Archive for the ‘what's cooking’ Category

Waiting Games: Final Tally

September 19, 2009

With just an hour left to go before I’m officially vacation-bound for the airport, I’m starting to realize that this homestretch is even more agonizing than the weeklong holding period. Bags are packed, electronic tickets printed, passport and ID readily at hand. I’ve charged my camera battery, remembered a power converter and loaded up on iphone movie rentals long enough to eat up a substantial chunk of the 10-hour flight. Apart from my usual M.O. — i.e., frenzied blur of bags and explosion of clothes/makeup/shoes and “Christie let’s MOVE!” — I can sit back and relax, knowing I am well-prepared and very ahead of schedule…or you’d think, at least.

Of course, herein lies the danger of this gift of extra time, because as I start crossing things off my mental checklist, the anxiety starts to build that I’m forgetting something.  Toothbrush? (check.) Sunglasses?  (check.) Sleeping pills? (BIG check.) In my brilliant move to avoid the last-minute pack-run-pray ordeal, I’m now in danger of over-thinking my entire packing process.

I’m also a little bored. 55 minutes to go.

I will NOT think about what I could be forgetting, or the prospect of spending 10 hours crammed in an economy seat in front of a screaming child. Which seems to happen every time. Instead:

Round 3 (Thursday): Kitchen Sink Soup

Prep: 1/2 can tomatoes, 3 cups water, remainder of orange pepper, ground turkey, frozen spinach, rotini pasta, salt, pepper, dried oregano.

To cook, throw all ingredients into pot over medium heat and bring to boil; simmer until pasta is cooked al dente.

Round 4 (Friday): Pasta Puttanesca

Okay, friends – here I freely admit defeat after a grueling pre-vacation week. Still scrambling to send last-minute emails and set voicemail out of office messages at 7:30pm in my office, I threw aside my best-laid plans for this meal and resolved to chalk up $3.55 for a chick-fil-a grilled chicken sandwich – and at the end of the day, money well-spent.

At this point, I’m down to about half an hour, abiding by the two-hour international flight rule – and only more time to wait ahead of me. As any traveler knows, vacation never fully starts until the plane leaves the tarmac. Enjoy the weekend, and look out for adventures abroad from Montenegro up next! DOVID-ENJA!

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Waiting Games: Rounds 2 & 3

September 17, 2009

For those of you wondering how the pantry raid challenge is going thus far… I would have to answer, “why, deliciously.

Round 2 (Tuesday): roasted red potatoes and turkey chili for one.

Chili: 1 cup cooked turkey, remaining 3/4 can diced tomatoes, 1 orange bell pepper, 1/2 can dark red kidney beans and 1/10 onion (really, this is ridiculous now, but required for Round 3 below).

Potatoes: Six red potatoes, salt, pepper, dried thyme, extra virgin olive oil

Cook: Combine chopped onions, bell pepper, red pepper flakes, salt and 2 tbs chili powder in small pot and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5-7 mins. Add tomatoes and kidney beans, reducing heat to med-low. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, adding water as needed. While chili cooks down, slice red potatoes into thin disks and toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and dried thyme. Spread over foiled baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees, 15 minutes. In last five minutes, add cooked ground turkey to chili along with remaining chili powder and simmer until warmed through. Serve over 1/2 roasted potatoes.

Round 3 (Wednesday): Pizza Panino

[because without gooey mozzarella cheese, it just isn’t pizza]

Ingredients: 1 whole wheat mini pizza crust, 3 tbs diced canned tomatoes, frozen spinach (thawed), 1/10 yellow onion, 1/2 bell pepper, 1/2 cup cooked ground turkey.

Cook: Sautee onion and bell pepper over medium-high heat until slightly caramelized; set aside. Oil nonstick grill pan and heat over medium. Cut pizza crust in half and top with above ingredients, as well as pinch of salt, pepper and dried oregano. Place panino on grill pan, top with second half of pizza crust and heavy pot lid (note: you can also just use a panini press if you have one). Leave alone to cook 2-3 mins until crust develops nice grill marks. Carefully remove from grill pan, flip panino and replace on other side, pressing down with weight of pot lid. Mangia!

***I must admit, after this last meal I’m starting to feel a little twinge of self-doubt. The options are starting to grow rather thin for my challenge of dinnertime variety. I’m down to 1 can diced tomatoes, 1/2 bell pepper, 1/2 bag frozen spinach, 3/4 box of rotini pasta, and about 2 cups of ground turkey – and not one, but two more meals to go.

Hmmm, perhaps I was too lofty in my goal…?

Waiting Games: Round 1

September 16, 2009

(Monday): Whole wheat pasta with spinach, turkey, tomato and red pepper flakes. Straightforward enough – brown ground turkey in pan with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper while rotini cooks. Set aside. Strain 1/4 can diced tomatoes and add to small nonstick pan with 1 cup cooked turkey, red pepper flakes and frozen spinach until warmed through. Top over cooked pasta and add olive oil and pasta water to moisten.

