Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sam Learns to Saute: Episode 1

My friend Sam came over tonight for our first weekly cooking sessions. 
Sam began teaching herself to cook about a month and a half ago, just after we arrived home from our amazing trip to New Zealand (you can read all about that here). 
Not having hospitable kitchen to cook in means that Sam often finds herself learning in her parents' kitchen on the weekend and now mine on Monday nights! 

How lucky am I, a new foodie friend to bake with and another mouth to feed my always excessive portion sizes?! 

I'm thinkin pretty lucky. 

So Sam arrived with food in hand, sweet potatoes shredded and dressing made.

I on the other hand was a little behind on my prep.
I was just finishing my home-made mozzarella pearls, because the grocery store who-shall-not-be-named-but-rhymes-with-ogre  does not carry them. Can you believe that?

The fruit that we filled our bellies with before we were done cooking...

Actually I can believe it after explaining to a young man stocking the shelves that quinoa was kind of like itty bitty pasta but really a seed, but would usually be found next to couscous, and is pronounced keen-wa, but is actually spelled q-u-i-n-o-a. 
He avoided eye contact next time i saw him. 

A not-so-healthy substitute of couscous was purchased instead and I went to hunt down my vegetables.

Now you really won't believe this. That grocery store that shall-not-be-named-but-rhymes-with-ogre does not carry basil. Yes basil. That fragrant leaf that is supposed to be between your ten shelves of cilantro and single shelf of dill, mint, thyme, etc. yea that one. 

So I settled for cilantro, which don't get me wrong is by no means really settling, but I am quite a stickler when it comes to following a recipe and after not being able to find quinoa, I was pretty much convinced this would be an entirely different dish, which actually I am not so much opposed to. 

So back to me. Standing in the kitchen. Carving my own mozzarella balls with a 1/2 teaspoon that doubled as a melon baller. 

Sam fried up the sweet potato patties which really turned into a sweet potato skillet, but tasted just as delicious.

It was a miracle that I snapped this picture before remembering that Sam hates pictures. Not hates, detests. Too bad she was hanging out with the girl who has a camera permanently affixed to her face. I think she actually just wanted proof too show her disbelieving friends that she is cooking!

She served the sweet potatoes over mixed greens and with a homemade olive oil dressing.
It was deeeelicious. I will be inviting Sam back next week. And she helped with all of the dishes! What an awesome guest. 

My dish became the second course as I wanted to serve it chilled and so into the freezer it went for a while. 

It turned out just as scrumptious as Sam's dish and we were both feeling very pleased. 

For dessert, Sam and I made a blackberry crumble bar. 

I couldn't resist eating it while it was still hot so I spooned some out for Sam and myself while waiting for the rest of the pan to cool so I could serve a nice square piece to photograph. 

It was a little bland, but it was a welcome compliment to the strong flavor of the black berries themselves. I don't think it will be going on the menu again any time soon*, but it is worth a try experimenting it with other fruits. 

*Dessert is my favorite meal and for me to only eat one serving or not even finish would be an insult to anyone, but this dish was worthy enough for me to want to eat the second piece I took out to photograph.. 

The couscous salad recipe is adapted from How Sweet It Is, my absolute favorite food blog!

Caprese Quinoa/ Couscous
makes about 3 cups worth
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa/ couscous
16 oz container of grape tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (or just buy a fresh mozzarella ball and melon scoop into balls)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Prepare quinoa according to directions on box. Depending on whether you want your quinoa hot or cold (it’s great both ways) either let it cool completely or immediately add in the tomatoes, cheese, salt and pepper. Drizzle about 2-3 tablespoons of cilantro oil over top and serve!

Homemade Cilantro Oil
from myrecipes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cups packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Blend oil and cilantro leaves in a blender or food processor for 30-60 seconds, just until the two are mixed. Pour mixture into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, just until bubbles appear around the edges. Heat for about 5 minutes, the remove from heat and let cool completely. Once cool, pour through a fine mesh strainer. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks – stays fresh best if set in the fridge.
I will post Sam's recipe for sweet potato pancakes/blobs tomorrow!

Edit: Here is Sam's recipe!

Mine's adapted from Mark Bittman's book Food Matters. (though probably not as flawless as his creations)

Vegetable Pancakes

Good served on a bed of salad greens with olive oil drizzle (parmesan, chopped nuts, any salsa)

Use root vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, winter squash, corn, spinach, sweet potato)
Spice Pairings: sweet potato and corn (cilantro ), zucchini (dill), ginger and cardamom (winter squash)

1 ½ pounds grated vegetables (peeled) ---3 cups packed and squeezed dry
½ small onion (grated) or 4 scallions
1 egg or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
¼ cup white or whole wheat flour, more or less
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive or vegetable oil or butter for greasing pan

1) heat the oven to 275 degrees. Grate the vegetable or with the grating disk of a food processor. Mix together vegetables, onion, egg and flour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a little more flour if the mixture isn’t holding together.

2) put a little butter or oil in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. When the butter or oil is hot drop in spoonfuls of batter, using a fork to spread the vegetables into an even layer, then press down a bit. Work in batches to prevent overcrowding. (transfer finished pancakes to the oven until all are finished). Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Olive Oil Drizzle

¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic, onion, ginger, shallot, scallion, or lemongrass
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or mild vinegar (like balsamic or rice vinegar)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, cilantro or mint leaves

1) put the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens. Turn down the heat if it starts to color

2) stir in 2 tablespoons water and lemon juice. Maintain the heat so it bubbles gently for a few seconds but doesn’t boil away. Taste, adjust seasoning, serve.

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