Saturday, January 31, 2009

I swear I didn't get this recipe from family circle magazine...

Last night I fed two teenagers, myself, and another adult. I knew the two teenagers would be unappreciative at best, but they both actually cleaned their plates, which leads me to believe that every once in a while I do something right!

I started with one of my "go-to" recipes: jasmine rice with peanuts and cilantro, which I have blogged about elsewhere on here, and the main dish was Parmesan Chicken. Both recipes are from The Gourmet Cookbook , which is pretty much by bible these days. I make the jasmine rice dish pretty often, because now that I have my little Dualit food processor it's a snap to make. The parmesan chicken I chose because....I already had bread crumbs in my cupboard, and I remember this recipe being a cinch to make.

I have yet to use homemade bread crumbs in a recipe. In fact, I like to keep a cannister of store-bought bread crumbs because I use them in a favorite pasta recipe (pasta with bread crumbs and capers, from the same cookbook) and they seem to just nice to have on hand. I do suspect, though, that this chicken recipe would appear a little bit less Family Circle magazine-y if I used homemade ones. This recipe always comes out a tad bit salty for my taste, which perhaps comes from the dijon mustard? Don't get me wrong, I love it, and it's one of those recipes where the coating on the chicken runs off a little bit and burns into the pan - have to eat that part, too!

3 T dijon mustard
1 t white wine vinegar
dash salt
dash pepper
6 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless and cut in half

1 1/2 english muffins to turn into bread crumbs
3/4 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 T unsales butter, melted

preheat oven to 400 degrees, with the rack in the middle.

Whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper, and toss the chicken in this.

Combine bread crumbs with cheese, butter. Take the chicken and mess it around in the bread crumb mixture (latex gloves make this less messy for me; I get the willies touching raw chicken). After the crumbs adhere, move the chicken to a baking dish or sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, or 15-20 minutes.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

good to know...regarding leftover pasta

Probably the most practical thing I've learned this year (yes, I know the year is young, but still!) is how to reheat pasta in the microwave without drying it out. Here's what you do: wet a paper towel, and then cover the pasta bowl before you put it in the microwave. This keeps the moisture in!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

I left my heart and tastebuds on the streets of Santa Barbara!

This morning on NRP I listened to a story about people "vacationing" closer to home; because of the economy, Americans are staying put, but still taking their vacation time, and indulging in more modest luxuries like extra yoga classes, facials and massages, still saving lots of money by cutting out things like, say, expensive air travel and hotel accommodations. Which made me feel better, actually. For years, when I had a higher paying job and the economy didn't feel so, well, scary, I traveled as often as I could. Now, for the most part, I am always, always, always in LA, which can feel somewhat oppressive to me; staying anywhere for months on end, with no break, feels oppressive to me.

Which made my day getaway to Santa Barbara so amazes me that just a quick drive out of LA brings miles of coastline not clogged with traffic and lush, green hills. I've been pining for a trip to Italy, my new culinary fantasy land, but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards this year, so imagine my thrill at dining at Ca Dario ( , a fabulous Italian restaurant in the heart of this enchanting little town.

St., my most frequent (and definitely most appreciative and enthusiastic) dining companion, had been raving about this place that she had frequented with her family. She had not been in several years, but was pleased to find the menu still boasts her favorite dishes. I "almost" ordered everything on the menu, which is not to say I nearly ordered it all, but at one point or another I considered every single item offered. Every appetizer, every pasta, every meat dish looked so was very difficult to decide.

After hearing "I'm ordering the ciotola di mare and I'm NOT sharing" I decided that I had better order this, too, to see what it was all about. Ciotola (pronounced shee-uh-tola) means "bowl", and this "bowl of the sea" was something I will probably die trying to recreate. Our eyes were as big as anime characters as the waitress brought our ciotolas to us: a giant prawn (still in its body), mussels, jumbo shrimp and clams all in the most velvety tomato and saffron sauce. The mussels were the biggest and freshest I've ever eaten, and that broth...oh that broth...I will probably be calling its name in my sleep for years to come. velvety Italian lover! I asked st. if it would embarrass her if I got naked and just swam in the broth, but we both decided I wouldn't fit in the bowl.

I would have been content to stop after the ciotola, but oh no, that was not to be. St. ordered her favorite main course, the rack of lamb with slices of roasted garlic and sides of roasted beets and potatoes. This dish melted in my mouth and the roasted garlic still haunts me. I ordered the rib eye steak with white beans and sage, which was the most exquisitely spiced steak I've ever eaten. At one point I actually just wanted to lick the slab of meat, but decided that would look weird, though next time I am sitting with my back to the general population so if I have any more weird urges like that I can just indulge them without upsetting the other tables.

But...they would probably understand.

The wine I had was a Morellini, and I can't really tell you much about it other than a. it was great with red meat, b. it was reasonably priced, and c. I'm going to look to buy some here in LA.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

l'arte d'arrangiarsi....or the joy of a bowlful of beets

I love when I stumble upon a word or a phrase in a foreign language that perfectly describes an idea or a feeling in a way that my own language does not. I could fill an entire (long) blog post listing such words and phrases, but today I am contemplating just one of them: l'arte d'arrangiarsi.

The art of making something out of nothing.

As our nation (and world) faces economic and environmental crises, I find myself, coincidentally, serendipitously and necessarily, growing more and more fascinated with cultures that live much more simply and intentionally than we (as U.S. Citizens) tend to do. I read recently in Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia , where I also have learned literally every Italian word I know, that Americans pursue not pleasure, but entertainment.

