Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lunch Week 26: Turkey & Vegetable Meatloaf

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided. So my lunch for the week: Turkey & Vegetable Meatloaf Ah meatloaf. The quintessential American dish. Ground meat baked in the oven with a topping of ketchup. I've had some pretty bad meatloaf in my life. They were dry, tasteless, and/or hard. However, when meatloaf is prepared properly, you can have something fantastic. Flavorful, moist, and (most importantly) delicious. I start off with the vegetables. I find that putting lots of sauteed vegetables with ground meat is a good thing. First, it's a good way to get your daily intake of vegetables in. Second, you would hardly notice it all. And third, it actually makes the dish super flavorful. So here I have some chopped green peppers, white onions, carrots, and garlic. I also chopped up some broccoli. I wasn't planning on using this but it was leftover from another meal. I didn't want to let it go to waste. And here we have some chopped red onions and cilantro. These will not be pre-cooked. Instead, they'll be added raw for freshness. So I saute the vegetables up in a large pan with olive oil. The trick is to cook everything in batches. When the oil is hot, add the onions until they sweat. Then add the carrots. Cook a little more. Add the green bell peppers. Lastly the broccoli. Make sure not to overcook the vegetables. You don't want mush. A good way to tell is to have the greens stay bright green. You do not want puke green color. Oh and salt. Add salt at each layer of vegetable to extract flavor. While the vegetables are cooling, prepare your meat. I'm using 2 pounds of ground turkey meat. Normally, meatloaf uses ground beef. But I was looking for something healthier and leaner. To the turkey, I added salt and pepper for seasoning. I also added some bread crumbs (unseasoned), 2 whole eggs (for binding), the chopped red onion, and chopped cilantro. I mixed this together with my hands. Using your hands ensures that the meat mixes well but not overly so. Playing with the loaf meat too much makes it hard and tough. You don't want that. When the vegetables have cooled, add it to the meat mixture. Again, using your hands, mix thoroughly. Now is a good point to flavor the meat some more. You can take a small piece and cook it up in the pan. Checking for seasoning is important. So my meatloaf seemed a little bland. So I added a generous amount of worchestershire sauce to the mix. Ah, much better. I think worchestershire sauce is a great savory mix. Great to have on hand to add some oomph to your dish. Spray a pan sided pan with oil. Then pour the meat mixture in the middle. Form a log shape. I made my loaf wider than normal to cook evenly without drying out. Then into the oven at 375oF. About 30 minutes in, take the meatloaf out and coat the top evenly with ketchup. Then back into the oven for another 30 minutes. The ketchup will thicken and a crust will form. The meatloaf came out great! The flavor was really good. The turkey itself was very moist and not dry at all. With such a lean meat, sometimes I worry about it drying out. But it certainly wasn't the case this time. The worchestershire sauce did wonders for the flavor. The veggies added a nice texture to the whole thing. I also think it added the needed moisture. The vegetables are both healthy and useful. Fantastic! And lastly, the ketchup topping. It reduced and thickened nicely. It added a tangy flavor which complicated and complemented the overall dish. I really enjoyed this lunch. It was quite filling yet cheap to make. I would definitely make this again. Maybe one day I'll try it with beef. Man, that should be extra good! Read more...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Homemade Pizza

