Thursday, September 22, 2011

Warm and Soft

When I'm sick there is nohing that I want to be more than someplace warm and soft. Right now my throat feels like someone has taken a power sander to the inside. And my head has a full orchestra of jackhammers and cement drills going on. And don't get me started on how I can barely take a breath because a 400 pound gorilla is sitting on my chest. So what did I decide to do? Yup, you guessed it, NOT stay in my nice warm bed and continue to eat the velvety garlic chicken soup I made from scratch yesterday. No. I got up at 4 am and took a flight to New Jersey. Where it is raining.  And I'm lost.  Of course I have my GPS with me.  I still got lost.  I'm good like that.

Fast forward a few hours and I made it through, made the plane by seconds, sat on the runway for an hour (grumble grumble grumble).  But I did make it back to the house in time for bath time and one more cup of soup before crawling into my bed.  Aaaaaahhhhhhh.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of soup.  Something about being force-fed vegetable soup that was "healthy" when I was a kid.  Just to be clear, anytime you tell your kids something is healthy they will hate it.  Healthy means it tastes bad.  So, this soup is NOT healthy, it is actually just tasty.  Especially if you like garlic.  The best thing about this soup is that it is creamy and almost velvety.  Perfect for soothing a sore throat.

Chicken, Garlic and Bacon Soup 
10 Cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 Pieces thick bacon
3T Butter
1/4C Flour
6C Chicken Stock (homemade is best)
3 Egg Whites
Salt and Pepper to taste

Render the fat from the bacon slices and remove bacon when crisp.  Add butter.  Saute garlic in butter and bacon fat until translucent and sweet smelling (yes, garlic does smell sweet when cooked, I promise, its really really good, even 10 cloves of it).  Whisk flour into mixture and cook, stirring often, until mixture looks medium brown and smells nutty (or just rely on look if your nose is all stuffed up like mine was).  Pour in 3-4 cups chicken stock and whisk to remove lumps.  Bring to low boil and cook for 10-15min.  If soup appears too thick, add additional stock.  Soup should coat the back of a spoon but not be too dense.  While whisking, add egg whites and cook additional 2min whisking constantly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with crusty french bread and crumbled bacon on top.  Best eaten curled up in bed on a rainy day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fair and Balanced Dinner

In case you haven't caught onto the recent theme (no, not the failures theme, the actual food I'm trying to cook), I'm trying to eat healthy.  We're in a land of whatever you want at whatever time you want and while I'm all for buying a lawn mower at 3am, I do want to keep some of the habits we've established by living overseas.  Namely eating food that is fresh.  Perhaps even prepared by me.  Luckily for me, and unluckily for my husband and my bank account, we live walking distance to a Whole Foods.  And yes, they are incredibly expensive, and no, I can't help myself.  Luckily this one doesn't sell caviar.  Just over-priced eggplants and the like.  This one also has a pretty nice fish counter.  Of course you need a credit check just to approach, but once you've been reviewed by the loan officers you are allowed to actually look for what you will over-buy and then only cook half of.  Which is all beautiful.

Now, I'm usually a salmon or tuna girl, as is my husband, since they most closely resemble red meat.  He likes sword fish, although I'm not a fan.  White fish to me is hit or miss.  Sometimes they just taste like a carrier for the sauces and sometimes there's a flavor.  Mulling over all these things, I"m pacing the fish counter.  The loan officers begin to be concerned that I'm running too many numbers in my head and perhaps am not able to afford the almost criminally beautiful layout of oceanic tastiness in front of me.  In the nick of time the light-bulb goes on and I settle on red snapper.  Yes, its a white fish, but I've heard great things and have actually had it and liked it a time or two.

