Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week Four Recap

This week was a bit of a hodgepodge of ideas but that's exactly what made it fun. I would definitely make the lentil soup and Moroccan turkey burgers again but I would probably not remake the baked fish dish. It was decent and it looked pretty on the table but it was not good enough to qualify for my "I need to have this dish again" list. Two out of three isn't bad for a week's work. I'll take it.

Classic Lentil Soup
"How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
Page 115

Moroccan Turkey Burger
"Fresh and Simple; Cooking For Friends" by Better Homes and Gardens
Page 41

Baked Fish with Potatoes, Onions and Tomatoes
"Fish" from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library
Page 93

Friday, January 28, 2011

Williams-Sonoma Baked Fish

Tonight's dinner menu was from a lovely Williams-Sonoma cookbook that I borrowed from Natalie. Truth is, I borrowed it about 5 months ago and I haven't cooked anything from it until tonight. Amazing how having a cooking blog motivates me to do things I've meant to do for months. I chose Baked Fish with Potatoes, Onions and Tomatoes for tonight's dinner entree. I initially planned to serve an herb mixed green salad with the dish but as I prepared it, I realized that this dish is a full meal in itself.

The recipe called for red new potatoes, olive oil, yellow onion, garlic oregano, plum tomatoes, dry white wine, ground cinnamon, white fish fillet, dried bread crumbs, freshly grated parmesan and flat leaf parsley. All in all, the recipe was good. Brad and I enjoyed the flavors but we agreed that there needed to be two changes; a bit more salt and thinner potato slices. As those of you that know me well already are already aware, I have a big problem with differentiating between right and left at the drop of a dime. Contrary to popular belief, turning left or right is not as easy as it seems. If you tell me to turn right, I may turn left. If you ask me which way to turn, I may get flustered and give you no directions at all or tell you to turn right instead of left. As many of my close friends and family have pointed out, it's an odd problem for a girl with a fairly high intelligence level. I keep telling you all that I looked into it and research shows that highly intelligent people often have problems with right and left differentiation. Some of you are laughing right now because you have heard it all before but may I remind you, laughing is the greatest form of flattery. :) Oh yes, this all was leading me to the fact that I have a problem measuring things by eye. This recipe called for 1/4" slices of potato and my slices were 1/2". This is why the potatoes were a bit more firm than the ideal.

To make a short story long, the recipe was good but there were a few things that would have made it better. We had a nice dinner and as I told Brad, I can't be too critical of myself because it's a far nicer dinner than I would have made under normal circumstances. This was an end to a fairly average week of cooking. Just wait until you see what I have up my sleeve next week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Easy, Breezy Dinner

When I was writing about the tagine earlier today, I didn't think about what a good segue it was into tonight's dinner. I found a recipe for Moroccan Turkey Burgers last week that looked really good. I decided that tonight was a good time to try it because the McCoys ended up being here for dinner and I needed something easy. We all actually really liked this recipe. It was mild but tasty and it could go with a number of different side dishes. If I make this recipe again, which I would definitely consider, I would serve it with Athena baked sweet potato fries.

1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp snipped fresh mint
1 pound ground turkey
3 TBSP chopped raisins
2 TBSP chopped slivered almonds
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 ground cumin
4 hamburger buns

In a small bowl combine sour cream and mint. cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. In a medium bowl combine turkey, raisins, almonds, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin. Mix well. Form into four 1/4 inch patties

Place burgers on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 10-12 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once. Serve on hamburger buns and top with sour cream mixture.

My friend Elise, mentioned that adding a bit of sour cream to ground turkey helped the turkey not to dry out so I did make this slight revision to the recipe. She was right, the additional sour cream worked great. Thank you, Elise! I also used whole cumin and coriander seeds and used my little Cuisinart to grind them. I think having fresh ground seeds enhanced the flavor.

Ta da! An easy, successful dinner.

Next Iron Chef?

I just got a little cocky and ordered a tagine and a tagine cookbook from Sur La Table. This leads me to the conclusion that I may have been watching too many episodes of Iron Chef. I do love this show but have you ever watched it and realized that there is no way the chefs are just finding out about the secret ingredient when the chairman reveals it at the beginning of the show? It is humanly impossible for them to come up with such detailed menu ideas on the fly and then prepare them all within an hour. I believe we have been misled. I digress.....

Back to my tagine. What is a tagine, you may ask? According to good ol' Wikipedia:
The traditional tagine (or tajine) pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom.

