Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Challenge Wrap Up

So, it is the end of July and the end of this challenge. This one was so much fun!! I ended up making different recipes that what I intended. I had planned on an Indian meal, Asian, Italian, then probably Greek, but made one Chinese, and two Thai. I probably don't need to point it out, but yes, I failed in my challenge. I needed to go to a different country every week, and instead, went to Thailand twice. However, I did receive bonus points for my mango lassi the first week.

Is anyone in for a challenge next month? It is going to be a farmer's market (/produce stand/in season items/what your garden grows) challenge. If anyone has any ideas on something they rather do, please let me know!!

Under the wire

Made two more recipes to finish out the month. The first is HOSKA. Just saying that word makes me want to go mmmmmmmmmmm.

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This is my mom's recipes that she makes for family gatherings. My sister is coming to town next week, so we make hoska. The recipe is from a Fleischmann's cookbook.

5 to 6 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon peel
2 pkgs active dry yeast
1 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup margarine
2 eggs at room temp
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, finely ground in food processor

In a large bowl mix 1 1/2 cup flour, sugar, salt, lemon peel, and yeast.

Combine milk, water, margarine in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm. Margarine does not need to melt. Gradually add dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed in an electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs, 1/2 cup flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Add almonds and enough flour to make a stiff dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes. Let rest 20 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Divide each half into 4 equal pieces. Roll the 4 pieces into ropes 14 inches long. Braid 3 pieces together on greased baking sheet. Tuck ends under to seal. Place last piece over braid. Repeat with remaining 4 pieces

Cover loosely with wax paper brushed with oil. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. Let stand at room temp 10 minutes.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

I like mine slightly toasted with unsalted butter for breakfast.

For dinner last night, I finally made Pad Thai.

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(I like the action shots)

Wow!! I would say that it was pretty close to what I had at Pei Wei. I was very impressed. Melissa - this might be a good one for you. I did all the prep work during James's afternoon nap so when I put it together at dinner time, it was ready pretty quickly.

I could not find tamarind anything, so I used the lime juice, water, and brown sugar substitute. I think if I ever do find that tamarind, that will put it over the top. What else...added tofu, grated carrots, sliced radishes, left out dried shrimp, salted radishes, and bean sprouts. I would definately make this one again, but I am not sure if Mark liked it. The only things he said about it were "IS THERE TOFU IN THIS??" and "I never ordered Pad Thai".

Lastly, I wanted to share the red cabbage recipe my mom made for our German night. I have tried several, and this is the one I liked best. From Better Crocker - go figure!

Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage
1 medium head red cabbage
4 slices bacon, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TB flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 small onion, sliced

Prepare and cook 5 cups shredded cabbage as directed on page 420 for red cabbage (be sure to add the 2 TB vinegar or lemon juice to salted water) (sigh, I don't have page 420 - sorry!)

Fry bacon until crisp; remove and drain. Pour off all but 1 TB bacon drippings. Stir brown sugar and flour into bacon drippings in skillet. Add water, salt, vinegar, pepper, and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes until mixture thickens.

Add bacon and sauce to hot cabbage. Stir together gently and heat through. 6 servings.

Ok, that is finally all. Not onto the challenge wrap up.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Better late than never!

So I finally got it together enough to cook an entire meal, at least something more than quesadillas...

We had friends over for Greek/Mediterranean food. We started with hummus and baba ganoush (featuring eggplant from my garden) served with carrots, celery and pita, tabbouleh, and Orzo with Lentils, Tomatoes, and Spinach. I'd like to say that I got bonus points for making dessert, but our friends picked up some Baklava from a local Greek restaurant.

Hummus (my way)
2 cans chickpeas*, drained (reserve liquid)
3 Tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic
3/4 tsp salt
liquid from chickpeas (start with 1/4 cup and add more depending on desired consistency)
3 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 1 lemon (~1/4 cup)

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

*I know Kerri will claim that it's better to cook your own chickpeas, but who has time?

Baba Ganoush (modified from a Cooking Light recipe)
2 lb eggplant (I used the Japanese variety)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
a few dashes cayenne

Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Slice eggplant in half and cook until very tender, beginning cut side down in pan. When eggplant is soft, move it to a plate and cover it tightly with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Add all other ingredients to food processor. Remove the skin from the eggplant and add to food processor. Puree until smooth.


