Thursday, December 16, 2010

Your holiday wishes answered: How to create the most perfect, restaurant quality scrambled eggs and omelets!

It used to be at the top of my list: learn how to make the most perfect, restaurant quality scrambled eggs and omelets.  I was lucky enough to get the chance learn and then hone these skills during my time working Sunday brunch service.  Now I am passing these incredibly practical tips on to you without you having to ever step foot in a professional kitchen!   Not that most of you would mind doing that anyhow, I'm sure!

The process is the same to make the "egg base" for both the scrambled eggs and the omelets. The cooking procedure is the only difference.  I've modified the recipe from what we used in the restaurant to include seasonings that I use regularly at home.  The really GREAT thing about making this is that you can make your egg scramblers in advance, make a big batch, and you've got enough to be able to make yourself breakfast in about 5 mintues, from scratch for almost a week!

Here we go:
Multiply this batch x how many servings you are looking for.   The recipe is for 2 omelets or servings of scrambled eggs.   I typically make the egg base by the flat - 30 eggs, to last about 5-7 days, if that helps you for planning.  

18 pack of eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream, or milk (this makes your eggs richer)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper
Optional (1/2 tsp Penzey's Northwoods Seasoning)
A little bit of butter

Set a medium chinois, mesh strainer or very fine-holed colander over a large bowl.  Crack all egs into the strainer, then use a ladle to push it all through.  This breaks the egg sac, creating a beautiful texture to your eggs. No whisking necessary.  Also- the strainer catches your broken egg shells, so crack away!  Remove strainer.  Add cream, garlic, Northwoods Seasoning and season fairly heavily with salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Unless you are using it right away, pour this into a sealable container, mark the date on the container and refrigerate.   For 1 serving of eggs or 1 omelet, you want about 1 cup of the egg mixture.

Scrambled Eggs procedure:
You always want to use a Non-Stick pan for eggs.  Eggs should never have any brown on them. You will remove your eggs from the pan while they still are "wet" because they will continue cooking once removed.  No one likes overcooked scrambled eggs.  Scrambled eggs should cook in about 1 minute if you are using the propoer high heat. 

Heat your pan over Medium High heat.  High-High heat is not necessary and will be too hot to be able to move your eggs around wtihout browning almost instantly.   A pan that is too cool will take way too long to cook the eggs, thus, you probably are moving them around more, and result in a lower quality finished product.

When your pan is heated (about 1 minute to a minute and a half on the burner), drop a small pat of butter into the pan and turn the pan to melt it entirely and coat the pan.  If your butter browns, your pan is too hot.  Next, pour your measured eggs into the pan.  Use a heat resistant rubber spatula and use it to continuously scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. You want to break up the eggs as they cook, and you want them to cook evenly, so by scraping the most cooked part off the bottom and sides of the pan, this gently breaks the eggs and allows them to flip and cook evenly.  Continue this for a minute and a half or so, until the eggs hold their shape on their own, but still look wet.  Gently flip the eggs upside down so the wet side is down and remove pan from heat, but let the eggs rest in the pan for 15-20 more seconds to allow the bottom to cook a little bit more.  Pour the eggs onto your plate.  Voila!    Next time you want to make the eggs, just shake the sealed container with your extras to disperse the seasonings and you are ready to go again!

For Omelets:
Turn on your oven to 300 degrees, or your broiler on to Low.
You will need to use an omelet pan in order to get the proper size.  They are usually 7 or 8 inch, rounded bottom, non-stick pans.  The really interesting thing about omelets is that you can make your omelets ahead of time, rest them on a sheet pan covered in parchment, and then reheat them to order as you need them! Make an extra one in case you "break" the omelet getting it out of the pan though! 

For Omelets, you want to get your inside ingredients hot beforehand, or if you're crafty, while you are cooking your omelet.  It's totally acceptable to use whatever you might have on hand to fill your omelet!  I happened to have a quarter of a bar of cream cheese, a handful of baby bella mushrooms and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. 

