Learning As I Chop

Manic Monday

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Food Philosophies, Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on September 30, 2010

As you know, my weeknights have gotten a little crazier since I’ve started school.  Monday and Thursday are my free nights, so I try to do some cooking.  I don’t know why it took so long, but it’s recently dawned on me that dinners don’t need to take two hours.  They can take thirty minutes and still be good. (No, I don’t mean Rachael Ray. No offense, Rach.) I received The Weeknight Cookbook for my bridal shower, but hadn’t used it yet.  No real reason, except that I’m a creature of habit and stick to the J of C or Epicurious.  On Monday, however, I decided to be adventurous and try something new

As you can see, Monday’s dinner included a mixture of pasta, arugula pesto, grape tomatoes and cheese. Delicious! And easy if you want to make it for your carnivorous partner, and sans meat for yourself.  I had many of the ingredients at home, but was lacking a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Normally I’m kind of anti those types of chickens, but will admit they work in a pinch. Except when my supermarket is out of them. Of course they were.  So H pulled a piece of chicken from the freezer and defrosted it in a bowl of lukewarm water. I have to say that worked pretty well.

Back to the plan.The argula pesto pre-processing

Truthfully, I’m not a fan. I tried a tsp for tasting purposes (working to improve this skill) and “bitter” immediately came to mind. I tried to salvage the pesto via a little more olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and even a touch of lemon, but nothing worked. I was nervous but forged ahead.

I also focused on following my rule of prepping before cooking. Here are the nicely washed tomatoes and a yummy hunk of ricotta

The tomatoes were halved, the ricotta “microplaned” and the parmigiana shredded. Once everything was measured and ready, I moved back to the chicken. No pictures since it wasn’t very exciting. I just cut the breast into bite-sized pieces and covered with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Saute the chicken in butter AND olive oil, and voila! It might seem a bit indulgent, but I find using butter together with oil works best. Plus I had no time to marinate the chicken before cooking, and needed to avoid blandness.

In the end I tossed everything together in a large bowl and served. The pesto was better once cut by the cheese, pasta and tomatoes.  But I’m still going back to basil. I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart.


Another Way to Party

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on September 27, 2010

A few weekends ago, some friends and I traveled to upstate New York for a bachelorette party.  We rented a house near Woodstock and spent our time playing freeze-dance, limbo, drinking, eating and being merry. It was your typical girls’ weekend. Except for Saturday night. That night, instead of going out to the bars, we stayed in and traveled to our kitchen. My kind of weekend. We also invited guests, namely Deborah Gorman and her sister from The Good Knife, who brought over some yummy ingredients and exciting cooking skills.

We started off by preparing our salmon. First one needs to de-scale the fish. Apparently your fish guy (or gal) can do this for you but where’s the lesson in that shortcut? If memory serves me correctly, I think you take the back-end of your knife and gently push against the scales. They should come off pretty easily through a little bit of work.

Once the scale are gone, you remove the skin. This is much harder than it looks. Trust me- I tried it and my knife failed to glide as gracefully as Deborah’s. Oh well, must practice that skill

After prepping the salmon, we moved on to a potsticker appetizer. These were delicious, fun and relatively easy to make. I like that she used pre-made wrappers. Nothing wrong with getting a little help from the experts

We started by frying the potstickers till the bottoms were browned and then steamed them to finish. I also learned that you should heat your pan for a few moments and then add your room-temperature oil.  This method prevents burning.

It was nice to fold these dumplings into little forms, such as a beggars purse. I like that you can’t really go wrong- just close your dumpling and make sure the stuffing doesn’t fall out. Here are the finished ‘stickers. Deborah put together a nice dipping sauce. Can’t remember all of the ingredients but I think it included some soy, ginger and sugar. Did you know you can skin ginger by using a spoon? Saves your fingers and ginger this way.

While we enjoyed our appies, we also finished preparing dessert. The bride and MOH (her sister) prepped two springform pans by forming an oreo crust. We then melted the chocolate and added some wet ingredients.

Note to self: next time take notes.  I learned all types of chocolate tips but can’t remember them. However I think we did melt the chocolate using a make-shift double boiler. Here’s the cake before entering the oven. Gooey goodness

Next we moved on to pasta. I had never made homemade pasta before so I was excited. Pasta two ways: one via the old-fashioned hand crank and the other via a KitchenAid attachment.

I didn’t try the KitchenAid attachment but it seemed a lot easier and needed less space. Definitely on my “to-buy” list for the future.

The pasta was delicious! I’d say my favorite part of the meal, including dessert. Deborah combined it with with lots of fresh ingredients, such as kale, which usually scares me

Next was the salmon, served on a bed of barley. I loved the way this dish was presented- simple, pretty and hearty

And finally, dessert. Chocolate cake topped with fresh berries and a nice scoop of cream.

This meal was delicious and a lot of fun. I definitely learned a lot  and had some of my own beliefs reinforced. Namely that fresh and simple ingredients often yield the best results. I definitely recommend this night if you’re looking to do something a little different. Enjoy!

$1000 Vegetables?

Posted in Food Philosophies by R @ Learning As I Chop on September 24, 2010

Unsurprisingly, the NY Times Dining Section has amazed me yet again.


I know the whole thing was for charity, but $1000 for ten crates of vegetables seems a little much. Spending lots of money to support an organization that teaches children about sustainability?  Shouldn’t you practice what you preach? I don’t know…

However this part seemed reasonable:

“On the way out the door, guests could drop a $20 bill for a bag of vegetables, adding another $2,000 or so to the bottom line, which finally came to at least $250,000.”

$20 for a bag of veggies and a chance to support a good cause? Sign me up.