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!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Very, Very Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork

I grew up in Los Angeles and spent some of my adult live living in the South. You might think I'm a huge fan of sauce-slathered barbecue meats, but I'm not really. Hence my reason for having so very little experience with pulled pork.

Indeed, I believe I have only had it twice in life -- both times teeming with sauce.

Now, I am indeed a fan of barbecue sauce with Sweet Baby Ray's being my favorite (love you Dontia, miss you). But I do not like having too much of the stuff. If I'm eating barbecue meat I want to be able to taste the meat.

No w, I understand that there are multiple ways to produce pulled pork. For my purposes, I didn't barbecue this cut of pork. I decided to cook it only in the crockpot. In with the cut went an assortment of things: brown sugar, onion powder, a tiny bit of cinnamon, paprika, cumin, mustard, rice vinegar (just an experiment), Worcestershire sauce and Sweet Baby Ray's, of course, and a couple other things.

I cooked this on low for about eight hours. That wasn't enough time, so I left it on for about another three hours.

The meat came out quite nice, pullable, as expected. But the flavor was somewhat subdued, so I added a bit more of Sweet Baby Ray's and it turned out well.

But, goodness. I will never cook this again, lest there is a party.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bacon-Flavored Tilapia

I might have denied it before, but it appears that you can find most anything that comes as bacon-flavored.

We have bacon-flavored toothpaste, salt, mints, dental floss, chapstick, popcorn, soda…

The list, unfortunately, goes on and on and on.

Introducing bacon-flavored olive oil.

Interesting thing about it is that it does not smell like bacon, neither in the bottle nor in the pan.

But the oil does lend a slight flavor of bacon to the finished product.

Let’s try tilapia fillets.

I am not sure how or why the idea was born. But it a frenzied fit, I put some of the olive oil in a bowl with onion powder, dried parsley, salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning and freshly squeezed lemon and lime.

I made sure to get both sides of each fillet, then pan fried them on the highest setting.

The flavor was full and round, even in using the dried parsley.

I think the Old Bay helped to make this dish – that and the lemon and lime.

In all, the fish tasted peppery, spicy and smooth with nice, crisp edges. Served with a side salad – and you’ll need it – made for a solid meal.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Trying to Master Pizza Crust

Note to self: When using yeast, allow the dough time to rise.

Goodness gracious. This is one of those "would coulda been" entries.

Look at the pizza. In all its glory. Beautifully shaped. Nice amount of toppings. Delicious looking, eh?

If only I had not have put the dough to work before it got its due rest!

But I find when I do have the time and the energy, I enjoy making pizza at home. I find that I do need quite a bit more practice.

My pizza dough is never as fluffy as I would like. I tend to add olive oil and dried herbs. This last time around, I went with basil.

Yet it doesn't matter how poorly the crust turns out, The ingredients are always good. And, fancy that, I learned that I absolutely love sauteed green bell peppers on a pizza! I'll keep experimenting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lamb with a Carrot Mash: A Culinary Surprise

In celebration of two birthdays, I decided to prepare something of an involved dinner. I began at 2 p.m., we sat to eat around 6:30. It wasn’t that it was an overly difficult meal to prepare, but it was one that required quite a bit of thinking and on-the-spot trial and error.

I know. What was I thinking? I should have gone with something a bit more predictable. But, no – it was time for a culinary challenge.

The main ingredients for this meal were one rack of lamb, carrots butternut squash, a red bell pepper, onions, peso and linguini.

Side story: I wanted to prepare a carrot mash with scallops, and then realized one of my guests did not eat shellfish. Bummer.  At the last minute, I opted for charred shallots instead. But believing the carrot purée – or carrot mash – would be to mild, I wound up packing it with all sorts of yummy goodness.
Here goes.

So, when making a carrot mash it seems the standard or well-established approach is to try and capture the essence of cumin. I did add cumin, but not much of it. Instead, I packed the puree with garlic, onion, Parmesan cheese, cilantro and Italian parsley with a tiny bit of milk and some olive oil. Overkill?

I prefer the Italian parsley, which was an excellent idea here because it has a sharper, more prominent – read: pungent – flavor than the standard parsley you find at the grocery store.

The method: I prepared the rack for a four-hour marinade – olive oil, salt and pepper with fresh rosemary and lemon. Somewhat predictable, yes. 

I then roasted about seven carrots along with the butternut squash and one red bell pepper (should have used two of these) for about 45 minutes or so. This left the carrots with a nice charring that I thought I would soon regret, but never did. The squash had to roast for about another 15 minutes. Then, I let everything cool until I could handle them without having to use kitchen mittens.

