Friday, May 29, 2009

My Experi-MINT

I said earlier that I'd make some stuff with mint. Well, here they are.

Penne pasta with a garlic-tomato-mint sauce
Um, just sauteed the garlic (delicious), tossed in canned diced tomatos, and added the chopped mint leaves at the very end. Nothing fancy.

Mint Julep
Obviously I didn't know how to make this because I actually crushed up the mint leaves as opposed to just bruising them. I would've tried again but now my mint leaves have gone bad. Oops. Maybe next time.

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Sandwich with Cream Cheese Icing
Oh god, I don't even know what to call this. They were supposed to be mint chocolate chip cookies but I didn't have enough flour. And I when I chilled my mixture, I knew it wouldn't be thick enough to be cookies. And because it looked more like cake batter, I just poured it onto a baking sheet and they came out kinda brownie-like. Although, I think I overcooked it as it was a little dry. So I whipped up a cream cheese icing, put it between two layers of cake, added another dallop on the top, sprinkled some powdered sugar and cinnamon, and garnished with mint leaves. I think it looks better than it tastes. Also, I didn't use mint in the actual thing but rather mint extract. I cheat.

As a result of this experiment, I don't think I'm going to eat anything mint for a while. Well, except mint chocolate ice cream. Mmmmmmm...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spicy Jalapeño Omelette

This is a super simple meal. I mean, it's an omelette. How hard is that? It's not super complicated, but every now and then, I like making them just to try out different ingredient pairings and stuff. They're so good for experimentation. And they're also good for getting rid of ingredients that you need to use up. So ya, that's why I make omelettes all the time. It's never the same exact experience twice, it seems... for me at least. Here's my Spicy Jalapeño Omelette. I feel silly making a recipe thing just cause it's so easy but whatev. So easy in fact that I can't really explain what I did or give exact measurements. Also, this was the omelette I decided I would just go all out with in terms of spiciness.

Ingredients (serves 1)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 jalepeño pepper
  • habanero cheddar
  • a few dashes of ground cayenne pepper
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • salt + pepper for seasoning
Easy steps (takes like 15 minutes or less)
  1. Turn your stove to medium heat. Take your small skillet and pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. I don't like giving exact measurements for this stuff -- I'm sure you guys know how much oil you need to do this.
  2. When it gets hot enough, throw your scallions in and let them sauté for about 5 minutes. I know scallions are mild enough as it is, but I used a fair amount so I wanted to cook them way down to sweeten them a little. If you like the pungent taste of scallions, just throw in 1 chopped scallion near the very end instead. Anyways, when they're done sautéing, add in a little more olive oil so that the eggs won't stick to the pan when you throw them in there.
  3. Beat your 3 eggs in a separate bowl. Season them with salt and pepper and then pour them into your pan. Turn the heat down to low.
  4. Dice up half your jalapeño. I used half only because I included the membranes and the seeds, the parts of the pepper which have the most heat. If you don't want the seeds, use the entire pepper instead for a mild spiciness. Or if you want a lot of heat, use it all up, seeds and all! Throw them into the pan as well, and kind of spread them out over the egg.
  5. Grate some habanero cheddar onto your eggs. Just grate however much you want depending on the level of spiciness you want.
  6. Then, I don't know how people make omelettes, but I just kind of wait until most of the bottom layer of the eggs is cooked and its hard enough that I can fold it in half and flip it over to close the edges. That's why I do this on low, so that the egg doesn't burn on the bottom but the rest of it gets cooked as well. So ya, that's what I did. Make your omelette however you usually do!
  7. Then when that's all done, transfer your omelette onto a plate and grate some more habanero cheddar onto the top.
  8. Sprinkle some ground cayenne pepper onto your omelette. Why would we want to do this: 1) more heat!! and 2) to add some nice color. Add however much you feel you can handle.
  9. I served this over toast and butter, which served as a sort of neutralizer to the spiciness of the omelette.
Anyways, this is a really badly written recipe just because there's so much room for variation. I really enjoy a lot of heat, but a lot of people may not. So you can vary the levels depending on how much of each ingredient you put. So anyways, that's what I did with this omelette. It turned out nice and spicy like I wanted. I just took a bite of the toasted bread and butter every time it got too hot. Then I would continue eating. Haha.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This recipe is so easy. Here it is.
  • 1 lb lentils
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 cup of red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 cup of green grapes, cut in half
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • goat cheese (optional)
  • your favorite nuts, toasted
For the vinaigrette.
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of fresh ground pepper
So here are the instructions. They're a little long because I like to be wordy and spell everything out:
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil (about 8 cups for 1 lb of lentils). Add salt for flavor.
  2. Clean your lentils by putting them in a strainer and running water through it just to make sure there's not dirt. Run your finger through them to make sure no other foreign objects are in there. When that's done, stick your lentils into your pot of boiling water for about 18 minutes.
  3. Cut your green and red grapes right in half and stick them in a large bowl.
  4. Clean and dice up your red pepper. We want to use red because they're sweeter than green. To clean out the bell peppers, you just cut the stem off, cut the pepper right in half and you can just scoop out all the membranes and seeds and throw them in the trash. I do it a different way but I can't quite explain it in words... and it all gets you to the same place anyways. Yup, then dice them and stick them into the bowl.
  5. Chop up 2 things of scallions and throw them in as well.
  6. Zest two lemons right over the bowl. When you're done, give it all a good mix just so you don't get huge clumps of zest in your salad.
  7. Now to make the vinaigrette. Squeeze the juice of two lemons into another bowl.
  8. Now, while you whisk, slowly pour in your E.V.O.O. so that it incorporates nicely with the lemon. We want extra virgin because it's fruitier. And fruity is good for this salad.
  9. Now pour in your salt and pepper. Stir and you're done!
  10. When your lentils are finished, strain them and lay them out on a wide plate, letting them cool down for 5 or so minutes. Use more than one plate if you need to (more surface area = they cool down faster. Makes sense).
  11. Then put the lentils in your bowl with the lemon vinaigrette. Make sure you toss it very well so that everything's all nice and mixed in.
  12. Then you're ready to serve. I just put a dallop of goat cheese to add a little creaminess and tartness. To keep this vegetarian (vegan even!), totally just omit this step.
  13. For texture, which I unfortunately didn't do, you would add your favorite nuts on top. This salad is very soft, very mushy naturally. The crunchiest things in it are your grapes and bell pepper chunks so just to add a little more protein and a lot more crunch, I highly recommend adding nuts. Toast them in the oven for a few minutes to bring out flavor if you want. Then you would sprinkle liberally over the top of your lentil salad and there you have it. This takes 25 or so minutes - tops and it's very nice and citrusy, which I like.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Massive Update: Salmon, Cookies, Spider, and Chile Rellenos!