For some reason, I have wanted a tagine for the past few years. They are traditionally used to cook Moroccan dishes and to be honest, I know close to nothing about Moroccan food other than the basic flavor profiles. See, I do watch too much Iron Chef! Who uses the term flavor profile for goodness sake? I more than likely saw a tagine in a kitchen store and decided that it was the answer to all of my cooking woes. Could it be? It should arrive next week and I will promptly put it to the test. The Next Iron Chef? Perhaps not but I will give it the old college try for sure.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Classic Lentil Soup

I took the easy way out tonight and prepared Classic Lentil Soup. The ingredients were very basic: dried lentils, bay leaf, thyme, carrot, celery, vegetable stock, olive oil, onion and garlic. Prep time was about 25 minutes with an additional 30 minutes of cooking. I made one slight revision and used chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. I am pleased because the soup was quite tasty. Brad really liked it and his only recommendation was to add a bit more broth. The recipe called for adding more if desired but I wasn't sure that I needed to since this was my first time making the recipe. I do agree with him; I would add one or two more cups of stock. Other than this, it was a yummy and healthy soup. I served it with a mixed green salad and french bread. A perfect rainy day dinner.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week Three Recap

An ambitious and successful week of cooking. I would prepare all three recipes again for sure. Here's the recap:

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Fresh Basil
bon appetit, March 2010
Page 73

Pork and Poblano Tamale Pie
bon appetit, March 2010
Page 76

Lime Drizzle Cake with Coconut Frosting
Metropolitan Market Real Food Magazine
Page 59

Mission Harnish Dinner Accomplished

I'm not going to lie. I was extremely ambitious when I planned Friday night dinner for the Harnish clan. I knew I was going to feed the three girls macaroni and fruit so I decided to make a more complicated recipe that I found in bon appetit magazine for the four adults. I also went to the dark side and cooked meat. :) The main course was Pork and Poblano Tamale Pie. The pie filling was the ambitious part. I roasted poblanos and a green pepper in the oven then peeled and seeded them. I pan toasted cumin and coriander seeds and ground them, pureed corn, browned cubed pork, chopped various ingredients, sauteed onions and spice ingredients and then simmered the filling mixture for about 2 hours. That was just the filling! The topping called for flour, stone ground cornmeal, chili powder, butter, egg, whole milk, baking powder, honey and sharp cheddar. When the filling was done simmering, the recipe called for pouring it into a 10" X 2 1/2" high skillet, adding a layer of chopped cilantro, sharp cheddar and then the topping spread evenly. The pie then baked for 30 minutes. I served it with an herb mix green salad that was topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped red pepper.

As if that wasn't enough, I also baked a Lime Drizzle Cake with Coconut Frosting. Yes, it was from scratch and as any good cake from scratch should, it called for 1 3/4 sticks of butter. This cake was the real deal. After the cake baked, I poked holes in the top and spooned the lime drizzle over the top. The frosting was made from confectioner's sugar, coconut milk and cream cheese. The cake was then topped with lime zest. It ended up looking beautiful.

It took 4 1/2 hours to make both recipes but it was so worth it! The tamale pie was absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly, if I do say so myself. The cake was a really nice consistency and the frosting was even better than I thought it would be. I give both recipes an A+ and myself an A+ for execution. I am pretty proud of the dinner I served. Brad, Andrew and Pamela were all happy and all four of us had second helpings of the tamale pie. The cake was gone by the end of the night so I take that to mean that it was better than just edible. A perfect evening with wonderful friends, happy kids, good food and good wine. What could be better?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls

My first recipe for Week 3 is Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Basil. I found the recipe in bon appetit magazine in the "One-Dish Wonders, A fresh new direction for old-school casseroles" section. The recipe is actually Eggplant Parmesan with Swiss Chard and Mint. Kathy Wilson was up staying the weekend and the mint part didn't sound appetizing to us. We decided to use basil instead and boy did we make a good decision. The recipe took a lot of preparation, but it was delicious! I haven't cooked with much eggplant in the past so this was new for me. After I sliced the eggplant lengthwise, bon appetit had me layer the slices in a big colander with generous sprinkling of course sea salt. I then let it sit to "sweat" for almost an hour. This process removes excess water from the eggplant so the dish doesn't become watery while baking.

