Awkward.

That moment after you lay everything out to make Christmas cookies and you think to yourself… I coulda been watching a cheesy holiday movie. Sigh.

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Fruit of my carb addiction

My kids requested grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner.
They really are mine.

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How an Indian does Italian

Growing up, in my very Indian family, the only “American” food that was cooked in our house was spaghetti (which was strangely made on Saturday mornings) and a dish that we called – eggplant. No, not eggplant parm. I didn’t know what parmesan cheese was until my first year in college (also never had cream cheese, sour cream or mustard until then).  This is an entirely different thing. A bastardized version of caponata. I’m pretty sure my mother has never heard/seen/eaten anything called caponata.

I don’t know who came up with the recipe. I’m not sure how it all got started – but I do know that in my family and in my cousin’s families – this is what you get when they say,”we’re having eggplant for dinner”.

I make it now for my little tribe too. I’ve changed a few details. All the veggies in this dish were fried when my mom made it (and still makes it). I don’t fry anything – not because I’m so super healthy – but because I’m really bad at frying. Things burn. Stoves are covered in oil. I stink like burnt oil for hours – it’s not good. So I do a little saute/steam method. It works. I still use a bit of oil – but I use olive oil instead of the corn oil my mom uses to this day. I tried to talk her into canola once but it was a lost cause. Who am I to judge?

Here’s all you need. Please note: do not buy expensive sauce or make your own marinara or something. You need Ragu. Or some other cheap jarred sauce. Trust me. And don’t go trying to add fresh basil – hold yourself back. Pretend like this is the 80s and we haven’t all been watching The Food Network obsessively.

Olive oil, eggplant, peppers (red, green, yellow – whateva), sauce, cheese (again use what you have, cheddar, mozzarella, etc).

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First chop up your very pretty peppers and onion in a hearty julienne and throw them into a non-stick pan with about a tablespoon of oil. Cover and saute/steam for about 10 minutes until both are cooked through and soft.

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While the onions and peppers do their thing, cut the eggplant(s) in half and then in thick slices. Then think about the fact that literally nothing on earth smells better than onions and peppers cooking. I hear you all screaming at the computer now,”bacon does!”, “cookies baking do!”, “a baby’s head smells better!”. Calm down.

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Once the onions and peppers are done, pour them into a medium-sized pan. Add another tablespoon of oil, cover and cook the eggplant. I like to do this in batches. In the end you’ll use 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil to cook all the eggplant.

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I’ve tried doing the above steps in different ways through the years. In a crockpot. Roasted in the oven. Grilled. I like this way the best. Once the eggplant is done – add to your assembly pan. Don’t worry if there are still firm pieces – it’ll spend a ton of time in the oven and cook through.

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Add the bottle of sauce, stir, cover with foil and put into a 350 degree oven for atleast an hour and a half.

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Use this time to work, mother, wife, clean the house, clean the car, or…if you’re me, have a cup of coffee and a piece of last night’s dessert (raspberry cobbler).

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After about an hour and 1/2 – check your dish. Does it look like this? If yes, it’s done!

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Add the cheese. I ended up using half cheddar/half colby jack. It’ll go back in the oven for about 5 minutes and then, done!

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Like a caponata – eat this with some good, crusty bread. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.

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Now, if you come of my mother’s house and she says we’re having eggplant for dinner, you’ll be ready.

 

 

You had me at cilantro

It’s hot here. It feels like a 100 degrees in the shade.

Yesterday we were invited to a BBQ in our neighborhood by this adorable couple (second relationship for both. They met while she was on vacation with her daughter in Italy. He came over to be with her. An amazing love story).

I met her through a book club that I joined (although I haven’t actually made it to any of  the meetings, ahem.)

Anyway. We were invited. We went. We had enough sangria to fill a pool. Good times were had by all.

Here’s a perfect salad to bring to a BBQ – especially on a hot, sunny day. No mayo. No diary. And it only gets better as it sits on the buffet (and you drink the sangria).

