Approximating Paella Monday, Feb 22 2010 

Ah, Spain.  One of the many, many places I failed to get to while studying abroad.  While not necessarily a priority at the time (or, at least a lesser priority than, say, Paris or Rome), Spain has been rapidly climbing my travel wish list in recent years.  First, there was my discovery of paella during my senior year of college.  Next came my introduction to the delicious, teeny delicacies known as tapas.  And finally, my love of Spanish red wine sealed the deal: I’m going to need to get there.  Soon.

Unfortunately, for me, soon is not in the cards at the moment. Since we’re barely a month out from our last Eurotrip, I think it’s safe to say that for right now, the wine, tapas, and this quasi-paella are just going to have to hold me over.

Sorta Paella

I lack the following: a paella pot, a love of seafood, the desire to cook several kinds of meat simultaneously, and, um, rice.  Please don’t judge me – it may not be authetic, but it is delicious.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 tbsp garlic, minced

2 links of chorizo, sliced

1 (15-ounce) can of tomatoes and their juice

1 pinch of saffron threads

Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil.  Over medium-high heat, saute onions until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for about a minute, then add peppers.  Saute 5 minutes, until peppers begin to soften.  Add saffron and chorizo.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the meat is cooked, then turn the heat down to medium and add the tomatoes (crushing them against the side of the pot if they’re whole).  Add crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for 15 minutes to let the flavors meld and heat the tomatoes.  Taste and season again if necessary.  Eat over rice, or, if you’re a rebel like me, quinoa.

Tamale Pie, or Something Saturday, Nov 7 2009 

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What!?  This is not a cop out!! What do you mean it looks suspiciously similar to a recent post!?  I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Really.  I’m shocked that you would accuse me of such blasphemy as having leftovers and using them to feed myself.  Gosh.

 

In all seriousness, though, it really couldn’t be avoided – I’m posting every day, and, just like every other home cook in America, I too have leftovers.  And like every other home cook, I don’t always enjoy eating the same thing more than one night in a row.  Plus, it would make for some pretty boring posts if that was my plan for the month.

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So tonight found me with two sets of leftovers: polenta, from the sucky cranberry sauce attempt, and chorizo, from the P-H-phenomenal arepa experiment.   Rests chin on fist and gazes off into the distance.  But how to combine them…?  Lightbulb appears over head.  Ahh! Yes!  Tamale pie!!

 

In all fairness, I’ve never had tamale pie, but I read a lot of blogs and cooking magazines, and I’ve heard it mentioned once or twice – enough to have a passing knowledge of its general composition.  From what I understand, I made it upside down, lacking in proper salsa and/or barbeque sauce (which I don’t eat anyway), and just generally wrong.  But I don’t care.  As they say: one man’s trash…is my dinnertime treasure.  What do you mean no one says that?  Whatever.  I dare you not to clean your plate.

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Completely Incorrect but Utterly Delicious Tamale Pie

Makes enough for my solo-dining pleasure

 

1 link of chorizo (with jalapenos if you can find it)

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp chopped onion

1 slice of pre-cooked, chilled (so it’s solid) polenta – mine was a square because I made it; if you buy it, it’ll probably be round

A sprinkle of shredded cheese

A drop or two of what Brother calls Satan’s Salsa

 

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and onion, cook until translucent.  Remove the casing from the chorizo, and chop it to resemble ground beef (mine crumbled pretty easily, but they don’t always comply like that).  Add to the pan, and cook until the meat is fully cooked.

Remove the meat from the pan and, to the same pan, add the polenta (yumm, beefy goodness and no extra oil).  Cook on one side until browned and heated through, then flip and cook until the bottom is browned as well.  Place polenta on a plate, cover with meat/onion mixture, and sprinkle with cheese.  Microwave (yes, I am lazy) on high for 30 seconds to melt the cheese, and add a little hot sauce or salsa to the top.

 

Pizza…Sort of. Monday, Aug 10 2009 

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Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.  Still basking in the glow of last week’s delicious gnocchi success, yesterday’s foray into the art of making pizza dough fell a little short of expectations.  And when you live in the tri-state area and are practically raised on New York-style pizza, a sub-par crust is cause for dinnertime mutiny.  Fortunately, Boyfriend spared my life because the topping was kick-ass.  It was a stuff underneath it all that was a little…questionable.  Allow me to elaborate.

