Monday, July 31, 2006

Cornish Hens with Herb Butter

We went shopping at BJ's yesterday. I know, the name sounds like a bad joke, but it's our version of Sam's Club/Costco. One thing they tend to have is fresh Cornish Hens, which we picked up in addition to things like fruit snacks, toilet paper, and _Nanny McPhee_.

This is what we did with them tonight - it's a variation on a very generic theme, taking advantage of whatever herbs/seasonings you have in the fridge or in the garden. Me, I have a black thumb, you know whatever I'm using came from the store.

2 Cornish Hens
4 T butter (I used goat butter tonight, because I had some - wow, that was nice) OR olive oil
Handful of dill, chopped, or parsley, or oregano, or mint, or rosemary, really whatever strikes your fancy here. I've used them all, they're all nice. You can even go dried, but fresh is nicest.
Fresh-ground pepper
1 lemon OR 1 lime
If you like heat, add 1 seeded jalapeno, chopped, or some paprika

  1. Preheat oven to 450°
  2. Split hens lengthwise, removing breastbone with a sharp knife or kitchen shears
  3. Arrange hens in a baking dish, not too shallow (probably not a rimmed baking sheet)
  4. Use a zester to get the zest from the citrus. I love the Oxo one. Then, chop the zest up.
  5. Juice the fruit. If you don't have a wooden reamer, get one. They are hands-down the best way to juice a citrus fruit. And I just like the fact that I own a reamer. Cue Beavis & Butthead laugh.
  6. In a small dish, combine the herbs, butter (if you are using butter), pepper, zest and juice. Mash it up as well as you can.
  7. If you decided to use olive oil, drizzle some on the hens
  8. Smear the mixture over the hens, then pour whatever wasn't incorporated over.
  9. Put the hens in the oven on the top rack, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the juices are basically boiling under the skin. You probably want to turn the pan around a few times to account for uneven oven temps.
We usually have this with a salad and some nice bread. The bread is used to mop up all the gorgeous crusty bits in the pan. This is not a first-date dish, it is messy and decadent and greasy and GOOOOOOOD.

I now resolve to go running in the morning. Believe me, I need to.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

What to do with tomato pulp

Hub decided he absolutely needed gazpacho tonight. I was very lazy and kiddo wanted to play with me, so he manfully followed a recipe (sort of) and ended up with a bowl full of leftover tomato pulp/seeds/skins and also more garlic than the recipe called for. It called for 4 cloves, he chopped 9, he's that kind of guy. He tossed the extra garlic into the pulp and said "hey, we can make pan con tomate". True, but we didn't have any fresh bread. We were drinking the gazpacho with ice, sort of virgin mary-ish, and were still wondering about dinner. So, I heated up the pulp, threw some frozen whole-wheat raviolis in a pot, chopped some parsley and grated some fresh parmesan.

It was fantastic. The gods were smiling, that was a really excellent tomato sauce. And no tomato wastage!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life Experience

Bold the ones you've done..

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne.
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life

Now, it's your turn. Do it on your blog, and then leave a comment saying you've done so.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Corn, Tomato and Zucchini salad

Zucchini (optional)
Salt & pepper
Olive Oil
  1. Cut the corn from about four ears of fresh corn that has been either boiled or grilled.
  2. Chop about 3 large tomatoes or halve a pint of cherry tomatoes. That means an entire pint of cherry tomatoes, each little tomato cut in half, by the way.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler to make zucchini "ribbons" out of about 3 medium zucchini
  4. Chop a bunch of cilantro leaves - I don't bother to stem cilantro, but just chop off the "head" of the bunch.
  5. Toss in a big bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste.

Dolmades (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

I follow a recipe from A Little Greek Cookbook by Rena Salaman, with a few modifications.

At least 16 oz preserved vine leaves (I usually need a bit more than one jar)
3/4 cup long-grain rice
2 oz pine nuts (at least)
10 oz onions (one large) and 3-4 spring onions, green and white parts
3 T fresh dill
2 T fresh mint (at least)
3 T fresh parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons
1 cup hot water
salt and black pepper

