Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cleveland and Tamales

This weekend was all about the tamale. I've always loved them ever since I was little, but since I've become a vegetarian, I haven't had one. I finally found some vegetarian tamales at the West Side Market and quickly snatched a few of them up. After enjoying them immensely, I decided to try my hand at making them this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy they were to make, although they do take a considerable amount of time. I am still working on fine-tuning the recipe, so I have nothing to post yet, but we're almost there.

But now, more about the market - absolutely amazing. I unfortunately forgot my camera at home, so I was at the mercy of a friend's, but we still came away with some good pictures.

I was absolutely floored by how fabulous the market was. They had so many fresh fish and seafood stands.

WSM Fish

This was one of the fresh pasta stands. There must have been about 40 different varieties of homemade pasta with about every combination of flavors you could imagine. Surrounding it were more perogie varieties than I ever dreamed possible. Although I'm not crazy about them, my friend Abby brought a bunch home (blue cheese and potato, shiitake mushroom and white wine, bourbon wine, as well as 3-cheese) and declared them all fantastic.

WSM Pasta

The butcher stands were fairly amazing too. Every cut of meat from almost any variety was available. Everything looked so amazing it *almost* made me wish I ate meat again. Almost. I did bring my father home some of the best looking beef jerky I've ever seen. He's loving it so much it's actually on a ration status and he is only allowing himself a few bites per day.

WSM Meat

I definitely know that next year, I'm taking a huge cooler and finding some dry ice so I can bring more than just a few things home. I did pick up some non-perishables that were too tasty to pass up, such as smoked Alaskan salt and some other odds and ends from the Mediterranean stand.

Until then, we love ya, Cleveland....

*Pier CL

*If you're interested in reading more about Cleveland, here are some fantastic food blogs I've discovered:

*Cleveland Foodie
*Craving Cleveland
*Eating Cleveland
*A View from the Kitchen

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Now that the fall weather is upon us and the air has a little snappiness to it, it's time to start making those hearty, filling, and stick-to-your-rib dishes. You want food that not only fills you with comfort, but keeps you satisfied for hours. This jambalaya fits perfectly into that category.

I love okra, but I don't use it enough, so I wanted to find a dish to incorporate it. Although this is a far cry from a traditional jambalaya with shrimp, chicken, and sausage, the addition of mushrooms and black eyed peas make it hearty enough to be satisfying. The chipotle bouillon cubes add a great smoky flavor but not much heat, so don't be afraid to add as much Louisiana hot sauce as you desire.

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Vegetarian Jambalaya
Serves 8

2 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Knorr Chipotle Bouillon cubes*
1 c red bell pepper, diced
1 c yellow bell pepper, diced
1 (20 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 (8 oz) pkg baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp salt
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen okra
1 (15 oz) can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 cups uncooked rice
Tabasco sauce to taste
1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Meanwhile, take okra out of freezer, unwrap, and allow to sit on counter during preparation to start thawing. In pan, saute onion, garlic, and crumbled boiullon cubes for a few minutes until onion starts to become tender. Add peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, thyme, basil, and salt. Stir well to combine. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add okra, black eyed peas, and rice and return to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Remove from heat, and add Tabasco and liquid smoke.

*If unable to find Knorr Chipotle Bouillon cubes in your area, then substitute 1-2 well-minced canned chipotle peppers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Spinach and Toasted Pine Nut Hummus

I love traveling because it always provides such great inspiration for cooking. This weekend was no exception. We hit some amazing places and restaurants, which I'll post about later this week, once the pictures are downloaded. One of the most memorable places we went was the West Side Market, which practically deserves its own post to describe the greatness it holds. But while walking through the market, we came upon a Greek stand that proclaimed they made "Cleveland's Best Hummus." They had about 4 different varieties, most of which I've made before, but it was the spinach hummus that caught my eye. I immediately put it on my list of things to make.

While driving to the grocery store this morning, I was trying to think of ways to kick it up a bit. I came up with a few variations, but nothing really interested me until the thought of pine nuts came across my mind. Not only do they add a great toasted flavor, but they also add a nice little texture variation.

Spinach and Toasted Pinenut Hummus

Spinach and Toasted Pine Nut Hummus

2 tbsp pinenuts
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, cooked*, and drained
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 c olive oil

In a small skillet, toast pine nuts over medium high heat until slightly golden. Set aside to cool down. Drain half of the package of spinach and place into food processor. Save remaining spinach for another use. In food processor, process spinach and lemon juice until well chopped. Add pine nuts and pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Remove from processor and set aside. Add remaining ingredients to processor and process to desired texture. Add spinach mixture and pulse until well mixed. Allow to chill in the refridgerator for an hour or two for flavors to shake hands. Serve and enjoy!

*I cooked it according to the directions on the back of the package, which just involves putting it into a covered dish with a tbsp of water and throwing it into the microwave for 2 minutes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hey Look - Shiny Things!!

Okay, okay, I don't have anythiny shiny. I wanted to find something to distract you from the fact I haven't updated 28 Cooks in well over a week. But I've got nothing except the promise that we'll return to our regularly-scheduled content next week.

My fall semester seems to be in full swing and the days I set aside for cooking have been filled up quickly with other things. And this weekend is the yearly "Celebrate Life" weekend which takes myself and my closest friends to Cleveland. Long story short - 3 years ago, my very best friend, Lina, had emergent, serious, and very complicated open heart surgery that almost left us without her presence. Every year since, we've taken a trip back out to Cleveland to celebrate life and remember those things that we're extremely grateful for, including her life.

So I bid you a good rest of the week and look forward to being back in the 28 Cooks saddle next week!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vermouth-poached Tilapia with Mushrooms and White Grapes

Part of having people over for dinner and serving them a home-cooked meal is the "Wow" factor. You want them to walk away from the table being satisfied, yet being impressed at your culinary prowess. It's always good to have recipes that look as if you spent all day in the kitchen, slaving away over a hot stove, but in actuality only take minimal amounts of time to prepare. That's where a recipe like this comes in. Just the title of this dish sounds gourmet and time consuming, right?? Yet I had this on the table in less than 15 minutes. The most time consuming thing you'll do is slice mushrooms and chop grapes, and then it's just a matter of a few minutes in the pan. This would be the perfect recipe to prepare ahead of time and throw together right before serving. I can guarantee you that your guests will be sufficiently "wowed" by this masterpiece.

Vermouth-poached Tilapia with Mushrooms and White Grapes I

Vermouth-poached Tilapia with Mushrooms and White Grapes
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tilapia fillets, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/4 c dry vermouth*
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c seedless white grapes, quartered

In a flat-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and mushrooms and saute until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are starting to become tender. Push mushrooms to the side of the pan and add seasoned tilapia fillets. Pour vermouth and white wine over top of fish, cover, and simmer util fish is almost done. (Mine took about 3 minutes in total) Right before fish is completely done, add grapes to pan and stir, being careful to not disturb fish. Cook until done. Serve fillets topped with mushroom and grape mixture.

*If you do not have vermouth, simply substitute more white wine.