 

It’s my own damn fault, really.  I was a little more cocky than I should’ve been, and chose to simply ignore the phrase “substitute up to one half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat.”  Hear that, yesterday’s self?  “Up to one half.” Did I substitute up to one half, you ask?  Nope.  Play it safe on the first attempt at a new recipe?  No way.  I substituted the entire amount of flour.  This wasn’t my first go-around with bread-making, but did I check to see if the yeast was dead before I used it?  Nope.  Did I put the dough somewhere especially warm to rise, and not just on my countertop while the A/C whirred quietly in the background?  NOPE.  So you see, friends, there was a really, really limited chance for success here.  Really limited.

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This is how my cute little ball of brown-flecked dough looked when I snuggly tucked it into its oiled bowl to rise.  How did it look 2 1/2 hours later when the yeast had worked its magic, you ask?

 

I’ll give you a moment to scroll back up.  Because it looked exactly the same.  Devastating.

 

Nevertheless, refusing to admit defeat, I rolled that sucker out, laid it on a pizza stone, and demanded it become the vehicle through which Boyfriend and I could ingest a half a pound of Habenero Jack cheese and chorizo.  Despite its refusal to rise and create any semblance of a crust, it was tasty.  I mean, basically it was a glorified, whole-wheat flatbread that I stridently attempted to make as unhealthy as possible by cramming it with meat and cheese, but still – I ate half the “pizza” and thought it was pretty delicious, though pizza it was not.

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I guess the true test came when I asked Boyfriend if he would like me to make it again.  Knowing how easy it is to anger his already frustrated and perpetually short-tempered girlfriend, he said yes…but he preferred the ready-made Boboli crust we usually use.  Damn it.  Guess I can’t fool him into believing this was pizza.

Pan-fried Gnocchi with Chorizo Wednesday, Aug 5 2009 

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Boyfriend thinks I am incredibly, undeniably bizarre, but there is nothing I find more Zen (and I am not a Zen kind of person…I’m a neurotic kind of person who strongly believes in multitasking) than cooking dinner for the two of us after we go to the gym.

This is not normal.  The first instinct should be: shower.  Or protein shake or Gatorade (that would be for those of you P1030533who work out more earnestly than me.  My electrolytes do not dip low enough to warrant recovery drinks of that nature) or even, gasp, water.  But not: start cooking.  Hovering over a stove and chopping things is not what one normal people generally want to do after sweating up a storm (Again, this is relative – you should not assume that I am running ten miles or power-lifting truck tires or something.  In fact, I find a half hour on the treadmill to be tedious and painful most days, but I like to eat, and when you like to eat and you don’t work out, you get fat.  Trust me.  I have extensive experience in this area. ).

But it is my favorite thing to do after the gym.  I have no idea why, and Lord knows Boyfriend won’t complain, because this usually frees him up to watch ESPN until I’ve set a plate full of food in front of him.  Am I a 50’s housewife on the inside or what?  I keep telling him not to get used to it, but then it’s Sunday morning and I’m making him pancakes and you can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he’s having the great internal argument about whether or not he should bring up the fact that while I keep telling him not to get used to it, I do keep doing it and at some point he’s going to expect it…NO. Do not speak those words to her.

Instead, he eats.

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Pan-fried Gnocchi with Chorizo

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/2 small white onion, diced

2 links of (uncooked) chorizo sausage (with jalapenos), sliced with casings removed

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 – 3/4 cup beef stock

1/4 cup tomato sauce

Several slices of eggplant, julienned

3 – 4 cups of uncooked gnocchi

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and onion, saute until onion is translucent, then add chorizo.  Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.  Remove meat from the pot (and any garlic and onion that come with it), and put the gnocchi in.  Make sure the all the gnocchi is touching the pan – you want them to brown as they pan-fry.  In 2 – 3 minutes (if you’re starting with frozen gnocchi, this will obviously take an extra minute or two to make sure they heat all the way through), once the gnocchi is browned on one side, flip them and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Dump gnocchi out of the pan, turn the heat down to medium and add beef stock.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to infuse the flavor of the chorizo into the sauce.  Add tomato sauce and red pepper flakes, stir, then add the eggplant, chorizo/onions/garlic back in.  Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, so that the sauce heats through and the eggplant cooks.

Divide gnocchi evenly amongst two bowls, then cover evenly with sauce.

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