This rings true.

So tonight, in pursuit of pleasure (while my son pursues entertainment by watching the Matrix Reloaded), I celebrate the simplicity of a bowlful of beets. For $2.49 at Whole Foods (a store that always makes me feel stylish and good looking, even when I stumble over there in my fleece jacket, sweats, and pirate boots), I purchased a bunch (3) of beets, locally (well, SoCal) and organically grown. I drizzle a little olive oil over them, stick them in the oven at 400 degrees, leave them there for, oh, an hour and a half or so, and then eat them, in their blood red, nutty glory, sans spices, sans fancy cooking technique, and loaded with iron, vitamin A, and potassium.

l'arte d'arrangiarsi...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scallops broiled with ginger is a perfectly balanced yin and yang meal- who knew?

Years ago, while on a visit back to Austin, I met this fellow who claimed he had completely reversed his cancer by transitioning to a purely macrobiotic diet (and I had no reason to disbelieve him). This fascinated me, partly because I am afraid of cancer, and partly because, well, it doesn't take much to get me intrigued by lifestyles outside of the mainstream.

And, of course, there is Casa De Luz (, a lovely, lovely macrobiotic restaurant in Austin, one of my favorite places to have brunch, and one of the many magical places I miss in Austin. But I won't digress...

Wanting to gain an introductory understanding of a macrobiotic diet, I went out and found myself a copy of The Macrobiotic Way , pretty much the undisputed bible of the macrobiotic lifestyle.

Well, if you've read any of my other posts on here, you know that the macrobiotic diet isn't something I adhere to. Not for more than one meal at a time, at least. But in theory, I can get behind it: locally grown, fresh foods are the mainstay. There was a lot on balancing yin and yang in one's diet, which I remember being completely lost of me, although re-reading this part last night it didn't seem so complicated. In fact, there is even a cheat sheet, where I learned that the meal I prepared last night, straight out of The Macrobiotic Way , is a perfect balance of yin (ginger) and yang (scallops).

My original intention was to prepare something satisfying, but light enough that st. and I could still get up and go out to a club (which, by the way, didn't happen, however I don't blame that on the meal).

I purchased the most beautiful scallops ever...ever! They were the size of golf balls, just perfect. I marinated them for 15 minutes in a tablespoon of grated ginger and a 1/4 c of soy sauce, then broiled them for 10 minutes, because they were so thick. They were tender, tender, tender, but when I re-do this recipe (and you can be sure that I will!) I will make a few changes: I will reduce the ginger to half a tablespoon, and marinate it longer. The broiled ginger almost made the scallops taste like gingersnaps, and I couldn't taste the soy sauce (can also use tamari) one bit.

Still, we loved this meal, mainly because in the past I have overcooked scallops, and these were perfectly cooked, and even with the gingersnappy taste, they had a nice, light flavor.

This was my first ever foray into macrobiotic cooking. I'm going to tell people I follow a macrobiotic meal at a time, once in a while.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

...and now I cook Asian-inspired food, too!

While shopping at Trader Joe's the other day I came across yellowfin tuna (frozen) and picked some up, thinking I'd find a recipe and cook it up. I didn't realize that yellowfin tuna is usually served rare (raw?) with a quick sear on each side. I goggled the hell out of yellowfin tuna, and searched all of my cookbooks, and finally gave in: I was going to have to prepare seared tuna.

Not sure why, but this intimidated me. All (or at least most) seafood preparation intimidates me, in fact. I fear I'll deliver some rare seafoodborne virus to my nearest and dearest.

So, seared tuna it was, and I needed to find a side dish to prepare with it, and I wanted something that wasn't going to be a lot of work, as I was starting this meal late(r) at night, after a long day of work, and didn't need to be spending three hours in the kitchen that particular evening.

Once again, my trusty Gourmet Cookbook
came through for me, with a recipe for jasmine rice with cilantro and peanuts. I found a sesame seared tuna recipe on

First, the sesame seared tuna. I neglected to get the Japanese sweet wine, but didn't miss it at all. This was a lovely sesame encrusted tuna, and it was delectable even prepared with fish that had been frozen. Virtually every seared tuna recipe insisted on the freshed tuna available. I cooked st.'s tuna a bit more than mine, ok, I cooked hers all the way through, since she doesn't eat raw fish, and hers was delicious as well. I will make this again!

The jasmine rice with cilantro and peanuts...oh, wonder of wonders! I used the boxed jasmine rice from Trader Joe's that just cooks in the microwave for a few minutes, then the rice was tossed in a mixture of chopped peanuts, cilantro, rice vinegar, peanut oil, and scallions. My variation: I used half of the called for rice vinegar, and it was just fine. This dish was simple, and the crunch with the peanuts made it terribly satisfying. I would serve this solo to myself. Interestingly, Teena from The Gourmet Project also found it needed less rice vinegar than called for.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Originally titled "God's Pharmacy"...I like to call it

This came to me as a spam(ish) email from a former co-worker of mine. I think it's so delightful...makes me want to spend the next full month in a garden, eating snap peas. The title of the email was "God's Pharmacy"...which is a little too sugary for me, but I still find this fascinating.

If I knew who had originally written this, I'd be happy to credit them, but I don't, so here goes:

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents c ervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.

Oranges, Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.