I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

July 26, 2010

Too hungry & distracted to take pictures....

I had a craving that revolved around tomatoes.....1 1/2 gorgeous tomatoes getting ready to tip over in my kitchen just begging to be used. Too much time at work = not enough time to hit up Trader Joe's for some fresh Mozz or Feta cheese....so I had to stick them in my fridge so they weren't wasted (god forbid).

After yesterdays insane food extravaganza I was craving something protein & veg filled...no bacon or cheese. Go ahead, make your surprised face, I can handle it. But seeing as the marine layer has settled in and isn't moving much, even in Ojai, I was craving something a little more comforting than ribs and grilled veggies (favorite summer meal!).

So while at work I tossed around the idea of chicken with tomatoes and olives...maybe some feta cheese over a tiny bit of pasta. Maybe add some peppers, spinach, mushrooms....it was a veritable whirlwind of produce floating over my head kind of like the cartoons when they get bopped over the head and stars float around...only mine were vegetables. Good visual?

Yeah, I know I am weird.

Things were settled when I hit up Trader Joe's for blueberries & milk for my cereal and I wandered past the eggplant. Big fat eggplant that would get all creamy on the inside after being roasted in a hot oven...that would then soak up the juices of a tomato-y broth seasoned with all kinds of fun spices.

It's a recipe that is a little daunting if only because the ingredient list is so damn long...but believe me, it is absolutely worth it to get all of those layers of flavor in one dish.

I posted on Facebook while cooking and almost had one of my girls from LA ready to drive up and eat with me...alas, she flaked and is missing out on truly kick ass leftovers. And this dish, like may, only gets better after thinking about itself overnight.

Without further adieu.....may I present....

Moroccan Chicken With Eggplant & Almonds
This makes enough for 8 + a little leftover...I cut it in to 1/3 and still have 3 meals :)

6 T Olive Oil, divided
3 C White Onions, Sliced
6 Large Garlic Cloves
1 T Sweet Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Ground Coriander
1 tsp Fennel Seeds, ground
1 ts Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2 C Diced Tomatoes
1 C Water
3 T Lemon Juice
8 Chicken Thighs, skinned & Deboned
8 Chicken Drumsticks, skinned
1 Large Eggplant-see below for prep
1 T Chopped Fresh marjoram (or 2 T dried)
1/2 C Slivered Almonds
Chopped Cilantro for Garnish

Cut eggplant in 1" wide slices, salt both sides and let them sit until they weep...this helps to leach out any bitterness in the eggplant. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Cut in 1" chunks and toss with 4 T olive oil. Lay on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes, turning the pieces every 10 minutes until they are crispy. Set aside.

Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet and add onions & garlic, cover and cook until onions are soft. Add in all the spices and stir thoroughly. Add the liquid and tomatoes and bring to a boil. cook covered for about 10 minutes.

Arrange chicken in a single layer, spooning sauce over the pieces, reduce heat to Medium/Low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over once and simmer another 10 minutes, covered.

Stir eggplant & marjoram in to the chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes, uncovered. If there is too much juice, take some out and reduce it to concentrate the flavors.

Season with salt & pepper and more lemon juice if needed.

Serve over cous cous or by itself if you are going low carb. Sprinkle with the almonds and cilantro as a garnish.

Seriously, this does get better after sitting over night, I plan to have it for lunch both tomorrow & Wednesday. ;)

July 25, 2010

A feast fit for a king, for a prince of a man

So a full month after Fathers Day I have finally made my customary dinner for Pops. Due to work plus unforeseen circumstances I was unable to make my annual homage to papa with the food that he loves on Fathers Day. Instead of spending most of my day chopping and dicing to make a fabulous dinner for the #1 man in my life, I worked and took care of an 80 + year old gentleman who was ill and reminded me too much of my own Bapa to let me leave him alone. Not something I would ever wish to again, but something I certainly don't regret.

I rolled in to the ranch at 8:00pm to a wonderful dinner made by mom...delicious, yes, but not made by me which is the whole point. Because I really do have the most kick ass Dad ever....just ask me.

Kismet came in the form of a phone call from a family friend a few weeks back letting me know that they had come across a food item that they had, they knew my dad would love. and the best part is that they were willing to keep it a secret for as many weeks as it would take me to get a night off to make the appropriate dinner to honor my father.

It was all about things that he loved....which for my dad is pretty much everything. He loves to try new things and new combinations. His often repeated question to mom and I is " Have I had this before?". Tonight he told me the only thing he ever had refused to eat was the "100 year egg" in Vietnam when he was stationed there during the war. Mainly because the stink, second because there was a baby chick in there. Ew...not even going there.

After the Mothers Day feat I made for Mom with small plates & multiple courses, Dad requested the same format for his date...so I promised to make it for him in July. Being that it is the last weekend in July (or nearly that)...I had a Sunday off and devoted myself to Dear Old Dad.

A little prep work was needed.....

Zucchini & blossoms ready for stuffing
Mis en place for Bacon Wrapped Dates

Fig & Meyer Lemon Preserves

First Course

Brined & Smoked Chicken Wings

Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta, Bacon & Smoked Garlic

Second Course

Bacon Wrapped, Bleu Cheese Stuffed Dates (aka Manna from Heaven)

Third Course

Thin Crust Pizzas.....

Duck Confit with Goats Cheese & Arugula

Duck Confit with Fig Preserves (homemade, cuz I'm cool like that) & Bleu Cheese-Seriously...dessert pizza at it's best!


Stuffed Tomato with Buffala Mozzarella & Basil Vinaigrette

Fifth Course

This one is the surprise for Pops....dun da da dun!!!

