Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shrimp Burrito Bowl

Try my Chicken Burrito Bowl with shrimp! It's great! Just take about half a pound of raw, deveined and peeled shrimp, and cut them into bite size pieces (or keep them whole if you prefer). Use the marinade that was meant for the chicken and put it on the shrimp instead.

Cook the shrimp by stir-frying it in a hot pan with about one tablespoon of olive oil. It only takes about 1-2 minutes to cook the shrimp; as soon as the all the shrimp becomes opaque (from grey, to white/pink) it's cooked!

Heat up the black beans in the pan you cooked the shrimp in; the beans will soak up all the flavor that is left in the pan from the shrimp.

Enjoy with pico de gallo, cheese, etc. Basically, anything you like!

Chewy and Rich Chocolate Cookies

I don't think anything beats a cookie that reminds me of my mom's fudge sauce. This cookie recipe, which I got off the back of a package of Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate, just looked like it might be tasty, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

It's also really easy to make. I'd recommend doing it in a mixer if you have one, because the dough gets very stiff at the end, but it's nothing that a little muscle can't handle either.

If you are in need of a chocolate fix, these cookies are certainly for you!

Chocolate Cookies
Makes between 60-70 cookies

4 squares of Baker's unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Place chocolate and butter into a microwave safe dish. Microwave the chocolate and butter until melted. This will probably take approximately 2 minutes, but depending on the strength of your microwave, might be slightly more or less. It's important not to microwave the chocolate and butter too long; you risk the chance of burning the chocolate. If you are worried about the strength of your microwave, try microwaving just a minute, and then giving the chocolate and butter a stir. When it's almost melted, bring the cooking interval time down to 30 seconds.

Once the chocolate and butter are completely melted, stir until completely blended. Next, mix in the sugar. The mixture will look kind of grainy.

Stir in the eggs and vanilla. I like to lightly beat the eggs before mixing them in so that they blend in well and are not mostly yolk in one place, and white in another.

Finally, stir in the flour. Do this in three or four additions, so that the flour doesn't go everywhere. The dough will feel quite stiff.

If it's not firm and easy to roll, place the dough in the refrigerator for up to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls, and, on to a greased cookie sheet, place approximately 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8 minutes. The cookies should be just set. This will ensure that they stay nice and chewy. Cool the cookies on the sheet for a minute, then remove to a cooling rack.

I ate a couple when they were still warm, and they were soft and chewy and delicious!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Something Really American: My Grandma's Chili-Mac aka American Chop Suey

Whenever I'd go to my Grandma's house (my Mom's Mom) she'd have something yummy waiting for me. I don't know if everything she made was so delicious because it was inextricably linked to her, or if everything was just that good.

My Grandma did everything in a calm and patient manner, and this carried over into her cooking. Watching her in the kitchen was a pleasure; everything was done with the utmost care and precision.

She's probably the most consistent cook I've ever known. Her dishes were always cooked to perfection. At chef school, the teachers talked about consistency being one of the most important attributes to a good chef's food. Customers come to eat the same dish repeatedly, and expect it to be the same as it was the last time. If you can achieve this as a cook, time and time again, you've accomplished something really great. My Grandma was an expert at this.

At any rate, my Grandma's chili-mac was probably my favorite dish. I used to request her to make it all the time. After she passed away, there was no more chili-mac; she had not left a recipe and I had never learned how to make it. However, there was something in the college dining hall that was almost the same (though not nearly as good as my Grandma's) called American chop suey. So during college, I sort of managed to satisfy the craving.

I have since consulted my mom, and we've tried to replicate the chili-mac recipe, with moderate success. Please try out the recipe below! It's very easy to make.

Grandma's Chili-Mac
Makes 4 servings

1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 large stick of celery, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 freshly black ground pepper
salt to taste
2 cups uncooked macaroni

Heat the canola oil and sweat the onions until soft. This should take approximately five minutes on a medium heat.

Next, add the beef in small chunks. Brown the beef until all red color is gone, approximately five minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste, and then add all of the remaining ingredients, aside from the macaroni. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate pot, cook the macaroni. Once the sauce is cooked, the macaroni can be added, and it can be served immediately. Chili-mac is definitely a comfort food. It's also a good way to get kids to eat their meat and veggies in disguise... the beauty of tomato sauce!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tender Beef Kebabs

It's summer, so it must be time to use the grill! I wanted to make something healthy, but also tasty, so I decided kebabs might be a good option.

Beef kebabs might not be as healthy as, for example, chicken breast, but, beef has the advantage that it doesn't have to be cooked through. Just make sure to pick a decent piece of beef, I used sirloin for these, and cut off any excess fat that is visible.

You can also pick a variety of veggies to use. My choices were yellow and red pepper, red onion, green squash (zucchini), and grape tomatoes. Any veggie that can hold itself together when cooked works for grilling on a skewer. Yellow squash, green pepper (any sweet peppers), jalepenos, pearl onions, mushrooms - these would all be great for grilling.

Beef Kebabs
Makes 4 servings

1.5 lbs beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into 1 inch square pieces
1 red pepper, cut into 1 inch square pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 1 inch square pieces
1 green squash, cut into 1 inch square pieces
15 grape tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Place olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne, chili, salt, pepper and beef into a ziploc bag. Close bag tightly, squeezing out any excess air. Massage the mixture into the beef for one minute. Marinade in the fridge for three to six hours, turning over once halfway through.

