Monday, September 28, 2009

Communal Supper

Now, I would be remiss to mention my dinner with Kiley, and not document another dinner that I merely contributed to...but did not plan. I was again spending the weekend in CT visiting my law-school attending boyfriend. Friday night Rafe, his sister, mother, and his mother's boyfriend and I all sat down to enjoy a delicious meal.

First up was the drink-master. Aliza used to work behind the bar at a Senegalese restaurant when she lived in San Francisco (she has since moved again to Seattle, so hopefully Rafe and I will visit her and also get to eat our way around that city). She put her mixing skills to work on some great vodka, and raspberry-lime seltzer....these were delicious!
Rafe had marinated and cooked the chicken the evening before. So the chicken only needed to be re-heated in the oven. He had made apricot ginger chicken and it was delicious! The outside had a sweet/savory glaze and the meat was tender and juicy. He claimed he used too much ginger, but I think that he was just being modest. It was GREAT!

Lee (Rafe's mom) contributed a delicious dish - as if I had any doubts. She made a macaroni and cheese. It had swiss chard mixed into the cheese sauce, and there were crunchy, buttery breadcrumbs all over the top of the casserole. It was a great compliment for the chicken - I went back for seconds of both!

I always enjoy helping out in the kitchen, and I was tasked with making the salad. The plan was a corn, tomato, avocado and mozzarella salad. Unfortunately, the fresh mozz was a little past its prime. While I was in Las Vegas I had a similar salad that used feta cheese, so I suggested the substitution. Rafe LOVES feta so my idea was accepted and I got to work! The corn had already been cooked, so I just needed to remove it from the cob...I cut the heirloom tomatoes, and Rafe cubed the avocado. We mixed it all together, added the feta and some lime juice.

Once everything was warmed up and the salad was dressed we made our plates and sat down at the table...

Here is a little look at the final product. I believe this is actually Rafe's plate. He is my 'creative director' and thought his plate looked better - so it made the blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dinner With Kiley

As much as I love cooking, I really appreciate it when someone offers to cook for *ME*. My friend Kiley (we were roommates in college) just moved into a new apartment south of the city. Once she was all moved in and settled she invited me over to her place to see the apartment and cook me dinner.

Kiley has always been a great cook. I was always happy to come home from class or work to have one of Kiley's creations waiting in the fridge....(she's a good sharer too). Maybe someday I can convince her to share one of her great recipes for apple crisp or no-bake cookies (hint-hint) here on the blog!

Anyway, I rode the T south after work yesterday (and got to read my newest issue of cooking light - more on that in another post) and Ky picked me up at the station. It was a quick ride to her apartment. *sidenote*I am very jealous of her place! She has a pretty big one bedroom, with a huge kitchen. When we arrived at her door, I could see that Kiley had already begun prepping.

She had already boiled the potatoes (not sure why blogger is uploading them sideways...), and was slicing up the zuchini and summer squash.

Then she showed me this delicious creation....She served it on top of baked salmon. It is a salsa-type mix of avocado, cucumber, and red onion. It was absolutely delicious! I loved the combination of texture between the cool crunchy cucumber, and the soft creamy avocado. The little bit of crunch and mild heat from the red onion really complimented the fish!

I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the final plate. Kiley sauteed the summer squash in a frying pan, and mashed the potatoes. The fish was baked, and then topped with the salsa. It was all very delicious and we both cleaned our plates.

Thanks so much for dinner Kiley! Next time I'll cook for you!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pancake Review and FoodBuzz

So, I've been meaning to do this post for a while - because I actually made these pancakes sometime in August! I just re-discovered the pictures on my camera.

In this post I will be reviewing a product - the Barefoot Contessa favorite pancake and waffle mix! I feel like I have to do this now because I just joined FoodBuzz (see the ad and badge in the sidebar!!) and I don't wan this getting confused with any of the reviews I may be asked to do through the foodbuzz tastemaker program.

For the purpose of transparency, I want to make it clear that I have not been compensated at all by the good people at the Barefoot Contessa...they didn't even give me the mix. I received it as a gift from some yankee swap or something - and it had been sitting in my pantry ever since!

Rafe's last day in Boston was a sad one - but I thought it would be best to send him off with a special and hearty breakfast. I had a crazy abundance of blueberries, so I thought that Ina Garten plus blueberries must equal So I got set to make his special breakfast.