Here’s all you need  - black beans, whole kernel corn, cilantro, jalapeno, 2 peppers the color of your choice, an English cucumber, lemons, limes and some kosher salt.

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It’s all about the prep and dice. Drain the beans and rinse. Add the corn.

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Dice the peppers about the same size as the corn and beans. The jalapeno should be seeded and diced even smaller. I thought I would need 2 but these were lethal so I only used 1.

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Next, seed the cucumber with a spoon. Dice and add to your other stuff. I know English cucumbers are “seedless” but there are still some watery seeds that I like to get out. You can skip this part if you think I’m nuts. Which I am.

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Now comes the good stuff. My world could be made of cilantro and I’d be a happy camper. If you don’t like cilantro, made another salad. This one’s not for you. And neither am I. Just kidding. Not really.

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Add lemon and lime and some salt and you are done baby! If you are organized and have your shit together, make this the night before and let it sit. If you are like me, make this frantically right before you have to take it/serve it and smell like cilantro and corn for the party.

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A smaller quantity of this with red onions added can also be a spectacular salsa. Add diced avocado and top a taco or fill a burrito.

Happy hot Sunday.

Something Fishy

Today’s post was going to be a mushy, gushy Valentine cooking post. A step by step of me making my husband’s all time favorite pasta –  fra diavolo.  Shrimp, bay scallops and squid. I was going to talk about my favorite shortcut. Rao’s tomato sauce. It’s $9 a jar – and yes, making real sauce is easy and it costs $2 – what’s your point? I was going to tell you not to be scared of shortcuts, or squid. That it’s no biggie. I’ve done it before. It cooks in a couple of seconds and people are impressed.  And I had pictures…tons of freaking pictures. I was going to show you how brave I am. Buying, cleaning, chopping squid like it was my business. I’ve done it before. No big thaang.  But then something happened.  (if you are my husband, for the love of god, stop reading this).

As I cleaned the squid…I found….gulp….a little baby fish inside!! 

Hold me.

After I stared at it for a few minutes and the nausea had worn off, I washed my hands and did what all smart people faced with oddities do – I YouTubed it, and googled it, and Wiki’d it, and Web MD’d it (just in case).  The people of the internet told me it’s normal. Happens all the time. Feed it to my cat, etc. But even now, hours later, I shiver when I think of it. Maybe the squid had a last meal and didn’t have time to finish, maybe it was the thing they used to lure the squid. Alls I know is, it ended up in my kitchen.

I’ve been changed people. Some sort of gross seafood cherry has been popped. I had to come to terms with it quickly. My kids or my hubby could not/should not ever see this.  You don’t understand. My husband, I love him, but he’s no adventurous foodie.  He gets really grossed out really quickly. And I couldn’t let my kids see it – the horror the horror!

So like every good mother and wife, I got rid of the evidence and pretended all was good.

Now, safe in my bed, I can finally come to terms with it.

Here’s what I went through folks. Happy f’ing Valentine’s day…

I’ll start with the harmless ones first.  Prepare yourselves. Here’s the shrimp/sauce/squid.  I forgot to take pictures of the scallops because – did I mention – I found food inside the food!! It’s like a bad M.Night Shyamalan plot twist. Back to my sordid story.

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Please note that my cutting board is…well..it’s all cut-up. These are not just props people. This stuff gets used!

Here’s the fresh squid. Yes, it looks slimy but there’s no smell and it handles easily. It also easily cuts into the calamari ringlets.

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And then, as I clean it. I notice this little guy or gal or it. Do you want to hurl like me?

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I want my mommy.

Reason number 8,222,329 to be a vegetarian: I’ve never found a carrot in the middle of my bagel. Or an almond in my banana. I’ll stop now.

 

 

 

Crushing on clementines

Thought I’d share my favorite weirdo way to eat clementines (current household obsession), oranges, melons (including the water variety) and mangos.

All you need is: fruit of the moment, salt and pepper

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Can you guess what you do next? Yep. That’s it.

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It’s so freaking good. Trust me. Sometimes I use red chili powder instead of black pepper – but I didn’t want to blow your mind.

