Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The List, week of 5.25.09

I think I've already said somewhere that I'm, well, obsessed with what I'm having for dinner. Here's a little example of how John and I handle that. The original idea for this blog was that we'd post the list and then every dinner that week. Then we realized that our food is not as interesting as all that.
We still make the list, though. Picture us in our bathrobes on Monday morning sipping tea and coffee at our sunny kitchen/dining table. In honor of Spring I went to the trouble to put out a retro table cloth - white with a floral border. There's always a little angst as we get down to one day left to fill, but it's usually a mellow weekend ritual.
The starred days are meals that I think will make good blog posts (so ambitious!).

Monday, May 25, 2009

(Fake) Saltimboca

Oops, blog burnout. Ok, really it was recipe testing burn out. I had one too many nights getting off work at 8pm, rushing home, scribbling notes as I furiously cooked dinner, and then trying to take photos (while starving) and sitting down to eat at 9:30. That's no good. The recipe didn't even work that last night two weeks ago because the above is really a recipe for a disaster dinner (and arguments about camera settings).
To get back into the swing of things I thought I'd post a super simple variation on the pasta dish I always make. This one is inspired by Saltimboca, which I love, but is too time consuming for a weeknight. It usually involves pounding chicken into thin pieces (or paillards), then attaching prosciutto and sage leaves to it before flouring and frying in a pan. Seriously, it's so good. This dinner takes my favorites flavors from Saltimboca, but with a throw-it-all-together method.

(Fake) Saltimboca
(serves about 4)
2 chicken breasts
1 small, yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 prosciutto slices, cut into thin strips
4 - 6 fresh sage leaves, minced
juice of 1 lemon
4 cups short pasta (usually penne, measured before cooking)
a generous handful of fresh spinach cut into thin strips
sprinkles of Parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper to taste, of course
  • Start the pasta water. On my stove is usually takes 30 minutes (from cold water to straining) to cook penne, so the timing is just about right.
  • Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. If you feel like taking the extra time to cut these thin it will cook faster and be a little more Saltimboca-y.
  • In a largish, high-sided frying pan, saute the onion in a bit of olive oil until it just starts to brown. Add the garlic and saute until it is just starting to brown.
  • Add the chicken pieces and prosciutto* and saute for about five minutes - they just need to get some color, they'll continue to cook through the rest of the preparation.
  • Hopefully your pasta water is ready. Throw in a generous pinch of salt and the pasta.
  • Add the spinach and lemon to the pan and stir this around as the pasta finishes cooking. It's ready when the spinach is cooked and most of the liquid is gone.
  • Toss with the pasta and sprinkle with a little parmesan. Yum!
*If you have time, the prosciutto is even better if you crisp it before starting anything else. Just saute it in the pan with a tiny bit of olive oil. When the strips are crisp (almost like bacon, which would be a fine substitution) set them aside on a plate and start at the beginning of the recipe. Add the prosciutto when you mix in the pasta.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thai-ish Beef Salad

There is something about this dinner that screams Summer to me. Yes, it's grilled and that's a warm-weather activity. It's also on the lighter side, focusing mostly on fresh flavors, and that's Summery too. More than anything I think it's the combination of herbs - cilantro, basil, parsley minced fine and tossed with the greens - that conjures a tropical/not-Seattle setting. We've come to associate these flavors with an improvement in the weather. It would be sort of sacrilegious to call this Thai Beef Salad because it only hints at what a real Thai Salad should be. Try adding a dash of fish sauce to make it more authentic. The recipe makes enough dressing for the marinade and the salad itself and feeds about four people. It's also great as a dipping sauce for potstickers.

For the dressing & marinade:
2 T soy sauce (low-sodium)
1 t sesame oil
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil (or other non-olive oil)
juice of 2 limes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t five spice
1/2 t mustard powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t black pepper
Sri Racha to taste (or other hot sauce)
  • Start by putting everything except the oil in a deep measuring cup or Cuisinart. I use the dried spices on purpose because I like the consistency, but you can substitute a little more fresh ginger and a little less mustard from a jar, no problem.
  • Add the oil and blend it all to death. There's more acid than oil in this dressing so I think it would be impossible to blend it too much.
  • Set aside about a 1/2 cup for the final salad and use the rest for the marinade. Or, if you're skipping the meat, the extra will keep in the fridge for at least a week (maybe two - just taste it, nothing in this will hurt you if it has gone bad).
Grilling Instructions:
the rest of the marinade from above
1 flank steak (about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
  • Put the meat in a large ziplock bag with the marinade for about an hour. Squidge around the marinade about halfway through to be sure the meat is well coated.
  • When you're ready to eat, prepare the grill (gas or charcoal).
  • Let the marinade drip off the meat before you put it on the clean & oiled grill.
  • Grill the meat for about 7 to 10 minutes per side.
  • When it's done to your preference (medium-rare please) set it aside to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing thin.
For the Salad itself:
1 head of Romaine
1 red pepper
1 cucumber
2 carrots (or about a handful of those fake baby carrots)
1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup basil (Thai if you can find it), minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
just a bit of Italian parsley, minced

  • To assemble the salad just prep the Romaine and veggies however you like them (I sometimes get all crazy with julienne-ing, but that's optional).
  • Toss the greens, herbs, and dressing in a large bowl.
  • You can either sprinkle the toppings on each salad or set them all on the table in colorful bowls for people to serve themselves (it makes a pretty table setting).
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