Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Turkey roulades

I didn't write down the measurements for this one, because as I was just trying to get Kiddo to allow me to cook, Mr. M and Ms. C and their boys came over to play. I was so happy! There's no better distraction. So here it is from memory...and by the way, Hub and I ate it all up, so it's a recipe for 2.

0.8 lb turkey cutlets
~ 1 T fresh mint
1 bunch parsley (I just shave the main bunch of leaves from the stems with a sharp knife)
1 small wedge goat cheese (4 oz? not sure)
3-4 slices country-style bacon
red wine

  1. Put the mint, parsley, cheese and pepper into a food processor, pulse
  2. Pound the turkey cutlets out, then spread the parsley mixture on them, fold, and wrap with bacon. Use toothpicks to secure.
  3. Heat oven to 350ยบ
  4. Heat a frying pan that you can transfer to the oven (ie, metal handles). Put the turkey roulades on the pan and sear on as many sides and you can, about 2 minutes a surface.
  5. Splash about 1/4 cup of red wine into the pan, and transfer to the oven
  6. Cook for about 10 minutes, then turn roulades over and cook another 5 minutes.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Out-of-milk Macaroni & Cheese

What a busy day! We went to the NC Zoo for the afternoon. It's about 1 hour 20 minutes away, which is a very comfortable distance for me because from the little town where I grew up, the nearest "big" city was pretty much 1 hour 30 minutes away. And for a while up in Cleveland, my commute was 1 hour 20 minutes each way...on a good day.

We arrived home after 5:00 and I was too hungry to go shopping, so I had to make do with what was on hand. This is actually my favorite time to cook, because according to Hub it forces my creative juices to flow. If I ever get any more readers/commenters in this forum, I plan to do a sort of "Stump the Cook" thing like Splendid Table does. It would be fun to see if I could come up with something delicious given five ingredients any given someone has on-hand.

I had corn on the cob. Husked it, broke it in two, covered with cold water, put on to boil. Check.

I had a leftover piece of grilled London Broil that Hub sliced thinly and we ate cold, sort of more as a side dish.

I went to make Macaroni & Cheese, and immediately noticed two problems - 1) out of milk. 2) no regular cheddar. Plenty of cheese in the house, but all a bit more esoteric. This is how I managed to do the dish, and it was honestly some of the yummiest mac & cheese we have ever tasted.

2 T butter
2 T flour
6 T light sour cream
1 cup shredded goat cheddar
1 cup shredded feta (really, 2 cups of whatever cheese you have on hand will probably work, but go easy on bleu cheese)
1/2 lb macaroni

  1. Put the water on to boil for the macaroni
  2. Melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan
  3. Add the flour to the butter and cook over low heat just until it starts to turn golden. Stir constantly to remove lumps. I like a wooden spoon for this.
  4. Add the light sour cream gradually, stirring, stirring, stirring. This will be very thick.
  5. Add the cheese 1/2 cup at a time, stirring, stirring, stirring
  6. It's much too thick at this point, but here comes the magic - add 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and stir, stir, stir. Voila!
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese, stir (once more) and serve.
Just as we were finishing up, Ms C. called and offered us tickets to see a circus/dance performance. Unfortunately, she wasn't feeling well. So we up and went (luckily the venue is only about 5 minutes away) and it was very fun.

Plus, so far, potato vodka isn't making me ill. It's probably only a matter of time, but at least there's one option still open.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Allergy to alcohol?

I seem to be developing an intolerance to alcohol. It started with any kind of grain alcohol...even just one beer or one glass of single malt whiskey would leave me feeling ill in the morning. If I mixed that with any wine, it was a recipe for serious upchucking.

I'm not talking about getting drunk here...and up until this started happening (about one month ago) I had a very high tolerance for alcohol.

So, I stopped drinking anything with grain. Then I started noticing that after one glass of wine, the wine would start tasting like vinegar. And now I'm feeling very ill the next morning if I have more than one glass of wine.

This stinks. I really like to relax with a glass of wine. I like pairing wine with food. Hub and I used to collect single malt scotches, for goodness' sake. I know this can only be good for my health, but I'm still very annoyed.

Off to drink some green tea...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tortellini with Lemon Chicken

On Sunday, we went to the local Greek Festival. Then on Monday, my parents returned from a 3-week trip to Greece. One might think I would have cooked some Greek food last night for dinner welcoming them back? One would be wrong.

