Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

30 07 2009

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I had some friends over the other night for dinner.  I was tired of offering everyone my traditional appetizer… cheese and crackers.  So I peered into my fridge and found some sun dried tomatoes that I’d used for cous cous a few weeks ago.  I thought I’d try my hand at pesto.

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The problem is I only had a few ingredients handy.  I was missing pine nuts and basil.  But I thought I’d try it anyway and see how it turned out.  The secret to pesto is creating a thick emulsion with olive oil.  Normally you create this with basil and pine nuts, garlic, and cheese, then in a food processer you slowly add olive oil until it’s thick.  In this case I used sun dried tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, and olive oil.  That’s it!

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Cut up a french baguette, brush with olive oil, and cook in a 350-degree oven until toasted (about 5 minutes on each side).  Make sure you set a timer so it doesn’t burn.

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The final product is delicious and garlicy.  And the sun dried tomatoes are concentrated, so it has a very sweet flavor.  It’s easy and delicious.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Serves 8

Ingredients

8-10 sun dried tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

4-6 oz Parmigiano Reggiano

1/2 c olive oil

1/2 t cayenne pepper (optional)

1 loaf French baguette

Directions

  1. Place Parmigiano Reggiano in chunks into food processer and pulse until the cheese resembles small crumbs.
  2. Add sun dried tomatoes and peeled garlic to the food processer and pulse until finely chopped.
  3. Pour olive oil in thin stream from top of food processer while running.
  4. Slice up baguette in 1/2-inch pieces. Brush top and bottom of bread slices with olive oil.
  5. In 350-degree oven, toast bread until crispy.
  6. Serve in dipping bowl, or spread pesto on each toast individually.
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Rudy’s BBQ

15 07 2009

One of the first things that popped into my head when I found out we were moving to Austin was Texas BBQ.  Yes, I know that’s kind of sad.  The fact that out of all the amazing wonders of the Lone Star state, I focused on food is pretty telling of my state of mind (and waistline).  But it’s always on my mind, what can I say?!?  People are very passionate about their BBQ here.  And each person has their favorite.  But a consistant favorite here is Rudy’s.

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The first thing about the Rudy’s near my house…  It’s not a restaurant, it’s a gas station!!  Seriously!  Some of the best BBQ in Austin is attached to a Shell station.  Awesome.  But once you’re inside, you’re immediately transformed into a country cookin’ extravaganza.  It’s like a big church picnic inside.  There’s even a winding line (like you’re waiting for a rollercoaster).  There are rows of soft drinks, beer, cole slaw, potato salad, banana pudding, and huge pickles.

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Once you get to the counter, you order your meat by weight.  “I’d like 1/2 pound moist brisket and 1/4 pound smoked turkey.”

After you get your 2 lbs of meat, you have to use their famous BBQ sauce.  The sauce comes out of the dispenser like lemonade from a Igloo cooler.  Even more awesome.

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When you’re finished eating, they even have a hand washing jacuzzi that shoots warm sanitized water on your hands and gets rid of all the sauce and meat that may be sticking to your fingers.

Rudy's Hand Washer

One of my favorite things is the cole slaw here.  It tastes sweet and tangy, just like KFC but fresher and more delicious.  I’ve tried to recreate the recipe and I think I’ve got it pretty close.

Sweet Cole Slaw

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 small head green cabbage

3 carrots

1 c mayonnaise (can substitute light)

1/4 c sugar

2 T apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Grate cabbage into small pieces using a box grater or the grating blade on a food processer.
  2. Grate carrots using box grater.
  3. In a big bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar with cabbage and carrots.




Southwestern Salsa

11 07 2009

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Is it a salsa?  Is it a salad?  What about a relish?  I guess you could say it’s all three.  But the best part about this is it’s healthy and really good.  And without a hint of oil or fat (with the exception of the avocados) this is virtually health food!

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When you are shopping for the ingredients, make sure they are really good and fresh.  I’d encourage you to buy all organic for this dish, if possible.  Not because I’m a hardcore organic fanatic, but since there’s no cooking involved, it’s probably better to choose things that have the least amount of pesticides and other foreign stuff.