2 cups wheat bulgur
4 cups water
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 bunch curly parsley, chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced
2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil (could probably reduce this)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Rinse and drain bulgur. Bring water to boil, add bulgur, cover and set aside until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender. Mix with remaining ingredients and chill before serving.

Orzo with Lentils, Tomatoes, and Spinach
(modified from Everyday Food recipe)

You could easily follow this as written, but I like it with orzo and I subbed spinach for arugula since it's easier to find. I also added some feta to Greek it up a little.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pasta Sfoglia

Ok, this isn't something you think of as authentically Italian but I'm including it because it's a great recipe that I've had success with several times and I got it off a Roman woman's food blog. It's a great vegetarian dish, that can be interchanged with other veggies of choice, such as spinach. Another great, quick summer dish. Pair it with a salad and you've got a veggie packed dinner.

Pasta Sfoglia

1 refridgerated pastry dough (or puff pastry) in rectangular form
2 eggs
100 gr. ricotta - roughly 1/4 lb (part of a small container)
50 gr. provolone (50 gr. is roughly the amount of 2 slices of velveeta singles .. a good handfull ... I've also sub'd gouda)
400 gr. fresh brocolli (I use a good, hearty stalk and that is usually enough)

Preheat oven to 180-200 C (this is roughly 375-400 F), use the directions on your pastry crust. Clean and seperate brocolli into florets, chop up some of the inner stalk if you need more. You should have a full steamer basket of brocolli. Steam until tender, roughly 5-7 minutes. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs and combine with both cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Cool and roughly chop the cooked brocolli, season with salt. Toss the brocolli with the egg/cheese mixture. Carefully unroll your pastry, put filling down center. Fold one side of pastry over filling, then fold the other side over and lightly close the seam. Pinch the 2 ends together to seal pastry. Brush pastry with water or egg (egg will give a glossier finish) ... I usually use just water. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Variation: This is great with spinach. The trick with spinach is to really squeeze out the water well. I mean really well. If you leave excess moisture in your veggie (or use a watery veggie) then your pastry will just be soggy and you won't get a good result.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Salade Nicoise (France)

Last week, before my Mom, niece, and nephew arrived for a visit, the temperature here soared and it was just too darn hot to cook. I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to do Salade Nicoise ... one of my favorite summertime salads. I've seen millions of Salade Nicoise recipes and prefer my honey-dijon dressing concoction with mine so I'm not claiming this to be a perfectly authentic salad ... but great and hearty for a summertime meal. As with most salads, the ingredients need not be measured in my opinion but do choose the freshest ingredients you can find ... so here is my rough recipe.

Salade Nicoise

2 fresh tuna steaks, I prefer two thin sliced filets (1/2 " thickness)
1 head butter lettuce
fresh green beans, couple of handfuls
4-6 small new potatoes, peeled
1/2 large or 1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
3-4 radishes, sliced thin
4-6 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 eggs, soft cooked (free range, if possible)
Nicoise olives, couple fingers full

My honey-dijon dressing

1 T. dijon mustard
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic, cracked with the back of a knife
1 t. honey
6 T. evo oil

Combine the mustard, vinegar, and honey with a whisk. While whisking, gradually add the oil in a thin steady stream to emulsify and create a medium thick vinaigrette. Add the cracked garlic clove and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove the garlic clove and give it a quick whisk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepping and assembling salad:
Clean and prep all your veggies (lettuce through tomatoes).

Brush both sides of tuna steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Soft boil your eggs by putting the eggs in a saucepan of cold water with an inch covering them and bring to a boil. When boiling, remove pan from heat and put top on. Let eggs sit in the hot water for 2-5 minutes (the longer they sit in the hot water bath, the more cooked your yolk will be, obviously). Try not to overcook your eggs, you want a bright yellow center.

Steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of potatoes. Add your green beans to the steamer when there is roughly 5-7 minutes left on the potatoes. Season cooked veggies with salt, to taste.

Grill tuna steaks for roughly 2 minutes per side. Do not overcook your tuna ... overcooked tuna is dry as a bone. The center should be a nice pink to red color (depending on your preference of rare-ness). It is very important to buy as fresh of tuna steaks as possible. Once cooked, slice your tuna steaks with the grain.

