Friday, February 27, 2009

Halibut with Artichoke and Spinach Purée

I love spinach and artichoke dip. This recipe is my version of the dip, served over halibut steaks. It doesn't take long to make, either, and the result is just as delicious!

Artichoke and Spinach Purée

5 artichoke hearts (I used the marinated ones that come in a jar)
1 cup frozen whole spinach (if using fresh spinach, use a little more than a cup)
3 cloves garlic

Coat a sauté pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the spinach and sauté until just about cooked through. Add the garlic cloves (whole) and the artichoke hearts. Turn the heat down slightly and sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt, to taste. Add contents of pan and into a food processor and blend until puréed. Set aside.


1 Halibut steak (approximately 1 inch thick)
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the same pan (from the spinach and artichokes) with olive oil (there should be some left, too) and heat over medium heat. Season the halibut with salt and pepper and coat the fish in flour. When the oil is hot, place the halibut in the pan until browned. Brown each side of the halibut. Place the halibut in an oven-safe pan and bake for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Serve with artichoke and spinach purée.

Fried Eggplant with Tomato Sauce

Eggplant is possibly my favorite vegetable. Whenever I'm craving something meaty and delicious, I usually make eggplant. It soaks up flavors so well, and it's especially good breaded and fried. I like to use Kellogg's Corn Flake Crumbs in this recipe, as it makes the eggplant super crispy and delicious. I serve it with tomato sauce (recipe below) and parmesan, and pasta on the side.

For the Eggplant:

1 large eggplant
2-4 eggs
Kellogg's Corn Flake Crumbs
olive oil

Wash and trim the eggplant. Slice width-wise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices (I like mine thin). Sprinkle the slices with salt and set aside. Heat a quarter to a half cup of olive oil, depending on the size of your pan, over medium heat in a sauté pan. There should be enough oil to fry the slices of eggplant, but not enough to cover them over the top. Line up three plates (it helps if they have a lip to keep the different ingredients from spilling over onto your counter) or three shallow bowls. Pour a decent amount of flour into the first dish. Crack two eggs to start in the second dish, and pour at least a half cup of the crumbs into the final dish. I like to line up the dishes with the one with the crumbs closest to my frying pan, if the kitchen allows. Salt the eggs with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and beat with a fork. By now, the oil should be hot, and you might want to drop a piece of bread in to check if it's too hot. If the bread fries and browns very quickly, turn down the heat to medium-low. Now begin the assembly line to bread your eggplant slices. First coat each slice with flour, then dip into the eggs and coat. Finally, coat each slice with the Corn Flake crumbs. Fry the eggplant slices, in batches if necessary, until golden brown on each side. Lay the slices on a paper towel to drain. Serve with tomato sauce, or use to make eggplant parmesan!

Simple, simple tomato sauce
(This is my favorite tomato sauce. I have made all different kinds with all different ingredients, but this to me is the best! Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, too.)

1/2 of one Vidalia onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
pinch of brown sugar
olive oil

Coat the bottom of a pan generously with olive oil. Heat over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the onions. Do not let the onions brown; they should be cooked until translucent and soft. Once the onions have cooked through, add the can of tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubble, and add the sugar and salt, to taste. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes, or longer, and serve bubbling hot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Love Frozen Vegetables

Last night I got home from the library sometime after 10:30 pm. I hadn't eaten dinner, and I had gotten to the library before 5 pm, but I was determined to finish my paper before I left. Needless to say, I was famished when I walked through the door of my apartment. I had already kind of planned what I was going to make, and I knew that I needed something fast. Normally on a night like this, I would have instant noodles or mac and cheese, something packaged and quick, but I had been eating prepackaged foods for the last couple of days and I was sick of it. I had these tofu noodles that I found at Whole Foods, and I decided to make use of them. And they didn't even need to be cooked in boiling water! I threw them into a pan with some frozen veggies, added some sauces and spices, and I had dinner in 10 minutes.

Stir-Fry with Tofu Noodles

1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 package tofu noodles*
soy sauce
hot toasted sesame oil
brown rice vinegar
brown sugar (optional)
vegetable oil

Generously coat the bottom of a medium sauté pan with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the frozen vegetables and spinach. Once the vegetables have thawed in the pan, add soy sauce to taste. Add a little bit of the hot sesame oil (a little goes a long way), and a splash of the brown rice vinegar. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar, if using. Once veggies are cooked through, turn down the heat and add the tofu noodles. Toss together in the pan until the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce. Add a splash of soy sauce over the noodles and serve.

*Tofu noodles are made completely out of tofu. They actually do taste quite a bit like noodles. I eat them all the time at a restaurant near my mom's house in the Bay Area. Homemade ones are best, but the ones I found at Whole Foods are a nice substitute. If this idea freaks you out, substitute cubes of tofu, or just some cooked white rice.

