Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introduction to Magic

I enjoy playing with food.  In fact, I used to get paid to do it.  Now it's just a hobby.  But I'm going to start doing something with ingredients in the recipes I post that will hopefully teach you to love playing with your own food.  There are 2 recipes posted here, so be sure to go all the way to the bottom!

It's snowing again.  The perfect night for warm, toasty, stick-to-your-ribs stew.  Tonight's dinner is:  

Beef Barley Vegetable Stew

Olive oil
The cute little rosemary trees sold here at the holidays.  <3
6 c. water
2 Tbsp. Beef bullion
1 lb. lean steak pieces
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp garlic salt plus more to taste
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (just because I have some left I need to use)
1 ear of corn removed from cob
2 large carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 stalks of celery (that's 2 pieces: not 2 bunches!)
a handful of kale with the hard stem removed, chopped into small pieces
1/2 c. onion chopped coarsely
1 bay leave or 1 tsp of the crushed leaves
1 c. cooked barley

Put some olive oil in a large-ish pan and set it on to heat.  In a plastic bag, mix your flour, 1 tsp. garlic salt, and 1 tsp. of black pepper together.  Put the meat into the bag and shake to coat.  This is what's going to make your stew stew and not soup :)

II.  Saute the garlic and the meat in the oil until the meat is browned.  Some of the flour is going to stick to the bottom of the pan and this is totally fine.  Melt the bullion in 1 cup of the warm water.  When the meat is brown on all sides, add in the bullion you've made.  Use your spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan as all stuff that stuck to the bottom is one of the things that's going to make this taste delicious (and save you time scrubbing it later!).
III.  This is going to look like a nice thick gravy once it stops bubbling.  Reduce your heat and then add in the rest of the water.
IV.  Get your veges sliced.  You're going to be putting half of them into your soup now.  The rest you'll save til it's about halfway done.  If you're using dry uncooked barley, add it in now also.


And don't forget to share the wealth with The Rocket Dog, or whoever it is that happens to be underfoot in your kitchen!

I have this great tool called a Kernel Cutter that I got from Pampered Chef for removing corn kernels from the cob.  It cost me about $8 and I use it all the time!  I highly recommend them!

Season it to your taste now with extra salt/garlic salt/pepper.  Then turn your stove down to its lowest setting.  You just want to be able to see a bubble pop to the top every few seconds, not anywhere near a boil.  Let this simmer on the stove for about 15 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes, add in the other half of your vegetables.  This is so that they don't all get mushy in the cooking process, but you get the benefit of their taste as the stew simmers.

This stew takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and is perfect for a cold winter night.  It's nice and thick and sticks to your ribs.  I serve it with some chunks of sharp cheddar thrown in to melt, or a few crumbles of feta cheese on top.

Now:  Here's the playing with your food part!  Here's the same recipe a different way:

Beef Barley Vegetable Stew II

Olive oil
6 c. water
2 Tbsp. bullion   (beef if you're using steak, chicken if you're using chicken, or either/vegetable if you're making this vegetarian/vegan)
1 lb. meat 
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp garlic salt plus more to taste
1 tsp pepper
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. of frozen peas and corn combination
1 c. frozen green beans...basically, just put in a total of 3 cups of whatever frozen veges you have in your freezer!
If you happen to have onion and garlic, chop some up and toss it in when you cook the meat.  Basically, whatever vegetables you have on hand can also go in.  Potatoes will work great!  So will turnips, spinach, asparagus, chopped tomatoes...use your imagination!
1 tsp of any 1 of the following:  dried basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and (again), even poultry seasoning if that's all you have!
Any kind of grain you have on hand.  Quinoa would work well as would brown rice!  Use 1/2 c. uncooked, or 1 cup cooked.  

Now, follow the instructions as above omitting anything that no longer applies!

Recipes are guidelines.  That's all.  But working in the kitchen is alchemy: transforming matter from one thing (or many things) into something else entirely!  Baking a little more so than cooking as leavening comes in to play, but if you break a recipe down to its bare bones (using the above as an example) you get: water, bullion, flour, and seasonings.  Anything after that can totally be substituted for whatever you want!  Try this the next time you're looking online for recipes.  I've come up with some of my favorite original recipes by just throwing a little of this and a little of that into a pan and seeing what happens!  If you're not sure, imagine the tastes of what you plan to combine and whether or not you think they'd go together.  And taste as you go!  They don't have to be bowlfuls, just a taste to see where you're at in the building process! :)  All of the recipes I post here are my own original recipes unless I've provided a link to the original poster.  But the only real "secret" to making up your own is to use your imagination!  Be resourceful!

And don't forget to share with the rest of us what you come up with!  It takes a village to make a good blog, and your ideas are important too.  I'd love to hear how you take my recipes and change them to suit yourself, as well as the reactions of the people you're serving.  And for those of you who have opted to receive my posts via email, don't forget to click on a link to the blog itself from time to time to see what might have been posted on the other tabs, or (as above) to leave a comment about what you're doing differently!

Now:  Off you go!  Go forth and play with your food!  It should be fun, not drudgery.  You're creative and intelligent and you've totally got this!!!