Friday, September 25, 2009

yet more decadence

I don't know why Chicken Salad always looks and tastes decadent, it's easy to make, and a great way to get rid of leftovers.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt & pepper

about 1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, cut in half
2 green onions, minced
half an apple, cubed
3 tbsp mayonaise
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
a little bit of fresh minced tarragon
salt & pepper
optional: few tbsp chopped pecans

spice the chicken breasts with salt, pepper & a little marjoram, and bake, covered, at 350 for 20 minutes, or until done. cool the chicken.

when cool, chop or shred, and mix in bowl with all other ingredients. let chill for at least one hour and adjust seasonings before serving.

I know alot of people like celery in this dish for the crunch factor, but I didn't have any celery in the house, and wasn't in the mood for it anyways. the apples give a really nice crunch, but we'll have to see how they survive in the fridge overnight. Here's hoping i don't have a bowl of mush tomorrow morning.

the husband's guess is that Chicken Salad has a reputation for decadence because once upon a time it was considered "hotel food" - a luxury. well, I bet hotels and restaurants love the stuff, because it lets you use up a bunch of stuff that would go bad otherwise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

my very decadent lunch

i just had to brag. Made this for lunch today out of mostly random bits and peices in the fridge that needed to be used up.

a grilled cheese sandwich made with Edam, Summer Sausage rolled in herbs de provence, and roasted red peppers. and yeah, you can call it a grilled cheese sandwich, but i call it luxury.

eat that!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Feast

Passover is my favorite holiday, followed by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I'm usually planning a weeks worth of Passover food upwards of a month in advance, but Rosh Hashanah is just one feast meal, so the planning might begin a week ahead, maybe a few days again. I gotta say, sometimes the planning and the cooking is more fun than the eating.

Traditional Rosh Hashanah food is based on the phrase "May you have a sweet year. May God inscribe you in the book of life". So lots of sweet foods (for a sweet year), hand shaped foods (for the Hand of God that inscribes you in the book of life), round foods (for the never ending circle of life), lots of apple and honey, sweetened bread, fruit filled meats and sweet sauces. Having had apples and honey and apples and honey and bread and honey as the "Rosh Hashanah snack" my entire childhood, it was time for apples and honey and bread, just not in the same bite.

For any Jewish Holiday involving food, you gotta have Challah. Just a few minor changes to a regular Challah make it extra sweet and pretty for Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah Challah (makes One Challah)

1 pkg dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg + 1 egg white for later
1/8 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 oil
2 - 3 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in warm water for half hour, then drained

dissolve yeast in the water, with a little bit of honey. let sit 10 minutes or until frothy. beat one egg in a large bowl, then add honey, salt & oil and beat again. now add yeast mixture, and mix well. Add the flour, a little at a time, you shouldn't need all of it, until a soft dough forms. flour your hands, and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if it gets too sticky to handle. put a few drops oil in the bowl, and turn dough to coat. cover, and let rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours. after first rise, punch down, and knead the raisins into the dough.

Sabbath Challah is braided, and Rosh Hashanah Challah is round. Grease a cookie sheet, and pull the dough into a long rope, one end being fatter than the other. put the fat end in the middle of the cookie sheet, and wrap the rope around it. If it resembles a cinamon roll when you're done, you did it right. cover, and let rise for one more hour. half hour before your going to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 400. right before baking, brush the top of the loaf with egg white. bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned.

Let cool completely before eating. Eat hot bread and you'll get a tummyache!

CousCous Stuffing
I wanted to do a stuffed turkey, but i didn't want to go the normal route of stuffing, and i wanted some sweet and filling in there. I also have an unholy love for fried onions.

