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, February 28, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Potatoes

Oh, the potato.

May you be nicknamed masterful things, wondrous things: spud, la papa, patata.

May you be baked, sauteed, fried, boiled, broiled or grilled over an open flame.

May you be served mashed with a sampling of scallions; smothered in buttery goodness, stacked and salted or drenched in peppery ketchup; served under a bed of cheesy eggs or shaved into lovely hash or served as a wedged boat, open for luscious fillings of all types. 

Or, in this case, presented as a frittata.

I cannot believe how simple it is to make a frittata.

You simply crack your eggs (in this case, I used six and mixed them with some salt and pepper along with scallions and mushrooms), cook your meat (sausage and chorizo) and prep your potatoes with a little bit of butter (in a cast iron skillet at a medium heat).

Mix this together, top it off with a little bit of cheese if you so choose, and into the oven for about 20 minutes on 350 degrees.

And that's that! I wish I'd added a little bit of milk to help soften the potatoes a bit more, or cooked them longer at the onset. Some say you can begin with raw potatoes, but I would highly suggest ensuring that they are plenty wet going into the oven, lest they come out undercooked.

And there you have it -- a dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a little snack. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Product Review: Trader Joe's Ahi Tuna

I was quite impressed with my recent Trader Joe's purchase of two thick cuts of sashimi grade ahi tuna.

The look alone is so perfect -- nice, sizable cuts of tuna. And the price was reasonable enough: a little more than $11.

I found, though, that the steaks were not as oily as I would have expected. No matter. The steaks were firm and carried a nice, smooth taste and a lovely smell. But the color seemed off -- a little too pinkish. Still, they were quite fresh.

The cuts, as you can tell, were quite thick, which was perfect for searing. Also, I was impressed with the neat trim. Fine job, Trader Joe's. The sear went well, and I am likely to make another purchase in the future.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza

This office challenge item was long overdue.

One of the student workers in my office requested this months ago.

"Be sure to cook it before he graduates," one of my friends told me one day. 

Then the holidays hit and I was traveling. And the New Year came. And school opened again, so I was terribly busy with research, work and service. And then I began revising my dissertation proposal to prep for my defense. And...

Yeah, yeah. Excuses, excuses.

It was one night, somewhere around 7 p.m., that I decided to get with it. And, no lie, I was finally able to wrap the lot in foil at 1 a.m. the following morning.

I have made a pizza crust before. You can actually do it in a half hour or so. Oooh, that reminds me of the Doughless Pepperoni Pizza. Remember that one?!

But the request was for a Chicago-style, deep dish pepperoni pizza.


This meant the crust was going to take forever. Forever folks. And it turns out that my yeast was past its due date. Lucky for me that my dear friend volunteered to rush to the grocery store to get a new batch. How sweet! And I'm so glad I invested in that handy thermometer. The first insert yielded water at something like 140 degrees when it should have been around 110.

I relied on three recipes to help figure out how to handle the dough:
After the yeast activated, I added the flour with basil, oregano, garlic salt and a bit of kosher salt.

The first batch took a full hour to rise; the second half the time.

Once both had risen, I put them together and let them settle for about a half hour. Then I punched the lot down and let it rest for another half hour or so.

Meanwhile, I prepared the sauce -- a mixture of roasted tomatoes and marinara with Parmesan. I began with a saute of onion then added the sauce, cooking it with a ton of onion powder, fresh garlic and butter. OK -- not literally a ton, but quite a bit. 

When I returned to the dough I had to giggle aloud. It was funny looking to me, all plump and doughy. It looked like a mass of rolling clouds. Quite lovely, actually -- but so excited that I forgot to take a photo.


I baked the dough until it began to brown, then added the mozzarella and pizza cheeses along with a couple layers of pepperoni and cooked it in the oven for about 20 minutes or so.

It seemed the office took joy in this. I was surprised that the flavor came out so well and that the dough was just crunchy and soft enough. In the future, I would like to add bell peppers, fresh tomato slices and maybe some pineapples for additional heft.