The recipe calls for eggplant, swiss chard, eggs, whole-milk ricotta, parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, water-packed mozzarella and mint, which I substituted with basil. This is a healthy version of eggplant parmesan because it doesn't call for breading. The eggplant slices are grilled in the oven and then the filling is rolled into each slice. One of the best parts of the dish was the fresh mozzarella. Metropolitan Market had a beautiful hand-rolled ball that was out of this world delicious. If only everything tasted as good as fresh, hand-rolled mozzarella. Sigh.....

Kathy and I were gabbing in the kitchen (let's just say I was easily distracted) so she assisted me by reading much of the recipe out loud. Thank you for your help, Kath. :) Kathy really liked the recipe as did Brad, but he isn't sure what he thinks about eggplant. I think he prefers noodles to eggplant in an italian inspired casserole. Looks like lasagna is in my cooking future. Olivia ate a few bites of eggplant but she was mostly in it for the mozzarella. She ate all of her cheese as well as most of mine. My girl has good taste, that's for sure.

My next guinea pigs are Pamela and Andrew Harnish on Friday night. Hmmmm, what to do.....

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week Two Recap

The great, the bad and the mediocre. That was my week of recipes in a nutshell. The salmon fusili dish is one I will definitely remake for friends and family. The orzo shrimp dish will never be revisited and the macaroon recipe was a good start but I will be looking for another macaroon recipe that better suits our taste. I am not sure what direction I will go next week. I am thinking some type of soup and perhaps a homemade bread. We'll see!

Rotini with Salmon and Roasted Garlic
"Everyday Pasta" by Giada De Laurentiis
Page 148

Saffron Orzo with Shrimp
"Everyday Pasta" by Giada De Laurentiis
Page 127

Coconut Macaroons
"Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book"
Page 111

Coconut Macaroons

I switched gears to dessert and ended up finding a simple, four ingredient recipe for coconut macaroons. The recipe only calls for egg whites, vanilla, sugar and coconut. Easy, right? It actually was easy but the macaroons are a little sweeter and fluffier than I prefer. I think we are spoiled by having the real deal when we are on Maui. Metropolitan Market also makes a fantastic chocolate dipped macaroon that we can buy any day of the week. All in all, this recipe is good but just not quite perfect for us. These are more light and flaky and we prefer our macaroons dense and chewy. The recipe only made 16 small cookies so we won't have any problem eating them. :) I will however, try another macaroon recipe sometime during the remaining 50 weeks.

2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in coconut. Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheet. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. For nutty macaroons, prepare as above except add 1/2 cup toasted almonds, pecans or hazelnuts. For lemon macaroons, prepare as above except substitute one tablespoon of lemon juice for vanilla and add one teaspoon lemon zest with coconut.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Big Flop

Well, it had to happen. Tonight I had my first big flopperooni. The recipe is Saffron Orzo with Shrimp. The ingredients are chicken stock, orzo, saffron threads, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh parsley, salt and pepper and prawns. It looked exquisite when I found it in one of my Giada cookbooks but guess what? It wasn't exquisite. As a matter of fact, Brad said, "You don't love it" and I replied, "I don't even like it." I bought fancy white prawns for the recipe but they weren't even good. We both ate one serving and then it went straight into our compost bin. Let's just say either the recipe didn't come together (even though I followed the directions exactly) or we just didn't care for it. Bummer. :(

So I need to regroup and move on to the next one. Maybe I will switch gears to baking or making a dessert. Bread, cookies, cake? Hmmmm........ time to go search through some cookbooks.

On To Week Two

I decided to get an early start for week two since the Ducks were playing in the BCS Championship on Monday night. The recipes I made last week pretty much made me look like a granola so I decided to go a bit of a different direction this week. Okay, I am a bit of a granola but I also like a good unhealthy dish once in a while. I'm sure we'll see a few of them over the next 51 weeks.

My Sunday night recipe was Fusili with Salmon and Roasted Garlic. This is a Giada recipe so I knew it would be good but this one was REALLY good. I like garlic but I usually have a slight aversion to cooking with much of it because it smells and tastes so strong. This recipe taught me the perfect solution; roasting garlic with olive oil in foil in the oven before you add it to a recipe. It is fabulous! It makes the garlic more mild and sweeter somehow. I bought my salmon at the West Seattle Farmer's Market from Loki Salmon Company. I usually buy king or coho salmon but I bought two fillets of regular pink salmon to try with this recipe and it was good. The recipe called for rotini or fusili (Olivia chose the fusili because it was curlier than the rotini which of course, is more fun :), garlic, olive oil, white wine, chicken stock, one pound salmon, lemon juice and zest, fresh rosemary and capers. I was going to buy rosemary at the store but realized that the rosemary in our garden is still available in the winter. I guess I never thought about rosemary being an evergreen.

