Who's That Girl

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WHO'S THAT GIRL: A higher education obsessed foodie who is documenting her life in the kitchen. I love to cook delicious, gourmet-style foods for those I love and always welcome a challenge in the kitchen. With that challenge comes an impromptu nature. I tend to avoid following recipes to the exact, so you are not likely to find very many posted here. Being that I am a Libra and am learning to be free in the kitchen, the story always goes, "A pinch of this and a smattering of that!" Thank you for visiting -- and happy reading!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Product Review: Buitoni Pesto with Basil

Goodness, I love pesto. I love its versatility:

You can serve it in stuffed chicken.

With warm goat cheese and tiny slices of French bread.

In pasta (recent realization and joy for me). 

I have been enjoy9ing Buitoni's pesto for some time. I find that it has a nice, mild flavor. Not too-too strong on the basil. And while it falls on the denser side of the pesto spectrum, this makes for more options. It is not drowning in oil, which I appreciate, so the oil does not overwhelm dishes.

I do wish, however, that there was more of a ting of garlic. It seems almost non-existent. Other than that, nice flavor and form. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Onion-Filled Quiche

Quiche -- it can be vegan or vegetarian, hearty or mild, sweet or savory (through traditionally savory), hot or cold. What a wondrous, versatile dish!

I send my thanks to the French, or the Germans. Anyone have the final word on the actual origins of quiche?

I have grown quite fond of quiches. The quiche is the quintessential provincial dish. Perfect for the range of occasions -- potlucks and surprise romances included -- the quiche is simplistic, yet sophisticated.

My most recent quiche called for caramelized onions, scallions and chives. It was a true celebration of the onion family made slightly delicate by the introduction of basil.

Friday, September 12, 2014

First Pulled Pork

It was during a friend's birthday party, years ago, that I was introduced to the joy of tasting a tender, luscious taste of pork shoulder (pork butt).

I'd had shredded pork countless times in life -- mostly on sandwiches. She had one of those glorious smokers and cooked the shoulder for something like 8 or 10 hours. I remember being thoroughly impressed with both the size and flavor of the shoulder. It is quite versatile, I realized. And it involves the type of preparation that awards the patient chef -- with all those hours, you cannot rush the cooking process.

I do not have one of those amazing smokers, so I opted to rub the shoulder with an ample amount of spices and cook the shoulder in the oven at about 350 for six hours or so.

The result -- a lovely, moist, succulent and semi-sweet shoulder that began to shred the instant you touched it, perfect for sandwiches, tacos, salads, a bit of BBQ sauce and a whole host of other dishes: 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sauteed Steak Meets Hollandaise-Smothered Poached Eggs

Its culinary mashup time.

This creation was born from indecisiveness. For dinner, I wanted a meaty steak with vegetables, but I also craved eggs Benedict. 

So why not combine the two?

This dish is surprisingly easy, though it took quite a bit of time and coordination to pull off. I made the Hollandaise sauce from scratch, adding kosher salt, black pepper and a bit of cayenne along with the lemon juice. 

Oops: I should have used butter instead of clarified butter. I love the taste of clarified butter, but it overwhelmed the flavor of the Hollandaise sauce. I also put too many squirts of lemon juice in the mix. The sauce tasted a bit sharp, not silky and smooth as I wanted. But it was still quite nice.

For the steak, I seasoned it with salt and pepper and seared it on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. It then went into the stove for about 10 minutes. 

I absolutely love this method of cooking steaks, especially when there is not enough time for grilling. The method lends a nice richness to the steak and allows for a crusted trim. It is also quite swift, and easy on the cleanup.

Meanwhile, I prepared the spinach and mushroom, cooking them together, without seasoning, in a pot. I had never cooked mushrooms and spinach together in this way, but I was going for simplicity and figure, why not? I worried that the mushrooms would be mush, but they remained perfectly formed and nicely cooked through. I did go with baby bellas here. I don't imagine this would have gone over as well with white mushrooms or even shiitake mushrooms. 

As I was wrapping up the mushrooms and spinach, the steak had been cooling for about eight minutes. Perfect time to start poaching the eggs.

My darling kitchen companion watched in disbelief, eager to have her first bite.

It came together beautifully!

What a lovely marriage of flavors, and a gorgeous sight, too.

I was also impressed with the plating: steak first, topped with the spinach and mushrooms, then the poached eggs and a generous serving of the Hollandaise sauce.

