Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sausage-Tomato Risotto in Honor of (Gordon) Ramsay

I’m not ashamed to say that I named my dog after Gordon Ramsay, nor am I ashamed to admit that I love EVERY SINGLE GORDON RAMSAY SHOW EVER. I’ve watched all of the British AND US Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell, Masterchef, etc. etc. etc. And tonight was the season premiere of Hell’s Kitchen, one of Shayne’s and my spring and summer favs. I don’t know if it’s because we both spent years in the food service industry or what, but we can always agree to watch cooking reality shows. And we spelled Ramsay’s name with the second “a” because that’s how Gordon Ramsay is spelled. And I trolled around on Twitter posting staged pictures of the dog with Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography until he responded to one. Not even kidding.

If you’ve ever seen Hell’s Kitchen, you know that the chefs constantly struggle with three things: cooking beef wellington, correctly searing scallops, and making an acceptable risotto. Ramsay constantly throws risotto all around the kitchen because it’s too al dente, too runny, or too cold. Since scallops are expensive and have NO desire to try my hand at a beef wellington, I decided tomato risotto with chicken sausage was the only thing to make for dinner tonight. Pardon the pictures…I finally found my digital camera again, so they will be better going forward.

Tomato Risotto with Chicken Sausage (4 hearty servings)

1 1/2 cups diced tomato

5 cups chicken broth

1 t smoked paprika

1 shallot (or a small onion, which is all I had today, but shallots are better), finely diced

2 chicken sausages (I used spinach/feta flavored this time)

1 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup of dry white wine

2 cups easily wilted greens, like spinach, chard, etc.

2 T butter

1/2 cup parmesean

Saute the tomatoes for a few minutes in a medium sized saucepan, mostly to get the kitchen smelling delicious, but also to bring out the flavor a little bit. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the smoked paprika (thank you, husband, for introducing me to a delicious and versatile ingredient).

Tomato Simmer

Cook the onion or shallot in 2 T EVOO until translucent and browned. If you are using uncooked sausage, toss that in when the onion is about half cooked. If you are using pre-cooked sausage, you can wait until the onion is basically cooked, before tossing it in for a quick saute (though either way, it’s better if it starts to get a little crispy). Season with salt and pepper.

Onion-Sausage Saute

When onion is fully cooked, add the arborio, and cook for one to two minutes to give it a little toast. Then, pour the wine in and stir until fully evaporated.

I was multitasking and didn't notice the photographer...

I was multitasking and didn’t notice the photographer…

Using a ladle, incorporate the chicken broth/tomato mixture, a scoop at a time, stirring each ladleful until it becomes fully evaporated. Slow and steady is the key to a creamy risotto; don’t rush the cooking process. It doesn’t take as long as the street rumors say, and it’s worth the patience. It usually takes me around 30-40 minutes to get all the liquid in. Before you move on to the next step, taste the rice to make sure it’s actually cooked, and not too chewy. Add more broth, if necessary, a little at a time until you get the creamy consistency you want.

I always wear this little apron when I cook, because I am notorious for staining all my clothes with food.

I always wear this little apron when I cook, because I am notorious for staining all my clothes with food.

Turn down the heat, and stir in your greens until they are wilted and soft. Toss with butter and cheese and stir until all the goodies are combined.

With Butter - Parm

Finished Risotto

 

Eating a big bowl of tasty risotto will set you right any day. I’ve seriously been thinking about making this ALL week long. Because of the tomato in the base, I think there’s a different flavor to this risotto than most others, almost a cheddar-y flavor. But don’t let that scare you, because it’s delicious. And I felt completely satisfied knowing that I had made a deliciously creamy risotto while I watched the new contestants on Hell’s Kitchen have theirs thrown out. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be terrified presenting this to Gordon Ramsay, but I’m pretty damn proud of it.

Other than doing a LOT of cooking this week, we’ve been super busy getting ready for the last push of work before our trip to Ireland. We went out and bought carry-ons for easy travel, I got a new coat for tramping the Irish cliffs and heaths, and some new sturdy walking shoes that won’t be like mesh sponges if it rains. I basically have to pack this weekend, as I’m in California for work next Tuesday through Friday, and our flight to Ireland leaves Saturday morning.

In all our preparations, we did manage to check out H-Mart for the first time this weekend. H-Mart is a chain of Asian groceries stores, which to me seemed like a friendlier and more approachable Uwajimaya. We were watching an old episode of No Reservations where Anthony was eating street food in Thailand, when we got a massive craving for any food of the Asian persuasion. We already knew we were heading the direction of H-Mart, and had heard good things about their deli cafe, so we decided to check it out.

H-MartOh my good golly, I had to stop and remember to take a picture of our food. They had three different cafes in the store, one Vietnamese, one Thai, and one that was Korean assorted. We went for Thai, and I encouraged Shayne to branch out from the classic pad thai, so we ordered some Pad Kee Mao and an order of Panang curry. We easily got two meals out of our $16 “lunch” and we were both so impresed. I’ve been craving H-Mart ever since. The noodlesin the Pad Kee Mao were OUT OF THIS WORLD fresh and delicious. You could tell that all the veggies were fresh and cooked to order, because the green beans and peppers were crisp, not sad and limp. I want to eat all the foods there. All. The. Foods. This was easily one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten.

