easy as 1, 2, 3: oven-roasted tilapia with couscous and warm tomato vinaigrette

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

remember that time ago, when we talked about all those tomatoes we had and the meals i had planned?  my guess is probably not, seeing that it was two weeks ago.  anywho, i got this recipe from cooking light and only changed things up a tiny bit.

i was pleased the way this turned out.  the warm tomatoes gave a great flavor contrast to the tilapia and the israeli couscous served as the perfect bed to soak up all the leftover juices.  here's how i did it.

2 garlic cloves
1 cup tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
2/3 cup israeli couscous
1 cup chicken stock
4 tilapia filets
8 lemon slices
parsley, for garnish

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  season fish with evoo and s&p.  lay two lemon slices on each piece of fish and cook for 20 minutes.

in another saucepan, combine couscous with evoo and cook for 5 minutes.  add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

add evoo and garlic to another skillet over medium-high heat.  add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and s&p.

to plate this dish, place a heaping spoon full of couscous on plate.  place fish on top of that.  scoop 1/4 of tomato sauce over fish, letting is drip down the sides.  garnish with parsley and you're done. super easy.


giving thanks

i wanted to give a big thank you to my friend kim and her boyfriend david for giving me the best gift of all this holiday season - 3 pound wedge of jarlsberg cheese.  david found the entire wheel mis-priced at harris teeter for only $7.  lucky for me, david is a pale and believes us pales should stick together and handed over some.

i immediately knew that i wanted to whip up some cheese fondue with this decadent treat as a thanksgiving appetizer.  i served it with sourdough bread, broccoli, cauliflower and chunks of salami.  needless to say, there wasn't much left over to take any pictures.

thanks again.  loves ya both.


surprise! grilled chicken with goat cheese cream sauce

>> Friday, November 20, 2009

i love surprises. i really do. and this week i got a really pleasant one. after being stuck in traffic for 1+ hours, i walked into cotton top, opened the door and smelt the aroma of goat cheese melting. peg decided to give me a break and cooked up wednesday night's meal all by herself. the recipe was from real simple and it was delicious and heavenly. here's how she did it.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 ounces soft goat cheese

using a rolling pin, pound the chicken between 2 sheets of wax paper until they are of uniform thickness. heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers and the garlic browns. don't burn the garlic or you'll have to start over. add the chicken breasts and cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes on each side. add the salt, pepper, chicken broth, thyme, and lemon zest. cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 3 minutes longer or until the chicken is fork-tender. remove the chicken to a platter and keep warm. increase heat to high and boil the sauce until thickened or syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes. whisk in the goat cheese and pour the sauce over the chicken.  i added a little parsley over the top to finish off the dish.

side note: the sauce was a little grainy, but i think that is because we did not buy the best of the best goat cheese.  if you want to make the dish even more tasty, i would splurge for the higher-end brand of goat cheese, something really creamy.


ariba, ariba: chorizo quesadillas with fresh salsa and stuffed tomatoes

>> Thursday, November 19, 2009

earlier this week, i whipped up these tasty quesadillas for the fam.  i used chorizo sausage to spice things up and made a quick homemade salsa to cool things down.  i've made these stuffed tomatoes before - they are a good go-to recipe whenever you're cooking up some mexi flavors.  there are no real measurements for this recipe, because it all depends on your preference and how much heat you like.

chorizo sausage, removed from castings and browned
cheddar cheese
velvetta cheese

combine tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and s&p in food processor.  pulse for a few seconds until it all comes together.  in a medium sauce pan melt velvetta cheese and half of salsa mixture until it turns into a creamy concoction. heat grill pan or large skillet over medium low heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  spread velvetta cheese all over tortilla, just until you reach the end.  add chorizo and top with cheddar cheese.  fold in half and cook on each side for about 5-6 minutes until the cheesy has melted and the sides are brown.  top with sour cream and the homemade salsa!  and there you have it - mexican in a flash.


this week in the kitchen

>> Tuesday, November 17, 2009

here's what we got going on this week at cotton top.  you'll notice this week's menu incorporates a lot of tomatoes.  our grandma hand picked a bushel of tomatoes in north carolina a couple of weeks ago and graciously left an entire basket for us!