If you are using wooden skewers, you will need to soak them in water for a few hours. I used metal, non stick skewers. Making kebabs is fun. Put pieces of beef, alternating with different vegetables on to each skewer. Don't clean your hands between beef and vegetable additions; the marinade from the beef will coat the vegetables as you handle them.

Place the skewers on a hot grill. I grilled the skewers for about 5 minutes per side, with the lid of the grill closed.

I served the kebabs over rice. They were tasty!

Turkish/Middle Eastern Style Shepard's Salad

A couple of times this year I've eaten at Middle Eastern style restaurants in New York City. Every time I've dined at one of these places, an accompaniment to the meal has been something called a "Shepard's Salad." This delicate, light and tasty mixture of cucumber, tomato and red onion was a delight to my taste buds, every time.

Anyway, this hot summer weather seems like the perfect time for a salad like this. I could eat it by the bowlful on it's own, but it's also the perfect accompaniment to kabobs, fish, really, anything that has sort of a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean influence.

Shepard's Salad
Makes 4 servings

2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, very finely chopped
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine cucumber, tomato, red onion and parsley in a bowl. For the dressing, in a separate bowl, combine red wine vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add olive oil slowly, whisking to emulsify. Pour desired amount of dressing onto cucumber and tomato mixture, and stir well.

Can be served immediately. I also kept some in the fridge overnight and it tasted just fine the next day. One tip: the firmer the tomatoes, the nicer the texture of the salad will be.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mushroom Barley Soup

I made this recipe last night for dinner. Unfortunately it was so simple and easy to make that I forgot to take many photos!! I was just chopping and carrying on, completely oblivious that there was a camera sitting right next to the cutting board. So, apologies for the lack of photos which I know most of you enjoy.

Mushroom Barley Soup
Makes 4 servings

2 medium onions, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
20 ounces button mushroom, sliced
64 fl oz chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp dry thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup of uncooked barley
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
salt to taste

In a medium sized pan, cook the barley in plenty of boiling water. It will take around 30-45 minutes to cook the barley.

In a large, deep-bottomed pan, heat the olive oil on a medium heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery and sweat until soft (5-10 minutes).

Next, deglaze the pan with the white wine, making sure to scrape off any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. After the alcohol has cooked off (2-3 minutes), add the mushrooms. Cook them until they start to let go of their natural juices which will take about 3 or 4 minutes.

Finally, add the thyme, bay leaves, pepper, salt, and stock. Drain the barley and add that as well. Stir well, and simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Enjoy piping hot.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Italian Style Meatballs Are Easy!

For some reason, I thought meatballs were complicated to make. I don't know why I had that impression. Maybe it's because there are quite a few ingredients that go into the little round wonders, or maybe because it's a multiple step process to make meatballs. At any rate, I discovered it's incredibly easy, and also very delicious!

Makes 5 servings

1.5 pounds meatloaf mixture (1/3 ground beef, 1/3 ground veal, 1/3 ground pork)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
Oil for frying

Combine all the ingredients! Mix with your hands to really make sure everything is well blended.

Form one inch balls with the mixture. The colder the mixture is, the easier it will be to roll the meatballs.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large bottomed shallow non stick pan. A medium-high heat will be needed to brown the meatballs nicely.

Add a portion of the meatballs to the pan. It is important to not crowd the pan. Brown them on each side for a couple of minutes, or until they have a nice golden brown color. If you plan on putting the meatballs into a sauce, there is no need to cook them all the way through; a few minutes simmering in their sauce will complete their cooking. If you plan on eating them without immersing them in sauce, once they are browned, turn down the heat to low and cook for a further five minutes, making sure to turn them so that they do not get burned.

I placed my meatballs in my simple tomato sauce recipe, and simmered them for about 5 minutes before serving over pasta. Definitely an all time favorite with Americans I think!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Very Simple, Basic, Tomato Sauce

This is the simplest of the simple tomato sauces. It's so easy to stir up, and many things can be added to it. It also freezes well, so it can be made ahead of time in anticipation of not having enough time to cook a homemade meal.

Add meatballs to this sauce, or scoop some of this sauce in with a bunch of freshly sauteed veggies to make a healthy pasta dinner. It would also be great as the sauce for eggplant or chicken parm. Or us it as a dipping sauce with bread. It's extremely diverse!

Simple Tomato Sauce
Makes 2 Servings

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cans chopped tomatoes which have been pulsed a few times in a chopper
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp sugar
salt to taste
handful of freshly chopped basil, and or parsley (optional)

Heat the oil in a shallow pan. Add the garlic, chili flakes, salt and pepper and saute. It is important to pay very close attention to the garlic. It should take 1-2 minutes for the garlic to become very lightly brown.

Have the tomatoes ready and add them to the pan. Stir all the ingredients together. Finally add the sugar and stir. Let the sauce simmer on a low heat for 10-20 minutes.

If you are planning to add basil or parsley, add it during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

It's possible to use fresh tomatoes for this recipe, but it would make it much more expensive and laborious. Also, tomatoes should be in season so that they actually have some flavor! If you do decide to use fresh tomatoes, they will need to be peeled and chopped. It would probably take 8-10 plum tomatoes to create the same amount of sauce.