To assemble salad: spread torn lettuce leaves on your plate and dress lightly with some dressing, to taste. Lay your veggies in nice stacks around the edge of the lettuce bed. Drizzle with some dressing. Lay your sliced tuna across top of lettuce bed. Garnish with your nicoise olives. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday dinner

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One of the recipes that I really wanted to make for this challenge was Pad Thai. I planned to make it last week, but that Thai Lime Beef Salad came up. I was planning on making it this week, but it is looking pretty busy. We will see if I get to it. I want to go ahead and submit an Italian meal from instead. This meal was inspired by Everyday Italian. The main dish was Pancetta wrapped pork roast. Is everything better wrapped with bacon? Sure!! I didn't follow the recipe very closely, but I did have a pork roast covered with pancetta. Wow, garlic-ky, which I liked, but if you are not that fond of garlic, it may be too much. The pancetta helped to keep the roast moist and different from your average sunday dinners. I served it with Creamy baked polenta with herbs and green onions, I'm sorry I mean Eye-talian style GRITS. Thanks Robin for this recipe! I love this one. For my green vegetable, I steamed some broccoli and then drizzled it with some lemon olive oil.

I'll let you know if I get to that Pad Thai!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cucumber Salad

KristiB from the Cooking Light message board submitted this cucumber salad recipe after reading about Melissa's disaster. I think it sounds pretty darn good. I never know what to do with all the cucumbers in my garden.

In this salad, the cucumbers are first dressed with a little vinegar, then dressed again with hot oil. The contrast of smooth chile-warm oil and crisp fresh cucumber is a knockout. The salad has a mild but not aggressive heat made with the 5 dried red chiles. Note that the cucumbers will soften if they're left standing, so don't pour the hot oil over them until just before you wish to serve the salad.
1 large or 2 medium European cucumbers (1 to 1-1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
5 Thai dried red chiles, or 3 for milder heat
1/2 jalapeño, minced
7 Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed torn coriander leaves

Peel the cucumber, leaving some thin strips of peel on if you wish, for a decorative effect. Cut lengthwise into quarters and scrape off and discard the seeds. Use the flat side of a cleaver or large knife to bash the cucumber pieces several times. Cut the pieces lengthwise into thinner strips, then cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Place in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and sugar. Pour over the cucumber, mix well, and set aside.Place a wok or skillet over high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the dried chiles, jalapeño, and peppercorns and stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour this over the cucumbers. Sprinkle on the salt and mix well.Mound the salad in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the coriander leaves and serve immediately.

Note: The traditional way to make this uses 3 tablespoons of oil, giving a well-oiled texture that may be undesirable. If you wish, try both and see which you prefer.(two was perfect for me)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thailand's Rad Nah (Pork Sticky Noodles)

So sorry, I just can't seem to leave Thailand! I love Thai food so much. There are so many gourmet blogs out there but one of my favorites is Appon's Thai Food. Sunday evening I tried Rad Nah (Pork Sticky Noodles). I must say the flavor was incredible but the picture we took doesn't do it justice. I need to hire a new photographer ... I think mine is too anxious to eat the subjects to care about taking the photo. Click on Appon's blog above to see a wonderful picture of the dish. I didn't end up with near enough sauce as she had in her picture even after decreasing the noodles from 300g to 250g. I would definitely make this again.

Also, I almost didn't purchase dark soy sauce ... thinking I could just use my light soy that I already had. However, you need dark soy. The consistency is like molasses not regular soy sauce as we know it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thai Lime Beef salad, part 2

My mom is out of town for a few days, so I invited my dad over for dinner. I told him I was planning on making sloppy joes. (he doesn't like the fish/vegetarian meals) He sheepishly asked instead "wasn't there a lime beef salad on your blog?" I got the OK from Mark and off we went. Robin - it was wonderful. Very close to what I remember it tasting like. I cut up all the vegetables and made the dressing during James's afternoon nap so all I had to do at dinner time was grill the steak and put it together. I did make one mistake. That fish sauces smells so horrible, but in dish, it always works. Well, I got a little insecure about it and added more lime juice at the last second. The dressing ended up a little too tangy, but still good. Another thing I might do in the future, it that I remember this dish being cold, and next time I might chill the meat to get that same result.

Melissa - You should really make this one. Very strong Asian flavors from the fresh herbs and vegetables, and the only fat in it was from the steak.

This is definitely a keeper. Thanks so much Robin!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sehr Gut

My challenge inspired my mom to make a completely German meal. I was inspired to get an invitation to eat it! Everything turned out great. We started out with an appetizer plate with some German cheese. Can't remember the name but it had basil in the title. Also on the plate was some hearty rye bread, spicy mustard and leftover bratwurst from the 4th of July. It was a good thing that the appetizer was filling, because dinner took awhile.

