Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lookie what I got...

Skilletini with Peppers

Guess who bought their very first cast-iron skillet? I DID! I DID! I'm obviously very excited about it and I'm looking for every opportunity to season it. Mom told me to rub a generous amount of vegetable oil in it and stick it in a 300℉ oven to start the seasoning process. I was also doing this because I was making a skilletini. Every time I see the word 'skilletini', I think of skeletons. But don't worry! This recipe has nothing to do with skeletons and everything to do with being tasty!

Skilletini with Peppers

1) Preheat oven to 300℉. Place a cast-iron skillet in the oven. Boil water for pasta. Salt well. When water is boiling, add spaghetti. Heat marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

2) Warm some EVOO in a pan. Cut some sausage (bratwurst, Italian sausage... you pick) into thirds and add it to the pan. Cook until nicely browned on the outside and cooked through. Remove from pan and reserve.

3) Meanwhile, cut up two bell peppers, whichever color(s) you prefer, into strips. Cut an onion into strips (I forgot this step and it was good without it, but I love onions). Add more EVOO to the pan the sausage was in. Once it's hot, add the peppers and onion. Make sure to add some S&P. Cook until tender.

4) When pasta and peppers are finished cooking, put spaghetti, peppers, sausage, marinara, and some grated parmesan cheese. Mix everything together and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.

And voila!
You have a skilletini.
Pretty fun way to start seasoning your cast-iron skillet, right?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What to do with the leftovers...?

Steak and Fruit Salad

I have a refrigerator filled with leftovers. Lots of odds and ends like baby spinach and romaine lettuce from Mom, grapes, cantaloupe, apple, last night's steak, leftover mahi mahi. I don't want any of it to go to waste, so I combined some of it to make a tasty salad! Salads are great because 1) you can put almost anything on them and 2) they're easy to make.

One of the dorms I lived in would serve a salad with bleu cheese, grapes, steak, red onion, roasted red peppers, and green apple. It sounds like a sort of unusual combination of flavors, but it was delicious! I decided to recreate something like that by combining baby spinach, a little bit of romaine for crunch, dried cherries and cranberries, apple slices, steak pieces, walnuts, red onion, and feta cheese. It really came out great!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

German Translation

Steak and Mediterranean Bulgar Salad

I was reading a blog that I came across recently called la petite cuisine. I have no idea where I found it or why I was initially attracted to it, but it's really lovely... and in German. Google, however, translated it for me! La petite cuisine was featuring some favorite blogs (I think), one of which was Ohhh... Mhhh..., also in German. I couldn't figure out how to get Google to translate this one, though. The picture on la petite cuisine accompanying the blurb about Ohhh... Mhhh... was this and it looked delicious! Maybe it's because I have Spring Fever (big time), but it looked light and summery and healthy. Just perfect. Only one problem: I couldn't read the website to find the recipe. But just from looking at the picture I thought "I can totally make that." Mom was visiting, so we hit the grocery store and got some dinner supplies...

The original plan was to use this bulgar wheat salad as a side to a yummy lamb dish from Ellie Krieger, but when we got to the grocery store, the lamb selection was minimal (to say the least) and EXPENSIVE. Did you know lamb is expensive? It is. Even on a college-kid-whose-mom-is-paying budget. We changed gears and bought 3 steaks. The steak selection also left much to be desired, so we ended up with a regular-thickness Ribeye and two thin-cut Ribeyes. My first thought about the thin-cut steaks was "meh." They looked like what my brother would call steak-ums. They still looked a little funny when they came off the grill, but Mom cooked them PERFECTLY and they stayed juicy and delicious. We're all about the simple steak preparation, so all we did was rub a little EVOO on both sides, add lots of salt and a whole bunch of pepper. That's it.

Oh, by the way, this meal was Q.U.I.C.K. Seriously. I think it took a total of 30 or 45 minutes to put it together.

Mediterranean Bulgar Salad

1/2c. (dry measure) bulgar wheat
1 shallot, 1/2 minced, 1/2 in larger slices
1 zucchini or yellow squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil
1 large roasted red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/8c. feta cheese crumbles
1 lemon
oregano (dried)

1) Cook the bulgar wheat according to package directions.
(You might notice that our bulgar turned out a little mushy. We're thinking it may have turned out better if we had followed the directions for making tabbouleh- cover bulgar wheat in a bowl with hot water and let sit for a while.)

2) Chop up half a shallot into larger pieces, one zucchini or yellow squash into bite-sized pieces. Heat a pan until quite warm, coat with EVOO and let them warm until it's hot enough that when you put the vegetables in, it will sizzle and the veggies will cook quickly. Cook until tender. In another pan, toast about 1 1/2 Tbsp. pine nuts.

3) Meanwhile, chop roasted red peppers into bite-sized pieces. Add to the cooked bulgar wheat. Add cooked zucchini or yellow squash and shallot. Crumble in some feta cheese (this is a good place to use reduced-fat feta). Add as much feta as is appetizing. We found that we did not need very much. Add toasted pine nuts.

4) Whisk together 1/4c. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon), 1/2 minced shallot, 1 Tbsp. EVOO, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 tsp. dried oregano. Add this mixture to the bulgar salad a little bit at a time. Note: You can always add more, but I'd love to see you try to take some out. We used about half of the mixture.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Remember that time I started a blog all about the food I'm cooking? And remember how it really wasn't looking so good for awhile because it was just so bland? And then I found out how to customize the design and remember how that was a disaster because I had no idea what I was doing?

