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!

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.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Product Review: Colgin Liquid Smoke

After a long, unwarranted hiatus, I am returning to this blog. I missed everything here: the wonderful creative space; the community of bloggers who persistent offer steady encouragement and suggestions; the drive to be a better home cook and the desire to use my imagination in the kitchen -- one of my favorite places on this planet. 

Returning from the lull, I present a product review of Colgin Liquid Smoke, the natural mesquite flavor.


Colgin explains that its liquid smoke is made with no additives or preservatives. It's all natural, which is a bonus. It is also vegan and gluten free.

And it is versatile. You can use it in gravies, soups and sauces. It's been known to be used on salads, for dips and to season eggs. I haven't tried any of those. Putting some of those suggestions down on the to do list.

For now, my curiosity was with the "mesquite flavor" claim.

Having had the wonderful benefit of grilling with natural, fresh cut and dried mesquite, I can appreciate this product. I have found that grilling with mesquite requires a certain skill and attentiveness. The wood burns fast and very, very hot. I once singed most all the hair off of one of my arms while grilling using mesquite wood. And I was being uber attentive, aware of the power of mesquite.

The liquid smoke smells and looks underwhelming coming out of the bottle. Literally looks like brown water and smells something like diluted Worcestershire sauce.

I have marinated mostly ribs and pork using this product and give it an endorsement. I appreciate that this Colgin's product does two things: it offers a hint of that wonderful smokey flavor that mesquite cooking provides (granted, you have to marinade meat for a while -- like, overnight; vegetables take to the liquid smoke more quickly) and without the worry of burning off your eyelashes.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Corn


We have a wonderful Guatemalan restaurant in town, Maya Quetzal. There, you will find a delicious specialty item of rice, corn and cheese. I cannot recall the name of this dish, but it is quite popular with the locals.

I have wanted to try and replicate this item for years. I tried once before and found that the dish turned out to be less flavorful and somewhat dry. Here is my second go at it.

For the dish, I went with short grain rice -- risotto style. The last time I tried this I went with jasmine rice. That was the first mistake. Comparing the dishes, I find that a bulbous rice with a bit more starch works better with the dish.

I also used Mexican and mozzarella style cheeses along with sour cream, milk and parsley. Maya Quetzal does not use parsley, but I figured why not try it! I love parsley.

For the corn, I went with sweet corn and roasted it in the oven.

That was a first for me.

I'd never considered using the oven to cook rice. But it made little sense to fire up the charcoal grill just to cook two ears of corn. Cooking the corn in the husk at 415 degrees for about 25 minutes in the gas oven resulted in sheer perfection. I highly recommend this method.


In the end, I mixed all of the ingredients together, put them in a buttered pan and baked in the oven with additional cheese on top for about 15 minutes.


This dish is rich. Very rich! I took a few bites and found that I felt my skin was glittering. It is very flavorful and good, and the roasting of the corn turned out to be a brilliant idea. The sweet corn is a must, and the more corn the better.
 
I think the dish could have benefited from the addition of some grilled peppers, especially those that could add some heat. Also, I imagine that, in addition to a side dish, this would serve well in a taco or burrito or under an over easy egg.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Buffalo

While living in Houston, I was always on the hunt for kolaches. I'd never heard of such a thing until visiting a cafe near my office in downtown Houston I noticed these cutesy little pastries behind the glass at the counter. I had never seen a pastry of that type. They looked to me like miniature versions of pigs in a blanket. But with more texture. More fluff. More decadence.

The perfect look for luxurious self-indulgence on my morning coffee run.

I ordered one and found that I absolutely loved the flavor of these little treats. They didn't taste like pigs in a blanket, though. From what I remember -- and it's been years since I last had one, they tasted like the distant sister of a croissant sandwich, a lovely dough, wrapped around a flavorful, tiny sausage. 

Like, the best thing ever.


Since leaving the south, I have searched everywhere for kolaches, these wondrous Czech eats. I've looked in Los Angeles and the high desert of southern California; Chicago, Cleveland and throughout Tucson and Phoenix; and at numerous airports during my travels.

Never found.

I figured that I would someday try and replicate the recipe at home and, finally, I had my chance to try.

After reading, I don't know, something like 10 kolache recipes online, I got impatient and set to work. Really, I just wanted to know how to make the dough and be on with it.

I gathered my items: yeast, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, an egg and the buffalo meat. I even tossed some bread flour in the mix for "fun." Had no idea how that would turn out. By the time the dough was ready, it was already after 11 p.m. I decided to roll it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the oven, finishing the recipe the following day.

Upon my return, I started with the meat.

For flavoring, I went with brown sugar, roasted garlic and onion seasoning, mustard powder and dill with a pinch of kosher salt. I then formed the bison into "sausages."

I've saved myself -- and you -- the embarrassment and decided to forgo adding images of the shaped meat. Trust me, you don't care to see them. No, really. Just trust me, and remember that therapy is expensive these days. 

I also added, as an afterthought, some cheese as I rolled the meat into the dough. At the end, just before putting the rolls in the oven, I gave them an ample egg wash.

And they are looking gorgeous! At this point I'm thinking, "Awww, yeah! These are going to be amazing! I'm doing something real here!"

Started to see book deals and speaking tours in my future and everything.



It took about 35 or so minutes of baking on about 375 and they were ready.

I loved the smell and the look of the "kolaches." But I found that they didn't smell anything like I recalled. They didn't feel the way I recalled either. Turns out bison is gamey as all get out. As. All. Get. Out. Also, I realized at that very moment that I completely forgot to add baking soda to the dough.

Doh!

But I felt motivated. The flavor was good, but I cannot call these kolaches. I have so much more work to do before I am able to closely replicate these lovely little treats.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Green Olives


I love how this dish did not require a trip to the grocery store -- I had everything on hand at home. Thrilling when that happens.

For this week's challenge item, I went with pimento-stuffed olives. I love pimentos -- those yummy little peppers. It was very difficult to think up something new. I really wanted to make a tapenade but wound up making a pasta dish instead. I believed that the sharp taste of the olives would meld well with the mildly flavored pasta. I also added a tad bit of butter peas, carrots, spinach, Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper, believing would balance the dish nicely.

It turned out to be a strange marriage. In retrospect, I could have used far, far fewer olives -- they were so very strong in flavor -- and more spinach. The amount of peas and carrots along with the cheese was perfect.

The dish is quite simple. Almost too simple. I am not sure where to go with it or how yet to improve it. It will require much more time and attention to detail to perfect it.


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