I used the mix to make pancakes, and it was very easy - I followed the directions exactly on the container. I chose to add the blueberries as the pancakes were on the griddle-- i don't like adding blueberries to the batter, because I find that I end up with purple pancakes....

The pancakes cooked up very well. The were fluffy inside, but also got a slightly crisp edge, which I really like on a pancake (I also griddled them in just the tiniest bit of butter). There was a mild malt flavor, which I really like in my pancakes. It makes them taste like the pancakes I used to get at the diner in my hometown. Very authentic!

I served the pancakes with a healthy dose of real maple syrup. I really love how these turned out and I would certainly try the mix again...but it is pricey, so I think it would remain a special occasion breakfast. I understand that Ina Garten has several pancake mixes, and I would certainly be interested in trying some other flavors as well. I really love that Barefoot Contessa...

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm back - and a birthday dinner!

Sorry for the absence. It's been a crazy, transitional last few weeks! The bf was accepted to law school this past spring, and just started orientation and classes mid-August. He actually moved out of Boston to attend school, so the last few weeks have been a bit of an adjustment in our relationship (don't worry -- things are great!) and my cooking habits.

I feel like I'm settling back into a routine. It's good...
I actually leave Saturday morning for Las Vegas - for business, but there will be great eats - and I have some posts in the works for when I return!!

One of the positives to my bf's transition to school is that he is living at home with his mom. The kitchen in her house is absolutely stocked. His mother is one hell of a cook. She has every spice imaginable. There are also several cast iron skillets, a HUGE Le Crueset enamel dutch oven....and pantry staples galore. I told Rafe that we could probably get away with never shopping on the weekends and just create meals entirely from the cupboards. In any event, I can rest assured that they are prepared for a natural disaster....

His mom has also declared that I have free reign in her kitchen, and if I am interested in cooking on the weekends to just shoot her an email with a grocery list and she'll pick up whatever I long as she can join us for dinner. Fine by me! I seriously cannot wait for super-cold weather so I can use the dutch oven and make some braised meat....short ribs? Osso Bucco? I'm pumped.

Our first foray into the kitchen however would not be enlisting the help of the bf's mother. It was instead intended to be a gift. It was the bf's mom's birthday and we decided to cook dinner for her, since she has always cooks for us. (Or takes us to great restaurants - she has a knack for finding great places to dine).

Whenever we go out to dinner she almost always orders a fish dish - so we decided to make that our protein. I found a really good recipe for salmon from 'serious eats' dinner tonight selection here. It sounded simple and quick, yet delicious. Then we got to thinking about a starch and veggie...and decided an orzo salad would be good. Our inspiration came from 101 cookbooks, but I'll post the recipe below because we ended up changing it entirely...

The birthday girl wanted to hit up a flick after dinner - so in order to keep a tight schedule we split up the tasks in the kitchen. Rafe worked on the orzo salad, while I worked on the salmon. We collaborated and tasted each other's work along the way, and had a few pre-dinner cocktails of course!

I started by working on the vinaigrette for the fish. I reduced the orange juice in a small saucepan, then mixed the remaining ingredients together. I only used about 2/3's of the oil that the recipe called for....I stopped because the dressing looked like it was getting rather oily already, and we both stopped to taste it and thought it was we left the rest of the oil out.

Then I chopped some parsley - some for the fish, some for the orzo salad.

Doesn't the Salmon look pretty all dressed for the oven? Just salt, pepper and fresh parsley. It was pouring rain so instead of grilling the salmon - we broiled it. nobody felt like braving the elements...and the broiler was much quicker than preparing the weber.

The orzo salad below is very simple, and the dressing absolutely makes it. The measurements are approximations.

Orzo Salad
1 cup orzo
1/2 cup cherry/grape tomatoes
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup steamed broccoli
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar
(go easy on the salt - or salt to taste the feta and olives provide a lot of briny flavor)

Just cook up the orzo in boiling water according to package directions. Add the broccoli to steam in the last few minutes of cooking and drain everything together. Put the orzo and broccoli in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
Mix the dressing and pour over the salad and toss!!

Here is a picture of the finished plate. We added some steamed asparagus to our plates as well. Dinner was delicious, and we followed up our meal with a 'make your own sundae' bar. A couple flavors of premium ice cream, caramel, hot fudge, and nuts for topping!

Dinner was an absolute success! The birthday girl and her boyfriend loved having dinner made for them and told us they felt like teenagers after having dinner made for them and then leaving for a date while the bf and I stayed home. We also decided that this was our first official dinner party that we had catered together. I think we set the bar high!