Saturday, June 21, 2008

Spaghettini con Salsa di Pomodori Cruda

I MUST post this recipe! And it’s just for YOU, who ever you are! This is a recipe for winning someone’s heart! I mean it! You wanna tell someone you REEEEAAALLLLY love them, make this. I can gurentee, this will score you great big chuncks of "brownie-points" many languages do I have to say this in? Zehi, yatte mitte kudasai! YOROSHIKU ONEGAI ITASHIMASU!

But anyway, this recipe has been staring at me from my folder for a few months, rolling it's recipe-eye-balls at me for not trying it already. With it’s “match-made-in-heaven” trio of fresh tomatoes, basil & olive oil, what was I waiting for? I was just biding my time, waiting for the basil.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m the creepy looking housewife in the backyard with her watering can, thinking "happy" thoughts to my basil so that they will grow & I can consequently eat them.

Now that the warm weather is in full swing so are my basil & not only have I made my first jar of pesto, I'm lovin’ the pastas now!

So without further ado. I will be sorely offended if a certain Aussie chef who wears a “Michelangelo’s David” apron, doesn’t try this out. (Junior, you better not have one of those aprons too, or I'll DIE) For that matter, if you read this blog & you know how to boil pasta noodles, then try this. It’ll make you feel like a pro.

This is from the Italian cookbook “Masterclass in Italian Cooking” (Thank you, Chiba Library) My embellishments are in blue.
This is a recipe for hot clammy days. It relies on the very best, sweetest tomatoes, which must be ripe & very red. Key Step: Make the sauce the night before.

Serves 12

1 kg sweetest tomatoes (I used 6 large ones)
4 tbsp extra virgin oil
2 clove new season’s garlic, peeled & finely sliced (I didn’t really follow things here & gently sauted the garlic in the oil before adding)
a large handful of fresh basil leaves (oooh, my handfuls were LARGE and greedy)
sea salt
cooked spaghettini, to serve (that’s slightly thinner than the normal spaghetti, but I’m sure anything will do, I bet it would be great with penne. I used 1 kg.)

Wash the tomatoes & remove the stalks. Skin them by plunging them in boiling water for a couple of minutes (about one is fine)

Chop them roughly, put them into a sterile preserving jar. (I just used a glass dish with a lid) add the extra virgin olive oil, add the sliced garlic, tear the basil into pieces & add this to the tomatoes. (did you know, tearing basil brings out the flavor, because it bruises each leaf better than cutting would, whod'a thunk!) Season with salt & mix well. (I used about a tsp of salt) Cover & refrigerate overnight.

Warm the sauce gently for about 10 min, just to take the chill from it. (Or leave it at room temp for 20 min) & serve on spaghettini cooked al dente.

And that’s it! I didn’t warm the sauce, in fact I made it a chilled pasta by cooling off the pasta noodles (dousing them with pot-fulls of cold water after cooking) & as a twist & added some sauted fava beans (sora-mame).

I did add a few more tbsp of olive oil at the end of it all, and it was…….mouthwateringly refreshing & flavorsome. This is the summer pasta for me! Simplicity is a beautiful thing, dear, eat it up while it's fresh. Bon Apitite!

Run for Cover it's Jamaican What??

In case you have the mistaken idea that I live in the world of perpetual-culinary-perfection, let me take a few moments to bust the bubble. First of all, I’m sure you don’t, but it’s always refreshing to poke fun at one’s self from time to time, to shed the light on some fantastical, state of the art boo-boos. Some of the more memorable ones include the honey/mustard chicken that had yuzu in it (“Hey, Mark? How ‘bout some yuzu?”) Or the burnt wild rice with onions & dried cranberries. (I couldn’t say the word “cranberry” for about a year after that). Or the biscuits with 3 times as much baking soda than it called for. Classic moment! Beautiful biscuits, (what biscuits wouldn’t rise with THAT much baking soda?) But we tried feeding it to the ever-hungry birds in the back yard……..they wouldn’t touch it.

Yesterday, was not Al’s day in the kitchen.

It started off last night actually, when I put together a whole wheat & oat bread with raisins. Fine in theory, but reality struck & when I doubled the recipe I naively guessed the cooking time. And it feel short & we ended up with a crumbly, slightly gummy in spots, dense & royal mess! Well, the kids ate it thanks to the raisins, but I was a little disappointed.

