Sunday, November 30, 2008

My First Rerun - I'm on Vacation

If this auto-post thing works like it should, then right now I'm away in the Caribbean on a 7-day cruise! I didn't want to just leave and not post - but that the same time my mind was soooo focused on this beautiful weather that I couldn't even focus on cooking!

Enjoy your week and look for great pics when I get back to Chicago on 12/8!

btw - if you have Twitter - follow me. There's a link on the right side of this page. I'll Twit as often as I can only becasue I'm now terribly addicted!

So, you can probably tell (with the abundance of salmon dishes) that salmon has been on sale recently. You're right! It has been...thus, the reason why my mind is going bananas with salmon dishes.

Try this on for size...a parmesan crusted salmon steak, over a bed of creamed spinach risotto, surrounded by a lemon scented brodetto and basil oil. Sounds complicated, right? Trust's not. Most of all I'm staying true to who I am - it's quick, easy, and can totally me added to our repitoire of everyday cookin!

Parmesan Crusted Salmon Steaks
- 3 medium sized salmon steaks
- 1/4 cup of cornmeal
- 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and pat the steaks dry. Season with salt and pepper. Combine cheese and cornmeal mixture. Once well combined, dredge fish. Heat an oven proof skillet to medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add oil. When oil begins to waft, add fish skin side down until golden brown. The fish won't be cooked all the way, that's okay. Turn the fish over and place in hot oven for about 4-5 more minutes, or until fish is completely cooked on the inside.

Creamed Spinach Risotto
- 1 cup of Arbollo rice
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of pepper

Creamed Spinach
- 5 strips of thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- ½ cup of heavy cream
- ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper
- salt and pepper to taste

Risotto: In a sauce pot, combine rice and 2 cups of chicken stock. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until cooked (about 10 minutes). Add cheese, salt, and pepper, and combine well.

Creamed Spinach
- Cook bacon and onion together until onions are translucent and bacon is browned. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Add spinach. Once mixture comes to a boil, add cream, cheese, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer, mixture will thicken.

Once creamed spinach is done, combined with risotto and serve.

Lemon Scented Brodetto
- ¼ cup of chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons of onion, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
- the juice of half a lemon

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, immediately turn off heat and serve.

Isn't this beautiful - it was on sale - more beautiful, right?

I'm in love with this pic. This is what would bring the world peace.

Bacon & onion...deglazed with chicken stock...yummo!

The start to something good - creamed spinach risotto

And aerial show proportion - thanks for catching this Nik (I love her!)

The final plating!

Let's not forget to watch this:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is That Beef Stew?

Click on this picture to enlarge it - it's worth it!

OMG, is that beef stew?

Answer: Yup, sure is...although it's been deconstructed a bit.

Honestly, it's getting rather cold here in Chicago and there's nothing better than a warm pot of stew, right? BUT, who has time to cook stew these days? I'm 26 years old and I'm always on the go - when I want something...I want it now. No time for waiting - so, here's my version of a deconstructed beef stew.

WARNING: Read the next paragraph slowly. You've gotta take it all in.

It's seared rib eye steaks that have been coated with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. The rib eye is sitting on a wonderful cannelini bean puree that has been flavored with garlic, rosemary, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and roasted leeks. We have root veggies that get tossed in salt, pepper, balsamic, and olive oil and roasted until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The whole dish gets tied together with two things; a cheddar and rosemary drop biscuit (I mean who can have stew without bread?) and a pan sauce made from onions, garlic, beef stock, and red wine.

*pauses for a sec*

I know, I know - you've gotta take this all in. I mean seriously, this totally satisfies any beef stew seriously!

How long did it take me? An astounding 27 minutes from start to finish. I'm so freaking serious - and I know you don't believe me. That's okay - I'm giving you step by step directions.

Let's go.

Step 1: Cut and clean the veggies. Place them on a sheet tray and toss with kosher salt, cracked pepper, really good olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. These get roasted for 20 minutes in a really hot oven - about 400 degrees.

Step 2 - The Drop Biscuits. I totally cheated here - but who cares - the finished product is just as tasty, if not tastier. I used a cup of Bisquick and mixed it with a tablespoon of minced rosemary, 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese, and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Drop the balls onto a greased sheet pan and into that same hot oven for about 10 minutes - they cook fast, so watch out.

Step 3 - Let the beef rest at room temperature for a bit. Season the oustide with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Minus well chop up what you need for the sauce - it goes quick. 1/4 cup of onion, 2 garlic cloves, and a teaspoon or so of chopped rosemary.

Step 4 - The Sauce - saute the rosemary, garlic, and onions together for two minutes with a bit of olive oil over a medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of good red wine and 1/4 cup of really good beef stock. Reduce over medium heat until thickened and stir in 1 tablespoon of butter at the end.

