Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Easy, Awesome Roast Chicken



     Forget Mark Bittman.  I've made his roast chicken with dry, tasteless results.  That was 8 years ago.  I swore off of roasting chickens after that; I decided that the grocery store had perfectly delicious rotisserie chickens.  Easy. 

     But....now I need a chicken carcass on a regular basis so that I can make low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth.  Rotisserie chickens from the grocery store are $6...can I roast a chicken at home for under $6? 



     As it turns out, no, even though this particular recipe only needs two ingredients, chicken and lemons. (Salt and pepper aren't counted as they are pantry staples.)  I spent about $8 on this recipe. 

     BUT.  This is the (second) BEST roast chicken EVER.  (The best roast chicken I've had was made by my chef brother-in-law. Heaven.) 

     This is undoubtedly the EASIEST roast chicken ever.  

     The meat on this chicken is so tender and moist.  Even the breast meat.  The flavor is out of this world.  Uber chicken.  A hint of lemon.  Salt.  Pepper.  Altogether, fabulous.  This ranks as one of my favorite dishes this year. 

     Will I go back to store-bought rotisserie chicken?  Sure, if I don't have time.  Will I make this roast chicken again?  Most definitely--as much as I can.

(I carved out a leg/thigh piece before I took a picture of the whole chicken.  Oops!)

     No nutrition info on this one as it varies so widely, depending on the part of the chicken you're eating.  It's relatively healthy, if you use a roasting pan with a raised rack (you can kind of see it in the picture above).   Have a bit of the crispy skin (just a bit!) so you can savor the loveliness of it all.  Then exercise excellent self-control and strip the rest of the skin (and fat) from the chicken.  Your arteries will thank you.

    The recipe is at Cheap, Healthy, Good; an excellent blog for healthy, cheap eats.  Enjoy!
    

Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta


     Whoa...it's the end of May already!  Hardly time to post about the veggie of the month, eggplant.  Picking a "new" fruit/veggie this month was hard, as I like nearly all of the in-season veggies from the Cottage Industrialist's produce calendar.  Except I've never had rhubarb and I've never cooked with eggplant.  It's nearly impossible to find a rhubarb dish that isn't a dessert, so I went with eggplant.  I've nothing against desserts but I wanted to find a recipe that I could incorporate into the meal rotation...and I don't typically eat dessert.

     I was pleasantly surprised to find that eggplant is easy to work with and easy to cook!  Unlike butternut squash and sweet potatoes; I love both of those veggies but cutting them takes serious muscle.  I'd also read stories on the internet that eggplant could be bitter...I must have picked a lucky eggplant (or a lucky recipe that simply works with any natural bitterness) because I didn't detect any bitterness at all.  In fact, I thought the eggplant cut, cooked, and tasted like squash.

     If you like olives and capers then this dish is most definitely for you!  This is a lovely meal, with layers of flavors and textures.  Definitely use a good extra virgin olive oil, if you have one.  It will shine in this dish.

(Sorry for the picture quality...I forgot to set up additional lighting.)


Eggplant Pomodoro
From Eatingwell.com
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup olives
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
3/4 tsp coarse Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional--I skipped this but then I'm a spice wimp)
12oz whole-wheat pasta (I used homemade whole-wheat fettucine.  A shorter, stouter pasta would be better, such as macaroni.)

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta according the directions the box.  Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside.

2. Chop the olives and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan.  Add the eggplant and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about another minute, until it is fragrant.  Add the diced tomatoes, olives, vinegar, and capers.  Add the black pepper and crushed red pepper, if using.  Stir to combine everything and cook until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5-7 minutes more.  Taste.  Add additional pepper and salt if needed.

4. Remove the eggplant mixture from the pan and ladle over the pasta.  Mix well and serve.

Nutrition Information:
Per serving: 282 calories; 7 g fat ( 1 g sat , 5 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 11 g fiber; 467 mg sodium; 416 mg potassium.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Family, Gia Dinh Cua Toi


     Last week I went out of state to visit my family for my birthday.  We live kinda far apart, so I don't get to see them that often; usually just once a year.  At the back row (l-r) is my sister-in-law, me, then my second brother.  In the front (l-r) is my youngest nephew, my niece, my oldest brother (his wife is in the back row, far left), my oldest nephew, and my Mom.  The kids belong to my oldest brother and his wife.  We're a good lookin' bunch.  I'm not the only girl in the family...my sister lives in yet another state and she wasn't there for this visit.  Yes, my beautiful, petite mom had FIVE kids. 