Instructions - this is where I veer off-recipe:
  1. Carefully reach into the jar and squeeze the roll of leaves up to the side of the jar. Wiggling back and forth, ease them out.
  2. Put the leaves into a colandar, put the colander into a big bowl. Run hot water over them and set aside.
  3. Measure the rice into a fine strainer, put that in a bowl. Run cold water over it and set aside.
  4. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Be careful! I have a terrible tendency to forget about them and burn them. When done, set aside to cool slightly.
  5. If you feel like it, chop the onions, spring onions, dill, mint, parsley and pine nuts by hand. If not, throw them all in a food processor and use on/off pulse to get them chopped. Do not liquify!
  6. Strain the rice and put into a bowl. Add the chopped ingredents. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, and juice of one lemon. Stir.
  7. If you're tired at this point, set it in the can roll them tomorrow. Or just make pilaf.
  8. Rinse the grape leaves. On a cutting board with a drippings trough, start rolling the grape leaves, as follows - you are never going to read this in a cookbook. If I remember, I'll take pictures the next time I do it. I learned on my momma's knee.
    1. Select a whole leaf without too many holes. Set aside very tough or very torn ones. Use them to line the bottom of a large, heavy pot (Le Creuset is really the best for this that I've tried so far). Remove any long stems.
    2. Veins up, stem at the bottom, place about a teaspoonful of filling near the stem - the amount will depend on the size of the leaf. Spread it out horizontally a bit.
    3. Fold the right bottom section in on an angle, then the left bottom section
    4. Fold the right entire side vertically towards the middle, then the left side.
    5. Roll up from the stem, tucking as you go if you need to
    6. Put the roll into the pot (if you have your layer of bad leaves) or into the trough with the edge down.
    7. After you've tightly packed one layer, put another layer of bad leaves on and keep on going.
  9. When you have all the parcels tightly packed into the pot, pour over the other 1/4 cup of oil, the juice of the other lemon, some salt and pepper and the cup of hot water.
  10. Place a small plate in the pot on top of the dolmades.
  11. Simmer gently for 50-60 minutes (the Le Creuset takes 60 minutes, a regular pot usually 50)
  12. Let stand for a while before attempting to remove, or you will burn your fingers.

It's (not) my party

It was my birthday yesterday. I threw a party. But not for of my best friends, Ms. N., had her 2nd child on Sunday, and I was hosting a "Sip'n'See". I figured new baby trumped my birthday, and besides, it meant that I took the day off and did something fun -- cooked and prepared for a party, then enjoyed myself during! Not only did I get to see my friends on my birthday, I got to avoid the whole singing thing and the focus of attention was on a beautiful baby girl.

So, this is my first post to a blog. I'm a computer scientist and have been wary of establishing an online "presence", but was reminded recently of how much I really like to write. And cook. And my friends keep asking for recipes. Maybe this format will force me to start measuring ingredients? We'll see.

I also really like to entertain, and am currently blessed with friends who do the have cramped our styles in some ways, but since most of our children have inherited the "party" gene, it just means we have jumpy castles at many of our gatherings. I thought it would be fun to share some of these experiences, menus, themes, etc., for those out there who feel hosting-challenged. I've certainly known lots of those in the past.

Menu for Sip-n-See (if you can't tell I'm half-Greek from this menu, then you've never had Greek food)
  • Wine (obviously - otherwise, what would we be sipping?)
  • Lactose-free Tiropitas (Ms. N is lactose intolerant)
  • Dolmades
  • Corn, tomato & zucchini salad
  • Minted lamb meatballs with tzaziki
  • Fresh bread and goat butter
Game plan
  • Made the tiropitas on Sunday evening, then froze them (we really weren't sure when the party was going to occur -- it was kind of up to the baby)
  • Made the dolmades on Monday evening (at this point, the date was set, but dolmades will keep for up to a week in the fridge - if people refrain from eating them)
  • Treated myself to a spa facial on Tuesday morning (hey, it was my birthday)
  • Came home and did the salad and the meatballs (the tzaziki I had actually made for a dinner party last Friday, and I'd frozen the leftovers).
  • Tidied up with the help of my Mom (who is the original hostess with the mostess)
  • Fielded calls from friends, one of whom volunteered to bring a dessert-y thing (brownies) which meant I was able to cross one of my menu items off the list. I love doing that.
  • Evaluated the amount of food and the # of people coming, and realized I could cross another menu item off the list (sandwich assembly station). Yay!
  • Sat down with a glass of wine and my book. Seriously.
Sorry about all the parenthesis. I'll probably have to work on that. I think for recipes, I'll wait to see if anyone asks for one in the comments, and if so, I'll post that in it's own post and then link to it.

Welcome to my blog. May you enjoy it. May I enjoy it. Slainte!