Thursday, July 23, 2009

Good Cook Doris Photo Shoot

A friend of ours has taken up photography. I casually mentioned to him at our summer BBQ that if he ever wanted to take some food photos, I'd be happy to volunteer. Lucky for Good Cook Doris, he had a photo challenge that called for food pictures! Thanks for the new profile pic! Stay tuned for the next "When He Fends for Himself" - a new profile photo too!

I started thinking of colorful and photogenic recipes that would hopefully help him win his challenge. On the menu: grilled chicken with quick beer-brine, vegetable confetti couscous, and a red and golden beet salad. To finish off the meal on a sweet note - a quick 10 minute apple cinnamon pull apart bread.

We had our dinner shoot on a weeknight, so I did some cooking the night before in order to be ready on time. I roasted the beets and chopped all the veggies the night before. That left the chicken and couscous for the night of the shoot. I'll post photos and recipes below - it might be a long post. For more photos from my friend, visit his Flickr page at

This is a recipe I found on my new Epicurious iPhone app. I thought beets would make for a good photo and set out to find a recipe on my train ride home. As noted in the reviews of this recipe, the dressing was delicious and worth making for salads and other veggie dishes. There was no photo with the recipe, so I took the suggestions and styled it my way!

Beet, Cucumber, and Sweet Onion Salad with Dijon-Honey Dressing
Adapted from Epicurious (original recipe here)

3 medium red beets
3 medium golden beet
1 large English cucumber, unpeeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1/2 sweet vidalia onion halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard
1/3 cup corn oil

This part can be done the night before or earlier in the day:
Preheat oven to 400°F
Wrap each beet in foil, enclosing completely
Place on rack in oven (be sure to wrap well so they don't drip)
Bake until beets are tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Cool in foil
Peel beets, then cut each into 6 or so round slices (I cut mine into half circles)
Note: use gloves when peeling the red beets otherwise your hands will be bright red (and peel over the foil!)
Store in a ziplock bag (red beets will stain your Tupperware)

Cut the onions and store in a plastic bag
Cut the cucumber and store with a little water in a separate plastic bag

Right before serving:
Arrange red beets on 1/3 of a large platter
Arrange golden beets on 1/3 of the other side of the platter
Arrange cucumbers down the middle
Sprinkle the onions on the top
Put in the fridge while you make the dressing

Whisk honey, vinegar, and mustard in small bowl to blend
Gradually whisk in the corn oil
Season with salt and pepper
Drizzle over vegetables right before serving

Confetti Couscous
This is a quick and easy dish perfect for using up leftover veggies. It's ready in less than 10 minutes and can be customized in many ways. The dish is great hot or cold, so no need to worry about serving right away.

1/2 of a red pepper
1/2 of a yellow pepper
1/2 of an orange pepper
1/2 - 1 cup of fresh shelled English peas (substitute frozen if you don't have fresh)
1 box of plain couscous
A few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice peppers into small squares
Shell peas
Steam veggies in either the microwave or on the stovetop
Prepare couscous according to the instructions on the box
Fluff couscous and add veggies
Season with salt and pepper
Sprinkle with parsley and serve

Beer Brined Chicken
I searched the web for some recipes with grilled skin-on chicken breasts. I came upon a recipe on a site called Cooking for Engineers that was adapted from an Emeril recipe. Using the flavors as a guide, I adapted it myself for this delicious dish! I didn't marinate the night before, but I can imagine it would be even more delicious if I did. Here's my version:

2 cups apple juice (natural, not the super sugary kind)
1/4 cup kosher salt (maybe a little less)
A teaspoon or two ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon multi-colored peppercorns
A dash or two of ground cloves
A dash of nutmeg
4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bottle of dark beer (I used a Newcastle)

Put the chicken in a large dish
Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with all the spices and rub in with your hands
Pour beer into the dish
Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you're ready to grill

Heat the grill to 450 degrees
While the grill is heating, melt butter and mix in chili powder and cayenne pepper
Take chicken out of marinade and brush with the butter mixture
Lay chicken skin side down on the grill (watch to make sure it doesn't catch on fire like mine)
Flip every 10 minutes or so until it is cooked through (165 degrees inside - with a meat thermometer)
Due to the fire at the beginning, the chicken cooked a little quicker than expected (about 20-25 minutes)
Served with a parsley garnish, no sauce was needed!

Quick and Easy Pull Apart Bread
I was briefly a Pampered Chef Consultant (I hate following rules!) and this is one of my favorite recipes that I took away from the experience. It works perfectly with my 8-inch skillet and cinnamon sprinkle. This dish costs maybe $2 at the most. Budget friendly and it could be diet friendly (if you use a healthier butter substitute).

1 apple (any type) cored and diced into small squares
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of cinnamon sprinkle (or combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, etc.)
1 can of supermarket brand biscuits (they are 2/$1 at my store)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (or the temp. on the can)
Melt the butter in an 8-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat
Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sprinkle and diced apples
Saute until brown and just softened
Tear biscuits into small pieces and cover the apple cinnamon mixture
Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of cinnamon mixture on top of the biscuits
Place the skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown
Remove from oven
Place a large plate over the skillet and flip over (like an upside down cake)
Enjoy - there won't be any leftovers!

Thanks Jim!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Don't Feel like Cooking Tonight...Here's What we Made!

Some nights you just don't feel like cooking. The usual solution would be to go out to eat, but we find that if we can't decide what we want to eat at home then we can't decide on where to go out. So working with the ingredients in the house we came up with a dressed up summer pasta dish.

We didn't have any sauces on hand, so I had to put on my thinking cap and come up with something creative. We still had some garlic scapes and an abundance of basil leaves from our plant - perfect for an interesting pesto. I pulled a few veggies out of the fridge sauteed them and added them in. A summer pasta primavera!

Garlic Scape Pesto
3 garlic scapes
Handful of basil leaves
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Chop garlic scapes into 1/4 inch pieces
Add garlic scapes and basil to the food processor
Stream in olive oil as the food processor is running
Scoop into a bowl and season with salt and pepper

Pasta Primavera a la Good Cook Doris
1/2 box penne pasta, prepared according to the directions on the box

1/4 cup chopped broccoli florets
1/4 cup chopped peppers (red, yellow and orange)
1/4 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Prepare the veggies while the pasta is cooking
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat
Add veggies and cook for about 5 minutes, until just soft

Toss pasta, veggies, and pesto in a large bowl
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Food processor, cutting board and knife, pasta pot, medium skillet, pasta spoon, spatula, serving dishes and utensils

This recipe serves 2 people (large servings)

Fourth of July Eats

We decided to let our friends at Vintage78 take over the cooking duties for the fourth of July festivities. With a great roof deck, they have the perfect spot for a nice summer evening. We dined on the usual meat, meat, and more meat with a few side dishes. The meal was accompanied by a delicious white sangria made with champagne, cointreau, peaches, green grapes, apples, and maybe some mangoes. Three of us polished of a pitcher pretty quickly....

The meal was great and perfect for the holiday celebration! Unfortunately we couldn't see the fireworks from the roof (though we did try). Here's a rundown of the menu and some photos.

Turkey Tenderloin, petit filets, mesquite chicken breast, teriyaki chicken and pineapple skewers.

The delicious sangria. For the veggies - a salad with romaine, cucumbers, toasted almonds, and tomatoes. Homemade ice wine vinaigrette (from Niagra Ice wine) and a dijon vinaigrette.


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