20 oz fresh, filled tortellini (filling is pretty much your choice)
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts
8 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
3-4 medium tomatoes
2 zucchini
5 cloves garlic
.75 oz fresh sage
2 lemons
olive oil
salt & pepper

I find the order of preperation for this dish important, so here it is explicitly. I use "mise bowls" - little glass bowls to put all the prepared ingredients into so that they are all ready to dump into the saute pan.
  1. Put on a pot of water to boil
  2. Chop the tomatoes and put them in the serving bowl.
  3. Slice the garlic very thinly. This may seem laborious, but it's worth it
  4. Slice the sage thinly lengthwise
  5. Brush and quarter the mushrooms. Did you know you shouldn't wash mushrooms with water? They soak it up. Instead, use a mushroom brush.
  6. Dice the zucchini into small cubes
  7. Heat 5 T olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and saute briefly, about 1 minute, just until turning golden. Then add the sage and saute about one minute more until garlic and sage are crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic and sage from the oil and set aside in a mise bowl. By the way, this crispy garlic & sage trick is one I absolutely love, you can apply it to so many dishes.
  8. You probably want to put the pasta in to cook right about now.
  9. Add the mushrooms and zucchini to the oil, and saute until the mushrooms start to express some of their liquid. Transfer all the contents of the pan to your serving bowl.
  10. Add 2 T olive oil to the pan and heat.
  11. While that is heating, slice the chicken breasts lengthwise in approximately 1/2 inch wide strips.
  12. Add the chicken to the pan and saute, just until pinkness disappears. Salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Using a reamer (preferably), juice the 2 lemons directly into the pan. Who cares about seeds?
  14. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes
  15. The pasta should finish up right about now, so drain it and add to serving bowl. You may want to add a ladle-full of the pasta water as well.
  16. Add the chicken and it's sauce to the bowl, toss. Top with the crispy sage and garlic and serve.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

That's the last time I buy cod

I was so excited yesterday...I saw what looked like a nice piece of cod at Whole Foods, and an idea popped into my head -- wrap it in sliced figs and prosciutto and saute in a lemon and wine sauce. Sounds good, yes? So it put me in the mood for Spanish food and I picked up potatoes for a Spanish Tortilla (completely unrelated to a Mexican tortilla, the Spanish one is sort of a huge potato omelette) and chard for Spanish greens with raisins, garlic and pine nuts. Both of these dishes turned out absolutely perfect, which is a good thing because when I put the prosciutto wrapped chunks of cod into the pan, a LIVE PARASITE started wiggling around. We had to toss the whole pan out, which due to the cod and prosciutto and figs was a $20 pan of food.

I called up Whole Foods, and the fish guy said that it was fairly common for cod and grouper to have parasites, but very uncommon that they are still alive. They'll refund my money or give me another piece of fish. I think I'll take the money.

I'm a pretty fearless eater, I love things like sushi and rare meat, but when you pick a little worm out of your pan of fish...I'm still shivering with disgust.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Linguine with Tuna, Walnuts, Lemon and Herbs

Have I mentioned my heavy usage of the Food & Wine Quick From Scratch books?

Tonight I prepared this recipe, with some variations so I'll go ahead and write the whole thing down. It was incredibly good.

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and then chopped
Rossi Lemon Pepper fettucini - 12 oz
1 jar Ortiz Bonita del Norte tuna in oil (I'm trying to find a link, haven't yet)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
zest & juice from one juicy lemon
2 fillets Ortiz anchovy in oil, chopped
1/4 cup thyme, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1 zucchini
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta
  2. Toast and chop the walnuts, and put in a big pasta serving bowl
  3. Use a vegetable peeler on the zucchini to make "ribbons", add them to the bowl
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, anchovy and herbs
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tuna and its oil, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook for 1 minute just to heat the tuna through.
  6. Cook the pasta according to package directions (Rossi pasta cooks fast). Add it to the big pasta bowl, top with the tuna and oil and toss. Then add the dressing from the small bowl and toss some more.
For once, this requires no added salt or pepper. The anchovy provides nice, mild salty flavor (but Hub could not detect my "secret ingredient" at all), and the lemon pepper fettucini has plenty of peppery bite.

