Archive | September, 2009

Eat your broccoli

11 Sep

This is the truth, food is good. Broccoli tastes good because it’s fresh and bright and vibrant. It’s hard to taste broccoli when it’s being covered up by cheese and potatoes and other crazy things. What? You don’t like broccoli? May be you’ve only had overcooked frozen broccoli. Is your most recent memory of broccoli one that is mushy and unpleasant? Did the broccoli have a odd army drab color? If you answered yes to any of these questions then my friend you don’t know broccoli. Try some fresh broccoli. You can find it in the produce department.

To cook broccoli, first cut the fresh heads into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a good amount of salt. Add broccoli to the water and cook until the florets are bright green and can easily be pierced with a paring knife. Have large bowl filled with ice water ready to go. Once the broccoli is cooked transfer it directly into the ice water bath. This will stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color. To reheat, sauté over medium heat in a little olive oil.

How many ingredients does it take to make broccoli soup? Well, if you are reading the back of the Campbell’s condensed version, probably a dozen or so. I bet you can’t pronounce some of the them either. Now, if you know me well you know that I love Gordon Ramsey. He has a philosophy that is similar to my own. Take good food and only add the minimum to make that ingredient shine.

Gordon Ramsey has a show called Kitchen Nightmares. In one of the episodes, he asked a “chef” of a restaurant to make broccoli soup. How many ingredients did it take? Twelve. Twelve ingredients to make broccoli soup! When Gordon made it it took three. Broccoli, water, and salt.

Want to make the soup? Follow the directions for blanching (above), but don’t shock in an ice bath. Instead, put the broccoli into a blender or food processor and add some of the cooking water (about 1 cup). Blend until smooth, added more water as necessary to achieve the perfect consistency. If you want something a little richer, when the soup has been blended swirl a tablespoon of heavy cream into each serving bowl.

So I dare you. Make some 3 ingredient broccoli soup, or just have some sautéed, but have some. If you become a convert, try this technique with other veggies that you think you don’t like. Leeks, carrots, corn, red peppers all work fantastically.

always thinking of the next meal,


Oh Crepe!

9 Sep

IMG_0793Today’s recipe testing involved crepes. When I was in Paris, crepe vendors were as common as hot dog carts in New York. They were used as envelope for fabulous fillings like, ham and gruyére, nutella and bananas, sugar, strawberries, and anything else you can imagine. I think each vendor had at least 20 combinations of fillings. The crepe itself, was wonderful. It was light and crispy, but still chewy and satisfying.

I made my attempt at these French favorites this afternoon. I wanted my version to be smaller, more of an appetizer size. Since I wasn’t sure what kind of filling I wanted to use I choose to make my crepes a neutral flavor. So I stuck to the basic recipe. Here it is:

Basic Crepe Recipe:IMG_0794

1 cup AP flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoons canola oil
1/4-1/3 cup water

mix all ingredients in a blender and allow to rest for at least 1 hour before using. When rested, pour 2 oz portions onto a hot griddle, swirling the batter with your ladle to create an even circle. flip when the top of the crepe looks dry. Cook on opposite side for 30 seconds. Remove from griddle and set aside while the other crepes are cooking.

*NOTE: if your first crepe looks too thick add a little water until the batter is the correct consistency

IMG_0795If I had decided the filling ahead of time, I could have tweaked the basic recipe to further compliment the filling. For example, if I knew that I would be making a sweet crepe filling, I could have added 1 tablespoon of sugar to the batter. Or if I knew I was going to use bananas and cinnamon as a filling, I could have used 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and topped the finished crepes with a brown butter bourbon sauce. Bananas Foster anyone?

If I had decided to fill the crepes with lox, cream cheese, and red onion, I could have added fresh dill and salt to the batter for a fun twist on bagels and lox. (Yes this is fusion food 🙂 )

Since I did stick with the basic recipe, I was able to experiment with different fillings. I made 6 different fillings; nutella and banana, PB&J, lemon and sugar, cream cheese and dill, cream cheese and pork roll, and provolone and olive tapenade. Ryan helped me with the tasting and here’s the verdict. The top 2 flavors were the nutella and banana and the lemon sugar. I liked the cream cheese and dill, but Ryan wasn’t convinced.

Next time you’re thinking about trying something new, try crepes. They are versatile, tasty, and full of your favorite flavors

Always thinking of the next meal


Magic Food

6 Sep

I believe that food can be magic. When you were little and not feeling well, your mom made you chicken noodle soup. Maybe it was a holiday meal that made you feel so comfortable and at home that you never wanted to leave the table. Maybe it is just the smell of freshly baked brownies that make you warm up and feel like there’s no other place in the world that you need to be.

