Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yes, There's an Upside to a Partially Defrosted Freezer!

I haven't posted for a week or so because we took a little trip to Laughlin, NV. Friends had received 2 free comps and invited us for a night, and we had received 2 free nights too and added them on. So we had four very nice days at the Colorado River, just as the big Laughlin River Run event was getting started. This is one of, if not the largest biker events in the West. All the hotels had tents set up in their front parking lots for vendors and food stands. Neeless to say, there were some very interesting (i.e., scary!) looking characters in town, and I think we got out just before all the madness was to start.

We did manage to take a little side trip to Oatman, an old mining ghost town on Historic Route 66. The wild burros come into town every day, wait for the tourists to feed them purchased carrots, and then head back to the hills at night. They're just too cute. I found this picture on Wikipedia.

So what does all this have to do with a defrosted freezer? Well..... when we got home, Eddie did some ironing and put the cooled-down iron on top of the freezer, but the cord was hanging over the front and when we went into the freezer, the cord kept the door open a bit, and this morning the temperature alarm started beeping and then we knew we had a problem on our hands. So we started taking food out and putting the still frozen things in ice chests with blue ice blocks and threw out old and damaged goods.

So here's the good part: we weeded out some old stuff and found some great things in the back where items tend to get lost and forgotten. I'm thawing out for dinner two containers of pozole from last year. I'm looking forward to that. Also, there was a package of turkey necks, so I started a stock with onions, carrots and celery. As I came across more stuff, in the pot they went. So now in addition to the turkey, there are chicken breasts on the bone, cooked chicken breasts, two bags of corn cobs, a container of chicken broth, and the usual stock herbs and spices like bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme. I threw in a head of garlic cloves too. So this should be a very complex and interesting stock. So I'll post again regarding how I ended up using the stock and some of the other goodies we came across.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Simple but Oh So Good Steak Sandwich

Last night neither one of us were terribly hungry, so we ended up defrosting a couple of Costco beef tenderloin steaks and a Wal-Mart (Yes, this is the very best there is!) French baguette. I like to get the steaks out well before cooking so they're at room temperature and also I like to season them well ahead also. Kosher salt and black pepper on each side. Half an hour is okay, but an hour is even better. A filming of olive oil in a nonstick pan, heated over medium high heat, and in they go. About 4 minutes each side. I test using the push-on-the-meat-with-tongs method. Medium rare is good for us. Then a nice rest of at least 10 minutes. While they're resting, the defrosted baguette goes into the oven to heat up and crisp up the crust a bit. Split it lenthwise, a bit of softened butter, a bit of freshly ground pepper, the thinly sliced steak. Heaven! For myself, I added a slathering of herbed fig & honey tapenade/spread, made by La Terra Fina, purchased at Costco. It's so tasty with the meat. On the label it suggests using it with: sandwiches, fine cheeses, toast, grilled meats, grilled fish, salads, chips and crackers, flat breads and pita. I hope they still carry it when this jar is empty. If not it might be fun to try a batch on my own. The ingredients are: balck mission figs, figs, onions, honey, roasted red peppers, rice wine vinegar, herbs de Provence, cornstarch, chives, sea salt. Nothing too hard to find.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Amateur Gourmet: Eggs Benedict video

Adam definetely has a future on TV. I think a great concept for Food Network would be exactly this type of show. A real hoot!

Breakfast for Dinner Night

I've had a hankering for a breakfast-for-dinner night for a while and decided to try a multi-grain waffle recipe I'd seen on the Eating Well site. I had on hand all the ingredients, except I used the suggested substitution of corn meal for wheat germ. The oatmeal soaks for a while in the buttermilk, and I think this made for a nice smooth batter. Also on hand, and in need of cooking, was the remainder of a package of Niman Ranch bacon from Trader Joe's. As our oven is caput (new one being installed tomorrow!! Keep your fingers crossed all goes well), it was a perfect time to use our tabletop convection oven. It worked out great; the bacon came out crisp without the wrinkling usually produced by pan-frying. Also, this was our first opportunity to make scrambled eggs in our new set of Circulon cookware from Costco. I was holding my breath because, to me, if the pans don't perform well on something as simple as eggs, then they have to go back. No disappointment here; no sticking, even heating, easy cleanup. Extra bonus: the extra waffles made for a delicious breakfast -- spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with chopped pecans. Yummy!

Multi-Grain Waffles

Makes 8 servings, 2 waffles each
2 C buttermilk
½ C old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 C whole-wheat flour
2/3 C all-purpose flour
¼ C toasted wheat germ or cornmeal
1 ½ Tsp.s baking powder
½ Tsp. baking soda
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ C packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tsp.s vanilla extract

1. Mix buttermilk and oats in a medium bowl; let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat germ (or cornmeal), baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.

3. Stir eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla into the oat mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix with a rubber spatula just until moistened.

