Archive | August, 2012

for the love of cheese

30 Aug

I have a serious problem. It’s called food.

I love food. I love looking at food, buying food, shopping for food, cooking food, it boggles my mind how I am not morbidly obese with the amount of time that food takes up my thoughts. BUT, that is what makes a good chef, cook, grillmaster, teacher, learner, what have you. I’m telling you, there should be an “AA” group for grocery shopping addicts. I can wander around a grocery store for about 4 hours, even if I only need to buy one thing. Today, I spent 2 hours in Whole Foods, to come out with some grass fed butter, a large hunk of mild cheddar, and a kombucha.

My life is changing in big ways. THIRTY is about a week and a half away for me and I am in a transition period in my life. I am in graduate school going into Developmental Therapy in hopes to use my love for food to help children of all backgrounds, needs, abilities and allergies find their inner chef in a therapeutic way. I am currently jobless and taking this time to discover who I am and what I want. Clearly I need to work during graduate school, but right now, I need to find a good fit. Who knows, maybe this blog will take off and I’ll get rich and famous! (RIGHT)

I cook so often and am asked so often what my recipes are that it’s time to take action, dudes (and dudettes). I do not generally use a recipe and a “pinch, handful, pour” is my method of measuring, but it’s time I write down the things I make and use the inherited tool of “throwing something together out of nothing” to make others happy, comforted and learn about what is and is not good for them.

Pictures will probably seriously lack until I acquire a good camera and am able to take pictures step by step throughout the process, but you’ll get the idea.

Take potatoes for example. Such a staple of cooking for so long, you can make them a million ways, boil, bake, you name it. They are a great starch for when you need some carbs, and are great for those of us that do not eat much bread or pasta. With that being said, I did make pasta tonight. My friends LOVE the mac and cheese I make, so I decided to give it a gluten free spin and use rice pasta and use some coconut milk instead of all regular milk and boy is it good.

So here is the start of my dangerously awesome love for food.

TOMATO, POTATO, CHARED CORN AND BASIL SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag fo fingerling potatoes (I use the bag of super teeny ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 container of cherry tomatoes
  • 3-4 corn on the cob. Boiled or grilled, then slightly charred. Corn cut off of the cob (if not able to find corn on the cob, regular frozen corn or Trader Joe’s charred frozen corn works)
  • 1 container of ciliegine fresh mozzarella or a whatever fresh mozzarella you have (you can make your own, which is a lesson I plan on teaching on here later)
  • 1.5 cups good quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard, dijon or what have you
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and more to taste as needed
  • fresh basil

For the “main ingredients”:

In a large pot, salt water and toss fingerling potatoes in, cut in half lengthwise. Boil for about 5-7 minutes until fork tender. You do NOT want to overcook these or else you’ll have mashed potato salad. Drain the potatoes when done cooking. While the potatoes are cooking, cut your tomatoes in half, lengthwise and toss in a large bowl. Cut the mozzarella in quarters and toss in with the tomatoes. Toss in your roasted and charred corn. (If corn is frozen, cook until just cooked, warm, but not over cooked.)

For the vinaigrette:

Pour olive oil into a small bowl. Pour in balsamic, mustard, salt and pepper. Wisk until combined well. This should thicken and create a emulsion. Taste for salt and pepper content, add more if necessary. Pour vinaigrette over potato, tomato, corn and mozzarella mixture. Toss together and let sit while you get your basil ready.

For the basil, grab the large leaves and flatten them out. Layer them on top of each other, one by one, from the largest leaves until the smallest. Roll them into the shape of a cigar. The cut on a bias. This is called chiffonade. Below is a GREAT video to help teach you this technique.

Sprinkle basil on the your salad, toss again and EAT! This tastes even better after it sits in the fridge for a day or two.

BROWN RICE BLUE MAC AND CHEESY CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s brown rice penne (I’m telling you, this is the ONLY brand that doesn’t taste god awful and actually doesn’t turn into mush while boiling)
  • 16 ounces (or more if you’d like) of good quality mild and/or sharp cheddar cheese. The blue cheese adds enough sharpness where mild should do
  • 3 ounces blue cheese, or to taste once it is melted in the bechamel
  • 4 cups good quality whole milk (I used 1/2 coconut milk, 1/2 whole milk as well, unsweetened, but if you do not like the taste or coconut milk, do not use it, any unsweetened milk will do)
  • 1.5 tablespoons grass fed butter (Kerrygold, or if you are not into that, use regular butter)
  • 1 tablespoon spelt flour (or regular white flour if you are not gluten free)

For the pasta:

Preheat ove to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of pasta water to boil, making sure the water is liberally salted. This is the only time you can season the actual pasta. Cook until al dente, about 5 minutes or so, because the pastawill cook in the bechamel in the oven.

For the bechamel sauce:

Bechamel is a fancy term for “white sauce.” It’s the base of Alfredo, mac and cheese, creamy sauces. Take your butter, in a saucepan, and melt it down. Add the spelt flour, or regular flour, and whisk until it forms a thick paste. Add your milk and bring it to a boil and then turn the heat off immediately. You do not want your milk to burn, that tastes seriously disgusting.

Add your shredded cheddar cheese and mix until incorporated and melted into the sauce. Add your blue cheese and mixx well. All of the cheese should be melted. Add your salt and pepper and then taste the sauce to see if more salt or pepper is needed.

Pour drained pasta into the sauce and mix well. Now, either pour this in a dutch oven to bake (I like using the cast iron Le Cruset) or put it all in a greased, glass, baking dish. Top with extra shredded cheddar and blue cheese and baked for about 20 minutes. For extra crunchy, bubble cheese on top (I like my cheese to have some crusty caramelization on top), turn your broiler on high and watch the cheese get oozy, bubble and crispy. Cool and EAT EAT EAT!

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