Where’s the beans?

Grilled chicken thighs and garden salsa

Bravo.  That's the worst picture on the entire blog.  Possibly the entire internet.

Bravo. That’s the worst picture on the entire blog. Possibly the entire internet.

First of all, let me apologize for possibly the worst picture on the internet.  A 90’s GIF of stars twinkling would have been better.  I’m guessing I need the paid version of WordPress to insert a GIF, so we aren’t going to find out which is worse.  So I apologize for this crime scene photo of a half eaten piece of chicken and some scattered salad.

Second, the chicken is fine.  It’s grilled chicken with a marinade.  We made it with bone-in, skin-on thighs and adjusted the cooking time.  That was fine too.

Third, and here’s where I really have something to say, the salsa needed beans.  Let me back up.  Do you know what Texas Caviar is?  It’s that salad with the black eyed peas, tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, etc and a basic vinegarette.  You’ve seen it at cookouts.  I promise.  It’s usually served with tortilla chips.  It’s amazing.  I had a hard time eating this salsa because it’s just beans and jalapenos away from being Texas Caviar.  That and the total lack of tortilla chips.  Always a problem.  So while this was tasty, the constant reminder of something tastier ruined it for me.  By the way, there’s an awesome Texas Caviar recipe in Martha’s American Food.  Ah, yet another 50 state cookbook that I own that could be used for some kind of dinner party theme, but is not.  Sigh.

Upshot: make some Texas Caviar and recommend some photography lessons.

 

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Beware too many substitutions

Pasta Nicoise

When you're out of the habit of blogging, you sometimes forget to take pictures of your food until they are leftovers...

When you’re out of the habit of blogging, you sometimes forget to take pictures of your food until they are leftovers…

D made this one, so I had to get his take on this dish as a recipe.  As an eater, I loved it.  He remembered that we’d made this one before with water-packed tuna and added our own olive oil.  He said that was better than reserving the oil from oil-packed tuna.  I would agree with him.  Oil-packed tuna is kind of weird.  It spread out all over the salad instead of staying in chunks.  The texture is a little mealier.  But here’s the really important point: there’s no tuna water to give the cats.  I’m surprised they let D live.  Seriously.  I cannot imagine what he went through opening two cans of tuna, draining them, releasing the tuna aroma into the air, and listening to the incessant meow of two housecats who are. not. having. it.  Sorry, D.  So we highly recommend water-packed tuna, especially for cat owners.  This also lets you use your own favorite olive oil instead of whatever the tuna people use.  We were also out of red wine vinegar.  Well, that’s not entirely fair.  We were out of it on purpose.  I’ve been trying to use up all of the random ingredients in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  To that end, I used up the red wine vinegar about a month ago and haven’t bought more.  D used balsamic instead.  It was good, but it was better with red wine vinegar.  So it’s time to replace the red wine vinegar.  Fair enough.  One substitution was very successful.  D used up the last of the black Moroccan olives that we purchased for who knows what recipe.  I’m telling you, getting these random things out of the fridge feels very good.

Upshot: Even with the slight problems with substitutions, this is a good recipe.  It was a very nice, hearty meal.

Thank Goodness for the January/February Issue!

You may have noticed, we fell a little behind on the writing again.  Ugh.  Who knew so much writing would be required for a blog? Anyway, as usual, we have been cooking in a timely manner, just not updating you on all of our adventures.

So, let me introduce the Jan/Feb 2010 issue!  The Light Issue.  Lots of lean meats and veggies in this one.

I started the year off making the Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula.

Image

As is often the case with the EF pastas, it seemed a little dry.  I don’t think this would have been an issue if I had doubled the roasted vegetable recipe.  The vegetables were pretty delicious. Roasted garlic, shallot and tomato make a nice, savory combination.

I say, go ahead and make this, just double the veg!

Easy fish and the incredible shrinking recipe

“Aldi fish” veracruzano

Beef Tacos

These two recipes are from the “Some Like it Hot” story(?…column?…feature?) in the October 2003 issue.  They are all supposed to be based on a classic Mexican food.  I generally like the way Everyday Food does Mexican food.  Lots of avocado and healthier stuff than beef enchiladas with extra cheese.  

The fish veracruzano called for red snapper, but Aldi carries two kids of fish: salmon and tilapia.  So this is tilapia.

Side story: I've had those napkins since I sewed them for my first apartment back in college

Side story: I’ve had those napkins since I sewed them for my first apartment back in college

This was a relatively quick recipe without a ton of prep, and you’ll notice that most of the ingredients keep for a long time.  The plum tomatoes are the most perishable thing.  Other than that it’s onions, garlic, pickled jalapeños (gotta love a recipe that calls for jarred food), green olives (again, whoo and hoo), dried oregano, fish, and limes.  I like recipes that can be made at the end of the week when the more perishable things I shopped for have already gone bad or been used.