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The main course was wiener schnitzel. My mom used veal chops cut off the bone and pounded thin. I made a mushroom sauce from Rachel Ray to make it into jager schnitzel. You can't have German food without red cabbage, and Mark LOVES red cabbage. After searching several sources, my mom just made the recipe for Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage from her Betty Crocker cookbook. Good old Betty! Sorry, I don't have the recipe handy, but it did have bacon in it.

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The real kicker was the spaetzle. The following recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and I am writing it from memory.

2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
4 T butter

Combine eggs through spices. Add flour and mix until thick. Let sit for 10 minutes.

The recipe then said something about putting the dough into your spaetzle machine. Nope, no spaetzle maker. My mom did some research and we decided to try pushing the dough through the holes of a metal colander. This did not work so well. We ended up giving up and then just trying to drop small pieces of dough into boiling water. That didn't work well either because the dough was so sticky. It was slow going, but eventually we used up all the dough. After you drop your small pieces of dough into the water, you wait for them to rise to the surface when they are done. Put them in a warm bowl and add a little bit of butter with ever new addition. Boy, was I tired after making this, but it turned out SO GOOD.

Mark liked it!
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Oh, and I also cut up some tomatoes from the garden to serve with dinner. Apparently, I didn't do a good job. Something about a hacksaw and peeling them first. Oops.

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Dessert was German chocolate cake with ice cream.

It was a great meal. Thanks MOM!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gnocchi Verdi (Spinach Dumplings)

The little one is already on her morning nap so I'm taking the opportunity to share another great Italian family recipe, Gnocchi Verdi. My husband's Italian grandmother makes this special dish and to her it's a very simple dish ... a little of this ... a little of that and there you go. But, it's taken me several trial and errors to get this one right. This is a great vegetarian dish. I have not made this in a while, I just realized I had a great picture from the last time I made it.

Gnocchi Verdi

1 kg. fresh spinach (2 lbs)
250 g. ricotta (1/2 lb)
1 egg
1/2 c. grated parmesan
3 T. flour
butter, melted

Cook the spinach in salted water. Drain and allow to cool. Take a small amount of spinach in your hand and squeeze out the excess water. Do this with the whole batch of spinach. This is a very important step. It is crucial to remove as much of the water as possible from the spinach ... you want the spinach very dry.

If your ricotta is very wet you will also need to drain it in cheescloth in the sink. Sometimes skim milk ricotta is more runny than regular ricotta I have found.

In a small bowl, beat the egg lightly. In a large bowl combine the spinach and ricotta and season with salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt as you will be adding parmesan as well). Mix in the beaten egg and then add the parmesan. Add 1-2 T. flour as much as the mixture will absorb. Chill the ingredients in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

In a large pasta pot (or dutch oven) boil plenty of water as if you were making pasta. I have been told that it is better to have a tall pasta pot when making gnocchi because the gnocchi has the longest time to cook as it floats it's way to the top. I don't have one of these tall pasta/asparagus pots so I can't verify this. After it comes to a boil, salt the water. With the help of a tablespoon make round dumplings from the spinach mixture. Roll lightly in the remaining 1-2 T. flour. Don't press too hard on the dumplings, you want them to remain light and airy. Gently add the dumplings to the boiling water, one or two at a time. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon as they rise to the surface of the pot (usually 1-2 minutes of cooking time). Place them in a casserole dish with melted butter so there is enough room for 1 single layer of gnocchi. After all the gnocchi are done cooking, toss with the melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How I met Kerri ....

I met Kerri on the soccer field (the ol' ladies soccer field, that is). It didn't take me long to realize (ok, maybe 1 lap around White Rock Lake) that we had a lot in common ... we were both newly married 20-somethings, we both drove Volkswagens, and we both had an insane passion for health and cooking. While other team members were heading off to the bar after a soccer game, we were usually headed to each other's house for some home cookin' and Mark's latest home brew. It also didn't take me long to find out that one of Kerri's absolute favorite dishes is Thai Lime Beef Salad. I think maybe it took the first match in Arlington for me to find this out .... as this is the location of Kerri's favorite Dallas Thai spot. Now, I've never experienced this pure salad ecstasy because the one time we tried ... the restaraunt happened to be closed and at my favorite Dallas Thai spot (that's Toy's Cafe on Lemmon Ave) I could never get past the Eggplant and Tofu green curry to ever realize they had more on their menu. So, you can imagine the excitement I had today when I was leafing through some old cutout magazine recipes and stumbled upon a recipe for Thai Lime Beef Salad. I have to admit, I saved the page for another recipe, Goat Cheese Turnovers, but Thai Lime Beef Salad happened to be on the same page. This recipe is from Bon Apetit May 2001 when I didn't even know Kerri. So, I used this as a sign that I had cut out this page back then, unknowingly, for a Monthly Challenge that my good friend, Kerri, would host six years later. So, I present Bon Apetit's 2001 Thai Lime Beef Salad from The Blue Elephant Restaraunt in Paris (http://www.blueelephant.com/). How's that for a culinary trip around the world!

