Friday, June 27, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas and Fried Plantains

It has been a lazy week in terms of cooking. I have taken a break from food blogging for two reasons; I have been experiencing Food Blahs and I have been practicing my photography. Food Blahs are a periodic episode where food really doesn't interest me and cooking happens out of necessity more than pleasure. This is one reason I freeze extra leftovers - perfect backup for when you don't want to cook. As for the photography, I received constructive criticism from several sources about my images. To address that, I have been playing around with a fancy camera I own but never really use. It won't happen right away but hopefully you will start noticing an improvement to the images I post of the meals.

As for the Food Blahs, three very black plantains wake my palate again and chase them away. As I test the plantains for ripeness and find them to be perfect, I start thinking about what I can make to go with them. When you buy plantains you want them to be almost black and soft that way when you fry them they will have a nice, sweet flavor which complements spicy food very nicely. Under ripe plantains are practically inedible (think cardboard diskettes) so don't force this part of the recipe if you cannot find them.

Enchiladas can be a good quick meal because it is easy enough to poach chicken breasts (even if they are frozen). Better yet you can purchase a roasted chicken and shred some of it for enchiladas - which is the scenario I am using today. I have a whole roasted chicken and I shred the meat from a thigh and a breast into bite-sized morsels and set aside.

I read a nifty tip to soften the tortillas in my latest issue of Cook's Illustrated. You coat them with cooking spray and heat them in the oven. Since this is something I want to do right before I am ready to assemble, I merely turn the oven to 325 so that it will be warm enough when it comes time to pop them in. I will go into more detail about the process of warming a few steps later.

Meanwhile I decide to use a tomato-based sauce for the enchiladas. I roast three, medium-sized tomatoes on my comal until the skins start to blister. I keep moving the tomatoes around the comal until they are as evenly browned as I can manage and soft enough to remove the skins. I carefully cut away the core (where the vine stem attaches), place the tomatoes in my blender and puree them. I add this sauce to about half a cup of mole poblano and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. [If I was out of mole poblano I would use dried chiles like the California/Anaheim and cloves of garlic. I would soak about 4 dried chiles - after I have destemmed and deseeded them - in a bit of warm chicken broth. I would roast 2-3 cloves of garlic on the comal with the tomatoes. Then I would put everything in the blender; roasted tomatoes, garlic, chiles and chicken broth and puree it all together.] Reserve 1/4 -1/2 cup for garnishing.

Since I have shredded the chicken and set up the sauce, it is time to warm the tortillas for assembly. I spray 15 corn tortillas on both sides with cooking spray (I am using Canola spray), and lay them out in a single layer on two cookie sheets. I put the sheets in my pre-heated oven and let them warm for about 3 minutes. As they are warming, I take a 9x13 inch baking dish, oil it and coat the bottom of the baking dish with a bit of sauce.

When the tortillas are warm, I remove the sheets from the pan and carefully remove a tortilla, place it on top of the sauce from the baking dish, add a bit of chicken, wrap the tortilla around it and place the enchilada with the seam underneath. Repeat this process until all the enchiladas are rolled and placed in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas in the baking dish and cover everything with shredded cheese; 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella or monterey jack cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

While the enchiladas are heating up, I cook the plantains. I remove the peel from each plantain by making a shallow slice through the skin down the length of each. Then I pull back the peel, remove the tips of each and slice a bit at an angle. Next, I heat about 1/3 cup of canola oil (or any neutral flavored oil) in a large skillet and gently fry the plantains in batches. You want them to be nicely browned on both sides. As each batch is ready to be removed from the oil, I carefully scoop them out with a slotted spatula, drain the oil a bit, and place on a paper towel, covered plate. When they are all cooked I set them aside someplace warm (although I don't mind if they get to room temperature).

Finally, I set up all the fixings. I love topping these with a crisp, shredded iceberg lettuce but I don't typically buy it unless I am making these for a big party. As an alternate, I slice up three scallions (want mostly just the green tops but I decide not to waste any and use them all); 1/3 cup of cilantro leaves (you could chop if you feel up for it); and slice 1/2 an avocado. I place all these fixings (as well as the reserved enchilada sauce in a small pitcher) on the table so everyone can garnish their own enchiladas. When the enchiladas are done, I serve one to three per person and add some plantains to the side.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Prosciutto and Veggie Pizza

It is pretty easy to make pizza dough however, for a quick meal I just grab the ready-made pizza dough while shopping for my weekly groceries at Trader Joe's. My favorite is the Garlic and Herb dough because it adds a bit more flavor. About 20-30 minutes before you are getting ready to set up you want to take the dough out of the refrigerator, remove it from the plastic bag and let it sit on a lightly, floured board. You will leave the dough there for 20 minutes giving it time to get to room temperature and acclimate.

