Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And So it Goes.....

the set up......

This whole blog thing started off well. Cooking, havin' fun. Then......well, like most things that I start, I got caught up with other things. Don't get me wrong, I have done three recipes since my last, I just haven't blogged about it.....oops. But here is my attempt to get back on the wagon in one fowl swoop.

It's a really good thing that the three recipes I have done in the last three weeks or so were the easiest recipes I have maybe ever done, maybe. So this should be quick.

Recipe #1: Bruschetta with Frisee, Proscuitto, and Mozzarella


18 diagonal slices (1/2-inch-thick) baguette bread
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 head of curly endive or frisee leaves, separated into 2-inch strips
1 (7-ounce) ball fresh water-packed mozzarella cheese, drained, cut into 18 thin slices
18 paper-thin slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows


18 diagonal slices (1/2-inch-thick) baguette bread
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 head of curly endive or frisee leaves, separated into 2-inch strips
1 (7-ounce) ball fresh water-packed mozzarella cheese, drained, cut into 18 thin slices
18 paper-thin slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange the bread slices on 2 heavy large baking sheets. Brush 3 tablespoons of oil over the bread slices. Bake until the crostini are pale golden and crisp, about 15 minutes.

Wrap 1 curly endive and 1 slice of cheese with 1 slice of prosciutto, allowing the tops to extend 1-inch over 1 long side of the prosciutto. Arrange the crostini on a platter. Top each crostini with a prosciutto roll. Drizzle the vinaigrette over and serve.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups

what you need to know......

What is Frisee?

Basically Frisee is just another type of lettuce. But technically: French "frisée" (curly). "Lettuce" from the Latin "lactuca."An edible plant with long, wide leaves in shades of green or sometimes red, or simply edged with red. As its name suggests, frisée is a curly lettuce whose long tender leaves are joined to a short whitish stem which somewhat resembles the base of the fennel plant. It's lettuce, whatever.

the story......

So this is a recipe that I wanted to make for my closest Friends Christmas or Friendsmas as we like to call it. Basically, it's just a gathering of my closest four; Max, Sheena, Katie and Ali. We get together and eat really good food, drink anything alcohol, and exchange presents. I was all ready to make this recipe and couldn't wait to try it because it looked so so good.

So. It's the night before the party. My other dear, dear friend Marissa was in town from Seattle visiting so her and my other great girlfriends; Alex, Anne and Carissa, all head out to of all places Williams in Uptown. ISH. Just saying. But we went all the same. We all were just thinking it would be a really simple quiet night with the ladies and we would all head home early. Yea......that didn't happen. [When does that EVER happen?]

Cut to: Bar Close. Me wasted in the back of Anne's roommate [Jackie]'s car on our way to McDonald's. No worries. Got a save ride home. Ate my nasty junk food and went to bed. Oh. Did I forget to mention I didn't quite finish the double cheese burger? Yea.... so I set it on my night stand. The next morning I woke up, still a little drunk. "Ummmmm, morning burger." I thought. I reached over and ate the rest of the burger thinking nothing of it.

I went along with my day with a little hang over but nothing too bad. Got my groceries and started to make my recipe for the party. Something wasn't quite right. I, all of a sudden, was the sickest I have ever been in my entire life. You would think I'm exaggerating, but I assure you I'm not. Just ask Max, Katie, Sheena and Ali who all had to take care of me all night. It was offical, Nurse Ali confirmed it.............I had food poisoning. I was throwing up from 5pm to 3am.

Ish. McMorning Burger!!! NOOOO!!!

Needless to say, I didn't even get to try this recipe seeing as my head was in a toilet most of the night. So this one is a do over.

Lesson Learned......
Don't eat McMorning Burgers. Ever.

Recipe #2: Little Stars with Butter and Parmesan


Any small noodle
Parmesan Cheese

[seriously, that's it]


Boil water. Cook noodles. Add butter and Parmesan. [seriously, that's it]

what you need to know.......
Absolutely nothing.

the story.......

There is no story other than my dear friend Alex loves butter noodles so we decided to make this one from the book. It was the easiest and cheapest recipe I think I will make from the book. It was Delicious though. Try it sometime. Yum.

I did, however, decide that in good conscience I couldn't possibly eat just noodles, butter and cheese for dinner. So. I decided to make green beans with sauteed shallots [my recipe]. All you have to do is blanch [that just means you boil any vegetable in salted water for 3-8 mins depending, drain them and toss them into ice cold water so they stop cooking] the green beans. While they are cooking, I just sauteed one shallot in a pan over medium-high heat in some olive oil. Then, I added the green beans to the shallots for a couple mins. That's it. But it's so so damn good. Also, it went along with the pasta so well and made it a little more of a complete meal.

Recipe #3: Orecchiette with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese


1 cup dried orecchiette pasta
2 cups Mediterranean-style mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), chopped
1 tablespoon goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper


Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the water.

