Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baked Poblanos & Portobellos

Bake 2 poblano peppers (de-seeded & sliced into quarters), about 8 baby portobellos, and a handful of tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic and sprinkled with salt, at 425 for an hour in a glass baking dish.   Then add 1 cob of corn kernels and some crumbled goat cheese and bake another 10 minutes.  Swipe a knife through the dish a few times to chop things up, and spoon over ravioli or corn tortillas. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Warm Grape & Toasted Pita Salad

Completely addictive.  From Herbivoracious.

3 cups red seedless grapes, halved
3 thick pitas, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
6 oz ricotta salata, cubed or crumbled 
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TB toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and sumac to taste
Olive oil

Heat a 4 TB olive oil with red pepper flakes in a deep skillet.  Add pita squares and toast until light brown and crispy around the edges.  Move to a bowl.  Heat grapes in the same skillet, without adding more oil, until heated through and beginning to sizzle and lighten, about a minute or two.  Add grapes, cheese, and remaining ingredients to bowl.  Toss, taste, and adjust quantities of lemon juice, herbs and spices, and olive oil.  Serve immediately (or, if not possible, serve chilled). 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Paprika-Lime Butter for Corn

Mixed this up last night (for barbecue #2 of summer 2012), thinking of a Denver restaurant that serves grilled corn with a slice of lime, queso fresco, paprika salt, and butter.  It was yummy on the corn and I saw people spooning it over their shrimp skewers, as well.

Juice of 3 limes
1 TB paprika
1 tsp salt
1 TB finely grated parmesan (or any of a number of cheeses...)
3 TB melted butter

PS:  Annalise made a batch herself and unlike me, took a pic! Here ya go, corn in the background...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes with Blackberry Salsa

These little guys were my favorite vegetarian burger-replacement in many a barbecue.  (Thanks to K for sending me the recipe.)

Group One:
1.5 large (or 2 small) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped garlic
olive oil

Group Two:
1 cup cooked red or black quinoa
1 cup  bread crumbs
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 TB ea. chopped ilantro & basil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Group Three:
Chopped blackberries, cilantro, very fine slices of red onion and serrano pepper, lime juice, and salt.  

Cook your sweet potato and onion cubes in oil with salt for about 10-15 minutes in a large covered skillet - long enough to really soften those potatoes.  Then add the garlic and cook another minute or so.  Also cook your quinoa.

In a large bowl, mix the potato mixture (Group One) with the quinoa and other Group Two ingredients.  Mash together a little, pat into little cakes, and grill (or brown in a skillet).  Top with a salsa made of Group Three.  Next time, I may use them as veggie burger substitutes and serve with a bun and some condiments, but this salsa is great.

These quantities made about 8 cakes.

Caramelized Pear Ice Cream

Creamy dreamy very yummy ice cream from The Perfect Scoop.  I am informed that I should not even offer people chocolate sauce for this stuff, because it just detracts from the pear-ness (a little cinnamon and maybe a phyllo confection of some kind might be a better bet).  Here's what you do:

Peel and dice three ripe pears.  The smaller the dice, the easier the later steps.

Cover the bottom of a heavy nonreactive saucepan or skillet or what-have-you with 3/4 cup + 2 TB sugar.  Turn on medium high heat, and let the sugar melt and caramelize (you may want to stir gently when the edges start to melt to get the rest of it going). 

Once it is a deep amber color, add the pears.  The sugar will then seize up into pesky hard bits.  Do your best to get them to melt again by stirring and pressing into the pot with a heatproof spatula.  I find this is easier if you wait long enough (until that sugar really is amber and bubbly) to add the pears. (Properly caramelized sugar makes the flavor what it is, anyway).

Cook the pears in the sugar until soft, maybe 10 mins.  Remove from heat.  Add 1/2 cup heavy cream.  When that is mixed in, add another 1.5 cups cream, 1/8 tsp salt, and a few drops of lemon juice.  Allow to cool.  Liquify in a blender, then pass through a strainer to remove any pesky pear (or hard sugar) bits.  Chill overnight and blend according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Amazing as it is, I might turn this into a custard next time.  Or add a ribbon of actual caramel.  If so, I will update this post accordingly.

By the way, if you want to make some pretty awesome ice cream without any machine at all, check this out.

Avocado-Grapefruit Salad

It's been awhile since I posted a straight-up salad.  I have to remind myself sometimes to blog things that I'd make again, even if they are not revolutionary New Recipes Nobody Has Ever Thought of Before.  So, Phoenix people, I realize you probably have all eaten this or something like it 1.5 million times, but allow me to marvel over it from (still-chilly) Colorado...