As the dough is sitting, I set up my ingredients for a pizza: 3 slices of prosciutto, cut into smaller pieces (you could fry these up and add them as crisp bits - al la bacon bits); 4 crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced; 2 scallions, with green tops included and chopped; 1/2 cup of tomato/pasta sauce; and approximately 1 cup of shredded cheese (I have a four cheese blend and some Mozzarella.

I set the oven to bake and preheat it to 450 degrees. Then I take out a cookie sheet with no sides and lightly spray it with olive oil. When my dough has been sitting for about 20 minutes, I gently knead it (adding more flour as necessary) and roll it a bit with a rolling pin. It takes a bit of work to stretch out the dough to a 10" circle as it keeps shrinking back down. As you get it close to the size you want, put it on the greased cookie sheet and continue to work and shape it. The oil should help keep it stretched out but don't hesitate to start adding your toppings.

Spread the tomato sauce around the dough and try to coat it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the chopped scallions over the sauce; then carefully spread the prosciutto over everything; top that with the mushrooms (you could saute them a bit first but in the interest of saving dishes I keep them raw); and finally I cover everything with shredded cheese - add more or less per your preference.

Pop the sheet with the pizza into the hot oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes - if the bottom of the crust seems to be firming up - slide it off the cookie sheet directly onto the oven rack to cook another 10 minutes. [To prevent drippings in your oven, place the cookie sheet on the rack directly below the pizza.] Using a cookie sheet without sides allows you to transition the pizza on and off and then back onto the sheet as necessary. When removing the pizza from the oven, you will want to put it back onto the cookie sheet because it is easier to deal with and you can cut it directly on the pan.

The dough of this pizza is a bit thicker than I prefer but it has a nice flavor and it fits the bill of a quick wholesome dinner. I serve the pizza with a side salad of heirloom tomatoes with a dash of basil infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Twist on Oven Baked Chicken

I really had a problem figuring out what to make for dinner and changed the menu as I encountered obstacles. I had originally decided to make pizza but changed the plan when I realized there were some cooked pinto beans that had to be used. So I decided to use the beans to make bean tacos and make pizza another night. Typically Luis uses canned, refried beans so it was new for me to try this with freshly made beans.

The beans that have to be used are whole and in a lot of broth. I will have to mash them and re-cook them with a bit of oil - aka refried beans. Using a potato masher, I mash the beans in the container while I heated a bit of oil in a medium-sized skillet over a medium-high burner. However, as I am mashing the beans I realize that they are way too soupy for bean tacos. I probably should have drained some of the fluid prior to mashing. So again I decide to change the menu and just serve refried beans.

Now I have to change my original plan for the chicken. With bean tacos I would have used a simmered sauce recipe for chicken. However, changing my plan has given me less time to really achieve the right flavor for a simmer sauce. Plus I realize that I am too hungry now to take the time. I want dinner to be made quickly and decide to do oven-baked chicken but I am going to make it more spicy. I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prep a cookie sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with olive oil.

I open a package of boneless chicken thighs (about six thighs) and rinse them in lukewarm water. I decide not to dip the thighs in eggs or milk (mostly due to laziness) so I set them aside while I prep the breadcrumbs. I use a bit over a cup of breadcrumbs, mix with 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper. I roll the thighs around the breadcrumb mix, put each one on the cookie sheet and pop she sheet into the oven. (Usually the oven is still pre-heating when I pop the chicken in.)

As the beans are re-frying, they are thickening up but they are still not thick enough to make into bean tacos so I feel justified in changing this meal the way I did. I turn them off for now since the chicken is still cooking and I need to make a bit of sauce for the chicken.

I heat the comal over a high burner and roast two fresh tomatoes and two garlic cloves. When the skin of the tomatoes starts to blister, I take them off the comal, remove the skins and place in the blender with the roasted garlic. I puree the tomatoes and garlic then heat a bit of oil in a medium-sized saucepan and pour the puree into it. I add 1 teaspoon of oregano and a bit of salt and pepper for flavor. I let this cook until the sauce gets a bit darker.