…..but not disappointed enough to mess up twice in one day!! I found a recipe in my new cookbook that I thought I’d try out. Jamacian Rice & Peas. (in this case the peas are actually kidney beans, apparently that’s what they call them there) since I had all the ingr. I needed I decided to give it a whirl. Besides, who doesn’t like a recipe where you throw all ingr. into a pot & simmer for 25 min.

Here’s the recipe Here are my ingredients. As you can see I have no negi (or scallops) Note the fresh lemon thyme, rescued from the grip of death by me & replanted. This was my first clipping. JOY!!

Of course I must make do with Japanese white rice, not “long grain” rice. No prob!
Throw it in the pot 25 min.later. TADA!!
Mixed up it looked like Jamaican Sekihan. Har har! Now, this was not the giant goof number 2. It wasn’t that bad really. Taste wise, I wish I had put both red peppers in as it really had NO spice. Actually to me it had no defining taste other than the taste of coconut milk. Not bad in itself but the bites with smashed garlic & a bit of thyme were too few & far between for me to really enjoy the fragrant nibblets. And since I used one can of coconut cream instead of coconut milk, it was more oily than it should have been.

So, I want to be all “wanna-be-authentic” whatever that means & scrounge around for anything else I can add to my Rice & Peas. Most of the Jamaican recipes call for huge amounts of coconut milk. Then I found this deceptive sub-title (“No Jamaican meal is complete without boiled dumplings”) OK, I want that. Ingredients? Not unrealistic. And I’m a huge cornmeal fan. Quick cooking time, let’s go for it.

Recipe OK, that seems too easy.

So I kneed, always a favorite. Divide. This looks right. And that’s where the pictures stop & the real horror begins. Let’s just say I censored the rest. I’ve made dumplings in soup before (with baking powder of course) & they’re just find & dandy. This on the other hand….was not. Everyone took a stab at describing it. And here are the chilling reviews:

“Wow, that looks like a big smashed chunk of pasta”
“It looks like an eraser”
“It tastes like an eraser”
“I don’t care for this”
“Do I have to eat this”

……..and it digressed!

Yes, this must be how the first cavemen invented “super-balls”. It was as if I took a giant wad of play dough, fashioned into a small round disk, boiled it for 10 min. and then plopped it on a plate. It was a dense tasteless gunk of flour & cornmeal & tasted a little worse than play dough, cuz’ play dough has that nice “play dough” smell that every one loves.

It was at this point when I began to become concerned for the poor deluded Jamacians with their eraser dumplings when I had to remind myself that I’ve never really eaten anything Jamaican that I know of so I shouldn’t judge them too harshly. What does some happon-jin know anyway, right?

The bad news is my stomach got as disturbed as I was after this meal, & I don’t think I’ll be using coconut milk for a loooong time, plus the kids are now calling their erasers “Jamaican dumplings”.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Updated Recipe List

I feel better already! Got some foodie fun I want to post soon, great boo-boos & instant hits. Till then I've updated & organized my list of recipes in the short "links" list on the right. Surprisingly the top three posts that have gotten the most hits to date are:

Eggnog Night
Tofu & Moyashi (gee, that's weird)
Shepherd's Cheeseburger Pie

Gotta run, catch you on the flip side!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cinnamon Chocolate Cake

Wow, something about a goopy-half eaten cake really makes me hungry. And that goopy mess, is just waiting for someone to snitch the frosting & crumbs on the plate.

We used to have a “dessert night” once every 2 weeks for the kids as they would only have fruits of veggies for snacks & birthdays come only in “Birthday Season” in our family (Sept-Jan). I suddenly became everyone’s bi-weekly best friend. Well, we got out of that habit, but every once in awhile an occasion comes along to celebrate & it’s Snackie time again!

So there was this great guy, Danny, and he stayed with us for 2 months to help us with our motley crew, bless his heart. (I wonder if he’ll ever recover from that?) And I promised the kids that we’d have a fake birthday party for him before he left. It was marvelous. Course we couldn’t have him turn 16 before his time, eh-hum, so we turned him 2 instead, kids thought it was great. Put on party hats, sang the song, danced the dance & ate the cake!

Now if you must know, I don’t like making cakes! So there! They’re just unoriginal! And for some reason I’m almost never pleased with the result. I’m not sure what kind of shocking result I’m looking for, but anyway, it’s just always so predictably normal. Here’s the worst of it (shield your eyes) ½ the time my cakes come out looking pregnant. (Sure, go ahead & laugh, it’ s funny). In case you’re wondering, NO, when I’m pregnant they do not come out flat!

