Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shout out to Dad

This post goes out to my dear ol' Daddy!  The man who taught me to try everything once.  The man who subjected us as small children to the movie JAWS the day before taking us to the ocean for the first time.  The man who pushed us, kicking and screaming, because he knew there was nothing to really fear, into the ocean that next day, while my sister and I feared being eaten by a 10 foot shark with a hunger for human blood.

The man who scoffed at us while we shivered when presented with our first roller coaster, promising we would love it once we tried it.  The man who has always been right about these things.  I do love roller coasters.  I play in the ocean like a girl who grew up in California.  (Don't read any further mom) I will jump off a 50 foot cliff without even batting an eye.  I have swung off of 60 foot bridges that drunk guys have tied me to (it was college, mom...I know you're still reading).  I have little fear when it comes to trying new things.  And yes, that may be a bad thing.  But, knock on wood, I haven't gotten hurt yet.  And every time I scream, "I wanna do THAT again!"

He's also the man who taught me to try all food once.  I have eaten the craziest of foods just because I have to, for my own peace of mind.  And yes, I have gagged, thrown up, wanted to die after doing so, but I tried.  I mean what have you got to lose??  You don't like it???  Who can't handle that??  I've tried many things I'm not thrilled about.  And the more I try them, the more I appreciate them.  You wanna know one of the tastiest things on Earth???  Deep fried shrimp eyes.  They taste like bacon.  Don't believe me??  TRY IT!

I guess my reason for this post is to a.) thank my dad for giving me the confidence to try new things, no matter how afraid or unwilling I may be, because who knows, that might just be the thing that you were made to do, and b.) to tell all you wussy people to JUST DO IT.  More than likely you aren't going to die.  You only live once people.  You know what I have learned from being afraid to try new things???  I have learned how disappointed in myself I become when I let an opportunity pass without giving it a try.  Believe it or not, life is short.  And when I'm 70, I don't want to say, "Man, I really wish I had done that."  I'd rather say, "Man, I did that once and I kicked its ass."

So when opportunity knocks...for crying out loud, answer the freakin' door.  And if someone tells you to taste something new...for Christ's sake, open your freakin' mouth. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't be a Sauce-ist

Gotta feed the kids before soccer practice?  Poker:30 at the casino?  Feeding a friend before their work shift?  Need some quick grub before a night out of drinking?  I got your gourmet back.  Angel Hair with red clam sauce.  Basically, Linguine with clam sauce ORRRRR...with whatever you have in your cabinet, but I regularly have Angel Hair pasta.  Not a big fan of tubed pasta.  Call me a tube-ist, I don't care.

Some people treat Linguine with clam sauce like they treat clam chowder.  They will eat only one, NOT the other.  I like to call these people sauce-ists.  You got your red chowder and your white chowder.  Manhattan Clam Chowder is the tomato based Chowder and then you got your New England Clam Chowder, the creamy one.  I personally like both.  I would snuggle up with either on a cold day.  And then there's tomato-y Linguine with clam sauce and there's non-tomato-y (yes that's a word) Linguine with clam sauce.  Which I again, personally like both.  If you present either dish to me, I will kiss you on the mouth.  You rock for simply feeding me something yummy.

So I had a particular night where I had to make food in a jam, and I frantically opened my pantry, my cabinets and my fridge and decided upon Angel Hair with Clam Sauce.  Ok, now here's me being a hypocrite. Because I'm a HUGE fan of fresh food.  And I think fresh food is THE tastiest of foods.  But here's me being a realist.  Sometimes we just don't have the freshest ingredients and we don't have the time to go grab some.  And sometimes you're broke and canned clams are cheaper for you than fresh clams.  I PREFER fresh clams.  Who doesn't?  But sometimes, you have to sacrifice fresh, for cheap.  As long as most of your other ingredients are fresh, you will be much happier with the don't sweat the pricey stuff.  Here's my recipe for quicky Angel Hair with RED Clam Sauce.  If you are a sauce-ist, you can stop reading now. 

Here's What You Need:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (or more if you like.  Or less if you're a heat wuss)
1 cup chicken stock (You could use seafood stock or vegetable stock, but I had chicken on hand b/c I make my own)
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 can of chopped clams
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine, cooked to al dente
2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Parmesan Cheese
Crusty Bread (just plan to eat crusty bread with everything...I do.)

Here's What You Do:
Cook your pasta.  Heat the oil in a medium stockpot over high heat. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Add crushed red pepper and cook for a few seconds.  Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until it reduces by half, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the clams, just until heated through. 

If you are using fresh clams, add them in, cover them for about 3 minutes, until they all crack open their lovely little shells, as if to say, "EAT ME".  If they don't open, toss 'em, or plan to spend the rest of the night hugging your toilet.  Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cooked pasta, parsley and basil until combined.

