Tuesday, April 26, 2011

For the Record...

I love cooking.  Cooking for me must be what writing a song is like to a musician, painting a picture is like for an artist, what dancing is like for a dancer.  It's exhilarating.  It's frustrating.  It's hard.  It's fun.  It makes me smile, and it makes me wanna throw shit across the kitchen.  I get to use my hands and have many different instruments to choose from.  I get to get down and dirty, sticking my hands in squishy, soppy things.  I get to create.  I get to manipulate.  I get to saute, puree, flambe.  I get to indulge.  I get to smack things, beat things, roll things, cut things, flour things, bake things, stick my hand inside things.  It's absolutely amazing and I love it.   

Do I want it to be my job?  Not in a million years.  I am often asked, "Why don't you go to culinary school?" and I quickly reply, "Because I'm already $80,000 in debt from Undergrad and Grad school."  Then I'm asked, "Well why don't you just get a job in a kitchen and go from there?"  And my response is, "Because I have no real experience in a formal kitchen, besides the occasional make-a-platter-look-pretty move, or make a cheese river for a buffet table (I gotta thank my buddy Julien for teaching me that one), or garnishing things, so why would any chef hire me?"  Or, "I'm only experienced to work in a place like Chili's or Applebee's...both places I despise, so no thank you."  The other one I usually hear is, "You missed your calling."  Hey thanks...that's exactly what I need to hear.  My life is now wasted because my calling has been missed.  I guess I should just wait for my demise, and throw in the towel, because I have already missed my purpose in life.  

Here's how I feel about cooking.  It's therapeutic.  Smashing a clove of garlic or pounding out a piece of chicken is good for the soul.  Turning something I've never even heard of into a surprisingly delicious dish makes me proud.  I love to cook.  The more you cook, the better you become at cooking.  I used to never stray from a recipe.  Now, I whip up my own creations all the time and they are GOOD!!  I find that I love my food so much, that eating out has become less attractive to me because I am uber-critical about the food I encounter in restaurants.  I find that often, I can do it better.  I can taste the difference between fresh and frozen.  I can tell if you opened up a bag, poured its contents into a bowl, melted cheese over it and passed it off as $9 French Onion Soup.  I can tell if the woman or man in the white uniform and funny hat in the back loves or hates their job just by taking that first bite.   

I love to try new things.  I can't eat the same piece of chicken everyday.  I hate leftovers.  I just want to create things.  Things that I'm not responsible for for the rest of my life.  Things that I can eat after I create them, or throw away if I don't like them.  Cooking is my hobby.  The minute I turn it into a job that consumes me and makes me hate it, is the minute I'm no longer interested.  Capish??

Monday, April 25, 2011

Frittata - It's What's For Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner, really

We have these awesome little produce stores all over Memphis called Easy Way (beware the cheesy song that plays on this website).  They have mostly local, and sometimes regional produce, honey, cheeses, meats, etc.  There's one that's 1.8 miles from my house.  So the other day a friend and I decided to take a walk to Easy Way, grab something that inspired dinner, walk back home, and indulge in dinner with no guilt!  What I found was delicious looking asparagus and this Amish made, grass fed, Swiss Cheese from Troyer Farm in Millersburg, OH (might be one of the best things Ohio has to offer).  So Here's what I made:

Asparagus, onion & Swiss frittata

For those of you who may not be familiar with a frittata, it's kind of like a quiche, without crust.  Or it's a big old omelet pie.  Start with a non-stick, broiler safe pan.  This is probably the most important thing.  Then, all you do is you cook whatever you want inside your frittata, I went with Asparagus and onion because I was feeling vegetariany.  But I've made meat frittata's that are just as delicious.  But you can literally do whatever you want, eggs make a great canvas. 

Beat 4 eggs and add in a little milk...I just use a splash, maybe like 2 tablespoons.  Once your meat is cooked, or your veggies are tender, but not overcooked...never overcook a vegetable, add in your eggs making sure they are evenly dispersed in the pan...not hard to do with a liquid, but sometimes you get a little greedy with filling and you have to force your eggs to break the levee of meat that you have built in your pan, I'm well aware of this phenomenon.  If you're using cheese, sprinkle it over your veggies/meat/egg mixture now.  Add salt and pepper and whatever other seasonings you like.  Cook eggs over medium low heat for about 8 minutes. 

