Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fisherman's Stew

With late autumn around us and winter getting closer, the season for soup, chili and stew is upon us. Few things can warm you better on a cold evening after work, or as an accompaniment to football on a Saturday afternoon near the year's end. Simple ingredients yield some remarkable flavors in this fish stew recipe that originates from Sicily.

These proportions yield enough for either two people or one person with leftovers. As always, adjust as needed if you're cooking for more.



INGREDIENTS
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped with juices
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds mixed fresh fish such as shrimp, cod, sea or freshwater bass, or halibut, cut into large pieces. If using a fillet containing skin, use kitchen shears or a VERY sharp knife to remove the fish's skin.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper

A fresh focaccia or sourdough bread makes a fine accompaniment to this stew. In addition, notice the indication to chop the garlic rather than mince it. This really just comes down to having slightly larger and less uniform pieces. It's a slight difference, but substantial if you think you may enjoy encountering a larger piece of garlic while eating your stew.

Pour a nice glass of red wine, put on some music and get to work.

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and saute for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant and translucent. Add parsley and tomatoes. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Next, add 1 cup water and the wine.

Cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Then, add fish and stir to mix. Completely cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. If you own a bad-ass range that tends toward hot eyes no matter what level you set, monitor stew occasionally.

When done salt and pepper to taste, then ladle stew into a bowl and serve with bread. Refill glass with red wine and enjoy.

Tonight's music: Gaucho by Steely Dan, Birth of a Band by Quincy Jones

Technology tip: This evening's tech review is accompanied by an unfortunate in memoriam for http://drop.io, which has been bought by Facebook and will cease to exist by the year's end. Reviewed on this blog in 2009, drop.io was a fantastic way to publicly or privately share files with others. The service, which contained free and paid options, even generated a phone number and email address for each drop, enabling users to leave voice messages as MP3 files and email files directly to the drop. In addition to traditional downloads, drop.io enabled users to share a drop's content in nearly a dozen different fashions including RSS, podcast, Facebook, and Twitter.

R.I.P., and may the Facebook resurrect drop.io in a meaningful way. In the meantime, services such as dropbox.com and Google groups will fill the void of enabling everyday users to share files too large or unwieldy to send as email attachments.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Simple Fish Tacos and Crab Cakes






One thing I've learned from Alton Brown is that fried food does not have to be greasy, and that is part of what this week's recipe is about. Outside of Tempura, it can be difficult to find fish, vegetables or the like in a restaurant (or home) that have been fried but not overly greasy. Granted, some people like it that way -- and, it's not like you aren't always going to have at least some grease -- but it doesn't have to be nasty.

I rarely do fried foods on this blog (I think the last time was 2009's coconut shrimp), but this week I present fish tacos with fried shrimp and crab cakes with a spicy yogurt sauce.

As per usual, when I do fry food, I recommend peanut oil in a cast-iron skillet (although a stainless steel one will do as well -- the more layers of metal, the better). And, while using too little oil will result in burned food, using too much will transform your food from classy to trashy. Clean oil (or lightly used) will also make a difference in the quality of your fry.


INGREDIENTS (this makes enough for one - adjust as needed)


(for tacos)
- 7-10 regular-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 small corn tortillas (flour variety could be used as well)
- 1/4 cup Mexican melting cheese
- Arugula (for garnish)
- Batter (1 egg, beaten; 3/4 cup flour; 1 tbsp hot sauce)

(for cakes)
- 1/2 pound fresh lump crab meat
- Batter (1 egg, beaten; 1 cup panko/bread crumbs; 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 2 tbsp mustard (yellow, dijon or brown will work); 1/3 cup mayo)

(for sauce)
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tsp (or to taste) salt and pepper
(if you have a lime, cut a slice and squeeze it into the sauce)

- 1/2 cup+ peanut or vegetable oil for frying

Make a double vodka, put on some tunes and get to work ...

First, mix the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a bowl, stirring thoroughly. Chill in refrigerator while preparing the rest of the food.

