Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tortilla Espanola

As my readers (all three of you) may already know, I studied abroad in Spain in college. A typical dish of Spain is the tortilla espanola, which unlike tortilla in Latin America, is more like a potato omelette rather than a crunchy cornmeal chip. This dish is often served in slices as a tapa in restaurants, or in my case, at the dinner table of my host family. When I came back to campus after studying abroad, tortilla espanola became my signature dish to share among friends.

My senora taught me a handy trick, which, if done properly, will produce the perfect tortilla. Unfortunately, as I made it today, I did not do it properly and ended up with a gloopy mess. As you can see, only half the tortilla is pictured here because I had to eat the messy half. But these are sacrifices we food bloggers must make.

Once again, I am writing the method below from memory so everything is approximated. In this recipe, you cannot be afraid to use salt and oil. In Spain, they love their olive oil and it is essential in most of their cooking. And the salt is important here or your tortilla will taste like nothing.

2 medium potatoes, or one large potato
3 large eggs (I used 2 whole eggs and the white of one egg)
Lots of oil, enough to cover the pan, and preferably olive oil because it is the signature oil of Spain.
Several pinches of salt

1. Peel and slice the potatoes into very thin slices, between an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. I quarter the potatoes lengthwise to get nice bite pieces.
2. Fry the potatoes in a large pan with a very generous coat of oil (several tablespoons). You need a lot of oil or it will stick and burn. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook until potatoes are soft and slightly browned. They will look like slightly undercooked home fries.
3. Drain the potatoes on paper towels. Scramble the eggs with another pinch of salt.
4. Heat oil (yes, more oil - or you can use the leftever oil from cooking the potatoes) in an 8-inch pan. Transfer the potatoes to the pan. Pour egg mixture evenly over the potatoes. Allow it to cook until the bottom is golden brown.
5. The Trick: To flip over the tortilla, place a large plate (one that is bigger than the pan) over the pan and flip the pan with the plate VERY QUICKLY. If you do not do it quickly enough or use a big enough plate, you will end up with a gloopy mess on your stove like I did.
6. Allow to cook for a few more minutes until the other side is golden brown.
7. Serve and enjoy!
8. If you did not do the trick right, clean your stove.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Oops, I meant to post this during finals, but instead I'm doing it now.

Okay, so I cheated on this one and used brownie mix and added semi-sweet chocolate chips. But hey, it's finals, after all...

Still looks good, though doesn't? Go Pillsbury!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan

It’s finals time and I am carb-loading so I’ll have energy for tomorrow! Although it turns out that eggplant* is fairly low-carb, I was mostly eating the pasta that goes with it for the carbs. This was also my first hand at writing down a recipe completely from memory rather than copying from one. So the measurements and times are approximates. I also used cooking spray rather than the traditional deep-frying method - this not only saves time, but it makes the recipe a bit lighter.

And since I know most of my readership is fellow students who are procrastinating – good luck with finals!

* Did you know that the average eggplant contains as much nicotine as a cigarette?

Eggplant Parmesan

1 Eggplant – sliced into rounds about ¼ to ½ inch thick
1 well-beaten egg with a splash of milk
A couple of handfuls of bread crumbs
A handful of grated parmesan cheese
½ tsp of dried basil
½ tsp of dried oregano
A dash of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Tomato-Basil Sauce (inspired by Rachael Ray)
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
15-20 fresh basil leaves, torn
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 lb of pasta – I used spaghetti, but you can use whatever long stringy type pasta you like (angel hair, fettuccini etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Prepare pan that is well-greased with cooking spray
3. To make the breading, combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and spices in a shallow plate. You can add more as you go along if it is not enough.
4. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg wash, and then dredge in the bread crumb mixture and place into the pan in a single layer. Spray the top of the eggplant slices with more cooking spray. Place in the oven for about a total of 20-25 minutes. After ten minutes, flip over the eggplant slices and spray more cooking spray. In the last five minutes, add a layer of tomato sauce (method below) and mozzarella cheese on top.
5. While you are waiting for the eggplant to bake, start boiling the water for pasta and prepare the sauce
6. To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan with the minced garlic. Once the garlic starts to sizzle (or as Rachael calls it, “speak”), add crushed tomatoes. Be sure to keep the heat on low and cover it because tomato sauce will spatter! At about the same time you add the cheese to the eggplant, add the basil leaves to the sauce. Let simmer until everything else is done cooking.
7. Serve with pasta and enjoy. I am not really sure how many normal people it serves because I already ate half of it by myself. My guess is 4-6.
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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bake Sale Preview

So this is a shameless plug here, but it's my blog, so I can advertise what ever I want! Tomorrow is the APALSA bake sale, so to entice potentially hungry law students I have posted pics of my contribution - rainbow cupcakes and blueberry muffins!

