A Pilaf for your Weary Head

Wait, I mean stomach. No, a pillow! GAH! A pilaf for your weary stomach and a pillow for your weary head!

I need both right now.

LA has been mid-west hot the last two days. Meaning it’s been real humid lately and my air conditioning is not quite equipped for that. So I did not sleep well last night and I had to get up early for my temp job which has resulted in my brain being fried to pieces.

Speaking of my new temp job, today I noticed that my official title is, Rachel, Payment Process Manager. When I saw that, I was like, “Ooooooooo, I’m a manager!”

Then the smarter half of my brain was like, “Dude, Rachel, that’s just a fancy term for, you input payment information that a real manager has told you to do, because you are a temp. A data entry temp.”

What a buzz kill smart half of Rachel’s brain is. At the very least I can throw that term around and fool others into thinking it’s impressive. I mean that’s why they invented such titles anyway.

As for the subject at hand. This Quinoa Vegetable Pilaf from Taste of Home Cooking for Two is a true comfort for a fried, tired brain and a hungry stomach. It is a spa for your mind and body in a form of food. I’m too tired to think of a specific spa room comparison though. Is it a red clay ball pit room, a sauna, or a jade room?

Maybe it should just be a pilaf room. That actually sounds kind of nice. I should open a spa with a pilaf room.

What you’ll need for your pilaf room is, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of chopped carrot, 1/2 teaspoon of canola oil, 1/4 cup of jasmine rice, 1/4 cup of quinoa, 1 cup of chicken broth, pepper, and 1/3 cup of chopped fresh broccoli.

The first step is to saute the onion and carrot in a saucepan with the oil, until it is tender. You will then add the rice and quinoa. Mix it well with the onion and carrot and then add the broth and pepper.

Bring this to a boil and then simmer under low heat for 15-20 minutes. I recommend checking how long it takes the rice and quinoa to cook to aid you in your time limit. Either way, you will add your broccoli in the last three minutes of cooking time.

After the broccoli has cooked, remove from heat and let your pilaf cool for five minutes.

The final step is to fluff before you serve.

I’m holding back on some real dirty jokes right now.

I guess now that I have an adult job, I’ll be an adult and tell you that the final result of my pilaf was quite good. It is fluffy and the bit of oil secreted onto the rice and quinoa almost make it taste like fried rice.

I  paired mine with some chicken on the side, but I feel like this would be good with a side of salmon as well. I would be intrigued to make it similar to fried rice by adding peas or shrimp/pork. I feel like it’s a healthier version of fried rice anyway. I’m no nutritionist though, so don’t go blindly believing me on that.

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A serendipitous pilaf

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Crème de Maïs, French for Cream of Corn Soup

I was skeptical about this recipe. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Indiana, I’m not really a corn lover. I know, it’s blasphemous of me. On second thought, maybe I just don’t like raw corn, because I do love popcorn and cornbread. These are deep-rooted issues I must explore. Am I denying my heritage by refusing corn? Do I only care for corn that mixes with other ingredients or learns to puff themselves up out of a kernel? Who knew I could make food into a metaphor about my life?

Anyway, this recipe comes from At Home with the French Classics, but it’s not authentic for those who care about that sort of thing. The author fully admits it’s more of a French-American classic, because he uses milk instead of Béchamel sauce. He seems to feel it doesn’t take away from the taste though. The major differences are more aesthetic.

What you’ll need to make this is, 5 tablespoons of butter, 1 diced onion, 2 diced carrots, 1 diced celery stalk, 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, 4 cups of water, 4 cups of milk, and about 4 cups of fresh corn.

The first step is to heat your butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the vegetables and gently saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add the flour and stir once in awhile for about 4 minutes.

Once everything is cooked, but not browned, you will add the water, milk, and corn. Bring this to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Again, be sure to stir it once in awhile. Occasional stirring is extremely important in all kinds of cooking, but especially soups it seems.

After your 10 minutes are up, feel free to season with salt and pepper and simmer under medium-low heat for 40 minutes. Check it for foam periodically and skim the foam when you see it until your 40 minutes are up.

The final result should be a light and creamy texture. If it’s not though, there are solutions. If it’s too thick, add water and if it’s too thin, just boil it some more.

I was pleased with my final result, but I didn’t have high expectations as I mentioned earlier. It’s not something I would love to have again, but it wasn’t bad either. If you or someone you love, loves corn though, by all means try this recipe out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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The crème de la crème of corn soup

Sausage and Mushroom Pasta

This recipe is from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals. I used to make this pasta back in college all the time. It was one of my favorites. As far as my tastes go, I can’t go wrong with linguine, sausage, and mushrooms.

This cookbook is perfect for beginner cooks too. They should re-name it, Cooking for Dummies. I’ve managed to not screw up any recipe from here yet. We all know I’m a bit of a cooking dummy, so that’s saying something.

What you’ll need to make this, is one box of linguine, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 links of spicy Italian sausage, 2 garlic cloves, 2 sliced portobello mushrooms, 1 10 ounce can of diced Italian tomatoes,  and one 7 ounce container of pesto with basil.

The first step, as with most pasta dishes, is to boil a large pot of water to cook your pasta with.

This is an easy step and admittedly my pasta has been sticking to my pot lately. This wasn’t a problem for me in the past, so I was irritated by this new problem of mine. I mentioned this to my mother and asked if I should put oil or butter next time, but she said that wasn’t necessary. She thinks I’m not putting enough water in my pot. That is a possibility I’m wanting to test out for next time.