There was only one single lonely piece left as I walked out the door.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lentils with Bacon

How can it be true what they say, that bacon makes everything taste better.

I am not even a huge fan of bacon. Sure, I'll have it for breakfast or if I am at a cocktail party and someone decided to get creative and dirty with the croquettes.

So, I tossed these in last minute with the lentils and it worked out well.

I cooked lentils with no fabulousness involved: boiled in a broth with onion, roasted tomatoes, garlic and the bacon then, later, garnished with cilantro.

Somehow, the bacon deepened the flavor. Because the bacon was cooked in the broth it did not have the tried and true bacon flavor, just a wonderful and wondrous smokiness that led me to melt in the moment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Romanesco

Romanesco -- what an obscure and ridiculously mundane name for a vegetable of this ornate type.

What comes to mind when one says romanesco has little to do with a lovely green vegetable that carries a lineage with broccoli and cauliflower that, upon itself, duplicates such a gorgeous and complex ripple.

But, alas, romanesco is the name of this beautifully-shaped green.

When I first saw romanesco, I felt it was the manifestation of a  mathematical equation in vegetable form. It is a food item that is deserving of inspection; its look alone is deserving of serious inquiry. Why does it look that way? Why does it replicate itself like it is some crazed bacteria? What is its taste?

I can tell you: it tastes much like cauliflower, but a bit more green. I understand that this is not the most involved description, but I am not sure how else to describe it. Romanesco really tastes like cauliflower.

Almost, almost to the exact.

Why the fascination, then?

I can only deduct reason that we are drawn to beautiful things; to lovely things presented in order.

Romanesco, I am sure, speaks to our biological desires. It evokes the cardinal want to catalog, categorize and to neatly order -- particularity those things in the natural world; those things that seem unbridled and disorderly. The romanesco presents itself, almost, as pure perfection. Curious thing, that is. 

So while it is not at all different from the cauliflower in taste, you had better be ready to spend nearly $4 a pound (at least in Tucson) for this little bundle. Is it worth it? No, I say! Just buy the cauliflower.

But for the sake of the challenge, this is what I did:

I roasted the romanesco with olive oil and a tinge of salt for a good 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

This felt terrible. Just terrible. But I chopped up the romanesco for the filling. Honestly, I felt I was doing a bad deed. You cannot even tell how wondrous and lovely romanesco looks here. So, so sad.

Ah well. I then prepped large pasta shells and the items for stuffing.

In addition to the roasted romanesco, I added roasted tomatoes, black pepper, chives, cilantro, parsley, basil and Parmesan, feta and ricotta cheeses.

Then, into the shells went the mixture. I then baked the shells on 350 for about 10 minutes.

I just wanted to get the pastas warm for the plating. Meanwhile, I had prepped the white sauce. I began with onions cooking at a slow heat in a pot with olive oil. I crushed some fresh garlic -- about five cloves -- and cooked this further.

I then removed the base from the pot, added some butter and a bit of flour and, on a very low heat, cooked this for several minutes. I then added small pours of milk until it began to turn into a sauce. At that point, I added all the lovely greens that I had chopped up earlier.

The pasta shells were done at this point. Thank goodness for perfect timing!

I like the look of this dish, but given that it does not play up the look -- or the cost -- of romanesco, I was not overly satisfied. It is true: it could have simply used cauliflower.

Next time. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Edamame

How long does it take to find shelled edamame and ahi tuna?

Forever apparently.

The fourth grocery store where I made contact had the shelled edamame. Thank you Sprouts. And the third had ahi tuna. Thank you Trader Joe's.

Once finally home, I began to assemble what I would like to call the ETT -- Edamame Taco Tostada.

This dish called for a ton of ingredients:

Sashimi-grade tuna -- fresh, not frozen
An egg
Rice vinegar
Wasabi (powdered is fine)
Sesame seeds
Chinese Five Spices

I began with the edamame.

