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!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SAVEUR: Mexican Tacos

Growing up in Los Angeles meant eating a nice sampling of Mexican food.

It was quite common to see little stands with vendors selling corn on the cob smothered in mayonnaise, butter and chili sauce or selling tacos topped with every variation you could imagine.

Or the ice cream carts and mango stands! ...oh, the mango stands.

Rico! Delicioso!!!

Interestingly, I do not recall having a favorite dish. I didn't care if it were enchiladas, burritos, tacos -- just not tamales. For some reason, my younger self simply did not take an attraction to tamales.

But I did have a household favorite: When my mother would purchase tacos and all the fixings for tacos.

I don't typically make the tacos as she did when we were kids. When I make them, I typically heat the tortillas over an open flame or on a comal and add whatever mixture I have prepared.

My mother, however, would pan fry the tortilla, then sit them on paper towels so that the extra oil could be collected before we would gently stuff the tortillas with onions and lettuce and tomatoes and cheese.

*long, deep, reminiscent sigh*

So I was pleased to see tacos on the current cover of Saveur. What fun! And I hadn't made them in such a while.

And you can't have tacos without corn on the cob. Interesting, a bit of steam is visible rising from the corn in the photo to the right. Curious looking.

When done, I was surprised to see that my tacos came out looking very close to those on the cover.

I swiftly cooked diced potatoes, then added onions toward the end for a nice sautee. Then I added green bell peppers, lowering the temperature and covering the mix for a little while.

Next, I added the ground beef and seasoned it with onion powder, garlic salt and roasted garlic seasoning. I let this cook beyond its time -- purposefully. I do love it when the meat has a little burn to it if they are going into tacos.

I then chopped up the cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, cabbage and sprinkled some queso on top, serving some salsa and jalapenos on the side.

What flavor! I have never cooked tacos like this! I used olive oil and was surprised that the oil didn't smoke as much as I would have expected. Anyway, in all, a wonderful meal that took me back to my place of upbringing.

Feta and Pesto Shrimp Crib

You may be thinking, "Awww, look at that California king-sized bed for all those little shrimps."

Hahahaha! You are very funny. Hence the name for this posting.

Nancy and I pulled this together on a lazy night of cooking then Nancy put it together: Put down a roll of dough with pesto, feta and lightly salted shrimp. Fold the dough in half. Add the remaining shrimp seasoned with Old Bay to the top, then bake.

We baked this for about 20 minutes, but had to put it in the broiler for about another five minutes with the top shrimp removed.

Not bad tasting. It was somewhat like a breakfast meal to me, but I loved the way the shrimp and pesto melded together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sad Scones

Ah, scones. Those beautifully shaped, perfectly textured lumps of goodness.

When I think about scones I think about a nice, caramel tone with a slightly firm outer shell leading to a soft and yielding dough inside; delicate, yet demanding; a treat commanding of your senses of sight, taste, smell and touch.

These are not those scones.

Unfortunately, my scones came out...well, flat. Flat like a bottle of wine that has been pumped one too many times. Flat like a carbonated drink left alone for one hour too many.

What a total, utter, complete disappointment. My errors were these:

1. I was following a Julia Child recipe, but added too much variation.
2. I didn't have a measuring device on hand for smaller portions, like teaspoons and tablespoons. So, I eyeballed it -- and did a terrible job at it. Hence, I have NO IDEA how much salt, baking powder or butter went into the mix.
3. I may have included one handful too many dried apricots.
4. I didn't have any buttermilk on hand. 

Bummer! And I was really looking forward to these being absolutely amazing. But no! They look so strange, though part of the flavor is actually nice -- the part with the apricot and the cinnamon. Those parts came out well. But there is too strong a flavor of the flour and virtually no fluff whatsoever.

Ah well, I will try again, maybe in a couple of days.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Soul Food Meal Gets a Tiny Upgrade


Can I just say that: A) Paprika on a red baked potato is just wonderful, and B) Green onions cooked with sweet corn is simply delicious! C) Swiftly fried chicken that is then poached for a good 20 minutes is a ripoff from Heaven itself.

This may well be what the angels eat.

...Ok. That may be a slight exaggeration.

Only slight.

I was so tired today and did not feel like cooking dinner. But I was hungry. Hence the upgraded soul food dinner. Yes, in the words of Beyonce, "let me upgrade you." That's what I was thinking when I finally tasted this meal.

