So this weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting my friend-and-fellow-blogger Kaoru Negisa at my house while he signed the final paperwork for his new apartment.
Now, in addition to being an excellent human being, highly intelligent, a wonderful fencer and musician, and dead sexy to boot, Kaoru is also an amazing cook. He is the individual who introduced concepts like "balsamic reduction" and "mushroom risotto" to my culinary lexicon, for which I am eternally grateful. So when I realized he was going to be living in my house and (therefore) eating my food for several days, I got quite nervous. No pressure or anything.
However, the food I managed to produce was, I believe, passable, and he pronounced it good, so I'm going to share the recipes :) (Sadly, I only have a picture of one dish, but I'll try to describe the rest!)
Vienna bread, "garbage" soup base, chicken-and-broccoli salad, and fruit with fudge dip for dessert.
This is actually a version of French bread; it's called Vienna bread because it was originally made with Vienna flour (don't ask.) It uses butter and milk to make the bread softer, and guess what - it totally works. I made it in the bread machine, and it was much softer than most bread machine bread, and also much tastier.
1/2 c water
1/2 c milk (I may have skewed it a little more towards milk rather than water)
3 tbsp unsalted (I used salted) butter, softened and cut into pieces
3 c bread flour
2 tbsp sugar (just regular white sugar - I prefer turbinado, but for baking white sugar is the standard consistency to go with)
1 tbsp gluten (I always leave this out as I can't get gluten at my neighborhood grocery store, and it turns out just fine without it)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp fast-rising yeast or 2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast (I used ~2.8 tsp regular old active dry yeast - I estimated - and it turned out lovely)
Put it in the bread machine in the order your bread machine requires (mine uses the order given above, which is why I wrote it out that way) and set it to either the Basic or French cycle (I used French, which is 3 hours 50 minutes, and it was perfect.)
Eat it soft and warm with butter and/or jam, or dip it into the soup below.
The "garbage" comes from what you're supposed to mix in with the soup base. Once the base is done, you throw any leftovers you've accumulated from the week into it - basically, you clean out the fridge. Almost anything will go nicely, and it's a good use for random leftovers. However, I like the base by itself - it's rich and creamy and flavorful, and it looks, tastes, and smells very elegant as long as you can refrain from calling it "garbage soup."
2-3 stalks celery
1-2 tomatoes, or a small jar of diced tomatoes
1 box vegetable broth (or chicken broth - my roommate is vegetarian so we went with vegetable broth)
seasonings (I like Adobo and coriander; if you haven't tried those together, I recommend them highly, but feel free to experiment!)
Chop up all the veggies. Take the extra minute or two to get the seeds out of the tomatoes and the skins off the potatoes - it'll make a difference in the end. Boil them in the broth until soft.
Put the veggies and broth, in batches, into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, then add seasonings. It should be a ridiculously gorgeous golden-orange color. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can strain it to make sure all lumps are out, but you don't have to.
Serve with a dollop of cold sour cream in the middle of the bowl - the swirling textures and mixture of cold and hot is amazing. (Note: if for whatever reason you are reducing your fat intake, it is perfectly ok to leave the sour cream out. The soup will still be wonderful without it. Do not, under any circumstances, use low-fat or fat-free sour cream. I cannot stress this enough. The texture will be completely off, and you'll do better to just skip it altogether.)
This was an experiment. People said it was tasty, but I wasn't 100% satisfied with it. If anyone tries a variation that turns out better, please let me know. It's meant to be a mixture of potato salad and that wonderful broccoli salad you sometimes find on the better sort of salad bars. Plus chicken. (Basically it was an excuse to use up a bunch of stuff in my fridge, plus get some more veggies into dinner, because I don't get enough greens lately.)
1 stalk fresh broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2-3 potatoes, likewise
2 carrots, same
A generous assortment of: frozen corn, frozen peas, frozen green beans, and whatever else you have lying around
1-2 c cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
sharp cheddar, fancy shredded (to taste)
mayonnaise (to taste)
Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
salt/garlic salt/Adobo (to taste)
Boil the broccoli, potatoes, and carrots until soft. Add the frozen vegetables at the end and cook until hot. Drain. Combine with chicken.