The Italian Chicken Soup that my mom used to make when we were sick, is what does it for me. The smell of the golden broth, and the Italian herbs simmering all day just made you feel better just thinking about it. In fact we’ve even given it the nickname, Feel Better Soup.

I think I read somewhere that chicken soup is full of all kinds of good vitamins and minerals that make you feel better. Something about boosting your serotonin blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is that chicken soup makes you feel better because someone that loves you did something just for you. Personally I think it’s the love that goes into the food that helps to make you feel better.

Here’s the recipe:

Feel Better SoupIMG_0792

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound carrots, small dice
1 pound celery, small dice
1 1/2 cups yellow onions, small dice
2 cans diced tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
2 large chicken breasts
48 oz chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup pasta, cook separately
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
grated parmesan for garnish

Sauté the vegetables and garlic in the oil. When the vegetables are soft add in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Add in the chicken breast whole and bring to a simmer. Allow the chicken to poach for 20 10-15 minutes. When the chicken is cooked through, remove and dice. Add back to the soup. Allow soup to simmer for 30-45 minutes. 10 minutes before service, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Add 1/4 cup of the cooked pasta to an empty bowl and ladle the hot soup on top. Grate parmesan on top to garnish.

When Ryan was growing up his mom would make chicken soup too. She served them with crunchy peanut butter sandwiches. At first, I thought this was a little weird. Peanut butter and chicken? Well, it works in Thai food doesn’t it? I’m telling you it’s actually really good. So the traditions have been combined. My mom’s Italian chicken soup and Ryan’s Mom’s crunchy peanut butter sandwiches.

Since we are both feeling under the weather, I can’t wait for dinner. The house smells so good and I’m about to go make the sandwiches. Not the best way to spend Labor Day weekend, but I never mind having Feel Better Soup.

Always thinking of the next meal


Recipe testing

3 Sep

So the best part of my job is recipe testing. I get to take ingredients that I have in the house, an idea I have in my head and create. Literally, I get to play with my food. This week I gave myself a challenge. Only go to the grocery store once. It doesn’t seem like that would be such a challenge, but trust me it is. I went to the store on Monday, it’s now Thursday and here’s what I’ve made so far:

Pasta with homemade red sauce

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Cheesesteak eggrolls with Pespi BBQ sauce

Pineapple Upside down cupcakes

Sweet and Sour jerk chicken with orange couscous

Bleu Cheese risotto with corn, zucchini, and turkey

And about six different breakfast burritos

What does all this testing give me? Well not only does it help me develop new and exciting things to eat, but it also helps me practice the techniques that I learned in school. I like taking recipes that I’ve found online, or in a cookbook and making them my own. The eggrolls we obviously inspired by normal Chinese eggroll, but were also inspired by some of the findings in frozen food aisle. Have you ever looked at what’s in those frozen appetizer bites? Well let me enlighten you. It’s salt. Salt is cheap and makes things taste good. By making them yourself you control the amount of salt and can actually eat more of them. Chicken Cheesesteak Eggrolls

The BBQ sauce that accompany them is my own recipe. Yes, you can make your own BBQ sauce. I mean the stuff in the bottle doesn’t just magically appear there. Again, by making it on your own you can control what’s going into it. Like it spicy? Add chili peppers. Like it sweet? Add brown sugar, honey, or onions. I used ketchup as a base for mine with the surprise ingredient of Pepsi. It wound up being very sweet up front and then finishing spicy in the back of your throat. Perfect for me.

The jerk chicken was something that I have been craving for a few days. I made my own jerk seasoning since I didn’t have any on the spice shelf. In general the jerk spice blends that I’ve gotten at the store have been pretty good. McCormick has a good one and it saves time and money to just buy the jar. But it you have a decent supply of spices already and you you can spare a few minutes you can make it at home. Here’s my recipe for jerk spice:

Jerk Spice:

IMG_07842 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

combine and store in airtight container for up to 2 months

I used the jerk seasoning on chicken, onions and pineapple. Sort of a Caribbean stir-fry. I added black beans and basil and then served it over orange couscous. Surprisingly, Ryan really liked it. It had a really nice sweet but spicy flavor and the extra bursts of sweetness from the pineapple really made the dish pop. This one is definitely a keeper. Next time I might add a little diced red pepper to add some color.

The other ventures were just as exciting. The Pineapple cakes were also a big hit. (In case you were wondering, I had a whole pineapple that I needed to use so that’s why there are so many recipes involving the fruit.) It’s making it really fun not being able to go out for more ingredients. Tonight’s menu holds tuna melts, and baked apple dumplings. I hope I have everything for the dumplings. The weather is turning and I think a little fall-ish dessert is in order.

Always thinking of the next meal