March 30, 2008

Grasshopper Pie

This pie is made from 100% real grasshoppers. Optionally, replace "real" with "no". My last attempt at a dessert dish met with failure - the likes of which haven't been seen since the latest Bear Stearns board meeting. OK, I'll quit with the terrible jokes. I was fairly sure (and am not convinced otherwise yet) that my bottom oven burner wasn't working. But, as far as this pie is concerned, that wasn't an issue. Ian, my culinarily-inclined friend, shared this recipe with me and it looked so good I couldn't resist ruining it myself.

A grasshopper pie isn't a pie in the traditional sense: it uses crushed Oreos as the primary filler and then a melty, sweet concoction on top. Take 20 Oreos, halve them, and "get rid of" the creme filling. Then crush the Oreos into a particulate homogeneity. Pro tip courtesy of Kaitlyn and Drew: put the Oreos in a closed Ziploc bag and crush them there. Brilliant! Mix these crumbs with some melted butter and pat this down into a regular pie crust. I chose a graham cracker one, but any (even Oreo!) will do. Bake this until it's baked.

That was the tedious part; here's the fun part! Pour a little milk into a sauce pan and melt two dozen marshmallows. The recipe called to mix in creme de menthe and creme de cacao, but I don't speak Chef (and I couldn't find exactly what this referred to), so I substituted with mint chocolate Baileys. [If you're ever unsure what to do, liquor is usually the correct solution (no pun intended). -Ward] "Fold" in some whipped cream (what the hell does this mean?) and then pour the whole mess into the baked Oreo crumb pie.

Freeze this for a few hours and then serve cold! Neat!
Grasshopper Pie

March 24, 2008

Provençal Vegetable Stew

Yes, I had to look it up too, but then it's fairly obvious. Provençal implies that it's a dish from Provence, France, meaning Mediterranean. As to how Mediterranean eggplant is, well, I'll leave that up to you to decide. I made this vegetable stew (though it ended up more chili-like) to bring to Allison and Jeremy's for Easter. I tried to pick something simple, since I'd be cooking with the constraint of having to transport it and arrive in time for the meal proper. And it is a fairly straight-forward meal (or side-dish).

What you're seeing is basically all the work. This meal serves "four", and, this time, I decided not to cut the quantities in half. Chop up four garlic cloves, a yellow onion, two celery ribs, a green (or red) bell pepper, and cube an eggplant. I couldn't find button mushrooms, but since I don't know the difference, shiitake worked instead. Sauté the garlic, mushrooms, onions, celery, and peppers together in olive oil (there's something Mediterranean, though, of course, this is a Rachael Ray recipe) for a few minutes. Then add the eggplant and seasoning (rosemary and thyme) and cook until the eggplant is soft.

That is, well, all there is too it. Rachael recommended serving with some crusty French bread, so I bought a baguette at Price Chopper and cut it up to serve along with. I don't have much else to say about this dish. It's good if you like all the ingredients! I guess I'll just post the pictures of the bread since I need to fill out some space. How was your Easter? Good? I'm glad to hear it. Did you eat some ham with your family? Yeah? Some mashed potatoes? Some, uh, rolls? And, uh, greens and stuff? That's cool. So, um, I like your shoes. Are those new? No? Well, they're cool. Oh, you gotta go? Me too, I guess. See ya around.

March 17, 2008

Bread Pizza with Meat and Mushrooms

This recipe sounded too yummy not to try. I hope you like mushrooms! To describe it simply, hollow out some bread, layer mushrooms under well-seasoned ground beef, cover with a generous layer of cheese, and broil until melted together. The bread I chose was just a large, Italian loaf freshly baked. I sliced up two large portobello mushroom caps and then sautéed them.

OK, before I get to preparing the meat(s), I'm going to share an embarrassing story. I had wanted to do my grocery shopping Saturday, so I'd have plenty of free time Sunday morning to sleep in/play Smash Brothers. So I pull up at my local Price Chopper, grab a cart, start shopping through the produce section, and then realize I don't have my wallet. Now, I don't know how best to get rid of the items I've accumulated so far, so I unobtrusively start putting back the packaged ones. "Hmm, maybe I don't want this kind of bread. And maybe I... don't need... carrots." For the onion and mushroom caps? "Well, I can kind of just leave my cart here. Maybe I'm wandering to look at... oranges... Run for it!"

