Foodening Friday – September 6, 2013

Greetings fair travellers, friends and the voices inside my head!

Welcome to a new series of blogs that I’m planning to explore over the next few months, starting today! Why start a new ‘venture’ at the end of the calendar year, you ask?
Why not? We start school (traditionally) in September, many companies start their fiscal years in July or August…And I’ve always been a fan of starting a new goal with either a new month, or special attention to an end date, i.e. ending on the last day of the month, etc.
As my intent is to stick to a set schedule of days I’m writing on with no end date in sight, it seemed most logical to start with a new month – and so here we are!

So why “Foodening Friday?”
If you’ve poked around on the blog at all, you may have noticed I’m a fan of alliteration. I’m pretty it’s one of those “rules of writing” you’re not supposed to overuse, but I like the sound of these things in my head when I’m writing, and that’s why we write publically isn’t it? To allow our mental voice(s) out in a socially accepted format. As to the “Foodening” part:

In the Alliteration series, “Foodening Friday” was the first topic I knew I wanted to blog about (and the only pre-existing topic, which why it’s filed under an additional category) where I’ve occasionally done a “recipe round-up” – mostly to remind myself which of the recipes I’ve tried were worth remembering for the future. These will be similar, but I’m going to try to include more pictures, because who doesn’t like seeing the differences between how a food stylist thinks food is supposed to look like (or if you’re Kelly, the way your food DOES look!) and what normally comes out for those of us…less stylized.

This week’s “theme” is one pot dishes, a brilliant and easy concept – or so the recipes claim.

First up, Martha Stewart’s Basil One Pot Wonder Pasta dish – with a slight variation.
I came across this recipe very early on in my Pinterest wanderings, but didn’t have the ability at the time of pinning to try it. That being said, a simple search for this recipe comes up with a TON of positive feedback, so I knew it was one I just had to try.

20130905-222339.jpg When I got a chance to make it a few weeks ago, I followed a slight variation that another pinner had suggested (adding oregano and using vegetable broth in place of water and salt). I wasn’t happy with the broth I’d chosen, next time I’ll get a lower sodium broth as it still had too much salt in it, I think. The other substitution, which was more amusing, was instead of using diced tomatoes, I used a can of peeled (but still whole!) tomatoes, which I then “diced” myself. Trying to contain the runoff juices was originally highly entertaining, until I got the brilliant idea to put my chopping board into a baking pan, so I could catch any run off and just dump it into the pot. I was rather proud of myself with how well it worked.

Can I just say, the SMELL of this as it was cooking…
Holy moly. Our mouths and stomachs were seriously ready to jump out of our bodies and march into the kitchen long before everything was reduced properly. I’d forgotten how strong oregano is when it’s cooking and I was originally a little concerned that I’d added too much, but the final taste was brilliant. And even though I put in an entire onion, with as much other stuff as there was I probably could have added at least another half of one. But then I *REALLY* like cooked onion. The recipe also calls for red pepper flakes and I normally skip those with my inability to withstand any kind of spicy heat. But on a whim, I kept them in there. There was definitely a kick to it, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from eating it. I would probably reduce the amount of flakes in future versions, keeping just enough for flavour but not enough that my tongue threatens to go on strike as it did a few times when it found a cluster of flakes. 20130905-222352.jpg

I did find that I had to keep it cooking for quite a bit longer (almost an additional 30-45 minutes) then the recipe suggested, not sure if that was because I was using a slightly smaller pot then what is suggested or what, but it was beyond tasty when it was finally ready. And even though there were only two of us, I made the full recipe as usual and had good sized portions for THREE additional meals. So wins all around.

(I take no credit for either of these photos – it didn’t occur to me to take any until it was on the plate, and by then I was way more focused on getting it into my belly to be forward thinking to potential blogs.)

The second one pot recipe I attempted was a One Pot Chicken and Vegetable Risotto.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of cooking with chicken. I love eating it, but touching the raw meat when it’s squishy…
It’s not my thing. But in order to have some variety in my proteins, I’m trying to get over this silly aversion. So I persevered and managed to get the chicken into something resembeling the “1” cubes” without much trouble.

(And who are they kidding with a statement like that? Pre cooking, NO ONE is going to get any chicken breast into ANYTHING that resembles a cube – it’s too squishy!!) This recipe is super adaptable to whatever kinds of vegetables you have in the house, I happened to have onions and mini sweet bell peppers, as well as frozen peas, so that’s what ended up in this version. You might not be able to tell from the picture above, but I impressed myself with my knife cuts. They are much more uniform now in contrast to a few months ago. Lots of practice with all the sautéed stir-fry’s as I made this summer!

I’ve got another admission – I’ve never cooked a risotto. The most I’ve ever done is eat risottos that someone else has made, normally in restaurants. What I knew about them prior to making this one came from repeatedly watching Gordon Ramsey yelling about them on Hell’s Kitchen, not to make it ‘soggy,’ that it’s supposed to be “crunchy.”

Which, from what I understand, means that I’m one of those weird people who DON’T like risottos the way they’re supposed to be made, with the rice still slightly crunchy in the middle. I’m sorry but rice is not supposed to be crunchy. But in following the recipe, I managed to achieve the result that seemingly half the chefs on HK cannot.

I found I had to add a LOT more water and broth then was originally called for in the recipe. I was originally mixing chicken and vegetable broth, because I didn’t have enough of either – and still ended up needing more then I had. I also found that this recipe needed almost twice the cooking time and that the absorption rate of the broth/water was horrifically slooooooooooooooooooow. I should really learn to not *start* preparing dinner when I’m hungry…

Still, the recipe resulted in a decent amount of leftovers and the next day most of the rice seemed to have softened slightly, perhaps FINALLY absorbing the last of the liquid. I’ll try the recipe again in the future (with lower sodium broths for sure and adding more liquid towards the end), and see if I can’t get a better result next time. Again, I forgot to take a “results” picture. Next time, I’ll make sure I have one of those. It was a little less “saucy” looking then the one above, probably due to not having enough liquid…argh! Oh well, next time.