It was a lazy night for me. I immediately put the potato in the oven -- salted with pepper and a dab of butter, wrapped in foil and set at 450 degrees for 35 minutes. And I planned to prep the slow cooker for a meal to cook overnight. I prepped the drumsticks and thighs with: Salt, pepper, roasted garlic seasoning, freshly chopped garlic, juice from 1.5 limes and onion powder. I let this rest in the fridge for about a half hour.

The potato wasn't ready after 35 minutes. I set the timer to 20 minutes more.

Then, I put the chicken in a skillet prepped with olive oil. I cooked this on high until the skin browned substantially. And just before it began to burn, poured in some chicken broth, lowered the heat and cooked this for about another 15 minutes.

For the corn, I used a can of corn. *Loud, Friday 13th-style shrieking sound*

People, I know, I know! Not my style. No excuses for this type of behavior! I won't hold it against you if you phone the Foodie Police.

I sauteed the green onions briefly, then added some juice from the corn -- about three tablespoons, pouring the rest down the drain. Then, I tossed in the rest of the corn and let this heat for a couple of minutes.

That was that! While plating, I sprinkled some paprika on the potatoes as an after thought. Good idea!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Seafood Conglomeration

Two very, very important things were learned today in the kitchen:

1. Lump crab does not taste good with mustard.

2. Nor does it taste good with salad dressing.

I learned the hard way that I should keep it relatively simple and light. Though I was born and raised along the coast, crab was not a part of my vocabulary growing up.

In fact, I had not had fresh crab until 2010. I was surprised to learn that I loved it more than I did lobster. I love the gentle texture and light flavor crab yields. It tickles the tongue in a playful and faint way, yet lingers still.

And so, tonight, I was in the mood for fresh, light ingredients tonight. I thought of salmon and crab first.

Now, I understand that it is common to mix crab meat with mayonnaise, but I do not keep that on hand in my home. I cannot stand the smell, look or taste of mayonnaise. BLEECCHHT!

I ended up mixing the lump crab with fresh dill (a friend of mine gave me a bunch and, interesting, it was still quite fresh), green onions and a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. I could have added more pepper. Ah well. I then added a few drops of Sriracha and stirred this with vigor.

I did not do anything with the lox other than to wrap it around the crab mixture, plating it with slices of avocado and -- *gasp* -- anchovies!

I cannot recall EVER having had anchovies alone. Yeah, I may have had them in a salad at some point or another, some forgettable moment or another, obviously. I thought they would be far more salty and sharp than they actually were. Granted, they were salty and sharp, but just not what I imagined. Very flavorful.

So, in all, a decent, light meal. I was pretty satisfied with the flavors. Interestingly, though -- Topee wasn't all that concerned with what I was doing in the kitchen tonight. Hum....

Product Review: Olde Cape Cod Dressing

Why didn't I think to do product reviews before? Well, I had. But I thought it was so cliche. But I've decided to run with it.

So, for my first review I would like to introduce you to Olde Cape Cod's light sweet and sour poppyseed dressing. I only purchased this because Nancy is from New England and I thought she might like it, but I ended up falling in love with this dressing.

I know what you're thinking: "But how many times have you trashed ranch dressing before?"

I know, I know! But this is nothing like bland, old ranch! Nor is it as thick. It has a nice, lovely texture -- not too heavy on the mouth, not too light. Perfect weight to it. And you cannot actually feel the poppyseeds, which is a bonus. But the flavor is nicely rounded out and semi sweet.

It's quite versatile. I have tried the dressing on salads that have included avocados, olives, tomatoes, ginger, dill and lots of other what you might consider eccentrics for this type of dressing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Yeah for Goat Cheese and Broccoli-Stuffed Chicken

Goodness gracious!

Chicken stuffed with goat cheese and broccoli, seasoned with fresh garlic, onion and roasted garlic and herb spices.

The final finish before going into the oven included a small spattering of panko and olive oil -- just a little bit of both.

Then plated with flat potatoes that had been slow cooked in a skillet with a blush of butter along with water for steam and release.

And extra broccoli?! Yes -- swift cooked in a pot with garlic and, at the finish, steamed with a small amount of broth.

This -- served with dallops of Sriracha and Dijon mustard -- was a swift and flavorful meal!

Really, I thought the neighbors would barge in, wondering what all the commotion was about when I lifted the first forkful to my lips and let out a glorious yelp.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. I should really stop, shouldn't I?

Dressed Shrimp, Cajun Style

So, I was in New Orleans for the American Educational Research Association over the weekend and earlier this week (*Note: I think I overexerted myself, but that is another story entirely). I presented my research and chaired a session! How so very, very excellent that was! It all went over very well. My first for both.

While there, I had a wonderful time tasting the Louisiana cuisine.