Cee-Lo SakeAlso, did you know that Cee-Lo and his tiny little dinosaur arms sell sake?

 

 

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Asian Cod with Udon Stir-Fry

We’ve had a few truly beautiful Oregon days this week, and today took the cake. It felt like spring, it was in the upper 50s/mid-60s all day, and it didn’t rain. If you live in the pacific northwest, you know how crazy people get when they start sensing spring. All of a sudden, shorts and skirts are out, everyone is driving with their windows down, all the fair weather runners are out and about, and everyone is in a better mood. It’s awesome. The plus side about living in a rainy state is that, on nice days, you REALLY appreciate them.

Before I tell you about the latest delicious meal I created by accident, I first have to share our spontaneous spring break plans. This is the conversation I had with my husband last week:

Shayne: “What if we went up to Canada for spring break?”

Me: “If I need to renew my passport anyways…we might as well go to Europe.”

Two days later, my passport was in the mail for expedited renewal and we had plane tickets. To Ireland. Which has been one of our bucket list items basically since we first started dating. IF my passport gets back in time, we will be spending five days in Ireland, exploring Dublin and the Ring of Kerry, and we are beyond thrilled. The passport agency can expect multiple phone calls from me next week tracking my renewal. I’m banking on the LA passport agency as my backup strategy, as I have a business trip to California for the four days before we leave. I’m so excited to take pictures and document this trip I’ve wanted to take FOREVER. My parents still hear about how they went to Ireland without me in ’96. They spent 10 days exploring the emerald isle, I stayed with my grandma in Iowa, went to Methodist VBS where I knew no one, and then got the stomach flu. I’m still bitter.

That brings us to this week. As we are hoarding away all the money we can for touring and souvenirs, we are trying to eat on the cheap. Now, we ALWAYS try to stay frugal at the grocery store, but especially so these next few weeks. Lots of boxed rice pilafs mix and matched with various proteins and frozen veggie mixes. I also picked up a package of frozen cod, because it was on sale and I was jonesin’ for some seafood.

Today, after a GORGEOUS 3 mile trek in 6o degree weather with the boys (aka my dog and husband), I picked through my fridge and freezer looking for something to throw together for dinner, and pulled out the cod, a package of udon noodles I had picked up super cheap, 12 oz. of mushrooms, and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

-1 large or two small fillets of white fish (cod, tilapia, etc.)

-veggies, your choice

-1 pkg udon noodles (found refrigerated near the mushrooms/peppers in my grocery store)

-1/4 c soy sauce

-1 Tbs rice wine vinegar

-1 Tbs sesame oil

-1-2 Tbs brown sugar

-sesame seeds, toasted

-2 cloves minced garlic

Mix the marinade ingredients together first. Quickly whisk brown sugar into the garlic, soy, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and sesame oil until dissolved. Mix in a teaspoon of sesame seeds. If you want a slightly thicker marinade, whisk in some cornstarch (I couldn’t find mine today…whoops).

The makings of a marinade.

The makings of a marinade.

In a shallow dish, pour the marinade over the cod fillets. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

photo 3

Since I was using frozen veggies, I started prepping the stir fry while the first marinated. I tossed sliced mushrooms, and the bag of veggies straight from the freezer into a large skillet over medium heat, and drizzled with just enough sesame oil to get a good saute going. A little sesame oil goes a long way, and I just needed to keep things moist while the veggies defrosted. I was patient with this batch, since I burned a saute last week. Some people like their stir-fry with some crunch to it, but we are a no crunch family, so I had it sauteing for a while.

photo 2

Rinse the udon for a minute or two under hot water to loosen it (mine came vacuumed packed). This better preps it for cooking. Add to your stir-fry, trying to gently break up the noodles. From the picture below, you can see I struggled with this.

Not going to lie...I was skeptical at this point.

Not going to lie…I was skeptical at this point.

After I got the udon in, I got a frying pan going over medium-high heat for the fish. Using tongs or a spatula, gently place the fillets in the skillet. Pour the extra marinade into the stir-fry.

I wish you all had smell-o-vision right now.

I wish you all had smell-o-vision right now.

Get ready to multitask. Monitor the fish, which needed about 4 minutes a side when I cooked it. At the same time, bring the liquid in the stir-fry up to a simmer. This will get the noodles nice and soft, and impart a lot of flavor into them. I kept sauteing until all of the liquid had soaked into the noodles like a delicious, noodle-y sponge.

The noodles look a lot less pasty and chunky now.

The noodles look a lot less pasty and chunky now.