I only wanted to dirty one pan, so I used the omelet pan to heat up my mushroom miture first.  I heated the pan to medium, threw in a small bit of butter, melted it, then added my thinly sliced mushrooms and sauteed them until they were cooked almost all of the way.  I grated a little bit of fresh nutmeg onto them as they cooked.  Nutmeg compliments mushrooms SO well!  I seasoned the mushrooms with kosher salt and pepper, and then when almost done, I removed the pan from heat, added the cream cheese and thyme (reserving a pinch for garnish) and just let it melt into the mushrooms, stirring it to help it melt a little bit.  It shouldn't be runny, just melted enough so it blends with the eggs well.  I removed this mixture from the pan and let it rest until the omelet was ready.

After wiping down the pan, I returned it to Medium-High heat, let it get nice and hot - and followed the same instructions as the scrambled eggs, with the exception that----   after about 30 seconds of scraping/folding the eggs from the bottom of the pan-I turned the heat down to Med- Low; and because I want to allow the eggs to set in a beautiful shape, I stop stirring the eggs.  At this point, simply pick up the pan and turn the pan to allow the top, runny part of the eggs to run towards the outside of the pan- and you want to be conscious of making the eggs form a perfect circle.   Once the bottom of the omelet seems pretty well set, but NOT browned whatsoever, I remove the eggs from the burner and throw it into the oven.

If you are using the broiler, you need to check on it every 30 seconds or so, and rotate the pan so it cooks evenly -without browning! If you are using the oven, check it every minute or so.  You don't want the omelet to "poof" a whole bunch, so pull them out at the very first sign of "poofing".   That means your eggs are over cooked and tough.  You just want the top of the omelet to be set when you put your finger on it. It should never be tough or firm.   When it is almost ready, very gently spread your mushroom-cream cheese filling or whatever filling you are using on HALF of the omelet. *NOTE* reserve some of the filling for garnish. You should only need a spoonful or so for the top.   The key is to try to put it on the "ugliest" side of the omelet, so when you flip it out, the pretty side comes out on top!  With the toppings on it, put it back in the broiler or oven for just a minute or so, so it re-warms the insides.  When it is ready, fold the omelet over onto itself IN the pan.   Very gently slide the folded omelet onto your plate.  Put the reserved mushroom mixture on top of the omelet as garnish, and sprinkle a few fresh thyme leaves on the mushrooms.  Your omelet will be picture-perfect and taste as delicious as it looks!

I know it seems lengthy to have an "essay" on making eggs, but you'll see when you eat it- it's well worth it! You'll be a hero at your house if you can master these skills!

Merry Christmas, everyone!   Good Luck with your Holiday Baking!!

Today's blog is dedicated to my brother Sean. 
Sean is a bachelor who doesn't cook.  That is, until I taught him how to make eggs. 
Here's hoping I've inspired you to continue trying new things!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to ALL! (Spiced Pumpkin Pie)

Your holiday season just got a little bit tastier!
This recipe is SO good that it hurts a little bit to share it!!!  
It's the spiced pumpkin pie recipe that I make year in and year out.   It's so good in fact, that I don't simply reserve it for Thanksgiving Day, I make a whole bunch of extra pumpkin puree and then I make the pies all winter long and even into spring!

It comes out almost a little bit custard-like. It's not a firm pie.
First- you will have to make the puree. I usually do this in the fall once pie pumpkins start showing up at the Farmer's market.  You should need roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of a pie pumpkin to equal ONE pumpkin pie.  You want to be sure to use PIE pumpkins, not regular pumpkins, since the natural sugar level is different.  Pie pumpkins are those cute, little ones.  You will want to seed and quarter them, and then lay them in a deep pan in the oven with about a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until you can insert a knife in the pumpkin and there is no resistance, all the way through it.  It is better to go a little bit beyond what you're thinking you should bake it to than to under bake it, because you won't get the same caramely flavor and it won't puree as nicely if it is undercooked.    When the pumpkin is ready, scoop it out of its peel, puree it while it is still warm.   Weigh it out to portions of 250 grams (fits snugly into a 1/4 deli container), label and freeze until you are ready to use, or use right away.  It'll keep for a good 6 months in the freezer.

To make the pie-     Partially Bake off a pie crust according to recipe instructions.  Cool almost completely. 