In medium bowl, mix the salad greens with the sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and Parmesan. Top with warm pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to combine and wilt the greens. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, or to taste. Garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired, and serve.

what you need to know.....

What is Orecchiette?

It's basically just a shape of pasta. Technically: Orecchiette are a distinctive Puglian type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, hence the name (orecchio, ear, orecchiette, little ears).

the story.....

My dear friend Anne chose this recipe. We hadn't seen each other in quite awhile so we decided to have a night of wine and food. Alex came as well and supplied us with amazing red and white wine, bread and some of the best dessert ever. it turns out Orecchiette is available to buy, it's just really hard to find. I blame the traffic. I was stuck on friggin' cross town for like an hour in dead lock and was so irritated by that and the whiny child I nannied for all day that when I didn't find the right shape of pasta and the first store I went to, I said "Screw it" and decided to used whatever I had at home. [Turned out to be plain old Rigatoni.]

This dish, like all the others I have so far made from Everyday Pasta was so super simple. Cook pasta. Put ingredients in bowl. Add cooked pasta. Chat with friends. Get a little loopy from the wine. Eat. Just the way I like it.

So. If you don't like goat cheese, or don't know if you do like goat cheese, I wouldn't recommend this dish. It is a very strong flavor, [that I happen to love love love] but some don't and that's the main things you taste in this. My hat came off for the Mediterranean Greens. I'm sold. If you like salads with a sturdier lettuce but still want flavor, Mediterranean greens are the way to go. And they stood up with the pasta really well.

All around it was a really nice, simply, flavorful dish that I can't wait to eat again.

in conclusion.....

So. There you have it. I'm all caught up. Finally. Hopefully this whole "Kecia is really lazy thing" won't happen again......but I'm not making any promises.

next up.....

Max's Birthday Dinner Party!! [unless I get bored before then]

Friday, January 8, 2010

"When Sunny Get's Blue"

the set up...
Date: Thursday, January 7th 2010

Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne
Section: 6 - Quick and Easy Weeknight Pastas
Page: 156

Dear college friend Mrs. Alex Kotarek [no I will not call you Nelson just because you got married. You will be forever known to me as Alex Kotlarek.....sorry Patrick].

Drinks: Castle Rock Pinot Nior
"New Age" White Wine
aka. cheap wine

Music: Vinyl record of Barbra Streistand's "Simply Streistand" played on beautiful turn tables.

the recipe...
Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne


1 pound penne pasta
3 tbs olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp herbes de Provence
Pinch of salt, plus 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the cubed chicken with herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside. Pour off excess oil from pan. Add the chicken broth the pan and cook over medium-high heat, scraping up any bits with a wooden spoon. Add the cream, lemon zest, and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, chopped parsley, and lemon juice. Toss to coat the pasta and chicken with the sauce and serve.

things to know....
What is herbes de Provence?
It's a mixture of dried herbs from Provence invented in the 1970s. Usually the herbs included are a combination of the following: dried marjoram, dried thyme, dried savory, dried basil, dried rosemary, dried sage, fennel seeds.

giada's thoughts...
Both the presentation and flavor of this dish are quite elegant, so while it's easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner, you can certainly serve it to company.

I decided to start with this recipe because, 1] Alex already had most of the ingredients at her house, 2] it was supposed to be an "easy weeknight pasta" and it was late on a Thursday when we started cooking, and 3] by looking at the recipe I was pretty sure it would be a very easy first recipe.

So there we were, having to literally pull ourselves away from great conversation to head to the grocery store in the frigged cold to get the ingredients that we didn't already have: herbs de Provence, a lemon, penne, heavy cream and chicken broth. We venture was a frozen hell, but we pushed on. When we got to the super market, I saw there was a sale on pasta. FATE!! I got like 6 1-lb. boxes of assorted shapes that I thought I would be needing for other recipes for like $6. What a deal.

At home we started. I was so very excited to be cooking in Alex's kitchen because she was recently married and consequently has all these fun gadgets to try out. While I put on a big pot of salted water on to boil, Alex poured our cheap wine [me-red, her-white] and went to chose the music of the evening. I hear her call from the other room, "Now don't laugh. I know you're gonna laugh.....don't laugh." Without another word I hear the stunning pipes of one Miss Barbra Streistand. I laughed.

I digress, on to cooking. It seemed this was going to be a perfect first recipe; non-threatening and pretty self explanatory. Chop, chop, chop, sautee, sautee, sautee. Done. For the most part it was just such. I could even carry on a conversation and cook it at the same time [something I know I will have trouble with in the future].

Chicken with herbes de Provence sauteed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Just as the pasta was getting done and the beginnings of sauce went into the pan, I began to get nervous that this wasn't going to be, how shall i say it?.....flavorful. All it really is, is chicken, milk, pasta and lemon. Eek. I, all of a sudden, was wishing I was alone in my house so if i failed epically I could just sweep it under the rug. No such luck though, Alex was there to keep me honest.