Next, make the cakes (they will need to be chilled for at least 30 minutes). In a large bowl, combine ingredients for batter and mix thoroughly. Form cakes (these proportions make two) by working the mixture with your hands and flattening it into two patties. If the consistency is too loose, add a little more mayo. Place patties on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


While the cakes chill, get ready for the shrimp. Crack and beat one medium egg in a bowl, and add a generous helping of your favorite hot sauce. Then, place about 1 cup flour in a second bowl.


Heat oil in the skillet to medium-high. While it is warming up, dunk each shrimp (peeled and deveined)  in the egg mixture, then coat it generously with the flour. Place each on a plate when finished prepping. When you can flick a few drops of water on the oil and hear it crackle nice and loud, you are ready to fry the shrimp. Take care not to splash the oil and burn yourself! They will cook in 4-5 minutes -- when the breading is golden brown, remove and place on a plate atop a paper towel to soak the excess oil. Pull the towel over them and turn your attention to the crab cakes.


Many recipes indicate chilling crab cakes for 2+ hours prior to frying. I find this to depend upon the ingredients. In this case, 30 minutes will be fine (if you chill them longer, it will be fine too). When ready, remove them from the fridge and dredge them in a little more panko. Then, place them in the oil (which should still be hot from cooking the shrimp). They will cook in roughly 5-7 minutes, depending how thick they are. Flip them about 1/2 way through, keeping an eye on the doneness of each side. When the exterior is browned (but not burned), you are ready to remove them from the oil and pat them with a paper towel.


If you are dressing the entree up for guests, etc., garnish the top of the cake with a fresh tomato slice (or two), and sprinkle with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Place a dollop of the yogurt sauce in each corn tortilla, then add the shrimp and top with shredded Mexican melting cheese and fresh arugula.

Plate and enjoy. The sauce is also nice on the crab cakes.

Tonight's music: Off The Wall by Michael Jackson, Katy Lied by Steely Dan

Technology Tip: I may have mentioned it before, but if you haven't tried it, browse to www.cooliris.com and download the free browser plug-in (Win or Mac). What it does is transform your browser into a dynamic, animated interface with which to browse photo and video content on a site (you can turn it off or on by clicking a button). You can surf most anywhere with it, and even shop with it. It is not dissimilar from Apple's touch screen interfaces; and further, if you frequently give presentations involving sites like Flickr, YouTube or the like, Cooliris can put a very engaging sheen on the visual component of your delivery.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Frank's Flank Steak with Summer Salad

This recipe differs from the previous spicy flank steak dinner I wrote about last year. In fact, this one is incredibly easy -- instead of Baroody, we'll be using an American hot sauce classic, Frank's Red Hot. Long a competitor to the unwavering Tabasco, Frank's will be the star this evening. Further, I will introduce another light summer salad involving fruit, nuts and leafy greens. Of course, you could use any nice cut of steak here; I just happened to have a flat iron on hand. And as always, adjust proportions to fit your needs. This makes enough for one with leftover steak.


INGREDIENTS

- 1 medium-sized flank or flat iron steak
- Kosher Salt
- Ground Black Pepper
- Frank's Red Hot Sauce

For salad:

- Greens (green or red leaf, boston, romaine, spinach ... ANYTHING but iceberg)
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/4 cup toasted almonds (sliced or crushed)
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 1-2 radishes, sliced
- Raspberry Vinaigrette

Make a double vodka cranberry, put on some tunes and GET TO WORK!

First, prep steak by letting it set out long enough to reach room temperature. When ready, liberally apply Frank's Red Hot to steak, rubbing it in all over. Next, apply a light amount of kosher salt and pepper and let steak sit for the moment.
















Next, heat a cast iron skillet (or the like) to medium heat. Add almonds and keep an eye on them while it warms up, using a spatula to stir them around every few minutes. While the almonds are toasting, wash and dry your lettuce. Prep the remaining salad ingredients by slicing the radishes and avocado, and washing the blueberries.