A good friend of mine gifted me a pizza stone awhile. I hasn't used it yet though. Mainly, I suck at anything that involves bread. Yes, bread is my nemesis in cooking/baking. But I'm willing to try again after my many failures (biscuits, pretzels, pizza dough, etc). This time, I'm trying pizza dough again. Usually I buy fresh dough from the supermarket. But why not try again. If I fail, it didn't cost much and I can always run the couple of blocks to the market anyway. So here's the dough. My friend who gifted me the pizza stone, also gifted me a cookbook: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. She knew exactly what I wanted since I've been eying that book for awhile. I never bought it myself from fear of failure. But now that I actually have it, might as well try it out again. So this recipe if their Olive Oil Dough (recipe at the bottom of the post). Here, I'm proofing the yeast with warm water, salt, sugar, and olive oil. After a little bit this is what it looks like. I guess the yeast did react. Just look at that stuff on top. And now flour. Just plain all purpose flour here. Into the stand up mixer with the hook attachment. Add the flour and the yeast mixture. Turn the machine on and let it work its thing until the dough comes together in a ball onto the hook. I kneaded it a couple times to develop gluten and make it smooth. It can be quite sticky right now. This step wasn't in the book recipe but I've seen a lot of chefs on TV do it. Why not? Then into a well oiled bowl to rise and rest. I covered with plastic wrap and punched holes with a fork. It needs to breathe. Let it rest at room temp for about 2 hours. After that, you can use it immediately. Or like me, I put it in the fridge overnight for the next day. So this is what it looks like after I take it out. Big and fluffy! My favorite part is punching this thing down. Pow! Also, after refrigeration, it's easier to handle when cold. I guess it's not as sticky maybe? And now the prepped ingredients. I read that pre-cooking everything makes it much better and tastier. So I have some sausage, homemade marinara, broccoli, mushrooms, and lots of cheese (fresh and regular mozzarella, and pecorino). And don't forget the fresh basil. And here's the mozzarella cheese all shredded up. So take your dough and separate into small balls. Add flour to the counter. And roll it out. Sometimes I use a rolling pin and something I use my hands. I find using my hands worked best to flatten the dough out. Here's the first pie for Mr. Meat & Potatoes. Sausage and Cheese. Into the preheated oven at 450o F for just about 15 minutes. This is where the issues started. The oven was so hot that it caused the smoke alarm to go off again and again. I was annoying. Also, I didn't have a pizza peel. I only had a sided cookie pan. Erg, that makes one difficult pizza transfer. So it went into the oven with a couple of spills. But taking it out was a bigger issue. So I decided to take the entire stone out. Unfortunately that was a bad idea. It cracked right in the middle immediately. Dammit! I guess the rapid change in temperature was not friendly to it. Sigh, one try and broken! But at least the pizza came out nice. Look at that char and color! Crusty goodness, So for my pizza, I had to use the metal cookie sheet. I had basil, fresh mozzarella, and marinara on one side. Broccoli, mushrooms, and regular mozzarella on the other. So here are our slices. No pizza roller. So slicing was quite messy. But look at the crust on the first pizza that was on the stone. Brown, crusty and crunchy. And look at my pizza from the cookie sheet. Blonde, soft, and bleh. So what did I learn? Don't take your pizza stone out right away! And it really does make a huge different. I think I will get another stone and a pizza peel next time. It's worth it. And besides, even if I don't want to make pizza, I still need to try to make loaves of bread. And what's better than crusty, hot bread straight from a warm oven? Nothing. So the flavors of each of the pizza were great. The sausage and cheese was simple but the crust was so good. And my pizza? I personally think that was too much cheese. But the broccoli and mushroom and quite good. Balance. I need to find good balance. Recipe adapted from: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day By Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Luinenburg artisanbreadinfive.com Olive Oil Dough 1 3/8 cups of lukewarm water 3/4 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 packet) 3/4 tablespoons Kosher salt 1/2 tablespoon sugar 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil 3 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour 1. Mix yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a bowl. 2. Mix in flour without kneading using a stand up mixer with dough hook. 3. Allow machine to mix dough until it comes to a uniform ball on the hook. 4. Cover, not airtight, and allow to ready at room temperature until dough rise and collapses, approx 2 hours. 5. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, thought it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 12 days. Read more...

Monday, June 28, 2010

5 Napkin Burger

A friend was in town staying over. We were hungry after a long day. We wanted simple though. I thought burgers and 5 Napkin came straight to my mind. We called first to try to make a reservation. It was 9:00pm on a Saturday night. They said that it would be at least 1.5 hours until we would get seated. Bummer. So we decided to take a walk outside and see what we could find. We walked past 5 Napkin just to see what the wait would be like. Luckily, they only said 30 minutes. We sat at the bar while we waited. But shortly after our remote vibrated and we sat at a table outside. Prime people watching. Nice. We look at the menu and we all decided to get burgers naturally. They both got cheeseburgers, one with bacon ($15). I got the Original 5 Napkin burger ($15) which came with gruyere cheese. Look at that thing. It's huge! Definitely big enough for a hefty eater. The burger was ordered medium. It was thick and juicy. The cheese was melted and delicious. This was much better than what I remembered the first time. The bun held up to the thick patty. In fact, it soaked up the delicious juices. No waste here. Along with the burger and cheese, it was topped with caramelized onions and rosemary aioli. The onions were lost in this burger. But the aioli was good. Thick and creamy. It just added so much flavor to the burger. It also made it really messy. Lots of napkins later, it was all finished. While the burger was good, the fries were terrible. This too was not something I remember from my first time there. In fact, the first time, the fries were great. Thin and crispy. Hot and salty. But this time, they were soft and limp. It was as it they pre-fried these and just let them sit. What a shame. I really love fries. But I really hate bad fries. I don't think 5 Napkin is the type of place I would go regularly. It's quite pricey for a burger. But I think it's good enough for at least one try. Or maybe two, like me. In truth, I'll probably come here again. Five Napkin Burger 630 9th Avenue New York, NY 10036 (212) 757-2277 fivenapkinburger.com Read more...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Panini

