Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Appetizer of my life...

Ok, so it wasn't really a "dinner party" but it counts. It was me cooking and two of my girl friends coming over to hang out and help cook and eat. I'm just going to talk about the appetizer for right now...

Here's some music to get you started though. This was the perfect pairing for the night:

So, to start off, I purchased some black forest prosciutto to wrap around asparagus. I got the black forest one since it was smokier than the westphalian prosciutto.
Basically, trim the end of the asparagus, wrap the proschiutto around it and then put it in the oven at 425ish for about 20 minutes. Turn half way through.

You get this: and this...

Then for the hollondaise sauce.
Take 4 egg yolks and scramble them up.
put them over LOW heat and stir continuously with a whisk. Do NOT let them scramble.
You know that they are ready for the butter when you run the whisk across the bottom of the pan and you can see the pan for a second or so.
Then slowly add 2 sticks of butter 2 tablespoons at a time letting each addition melt completely before you add more. Stir constantly with the whisk.
...yup...that's right...2 whole sticks.
Then add a 2 tables spoons of lemon juice and little bit of cayenne pepper to your liking and call it good.
Then drizzle that on top of the asparagus or just dip the asparagus straight in...YUM.

Here's what you get. Pair it with some good cheeses and I chose Francis Ford Coppola Malbec wine. YUM...

Nom nom nom...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

road trip relaxation

I didn't cook much last week, but I did take time to enjoy some fantastic food out of town. Then I enjoyed driving back down I10 after a weekend of food, beer, friends, shotguns, and baseball...oh yeah.

I didn't take pictures of Moon Tower Inn, but it had hotdogs made with your choice of meat: beef, venison, bison, boar, rabbit, lamb...you name it. Then you top it with your choice of any number of toppings from saurkraut to feta cheese...and the bun is made from a pretzel dough. Great with a good cold beer. Plus, their URL is "damngoodfoodcoldassbeer" I mean...really...how can you go wrong?

...but the pictures that I took were of some of my favorite food at one of my favorite restaurants

First, let me give you some music to listen to as you read...

The restaurant I went to:
Mi Luna
The menu and wine menu are a little out of date with slightly different prices and descriptions, but it's pretty much the same.

Here's the entire meal...
from above...

and from my perspective...

So, what do we have here?

Let's break it down...

queso de cabre montanes
(baked goat cheese with tomato basil sauce and toast)

Then we have pinchos de carne
basically beef, bell peppers and onions on a skewer with saffron rice

...and croquetas de pollo
(shredded chicken and saffron rice...in a ball...soooo yummy)

and here's the inside...it looks a little strange, but oohhhh soooo tasty...

I had a couple different red wines. I started with Araucano Pino Noir, which was light enough to drink while waiting for the food and then switched to DiseƱo Malbec which was dark, rich and sat just heavy enough on my tongue.

Later, I walked to the frozen yogurt shop and had vanilla yogurt (I'm sure it was vanilla bean or something, but I don't remember) and fresh blackberries...
Go ahead...
drool...Now wipe the drool off your keyboard and get back to work...

Friday, March 11, 2011

comfort music and food

Well, it's been a long few weeks with crazy work schedules and friend commitments, which means I need some "me" time. This means cooking a comforting meal and listening to some blues. I find it very comforting to turn off my TV, talk radio, news, etc. and just let myself be in the moment with my music. It calms me and clears the clutter out of my head. :)

Go ahead and press play while you read.

So, I made my twist on meatloaf (something I never really loved as a child, except as meatloaf sandwiches for leftovers).

My first twist on this is that I use ground turkey, tomato sauce (no ketchup), and lots of italian seasonings (garlic, basil, oregano typically). My next twist is that I put the turkey in a cupcake pan so that you get individually portioned turkey patties of sorts. I also stuff the inside with some sort of cheese.

I ate that with some orzo and a nice salad...yummy.

So, the ingredients:

First, make your basic meatloaf recipe with your ground meat, a couple eggs (I only used 2), some bread crumbs and some onions. Then put in 1/2 a can of tomato sauce and 1/2 a can of crushed tomatoes. I like the texture of crushed tomatoes, but don't like huge chunks.

Mix in however much garlic you really like. I got lazy and used pre-chopped garlic last night. I put a couple Tablespoons in, but I love garlic.

If you'd like extra cheeziness, add in some parmesan.
Put in plenty of your favorite seasonings. I used basil, oregano, a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. I typically don't use much salt when I cook.

Note: you could use the ground turkey that's already "italian seasoned," but the sodium levels are kind of crazy.

Sorry there aren't many great pictures. The process of meatloaf isn't all that photogenic.

Put the meat in the muffin pans (after spraying really well with your favorite non-stick spray). My mom got me an olive oil sprayer for Christmas and I love it. You refill it with olive oil and pump it a few times before each use. Awesome.

Once the meat is in the muffin pan, choose your favorite cheese for the filling. I like to use one that gets nice and gooey. I chose mozzarella pearls.

Put a few of those in the center of each turkey muffin (I don't have a good term for this yet).
Then cover with more turkey and put in the oven at 350 for about half an hour.