Now doesn't this look tasty? There's only one way to sink your teeth into these cupcakes - come to the bake sale tomorrow!

I have to admit, it takes a lot of willpower not to eat any of these before tomorrow!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

My pancakes need help!

I love pancakes. Except whenever I make them, the presentation always leaves something to be desired. Somehow, I always end up with rather irregularly shaped ovals that brown unevenly. (See above) So then I drown them in butter and syrup, and all is good in the world again. I would, however, like to learn how to make the beautifully, golden brown, fluffy rounds you find at diners and restaurants.

But tomorrow is another day, and I still have leftover batter.

"Good Old-Fashioned Pancakes" (from allrecipes.com)
Serves 8

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
2. Heat griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Blame it on the weather, or a burning desire to procrastinate, or for whatever reason, this weekend has inspired not just one, but two blog posts.

This recipe was taken from the wrapper of a bag of Toll House Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Morsels. Except the original recipe yielded 5 DOZEN cookies. Not wanting to spoon out 60 cookies, I reduced the recipe by half.

1 1/8 cups of all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened*
3/8 cup** granulated sugar
3/8 cup** packed brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
6.5 oz of Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate morsels (about half the bag)
½ cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
* Tip: I stick the butter in the microwave for about 15 seconds to soften
** This is a little more than ¼ cup. What I do is fill the ¼ measuring cup, dump it in the bowl and then fill it again about halfway.

1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl
3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl until creamy
4. Add egg and beat well
5. Gradually beat in flour mixture
6. Stir in morsels and nuts
7. Drop by rounded table spoons onto ungreased baking sheets
8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Allow to cool for two minutes on baking sheets. The recipe says to transfer to wire racks, but I can almost never wait that long and start eating them! Yields about 2 1/2 Dozen cookies
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against fast food. I am a big fan of the various chains and the delicious, savory sandwiches, and crispy tater tots they serve. I am, by no means, a health nut.

But I am not a fan of going out in rainy, cold weather to get my food. So one rainy morning in college, when I was too reluctant and too cash-strapped to walk across campus to buy breakfast, I had a brilliant idea, “Why not make the sandwich in my very own kitchen?”

The beauty of cooking at home is that you can adjust the ingredients to your taste and make lighter, healthier versions. This, of course, only works if you have all the ingredients in your kitchen, which I didn’t always have in college.

When I finally had all the ingredients on hand, I faced another problem – timing. If you toast the bread first, then it will be cold by the time the eggs and bacon are done, and vice versa. Then there was the challenge of getting the cheese to melt perfectly. One method I tried, which was inspired by a Brooklyn deli sandwich, was enveloping the cheese within the egg while the egg cooked to make a sort of egg and cheese omelet within the sandwich. The result was delicious, but made for messy, gooey eating.

So this is the method that I developed over years of trial and error and it is the method I used today on this rainy and cold morning.

2 slices of whole wheat bread (or bagel, or English muffin, or biscuit)
1 large egg
2 slices of low-sodium bacon (or turkey bacon, or ham)
1 slice of American cheese (or any other cheese you desire)
1 pat of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the bread into the toaster oven, so it will be ready to go, but do not toast it yet.
2. Melt butter in pan set at medium-low heat. While the butter is melting, scramble the egg
3. Once the butter has melted and is starting to foam, throw in the egg and cook until it reaches desired doneness. Set the egg aside on a plate and add salt and pepper.
4. Raise the heat on the pan to medium or medium-high heat. Begin cooking bacon.
5. When it is time to flip the bacon, hit the switch on the toaster to toast the bread.
6. When bacon is done (I prefer my bacon to be chewy rather than burnt to a crisp, so this usually means about 3-4 minutes on each side.), set aside on a paper towel to drain.
7. Right about now, the toast should be done toasting. Take it out and immediately assemble the sandwich so that the cheese is touching the bread. The heat from the bread needs to melt the cheese.
8. If, during this time, your sandwich seems to be a bit cold, place it back in the toaster oven for about another minute or two.
9. Enjoy with a cup of home-brewed coffee or tea!
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Avocado and Tomato Salad

This morning over breakfast, my mom said to me, "This avocado is ripe. Eat it before it turns brown."

