Heather and I tend to talk about food pretty often; so often in fact that we have rules. One of the more recent ones is no talking about food before noon. Why? Cravings. When you’ve got a craving for baked goods or something loaded with cheese at 10am in the morning, you’re in trouble. Wednesday’s craving (albeit not at 10 in the morning, thank god) was fries. Some cravings cannot be denied.

Adobo Seasoning

Maybe it’s the whole swine flu thing, but I felt like taking this cravings in the Mexican direction (bet you didn’t see THAT coming!). I’ve never actually heard of Mexican fries though so I decided to make up my own. Overall, I felt the seasoning was mild until I added a spritz of lime. Don’t ask me why, but that addition definitely made it a winning combination.

Mexican Potato Wedges

Mexican Potato Wedges
This recipe is is only for one potato, so be sure to scale it up when considering how many people you’re serving.

1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove; minced
a pinch red pepper flakes
a pinch cayenne (optional, for a bit more kick)

1 tablespoon oil
1 russet potato
1 lime

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix all your spices and garlic together in a small bowl and set aside. Wash and dry your potato then cut it into eights wedge then cut each wedge in half. Throw your wedges, oil and spices together and mix until well combined.

Place your wedges on a baking sheet covered in foil and roast for 35 minutes; tossing halfway through. Your wedges should be browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes and serve with a spritz of lime juice. Enjoy.

Ever since I’ve learned the glory that is couscous, I’ve been trying to find ways to incorporate it into my meals. One of the ways I’ve been looking into is as a replacement (or complement) to rice; giving an old favorite a twist. That’s how I came up with today’s recipe.

Onion, Garlic, Carrots and Butter

When I was in high school I worked at the local Arbys restaurant. It was close enough to walk (no car) and far less disgusting than the nearby McDonalds (which was quite disgusting). Oh, and we had a frozen custard station which was friggin’ awesome. One of the side dishes we sold with our rotisserie chicken was rice pilaf which was, for an uncultured high-schooler, quite tasty. It had small bits of vegetables and almond slivers. I decided to use this as my inspiration.

The Makings of a Pilaf

Pilaf is a dish in which rice is lighty sauted in butter or oil and often well-seasoned. I decided to go mild on the seasoning; relying instead on a high quality stock. This recipe can be easily modified per your seasoning or vegetable preferences, but I suggest giving it a shot as a complement to your main course.

Couscous and lentil pilaf

Couscous and Lentil Pilaf
Without a high quality stock to enhance the flavor, this dish will be very mild in taste. Consider spice alternatives.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small oinion; diced
1 clove garlic; minced
1 carrot; diced
1/2 cup green lentils
1/2 cup couscous
1 cup peas (if frozen, thawed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
4 cups high quality stock
1/4 cup almond slivers

Bring the lentils to a boil in 1 1/2 cup of water and simmer for 12 minutes. Strain and set aside. While the lentils are cooking, lightly toast your almond slivers.

Melt the butter under medium-low heat and sweat the onion, garlic and carrots for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally. Add the lentils, couscous, peas, salt, cumin and stock and bring to a boil under medium-high heat. Reduce to low and cover, letting it simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave on the burner uncovered until light and fluffy; approximately five minutes. Add your almonds and any additional salt to taste. Enjoy.

A Hankering For Hummus – Garlic Hummus

I had a hankering for hummus (and alliteration) the other day, which was odd considering I can count the number of times I’ve had hummus quite possibly on one hand. But hey, details; hankerings cannot be denied. It was adventure time in Chef Edwin’s kitchen.

Processing Hummus Ingredients

The great thing about hummus is that it’s incredibly easy (and therefore fun) to experiment with. Once you’ve processed your recipe base (chickpeas, tahini, oil, maybe some water), you can pretty much go wherever you want. Add a little bit of this, a dash of that, maybe some more of this… Order doesn’t really matter because it’s all being processed together. Just start small; add a bit of one or two things, taste and let your pallet tell you where to go.

Thick Garlic Hummus

Garlic Hummus

1 head roasted garlic
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/3 cup tahini
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon (one lemon)
4 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoons coriander
1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoons kosher salt

Fit your food processor with the chopper blade. Throw in the garlic and process until minced. Add your remaining ingredients and continue to process. This hummus is a bit thick, so feel free to add some more oil and water, a bit at a time until it reaches your desired consistency (me, I like it thick). Enjoy.

Who Needs Scallions? Mashed Potatoes and Rutabaga

Two dinner posts in one week instead of dessert? This is Ghost Baker blasphemy! And I picked rutabaga to work with; such a bizarre looking vegetable. Maybe hitting our 100th DinnerCakes post this week has made me loopy.

rutabagas

Don’t worry, I’ve just been cooking a lot lately and trying new things… and thankfully they seem to be working out well! Weight loss and weekly baking weren’t really fitting together, though I believe Chef Edwin got a good laugh at my dreams of a pound cake diet (which he sarcastically termed my “pound diet”).

My mother-in-law got me a subscription to Food Network Magazine for Christmas which I have already toyed with before here. This was a really cool gift because now I get great, seasonal recipes delivered directly to my door (er, mail slot). Today’s recipe was inspired by the Nov/Dec 2008 issue featuring some fancy potato recipes.

mashing

The original recipe called for a few things that I thought were a little unnecessary for my purposes (a weeknight side dish). And my husband quickly vetoed my quest for fresh parsley and scallions in the grocery store stating incredulously, “Who has ever eaten something and said it needs more scallions!?”