3 red grapefruits
3 avocados
Head of butter lettuce
2 handfuls pistachios
Olive oil, salt, soy sauce, white balsamic

Cube the avocados, tear the lettuce leaves, and remove the flesh of the grapefruits keeping it as intact as possible.  (If you don't mind pith you could leave some of that in, but I hate the stuff and try to remove it thoroughly.)  Reserve the grapefruit juice separately from the flesh, as you may not want to pour ALL of it on your salad.  Crush the pistachios a little. 

Toss the avos, lettuce, grapefruit flesh, feta, and nuts in a liberal quantity of grapefruit juice, a drizzle of olive oil, salt to taste, and tiny splashes of white balsamic and soy sauce.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Salmon With Peach Sauce

One of the ways that I am changing my life since graduating from college is taking advantage of the time that I have to cook more often and to eat healthier.  Along those lines, I recently decided I was going to cook some salmon, in the interest of becoming more of a contributor to this blog than various versions of chicken and rice.

Learning to purchase and cook salmon was an amusing experience that involved me accidentally calling big sister S (the vegetarian one) to ask her advice on purchasing salmon and googling how to remove fish scales (which landed me on the helpful page "Frequently Asked Salmon Questions". You really can find anything on the internet.)

The learning, however, was so worth it.  I had some leftover peach preserves from a friend's wedding in January (for favors, they canned their own peach preserves.  How adorable is that?) and yet another friend brilliantly suggested putting them on salmon.  I remembered that Robin Miller of Food Network (one of my favorite cookbooks is her Quick Fix Meals) often uses preserves and the like in cooking. I decided to utilize those preserves, and the result was delicious.  Here's what I did:

look Ma, I'm eating my greens

Purchased small wild Alaska salmon fillet from butcher at Safeway.  Preheated oven to 350 degrees.  Descaled it using this method found via internet searching.  Set in a piece of foil, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.  Wrapped in foil, placed on baking sheet.  Mixed a 2-1 ratio of peach preserves and soy sauce, respectively, in a bowl, until well blended.  After about 15 minutes of cooking, added preserves mixture to salmon. Cooked another 10-15 minutes until flaky, but not too dry.

I imagine this would be delicious with any type of fruit preserves.

There, one step closer to shedding the title of finicky little sister. ;)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer Dessert: Grilled Fruit & Ice Cream

My favorite variation:  Grilled peach slices served over vanilla ice cream with cinnamon and honey.  This was the ending to many bbqs last summer, and this summer I can make the ice cream myself, too! 

Also delicious:  Grilled strawberries or cherries over vanilla ice cream with reduced balsamic vinegar.  Grilled pineapple over chocolate ice cream with a little chocolate syrup. 

Warm Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas & Chard

Quinoa is a popular food here at Today I Cooked (and let's face it, across the food blogosphere). We like it with lentils, toasted and maple-y for breakfast, fried into quinoa corn cakes, as a flour for cake,  in tamales, served with roasted veggies and avocado, and lots of other ways, too. My sisters and I could subsist on cheese and carbs if left unchecked, so quinoa is a good high-protein option for us.

This is what you get when my camera is broken
I make variations of this salad regularly, because it is easy and delicious.

1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
2 tomatoes
2 lemons
1 large bunch chard
1 bunch green onions
2 shallots
1 15 oz. can chickpeas
2 tablespoons pesto
4 tablespoons hummus
Fresh Basil
Sea Salt

Start your quinoa cooking either in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. It cooks much more quickly than rice, so pay attention! Open and rinse chickpeas and add to a large serving bowl. De-stem and tear chard. Slice green onions and shallots. Chop tomatoes. Add all of it to a bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix pesto, hummus, and the juice of two lemons. Stir into beans/tomatoes/greens mixture. Once quinoa is done, add to bowl. Season with sea salt and thinly sliced fresh basil. 

Considerations for food ethics and allergies: Gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, soy free.

If you are like us and still have chard to use (see below), try this. Alternately, check out how my good friend Heather is dealing with this chard-knock life

Community gardening in the desert Southwest

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberry-Black Bean Tacos

After eating some of the best tacos I've ever had for brunch on a sunny Phoenix morning last weekend, I couldn't stop thinking of soft corn tortillas with savory black beans, and we wound up with the following dinner:

Corn tortillas (homemade if possible), with a dollop of black beans (try these, or, for a simple version, Amy's vegetarian black refried beans are good), topped with feta and a salsa of diced strawberries and avocados, tossed in plenty of lime juice and a little salt and honey.  I also threw some shredded basil on top.  Tasty!

Tangy, Garlicky Greens

The first and second weeks of May were a bit of a doozy for these sisters. The story goes something like this.