1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 can or 250grams of fresh pumpkin pie puree.
1 1/2 c (12 oz) heavy whipping cream

Whisk brown sugar and eggs until well blended.  Add cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves, nutmeg.  Add pumpkin puree and cream.   Whisk until smooth.  Pour into par-cooked pie shell, keeping in mind that it will rise about 1/3".  Don't overfill.  

Bake at 350degrees until the filling is slightly risen and firm in the middle.  35-45 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Serve room temp or slightly warmed.   Top with fresh made whipped cream! (whip heavy whipping cream, a little bit of vanilla bean, vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract and some powdered sugar.)

Yummy!   Enjoy!
Oh- and it helps to have sweet little kitchen helpers!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanks to the awesome guys at One on One Bike Shop!!!!

How amazing is technology? This isn't a normal cooking blog post, but rather a shout-out to the fantastic people over at One on One Bike Shop!   Here's the story:

I apparently dropped my iphone in front of Rapit Print in Mpls this afternoon, where it was promptly run over.  Unbeknownst to me, a very sweet bicyclist "Dan P" picked it up, thinking, "my friend James at One on One can maybe fix this"..    They tried to figure out who the phone belonged to - and came across my blog post from today.  They posted this on their website for One on One: 

Just found Erin The Food Fairy phone. It was run over, but still kinda works. If u know her, get in touch.

Anyhow- they called my last call- Shannyn, who called my dear husband Eric, who then called James at the bike shop, and I turned around and headed back to pick up my ran-over but semi working phone.  As I walk in to the shop- they said "Oh- you're Erin the Food Fairy."  HA!

I rushed out of the bike shop because I was still so flustered from having lost/broken my phone, but I just came home to look at their website because I'm certain Eric and I will be back there. It looks like an amazing bike shop, and what do I see on their website-- but the twitter they posted when they found the phone.  I love technology!   

Sorry no recipe, but I wanted to pass on a reminder that there are so many great people out there in the world- that you may not have met yet. 

Dan is going to be the recipient of a Spiced Pumpkin Pie I'm going to bake him this weekend! I'll post my very secret and delicious recipe as well as a pic of the pie this coming weekend.  

 My thanks again to Dan, James and One on One Bike Shop !!!!!!!!!  Hooray for good people!

Oh- and shop here:

Awesome, Easy Asian Marinade for Beef, Salmon, Chicken, Pork.... Also- Seasoned Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

How convenient is it to have ONE awesome Asian marinade recipe that you can tweak to use for darn near everything?  Two weeks ago, I was looking for just the thing- and I found it!  I used the marinade with Salmon- and it was such a hit that I'm sharing it with you!  Everything goes into a food processor. That's it.  Nothing else to it! I like it!  I made the marinade actually AS people were walking in the door for dinner, and it still came out great, and took no time!  The second recipe I want to share with you is something I came up with this past weekend. I usually roast off pumpkin seeds each year when Fall comes around, but this year, I added some spicy garlic seasoning. What an improvement on an already great classic fall snack! While it takes a little bit more time to do- because you want them to soak for a while, it's certainly not labor-intensive.  Happy Early Thanksgiving! Please share photos and recipes of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes you make this year!

Asian Marinade
(Sorry no photos- wasn't planning to blog this!)

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 TB Chinese rice wine
1 1-inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Asian chili sauce/paste

In mini food processor, blend garlic, then add rest of ingredients.  Blend until it's as smooth as you can make it.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

If you are using Salmon, you don't need to marinate as long as you would for other proteins.  Marinate salmon for 5-10 minutes, saving all extra marinade. Marinate beef, pork, chicken at least 4 hours to overnight. 

Cook your protein.  I grilled my salmon.  Take any additional marinade that is left and bring it to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. (Keep warm)  When your meat is cooked, take the hot marinade and glaze the meat.

Spicy Garlic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

 Rinse fresh pumpkin seeds to remove all pulp. 
Add kosher salt to water until it tastes like seawater. 
Soak fresh seeds in saltwater-brine 6-8 hours.
Pour the seeds and brine into a medium-sized pot. Add: 
1 tsp Red Chili Flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne

 Bring to a rolling boil. 
Blanch seeds for about 3-5 minutes, depending on softness of seeds.  You want them to be much less tough than when raw, but nowhere near mushy- because you are still going to roast them.   