I would make this recipe again any time. It is especially perfect for when we have people over for dinner because we can serve it in the middle of the table right in the skillet. The dish is quite large so it would easily serve 4 to 6 people. I served it with sauteed green beans which was the perfect side dish. Brad suggested that a fresh baked loaf of chewy bread would be a perfect accompaniment as well. A great meal to share with friends. Can't wait to cook it again!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Week One Recap

Well, looks like week one was a success. Not only did Brad, Olivia and I like all three recipes, I gave Dave McCoy a sampler on Friday and he liked all three as well. Of course, Dave likes everything so maybe I shouldn't base my success on his feedback. :) I was expecting to report that I would change something about the recipes to make them better for next time but it ends up that I wouldn't change a thing. Not too shabby for my maiden voyage. Can't wait to see what I come up with next week!

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
"How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
Page 84

Raw Kale Confetti Salad with Toasted Sunflower Seeds
"Clean Start" by Terry Walters
Page 31

Penne and Roasted Vegetables with Basil Sauce
"Clean Start" by Terry Walters
Page 81

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quinoa Heaven!

Okay, so it was slow getting going at our house this morning but I got up, took Olivia to preschool and went to PCC as planned. I was feeling pretty proud of myself because the first three recipes I chose have a plethora of vegetables as ingredients. The first recipe I completed is the quinoa sweet potato salad. Holy cow is it good! I ate one bowl for lunch and Brad ate two bowls. He has never really eaten sweet potatoes before so I am quite pleased that he likes it so much. He is a quinoa guy so this is a great recipe to add to my quinoa repertoire. This recipe is really pure with the only ingredients being quinoa, sweet potatoes, red onion, red pepper, chive, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Yummy! I also started to prepare a kale salad that I will serve as the side dish at dinner tonight. The kale salad includes red onion, red pepper, grated carrot, grated ginger, olive oil, avocado, lime juice, lemon juice, sea salt and sunflower seeds. We love sunflower seeds at our house so I think this dish will go over well.

Finally, the piece de resistance for the night; penne and roasted vegetables with basil sauce. This one requires a bit more work than the other two including roasting the vegetables in the oven and making basil sauce in the food processor. I'll report back later whether it turns out well or not. Hopefully the former.

I have been trying to decide how to structure my blog and I think I finally have an idea that will work. I plan on writing about the recipes as I make them and then at the end of the week, I will write a quick recap that includes the name of the three recipes for the week, the cookbooks they came from and the page numbers in the cookbooks. This way, I can refer back to each weekly recap if there are recipes that we really like and want to eat again. One week down, 51 to go!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Starting The New Year

This blog will follow me as I attempt to prepare three new recipes every week throughout 2011. Perhaps some would think this is not an extremely lofty goal, but being a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, I am lucky if I can get dinner on the table most nights. My idea for doing this of course, had roots with one of my favorite movies, Julie and Julia, but there are other motivating factors. As Olivia is approaching age three and becoming more independent, I find myself needing to engage in projects that stimulate my mind, teach me something new and hold my interest for an extended period of time. I decided that holding myself accountable to cooking three new recipes per week fits the bill.

As I write this first entry, it is Wednesday, January 5th. Somehow the week already got away from me so I now have three days to cook my first three recipes. Lucky for me, I received two fabulous vegetarian cookbooks for Christmas so I was able to sit down with the books tonight to choose my first two recipes. The first is a sweet potato and quinoa salad and the second is a vegetable penne pasta with basil sauce. They sound fabulous, don't they? I wrote myself a little shopping list so after I take Olivia to preschool in the morning, I will run to PCC to buy the ingredients. Oh, I forgot to mention that we are an almost vegetarian household (we eat turkey occasionally and lots of fish) and that we currently eat between 70 and 80% organic, depending on the season. I suppose these factors make my project slightly more challenging but I am up for it.

One last thing.......I have not necessarily been known for my cooking prowess but I have improved over the past few years. Let's just say that the majority of meals I cook for my family are good with a great dish thrown in here or there, but I do provide the occasional dud. Here's to a year of cooking adventure! I thank Brad and Olivia in advance for being my guinea pigs and Olivia for being my little kitchen helper.