Saturday, August 27, 2016

First Colorado Cooking

Upon moving to Colorado, we spent just over 3 weeks in temporary housing with a very limited kitchen. It took some planning, to make sure I wasn't trying to make a quiche with no pie plate or something like that, but I cooked several quite good meals in that time. There are plenty of great restaurants to explore, but who wants to eat out for a month straight?

Our first meal was a simple one of fruit, cheese, and bread. Others were similarly simple, if a bit less elegant (hot dogs & cucumber slices one night, fried eggs & sausage another, and some meals out). 

A week in, I finally made a little more elaborate meal. Despite my worries about high altitude cooking and the way my pasta might turn out, we had bucatini with Bolognese sauce, bagged Caesar salad, and Pugliese bread from the King Soopers. With plenty of extra water, a lid, and a little extra cook time, the pasta turned out perfectly al dente. The sauce was not as good as it should have been, due to the fact that we had no idea where to buy red wine. In Michigan, we could get Bacardi 151 at the grocery. In Colorado, we must go to a liquor store for wine or even beer above, I think, 3.5% alcohol. It was, however, pretty dang tasty.

Simple Bolognese Sauce
1/4 c. butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef (I like the 90% lean)
1/4 c. dry red wine
1 c. tomato sauce
3/4 c. water
Salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy pot. Cook the vegetables until tender, adding garlic at the last 30 seconds or so. Add beef & brown, breaking up well. Add wine & cook until it has evaporated. Add tomato sauce & water. Bring to a boil,then reduce heat to low, cover, & simmer a couple hours. If you don't have a couple hours, it'll still taste good. Season with salt & pepper. Serves 4. (I had no garlic or wine, so I added a little Italian seasoning & garlic powder)

A couple nights later, I made a chicken cordon bleu that I found a bit blah. My wife thought it was great, though. I served it with rice pilaf (Near East with slivered almonds) & green beans. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu
2 thinly-sliced skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Ham slices
Swiss cheese slices
Beaten egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer ham and cheese atop each chicken breast. Fold into a neat bundle, with the chicken's edges tucked around the filling. Dip chicken in egg, then breadcrumbs, coating evenly. Bake about 20 minutes. Serves 2.

Another dish I made during our temporary housing time seemed a little weird to me, noodles with brats and rye croutons, inspired by a recipe from a cookbook called "The Rustic Table." It turned out to be a little bland, but I think it would have been lots better with a better meat to noodle ratio than what I used. I served it with a black-eyed pea salad, from a recipe my mom gave me, that was simply scrumptious and could have served as dinner. The original recipe came from Paula Deen. We had fresh plums for dessert. This season has been terrific for stone fruit. 

Noodles with Brats & Rye Croutons
2 slices rye, cubed
1/2 pound egg noodles
1/2 stick butter, cut up
1/2 lb. brats, sliced thickly

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Bake rye cubes until dried out, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook and drain noodles. Melt butter in skillet & fry brat slices. Remove to drain on a paper towel-lined plate (I might skip the draining next time). Toss bread in butter and brat grease until browned & crisp. Set aside. Toss noodles and brats together in same pan. Serve with croutons. Serves 4.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
2 cans black-eyes peas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, well-drained
4 oz. chopped pimientos, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
A splash of balsamic vinegar
A handful of finely diced red onion 
A handful of chopped parsley
A smidge of minced pickled jalapeƱo 
1 tsp. sugar
Salt & pepper

Mix everything gently together and adjust seasonings. Serves 6.

On the anniversary of my grandmother's death, I always make her Russian sandwiches, with sweet corn. These sandwiches are something I grew up eating. Every August, at the peak of Ohio tomato season, my grandies stopped most days at a small farm stand on their way home from water workout & table tennis. There, they would select the juiciest tomatoes, along with freshly-harvested sweet corn. For supper, they would later tomato slices, crisp bacon, and sharp Cheddar (usually Cabot) on bread slices (I toast mine) and broil until the cheese was bubbly. They ate these open-faced sandwiches (who knows what made them "Russian"?) with corn barely allowed to relax in the pot of boiling water. I added a salad & watermelon this year. Great stuff!

Another night, Nene made steaks, on which we slathered butter I'd mixed with hot sauce & chopped parsley. We had baked potatoes & an arranged salad of tomato and avocado slices with bocconcini, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt & peper. My basil had gotten frozen by the hotel room fridge or I would have generously added that, too.

The last hotel meal I made was a gooey, cheesy, Mexicanish (via small-town Alabama) casserole I found in one of those spiral-bound town cookbooks which usually have half a dozen deviled egg recipes and at least as many for sheet cake. We had that with Fritos for scooping, salad, corn, and guacamole.

Mexabama Casserole
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 package taco seasoning
1 package Mahatma yellow rice
1 can cheddar cheese soup (I used the lower sodium, lower fat sort)
1 c. shredded asadero cheese

Mix beef with seasoning and water, as directed on package. Cook rice according to package. Mix everything together & heat through. Serve with Fritos, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced olives, sour cream, and extra shredded cheese. Serves 4-6.


Diana said...

I'm forever amazed at your culinary skills Daria and the variety of foods you prepare. Thanks for the black eyed pea salad recipe. I'm going to try it this week! Best of luck to you all in your new home!

Sue Cahn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sue Cahn said...

Will have to make the Mexabama casserole for my Jeff. P.S. Guess it is time to update your bio.