I check the chicken and turn over the thighs. The side of the thighs that was on the cookie sheet is nicely browned and crisp so it is the perfect time to turn them over. I set up each plate with a quarter of an avocado, thinly sliced and wait for the chicken to finish cooking (total cooking time is 25 to 30 minutes).

Dinner at a Friend's House

A night out is always a treat and it is wonderful to share a meal at a friend's house. We had an impromptu dinner party midweek. Danielle invited Luis and I over for dinner and suddenly found herself hosting Luis' godfather, Jose Luis - unexpectedly in from Mexico - and Luis' mother, Trini. She was a great sport about the whole thing and it was a wonderful meal and evening.

Danielle found a recipe for Chicken Tenders with Cilantro Pesto online recently and decided to make this for our group. It was a very tasty meal and very easy to make. First she set up the marinade; 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of canola oil and 1 teaspoon of chili powder was placed in a large bowl and whisked briefly. She reserved 2 tablespoons of the marinade and placed it in the bowl of her food processor (for the pesto). She added the chicken tenders to the remaining marinade and tossed it a bit to coat each piece. She set this aside to marinate (should give it 20 minutes to 1 hour).

While the chicken is marinating, Danielle started making the pesto. She toasted 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over low heat and stirred them constantly until they were golden and fragrant (about 2 minutes). As she was keeping an eye on the sesame seeds she placed the other ingredients in the food processor with her reserved marinade; 1 bunch of cilantro (stems removed by twisting about mid-bunch) and 2 shallots roughly chopped. When the sesame seeds were toasted she added them to the food processor and processed the mixture until it was fairly smooth. (The recipe calls for scallions but the shallots add that hint of garlic which I think it more important for a pesto.)

To round out the meal, Danielle served the Quick Vegetable Soup (another recipe I got from her), some steamed quinoa and steamed asparagus. Everything was delicious and Jose Luis - Luis' godfather had a lot of fun as did all of us.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sopa de Tortilla

My favorite Mexican cookbook is Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless. My mother gave Luis and I a copy for Christmas in 1998 and it has become a staple cookbook for me ever since. His cooking shows are really fun to watch as well. In February 2007, I had the opportunity to host a work function in Chicago and jumped at the chance to book his restaurant Topolobampo. For the event we chose the Chef's Tasting menu and one of the items served was the Sopa de Tortilla; I have been craving it ever since. I just want to book a trip back to Chicago so I can eat there again. (Also most amazing margarita I have ever had...yum.)

Since this is a very brothy soup, it is recommended to have a really good broth. Fortunately, my mother insisted I save the bones from the last time I stripped a Costco roast chicken. Her winning argument was that they would make a wonderful broth and she was very right. I took the bones of one chicken carcass and put it in a pot with half an onion, with the root end still attached and 2-3 celery stalks, roughly chopped. I filled the pot with water until it covered everything, loosely covered the pot and let simmer for two hours.

Next I took about eight corn tortillas that I had in the fridge and sliced them first in half and then into thin strips. It is best if you use stale/older tortillas for this as they crisp better when you fry them. Heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in a skillet. Set up a cookie sheet with paper towels to have for the cooked tortilla strips. (You don't want to be doing this after the strips are ready to come out because you risk burning them.) I test to make sure the oil is the right temperature by throwing in a small corner of one of the strips - if the oil bubbles vigorously around it then it is the perfect temperature. I then throw in the cut up strips and move them around the pan to keep them separated. I keep an eye on them and continuously move them around until they start turning a deep golden brown. Then I immediately remove them with a slotted spoon and let them cool on the paper towels.

Take 1-2 dried chile pasillas and remove the stems and seeds. Then tear into smaller pieces and soak in a bit of broth. (In this case I actually only had a bag of dried Catarina chiles. the description says they are pungent and have tones of wild berry and tobacco. They are red and will add a complexity of flavor so they fit my bill.) Next, I take out my comal and set it on a high burner. When the comal is hot, I place one medium-small tomato on it and roast it on every side. (Alternately, you can drop it into boiling water for a few minutes.) When the skin is blistered, you will remove it from the comal (or water) and cut the tomato into quarters. Finally remove the seeds and core and throw the tomato into the blender. Next slice one medium onion and rough chop two cloves of garlic. Heat one tablespoon of oil or lard over medium high heat and cook the onion and garlic until both are deep golden brown. Add the cooked onion and garlic and softened chiles with the liquid to the blender with the tomato and process until smooth.