Heat up your broiler, or fire up the grill. If using a grill, cook the steak with the hood up on high heat. When ready, place steak (on a broiling platter) into broiler, or directly on the grill. Let cook for approx. 7-8 minutes in broiler, or 4-5 minutes a side on the grill, flipping sides for grill marks. Check for desired doneness (my estimates will yield a medium-rare steak).
















When the steak is done, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Assemble salad with a light drizzle of the raspberry vinaigrette. When the steak is ready, slice thinly and plate. Pour a nice glass of red wine and enjoy.



Tonight's music: Post by Bjork

Technology Tip: over the past several years, there have been a handful of browser-based video editing applications. Since editing video requires more computing horsepower than surfing the web or word processing, creating a Web 2.0 video editor that doesn't suck is no easy task. Yahoo had the dominant application for several years with its Jumpcut editor, which it discontinued last year. Now, Jaycut (jaycut.com) had emerged as the Web's prominent Web 2.0 video app. All of this causes one to ask, 'why not just use iMovie or Movie Maker?' After all, most users will have access to one of those apps on their computer; they come stock with the Apple and Microsoft operating systems, respectively. The answer: ease of sharing. Moving a computing task into the cloud connotes the desire of being able to easily share content with others via numerous Web 2.0 communities such as Facebook, Myspace and Google. And, Jaycut users can make their video creations, as well as raw materials (footage, audio, photos, etc.) available for others to use and remix.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mexican Salad with Tacos

Continuing with the salad theme, we have a simple and flavorful Mexican entree with accompanying tacos. I used beef (organic!!!!) for the filling, but you could of course use  whatever you want -- fish, chicken, etc. And, I opted for hard shells, as they are fun to crunch, but soft would be just as good.

This recipe is easy to prepare, which is nice for summer evenings after work. As a salad, it is heartier than your normal dinner prelude, so keep that in mind when preparing any side items. The proportions listed below make enough for one person with leftovers.

Finally, gluten-free eaters will want to make sure to use corn tortillas, and check your sour cream to make sure it is legit. NOW, to work ....



INGREDIENTS:
- Green or red leaf lettuce (could be pretty much anything except sodding Iceberg)
- 1-2 chicken thighs, cut into chunks and marinaded (see below)
- 1/2 cup red salsa
- 1/2 avocado, cubed
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 handful blue corn tortilla chips, crushed
- 1/4 lbs. ground beef (taco seasoning optional -- you know, it is really just chili powder and cumin)
- 1/4 white or yellow onion, chopped
- 2 hard or soft taco shells
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro

For marinade: combine lime juice, chili powder and cilantro in a bowl. Add uncooked chicken, tossing to coat. You will be HAPPIER if your meat is room temperature when it hits the skillet.

Crack a beer or a cold glass of white wine, put on some tunes ...

Marinade chicken and set aside for the moment. Put two skillets on medium heat, adding 1 tbsp vegetable oil to one. As they warm, cube avocado, wash and prep lettuce, chop onion and chop parsley. Add ground beef to the dry skillet, mixing in the chopped onions. Here, you could also add taco seasoning if desired.

Place marinated chicken into the oiled skillet. With a couple of wooden spoons, stir and babysit the meats while they cook. Work on your drink, sing or dance a little to your music ...

When the meats are done, remove from heat and let stand for a minute. Place lettuce in a large serving bowl or dish. Add avocado, chicken and crushed tortilla chips, then add salsa and top with sour cream and chopped parsley. Place meat filling into taco shells -- add additional toppings (sour cream, cheese, etc.) if desired and plate.

Get another drink and enjoy!

Tonight's music: Bruce Hornsby, Intersections, Disc 3

Technology tip: I ran across a nifty little tutorial site called Tut City recently. It's been around for a few years, and offers freely available user-created software tutorials in a variety of application areas such as graphics, drawing, spreadsheets, scripting, animation and photography. It's pretty easy to navigate, and anyone can submit a tutorial to be added to their database. Check it out at: http://www.tutcity.com/.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Simple Summer Salad

The warm weather is upon us, and it is time for another salad. This is a quick recipe, and while the version I'm making here is fairly light, it could be fleshed out to be a more hearty. How you fix it will of course depend on whether this salad is served as a light prelude to an entree, or as a mid-week meal in itself (for the latter, I'd add walnuts, crushed pecans or pistachios). As always, increase proportions if you're feeding more than 1-2 people.