Step 5 - The Cannelini Bean Puree. Simple and tasty. Drain a can of cannelini beans and put into a blender. Add those roasted leeks (as many as you like) a drizzle of olive oil, salt, 1 minced garlic clove, and pepper, and pulse into a thick puree. If you need more liquid add a bit of beef stock or some of the liquid from the canned beans. Place in a sauce pan to heat through. Add as much fresh grated Parmesan cheese as you like and heat through.

The Last Step - Plate and enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Italian Modern Fiesta - A Complete HOME RUN! have you ever thought to yourself, let me just try this and see how it comes out? Well, that's EXACTLY what I did. Tonight I had a meeting with two really good friends of mine. We're working on some ideas for the food blog - you know, trying to step it up a couple of notches. So, I figured what better way to talk about food than to eat food - great idea, right? But we couldn't just eat any ol' food - it wouldn't work out that way. Really.

So, I needed inspiration...and I needed it quick. What did I come up with.? Well, I want to say that for me this is the pinnacle of creativity. I don't think I've ever been stretched this much and have ever been this successful in menu planning. All I knew was I wanted Italian, modern, chic, and little bites...but I didn't know what that translated into. After some though, you'll like the outcome.

Chicken Parmesan Bites
We all know and love chicken parm, right? Chicken breast that's been seasoned and fried and smothered in tomato sauce, toppeed with cheese, and baked until golden brown! I've done my variation. It has ground chicken that's been seasoned and a small cube of Mozzarella cheese has been put on the inside. I rolled it in a seasoned flour and cornstarch mixture and deep fried the bite until it was crispy on the outside and piping hot on the inside. I made a quick tomato sauce with tons of fresh basil and topped the entire thing with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Carmelized Beef, Onion, and Pepper Triangles
I'm not entirely sure if this is Italian or not. But it's rib eye steak that's been cubed. I added peppers and onions and cooked the whole thing in olive oil and garlic until it was tender and carmelized. I put the cooled mixture in puff pastry and folded them into triangles. I did a reduction of balsamic that was infused with POMEGRANATE and gave that a drizzle over the puff pastry triangles. HEAVEN!

Garlic Crustinis and Sweet Petite Diced Bruschetta
Personally, I hate most bruschettas. I don't like the over powerful tomato taste and bland seasonings. So, I gave this some life! It took less than 3 minutes to make. I took canned tomatoes, minced onion, minced garlic, and basil - tossed that together with olive oil, salt, pepper, a touch of red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of that balsamic vinegar that had been infused with pomegranate juice. For a nice suprise, a bit of sugar takes this over the top. This is grown up bruschetta!

Toastes Wedges with a Roasted Garlic & Lemon Aoili
Nothing to hard here - just good old russet potatoes that got cut into wedges and tossed with kosher salt, pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. I toasted them in a hot oven and when they came out topped them with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. I also roasted a head of garlic and mixed it with the juice of one lemon, lemon zest, and really good mayo. I seasoned it with a touch of salt and pepper. Why reinvent the wheel?

All in all - this was GREAT. I totally think I hit a home run and my friends were great sports. You can see from the pics below that this was a fantastic time...the food was really, really, really good. You'll see these dishes again really soon!

Be sure to click on any of the pictures too - it's food porn again - I promise.

The carmelized beef, onion, and peppers in puff pastry - see the balsamic drizzle?

The toasted wedges and the roasted garlic and lemon aioli.

The sweet petite diced brushetta - it's grew up!

My friend Calvin. He couldn't decide which one to eat - so he ate them the same time!

I caught him stuffing his face - a classic picture!

This food went fast - look at it go.

Calvin stopped for a picture - but Levell, he's still eating!

I know you wanted to see the inside of the beef triangles...I wasn't going to let you down. Be sure to enlarge the pic by clicking on it.

Another really great pic of the bruschetta!

I also had to show you the inside of the chicken parm bites! See the cheese oozing!

I didn't wrap this one too tight. It lost a bit of cheese - lol.

The potato wedges...before they were toasted!

The making of the chicken parm bites!

The egg washing! That's really important, ya know?!?!

The rib eye steak, onions, and pepper on their way to carmelization heaven!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pasta Piccante Divertimentio - I totally made this up!

My Italian never was good – yo hablo espanol mejor que yo hablo Italiano! I totally made this dish up in my head – like completely. Loosely translated it means “Spicy Fun Pasta.” I couldn’t think of anything and yes, I know that title is corny – but hey, what’s a brotha to do? 

Anyway – so, how about this for another quick pasta dish - sun dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil, white wine, all over a bit of linguini topped with really good Parmesan cheese. Oh, did I mention I added in red pepper flakes for a little fun? I paired this with pan seared tilapia that got a touch of cornstarch as a coating (Thanks Sunny Anderson for this tip) and the pan got deglazed with a pat of butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I mean – hello – what more can you ask for on a Wednesday. This was some good eating for sure. And as always – it takes NO TIME AT ALL. Wanna know what I was most surprised at? Awww – come on, ask me? 


Darius T. Williams, what were you most surprised about? 

Thanks for asking. I was most surprised that the fruitiness in the white wine was absolutely divine with the lemon butter over the fish. I mean, really – there was a party in my mouth! 