Well... Miss Sarah Gabler has saved my blog and made it shine like a pretty new penny! Sarah is a college friend of mine who has this really awesome design blog, design me daily. Seriously, she's great. I check her blog everyday. Multiple times. Is that creepy?

Anyhow, kudos to Sarah for being a doll and rescuing my blog from design purgatory.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lemony Chicken, Inspired by Ina

Lemony Chicken
(inspired by Ina)

During that wonderful week we like to call Spring Break, when the powers that be give you a reprieve from classes (yet still manage to crush your conscience with the homework and papers that are due immediately following) and you travel to (read: dream of) tropical lands, there is sure to be delicious food. I, however, seem to have only this to show for it. I'm sure we ate. I'm sure of it. I just can't seem to remember what it was. Anyhow, this quick chicken recipe came together so differently and so much better than we ever expected! Seriously, it was delicious.

We found a recipe in a cookbook from Ina Garten for lemony chicken with rosemary. Mom and I decided this was a great meal for us because we had been running errands all day (alright, fine, we were at the mall all day) and we just wanted something quick and we didn't want to have to go to the grocery store if we could avoid it. Mom already had chicken, lemons, and some leftover rosemary, so it was settled! Remember what I told you before? How you should always read through your recipe carefully before you start preparing? Well, we got home, read the recipe more closely, and found out the chicken was supposed to marinate for something like 8 hours. HA! We didn't have the foresight for that one. We did, however, have two inspired ladies in the kitchen, so we changed the recipe up a little bit. Here's what we did...

1) Start heating a cast iron skillet over medium heat. You can use other kinds of pans for this, but cast iron really browns the outside of the chicken into a beautiful crust. I made this again at my apartment with a different kind of pan and it just wasn't the same. Coat the pan with a little olive oil and let it warm. Season your chicken pieces with S&P.

2) Place the chicken pieces in the skillet and enjoy the awesome sizzling sound they make when you put them in the hot oil. Meanwhile, juice and zest some lemons. I'd say juice about 3 lemons if you're making a serving for 4, but you only need the zest from one of the lemons.

3) When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan and keep them warm in a low oven. Add the lemon juice and deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the delicious brown bits left behind fromthe chicken. Add a little white wine (as much as you see fit) and some chopped rosemary, about 1 tsp. or so.

4) Make a slurry by combining cornstarch and water. We usually put about 1 Tbsp. cornstarch and 2 Tbsp. water in a small tupperware, put the lid on, and shake, shake, shake! If it sounds like fun, that's because it is. Whisk the slurry into the pan and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat and add a pad of butter. Once the butter has melted, pour this sauce over the already cooked chicken and gobble it up!

someone couldn't keep their hands off the food long enough to get a picture. :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Big Assembly, Small Kitchen

(from Anne Burrell)

Lasagna is a big undertaking. There's lots of layers, ingredients, steps, time needed. But after you've managed to squeeze all these things into your tiny kitchen (like mine), you have enough food to feed an army... or two hungry students for a few weeks. The recipe said this would make 6-8 servings, but I got at least 12 out of it. I saved a few in the fridge and wrapped the rest individually in wax paper (parchment paper probably would have been a little better because tape doesn't stick well to wax) and they're hanging out now in my freezer.

Step 1: Boil some ocean water. If you don't have ocean water, you can dump a handful of salt into a pot of tap water. Cook lasagna noodles in batches, about 6-7 minutes each until they are soft and pliable, but not limp. Lay out on a tray or cookie sheet to cool. I used tongs to do this.

Step 2: Coat a skillet in EVOO and add 1 lb. of Italian sausage. If it comes in link form, cut the casing lengthwise and take out the meat. Cook until brown, remove and save on paper towels. Empty the fat from the pan.

Step 3: Coat the pan with EVOO again, add 2 cloves of smashed garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. When the garlic is starting to brown and smell tasty, remove the garlic, discard it, and add about 12-oz. baby portobello mushrooms (aka: cremini, baby bella). Cook until they're soft and brown. Take them out and put them aside. Do the same thing (including with the oil and the garlic) with some thinly sliced zucchini.

Step 4: Combine 2 c. part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2 eggs, and 7 basil leaves cut into a chiffonade. Mix it all together until everything is well-incorporated. Season with a little salt. Preheat the oven to 350℉.

Step 5: Find a deep-dish 9" x 13" baking dish (or, since you probably don't have a deep dish, just use a regular one). Also find a way to fit all the ingredients you've prepared (the lasagna noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, marinara sauce, another 1 c. Parmegiano-Reggiano, 1 lb. grated mozzarella) into your kitchen in the form of an assembly line. Start the layering with a thin layer of marinara sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. Put some lasagna noodles on top, spread some of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles. Arrange some noodles next going in the opposite direction. Use a paring knife or a kitchen shears to trim the noodles to fit. Add a layer of sauce, a sprinkling of Italian sausage, another layer of noodles, alternating direction as you have been, a little more sauce, some mushrooms, Parmegiano-Reggiano and mozzarella, noodle, sauce, zucchini, Parmegiano-Reggiano and mozzarella, noodle, sauce. Repeat this layering until you run out of ingredients. You want the last layer to be sauce and then cheese on top.

Step 6: (almost done!) Place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet to catch any drippings. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for about 1 hour. Take the foil off the top and cook for another 15 minutes. Then eat it! Or you could wait til it cools, slice it, and wrap the individual pieces in wax or parchment paper and eat it for the next couple of months.