At this point the bottom of your frittata will be cooked, but the top will be a little jiggly.  So now is the time to put the frittata into the broiler for about 2-4 minutes...but I never trust the broiler, so I sit on the floor of my kitchen and never shut the broiler door.  I obsessively pull the pan in and out, over and over, time after time to make sure I'm not burning my eggs or cheese or bread, or whatever I am broiling.  So do as I freakishly do, or just trust your oven and hope for the best!  Your frittata will puff up and start to look brown and beautiful.  Shake the pan gently.  Once you get no major jiggle from your eggs, you're done.
Here's the hardest part.  Getting the frittata out of the pan in one piece.  Go around the rim of your pan with a rubber spatula.  Take a cutting board and place it on top of your frittata...say a kitchen prayer...mine usually goes like this..."Please let this fucking work"...then flip the frittata pan so that...HOPEFULLY your frittata comes out in one piece onto the cutting board.  Cut that baby up like a pie...serve with fruit or potatoes for breakfast, with a small salad for lunch or with a bowl of soup and a glass of wine for dinner.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomatoes or Tequila...

This recipe was inspired by my good pal Ina Garten.  I really do love her, despite my recent post!  I just think she'd be a lot cooler and less stiff if she did one too many shots of tequila, danced naked on a table and threw up all over herself. That woman needs to let loose for once in her life! :-) 

Anyways, here's a great recipe that makes a delicious lunch or a quick snack.

Here's What You Need:
1 juicy, ripe tomato sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces, don't even attempt to use an unripe tomato here.
1/2 cup of kale pesto, it might be time for an intervention with this stuff...I'm totally addicted to it.
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Here's What You Do:
Preheat oven to 400.  Arrange your tomato slices on a baking sheet.  Drizzle them with olive oil and salt and pepper them.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and top each tomato with a generous helping of pesto (I assume you can use whatever kind of pesto you like, basil, arugula, etc.)  Sprinkle each tomato with Parmesan cheese.  Put the tomatoes back in the oven until the cheese gets melty and brown and bubbly. 

Once that happens, take them out of the oven, and lightly salt again.  Enjoy!  And look, if you're underage and reading my blog, I do not condone underage drinking.  Nor do I condone doing one too many shots of tequila, no matter what your age.  Trust me.  You'd be better off playing in traffic, getting hit by a semi and being in a coma for a week than to have to deal with a tequila hangover.  So, I'd advise you to stay off the tequila and overdose on these tomatoes instead.      

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Can You Do With A Can o' Cannellini's?

Here's a quick and easy, and healthy side dish that you can whip up in 5 minutes.  Open a can of cannellini beans (I always have a can of these, a can of black beans and a can of chickpeas in my cabinets - they all three make quick and easy sides dishes or munchies).  Rinse them and drain the water off them.  Put them in a bowl.  Cut up whatever aromatics you have on hand, I just happened to have vidalia onion and basil, and add them to the salad, though I think red onion would offer more bite and contrast.  Add in whatever veggie you have in the fridge that is about to go bad soon, I used tomatoes, you could use spinach, asparagus, arugula, peppers, cucumbers, etc. and add them to the bowl.  Now toss your salad (giggity) with olive oil and red wine vinegar or whatever vinegar you prefer.  Salt and Pepper.  Thank me later. 

I served mine on the side of a chicken Milanese (which is really a fancy way to say fried chicken breast that is thinly pounded, seasoned, floured, dipped in egg wash and then coated with seasoned breadcrumbs with parsley and Parmesan, then fried in a skilled in olive oil, about 3 minutes per side, then drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice)...this is a quick and easy dinner...and if you MUST be a total health freak, you can bake the chicken for say, 15 minutes at 350...but I personally like mine pan fried.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cockroach of the sea, my ass...

