Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ramen Soup

I wanted ramen tonight but knew I would also have to cook the kids and husband dinner. I decided to make soup (usually I drain the water) because we needed to use up extra vegetables in the refrigerator. I did go to the store for tofu.

My ingredients:
Medium/soft tofu
Green onions
Red bell pepper
Frozen corn
Frozen green beans
Broccoli slaw
Two secret ingredients to be revealed later!

Pour about 10 cups of water into the pot.

Put the vegetables into the pot with the cold water.

Cut up your tofu but do not add it quite yet.

See what it looks like in the pot? It looks delicious already!

Add the flavor packets from the ramen. I used four of them.

Add about a teaspoon of sesame oil (secret ingredient #1!).

Add about a tablespoon or so of Gomasio (secret ingredient #2!).

When the water is almost boiling, go ahead and add the ramen.

You can also add the tofu at this time. Incidentally, you can use cooked chicken if you'd like.

And soup is ready!

It was very tasty. Mr. Mary Cooks said it was "pedestrian". I said, "Well, yeah! It's ramen!" The middle child loved it and had seconds. The preschooler ate most of hers. The teenager liked it (of course!).

The nice thing about this soup is that it is ripe for customization. Don't have the exact veggies I had? No problem! Use what you have on hand! Use chicken or beef or pork instead of tofu. Or use no meat whatsoever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My First Risotto

I made an informal resolution recently to begin cooking dishes that I hadn't before. I want to stretch myself and try new things. I decided to try a risotto. Inspired by the Asian grocery and their inexpensive produce I opted for a mushroom risotto. I bought three types of mushrooms: portobello, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms. I think I got all of these for about $6. Not bad, eh?

I searched the internet for mushroom risotto recipes. I read a lot of them until I settled on one that looked simple yet that would probably taste delicious. I found one on that fit the bill.

Gourmet Mushroom Risotto

Submitted By: MYLEEN
Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 50 Minutes
Servings: 6
"This authentic Italian-style risotto is cooked the slow, painful way, but it's oh so worth it. It's the perfect complement for grilled meats and chicken dishes."

6 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients (there are a lot!!)
Arborio rice (Trader Joe's is a very good resource for this)
Mushrooms (any combination you like)
Dry white wine
Olive oil
Stock (not pictured below)

I started heating up some homemade turkey stock. You do not want it to boil but you do want it to be hot.

Slice up your mushrooms. I actually think I had a bit too many mushrooms here.

Dice up about half an onion very finely. I read somewhere that you want the pieces to be about as small as the nail on your pinky finger.

Chop up the chives for later. Honestly, I found most of the work with the risotto was all the chopping and prepping before you're ready to rock and roll with the cooking.

Shred up the parmesan.

Now you're ready. Heat up some olive oil in a pan. I picked this pan because it seemed like it would be the easiest to cook the risotto in.

Add the mushrooms so you can sauté them.

Heat them up until they're nice and soft. Then remove them to a bowl and let them stand until the end.

Put a bit more olive oil in the pan and then put the onions in. Sauté them until they are nice and soft but not browned.

Stir often and keep your eyes on them.

When they have gotten soft, add the rice.

Stir the rice for about three or four minutes until the grains are coated with oil. After that, add the white wine.

Stir the rice until the wine is absorbed into the rice. Once it is, add about a half cup of hot stock. My ladle is just shy of 1/2 cup so I have to add about a ladle and a quarter at a time.

Stir the rice around so it absorbs the stock.

Stir stir stir until the stock is absorbed prior to adding more stock.

Add more stock and stir. The theme with risotto? Stir. Stir until your hand falls off.

Great! It's absorbed and you've used about 6 cups of stock! Keep trying the rice the closer you get to it being done. You don't want to go over the line to mushy rice!

Awesome. We're all set. The last of the stock is absorbed, the rice is al dente. Remove the pan from the heat and put the butter in.

Stir that until it is all melted and integrated into the rice. Now it is time to add the shredded parmesan.

Remember your mushrooms? Add those back into the pot.

More stirring.

Finally, add some chives.

Taste. Season with salt (I used sea salt but you could also use kosher salt) and pepper. Serve and enjoy!

So, what's the verdict? I am glad I made it. It is very labor intensive and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It is delicious so the labor is worth it. It's sort of like making fudge with all the stirring. Still, I will make this again. Like I said, I think I had too many mushrooms. It was VERY mushroomy. It needed a milder flavor.

The family enjoyed it, though!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Italian Chicken with Polenta

Have you ever had a bad day where nothing really horrible or out of the ordinary happened but it was just not good nonetheless? I had one of those days today. I didn't feel good enough for what I was doing. I felt devalued as a person. Well, when I feel that way I usually end up in the kitchen. Sometimes, like tonight, it is for a good purpose. I asked the teenager to get chicken breasts out of the freezer but I hadn't a clue what to do with them. So, I improvised.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper
1 summer squash
1 14.5 oz. can tomatoes with onions, garlic, oregano
red wine
1 tube of polenta

First, you'll need to chop vegetables and chicken. Remember to chop up your vegetables and other items first so you can save your chicken for last. I chopped the bell pepper into strips and then cut the strips into halves.

Then I halved the squash and then sliced it.

Slice the polenta into 3/4" slices. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and then lay the slices on the sheet. Preheat the broiler in your oven.

Finally, chop the chicken into about 1-inch chunks.

Heat a nonstick skillet that has been sprayed with cooking spray over medium high heat. While you're waiting for it to heat up, go ahead and pour yourself some wine. This was a great wine and I'm sad to see it go. I normally don't go out of my way for Pinot Noirs but if I see this one in the store I'll probably buy it. (This one was a gift, I believe.)

After the skillet is hot, put the chicken in. Sprinkle it with some pepper. I use white pepper but it's a matter of personal taste.

After the chicken has mostly cooked (this will take about 8-10 minutes), pour about 1/4 cup wine into the skillet. Stir to incorporate.

Add the can of tomatoes to the chicken. Again, stir it up.

Let it simmer for about five minutes so the flavors mingle and the sauce reduces just a bit.

Add the squash and red pepper into the skillet. Stir to combine and let simmer.

Meanwhile, put the polenta slices under the broiler.

After about 8 minutes, pull them out and flip them over. Yours may take less time to brown so just watch them.

After you've flipped them over, let them hang out under the broiler for about 3 or 4 more minutes. Then take them out for plating. Lay a couple of polenta slices on the plate and spoon some of the chicken and vegetable mixture over it.

This was delicious! I am really pleased with how this turned out for a night when I had to "wing" what I made for dinner. All the kids (except my picky preschooler - how did I get a picky eater??) loved it.