Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Ok, kids. Mama Griff is back...sort of. It's been a busy time for this gal, what with the dissertation and all, but since it's summer again, I've been doing a lot more cooking and grilling, so I thought it might be time to resurrect the Tiny Kitchen blog. Look for new posts in the next couple of weeks. I hope not to disappoint!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Leftovers Tip #1: Leftovers Omelette

Trying to figure out how to get rid of those leftover veggies before they go bad? Make a breakfast omelette! With only a couple of eggs, some veggies, and a few spices, you can make a delicious breakfast for yourself.

This morning, I greased up a stainless steel frying pan with some oil I had left over from frying up falafel balls yesterday. As I let the pan warm up over medium-high heat, I lightly beat two eggs in a bowl, added a little milk (to give it a little more substance and to add fluffiness), and set it aside. I then scrounged through my tiny fridge for leftovers. I found a clove of garlic and a quarter of a zucchini (left over from my easy Tuscan chicken), some chopped onions and grated cheddar cheese (left over from taco night), and half a can of chopped tomatoes in sauce (left over from my Sicilian chicken thighs - recipe coming soon!). I threw the garlic, onions, and zucchini in the frying pan and sauteed them until the onions were translucent and the zucchini soft. After making sure the veggies were evenly distributed in the pan, I poured the egg mixture over top of the veggies. As the eggs cooked, I sprinkled the grated cheddar over the omelette, to allow it to melt in with the rest of the ingredients.

After a minute or so, I used my spatula to loosen the bottom of the omelette. Now the "flip" is notoriously difficult. (If you don't know how, this guy can teach you!) But I always try to work on my pan-flipping skills, so I tried to flip the omelette with one circular motion. It was pretty successful, and the omelette looked good. (Note: If you mess up the flip, or you don't want to bother flipping, you can make scrambled eggs instead of an omelette.)

I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and paprika, and added some of the tomato sauce to top it off. It was very delicious and I got to get rid of my leftovers in the process!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

MG's First Attempt at a Poor-Man's Pesto

Last week I also attempted a homemade pesto sauce, based on the recipe found here: How to Make Pesto like an Italian Grandmother. Of course, I had to improvise a bit, based on what I had in the house and what I could find at the local tegut. Thus, instead of pine nuts I used crushed walnuts, and instead of Parmesan, I used a German Hartkäse that I found at te gut. (However, word on the street is that you can actually get pine nuts now at Aldi for really cheap. Going to check out their prices on Parmesan as well when I go next week.)

The recipe called for the following ingredients:

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
3 medium cloves of garlic
one small handful of raw pine nuts
roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Now most people make pesto in a food processor, but I think the taste is so much richer when you chop everything yourself. (However, the lastest episode of NPR's "The Splendid Table" has made me consider purchasing a mortar-and-pestle the next time I make a spice run to the local Asia Laden.) However, if you plan to do everything by hand, you should set aside a good 20 minutes to make sure you chop everything finely enough. As the website points out, the trick is to "chop a bit, add some ingredients, chop some more."

I started by chopping the garlic. I then added some of the basil and chopped some more:

After chopping the basil, I added the nuts, chopped some more, and then finally the grated hard cheese. At this point, everything was starting to look good:

As per the website's instructions, I packed my chopped items together into a kind of "basil cake:"

At this point, I covered the "cake" with just enough olive oil to cover it and let it sit while I cooked the pasta. When I was ready to eat, I mixed the olive oil into the cake, and ended up with the pesto sauce below:

You will notice that my pesto is significantly less green than the sauce pictured on the website. I think this was my pesto's fatal flaw: NOT ENOUGH BASIL. I picked all the fresh basil my plant could spare, but I think that more was in order because the pesto itself ended up tasting a bit bland when mixed in with the pasta. I added tomatoes to the pasta and liberally salted-and-peppered everything to give it a bit more flavor, but that should not be necessary if the pesto itself is good. So next time, I am going to use a liberal amount of basil, and we'll see how it goes. I also want to try the following pesto recipe: A Classic Pesto of Genoa.

