Sunday, January 31, 2010

How to End a Cooking Slump

I've been in a bit of a slump in the kitchen. A few factors got me here, mainly a lapse of creativity and a shortage of time to plan and shop. But I'm turning a new leaf. Aren't seasons wonderful? I'm slamming the door on January but full of anticipation for the longer days in the coming months.

How do you restart your kitchen fire? I hit the books. Earlier I spent some time scrolling thru some favorite cookbooks (The Wagamama Cookbook and Mexican Everyday) and picked several new recipes to try out. The foods I was looking for are all winter foods - slow cooked, often with some chili peppers. Mexican and Asian are great year-round but I love adding more heat to the winter plate. It warms you from within.

Recipes I'm going to try:

From the Wagamama Cookbook:

Chili Beef Ramen
Salmon Ramen
Yaki Soba (stir fried chicken, shrimp and soba noodles)

Courtesy of Bayless:
Slow Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes and Jalapenos
Guajillo Pork and Potatoes
Mexican Pork Tenderloin
Jalisco Braised Lamb

A third resource for finding recipes was a oldie from the NY Times that Kate reminded me about - The Minimalist's 101 Meals. It's a summer list, but I found ten recipes that I'd enjoy eating while Jack Frost is in town. Here they are, Pinched slightly:

1. Taco salad: Toss together Romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced avocado, a bit of canned corn and a half can black beans, rinsed. Dress with olive oil, fresh lime, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro leaves. Top with thinly sliced freshly sauteed corn tortillas.

2. Not takeout: Stir-fry onions with cut-up broccoli. Add cubed tofu, chicken or shrimp, or sliced beef or pork, along with a tablespoon each minced garlic and ginger. When almost done, add half cup of water, two tablespoons soy sauce and plenty of black pepper. Heat through and serve over fresh Chinese noodles.

3. Southeast Asia steak salad: Pan- or oven-grill skirt or flank steak. Slice and serve on a pile of greens with a sauce of one tablespoon each of nam pla and lime juice, black pepper, a teaspoon each of sugar and garlic, crushed red chili flakes and Thai basil.

4. Salmon (or just about anything else) teriyaki: Sear salmon steaks on both sides for a couple of minutes; remove. To the skillet, add a splash of water, sake, a little sugar and soy sauce; when mixture is thick, return steaks to pan and turn in sauce until done. Serve hot or at room temperature.

5. Cook chopped tomatillos with a little water or stock, cilantro and a little minced fresh chili; serve over grilled, broiled or sautéed chicken breasts, with corn tortillas.

6. Dredge thinly sliced chicken breasts in flour or cornmeal; cook about two minutes a side in hot olive oil. Place on bread with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

7. Thai-style beef: Thinly slice one and a half pounds of flank steak, pork shoulder or boneless chicken; heat canola oil in a skillet, add meat and stir. A minute later, add a tablespoon minced garlic and some red chili flakes. Add 30 thinly sliced basil leaves, a quarter cup of water and a tablespoon or two of soy sauce or nam pla. Serve with lime juice and more chili flakes, over rice or salad.

8. Rub not-too-thick pork or lamb chops with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil about three minutes a side and drizzle with good balsamic vinegar.

9. Heat a quarter-inch of olive oil in a skillet. Dredge flounder or sole fillets in flour and fry until crisp, about two minutes a side. Serve on good bread with tartar sauce.

10. Pan-grill a skirt steak for three or four minutes a side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, slice and serve over romaine or any other green salad, drizzled with olive oil and lemon.

Happy February!


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