While that is going, go ahead and make yourself a salad.
Here's what mine looked like:
Field greens, avocado and asiago cheese.

Then I cooked my orzo.
Basically, cook a couple cups of orzo.

Add in the remaining tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, a bunch of garlic, basil and oregano and a HEAP of parmesan cheese. You can also add some red wine if you'd like. I do that if it's too salty. If it's too sweet, then I add more salt and pepper. Just keep tasting until it's good (or until you're full and can't eat any for the meal anyway...hah!) Trust me. This stuff is addictive.

The turkey should come out looking like this:

... and the wine I chose was one I picked up a a small wine shop in Gruene, TX called The Grapevine.
I like how light and smooth this wine is. It's definitely not a "sweet" wine, but it just sits easy in your mouth and is smooth.

So, here are my plates at the end of the evening:

Lastly...to wrap up the evening with some cheer...here's Ray living it up, man. Oh, and if you go to the actual YouTube video, you'll see a comment from someone stating the following "Talk about no talent, rippin off Kayne like dat." I'm a little sad and highly disturbed that someone would think that Ray Charles ripped off Kanye. I'm hoping the post was a joke.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Honey, Lime and Cilantro...yum

So, I like to incorporate a few recipes together to create my meals. This is how I created the most recent one last night.

The menu:
Honey, cilantro, lime glaze on salmon
Saffron and garlic mashed potatoes
Green beans with bacon, onions, and almonds.

Here's how you start...
Peel the potatoes (although I like some skins).
Snap the ends off the green beans
...and start a couple pots of water boiling.

Put the beans in one pot and potatoes in another.

For the salmon glaze, heat up some honey in a pot, add lime juice and 1 bunch of cilantro.

Preheat the oven to 425 to 450 for the salmon.
Brush the glaze on the salmon.
Don't put the salmon in the oven for a few minutes. You don't want the potatoes to be hard still when the salmon is done (and salmon cooks fast).

In the mean time, cut some garlic and add it, along with saffron to milk.

As the saffron steeps in the milk, check to see if the green beans are fairly tender. If they are how you want them, go ahead and chop up the bacon (I cut off a lot of the fat).

Put the bacon in a pan and cook on medium.

Put the salmon in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Then turn it up to a broil for another 2 minutes

Now...back to the green beans.
Add onions to the bacon and let cook a little bit (until the onions get pretty clear).
Then pile on the green beans.
After the green beans have started to soak in those flavors, top with some almond slivers...

OK...for the complete meal, drain the potatoes and then mash in the saffron garlic milk. You can add cheese if you'd like too.

Here's the plate a few times for you.

I chose a white wine, but honestly, it did not pair well with the meal... It was a Fetzer Gewurztraminer, which tasted a little too much of pears for some reason.

The music for the evening was Afro Celt Sound System, Volume 1.

One of my favorite songs... I'm going to try to embed something here...let's see if it works!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


OK, so I've been a little under the weather and haven't done much cooking. This week, I'm making up for it.

Here's what you get to look forward to:

Salmon with cilantro, honey, lime, garlic marinade.
Green Beans with sauteed onions and almonds on top.
Saffron and Garlic Mashed potatoes
Note: I've gathered that the way to bring out the saffron flavor is to let it steep in a liquid...like the milk that I'll use in the mashed potatoes. I'm going to test this tonight.
some sort of salad...

Little turkey mini meatloafs filled with cheese...I don't know what to call these things other than delicious. I created them one night when I was feeling inventive and now they are a great standby.
Basically, you make turkey meatloaf mixture, but put it in muffin pans. Fill the muffin pan half way, put whatever cheese in the middle and then pile on more of the turkey meatloaf stuff (with tomato sauce and a bunch of italian seasonings). These end up tasting kind of like chicken parmesan, without the breading and frying. There are breadcrumbs in the mixture though...
Orzo with garlic, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese, and a little bit of red wine. My friends seem to love this stuff. I think it's all the cheese.
Green salad...not sure what I'll put on it yet.

My experimentation day...
I've been missing my favorite restaurant in Houston and the delicious tapas there, so I'm going to attempt to make a few of my own. Stay tuned for details.

If you have suggestions for beer or wine pairings, please let me know. Tapas on Saturday will definitely be paired with wine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

always be flexible in the kitchen

Always be flexible in the kitchen...
This is a lesson that anyone who cooks on a regular basis learns early on. I tested this last week and learned how to improvise and make a meal that, while not the intended dish, is still indeed tasty.

My goal last Thursday evening was to make Pad Thai. Now, I've made it once before and it was quite delightful. I looked up a few recipes online and said to myself "Sure, I can do this again. No big deal!"

So, off to the store I went for supplies.
Here are the ingredients:
Rice Noodles, Carrots, Extra Firm Tofu, ground chicken (or grilled chicken sliced), eggs, lime, thai spices, fish oil and soy sauce (which wasn't in the recipe, but i had a feeling I'd want it around at some point)...

Well, I realized that I forgot cilantro, which isn't in all recipes anyway, but I really like cilantro. I was too tired to go back to the store (not to mention that I didn't want to lose my fabulous parking space). So, this was concession #1. I had some chives laying around that I thought might taste kind of good, so I decided to throw those in there.