When the fish is cooked all the way through (flaky and opaque inside), and the liquid has been fully incorporated into the stir fry, it’s time to get your grub on!

photo 4Shayne LOVED this. I’m always nervous with winging recipes, just because I’ve had some pretty memorable fails over the years that we still laugh about, but I’m starting to get more comfortable. It was immediately requested that this be added to our regular meal deck, so I’m going to go ahead and consider this a success story. It took a little time for prep and cooking, but it was easy, and so worth it. We ate the whole pan. And wished there was more. I will be buying udon a lot more now, that’s for sure.

I have a lot of comfort foods, but for some reason, just about ALL Asian inspired dishes are what I crave when I’m sad/sick/happy/angry/mopey/all the feels. As someone with a perpetually sensitive tummy, a big bowl of noodles or rice with some super flavorful protein always hits the spot without leaving me in pain. This meal left me full without being bloated, and was pretty darn healthy to boot.

What are your comfort foods?

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Fiesta Shrimp Bowl

Fiesta Shrimp Skillet

I scrounged this dinner together in the middle of snowpocalypse, when we were tired of eating random snacks and frozen foods, and I stumbled across half a bag of frozen shrimp and “fiesta mix” vegetables in the freezer. My hubby immediately requested that I add it to our regular rotation of dinners. It’s also pretty darn healthy; the worst thing in it is the white rice, which can easily be substituted for brown, or ground cauliflower rice, if you want to go paleo style. I usually use white in my cooking, just because brown always seems to upset my stomach, and Shayne hasn’t quite bought into cauliflower rice as a regular substitute.

Do you keep frozen shrimp on hand? If not, you should! So quick and easy to defrost and cook up, and I think shrimp picks up so much flavor that a little goes a long way. My main protein when I cook is chicken, just because I’m comfortable experimenting with it, but over the last few years I’ve really come to love shrimp. So I buy it when it’s on sale, jumbo deveined shrimp. I personally like to peel them myself, so as long as they come veinless (it’s shrimp poop for goodness sakes!) I’m happy to prep them.

Here’s what I used to craft my fiesta shrimp bowl:

-1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

-one bag of frozen, mixed vegetables (mine included white and kidney beans, green beans, carrots, corn, garbanzo beans, and broccoli)

-1/2 c salsa, your choice (we always have Pace Picante Mild in our fridge)

-guacamole, for topping, your choice (I’ve been banned from sharing my husband’s recipe)

-taco seasoning

-garlic

-white rice

-cilantro or parsley

Get the rice going first. I had been jonesin’ for some of Chipotle’s cilantro-lime rice, because that stuff is like crack. But I wasn’t about to hike a mile in dark blizzard conditions to get cilantro. What I DID have was parsley. So I made parsley-lime rice, by mixing about a tablespoon of Bolthouse Farms dehydrated ¬†parsley with a cup of rice (and the appropriate amount of water) in my rice cooker. I just discovered these dehydrated herbs, and they are genius. You rehydrate them with a little water and they function pretty much like fresh herbs. Before starting up the rice, I put a few squeezes of lime juice in with the water. Use the lime juice sparingly – it can easily overwhelm the flavor.

This is what it should look like when it's done.

This is what it should look like when it’s done.

Next, marinate the shrimp in a bowl with a heavy dusting of taco seasoning, two cloves of minced garlic, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze more lime juice. Shrimp cooks super fast, and it also marinates quickly, so I just do this and let it sit while I prep everything else.

Marinating

 

Next, I tossed my bag of frozen fiesta vegetables in a skillet over medium heat with about a tablespoon of EVOO. The bag will tell you to steam the veggies, but DO NOT LISTEN. Steamed frozen veggies taste like a whole lot of nothing. I almost always saute them over low/medium heat until they are tender. Get them cooking to a point of “crisp tender.”

Ignore the freezer burn.

Ignore the freezer burn.

Once the veggies are well on their way to full cookery, incorporate 1/2 cup of salsa into the skillet, and mix well with the veggies. It doesn’t hurt to throw in a little extra taco seasoning and S&P as well. The salsa seems to give the veggies enough moisture to get them really tender, and coats everything with a nice kick of flavor.

Veggies 2

When the veggies are just done (I tend to overcook them because my husband likes them on the mushier side), throw in the shrimp and marinade to the mix. Saute until just done – the shrimp should be opaque when you cut into them. It should only take between 4-6 minutes; if you overcook shrimp, it’s like eating little chunks of rubber.

To serve, put a scoop of the herbed rice in a bowl, and top with as much of the shrimp and veggie mixture as desired. This made us 2 hearty dinner servings, but I think we had some leftover rice. Top with guacamole for a cool, creamy touch. And enjoy!

While writing this up I realized how HORRIBLE my pictures look. Honestly, this was going to just be a throw-together one-time dinner. But when everything started to get going and smells started wafting through the kitchen, we realized that maybe this wasn’t going to be an ordinary “clear out the freezer special.” So I quickly snapped a few iPhone photos before I finished up. I’m no photographer, I’m aware.

Question time – What’s the best “accidental” meal you’ve ever created?

Hope you all had a great weekend, and here’s to a relatively painless Monday!

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