Sunday, March 18, 2012

Honey Whole Wheat Cornbread

As the weather gets warmer, it's time to start emptying the freezer.  There's an awful lot of chili in there, so in keeping with this month's Melissa Clark theme, I made Honey Whole Wheat Cornbread to encourage chili-eating in the household.

Some of Melissa Clark's recipes could be considered healthy, but this isn't one of them.  You are instructed to mix a whole stick of melted unsalted butter into your cornbread batter (I scaled it back to 6 tablespoons and I believe I could have done away with it a bit more).  She also calls for sour cream, which I substituted yogurt for, cutting down on the calorie count.  I love that this recipe is baked in a cast iron skillet, after melting and swirling the butter around in it - the cornbread pulls away from the sides of the skillet as it cooks and doesn't stick at all.

The book also contains a handful of salad recipes, which I intend to try over the next few weeks.  After a nice dinner at Frog & Peach, where I had a perfectly cooked piece of salmon atop a bed of mixed citrus and thinly sliced fennel with herbs, I am looking forward to trying an orange/fennel salad from Cook This Now - hopefully I will be writing about that in the coming days.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp

Hi! I swear, I'm trying to post more often now that I'm cooking more. This month the 101 Cookbooks Library is featuring Melissa Clark, NY Times food writer and someone who understands the challenges faced by home cooks.

I started with a roasted shrimp and broccoli recipe, something super simple and easy that is still healthy. I love the cumin, coriander, and just a bit of spice - I used red pepper flakes. Next time, I'll roast the broccoli for a bit less time, so there will be some crunch left to it.

And I'm looking forward to some more quick, simple, healthy, and most of all tasty meals from Melissa Clark's books.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Black Pepper Tofu

This Black Pepper Tofu recipe was the last I made from the Ottolenghi books for the Jan/Feb featured cookbook "season."  I didn't post about everything I made, but I also didn't make as much as I would have liked, because being sick for 3 weeks can really ruin things for a person.  Next up is Melissa Clark - I already own In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite but I bought her new book, Cook This Now, last night.  I have slowed down my cookbook buying, but Melissa Clark's books are full of appealing recipes and I actually want to "cook this now" so I think it'll certainly be worth it.

Back to Ottolenghi, though - this Black Pepper Tofu was a spicy and delicious Asian meal.  We've all made stir fry, and it can be boooring.  This is the remedy to all that, and on top of being great, I learned a new technique - coating tofu cubes in cornstarch and frying them makes at-home tofu so much more delicious!  I find that tofu is not something I eat often at home, because honestly, it's not very good.  But this is a great treatment for it and I certainly will try it in other recipes in the future.

The recipe itself is fairly complicated, but can easily be simplified.  As an example, the recipe calls for three different types of soy sauce.  I used one kind of soy sauce (tamari), and at the suggestion of another poster on the 101 Cookbooks library, some molasses to replicate the taste of the "sweet" soy sauce that was called for, and I never would have known the difference.  If you slice and dice the shallots, ginger, garlic, and scallions in advance (and you could even fry the tofu in advance too), this dish will come together in minutes.

I ended up scaling the recipe down by half to account for the amount of tofu I had and the fact that only I was going to eat it.  I also omitted the chiles and reduced the black pepper, which I could have even scaled back a little further, and I ground it more finely than instructed.  I substantially reduced the butter (2Tbsp for half the recipe) and used a little additional oil which turned out to be unnecessary.  I'm not entirely sure but I think when measuring the soy sauces, I forgot that I was halving the recipe and I may have used the original amounts.  Either way, it definitely turned out delicious and I definitely intend to make it again.  With a little prep ahead of time, it's a doable weeknight meal, but it is also pretty impressive if you want to do an Asian-themed dinner party.