I've used regular canned tuna in oil before, and it's very good...but this Ortiz stuff is on a whole other level. We're lucky to have it stocked at the local Whole Foods. I'll search the web to see if I can find a good source for mail order.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I hate Chick-Fil-A

It has to be the worst-tasting chicken of all, even surpassing McDonald's level of badness. Why is it only the truly terrible fast-food restaurants have the play areas, where I can read my book/newspaper while Kiddo runs wild? Oh, I know...because otherwise, adults would never eat there.

Bleagh. Maybe this nice glass of wine will wash away the taste.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Calves liver and mushroom pasta

Ms. J's potluck was a rousing success...she completely embraced the spirit of the thing by having Mr. M actully do her cooking for her. Another sign of relaxation? Her hub, Mr. B, had forgotten that he was expected at a poker game in the neighborhood, so at 9:30 or so he had to leave. She was surprised and pleased at how easy the whole thing was. Hooray!

My favorite dish of the evening was one Mr. M brought and prepared on site -- tuna medallions seared with garlic and oil, and then green beans and halved cherry tomatoes added to the pan. It was fantastic with a splash of soy sauce.

Hub challenged me tonight by bringing home 1/2 pound of calves liver. He knows that I love liver, but he's more hesitant. Here's what I did, I thought it turned out very well. Hub even went back for seconds!

1/2 lb sliced calves liver, cut into 4 pieces
1 pkg Wild Mushroom Linguini (from Rossi pasta, of coures)
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
4 shallots, sliced very thinly crosswise
2 T chopped fresh thyme
6 oz spinach (one bag, if that's how you like to buy it), coursely chopped
6 slices country smoked bacon
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper (do I even need to list these?)

  1. Put on the water to boil for the pasta, lightly salted. (I know this step seems obvious, but Hub always forgets)
  2. In one large frying pan that has a lid, heat the olive oil, then add the shallots. Fry them, stirring, for a few minutes until they turn golden brown. Watch them! They very quickly could turn dark brown, then black, and then all that careful slicing was for naught. Anyway, when done, use a slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate with a paper towel, and sprinkle with about 1/2 t kosher salt.
  3. Add the thyme and mushrooms to the oil, and saute until well coated with oil. Then add the spinach in handfuls, letting each addition wilt a little so there's room in the pan for the next. Saute to make sure everything has a very light coating of oil, then put the lid on and steam for a few minutes, just until the spinach has released it's water. Slide the whole panful into a serving bowl Cook your pasta and toss it in. Add salt and pepper to taste, and about half of the shallots.
  4. Meanwhile (don't you hate that?) you should have been cooking the bacon in another frying pan until it's crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
  5. Combine the flour and about 1/2 t each salt and pepper on a board, and dredge the liver in it. Then, over medium-low heat, cook the liver on both sides in the rendered bacon fat just until it springs back when prodded. Don't overcook! Liver is nasty when overcooked. If you think you hate liver, it's probably because your mother killed it in the frying pan when you were young, cooking it to the texture of rubber. I know mine did.
  6. Serve the liver sprinkled with the rest of the shallots.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Rossi pasta

I'm soooo excited! I just got a box of Rossi Pasta in the mail. This is by far the best pasta I've ever had, and the amazing flavors always inspire my pasta creativity, so expect to see some pasta recipes soon. This company actually started in little Athens, OH where I'm from, and now does the Williams-Sonoma brand pastas...but unfortunately, it is not available in stores here. Ah, well, instead I got a big box in the mail!

I'm taking a half day today, went to get my toes done with Ms. N and Ms. C earlier. Ms. J stopped by to say hello, and decided as we spoke that she was interested in doing the Friday night potluck thing at her house. She's new to the group, so kudos! In fact, she organized the Thursday night play date just last night (we met at a park rather than at a house) so obviously, she fits right in.

So, I'm rotisserie-ing a couple of chickens right now, then at 3:15 I have a haircut/dye job scheduled. Rotisseries are fantastic...if you are in the market for a new grill, get one. We have the Turbo STS with the rotisserie added as an option. Other than the cleanup (which I mostly let Hub do) it's really easy to use. Thread the chickens on the bar, then turn on the motor and shake on lots of herbs. Maybe I'll post a photo..they are really pretty. :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Roasted Rabbit

I need a vacation from my vacation. Kiddo has yet to play on his own for any length of time...even though he is very imaginative, he likes to have at least one other person involved in his play. That's usually me.