One thing I know that didn't go right, from the very start, was the fact that I was browning the chicken in a non-stick pan. Now that might seem like it wouldn't make a difference at all but from the little I do know about cooking [thank you food network] when you cook any kind of meat, the little bits that get stuck on the bottom of the pan can be lifted up by a liquid and enhance the flavor of the sauce. Well, when you use a non-stick pan.....nothing sticks [ that's kind of point right].

So the sauce, that consisted basically of only chicken stock and heavy cream, came to a simmer and I was having major doubts. Sunny was getting very blue. It seemed like it was going to be bland, boring, tasteless. It wasn't thickening and all the while Barbra was going on and on about loving some dude. I followed the directions, I did everything almost exactly to the recipe. Here's the time to just f#!@ it and hope for the best. So I did. Just as the garnish was being tossed onto the stunning looking dish, "My Funny Valentine" came on and it was time to eat.

Moment of truth.....

First bite. Eh. It was ok. My guess was right at first. Kinda dull. Some would call it subtle flavor, I call it dull. Alex, the cheerleader that she is kept saying, "Just keep eating it, maybe it will grow on you." So I did.

Fourth bite. Better, better. You could really start tasting all the simple flavors that went into the dish. Maybe there was something to this subtle flavor people are always talking about. My pretentious self would say, " The flavors were delicate and developed with each bite."

I took a sip of my red wine.....big mistake. Ish, did those flavors clash. I tried some of Alex's white and that was much better. The chicken was AMAZING. If you have never used herbes de Provence, you should. I would cook up the chicken portion of this recipe and put it with almost anything. It would be really great cold on a salad.....just a thought.

The sauce was growing on me too. I still think that it needs a bit more lemon and salt and pepper to cut through the chicken broth flavor, but it was nice. Rich and silky but still light; like a summer pasta dish that you would eat while sitting in a well air conditioned room drinking really cold white wine.

Because I am constantly over doing things, I couldn't help wonder what I could add to the recipe to make it a little.....more. I might add a pinch of the herbes de Provence into the cream sauce. Maybe sautee up some mushrooms and onions with the chicken. I think this recipe comes down to simplicity. Simple ingredients, simple cooking methods, simple but delicious flavors.

As I'm sitting here writing, I'm eating some of the leftovers from last night. Note: Make the amount that you know you will eat right when it's done. These leftovers certainly DO NOT do the dish justice. The noodles are a bit soggy because they soaked up the cream from the sauce but the fat is left over which makes it grease. Not good.

Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne

what i learned....
The wise old saying: don't judge a book by it's cover. Or in this case, don't judge a recipe by it's seemingly boring ingredients and preparation. Sometimes simple can be delicious.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Here Goes Nothing...

Here I am, a 26 year old woman, starting something she is praying she will have the actual dedication to finish. Don't be mistaken, this is NOT a "Julie and Julia" thing. I know damn well it would take a force of God to get me though an entire french cooking book when I really have had no training what so ever. Not that I couldn't, mind you, I just am too lazy to even try. Also, I have no desire at the moment in French Cuisine. Italian pasta on the other hand......well, let's just put it this way, I could eat nothing but Pasta and Italian dishes for the rest of my life and never, I mean NEVER tire of them.

Pasta is like nothing else. I'm just saying. So like I was saying here I am, a 26 year old woman. I, like so many, have learned to cook not from my mother or father, or through classes and trial and error but the American way....television. I have two words that can completely sum up the largest sore of technique and knowledge.....FOOD NETWORK. I don't mean to say I haven't learned a great deal from my mother and father [who are both amazing cooks and have made a point to have family dinners since I can remember] but after college, when all I was doing was working in a restaurant and coffee house, the greatest pleasure of my days off were to watch the Food Network Sad, maybe. Obsessive, absolutely. But it became something I really looked forward to.

Yes, it was an escape from the real world and the bullshit that comes along with having two costumer service/food industry jobs, but without me even realizing it, it became more than just an escape. I found myself learning and getting excited about cooking. Granted I hadn't started to attempt to actually cook anything that I was watching and learning about, but it kick started a passion for food.

There is so much about the Food Network that is absolutely amazing. I love that I, a normal person, can sit in my own home and learn how to make the most impressive meal simply by watching the television and doing what the professionals do.....and then take all the credit for it. Well, wouldn't you? But here's the thing....learning from a cookbook or from your parents or from the television, it's all the same. The same product [that being a beautiful herb lamb roast or macaroni and cheese] can be learned and produced no matter where you learned it.


Pasta and Italian dishes are what I like to eat most. I happen to have received Giada De Laurentiis' "Everyday Pasta" Cookbook for Christmas nearly three years ago and still hasn't even attempted to cook even one recipe from it. Well my friends, the days of throwing whatever you have in your fridge into a pan and calling it dinner is so over. Follow me through an Italian Feast.....

87 recipies
13 meal combinations
endless possibilities