Monday, February 11, 2013

No Witty Title Today: Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce

This recipe came as yet another Pinterest find, where I found myself scrolling lazily down the page at pictures of things made out of Pilsbury crescent rolls and animals made out of hotdogs until I stumbled across this gem and hollered "OMG!" At first glance, it just looks like eggs poached in something like tomato soup, but a larger image and actually reading the recipe revealed a delicious looking meal that I absolutely had to try, especially after a weekend of binge-eating homemade Indian food. Ahem.

Hey there, sexy.

These are not poached eggs like you've seen them. They're cracked into and cooked in the tomato sauce, so it's more like a poached/fried/coddled egg. Regardless, this is seriously delicious.

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce (adapted from the original recipe over at Fork Knife Swoon)

1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce*
2 eggs
1 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs heavy cream or half and half (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small skillet, heat the marinara to a simmer over medium heat with about 1/3 cup of water this will give the sauce a little more liquid to boil off, thus preventing it from burning to the bottom while the eggs cook. METHOD!

2. Add the spinach and let it wilt just a bit. Crack your eggs into the pan, sprinkle with the cheese, and cover. Cook until the eggs are done to your likeness (about 6 minutes at a steady simmer should just barely set the yolks). If you're using the cream, just drizzle it over the eggs a few minutes into cooking.

3. Salt and pepper that thang and eat it right out of the pan.

Look! A picture taken somewhere other than my dirty stove top! I promise I keep a clean kitchen. My stove is showing signs of culinary love.

I know without experience in trying that this would be bonkers with some toasted Italian bread to mop up all the goodness, but sadly, I'm low carbing(ish) in a half-hearted apology to my pants for stretching them to critical mass. I will probably be eating this for dinner all week. I'm pretty excited about this.

*I have yet to venture into the realm of making my own marinara, so I used my favorite jarred sauce.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hello, Dal-y

As you all know, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Indian cuisine. Specifically, a recently cultivated soft spot that has inspired me to be a little more adventurous in my kitchen, which is always good when you're in a constant battle to combat boredom. However, there seems to be a misconception going around that the only type of food served under the title "Indian Cuisine" is curry, and for some reason, every seems to have a strong opinion on curry. I am of the opinion that most people who say they hate curry have never actually eaten it, and more importantly, there's a lot of other kinds of Indian food that you can eat without having to encounter the allegedly frightening curry. Like dal.

"Dal" is a collective term for a variety of dishes made primarily from lentils. There are countless different kinds of dal, and it is usually served alongside basmati rice and naan bread. I decided that, since I wanted to try cooking more Indian food at home without the use of jarred sauce (which is delicious, but not exactly a cooking challenge), I decided to try a recipe for dal makhani. Dal makhani is a dish made with black lentils, a little cream, and a lot of spices to turn it from boring, flatulent lentils into delicious, creamy, beany goodness that will actually make you happy to eat lentils. It's basically like Indian chili.

I love you, dal-ing.

This recipe is a combination of a few different ones I found through some studious Googling. The nice thing is that a recipe like this can be tweaked a little bit to suit your taste.

Ashley's Dal Makhani

3/4 cups of black lentils*
1/3 cup red kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 large onion, finely chopped/grated
2 or 3 cloves or garlic, minced
4 tbs. tomato paste
1 tbs. grated ginger
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4 tbs. butter
salt to taste

1. Give your lentils a quick once over and a thorough rinse to make sure you're not about to eat a bunch of dirt or pebbles. The general rule of thumb is to use 3 cups of water to one cup of lentils, so boil the appropriate amount of water to the amount of lentils you're using. A tip: bring the water to a boil and then add the lentils, rather than bringing the lentils to a boil. They'll absorb more water this way, making the dish smoother later one. Boil the lentils for about 20-30 minutes, or until they've sopped up almost all of the water. Towards the end of cooking, add the kidney beans. Lower the heat and let them hand while you prepare the "gravy."

2. In a dutch oven (or just a big pot), melt the butter on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and let them cook until they start to sputter a little bit. Add the grated onion and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for an additional few minutes. When everything is pretty cooked, add your tomato paste and cook until incorporated.

3. Mashed up some of the lentils with a potato masher, or give the whole saucepan a quick buzz with an immersion blender if you have one. The idea is to thicken the mixture without totally pulverizing the lentils. When they're at the consistency you're comfortable with, dump the lentils into the dutch oven and stir together with the tomato paste mixture.

4. Now it's time to add the garam masala and turmeric. Let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes, letting everyone get to know each other in the pot. You may find that you need to thin the mixture out at this point, since lentils are the food equivalent of sponges, so add a cup of water as needed. The idea is to cook everything until "the fat separates from the mixture," so cook until the butter starts to pool at the top. Hey, I never said it this was a diet friendly recipe.

5. Add the cream and cook for a few more minutes. Add salt if you so desire, serve with lots of chewy naan bread, and get ready for a lentil-induced nap.

Most of the pictures I take of my food don't do justice to the deliciousness. Alas, I have a camera phone and a dimly lit apartment to work with at the moment. However, I am in the process of setting up a "staging area" for my food so that it can actually look appetizing rather than just a sad collection of cell phone photos. Stay tuned!