So grill up a few strips of bacon (or pancetta, which my Price Chopper still doesn't have) and then add a pound or so of ground beef (it's for two servings... I'm not that much of a glutton). Chop up a yellow onion and a carrot and add them once the beef has started to brown. Add crushed tomatoes, beef broth, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and allspice (which I didn't have because the grocery was sold out). Allspice sounds like deodorant. Anyway, cook these for a little bit longer.

Er, it looks like I forgot to take a picture with the cheese and beef before broiling. Oh well. In the hollowed-out bread, add a layer of mushrooms and then the grilled beef (proportion to your preference). Cover with mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano or whatever you can get close. Broil this (not on the top rack, natch) for a few minutes (not too long, see pictures) and then eat with a fork, knife, and/or fingers. Big thanks to Marcella for her help in preparing. Some things I'd do differently next time include: hollow out the bread further so it ends up crispier and more pizza-like, remember all the seasonings for the meat, and fix the bottom element of my oven (ooops).

March 9, 2008

Flank Steak Salad

Wonder of wonders! Two Sunday updates in a row! You'd think I had a crush on you or something (I do). Confession: I'm a big fan of salads... but only if I can put meat on them. I love ordering buffalo chicken salads when they're on menus. But what about this? A steak salad. I mean, c'mon - steak! Now that you're as sold on the idea as I was, let me explain how simple this is: grill a steak, put it on top of a salad. Whew, trivial! Rachael Ray makes things interesting by asking us to make our own marinade, salad dressing, and croutons.

Basically, get some fresh, crisp bread (sliced is convenient), brush some olive oil on a few pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toast until crispy, rub with crushed garlic, then slice into one inch square chunks. I recommend munching on the leftover crusts as you cook. Delicious. This recipe calls for making two other liquidy mixtures: the marinade and the salad dressing. Following the recipe's quantities, my horseradish salad dressing was skimpy and I have no good pictures of it. It's made by whisking together horseradish (which you can get prepared in a can), Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil (and sour cream, if you're so inclined).

The marinade was much better. As you can see above, it's combined olive oil, thinly sliced garlic, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and a little thyme. I coated the flank steak (about 12 ounces) and let it marinade for a few minutes before warming up my iron skillet. Oh man, I suck at indoor grilling (and, arguably, outdoor grilling). The flank steak gave off sooo much smoke (I mean, it is 16 square inches of marinaded meat straight onto a cast iron frying pan). I'm a little concerned, now, that none of my smoke detectors went off (Cyndie, ignore this last sentence, please). Ten minutes - two open doors, three open windows, and the ceiling fans on high - later and the steak was ready.

The steak turned out very flavorful (I loved the marinade) but borderline rare, which isn't quite my preference. I may postpone other grilling-based dishes until Spring (so, like, May). Thinly slice the steak against the grain and lay it on top of your salad. Oh yeah, the salad (I almost forgot): baby spinach with arugula. Even though arugula sounds like a variety of spider, it's a leaf not unlike spinach itself. In fact, it's so not unlike it, I think I bought spinach again instead of arugula. Price Chopper, you lied to me!

Toss the salad (hehe) together with the steak, croutons, and dressing and you're finished! Man, I used way too many exclamation marks in this post. Screw that! Anyway, it was quite good. Steaks and salads for the win!

March 2, 2008

Thai Chicken Pizza

Look at you, lucky reader, getting an update on Sunday. My friend Jackson was up from Memphis this past week and joined me Saturday night for some food, drink, and Blade Runner. Because I can't think of a more entertaining Saturday night than cooking (not a sarcastic statement actually), I selected a fun-looking recipe of Rachael Ray's: Thai chicken pizza.

Here's how it works: bake a pizza normally, except replace the pizza sauce with duck sauce and the cheese with provolone and add a red pepper (or green or yellow). The chicken was grilled in a marinade of soy sauce (Price Chopper didn't carry tamari), olive oil, and peanut butter. As you can see by the pictures below, my stove-top method failed to cook the middle of the chicken. So Jackson and I chopped it up and kept grilling it in smaller segments. This worked out just fine. Once the pizza has baked and the chicken is cooked and thinly sliced, add the toppings: cucumbers (in honey and cider vinegar), scallions, bean sprouts, and crushed roasted peanuts.

So yeah, the chicken did turn out better than the pictures above, and looked quite delectable on top of the pizza itself (which turned out awesome). All together, each slice carried a number of fantastic flavors. The duck sauce worked really well as a replacement for pizza sauce and the cucumbers were also delicious. With a simple 12" pie, less (or thinner) chicken would have worked better, perhaps with more marinade. Anyway, it was fun. The kitchen was an absolute mess afterwards, which, when you get right down to it, is only a sign that you've done things right.