Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The hot-pocalypse is here

For two, maybe three days a year San Francisco experiences what other cities call "summer." The sun is out (per usual in SF), but instead of a year-round fall-like chill in the air, the air is WARM. The incessant west wind ceases. The fog is pushed offshore and held back by a high pressure system like mother nature hugging the dense wet clouds to let her hippy children in The City frolick through Golden Gate park without a knee-length down parka covering their bell bottomed jeans.

The last two days, however, have been a little hotter than usual for this city by The Bay. Today the car thermometer read 99 degrees. I'm sure it was a little off, but I was sweating it up in my sundress that I had to dig out of the dark recesses of an under-the-bed box. I almost didn't know what to do when I felt the warm air on my bare arms this morning. I don't think they've seen the light since they left Seattle!

For the record, I am not complaining. I LOVE hot weather. Unfortunately, with the hot weather brings open windows, which brings mosquitoes, which inevitably brings mosquito bites. And for some reason they always go for my eyes and I wake up looking like a cyclops. So I've taken to wearing an airline eye mask to bed and spraying myself down with the most powerful deet I can find. Poor Dan. Honeymoon over.

So to avoid turning on the oven we grilled our dinner last night. Now if SF could just get it together and be hot and summer-like when it's actually light outside, that would make grilling a whole lot easier. Dan didn't even bat an eye and grilled the meat with a flashlight - and it was still cooked perfectly! I stayed inside chopping vegetables in a cloud of deet - so organic.

Grilled steak and vegetable salad with chipotle chimichurri dressing

(I made this salad for two, so the meat and veggies are enough for two, but the dressing is enough for six. For six people: 1.5 lbs of meat, 2 bell peppers, 3 zucchini, one whole avocado, six radishes)

1 flank or skirt steak (2/3 lb)
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick and cut in half
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 4 big pieces
1 bag spring lettuce mix (I used about 3/4 of the bag, divided in half)
chipotle chimichurri dressing
1/2 firm ripe avocado
4 radishes, julienned

1. Rub the zucchini and steak with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 mins.

2. Grill steak, turning once. Six to eight minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a board and tent with foil and let rest while grilling the veggies.

3. Grill bell peppers until blackened and zucchini until tender.

4. Place bell pepper in a bowl and cover. When cool enough, peel and slice it into strips. Slice the steak across the grain into thin strips. Cut zucchini into bite-size pieces.

5. Toss lettuce in a bowl with part of the dressing, then divide among plates. Top with steak and veggies, avocado and drizzle of dressing.

Chipotle chimichurri dressing
In a food processor, whirl 1 1/4 cups each of flat-leaf parsley and cilantro, 2 garlic cloves, 1 seeded jalapeno chile (I used Anaheim to reduce spiciness), 1/3 cup each extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil and lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt until minced. Then add two canned medium chipotle chilies and mince. (It was a little oily, so you could reduce the amount of olive and vegetable oil if you like it a little thicker.)

Someday I'll use a real camera instead of my phone and the food will actually look like something you might want to eat!

Recipe adapted from Sunset magazine, September 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I cashed in my chips

On September 1, 2012 I officially cashed in my chips for a lifetime of cooking with my new husband! (it still sounds weird to call him my husband)

And now, back in the city of eternal (windy) spring I've boxed up my favorite wedding trinkets, deleted all 27 of the wedding blogs I was following, sent away my wedding dress to be cleaned, zipped Dan's suit into a bag, recycled a mountain of Crate & Barrel packing material and sat down for dinner with my husband (there I said it again!).

For some reason it was different this time.

Not giant, big splash, sign with lights and confetti different. Quietly, comfortably, giggly different. It was like we suddenly became adults according to the powers vested in the state of Washington, but inside we knew we were still the same people and we were busting at the seams with the thought of us as a married couple.

So here we are. Married. Dan goes to work and I study away for the NP boards, my new testing date hanging over my head like a ticking clock. But one cannot study well without being well fed and well blogged, which brings me to our first self-cooked dinner together as a married couple:  Quinoa with a fried egg. I know, I was in a weird mood, but think of the quinoa as a sweet and salty hash, like breakfast for dinner.