Two more points to make…the first is, I tried. I mean, really – I really really tried not to add peas. But you know, something just didn’t seem right with having pasta without peas. Maybe I have a medical condition? I mean, I don’t know – but I’m sorry – I’ve just gotta add peas to my pasta. You don’t have to – but me…I think I’m sick without them. The second point is this – you will notice that there is NO BUTTER in this recipe (for the pasta at least - lol). I read a comment someone made that my food will kill you if you eat too much of it. After thinking about it – I agree. But you know, good food should taste good – and sometimes butter and cream can be your friend. I mean, not all the time – but you know, majority of the time it makes me feel really really good. Butter and Cream are my friends! Are they yours? 

The Ingredients

½ pound of linguini

3 tablespoons of really good olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of shallots (or Vidalia onions), minced

½ cup of white wine, something you’d drink

½ cup of sun dried tomatoes

8 or 9 (or more) leaves of basil

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or less if you’re a whimp)

Salt and pepper 

The Method

Prepare the pasta in “shockingly salty water.” Once done, drain and reserve. In a deep skillet cook oil, garlic, shallots, and tomatoes together on high heat until the oil becomes fragrant – about 3 minutes. Add wine and let reduce slightly. Add everything else to the pan and toss together well. Garnish with basil and a drizzle of olive oil

I added in the peas here. I swear I wasn't going to do it at first - but ya know...I couldn't resist.

The foundations of flavor - shallots, garlic, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and white wine!

Starting this dish off right!

The ingredients for this dish. I bet you have all these in your fridge. See - pasta made simple!

Remember - good pasta begins with "shockingly" salty water!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Asiago Stuffed Gnocchi in a White Wine Cream

It's a Sunday - why complicate things? Sometimes ending the weekend can be just as simple as beginning it. That's exactly how I ended mine. A bit of asiago stuffed gnocchi in a white wine cream sauce was perfect. 

I have a rule - not sure if it's golden though. If there's a cream sauce and some kind of pasta - there just has to be peas...right?

Thanks - I'm glad you agree...even you too Complaint Department Manager - lol!

So, here's how this goes.

The Ingredients
1/2 pound of sweet gulf shrimp
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 pound of frozen gnocchi (your choice of flavors - there are a million of them)
1/4 cup of frozen peas
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of good Parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
a dash of cayenne
chopped parsley

The Process
Cook gnocchi as package directs. Drain and reserve. In a skillet heat olive oil and garlic over high heat for about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook until almost done. Add white wine and cook for about 2 minutes until it's almost evaporated. Add peas, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and cook for about 2 minutes until sauce thickens. Carefully fold in gnocchi until well incorporated. Plate and top with more cheese and parsley.

YES - that's a biscuit in the background. I had a few left over from breakfast this morning. Why not have it with your pasta? I know white wine cream and biscuits don't sound that great together - but they were delicious!

Another really good view!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Best Damn Mac & Cheese...EVER!

It's been quite a while since I've given a play by play. Well - here goes. This is a recipe that I've PERFECTED! I cook it often at many gatherings and well, it's never failed me. I must say - it took a while to get the recipe down packed - but I finally did it. It's the BEST DAMN MAC & CHEESE Ever! I know that's a pretty bold statement. But, I stand by it - 100%. This is what I had for dinner tonight. I stayed true to Everyday Cookin' because this took 24 minutes from start to finish.

***if you're counting calories - don't do so while making this dish - lol***

Oh and what protein did I enjoy? Well, I had some thin cut pork chops in the freezer. A quick defrost and seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper) and I was almost ready to go. I got creative! I had some nuts. Can I just say I hate nuts! They have to be cooked (like in granola) in order for me to eat them. I figured this would work - so I took pecans and ground them into a flour, mixed that with cornstarch, and put them in the deep fryer. Let me just tell you...pecans are my new favorite frying companion!

Let's cook!

The Best Ever Mac & Cheese

¾ pound of Cellantani Pasta
1 pint of heavy cream
4 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 ½ tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 cup of each, shredded provolone, white cheddar, sharp cheddar, and Monterey jack cheeses
½ cup of all cheeses combined for topping

Cook pasta in shockingly salty boiling water until tender. Drain and reserve to the side. In a sauce pan melt butter over medium high heat. Once melted stir in flour and cook through for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in heavy cream so no lumps form. Bring to a boil and immediately turn off. Add cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add pasta and pour mixture into a greased baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.


You start with "shockingly" salty water as Anne Burrell says.

This was the roux I made. Just melt the butter and add the flour. Keep stirring - that's the key!

I was letting the pork chops drain here...look good, right?

Great mac and cheese starts with melted butter!

Once I mixed the cream, roux, and pasta together! Looks good already!

This is the roux and cream and seasonings before it thickens.

The finished product!

It started with one nut!

Pecans and cornstarch - a deep fryer's honeymoon!

There's nothing like good pasta draining.