Gently drain seeds in a mesh strainer.  Toss in a bowl with more chili flakes, garlic powder and cayenne.  Let the bowl sit for 15 minutes or so.  You want the seeds to be relatively dry before you roast them, so they don't steam instead.
When sort of dry, spread seeds onto a large baking sheet (or two) in a single layer.  
Roast at 350 degrees, tossing once, until the seeds begin to turn slightly golden.  Remove from sheet pan immediately and toss in a bowl, tasting and adding more seasoning if needed.  Seeds will keep at room temp in an air-tight container for quite a while. They should look like this:  


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Caesar salad you've been dreaming of is right at your fingertips...

There's just something about taking a big bite of a really good Caesar salad that gets me every time.  Maybe it's the parmesan cheese.... perhaps the incredibly pungent yet lovable raw garlic?  I'm not sure, but all I can tell you is that this dressing is a staple in my kitchen.  If you've eaten at my house in the past year or two, chances are, you've tried it.  My darling husband calls this dressing "Man Caesar" because there's so much of a bite to it. Try it- you'll see!  It's really pretty easy to make, and will keep for a week or so.  I usually make a 4x batch, but you probably only need a 1x batch to feed 4-6 people for starter salads.  Make a 2x batch if the salads are main course.  You're going to be thanking me for sharing this one!  :)

Here we go:

Erin's House Caesar Dressing

1 Whole Egg
3 TB Fresh Lemon Juice
1 TB Minced Garlic
1/2 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
1 TB Red Pepper Flakes
1 TB Dijon Mustard
2 Anchovy fillets, mashed (or 1 TB anchovy paste) **DO NOT OMIT**
1 C Oil (I use Canola)
1/2 C Grated Parmesan Cheese
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste

Whisk egg, lemon juice, garlic, worchestershire sauce, red pepper, mustard and anchovy.  Slowly drizzle oil and whisk to emulsify.  Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper. 

*Kitchen Tip*   Invest in some good-sized squeeze bottles that you can get at a kitchen supply store. Cut the tips so they are a little bit wider. They're only a couple of bucks, and it will keep your dressing fresh and make it much easier to use! 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall Vegetables are HERE!!!

Who loves Fall?   Me!   I'm going to throw two recipes your way today that could be my ABSOLUTE favorite ways to enjoy Fall vegetables!   The really awesome thing about both of these recipes is that you can prep them ahead easily and have them ready for last minute Fall gatherings!!  Multiple times this past week or two I have been lucky enough to have some fantastic friends pop by for imporomptu gatherings- and here were two things always on the menu:  Kale Chips & Lemon Beet Salad.

Now it's YOUR turn to feed your friends!

Kale Chips


2 bunches of Kale
Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 350degrees. Wash kale well. cut the leaf (don't use the stem) into 1 1/2" pieces.  Ideally they will all be about the same size. Uniformity will help it to roast evenly in the oven.   Toss the kale with a little bit of EVOO- start small, you can always add more.  You want the kale to be evenly coated with a light amount of oil.  Spread them in batches (usually 4 batches for a standard size baking sheet) onto a baking sheet.  It is better to have too few than too many on the sheet, so it roasts instead of steams the kale.  Sprinkle a nice coating of Diamond Kosher Salt over the kale and roast it at 350 for about 6 minutes.   Toss the kale and salt lightly again. Bake until it is crispy all the way through, taking into account that it will continue to cook a little bit after taking it out of the oven.

The kale will keep in an airtight container at room temp for about 5 days.

Lemon Beet Salad

You will want to prep all of the vegetables for this so it takes about 5 minutes to warm up when you want to make it! 

