Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Marinara Me

I improved a rather simple dish - made it much better and it wasn't even that difficult!  I must mention that most of my cooking skills are being coached by Mark, my fiance. (He's a fiance now, not just a boyfriend.  How funny to say and type it.) He's a wonderful artist and luckily that creativity carries over to everything else he does.  He is the yin to my yang; where he excels, I do not and vice versa.  My number one focus lately has been to improve my cooking skills, rather GET some cooking skills.  I'm the baker.  I can bake like it is nobody's business-- cooking is another task.  So without mentioning my man too much, because this is for the Bell Ladies, I wanted to give credit where credit is due.

Back to the Marinara:

I bought a bottle from Whole Foods, just a regular bottle of marinara sauce.  It happened to also have arugula and all the Italian herbs that a good marinara should have.  I cut up some red onion and caramelized it with some garlic and butter then I added some cut green beans and kale that I had shredded.  I gently stirred in the kale and green beans so they could cook/steam with the onions and garlic.  After the kale and green beans were sufficiently cooked I added them to the sauce that I had started heating in another pan.

Served it over wheat spaghetti noodles and Voila!  Dinner.

Since its autumn I will tell you my carb saving tip that is one of my favorite dishes.  Instead of using pasta- use a spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash dinner:
Cut squash in half and place both halves face down on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour.  Squash will be soft and come out easily.  Flip over the halves when them out of the oven to get the hot air come off.  Then, with a fork, you can easily get all the squash out, it will come just like spaghetti noodles.  Put your favorite sauce over the top and serve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tofu, Apples & Green Beans... Oh My!

There is something about the autumn that makes me want to spend more time in my kitchen.  It is probably because I'm not stifled by the heat coming from the stove & oven when it is already so blasted hot indoors and out.  Also, I do love the flavors, smells and colors of autumn, its all so captivating!

I had some tofu left that I needed to use, so I picked up a few things at the store and headed home for another trial and error session of cooking.  Apples were on sale and looked so delicious, so I got some organic Gala Apples to really bring out the sweet flavor in my dish.

I fried the tofu almost exactly like I did in the previous post.  I'm still trying to master the perfect fried tofu with all the right consistency, so I was eager to do it again.  In my wok I had some chopped red onion and garlic that I let brown for 2 or 3 minutes before adding the cut green beans.  It was a sort of  'stir fry' so I kept stirring and the stove kept frying.  I added a few dashes of cinnamon, ginger, chili powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper then added the apples to release some good flavor for the remainder of cooking.  If you are going to try this dish note that I just continued to stir the green bean mixture until the beans were a nice snappy but cooked texture to eat.   As a vegetarian the worst thing to me is mushy,overcooked veggies. I prefer to have them undercooked than over... at least they still have flavor if they are undercooked.

I served it all over steamed rice -- and I'm terribly sorry that we gulped it all down before I remembered to take a picture!  It was colorful and delicious.  My kitchen smelled of apples and cinnamon while the crisp LA night air whirled into my front room.  I was pleased that I actually pulled it off  - and it was edible!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Start With a Favorite:

I am really excited to write on this blog. The main cause for my excitement is that I'm trying to cook more frequently and enjoy it! Trying more recipes always seems fun, but I haven't done it for a while so this gives me a really good excuse to be more diligent at cooking.

Last night I made a simple dinner, M commented to me that it was a very "autumn" meal. I guess it was. I'm anticipating the next season because I love the flavors of autumn so much. Brussel Sprouts in Lemon Vinigarette and Fried Tofu over rice. (Don't get scared because I used the word fried, you can use any kind of oil you are comfortable with.)

I must warn you that most of my recipe amounts are "suggestions" I feel that everything tastes better if you just pour, dump and shake until it gets the flavor you like. Some people like more and some like less. My cooking experiences are usually trial and error anyway.

I originally got this recipe from Martha Stewart - I can't find the exact recipe, but here is a similar one on her website click here to see it. The following is my version:

Brussel Sprouts with Lemon Vinigarette
Clean and cut sprouts into 1/4s.
Chop 1/2 Cup or so of red onion
Warm 2 Tbsp. Olive oil (or oil of choice) in frying pan, brown the onions for a few minutes before adding the brussel sprouts to the pan. Let the brussel sprouts brown, stir occasionally, let cook for 4-6 minutes. After Brussels are brown to your liking, add lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon) or a few tablespoons. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Keep on medium heat and cook for another 4-6 minutes. (At this point you can add about 1/2 cup water, cover and cook until water has steamed off. I have skipped this step before, and the recipe also turned out great.)

I always hadd the other 1/2 or a few tablespoons more of lemon juice after its done cooking. Toss and serve. After your chopping is done, cooking time is about 20-25 minutes.

Fried Tofu
This recipe I am still mastering. It isn't difficult at all... just takes a good eye. The best tofu for frying purposes is the firm. You can try the extra firm if you are up for it.

Cut desired amount of tofu into 1/4" by 1" pieces. Lay flat on papertowels for 15 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how much time you have). Last night I only had 15 minutes to spare on drying tofu, so it still worked. When they are on the papertowels, season 1 side of your tofu.

Use whichever spices you like, get creative. Last night I used chili powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Nutmeg, cumin and so many others work nicely too. Combine your favorite spices! Always salt and pepper though.

So put your favorite oil in warm frying pan and plop your tofu pieces into the pan. From here, its just like cooking anything else, let them brown and cook on the seasoned side. Flip over the pieces, season the opposite side, etc. Cook until crispy and light brown on all outer edges and .... Voila! Tasty tofu.

I put this over rice and had the option of sauces to go on it like soy sauce, liquid amino acids (like soy sauce but healthier), or Sriracha Sauce (red chili sauce).