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If you have a serrated knife, that’s the easiest thing to use to cut tomatoes.  You can get a cool red one for about $12 at any cooking store.  Make sure you dice all the vegetables the same size so you don’t have any huge chunks in your salsa.  Just throw everything into a big bowl and stir a few times.  That’s it!

Southwestern Salsa

Serves 8 one-cup servings

Ingredients

5-6 roma tomatoes

1 sweet onion

2 small avocados

2-3 tomatillos

3 jalapeno peppers

2 anaheim peppers

2 ears sweet corn

2 cloves garlic

1 15-ounce can black beans

1 T cumin

1 T chili powder

1 T chopped cilantro

1 T white sugar

1 lime (juiced)

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Remove seeds from tomatoes and dice. Dice onion and avocados.
  2. Remove wrapper from tomatillo and dice.
  3. Remove seeds from jalapeno and anaheim peppers and dice in small pieces.
  4. Boil corn in water for 2 minutes only. Cut corn off cob with sharp knife using a bundt cake pan to hold end of cob and catch the kernals.
  5. Chop garlic in small pieces.
  6. Rinse canned black beans under cool water in a colander.
  7. Add cumin, chili powder, cilantro, sugar, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  8. Mix in large bowl.




Baked Macaroni and Cheese

6 07 2009

 

Baked cheese goodness.

Baked cheese goodness.

I’ve always been a huge fan of macaroni and cheese.  I mean who wouldn’t be?  Cheese, pasta, butter, milk, buttery crunchy on top.  YUM!  But I have this uncanny knack to ignore the traditional recipe to make something even more naughty.  Normally you use cheddar cheese in mac and cheese, but that’s just not enough.  I need more flavor.  More cheesy goodness.  So I add extra sharp cheddar and/or gruyere and/or parmigiano-reggiano.

Or all of them!

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So that’s it.  I made macaroni and cheese tonight.  It was easy and it was delicious.  The gourmets make their mac and cheese with all of my favorite cheeses too, but they add all sorts of herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, whatever.  I like mine simple, they way grandma’s make it.  Cheese, pasta, butter, milk.  And then instead of a bread crumb crust on top… saltines!  Butter covered saltines.  Hungry?

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 lb pasta (macaroni or any other short stubby pasta)

4 T + 3 T unsalted butter (divided)

1/4 flour

2 c whole milk

4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese

4 oz gruyere cheese

2 oz parmigiano-reggiano cheese

10-12 saltine crackers

1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees and butter 8×8 baking dish.
  2. Boil pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
  3. Melt 4 T butter in small saucepan.  Add flour and stir for 2 minutes to remove raw flavor of flour.  Add milk and stir until thick and bubbly.  Add salt and pepper to sauce.
  4. Grate cheeses and add to white sauce.
  5. Add pasta to cheese sauce and place in baking dish.
  6. Crush saltines.  Melt 3 T butter and add to crushed saltines.  Place crumbs on top of pasta.
  7. Bake in 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until topping golden brown.




Flank Steak Marinade

3 07 2009

I just returned from an amazing weekend at my friend Ross’ ranch.  As is usual with my crowd, I was assigned dinner which a wholeheartely accepted.  This was partially because I don’t have ready access to a BBQ grill while living in a high rise building here in Austin.  Any chance I have to use a grill, I will gladly jump at the chance.

On the ranch.

On the ranch.

I decided to try a few summer salad dishes and then grill marinated flank steak.  Dessert was easy because there were fresh strawberries at Central Market, so I decided on vanilla pound cake with strawberries.  Because I am fairly social, I hate spending all evening in the kitchen cooking while everyone else has fun.  So I prepared the food beforehand, and then just put it all together at the ranch.

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It's easier to prepare food before a party!

Everyone raved at the flank steak that we grilled.  It’s such an easy recipe that I originally got from my friend Becca (who got it from an old mission companion of hers).  There are only a few ingredients and you just need to marinate the steaks for 3-4 hours.

Flank Steak Marinade

Marinates 1 large steak (double if you are using more than one steak)

Ingredients

1/2 c soy sauce

1/4 c water

1 t ginger (peeled and sliced)

2 cloves garlic (smashed)

2 T white vinegar

1 T olive oil

1 T sugar

1/2 t black pepper

1/2 t red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Put flank steak in 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag.
  2. In small bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour marinade over flank steak and seal bag squeezing out as much air as you can.
  4. Allow to marinate for 3-4 hours.
  5. Grill steak on hot BBQ grill for 4-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare (6-7 for medium).  I refuse to cook any red meat past medium!