Quinoa & Summer Veggies with Honey Lemon vinaigrette
(serves 2-3 as a side)

    1 3/4 cups chicken broth
    1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
    1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 small zucchini, quartered and sliced
    1 1/2 cups or 2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob (I used frozen sweet corn)
    4 green onions
    salt & pepper
    1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped (or 10 grape tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise)
    1/2 cup crumbled feta
    2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

For the Honey Lemon Vinaigrette:

    1 Tablespoon lemon zest
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
    1 garlic clove, microplaned or finely minced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan. Add rinsed quinoa and place a lid on top, turn the heat down to medium-low, then cook until the broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 25 minutes. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for the Honey Lemon Vinaigrette in a jar or bowl, then shake or whisk to combine and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Add zucchini, sweet corn, and green onions, season with salt and pepper, then saute until barely tender, about 4 minutes. Add cooked quinoa and half the Honey Lemon Vinaigrette, then stir and cook for 1 more minute.

Add remaining vinaigrette, tomatoes, feta cheese, and basil to the skillet. Stir well, taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

If you want to make this a cold salad, cool cooked quinoa and veggies separately, then mix with the remaining vinaigrette, tomatoes, feta cheese, and basil.

Serve with a fried egg and crusty toasted and buttered french bread.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I have a little secret...

I can make boeuf bourguinon for six, whip up an eight-layer cake with a thick, rich buttercream, slow cook the perfect pulled pork or even a steaming pot of chicken noodle soup when you're sick, but for some reason the simplest of recipes throws me for a loop.

All I can think about lately is sinking my teeth into a sticky, gooey, sugar-laden rice crispy treat. Not a dried out one that's been sitting on a bakery counter for days with sharp corners and a crisp edge of sawed-off rice cereal. No, no no. An almost-too-warm one that comes out of the pan like a blob of cooled oatmeal and oozes out of your fingers quicker than you can eat it. Yum. I can still feel the rice crispies crackling on my tongue.

Anyway, my obsession was realized this evening. A much needed study break turned into a trip to the grocery store, which quickly morphed into cooking dinner (salmon with roasted potatoes and broccoli - I had to pretend I had healthy intentions)...and rice crispy treats.

I started by following the directions on the back of the marshmallow bag:

"In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1/2 stick of butter."

Easy enough. I chose a glass bowl and dropped a cold cube of butter into it and stuck it in the microwave. FIRE! Yep, caught the microwave on fire. So, I tried sticking the bowl in the hot oven with the roasting potatoes. I would have been there for days waiting for the marshmallows to melt. So, I just dumped the whole mass of half melted marshmallows and melted butter into a pot and heated it on the stove old school-like.

"Pour 8.5 cups of rice cereal into a bowl"

Great. The bowl was big enough to hold about five cups of cereal with nothing else in it...so three bowls, two pots, a damaged microwave and a everything-glued-to-the-pan-because-I-didn't-remember-to-grease-it dirty pan later, I had myself a warm, sticky, gooey, sugar-laden rice crispy treat.

It dawned on me as I was twirling the hot mess in bowl number three that I had never made rice crispy treats before. I didn't really grow up in an American household with chocolate chip cookies and those sweet potatoes with mini-marshmallows baked on top. We ate complicated Armenian food like cheese borek (kinda like spanicopita) and braided bread for holidays. So there you go; a little secret to share around about me. I'm really bad at making rice crispy treats (but they taste good).

And my chocolate chip cookies aren't that great either.

Don't even ask me to make a box of jello

Monday, March 26, 2012

A short hiatus

Okay, so it's been a long hiatus.

Among the stressors of school work, moving up to Seattle (temporarily), wedding planning, adjusting to long-distance fiance dating (and not doing it well), and the usual rigors of life, the cooking part of my life has fallen by the wayside. In fact the eating part of my life has disappointingly involved more Starbucks spinach feta wraps and university cafeteria meals than I would like to admit.

Luckily this past week was spring break - yes, that's right I'm approaching the ripe old age of over 30 and I'm still enjoying myself a little spring break action! I kept thinking, "Oooh I'm going to be in San Francisco, Dan and I should plan lots of little trips and visit the sites we haven't seen yet, dine at new-to-us restaurants..." But, when my feet hit the soggy, fog-soaked soil of this mildly temperate city we now call home, all I wanted to do was cook with Dan - and remember what it's like to have a real life with a real, live, in-person fiance.

And so we did.

On day two in SF, after enjoying a long weekend re-discovering my skiing-legs in Jackson Hole, I hit the grocery stores, all three stores in the area: Whole Foods, Safeway, and Trader Joes. I stocked the incredibly bare bachelor-esque refrigerator with all of the essentials and starting ripping recipes out of my stack of unread foody magazines.

The first dinner we had together, at home, I made up from a combination of Alani-edited recipes found in Martha Stewart's Whole Living and Everyday Food.