1/2 stick butter
4 big beets or 6 medium sized beets
2 large leeks or 3 small-medium leeks
1 1/2 bunches of sweet carrots or 1# of organic carrots (don't buy this huge thick carrots- the smaller ones are typically sweeter)
2 springs of fresh parsley
1 lemon

Prep ahead:

Wrap Beets up individually in tinfoil that completely covers the beet- with the seam at the top.  Place the beets on a small sheet pan and roast at 350 degrees until you are able to put a paring knife into the beet all the way to the center without ANY resistance.  I usually start at 40-45 min, check them, and adjust accordingly.  Let them cool enough that you can handle them and then unwrap them, carefully use papertowels to rub the skins off of them. They should just fall right off.  Cool the beets in the refrigerator. When they are cool, slice them into 1/2" cubes. Refrigerate for later.

Boil a medium-sized pot of water. (I always use my electric steam kettle. It makes magic!) When it is boiling, season it with salt. It should taste like the ocean.  Prepare an ice bath:  a bowl with ice and water, and a colander or strainer in it.   Slice your leeks in half length-wise, then into half-rounds 1/2" thick.  Peel the carrots. Cut into 1/4" rounds.  Blanch the carrots until they are starting to be soft, ice them, blanch the leeks until they are soft, ice them.  You can store both of these for later.  Have 1 lemon at the ready.

When you are ready to make Lemon Beet Salad,
Pull everything out of the fridge:  
Roasted, Diced Beets
Blanched Carrots, Leeks
1 Lemon
1/2 stick butter

Chop your parsley.
Melt your butter on Med-Low. Grate 1 lemon's zest into the butter.
Add the Carrots and Leeks, stir to coat.   Add the Beets, being careful not to add any residual liquid.
Stir to coat all.  You are just trying to get everything warm, not piping hot.   Stir frequently.  When a piece of beet is warm all the way through, pull off the heat.  Season with a good amount of Salt and Pepper to taste.   Serve immediately on small plates!


Until Next Time.....

Erin "the Food Fairy"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A little 3 course dinner for your next date night! Roasted Garlic with Bread, Black Forest Ham and Spinach Risotto, and Charred Pineapple with Ice Cream

This trio of courses is something I put together for my friends Brandon and Becca when they told me they were interested in cooking, and wanted to cook together, but didn't really know what to make.  I sent them the grocery list for all 3 first, then the recipes to follow.   They had a fun date night, and I know they have made it multiple times sense, which makes me happy !!!   You don't HAVE to make all three courses, but it's pretty easy, so 'eh, why not?  Here we go:

4 bulbs of garlic
loaf of french or italian bread, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices
olive oil
kosher salt
1 bag of fresh spinach
16 oz. really good deli ham- preferably black forest ham
2 boxes of chicken stock
1 Stick butter
1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups of risotto rice (aka short grain or arborio rice)
3/4 c white wine or vermouth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan (fresh grated preferably)
1 pineapple
vanilla ice cream
couple tsp sugar

To start-   assemble ALL ingredients for both dishes and have chopped, measured and ready to go in tupperware or small bowls. (Mis en place- like we talked about last time!)  Read the whole recipe through at least once before you start.

Fresh Roasted Garlic with Bread

Preheat oven to 350
Cut off the top 1/8th or so of the bulb of garlic from the tip (not the stem) just so that you expose the tip of each clove of garlic. Do not peel garlic.  Set each bulb cut size up on a piece of tinfoil about 12 by 12".  Drizzle garlic with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and wrap garlic (keeping it cut side up) so that it is completely sealed.  Set on rack in oven, roast for about 40 minutes.  Test one bulb for done-ness: carefully open tinfoil and check for cloves of garlic to have softened completely and turned golden brown.  When cloves are all soft, garlic is ready.  Keep wrapped in foil (so it stays warm) until ready to use.   To eat, simply squeeze the garlic onto bread, make sure to sprinkle each crostini with a bunch of salt (or it won't be as good) and enjoy!

