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In what is looking to become a recurring theme, it appears I have several ingredients in my fridge that are long overdue for use (see: about to go bad), including a significant portion of red bell peppers I have been using for salads, pastas, and coulis.

It’s a Friday, my work week is over, and I’m thrilled to be in the kitchen after a week long break- not by choice, I simply haven’t had the after work energy. My good friend Ficken is on the way over to hang/help, so I start on my kitchen playlist. For me, and I don’t know if it’s this way for any one else, but music and the creation of food go hand in hand. Like hot sourdough bread and butter. Like milk and cookies. Like Hall and Oates. Something special happens when I’m in the kitchen and the music is playing – I can’t quite put words to it yet. More thoughts on this later. I begin to compile my playlist instinctually, without thought- a little Sufjan Stevens, a little Panda Bear, some Fleet Foxes. It appears I am a folk mood. Let’s balance it out a little. Lil Wayne makes the cut, a little Athlete, some Saturday Knights, and I call it good. Time to get down to business.

This recipe wasn’t that difficult or too time consuming- roasting the peppers was a little challenging, but other than that, a walk in the park. As I was roasting these bad boys under the grill, the smell quickly took over the whole house, and it was fantastic. I I can’t get the smell out of my head, or my clothes, for that matter. But that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Bisque
2 lbs red peppers
1 yellow onion, diced
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart chicken stock
3-4 T heavy cream
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Prawns
.5 lbs prawns, deveined and shells removed
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp parikia
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

In a large soup pot (4.5 quart or larger), add onions and butter and sweat the onions till almost translucent, but still firm, about 6-7 minutes. (Sweating an onion is the act of cooking the onion over low heat in butter or oil, taking care not to brown the onions. The onions will begin to give off a lot of moisture, hence the term sweat.) Add crushed garlic and cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat.

While the onions are sweating, place whole peppers underneath a broiler on high. Try to get the peppers about 3 inches away from the heating element. As soon as the skin of the pepper is completely black, rotate the pepper under the broiler to black the next side. Repeat until all sides are black. When finished, put the peppers in a brown bag or in a bowl under a cloth for a few minutes, until cool enough to handle. (This will steam the peppers making it easier to remove the skin.) After the peppers have cooled for a few minutes, remove the skins, pull out the core and cut into four pieces. Take care to remove all the seeds. (I did this by scraping a knife against each pepper. If you miss a few, not a huge deal, we’ll strain them out later.)

Place the roasted pepper pieces into the pot with the onions. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil- cook the peppers for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a blender or food processor, blend the soup for a minute or two, until very smooth. Using a fine strainer, pour the mixture through the strainer back into the pot, the goal being to remove any seeds, skin or chunks you missed. Add cream, spices, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Pull from heat.

Prawns
Put all ingredients in a ziplock bag and mix thoroughly. Place prawns on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 for about 2 minutes, until tops of prawns are pink. Remove from oven, flip the prawns, and cook another minutes into mostly pink and barely translucent.

Plating and Presentation

Serve bisque in bowls. Arrange prawns on outside edge of bowl. Using a tablespoon or squeeze bottle, float a few drops of cream on the top of the soup for garnish.

Enjoy!

S’more Cupcakes!!!

This is the first time I can remember ever making cupcakes. No joke.  I’ve never been much of a baker (except for cinnamon rolls and the occasional cookie). In fact, I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of cakes I’ve made in my life. I feel I set the bar pretty high to start out.

My friend and mentor Diane of Tastefully Yours gave me this recipe several months ago. She described it as “beyond belief.” Any recipe that comes highly recommended from her immediately makes it to the front of my queue- the concept behind these cupcakes only furthered my excitement. S’mores. Yes, s’mores.

Graham cracker crust. Gooey chocolate cupcake. Toasted homemade marshmallow. Need I say more?

My friend Mallori and I had a blast making these. A quick heads up though on necessary equipment for this recipe: You definately need a powerful mixer for the marshmellow. Because I’m not married and therefore have not had the opportunity to politely ask friends to buy me a KitchenAid, I don’t have a mixer.  I tried using the whisk attachment on my immersion blender and it was going terribly until my roommate, who is moving out tomorrow, was kind enough to search through boxes of packed goods to dig out his hand mixer for us to use. God bless him- total life saver. Also, I recently acquired a butane torch. Nice to have for this recipe, although I’m sure careful use of the broiler could accomplish the same effect on the marshmellow.

Here’s the link to the recipe. And be sure to check out Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle, the geniuses behind this creation.

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/chocolate-graham-cracker-cupcake-with-toasted-marshmallow

“First ya take the mallow…….”

When I dine out, my choice of entree is often dictated by dishes I’ve never made at home. I find inspiration in examining ingredients other chefs are combining to create unique, vibrant dishes. A great example of this is a recipe I came across this afternoon: Cucumber, salmon, lemon and cream on pasta. Cucumbers in pasta? My first reaction was “bizarre” but then I started mulling it. Cucumbers go well in cream. Cucumbers go well with salmon. Cream and salmon go well with lemon. Pasta seems like a natural extension. Recipes like this really get me pumped up to try new concepts and pairings. I’ll try this one later and let you know how it goes.

