Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chicken and Rice Soup

From Isabel's Cantina (link to the right)

It's been a bit on the chilly side and, judging by my last post date on here, I was due to make something. Soup sounded like a good choice, so I had my parents over for dinner at my new place. Since my social circle now consists of...well...them. I picked this recipe because it seemed like the most simple and I wasn't trying to blow up my new kitchen, ya know?

2Tb olive oil
1 lg yellow onion
4 garlic cloves minced
2 md diced carrots
2 diced celery stalks
6c chicken broth
2 bay leaves (mom failed and brought me basil! oh well ;) )
pinch of saffron
3-8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1in pieces (oops I used 3 whole halves)
8oz asparagus, cut into 2in pieces
6c cooked rice
1 jarred roasted red pepper, cut into strips (bought this and totally forgot to use it)

Dad's tip: hold the asparagus on each end and bend it. Wherever it breaks is where you should cut it to cut off the ends.

heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed (HA! like me!!) pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 mins. Add the carrots and celery. Continue cooking for a few mins more, stirring to coat the veggies with the oil. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and saffron. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so the broth simmers. Cook for 20mins, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.

Add the chicken and asparagus, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the chicken is just cooked through and the asparagus is tender, about 5 mins. Discard the bay leaves.

To serve, ladle the soup into the bowls and add a scoop of rice to the center of each bowl (I used that frozen rice from Trader Joes, so I just threw it in with the soup to thaw out). Top the rice with strips of bell pepper and serve hot.

It was pretty good. Not great, but good. It tasted like chicken noodle. But with rice. It definitely needed more salt and pepper than what I put in it and some other seasonings. Perhaps the missing bay leaves? I think my mom suggested oregano, too. I bought a par-baked loaf of crusty bread at Trader Joe's and stuck in the oven for a few and served it nice and warm. That bread was awesome. So good! Super crunchy on the outside and really soft on the inside. The soup was pretty quick and easy to make and really good the next day when the rice soaks up a bunch of the broth.

My roommate came home just before dinner so I invited her to join us, as my parents hadn't met her yet and I know she works a lot and is pretty beat when she gets home. She was excited for food and some fresh ears to talk off. I definitely learned a lot more about her and my dad kept asking her the questions that he and I were talking about that I hadn't asked her yet. Good job, dad!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stir Fry Question

Ok. This is going to make me look like even more of an idiot than I already am (do?)...so I got this for Christmas, to my utter joy and delight (oh wow I accidentally spent like an hour on that site...hoping...dreaming...wishing...). I don't cook a whole lot, but I like cooking toys and nice pots and such. One nice big knife? Sweet. One nice pot/wok? Awesome. Add a flat wooden spoon and I'm basically set. Don't ask me why Calphalon is a major turn on to me, but I loooove it way more than the cheap-o pots I had throughout college. Even though I don't think I've ever noticed any actual difference as far as cooking goes.

I use that stupid wok for everything now, appropriate or not. Do my roommates have a full set of Calphalon pots and pans? Yes. Do I still use mine every chance I can get even if it's TOTALLY the wrong type/size out of sheer delight in owning my own single piece of Calphalon goodness? Yes. Who uses a giant wok on an electric stovetop even though the point of it is to heat up the sides which, I would imagine, is 1000x more effective on a gas stove? Me. I even used it to make ginger/carrot/potato soup in. Who makes freakin SOUP in a giant wok?! Me. And, no, I didn't post that recipe because I think I put like 45x more ginger in it than I was supposed to and, well, it wasn't very good. Good thing I made like 3 gallons of it. Damn it. Oh wow, kinda got way off topic there. Wasn't planning on this being a "wok this way" post (HAHAHAHA!! I'm hilarious...right?...no?...damn). Oops.

ANYWAYS, my lovely wok was part of an "Asian set" and came with stir fry sauce. Random, but ok. Here's my probably stupid question: do you cook things in stir fry sauce or do you put the sauce on after it's fried and stirred? Let's discuss, my 1.5 readers!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Brussel Sprouts and Tofu and Pomelo, oh my!