.... and, once again, we are gluten-free this week.


INGREDIENTS

- Green leaf, red leaf, romaine or boston lettuce
- 1 chicken thigh or breast
- 1/4 cup strawberries, sliced
- 1/4 cup carrots, julienned
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 handful craisins
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Flat-leaf parsley (a few sprigs)
- Creamy dressing (some make of blue cheese or something similar will do - I used Annie's Cowgirl Ranch, but you may not be able to find that in your area)

First, pour a nice glass of cold white wine and put on music. Now, to work ....

Rinse lettuce and shake excess water off (spin it if you have a spinner). Mince garlic and chop parsley. Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces, and season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

Next, heat 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and when it becomes fragrant, add chicken. While that cooks for a few minutes, julienne carrots and slice strawberries (removing the tops of course). Set aside for the moment.

Stir chicken occasionally until most of the pink is gone. Then, add white wine and parsley. Stir and let cook down.

When the chicken is done and the white wine and parsley have cooked down, remove from heat. Assemble salad in a bowl or on a large plate. Start with the lettuce then add the chicken, carrots, craisins and strawberries. Top with a drizzle of a nice, creamy dressing -- remember, less is more when it comes to dressings.

Enjoy!

Tonight's Music: Kostelanetz Plays Gerswhin

Technology Tip: For a unique take on computer-based drawing tools, check out Livebrush: www.livebrush.com. Livebrush is a one-of-a-kind vector drawing tool that runs completely in your web browser. Learn more, watch a short demo and download the free app at the URL above.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Scarlet Chicken with Lemon-Dill Shrimp and Hash Browns

Another addition to the string of gluten-free recipes I've been doing for the past few months. This one is pretty easy, just take care to allow enough time for the hash browns to cook, and also not to put the shrimp on the heat prematurely.

Why hash browns, you ask? All I can say is that they sounded good, and I was not in the mood for roasted or baked potatoes. Further, I have had an over-supply of potatoes lately, so I was looking to use them somehow.


As always, adjust ingredients to the proportions you need. This feeds one person.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium potato (white or russet will work)
1 medium chicken breast or thigh
4-6 regular (not jumbo) shrimp
1 red bell pepper, chopped julienne-style
1 white onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp chopped dill
Crumbled feta (to top shrimp)
Salt and pepper (for seasoning chicken and potatoes)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 cup white wine
Several springs of flat leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)

All RIGHT. Mix up a double vodka and cranberry, put on some tunes and let's do this thing ...

First, prep the ingredients. Chop onion, julienne 1/4 to 1/2 of the red pepper and mince garlic. Cut potato into chunks and either shred in a food processor or with a grate. Chop dill and parsley. Peel shrimp if necessary, and toss in a bowl with the dill and juice of the lemon. Cut chicken into chunks, seasoning with the nutmeg as well as salt and pepper to taste. Ready the wine and feta.

Combine shredded potato with 1/4 cup onion, crushed red pepper, and a dash of salt and pepper. On a flat cooking surface (skillet, griddle, etc.), melt 1/2 tbsp butter on medium-high. Spread around with a WOODEN spoon, then place potato mixture on it, spreading around into one or more 'patties.' Allow the bottom to cook while working on the rest of the meal, flipping when it browns. All in all, it will take about 20-25 minutes.















While the potatoes get going, pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a skillet and rise to medium heat. Add 1/4 cup onions and 2 cloves of the minced garlic. Stir occasionally, just long enough for the onions to begin releasing their sweetness, about 4 minutes. Add the red pepper and stir together, letting the flavors coalesce for 2 minutes or so. Add chicken and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add white wine. Stir mixture occasionally and let cook down.



















While the chicken and hash browns are doing their thing, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the rest of the garlic to another skillet on medium heat. When the garlic becomes fragrant (but not to the point of browning), add the shrimp. Stir occasionally. The shrimp will cook fast, in about 5 minutes.

