Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fancy French Fish (Ooo La La!)

Instead of the usual dinner out on the town, I stayed in Saturday night to indulge in some all-to-rare home cooking. I normally tend to gravitate toward fail-safe stir fry, curry and pasta dishes, but this night I wanted something to try on something with a little more flair.

So I dug through my cupboard and pulled out the "International Cookbook" 2005 edition, a delicious collaboration between the University of Nebraska-Kearney, International Student Association and Morris Press Cookbooks. Thumbing through many exotic dishes from around the world, the one that ultimately stood out was "Terrine de Saumon Aux Epinards - Riz Spécial," translated as Salmon and Spinach Terrine - Special Rice, contributed by Julien Champarou of France. Not only did it look scrumptious to eat, it also struck me as possibly easy to make, with most of the ingredients already in my kitchen. I was a little nervous that the souffle salmon wraps would fall apart or suddenly burst into flames when I took them out of the oven, but it turns out that evening I was a certified Julia Child with this recipe. The eggs mixture was fluffy, the salmon was tender and the dish was rich and satisfying. So with due thanks and credit to Julien, here is the my two-serving modification of the "Terrine de Saumon." Bon Appetit!

Ingredients (measurements are approximate):
1/4 bag fresh baby spinach
2 salmon tail fillets, about 1/3 pound each.
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
2 strips of bacon
2 tablespoons butter

Grease the inside of two 7-ounce oven-safe ramekins or souffle dishes. Preheat oven to 410 F. Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the fresh spinach until wilted. Drain liquid and set cooked spinach aside in a small mixing bowl. Cook bacon, cut into small bits and add to the spinach. Take the skin off the salmon fillets and place the wide part in each of the greased ramekins, with the narrow end hanging over the edge. Add the sour cream and egg to the spinach and bacon in the bowl and mix well with a fork. Add dashes of salt, pepper and nutmeg to the mix. Spoon the spinach/sour cream/egg mixture over the salmon, and fold the tails over the top of the mix. Bake at 410 F for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice or other side of your choice.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day. How do I know? An old schoolmate of mine who operates the Madison County Dessert Factory in Winterset, Iowa, announced it on Facebook, and after a quick online search, I can verify it is indeed true. I also can verify that National Lemon Cupcake Day lands on Dec. 15 (my calendar is marked!). So to celebrate National Chocolate Cupcake Day, I swung by the Rolling Pin Bakeshop, which has a nice assortment and is situated conveniently down the road, and selected the most attractive chocolate cupcake in their case - the chocolate buttercream-laden Raspberry Fudge Cupcake. Here is a picture of the beauty, which is now in my tummy:

The guy at the counter said it is a miniature version of the bakeshop's Raspberry Fudge Dark Chocolate Cake, which I'm sure is equally delicious.

I also realized this is a good excuse to post a couple other random cupcake pictures I happen to have on file. These are not all chocolate cupcakes, but they are celebrating the holiday just the same.

Here is Pat eating a maple bacon cupcake after a recent brunch outing at  Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery.

Doesn't he look happy? Additionally, I found this photo of a Solidarity Cupcake - also from Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery, that my co-worker brought me earlier this year around the time of the Madison protests against Gov. Scott Walker removing unions' collective bargaining rights:

How can you not celebrate the cupcake? Looking forward to Dec. 15!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sal's Tomato Pies

Pizza is pizza is pizza, but sometimes you come across one so artistic, delicious and inspiring that it wakes you from your 10-month vacation from blogging so you can tell your friends, "You gotta try THIS tomato pie!!!"

Sal's No. 4 was such a pie. Salvatore's Tomato Pies in Sun Prairie has been open only a week at 503 W. Main Street, a spot that formerly housed a notoriously bad sandwich shop and shares a front entrance with the local check and go. Sal's was a pleasant surprise. The inside is painted in warm hues and decorated with portraits of angry-looking women and pastoral landscapes. A play corner keeps the kiddos busy while you wait for your carry-out, and there are several tables for dining in. The tomato pies are made "the authentic Italian immigrant way" and feature an old family recipe from Trenton, N.J., with the ingredients sourced as locally as possible. This is a fresh and tasty combination.

My cell phone snapshot above does not capture the true beauty of the pie as it was first presented to us, with a spontaneous swirl of tomato sauce and speckled with locally-made Italian sausage, caramelized shallots, fresh basil, fire roasted sweet red peppers and French chévre (goat cheese). If I wasn't so hungry, I'd have been tempted to shellac it and hang it over my fireplace. Below is a better picture borrowed from Salvatore's Tomato Pies' Facebook page.

