Monthly Archives: July 2009

A story about chitlins

The day before the end, lightning danced across clouds in a dimming sky. Two 20-somethings watched it, bleary-eyed and hungry, while a black cat between them grew restless in her cage.

They were rounding out 2,800 miles – from the juniper forests of Central Oregon, through the Grand Tetons and ending in a southern state on the Atlantic coast. Their meals consisted mainly of cold-cut sandwiches from the coolers, Goldfish crackers, Wheat Thins and granola bars. This is what people eat when they quit their jobs and move across the country.

But when the heat lightning welcomed these travelers to their new home, they promised to treat themselves. Finally.

The next night, after a full day of unpacking the truck in soggy heat, they went to a local microbrewery in downtown Winston-Salem. Foothills Brewery, presumably named for the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Or the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The brewery was like Deschutes Brewery meets Merenda Restaurant & Wine Bar. They ordered a few brews:

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And an appetizer of onion rings (thick slices of sweet yellow onion):

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And dinner of buffalo chicken wraps, which tasted just like buffalo wings (yum!). Later, they bought peaches, just because, you know, it’s The South.

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Also at the grocery store: an entire refrigerated case of chitlins, or chitterlings. Pig intestines. Some body parts just shouldn’t be eaten.

Spicy grilled chicken with stone fruit and balsamic glaze

Grilled nectarines and barbecue chicken!

Grilled nectarines and barbecue chicken!

He didn’t believe me. He had his doubts. I was defrosting some chicken thighs that have been in the freezer for a year. I said I also wanted to grill stone fruit. But not peaches. My boyfriend was dubious. Later, he would be pleasantly full.

But I knew this R-Ray dish would be insanely good because I’ve made it twice before and always to great effect. The chicken (thighs or breast) is marinated in Dijon mustard, paprika, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil and garlic. Then it is infused with the smoky heat from our charcoal grill. Then, a drizzle of rosemary-balsamic syrup….it’s yummy. I served it with some parsley-parmesan couscous, another invention made to use up our cupboard items.

This meal is perfect for celebrating a beautiful summer day, such as the one we had for the Deschutes Dash!

In a large bowl, combine:

1/4 c. EVOO

4 cloves garlic, pushed through a press

2 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T Dijon mustard

1 T paprika

1 T Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Toss 2 pounds of chicken with the marinade and let chill for at least 15 minutes. Then grill them about 5 minutes per side, or until just done.

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When you turn the chicken the first time, add the nectarines to the grill (4 nectarines, halved and pitted, drizzled with EVOO). Grill the fruit until dark grill marks appear, about 6 min.

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Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar, 2 T brown sugar and 2 T chopped fresh rosemary to a boil. Lower heat and reduce, about 7 min., until syrupy.

To serve, I spooned cooked couscous mixed with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan on a plate. Then, add chicken and fruit, then drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

This dish is smoky like barbecue, but with an added extra bite and sweetness from the fruit and glaze. Everyone for whom I have made this has loved it. You must try. Enjoy, friends!

Getting to know me

I have an excuse: I am moving.

That is why I’ve been so non-existent on the blog front – my life is being rolled up in newspaper, placed in brown boxes¬† and sealed with tape. I’ve already packaged up my Martha Stewart stainless steel collection (note to self: take better care of pots and pans – they already have black bottoms!) and my Dutch oven, so now I’m cooking on the stuff I bought from Costco during the University days.

Moving is by far one of the most stressful life experiences. I am in a constant state of incomplete – not everything is packed, yet my nest is horribly fractured. I crave a place to just relax after work, but alas, that couch left yesterday.

Another incidental about the whole moving-out process is what to do with your food. It’s not so easy as just eating out of your cupboards – even I can’t have pasta EVERY night, and sometimes I just want to treat myself to sushi or something. I already know that I’ll be giving hundreds of dollars worth of food away to my friends (or the trash can), but I’m viewing it as a write-off.

So please excuse me, dear readers, as I get my new life (across the country) in order!

In lieu of an actual blog post, here is my equivalent to those annoying forwards you get or those aggravating surveys on Facebook.

Favorite cooking utensil: My square-ended wooden spoon.

Favorite cooking pot: Glazed ceramic Martha Stewart Dutch oven. It’s perfect.

Culinary guilt: Top Ramen

Culinary pleasure: Lemon-herb roasted chicken with new potatoes, fennel, onion, carrot (I made this last week!)

Favorite ingredient: Garlic

Favorite thing to chop: Italian parsley – plus, it makes everything taste fresher. (runner up: rhubarb)

Least-favorite thing to chop: onions, although I love chopping shallots.

Must-have in kitchen: thick, wooden cutting board.

Favorite Thanksgiving dinner dish: Gravy! It goes on everything! But for me to make, probably my roasted cauliflower with herbs and parmesan or my Italian apple/chestnut/sausage stuffing.

Favorite heritage meal: Pierogies.

Kitchen wish-list: A KitchenAid stand mixer, Crock-Pot, glass mixing bowls, ceramic casserole dishes, vintage crystal champagne glasses, ah the list goes on!

Food-blog pleasures: TheKitchn.com and SmittenKitchen.com. They are my inspiration.

Favorite cookbook (baking): How to Be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson

Favorite cookbook (other): Barefoot Contessa

Cookbook you couldn’t live without: Best Recipes (I could lose all others and still be content with just this!)

Favorite ethnic food: Thai

Best food you’ve had outside the U.S.: This place we went to in Barcelona, Spain, with the chocolate/olive oil dessert….drool.