So here we are! I took out some of the “fluff,” used basic Russet potatoes instead of Yukon Gold and added broccoli. This recipe makes a shallow baking dish full of mashed potatoes and rutabaga. We had enough leftover for a full week of dinners and/or lunches… quite a bit, really. But I surprisingly never got tired of it! This dish really is a nice surprise. I’d only had rutabaga once before at Thanksgiving 2008. I thought it had a very distinct, almost bitter taste that didn’t agree with me, but combining it with potatoes makes it much more mild and very enjoyable.

mashed potatoes and rutabaga

Mashed Potatoes and Rutabaga
adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 pound rutabaga (yellow turnip), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons margarine, room temperature (I did half regular butter and half margarine in an attempt to reduce the fat content, but you certainly don’t have to)
3/4 cup half and half, warmed
salt, to taste (I used coarse Kosher salt)
1/2 tablespoon oil (I used Smart Balance oil)
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
3/4 cups plain breadcrumbs

In a large pot, cover cut rutabaga and potatoes with cold, salted water and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce to a simmer until the vegetables are tender (they should hold there form, but there should be little resistance when pierced with a fork). This will take approximately 30 minutes.

Drain the water and turn the heat down to low. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the butter (not the margarine) and mash (I used a potato masher) until smooth (I like to leave just a few potato chunks in mine, but I know everyone has there own preference!). Add the warm half and half and salt. Keep warm on low setting.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of margarine with the oil in a skillet on medium. Add the breadcrumbs and broccoli and cook until broccoli is tender, stirring so that the breadcrumbs don’t burn.

Pour the potato mixture into a shallow baking or casserole dish. Sprinkle potatoes with the breadcrumb/broccoli mixture and serve.

Note – after discussing this dish with Edwin, we think mashed cauliflower might also be good in here, possibly as a substitute to the Russet potatoes. Let us know if you try it out!

Mexican Rice, Surprisingly Simple

Both Heather and I will be traveling to our hometown of Richmond this weekend to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday. Much fun will be had, much food will be consumed. Besides the obligatory mass of baked goods that come from two culinary freaks (Heather lives for days like these, I swear), our friend has requested dinner at Texas De Brazil; also known as “oh god why did I eat so much it hurts so good.” I don’t eat meat that often and beef even less frequently, so I can assure you that I will make this experience worth it.

Bell Peppery Goodness

The Lady Friend and I both have pretty active (read: busy) schedules so quality time can be a bit limited. With my weekend trip we had dinner Monday to have some of said quality time. She had recently got me Fresh Food Fast: Delicious, Seasonal Vegetarian Meals in Under an Hour and so far I’ve been pretty happy with it, so we decided to make black bean quesadillas.

I did a little searching for Mexican rice recipes and was surprised to find very few called for much in terms of spices. At that point I decided to wing it and this was the result. It went quite well.

Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 red bell pepper; chopped
1/2 green bell pepper; chopped
1 jalapeno pepper; chopped
1 yellow onion; chopped
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cup stock or water
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot and saute the onions, garlic and peppers until softened; approximately 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the rice is softened; approximately 45 minutes.

The Quest for a Quality Macaroni Dish

So I’m going to pretend that last night’s culinary escapade didn’t happen (officially. unofficially, you learn more from failure than success) and move straight on. Life is like a river, loyal readers (do we have any of those yet?). It flows ever forth.

The Arlington Public Library had a book sale this weekend. I’m a bit of a book whore, I have to admit (love knowledge), so I went twice. My partner in crime Heather and I were having a discussion earlier in the week about how neither of us really had a quality macaroni and cheese recipe under our belt. We were both raised on the out-the-box variety: me the classic blue box, Heather the classier, more sophisticated deluxe kind. Coincidentally on my first visit to the book sale, I came across Macaroni And Cheese for the low low price of a dollar. Feeling this was fate, I took this book home with me.
Simple Mac and Cheese Ingredients
I’ve not given this book the time it deserves for a proper review, but it definitely looks promising. It starts off with a brief about why macaroni and cheese is awesome (as if you didn’t know this by now) followed by a mini-guide on the different kinds of cheeses and pastas along with how to put it all together. Despite the name, no seasoned cook should expect to find any secrets here but beginners may find this useful. The remainder of the book is broken into five chapters for the varying categories of mac & cheese: Easy and Cheesy, Soups and Salads, Stove-Top Mac and Cheese, Baked Mac and Cheese, Sweets. The photography is excellent and this is not one of those cookbooks leaving you frustrated; wishing there were more photos of the dishes (hate. those. books). You can expect a photograph every two to three recipes.
Cheesy
Eager to try a recipe out but still nursing bruised confidence after last night’s adventure, I opted for the first recipe from the Easy and Cheesy Recipe: Alpine Macaroni and Appenzeller with Crème Fraîche. This was a recipe with a very cheesy texture but not an overly cheesy taste. With only an eight item ingredient list this recipe, was not overly complicated and instead focused on simplicity. Perfect.
Alpine Macaroni and Gruyère with Crème Fraîche
Alpine Macaroni and Gruyère with Crème Fraîche
adapted from Macaroni & Cheese (I cut the recipe in half)

6 ounces elbow macaroni
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, chopped
5-6 ounces Gruyère, shredded/grated (possible alternatives: Appenzeller, Emmenthal, Comtè)
2 ounces crème fraiche (or more if desired)
a grating nutmeg
1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
salt a pepper to taste

Cook the pasta as you cook all pasta: in a rapidly boiling pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve half a cup of the liquid.
Put a bit of the water back into the pot first to prevent burning followed by the pasta, garlic, shallot, cheese, crème fraiche, nutmeg and butter. Toss gently. If too thick or dry, add more water. If the cheese doesn’t melt turn the heat on low briefly and continue to toss.