The cockroach of the sea is ok by me!  I will eat lemony, garlicky, buttery lobster off of the back of a hairy, fat, sweaty man, for a mere $20 bucks.  I kid you not.  Present me that situation and I will have a belly full of lobster and a pocketful of Andrew Jackson. For crab legs?  I'll do it for free.   So when I saw these lovely little Nicaraguan lobster tails at a dirt cheap price (I know, I felt a little dirty paying so little for these things, considering what the fishermen go through to catch them), I had to grab 'em.

Lobsters are odd little creatures.  If I found one in my house, I'd be up on the counter with a broom, screaming bloody murder!  They are ugly.  They have many claws and strange little extremities.  But they are tasty.  Back in the old days they were so abundant and so unwanted that they were fed to prisoners and slaves.  Prisoners begged to be fed something different.  I guess too much of anything can get old...quick!  Luckily for me, I only eat lobster maybe once or twice a year.  So it's a real treat when I do.

Here's how I did it:
I got my grill ready by adding charcoal to my chimney (one of the best grilling utensils I own - no more disgusting lighter fluid taste - hooray!) and lighting it.  I cut off all the weird little arm-like doohickey's (I can't believe that's an actual recognized word - doohickey!).  Then I cut the tail right in half, making sure to leave the very tip in place (scissors worked much better than a knife).

Then I melted some butter and made some garlic into a paste by smashing my knife over it, until it was....well, pasty.  Add salt and pepper to the lobster and brush garlic/butter mixture over the raw flesh.  Empty your charcoal when it's ready and oil your grill grate so the lobster doesn't stick to it.  Slap those bugs on your grill and cook 4 minutes per side...mine were pretty big, so just keep your eye on it.

 The lobster will be firm and opaque when it's finished cooking.  Squeeze some lemon on it and melt some butter to dip it in.  I served mine with sliced tomatoes and sauteed kale with olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.  mmm...mmm...sea cockroach!  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ream On

 photo taken from Google Products

Instead of buying a lemon reamer.  Ok hold up.  Maybe I am a little strange, ok, I'm a little strange...but the word reamer just reminds me of some weird S&M device.  Oh, who am I kidding...look at that thing...it LOOKS like a weird S&M device.       

Anyways, instead of buying one of these freakish S&M toy-like items, use a fork.  Take your fork, stick it in your lemon half, squeeze the lemon around the fork and twist the fork.  It works WAY better than a reamer.   You'll get twice as much juice out of that baby.  I know, I know what you're thinking, "But what about the seeds?"  Just pick em out with said fork....Geez prima donna!   Save yourself some money and some kitchen drawer space and kick your reamer to the curb.  Because trust me, that clerk at Bed Bath & Beyond is a little uncomfortable with you asking him where they keep the reamers.  Oh, and that little massager that fits on your finger...they wonder what that's really about.  Don't act like you never thought about it...

Friday, April 15, 2011


 I was pretty freakin' proud of this little one

Bread.  Just hearing the word makes the aroma of freshly baking bread appear.  It's one of my top 5 favorite smells.  1. Babies, 2. My dad (when he's clean of course), 3. Laundry that my mom did, 4. The Ocean and 5. Freshly baked bread.  I've never met a bread I didn't like.  Ever.  Not pumpernickel, not rye, not Irish soda (though it may be my least favorite - no offense Irish folk, I'm Irish too, my great grandmother bottled Guinness in Dublin for Christ's sake, oops...no offense...Jesus, oh to hell with it all) I will most likely, at one time or another, offend you if you read my blog...so let's move on...and let bygones be bygones.

Back to bread.  My favorite of all breads is a crusty, flaky French bread with a soft, light, airy inside.  With butter holes built right into it.  I've done a lot of research on this bread and I've been discouraged to make it because I always read that I need to have a special type of oven that gets to 700 some degrees.  Or I need to have a certain type of flour imported from an unknown village in France.  Then there's something about sponges, water baths, etc.  It's like sitting in a calculus class and honestly, who would do that if they didn't have to?? That's why I prefer cooking to baking.  Less stress. 