Now after two hours your broth should be pretty flavorful (since the bones were from a roasted chicken you could have probably gotten away with just an hour of boiling). Turn the burner off and using a slotted spoon gently remove the bones, onion and celery. You could also pour this through a strainer into another pan but I try to minimize dirty dishes. Now heat another tablespoon of oil or lard in your skillet and carefully pour the tomato mixture in the pan and constantly stir until the mixture is thicker and darker - about 5 minutes. Add the this mixture to the broth, partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Now set up your bowls with a bit of the crisp tortillas and some cubed or grated cheese (for 6 servings you will need about 2 cups of queso fresco or some sort of soft cheese; Muenster or Monterey Jack.) Right before you are ready to eat, you will ladle some broth directly over these ingredients and serve immediately.

It isn't the simplest soup to make but it sure is memorable. Luis returned from his bicycle ride the following day - he said he had spent much of his return trip just thinking how good a bowl of the soup would be when he got home. Unfortunately it wasn't on the brunch menu!

Frittata - the Fail Safe Plan for Dinner

So one night last week I had no plan for dinner - I had defrosted nothing and was really not interested in cooking. But as usual I talked myself into cooking because with all the food we have in the fridge it would be ridiculous not to.

The always fail-safe meal; frittata, an Italian omelet. Here is where having a steady supply of eggs, cheese, milk and various vegetables comes in handy. I scrounged in the freezer for sausage (I try to keep a stash of chicken apple sausage or breakfast links handy) and found some. I defrosted them by heating two of them in a skillet with a bit of water and proceeded to review my options in the fridge. The beauty of a frittata is that you can use whatever vegetables you have handy; mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, etc. The choice for this one would be some scallions, crimini mushrooms and zucchini.

Crack six eggs in a bowl; add about two tablespoons of milk, and a scant quarter cup of cheese (usually I use the Parmesan/reggiano mix but in this case I am out and only have a four cheese shredded mix). I slice the green part of a scallion and add to the bowl of eggs with a bit of salt and pepper and briskly whisk the whole thing. I then set this aside. I turn on my oven to broil so that is warm when I am ready to put the frittata in for the final browning.

Then I wash about 5-6 crimini mushrooms and one zucchini; I slice the mushrooms and cut the zucchini into mouth sized bites. I heat the omelet pan with a bit of olive oil. When the oil is to the point of smoking, I drop in the mushrooms and zucchini and saute it until it gets soft with a bit of browning on some surfaces. When it looks perfectly cooked to eat, I take it off the heat and add the browned mushrooms and zucchini to the egg mixture and mix it all. I take the pan I just used to cook the vegetables and add a tablespoon of olive oil and a bit over a tablespoon of butter. (Traditional recipes call for almost half a stick of butter but I think this is a bit excessive).

I return the pan to the burner but this time the heat is set low. When the butter is melted I add the egg mixture and with a spatula, I pull the cooked edges into the center of the pan. This is the technique used for omelet making, you do not want to scramble the mixture you just want to pull the cooked edges toward the center and let the uncooked egg drain to the edge. You repeat this process until most of your egg is firm and there is a bit of runniness on top. You then pop the pan under the broiler and let the top cook for just a few minutes. (Usually the time it takes you to add a sausage to each plate and tell everyone dinner is ready.)

This recipe makes four good sized slices. We served ours with sausage, toasted raisin bread and orange juice.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sour Cherry Pie

Last week I went to Concord to visit a little farm. The farm is owned by the father of a good family friend and his hobby is growing fruit and vegetables. Roy, the farmer, had some extra heirloom tomato plants for anyone who wanted them so my mother and I made the trek to the East Bay to take some plants off his hands. (I hope to feature these as ingredients later in the summer. He gave me several plants; Black Prince, Ping Pong Pink, Super Fantastics and Green Zebra.)

However the big find of the day was the sour cherry tree bearing lots of bright, red translucent fruit. The fruit was tart but had a wonderful sharp cherry flavor. My mother and I picked four boxes of them. I only took one box for myself but when I pitted and cleaned them I had 13 full cups of berries. I decided to use mine for cherry pies and since each pie needs 4-5 cups of fruit I set up two bags with four cups of pitted cherries each and save 5 cups for a pie to make that night.

I used the recipe for pie and crust from my favorite cookbook; "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. (By the way he has also published "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" which would have crust alternatives if you are vegan.) I make the recipe for the double crust (page 686):

  • 2 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 16 tablespoons of butter (cut into pieces)
  • 6 tablespoons of ice water
Combine flour, salt and sugar in the container of a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal - about 10 seconds.

Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle the water over it then use a spoon or spatula to gradually gather the dough into a ball. If it seems dry add more water a 1/2 tablespoon at a time. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, remove it from the bowl and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30 minutes); this will ease rolling. (Dough can be refrigerated for a day or two and frozen indefinitely if you want to make it ahead.)

I preheat the oven to 450 degrees. I have the 5 cups of pitted, sour cherries in a bowl and I add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch (an alternate ingredient is 2 tablespoons of tapioca). When the crust is chilled I carefully divide it into two and roll out the bottom crust. Then I add the cherries and dot with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small bits. Next I roll out the top crust and decide to get fancy by doing a lattice top crust. To do a lattice top, I find a dish that is larger than my pie plate, place it on top of the dough and cut a clean circle of dough. From that circle, I cut it into strips - a bit less than half and inch wide.

I put the longest strip in the middle of the pie and the next largest strip across the middle of the pie perpendicular to the first. I keep alternating the strips and "weaving" the dough so that it alternates under and over. When I am satisfied that the top is nicely done I roll the edges and flute the crust to decorate it. I use the technique of pinching the dough between the side of my forefinger and thumb. I think it give the crush a nice almost shell-like edge. Before placing it in the oven, I gently brush the whole top of the crust with mild and dust with a bit of sugar.

I place the pie on a cookie sheet (because fruit pies tend to bubble over and it is a whole lot easier to clean a cookie sheet versus and oven). If you don't do the lattice top you will want to cut 2-3 two inch vents in the top crust. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.

Interestingly, the cherries were more tart after they were baked - with sugar - than they were fresh. But it was a delicious pie and satisfying to make it from tree to table.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Chicken Burgers and Vegetable Saute

Chicken Chili Lime Burgers - yet another Trader Joe's instant meal - are needed today because I didn't defrost anything else. They are frozen and easily separated so I remove two from the box. I set them aside so that they will be ready to cook when everything is set up.

I decide to cook up a vegetable saute as the side dish to accompany the burgers. I have an orange pepper (washed, de-stemmed, seeded and sliced); 5-6 crimini mushrooms (washed and sliced); and 3 yellow summer squash (washed and cut to bite-sized pieces). I heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and thinly slice half an onion. When the oil is hot - almost smoking - I add the onion and saute until just translucent. Then I add each vegetable and cook slightly before adding the next; onion, pepper, mushrooms and summer squash. When the vegetables get a bit brown but not mushy, I add 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce, cover, and let cook for no more than 5 minutes. I typically don't want them too juicy - just covered with a bit of sauce. As the squash cooks it will release some additional fluid but if you still feel it needs more, add 1-2 tablespoons of water.

The burgers will be the last thing that I cook so I set up the plates with the fixings. I place a bit of fresh baby spinach on each plate with some sliced avocado (here I served 1/4 avocado per person but it is really up to you how much you want). I am all out of tomatoes but if I had them they would also be included on the plate. I am going to cook the burgers on the stovetop on a cast iron skillet. They do not take more than 5 minutes to cook - a bit over two minutes per side. As the chicken burgers are cooking, I put the whole wheat seeded buns in the toaster to get warm.

The burgers are quite filling and the addition of the vegetable saute makes them a not-so-guilty meal. Nice cold beer to set it all off and it is perfect.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Chili and Cornbread

Chili fundamentalists wouldn't really classify this as a chili but rather as a ground beef stew. Chili making is really a much higher art but if you want a hearty stew reminiscent of a chili, this is a good "quick" version.

I removed a package of ground beef (about 1.5 to 2 pounds) from the freezer in the morning and let it defrost during the day. Later when it is about time for dinner, I heat a about a 3 tablespoons of olive oil until it is hot - almost smoking - and add the ground beef. I cook it until the meat is mostly brown. As this is cooking, I finely chop 1 medium onion; 2 jalapenos (seeded and de-stemmed); and 2 cloves of garlic. When the meat is brown, I add the chopped vegetables and saute a bit until the onion is a bit translucent. Add one bottle or can of beer and let it cook down a bit. (The beer tenderizes the meat and the alcohol burns off.)

Add a can of tomato sauce and a bit of water just enough to cover everything. Add about 1 tablespoon of chili powder as well as salt and pepper to taste. For a darker sauce and a bit more flavor I also add a tablespoon of instant coffee. I will cook this down for about an hour without a cover on the pot. The sauce will cook down until it is deeper and thicker.