*I used 1 3/4 straight up brown lentils because I mistakenly thought that the sad Moon Township Giant Eagle would have black lentils. Alas they did not. Normally, you would use 3/4 cup of black lentils (urad dal) for this recipe, but 1 3/4 cups of plain ole brown will work just fine.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Craw-Full of Falafel

Don't you just love the word "craw?"

Falafel is up there with malai kofta as one of my favorite foods. There's something about fried patties of spicey ground chickpeas stuffed into a pita with tomatoes and tzatziki sauceomgi'mdroolingallovermychromebookomnomnomnomnom. Ahem. Anyway, I don't get to eat falafel very often because I'm too lazy to sit in my kitchen and grind up chickpeas to make falafel burgers. Enter my immersion blender, and now I'm blending just about everything. Good thing, too, since I love falafel. Did I mention I love falafel?


I'm honestly too lazy to post the full recipe for the falafel burgers (here is the recipe I used), but you know what I will tell you about? Tzatziki sauce. Pronounced "tat-zee-kee," it is often found on gyros (also insanely delicious), but is also yummy on... pretty much anything involving chickpeas or meat. As you can see in the above picture, I tend to be zealous at best with my tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce (makes a lot, but it's easy to cut in half)
3 cups Greek Yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium cucumbers, chippity-chopped
1 tablespoon of  finely chopped fresh dill

Salt N' Pepa

Basically, all you do is mix everything together and let it come together for about 30 minutes so all the flavors get to know each other and become the glorious condiment of TZATZIKI.

On another note altogether, my apologies for the sporadic posting. I've got a lot of grown-up things happening in my life at the moment that have become a series of full-time hobbies, so the blogging has been taking a bit of a backseat. I think when I started this project, I thought I would be less occupied with daily goings-on. Once again, Ashley is wrong. Whoops.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Breakfast Sandwich Experience: Episode 1

I thought that the best place to start with this breakfast sandwich experiment/challenge/quest would be with the sandwich that I have had the most often: the spinach feta wrap from Starbucks. Consisting of egg whites, surrounded by feta, spinach and tomatoes, this breakfast wrap is goddamn delicious. I have eaten this sandwich more than I'm actually willing to admit, to the point where the kid that works the drive thru at the Moon Township Starbucks has started greeting me. He still calls me "Miss," but he's not fooling me: he's knows my face, and he knows I want my wrap. I love this thing, and I am even willing to sit through the embarrassment of being told I had to park and let a barista bring my sandwich out to me so the people behind me in line don't have to wait for their lattes. Someone actually honked. At the drive thru. Asshole.

The primary appeal of this sandwich is that it's only 290 calories. I know, right? I get to eat a delicious breakfast sandwich and not hate myself. Well, not hate myself over the sandwich, anyway. Plus, for 290 calories, you get a pretty substantial sammie.

I know it kind of looks like a sad tortilla caterpillar, but trust me: it's delicious.

The other thing I love about this sandwich is that since Starbucks is a little more "high end" (by fast food standards, in which the term "high end" does not exist), I trust that my sandwich is being made in a clean environment by people who are paid well and have benefits. Hey, I never said I wasn't a food snob.

Wrap, mid-nom.

So let me break this down to ratings (on a scale of 1-5)

Taste: 5
It's delicious. If you like anything feta and spinach, you're going to like this. Not too salty, not at all bland, and totally nom-able.

Fast Food Grossness Factor: 1
The wrap has spinach in it. "Grossness" doesn't really come into play. Plus, like I mentioned above, Starbucks has a reputation for being clean and well-managed, so no need to be overly concerned with cooties.

Price: 3
Starbucks, being a shi-shi coffee chain, already has the issue of price counting against them. I mean, no one really wants to pay $3 for a cup of coffee. However, we do, because we like it. And while $3 or $4 is a little much for a breakfast sandwich, I'm willing to shell out all else considered.

This experiment is awesome. Stay tuned for more hilarious fast food experiences.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Bevy of Breakfast: Soft-boiled Eggs and Soldiers

It's been cold here in Pittsburgh. To be more specific, and less polite, it's been colder than a witch's teat here.* I've been resisting the urge to snuggle up under a blanket with a trough of mac and cheese but it's really hard to not want some comfort food when there's a city-wide wind chill advisory. I've been craving, as you know (or maybe not, since I haven't been on Facebook) warm and toasty breakfast and have been eating breakfast for dinner as often as possible. Enter a staple: soft-boiled eggs and soldiers.

Now before you think the cold has forced me to resort to cannibalism, let me educate you a bit. "Soldiers" is a British term for "toast sticks." Why the odd name? Allegedly it's because they look like soldiers marching in file when they're laying side by side. I tend to think they're called this because the British like to give cute, silly names to their food. See toad in the hole and spotted dick (hint: not V.D.)