Last night after Ms. T's party, I decided I'd better roast that rabbit we picked up from the farmer's market. Rabbits really need to be cooked and not held in the fridge for any length of time...they really start to stink.

I mostly followed a recipe from Sally Schneider's fantastic A New Way to Cook. It was kind of stressful, but turned out delicious -- very like the chicken I've had in Europe, which tastes so much better than our bland chickens here. (By the way, my only modification was due to a lack of prunes and of 8 hours. I used currents and soaked them for about 1 hour. The stuffing was lovely.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006


We just got back from Ms. T's very, very relaxing pool party. The day was hot, the pool was cold, the kids splashed and played, and the parents drank pomegranite/blueberry mimosas or beer. Ms. T supplied a couple of party platters of very nice cut sandwiches, and everyone else brought a dish -- my favorite was the tomato/basil salad Ms. T's sister-in-law brought. Simple, classic, delicious.

I didn't have much time after church to prepare anything fancy, so I threw together some quesadillas. I've been playing with quesadillas for a while now, and the trick seems to be to get the ingredients fairly dry. This is what I had in my fridge, so this is what went in today...

1 bag tortillas (6)
1/2 block monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 round queso fresca, shredded
8 quarters of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped and rolled in a paper towel to remove some moisture
2 handfuls salad greens, dried and chopped
1 big squeeze of cilantro in a tube (I would have used fresh if I had it)

  1. Heat a griddle
  2. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl
  3. Combine the other fillings in another bowl
  4. On one tortilla, spread out a layer of cheese, a layer of filling, and a little more cheese on top
  5. Press another tortilla on top
  6. Spray lightly with oil
  7. Toast gently on the griddle until the cheese starts to melt, then spray the other side and flip it
  8. After you take them off the griddle, let rest for a few minutes before cutting into wedges.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Shrimp, Green Beans and Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce

A few years ago, I subscribed to Food & Wine, and they have a line of cookbooks called Quick From Scratch. These are amazing cookbooks, I highly recommend them. Anyway, I was going to prepare the Shrimp-and-Feta Stew for the potluck last night, but Ms. T was already making a fish stew, so I went to the book and saw Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. I've done this one before, but from a Spanish Tapas book. Anyway, I also had a pound of fresh green beans and 1/2 pound of mushrooms in the fridge, and decided they could easily complement the sauce. Basically, I followed the recipe from the book up to the point the shrimp were cooked through. I removed them with a slotted spoon and added the quartered mushrooms and the beans (which had been cut and blanched). I omitted the sherry and used the juice of 2 lemons. Tossed it all together, and it was wonderful!

Mint Pesto

As Ernesto passed through NC yesterday, it was grey and dour. In the morning, I received an email from Ms. T inviting a bunch of us to her house for a pool party on Sunday. I realized we hadn't had an impromptu Friday potluck in a while. So out went the email: potluck party tonight!

The party was very well attended, pretty much everyone could make it on such short notice except for Ms. L (who wasn't at work, and didn't get the email) and Ms. D (who was on her way to Virginia Beach to run in a half marathon). That's one of the things about this neighborhood -- we all have kids, and most of us hang out on the weekends...and any excuse to get the kids all together where they can entertain each other is a good one.

I quit work at 3:00 and checked out the fridge and pantry, and here's what I made. It's super-easy and usually a big hit.

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
2-3 cloves garlic
2 oz parmesan, cut into manageable chunks
Large bunch mint, about 6 oz before stemming, stemmed, washed and spun dry
2-3 T olive oil
salt & pepper

1 box rotini pasta
1/3 lb feta, preferably goat's or sheep's milk
  1. Throw the pine nuts, garlic, parmesan chunks and mint into a food processor, pulse.
  2. Add the olive oil, pulse some more
  3. Add salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
That's the pesto...I use it in several ways -- on brushetta with a smear of chevre, spread on a tortilla then topped with herb-roasted turkey from the deli and rolled up, then sliced for party rounds. But the most common way is to cook up a pot of rotini and toss it with the pesto and some nice goat's milk feta. This is popular with the adults and the kids, who call it "green mac & cheese".