In a separate bowl, combine mayo, Worcestershire sauce, and salt (or flavored salt mixture of your choice) into a tasty dressing. Pour it over the veggie-chicken mixture and mix up. Add more dressing if you think it needs it. (If it needs LESS dressing... um... suck it up, or boil some more broccoli.) Add shredded cheddar. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.
...ok, coming clean: this was a mistake. It was supposed to be fudge. I have a friend who is allergic to soy, and I had some soy-free chocolate in the house, and I remembered her saying a few weeks back that she was really craving fudge but couldn't have any (because soy), so I was like AHA! Here is a thing I can make for our D&D game Saturday night! So I used the recipe on the back of a marshmallow fluff container, and made some fudge.
However, it went wrong: the fudge didn't set. I followed the directions exactly, and yet. Maybe I didn't boil it long enough. Maybe I used too much marshmallow fluff, or otherwise incorrectly cut the recipe in half. Maybe the soy-free chocolate didn't melt as well - we did notice some (delightful!) unmelted chocolate bits in the finished product, which may have affected the texture. Maybe it was the humidity. Whatever the reason, what I ended up with was not fudge, but a non-Newtonian fluid that threatened to ooze out of the pan if I tilted it too much.
Shamefaced, I admitted my failure to my friend - who promptly ran out to the store and obtained bananas, strawberries, and apples, and we wound up with the most decadently awesome fruit dip I have EVER had. Seriously, I was in strawberry-and-chocolate-bliss for a while there.
Anyway. I accidentally threw the container away, so this is my best guesstimate (sorry!) You can also get it by getting a jar of fluff and cutting the recipe on the back in half.
1/2 jar marshmallow fluff (I think I actually had a little more than 1/2)
1 stick butter
1 1/2-2 c sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp salt
1 bag chocolate chips
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Mix first 5 ingredients in a saucepan until all are blended, bring to a boil. (Note: use a large pot/pan for this, as it will boil up high!) Boil over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until candy is at the soft-ball stage. (Translation: drop a bit into a glass of cold water, and it forms a soft ball that you can squish with your fingers.) Remove from heat; add vanilla and chocolate, stir until chocolate is melted. Pour into a buttered 9x9 inch pan and refrigerate.
If, when cooled, it is firm, voila! You have fudge! If not, grab some fruit and start dipping. Trust me, it's not a failure, it's just a different way to have chocolate for dessert :P
This is an incredibly simple recipe that is delicious. I'm not giving amounts, as I definitely eyeballed it the whole way - and honestly, you're going to adjust it up or down anyway based on how many people you're feeding and how people like their onion-to-noodles-to-meat ratio. So let's just stick with the basics.
Noodles (I am lucky enough to live near an Oriental supermarket, so I had an unpronounceable variety of Vietnamese noodles that look like little bird's nests before cooking. But thin spaghetti will work just as well, I'm sure.)
Onion, thin sliced
Frozen peas and corn (and anything else you like in stir-fry - I'm not a huge pepper fan, but if you are, green peppers would probably be lovely.)
Beef, thin-sliced (or substitute chicken, pork, shrimp, all of the above...)
Vegetable oil (this is one of the very few recipes where I don't recommend olive oil)
Saute up the beef in a side pan with oil, garlic, and soy sauce. Set it aside. (Note: I cook for both vegetarians and carnivores, so I keep the meat separate. If that's not a concern for you, you can add the meat in at any time or even cook it with the onions.)
Boil noodles until soft, drain. Keep moist.
In a wok or large pan, saute onions in oil until soft (or browned or caramelized). Add frozen veggies and cook until hot. Add noodles and a bit more oil, fry the noodles up. Add garlic powder, sesame oil, and soy sauce to taste. (Note: sesame oil is expensive, so do know that it's not required to make this recipe taste good, it's just a nice touch.) Serve immediately; either mix beef strips in, or arrange on top.
Anyway! So those were the tasty things I cooked and ate this weekend. Please try the recipes, doctor them, tinker with them, let us know what you think and if you have any suggestions to make them better!