Monday, August 25, 2008

Updates Schmupdates...

Ok, so I lied. You didn't miss anything. No recipes came and went while I was gone. I've been busy.

Life has been fairly, uh, unpleasant, lately. My wife and I have decided to divorce, so I've spent a week, now, doing paperwork, doing some planning, trying to pack and clean the house so we can put it on the market to sell it, and, in the meantime, still trying to go on with my daily life in a way that will make life a tad easier to continue after the shock of all of this is over.

I have been reading the Mario Batali book though. It's amazing. Not only is it a great cookbook (granted, I have yet to cook from it...) but I love the way Mr. Batali (yes, he deserves Mister Status...) writes and organizes this book. He begins each section with a page on the culture of Italy, or the history of a region. Then, in the recipe section, he puts personal notes, tips for substitutions, and even cultural notes about a certain dish. It makes for more than just a cookbook, but for knowledge-building enjoyable reading. Wonderful.

That said, I have picked out a bunch of recipes from his book, and have plans to try my hand at cooking a few of them in the coming weeks - money allowing.

JobSeeker Interview Tip

JobSeeker Interview Tip: Ask not what your employer can do for you...Ask what you can do for your employer!
Employers are always looking for problem solvers - people who can improve their operation with hard work and great ideas. Before you go in for an interview, do a little research into the restaurant or hotel (internet searches are great for this) and get an idea of their cuisine, style, and areas they might want to improve. Make a list of at least three things they need that you can bring to the job. So if you're applying as a chef at a hip but poorly-reviewed bistro, you'll want to stress how you can help the quality of their food match their d├ęcor to get great reviews and fill seats. Maybe you can even stop by for a drink or meal to gauge service and presentation and think of ways you could help. Remember to be constructive and positive when you present your ideas! You don't want to give the impression you think poorly of their restaurant and want to change it all. You want to make sure they know that you are already thinking of how well you could work together.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I love pasta...

What is it about pasta that I love so much? It's not a friendly food. It sticks to the plate. It slips off the fork. It lashes you in the face and then whips sauce across the table. There's little taste - just the starchy wonderfulness that is pasta.

Now, it does come in playful shapes and sizes. It even comes in cool colors - brown, green and red! It's easy to cook (I've been doing it since I was 8). It's tough to get wrong, although there are "better than other" moments. You can eat it alone, with sauce, with meat, with gravy, with butter, with whatever you have laying around. (I once ate a bowl of pasta with olive oil and chopped chives...the only two things I had left prior to moving. And it was wonderful...) And I've never met anyone that downright hated pasta.
I do wonder why we add salt to the pot of water. It just makes the water boil over. Does it add flavor that I can't taste? I am nearly immune to salt, though - the product of my parents letting me put salt on my food myself. Imagine heaping sand dunes of salt atop my steak. Thankfully, I have grown out of that stage...although, I'm sure the damage to my arteries has already been done.

These are the thoughts that go through my mind when I'm waiting for food to cook and have nothing else to do...aren't you glad you joined me today? hehe

Project Cook-Along: Cowboy Spaghetti

I've always thought that I was born in the wrong time period, that I was meant to be a cowboy. And after having Cowboy Spaghetti ("Express Lane Meals" by Rachael Ray, pp.60-61) I am quite certain this must be true.

Revisions to the recipe:
1. I used 2 cloves of garlic, instead of 4. I didn't want a vampire-fearing repeat of last week's recipe.
2. I used 6 slices of bacon, instead of 3. I like bacon. And I cooked the whole package up so that it wouldn't spoil, so why not throw some extra in.
3. I only used half of a large onion, instead of 1 medium onion. Makes no difference, I like onion, but I didn't want it to be overpowering.
4. I had no sharp cheddar cheese to put on top. What can I say, I need to pay better attention to the shopping list when I'm in the store! But I substituted some left over freshly shredded mozzarella from last week's recipe. It worked out nicely, but I think the cheddar would've been better.

Lessons learned:
1. Fire off, fire-roasted tomatoes ROCK MY WORLD! I have never had these before, so I sampled a little before I added them to the skillet. Wow. I could taste the wood-stove taste. I could feel the heat. They were phenomenal. I might not use regular tomatoes ever again!
2. Scallions are over-glorified chives. And I love both. I didn't put a ton on top of the dish, but there was plenty there to have a slice or two with every bite. What a difference they make in the overall flavor of the dish, too. I might have to add scallions to next year's list of vegetables to plant in the garden.
3. I learned from last week that I need to prep everything prior to turning the stove on. With the exception of the scallions, I did that this time. I researched how to chop garlic last week, after the fiasco. I chopped and diced everything up, and then was bored out of my mind while the meat browned and the bacon cooked up. I suppose that's the way it's supposed to be though, right? Who woulda thunk it?!? It took about 45 minutes to prep the food and cook the meal. Not quite "express lane" times, but still doable at the end of a long day. And at $11.88, the price is well within the "tight budget" framework.
4. I need to find some alternatives to these fresh foods I keep buying. I know, contradictory to everything the entire world is preaching right now, but listen and I will explain. I bough fresh scallions. The smallest amount I could buy was a bunch - it had about a dozen stalks on it, all about 6-8 inches long. I used one stalk. Now, because I will be out of town all weekend, the remainder of that bunch will most likely be unusable. While the cost was not significant ($0.50 for the bunch), it feels wasteful to use so little and throw out so much. Surely, there are freeze-dried variations that I can use over time, without fear of wasting, right? Or maybe I'm being overly paranoid about throwing out some herbs and vegetables and should let the world keep on turning. You choose.

My final thoughts on the subject are that I can't wait for lunch today! I liked this meal that much.

Coming soon! Umm...not so certain. This weekend is my duty weekend, so I don't know if I'll be cooking or not. If I do, you can be sure it'll be here...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Got that? Yeah, my reaction was the same. Translation is "Stuffed Cabbage", or something similar. And boy, oh boy, is it ever good!

Basically, a concoction of rice, beef, pork, onion and spices, cooked together, then wrapped in steamed cabbage leaves, and cooked again.

I have to admit now, I didn't cook them. Yet. But my wife's Great-Aunt Helen did, and she's a great cook! We feasted on these, along with lots of other home-cooked goodies, most of the weekend. She gave me the recipe, and I will try them in the hopefully-near future. When I do, I will post the recipe (unless I am told that it is some long-kept family secret...) and some pictures.

Coming Soon! Cowboy Spaghetti.
Another Rachael Ray "Express Lane Meals" recipe (p. 60-61), this one looks to be a bit more involved than the last, and has some of my favorite flavors in it, so I am really looking forward to it. Obviously, I will post my notes after the fact...