Thai Lime Beef Salad

For the dressing:
7 T. fresh lime juice (about 5 limes)
7 T. fish sauce (nam pla)
3 T. minced, seeded jalapeno chilies
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. sugar

For the salad:
1 lb. flank steak
1 head romaine lettuce, torn in pieces
4 T. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tomatoes, quartered
3/4 c. chopped shallots
1/4 c. matchstick-size strips peeled cucumber
1/4 c. diced celery
1 T. chopped fresh mint
1 T. minced fresh lemongrass, or 1 t. grated lemon peel
1/4 c. thinly sliced radishes

Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. (Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temp. before continuing).

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Broil to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer meat to cutting board. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut meat across grain into 2.5 inch wide strips. Cut strips crosswise into thin slices. Combine meat slices, lettuce, cilantro and next 6 ingredients (through lemongrass) in large bowl. Add enough dressing to taste (may not need all) and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with radishes.

I have no idea why I waited this long to try Thai Lime Beef Salad. This is an incredibly delicious salad. There may be a temptation to forgo some of the herbs, but resist. This combination of herbs and lime is exactly what gives the salad it's wonderful flavor. My only complaint is that if you don't have your own fresh herb garden growing this dish is a little expensive because you need just a little bit of a lot of ingredients. Bon apetit!

Yucky Cucumbers

I made this marinated cucumber recipe last week. It looked good on paper, but trust me, you don't need me to bore you with the details. I'll keep trying stuff and hopefully post something that actually tastes good again soon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kei Wei

Last night I made Mongolian Beef for this week's challenge dinner. I was really excited about it because the Chinese food in this area really sucks. The meal turned out ok, but it definitely wasn't the WOW you get when you eat this at Pei Wei. I guess I will keep looking. I did take a picture, but then I dropped the camera and its dead. Shouldn't this thing have some sort of reset button? I'll try to figure it out and post later.

I served it with pot stickers I bought from the grocery store with a homemade hot and sour chili sauce. My aunt gave me this recipe and it ended up being a real winner. I ended up drizzling this sauce over the Mongolian beef because it was simply too yummy just to dip into.

Hot & Sour Chili Sauce

3 T. Soy sauce
2 T. seasoned rice vinegar
2 T. sweet chili sauce
2 T. scallions, minced
2 t. hot chili oil
2 t. fresh cilantro, minced
1 t. garlic, minced
1/2 t. fresh ginger, minced

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My turn - a passport to India

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Ok, totally stole that title from Rachel Ray, but last night I made an Indian meal for my first challenge recipe. It was my dad's night to cook at their house, but he jumped at the chance to come over...even though it was a completely vegetarian meal. The appetizer was black pepper crusted goat cheese, which ok, isn't Indian at all, but it is very yummy and I just had some in my fridge. The main part of the meal consisted of Palak Kofta and Fried Chickpeas. The Palak Kofta is basically spinach and potato dumplings with a cashew sauce. I am not going to post the recipe because everyone should have it except for Mel who will be getting it. (If anyone out there would like the recipe, let me know and I will get it to you). These were great, but pretty labor intensive. I made the dumplings and part of the sauce in advance so when it was dinner time, I just put it all together. This is a very rich dish and the fried chickpeas when really well with it. They were especially good drizzled with some plain yogurt. I served this with some white basmati rice.

For dessert, I made Mango Lassi which were disappointing. I think we all were expecting something like a smoothie, and that really isn't what a lassi is. Maybe I was a little stingy with the mango, but I though they kind of tasted like cucumbers. But I know what you are all thinking, did Mark like them?

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He probably liked them the most out of all of us and gave them a strong "not bad". He prefers pecan pie.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Risi e Bisi (Rice with Peas)

This is a great Italian dish because just when I think I have nothing in the cupboards for dinner I can look and usually I have the ingredients on hand for Risi e Bisi. I made this last night but did not take a picture before we reached the bottom of the pot so I apologize. This is basically cooked in the same way you would cook a risotto.

