Monday, July 10, 2006

Weekend Experiments

Saturday--Pasta with Sausage, Fennel & Onions from Lidia's Family Table. I have borrowed the book from the Library and will now add it to my Cookbook Wish List! Lidia is very "instructional" as she is on her TV show. Her recipes are pretty straight forward and her directions are explicit. Great book for novices as well as seasoned cooks looking for some specific Italian dishes both innovative and traditional.

Sunday was big experiment day! First, baked a Pineapple Upside Down Cake in my cast iron skillet using the recipe on Cook's Illustrated. Used fresh pineapple and it turned out very nice, good caramelized topping with cherries and pineapple pieces arranged in a mosaic style vs. the canned ring/cherry center version!

Sunday dinner was the Spring Roll project! Chose a Vietnamese recipe found in PERFECT ASIAN COOKING by Anne Willan A Barnes and Noble publication.

I have a new appreciation for spring rolls. What a labor intensive dish! But when all was said and done....Quite tasty! Of course I went over the top and created three dipping sauces and served two bottled chili sauces, one sweet and one hot, with them as well! One of the made sauces was the typical dipper of Fish Sauce, Lime Juice, Sugar, Rice Vinegar, Chilis and Garlic. Then there was the Tamarind paste & Cilantro version also with Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Lime Juice and Sugar. And then I also made a Mint/Cilantro chutney, which was the least favorite.

Back to the beloved spring rolls: boneless chunks of pork (poached), boiled shrimp, marinated carrot julienne, cabbage leaves, rice stick noodles, Japanese cucumber, bean sprouts, leaves of mint and cilantro.

Just prepping the ingredients is time consuming. Adding to that fact it's also a very tedious process to layer and wrap. Of course realizing that I had 6 1/2 inch Rice Paper versus the 8 1/2" called for in the recipe after the fact was a problem. With the variety and quantity of ingredients those extra two inches would have made a very big difference! Also larger = easier handling.

For alongside our Spring Rolls, we tossed together a vegetable stir-fry using Japanese Eggplant, Red Pepper, Garlic, Ginger, Bean Sprouts and Chinese Cabbage and served it over the extra Rice Stick Noodles.

So the experiment was a success, learned a lot and will plan to make spring rolls again, however limiting the number of ingredients until we have used up the 6 1/2 inch rice paper! Also if making for a crowd, will definitely make sure the rest of the menu is do-ahead items! Although, I must say, these held nicely in the fridge with a damp kitchen towel over them while we cleaned up and made the stir-fry.

Have to plan tonight's follow up meal, we have two rolls leftover, used in the photos--but have some extra cooked shrimp, maybe a cool salad platter to pick from! MMMMMMM-just remembered I got some red fingerlings, maybe a warm potato salad with some French flavors or mint and shallot vinaigrette!

Weekend Movie Notes: Rented Capote and Firewall this weekend, Capote was VERY good, Philip Seymour Hoffman became Truman Capote, amazing portrayal. Firewall was a good suspense flick, just not history making!


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Partly Cloudy, about to rain!

For the quiet Fourth of July I had planned on grilled chicken breasts with lime and tequila salsa with a side of Tortilla chips and avocado salad on torn greens. And homemade Strawberry Ice Cream! However the weather turned ugly, which shouldn't have made any difference since the grill is located on the stove in the apartment kitchen! But somehow on the way home from a quick Target run the mood changed and I grabbed some mushrooms and white wine and decided a sauteƃ© of sorts would be good. Once home I decided to use up some bits of egg noodles and spinach pasta. So what would go good with them? Well, Sauteed chunks of boneless chicken breasts, shallots, and mushrooms in saffron cream sauce!

It was a fairly straight forward process--sauteed the brined chicken breast cubes in half olive oil and half butter, pulled cubes to rest, added chopped shallots and sliced mushrooms meanwhile soaking threads of saffron in 1 cup of chicken broth. Added chicken cubes back to pan and deglazed with 1/3 cup of white wine and reduced to thicken. Then added saffron infused broth and reduced in half, adding one cup of cream and brought to boil. Continued cooking for 3 minutes and served over cooked pasta combo! Sprinkled with chopped parsley, grated Parmesan and freshly ground white pepper! Very good meal with our favorite skinny, crunchy bread sticks.

Dessert was while watching the Boston Pops and fireworks! Strawberry Ice Cream the Philadelphia style, simple pure cream and berries!

Hope everyone else had a great Fourth! Ours was quiet and tasty!