Anyway, while your pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Once heated, add the sausage and garlic. Cook this and stir for 5 minutes, eventually breaking up the sausage as it cooks along. I was having a hard time breaking up my sausage and I recommend purchasing and using cooking scissors to make this step easier.

After the sausage is cooked, add the mushrooms for another 5 minutes of cooking. Then add your drained tomatoes and the pesto. Bring that to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

That’s all there is to it! You don’t even have to add any additional spices. It’s so easy and not too expensive either.

It’s surprising how well tomatoes pair with pesto too. It’s not something I would normally put together, but it adds a slightly juicy texture to the sauce and compliments the mushrooms and sausage as well.

So go ahead and try this one out! It’s scrumptious and delicious, but not malicious.

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Flavored Rice Sticks

Thai food is a favorite ethnic food of mine, or so I thought. The more I cook out of The Everything Thai Cookbook, the more I question this.

Perhaps, it’s time to admit to myself that I’m not cultured. I generally prefer the fusion of American and fill in the blank of ethnic foods and not the authentic stuff.

It’s exhausting trying to find “authentic” places anyway. Personally, I think you should work with what you’ve got. When immigrants moved to this country, they had to improvise and substitute certain ingredients that they couldn’t find here. They knew they couldn’t ask their relatives to send them some obscure food ingredient from back home, because it would probably taste bad by the time it crossed the ocean and had rats crap all over it in the holds of the ship.

It’s like when I’m in Indiana, I don’t like grilled fish that’s from the ocean, because it’s not as fresh. So I get that fish fried or I slather it in seasoning and sauce, because otherwise it’s just not good.

This is my way of saying, “Back off foodies! Leave me be, you snotty hipsters who’ve traveled all over Asia! I have good reasons for not liking authentic cuisine!”

As you might have guessed, I didn’t really like this recipe. It wasn’t gross. It tasted good, actually, but the texture was too crunchy and rice sticks tend to get everywhere. They break and get stuck into crevices all over the place. It’s irritating and for me, not worth the trouble.

The one thing I can say, is that this one of the easiest recipes I’ve had to make. All you need are a package of rice sticks, vegetable oil, salt, curry, and cayenne.

The only real step is to fry them in 2-3 inches of vegetable oil. Once they puff up, you transfer them to a towel and soak up the oil. Then you divide into three groups and sprinkle one group with salt, one with cayenne, and one with curry.

That’s all there is to it.

I am embarrassed to admit that I still managed to make a mistake though. I didn’t realize I was supposed to break the sticks into three-inch segments.

Oh well.

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Meh Sticks

Frittata Con La Ricotta, Sicilian for Ricotta Omelette

This recipe comes from Sicilian Cookery. I find it funny that in my last entry I confessed that I’m terrible at making omelettes and then my next recipe ended up being an omelette. Well, this omelette recipe was easy and yet not easy. I know that’s probably confusing my readers. Well, if it helps at all, I’m confused too.

On second thought, that’s probably not helping anyone. Story of my life, constant confusion. Constant confusion involving eggs and cheese.

As far as taste goes, I thought this turned out ok. It was a little weird for me.

This cookbook is making me sad. All my life, I’ve wanted to be a gorgeous, hot, sassy, Italian chick and yet I don’t like Sicilian food so far. What does that mean?! Am I not those things?! What am I going to do with my life?! What do I have to live for?!

Then again, Italians are opinionated little mofos. They all think their region has the best food and even in my small town, my mother said all the matriarchs complained about each other’s cooking. Northern Italians cook different from Southern Italians and Sicilians are a whole different ballgame as well. Even the Italian family I stayed with when I went to Rome had a rift about their cooking styles. The husband, Mossimo, was Roman and the wife, Nila, was Sicilian. One night Nila lamented to me that no one in her family liked her cooking. They complained it was too Sicilian. I love Nila, but I think I’m more Roman than Sicilian myself.

Anyway, to make this recipe you will need; 14oz of ricotta, 5 eggs, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can also add parsley and grated pecorino.

Your first step is to coat your frying pan with the olive oil. No need to dump it, just put enough to cover the pan. Once the oil is warmed up, place the cheese in. You’re supposed to brown the cheese on both sides. Mine never seemed to brown and I got impatient. This was most likely a mistake I made. As I said in my last entry, I get impatient when I make breakfast.

Once the cheese has been browned, you add the eggs. Hopefully you already know that you have to beat the eggs first, but I don’t like to assume.

Guess what?! In this next step, I actually did something right! I waited the right amount of time to flip the egg! This is usually where I fail with omelettes. I get impatient and then it ends up becoming a scramble or a half omelette. The trick is to not be impatient, obviously, and to continuously swirl the pan so all the excess egg liquid gets cooked evenly. This cookbook also gave a great tip that I will share. They recommend turning the pan to one side and using a pot lid to help flip over the other side.

Hopefully, you won’t need any of this advice because you are an awesome person. I’m not, though. I need all the help.

After flipping, there’s not much else to do except to wait for the other side to cook. Once that’s done you can go ahead and eat your omelette.

I ended up putting parsley on my omelette, by the way. I mean this is an extremely easy and simple recipe, I figured I might as well add parsley to it.

As I said earlier, my final analysis is that it was ok. I think ricotta is too similar of a texture to mix with eggs. At least it was for me. It just gave it a slimy and strange sensation. I have to make another confession though. I’ve never been crazy about ricotta. I mean I like it just fine, but in the rankings of cheese, it’s on the low-end for me.

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Parsley and ricotta cheese omelette