Friday, September 18, 2009

Best. Sandwich. Ever.

Out of pure excitement, I have to share what I just had for dinner. This was totally improvised out of leftovers and I thought it wouldn't be very good, but it was actually amazing.

2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp italian seasoning
Dash salt
Dash pepper
1/2 cap large portobello mushroom
2 slices wheat bread
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp brown mustard
1/2 avocado

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add spices; let simmer for a minute. Add portobello. Sautee for about 10 minutes, browning both sides. Toast the bread and dress with mayonnaise and mustard. Slice avocado and place on one slice of bread. Top with portobello and other slice of bread. Heaven!

The only real improvement I could see on this is to put it in a panini grill for a minute to finish it, but with the bread toasted it isn't really necessary. A variation could add some provolone, but again, it was great the way it was. Just had to share my happy accidental discovery!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

'Choke THIS

A few days ago, my I went to Kroger to pick up some basic groceries. As always happens when I go to the store, I also picked up some random, completely unnecessary items. The most notable this time was an artichoke.

I'd never cooked an artichoke before. I'd never eaten an artichoke before. Sure, I've had spinach artichoke dip, and pizza, or used packaged artichoke hearts in pasta dishes. But the whole thing? Never. I'd been thinking about it ever since I read of Julie Powell's tackling of the Julia Child recipe, so I decided to give that recipe a shot. So that adds another "first" to this endeavor -- my first time making a Julia Child recipe.

I started by doing a web search and finding Julia's recipe here. Eventually, I did my usual YouTube search and found this great pairing of videos that tell you how to eat them, along with some other good videos about how to prepare them. Should've watched those first, but I don't think the cooking was any worse for it.

I started by trimming the stem down to about 1" and just barely nipping off the sharp ends of the leaves with a pair of scissors. Julia wants you to cut off the top of the artichoke as well. I said "Phooey!" to that and only trimmed the stem. I assume that the top trim was to prevent the amount of artichoke that protrudes from the water (pictured... we got a floater). I'm glad in the end that I didn't, because the leaves that would've been trimmed turned out to be the tastiest ones.

My simple solution to how far this thing wanted to stick out of the water. As the water really started to boil, it wasn't as big a deal, only sticking out maybe 1", but early on I was worried. Eventually, I used a pair of tongs to flip it over and stuck a butter knife into the center of the stem to test its done-ness. Perfection.

I had a little more trouble with the lemon-butter sauce. First, I accidentally let my lemon juice mixture brown slightly because I got sidetracked in trying to make the artichoke stay submerged. Then I was just confused -- why would you whisk in *cold* butter? Why not just gradually add softened butter? It's just going to have to melt anyway? But I tried to do it according to the recipe. Somewhere along the line, I think because of browning of the lemon juice, I got weird sediment-like stuff in the mixture. Determined not to let this phase me, I found a tiny strainer and ran the finished product through it into a small bowl to sit while the artichoke finished cooking.

The finished product! Ooh, don't I feel so fancy?!

Well, for a minute, anyway. This is the moment of "erm... how do I eat this thing?" which led me to my YouTube search. Took me a minute, too, to figure out that the bottom couple of leaf layers weren't really edible. The center ones were pretty good, though. But it seems to me that artichoke is, well, a bit bland. I wish I'd added more pepper to the sauce, because it paired well, but still left something to be desired. I think if it had a little spice to it, it would've been good. But I guess I just don't have a big taste for artichoke alone... I like it fine in the aforementioned dishes, but alone... meh. Too much work for something I'm feeling ambivalent about.

The aftermath. I wanted you to see the mess I was left with. Pile of napkins, as between the amount of water in the artichoke and the level of drippy of the lemon butter, I was a bit sloppy. My neat-looking little artichoke was reduced to a pile of garbage. And the lemon butter not only curdled, but the water you're meant to add at the end apparently separated. Euuurrrggh.

I don't get where people talk about the artichoke being "sexy" and "sensual" to eat. I'd describe it as "primal". More than anything, I felt like a monkey trying to get ants from the inside of a stick, or a bird dropping shellfish against a rock.

There was one lovely moment, though, and that's what I'll leave you with. I opened the last couple of inner leaf layers around the "choke", and it made a lovely flower.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Great movie, almost as good a dish. We made this the other day, using some vegetables from our garden and some my mom got from a local market. Here's her recipe for it.


1 eggplant, chopped

1 medium onion, sliced or chopped

2 medium zucchini, chopped

3 cloves garlic, diced or crushed, or about 3 teaspoons garlic powder

7-8 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/3 c. olive oil

About 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1-2 teaspoons fresh herbs. Mom suggests oregano, basil and thyme, but we didn't have thyme, so I also used Italian seasoning.