tuesday: chorizo quesadillas with fresh salsa and stuffed tomatoes
wednesday: lemon chicken with goat cheese sauce
thursday: oven-roasted halibut with couscous and warm tomato vinaigrette
friday: potato chip crusted chicken and cheesy grits (at meagan's request)

(photo credits -blog.menupages.com)


66 percent: sausage and zucchini pasta and sesame ginger steak with scallion rice

that ain't so bad right?  if it were a test grade, i would hate myself.  but luckily, the number i'm referring to is actually the percentage of meals i made last week versuses the the number of meals i had planned to make.  no excuses really, except that ton bribed us with bonefish one of the nights - its really hard to turn down that firecracker shrimp.

the first night i was going to make chorizo and zucchini pasta, but ended up using andouille instead.  this type of sausage is predominately used in cajun cooking, has a unique smoky flavor and gets its reddish tint from spices such as paprika and cayenne pepper.  this dish turned out great and i don't believe there were any leftovers.  i followed the recipe almost exactly, except i probably added a little more cheese then needed.

the second recipe i planned to make was sesame ginger steak with scallion rice.  this was one of those week night meals that came together in a flash and required no real culinary skills. (i've talked about the scallion rice before - click on the link for the recipe.)

1 lb flank steak, cut into strips
8oz water chestnuts, sliced
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into thirds
2 carrots, cut into strips
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup lawry's sesame ginger marinade
2 tablespoons of canola oil
soy sauce, to taste

heat oil up in large wok and add steak and cook for about 4 minutes.  add rest of vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes, just until vegetables began to soften.  add marinade for the last 2 minutes and season with soy sauce.  serve on top of garlic scallion rice and you've got yourself a quick asian sensation.

forgot to take pictures of the final results.  when we're hungry, we're hungry.
no time to take pictures.
(photo credits - alamy.com)

UPDATE: apparently, i did take pictures and forgot.  enjoy :)


inspector gadget: part 2

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009

it happens to all of us.  we're at a cocktail party.  one hand holds a bubbly glass of champagne.  the other holds a delicious hors d’oeuvre.  no table is in sight, we're trying to be social with the other guests and we can't seem to balance eating and drinking.  before we know it, wine has spilled down our silk dress and the hors d’oeuvre has become a flavor-savor on our chin.

no need to worry anymore.  these foodie geniuses have created food plates for your fingers.  it slips on like a ring and will hold any delectable treat.  be sure to snatch these up for the holiday season.  you'll look like a graceful eater and you'll be the topic of conversation.

(photo credits - wishingfish.com)


this week in the kitchen

>> Monday, November 9, 2009

sis is back here in virginia with me this week and i couldn't be happier.  it did take some convincing on my part to get her to stay the entire week, but she agreed if i promised to work out with her everyday and if i cooked her healthy delicious meals.

on that note, here's what we got going on at cotton top this week. tuesday and friday will serve as left-over nights.

tonight: blackened tilapia with roasted broccoli and israeli couscous
wednesday: chorizo and zucchini pasta
thursday: sesame ginger steak with scallion rice


anddddd im done: lemongrass coconut soup

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009

you know that list i've been talking about non-stop for the past 10 days? believe it or not, i was able to accomplish just about everything.  within 24 hours i was able to make a halloween costume, cook up some lemongrass coconut soup for the neighbors and make the owl cupcakes. the soup was really easy to make and turned out to be real tasty, with the perfect hint of heat in the back of your throat (recipe below).  getting all this done was a close call and i couldn't have done it without my rhyming friends-  peg and megg. 

drum roll, please...

stirring up the lemongrass coconut soup
recipe courtesy of tyler florence


hooooo, hooooo, eat me!

