Impromptu Risotto-ish

Garlicturino86 (GT8) and I were hungry, so we decided to cook together. We took a look at the fridge and pantry and pulled out the items that were available for us to use. They were surprisingly limited: black beans, chicken broth (with vegetables and herbs), garlic, jasmine rice, pasta, a very small amount of frozen broccoli, fresh carrots, and milk.

“What can we possibly make with this?” I asked.

“Well, we can use the rice and chicken broth to make a sort of risotto,” GT8 replied.

I set to work peeling carrots and GT8 finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic. We heated 1.5 cups of chicken broth to a boil, then added 1 cup of jasmine rice and let it cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. I defrosted the broccoli and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Once GT8 had cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces we set them to boil as well, allowing them to cook for nearly as long as the rice. I also rinsed and drained a can of black beans.

Once the carrots were fairly soft and sweet, we drained them. We heated some olive oil in a frying pan, browned the garlic, then added the broccoli, followed a little while later by the carrots and the beans. By the time they were ready, GT8 had taken the rice off the heat and transferred it into a large bowl. I mixed in the beans and vegetables. The flavors all blended together marvelously, especially the rice and beans. This is definitely a meal we would both like to make again sometime.

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Day 2 of Cooking Adventures

The gathering mentioned in my previous 2 posts was quite a success (A Day of Cooking Adventures, Part 1 & Part 2). In addition to the olives, roasted peppers, and shrimp, I also made oven-roasted garlic and a soup with vegetables, garlic, beer, and cheese.

The roasted garlic was very straightforward – each head gets a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of water, then they are covered with foil to roast in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes. Uncover and roast for an additional 15 minutes or “until golden.” Of course, GT8 did not realize they were supposed to be covered with foil until they’d been roasting a while, and after the 1 hr 15 min they came out, beautiful and golden. They were a huge hit, particularly spread on Italian bread. I would be enjoying the leftovers, except that my stomach demanded a respite from consuming vast quantities of garlic.

The soup was a more complicated recipe that I followed as well as I could while socializing with guests. It called for items to be added in stages, with about 10 minutes of cooking time in between. I was referring to the cookbook between steps because I had not yet internalized the recipe. So, the whole thing probably cooked a lot longer than it was supposed to. This relaxed approach to the timing worked well, though. I was also able to reverse the order of adding the cheese and the ingredients due to come after it, so a friend who does not eat cheese could enjoy some of the soup. The end result was less creamy and cheesy than I had expected, but had a very nice flavor. Those who tried it liked it, so I was pleased.

The biggest success of the evening was certainly the shrimp. They disappeared rather early in the night. The recipe created way too much of their dipping sauce, even though it was also fairly popular. That portion of the recipe can be quartered (at least!) and still produce plenty of sauce for the shrimp. I’ll probably double the shrimp portion of the recipe if I make it again for a gathering of this size. And, I’ll leave out the thumb nail.

The olives were tasty but the vinegar taste is extremely strong, to the point of overpowering the other flavors. I think I’m the only one who really ate them. If I follow their recipe again, I will use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, instead of the 1:1 ratio recommended by the recipe. The peppers were slightly more popular. I was exceedingly pleased with their flavor, especially when spread on the Italian bread with a clove or two of roasted garlic. They also make fantastic leftovers.

The Aftermath:

The 2011 holidays hit my waistline very hard. Between the tasty food I cooked and treats that others brought, I spent the entire day eating. Add to that the consequences of several other gatherings throughout the month of December, and it is no surprise that I gained 9 pounds!

A Day of Cooking Adventures Part 2

Our culinary adventure (see Pt. 1) began with the decision to turn Spicy Mediterranean Olives with Garlic & Herbs (p. 42 of Garlic, Garlic, Garlic) into non-spicy olives by eliminating the chile peppers. We also had to half the recipe because we had only acquired 2 cups of olives. I measured out the oil, vinegar, ground black pepper, and fennel seed, then attacked a lemon and an orange for their zest. I also minced the zests even though that’s not part of the recipe. Oops! I also cut each garlic clove more than once, so there are several slices in the marinade. The ingredients (except for the olive oil) all went in a pot to boil and then simmer for a few minutes.

sliced garlic cloves, fennel seed, orange and lemon zests, and vinegar in a reflective potThe color – and the smell! – were amazing.

Once that mixture was ready, I added the olive oil, followed soon-after by the olives themselves. I had to double the amount of vinegar and oil in order to make sure the olives were covered by the marinade. I then learned that I did not have the rosemary the recipe calls for, so I sprinkled on a blend of Italian herbs: oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage. This concoction was then well stirred and placed in a sealed container to marinade for 24 hours. We’ve been taking turns stirring it periodically.

Next up were the Marinated Roasted Red (Orange, and Yellow) Peppers with Garlic and Anchovies (p. 62). Garlicturino86 (henceforth to be referred to as GT8) had a blast smashing and mincing 5 garlic cloves.

