Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Delight

The kids have been helping us cook for years, although the amount of time they cook has recently decreased with school and sports.  So, for Mother's Day I was pleasantly surprised to hear they wanted to do a "Chopped"-like contest for Amy to judge.  We had to make some slight modifications (considering they are 10 and 12 as well as NOT chefs.)  In the actual show, the contestants got baskets of unusual ingredients and have to cook something which included each in each course.  We got baskets of Amy's favorite ingredients which had to be used for each course.  Salmon, cheese, berries, etc.  What they came up with was absolutely fabulous!

Let's go in order of age.  Alex made an arugula salad with toasted pine nuts, Manchego cheese and oranges (the key ingredients), but it was his mustard dressing which was the hit.  Not too tart or sweet and fairly complex.  His salmon was cooked in an onion & marsala wine reduction - perfectly tender.  The dessert was the show stopper though.  He made a Greek yogurt parfait with fresh mango, raspberries and chopped almonds topped with whipped cream that he made himself.  Solid food done well and cooked perfectly.  He will make some lady happy!

Abby on the other hand was wildly inventive with her dishes with one huge hit and a big miss - but worth the effort!  She made a Nuoc Cham-style sauce (substituting olive oil and orange juice for the fish sauce) and wrapped that in fresh basil leaves.  It was so wonderful, I really thought I was eating an appetizer from a master chef.  Her main course lacked some cooking technique - but the sauce of her salmon was unbelievably good.  Butter, capers, onions, curry and feta cheese - with the first four ingredients heated on the stove and the feta added late.  I could have eaten that on cardboard and been HAPPY!  Her dessert was an inventive remix on the smoothie - which Amy called the crunchie.  It was the same concept, but Abby added almonds to the mix then topped with candied fruit and gummie bears.  It didn't work, but a big A  for effort.

All in all, a great display of cooking on Mother's Day which made their mom very happy.  And their dad proud.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quick and easy comfort food

As I've gotten ready for a new assignment which will take me out of the house regularly, I won't have it so easy any more cooking dinner.  Thus, I've been shaking out some good and quick food options.

We buy the individually wrapped fish in the freezer section of the grocery store, so they are easy to defrost (i.e., stick them in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes or so) and have ready to eat within a half an hour.  Plus, fish takes well to seasoning right before cooking rather than a marinate for meat.

This dish is a herb-coated fish broiled in the oven over warm polenta and topped with a puttanesca.  The fish is coated with sage, thyme, salt and pepper, put on a baking sheet for broiling.  The polenta is 3 cups chicken broth to 1 cup corn meal (I added oregano, salt and pepper to add some flavor) cooked 10 minutes then added some extra sharp cheddar cheese.  The sauce is simply a chopped onion and garlic sauted in olive oil for a minute; then add a can of tomatoes, a bunch of chopped kalamata olives, capers and oregano and allow to cook on medium high for about 10 minutes.

Serve with some white wine and it is a lovely meal without too much fuss or time.