What have you been up to in the kitchen?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Least dirty dishes possible

So let's say every last dish you own is dirty in the sink, and you're not in the mood. But you're dying for a warm, comforting, nutritious meal.

Put some water on to boil (tea pot works just fine), take the last bowl out of the cupboard. Rinse and rip to bite-size pieces some baby bok choy, or other leafy greens (chard, spinach, anything in the family of foliage that is good cooked). Put greens in bottom of bowl, cover in boiling water. Stir with chopsticks for a minute or two. Pour in packet of miso soup, stir, enjoy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


So, in classic Otis fashion, I knew what I wanted for dinner (Pesto), but had none of the key ingredients, namely Basil and Pine Nuts. Or even Parmesean for that matter. But, as I have learned from my mother, I had two things in my favor:
1. Plenty of sexy power tools and trusty hand tools.
2. A blonde's obliviousness to obstacles.

So, what did I have?
Green leaves: check! (spinach)
Nuts: check! (chopped walnuts)
Cheese: check! (some hard italian cheese that resembles parmesean)

HA! It's ON! The Cheese was in a huge chunk, and because I'm lazy and resourceful and have sexy power tools, I just threw the whole lump into the mini-prep. I was on the phone with Laurel. She described the sounds "like you are mini-prepping your cat!" I told her I would call her back when the shrieking subsided.

So the lump finally broke down into smaller pieces, and I added garlic, spinach and EVOO. See the layers? Like an Ogre. Or Parfait.

Then I dumped on the nuts, and WHIIIIRRR!!!! UNPESTO! Pairs well with Gorgonzola Walnut Tortellini from Trader Joes. I also added some cooked chicken I had laying around.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Seasonal goodness

I've been recieving a gift subscription to Bon Appetit for nearly 6 months now, and everytime a new issue arrives in the mail I can't help squealing "food porn!" with glee. There are loads of recipes in there I'm not quite ambitious enough to try, but almost without fail, there are a few recipes in very issue that suit my kitchen and cooking sensibilities just fine.

This month it made my day to find a recipe for Fingerling Potatoes with Oyster Mushrooms - I'd just been to Farmer's market and bought a pound of wee little potatoes, and the asian market down the street is a weekly stop for mushrooms and miso.

This recipe was easy, simple, and I imagine it would go well with just about any slab o' animal and veggies. I rounded out this particular meal with chicken cooked in a soy sauce/balsamic vinegar/garlic/cinnamon/sugar mix (ala Joy of Cooking) and some broccoli cooked in olive oil and garlic.

Fingerling Potatoes with Oyster Mushrooms

(makes 6 servings)

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds small yellow fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, halved lengthwise (i left the smallest ones intact)
4 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 pound large fresh oyster mushrooms, torn into inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon chopped italian parsley

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450F. Brush 2 large rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon olive oil each. Place potatoes on 1 prepared sheet, drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil over and toss to coat. Spread potatoes in single layer, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place potatoes on top rack of oven and roast 10 minutes. Sprinkle half of the garlic and shallots over. Transfer potatoes to bottom rack of oven and continue to roast until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, toss mushrooms on second prepared baking sheet with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining garlic and shallots. Spread in single layer and roast mushrooms on top rack of oven until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms to potatoes, stir to combine. Add parsley to potato-mushroom mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Must Love Butter

So, I may have posted about Baklava before, but I have made it several times in the last couple weeks, and so I am posting about it again. I like it because it easy, its good, and EVERYONE ALWAYS raves about it. I, of course, never tell anyone that the secret ingredient is enough butter to kill a horse, but what's a heart attack amoung friends?

1 lb Filo (phyllo) dough. Found in the freezer section of the grocery store.
a LOT of butter. I have used anywhere between 2-4 sticks. (.5-1 lb)
Nuts. I prefer walnuts, D prefers almonds. I like the bitterness of the walnuts. So I say walnuts.
1 C sugar
1/2 C honey

If you remember ahead of time, pull the Filo out of the freezer and put it in the fridge a day or two before you make it. Filo dough will stay good for about 4 weeks in the fridge, and indefinitely in the freezer. If you DON'T remember, let it thaw for a couple hours on the counter.

Butter the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Melt a couple sticks of butter. In a chopper, blend the nuts (I use about 6-8 oz.) with cinnamon (uh...I just dump some in). Place nearby. GENTLY lift two sheets of the Filo and place it in the bottom of the pan. For the first few layers at the bottom, you may need to trim the ends off, it will be too long. Just use a sharp knife. Using a paintbrush-looking thing, butter the top of the Filo dough. Place 2 more sheets, butter and repeat.

When you are about 8 sheets deep (sheets. that mean about 4 rotations of layer and butter), dump a couple of tablespoons of the nut mixture onto the Filo. Spread it around so its evenly covering the Filo, then go back to the dough and the butter routine. I usually end up doing about 8 sheets, nuts, 8 sheets, nuts, 8 sheets, nuts and then 6-8 more sheets. Make sure you THUROUGHLY butter the top layer.

