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Weeks ago, just a few, I encouraged you to go for the organic chicks when grabbing your meats for the week at the grocery. Organic poultry comes with a price tag, as we know, but there’s a way to get every last penny out of the bird. In that mini series ORGANIC FOR PENNIES I shared my ways of utilizing one chicken for a week worth of dinners for 2 or even 4, if you help stretch that buck.

I buy a whole chicken every couple of weeks, and make my stock, marinate the breast and the legs, and scrape the leftover meat from the cooked carcass into a separate bowl. Every couple of weeks I’m faced with a new challenge to reinvent the wheel.

Last night I made this:

The chicken was mixed with chili peppers, grated garlic and ginger, low sodium soy sauce, and Hoisin sauce. A few scallions thinly sliced at an angle were tossed into the mix. Then I added my medley of cooked grains (brown and wild rice, black barley, red quinoa) and sautéed everything for a minute or two. To serve it, I wrapped the Grain Medley & Chinese Flavored Chicken in quarters of Blanched Bok Choy.

That’s it. The Asian theme is simply accidental. I use my Polish roots for inspiration in the kitchen just as often.

Softened, silky, creamy butter with added flavors and/or other components… Then set back in the refrigerator to firm. COMPOUND BUTTER that is.

It’s simple, thus brilliant.

SWEET–with cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, maple syrup, even jam… to top pancakes, warm muffins, or Belgian Waffles. Decadence.

SAVORY–with herbs (parsley and chives, dill, cilantro, mint, basil, tarragon, etc); garlic, orange or lemon juice and/or zest, mustard, chilled roasted garlic or pepper; spices (paprika, black pepper, coarse salt…). Euphoria!

There’s no need to gorge on the butter. Just a touch. On the tip. Of your dish. Lamb. Chicken. Fish. Pasta. Veg. Grains’ variety.

One silly trick like this can elevate the flavor of your dish onto a different plane. Maybe even into a different Solar system. Deep, round, soothing flavor in your mouth. Think about it. Feel it. Want it. Do it. Oh… life! You taste so GOOD!

Once again I was so touched by the outreach from so many of you after my last blurb. I appreciate your words of support on that meatless journey of ours, as well as condolences and sympathy for my misery. Thank you all!

As I’m typing these words, I am also engaged in the process of sipping a barely-tolerable non-alcoholic beer (How the hell has that landed in our refrigerator?), the multi-tasker that I am. If you must know, beer, beside calories from carbs, also contains–are you ready for this??–protein!, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, folate, and a roster of other micro-elements. Seems like a much better option than a can of soda, don’t you think?

Moreover, beer made a brilliant match with our dinner last night. The food was packed with both–flavor and protein. Come to think of it, if I don’t look like the pre-governor Arnold at the end of this month, I am going to pack my toys and leave this stupid … protein club. The food was something else though.

Last night on the menu there was a POACHED EGG OVER MASHED RUTABAGA & CELERY ROOT, WITH BROCCOLINI AND EDAMAME SAUTÉED WITH GARLIC ON THE SIDE. Inhale. Exhale. Now breathe as if your life depended on it.

It seems a lot of people are scared of poaching eggs. Turns out the devil is not as scary as they paint him to be. Yes, you can quote me on that. It’s all about the technique. Boil water in a small saucepan and then add salt and 1-2 tsp of vinegar (e.g. white wine, rice, apple sider). Break an egg into a small bowl or a cup, spin the water in the saucepan with a fork or spoon (what-have-you) and gently slide the whole egg into the boiling liquid. Vinegar helps coagulate the egg white, and the whirlwind from the spin helps keep the whole protein (yup, there it is again!) together. Turn off the heat, cover the a lid and leave for 3 minutes precisely. Feel free to set your alarm clock as you have no idea how fast three minutes race by when one’s plating the dinner. When the alarm goes off, using a slotted spoon scoop the poached egg out, let the excess water escape through the gaps, and serve as desired.

After din-din, our tummies were full, all cravings went to hell, and then we though gratefully about the troops stationed in the Middle East. We thought about the veterans who served their country the best they could, while now many of them are homeless and roam the streets of Los Angeles, or of your city. Let’s think of them not only on the Memorial Day. Let’s share a meal. Let’s not throw away food knowing there’s always somebody out there going to sleep hungry. And let’s all have a sunny and a very good day!

