellow or brown mustard

Drain cooked pasta in a colander and put it in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and stir it a bit to cool, maybe 5 minutes. Add veggies and stir to coat. Refrigerate for an hour, then add feta and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Taste before adding salt, as the olives and feta add quite a bit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Help Sent, but Keep it Coming

I've received some great hot-weather ideas and recipes, so I'm posting them as they come in.  Here's another picture:

Cottage Lamplight, oil on paper 13"x20" 2006

First, a recipe from good friend and rock star extraordinaire Tom:
Mackerel, arugula and tomato sandwich 
"Halve some ciabatta rolls, toast or grill, spread with fresh roasted garlic all mashed up, top with arugula, red onion, tomato and mackerel. You can usually get the fish in a package, already smoked, in the fish dept."
Here's a Ligurian Tomato Salad from the wonderful Judith Greenwood.

And from fellow RFC foodie Serene:
Chinese Cabbage Salad
"Shredded cabbage and
chopped scallions tossed with a dressing of soy sauce, fruit juice (fresh-squeezed citrus juice or the juice from a can of mandarin
orange slices), sesame oil, a touch of brown sugar, fresh grated
ginger, and rice vinegar). Add optional mandarin orange slices and
optional almond slivers and optional crushed-up ramen noodles. Let sit
in the fridge for at least an hour unless you have no self-control, in
which case go for it unless there's ramen in there."


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Uninspired. Send Help!

Open call for hot weather recipes. You will get writing credit and blogular gratitude. It's 100° here every day, has been for the last few weeks, will be for the next 2+ months. It's dry, dry, dry, so grilling is out, for now. 

I haven't posted in awhile. I haven't cooked anything interesting, so I figured I had nothing to offer. Also, my photographer has been on hiatus, giving me an excuse to slack off. After all, what is a blog post without a picture? Just a bunch of words, that's what. But that's lazy, so I'm adding a picture to justify my plea. Here's a painting:

 Repeat Sign, mixed media on paper, 26"x40" 2006

Friday, June 3, 2011

Easy Thin Crust Pizza

 thin crust pizza with broccoli florets and onion

I've tried several times to make a good, thin-crust pizza and mostly I've failed. This is due to my aversion to baking and my tendency to wing recipes (if I even follow them at all). Baking is different than cooking, for sure, and while there's chemistry in both, I find that I can put together a really nice meal much more easily than I can bake anything from scratch. I'm working on it, though, and I've found a good, thin crust pizza dough recipe that's difficult to screw up. I got the recipe from and it's easy and quick; no rolling pin required, no overnight refrigerating.

I've used this recipe twice, and I think the secret is making sure the crust is thicker around the perimeter so it's nice and thin everywhere else. Also, it seems to be a good idea to pre-bake the crust for 5 (rather than 10) minutes. I haven't tried it without pre-baking, yet.

So far, I've only made veggie pizzas, which can make everything more soggy. My solution? Put down the cheese first, and don't overload it with veggies. A pepperoni pizza will crisp a lot more easily, and I plan to make one of those, soon. Also, I'm going to experiment with the crust a bit and see how it goes.

Saute 1 clove garlic (pressed or diced) in oil, on low heat for 5 minutes. Add a 15oz. can of plain tomato sauce, a few shakes each of dried oregano, basil and crushed red pepper, 1/4 tsp sugar. Cook on low for an hour or more.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pot Stickers

 chicken and vegetable pot stickers

There are variations on what we westerners call "pot stickers," but the one I know best is the Chinese Jiǎozi, which you can find at any swank or dive Chinese restaurant in the U.S. I love this dish, and I now love making it.

Read more about pot stickers here: Jiǎozi

The basics: ground meat, vegetables and seasoning wrapped in a thin dough, then fried or steamed. So, dumplings. I ignored the "ground" part and managed to make some excellent pot stickers.

1 lb chicken
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, shredded or grated
2 cups chopped cabbage (green or red)
2 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed or diced small
1Tbs seseame chili oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
1 egg, beaten
1 package wonton wrappers (You can use spring roll wrappers, cut in fourths)
sauce: equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar

This makes 30+ pot stickers, and while it's not a quick dish, it's easy enough and lots of fun. Your first few dumplings may be a little sloppy (depending on your fine motor skills) but you'll get the hang of it and they'll get more consistent. Most importantly, they'll taste great.

Make the filling:
1. Marinate small, skinless, boneless chicken pieces (I used breast tenders) for an hour in wine, oils, garlic, ginger, yellow onion and a little salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, chop cabbage, green onion, shred/grate carrot and mix it together in a bowl.
3. Cook chicken in marinade on top of the stove in a skillet with a lid. I turn up the heat to get it bubbling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, turning once or twice. Essentially, the chicken will be stewed so you can break it apart easily with a fork and knife after cooking.
4. After cooking, put chicken and juice in a large bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
5. Add chopped veggies to the chicken and stir, coating everything with the juice.
6. Cover and refrigerate.

Build the dumplings: (note: this step is best done to music, preferably with a friend)
1. Beat an egg in a small dish.
2. Put wrappers on one dinner plate and have another one handy for the finished (wrapped) dumplings.
3. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of the wrapper, diagonally.
4. Take your fingertips and apply egg along all four edges of the wrapper.
5. Fold the wrapper diagonally over the filling, making a triangle, and pinch the edges shut. If you have excess dough, you can fold the triangle point on itself, making it more compact.
6. Do it again 35 times.

Cook the dumplings:
You can boil, steam or deep-fry these. I chose to steam them because they end up a little crispy without being drenched in oil. To my shame, I used a non-stick skillet for fear of tearing the dumplings, and I winged it. Here's the method I used:
Add equal parts canola oil and water to skillet (about 2 Tbs each per 5-6 dumplings), heat to med-high, then place dumplings in and cover. Let steam for a minute, flip, steam another minute, and then remove lid and finish browning as water evaporates. Remove to plate, add a little more water and oil, and repeat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food Books

The other day, I received an unexpected treasure in the mail: a box of great food/cook books, all with copyrights dating from 1960-1964. My wonderful Auntie M sent them to me, and I'm so, so grateful. The one I'm diving into first is "The I Hate To Cook Book" by Peg Bracken (©1960 by Peg Bracken. Harcourt, Brace & Company).

What an amazing writer. I have yet to try a recipe because I'm reading the book for her wit. She's ahead of her time and funny as hell. And while I love to cook, I may not have 50 years ago.

A quote from her introduction:

"Some women, it is said, like to cook. 
 This book is not for them.
 This book is for those of us who hate to, who have learned, through hard experience, that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking. This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry martini instead of a wet flounder."

Read more about her here: Peg Bracken Bio 

(note for cartoon trivia geeks: she has a famous son-in-law who created a very famous cartoon. Her husband's name was "Homer.")