Keep an eye on the chicken mixture as it cooks down, and also on the hash browns after flipping them. Ideally, everything should finish at around the same time. When it does, plate the food, sprinkle parsley garnish around and top shrimp with crumbled feta. Pour yourself a glass of cold white wine. Enjoy!

Tonight's music: Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac, Girl Bros. by Wendy and Lisa

Technology Tip: If you are an iPhone or Android user, you might check out the free app Hoccer, made by Art Com Technologies. Consider this situation: you want to share media on your smart phone (photos, audio/music, text data, etc.), with a group of people near you. Normally, this involves an email attachment, an upload to a file server, or some such. Well, with Hoccer, you cue up the file in question, hold the phone over your head, and make a throwing gesture toward those you want to share the file with. When you do this, Hoccer searches for nearby devices running it and creates a file sharing network. In order for anyone in the area to receive the file, they simply hold their phone up in the air to 'catch it.' Or, for smaller-range transfers, you can share files with someone sitting next to you by making a sliding gesture on your phone's screen toward the receiver.

And, this app is FREE!! Get it for iPhone or Android (files can be transferred between users of both devices).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zeppelins In An Orange Fog

Continuing with the gluten-free theme of the last post, this recipe's moniker comes from old restaurant speak for sausage and mashed potatoes. In this case, I use sweet potatoes and Vermont apple-smoked sausage, although most any sausage ought to work for GF except for beer brats.

This is an easy one to prepare, and nice during the cold months when you get home and don't have a lot of energy. The proportions are sized for 1-2 persons, depending how hungry you are (but please, don't gorge ... it's unsexy).

INGREDIENTS

- 2 Sausages (again, the ones seasoned with Vermont maple syrup and apple pair well here)
- 1 medium sweet potato (use more if you want leftovers)
- Dash salt (preferably kosher or sea)
- 1/3 cup milk (more or less to taste depending how creamy you like your mashed potatoes, and also depending on whether you're using skim, 1 or 2%, or whole milk).
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)

First, put water on to boil in a medium saucepan, taking care to pour enough water to boil the potato. Then, peel the sweet potato and cut into chunks. When the water reaches a healthy boil, put them in and boil until soft enough to break apart with a fork.

In the meantime, heat a skillet to medium and place the sausages on it, turning occasionally. When fully cooked, the sausages should be browned on both sides.

Drain the sweet potato chunks when they are boiled, and place in a food processor. Add milk, salt and butter. Blend on medium speed until desired consistency is reached.

Plate and enjoy. A nice glass of cold white wine, or a warm cider, will pair nicely.

Tonight's music: Nothing Like The Sun by Sting

Tech Tip: Have you ever needed to quickly convert color values between RGB (decimal) and Hexadecimal? This can be a real time-saver for graphic artists and web programmers. There are a number of different web apps that enable you to easily do so. Here are a few:

- http://www.psyclops.com/tools/rgb/
- http://www.yellowpipe.com/yis/tools/hex-to-rgb/color-converter.php

... and, here is one from javascripter.net that actually provides code to place in a web page for RGB-Hex conversion, as well as RGB-CMYK:

- http://www.javascripter.net/faq/rgbtohex.htm

Finally, there are also OSX dashboard widgets that do the same thing (check them out at http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/), as well as a Windows Vista gadget (search the gallery at http://gallery.live.com/).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Red Broccoli Salad

I decided on another salad this week. And this time, there is no lettuce! The recipe is adapted from allrecipes.com, and is also a response to a recent comment by a Facebook reader who requested a gluten-free recipe. I felt up to the challenge, so my next few entries will not only be fine and delicious, but also GF.

This salad requires some time to chill in the fridge, so be prepared for it to hang out in there for an hour or two before go time.

This salad is fairly hearty, so if you are serving this dish as a meal, you can always increase the amount of the more substantial ingredients (i.e., broccoli and bacon). As per usual, I have adapted some of the ingredients, and have adjusted the portion sizes for 1-2 people (hence all of the 'handful' amounts). Further, the dressing is mayonnaise-based, and in that case, less is always more -- always take care not to overdo the dressing.

