Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chipotle Flank Steak

I had full reign of the kitchen Friday night, as everyone else was driving back home from an all-day outing.  It was nice to put on some music, tidy up the table, light some candles, and cook dinner for the fam. 

I chose the Latin-Style Flank Steak from FC issue #65, topped with the Chipotle Butter from the same issue.  Very easy, but flavorful and everyone said it tasted good after a busy week. 
Spices for the recipe

I did choose to broil instead of grill the steak, as there were several ominous storm clouds hovering nearby.  I also recommend using the food processor for the butter, instead of doing it by hand--otherwise you'll have pockets of lime juice, unless you like this 'rustic' approach.

For sides dishes, I sauteed some swiss chard with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  So simple, but delish.  I also included a side of cous-cous (easiest starch to cook ever).  Anyone have much luck with cooking the bigger couscous varieties?  I've tried the Israeli couscous, and love the texture, but there's another, larger variety couscous which I think needs to simply be treated like regular pasta:  boil til cooked, drain, and season with salt, pepper, and some butter or olive oil. 

Isn't the chard beautiful?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Saturday Night Grilling

Tex-Mex tacos with grilled pork, scallions, radishes, and poblanos, topped with crumbled feta cheese, and a side of black beans. 

Your mouth watering yet?

It should be.  The Spicy-Smoky Mexican Pork Kebabs recipe from Fine Cooking, issue 72, was to die for.  The marinated pork by itself would have been gobbled down by several people...if given the chance. 

Mom chose this recipe earlier in the week and it was a good night to grill, as it's been way too hot to cook anything in the kitchen.  Be warned, there was a fair amount of chopping required for this recipe. 

The marinade is very easy.  Instead of putting it in the blender, I used a hand blender (best kitchen appliance ever...definitely going on my wish-list) because I'm too lazy to wash out the big blender.  For the dried chile, I chose 2 guajillo chiles and soaked those for about 15 minutes. 

I let the pork loin marinate for close to 2 hours, and instead of skewering it like typical kebabs, my dad just grilled as-is, which worked perfectly. 

The recipe also called for grilled vegetables to go with the 'tacos' (they aren't your typical Mexican tacos, so I don't know what to call them):  poblanos, radishes, and scallions.  Everything was tossed with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I also cut the poblanos into 1/4" strips, instead of the 1 inch chunks....NOT recommended for grilling!!  My dad lost several strips through the grill's grates...oops.  Also, grilled radishes are very strange...they're good, but they're just so different when you pop them on the grill.  My mom commented they tasted a little like turnips. 

Peppers, scallions, more peppers, and radishes...yum :)
We also had a side of black beans.  No recipe for that, although I kinda based it on the Classis Mexican "Pot" Beans from Rick Bayless' cookbook, Mexican Kitchen (yes, I do actually cook from other resources, besides FC!).  Basically I sauteed an onion with some garlic and a jalapeno pepper, then added in one can of drained and rinsed black beans, added some beef broth and let that simmer for a few minutes.  I also added a bay leaf, ground cumin, and chile powder.  I let it cook too long so I added a little more broth...the idea was that the beans would be moist.  They made a yummy side dish with a little feta sprinkled on top! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Grilled Pizza

I can't believe I haven't posted about grilled pizza yet!!  Oh. My. Goodness.  It might not be a new concept, but it sure is delicious.  My mom pulled this recipe from Fine Cooking, issue 66, last summer, and we turned every Friday into a grilled pizza and movie night, until it got too cold to grill (although this was at the top of my "must eat while home on break" list for spring break).  Since the weather is warmer now, we've gone back to grilling pizza every weekend again.  Unfortunately I missed this week's grilled pizza to go see 'Brave'....totally worth it though.  I definitely recommend going to see it!  A little bit of a tear-jerker, but it was worth the $10.50 I paid. 

This recipe seems intimidating (initially the idea didn't fly with my dad) but honestly it's not any harder than baking a pizza.  And if you break up the prep and clean-up work, it goes all that much faster.