GT8 smashes a clove of garlic under his knife while soon-to-be victims watchGT8 smashes a clove of garlic under his knife while soon-to-be victims watch on

I measured the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. GT8 passed me bell peppers and I placed the in the oven to roast. I doubt the contents of the oven have ever been so colorful!

They don’t know what they’re in for …

While the peppers roasted, and later cooled, we set to work on the third and final recipe for the evening: Beer-Braised Shrimp with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce (p. 56). Sadly, this recipe was not without injury. GT8’s eyes were too irritated by the process of mincing the shallot, so I took over. Somehow I managed to catch my thumb nail with the knife, removing part of it! (Thank goodness it was just a shallow cut, and the rest of the thumb remained intact.) I now have a raw, red spot where I used to have a nail; it is extremely sensitive to the touch. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more painful cut, and the worst part is that completely random movements that are normally painless hurt horribly.

This minor setback did not deter our cooking insanity, however. The beer, garlic, shrimp, and other ingredients all went into the pot. GT8 informed me that regular salt is stronger than the Kosher salt the recipe calls for just in time for me to use only 3/4 the amount the recipe calls for. We brought our concoction to a boil and let it simmer until the shrimp turned pink. When I removed the cover I was greeted with the fantastic smell of beer and garlic, oh, it was amazing!

A pot with seasoned beer and shrimp, cooked and bubblingIt smells even better than it looks!

The recipe also calls for a creamy dipping sauce of yogurt and sour cream mixed with 2 different types of mustard, garlic (of course!), Worcestershire sauce, and the whole zest of a lemon (minced – I let GT8 do that). Mixing that mess together was rather entertaining, but the results were well worth it: nice and tasty, with quite the kick! The dipping sauce and shrimp in their beer mixture went into the refrigerator to chill overnight. I felt very proud as I cleaned the edges of the bowl for the dipping sauce and contemplated serving the dish the next day.

Finally, we had the gooey and slimy task of removing the skins from the roasted peppers. It was gross and fun at the same time. As I removed the skins, GT8 cut the peppers, removed their innards, and laid them on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. He sprinkled smashed and minced garlic over them, followed by half the oil and all of the balsamic vinegar. We baked them for 10 minutes, then added julienned basil. After a quick photo shoot, they went into a bowl with the remaining oil to marinade overnight. Two of the slices most certainly were not stolen, and they weren’t absolutely delicious!

Roasted Peppers fresh out of the ovenFinally complete, the roasted peppers are as delicious as they are beautiful.

Now it is the next day. Guests should begin arriving soon. And there’s more cooking to do! This should be quite entertaining …

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!

I must apologize for not updating in such a long time. This semester was extremely busy. On top of all the academic work, I also moved (about 30 minutes away, within the same state) earlier this month. That was fun and exciting and the actual move itself went surprisingly smoothly and quickly because I had several friends help. They were awesome! But it did throw a bit of a monkey wrench in the works.

I cooked many tasty things when I went to visit my best friend in November. We worked together on them, myself mostly following her lead. They included chicken with roasted potatoes and whole cloves of garlic, a delicious stew with turkey meat and vegetables, and apple pie.

I haven’t cooked as much as usual since Thanksgiving, but I did get to bake about a week ago. I followed the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe (a lifetime favorite that I’ll be repeating with my mom in several hours – our yearly tradition). I left out the nuts, but added a shot of Frangelico to the dough around the time I also added the chocolate chips. The result was absolutely delicious – and quite popular at the 2 parties I attended that weekend.

I spent Christmas Eve with my best friend and her family. She and I played viola and sang at the services at a church where we’ve known the choir director for years. It was so wonderful to play music with an extremely talented and dedicated group!

When we got back to her parents’ house we exchanged presents. One of the gifts she gave me was Garlic, Garlic, Garlic: More than 200 Exceptional Recipes for the World’s Most Indispensable Ingredient. It has more information than a chef could ever want about garlic, as well as recipes that range from starters to pasta and seafood to even dessert!

I just might have to follow in Julie Powell’s footsteps and cook my way through this book.

Rainy Day Blues

Today (Wednesday) was definitely a comfort food day. I didn’t have any pastina or chicken broth, so I made a box of rotelle and had a couple servings of it with tomato sauce. Add a little cheese and … yeah, it makes a really good comfort food. Chicken soup, you now have a worthy opponent.

I’ve been trying really hard to eat more fruits and vegetables and be more physically active, but it’s not easy and I’m having trouble objectively evaluating whether I’m accomplishing my goals at all. I need to actually track what I eat – or better yet, plan ahead! The main problem is that I keep grabbing convenient snacks such as a serving of WhoNu “nutrition-rich” cookies or a scoop (or two) of ice cream. Those seem relatively insignificant when taken individually, but they really add up!