April 30th: Kate successfully defends her dissertation proposal but is also rejected from a major grant.
May 1: The first half of the family arrives from Alaska for an epic, and very hectic week of celebrating because Annalise is a rockstar college graduate!!!
May 2: The second half of the family comes in from Wyoming and A graduates!!! Sarah is busy in Denver doing some very serious lawyering and is very missed.
May 3: A series of parties/ceremonies ensue.
May 4: K's car breaks down. A's roommates are moving out and others are moving in. Lots of chaos.
May 5: More partying for A. K and mother try to buy all decorations for K's upcoming August nuptials and seriously fail.
May 6: A's sweet, beautiful childhood dog is hit by a car back in Wyoming and she doesn't make it. Everyone is so sad. Kindness from strangers who give the doggie a proper burial overwhelms us all.
May 8: K becomes very ill. She pushes through and goes with A and Mom to try on the-wedding-dress-that-is-sort-of-ugly-and-needs-much-fixing-oh-no.
May 9: K ends up in urgent care with strep and a stomach virus, because that's how she rolls.
May 10: The rest of the week is a wash of anti-nausea meds, gatorade, and too many episodes of Private Practice.
May 11: S's very serious lawyering ends for the week in a nerve-wracking way. She flies to Phoenix anyway, because....
May 12: The recovered K has an epic bridal shower and bachelorette party. A is in another wedding this day, but somehow she still makes it out to K's parties. All sisters also engage in various care activities for a sick grandmother. (Who is now doing better, thankfully.)
May 13: Country music dancing at a cowboy bar is going on still in the wee hours of the morning. Later, S flies back to Denver.
May 14: Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief.

The one day not listed above? May 7th? On that day I cooked these greens, which we harvested from P's community garden plot. They were amazing, and provided a good dose of nourishment in the midst of some serious insanity.

Tangy, Garlicky Greens

Chard or kale, several large bundles
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 medium or two small lemon(s)
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons butter
Sea salt

Put 3 tablespoons of butter into a large soup pot and melt on simmer or low. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic, and let cook, still on low, for 30-45 minutes. The butter/garlic combo will become incredibly fragrant.

Meanwhile, wash and de-stem your chard and tear into large strips. Add to the pot with a tablespoon of water. Put the lid on the pot and let greens wilt for 5 minutes, stirring with butter/garlic. Add the juice of 1-2 lemons (depending on their size and strength and your preferences) to the greek yogurt. Stir over greens and add nutmeg and sea salt to taste. Serve warm and wilted, but not all the way cooked down. We ate it with this amazing soup and these delicious cocktails.

Considerations for food allergies and ethics: Vegetarian but not vegan. Gluten-free. Do not make if you have a dairy or casein allergy, but do remember that nutmeg and lemon are a good flavor pairing for greens even without the butter and the yogurt. Into slow food? I've grown chard in the extreme (and very different) climates of Arizona and Wyoming with great ease.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Simple Chicken and Tomatoes

I found this recipe on Annie's Eats near the beginning of the year, and it has rapidly become my staple, go-to recipe when I want a meal without too much fuss.  With tomato season approaching, I thought I'd post it, if anything to give our mother another use for all the fresh tomatoes she'll be growing soon.

Because I've made this so often, I am able to make variations on it easily and quickly, some of which I have maintained and will include in this recipe.  The main variation is to reduce the portion size, this is the amount I typically make for just myself, and often save half for later.  I also replaced butter with olive oil, but it's delicious both ways.

1 chicken breast
A handful of cherry tomatoes, (or 2 normal-size tomatoes in halves)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs. Oregano
1 Tbs. Paprika
1 Tbs. garlic
1/3 cup chicken broth or white wine
Salt and Pepper

While preparing the chicken and tomatoes, also prepare 1 cup rice.

Mix together olive oil (or butter) with oregano, paprika, and garlic, or other spices if desired.  Heat a frying pan with 1/4 of the olive oil mixture.  Slice chicken into strips, dredge each piece in flour, add salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken in frying pan, add more of olive oil mixture.  Cook until finished, about 8 minutes total.  Remove chicken from pan, set aside and cover to keep warm.  Add remaining olive oil mixture to pan and heat.  Add tomatoes, cook until they begin to char and burst.  Squeeze tomatoes for extra juice, add chicken broth.  Remove once broth is warmed and pour tomatoes and sauce over chicken and rice.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grapefruit Gin and Tonic

Last night I went to sister K's for dinner, as our mother is still in town to celebrate my college graduation.  We ate yummy tomato soup and a delicious chard recipe I'm certain she will post later (if this meat-and-potatoes-gal can call it delicious, it must be posted).

To complement this just-right meal, my soon-to-be brother-in-law P made us some cocktails, and said I was welcome to share here:

Squeeze the extra juiciness out of an overripe grapefruit.  Add a shot of Bombay Sapphire. Add tonic.  Garnish with a grapefruit slice and a leaf of basil harvested from your very own community garden plot.