4. Coat a waffle iron with cooking spray and preheat. Spoon in enough batter to cover three-fourths of the surface (about 2/3 cup for an 8-by-8-inch waffle iron). Cook until waffles are crisp and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. (our waffle iron is larger, so I think I used about a full cup of batter for each waffle.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Opera in the Park

Yesterday afternoon was the yearly Opera in the Park, presented by the Palm Springs Opera Guild. Fantastic event! The cool and threatening weather held out, with only a few raindrops. The young singers were outstanding as was the orchestra. Can't wait for next year's event.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What We're Listeing to Now on iTunes

If you like old Motown type of music, you've got to give a listen to Amy Winehouse, a very talented 23-year-old from the U.K.

This is a clip from YouTube and is also from her award-winning album "Back to Black."
Just found out she's appearing April 27 at the Coachella festival here near Palm Springs.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Gratin of Macaroni

I came across this recipe the other day -- don't ask me where -- from a January 2006 British publication called The Observer. The article was a "best of" list comprising winners in various categories whom were nominated by other food professionals. This was the winning recipe in the easy supper category. It calls for creme fraiche, but if that's not available, sour cream would work just fine. For a dish with so few ingredients, this was a total winner. Very easy to throw together, but I did make it ahead of time and threw it in the oven just before dinner. I'd wait next time and assemble it and bake it right away. Do not skip rubbing the garlic clove around the inside of the gratin dish; this adds a nice background subtle note. This was a side dish to leftover baked chicken and sliced campari tomatoes from Costco, but it would be fine alone or with a vegetable or salad on the side.

I've put U.S. measures inside parentheses.

Gratin of Macaroni
(adapted from The Observer of January 2006)

Serves 4

salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g large macaroni (7 oz.)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
200ml crème fraîche or double cream
60g fresh Gruyère cheese (2 oz.)
(I added about 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan)
10g butter (approx ½ oz.)

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 (375 °). In a large casserole, bring two litres of water to the boil with 20g of salt. Add the pasta and cook for eight minutes. Drain by lifting it out of the water and immediately coat it in olive oil. Meanwhile, take an ovenproof dish broad enough to fit in two layers of the pasta; if it is too small, the pasta will be too deep and only a small portion of it will be gratinated. Rub the inside of the dish with the clove of garlic, cut in half. This will coat the dish with a wonderful sweet aroma.

In a bowl, mix the pasta with the cream and cheese. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the ovenproof dish. Dot the surface with the butter and put into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. You should have a wonderful golden gratin. For a little more colour on the top, pop the gratin under the grill (broiler).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lunch at the Indian Canyons Golf Club

About a week ago our neighbor Ray asked us to join him and another neighbor, Ron, for lunch at the newly refurbished Indian Canyon Golf Course club house. He'd been about 3 times in the previous week and was really enthusiastic about it. Eddie's friend from Scotland Liz and her cousin will be staying with us in May, and Ray thought we'd like to give it a trial run before they got here to see if we want to take them there. Well, he was very right. No disappointments here. The room was pleasant. The help was efficient and friendly. The food was good and reasonably priced. Did I mention THE VIEW??!!! My goodness, it's breathtaking. Ray took some picts and e-mailed them that day. We'll definitely be going back soon. Indoor seating, though, as it's getting to that hot time of year and the club faces south. So there's no way you can sit outside and eat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Red Curry Chicken with Bok Choy and Sweet Coconut Rice

This recipe came from Food Network's Quick Fix Meals show with Robin Miller. I needed an easy crockpot meal, as our kitchen appliances are in a state of replacement at the moment, actually until the 16th of April. I will definitely make this again, probably for company, as it's so easy to make. No added fat, and it can be cooled, stored, reheated on high the next day and served when needed. The rice is incredibly tasty, and I wish there had been more juice at the bottom of the pot to have with the rice.

Sesame Red Curry Chicken with
Bok Choy and Sweet Coconut Rice

Serves 4

4 cups chopped bok choy
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves, 4 (4-ounce) halves
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sake (rice wine)(used Mirin sweet sake)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1/4 cup flaked coconut (used sweetened flaked)
2 cups quick cooking jasmine rice (used regular jasmine)
2 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (did not use)

Arrange bok choy and red pepper in bottom of slow cooker. Season 4 chicken breast halves all over with salt and black pepper and place on top of bok choy.
In a small bowl, whisk together broth, sake, sesame oil, ginger, and curry paste. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. (I opted for the 3 hour time.)
In a small skillet toast flaked coconut on low heat until lightly toasted, about 5 to 8 minutes. To a medium saucepan, add rice and coconut milk and set pan over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in toasted coconut. (I made rice in the rice cooker; turned out to cool after steam stopped coming out of cover's vent.)
Spoon rice onto a serving platter. Top with chicken, bok choy, bell peppers and sauce from slow cooker. Garnish with cilantro.