The Newbie Cook
- 16,303 forkfuls since 16.Oct.10
Making everything for the first time
Sorry for the lack of dialogue. It’s 2:45 am, I’m feeling guilty for not posting a lot, and I’m tired from work and school. I also have my 8 am gym workout to look forward too. Ugh.
At least I have meatballs that cheer me up. 🙂
More comfort food!
My favorite Italian restaurant is Ciconte’s and they have this heavenly lentil and sausage soup. It isn’t served often and is in their soups-of the day list. I figured I may as well try making a version of this soup so I can have it any time I want. Of course, I don’t expect it to be as wondermous as Ciconte’s so I’m simply aiming for edible for my first attempt.
I used canned lentils in this recipe. I should have bought two cans instead of one since it doesn’t seem to have enough lentils. I also want to try using fresh lentils next time. They were out in Shop Rite and we didn’t feel like going anywhere else today.
I didn’t bother with a play-by-play since I’m sure you don’t need instructional photos for chopping vegetables. Although I do wish I took a snapshot of my husband shaping the sausages into tiny balls. He rarely helps out when I cook yet he had the gall to complain that I gave him the “dirty job.” Grr. Next time, he gets onion duty. Five large ones should be just right for him.
What’s the deal with the stuffed bear? I adopted a polar bear when I donated to WWF last month. I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. Should I keep it and let it languish in a corner, gathering dust until it disappears into obscurity after a few years? Or should I give it to the pups and let Basti shred it and have the time of his life?
Should I make eggplant rollatini without bacon? I don’t have ham. And I don’t have prosciutto because I forgot to pick some up from Botto’s the last time I was there. It can be served without any meat, right? But what is life without bacon? Well, bacon it is.
Most cook eggplant rollatini with the bacon/ham/prosciutto rolled inside the eggplant along with ricotta cheese. I did the opposite and wrapped it over the rolled eggplant to keep it secure. By the time I was done, it looked like a swankier version of pigs-in-a-blanket.
This can be served alone or with a side of pasta. If you’re doing the latter, don’t skimp on the tomato sauce. Pile it on, baby! Trust me, you’ll need it.
Recipe after the jump.
Basti, our white long-haired chi, has a very bad habit. Whenever we cook, he always thinks that he’s getting fed. So he whimpers and begs… loudly. You’ll be surprised how loud a three-pound chihuahua can sound when he’s upset. We’re still in the process of correcting him and teaching him that dog food is for dogs and human food is for humans only. It’s not as if they have bad food — I buy big bags of organic Grade A dog food for them. Our older dogs still get excited when I cook but at least they don’t beg.
One of the dishes that can drive Basti nuts is stuffed pepper. We have a couple of big bell plants in our little garden and I had to think of creative ways to use them. I started with the most basic one: a soft bell stuffed with a blend of meat, rice and herbs.
I made three versions: the Classic American, the Asian, and the Asian-American.
The Classic American is mainly beef and rice enhanced with sage and parsley and is baked on a bed of Italian tomato sauce.
The Asian-American is similar to the above but with slight differences. Like adding cayenne, substituting Worcestershire with oyster sauce, and using plain crushed tomatoes instead of sauce.
The Asian is quite different. Pork is used instead of beef and rice is served on the side. Among other things.
See the recipes after the jump.
Chris gets annoyed when I don’t update my blogs for weeks at a time. He checks them regularly and I suppose it cheers him up to see my thoughts on virtual paper and that I’m writing instead of harassing him. 🙂 Or perhaps he just appreciates reading my posts.
A few weeks ago, I cooked yellow long-neck squash and asparagus stewed in Thai shrimp paste (that recipe will follow). I remember that Chris was pretty bummed because he picked the squash too late and the other half of it ballooned and turned into a deep yellow. We didn’t know then that we were supposed to pick it before it ripens — when the fruit is long and slim — so one can eat the whole creamy vegetable without having to take out the seeds. Of course, he cheered up when I put the stew in front of him.
This time around, the squash was picked at the perfect time.
My only complaint about this dish is that I could not replicate that perfectly smooth, whipped cream consistency for the ricotta blend as shown in the ABC site even when I whisked the cheese to an inch of its life. Maybe they used KitchenAid? Also remember not to overload on the sausage. I only added them to provide more taste and a little protein for my skinny husband.
We had to replace the car’s bumper this week because, er, let’s just say that I murdered a concrete trash can in a convenience store’s parking lot. So this month will be quite lean for us. But cheap does NOT mean bad food. It means enjoying healthy meals at home for less than 10 dollars instead of spending 20-40 outside. The only exceptions are Date Night Fridays and Chris’ Wing-and-Beer Wednesdays. Here is a breakdown of what this meal cost us:
1 lb dried pasta linguine – $1
2 Italian sausage patties from Botto’s – $1.5
1 cup fresh ricotta – $2
1/2 cup grated parmesan – $1
1 yellow long-neck squash – free from the garden
sprigs of fresh mint – free from the garden
That’s five dollars and fifty cents for four servings, a dollar and a half per person for a meal that could cost $10-12 in a restaurant! This is why Steffi McScrooge made the effort of learning how to cook, ladies and gentlemen.
I made this last night and, to my surprise, it was pretty good for an extremely simple meal that that is thrown together in a hurry. I used similar herbs to the ones I used for my blackened trout recipe since it really worked out well.