The most boring cake I can think of is a chocolate cake. I’m sorry chocolate people! Dad, sorry! I like to eat it, but cooking it is just boooooring, let’s face it. You put all the business in yada-yada-ya….& it’s all brown & “chocolate like” & it turns out just like you want it….like a chocolate cake.

If you can believe it I only have 2 chocolate cake recipes. One is for German Chocolate Cake (enter “holy-grail-Grandpa-Jay’s” music),
...the other is a Chocolate Forest Gateau, that’s been a regular in my family. So Danny-boy (for that is what we called him) when asked to choose ANY dessert, came up with this “ummmm…….wow…….well…..I like anything sweet, really!!” (Tsk…tsk) Not the appropriate answer. (Hint, in case I ever ask you: Get real elaborate using words like “chiffon/triple layer/puff pastry” etc….)

Don’t ask me why, but I went for the chocolate cake. I found it HERE!! A Cinnamon Chocolate Cake, and if you can believe it, this was a chocolate cake I WOULD make again. It was simple, EASY & very fast (both cooking time & prep time) also the frosting you can put on when it’s warm so that’s just great for me.
How was it!! Gosh, it was actually pretty darn good, it must’ve been the cinnamon but it had a spicy undertone, moist, dark, rich & the topping was something groovy too, shiny thick & a little sticky. Even though I didn’t use the blasphemous (but probably really fun to use) icing sugar in the frosting. OK, I did use granulated sugar, go ahead & pelt me with your “Healthy living” rioting signboards. (Hides face behind grubby cookbook) but next time I’d be willing to try brown.

I did of course cut down the sugar in the cake by a little more than ½. The recipe calls for 2 cups, I used ¾ c of brown. And the frosting I used 1 c. of granulated sugar. By golly, why do people use so much sugar in their recipes? I’d say by the time you get to more than 1 ½ c of sugar in a cake you’re tongue looses all sanity & it tastes the same as if you put 3 cups. Well, I guess that's it!

Mr. Muncher is 8 Months!

In keeping with the male trend in our little tribe, this little guy took his first step (that I viewed) the day before he turned 8 months.

Dear Travster has been our shining catastrophe when it comes to early development, walking at 8 months and quite passionately running to the park & back before a year. Hunter-bunter might come crashing right into his record. (though not with quite so much gusto, I'm sure) It doesn't seem to me he has the same passion for action that Travster has. We'll see, though it seems to me this guy is too busy being happy & looking "uncomfortable-with-kids" type strangers in the eye whilst raising his manly eyebrows, & sucking his bottom lip in a strange manner.

Sure would be nice if he'd hold off the walking for a month or two though.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

While we're talking rice....

Lookie what I got?

Thank you dear, 2nd-hand-costco-store. For 500Y This should make rice cooking very interesting and it's only the 2nd cookbook I've bought.....EVER! I'm just realizing how much I've limited myself in the area of rice. (I am ashamed)

This book covers rice dishes from all rice eating nations, and I gauged the authenticity by how the ones from Japan looked.....not that bad. I'm esp. interested in trying, Caujin, Italin, Middle eastern & of course Indian. (& who knows maybe a rice pudding or two)


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Basil Rice & Soy/Balsamic Chicken

Here's a little some-some I tried out, the rice I had to "wing" & the chicken I used "Harumi's Home Cooking". Keys to success on a family-outing-bento-box: SHORT LIST OF INGREDIENTS!! I know you're shrieking at the thought of yet another desecration of rice, but think of it as "fried rice" & you can forgive me for darn near anything! This fed about 6.

Call me crazy but I (again), really liked the blasphamy of rice with basil, there was just something fun about it!

The Rice:
About 2 1/2 c of cooked rice
10-15 leaves of fresh basil washed & minced
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
two cubes of bullion crushed
1 tbsp shoyu

If you know how to make fried rice, you get the picture. I recommend you put the basil in last, as high heat can sort of mellow the flavor.

The Chicken: 2 chicken thighs
2 tbsp shoyu
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic, sliced
ground black pepper
a little oil for frying

Put the first 4 ingr. in a bowl & stir to combine. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces & marinate for at least 30 min. FRY!!!!

And it's Happy camping!!