Plate in bowls.  Sprinkle the top of each serving of pasta with Parmesan.  Some people don't like to mix seafood and cheese.  I call these people cheesists.  I would cut off my right arm before turning down a piece of cheese.  I am a tube-ist...remember.  Serve with crusty bread, because you are NOT going to want to let the juices go to waste.  One of the easiest, most gourmet-ish dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less.  Don't be a sauce-ist.  Try it.   

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sleeper Soup

Sometimes you fall in love with a dish that not everyone likes.  It's hard to convince others around you to eat something that makes you feel all warm and cozy, but may not have very enticing ingredients.  My warm and cozy, I'm-gonna-make-this-because-I'm-all-alone dish is Lentil Soup.  I know.  Sounds boring as hell, huh?  I mean, what in the world is a lentil?  Well, basically it's a seed.  And who the hell wants seed soup?, that's who.  And this soup, and I use that term lightly, because it's not very brothy.  It's more packed full of goodness than most soups.  But this soup is amazing.  And I can't remember where I got the recipe, believe me, I've searched high and low to find it so that it's not all off the top of my head, but I can't find it anywhere.  Because no one wants it.  But you know what?  All those people are idiots, because it's freakin' good.  Trust me.  I wouldn't waste my time writing to you about this for no reason.  I like you.  I really do.  So eat this.  And I hope my measurements are right.  Let me know if I'm WAY off and I'll adjust (do that any time, actually).

Here's What You Need: (this recipe is for with a VERY BIG appetite)
3 slices of bacon, diced into small cubes
2 carrots, diced into small cubes
1 stalk of celery, diced into small cubes (do you see a trend forming??)
1/2 of a small onion, yep, you guessed it, diced into small cubes
1 cup of brown lentils
2-3 cups of chicken stock (yes, I am going to refer you to my chicken stock recipe, because it effin rocks)
1 teaspoon of freshly chopped thyme
1 teaspoon of freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper

Here's What You Do:
Cook your bacon in a medium pot until crisp.  Reserve on paper towels, but save about 1 tablespoon of bacon grease in your pot, it adds more flavor to this dish.  Add your olive oil to the pot and cook the onion, celery and carrots until they are just tender.  Add salt and pepper to your veggies.  Season EVERY layer of the food you cook, a sprinkle of salt and a few cracks of pepper is what I do.  Once your veggies are starting to become tender, add in your lentils.  Stir them all around to coat everyone in their delicious oil bath.  Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Once it reaches boiling point, lower your heat to a simmer and cover for about 25-30 minutes. 

To be quite honest, I remember the recipe I got this from had a MUCH shorter cooking time and it was BULLCRAP.  Because I remember testing my lentils and they tasted like the button off a shirt.  You will know when they are done because they will have a slight pop to them, but they will be creamy on the inside.  Mine usually take about 25-30 minutes to get this way.  Once they taste delicious and creamy to you, uncover the pot and add in your thyme and add back in 1/2 of your bacon.  Cook for another 15 minutes, to reduce the amount of liquid you have.

Now you're ready to put that sloppy mess of delicious into a bowl.  Top it with the rest of your bacon, parsley and Parmesan, and indulge.  No one will really come swarming because it's lentil soup for Christ's sake.  Only YOU will know that you are eating an amazing soup with layer after layer of flavor.  Hey, PS....I KNOW it's Summer time.  So what.  I never claimed to be the most topical or reasonable person in the kitchen.  There's a little tag at the top of your screen called a BOOKMARK.  Bookmark it if you can't do soup in the Summer.  But do try it.  You will be surprisingly pleased with the results.  I am every time I make it. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Girl with a Grill

Something about this picture makes me wanna scratch my balls and hock a loogey across the yard.  Obviously I don't have balls to scratch, but I can hock a loogey like the best of them.

I love grilling food. Grilled food is the greatest tasting food.  And not to offend you gas grillers, but charcoal is the only way to go.  It's just got so much more flavor.  People were always surprised when they'd come to my house and see that I was in charge of the grill.  As if women can't man a grill.  If you tell me I can't do something because I'm a girl, I will prove you wrong in a heartbeat.  And grilling I can do.  And I can do it well.  You need 10 steaks, each cooked differently?  Well, why didn't you just say so??  I gotchu!  Don't let grilling scare you girls, it's not just for the boys and it's kinda hot to see a woman behind a grill.  At least I think so!   

Here's What You Need:
Leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cubed
10 cloves of garlic, minced (or more...the more the merrier)
2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons of chopped thyme
1/8 cup of olive oil
1/8 cup of red wine
salt & pepper
kebab skewers, soaked for 20 minutes in water if they are wooden so that they don't burn on the grill (or if you're schmancy pantsy, use rosemary sprigs as your skewers...adds more flavor and flavor is GOOD)
Pita bread, warmed
Tzatziki sauce

Here's What You Do:
In a ziplock back, combine lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme, olive oil and red wine.  Marinate overnight.  If you don't have time to marinate that long, at least give it 5 hours.  When you are ready to eat, light your grill.  I use a charcoal chimney starter so that I don't have to use lighter fluid anymore.  It makes your food taste like chemicals, and who the hell wants that?  Once your charcoal is ready, salt and pepper your lamb kebabs and thread them onto your skewers.  Cook over medium high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Take them off when they are cooked to about medium or medium rare.  Here's a great way to determine the done-ness without cutting into the meat and draining it of all its juices.  Serve with warmed pita and tzatziki sauce.