I added them to a pot of water with the ponzu and the rice vinegar and brought this to a boil for about eight minutes. I wanted them to hold their shape but to be soft all the same. I did not want to mash them. Instead, I wanted you to be able to see them when I mixed them with the avocado.

The tuna required very little work.

In a small bowl, I mixed wasabi powder, two types of sesame seeds and a tiny bit of the Chinese Five Spice along with some salt. I also let the tuna steaks rest in a little bit of ponzu for added flavor.

Beautiful steaks! I rarely cook ahi tuna. But when I do, I pay close attention and give great care -- laregly because this tuna is quite expensive. It's a robust cut, though, which means you have to work at it to turn it into a disaster.

Thankfully, the method worked: a short time seated in the ponzu, then rolled in the sesame seeds with the spice mixture, then into the skillet for a swift sear on all sides.

The base for the edamame mixture consisted of avocado, fresh ginger, chives and a bit of horseradish with a few sprinkles of the ponzu. I mashed the avocado and simply stirred in the edamame.

With the tiered fried wontons, which I cut into a circle and used the outlying square after having been washed with an egg, the plating was gorgeous. And the flavors melded together in such a lovely way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chinese Five Spice Chicken

I am falling in love with Chinese Five Spice.

It is simply a merger of some combination of cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, fennel, ginger, turmeric and anise and pulls out the depth in dishes.

Here, I used an ample amount of the powder on chicken thighs and soaked them in Braggs with some fish sauce. I roasted these in the oven for about 45 minutes before plating the chicken with a stir fry of mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, scallions, garlic, sugar snap peas and chili sauce.

A few dots of Sriracha and you have a meal.

Friday, February 8, 2013

My First BBQ Wings

Why are chicken wings so expensive?


You can find yourself paying nearly $10 for eight of these.

I decided to, instead, buy an $11 bag of wings and try this at home myself.

I have tried a couple of methods with this bag. No, seriously -- I have tried wings three times and still have wings in the bag.

Out of the experimentation, I find that one method works well in particular, and it involves a ton of time and broth.

This is what you do: Boil your wings on a rapid boil in broth, having added onion powder to the broth. Let the chicken cook for about 20 minutes. Do not add any salt or pepper.

Then add a tiny bit of olive oil to a roasting pan -- just enough to ensure that the wings do not stick, but not anywhere near enough to the point that you are coating the wings. You don't want to coat them with oil. That's where your BBQ sauce comes in.

After roasting them for 30 minutes or so -- maybe 40 -- on 375, start preparing your sauce. I did not make my own sauce. I used Sweet Baby Rays. I use this sauce on my ribs all the time. Love the stuff. Remember the Very, Very Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork?

Goodness, yes!

It was a brilliant idea to add the sauce to these wings.

Next step: Add enough sauce in a saucepan for the number of wings necessary, cooking the sauce on a rapid heat. Your wings will be in the pot for something like two or three minutes. No time at all, so don't go walking away from the stove! Once the sauce begins to caramelize, take the wings out, lest they begin to burn.

And there you have it, for a fraction of the price and, if you do it right, more than twice the flavor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Asian Pears

Growing up in Southern California meant we had rich access to a nice range of fruits.

Oranges and apples served as the staple, but then there was -- native or not -- lychee, large luscious pears, perfectly rounded grapefruit, succulent peaches, delicious-smelling persimmons and plump strawberries.

And Asian pears.

Growing up, I was most familiar with the Bosc, Bartlett and green Anjou, but junior high and high school friends introduced me to Asian pears.

It was instantly fascinated with these little speckled pears, but found that, at times, they were too-too gritty and bitter. It didn't seem like a pear at all, looking all apple-shaped and freckled. But when I found a perfectly ripened one, I loved that it had just enough crunch and juice with a lovely light flavor.

For this week's challenge, I cooked the pears in a broth teeming with cayenne. I wanted them to taste spicy and savory. That did the trick. The cayenne was a good idea.

