Sunday, June 24, 2007

Warning! No recipe ahead!

It's more like a tip or an idea.
You know how when you make grilled vegetables, & it's just the two of you eating - but you want a nice variety- make too much? (Can't be just me? Can it?)

ANYWAY...that's a favorite meal here. Some rice, a marinated, grilled meat of some sort & grilled veggies. I generally cook an onion, a zucchini, a couple of peppers (1 red, 1 green) & an eggplant (which is really just for me...hee!).

Inevitably, there are leftover veggies. Since I don't like to throw away food, I would pack them up nicey-nice in a little container...& then throw them out a few days later.

Well, it happened one week that this marinated, grilled dinner of ours was on a Friday. The next afternoon as I was rummaging for a tasty lunch hit me. Those grilled veggies, with just a bit of assistance would make a tasty wrap! Just like the kind you might find on the lunch menu of a sassy little deli! (You know, the kind where you can eat outside & have a real brewed iced tea & they always have the good kind of pickles.)

Now, I do keep quite a lot of stuff in the house...just in case. But I think that these are things that a few people might also have in their cupboards as well - flour tortillas or wraps, salad dressing & crumbled or shredded cheese. I prefer gorgonzola or goat cheese - but I have used shredded mozzarella so you don't have to be all fancy.

Select enough veggies to fill your wrap - I like variety so I usually take a little of everything. Then take it to the microwave for 20-30 seconds (it really depends on your machine)

If you are using a shredded cheese like cheddar or mozzarella, you should add it before warming the veggies so that it can get all nice & melty. But a softer cheese can be added afterwards. The warm veggies should soften it enough.

I will warn you - the veggies will not be as firm as they were when you had them for dinner. But, I don't know, they still taste fantastic - so that doesn't bother me.

Warm your wrap or tortilla via package instructions. Plop everything in, drizzle the dressing on top & TA DA! Fancy sandwich!

Ok, I will confess - my picture-taking for this entry was not the best. I should have added more veggies for show but I am always guilty of overfilling wraps & then not being able to close or eat them properly. So for once, I erred on the side of caution & now my sandwich looks a little skimpy. (I assure you, it was not. hee!)

Also, I should have dressed the plate up a little better. I thought of adding chips or something on the side - but I didn't want chips. Sooooo...yeah...plate's a little empty too. I will get the hang of this...I promise.

Anyway, I've found that I like goat cheese A LOT - but the gorgonzola worked really nicely too - & both of those match up well with a vinaigrette. The veggies are such a great base, you can really add in whatever you like & still end up with a great sandwich.
And if you happen to have some cooked chicken or maybe even some of the grilled meat leftover - you can make some thin slices & add it in. Don't be afraid to experiment!
This is a ridiculously simple idea - but anyone I've ever mentioned it to was amazed. IT'S YOUR LEFTOVERS! You did all the work already! I actually get excited when I grill veggies for dinner in anticipation of having this for lunch the next day.

Yeah, I'm a dork. But I really do like to eat & this is sooooo yummy. I hope you try it!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Good morning!

Hello all! Since it's Father's Day, we had a little breakfasty-brunchy event here at the homestead & I decided that buttermilk pancakes with blueberries would be a nice way to start the day.

Now I've tried some pancake mixes but mixing them up from scratch really doesn't take much more time or effort. They cook up thick & fluffy & the flavor...let me just say that once you've done pancakes like this - it will be hard to go back.

Buttermilk is key as well. I've experimented with a few different recipes (both with & without) from the biggie cookbooks that everyone has on their shelf but the one I love best is from my most favorite celebrity chef, Alton Brown. (Blueberries are our own addition.)

AB's approach to food is truly unique. I'm a regular watcher of Good Eats and Alton has taught me how to clean a melon without losing a digit as well as how to avoid brown guacamole. As far as I'm concerned, AB rocks.

So here we go!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 T sugar

2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
4 T unsalted butter (melted & slightly cooled)

blueberries (fresh or frozen)
extra butter for the griddle

Combine the dry ingredients & either sift or pulse in your food processor for 5 seconds.

Whisk together the wet ingredients.

Mix together wet & dry combinations just until they are moistened. Do not mix until smooth! That's just too much & will result in tough pancakes.

Let the batter sit for about 5 minutes which should be just enough time for the griddle to heat up. Go to 350 degrees if you've got an electric one, otherwise, medium-low for a non-stick skillet. Flick some water on to test it then butter it up!

Ladle a scoop of batter onto the griddle.

Now is the time to throw in your additions! Today we used frozen blueberries but in the past we've done slices of ripe banana. And if we're feeling really sassy...chocolate chips. (Bananas AND chocolate chips are a personal favorite!)

Cook until bubbles form & the bottom is a lovely golden color. Then flip!

The first side should take about 3 minutes then approximately 2 more minutes after the flip. Don't be afraid to adjust the heat if you're browning too quickly - you want to be sure the cakes cook through without burning.

That's IT! These will be thicker than you might be used to - which is definitely not a bad thing. And the flavor is simply divine. Warm up some maple syrup & go nuts!