Clam Chowder in New England

15 11 2008
Any foodie cannot pass at a chance to visit the coast of Maine and have a lobster roll.  Even when you are in Boston on business.  A crazy foodie will rent a car, drive a few hours, eat, then drive back.  That’s what we do.  So I set my GPS toward Kennebunkport and off I went.  I had seen The Clam Shack mentioned on the Food Network.  People raved about their famous lobster rolls and clam chowder.  So I needed to see what all the buzz was about.

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By the time I arrived at the famous Clam Shack, I was starving and ready for some lobster and clam chowder.  Boy was it good!!

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Lobster Roll... yum!

When I got home, it is any surprise I had to try my hand at a bowl of clam chowder?  This recipe is very basic, but good.  This is a time saver because you don’t have to buy the live clams, clean them, cook them, and then harvest the deliciousness.  However, because we are skipping this step the flavor is slightly compromised.  I promise I’ll make this another time and give the clams the proper attention they deserve!

New England Clam Chowder

Serves 8

Ingredients

3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams

1 cup minced onion

1 cup diced celery

2 cups cubed potatoes

1 cup diced carrots

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 quart half-and-half cream

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Drain juice from clams into a large skillet over the onions, celery, potatoes and carrots. Add water to cover, and cook over medium heat until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clam juice. Heat through, but do not boil.
  3. Stir in clams just before serving. If they cook too much they get tough. When clams are heated through, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.




Quick Beef Stew

13 10 2008

Every Sunday night I like to cook.  It’s the time when I can spend multiple hours in the kitchen and not feel guilty about shirking my other work, family, and personal responsibilities.  So… on Friday afternoon I usually start getting giddy about what I’m going to make on Sunday.

This week… I was initially planning on an elaborate French-inspired deliciousness… but alas, Sunday got the best of me and I found myself scrambling at 3:00 PM for something to make.  So I thought a good Stew sounded warming and filling.

However, there was a catch.  Usually when making Beef Stew, you want to either 1) plan ahead so your tough stew meat has hours and hours to braise (cook in liquid) properly to tenderize the meat, 2) marinate the tough stew meat in some sort of acid (vinegar, wine, salt) to break down the connective tissue, or 3) buy a more tender cut of meat to use, but this usually means much more expense.  Well… I decided to get creative and combine #1 & 2 and try and reduce the cooking time, since it was already mid-afternoon and I was hungry!

I used a Bottom Round steak because it was on sale and very lean, cut it in very small bite-size pieces, and then braised it in tomato soup for one hour on med-high.  What happened??  Well, because I cooked the steak in acidic tomato soup, it broke down the tissue AND the heat also broke down the tissue.  After cooking this for an hour, I added the remainder of the stew ingredients and cooked for an additional hour.

The result… very tender meat and “cooked all day” tomato sauce mixed with traditional beef stew.  It was absolutely delicious.  And even moreso the day after!

Beef Stew (serves 6)

1 lbs Bottom Round steak

1 T olive oil

1 cans (10.5) Tomato Soup Concentrate

1 1/2 c. water

1 T. Worcestershire Sauce

1 T Dijon mustard

1 medium onions (diced)

2 cloves garlic (diced)

2 turnips (peeled and diced)

3 small Yukon Gold potatoes (diced with skin on)

3 carrots (peeled and chopped)

4 cups beef stock (I prefer Swanson’s Organic)

1/4 cup flour

1 cup water

salt and pepper

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1. Cut up bottom round steak into 1-inch dices.  Salt and pepper these steak pieces.

2. In a large dutch oven, heat 1 T olive oil and brown steak pieces.

3. Add tomato soup, water, Worcestershire, and mustard to pot.  Cook on med-high, covered, for 1 hour until meat is tender stirring frequently.

4. While meat is cooking, dice garlic, onion, potatoes, turnips, and carrots and place in large bowl.

5. After meat is cooked (1 hour) add all vegetables at once and beef stock.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on medium heat for 1 hour.

6. After stew has cooked for an hour, in a separate container, add flour to cold water and whisk until combined.  Add to stew and cook for an additional 10 minutes.