Anyhow...I stumbled across a bread recipe on this blog, which I now LOVE, and I halved the recipe and gave it a go.  I didn't have a pizza stone, but I do have a ceramic unglazed deep dish pizza pan that I assumed would get good and hot, so I used that.  I also don't have a pizza peel, I just picked up my shaped loaf and stuck it in my pan.  And of course, today was the day my instant thermometer died, so I sorta just guessed when the bread was actually done.  Seeeee....baking isn't THAT technical after all.  And I was all worried!!

Regardless...what I came up with was a much lighter in color (I think I used too much flour, my dough was not nearly as goopy as his), ever so slightly undercooked, but DAMN tasty loaf.  In fact, this sucker didn't last more than 5 minutes.  There were four bread vultures in my house at the time.  Each one taking a different approach on how to eat theirs.  One went with the plain old white bread style.  Another simply buttered.  Another went with olive oil, salt and pepper to dip in.  And the fourth went the butter and honey route.  I'll never tell you which one I was.  And my quest to make the perfect loaf is not over.  I will pull a masterpiece out of my oven.  Wait and see...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Peanut Buttah Luvah!

I love ice cream.  If there's a sweet I crave on a regular basis, it's ice cream.  Usually it's ice cream sundaes.  Something about cold, creamy vanilla ice cream, smothered in hot, gooey chocolatey fudge, topped with salty, crunchy nuts, really makes my mouth water, my stomach growl, my knees quiver, you get the point.  But ever since I was a little girl, our freezer was usually stocked with chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  Not chocolate peanut butter CUP ice cream.  That stuff is no good.  Something about the frozen chocolate from the peanut butter cups just doesn't work for me.  Adds a filmy, greasiness to each bite that I just don't dig.  I'm talking about chocolate ice cream in all its glory surrounded by ribbons of frozen, peanutty peanut butter.  In the North, you can buy it anywhere.  In the South, you can only get it at Baskin Robbins.  In this bitch's kitchen, you can now find it homemade in my freezer, because that's how I do.  If I want it bad enough, I make it happen.  Now, on to the dreamy goodness that is chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  This recipe was inspired by THIS site.

Here's What You Need:
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli Cocoa)
2 tablespoons of Hershey's syrup
1 cup milk
1/4 cup of peanut butter, plus 1/4 cup more to add later (I used Jif Natural peanut butter because I'm just an au natural kinda gal)
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

Here's What You Do:
In a medium-size bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar; beat until thick and lemon colored, GENTLY (I'm serious about this step...you'll get cocoa powder EVERYWHERE if you don't listen to me) stir in the cocoa powder until you have a batter that looks like brownie mix.  mmmm....brownie miiiixxxx.  Have I told ya'll about my dream of bathing in brownie mix?  I'll save it for another blog.

In a small heavy saucepan over low to medium-low heat, add milk. Slowly bring milk just to a gentle simmer or until it begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat.

Gradually stir hot milk a LITTLE BIT AT A TIME (Again, I'm serious, or you'll have chocolate scrambled egg ice cream and who the hell wants that in their mouth?) into beaten egg/sugar/cocoa mixture with a wire whisk. Pour mixture back into the saucepan. Over low heat, stirring constantly (Not as constantly as you might think, but keep an eye on it so it NEVER boils), heat until the mixture (custard) thickens and will coat the back of a metal spoon with a thin film, approximately 7 to 10 minutes. On your candy thermometer, the temperature should reach between 165 and 180 degrees F.  Take mixture off the stove at this point and put it in a refrigeratable bowl.  Stir in 1/4 cup of peanut butter until it's melted in and place mixture, covered, in the fridge or freezer if you are impatient like me and wait until it's cooled to a balmy 65 degrees.

At this point you need your ice cream maker and I am lucky enough to have received one from my outlaws for Christmas (ok, ok, they are actually my inlaws, but the word outlaws just makes them seem more dangerous, more backwoods, I imagine them holding guns and wearing coonhats when I call them outlaws!).  Before you pour your mixture into your ice cream maker, stir in the cream and the vanilla.  Make your ice cream according to manufacturer's instructions.  Once you get your ice cream to the soft serve stage, put it in a freezerable, air-tight container.  Now, take your 1/4 cup of peanut butter you have leftover and stir it into the ice cream so that when it freezes you'll have ribbons.  Peanut buttery ribbons. Peanut Butter Ribbon Time, Peanut Butter Ribbon Time...  