This seems like one of those wonderful special occasion meals, perfect for impressing someone.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Product Review: Crumbled Goat Cheese, Private Selection

Oh, goat cheese, how I love your smooth, pungent flavor.

This was my first time purchasing the Private Selection Crumbled Goat Cheese -- at Fry's here in the southwest. You can get it at Kroger elsewhere.

The ingredients noted are very, very simple: Pasteurized goat milk, salt, cheese cultures, enzymes, powdered cellulose (to prevent caking). And the 4 ounces may seem like a small sampling, but it was the perfect size.

One of the things that frustrated me about goat cheese is you generally will find way to much in a package. Like, really, am I going to eat 8 ounces of goat cheese before it expires three days after I open it? No. Not ever.

But I appreciated the handy container with its fairly tight seal. Also, 4 ounces is much more economical. The cost -- something like $4. Nice, modest price.

I found that the goat cheese was much milder than expected, though. Not even a mild hint of sharpness. And it was wondrously soft and creamy, but certainly not as creamy as a more authentic brand.

It is fitting for a flatbread, which is how I used it, and would go well on a salad or with fresh fruit, but certainly not on a cheese board and not any kind of cracker. It's flavor holds OK, but it simply is not as versatile as other goat cheese brand. But I would certainly buy it again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pizza-Flatbread Merger

I have been making pizza-inspired flatbreads for about a year or so.

Making the flatbread is quick and easy, taking about 45 minutes to make. And using Fleischmann's pizza crust yeast means you don't have to deal with rising time. That's a wonderful plus. 

You literally need only mix your flour, water, sugar, salt and olive oil and set it to a ball, then roll it out with a pin and place in an slightly oiled baking pan.

  I generally add a bit of dried basil and oregano to the mix. Really, nothing to it at all. 

I generally add goat cheese, shredded mozzarella and marinated tomatoes.

In this case, I had some leftover chicken breast, which I had backed. I decided to mix in a little bit of BBQ sauce, tossing the chicken, then placing it on the flatbread.

Success! This lovely culinary fusion -- and an ample serving -- was perfect for a quick, easy dinner.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Salsa in the World? Not Yet.

In southern California you will find a standard Mexican restaurant called Cotixan Mexican Food. From the outside, it looks like any other fast food Mexican restaurant you have ever seen, like, literally everywhere.

I was surprised in such a wondrous way -- with the salsa to be exact.

Yes, the food is delicious. It really is. And not *just* for Mexican food. The quality is is strong, and the flavors are pleasant -- milder than the deep greasy fare you can often find in the southwestern region. That is lest you decide to gorge on enough food to feed a family of six.

Anyway, it was the orange-colored salsa that caught my attention and left me feeling such a deep longing for yet another trip to Cotixan. Word on the street is that the owner sold his soul for the recipe.

I believe it.

The salsa has a luscious, semi-sweet flavor with the exact amount of spice. The last I was there, I stashed a few extra and brought them home and attempted to replicate the recipe.

One of the cashiers let loose that the restaurant, which makes the salsa fresh on site, uses ancho chili peppers. Score for insider information!

I promptly rushed to the nearby store and purchased a massive lot. 

Experimentation time!

I turned to the interwebs. Appears that it is quite common, when people are making "orange-colored" salsa, to use creme or crema, adobo, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppercorns, cloves, Mexican oregano, lemon or lime, cumin, honey, coriander, sugar, salt, garlic, white vinegar, oil and roasted pumpkin and sesame seeds.

I made three batches, using a variation of all of those ingredients.

I was like a mad woman in the kitchen! No measuring at all ever. Just a ton of eyeballing and tasting.

One would have the right texture, but the flavor was off.

One would have the perfect color, but the flavor and the texture were both off.

The one nearest the flavor was a tad bit too sweet. I tried thinning the sweetness with spices and a bit more vingegar, but the flavor grew more and more dull.

Drat! I haven't broken the code. But I have at least learned how to make homemade salsa. Bonus!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Tips

It's been established: I do not like chocolate. I haven't been a fan since my youth.

But I cannot help making and baking items with chocolate for those people I love and/or care about.