Main course:
Black Forest Ham and Spinach Risotto

You will need to use your biggest pot to cook this.  Preferably one with a rounded bottom, but if that isn't an option, just use your biggest pot and make sure when you're stirring to get in the corners of the pot or the rice will stick and burn.   You will need a second, slightly smaller pot to hold the chicken stock.  To begin, heat the chicken stock to a boil (you can even throw some herbs in there if you want to- like a bay leaf and some fresh thyme if you have it).  Reduce heat to a simmer once it has reached boil.  You need it to be hot to use as you cook the risotto.
Wash your spinach well and slice it lengthwise (same direction as the stem) into thin shreds. The best way to do this is make small stacks with it facing the same way and cut one stack at a time.  Cut the ham into thin strips as well. Heat 1 TB of EVO and 4 TB of butter over medium heat until the butter melts- but does NOT brown.  Add the finely chopped onion and sautee until is soft and starting to turn golden (about 5 min) DO NOT BROWN. 
Reduce the heat, add the rice, stir to coat in oil and butter.  Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes or until grains become translucent.  Add the wine, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute until reduced.   Gradually add the hot stock, ONE ladleful at a time.  Stir constantly over medium heat (this makes the rice release its starch) making sure it doesn't stick on the bottom. You want the liquid to bubble and reduce, but not stick to the bottom of the pan.  You'll keep adding stock 1 ladleful at a time for about 25 minutes.  You may not use all of the chicken stock.  Expect to use about 3/4 of the amount, but it completely depends on the amount of heat you use while the rice is absorbing the liquid.  Once rice is soft to the bite (NO crunch AT ALL!)  stir in the ham and spinach with the last ladleful of stock.  You are just trying to heat the spinaach and ham.  Remove risotto from heat.  Add remaining butter and cream.  Mix well, then stir in the Parmesan until it melts.  Add a few pinches of salt to taste, and black pepper as well.  Garnish with grated parmesan.  Serve immediately.

Dessert:  Charred Pineapple with vanilla ice cream  Heat broiler with rack in top oven position.  (You can also grill the pineapple if that works better)
Use a cast iron or other heavy bottomed skillet, or if you don't have one, use a rimmed baking sheet.
Peel pineapple (use a serrated knife to cut the bottom 1/4 inch off of the pineapple so it stands up.  Cut the skin off one side at a time by cutting the skin off from top to bottom.  Lay pineapple on its side and cut into half-inch rounds.  Heat your baking pan or skillet under the broiler for 5 minutes to heat up. Carefully place 4 pineapple rounds in hot skillet.  Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of ground cinnamon and a teaspoon sugar.  Broil until edges turn golden, about 8 minutes, rotating pan as needed to brown evenly.  Serve warm or at room temp, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and another sprinkle of cinnamon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food for thought?

Everyone has that "one thing" that they do to de-stress, center themselves, or clear their head, right?  Well, you guessed it- mine's cooking.  Yesterday, it was just what the doctor ordered!  I needed to do a little thinking, so I woke up early and sure enough, made a huge batch of Spicy Green Bean Curry at 7am.  Perhaps you need to do a little thinking as well? Here's the recipe- it is something I came up with while making staff meal at work a few months back. Needless to say, it was a hit, and I make it at home from time to time. It makes a pretty good-sized batch, so have some hungry people around!  It's a bit more involved than the prior post, but trust me, it's nothing too fancy, and you can totally do it.  I know.  You'll actually learn a few things about Mise En Place, indian food and blanching today as well!  Here goes:

Spicy Green Bean Curry

1/4 c Canola Oil (or veg. oil, whatever is fine)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pice of fresh ginger- roughly 1.5-2" long, by 1", minced
1# carrots, bias cut (see below)
1 head cauliflower
3 Thai Chilies, finely minced (I didn't have these on hand, is ok to omit, but you'll need to up the spice by adding more sriracha)
1 tsp Sriracha (use 2+ if you don't have the Thai Chilies)
3 cans of coconut milk (shake them VERY well before opening)
2 TB yellow mustard seed
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp curry powder (I use 1 tsp Sweet Curry powder and 1 tsp Maharajah Curry powder both from Penzey's Spices)
2 tsp Tiparos Fish Sauce (it's the best brand)
1 can of Hearts of Palm -cut into 1/4" rings (I didn't have these on hand, can be omitted)
1# (16 oz) green beans (you can use fresh and blanch them, or thaw from frozen) cut into 1" pieces
Zest and Juice from 1/2 lime
scant 1/4 cup Red Curry Paste (I always use Mae Ploy- its good)
1 bunch of scalions, bias cut
a handful of cilantro- chopped
1 yellow onion, large dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" strips and halved
2 cans of whole potatoes, cut into 1/2" slices

Mise En Place!  (This is french for "everything in its place")
It is ESSENTIAL to get ALL of your ingredients measured and prepped in front of you so that you're not half-way through the recipe and you suddenly realize you need a pound of peeled, diced carrots, like NOW, before your sauce comes to a boil, and you haven't started! That's a recipe for disaster!  Once you start cooking, you can't stop! So if you don't already do this every time you cook- you're going to start now! Food Fairy says so! 