Like the salmon recipe where I used store-bought teriyaki, I also used commercial barbecue sauce for this one. Not only is it handy but I really, really like Hunt’s Hickory and Brown Sugar Barbecue sauce. I also use it whenever I want to make no-stress baby back ribs. (Mostly because it’s so easy to ask Chris to do the marinating.) But, for this recipe, you can use any barbecue sauce of your choice whether it’s homemade or store-bought.
I served this one with shrimp with dill as an appetizer and a side of sliced eggplant — sauteed in a tiny amount of extra virgin olive oil — and chopped fresh tomatoes. While the ribs were baking, I prepared and chilled the appetizer and cooked the eggplant. It took around an hour to prepare and cook the whole meal.
Check out the recipe after the jump. 🙂
I feel really lazy today. I have had to deal with a lot of things regarding my immigration, current job, possible future jobs, and worrying about the previous subjects. And there’s also a husband who has a cold and demanded that he should be babied. My only kitchen activity will be opening a jar of 7-herb Ragu, tossing in a head of minced garlic, half of a chopped onion, a small knob of butter and a bacon and mushroom topping. And, of course, pasta. Some might say that it’s still considered cooking but it just feels wrong to take credit for spaghetti sauce that I didn’t make out of scratch.
However, I was more diligent last week. Aside from cooking up a storm almost every day of the week (even when we were in DC), I managed to try three completely new recipes. One is the dish which I’m just about to talk about as soon as I finish my small talk.
When I was in Singapore five years ago, I ate in kopitiams (food courts) almost everyday. I was particularly addicted to crispy fried noodles and I would order it often. Since then, I tried to find a similar dish in several Southeast Asian restaurants but nothing came close to the inexpensive but lovely noodles in Singapore’s kopitiams. So, I figured that I may as well try making it myself.
The first time I tried cooking crispy fried noodles a month ago ended in disaster — it was not edible at all. The result of this second experiment was not as wonderful as the Singaporean version but it is definitely edible. Who knew that crispy fried noodles would be such a pain to cook?
The noodles I’m familiar with were loosely cupped over a bowl. This one is more like a noodle cake that was browned on both sides. I’m not perfectly satisfied with it yet so I intend to tweak it until I get it right even if it takes 50 more tries.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe. It’s another version of my this pork and broccoli stir fry noodles I made a while back. Feel free to tweak it yourself. One thing’s for sure: saucy stir-fries taste so much better over a bed of crispy noodles than soft ones.
That was a mouthful! In English, that means risotto of sweet onions, cotechino sausage, and thyme. To launch Project Steffi x Jamie x Miki, I started with my favorite Italian rice dish ever: risotto.
I was pleasantly surprised that making risotto was pretty easy. The ingredients were not complicated and I already had most of them in the fridge.
Jamie Oliver has a basic risotto recipe, risotto bianco, which is his base for all types of risotto in his book. I can’t go on and on since this dish speaks for itself. And all I can say is C and I enjoyed every bite.
I think it’s disgraceful that the small pack of Chinese noodles (or what my mother would call pancit canton) cost me $3.50 in Shop Rite. That’s more than three to four times the cost of perfectly good noodles in the Philippines. *grumbles*
The local grocery also had a very limited supply of Asian food stuff. The only Pinoy thing there was adobo seasoning. I mean, who the hell uses powder seasoning for adobo when one could make a perfectly wonderful dish with perfectly ordinary ingredients. Maybe I can ask Danielle if there is a nearby Asian store that at least has bagoong or alamang to keep me satisfied for the next few years.
I was craving for noodles so I naturally visited my Asian food guru, Jaden from Steamy Kitchen. I didn’t have lots of the fancy stuff needed for the recipe so I had to improvise and make something that is edible. If I need to convert my husband to becoming an Asian food-lover then I need ammunition.
Thankfully, there were no leftovers. Yay!
Credit to this recipe goes to Bella from Bitch & Bake. I’ve been dying to make it for MONTHS but as there is no pork in Saudi Arabia, I had to wait until I was home in the Philippines to try it. Since my vacation included the holidays, I chose it as one of the dishes for my family’s Christmas lunch.
For the marinade, I used white table wine instead of limeade, used a little bit more apricot preserve (Filipinos love sweet dishes), and went easy on the chili sauce since there would be children eating.
I had no idea how to buy pork and didn’t even know what the cuts are called. I knew I needed pork tenderloin but didn’t know what it was called in my native language (I had to know since we would be buying from the local market). I asked my mother and she wasn’t sure either.
Mom: Is it “lomo”? That’s what I usually buy.
Me: Er… I don’t know. Is it soft?
It turned out to be lomo. Hehe. I sliced them while still raw and laid them in rows in a rectangular baking pan before pouring the marinade all over it.
After 45 minutes, it was ready for us to enjoy!
You know what might be better? Letting the meat marinate in the sauce for 24 hours in the fridge before cooking. I might try that next time. But just as is, the whole thing was deelish!!! And it was so good to eat along with the rest of the Christmas dishes: Mom’s homemade ham, steamed brown rice with pandan leaves, seafood pasta sauce with spinach fettuccine (added squid and tuna to this recipe), and pumpkin spiced cake for dessert.
Leftovers are good, too, even when eaten straight from the fridge. It’s easy to guess what I had for lunch today. 🙂