The Newbie Cook
- 16,971 forkfuls since 16.Oct.10
Making everything for the first time
Chris planted some garlic and got excited when he learned that garlic scapes were edible. So I did the practical thing: made pesto.
I haven’t been diligent with my Steffi x Jamie x Miki project. It’s just too easy for me to get distracted and try other things. But I promise to try and make more dishes from those books so I can meet my self-imposed deadline.
It’s a warm early-March day. By mid-afternoon, Chris and I arrived from the vet with our tiny chihuahua puppy, Basti. We’ve been up late, woke up early and the only thing we devoured since last night were cups of French roast coffee. Chris went straight to the garden and started pulling weeds out but I insisted on eating something substantial to appease my complaining tummy.
We were both ornery, hot and hungry. We both needed comfort food. We needed something Italian.
I chose this dish because it looked and sounded interesting. I also have an intense craving for seafood considering that we’ve been eating a lot of beef and pork lately. (I know, I know… I should eat more greens.) I tried to be as faithful to the recipe as much as I could but I did tweak things a bit based on the availability of ingredients and taste preferences. My revisions are listed after the recipe below.
Is it the best pasta dish I’ve ever had? No, but it’s definitely in the Top 10. We enjoyed it immensely and I hope you do, too.
Thanks, Jamie. 🙂
This marks two firsts for me: cooking salmon and pan searing. I didn’t even know what pan searing meant until I was in my twenties. *facepalms*
I bought a nice Norwegian salmon fillet and I was determined to eat it soon. I didn’t want to ruin it so I tried to look for a recipe that could be a base for what I had in mind.
This is one of the days when I wish I have wine. But this is a non-alcoholic country so we just have to make do with non-alcoholic alternatives and all I had in the fridge was sparkling grape juice. Oh well.
I learned quite a bit from this first effort. If you’re finicky about not eating raw fish but don’t like to eat dried tasteless fish meat, then cut the fillet in two before searing. Some recipes recommend searing for two minutes on each side but I found that it isn’t enough so it’s better to do it a bit longer.
I served the fish with a side of pasta in tomato and egg.
Was the dish bad? Not at all! I liked it. But I would love to try changing it a bit and experimenting more so I can get the hang of cooking salmon. Recipe after the jump.
Remember the pasta recipe where I used IKEA meatballs? Chris kind of made fun of me because I didn’t know how to make my own meatballs considering that they were (allegedly) easy to make. Dad told me that he wanted spaghetti but he was too sleepy and lazy to cook. (Don’t let this statement mislead you, Dad cooks way more often than I do.) Considering that I had a couple of hours before he wakes up, I decided to try making meatballs from scratch.
The first thing I thought was: “$h1*, I don’t have breadcrumbs! ” Google saved me again and informed me that oats would be a healthier substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs.
For the sauce, I used a variation of Bitch&Bake’s Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce. I wondered if butter is considered unhealthy but when I thought of worse alternatives like hydrogenated oil, lard, and vegetable oil, I happily dropped in the little block of butter.
This is also the first time for me to eat romano cheese with pasta, at least at home and not in a restaurant. There are evil canisters of romano alternatives in the supermarket, which try to convince the buyers that they’re cheap and just as good. Until you notice that there’s a tub of perfectly genuine shredded romano (but made with cow’s milk not ewe’s) beside it that is ironically cheaper than the fake version. *rofl*
My verdict: For a first time effort, it’s not bad at all. I thought it was reeeaally yummy but then I’m horribly biased. Sure, it could probably be better but this isn’t exactly a perfect-product-after-100-tries blog.
We held a (belated) bridal shower for my friend, Janis, in Apartment #2. I love our reunions! We always talk too fast because we try to cram months of news within a few hours. 🙂
We had a MAJOR food fest. Ina and Chie brought steamed crabs, hot wings and yummy pork. Jovett brought the drinks. And I made heart-shaped strawberry milk cakes and a generous amount of the squash pasta pictured here.
We had a blast!
One of the many things I love about my friends is that we love eating. We set aside our diets during our get-togethers and just enjoy the company and the food. We never have “diet Cokes only” occasions!
The pasta also served as a pretty good brunch the next day. *licks lips* It can be a good side dish, part of a multi-course meal or can be eaten alone as a light lunch or dinner.
Until recently, I didn’t know that the ribbon-shaped pasta is called farfalle. Apparently, the word is from the Italian farfalla, which means “butterfly”. I used to skip recipes with fancy-sounding names since I figured that if I can’t pronounce it, then I probably can’t cook it. At least now, I no longer feel ignorant in case someone mentions farfalle. Hah.
Have you ever opened your fridge and asked for inspiration because you have absolutely no idea what you want to cook today? That’s what I did when I got home from work.
A while back, I picked up a pack of Swedish meatballs from IKEA – the same kind they serve in that cute cafe of theirs (I only go there for the salmon). There was still 1/3 of the pack in the fridge so I decided to use it. Then I remembered Tita Dina’s creamy carbonara from two weeks back so I grabbed the can of Nestle cream that I was originally saving for something else.
I tried to imagine the kind of basic sauce that I like. There’s the token butter and tomatoes. But what I really focused on was the flavor. In this case, lots of garlic, onions and black pepper equaled yummy. This means sautéing the chopped onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and faintly brown and the edges of the garlic pieces are crisp. The butter is also integral. Don’t you DARE skip the butter! If you’re on a diet, go graze on the front lawn as this isn’t the recipe for you.
I’m a mushroom addict so I added that as well. They’ll go nicely with the meatballs.
Please don’t judge the pictures. 🙂 Apartment #1’s kitchen lighting is awful and unless I cook at broad daylight and open all doors and windows, everything I shoot will end up looking like I cooked them while moonlighting at a seedy bar.
A special note on the black pepper: The packaged powder labeled pre-ground black pepper is not black pepper. Ok, maybe 30% of it actually is. But if you love your taste buds and the rest of your family’s, then please don’t subject yourselves to that unrecognizable stuff. Buy a pepper mill and fill it with real black peppercorns. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just functional. If you’re already in IKEA buying the meatballs, you may as well pick up their cheap but serviceable 365+ spice mill ($6.99).
So how was the farfalle? (I’m still practicing saying it so I can impress the waiter next time.) It’s pretty good. 🙂 Now excuse me, I’m just going to do the dishes while you read the recipe.