Oh god, these last few weeks have been busy. Just haven't had the time to update what with school and all.

This is what has happened since:
  • Wrote 3 papers
  • Took 2 tests
  • Finished my photo story on Barsana Dham. Pictures of that soon, I hope? Maybe.
And here are some of the things I cooked since:

This is a sear-roasted lemon butter salmon fillet served over couscous. First time attempting to "sear" something. I didn't get that brown crust I wanted, unfortunately. And this isn't really a fillet-sized serving, but meh. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, stuck pieces of butter on top, wrapped them in aluminum foil and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, I squeezed some fresh lemon onto them. And it was my first time cooking couscous, which is absolutely delicious. Couscous looks like rice but it's actually a pasta. I stove-cooked it in a chicken broth butter mixture for 5 minutes, then tossed in diced tomatoes, chopped parsley, chopped scallions, and finely grated smoked cheddar. Put a lid on it, let it sit, and served it under the fillet.

Chocolate Chip Cookies. This was actually kind of an "original" recipe. Rachel and I took the recipe for the dough and deviated significantly. We added nutella to the dough, added some milk. We sprinkled dark chocolate bits onto the top along with sliced almonds (which toasted nicely in the oven) and there it is! Chocolate cookies. They disappeared so fast.

Now, today!
Oh man, I was just watching TLC (Jon and Kate + Eight, I think) and this guy started crawling in front of the television. He startled me! Look at those eyes. Cute, yes?

But I'm terrified of brown recluses so I got my more brave roommate to kill it for me with Raid. Fortunately, it wasn't a brown recluse. Unfortunately, we may have killed it despite the fact that after spraying, we decided to catch it and set it back outside.

And for my chile rellenos!! My blog will never be a food blog without posting the recipes that I use but food blogging is not my aim. I'm a photo blog. I just happen to be cooking a lot. Anyways, for this, I took a lot of pictures throughout so I might as well do the recipe thing. These took me forever to make. It's a long process. But it was good.