Oh! I nearly forgot - but for some folks who recently mentioned they've ditched all white flours - in his book, Alton does give the option of using 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose. I'm not sure how you'd substitute brown sugar for the white...I'll leave that to you guys to figure out! Good luck!

As I look at this picture, I can't help but think how messy & uneven the pancakes look. It's the sort of image that would make me not want to show this recipe to the world...but wow, they are delicious. The batter is thick so the shapes are a little odd, the blueberries burst making their own sort of mess...

Let me assure you, they may not make a pretty picture but I bet you haven't had pancakes as good as these. Try it! And let me know! The comments are open & waiting for ya!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

And away we go!

So here is the much awaited FIRST ENTRY! (It's not actually first now because of that lovely introduction. But we will pretend so that it doesn't feel bad.)

This is a meal that I come back to time & again. It isn't so much a recipe really, as it is cooking a bunch of stuff & throwing it together with rather yummy results. It's a good weeknight dinner because it's simple but very tasty & you can pretty much add in whatever else you want without screwing it up.

Oh, as a word of warning...I come from a long line of cooks who don't measure things.
I look, I taste, I add. That's all I've got.

Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli

Stuff you need:
1 lb of pasta
2 heads of broccoli
grated cheese
fresh parsley
various herbs & spices

A note about the ingredients - to make this dish, I usually use a chicken sausage. Will prefers it and it's a bit lighter than the traditional pork. On this particular occasion, it was a lovely chicken & spinach (so that's what the green bits are!).

We grill pretty much year round, so I took the sausage to the flames. But this works just as well if you throw it in the oven to bake - just keep a close eye that you don't dry it out.

While that's happening, breakdown your broccoli, coarsely chop the parsley and get the water going for the pasta.

DON'T FORGET TO SALT THE WATER!!! In my opinion, no amount of salting the food later will make up for this. Something always

Check that sausage! Ohhhh...lovely color...mmmmm...

Do not, however, add oil to the water. While this will keep your pasta from forming a solid land mass, it will also keep your sauce from clinging later on. Stirring the pot until it regains a rolling boil does the same thing with out making things too slippery.

Now, I generally like to cook the broccoli by throwing it in for the pasta's last couple of minutes. But with the picture-taking & all, I got a little distracted. Sooooo...I had to get another pot of water going. :(

Sausage is ready!

This particular sausage is thinner than the traditional italian version - so slicing it into small chunks is easily done. I don't like the pieces too large because I think it should be part of the dish - not THE dish.

Pasta's done too! Drain it & NOW add some olive oil to keep it from sticking together. The olive oil works here only because it is the basis of the "sauce". If I were going to put any other type of sauce on this macaroni, I would use that instead.
Now dump in the sausage, parsley, grated cheese & broccoli. It's almost done! Now, here's where it's more art than science...seasoning. I used salt, pepper, granulated garlic & an italian herb blend (Penzey's!) that contains basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme & rosemary.

Add a little...mix it up. Peer into the pot...taste...add a little more...repeat. Seriously. My only advice here is to go easy because you can always add more seasoning - you can't take it away. can add more food to the mix. (I've done that! We ate pasta salad for an entire week.)

So here it is! My lovely pasta!
There are sooooo many things you can add to this. I keep it simple because Will prefers it but some ideas are: black olives, sundried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, artichoke hearts, scallions (I do add these if I have them).

You can even substitute something else for the sausage - grilled chicken or shrimp would be just fine - I would imagine you would then have to up your seasoning a bit.

So that’s it! My first (real) entry! I know this is a very simple dish – I feel funny even calling it a recipe. But I think that the focus here is going to be more about sharing ideas about food & this may be an idea you’ve never had before!

Friday, June 8, 2007

By way of introduction...

Let me just start off by saying the forthcoming meal was not supposed to be my first entry.

My first entry was supposed to be a classic, Italian-American tomato sauce with meatballs. How exciting! For days, I thought about how I would lay out the ingredients & take loving pictures of sausage links. Oddly enough, those thoughts didn't show up on Sauce Day.

Well, that's not entirely true...the thoughts, they were late. Everything was happily sizzling & splattering in olive oil when I realized that I hadn't documented so much as a single clove of garlic. Yeah. Not happy. Plus, imagine the fun in trying to explain to my little Nonnie (my assistant for the day) why I was artfully arranging cans of crushed tomatoes. Ah well...

Since I now have a freezer crammed with packages of thick, meaty, tomato-y goodness - that one's going to have to wait. In the meantime I give you...Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli! (We have fancy names around here - take note!)

This was a spur of the moment decision. I needed to dispel the funk of blowing the PERFECT FIRST ENTRY (there was much sighing & despair). But hey, look! Sausage! I should have the entry up over the weekend.

So I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in the kitchen. Keep in mind that much of the stuff here will not have wacky ingredients or crazy techniques - there are plenty of other blogs for that. I am not a fancy person & the main audience for my cooking is not a fancy eater. (Hi honey!) I just want everyone to come, hang out & feel free to share their own experiences. Mangia!