0810 Shrimp Tacos, Corn on the Cob

Necessity is the mother of invention, right?  Tonight’s dinner is brought to you by the urgency of thawing food from the freezer and of a giant bag of corn dropped on a doorstep.

shrimp taco
Photo by beanqueen

A pound of shrimp that half thawed over the weekend, peeled and quickly sauteed. A couple of spoonfuls of yesterday’s cilantro “pesto” (which I forgot to mention also contained a handful of raw cashews, which added a creamy nuttiness). Hard taco shells (soft would’ve been better).  Corn on the cob, boiled and topped with a fair amount of butter, salt, and pepper.  Simple, satisfying, and delicious.

0809 Curried Pork, Cilantro Pesto

I had intended to make Curried-Pork Noodles at some point this week, but when we came home yesterday and discovered our freezer minutely ajar, the pork was moved up to the front of the meal queue.  Once this was discovered, I should’ve just removed the bones from the chops and ground the meat up straight away – but alas, I was tired and flustered, and so I went to bed instead, dreaming of kebabs as I fell asleep.

I woke up this morning motivated to make my imagined kebabs, and in doing so made one of those stupid prep mistakes that only happens when you’re not quite awake.  One bowl contained cubed pork topped with yogurt for a marinade.  The other bowl contained my breakfast yogurt.  You can guess which bowl received the generous spoonful of curry powder.  Augh!

Since I’d already started playing with the idea of the recipe, I decided to take it a step further.  The cilantro that I picked up last week was getting a bit limp, so I whizzed it up in the food processor with a chopped up banana pepper, olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and salt and pepper, which produced a pesto-like sauce with just a bit of heat.  While the pork broiled away on skewers in the toaster oven (instead of on the grill – curse you, rain!), I made a pot of white rice.  I was overly cautious with the cook time on the pork, but the moisture from the rice and the “pesto” made it work.

In the end, we had a fantastic and simple dinner with pretty complex flavors – and I felt like a contestant on Top Chef, having remixed the components of a recipe into something different, yet recognizably like the original.

0228 A Stellar Day in the Kitchen

Today started with an outstanding breakfast and carried on full-bore to homemade Twinkies.  Pretty damned amazing.

Breakfast: ruby-red grapefruit broiled with a bit of sugar.  Fresh squeezed orange juice for Shane from 2nds produce we found at Meijer.  Soft scrambled eggs with wheat toast and slices of avocado.  A pot of  Ethiopian Sidamo from Zingerman’s.  If I could breakfast like this every day, I’d be a happy girl.

But before that, and actually before the coffee had started brewing, I had Thin Mint ice cream freezing away.  I haven’t made it to custard-based ice creams, but when the basics taste this good, I’m not going to sweat it.

After breakfast, I infused some olive oil with garlic, then added it to the dough for a savory flatbread for tonight’s baking extravaganza.  While the bread rose, I made paneer – the second cheese making adventure!  Paneer is much more forgiving and simple than mozzarella – basically just heating up milk with an acid to separate the whey from the solids, then draining, rinsing, and pressing.  We’ll use it up in matar paneer tomorrow night.  The warmth from the paneer process made the bread rise beautifully – much better than the last time ’round.

To go with the flatbread, a spinach pesto with sun-dried tomatoes, all whirred together in the Cuisinart with olive oil, salt and pepper, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a handful of toasted pine nuts.  It tasted so green and fresh that it was hard not to dig in right away.  The flatbread, just fancied up pizza dough, was rolled out thin, rubbed with the infused oil, and topped with lavender salt and oregano.  Savory, crispy, and delicious.

And then the pièce de résistance – homemade Twinkies.  But that may be a story for another day.

Twinkies awaiting their buttercream

Recipes:
Simple Vanilla Ice Cream from Cuisinart – sub 1 tbsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp mint extract for the vanilla, and add 1 cup crushed Thin Mints in the last 5 minutes of the freezing process.  I didn’t have enough heavy cream, so I subbed in 1 cup half and half and increased the freezing by a couple of minutes.

Paneer from fxcuisine – made a half batch, as we really didn’t need a gallon’s worth

Pesto from Jamie’s Dinners – except with spinach instead of basil, and with a handful of sun-dried tomatoes tossed in for good measure

Pizza Dough from a variety of sources
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3 1/4 c flour, any type or combo
1 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil (garlic-infused!)

In a small bowl or a measuring cup, dissolve sugar in warm water.  Sprinkle yeast over water and stir a minute or so to dissolve.  Set aside for 5 min or so–a layer of foam should form on top.  In a big bowl, mix together flour and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the yeasty water and the olive oil.  Stir with a wooden spoon (and possibly your hands) until everything holds together as a dough.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and flexible and not sticky.  When you’re done kneading, form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl to rest, flipping it around in the bowl so it gets coated with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit for about an hour.  When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and make it into a ball, then roll it out and top it.  This recipe makes enough dough for one great big pizza or two small-medium ones.  Preheat your oven to 500, then bake the rolled-out dough 10-12 minutes before adding toppings.

0218 Pasta, Pesto, Salad

I thought it might be a good idea to go running Wednesday night since the temperature appeared to be above freezing.  And by ‘above freezing’, what I mean is that it was 33.  And oh, did my lungs and knees pay the price!  I spent all of today on the couch or in bed sleeping and generally feeling really uncomfortable.  All of this is just my way of telling you that we had no dinner plan – and definitely not one that I was in any shape to execute.

In Jamie’s Dinners, Jamie Oliver presents a set of foundational recipes that can then be used in a variety of meals – pesto is one of these dishes, and it has served us well.  When I picked up basil for Sunday’s polenta, the options were .4 ounces for $2.99 or 5 ounces for $4.99, so I bought the larger package and made up a bunch of pesto with the leftovers earlier in the week.  That pesto made for a quick and delicious pasta dinner accompanied by a salad with sun-dried tomatoes.  Sometimes simple and easy is also just right.

Recipe:
Pesto from Jamie’s Dinners