Seasoned salt and pepper to taste

Stir everything together and put in a 9X13 pan. Bake uncovered at 350F for about 1 hour. Open the oven every 15 minutes or so and give it a good stir. This time, we cooked it on a large shallow pan (like a big jelly roll pan) so that more of it was exposed and got a little brown. We really should've cooked it a little longer, too, but we were all pretty Starvin Marvin.

It was pretty good. I'm not generally a fan of things that are solely vegetables (yes, and I'm vegetarian), but it was tasty. And to make it more of a full meal, I also made deviled eggs and cheesy garlic bread. Delicious! Though I burned the first batch of garlic bread because I got distracted. First rule of the kitchen should be STAY ON TASK.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What's for lunch?

I'm always making an effort to eat more vegetables. It doesn't often work. But here's what I whipped up for lunch today:

What's in it:
Portobello mushroom
Pine nuts
Red and yellow sweet peppers
Fresh tomato

I sauteed it all in a little olive oil and sprinkled it with a little salt and pepper, so this was a nice little vegan lunch. This is normally the sort of thing I'd toss with some really good blue cheese dressing and serve with rotini pasta, but I'm also trying to cut down on my fat and carb intakes. The verdict? Not bad. Again, some blue cheese and pasta would've made it really good (ooh, and maybe some fresh sweet corn), but I didn't mind. I felt more energetic this afternoon, and didn't feel hungry 30 minutes later, like I usually do when I eat vegan (I think it was the chick peas that helped).

I think tomorrow I'm going to try an old family favorite -- sausage balls -- made with some vegetarian sausage. We'll see how that works out.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Prepare to do some funky poaching

For some reason, tonight, I got the wild idea to try to poach an egg for the first time. Well, okay, I tried it before. About four years ago. It didn't work. But tonight I wanted it to *work* for the first time. I hadn't even *eaten* a poached egg... it just isn't something that came up in our busy household.

To start with, I watched several videos on YouTube. Like you do. This one was the first I saw, and the most helpful:

To start, I put 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar (my mom's homemade) in a pot of about 3" of water and brought it to a simmer. The vinegar isn't suggested in the above video, but just about everything else I saw said it helped, so I went for it. I chose a deep but narrow ladle as my egg-to-water delivery device, which worked well, and helped me slide the egg into the swirling water with ease. I watched in angst.

Hey! That egg's a-poaching!

My first eggs was perfectly poached. I thought "What did Julie Powell have so much trouble for? This is a breeze!" So of course my second attempt was not as fruitful... in that it pretty much went everywhere as soon as it hit the water... but I was able to salvage the yolk and used it in some hollandaise sauce. The third one came out better. The eggs, then the sauce, went on top of a couple of scratch drop biscuits:

My verdict on the poached eggs? Super delicious! I didn't even use salt or pepper on these... though come to think of it, a little fresh ground pepper wouldn't've been out of place (not that I'm obsessed with fresh ground pepper or anything... I promise...), but I didn't miss it. I liked having the flavor of the egg without it being bogged down with butter or grease. I don't think I'll be doing this often, as that pot isn't very happy with having had boiled egg white all in it, but it's nice for a change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Beginning: A Fresh Start

I'm sitting in my parents' house. Again. I always find myself back here. When I started college, I didn't imagine that I'd find myself back here every several months, in-between jobs yet again. But such is the life of a young Theatre professional, I suppose -- short-term contracts in scattered places lead to brief periods of unemployment and the lack of need to have one's own living space. Four years and eight contracts since graduation, and I'm yet again whiling away my time, waiting for my next move.

This spring, I decided it was time for a change. My distaste for the jobs I felt I was qualified for led me to a conclusion: I have to go to graduate school to further my Theatre career. But am I ready for such a step? Can I afford to carry the loans that would inevitably arise, if I was unable to obtain a coveted graduate assistantship? What's more -- do I really want to rush into two or three years of schooling for a profession I'm getting downright burnt out on?

So I decided a change of pace was in order. Starting Oct. 5, I will be working on a Baking and Pastry diploma at the Art Institute of Ohio. Quite a different field, yes, but what I need is there -- the need to create things with my hands. In addition to my costuming work in Theatre, I'm also an avid knitter, sometimes crocheter, and an amateur -- well, really anything else craft-related, I've done a bit of it. That's what comes of growing up in a family of crafters and artisans.

My goal for this next year is to catalogue everything -- what I'm learning, what I'm creating, and in some cases, what I'm teaching. I'd like to not move back into my parents' house at the end of this year... we'll see how this goes!

Before I leave home at the end of this month, I have to create 2 jackets as a commission, organize a yard sale, make several aprons and other items for a potential Fall or Christmas craft show, and at least start on a baby sweater for a friend's upcoming arrival, in addition to packing. Lots to do!