In this instance, I resolved to make a surprise batch of chocolate-dipped strawberries. I have certainly made them in the past, but it has been year - years! I re-learned a few things in the process. In particular:
  • Make sure your strawberries are not to ripe. Soft strawberries do not meld weld with piping hot, melted chocolate. 
  • Don't skim on the chocolate and buy those nasty Hershey button. Splurge on whatever it is your grocery story offers. 
  • Add a little bit of butter to your chocolate. Use your better judgement. If you find that the chocolate is thinning out a bit, add a bit more chocolate. You don't want to drown in butter, but the butter does lend a lovely, velvety flavor and sheen. 
  • Don't remove the stems! The strawberry stems lend a bit of romance and panache.
  • Consider using a skewer through the stem to aid with the chocolate dipping. 
  • And make sure -- make absolute sure -- that the strawberries are completely dry and room temperature before you dip them into the chocolate. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Garlic, Lemon-Kissed Lamb Chops with a Delicate Kale Salad and Parsley Potatoes

I wanted a lovely, light but filling dinner this Sunday afternoon. And choosing menu items, I opted for lamb, kale and potatoes for the main ingredients.

I massaged the lamb with kosher sauce and set it aside while I prepared the marinade. 

For the marinade, I put the lamb chomps in a Ziplock bag with a few tablespoons of light brown sugar, two ample tablespoons of crush garlic, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and lemon. I rarely measure -- actually, I generally only measure when I bake.

I put the bag in the fridge for about six hours or so.

I also opted to make a kale salad and mashed potatoes. 

The monsoon was on a big way -- a massive thunder and lightning storm moved in around dinner time, which set a lovely mood. I threw open the doors and prepared to cook the meal.

Considering the monsoon, I hoped to cook the lamb indoors using a cast iron skillet instead of the outdoor grill.

It went over quite well. I seared the lamb chops, front and back, for a few minutes in the skillet before setting it, broad side down, in the oven on 400 for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I prepared the potatoes and the kale salad.

Goodness, I love kale! This salad called for a spritz of lemon juice and Parmesan cheese with a small bit of olive oil. The trick with kale salads, when serving raw, is to massage the salad. That is key! This helps to evenly distribute the add-ons, and helps to soften the leaves a bit.

I also decided to use the rest of the marinade to make a gravy of sorts.

This requires a few minutes of boiling to ensure you don't wake up in the middle of the night with a bout of food poisoning.

After the boiling the marinade for about three minutes, I added just a bit of butter, some flour, some rice wine vinegar and Chardonnay with a bit of water and brought this to a boil. The yield was a lovely, semi-thick gravy that had both a bitter and sweet flavor to it -- sweet and sour.

At this point, the potatoes and the lamb were ready for plating. 

Gorgeous presentation and a lovely marriage of textures and flavors. Be sure to bookmark this one for Valentine's Day. 

And with the "gravy" added: 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Product Review: Delallo Fine Chopped Garlic in Pure Olive Oil

When it comes to certain foodstuffs I can be something of a traditionalist. I have always felt that some culinary no-nos should not be broken:
  • Never buy fish out of the freezer section. 
  • Don't buy roe in those little glass containers. Ever. 
  • Skip the boxed mash potatoes. 
  • Only buy garlic in bulk; never buy crushed garlic in cans and jars.
But there can sometimes be exceptions.

Honestly, the only reason why I opted to try Delallo's chopped garlic is because I was in the condiments aisle (looking for giardiniera, actually) and thought, "Why not?"

I take back what I have previously said about ready-made garlic.

Look: Delallo's has packed its garlic is a lovely, stylish and convenient glass container perfect for repuroposing after you have finished the product. It is increasingly difficult to come across everyday products packaged in such  sturdy glass. That's too bad. This container has a decent seal, so I imagine it will be a great container to reuse for salsa, sauces and maybe even spices.

Texture: It's not a fine mince, which is wonderful for garlic addicts like me. I don't want my garlic to disappear in a dish. I want to be able to see those beautiful nuggets. It somehow accentuates the flavor of the dish for me.

Smell: The smell of garlic was glorious when I popped open the top. It was as though I had peeled open a garlic -- barehanded. Delallo says a half teaspoon is the equivalent to one clove of garlic. I believe it.

Flavor: Alas, this is where we lost some of the oomph. It's pre-chopped garlic folks. So, no, it does not compare 100 percent to freshly chopped garlic. Still, it is a good go if you are in a hurry or if you absentmindedly forgot to pick up fresh garlic while at the market.

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