     It was a wonderful time and my birthday dinner was fabulous! My third brother (he's on the far right in the picture below) and the rest of my family spent the whole day prepping and grilling a five course meal.  What a great birthday present!



    The day began by marinating the veggies, shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy in a homemade sauce.

 
My third brother, making the dough for the flat bread.


The flat bread, ready for the grill...


Mom putting a homemade rub on the tri-tip...


Heating up the coals in the chimney.


My second brother's AWESOME grill set up.  I definitely had grill-envy. 


The set up for the smoker (the tri-tip got cooked in here).


And since we're outside, I'll take you on a photo-tour of my brother's garden.  Those baby plants? Corn!  (Cool!)  And string beans that grow in a bush.  



A huge squash...


And some herbs...Thai basil on the left and Parsley on the right.









Two of my brothers, grilling the veggies...


The veggies looked and smelled great!



Grilling the flat bread.



Grilling pizza for the kids, in case they didn't like anything else on the menu!  (My oldest nephew didn't believe a pizza could be cooked on grill.  I had to show him the picture to convince him!)



Me, enjoying a glass of wine and some truly glorious weather.  (Jim, the hat is a nod to you : )


And at last, the feast!




This last one is a Vietnamese dumpling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  The name completely escapes me at the moment and right now it's too late at night to call my Mom and ask her for the name.



     It was a great birthday!  If food is love, then I am overflowing!  Gia dinh cua toi = my family.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Homemade Pasta Dough Tutorial, With Video


Making pasta at home is so much fun!  It's edible playdough!  And it's totally doable by yourself.   

First, the dough.  Most recipes for homemade pasta use an egg dough.  I skip the eggs to keep the cholesterol levels low.  The resulting pasta is good and quite tender.   So the ingredient list is very short: flour (white and whole wheat), a pinch of salt, and water.  Easy. Simple. Brilliant!

On to mixing the dough.  Now, despite the fact that I exercise nearly everyday, I am averse to doing anything that resembles hard labor in the kitchen.  Yes, this is a post about making pasta at home.  By myself.  Which would fall under the classification of  "working harder than I have to."  Weird and ironic, I know.  But the fun factor offsets the time and labor.

One could mix the dough by hand on the kitchen counter.  Meh.  Before I got my stand mixer (woot!), I mixed the dough in my food processor. 


Then add ice cold water by the tablespoon until the dough comes together to form a ball.  It's about 11-15 tablespoons.  I, ahem, lost count during the process....

Here's a view from the top:


Here's a view from the side:


Plunk the dough ball onto a floured countertop and roll it in the flour so that it's lightly coated:


Then knead it for five minutes.  I actually timed it because as you know, I don't want to engage in unnecessary hard labor.  This develops the gluten in the dough to make it pliable. Add more flour as needed to keep  the dough from sticking. 

video

Divvy the dough into smaller balls about the size of a golf ball.  I got 12 mini-dough balls this time around.  This makes it infinitely easier to roll out the dough on the pasta maker.


Put the dough balls into a plastic baggie and put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  This rest period allows the gluten to relax so that the resulting pasta is tender and pliable.  Or that's what I figure, anyway.  I actually leave the dough in the fridge overnight and bring one dough ball to room temperature at a time as I make the pasta.

Recipe for Eggless Pasta
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Makes ~1 lb of fresh pasta

Ingredients:
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice cold water, plus additional water as needed

Directions:

1. Place the first three ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.

2. With the food processor running, pour in the 1/2 cup water.  The dough should form into a ball, if it doesn't, add additional water by the tablespoon until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too wet, add additional all purpose flour.  The dough should feel a bit wet, at most. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  Add additional flour to keep the dough from sticking to the countertop.

4. Divide the dough into golf-ball sized mini-balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Remove one-two of the pasta dough balls and allow them to come to room temperature.  Set up the pasta machine and roll out according to the directions in the Homemade Pasta Tutorial With Video.  Cook or freeze the pasta according to the tutorial.