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Favorite quick lunch food: Pasta aglio e olio: saute  chopped garlic in EVOO, add dash of pepper flakes and a tablespoon of anchovy paste, stir until melted together, then stir in handful of chopped parsley, add S&B, toss with pasta and grate over Parmesan.

Favorite drink: Depends on the season! Now, perhaps a mojito or a sparkling wine. In the fall, red wine (any kind) and mulled cider.

Favorite food season: Late summer.

Something you’ve always wanted to make: Apple pie.

Something you’ll never make: a wedding cake. Or beef stroganoff.

Favorite Food Network shows: Barefoot Contessa, Everyday Italian.

Skirt-steak tacos with black-bean and corn salsa

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I can’t believe I’ve never made skirt steak before. It always seemed like the bottom-rung on the beef pyramid, but then I saw how often Bobby Flay uses it…oh, why not? It’s cheap, so it couldn’t hurt.

We simply grilled 2 pounds of skirt steak with just a little canola oil, salt and pepper. Medium rare, just a few minutes on each side. Charcoal grill.

Then, I grilled corn tortillas until they were softened and charred and filled them with a smear of sour cream, avocado slices, black-bean salsa (fresh tomatoes, roasted corn, red onion, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, parsley, black beans, lime, S&P) and the steak (top with cheese of your choice, if you wish). I finished with a squeeze of lime, which really added something extra.

The tacos were simply a delicious mess. What a complex marriage of flavors, all wrapped up in a little pouch! Definitely remember to cut the steak against the grain, so it will be easy to bite off. We will definitely be making this again. Soon. Enjoy, friends!

Baker’s delight

I’ve been craving baked goods lately.

When we came back from Fourth of July at my folks’ place, I had three bananas that were over-ripe. You know what that means…

I baked up this moist, sweet banana bread. I just love the smell of it wafting throughout my house! This was my breakfast and snack for three days straight (not to mention all the thick slices that you-know-who took).

A warm fall smell in the middle of summer.

A warm fall smell in the middle of summer.

I can’t wait to make it again. But in the mean time, I have a zucchini in the fridge that isn’t going anywhere…

Pecan-crusted halibut with dijon cream sauce

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This recipe came from my proto-sister-in-law, Merissa, who I’ve blogged about before.

This one is made with halibut, which is normally very expensive, unless you go to Costco. I found this for $10 per pound, a far cry from the $24 per pound I’ve seen at the local market.

Not fishy at all, this dish smells as good as it tastes. Pecans roasting in butter? Dijon whipped with cream? Yum! I made my classic couscous along with it (cook according to directions, except use chicken stock for water and add golden raisins, toasted pine nuts and herbs – this time, I used cilantro. Add the herbs and nuts last. Almonds are also good.).

Ingredients for fish:

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp dijon mustard (coarse or regular, who cares?)

2 large eggs

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup breadcrumps, fresh or dry (I always use dry)

Eight 6-oz. halibut fillets (or however much you want to cook, no matter. I used 1 lb. of halibut cut into smaller portions)

2 T butter

Method:

Heat oven at 350. Combine flour, salt, pepper in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, whisk mustard and eggs. In a third bowl, combine bread crumbs and pecans.

Dredge each halibut piece first in the flour mixture, shake, then egg, let drip, then pecan crumbs, pressing to get more pecans to stick. Repeat with all pieces.

Meanwhile, melt 2 T of butter over medium heat (I recommend a nonstick skillet). Add fillets, in batches if you have to, and cook 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Add additional butter, as needed.

When all the fillets are done, place them on a foil-lined baking pan and pop in the oven for 10 minutes or until the fish is pretty firm to the touch and easily flakes.

Now, make the couscous and the cream sauce:

Whisk 1 c. heavy cream with 1/2 c. dijon mustard and a dash of salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Whisk over low heat for three minutes, or until heated.

To serve, put some couscous on the plate, then a fillet of fish, then a few spoonfuls of the sauce. Enjoy, friends!

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Asian chicken with basil, chilies and garlic

Healthy, spicy summer weeknight meal

Healthy, spicy summer weeknight meal

We all know about my obsession with glass noodles. My boyfriend hates them, preferring big, thick, hearty noodles instead. But for this dish, the sauce was so tasty that he had to admit it was fabulous.

I thought up this recipe to use my leftover basil from the pasta al pomodoro.

This dish is SPICY, so adjust the red pepper to your personal tastes. I like spice, but even this made me run for the milk. Also, resist the urge to add salt and pepper – the soy sauce, fish sauce and red pepper flakes render all other seasonings useless. I’ve adapted the recipe from Miss Rachael Ray…it makes about four servings.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 c. torn fresh basil

8 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 thinly sliced spring onion (or 4 green onions or 1.5 cups yellow onion)

3 T canola oil

1/2 lb. glass noodles, or your favorite noodle or pasta

2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or just add 1 tsp. and add more later, to taste)

4 tsp. sugar

2 T soy sauce

2 T fish sauce (invest in this – it will last you years)

Method:

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 c. water with fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and red pepper. Stir and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and add the pasta and cook until just al dente – the glass noodles literally take seconds! Drain and set aside with the lid on to keep warm.

While you boil the pasta water, heat a large, deep skillet over high heat and add the canola oil. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, then set aside. Reduce the pan to medium and add the chopped onion and then garlic. Saute until softened. Add the chicken back in. Add the sauce and stir to combine. Cook until evenly coated, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the basil, tossing until wilted.

Plate up – serve a bed of noodles, then the chicken mixture. Enjoy, friends!