Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Well Equipt 1

Whisked Away: Homemade Garlic Aioli

Part of making magic in the kitchen is having the right tools for the job. While some of my favorite kitchen gadgets are fancy pieces of pricey machinery (I fully intend to write love letters to my food processor and stand mixer), others are basic, low-tech, inexpensive tools that are indispensable in creating delicious creations. The first of these is the humble whisk. I have two of these handy tools in my drawer- a silicon whisk I use with my non-stick and enamel cookware, and a regular wire whisk for other jobs. Dressings, whipped cream, fluffy eggs, sauces, meringues, and rues can all be accomplished with a flick of the wrist and your trusty whisk. So let's all celebrate this utensil and its knack for effectively incorporating air into some of our favorite recipes.

You may ask . . . "Why the hell would you bother making your own mayonnaise?" Uhhh . . . because it's delicious and easy to make. This garlic aioli takes a little bit of elbow grease, but is a tasty and versatile condiment- use it as a dip for sweet potato fries, a sandwich spread, or a topping for grilled salmon. Seriously . . . try it and you'll be hooked.

- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- fresh ground pepper

Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, Dijon, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk until well blended, about 30 seconds. Slowly (seriously, this is important) add 1/4 c. olive oil a few drops at a time into egg mixture, whisking constantly for about 4 minutes. The aioli will begin to thicken. Then gradually add the remaining cup of olive oil in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly until mixture becomes thick (about 8 minutes). Don't rush this process or the mixture won't thicken. When the aioli becomes thick, add minced garlic and season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover and chill. Aioli can be made two days ahead of time. Keep chilled. Remember, there is raw egg in the recipe, so it's not the kind of thing you want sitting around for weeks. The fresh, creamy taste is unbeatable! You'll never want to go back . . . although, admittedly, your arm will get a little sore from the whisking.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feelin' Saucy

Simple and Delicious Marinara Sauce

Periodically I like to whip up this simple and delicious sauce. The recipe makes a bloody ton of this tasty, vegetarian sauce which is great on its own and can serve as the basis for a variety of pasta sauces and other recipes. Although it has to simmer for about an hour, this sauce is a great time saver for us busy, working people because it can be divided up and used for so many other dinners. I use about 3 cups for dinner that night and then divide the remainder into 3 and 4 cup portions destined for the freezer for future recipes. Master this recipe and a world of new doors will be opened to you! (I promise to include twists on this basic recipe in future blogs that mean fast and cheap dinners for family and buddies.)

I usually chop all my carrots, onions, garlic, and canned tomatoes in the food processor. If you don't have a food processor, just chop ingredients up to a fine mince with a sharp knife and try to buy crushed canned tomatoes.

- 3 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes, finely chopped up in food processor
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and minced
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
- salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add minced onions and cook over heat, stirring often, until softened (but not browned), stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and carrots. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, and thyme, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer for about an hour (maybe a bit longer), stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve about 3 cups of finished sauce over 16 oz. of your favorite pasta or divide up and save for future deliciousness.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dressing Up 1

Quick and Easy Steak and Salad with Balsamic Shallot Dressing

Here is another super fast, easy, and delicious meal. It's all about the salad dressing. I never buy salad dressing from the store. It's so fast and tasty to make it yourself because you can make it exactly the way you like and there are thousands of dressings and sauce variations that can be made from the simple oil and vinegar ratio (3 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar). This is Part 1 in my many, many part series on dressings. One of the great things about this meal is that it is so versatile. Greens and berries can be swapped for whatever is seasonal, steak can be swapped for sliced chicken breast or seared salmon . . . whatever! Trust your own taste buds and make it the way you like it. This is just one of my gazillion variations of this recipe. Yum.

Please note, I prefer my steaks bloody rare, but cook it to your desired doneness. I find that searing the meat and letting it rest under tented foil for about five minutes makes for a juicy steak even if I buy a really cheap cut of meat (which I usually do because I'm poor and I still like to eat good food).


- 2 7 oz. strip steaks (Or whatever is on sale. Really.)
- 1 5 oz. bag mixed baby greens
- 1 c. strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, halved, and sliced
- 1 small cucumber, sliced
- 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- salt and pepper

Pat steaks dry with a paper towel then season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in medium pan over medium-high heat. Sear steaks in pan (1-2 minutes per side for rare). Remove steaks from heat, place on plate, and tent with foil. Let steaks rest about 5 minutes.

Toss together greens, avocado, strawberries, and cucumbers in medium bowl. Set aside. Put honey, vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in remaining 3 Tbsp. of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour about 2/3 of the dressing over salad mixture and toss to combine. Divide salad among two plates.

After steaks have rested (really this is an important step to keep them juicy), thinly slice across the grain. Top salad with sliced steak and then top each steak with remaining dressing. Eat. It's delicious. You'll love it.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Linguine with Clams

This is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest dinners to make. Thirty minutes for dinner? Please. How about ten? Fifteen if you're slow.

- 9 oz. fresh linguine
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 6.5 oz. cans chopped clams
- juice of 1 lemon
- a generous handful of chopped Italian parsley
- grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- white wine
- salt and pepper

Bring a 6 quart pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package instructions. (Fresh noodles take no time to make, 2-3 minutes tops! Drain reserving a cup of cooking water and set aside.

Heat butter and olive oil in large non-stick pan over medium. Add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add clams and their juice, lemon juice, parsley, and a splash of white wine. Simmer over medium heat until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and toss with cooked linguine, adding some of the reserved cooking water if mixture is too dry. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve. Easy does it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Food of Love Play On!

I am starting this blog for several reasons. The obvious reason is because I love food, making food, and entertaining people. It's fun and I'm good at it. I want to share recipes and cooking tips with friends and family who say things like, "You should open a catering business" or "What's the recipe for . . . "

The less obvious and more selfish reason for entering into this self-important world of blogging is because while I am eager to entertain friends and family and really believe few experiences in life are as wonderful as sitting down to share a meal with good conversation and people you love- few people I know seem to share this sentiment. I often hear people my age talking about how they don't know how to cook, how it seems "too hard," "too expensive, " or "just too much of a hassle." I would like to dispel these myths and encourage and inspire people to cook at home, have parties, and entertain friends. Selfish you say? Yes. I want to get some invitations for some home-cooked meals!

Rules to Feeding Yourself and Others
1. Cooking is not some mysterious activity that only few can do competently, people have been feeding themselves since the beginning of time. Like any other skill, it just takes a little practice to do it well.
2. Cooking at home is infinitely less expensive than eating out all the time. It is perfectly possible to serve a family of four a yummy and healthy dinner for less than ten dollars. Really.
3. A little organization goes a long way in saving time and money.
4. If it tastes good to you, it probably will taste good to other people. When people say, "I can't cook," I usually ask, "Are you able to taste food?" Your mouth will tell you whether or not something is properly seasoned, the right texture, whatever.
5. Don't be afraid of trying new things.

There you have it. I'll share a recipe tomorrow. Something yummy and easy. I promise.