Monday, January 26, 2009

Chef Stylez

I've been on a great cooking streak the past couple of weeks; it helps that I've been taking a bit more care in my grocery shopping. The St. Lawrence Market and Longo's are it for me. I was joking to the hubby that we need to plan our house purchase around where the nearest Longo's is. Even though they've grown to become a fair sized local chain, they still have the best food of any grocery store I've shopped at. Very inspiring.

Recipes of the week:

  • Meyer Lemon Barley risotto: delicious. I added some little bay scallops, and it turned out very yummy. It also gave me an excuse to make a run into Pusateri's (for creme fraiche), which I don't normally go to. For my Haligonian friends, think Pete's, but smaller and more expensive. If you're going to try this recipe, however, consider halving it. Heidi claims that it makes 4-6 servings, but I would say it makes at least 8. That's A LOT of risotto.
  • Homemade pizza: sooooo good. I don't make my own pizza dough; I could, but making a light whole wheat pizza dough is not as easy as it sounds, so I just buy mine. Tonight's was topped with chunky tomato sauce, mozzarella, red field pepper, cremini mushrooms, baby spinach, and homemade pesto. I got a pizza pan as a wedding present, and I just brought it home from Mom & Dad's on Sunday. What a difference it makes! That and a searing hot oven: 500 degrees Farenheit. Then, you get a crisp bottom, golden top, and chewy crust.
  • Homemade pesto: I've seen pesto made so many times, I didn't bother to hunt out a recipe. It's just this: lots of fresh basil (two huge bunches from the market), pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese. Being me, I also have to add some lemon zest. Whirl around in the food processor; drizzle in olive oil until the pesto gets to a consistency just runnier than a paste. Taste for seasoning, add salt if necessary, and refrigerate. Or, you can freeze in an ice cube tray so that you have portioned out servings of pesto ready for tossing with pasta, dolloping into pizza, stirring into dips, etc. Heidi swears that it's best to do the chopping and blending by hand, so next time I might try this.
  • Chocolate chip cookies: The Chipits recipe, on the back of the chocolate chip package, is my classic, go-to recipe. This time, I swapped out whole wheat all-purpose flour for the white flour, which gave the cookies a slightly nutty mojo. I got tons of compliments on them, and I definitely enjoyed them, so I'll certainly do that again. You can't really make cookies healthy, but you can make them healthier. Actually, scrap that. Nikki's Healthy Cookies really are healthy cookies. They're next on my to-bake list.
Taking the time and care to grocery shop well and cook with some passion really does make me happy. I know that I've got hours of great cooking time and a few more exciting recipes to try this week, and it really brightens my day to know that I'll get to spend some time in the kitchen. Still to come this week is oyster chicken, stuffed pork chops, and Nigella's involtini. Yum!