Risi e Bisi
knob of butter (I told you I don't measure ... but probably 2 T.)
olive oil (couple swirls ... probably 1.5-2 T.)
shallot (or 1/2 onion), finely diced
2 stalks of celery plus some leaves for flavor, finely diced
2-3 slices of prosciutto cotto, diced up (this is basically cooked ham ... not to be confused with prosciutto crudo which is the Italian cured ham ... any cooked deli ham would work fine)
1 heaping cup of arborio rice (thick grained Italian white rice)
1 wineglass of dry white wine
1-1.5 c. frozen peas, thawed
1 liter of vegetable broth
handful of Parmesan cheese

Heat vegetable broth to a low boil in a small saucepan. Heat the butter and oil in a large pan on the stovetop. Add your finely diced shallot, celery and leaves and cook on low heat for 15 minutes (this is called making a sofritto ... from here on out it's a sofritto ... come on we're having fun aren't we? ... By the way almost every Italian dish starts out with a sofritto of vegetables of some kind). Next, add your diced ham to the sofritto and mix around for a couple of minutes. Add the arborio rice to this sofritto and let the rice soak up any remaining oil or butter ... stir the rice frequently so that it doesn't stick to your pan ... but let it fry slowly along with the sofritto until the grains become translucent and they are nearly bursting (couple minutes more). Carefully add your white wine ... the rice should soak this up very quickly. When the liquid has evaporated add a ladle of veggie broth, allowing the rice to soak up all the liquid before adding another ladle. After the first couple of ladles of broth, carefully stir your peas in and continue adding one ladle of broth at a time, until the rice is cooked but firm (not mushy), usually around 30 minutes. Stir in a handful of parmesan cheese. The trick to risotto is to stir the mixture a lot in between the ladles of broth because this allows the starch from the rice to be released and you are left with a nice creamy risotto.

Ok, I'm in .... with some warnings

Yeah, I'm up for the challenge but you all (or ya'll wherever you happen to be from) should know a few things .... I often don't measure and when I do sometimes it's weighed in metric on the kitchen scale ... I'll try to be good about converting to American standard measures. And, I've been known to spend all day on a recipe so I'm not claiming any of my recipes will be 30-minute meal candidates. We have a lot of visitors planned this month but my goal will be to try for the first time Kerri's Indian paneer recipe that she shared from a friend of hers and to try some Ethiopian recipes, since I've become a big fan of Ethiopian food recently, and to share as many Italian recipes, tips, tricks, etc. that I've picked up from living, cooking and dining with Italians for the past 10 years.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Did I win??

Well, since I only committed to making one ethnic meal during the month of July, I decided to make it last night - July 1st! I made a wonderful Asian soup dish from the Rachael Ray 365 book.

Spicy Shrimp and Bok Choy Noodle Bowl

3 tb veg oil (I used half tsp)
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-in fresh ginger, grated (we used a little more)
1/2 lb shitake mushroom caps, sliced (omitted)
1 medium bok choy, trimed and cut into 3-in pieces, then cut lengthwise into sticks (used 2 bok choys)
1 qt chicken broth
1 c seafood stock or clam juice (clams for me)
1 1/2 lb medium peeled and deveined shrimp (used 1.82 lbs)
1/2 lb vermicelli (used regular spaghetti)
4 scallions, cut into 3-in pieces, then sliced lengthwise into thin sticks

Directions: Heat soup pot. Add oil, red pepper, garlic, ginger, shrooms, and bok choy. Season with salt & pepper. Add the chicken stock and seafood stock (clam juice). Put on a lid, then bring to boil. Add shrimp and noodles and cook 3 minutes (little more for regular spaghetti). Add scallions and cook 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the soup sit 2-3 more minutes. Serve.

Okay, now that I've typed up everything, I get to make my review. First of all, I wouldn't have typed anything for a yucky recipe. This stuff was GREAT!!!! I mean, Scott and I were jumping out of our seats for how amazingly tasty this was. I can't wait to eat the leftovers today.

It has a spicy taste, but tastes like any solid meal at a thai restaurant. I recommend using as many shrimp as you can, because it gives it quite a bit more sustenance. Overall, I give this recipe 67 stars for excellence (on a scale of 1 to 10). If you don't make this meal, you are missing out on something super easy and super tasty!!