The link to the original recipe is included at the end of this post.















INGREDIENTS

2 strips bacon
2 cups broccoli, chopped
Handful chopped celery
Handful minced green onions
Handful diced red onion
1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved
Handful of toasted almonds, crushed

For dressing:

Dash Turbinado sugar (i.e., Sugar in the Raw)
3/4 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1/4 cup real mayonaisse

First, prepare the dressing. If you're adding it to the salad straight away, then place in the fridge to chill while you prep the salad. Otherwise, you could prepare it up to a day before.

In a medium skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Soak grease with paper towel and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, chop, mince and crush the ingredients as indicated. Combine in a bowl. When bacon is ready, crush into salad mix. Then, toss with dressing and let chill for at least an hour.

When ready, eat. Enjoy with a nice, cold glass of white wine.















View the original recipe.

This evening's music: Genuine Negro Jig by the Carolina Chocolate Drops

Tech Tip: Ever need to quickly translate some text into a different language? Check out Babblefish. This site has actually been around awhile, and will convert up to 150 words at a time to and from languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Russian and Chinese.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicken Scarpariello with Seafood Pasta and Pesto Bread

I return this week with an entree worthy of some time spent in the kitchen. As always, my policy remains true to keeping things simple, nothing terribly time-consuming or convoluted .... just some good ingredients and a few steps to getting things plated. The list below looks like a lot, but it's all staple ingredients, easily handled, and the small amount of added prep really just allows more time for an extra glass of wine while cooking.

This is a meal that is prepared in stages, and especially when you are cooking alone. You want everything to come together at more or less the right time, so that you are ready to plate the food and serve it while it is nice and hot.


INGREDIENTS

For Chicken:
- 1 Chicken breast (get an organic or home-grown one, yes??!!)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 onion, chopped (white or yellow)
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (leaves only)
- 1/4 Tbsp butter

For Pasta:
- Vermicelli (eyeball how much you need .... with pasta, often less is more ... it's easy to overshoot)
- Shrimp (for a single eater, 4-6 pieces), pealed and de-veined
- 3 black olives, halved and pitted
- 1/4 cup Bell pepper (green, yellow, and/or red)
- 1-2 cloves garlic (to taste)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Grated Parmesan to top (don't use the canned variety!!)

For Pesto:
- 2 cups fresh chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/8 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Tsp kosher salt
- 2 slices of ciabatta, foccacia, tuscan or other similar bread

... and, one large bottle of white or red wine ....

pour a glass, put on some music, and let's get to work ....


1. FIRST: make pesto ....

... chop parsley and mince garlic. Place in food processor, along with pine nuts, salt and oil. Mix until a spreadable consistency (not exactly pureed, but smooth and uniform) .... if you've ever had or made pesto, you know what this looks like. Place in a bowl, cover and chill.

2. SECOND, begin chicken ...















... chop chicken into pieces ... add oil to skillet and raise to medium heat ... when you reach temperature add chicken and sear until roughly 2/3 done ... remove and place on platter ...















... add chopped garlic and saute on medium heat until not quite browned, then remove and spoon over chicken on platter ....

... add vinegar and wine to skillet, continuing over medium heat. Bring to a boil, scraping bottom of skillet and reduce to simmer, adding chicken and garlic back to skillet. Cook the chicken the rest of the way. When it's finished, plate chicken.

... add parsley, rosemary and butter to skillet. Stir while butter melts, combining ingredients. After a minute or less, the sauce should come together; spoon over chicken.















3. FOR PASTA:

... put water on to boil. Then, chop vegetables and herbs, and thaw/peel/de-vein shrimp if necessary. Add olive oil and garlic to skillet and saute until garlic not quite browns. Add green pepper and olives, stirring the saute mixture regularly. After a few minutes, add shrimp. Saute all ingredients for 5-7 minutes (or until done) over medium heat.















... at this point, remove pesto from fridge and slice bread. Toast if desired.