It’s a tasty recipe with lots of saltiness and tang.  If you like olives (attention, B!), then you’ll like this recipe.

On to the beef tacos.  

It's difficult to take pictures of tacos.  They always look like tostadas.

It’s difficult to take pictures of tacos. They always look like tostadas.

This is three recipes in one: beef taco filling, guacamole, and pico de gallo.  Speaking of letting things go bad…I purchased 7 plum tomatoes for this recipe.  The pico de gallo called for 6 and the guacamole called for 1.  All but one went bad in the fridge by the time I got around to this recipe.  Oops.  But I didn’t want to hold off on making this and it was too late to go to the store.  So I made an incredibly tiny batch of guac and an equally ridiculously small batch of pico de gallo.

It's not often you get to sixth a recipe

It’s not often you get to sixth a recipe

You know what?  This was a totally legit option.  Sometimes you don’t need a giant amount.  This was enough for two adults to garnish their tacos for one meal.  It meant we didn’t have them for leftovers, but that’s not the end of the world.

There’s another substitution involved here.  The recipe calls for 3 total jalapeños in the three recipes.  D and I just took apart the last of our garden.  This yielded one more random pepper (Anaheim?):

I'm from LA! ...Anaheim...

I’m from LA!
…Anaheim…

and one eensy weensy baby Poblano pepper:

cutie!!

cutie!!

The long skinny pepper has almost zero heat, so it didn’t help much but the Poblano gave it all good flavor.

This is a fine taco meat recipe, by the way.  I like the freeze it taco filling recipe from another issue better, but this one is fine too.

And if you need more heat, may I suggest Valentina.  Ah Valentina…the magical $1.00 hot sauce. How are they making any money selling this stuff?!

mi amor, Valentina

mi amor, Valentina

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner(s)!

So, owing to the fact that I don’t really eat red meat, I make a lot of chicken.  I roast it, I pan fry it, I bake it, I stir fry it.  Since G has already explained her “poach only” stance on chicken, this Roasted Paprika Chicken obviously fell into my realm.

Don't worry, it's supposed to look like that.

Don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that.

Generally, the goal when roasting a chicken is to have a nice glistening crispy skin.  In this recipe, the thick spice crust is meant to blacken while cooking.  The flavor of the spices really get deep into the meat of the chicken.  It was good.  Although, honestly I prefer chicken to have some bright notes like lemon and garlic.  This chicken was so deeply savory you kind of needed something with a little acid to brighten it up a bit…

…Which is why I liked the french chicken salad so much!  The red-wine vinaigrette, while thin, somehow coats the chicken and adds body.  The celery and onion add crunch and a bit of zip and the acidity of the vinegar and mustard wakes the chicken right up.  So tasty.

This issue actually had two chicken salad recipes and four serving options.  I served mine in an avocado:

So creamy!

So creamy!

I lucked out and had a perfectly ripe avocado! The creaminess worked really well with the zing of the chicken salad.  I think this would be a really satisfying and healthy lunch.

I also served the french chicken salad in a roasted tomato:

Roasty toasty ...

Roasty toasty …

You core the tomato and scoop out a nice bowl for the chicken salad.  Then you roast it at 400 degs for just a few minutes.  You can see the skin just began to split.  (For the full instructions, see page 119, October 2003, issue 6).  I enjoyed the salad this way as well, but let’s face it, nothing beats an avocado.

Now G is going to tell you about her adventures with classic chicken salad.

G here!  Well, it’s time for me to eat some crow on my “poach only” stance.  Crow would probably be tastier than chicken salad made with poached chicken thighs or really any chicken thighs.  They are too fatty and rich to be paired with a mayonnaise dressing.  It just tasted off.  There’s a reason why chicken salad recipes call for white meat.  Yum!  Crow!

Anyway, I had the classic chicken salad recipe, and Beth had the French.  I spent a lot of time trying to suss out the difference between the two.  Here it is, dear reader: the classic has double the Dijon mustard, lemon juice instead of red wine vinegar and slightly less of it, hot sauce, and mayo.  I guess the mayo is the real difference, but we’re talking 2 teaspoons per cup of chicken.  Suffice it to say there’s not much of a difference between these two.

Here’s my salad as a sandwich:

Let's play spot the yellow peppers!

Let’s play spot the yellow peppers!

And here it is on a bed of mixed greens:

I found 'em!

I found ’em!

The takeaway here is that poaching chicken is not always the answer.  …—>the moooore yoooou knoooow!!!!—>