First I made a pesto:
In a food processor, blend until smooth
1 bunch parsley, big stems chopped off
1/2 bunch mint, stems removed
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
(this was a little bland, so I added 1/2-1 tsp salt and one whole shallot...garlic might have been good too)

And a super simple yogurt sauce:
1 container (8oz) plain Greek yogurt
2 limes
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
salt to taste
Toast the almonds in a dry pan (no olive oil) until fragrant, let them cool for a few minutes before adding to the yogurt, lime, salt mixture. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can make this one day ahead to let the flavors meld together, but the yogurt will start showing some water, just re-stir.

Then I made some Quinoa and added the pesto with some grape tomatoes and snap peas
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or broth
2 cups (or more) snap peas, blanched (that means you drop them into a boiling pot of water for like 1-2 minutes, until they turn bright green)
1 cup grape tomatoes sliced in half the long way
1/4 cup olive oil (or less)
1/4 cup minced red onion

Cook the quinoa until you see little white rings surrounding translucent grains, pour it into a large bowl. Add pesto, heaping tablespoons at a time, stirring and tasting the mixture until you like it (I think I added four). Add  the cooked snap peas, sliced tomatoes, olive oil (until moist, but not soupy), and red onion and toss. Sprinkle with salt and ground pepper to taste.

And to round it all off, a beautiful piece of halibut:
Preheat the oven to about 300-350 degrees...my oven doesn't stay at one temperature!
Use 3/4 to 1 pound of white fish per person
Rinse it, pat it dry and place it on a piece of foil in the bottom of a pan (I use an old cake pan)
Salt and pepper the fish, place one pat of butter on each piece of fish and pop it in the oven. It took about 15 minutes in my oven. You just bake the fish until it starts looking opaque all around and when you insert a knife or fork the fish flakes nicely.

Serve the fish on a plate topped with yogurt sauce and the quinoa salad on the side. I also mixed some of the pesto with a little garlic and topped some toasted french bread with it and some Parmesan.

Really good dinner. So good to be home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I made quinoa and they liked it!

Almost a month to the day and I'm finally writing a new post with a new recipe!

I'm officially living between two cities and two kitchens, and my pathophysiology reading has, sadly, forced me to shove the cooking and baking way to the back burner. Before my life as a stay-at-home fiancee ended I didn't fully appreciate how much time I was spending scouring cooking blogs, hunting through cookbooks and sifting through my recipe pile of torn out magazine pages and recipe cards to put together a meal. Now I totally understand why people don't end up cooking dinner every night or buy an ice cream cake from Cold Stone before spending three days pulling a frozen pan in and out of the freezer.

But, I also love cooking.I love taking raw ingredients and ending up with a cohesive meal. It's like really perishable art.

So I caved and made some dinner the other night. It's a challenging bunch over here in Bellevue. Lots of picky eaters. I bought a little bag of quinoa at Whole Foods the other day in preparation of the beautiful stew I was thinking up. My mom walked over to it as it sat on the counter and examined it like it was a foreign being from a newly discovered planet. She poked at it from afar like it would explode or eat her alive while she asked, "what is it?!"

Jay read the bag over and over again trying to pronounce it..."Qui-No-A, Qween-on-a..."

When I explained it was a grain packed with iron and protein, mom replied, "I don't want to eat a grain."

So funny! (She's more of a cheddar cheese-eating, on white french bread type, I guess.)

Anyway, as I poured fresh (and pricey) Whole Foods ingredients into a large stockpot my mom and Jay hovered around smelling the air as if waiting to find something to object to. But, of course, they couldn't find a single thing. We sat down with steaming bowls of stew and crunchy herbed parmesan bread and I made them take the first bite. And....


So, here it is, adapted from a blog called "Cookin Canuck."

Butternut Squash and Chicken Stew with Quinoa

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, breast meat shredded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped(I used shallots)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • A couple shakes of red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (or more!) minced fresh curly parsley
  1. Steam the butternut squash until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Remove half of the squash pieces and set aside.
  2. Steam the remaining squash until very tender, an additional 4 to 6 minutes. Mash this squash with the back of a fork. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan heat olive oil.
  4. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to turn brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Add minced garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute.
  6. To the saucepan, add tomatoes, butternut squash pieces, mashed butternut squash. Stir to combine.
  7. Stir in chicken broth and quinoa. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.
  8. Shred the chicken with your fingers or a fork.
  9. Stir the chicken, red pepper flakes and pepper into the stew and simmer, uncovered, to heat, about 5 minutes.
  10. Stir in parsley and serve.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Recipe Five: How to make rice

My bags are packed, I couldn't tell you what's in them, and I have stuffed WAY more shoes than one person could ever wear into every nook and cranny in my over-sized suitcases (but I will be sure to wear each and every pair since they will cost me hundreds in airplane baggage fees). It's a big ball of sad over here, so I thought I'd distract myself with the ultimate happy-maker: FOOD!

