January 30, 2011

Rice Pilaf

First, a little announcement:

So...last week, this here blog o' mine was chosen as a finalist for a Riverfront Times web award (along with some of my food-centric friends). Stephanie Tolle (aka Iron Stef), one of my bestest buddies & fellow Food Blog Mafiosa, won the Best Food Blog award. I'm so happy for her; she definitely deserves the honor.

And now, I give you a little story about rice pilaf:

I've been wanting to recreate dishes and meals from my childhood...things my family used to make, like Grandma Martin's cabbage rolls & Grandma Green's chicken noodle soup & my mom's vegetable beef stew.

My immediate family wasn't very big...just me, my younger brother, my dad & mom (who passed away 15 years ago). My mom only had a sister & two brothers, the oldest of whom had two sons. I always considered my family to be small. 

But, last month I watched a DVD of old home movies that my dad made for me. Most of the silent 8mm videos were of Christmas mornings...my brother & me in our PJ's, with wild bedhead, unwrapping our gifts, surrounded by family members...grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I was surprised to see so many people at our house on Christmas mornings, especially my mom's extended family. There was my great-aunt Anna Mae with her kids. There was my grandfather's brother, too, with his kids and his grandkids. I hadn't realized what a large--and close--extended family I had growing up.

One of the most vivid memories I have of Aunt Anna Mae is of her making rice pilaf for family gatherings. Specifically, I can picture her opening the oven door & pulling out sheet pans full of toasted rice & pasta. I remember not really liking the pilaf then, but a few times in the past several years I've tasted dishes (like Sopa Seca de Fideo) that remind me of the rice pilaf flavor...and I like it now! I think it was the browned butter that was a bit too rich for my young palate.

January 21, 2011

Warming Winter Recipes

Because of the winter weather, I haven't taught a full week since we've been back from the holiday break. It snowed over 12 inches Wednesday night, and so we didn't have school yesterday or today. The temperature in Alton this morning was 0 degrees with a wind chill of NEGATIVE 11. Brrrr.

All I want to do when it's this cold outside is huddle up by the fireplace and eat warming comfort foods. I browsed my archives to find my favorite recipes and will be making several of them this weekend...and next week, since we're supposed to get several more inches of snow on Monday.

Cabbage Roll Soup
Carolina Pulled Pork Chili
Creamy Tomato Soup
Curried Split Peas w/Veal Meatballs
Lamb Minestrone
Lentil & Sausage Soup
Potato & Leek Soup (Julia Child's recipe)
Red Lentil & Pumpkin Soup

Cincinnati Chili
Duck Ragu
Fettuccine Alfredo
Lasagna Bolognese
Macaroni & Cheese with Peas & Bacon
Pasta with Crab, Artichokes, Lemon & Sage
Spaghetti Carbonara
Spaghetti with Bacon & Breadcrumbs
Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster Fra Diavolo Sauce

Beef Bourguignon
Chicken Liver Crostini
Curry Lime Chicken Wings
Guinness-Braised Beef Brisket
Rosemary Fried Chicken
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps
Turkey Ossobuco
Wine-Braised Chicken with Garlic

Crab Enchiladas
Lobster Thermidor
Smoked Mackerel Toasts
Tomato-Braised Calamari

Bacon Fried Rice
Black Truffle Risotto
Cheddar Cheese Risotto
Gorgonzola Polenta Fries
Middle Eastern Couscous with Saffron
Quinoa Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, & Bacon

Crockpot Oatmeal
Espresso Muffins
Espresso Walnut Coffee Cake
Flaky, Buttery Biscuits
Huevos Rancheros
Savory Acorn Squash & Sausage Bread Pudding

January 18, 2011

Tomato Braised Calamari

When it comes to cooking squid, I'd always heard that you cook it for either 1 minute or 1 hour. Anything in between makes the meat rubbery as hell....and yes, that's a technical culinary term. I often wonder if restaurants have ever heard this rule, because the calamari I order out is often way too chewy. I guess that's why I've always been hesitant to try making any kind of squid at home; it seemed nearly impossible to perfect.

Then again, I'd also heard that if you braise squid for an hour or so that it becomes meltingly tender. I've wanted to try that for years & finally got around to it over the holidays. I bought a box of whole, frozen squid from Bob's Seafood in St. Louis, and Jerad & I learned how to clean the squid by watching YouTube videos.

Jerad did all the cleaning because I was kind of grossed out.

We braised the meat in a smoky & spicy tomato sauce, which we ate with lots of crusty French bread for dipping. This, with a couple bottles of red wine, was our Christmas dinner.

I can see also making this to serve over pasta as well. So good! And since we have some squid left in the freezer, I'm going to try braising it in a white wine & garlic butter sauce.

Tomato Braised Calamari
adapted from Vanilla Basil