Anyways, this weekend I was inspired by a dish I had at Fratelli in Portland. The seafood special was Oregon Albacore in a red bell pepper coulis, with potato puree and some sort of a kalamata tapenade on top. Instantly intrigued by the waiter’s description of the ingredients used, I knew I had to give it a whirl. It was incredible. However, I was surprised by the coulis as it had a sweet and sour finish to it. I asked our waiter if he wouldn’t mind sharing how that was accomplished. He scurried off to the kitchen and came back and told me the chef used vinegar and honey. With that new found knowledge of how to accomplish sweet and sour, I felt confident I could recreate this dish no problem. Taking inventory of my fridge today, I realized I didn’t have any kalamata olives so I thought I’d go with tomatoes instead.

Grilled Ahi with Sweet Sour Red Pepper Coulis, Garlic Potatoes and Tomatoes

Sweet & Sour Red Pepper Coulis
(Coulis recipe adapted from Rover’s)

2 large red bell peppers
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 t cayenne
2 T vegetable stock
3 T olive oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T honey
1 t salt
1 t pepper

Remove stem and seeds from bell pepper and cut into 1 inch squares. Heat skillet to medium and add 1 T olive oil. Add bell pepper and garlic- cook 1-2 minutes until aromatic. Add vegetable stock and cook 6-8 minutes, until bell peppers are soft and tender. Take care not to brown them. If the skillet starts to look dry, add another tablespoon of stock. Transfer bell peppers to blender and puree for 2 minutes until smooth, while adding remaining olive oil. Transfer to small sauce pan, add honey, vinegar, salt and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes.

Garlic Potatoes
1.5 lbs red potatoes
4 T butter
2 T warm milk
Salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Quarter the potatoes and boil them till cooked through. (Done when you can stick a fork easily through them) Strain the potatoes and add the butter. Using a hand mixer, blend the potatoes and slowly add the milk. Beat them till their fluffy and smooth. Don’t be afraid to add a little more milk if the potatoes are dry.

Sauteed Tomatoes
2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 clove garlic
1 T butter
Saute tomatoes on medium heat in garlic and butter until soft, about 5 minutes.

Ahi
Grill the ahi on a hot grill for about 4 min on each side. You want to sear the ahi, so that it is still undercooked in the middle.

Presentation and Assembly
Place a pool of pepper coulis on the bottom of the plate. Place a large scoop of mashed potato on top of the coulis. Arrange the ahi as you like on top of the potatoes, then top with tomato mixture.

 

Easy Greek Chicken

Hello.

And welcome to my little blog. Until a little while ago, I would never imagine myself writing those words. I also find it humorous that my first post contain the word “easy” because I don’t want to establish any sort of expectations or precedents. I love to cook, but the truth is, I am completely unpredictable. I’m bipolar in the kitchen. There are days when I want to do nothing but spend hours in the kitchen, and there are days where I have absolutely no desire to make anything. It’s the same way with the techniques I use and genres I explore. While I tend to lean more towards Italian, I love Greek, Americana, Mexican, etc. Likewise, you’ll find me microwaving in one recipe, and reducing/deglazing in the next.

While I’ll discuss all things food in this blog, in specific regards to my efforts in the kitchen, I hope to document both the easy and terrifying, the plain and the elaborate, the beautiful and the “presentation lacking but it tastes too good to matter,” my great successes, and of course, my great failures. The genres and techniques will vary, as well as the time required per recipe, but in this my hope is to broaden my horizons and yours too.

In addition to sharing my original recipes and documenting attempts at others, I also hope to share with you my favorite places to grab a bite, the cookbooks I’m enjoying, and moments of inspiration from Iron Chef battles on Food Network that I find inspiring. I might mention my crush on Giada every once in a while too.

That being said….

Tonight is a Tuesday , and the “let’s do something daring like a souffle” inspiration is lacking. Maybe I’m exhausted, maybe I’m lazy (realistically, a bit of both) so tonight the adjective “easy” is all too appropriate. My fridge is empty, I have no motivation to go shopping at Trader Joe’s, and typical for me, I have several ingredients that will go bad if I don’t utilize them quickly. A quick inventory of the fridge reveals sheepsmilk feta, lemons, fresh rosemary, and some frozen chicken breasts. If that doesn’t scream Greek, I don’t know what does.

Baked Greek Chicken

3 large chicken breasts, thawed
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/4 -1/2 c crumbled sheepsmilk feta, to taste
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T flour
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized baking dish, place chicken flat and drizzle with olive oil. Add garlic, rosemary, oregano, lemon juice. Distribute butter evenly over chicken. Salt and pepper appropriately. Bake 350. AFter first five minutes, add flour to the juices and oils in the bottom of the pan and mix well. (By doing this I’m hoping to get a thicker consistency.) Baste chicken as needed until juice runs clear. Keep a close eye- nothing is worse than overcooked chicken. Add feta immediately and serve.

Serve this with a starch. To go authentic, salted potatoes is a must. Rice would also work.