1 onion
pinch sugar
2 cups prepared CousCous (make it with broth, not water)
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
5 or 6 chopped dried dates
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried cardamom
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
salt & pepper

Slice the onion, and fry in a little oil over medium heat. add the sugar if you want, it will help the onion color faster. after onion is fried and browned to your satisfaction, blend all ingredients and refridgerate at least one hour. after an hour, taste and add more spices as needed.

that's gonna go great in this delicious fruity
Apricot glazed Turkey
Whole Turkey
Apricot preserves- how much you need depends on how big the bird is
salt & pepper
olive oil

A little like the famous Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roll, but i didn't feel like deboning the Turkey. make sure the Turkey is completely thawed! put cotton stuffing bag in the cavity, and gently stuff with cooled stuffing. close bag, use toothpicks to keep the opening closed. flip the bird breast up, and gently pull the skin away from the flesh, pulling towards the spine. If your able to pull the skin away from the legs as well, that's even better. Don't completely pull the skin off, it's going to be the "blanket" to keep all the moisting and flavors in. rub the flesh with oil, and season with salt and pepper. brush with apricot preserves and tarragon. now fold the skin back over, and secure down with toothpicks. rub oil over the skin, and season with more salt & pepper. cover with foil, and bake at 350 approx 15 minutes per pound. check with a meat thermometer before you eat it! Not sure how long to cook your turkey, or how to know when it's done? call your Mom or Grandma, they'll know. And they'll be really proud of you for cooking a whole turkey!

Sweet Potatoes w/Honey soy glaze
I got this out of a Japanese Cookbook from the library a few years ago. and you just can't go wrong with sweet potatoes.

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 olive oil
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dried ginger

toss potato peices in a bowl with oil and some salt. pour onto a greased rimmed cookie sheet, and roast at 350 for 30 minutes, or until edges are browning. drizzle sauce over, and broil for a minute or two (beware of smoke!! Our smoke alarm almost went off!).

Green Beans with breadcrumbs
Had this at a friends house, and it was love at first bite. Cuz ya'll know I love greenbeans!

1 lb green beans
1 tbsp italian breadcrumbs

saute green beans in oil over medium heat. you want to get a little browning on 'em. when they are bright green with bits of charring, they're done. takes about 8 minutes. combine in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, serve immediately.

Dessert was the deliciously magnificient Cardamom Apple Cake. Again, what a pain in the nect to make, but so delicous it's worth it. we had it with strawberries on the side.

So that was the Rosh Hashanah feast, and it was beyond delicious. Can't wait till Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 11, 2009

i want this.

i love the idea of math, but math hates me back.

i want this.

The Math Book, by Clifford Pickover.

A few more thoughts on Stephenson's Quicksilver

And no, I haven't finished it yet. Not even close.

If you pick up this book thinking it is going to be just another novel, you will not like it. If you pick it up thinking I surived Robert Jordan, I can survive this!!, you probably will not like it.

Quicksilver isn't so much a novel as it is a discussion and an observation. If all my history of math (which I hope to re-read this winter) and history of science had a plot line, they would read like Quicksilver. If I can survive reading this, I'm pretty sure i'll be inspired to pick up the husband's histories of econ in Europe books. Although they look obscenely boring.

Read a novel, learn something, get inspired to learn more about a subject you had always thought was obscenely boring. Now that my friends, is a sign of a good author. Ok, and author who really, really, really for the love of anything you believe in needs a better editor, but a good author nonetheless.

That said, if someone were to ask me “is is a good book? Did you like it?” my response would have to be something along the lines of “describe the last sunset you saw”. Because the person's response could easily define if they will like Quicksilver or not. Was the sunset just ok? Did they not even notice it? Were they too busy texting at the time? Or were they fascinating by the shape and colors of the clouds? Did they stand and watch for a few minutes as they could observe the height of the sun just by seeing what colors the clouds were, and how tall the clouds were based on if there was any daytime sunlight on the tops of them? Do you see what I mean?

On that note, I believe this saturday will be spent away from distractions attempting to read more of Quicksilver. Those distractions being the 2nd cutest video game ever, Eternal Sonata, (the cutest video game ever would be Katamari Damacy) and a fun actiony gamey thing called Devil may Cry. Damn you xbox 360, and your distracting box of fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

I require FUN books.

I'm finding in my old age, that fun is a requirement while reading for pleasure. Call me unliterary, call me immature, call me uneducated, just so long as you call me.

Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson – informative, humorous, beautifully detailed, a palatable history lesson, but fun? Not so much. I'm about a third (400 pages + )of the way through, and I just don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. Like this is going to be 900 pages of set up, for something that's going to take another 2500 pages to come to fruition. Have I ever mentioned I hated reading Robert Jordan? The one thing this book really has going for it is it's damn educational. I feel like I'm taking a political / financial history class, and for once, this is a good thing. Stephenson's got so much going for him, would it kill him to get a damn editor? If/When I write a review for this book, it's going to read like a dissertation, because it will take me 10 pages just to set the scene. Even worse, the stupid book is addicting. I can't put it down because the characterization is great, and I'm getting a great history lesson, but other books sitting around the apartment are just so much more fun and entertaining. Sigh.
And will someone please tell me what the hell Enoch Root is doing in Massechussetts in 1713? Shall I just assume he's immortal?

Hood, by Stephen Lawhead – again informative, somewhat humorous, detailed, somewhat of a history lesson, a little slow. Many of the same things I complained about regarding Stephenson's Quicksilver, but with Lawhead, it's not such a big deal. Then again, in my book, Stephen Lawhead can do no wrong. He may write some cheap endings (Endless Knot!), but I still adore him. Hood is his take on the Robin Hood legends, except in Wales, during the Norman conquest of England. Bran ap Brynchan may be the heir of Elfael, but he wants to live his life as differently as his warlord father as possible. When his father is killed by invaders, Bran can run away from the burning villages of his people, or he can stay and fight. More apathetic than afraid, Bran simply does not want the life of a leader. He saw what that life did to his parents, and he wants anything but for himself. Finding safety in the forest, and help from a forest “witch”, it takes time for Bran to decide to do the right thing. The middle of the book is fairly slow, but it needs to be, as Bran is fighting his transformation into the leader he didn't know was inside him. Lawhead makes this into a perfectly acceptable Robin Hood myth. Where's friar Tuck? Where's king Richard? Don't worry, they are in there, just in slightly different incarnations. I am looking forward to the rest of the books in the trilogy – Scarlet and Tuck. Another thing I respect about Lawhead – he doesn't string me along. A trilogy is a trilogy, a stand alone book is a stand alone book. Lawhead tells me ahead of time how much of my attention he wants, and I like that.

Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch – This is the second or third time I've read this book, which is the 2nd book in Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series. Sure, It's not as good as the first book, but damn, it is just so funny, and I can't help but giggle at all the swear words. Like the first one, Red Seas is pure, unadulterated FUN. It's taken me a long time at admin to my friends that I am a Scott Lynch fan girl, as his stuff just strikes me as so immature. But when I want something fun, he is my go to author. Don't be surprised in a group of rabid fangirls descends on Lynch's home in Wisconsin, demanding the next book in the series.

Adventures in cooking, take three. Been looking for a tasty jerk chicken recipe, and finally found the secret is to just cheat, and buy some citrusy kicky jerk sauce, then doctor it up at home. This recipe looks complicated, but like everything else I make, it's really pretty easy.

Jerk Chicken with rice & beans
1 cup uncooked rice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can diced pineapple (don't drain it!)
2 green onions, sliced thin
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ cup orange juice
2 tbsp jerk sauce (we used Lawry's, and it was really good)
1 tbsp ground ginger
3 or 4 skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and seasoned with salt & pepper
olive oil

Cook the rice on the stove like you normally would. While it's cooking, we'll prepare the sauce, the garnish (oooh, fancy, it's got a garnish!) and saute the chicken.

Make the garnish – pour pineapple and all juices in the can in a bowl over the green onions. The pineapple juice will mellow the onions.

Make the sauce – combine the vinegar, orange juice, and jerk sauce. That was easy.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides, in two batches if you have to. When chicken is mostly cooked, make sure it is all in the pan, and pour the vinegar sauce over. Simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through, and sauce has thickened a little.

The rice should be done by now, mix the black beans into the rice.

To serve: put down some rice and beans on your plate, put a piece of chicken on top, put some pineappley green onions on top of that. Looks lovely, has a nice kick, and might even be good for you!