Friday, October 14, 2011

let the adventures begin

There's nothing like a kitchen (and mess) of your own to inspire some cooking. 

I've only been moved in a week, but the cooking has cooked in FULL FORCE. I'll cut to the chase with this entry and discuss the cooking fun that's gone down so far. 

Quick Tortellini-Spinach Soup
(recipe inspired by a similar recipe by Ellie Krieger)
makes 3 dinner-sized servings

4 1/2 oz fresh spinach tortellini (half a package) 
2 cloves garlic 
1 yellow onion
15 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice) 
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups fresh baby spinach (chopped) 
1/2 cup frozen vegetable medley of choice (mine had corn, edema me, and red peppers)
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes 

1. Heat 1-2 TBSP EVOO in a pot. Chop onion and garlic and cook in EVOO until onions are translucent. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (to taste). 
2. Add tomatoes and broth. Simmer 5 minutes 
3. Add frozen vegetables. Simmer 5 minutes. 
4. Add tortellini and baby spinach right before serving. Cook until tortellini is hot and spinach is wilted, maybe 5 minutes or so. Serve immediately for best taste from the tortellini. Packs well for lunch, but the tortellini gets a bit too soft- though it was still good enough to eat 3 days in a row at work!

Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Fennel

I decided to try cooking with boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a bit of a change. I seasoned the chicken with garlic powder, smoked paprika (lots!), salt, pepper, and lemon juice. I threw that on a baking sheet with some fennel, which I dressed with EVOO, lemon, salt, and pepper.

The ORIGINAL plan was to throw everything under the broiler. However, 1 hour into pre-heating the oven was barely warm. (insert sad and angry face here).  So, I heated some vegetable stock and set about poaching my chicken. It was my first poaching experience and went pretty well (OK its basically fool-proof). The chicken was moist and lemony, though I don't think thigh meat it my favorite. The fennel, however, was AMAZING. Lemon + fennel is my new obsession.

Luckily the dish worked out and I discovered the broken oven before I really needed it. Next day- new oven! I was surprised at how quickly they replaced it. :)

White Bean Crostini
(adapted from William Sonoma Starters)

1 French baguette
1 can cannellini beans (drained)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup EVOO
salt, pepper, smoked paprika (optional)
thyme or sage (fresh if you have it, though I used dried)
sun dried tomatoes packed in oil (sliced thinly)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat EVOO in pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
2. Add beans to pan and cook another 2 minutes, or until beans are heated through.  Season with salt pepper, herb of choice, and smoked paprika.
3. Transfer bean and garlic mixture to food processor. Squeeze juice from 1/4 lemon into mixture. Pulse into a coarse spread. Taste and season as needed.
4. Slice baguette and place slices on baking sheet. Place in oven for about 5 minutes, or until toasted.
5. Spread white bean dip onto baguette and top with sun dried tomato slices. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top if using.

I made these crostini to celebrate a coworker's birthday and they were well received. I don't feel like the dip is PERFECT but its simple, tasty, and easy to make from pantry staples. Will make again.

These recipes actually exclude all of the cooking I did tonight, but more on that next entry. 

After working a few nights, I did a bit of exploring today with a run downtown to Trader Joe's (54 blocks down plus a few crosstown). I carried my money, MetroCard, and a reusable bag with me (nerd alert) and hit the road. 

The length of the run wasn't bad (just over three) but the whole running through the city at rush hour thing was brutal and I ended up getting sick of dodging people about 2/3 of the way in and opted to walk. Lesson learned. 

Of course, I bought more at TJ's than expected and ended up with an extra bag. Darn Kennebunkport Pumpkin Ale six-pack for under $6 by check out was just too hard to resist. The rest of the overflow was veggie-related though and the total was only $40 dollars- turns out TJ's holds their prices pretty steady from NJ to Manhattan unlike every other store which is totally worth the "you are insane" looks I got on the subway. 

Off to bed after a night of cooking that ended with the smoke detector going off in my apartment around midnight. Good way to get evicted. 

I'm excited to be back in the cooking and blogging routine after much time away. :)

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