I think this recipe speaks a lot to my philosophy of cooking. When I'm cooking, I don't expect to be using a bunch of ingredients that cost a ton of money, especially since I'm still in school. That's why I love frozen veggies. But I do believe that, if your funds allow, you should splurge every once in a while on things you crave, like tofu noodles (I haven't found them yet at a restaurant in New York City!). Also, spending money on staples for your kitchen is well worth it, as they will add to a lot of different dishes and will go a long way. This recipe is also all about with making due (actually, making more than just due) with what you have. I love thinking of new ways to use the things that are in my pantry or fridge. I just threw this dinner together with no recipe, like I do every other night, and it was fun and it turned out great. When in doubt, I gather things that I'm craving from my kitchen, put them in a pile, and just start cooking. More often then not, it turns out to be an inspired creation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Too Much Risotto!

Tonight I decided to make risotto for dinner. Risotto is very much a comfort food to me... it's creamy and cheesy, and it fills me up. Risotto isn't hard to make; it just takes a bit of time and lots of love and attention. I purchased some of the ingredients for my risotto from Whole Foods in Manhattan, but the rest I got at the local grocery store in the Bronx. I can usually find everything I need in the Bronx, and it's not as expensive as Whole Foods, but I will occasionally stop there for some special items that I think are worth paying the price for. I bought the mushrooms and Arborio rice at Whole Foods, and everything else came from the Bronx. It's important to use Arborio rice when making risotto, because it's so starchy. I didn't realize at first that my ingredients would yield so much risotto, but I'll have it to eat for the next few days, at least. So this is a precaution... this recipe makes enough for about 4 or 5 people!

Half of one large Vidalia onion
8 0z. mushrooms (I had a mix of baby bella mushrooms, button mushrooms, and a few other kinds, but you can use whatever kind you prefer)
4 cups (32 oz.) vegetable stock or chicken stock
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine, optional (I actually skipped this ingredient, as we didn't have any in the apartment at the time)

Heat the vegetable stock in a pot over medium-high heat, turning off the heat once the stock boils. While the stock is heating, chop the onion. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Coat a large, heavy sauté pan generously with olive oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Don't let the onions brown. Salt the onions to taste. Add the rice and stir, until the rice begins to look translucent around the edges. If using white wine, add the wine and stir until the liquid has been soaked up. Using a ladle, scoop about 2 ladles full of the broth into the sauté pan. Stir the rice until the liquid has absorbed. Add one more ladle of broth, and stir again until it's been absorbed. Continue, one ladle at a time, until about 2/3 of the broth has been used up. Add the mushrooms and the cheese and stir, then continue to add the rest of the broth one ladle at a time, just like before. Once all of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice, taste for salt, and add more if necessary. Serve steaming hot, with a grind of fresh pepper, and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Note: If the rice is not cooked all the way when you taste it at the end, heat some water in a pot and add that one ladle at a time, like the stock, until cooked through. Also, if you don't like mushrooms, you can substitute asparagus, and if you don't like that, well, then, be creative! And one more thing: I have two roommates who are vegan. If you have friends that don't eat cheese and would like to partake in your delicious risotto, don't add the cheese until the very end, so they can scoop some out for themselves just before you put it in.

Tomato Rice

Living with 6 other roommates has its perks. We share lots of food, and hardly anyone ever eats alone. We'll also have the occasional family dinner, where we all cook together and eat together. This is a recipe that I learned from my cousin Karen, who I think learned it from her friend Ezzie, and ever since I made it for my roommates for a family dinner, we make it almost every week. It's a staple of sorts in our apartment. If you want the rice to be extra tomato-y, skip the water and substitute more tomato sauce. Karen also suggested adding a can of beans to the mixture (when you add the tomato sauce and water), which I love to do. Serve it with your meat of choice, with taco fixings, or just in a tortilla. This recipe serves four as a side dish, or two if it's the main course. As always, there will be leftovers for tomorrow!

Half of a small yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (I love garlic, so I put 2), minced
1 cup of white rice
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
Olive oil

Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer under cold water. Let drain. Place a small pot over medium-low heat and coat the bottom with olive oil to heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just starting to brown. Add the rice and cook until the rice is translucent, or at least more translucent than it was to start. Add a few dashes of salt. Add the can of tomato sauce and stir, then add water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn down heat to medium-low or low, so that it is no longer boiling, but slightly simmering. Cover with a lid so that rice stays moist. Let cook for about 20 minutes, depending on the rice (be sure to check on it, and stir it if it sticks to the bottom!).