There you are. Happy Birthday. Merry Christmas. From me to you.

 

 

Faux Baking

It’s not really faux.
You do turn an oven on.
Our wonderful neighbors make this every year and I promptly stole the recipe.
Actually it’s more of a trick than a recipe.
But it’s so good and it’s so easy.
Here’s what you need 3 ingredients:
Small pretzels, Hershey kisses, and M&Ms.

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Preheat your oven to 175. See, told you it was baking.
Then spread your pretzels out on a sheet and put a kiss on top.

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Bake for 4 minutes and take out.
Add an M&M and smush down. Smushing is a technical baking term. Let them cool and done!

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Trust me, your people will be happy. Your people will love you. More. Finally.

Aprons are for sissies

There were some funny moments on turkey day. I want, no I need to share this with you! Are you sick of Thanksgiving posts yet? I promise, last one! Sorry about all the exclamation points! I’m like….excited.

Last year, in a moment of desperation when carving the turkey, my husband – a holiday Macgyver (too young for this reference?) made a makeshift apron from the only thing he could find. A Glad garbage bag. Now it’s a tradition… or something like that.

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That picture cracks me up. What’s wrong with that man?
Here’s my other favorite chuckle that day…my nine year old made place cards for all our guests. Phonetic spelling ruled the day.

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Welcome Doug. Or Dug.

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Welcome Ty. Or Tie.
Hee Hee Hee. I laughed for hours. Seriously. Send help.
Finally, ever see a line in a kitchen? My lovely sister-in-law was thinking through the perfect piece of turkey when this crowd formed behind her.

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That’s her in the pretty green top realizing the natives are restless! Bless her heart.

Who’s a happy turkey?

Scenes from yesterday’s prep
This is the easiest cranberry sauce ever. Like. Ever.

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Turns to this

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Drying out the bread for stuffing. Other families just let it go stale naturally, but good bread doesn’t last long in my family. Mainly because of me. Let’s be honest.

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Just a little sweet potato to go with the butter.

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Yes, that is heavy cream in the back ground. Not part of the recipe but I like to have it close by just in case.
And finally, the star of today’s performance –

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Gobble Gobble!

’twas the dawn before Thanksgiving…

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the nutty woman making cranberry sauce at 5am.

It’s pre-gobble time. Run to the store time, prep your turkey time, run to store again time. I love this holiday. It’s my all-time fav. We never celebrated it when I was growing up, which is ironic because a holiday about food would have fit right in. My husband’s family taught me to love Thanksgiving. The gathering, the laughing, the shouting, the forcing-the-vegetarian-to-mix-sausage-stuffing-by-hand-ing.  I digress.

Through the years I’ve found my own way of doing the holiday – I’ve tried garlic mashed potatoes and truffle mashed potatoes and pecan glazed sweet potatoes and apple cranberry stuffing and every other recipe that Martha Stewart pimped out. You know what I learned? All I need is pounds and pounds of butter. And maybe some heavy cream. Other than that – I leave everything alone.  My mashed potatoes just have potatoes in them.  I save the pecans for the pie, and the craziest thing I add to my stuffing is some green onions.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to blog throughout the cooking, but I’ll try.  Here’s almost everything – minus the 28 pound fresh bird that’s waiting for me at the market.

If I knew how to do one of those cool panoramic shots, I would. But I don’t, so I won’t.

Yes, we’re a Poppycock family. There’s no hiding it now.

I thought I’d highlight two of my favorite “cheats”.

Why cut celery and onions when you can use that time for more productive things, like watching Top Chef Seattle (do you love it like I love it?).

The best $2.99 cents you have ever spent at Trader Joe’s.

Here’s the other thing I don’t bother making from scratch … sorry about the blurriness but it’s early you know. Get off my back.

I do make a quick honey and maple syrup to drizzle on top. See, it’s kinda like homemade.

Ok, gotta get back to my day. Hope you are all knee deep in turkey day prep too! No? Damn.

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