I know I'm supposed to continue with the "how-to" recipes for Dan, but I also have to include this delicious stew I made a couple weeks ago. You could serve it over rice (to make the how-to make rice title of this post actually work), but I made it with couscous since it was more Moroccan-based and begged for something lighter than rice.

So, here are directions for making white rice, brown rice and rice pilaf. I am Armenian and every Armenian is basically born knowing how to make pilaf, so I bring you my mom's way of making it. We use orzo pasta, other people break up angel hair, but I like the shape of orzo better.

How to Make Rice

Step one (for pilaf):  
Place one tablespoon of oil in a pan and warm it for a few seconds. Put 1/4 cup orzo pasta in the pan with the oil and brown it slightly, mixing it and watching it constantly. When it’s light brown, add the rice and water and follow the directions below.

Step one for rice only: 
Put 1 cup of white, long grain rice and 1.5 cups of water in a small (one-quart) saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (or in the rice cooker)

IF you’re using basmati rice, use 1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups of water, If you're using brown rice, use 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water.

IF you’re using the rice cooker, place the rice, water and maybe a little bit of butter in the cooker, turn it on and set the timer for about 20 minutes, just like in step three.

Step two: 
Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Steam should be coming out from under the lid; keep the pot covered and don't peek under the lid. (Use the glass lid so you can see in)

Step three: 
Reduce the heat to very low. The rice grains swell as they absorb the water. If the temperature is too high, the bottom of the pan of rice can scorch while the top rice is still undercooked. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

Step four: 
When the timer rings, turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat. Let the rice sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes (and no peeking under the lid - the steam will escape…I always peak and stir the rice way more than you’re supposed to, and it still turns out fine).

Step five: 
Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains.

Moroccan Stew with Couscous 
Serves 4

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs lamb or beef (I used beef "stew meat" already cut into chunks from Whole Foods) 
2 yellow onions, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15 oz) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/2 cup raisins
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of couscous prepared to package directions

Rinse the meat and dry it well on paper towels. You want to make sure the meat is super super dry or else you won't get a good sear when it's in the pan.

Place olive oil in a heavy, large pot with a flat bottom and heat it until it shimmers. Place beef or lamb in the oil and sear it on all sides until it looks a little charred all over.

Removed the meat and cook the onions and carrots in the meaty oil until the onions are a little translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds. Add the spices (cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes) and some salt and pepper to the veggies and cook until you smell the spices (about 30 seconds).

Add the meat back to the pot with the tomatoes and their juice, and the broth. When the liquid begins to boil, turn the heat down and simmer this for as long as you can stand it (the longer the better because it will soften the meat...you could also dump everything into the crock pot at this stage).

After simmering for 20-30 minutes, add the raisins and chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes.

Place a lump of couscous in a bowl and pour stew over the top. The couscous will continue to expand in the bowl, which thickens the stew. YUM!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Recipe Four: How to Boil an Egg

I'm packing bags, doing laundry, scheduling hair cuts and dentist appointments, cleaning out the fridge - I must be moving, again. I can't believe it's actually here, six months of finishing school, living in Seattle with mom, reconnecting with friends, and six months of time apart from my beloved husband-to-be. I am hands down the worst long distance relationship person in the universe, so this should be one of the more challenging six months of my 30 years. Ugh.

But, back to the recipes for Dan. The other day I boiled some eggs to make egg salad sandwiches and Dan asked how I knew when they were done.


I think I've been making the Dan how-to recipes a little more advanced than I thought. So, here you have it honey bunches. How to boil an egg, just in case you need a homemade Cobb salad, egg salad sandwiches, just a boiled egg slice in half with salt and pepper - there are so so many uses for the boiled egg.

Step one: Place whole, raw egg in a saucepan.

Step two: Run cold water into the saucepan until the water is 1 inch above the egg.

Step three: Place the saucepan on a stove and cook over medium heat until the water begins to boil.

Step four: As soon as the water begins to boil set the time for 15 minutes for a hard-boiled egg or 7 minutes for a soft boiled egg. Reduce the heat slightly so the eggs are not moving around too much

Step five: When the timer is up, place the pan in the sink and run cold water over the eggs until they are cool enough to touch.

Step six: Peel the eggs, rinse them off and enjoy!

See you all in Seattle very soon!!