Having apples in the house helps a lot. I love apples. I keep trying to convince myself they’re the most delicious things ever, because if they’re not THE most delicious they’re definitely near the top of the list. Maybe I should try making apples with garlic. Then, I’d almost definitely eat them more regularly. I’m not sure if I’ve had an apple yet today -probably not. I’ll have one as a midnight snack.

I did try having some vegetables, at least one whole serving and possibly two! First I heated up some olive oil on a high flame. Then I chopped up a clove of garlic and tossed it in the frying pan. The garlic turned brown almost instantly and some of the pieces turned black. Oops! Flame too high!!! I lowered it but the pan was still too hot when I tossed in some frozen green beans, so I got a nice little miniature fireworks display. Thank goodness I have good reflexes! I jumped out of range, just in time, and carefully lowered the flame some more. In went the frozen bell pepper slices, and then I was able to stir everything around for even heating and whatever garlic flavor might have been left. I added some orange ginger sauce, which provided a nice flavor. Simple. Yum. I hope the veggies maintained their nutritional value …

Lately I’ve also been really into eggs. They’re a very convenient source of protein. I have mixed feelings about the yolk, though. Nearly all the nutrients that make eggs healthy are in the yolk – but so is most of the fat (eggnutritioncenter.org). Unfortunately eggs are also quite high in cholesterol (not too bad if they’re your only/main source, but something to watch out for). Today I decided to have the white without the yolk. In the future I might have one whole egg. If I decide to have a second egg I’ll remove its yolk.

Removing an egg yolk is surprisingly easy. The video below starts off a bit slow but is a good example of the method. It’s a useful skill to develop for baking as well as being a picky eater.

 

Well, thanks for checking in. Hopefully tomorrow (Thursday) will be a bit less gross and I can work on the whole physical activity thing.

Cooking On the Fly

I love pasta, but it requires too much forethought. You have to get the water heating early, so it has time to boil and then you add the pasta and then it needs time to cook. Yuck. I just don’t have the patience for that. Today I was way too busy playing Solitaire to make pasta.

(Seriously, whoever came up with the version of Solitaire where you draw 3 cards from the deck at a time was evil and sadistic.)

For this dish, I went straight to the frying pan. I coated the pan with olive oil, chopped up two cloves of garlic, and let that heat for a little while. Then I added 2/3 cup whole grain rolled oats. They soaked up all the oil, fast. After stirring them around for a bit, I added 7 oz frozen mixed bell pepper slices, then topped it all off with a few splashes of soy sauce. Why soy sauce? I’ve been finding that these oats benefit from a little bit of salt, and I wanted to make sure they had enough moisture.

Oats and Peppers in a frying pan

Call me crazy (it would match my mood) but I wanted a source of protein, so I cracked an egg into the middle of this.

See above, with Egg

As awesome as that looks, it seemed a better idea to mix the egg in with the other ingredients. So I mixed it around, creating a rather more consistent texture. If the oats needed any additional moisture, the egg certainly provided it.

Finally, I wanted some nuts, so I decided to sprinkle a handful of pine nuts on top.

Oats, peppers, and egg mixture, topped with pine nuts

A few more minutes of stirring, and the moment of truth had come. Is this concoction edible? YES!!! Thank goodness, too, because I have to run to class. The recipe above makes 2 servings. Buon appetito!

About this Blog

Hello and welcome to “How I learned to stop worrying and love the garlic.” This blog was partially inspired by the movie, Julie & Julia, in which Julie Powell keeps a blog while attempting to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s first cookbook. More importantly, it was also inspired by fun experiences cooking with my best friend – who came up with the blog title – and with my fiancé. We’re all from predominantly Italian-American families, so we share a deep love for good food, good company, and (of course) garlic.

Garlic will be an ingredient in most of the recipes we share here, often a key ingredient. It is not, however, the main focus of the blog. The focus will be more on the processes of cooking and tweaking recipes to better meet our needs and preferences. We’ll share our adventures, success stories, and amusing or insight-inducing failures. Some of the recipes have been passed down to us by our mothers; others we developed on our own or found in cookbooks or online. Whenever possible, we’ll share at least the ingredients list and/or source of the recipe. Be prepared for a pinch of this, a splash of that, and “to taste.”

Cooking is a wonderful adventure. It allows us to know exactly what we are eating and to choose healthy ingredients – well, most of the time! It is a creative process that can be wonderfully stimulating to all five senses. Best of all, the experience and/or results of slaving over a hot stove can be shared with loved ones. Few things feel better than having someone I care about say “this is delicious,” grin broadly, and take a second helping of the meal I just prepared. Food nourishes the body. Sharing it with loved ones nourishes the soul.

We hope you will enjoy reading this blog as much as we enjoy writing it.

Buon appetito!

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