Homemade Pasta Tutorial With Video


Making pasta at home is a lot of fun!  Check out my tutorial for Homemade Pasta Dough With Video.

This is the fun part!  Rolling out your playdough pasta!

First, the set up.  You will need an ironing board, a large plastic garbage bag (CLEAN!), a couple of kitchen towels, and a pasta maker.  The advantage of the ironing board is that a) you can get to the pasta maker from all side (this is especially useful if you're making pasta with a couple of friends), b) the height is adjustable for shorties like me (and tall folks!) and c) the clamp doesn't mar your countertop (this happened to my friend, Jim).  You can roll pasta out by hand and there are any number of sites that will show you how to do it.  My friend, Jim, lent me his pasta maker (and then I bought one for my stand mixer).


I also suggest that you lay a sheet on the floor.  Pasta making gets flour everywhere and the sheet would make cleanup faster and easier.

The ironing board isn't thick enough to completely close the clamp on the pasta maker.  So I used a couple of folded kitchen towels to fill-in the extra space.  The picture isn't the best but you'll understand what I'm talking about if you try it at home.


Pull out two balls of dough.  Keep one covered (a damp kitchen towel will work).  Raw pasta dough dries pretty quickly and it's pretty much ruined for pasta making.  Ask me how I know.  Let them come to room temperature.

Generously flour the top of the ironing board.  Then flatten the dough ball. 


Flour the dough ball.  And now you're read to play with the pasta maker!

There's a dial on the side of the pasta machine, this sets the thickness of the dough.  Set it to "1."  It's hard to see in the picture but you get the idea.


Crank the handle to feed the dough through the rollers.  The video wouldn't upload, so click here to watch it. (Sorry for the background noise....I had NPR on while I was making the pasta!)

A few notes about using the pasta roller.  The widest thickness is setting #1.  As the numbers go up, the dough is rolled thinner and thinner.  Setting #1 also acts to knead the dough a little further.  I run the dough through setting #1 three times; folding it in thirds each time.  Then I turn to setting #2; I like to run the dough through each setting twice.  The first run "thins" out the dough then the second run smooths it out further.  I stop at setting #4 for fettuccine. 

As the dough gets thinner, it also gets longer.  The length makes it a bit harder to manage but here's where the plastic garbage bag really helps out:

video

Here is the final length of that first dough ball.  It's well over a foot long!  Not bad for a golf-ball sized bit of dough!


The pasta dough is now ready to be cut.  The manual pasta machine excels at cutting fettucine.  Hook the fettucine cutter to the opposite side of the machine (you can make it out in the picture above).  Pull the hand crank out of the main body of the machine and insert it into the cutter attachment.  Generously flour the pasta dough.  (The resulting fettucine strands will stick together otherwise.) Using the metal feed plate to support the length of the dough, feed the dough into the cutter.

video

Finally, here's the fresh, homemade pasta!



Dust the pasta with a bit more flour and allow to dry slightly--about 30 minutes.

To cook the pasta, bring a pot of lightly salted water (I use 1 tsp for a pound of pasta) to a rolling boil.  Drop the pasta in.  Fresh pasta cooks quickly, in about 3-5 minutes.  It floats to the top of the water when it is done.  Toss with the sauce of your choice and enjoy!

You can also freeze fresh pasta; I prefer to freeze mine before it's cooked.  Again, allow the pasta to dry about 30 minutes, then place it into a resealable bag and put it into the freezer.  There is no need to thaw it prior to cooking, just follow the directions above.

Making homemade pasta is fun to do by yourself, with friends, and/or especially with kids!  Have a great time with it!

Recipe for Eggless Pasta (Click here for my tutorial, Homemade Pasta Dough With Video)
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Makes ~1 lb of fresh pasta

Ingredients:
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice cold water, plus additional water as needed

Directions:

1. Place the first three ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.

2. With the food processor running, pour in the 1/2 cup water.  The dough should form into a ball, if it doesn't add additional water by the tablespoon until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too wet, add additional all purpose flour.  The dough should feel a bit damp, at most. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.

4. Divide the dough into golf-ball sized mini-balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Remove one-two of the pasta dough balls and allow them to come to room temperature.  Set up the pasta machine and roll out according to the directions above.  Cook or freeze the pasta according to the directions above.