Hello, have we met? I’m Agi, or better Agnieszka, also known as

A RTISTIC

G RATEFUL

N ATURAL

I RRESISTIBLE

E ARTHQUAKE-FREE

S TIMULATING

Z ESTFUL

K ICK-ASS

A GELESS

This newfound and boosted self-esteem is a result of doing a few simple exercises with my wonderful and so inspiring circle of women-friends. As the New Moon arrived, Missy gathered us in her cozy abode and guided us as we set our intentions for 2010. Camilla got the energy moving with the above-mentioned fun practice. Writing those down really got me all excited about the POWER OF ME, and only then was I able to write down

MY TOP 10 TRIUMPHS OF 2009:

1.   I ended my slavery to various employers, which brought on the whole theme of reinventing of self along with so-longed-for sense of freedom.

2.   We found and created with Jason our first home together. It’s beautiful, cozy and really does feel like home, at last.

3.   Living together only strengthened and enriched our relationship.

4.   I unleashed my creative “monster”, as I truly believe that nothing can stop me now from creating whatever I want in my life. I do have a shit load of confidence in myself all of a sudden. Yee-haw!

5.   I created “One More Bite” – the blog you’re reading, which was a pretty kick-ass idea and quite a bold move considering the commitment. I love it!

6.   I mastered my culinary skills, which is and forever will be a work in progress as it’s nothing like riding a bike, kid yourself not.

7.   Hey, I became a PERSONAL CHEF! Hello! Give yourself the gift of being served a homemade, delicious and organic meal that will make your hair shine and a bod so fine – send me an email through facebook or twitter.

8.   I chopped off my hair, thus marking the end of my healing process from various pains of my 20s (that manifested with miserable eating disorders and such, now just a vague and sad memory) and embracing my commitment to living in balance with nature and loving myself for I rock my world!

9.   I built many new and wonderful friendships, and boosted the existing ones, which is HUGE considering my ALIEN status with a green card. My kinfolks, for the most part, are all on the other side of the BIG POND, a.k.a. Atlantic. Hence, my friends are my immediate family over here.

10.  I felt GREAT for the most part of 2009. Let’s see: 365 days – 12 days (PMS) = 353 days of pure, nauseating, daring HAPPINESS.

Yup, it was a good year. Now you go. Stop whatever it is you’re doing, put that doughnut down, stop reading nonsense on the Internet, don’t scratch yourself there!, leave the dishes for later, stop worrying about the bills for a moment, ignore your meowing companion (whoever it is) and take a 10 minute break to write down, hence see with your bare eyes, how successful your 2009 was, how powerful being you are, and feel the energy flowing through your temple of a body.

Done? Feeling MIGHTY? Purrfect. Now take that elevated spirit and translate it into a hearty and comforting meal you deserve right now. Here’s an idea – SPANISH RICE a’la Agi that will punch you in the face with its rich and robust flavor.

Here I used this fancy-shmancy blend of rice grains mixed with black barley that added to the drama of the final look of my dish.

You can use leftover rice that you don’t know what to do with. Or just as well get yourself a pot full of brown rice, or any other unbleached, husk-on variety, and plan on feeding your lovely self and all your neighbors for weeks to come. I don’t care. All I want from you is a batch of cooked rice that you will now flavor to your liking.

Let’s begin with infusing olive oil with yummy flavors. Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan; drop in a handful of peeled and crashed garlic cloves, one or two branches of fresh thyme, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Keep the pan over low heat thus letting everyone get comfy in the warmth of the oil for about 2 minutes.

Next, remove the herb and smash the garlic with a fork, enforcing it even deeper into the oil. Now, instantly add the rice (about 3 cups of cooked grain) and stir and fold it to ensure everything gets coated evenly with your flavored olive oil. Open a small can of tomato paste and empty it into the pan. Season it with a touch of kosher salt and one tablespoon of dry paprika. If you’re going for that smashing HIT in your mouth, feel free to add cayenne pepper as well. Once again, shuffle the rice and spread the paste all over it. When the mass is of a coherent color, spread it evenly over the surface of the pan and let it sit there over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the bottom gets a little crispy.

In the end, add a touch of Mother Nature in the form of fresh parlsey and/or dill, roughly chopped and sprinkled like snowflakes over the tip of Mount Everest.