Ok. The dinner that I made myself last night might forever strip me of my title as a fat ass. For real. I had wanted to make the two things separately and only when I said it out loud did I realize how horrifyingly healthy/hippy it sounds. Damn it. As I was cooking it I was thinking "WTF am I doing?! Eating this stupid bird food is only going to leave me starving in about a half hour!". Much to my amazement, though, it was TOTALLY filling. Weird. Maybe those stupid hippies are onto something...

On a recent trip to Nevada City with my best friend Susannah and her parents, her mom made brussel sprouts. I hadn't had them in forever and forgot how much I like them! When I saw a pile of them at the farmer's market this weekend, I decided to attempt to make them myself. The ones I got were a smidge pricey, but I didn't really look around for the cheapest, so I might have just jipped myself.

-Olive oil (couple tablespoons-ish)
-3-ish cloves of crushed garlic
-some brussel sprouts (doing great with the measurements with this one, huh?)

Peel a couple layers off each brussel sprout (the dirty yucky looking layers), cut the stems off and cut them in half. I was told that cutting them in half is optional but that they cook better that way.

Heat up a frying pan with the oil with medium heat, add the garlic. Saute the garlic until it's soft but not brown (I failed at this step. Stupid garlic is tough to get right!). Add the brussel sprouts and saute until nice and browned (hey I did that! "browning" or "cook until a nice crust is formed" never seems to work for me, as evidenced below).

When they're nice and brown, but still undercooked, add in enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and come up to maybe half the height of the brussel sprouts. Don't want to drown them OR burn your pan up when you run out of water. Throw in a sprinkle of salt too, to taste. Cover the pan and steam for about 10 mins. In Nevada City it took a bit longer, and 10 mins seemed a bit much for mine, so just keep an eye on them. When a fork can go through the biggest easily, they're done! Drain the excess water and voila!

Grilled Tofu
Next up: tofu! Typically speaking, I'm not a fan. It tastes like NOTHING. I add it to soups and smoothies because it's good for you and tasteless, but I rarely eat it as it's own dish. I was flipping through Isabel's Cantina, though, and it seemed like a super fast super cheap dish so I decided to go for it. This is kind of a bastardized version of the recipe in the book though, so keep that in mind.

Olive oil
1 container of super firm tofu, cut into 1in cubes (I'd go a little smaller to decrease the plain to spiced tofu ratio)
1/2 teas cumin
1/2 teas ground red pepper (or chili pepper or whatever that red stuff is)

After the tofu is cut, dry it out some with a paper towel. Toss it in a bowl with the spices so that all the pieces are evenly coated (Note: don't absentmindedly lick your fingers while handling ground chili covered things unless you want to scrub your tongue with a paper towel and cough for a half hour. I've heard it sucks). Heat a couple Tablespoons of olive oil over pretty high heat and throw the tofu in. The recipe says to turn as needed, cooking until each side is nice and crusty. Umm...mine didn't really get crusty. Heat might not have been high enough or something. The end result was edible, but I'm gonna try to find something a little more convincing next time. The 'crusty-ness' probably would've helped. I'll have to work on that...I feel like tofu needs to be marinated in beef fat or something to make it actually good...you know?

One of my roommates in San Diego introduced me to Pomelo's. It's like a giant sweet grapefruit. So good! Usually giant versions of regular sized things (ie: koi fish) totally freak me out because they look all steroided and crap, but not these. They're kind of a pain in the ass to eat, but totally worth it. The outside looks like a huge green grapefruit. There is a ton of rind, so I'd avoid paying per pound because only about half of it is actually fruit.

Cut both ends off until you see the pink fruit part. Then cut it in wedges. It's easier to eat if you try to cut close to wedges/skin. When you pull each side of the wedge down, like you would an orange, the fruit part just kind of pops out. The skin is SUPER tough, so I wouldn't recommend trying to eat it.