The menu so far is limited to eight tomato pies, three appetizers and a selection of canned beverages, but our choice of pie still was a tough one. The No. 4's crust, cheese, sausage and sauce all were delicious, though a bit more sauce and meat would balance out the substantial crust. For my next visit, I am looking for a fellow appreciator of strong cheese to help me polish off the No. 6: Bacon & Blue - with aged gorgonzola cheese, applewood smoked bacon, fresh broccoli and mozzarella.


Saturday, April 9, 2011


It's a lazy Saturday afternoon and I have way too many vegetables in my fridge.  What to do about it...Oh I know, make the traditional Korean comfort dish, BiBimBap!

BiBimBap is basically a bunch of leftover prepp'd vegetables over rice, with a little beef & a fried egg on top & spicy red pepper paste poured all over it. (In restaurants, they usually give you a squeeze bottle of it with your order!)  Korean households (or restaurants) love making this because it's so easy and it tastes delicious.  Vegetables that are commonly used are carrots, zucchini, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, and sprouts, but you can use anything!  It's often served in a sizzling stone bowl, which causes the rice to heat up and form a crispy layer on the bottom.  Then, you can mix it around, and if the bowl is hot enough, another crispy layer forms!  Also, sometimes the egg is not cooked, so you can cook it by mixing it around!  Just be careful not to burn the rice.  Here's a few pictures:

They both look delicious, don't they?  The first one is served in the traditional stone bowl; the second one not.  The egg is not fried in either of them.  They include the traditional vegetables along with fernbrake (the dark brown stuff), lettuce, cucumber, a few types of kimchi, and others.

Welllll, I had plenty of vegetables but none of them were prepped, sadly.  So it was not as easy to make as it is supposed to be.  But that's okay; I had all afternoon! 

2 medium carrots
1 yellow zucchini
1 bunch Chinese spinach
1 bunch pickled banana blossoms
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup napa kimchi
fresh garlic
anchovy sauce
sunflower oil
sesame oil, to taste
1/3 lb. ground lamb
brown rice
black rice

Directions: Soak the rice and beans overnight, then drain, rinse, cover with water and place in the rice cooker.

While the rice is cooking, properly wash and scrub the fresh vegetables.  Julienne the carrots and zucchini.  Slice the banana blossoms.  Crush the garlic.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.  Immerse the carrots in the water until slightly tender (about 1 minute); remove.  Immerse the zucchini in the water for about 30 seconds; remove.  Immerse the spinach in the water for about 30 seconds; remove.  Put 1 tbsp sunflower oil in the skillet; add 1 tbsp fish sauce and stir-fry the bean sprouts for about a minute and the banana blossoms and garlic for about a minute.  Set aside all the cooked vegetables.

Use the vegetable water to stir-fry the ground lamb (or any other meat you wish, or you may make it completely vegetarian).  Set aside.

When the rice is finished, put in a round bowl and mix with sesame oil.  I didn't have a sizzling bowl, so I just used a regular bowl and it worked fine.  Then, arrange the vegetables and meat in a circular pattern.  Also include the napa kimchi.  When you are finished, fry an egg and put it in the center.  The result:

BiBimBap: So Good.

Voila!  Besides tasting good, one of the things I love about this dish is how colorful it is; everything is represented.  Even the rice (which you can't see) ended up being a deep purple because of the black rice used.  The vegetables are, clockwise starting at around 9:00: yellow zucchini, red napa kimchi, white banana blossoms, orange carrots, ground lamb, white bean sprouts, and green Chinese spinach.  And, of course, the fried egg in the middle.  I used banana blossoms here, which are almost never found in BiBimBap, but one of the great things about this dish is it works with just about any vegetable.  It's also not commonly made with lamb (almost 100% of the time it's either made with beef or vegetarian; in rare instances chicken or a seafood mix), but again, the spirit of this dish is to use up what you have.  I also didn't have the red pepper paste, which would have made it even better (so a trip to Galleria Korean market is in store) but I guess that just means  I'll have to make it again soon! :-)


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quick Dinner

Hello there.  DNA is still around!  These days I'm taking classes and applying for grad school and all that jazz (it never seems to stop) but, taking a break to Blogger!

After getting back from my 6-8:15 class, I don't feel like making a big elaborate dinner.  Something I can whip together in half an hour sounds mighty good.  So voila!