Now comes the hardest part of the whole adventure...cutting the baklava into square or diamonds. I guess the easiest way to do it is to cut about 4 sections lengthwise, and then diagonally across from there. It's a giant pain in the butt, and I have yet to find a way to do it that is any easier or faster than what I've done before. So, good luck with that.

After you have managed to cut that thing into a couple dozen pieces, put it in a 350* oven for 40-50 minutes. I find its usually done at 40. 25 minutes before the Baklava is going to come out of the oven, mix 1C sugar into 1C water on the stove. When the mix starts to boil, add the honey and a splash of vanilla. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes, until the baklava comes out the oven.

Now this is my favorite part!!! When the Baklava comes out of the oven, immediately pour the water/sugar/honey mix over the baklava. It bubble! It steams! It makes neat sounds! I love it!

Let the baklava cool a bit. If you are eating it at home, just get pieces from the pan. If you are taking it to a potluck or something, its far easier to put the pieces into those paper muffin cups. When storing baklava don't store it in an airtight container, or the fridge. The fridge makes it hard, and the airtight makes it soggy. Enjoy the baklava and the compliments!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Suburban Barbie

Grandpa failed to see the charm of Buccaneer Barbie with its squeegee pegleg, so he bought us a brand new CharBroil. Some assembly required, and then it rained. I was too lazy to go to the store for dinner, so instead of a fabulous steak barbeque, the menu tonight consisted of beans and lettuce. There's always tomorrow, Mr. CharBroil!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Impromptu Pasta

Impromptu Pasta with sausage veggie sauce, garlic bread and caprese salad.

ingredients -

1 yellow onion
2 zucchinis
3-4 tomatoes
5 Italian sausages - basil and garlic- from Trader Joe's
fresh basil
fresh whole wheat pasta (or use any kind of pasta you like)
1-2 balls of fresh mozzarella (probably like fist sized ones)
1 jar of trader joe's basil and garlic marinara sauce - or really any kind you like
1/2 cube of butter
olive oil
loaf of whole wheat bread

Turn the oven on 350 to preheat. Turn your frying pan on med heat and heat up. Drop a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. When the pan is warm toss in the sausage. Cook until brown on all sides and no longer pink in the middle. Probably like 10-15 minutes. While the sausages are cooking get to prepping for the rest of the sauce.

Pull off about 15 basil leaves from stems and wash them, and set aside.
slice your remainder tomatoes for the caprese salad. I turn my tomatoes on the side and slice them width-wise or whatever you call it - into pretty good size slices. Put them on a plate.

slice the mozzarella balls into thick circles as well and place on top of the tomato slices
place 1-2 basil leaves on each tomato-mozzarella stack. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper lightly
Place in fridge to chill

slice the bread - or if its already sliced, put it on a cookie sheet and set aside.

get a small sauce pan and put the 1/2 cube of butter in it on low low heat. We will add garlic to this and cook for a while and eventually put on the bread for it's garlic sauce

Okay dice three cloves of garlic (half for the garlic bread and half for the sauce)
dice half of one yellow onion -
dice one tomato for the sauce
Dice a handful of washed basil
set aside. If you want you can put the garlic and onion in one bowl and the tomato, zucchini and basil in another

When the sausage is almost done put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Obviously depending on what kind of pasta you used depends on how long it will take to cook. Fresh pasta only takes a few minutes.

Check your melty butter. If its melted - add the remainder of your set aside garlic and let that cook on low for a while. The house should start smelling good. Open up a bottle of wine and pour yourself a cup. Enjoy.

When the sausage is finished remove it from the pan but leave the drippings Take the sausage and Chunk it. I mean, slice it into thick chunks--, add the garlic and onions to the sausage drippings and brown - return the sausage to the pan, add zucchini, tomato and sauce and then simmer

Check your melted garlic butter sauce. If the garlic smells good and has had a chance to cook for a while, spoon it over your bread and put it in the oven for about 10 minutes.

When the sauce has simmered and the zucchini has cooked so its tender, and your pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and mix with the sauce. Turn your oven on broil for about a minute to get that garlic bread crispy- but watch that it doesn't burn.

Serve pasta, take out that caprese salad, give everyone some garlic bread and pour yourself another glass of wine.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Grapes and Turkey

Last night I was feeling tired, lazy, and fat. I even debated whether or not I should bother eating dinner at all. I decided on eating what looked good and that I could grab. I had a bunch of fantastic green, seedless grapes and then I ate a few slices of Roasted Turkey From Trader Joe's It was good. Alright so it wasn't "cooking" and it certainly wasn't anything fancy, but I ate it while watching Seinfeld (The Cadillac: PartI). Everytime I eat grapes it makes me think of the ancient Romans. Or that time I was taking a summer school class at CSUMB, well it was really at Moss Landing and we got to eat during our final. As I was writing and reading and thinking, I was mushing up a raisin between my fingers. Before that day, although I knew that raisins came from grapes, I couldn't ever see how. They just looked too different. Like Arnold Schwartzenneger and Danny DeVito in the movie Twins. Okay this is supposed to be about food. Did you know that grapes and microwave can be used as entertainment?