Once you have all of your ingredients pulled out of the fridge/pantry- weigh/measure everything so it is ready to go. Next start prepping the rest of the ingredientso you are 100% set before you even turn the stove on. You'll have to think through your veggies- the veggies that are fresh (except for zucchini) probably need to be blanched prior to using so they will turn out soft enough.  Canned or frozen veggies already have a softened texture so when you add them, they just need to be heated up, not cooked. You want all of your veg to finish at the same time, so order them in a way that makes sense to add them based on how long each needs to cook.  I blanched the carrots and cauliflower, and that's it.  Zucchini cooks up quickly so you won't need to blanch it.  Fresh is always better than frozen or canned, but sometimes it's just easier to use frozen or canned, depending on how much time you have, and what veggies are in season.

  1. Start a good sized pot of water boiling. Peel your carrots, cut at a bias (see photo). Wash and cut up 1 head of cauliflower into bite-size or slightly larger pieces.  When your water is boiling, add a palmful of salt. (I only ever use Diamond brand Kosher Salt).  Taste your water. It should taste like the ocean.
  2. Blanching:   you will need an ice bath ready before you start blanching. Blanching means that you drop your vegetable in water (it must be a rolling boil) to cook it to near-doneness, then immediately take it out and put it in ice water, to slow down and stop the cooking process. The faster you can do this, the brighter, tastier and more vibrant the veggies will be.  The only way to know when they are ready to come out of the water is to taste it.  It WILL continue to cook, so take it out before it is completely done. Also- you will still be heating the veggies back up, so leave them just a hair under-done, after cooling. We will blanch the cauliflower first, because the carrots will turn the water orange.  For your ice bath, just use a big bowl, fill it with some ice and water, and if you have it, set a strainer in the bowl, that way you can toss the veg into the strainer, it gets cooled down, and you can easily take all the veg back out of the bath to use it again for the next one.  Do this for all the veggies you are going to blanch, then put them aside, dump your water, and grab your pot to cook the curry.
  3. Dice your onion, chop your parsley, quarter your zucchini lengthwise, then cut into 1/2" chunks.  Cut your bell pepper into strips, then halve them so they are not as long.  Bias cut your scalions, mince your garlic and your ginger.  Thaw your green beans, open any canned items you are using, slice the potatoes.  Measure out spices, etc.  You should no be set to go!
  4. It's business time! Heat your large pot over medium to medium high heat.  Once the pan is warm, add your canola oil.  Roughly 1/4 cup, but enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and to coat the stuff you are sauteeing.  You can add more oil if it seems too dry as you sautee.  Add your 2TB yellow mustard seeds, sautee for a minute or so, add your garlic, let it cook just a bit, then your curry paste. Curry paste is basically a mash of very fragrant ingredients. You will sautee all this good stuff all together for another 2 minutes or so- until the curry paste becomes very fragrant.  Then add your ginger, sautee for another minute, add your onion and cook this until it begins to soften.   Then add your raw bell pepper and zucchini. These will need a little bit of time to soften.  By adding all of these ingredients individually and in the order they need to finish, it will mean everything will be perfect by the end. 
  5. When everything is softened, add your 2 cans of coconut milk and bring to a boil.  When you add the coconut milk, you stop the sauteeing process because the coconut milk is cold, and it drops the temp in the pan.  Crank the heat up and bring it to a boil, stirring well so nothing sticks to the pan.  You want to reduce the coconut milk down to a nice, milkshake-like texture.  It will seem like there is way too much liquid in the pan, but remember you are still adding a lot of bulky vegetables, and you need it to coat everything.  
  6. When your coconut milk has reduced enough, drop the heat back to medium and add the lime zest and juice, add the fish sauce, spices, sriracha and finally the potatoes, green beans, carrots and cauliflower.  Stir frequently to coat everything and let all of the veggies you just added heat up.  After 5-10 min, depending on how hot your stove is, you should be done!  TASTE it!  You probably need to add salt and pepper.   I added about a tsp of salt and a few good pinches of fresh ground black pepper.  Season it to taste.  If you are unsure how to season and don't want to oversalt your whole dish, just spoon some out into a bowl, season the bowl, and test just how salty you like it, then emulate that in the pan. You can adjust your heat as well by adding more Sriracha.   You're all done!   
  7. Serve your curry in a bowl and top with some chopped cilantro and fresh scalions. YUM!!!!!