Panini are super easy to make at home. It's even easier if you have one of those presses. The old school way on the stove top with a heavy skillet or brick. Now these fancy presses just makes things so much easier and less oily. And Mrs. Parsi Chef is very good at making these. This time around, we changed the fillings just a bit. Deli sliced meats and cheeses are always a must. However, we also added pesto and avocado. And a side of corn. Love my corn! So here's my panini with turkey, swiss, pesto, and avocado. Crispy on the outside yet warm and gooey on the inside. I burned my tongue trying to eat this before it has cooled down. Oh well. Read more...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cooking Breakfast for my 2nd Hangover

So obviously I didn't learn my lesson. I went out again the night after and got hungover again. But I didn't get sick again. Yes! But I'm hungry as hell again. Boo! So I enjoyed my slightly healthy breakfast yesterday so much that I decided to make something like it again. This time no omlette. Instead, fried runny eggs with leftover ribs. Also, another bagel but this time it's an onion bagel. Also with cream cheese and broccoli. The cream cheese and broccoli bagel was really good. The ribs were fatty and meaty. Nice. And runny fried eggs to mop it all up. Who doesn't like that? Read more...

Cooking Breakfast for a Hangover

So after a heavy night of drinking, the next day I'm hungover but not sick. Thank god! But I sure am hungry. All I want is bad fatty food. Sometimes I go for it. But this time, I didn't want to be too much of a fatass. So I did half and half. A nice, big garlic bagel with a shmear of cream cheese. An omlette with leftover pork tenderloin. And some leftover broccoli. So how did I made the omlette. First, I fried up the pork in a pan with oil. I left it in there for a bit to crisp up. While that cooked, I whipped up some eggs. A dash of salt, pepper, and milk. Then into the pan with the pork. I made sure to spread the eggs around. Then I left it until it started browning on the bottom. The eggs will start peeling away from the edges and start to cook through. Before the eggs are completely cooked, fold it over with a spatula and slide it off the pan right onto the plate. Instant omelette. This was so good. So filling and yet not that heavy. I'm glad I went the slightly healther route. Read more...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cooking: Guacamole

Avocados are another seasonal item that I love having. I think it's usually more prominent during the late spring through summer. Though you can probably find avocados at any time of the year now. So I always like to guacamole with my avocados. The fresh flavors are amazing. They just work so well together. It's fairly easy. I dice up some avocados. Leaving it chunky is my style. You can completely mash it up if you desire. To that, I immediate add the juice of one lime. Sometimes I'll add a little more. I like my guacamole limier than normal. But that's just me. One lime is enough for most people. To that I added a tomato (no seeds), a jalapeno (no seeds), 3 cloves of garlic, half a small red onion, and some chopped cilantro. Salt, pepper, and oil Now this tastes pretty good right now. But for me, I have to let it meld together for at least 1 hour. I usually like to let it rest in the fridge overnight. I think the flavors develop so much that it's a totally different animal when it comes out. Here you can see that the colors look a little duller now. But don't be fooled. That doesn't mean it was duller in flavor. No, it actually was so much more. Sweet, but tangy. Smooth yet crunchy. Creamy and fresh. So good. Great with some tortilla chips. Read more...