I'm not going to post a recipe for soldiers. Why? Because it's toast, but lengthwise. If you can't manage toast... then I have no idea why you're currently on a food blog. Soft-boiled eggs also do not require a recipe, but they at least require a method:

1. Bring a saucepan, half full of water, to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer. Go on, simmer down.

2. Lower your desired number of eggs into the water, and cook for 6ish minutes. According to The Kitchn, 5 minutes will get you a really runny yolk, and 7 minutes will get you barely set yolk. So I go with 6 minutes.

3. Run the eggs under cold water for 60 seconds to stop the cooking process.

4. If you're me, and you don't have legitimate egg cups, set your eggs in a shot glass, remove the tops with a serrated knife, and mop up the delicious goo with your little toast soldiers.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the eggs with the tops lopped off, since I got excited and wanted to eat right away. Also, check out my awesome shot glasses.

This meal is only made even better with a cup of coffee/hot chocolate/hot toddy, or whatever your warm beverage of choice is.

Hopefully the weather is going to improve soon. I'm not a huge fan of having to wear two pairs of socks just so I can sit in my living room. But until then (April), I will brave the cold in a sea of eggs and toast.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Breakfast Sandwich Experience: The Introduction

I am not a huge fan of fast food. This statement should not come as a huge shocker. There are, after all, a lot of people who don't particularly like fast food. I'm not a huge fan of any food that's been sitting under a heat lamp at a toasty lukewarm temperature since the first high-schooler nuked it in the microwave approximately 6 hours prior. Also, as a person who chooses to not eat meat, there isn't a whole lot on a fast food menu that I have ever felt like I could eat, and the less-meat options are usually wilted salads with lard-dressing. Bleh. However, I do have one fast-food vice. A greasy Achilles heel.

The breakfast sandwich.

I don't know what it is. Is it the melted, electric orange American cheese? The toasty croissant, topped with fried egg. The crispy bacon. Fast food breakfast sandwiches make me go Homer Simpson. Aaaauuuuuuughhhhhhhh.

Obviously I can't indulge in this little vice of mine very often, lest I not be able to fit into my pants. But, every so often, I will hop in the car, sit in line at the drive-thru, and then eat a breakfast sammie in the privacy and shame of my car, while still parked in the offending restaurant's parking lot. It's a little quirk this un-vegetarian has. Anyway, remember how I said things on this blog were going to get a little "breakfast-y?" Yes. I've decided that I'm going to use this as an excuse to eat breakfast sandwiches. But it's ok, because I'm going to blog about. Blogging is a good excuse to eat shitty food, right?

Anyway, periodically, I'm going to try a new fast-food breakfast sandwich and tell you all what it was like. From the wait in the drive-thru, to the demeanor of the cashier, right down to the grease on the bacon-product. I'm even going to come up with a rating system. I know it's sounds a little gimicky, but I'll look for a good story-telling experience wherever I can find one, and if that happens to be at the McDonald's in Moon Township at 7:14 in the morning on a Thursday, then so be it.

I am, admidetlly, a little narrow in my fast food breakfast experience. It's actually pretty much limited to McDonald's and Burger King. So, dear readers, if you have any suggestions for places I should test my palate, leave them in the comments. My triglycerides thank you in advance.

In other news, I've got some non-fast food breakfast ideas coming up soon. Yes, I will actually be stepping into the kitchen. Get amped, people.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Favorite Foods, Vol. I

I have a confession to make: I'm a little cuisine-inexperienced.

Don't get me wrong: I haven't met a food I didn't like. I even love Brussels sprouts. But when it comes to international or regional cuisines, I regret to inform you that I am fairly limited. Translation: I know Italian, Tex-Mex, and Greek. I blame this primarily on the fact that, growing up in Erie, where the only "ethnic cuisine"  available was ChiChi's. I am also not typically surrounded by people who are adventurous eaters (mostly because I am actually rarely surrounded by people in general). Then I met someone who introduced me to the joys of Indian food and I haven't looked back.

Taste of Indian is a little place on Penn Avenue, across from Children's Hospital, that is totally unassuming, short of the giant, yellow, neon-lit letters adorning the facade of the building. My then-boyfriend decided to get us take out from here for dinner about a year ago, ordering a variety of different dishes due to not knowing what I would end up liking. Because I am a fairly indiscriminate eater, I ended up liking all of it.

Especially this little gem: malai kofta.

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey sexy kofta!

Malai kofta, simply put, is veggie balls in a tomato cream gravy. The "veggie balls" themselves are made of a puree of potato and paneer (Indian cheese), mixed with cilantro and peas, which are form into balls, fried and then simmered in aforementioned gravy. This recipe apparently can vary a lot, including or excluding slivered almonds and raisins in the gravy. If all that I just typed did not make you start drooling, you should check your pulse. Seriously.

It's served over basmati rice and with lots of naan bread (which Taste of India's menu declares as "necessary to complete meal) so you can sop all all the delicious gravy and shovel it directly to your face with the optional use of utensils. I've made it a small, semi-regular tradition to get this on Fridays as a reward for making it through the week without having a stroke. So, ladies and gentleman, this is why malai kofta is one of my favorite foods. I'm going to try making it from scratch some time, but I'm a little afraid of ruining one of my favorite things ever, so I may just leave it to the chefs for now.