I love my SPANISH RICE on its own, however for Jason I stir-fry a few chicken tenders that later tend to his six-pack, biceps, and those delicious cheek muscles (my favorite cut).

I don’t even know where to start.

It was a long holiday weekend with a rainbow of flavors and events from the Pork Loin Wrapped In Bacon, to Experimental Mashed Rutabaga & Cauliflower, to Butternut Squash Ravioli, to couples’ massages in Ojai, to the golden sunset over an orange orchard, to my virgin Lucky Devil’s Kobe Burger, to a kaleidoscope of hungry friends taking turns in our dining room, to the beheaded pigeon in the courtyard of our building. Need I say more?

The pigeon incident was not only utterly sad, but also eerie. Last night I was leafing through the Jamie Oliver’s cookbook “Jamie at Home”, looking for dinner inspirations for the upcoming week. There’s a whole section on feathered game in the book, and I happened to put my finger on the page 262 with the recipe for an Asian-style crispy pigeon with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was so outside of my culinary box, I handed the book over to Jason asking for his impressions, and thinking to myself “How does one even go about getting a pigeon?” This morning I found one, lifeless, headless, footless, right outside our kitchen window. It was heartbreaking and creepy all at once. I have chills rushing down my spine even now, as I’m typing these words. Urgh! Those wild cats that roam the streets of the city at night! Then again, there’s no reason to reason with Nature about the shape and form of the food chain established over the millions of years of evolution.

Happy thoughts, happy images, quick, take me to my happy place…Now!

(As seen from our moving car:)

We drove to Ojai to steal a day outside of LA (I’m such a poet). We left to catch a breath of fresh air and to remember why we had chosen to live in California. After each of us got a bottle of body oil rubbed into their skin from heads to toes (just like the herbal and honey-mustard mixture I massaged into the piece of pig we ate on Thanksgiving), we cruised the outskirts of that little town, surrounded by orange trees pregnant with fruit and kissed good-night by the last rays of sun. There was silence in the air, and we could feel the heartbeat of the Earth beneath our feet. The living painting all around us was simply astounding. The Earth… the Mother, the Miracle, the Might, the Beauty… Let’s not destroy it… please.

Speaking of miracles, I mummified our 2-pound Pork Loin with the following Honey-Mustard and Herbal Rub:

-       2 tbsp of Dijon mustard

-       1.5 tbsp of whole grain mustard

-       1.5 tbsp of honey

-       2 garlic cloves, minced

-       2 tbsp of fresh thyme

-       2 tbsp of fresh sage, chopped

If you are aching for baking… a little pork, here’s what needs to be done for this dish. Mix all the above listed ingredients in a bowl and set the sauce aside. Heat the oven to 350˚. Cut three pieces of kitchen twine, long enough to wrap around your pork loin and tie. Lay them across your baking pan, and set the meat on top of the strings. Sprinkle salt and pepper all around it, but gently. Using a spoon spread the honey-mustard mixture all around the chunk of pork. Now, take two bacon strips at a time and overlap them as you cover the whole piece of pig in the dish. Tie the kitchen twine, and shove it al into your preheated oven for about an hour.

Here’s the before and after shot of the beauty:

When you take the meat out, wrap it with a sheet of tin foil and give it 20 minutes to let the pork get to its happy place. You never want to cut into the meat instantly after cooking. Let it rest. The juices will then distribute within the chunk, thus keeping it moist and utterly flavorful.

Our pig was really happy, particularly because we served it with a side of simple green beans. I’ll give you a few tips on how to make the beans exciting and bursting with life. Toss your green beans into a pot with salted boiling water and let them cook for about 2 minutes. Then whisk them out and throw them directly into a bowl of ice water. In other words, shock them! There’s no need (nor reason) to hide and then jump and scream “Surprise!” while at the task. The ice water will do the trick. Basically, you want to stop the cooking process, and also allow the beans to retain their vibrant color. Drain the veg and now toss it onto a hot skillet with a tablespoon or so of melted butter, add a couple of roughly chopped garlic cloves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, maybe a few red pepper flakes for that extra kick, and toss everybody around for a couple of minutes over medium-low heat.

Another miracle of the day was my Experimental Mashed Rutabaga and Cauliflower. It was a truly unexpected success. I will tell you all about it in my next installment. Stay tuned.

Cheers!

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