The first time I made Pad Thai, I used grilled chicken tenders that I sliced thin. I decided to go for ground chicken this time, which was a poor decision. I also incorporated tofu, which was a delightful decision.

So, start by browning the ground chicken. I seasoned it with some fish oil, and then realized that I HATED the smell of fish oil. I then decided that this was not going to be authentic Pad Thai, but that's ok. I used Soy Sauce instead, along with a Thai spice mix that I bought at the store. Put that into a bowl and put to the side.

Then fry a few eggs (I scramble them up after they've started to cook).
These will go on top of the dish.

Also, toast some peanuts and crush them. I have a little nut grinder thing that makes course or find ground nuts. It's whatever your personal preference is. These also go on top of the dish.

Then cut the firm tofu into bite sized chunks and drizzle some fish oil (if you like it) on there and season with some spices. Throw that in the pan that you used for the chicken and the eggs.

Then add the bean sprouts and carrots.
I also seasoned these with some soy sauce and Thai spice mixture.
I also have a Chinese 5 spice mixture that I may have thrown in there in attempts to get the fish oil smell out of my tiny non-ventilated kitchen.

See how this really is no longer Pad Thai?! I was feeling so guilty by this point... (soy sauce...Chinese Spice mixture...ohh, I'm so sorry. )

OK...back to the cooking.
While you're cooking the tofu, carrots and bean sprouts in pretty much whatever seasonings you'd like (since apparently the Pad Thai has gone out the window), boil the rice noodles for just a few minutes...
While those are boiling, add the chicken into the mixture with the bean sprouts, carrots and tofu.
Then toss the noodles in with that and add more seasonings. The rice noodles have pretty much no flavor, so they take whatever you add to them.

Mix well... and taste...
and if you're like me, you always think there's just something missing. So, since everything was just whatever smelled or tasted good to me that evening, I dug around in my spices to see what sounded / smelled appetizing.


If you've never cooked with saffron, you MUST try it. I've had it in Spanish dishes before, but I've also had it in mashed potatoes. I love it!

I also found it relatively cheap at Central Market, so I had just bought some when I bought all the other supplies for the evening.

I kept adding saffron until it tasted the way I wanted it to.
Then I put it in a bowl and topped it with the eggs, peanuts and a couple slices of lime.

So...here's how the dish turned out:

Was it what I intended when I started the evening? No. Did I still enjoy it ... very much (although I still miss the cilantro on there).

For the beer pairing, I chose an odd combination, that worked ok, although I think next time I'd go for Kirin Ichiban or something along those lines.
I, however, chose Ayinger Celebrator.

"What's that hanging around the neck of the bottle?" you ask...
Here's a close up for you

That's right...it's a plastic goat trinket...
or ram...

crazy Germans and their toys mixed with food. It reminds me of those Kinder Eggs, which apparently are illegal in the United States, yet somehow I remember having those toys when I was young...

Back to the Bock...
...and in case you want to know how dark a double bock beer is...
It's dark.

For the music of the evening, I went with Abigail Washburn. I saw her one year at Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL fest). I didn't know who she was, but only that Bela Fleck was playing with her as part of the group "The Sparrow Quartet."
Since I love Bela Fleck, I decided to check her out too. Her album, Song of the Traveling Daughter, has some folk songs with a bluegrass feel, but also traditional Chinese folks songs ...mixed with bluegrass music. She apparently lived in China for quite a few years growing up, so this shaped her music.
Here's one song in Chinese (pardon the anime, but this was the best music clip I could find online).
Here's another good bluegrass song that I just love her version of...Nobody's Fault but mine. This version is a little different than the one on the album, but both are fantastic.

Oh, and I recently found out on some NPR interview that she and Bela Fleck are married. How fantastic is that?!

Her voice is haunting and beautiful and since I was mixing cultures in all sorts of different ways anyway, the mixture of Chinese language and traditional Chinese folk songs with the banjo somehow fit. As my dad says "Ain't never been a pot so crooked there wasn't a lid to fit it."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fresh Pasta Anyone...

For new year's eve, a friend of mine and I decided to try our hands at making home made pasta. At first it was a horrendous failure. The recipe didn't have nearly enough moisture to it (or maybe it was because we didn't have semolina, so we ground up our own whole wheat grains and hoped for the best). At any rate, we decided that at a certain point, when our friends were still hungry around 11pm, we'd use store bought and fix our batch in the morning. Here's what our evening looked like...

All the ingredients were laid out for pesto, chicken and caprese skewers for appetizers...

and the drinks were poured...
The appetizers were delightful (caprese skewers) ... alternate cherry tomatoes cut in half, fresh basil and mozzarella
I didn't document the failed pasta, but new year's day we woke up, made ourselves some mimosas and tried again.
Here are some pictures of the success...
First, roll it out nice and thin...

...then roll that up like a newspaper
... ... and slice.

then unravel and you have pasta!
We tossed it with some pesto and sausage (no casing)
for the music...well, right now I'm jamming out to Eagles of Death Metal

I'm thinking dessert posts will come next. I've got loads of dessert pictures.