You can use this marinade with chicken kebabs and veggie kebabs too.  It's good on just about anything.  I made these kebabs at a house party once and there were literally 10 people crammed into my small kitchen, ripping meat off of skewers with their teeth like cavemen, grunting and moaning about how great it was.  So try it at your next party.  It's nice to see your friends turn into animals.  It's even nicer to hear them rave about how awesome your food tastes!   

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Summer Sandwich (Nothing like Summer Teeth)

There's nothing like fresh produce. For me, eating a fresh tomato might be one of the most sensual moments in time. First, there's that beautiful color.  A red so vibrant it will turn your head and stop you dead in your tracks.  Next, there's the smell, which I'm finding very hard to describe.  If your tomato doesn't smell like a tomato, it's not going to taste like a tomato either.  Then there's the way it feels in your hand.  It's soft, it fits like it was made to be held and loved.  It begs you to rub it against your cheek.  It's ever so slightly tender, and heavy, from the secret it's keeping on the inside.  And then you cut into it and its juices go oozing out everywhere...over the sides of the cutting board and onto the counter.  Then, pop a slice into your mouth.  And that's when it's all over.  It tastes REAL.  It tastes RIPE.  It's juicy.  It's got more flavor that you know what to do with.  It's instant mouth party. You probably need to sit down at this point because the taste is so wonderful, you are getting a little light-headed.

Here's a delicious sandwich I make when I have a really fresh, ripe tomato:

Here's What You Need: 
Crusty bread
Drizzle of Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic, halved
Hummus - Enough to smear on your bread
Ripe Tomato, sliced
Cucumber, sliced
Salt & Pepper

Here's What You Do:
Drizzle your sliced bread with olive oil.  Place it in the oven or toaster oven at 400 degrees for 8 minutes.  When it's toasty, rub it with the fresh clove of garlic.  The heat from the bread will melt the garlic and leave it's delicious goodness behind.  Next, smear both slices of bread with hummus.  Top hummus with tomato and cucumber and salt and pepper your veggies.  Top that with your other slice of bread.

Take a bite.  You have just arrived in sandwich heaven.  Take off your shoes and stay awhile.  

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tuna & Arugula Pasta - Quick & Healthy

I am obsessed with tuna.  I could eat it every day.  I know, I know, there are health risks.  Mercury levels. Blah, Blah, Blah.  But you can't do anything in the world anymore without health risks, so I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch over it.  I love tuna.  I love it raw.  I love it slightly seared.  I love it in tuna salad (if I am the maker of said tuna salad, or know the maker of said tuna salad), I love it in pasta, casseroles, on rice, etc.

I love it in Nicoise salad (which I will have to post sometime...mmmm). Nicoise salad. That's French.  Don't go into a restaurant ordering the Nee-coy-say salad.  You will get laughed at.  I promise.  I've seen it happen.  Not to your face.  But behind your back.  Waiters will go in the back and repeat your ignorant request for a Nee-coy-say salad and the chefs will all giggle and call you an idiot behind your back.  It's quite humorous.  But's nee-SWAHZ.  Just for future reference.

You get my point though.  Tuna.  It's good.  It's excellent fresh.  But I am newly addicted to canned tuna in oil.  This kind:
It's good stuff.  Not that cat food look-a-like tuna I used to buy.  This is real tuna.  And it's delicious.  Here's a quick, cheap, easy, healthy and filling dinner for you.

Here's What You Need:
1 can of Bumblebee Tonno in Olive Oil (you can use the cat food stuff if you want, it just won't taste as good)
1 heaping handful (yes, this is a legit measurement) of arugula
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Here's What You Do: 
Cook your pasta according to the box.  I like angel hair.  In a medium pan, saute olive oil, crushed red pepper and garlic.  Don't burn the garlic.  Throw in your drained tuna (you don't HAVE to drain it if it's in olive oil, because it will just add more flavor).  Get everything stirred around and heated up, should take about 3 minutes, add salt and pepper if you like.  Once your pasta is cooked, add it to the pan with the tuna.  Throw in your arugula and stir until it wilts.  Mix it all together and eat it.

Add Parmesan if you want.  Or black olives.  Or whatever you think would go well.  Red onion would be good.  It's not rocket science.  It's cooking.  It's fun.  Don't forget it.  And don't say Nee-coy-say salad anymore.  You have been officially warned.