(the completed look - with megg)
for a good clean feeling, no matter what!


pick your pasta: pumpkin raviolis, meat/cheese raviolis, and spaghetti squash

>> Tuesday, November 3, 2009

as you may recall, one of my tasks last week was to get brother to eat homemade pumpkin ravioli. of course, i knew i needed a backup plan in case he wasn't feeling it. so my mission became pasta three ways -

1. seasonal pumpkin raviolis
2. traditional raviolis filled with beef and cheese
3. and spaghetti squash - i was very proud of my pasta creativity here.

i made up the recipes on the fly, so there are no real measurements. 
warning:  it was a little time consuming to make each individual ravioli, but hey, no pain, no gain...right?

wonton wrappers
ricotta cheese
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese
canned pumpkin
ground beef
spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash directions:
pierce spaghetti squash with knife or fork and place in 375 degree oven for 1 hour.  once it has cooked and cooled, cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds with spoon.  using a fork, shred the remaining inside of the squash - it will look like strings of spaghetti.  mix together with a little pasta sauce, parmesan cheese and s&p.

moving on to the raviolis:
lay about 3-4 paper towels on cookie sheet and spread pumpkin evenly over it.  top with 3 more paper towels.  let this sit for about 5 minutes.  this will remove the excess water from the pumpkin and will guarantee your filling won't be runny.  scoop pumpkin off paper towels and add to bowl with an equal part of ricotta cheese. add couple tablespoons of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, a pinch of nutmeg, chopped parsley and s&p. in another bowl, mix together cooked ground beef, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, basil and s&p.

now here comes the time-consuming part:

lay out wonton wrappers one at a time and scoop mini spoonfuls of either mixture into center.  be sure not to overfill or else they will explode when you cook them. wet edges of the wonton wrapper with water using your fingers and place another wonton wrapper on top.  secure all edges of wrapper to make sure there are no air bubbles or holes. repeat again and again and again.  be sure to cover the wonton wrappers with a damp paper towel before and after you assemble them.  if you don't, they will began to crack and get dry, making them hard to work with.

working in batches, cook raviolis in boiling salted water until they rise to the top.  this should only take about 4 to 5 minutes. once done, immediately mix together with your favorite pasta sauce.  i whipped up an easy alfredo sauce for the pumpkin ravs and used a jarred pasta sauce for the meat ravs.

you'll never believe it but brother actually ate some of the pumpkin ravs.  i knew it wouldn't take long before we started opening up those deprived little tastebuds of his. 


breaking bread: homemade foccacia bread

>> Monday, November 2, 2009

bread is one of my many weaknesses and i love just about any variety - white, rye, wheat, ciabetta, pumpernickel, french, sourdough, biscuits - my 'love for bread list' could go on and on. however, my all-time favorite is foccacia bread.  i just love the combination of the crunchy, yummy crust with the soft, warm inside.  it's just perfect.  yummm.

with all the time i had last week, i knew i could handle a little bread making action with the help of emeril's recipe.  you can switch up the toppings for just about anything your little heart desires.  i chose more traditional toppings, but you could go with caramelized onions, olives, rosemary, cheese, sundried tomatoes - i think you get the point.

here's how emeril's recipe went:

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 ounce (1 package) yeast
3 1 /4 cups all-purpose flour (you may need more to achieve the smooth elasticity)
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 roma tomato, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons chiffonade of basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

in a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. sprinkle the yeast over that mixture and let stand for 10 minutes, to bloom (it should begin to foam.) in the mixer bowl with the dough hook attached, add 3 cups of flour, salt and yeast mixture. slowly turn it on and work the dough together. turn it up to medium and mix for 5 minutes. if the dough is sticky, continue mixing and gradually add the remaining flour (i had to add another 1/2 cup of flour because it was very sticky).

place this smooth ball of dough into an oiled bowl, cover and set aside to rise for 3 hours.  punch (literally) down the dough, and remove it from the bowl onto a lightly oiled, 9 x 13-inch sheet tray. spread the dough out onto the sheet tray. using your fingertips, make "dimples" in the dough. drizzle the dough with olive oil, sprinkle on the basil, spread out the tomato slices, sprinkle on the cheese and bake for 35 minutes.

surprisingly, some paper-fagans were not fans.  
but that's ok because that means more for me!


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