Frog Legs with Tomato Caper Butter

I can only imagine your face right now. It is either "Intrigued....wonder how frog legs would taste" or "OMG EW! Why would you eat that?". I don't know if you have any idea how hard these are to get....or really how delicious they can be when they are cooked right. When I was a kid my Dad would hunt for frogs, or "Frog Gig" and bring home multiple legs from trips and we would fry and eat them....as a munchkins I was his frog holder at Lake Hume and would carry his catch in a stick over my shoulder singing "Hi ho, hi ho...it's off to work we go!" back to the campsite. Sadly, there are few places you can catch them and even fewer places you can purchase them.

If you ever do come across them in a restaurant I would recommend trying them if only to say that you did....they might not be as good as these, but at least you are branching out. If you come accross them in a market or grocery store, call me!

The night was topped off with dessert, which I usually make, being that I have a background in pastry. However this night was capped off by a sweet from a high school friend who has recently made her dream in to a reality.

Meet the Meyer Lemon Crepe Cake by Petite Reve, Kate Slaton Dunbar

Seriously...20 layers of crepes with Meyer Lemon Curd & whipped cream in between...there is nothing bad about this cake! I cut it and the curd was dribbling out, so dad was obligated to mop it up...right???

I paired it with a strawberry thyme sorbet made this morning. And in all honesty I licked the plate. And Dad went back for schibbles after cleaning his plate, I think that is probably the highest praise I can give.


July 19, 2010

Made with love.

There are certain things that just can’t be beat when it comes to homemade.

When my BFF posted on Facebook that she was suffering from strep throat and hadn’t eaten in a day, I immediately strapped on my apron and grabbed my knives in preparation to make the “cure all” that I knew would bring her not only nutrition, but also comfort. There would be no opening a can of Campbell's for this girl...oh no no.

Fortunately for me, I am a little bit insane and just “happened” to have all of the ingredients necessary to make her a nice steamy container of chicken noodle soup.

Pulled a frozen chicken leg & wing out of the freezer, plopped it in water with carrots, onion & celery and simmered, skimming the broth every once and a while so the broth was clear and fat free.

Chopped some more carrots, onion & celery along with some mushrooms, threw those in another pot and then waited…..I might have watered my yard at this point to make good use of my time…..Removed the chicken pieces when they were cooked through and let them cool a minute.

Strained the broth in to the pot with the new veggies and simmered a bit more…..skimmed some more stuff from the top. Added a few sprigs of thyme from my backyard and let the soup think about itself for 20 minutes or so. I skinned the chicken and removed all the meat, then chopped it in bite sized pieces.

Boiled a little water, added salt and pasta to it until the noodles were almost al dente, not quite done yet. Rinsed the noodles and set aside

Added in the chicken meat and past and then seasoned the broth with a little salt to taste….fortunately it didn’t need much, the chicken broth was super flavorful and just a little sweet from the carrots.

Voila! So much better than the canned stuff and infinitely better for you!

I dropped it at her house where she was watching movies in her jammies and cuddling with her pug with a voice that sounded like she had been yelling at a concert all night before. Two days later she is almost better....could it be the antibiotics? Or the chicken soup made with love??? You decide.

July 6, 2010

Zucchini and all things sparkly

You remember the movie "the Secret of Nimh"? Jeremy the crow who is clumsy as hell, helpful to a fault and cursed with a severe case of ADD has a tendency to lose focus in a seconds time anytime he sees a "sparkly".

This is how my brain works.

I have not ever been diagnosed with ADD by a professional, but am convinced that at a certain point in my adulthood it came on (much like my allergies) and I have not been able to get rid of it.


Conversation between me and BFF via cell phone while driving to work

Me: "So what did you do last night?"

BFF "Oh god...you remember (insert boy name)? He called and wanted to take me out!"

Me: "That's awesome! What did you say?"

BFF: "He said he was sorry and that he wa--"

Me: "Oh! A bunny!"

BFF: Silence

Me "Go ahead, sorry....I got distracted"

Black mark in friend column. Fortunately she knows me and still loves me.

Its not that I don't care or am not interested by any means...I have just found that I am stimulated visually and sometimes a phone conversation isn't the best way to keep my attention. Especially if there is a cute bunny or a hot police officer on the road to take my attention away.

This evening I tasked myself with gathering camping goods for this weekends getaway with the BFF and was stoked that I was thinking as far ahead as I was. Got to Mom & Pops house, went to see if I could do anything for dinner preparation while mom was showing a house. Scoped out the garage for tent & sleeping bags. And walked by the zucchini plant.


Wouldn't it be a great idea to make zucchini bread tonight? All those huge gorgeous squash just begging to be made in to something delicious.

And so I did.

I baked 2 loaves and 24 mini muffins of zucchini bread at 6:30 at night just because I can and wanted to. One loaf will go to my Dad's workers, because they are awesome and helped not only grow everything on the ranch, but also caught our dinner tonight last time they went fishing. One loaf will go to my Grandma because I love her and she will enjoy the heck out of it. And the muffins will go to work with me to the ladies I love.

I just popped 1/2 a muffin in my mouth and Dad's as a sample and boy am I glad I have ADD that enables my to make something so tasty at a moments notice.

And I still haven't found the tent for the trip....but I will eventually.

Enjoy at your leisure and if you need some zucchini to make it, hit me up because we have a TON!

Quick Zucchini Bread

3 Eggs
1 1/4 Cups Oil
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Shredded Zucchini
2 Cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Cloves
*Optional 1 Cup Chopped Nuts

Heat oven to 350, grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

Beat eggs, sugar and oil until well blended. Add in zucchini and vanilla. Blend in all dry ingredients and mix well. Blend in nuts at this point if you are adding them. Pour in to a loaf pan and bake for about an hour and a half. A toothpick inserted in to the center should come out clean.