Of course I buy the snapper without knowing how I'm going to cook it.  A quick internet search pops up some great inspiration and I settle on an Asian style.  Sweet and spicy soy glaze over the fish while it cooks, and a cabbage, red pepper, and onion stir fry.  To the side I had a cold soba noodle salad with a light peanut dressing.  All in all, the flavors were perfect, nothing was overpowering, the stir fry was still slightly crispy and soaked up the extra glaze nicely.  Oh yeah, and the fish cooked perfectly and tasted pretty darn awesome.

So, fresh veggies, a small portion of lean protein, and a whole grain side.  Perhaps the hippies at Whole Foods are wearing off on me.  Regardless, I'm pretty pleased with making a tasty, healthy, and balanced dinner.  Recipes below:

Red Snapper and Stir Fry

  • 1 red bell pepper sliced thin

  • 2 cups thinly slice Napa cabbage

  • 1/2 thinly sliced red onion

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon season rice vinegar

  • 3/4 cup Sweet Spicy Soy Glaze (see below)

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • four 4-ounce red snapper or grouper fillets with skin

  • Preheat oven to 350.  Oil baking pan with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.  Place red snapper fillets skin side down.  Pour 1/2 C of Sweet Spicy Soy glaze over the fillets.  Bake in the oven for 20min or until nearly cooked through.  Turn oven to broil for an additional 5min to caramelize the glaze, basting additional glaze over the fish just prior if necessary.  While the fish cooks, heat 1T vegetable oil in a non-stick pan until almost smoking.  Add bell peppers and onions, sauteing while stirring for 1-2 minutes.  Add cabbage and continue to stir, preventing the vegetables from burning, for no more than 7-8 minutes.  Add rice vinegar and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes. Take off of heat.

    Serve fish and vegetables with additional glaze on the side.

    Sweet Spicy Soy Glaze

  • 1/2 pound shallots (about 5 large)

  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh gingerroot

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

  • Heat vegetable oil in a sauce pan and caramelize shallots, about 5min.  Add all other ingredients and cook together for 10-12 minutes so that all flavors meld.  Spoon over fish or vegetables.

    Two at a Time

    Yup.  That's how we're doing it these days.  Two at a time.  Now that there are veggies available other than potatoes and cabbage, I'm attempting to cook 2 vegetables for every meal.  Yes, that is difficult.  And no, they are not always good.  Tonight's were 50/50.  See, that's the good thing about doing 2 different veggies, you have a 50/50 shot at getting one right.  Either that, or you bomb both and feel like a complete failure, crawling into a bottle of cheap merlot washed down with take-out chinese.  Nothing complements the bitter taste of failure like cheap liquor and take-out.

    But back to tonight.  Tonight was not a complete failure.  It was a learning experience.   Really.  I'm serious.  Ok, so kind of was a failure.  Damn, that merlot is looking pretty good right now.  The attempt was bacon sauteed brussels sprouts and oven sweet potato fries.  The sweet potatoes actually came out with a nice flavor since I broiled them with olive oil, a little bacon grease, salt, pepper, and cajun spices.  The texture was a little bit more like mashed potatoes than crispy fries, but overall the taste was excellent.

    The brussel sprouts were also a learning experience.  Don't order me the take-out yet!  This one wasn't a failure.  The texture was nice, the color was nice, and after boiling them I sauteed them with bacon.  If one were to like brussels sprouts, I think this would be wonderful dish.  I nearly lost everything in my stomach trying to choke down my 4th bite.  Ok, so I don't like brussels sprouts.  What the hell do I do with the rest of the bag?  I'm thinking a sling-shot is in order here.

    And I'm sure you are now going to astutely point out that bacon on top of veggies is not the most healthy way to cook them.  Well hey, at least I didn't wrap the bacon around a block of cheddar cheese and deep fry it like I wanted to.  Every little bit counts!

    I was about to write about last night's dinner, but I don't want to spoil the "I'm a failure" mood.  I'm half way through the merlot.  An "I'm a success" might require more moderation, or acting like an adult, or something.   So let me wallow, enjoy my cheap merlot, and I'll add last night success story in a different post.