*tee hee, funny word, “mittens”*

Then, I seared the rack of lamb before I put it in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes. I might have left it in for about an additional 10 minutes. It was medium rare, which was fantastic, but I wanted it to be a little less red and more pinkish. Ah well. It had a nice, full flavor. But the rosemary was so subtle. That was odd, because I cut up two sprigs, which I thought would be plenty.

At this point, I began boiling the linguini. I would later toss it with the pesto and chopped walnuts.

I then pulled out the food processor. I had to process everything in batches because the yield was huge. In with the carrots, red bell pepper, squash, cheese and herbs. After processing, I set a pot with olive oil on the stove, cooking the chopped onions until they became pearly. I then added the garlic. When the garlic became fragrant, I added the puree. I ended up having to add more of everything to create a strong and delicious flavor.

It turned out well. I could tell because everyone wanted seconds. That’s always the best complement. And I am pleased with the mash! I cannot wait to try that one again. Maybe adding other vegetables and herbs to fill out the color and flavor.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Oldies but Goodies: Higher Education-Influenced Shrimp Noodle Soup

A shout out to all you college students getting ready for the start of the new term.

Ah, I remember my days as a new freshman. I was all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed! My future awaited me! Little did I know that my residence hall would have such a meager kitchen. Seriously, it was a three-story hall and we all had to share a kitchen with one electric range.

This meant having a microwave was golden. And lucky me, my mother got an industrial sized microwave for me. The kind you’d find in a small commercial kitchen.

No lie. One of the best investments ever! Of course this meant I was prone to microwave lunches and dinners for some of my wing mates. I didn’t mind at all.

One of the more popular eats was Ramen noodles. You know the kind that comes in the wrapper that’s seems as thin as a fingernail. When you rip it open it’s bound to throw shards of noodles all over the place. Thank goodness Ma also made sure I had a vacuum cleaner.

I still have fond memories of Ramen noodles – that and microwaved pizza and hot potatoes. But I can’t just Ramen noodles anymore. No! Not with all these years of national and international travel and social refinement – I have to have my noodles spiced with garlic chili sauce, scallions and fresh shrimp!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fluffy, Crunchy Goodness

Fry bread – it has a sordid history. From what I understand, tribal members who were forced centuries ago to walk to a location near Fort Summer, New Mexico where they were imprisoned.

The government provided rations of flour, salt, yeast and other items that were then used to produce the dough for what would become known as fry bread.

My first encounter with fry bread was at a car show while in high school.

A friend of mine wanted a fry bread taco and urged me to try my own. In looking at the ingredients, I settled on powdered sugar and cheese.

He thought this was such a crazy idea, as did our server. Both informed me that it was typical to put add powdered sugar and honey or cheese with beans and meat -- but not cheese and powdered sugar together.

I pushed my nose up, defiant, and ordered it anyway.

It’s the only way I have eaten fry bread since. Here, members of the Tohono O’odham serve fry bread at the Mission San Xavier del Bac on the weekends. I always order my standard toppings, and still will sometimes get that sideways look or the evil eye.

But I so love it this way.

I decided to try it at home.

The recipe is quite simple. I find that some call for yeast and others don’t. I tried it both ways and found that the one with yeast was much more flavorful!

My first batch was terrible though – too thick and too bumpy.

The trick is to ensure that the dough is flattened out completely and somewhat thin. I don’t think I let the dough sit long enough. It literally looked like a honeycomb blanket. Terrible, terrible.

But the taste! Near perfection. I have learned that it is best to put the powdered sugar down before the cheese, lest you want to be covered in speckles of confectioners sugar.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Looks Like Fried Chicken...

...but it's not! It is twice-cooked chicken. I love fried chicken. But, goodness, I do not want to eat it very often. I tried a new method, which had some pretty awesome results. I began with my spices of choice and rubbed them all over my chicken legs, placing them in a bowl. I then spritzed them with lemon, next putting them in a bowl with olive oil. This sat in the fridge for, I don't know, a half hour or so.

Next, I poached the meat, but then cooked it longer so than necessary on a very low heat. By this point, the meat was cooked completely through. I left it cool off to the point that I could handle it. At that point, I dipped each leg in eggs that I had beat until foam sat on top. Then I tossed them in a bowl of panko.

I then put the legs in the oven at 450 for about 12 minutes or so.

Delicious! I served the chicken with sriracha and a blue cheese dressing. The flavor was full and light at the same time -- without the greasy fingers fried chicken brings.

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