Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day QUE!

Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, is commemorated to celebrate US war dead. Started after the civil war for Union soldiers, it was expanded after WW1 to include all war dead (so says Wikipedia). In a family with very few war dead –knock wood—we didn’t really do anything on this holiday other than barbeque. I recently looked up the meaning and think it deserves a bit more acknowledgement from me as an adult member of this society. There are faults with this country, but it is also a country with benefits for its citizens; I enjoy many of them. I have many current and former service members in my family and I love them, so I should and will do better from here on out. So I’ll be observing the 3:00pm moment of silence….

And then it’s time to start the QUE!!!

As an extension of my make-do kitchen, I have a make-do barbeque grill. It is an old school charcoal grill that my dad bought for us when we moved to Seattle over a dozen years ago. So it is old and it is rusty. One day soon we will need to replace it before the rust molecules give way and flaming charcoals tumble out of the bottom of it. But for today, I will press my luck once again to make dinner for the family. A simple American meal complete with steak and potatoes!
On the menu:
Grilled steaks served with a ribbon of Karam’s Garlic Sauce (this stuff is awesome!);
Potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce;
Grilled corn on the cob with chili-lime butter;;
Oh! snap ice cream sandwiches;

Cook’s note:
· Both the ginger cookie recipe and the potato pancake recipe are from the Great Entertainer Cookbook. I renamed the cookies from ginger cookies because I took major liberties with the recipe. First, I used mostly whole wheat flour because I ran out of white flour. More importantly, I didn’t have any ginger in the house. Some time ago I’d read somewhere that you could substitute cardamom for ginger in things like apple pie. So I tried it here. Delicious!
· A trick with the potatoes. Potatoes start to discolor the minute you start shredding them. Don’t worry about it. That is the starch in the potatoes interacting with the air. I now let them get good and pinky-orange until I’m ready for them. Then I put them in a colander and rinse them until they are back to white. The stuff that runs off is the starch so this will change the consistency of your finished dish a bit. It is a good idea to let a lot of the water drain out of the potatoes or to press the water out or dry them in a dish towel.
· On the ice cream sandwiches, I went with plain vanilla ice cream because I didn’t want any flavor that would clash with the flavor of the cookies. I let the ice cream soften a bit so it was easy to serve. Next time, I’ll just make them ahead and put them back in the freezer. That way the ice cream doesn’t get too melty while you are eating it.
· No recipe for the grilling. It was pretty common sense. The steaks were NY Strips, about ¾ inch thick, so they did well on the grill and I didn’t have to sweat too much about overdoing them with reasonable attention. Just a touch of kosher salt, pepper and a shmear of olive oil. Scored on one side. Cooked about 5 minutes on one side and about 10 on the next. The corn was another where I went from memory. You pull down, but not off, the husks and remove as much of the silk as you can. Rearrange the husks and soak the corn in water for a while. Then the corn goes on the grill for about 15 minutes. It is okay if it gets a bit smoky and it is fine if the husks burn because you don’t eat the husks, you eat what’s inside them.

This meal is a total keeper. The flavors are subtle, smoky and go well together. My husband was skeptical of the idea of potato pancakes with this meal, but I really liked the variation on the standard potato theme.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Guest Blogger Alexandra: Mother's Day Brunch

Hello! It's Alexandra, and I am here to guest blog about the Mother's Day brunch I made my mom today!

O Cardapio (The Menu):
~Cinnamon Swirl Bread French Toast w/ powdered sugar, whipped cream, raisins, and pecans on top!
~Orange Slices

~Sparkling Pomegranate Juice

Let me start off telling you about my cooking background. Meals I can cook:

~Cereal (Pouring milk on)
~Toast with jelly or butter
~Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
~Ham Sandwiches or wraps
~Baking Frozen Cookies
~Defrosting Eggo Waffles
~Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (and if my parents disappeared I would eat these three meals a day)

So I was THIS excited that I made a decent meal. Actually, I am going to go so far as to say it was better than decent! So you know I'm happy!

I'm not into the whole "detailed" blog postings. I write random things and who knows... maybe it only makes sense to me! But here is my overview of the meal:

French Toast=Yummy
~It really was good! I didn't mess up! I didn't mess up! I didn't mess up!!!!! Anything that I have to cook to make stresses me out! But if you actually follow the recepie, it will work!

~Yeah, I didn't actually make it. But it was good! Because I was using the skillet for the French Toast, he made it in the oven. It was better this way! It was more chewy and less burnt/crispy! :D

~Yeah, whatever.

I still think cooking is really stressful. Getting the timing right to do everything, set the table, make drinks, etc. It sucks. Butttttt, it's getting easier.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

Normally, we don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but for the purpose of this blog, I've branched out a bit. Would've done May Day, as the poll suggested, but we had plans to go out that night. And in keeping with my I-don't-do-big-cooking-projects-on-work-nights policy, we celebrated CdM on the third (a Sunday) with our friends the Thomases.

Chips, Salsa and Homemade Guacamole
Chicken Enchiladas
Spanish Rice
Steamed Vegetables with Green Chili Butter
Dulce de Leche Cream Cake
White Wine Sangria & Jarritos

Spanish rice from The Feast of Santa Fe (by Huntley Dent); Steamed vegetables with Green Chili Butter (also from The Feast of Santa Fe); Enchilada Sencillas from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (by Diane Kennedy); Dulce de Leche Cream Cake , inspired by
White Wine Sangria

Cooks notes:
  • For the veggies, I chose cauliflower and carrots because I thought they'd add interesting color. Would've thrown in green beans too, but they looked quite unappetizing at the grocery store. The chili butter is not green, but it is quite tasty.
  • I made the enchiladas with flour tortillas against my better judgement because they are bigger than the corn ones. Corn tortillas simply taste better in my estimation. It is worth making more enchiladas to have that taste and texture in the dish. next time, I'll do right.
  • Spanish rice is awesome and will replace white rice in my everyday cooking. Ridiculously easy and just plain tasty.
  • Sangria is not Mexican (it's from Spain), but I didn't have tequila in the house. Sangria is unbelievably awesome! White wine sangria is refreshing, fruity and deceptive. In a word, it is heavenly and I will be drinking it all summer. It may just be my signature party drink. But I'll have to be sure to collect car keys from my guests upfront!
  • More than a note on the cake. This cake is unbelievable. You have to make it. Don't be afraid when you pour the cream mixture on the cake. I too was worried that there was no way it would all be absorbed and not turn to mush. But it did absorb and the cake wasn't mushy. In fact it was incredibly incredible. My eyes cross just thinking about how luscious it was. Oh, and unless you are trying to kill your guests, consider serving this after a fairly light meal. The cake itself is probably closing on most people's recommended daily calorie allowance.