I hope you all enjoy the heck out of this recipe, and after you've made it my way, make it YOURS!   See, you CAN cook!!!!

Next post-   an EASY 3 course dinner for your next date night!!!!!!   

Enjoy everybody!

Until next time....
Erin   "The Food Fairy"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today it begins....

Come with me! Let's take a little culinary journey together...

Just a few days ago, my travel buddy/darling husband and I returned from what can only be called an Epic Adventure.  We spent three weeks on the road, driving 4000+ miles in an exhausting, exciting trip.   The day had begun somewhere in Nebraska, it involved being stranded somewhere outside of Des Moines, Iowa, and even included doing major truck repairs outdoors during the most extreme lightning storm I have ever seen.  Somehow we were still in good spirits when we walked in the door upon our return, though we were both absolutely starving. You'd think we'd just order in some take-out, but if you know me, you'd know that's just not my style.  My immediate thought was, "What shall I make for dinner?"   So, exhausted as I was, I ran out to my (poorly attended) garden, picked all of the tomatoes in sight, pulled out the few remaining pantry staples I had left in the house, and made a fantastic mexican dinner.   My point?   If it was possible to throw together this tasty meal in about 5 minutes after such an grueling day, YOU certainly can do this after your exhausting workday.  I promise!! 

My first recipe is not so much a recipe as it is an inspiration. It is a very simple soft shell taco dinner.  The idea is that you can substitute whatever ingredients you have on hand, as I did, and tailor it to your liking. It's nothing fancy, but it proves you can make simple, delicious food in a flash!  Simple Mexican-American (Amexican?) -style food is SO easy to whip up in hundreds of ways (and for any # of people)  if you just stock a few simple ingredients!  It sure beats eating some crappy processed food!

Start with those super cute 6" flour tortillas. STOCK these at your house- they last a long time, are cheap, they're great for making the perfect size soft shell tacos or burritos etc. (they're the size of typical corn tortillas, but tastier in my opinion).  No one wants to eat a dried out, bulky tortilla. YUCK. These fit in your hand! Trust me, keep these on hand. Just warm a stack of them between paper towels in your microwave for a few seconds. (For you foodies, wrap stacks of them in tinfoil and throw them on the top rack of the grill to warm them and get some smoky flavor while you grill off your protein!)

I had a can of refried black beans on hand, some leftover cheese, hot sauce, some store-bought salsa, mexican spices, and those tomatoes from my garden.  That's it; and it was a pretty good meal. 

Dice up those tomatoes, heat up your beans, add some spices if you have them on hand. I used Cumin, Garlic Powder, Chilli Powder and a pinch of Penzey's Taco Seasoning. (I always stock Penzey's Spices- they are affordable yet impeccable in quality!).  If I hadn't been just getting home from being on the road, I would have had lettuce and sour cream to go with it.

You get the idea!  Here's a quick snapshot:

6" flour tortillas
refried BLACK beans
tomatoes from the garden
hot sauce (I use Tapatio salsa picante)
store-bought salsa
mexican spices

Heat beans, season with spices. Warm tortillas. Dice tomatoes. 
Spread beans on tortillas, add cheese, heat to melt cheese, then hit it with hot sauce, salsa, fresh tomatoes, whatever else you've got, and there you go!

Nothing fancy, but it was tasty and ready in 5 minutes.
Your turn! Go make it!  Tell me what you like to keep on hand for your quick mexican dinner!

Until next time....
Erin   "The Food Fairy"