Cooking: Corn

Ah fresh corn, how I love thee. And summer corn is the best. I can eat this everyday for the entire length of summer without a problem. So the easiest way for me to make corn is by cutting the cob in half and boiling it in salted water. Just a couple of minutes are needed. About 5-10min. And there you have corn ready for consumption. The ones with the colorful kernels were really good. The ones on the bottom, not so much. So bad in fact that I needed to whip out the truffle butter and salt. Ah, saved by truffle. Otherwise, normally I like to eat my corn without any condiments nor extra salt. Just pure, delicious summer corn. Yes, please! Read more...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cooking: Potato Salad

Whenever I hear summer, I think potato salad. It's a starchy dish that isn't very heavy but can be filling. It's best served cold but room temperature also works. Therefore, it's a good party dish since it travels well and can be made well in advance. One thing about my potato salad is that it's not a normal mayo laden kind. Nope. It's actually a type of German potato salad with mustard and all. I find the flavors more mature and pleasing. To make this, I start off with some golden potatoes. I think these potatoes have great flavor and really good for salads and mashes. I dice the potatoes up for cooking ease. Then into a cold pot with water and salt. Add enough water to just cover the top of the potatoes. Salting here is important because the potatoes become more flavorful as opposed to just being salty later. Once fork tender, drain and add to a glass bowl. I say glass because you need to add apple cider vinegar now. Vinegar can react to metal so glass is always safe. Anyway, a few splashes of the vinegar on the hot potatoes. You should be able to smell it right away. The potatoes should absorb it right away as well. Once that cools completely, you can add the other ingredients. First, I add dijon mustard and country style/grainy mustard. And I add a little mayo for those who love mayo. It also makes it smoother. Mayo is a good way to sooth some of the tang from the vinegar and mustard. Taste as you go. Then I added some cucumbers, carrots, and capers. I added the first two for texture. Can't have it all be mushy. The capers are my own idea. I think it adds a nice flavor and saltiness to the dish. So the potato salad was pretty good. There was a nice tang to it due to the vinegar and mustard. But it was subdued a little by the mayo. The veggies did its job by making a crunch to the dish. And the capers was a nice addition. Little balls of flavor pops in your mouth. The only thing I disliked about this was that there was too much dressing. I think it was overkill. I am a firm believer of lightly dressing anything. Just is enough is perfect. This was gloppy which was my fault. I should have made the dressing separately, then added as needed to the potatoes. Instead, I added everything directly to the spuds. The tweaking added more dressing. So it resulted in being overdressed. Read more...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lunch Week 25: Italian Lettuce Chicken Wraps

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided. So my lunch for the week: Italian Lettuce Chicken Wraps Okay, still going with the flow of hearty yet healthy. This time, I'm using grilled chicken wrapped with lettuce instead of tortillas. With that, I also stuffed a variety of veggies like roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, pepperoncini, and sprouts. And for variety sake, I made one wrap using grilled lamb. So I start off the lunch with the onions. It takes quite a long time for them to caramelize properly. So I cut a whole bag of onions into strips. Into a cold pan with oil and salt. I put it on the stove on low-medium heat. They start to soften and release the liquid. Stir once in awhile to prevent sticking and burning. Keep letting the onions cook on low until they release their sugars and the water evaporates. They'll look something like this. Golden brown and naturally sweet. The roasted red peppers were jarred from the supermarket. I like to buy whole peppers and cut them into strips myself. And pepperoncini which are pickled hot peppers. These have great flavor between and salty, sour, and spicy. Lastly, the chicken was lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and oil. Then grilled until cooked through. You can marinate your chicken in Italian dressing if you like. Nice thick grill marks! I love the taste of grilled food. And now the assembly. First the lettuce. I used red leaf lettuce here. The outer leaves are better for this. Tear off the white end and save for a salad on another day. The first things that go down are the sprouts, then pepperoncini, then roasted red peppers. Next up, the chicken and lastly the onions. Again, I used lamb for one of the wraps just to switch it up. I really enjoy this lunch. It's super crunchy from the lettuce. But the chicken is moist and delicious. The pepperoncini adds a nice spicy kick to everything. And the sprouts acts as good substance. Lastly, the roasted reds brings everything together while the onions contrasts the hot, pickled peppers nicely with its sweetness. Mmm, good and filling enough. I would definitely make this again. Maybe I'll switch up the flavors from Italian to Chinese or to Greek. Read more...