Remember, though -- I lived in the South for nearly 1.5 years a couple of years ago, so I had a sense of what I was about to encounter. But while living in Texas in 2003 and 2004, there were things I simply refused to touch.

Such as oysters.

Such as crawfish.

...especially crawfish. Yeah, if ever we meet, remind me to tell you the full story. It's hilarious.

But I am an older, more refined and mature woman. *snickers*


The point being: I am more willing to try new and different foods, such as raw oysters and freshly boiled crawfish. And I also tried some of my other favorites, all of which carried a Cajun tint: Mussels soaked in a butter and broth sauce, a full seafood gumbo, a catfish po boy, and so on.

Food Heaven! I had itis, like, every. Single. Day!

One of my favorite dishes was the Cajun shrimp.

So, naturally, as soon as I was home -- and feeling better -- I could not wait to try this one.

The ingredients: Shrimp, lime, green onions, a ton of different spices and herbs, butter, broth, onions, green bell pepper (I used chicken broth even though I wanted vegetable broth) and I don't know what else. You know me, if I don't post immediately I am bound to forget!

I slowly cooked the onion and bell pepper in olive oil, later adding a little bit of butter. Before the butter began to brown, I added all the spices and herbs. I cannot recall all that I added, but it included thyme, onion powder, parsley, roasted garlic and herbs and also chili pepper.

Then, I added the shrimp, which had been soaking in garlic salt and lime juice.

Meanwhile, I cooked the jasmine rice. No, your eyes are not playing funny. The rice is slightly pink. That's because it's the same rice that was used for the puja (house blessing) I had performed about two months ago, and some of the spices used for the ceremony got into the rice. It tasted just fine, despite the discoloration.

I cooked the shrimp for about five to eight minutes, adding a little bit of broth, later wishing I had added more because the juice was LOVELY with the french bread I had on hand.

I added some chopped green onions before serving, and that was it! In all -- wonderful! I will be making this again.

In My Kitchen...

I miss this blog. I have struggled to keep up; struggled to make time for cooking in a way that I have previously. But I will not waver.

Sometimes, I feel a lack of challenge. Impossible! ...is that what you are thinking? I know. It's a silly thought and belief I keep. There is so much to do and so much to try. You're right. Silly and impossible.

But here I am again. I keep my committment to cooking.

...but why is this important when there are so many, many, many other things to concern my thoughts, my emotions, my time.

It is because I feel this amazing connection with the kitchen, as though we were meant to marry in this way -- me, the curious novice wanting more knowledge and more experience and the kitchen, willingly and without judgement allowing me to question and explore.

Humph. Saying it this way makes me realize just how amateur I am. And I love that! Always questioning; always learning.

Despite the lack of attention here as of late, I have not lost my love of cooking.

No, no, no. It will not happen. It cannot happen.

A friend recently told me that once you experience good food -- good, wholesome, whole food -- it is difficult to revert; to return to fast food consumption. Tis true. Once you are open to the world of possibility and ones your palate is exposed, all becomes stubborn. Call is too selective, or picky or fussy about one's food -- but good food is more about the taste. It, too, is about a philosophy -- about one's choices in living in this world. It is a decisive choice that is a lived and living experience.

I am not near perfection. But this is what drives me to cook and to be a better cook. It is what drives me to be more conscious and aware. It is what molds me to my kitchen and brings to me the great satisfaction of living and learning and being with and through my food.

And trust me, in addition to my cooking, there are many, many other happenings that share sacred space in my thoughts and my heart.

Ode to My Palate

Ah! Nothing like a wonderful, flavorful dish.

I have decided that my palate is a spoiled, spoiled little brat.

If it is not an amalgamation of flavors, it's not interested!

If it is not bursting with the wildly unpredictable flavors of spices and herbs, it protests, bored.

No, a simple salted and peppered rack of ribs won't do.

Don't ever present a bland salad -- and never with ranch dressing! How dare you? ...how dare you....

This, of course, keeps me very, very busy in the kitchen, mixing flavors and tastes without caution.

Makes for interesting creative time.

So, there you have it -- a marinaded rack of ribs with Sweet Baby Ray's added toward the end of cooking with a side salad with dried cranberries, avocado, Parmesan and ginger shavings.

All to keep the palate pleased.

Simple Vegetables

This was a simple side dish. I merely took the potatoes I had sitting on the shelf and added them to a roasting dish with onions, carrots and a red bell pepper. I added a little olive oil to the veggies and sprinkled on a little bit of garlic salt on the potatoes only and let this bake for about one hour.

The result: Luscious and sometimes sweet vegetables. It's amazing what subtly can do.

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