Sunday, April 27, 2008

Master chef

So some of my friends decided to have a friendly little cooking competition. The theme was to use only four ingredients, with only water and salt being freebies. I lost by just 1/8 of a point!

Anyway, I did a riff on Jean-Georges, and chose the following four ingredients:

1. U-10 scallops
2. Capers (packed in brine)
3. Golden raisins
4. Cauliflower

You can read the full recipe here. I wanted to work with scallops because oil isn't a freebie so I wanted to pick something which I could dry sear. The sauce was definitely the most surprising aspect, as it was only two ingredients but had a really nice flavor complexity; kind of sweet and sour. I wanted to find balsamic-marinated capers, but alas, none were to be found.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Slow-cooker chicken tagine

Ohh, how do I love my slow cooker. Yes, I know that it's a foodie taboo, conjuring up images of housewives and onion soup mix, but I can't get enough of the much-maligned appliance. Anything I dump in there is magically transformed into something butter-tender and succulent, and I get to come home, the house smelling terrific, feeling as though someone already prepared a meal for me. So I'm always thinking up new possibilities for it.

(side note: If I'm going to keep up this blogging thing, I'm going to have to learn some new tricks for food photography...)

I used skinless, bone-in chicken thighs for this. I just dumped it in the crock pot with Moroccan preserved lemon, a ras el hanout-esque spice mix, fresh garlic and ginger, hot paprika, saffron, diced onion, and a spicy cracked olive mix. I let it cook in a little chicken stock, hit the top with fresh cilantro, and served alongside some quinoa which I cooked with orange juice, onion, figs, and dried apricots.

Harissa-marinated chicken with tzatziki and quinoa tabouli

While watching Top Chef episode 6 (the tailgating episode), one contestant described a dish that made me sit up in my seat. Specifically, *looks up at the title of this post* harissa-marinated chicken with tzatziki and quinoa tabouli. This is EXACTLY the sort of thing I like to cook! However, I know that the recipes on Bravo's website are often unreliable, so I figured I'd just take the concept and wing it on my own.

Ohhh man was this ever good! I loved the contrast of the fiery, smokey chicken with the cool cucumber/yogurt sauce. The quinoa tabouli was the perfect accompaniment.

I kind of improvised a mock harissa with stuff I had in the house. I used about 3 ounces of Thai chili-garlic paste, a jarred roasted red bell pepper, a tablespoon of ancho chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp cardamom, and a glug of olive oil. Whirred it in the blender til smooth, added S&P to taste, and I had a yummy and VERY spicy condiment. I threaded chicken breast chunks onto skewers, marinated it while the coals heated up, then had my husband grill it to perfection.

For the tzatziki, I combined fat free Greek yogurt, lemon juice, seeded cucumber (half grated, half diced), fresh mint, fresh dill, and plenty of salt and pepper.

The quinoa tabouli gave me the opportunity to use some of the fresh vegetables from the farmer's market. I picked up some fresh onions, vine-ripened tomatoes, and curious little Armenian cucumbers. I cooked a cup of quinoa in vegetable broth, then mixed it with a small onion, 2 cukes, 2 tomatoes, and all the flat-leaf parsley and mint I had (I like TONS of herbs in my tabouli). Finished it off with EVOO, lemon juice, salt, and lots and lots of pepper.

Grilled Fish Tacos

After picking up a lovely bunch of French breakfast radishes at the local farmer's market, I sat down and thought about how to use them in an entree. After some deliberation, I settled on a unique taco recipe from a back issue of Gourmet as my starting point.

I picked up a meaty red grouper fillet*, marinated it in lime, cumin, cilantro, and olive oil, and then ran it under the broiler for about 5 minutes each side. I think that mojo would have been just as good as the marinade but I had to use up some limes. It would have been better over the coals but I didn't feel like bothering with the grill. The fixins here are avocado wedges, shredded cabbage, quick pickled red onions, cilantro sprigs, and of course the sliced radishes. The original recipe called for a sauce made from mayonnaise, crema, lime, and some other elements. Instead, I just served it with fat free Greek yogurt and lime wedges. I had some pickled jalapeno slices on hand but forgot to use them here.

This was really unique, light, and fresh tasting. Albeit, it doesn't really resemble a conventional taco, and wouldn't satisfy a taco craving, but it's a great spring or summer dish!

*I used grouper because it has a modest amount of mercury, and moreover, grouper was one of the few wild fish available that day. I eschew most farm-raised fish, because they're usually fed pellets instead of eating omega-3 rich algae and small fish. Hence, farm-raised fish doesn't boast nearly the omega-3 levels of wild fish.

My first post!

As an avid home cook, I've been intending to start a food blog for some time now. So, I figure that I'll take this first post to introduce myself and talk a bit about the things I like to cook.

In a nutshell, I fell in love with cooking as soon as I was old enough to beg my mom to let me help her in the kitchen. I grew up romanticizing tomes like Larousse Gastronomique and Julia Child's "The Way to Cook". Fortunately I had parents who were more than happy to indulge my obsession and were nice enough to fund even my more extravagant kitchen ventures. Fast-forward to now: I'm 24, married, working full-time, attending grad school, and striving to keep myself and my husband healthy. Thus, I seek out meals which are quick to prepare, low-calorie with a particular predilection towards whole, unprocessed, seasonal foods, as well as staying within my grocery budget. Oh yeah, and it has to taste good, too.

I'm addicted to my crock pot, and I've used it for everything from Moroccan tagines to Mexican mole. I love recipes and cookbooks but I never follow them from start to finish. I've practically made a hobby of taking a recipe and scaling back the fat and calories. I love a huge variety of cuisines but my husband teases me for adhering to French technique. I live in Florida and have an amazing bounty of produce and seafood.

Oh, and I make my own cheese :)

Anyway, I hope you stick around and enjoy!

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