Round 1 – DONE.

Anyone care to make this interesting?

Waiting Games

September 15, 2009

The week before any prolonged absence is always excruciatingly drawn out. Good news, on the one hand, for procrastinators like me who keep checklists largely unaccounted for until the frenzied hours just before their suggested airline check-in time. On the flipside, there’s only so much a girl can do to occupy the stretch of time between preparation and departure before being caught in a sort of limbo, the empty blur between anticipation and the practical present. At the moment, I’m staring blankly at a small pile accumulating near the doorway to my room – two swimsuits, a pair of sneakers, passport and travel-sized shampoo bottles – all of which destined to be  crammed into a suitcase with the rest of my month-long supply closet; but with a whole four days still left to go, I can’t fully commit to compartmentalizing workweek from vacation just yet.

It’s the same kitchen conundrum, as well: buying groceries for one is tricky enough, and just how far leftovers will push chemical boundaries over a two-week hiatus is not an experiment I’m willing to test. But girl cannot live on dry cereal alone.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to initiate a little contest called ‘let’s see how long christie can subsist with only a handful of ingredients pilfered from the pantry cabinet.’

The challenge: produce FIVE genuine weeknight meals without a single grocery store stopover. I’m not promising culinary genius here, people – entries will be judged on nutrition and stomach-filling quotient. Points for creativity are all bonus.

The players: 2 cans diced tomatoes, 1 lb whole-wheat rotini pasta, 2 orange bell peppers, 1/5 yellow onion (seriously?), 1 can kidney beans, 6 [undersized] red potatoes, 1 frozen wheat pizza crust, 1 lb ground turkey, 1 package frozen spinach (okay, not from the cabinet, but the ONLY frozen food item in this list). Spice cabinet condiments are all within bounds.

Let the games begin.

Culinary Therapy on a Friday Night In

August 8, 2009

It’s well past seven before I finally arrive home on most nights of the week – nearly a full twelve hours after the morning’s reluctant greeting to what will become a sequence of fundamental imperatives:

Coffee. Traffic. Power Up. Sit Down. Write. Call. Do. Now. Lunch? (No.) Rush. Wait. Approve. Deliver. Power Off. Workout? (Must.) Traffic. Home.

Most people I know view what follows as a mere part of this obligatory process: Wash. Chop. Boil. Cook. Serve. Shovel.

As for me (or any other everyday gourmet, for that matter), cooking is quite the opposite: unmediated, voluntary and spontaneous. At the end of the day, I can’t wait to retreat to the small space of our kitchen.  I am the chief executive here, the reigning corner office authority, subservient to no outside interest, deadline or contracts – and bare feet are the only stipulation on the code of attire. Though, perhaps even more significant is the power that comes in yielding sharp knives…

This Friday night warranted homemade pizza, super simple with ground turkey and a store-bought whole wheat crust at hand. Topped with orange and red peppers, onions and spinach, it’s the perfect weekday wind-down. Even better with a glass of chianti and flamenco guitar strumming softly in the background.

My kitchen is not ideal by any means, a U-shaped corner of cabinets and countertops that meet at a small but bright window looking out over the drive. It’s a crowded mismatch of cookware and tucked-away appliances, wrinkled dishtowels and scarred cutting boards, plastic lids with no partner – the obvious shared extension of four single twentysomethings and oddly comforting in its chaos. But by the time the pizza is ready, I’m relaxed and warm from the heat of the oven (maybe more so the wine) –  the perfect resolution to the compulsory and a welcome preface to the weekend.

Bring On The Biscotti

August 3, 2009

I happen to have a prolific sweet tooth, and a discerning one at that: candy bars, ice cream, cookies, cupcakes… in the gotta-have-it throes of a sugar rush, these simply will not do. It’s not that I’d turn my nose up at any chocolate concoction if offered, and I’ve yet to come across a creme brulee I didn’t like; but if you really want to know what my heart’s after, just point me in the direction of the pastry case. Delicate fruit tarts, Nutella croissants, lemon cake, cranberry scones, ginger bread… heaven, I tell you.

One of my all-time favorite indulgences is biscotti – the crumbly, break-your-teeth variety that requires a well-placed cafe au lait nearby. I decided to make up a batch (or two) to ship to my grandmother for her birthday, since my own affection for baked sweets is very honestly inherited.

This recipe for lemon-almond biscotti, borrowed from culinary crush Giada De Laurentiis, is amazingly easy. Literally meaning ‘twice-baked,’ the dough is first cooked in thick logs, then sliced on a diagonal and popped back into the oven. I love the added crunch from the almonds, and the lemon flavor from the zest is perfectly subtle. For a quick breakfast, these biscotti are relatively guilt-free – there’s no butter or cream in the recipe. Drizzled with white chocolate, they’re absolutely elegant.

Lemon-Almond Biscotti

***Author’s note: When left with eight zested lemons, what’s a girl to do? The obvious, of course. Freshly squeezed, iced lemonade is a pleasantly refreshing bonus on a lazy Sunday in the kitchen.