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.'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'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.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Catching up

Hi there -
Well, there's been a lot going on and I actually haven't been cooking a whole lot over the past month. Oh sure, quick salads or pasta dishes here and there, but nothing too substantial, until the other week. Here's what I decided to do after a much needed trip to Central Market...

Goat Cheese Ravioli with pesto and chicken
Cheese and herb filled Canneloni with chicken
both with a small salad... it goes...
Start with the pesto sauce...
Garlic ...ohhh the garlic.

Basil, Oregano, and Olive Oil...

and usually pine nuts, but I was out, so I used pecans. It actually turned out pretty cool. It was a little "nuttier" than I normally have for pesto, but really yummy.

Then you have the chicken. I just put a little bit of salt and pepper and some fresh oregano and baked in the oven.

The goat cheese ravioli were fresh from central market.
Boil per directions, then top with pesto and chicken.
I also bought some cheese and herb cannelloni. Delicious!

Here is the final product., I'm realizing that the format for this blog is lacking. For example: The picture to the right there was supposed to be the other direction. It looks correct when I pull it up in it's file, but it doesn't load correctly on here. Anyone know how to change the direction? Also, when I load pictures, they all end up at the top and I have to drag them into place, which means scrolling through text and dragging, then resizing, etc. Anyone know more about blogger? :)

Alright, back to the food...
For dessert I didn't make anything, but I did find fantastic ice cream that tastes exactly like these German cookies made with molasses and spices.

For the wine...Sebastiani cabernet sauvignon

For the music...Erika Luckett
I found her CD, Tinted Glass, at Half Price Books and honestly bought it because it looked cool and was pretty cheap. (Oh, did I mention I love random music and usually end up pretty happy with my selections?)
If you've never ventured into a Half Price should.