I had already begun roasting sweet peppers. I was going to go with Anaheims, but figured these peppers would serve as a nice counter balance to the spice.

Having stuffed the chopped and cooked pears into the peppers, I topped them with mozzarella and baked them until the cheese was melted. Served with a salad by Elle (over at The Ginger Baby Reviews), the peppers had a nice companion.

I enjoyed the flavor -- savory with a very slight hint of sweetness. I think if I made them again, I would go with a goat or a feta cheese. The mozzarella was entirely too light for this dish and did not complement the other tastes very well. I also might add a bit of cilantro or parsley to brighten the peppers.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Product Review: Mt. Olive Roasted Red Peppers

This is probably the only Mt. Olive product I have ever purchased, at least that I recall. And, when you have a moment, please check out their website. It's freakin' hilarious. Make sure the volume is up, too.

OK -- on to the review. So, the oil-to-pepper ratio is a bit meek here. It says 12 ounces on the bottle. Sure does. You can see it right there in the photo. This is not 12 ounces of peppers. It's about half and half peppers and oil. These bottles run about $4. And, seriously, you are getting about 2.5 roasted red peppers.  But, goodness, you are getting some quality! Seriously. These folks have been around for nearly 90 years so you'd have to assume that they have their production on point. They do. So, yes, this is an endorsement: the price turns out to be reasonable. 

The roasted red peppers have a milder taste. There is no flavor added and you do not get any smoke. Think oven roasted with an olive oil bath. Very light on the oil, but the flavor is quite hefty. You get this lovely, gentle sweetness and softness, but not in a way that the peppers fall apart when you handle them. They are still a bit robust.

I have used these peppers in a whole host of things, but my favorite is stuffed in a pork loin along with mozzarella and spinach. I've even just eaten them on their own. Always good.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2013 Food Challenge: Zucchini, Pt. II

The first post for this week's food challenge item wasn't enough. I wasn't overly satisfied. So I am revisiting the zucchini affair.

I like to set my ingredients out and my surface prepared before I set to work. I find it is more efficient that way. 

Honestly, there is nothing like having to add the freshly cut garlic, like, immediately and finding that not only is the garlic still nestled in its layers of blankets, but your favorite cutting knife is sitting in the sink, dirty from the beef you prepped earlier.


And, no -- I am not speaking from experience.

*sheepish grin*

So, I wasn't sure what I was going with this. But in addition to the zuchinni I added squash.

What is it about zuchinni and squash? It's one of the perfect couples of the culinary world. Like salt and pepper. Eggs and bacon. Butter and Toast. Peanut Butter and Jelly (*it's peanut butter jelly time*).

Before I set out on this dish, which is basically a timbale, I thought about plating. I went with spinach, which I wilted in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil and garlic.

For the timbale, though, you need chunky, circular cuts of the zucchini and squash. I also decided to add some mushrooms to the mix with a little bit of salt.

Interestingly, this recipe required little salt at all. I actually could have done without it. 

Starting out with the zucchini and squash, I boiled a pot of broth and adding a sizable amount of dried parsley.

Like, a lot.

I wanted to give the zucchini and squash the essence of parsley, keeping some of the pieces of parsley on the vegetables for the baking. 

After boiling the vegetables in the broth, I set them out on a paper towel, intending to try and dry them a bit. There is nothing like a soggy timbale.

...actually, there is. Ever had wet bread? Not appetizing.

I also mixed some ricotta cheese with roasted tomatoes -- which had been roasted with garlic and basil. Sad to say, I did not roast them myself.

I also sauteed the mushrooms. Next came the layering.

Layer by layer, in no particular order, I build the timbales in ramekins. I then added them to a pan that had a layer of water added to submerge the ramekins by about 1/4 of their height.

Into the oven for about 35 minutes on 400.

Now, I could not resist adding some shrimp to aid with the plating, which -- along with the spinach mix -- contributed to the texture and protein quotient. 

Look how lovely that is! Perfect for Valentine's Day. Hint, hint!

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