... when pasta is finished boiling, drain and add noodles to skillet. mix and toss pasta together, then plate. grate fresh parmesan over top of the plate. Spread pesto on bread, plate all, and serve!!

Tonight's music: Donald Fagen's The Nightfly and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue

Tech Tip: none this week! ... actually, for anyone who reads this blog, I would like to extend an invitation to submit technology issues, problems, etc., that involve everyday computing, as well as new media- and Web 2.0-related topics. To get an idea of what I have addressed in past posts, browse through the archives.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter Salad

After a brief holiday hiatus, I return with more recipes, music and technology tips. This week I offer a simple winter salad that serves as a fine accompaniment to a variety of cuisines commonly found in the colder months of the year. These include white and red pasta dishes, poultry, fish, beef, soups, and a variety of vegetable entrees.

Salads are often underrated as a dish in general. Further, most chain restaurants serve an abomination that typically consists of iceberg lettuce, cold and hard cherry tomatoes, boxed croutons, and ice cold cucumber slices with thick ranch dressing. Sound familiar?

What a disaster.

Don't misunderstand, some mid-level restaurants get it right, and the nicer the place, the better your chances are of getting a quality salad that is actually a meaningful creation rather than a formula. Further, people with an aversion to the idea of a salad would change their mind if they had a really good one.

Some things to keep in mind when you are making your own salads:

- Serve vegetables (minus greens) near room temperature. This involves letting them sit a short while after removing them from the fridge.
- For dressing: less is usually more. Salad content will suggest whether an oil and vinegar based dressing or a creamier type is better (for instance, a salad with steak in it will be much better with blue cheese dressing than olive oil and balsamic vinegar).
- Sometimes, a rich palette of ingredients negates the need for any dressing.
- Try different types of greens. Spinach is your friend (unless you're allergic)
- Seasonal fruit and nuts are great in salads year-round.
- Soft cheeses can be great.
- Avoid olives in jars if possible; visit the olive bar and try some different varieties.
- Don't underestimate the power of freshly ground black pepper.
- Chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro or flat-leaf parsley can be a fantastic addition to a salad.
- WASH YOUR GREENS, and then DRY THEM. Dripping wet greens in a salad are awful. Invest in a salad spinner to quickly dry lettuce. Otherwise, use a clean cloth and hand-dry the leafs before chopping/breaking them up.

Now, onto the food.

INGREDIENTS

These proportions are approximated for a single eater, so increase accordingly if you are feeding a lot of people.

- Salad greens (red or green leaf, boston, romaine, arugula, spinach, or a mix will all do fine, just stay the hell away from iceberg, which is only good for shredding or sandwiches).
- Goat cheese (crumble to taste, but don't overdo it)
- 1 handful Craisins
- 1 handful pistachios (crushed almonds or walnuts will work nicely too)
- 1 apple, cubed
Vinaigrette: 1 Tbsp stone ground mustard, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp maple syrup*

*Equal proportions work well for most diners here. However, depending how your mustard is spiced, you may want to use more, or season the dressing with salt to suit your taste. Further, adjust proportions if you like it more savory or more sweet.

In a large bowl, combine the greens, vegetables, cheese and nuts. Drizzle dressing over salad, taking care not to drown it. Serve immediately.

Music: since this is a recipe intended to accompany something else, I don't have the usual 'tonight's music' feature. However, I will suggest Linda Thompson's Versatile Heart and Mark Knopfler's Kill To Get Crimson as excellent winter listening.

Tech Tip: have you ever been confronted with the need to create a website, but don't have the means or know-how to host it yourself? If so, you may consider checking out Google Sites. One of many free hosted services offered by Google, Sites enables users to create template-based websites from scratch.

A major startup issue for individuals trying to establish a website is front-end design. Not everyone is a graphic artist, or is familiar with techniques of color, layout, etc. Google Sites makes this a non-issue with its site templates, which of course users can customize if they want. Once established, simply share the site's URL to other users or companies.

As with all Google services, users must have an account to use them (which is free).