So I did.

Avocado and Tomato Salad
Inspired by Elise Bauer's of Simply Recipes, "Avocado Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes" - but I adapted it to what I had on hand.

1/2 avocado, sliced
1 small tomato or 1/2 a medium sized tomato, sliced
Sliced scallions, for garnish
Lemon juice

Slice avocado and tomato and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle lemon juice, scallions, and salt.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Turkey Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and a Stuffed Pepper

This is another old photo from the Philadelphia apartment. (You might recognize my roommate's lovely placemats.) The shrimp is another Rachael Ray inspiration. The pepper, however, was my own invention. It actually was a throw-in so that I have a vegetable in my meal. When I was little, my mom had to fight tooth and nail to get me to eat my vegetables. And even now, I sometimes I have to be creative with my vegetables to inspire myself to eat them. Here, I think I happen to just have an old pepper in the fridge. And I was planning on eating the shrimp with white rice because I eat rice with everything. So I thought to myself, what if I put the rice in the pepper and have a stuffed pepper? A little bit of butter, salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika and I had myself a fake version of stuffed pepper. This picture is probably at least two or three years old, but I still remember that pepper!

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp
Rachael actually also used scallops in this recipe, but I didn't have any. And I actually used turkey bacon instead of pork bacon and frozen shrimp. In this picture, I used Trader Joe's brand turkey bacon, which did not come out as crispy as I would have liked.

12 jumbo raw peeled deveined shrimp,
1 lime, juiced and zested
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon grill seasoning or coarse salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
12 slices center cut or applewood smoked bacon, cut in 1/2 Toothpicks
3 scallions, very thinly sliced on an angle

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place shrimp in a shallow dish or bowl. Dress seafood with lime juice and zest, a generous drizzle of sesame oil, grill seasoning and hot pepper flakes. Wrap each shrimp with a half slice of bacon. Wrap each shrimp working from head to tail, pulling bacon snuggly around the shrimp. Fasten bacon in place as necessary with picks.

Arrange the shrimp on a slotted baking pan, such as a broiler pan, to allow draining while bacon crisps. Bake shrimp 10 to 14 minutes, until shrimp is pink and curled and bacon is crisp.
Arrange cooked seafood on platter and sprinkle with chopped scallions.
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Flounder Francese and Lemon Spaghetti

This is an old photo I found from when I was still living in Philadelphia. As you will learn, Rachael Ray has been an inspiration for a lot of my cooking, as these two recipes are from her TV show. Specifically, they are from the Rachael Ray's 30- Minute Meals - Episode "Sea Note"

Links for recipes:
Lemon Spaghetti
Flounder Francese with Lemon and Capers

Note: In this picture, I actually used tilapia filets instead of flounder and it still came out well. So I guess this should really be "Tilapia Francese" but it just didn't sound as cool. Rachael also had Toasted Almonds in her original recipe. But I didn't have any, so I omitted them

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First Blog Ever!

Welcome to Food Judicata! I plan on dedicating this blog to interesting food-related adventures I come across such as recipes, techniques, and restaurants. And as a law student, I may include some rants of my own about law school, legal issues, and the like. For now I will put up photos of meals that I have cooked in the past. More to come soon!

In this picture here are, "Free-Form Chocolate-Strawberry Petit-Fours" made with my friend Joey, for our mutual friend Junas, on her birthday. (Although you can't see it too well in the picture - the cakes in the middle have letters that spell J-U-N-A-S.) The original plan was to bake cupcakes. But then Joey had the brilliant idea to make petit fours*. But after a minor fiasco with making the chocolate sauce that the cakes were supposed to be dipped in, the cakes became "Free-Form" petit fours. These cakes are layers of chocolate cake, with homemade strawberry sauce in the middle, topped with whipping cream and a slice of strawberry for garnish. They turned out to be a real hit at the party.

*Random trivia - Did you know that "petit four" is French for "small oven"?