Monday, September 21, 2009

Cooking with Rosann!

Rosann and I were roommates when we studied abroad together in Seville, Spain. So of course, when she came to my house this past weekend, we had to have a Spanish-style meal complete with tortilla espanola and manchego cheese!

I've blogged about tortilla before, and if you recall, I made a big gloopy mess on my stove. I have made tortilla several times since then because its easy, economical, and I frequently have all the ingredients on hand. Since then, I've learned a new trick from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, that is much neater and runs less of a risk of making a mess. I've shared this "new" trick below.

The tortilla right after it had been flipped

Tortilla Espanola (Revisited)

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

8-inch frying pan
Two large plates that are the same size for flipping

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. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
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 leftover 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 NEW trick** To flip the tortilla, gently slide the tortilla on to a plate with your spatula. Then, place the other plate over it, and quickly flip the plates. Slide the tortilla back onto the pan and cook for a few minutes until the bottom is golden brown.
7. Serve and enjoy!
8. If you did not do the trick right, clean your stove.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cheesecake-swirled Brownies

As promised, this was the dessert from our "Cooking with Suvarna" adventure. We used the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, with a few minor uhh... let's call them "adjustments." Now, this recipe provides that you prepare the brownie batter, and then the cheesecake batter, and then swirl the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter. Easy, right?

Well, the brownie batter whisked up perfectly...

But when we made the cheesecake batter was when the cooking wheels started to fall off. First, we didn't use "well-softened" (i.e. room temperature) cream cheese as the recipe calls for. Apparently, nuking it in the microwave for 10 seconds did not cut it. Then, instead of just using the egg yolk, we accidentally cracked the whole egg, white and yolk, into the batter (oops!). The end result was cream cheese batter that had little lumps of cream cheese in it that looked like this.

But we were not discouraged - we are, after all, soon-to-be attorneys, here! First we tried using an electric mixer to smooth out the batter. When that didn't work, we tried using the masher thingy that you see in the picture here, but to no avail. So then we tried letting the mixture sit at room temperature to see if the lumps would just "melt" away. Wishful thinking. That's when we contemplated just trashing this batch and whip up a new batch of cream cheese mixture. But, since I am not one to waste perfectly good ingredients, I insisted on trying to use the lumpy cream cheese goo and poured it right on top of the brownie batter in the pan and swirled it around. (Which became a little harder to do since the brownie batter started to congeal a bit from sitting at room temperature for so long). Nonetheless, the brownies still came out wonderfully gooey and chocolatey, the way brownies are meant to be, cold cream cheese and egg white be damned.

See, I'm eating one right here!

Click here for the recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cooking with Suvarna!

This post is to prove that lawyers are not just soulless, money-grubbing, ambulance chasers. Some of us can cook too! Suvarna was gracious enough to let me raid her kitchen for a day (Thanks, Suvarna!) Hence, the much classier table setting here, rather than my usual ugly brown wooden table. On the menu was baked macaroni and cheese, fresh spinach salad (pictured above), and cheesecake-swirled brownies. The mac and cheese turned our rich, creamy, and delicious because we followed the recipe (more or less). The cheesecake-swirled brownies came out soft and chewy and well, chocolatey - despite a minor scare of what we thought would doom the brownies (more on that in another post).

Baked Macaroni and Cheese fresh and bubbly in the oven

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Everyday Food (original recipe here)

1 pound elbow pasta
5 Tbs butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

2. Boil pasta in salted water for about two minutes less than instructed on the box. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. (It will cook more in the oven). Return to the cooking pot.

3. While the pasta is cooking, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, whisk in flour and cook for about one minute. Add milk, about two teaspoons of salt and a good pinch of pepper and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for about two to three minutes (when mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). Whisk in cheese until smooth. Pour cheese mixture over the cooked and drained pasta, and mix together until the pasta is evenly coated.

4. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and toss with breadcrumbs.

5. Pour pasta mixture in a large baking dish. Sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs on top. Cover with foil and place in the preheated oven for about 55-60 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until golden.

Serves 6.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Simple Ratatouille

Now I will try to write this post without discussing the Disney animated film involving cartoon rats. (Even though it is an awesome movie for kids and foodies). After my post on stir-fried asparagus, which was a recipe that I pulled from a cookbook I borrowed from the library, I decided a new project is to "test-run" cookbooks that that I find at the public library. Economical, tasty, and a good way to try new recipes and cooking techniques. Today's recipe is brought to you by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything", a helpful reference book, that starts each section with the most basic techniques and recipe and then adds on variations. And at 1044 pages, it really DOES show you how to cook just about everything.

Simple Ratatouille (Sauteed Eggplant with Tomatoes)
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 long Japanese eggplant, chopped into 1/2 in cubes (recipe called for regular eggplant, but I live in an Asian household, so all we had was Japanese eggplant. I actually prefer Japanese eggplants because the skin is thinner, so no need to peel them)
About 1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil (Again, here I substituted dried basil for fresh because that is all I had)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put oil and all but one teaspoon of garlic in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent (about two minutes).
2. Add eggplant - stir and toss enough to coat the eggplant in oil. Allow it to cook until soft (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally.
3. Add tomatoes and cook for about another five minutes, stirring to break up the tomatoes.
4. Stir in remaining garlic and basil and cook for another five minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.
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