I start with the cornbread and since I happen to be out of cornmeal I use a package of cornbread mix that I like from Trader Joe's. It is a sweet version of cornbread and has kernels of corn mixed into it. It takes 35 to 40 minutes to bake so I mix this per the instructions and place it in the oven. The cornbread and chili will be ready at about the same time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Crab Cakes with Salad

This is a great warm weather dinner but is also a good quick meal. Honestly I have never made crab cakes because there are so many options to buy tasty, ready-made crab cakes. You can purchase fresh ones at many seafood markets or counters i.e. in San Francisco you can find them at Whole Foods or Marina Meats. Alternately, you can also find them frozen - I typically buy them frozen at Trader Joe's.
Since I had the frozen crab cakes, I set them out to defrost about an hour before dinner (you can defrost in the microwave as well). When I was ready to assemble everything, I set up each plate with a bit of baby spinach and topped them with some fresh scallions, yellow pepper and shredded carrots. Additionally, I had a package of steamed lentils (yet another Trader Joe's item) so I heated them up and put a small portion on the side.
When we were ready for dinner, I simply heated some lemon-infused olive oil in a large skillet and cooked the crab cakes for about 2-3 minutes per side. Although the crab is typically cooked this step browns and re-heats the cakes .
I serve the salad with a choice of two dressings. My preference is a balsamic vinaigrette while Luis prefers a thicker, Russian dressing. The following are the recipes for both:
RUSSIAN DRESSING (Joy of Cooking 1964 page 316)
(This portion makes enough to fill a 12-ounce bottle that you can keep in the fridge indefinitely.)
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of grated horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon of grated onion
Aunt Melanie's One-Cup Salad Dressing
(I tend to double this recipe so that I can store it a 12-ounce bottle and have it in the fridge indefinitely. Ideally you should make a bit beforehand because the flavor of the garlic needs at least 20 minutes to really infuse the dressing.)
Whisk together;
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • dash each of paprika, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice
While whisking, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add one or two whole, garlic cloves - crushed. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

Re-tooling and Re-using Leftovers

Last week when I made the cornmeal crusted pork I had quite a bit leftover so I decided to re-use it two nights later but with different side dishes. Originally, I used the quinoa with peas and oven roasted cauliflower. Today I decided for something lighter and more summery to accompany the pork.
Since I had only used 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese for the dinner crepes I still had more than half a container to use up. I decided to make the ricotta sauce pasta to complement the cornmeal crusted pork and serve a tomato and red pepper salad with it. The pasta will take about 20 minutes and you will merely heat up the pork briefly in the microwave right before you are ready to serve. Unfortunately, re-heating the pork in the microwave will soften the cornmeal crust but it is an efficient way to get it warm. Alternately a toaster oven might be a good option - I don't happen to own one but if anyone tries it please let me know.
For the pepper and tomato salad, I simply cut one medium tomato in quarters and gently de-seeded it. I repeated the process with a red pepper and then I cut the tomato and pepper into bite-size portions. I tossed them with a bit of olive oil (1 tablespoon) and balsamic vinegar (half a tablespoon). This salad adds a light, crisp complement to the thyme and lemon flavoring of the pork and the cheese sauce of the pasta and is purposely simplistic.
The next night dinner was again made with leftovers. I had enough of the dinner crepes leftover to re-heat for the two of us as well as the last of the vegetable soup. I set to oven to 350 degrees, placed the remaining crepes in a pie plate, and set into the oven to re-heat for 10-15 minutes. I set the soup in a small pan on very low heat on the stove top and set the table for dinner. I rounded it out with some wheat crackers and iberico cheese to go with the soup.
Warming the crepes in the oven is perfect - the bottom side that lays on the pie plate is lightly crisped, the filling is warm all the way through and the top part is soft. The crepes go well with a nice bowl of steaming vegetable soup.
So with a bit more effort in making dinner sometimes you are rewarded with multiple meals: the pork made dinner one night for four people; three lunches and dinner another night for the two of us. The package of sukiyaki pork wasn't more than 1.5 pounds either. The crepe recipe was good for dinner on two separate nights and two lunches. For flexibility and convenience, I sometimes just freeze leftovers of larger recipes on the same night so we can have them for the future rather than being obligated to eat them the same week. Most of my meals typically serve dinner for two and there is enough for two lunches the next day.


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