Freeze for about an hour or so, until you just can't freakin' wait to plunge a spoon into that stuff....lock all your doors and enjoy!   


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hello Portabello

These little puppies are heaven in your mouth.  We discovered these last year.  We were having a cookout and my friend made the delicious Kale Pesto that night and we were all raving about how tasty it was.  So in my total brilliance of a self-taught, try anything chef, I decided that the kale pesto placed on top of grilled portabellos, stuffed with goat cheese would be amazing.  And I was right (I usually am).  These babies have everything to offer.  The meatiness of the mushroom, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and the zingy freshness of the kale pesto...makes for a most pleasurable eating experience.

Just add olive oil, salt and pepper to the portabello, wrap in aluminum foil and put on the grill for about 15 minutes until fork-tender.  Add goat cheese to the inside of the mushroom when they are finished cooking, and top with kale pesto.  You can do these steps however you wish, as long as they are all on there, it will taste good, I promise.  Top with more cheese if you want, or just eat those bad boys with goat cheese and kale pesto.  Cut into 4's for an appetizer.  This will please anyone.  Even people who don't like goat cheese.  Trust me, I fed it to people who were unaware of the goat cheese addition and they shivered in delight.  And then I told them it had goat cheese in it, and they shrieked at the fact that they loved it so much (Don't try this at home, maybe your guests are allergic to goat cheese...you never know...good thing mine weren't!)  So even you non-goat cheesy people, try it.  Do Not Be Afraid Of The Cheese Made By Goats!  Bah-ahh-ahhh!

Note: No guests were harmed during the tasting of these shrooms.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Say Hello To My Little Friend

You know Spring time is here when mud bugs make an appearance.  Yes, mud bugs as they are lovingly referred to in the South.  Those wascally widdle wabbits of fweshwater - Crawfish!  I remember when I was little growing up in Pittsburgh, me and a friend would catch these little suckers from a creek (or crick for you rednecks) in her backyard.  We called them Cray-fish up North.  Damn Yankees! 

Today, we boil 'em up with new potatoes, corn, sausage and Cajun spices for a delicious and extremely messy snack on patios all over the South.  Add cheap, cold beer, some amazing tunes and you got yourself a party.  Hyuh, Hyuh! (Oh - That's New Orleans for Here, Here).  

PS - Don't forget to suck their heads.  Mmm...mmm...good! 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bite Me

Some of you may have noticed that my blog mainly features main dishes, appetizers, sides, salads, sandwiches, etc.  And being a BITCH in the Kitchen, you might think I'd have more of a sweet tooth.  You know how us bitches need our shuggah!

However, I am not your ordinary bitch in the kitchen.  I am your savory bitch in the kitchen.  I would much rather have a side of beef than a hot fudge sundae.  Again, it's that cave woman thing coming out in me.  I imagine if I was a cave woman, I'd be the one holding a club.  Bashing in the head of an innocent squirrel or rabbit.  And I would rock the hell out of my leopard print, tied-at-one-shoulder cave woman dress -- Wilma Flintstone style.  I'm just not much of a baker.  I'm more of a candlestick maker.  But I will learn.  Mark my words.

Here's something sweet and easy, because that's how this bitch rolls:

Here's What You Need:
Graham Crackers
Sherbet of your favorite flavor (I used raspberry) and here's a little something that annoys me...it's spelled S-H-E-R-B-E-T....so why do we all say Shure-BERT?  Who is this Bert dude anyways??  I bet that guy is pissed. 

Here's What You Do:
Spread some Sherbet on a graham cracker, top it with another cracker and savor the sweetness!

I learned this from a friend's mom in elementary school.  It's so strange the things you remember!  Here's to Bert...thanks buddy.  Enjoy!