Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Salmon, Rice and Red Miso

Since I'm sick and everyone else is not home for a meal, today's dinner is simple: soy-sauce steamed salmon over white rice with red miso soup. Sounds fancy, but really it's very simple.

It's one serving of frozen salmon, dropped still frozen into a little pan with sweet and regular soy sauce, and heated on low until the sauce as become a glaze and the salmon is cooked through. Meanwhile, short-grain rice is cooked and water is boiled for the instant red miso and genmai-cha.

The miso is one of my favorite finds. Instant misos that dry out the base are always chalky and more salty; this company-- no idea what it's called because, again, it's all in Japanese, which I really should learn to read-- uses wet miso sealed in individual packs just big enough for one bowl. This ones's plain, and comes with chunks of seaweed. The pack they come in also has clam and mushroom, which add those things in addition of the seaweed.

The genmai-cha is from Yamamoto Yama, which can be expensive in American shops, but is only a buck and a half at the Asian Market, and I always buy two or three boxes, since we only visit two or three times a year. (If I didn't have so many other teas, I'd have to buy alot more to last a whole season or two!). It's a perfect balance of roastyiness and a good solid green tea, and even when I forget about my cup for ages, it doesn't get bitter, just more roasted. One teabag is strong enough to make a decent-sized pot, but smooth enough that it's fine just in a cup. The only genmai I've had that's better is the looseleaf that C brought be back from her stay in Japan's tea region.

See, easy. Just have to have the right things around. If I was better, and didn't get dizzy every time I stand for more than five minutes, I would have glazed the salmon better, and maybe put a little butter on it to contrast with the soy more. Probably would have added some veggies, too...

Lasagna-esque Pasta Bake

The camera's entirely kaput now, so there's no pictures, but here's what I made for dinner last night:

Layered in a 9x13" pan:
- Half-boiled, broken-up lasagna noodles, about half a box. We've had these forever, and we didn't have the supplies to make real lasagna, so I made the noodles about as big as, say, bowtie pasta, and pre-boiled them until they were a little short of al dente.
- One can of drained cannelini beans. Protein that doesn't require any extra effort; we're running low on chicken, totally out of turkey and sausage, and we haven't had beef in the house for months, plus, I'm sick and I didn't feel like messing with cooking and shredding chicken.
- One onion, chopped, and two cloves of garlic, minced. Onions are cheap and healthy, as are garlic.
- Button mushrooms, sliced. I used fresh ones because that's what we had (it was about five or six, cut thin), but if you drained them, you could use canned ones.
- One can chopped tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano. Two for one last week at Publix! I drained them a little bit so it wouldn't get too wet, but left some of the juice so it would make something of a saucyness.
- About a cup and a half of leftover italian-roasted veggies-- squash, zuccini, and baby carrots with basil, oregano, and butter. These were leftovers from a wedding I didn't go to, so I don't know if there was anything else in there, but I just tossed them all on top and scraped out the butter-residue to flavor up the bake.
- Herbs. I'm a big fan of herbs. In this case, it was dried parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic and pepper. Fresh basil from the last few stalks in the garden.
- Cheese, about half a bag of shredded four-cheese blend. Parmesan would have been more theme-ish, but we didn't even have shaky-cheese for that, and the cheddar-et-al did just fine.

Cover in foil and cook at 375 on the top rack for, say, 20 to 30 minutes, then take off the foil and let it cook until the cheese gets sort of toasty, but not overcooked.

Served all five of us with enough left over that the boys had it cold for breakfast today, and we all had mini-servings of seconds last night. So, yeah, alot of food.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Leftover Curry

Because of our local British Pub, we like our thicker curries with mashed potatoes instead of rice, so last night I made a vegetable-chicken curry with mashed redskin potatoes.

Start with chunked chicken and onions, and cook them together until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are sweated. Add chopped carrots sometime at this stage. Once it's all cooked, add the other veggies-- in this case, broccoli and corn. The curry base I use for this is Golden's-- a sweet, mild Japanese curry that comes in blocks like baker's chocolate. For a batch big enough to serve everyone, I used four cubes and a coffee-cup of water, and continued cooking until it was thickened up. The mashed potatoes are just plain-- butter, milk, salt and pepper.

This curry base is easy and rich, not too salty, and thick like gravy-- in fact, over potatoes, it kind of tastes like gravy, too, but with more interest then just a regular brown. It's not a light curry like a thai one; it's closer to a British pub curry, especailly if you shred the chicken. I've used it by itself, and it's a bit salty for that, but it's fantastic with veggies and chicken, and pretty good with mini meatballs.

ps: I apologise for the crappiness of my pictures-- the viewscreen on my camara broke, and these are all taken blind.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Review: Japanese Green Tea Soup

I have no idea what this says as I don't read Japanese, but I think this is one of the tastiest things I've found in ages. See, there's a tradition we have-- whenever we go to an Asian Market of any sort, we chose one thing that has no English on it at all, and we try it. For one, it expands our horizons and makes up bolder, and for two, it lets us sample things we never would have tried before. This is one of the good things to come out of that little experiment.