Dough on the grill in the first step

Some small changes to the actual recipe:

*I substitute about 6 ounces of whole wheat flour instead of APF.  The first time we made grilled pizza, we found the dough very, very, very sticky, and elastic--aka, it wouldn't hold its shape.  I found that by substituting even just a little WWF this helps with the stickiness and elasticity.  It also makes the pizza a little more substantial and filling.

*The roasted red pepper sauce is good, but it's a little acidic for my mom's taste, so after the first 4 or so times we made it, we just reverted to "normal" pizza sauce--a can of crushed tomatoes, cooked with a little sauteed garlic, red pepper flakes, and a combination of different herbs.

*My dad also started doing what he calls his "funky pizzas."  Usually these are sauceless pizzas that just have a little olive oil, herbs, and salt.  Essentially they're flat breads, but shhhhh don't tell him I gave them a name.

Friday's night pizza entailed an artichoke and chicken pizza...the fam is getting tired of the same old pepperoni/cheese/sausage/herb toppings, so we're trying to expand our horizons.  I've had some ideas--like a Mexican one, with chipotle rubbed chicken, cheddar, some grilled poblanos...or a seafood pizza at the beach, with leftover shrimp (or even fish), sauteed spinach and feta....instant yum.  The more inspirations the better, so let me know if you have ideas!  :)

Finished product! This pizza has pepperoni, fresh oregano, and mozzarella.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stir Fry

You know your mom likes ginger look in the vegetable drawer, and every other veggie is--you guessed it--a bag of ginger. 

Last week's dinner was stir fry.

All the vegetables chopped up and ready to stir fry

It was fairly easy to put together after coming home from work...lots of chopping and prep work of course, but that just meant I was reunited with my favorite Cutco knife again.  I was shooting for something fun and different to cook...when mom tells me to menu-plan for the week, I usually revert to the same old dishes.  Bad habit.

I pulled this recipe from an older (but much beloved) Fine Cooking Magazine--issue #58.  Here's the link for the recipe.  It's basically a "create your own" recipe, so you can pick and choose your veggies and meat. 

I chose shrimp for my protein, and veggies I used bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, scallions, and ginger (hence the comment at the beginning of my post).  The author also said to choose a sauce; I used the sesame soy one. 

I've never cooked a stir fry before.  They're definitely fast-paced!  This one came together very nicely though.  I did find I needed to cook my shrimp a little longer than the recommended 20-ish seconds before removing them from heat.  Other than that, everything was smooth sailing.  With just a pot of cooked rice, this was definitely a dinner I'd do again.  I think it'd also be a good one to keep in mind for college life.  Obviously I don't have to use shrimp (since that can be a little spendy on my wallet) but chicken would be a yummy (cough, cough: cheap...) substitute, too. 

I've never cooked with bok choy before, either.  An interesting's like it's half spinach, and half celery or something.  According to Wikipedia (bad resource I know...), it's of the same species as the turnip, and can also be called Chinese cabbage, but this name also includes Napa cabbage. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hello again!

Dear readers (although I think you are few and far between),

Boy, has it been a year!  You might have guessed that I was college-bound these past 12 months, and you would've guessed correctly.  Home for the summer, and working full-time (lemme just say, 40 hours a week takes some adjustment) but trying to cook nonetheless. That's one thing I discovered I missed a lot in college--cooking. Not just the art of creating a meal or dessert, but making it a family affair by involving everyone. I also discovered that cooking is very much my own little 'niche', my way of both relaxing and focusing on a task at the same time.

This coming school year I have a better opportunity to cook and blog, as I will have my own kitchen.  I'm very excited about this, because it's a brand-spanking new kitchen.  I think this will also add an interesting twist to my blog approach--how to cook on a budget, while maintaining my high-standards (or so I consider them) tastebuds. 

Anyway, so moving on to the real subject--food!  If you have any suggestions on how to eat well--while on a budget--let me know!