Chile Rellenos with Tomato-Avocado Salsa

For the chile rellenos:
  • 4 poblano peppers
  • olive oil
  • a nice big block of your favorite cheese.
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • about 2 or 3 cups of vegetable oil
For the salsa:
  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 haas avocados, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 (or 2) limes
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 3 tbs cilantro
  • salt and pepper

1) You need to take your peppers and roast them in the oven. It doesn't matter if they're poblanos or anaheims. I used poblanos but I don't know the difference between the two yet, in terms of taste. They just need not be bell peppers. So how to roast? Take a baking pan, put some aluminum foil on them. Put your peppers on them, giving them room. Drizzle olive oil onto them so that they retain their moisture (if you have a brush, even better! Brush 'em down!). Stick them in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour. Check them periodically throughout. When they start blackening on the tops, rotate them using the stem.

2) While your peppers are roasting, let's make a sauce to eat it with. How about a tomato-avocado salsa? Ok good. So you take 4 tomatoes, dice them, and put them in a large bowl. I used Roma.

3) Next, take 2 Haas avocados, dice those and stick them in the bowl. In case you don't know, you take a knife and start cutting down the middle of the avocado until you hit the pit. Then just start making your way around the seed with the knife. Once all the way around, just take the two halves and twist. They will split easily. Then take the sharp side of your knife and stick it into the seed and just pull out. Take each half of the avocado, using your knife to make vertical and horizontal lines in the fruit. Take a spoon, scoop them out and put them into your bowl with the tomatoes.

4) Take half of a medium red onion and finely chop it! Stick those into the bowl.

5) Squeeze the juice of 1 or two limes into the bowl as well.

6) Put into the mixture 2 tbs of vegetable oil.

7) Put in 2 tbs of honey (mmmm). The original recipe called for 2 tsps but I misread it and put in 2 tbs. It turned out to be a very sweet salsa. Which I liked very much.

8) Now, this is a salsa right? So it MUST have cilantro? Well, I don't like cilantro so I skipped this step. But if you want, put in 3 tbs of cilantro.

9) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

10) Combine all of them gently until the oils and juices and chopped everythings are all incorporated, making sure not to crush the avocado cubes or tomatoes.

Here's what it looks like. It's really nice and sweet and everything mixes very well. It's a little green because the avocado kinda dissolves into the oils. No big. Stick your salsa in the fridge for later. Anyways, once your peppers are done roasting, they should look like this:

Those are what they look like afterwards.

11) Stick them in a large bowl and cover the bowl with saran wrap. Let it sit there for about 20 minutes. Allowing them to steam like this loosens the skins so that twenty minutes later it just comes right off. Then you just peel them.

12) Okay, go over to your cutting board. Take a knife and cut a little pocket halfway down the peppers, being very careful not to tear other parts of the flesh. You want to take a spoon and scoop out all the inner white membranes and seeds. Discard those nasties.

13) Take your cheese and cut them into rectangular prism things the size of your peppers. I used Habanero Cheddar but it's really up to you.

14) Okay now to make the batter. Take 3 eggs (approx 1 egg for every 2 peppers if you want to know the ratio if you're making more) and pour only the whites into a mixing bowl.

This is the hard part... unless you have a blender, mixer, whatever. We need these egg whites whipped so that the batter will be light and fluffy. Since I didn't have any machine to do this, I had to hand-whip it with my trusty whisk! 15 minutes later and a right arm terribly sore, I've whipped those bad boys:

Do it until it's pretty much solid.

15) Take your egg yolks and fold them into the whipped egg whites. Add some salt if you like!

16) Take some vegetable oil in a large stew pot and heat it up real nice on the stove

17) Take some flour in a little bowl thing. You want to take your stuffed peppers, coat them lightly in flour. Make sure it's all covered up. You need it all nice and floured so that the batter you made with the egg whites will stick to your pepper. So after you run it through the flour, stick it in the batter, and then stick it into your hot oil and watch them sizzle and fry!

Just take them out when they're nice and brown. It takes just a couple minutes on each side.

18) Stick them onto a plate with paper towels so that they will soak up the excess oil.

19) When you're done. Stick it on a plate, and pour some of that salsa over it!

Presentation's not the best, but it tasted wonderful so it doesn't matter. I don't even like tomatoes but they were good in the salsa.

There's that. I know this isn't the authentically Mexican way to prepare this, but this is just my variation on the chile relleno.

Until next time!