It tastes very Japanese; I'm chalking it up to the seaweed and sesame seeds in the broth it forms when you add the hot water. It's savory without being too salty, mild without being bland. Reminds me more of miso than of tea, but has a lovely greenish color like a really perfect cup of green tea. It's easy to make, and it's tasty, and served over a pile of rice like the picture on the back shows, it's remarkably filling.

I had these little packets for a long time before I got up the nerve to try one, and now I'm sad I waited so long, because it really is delicious. My only regret is that I have no idea what it's called in Japanese, so I can't search for it online when I have no access to the Market.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pasta with Chicken and Veggies

Tonight's dinner was radiatori pasta with a doctored up sauce. I didn't have time to make sauce from scratch, and up until half an hour before dinner I was going to make curry, so I used a jar of Bertoli olive oil and garlic.

Started with onions and garlic in some good olive oil, and cooked those a bit while I chopped up the chicken-- about two or three breasts. I threw that in the pan and added chopped baby carrots, and put a lid on to keep all the juices in and steam the chicken while I chopped green pepper and button mushrooms. Once those were in, I added the whole jar of the sauce and seasoned it up with Italian spices, extra oregano and pepper, then put the lip back on and let it simmer while the pasta finished.

Once it was all ready, I served it with fresh-grated Parmesan and and there you go! Delicious Dinner (tm)!

Meet and Greet

So who am I and why do you need to read my blog? Let's see.

My name is Samantha Holloway, and I'm a freelance writer, editor and blogger, and working from home finally gives me the time to cook like I want to... that, and the fact that part of the agreement with my room-mates was that if I didn't have a day job, I'd cook and clean until such time as I do. Either way, I've been cooking up a storm, and I thought it might be fun to have a blog about it, at the very least so I can find my own recipes when I need to again.

I'm not a professional cook. Like all writers, I did my time as a waitress and restaurant kitchen staff, but aside from home ec and a food prep class a million years ago in high school, I've never been trained. I learned to cook real meals when I was ten and my mom got pneumonia and couldn't stand, let alone cook, and I've been trying out recipes since. I learned to bake at eight; the first thing I made were Duncan & Hines Blueberry Muffins, and I was so proud of myself. I'm entirely sure that without cooking requiring me to learn fractions, I wouldn't know any math at all.

So this blog is going to be about the food I make and the recipes I try out, as well as about places I eat and ready-made things I test run, but it's also going to be a way to track my progress as I learn more complicated techniques and try more ambitious things. Maybe one day I'll work my way through a whole cookbook, cover to cover, and see where it gets me.

Care to follow along?

Pie Attempt 1: Peach

For my first post ever, I decided to show the world my experiments with pie making. Peaches were on sale, so we got four huge ones and I thought a pie would be a good use for them-- we've been re-watching Pushing Daisies and it always makes me want pie, so now that it's coming back, I fully expect to keep experimenting with the whole pie concept.

I started with the recipe from Joy of Cooking, which is actually an Apple Pie recipe, but gives provisions for making it from peaches.

So! Start with peaches.
Like I said, we had four. I cut them up and skinned them and threw all the skins and pits in the compost. They made something around four of five cups. I don't think this was meant to be first, but I wanted to be sure I had enough before I committed to the crust-- should I make only the one crust? A double crust? A random amount of crust and then make hand pies instead of one big pie?

Turned out to be enough for a whole pie, so that's what I made crust for.

Next up was pastry-making. Two cups of flour sifted with a teaspoon of salt, then two thirds of a cup of butter and four tablespoons of water. Apparently, Florida is damper then I thought, because this came out very wet. I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and watched the latest episode of True Blood while it chilled, then came back and it was still really squishy. Mostly butter, even. So before I rolled it out (okay, after I rolled it out once and it broke because of it's own squishiness), I kneaded in maybe a half cup to a cup of extra four, and then rolled it out to make the crust. Still soft, but much more manageable. I also apparently suck at making pie crusts, because it was not at all circular, and it didn't come all the way up the sides of the pan, but it did well enough. Yay me! Preheat the oven to 450. I just knew it would be a mess, so I put it on a sheet pan. Top it with a little sugar, and in the oven it goes! Bake it for ten minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and cook until done. The recipe says 35 to 45 minutes, but my oven must run cold because it took more like an hour. The crappy crustal adhesion meant that it cooked out all over the edge and onto the sheet, so I'm glad I thought to put that under, but when it came out, it was a beautiful and only slightly weird pie!
So there we go! Pie number one! It's peachy without being overly sweet, and it's a little like peach jam, which is cool. The crust is almost like shortbread rather than pastry, but that might be because of the extra kneading. Might try a different crust recipe next time, or maybe do one of those neat lattice crusts-- it was good, but double-crust pies are a bit... crusty for me. I just prefer to do new recipes as they're written the first time, you know? I think it might be good with almonds or something mixed in, maybe a little lemonjuice to make it tang a little more... maybe make it earlier in the year so the peaches are more flavorful. But overall, it's a good pie and I'm pretty fond of it!