Quick Dinner.
Yeppers.  Not very much cooking required.  I picked up some salmon sashimi from Marukai on the way back (discounted prepped sushi and sashimi from 7:30-close, gotta love that), and figured I'd just make some brown rice & sprinkle some egg-and-bonito furikake over it and throw in some kimchi (There's regular napa kimchi, chive kimchi, and then not really kimchi but Japanese pickled plums.  A single serving of rice takes about half an hour, but it didn't take that long to throw the rest of it together so I made my new favorite soup:

New favorite soup.
That's daikon, carrot, and burdock simmered for about half an hour with some miso paste thrown in for good measure.  And just for the heck of it, I decided to bust out the iced jasmine tea I also got a Marukai ($2.49, uber-sale!)

It probably wasn't a good idea to have kimchi with the salmon sashimi (although I know some Korean restaurants serve sashimi as hwe dup bap, with the obligatory sides of course), because this particular salmon was a little bland...and not that great of a consistency.  Ehh, I guess that's what I get for getting cheap sashimi.  (Which sadly, is one of those items that 'cheap' should never precede...but I went against my own advice this time.  'Cheap' is usually fine before, say, fruits and vegetables.)  Sorry, Marukai..

Still though, not bad!  The soup was pretty darn good & kimchi is never a bad thing. 
Anyway, I have about half a pack of leftover sashimi, but I think I'm just going to sear it tomorrow morning & cover it in furikake.

I'll try not to disappear for a few months again, because I have some exciting posts coming up later this month: another year has passed, and that means my top tunes of 2010!  Top 10 albums & Top 100 singles are done and will be up pretty soon, and depending on how feisty I get, I may do a Top something-or-other worst of the year.  Haha.  But best of all, another live Top 50 countdown is in the works, so stay tuned!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Adventures with Bread Machine, part I

Friday after work, I picked up a behemoth but practically new-in-the-box Sunbeam Breadmaker 5891 from St. Vinnie's. Since the thrift shop has a two-day window for returns on appliances, fresh-baked bread was on the menu this weekend.

The Sunbeam came with a book of 12 recipes, so I decided to start with the supposedly no-fail "Homestyle White Bread, 1.5-Pound Loaf." I made a quick grocery run for butter, nonfat dry milk powder, bread flour and bread machine yeast, and by about 9:30 p.m. I was ready to take my bread machine for its first test drive.

The process couldn't have been easier. Add ingredients to bread pan. Put in machine. Close lid. Push button. Made me wish Sunbeam also offered a Meringuepiemaker or a Soufflemaker.

I watched the kneading blade maneuver the dough around the pan through the clear window on top, and was impressed as the dough started to rise. As the three-hour timer reached its last hour, I checked on the baking process. Bummer - the top had fallen and there was a giant smushy crater in the middle of my bread. 

After the baking completed, I crossed my fingers and removed the pan. As I shook the bread out, I was relieved that the bread had risen after all, though the top looked like the collapsed Metrodome after a large snowfall. Also, the kneading blade had embedded itself inside the bread, but the people at Sunbeam fortunately had thought of this and provided a hook-like device to surgically remove this non-edible piece of metal from the bread.

I cut my first slice, which looked a little like a cat with pointy ears framing the part that had collapsed on top. However, the inside looked great - no dense layers or air bubbles, just warm, fluffy bread. Win! Next time I think I'll try different grains, seeds, nuts or dried fruit.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Creative Designs by Leftover Turkey

Last weekend I drove to Nebraska to visit my parents, and my mom whipped up a delicious traditional Thanksgiving turkey with the obligatory stuffing, gravy and homemade cranberry sauce. I returned to Wisconsin with half jars of gravy and cranberry sauce, a few servings of stuffing and half of the bird all jammed into my lunch-box cooler. After days of reliving that wonderful Thanksgiving meal via leftovers, everything was gone except the turkey - which somehow seemed to have expanded beyond the capacity of its jumbo-sized Ziplock bag. Time to get creative.

Solution? Tetrazzini!!!

The name sounds Italian, but this Tetrazzini is a good ol' toss-and-bake, down-to-earth Midwestern gal's hotdish. It may not be too photogenic, but it's warm, filling and reheat-friendly. Here is the recipe, open to interpretation:

2 cups leftover turkey, shredded or cubed
1 package cooked Amish-style egg noodles
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup mixed vegetables, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute the vegetables. Mix together turkey, cooked noodles, soup, milk and vegetables in a deep baking dish. Top mixture with cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Turned out great. Tasted like a richer, heartier chicken noodle soup without the soup.

However, I still have several pounds of turkey left in the freezer. More recipe ideas to come ...