Does anyone have any further suggestions for making cheap, homemade pesto? I'd love to hear them!

Update: I mixed the remained of my pesto pasta together with the leftovers from my Tuscan Chicken for a great (more flavorful) combo-dish.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Easy Chicken "auf toskanische Art"

I had some fun adventures in cooking last week, culminating in both satisfaction and mild disappointment. At the farmer's market last Saturday I bought a couple of incredibly tender organic chicken breasts, which ended up being a bit expensive, but well worth it. I also picked up a lot of fresh, organic veggies. I had thought about making a chicken stir fry with everything, but then I came upon this Tuscan chicken recipe in my German cookbook. This was the first time I followed a German recipe, so it was quite an adventure. I was also limited to what was in my kitchen. For example, the recipe called for cherry tomatoes and brandy. I used regular tomatoes (chopped) and white wine vinegar. I also decided to add zucchini, since I had one in the house that was about to go bad. Turns out, it was a great addition.

This dish is quick and easy to prepare (about 20 min), and you can improvise, based on what you happen to have lying around your kitchen. A great meal for during the week!

1/8 c of butter
1-2 chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
2 tsp brandy/white wine vinegar
4 oz (cherry) tomatoes
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, cubed
1/4-1/2 c white wine (if you use white wine vinegar, I'd stick with 1/4 c)
pepper, to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
fresh parsley (for garnish, optional)

Melt the butter in a frying pan or wok. Add the chicken and saute until the meat turns white, about 4 minutes. Add the brandy (or vinegar), followed by the tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini. Stirring frequently, cook for about 3-4 minutes. Slowly add the wine, and season with rosemary and pepper. Let simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced somewhat and the mixture is slightly more concentrated. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving (optional).

P.S. I mixed the leftovers from this dish with the leftovers from my experiment with pesto pasta to make a really tasty combo-dish.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mama Griff's Rotkrautsalat

Those of you who know me, know that I love to make red cabbage salad, especially in the summer. Red cabbage (here: Rotkraut) is very good for you, especially raw. It is a great source of Vitamin C, among other nutrients, and apparently may also help prevent Alzheimer's Disease. As with Brussels sprouts and Lima beans, many people associate the thought of cabbage with an image of their mothers forcing them to clean their plates on pain of receiving no dessert. However, red cabbage can be surprisingly tasty, as I have discovered over the last year or so. The dish below is a great side dish to bring to cookouts, potlucks, and dinner parties. You can experiment with it and see what you like best. I have made versions of this salad that include pearl onions, carrots (see photo), and even raw Brussels Sprouts. I have used different kinds of vinegars and different kinds of wine. I've made vegetarian versions and versions with fatty German Dörrfleisch. I've gone with caraway seeds and without. Play around with the below recipe to your heart's content - and put the leftovers in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch!

Mama Griff's Rotkrautsalat
(serves 6)
  • 5 slices bacon (or Dörrfleisch)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. (kosher) salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/2-1 whole medium onion, chopped (depending on how "oniony" you like your salads)
  • 1-2 sliced carrots or 4-6 shredded Brussel sprouts, raw (optional)
Fry the bacon until very crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. (I usually take the opportunity to do most of my peeling, chopping, and shredding while the bacon is frying.) Reduce heat. Stir sugar, vinegar, and wine into bacon drippings and heat gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Gently sauté onions in this mixture for 1-2 minutes, or until onions look slightly transluscent. (For flavor, you can also keep the onions raw, but be ready for onion-burps the rest of the night!) Pour the mixture over the cabbage (and other raw veggies, if using). Then toss with oil, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds. (Some people don't like caraway seeds, i.e., Kümmel, but I think they really contribute to the flavor of the salad.) Finally, crumble the bacon and spread over salad.

Voila, you're done! Dig in, and enjoy!