New Page: What's For Dinner?

More often than not, my dinners are inspired by other bloggers, when I have a chance to read blogs on breaks throughout the day. When I don't have time, I sometimes find myself at a loss. For my own purposes, I think in a year from now it would be helpful to have a comprensive list of everything I cooked and ate over the previous year for those nights that I just don't know what to cook - even listing trips to restaurants, and linking back to blog posts with recipes - if I have deemed the dish blog-worthy, of course.

Additionally, I thought this page may be a better glimpse into my every day, after several comments referred to me as a "rich cook" and asking "how are you not as big as a house?" Because I only post sporadically, what I post is not representative of what I eat every day! When I have a recipe that is special, that is unique or different from what I eat every day, that is when I deem it blog-worthy.

What do you think? Would a list like this inspire your next dinner?

Homemade Flour Tortillas

When I was young and growing up in Austin, my family frequented a grocery mega-store called Central Market. I know I'm not able to do it justice, but between the frequent exposure to their fresh cheese counter, deli, butcher, endless produce selection, and a bakery, my foodie tendencies were sure to arise early in life.

The highlight of our trips to Central Market, at least for me, was going home with a pack of ten fresh flour tortillas - and by fresh, I mean I was able to stand outside the bakery and watch women pluck hot tortillas from the griddle and toss them into a bag. Oftentimes, the bags were still warm and sweating when they went into our cart. On the rare chance that they made it all the way home, we never dared "waste" them on tacos or enchiladas - they were to be eaten solo, naked and pure.

My love for tortillas followed me to Nashville. Like so many things, I miss Austin for them.

Now, armed with knowledge and a trusty stand mixer, I'm able to make my own tortillas. They're not like Central Market's...theirs are chewy and floppy, almost doughy, and mine are sturdy and floury. Either way, when I remove them from the griddle, blistered and hot, I can't help but think back to those Saturdays at Central Market...only now, others are watching me pluck tortillas off the griddle in anticipation.

You will need:

4 cups of all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups of warm milk
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil. Slowly add the warm milk and stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, and knead on low speed for 2-3 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Rest dough for 20 minutes.
Once dough has rested, pick off ping-pong sized balls and roll into balls. Set on a large plate or cutting board without touching, and cover with plastic wrap to rest for another 10 minutes.
One at a time, place dough balls on a floured surface, pat into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until thin - about eight inches in diameter. Place tortillas on a very hot, ungreased griddle and turn over when one side is blistered and brown/golden brown in spots. Wrap in aluminum foil to keep warm. If you have leftovers, they will keep wrapped in foil for about a day.
Makes 16 8-inch tortillas.
From Homesick Texan, a girl after my own heart.

Shrimp Enchiladas

Last night we had plans to celebrate a friend’s birthday with buffalo wings and beer at our favorite place for both, Bailey’s. Unfortunately Old Man Winter had other plans and dumped a few inches of snow and ice on the ground right as we were getting ready to leave. Nothing was defrosted and we had neither leftovers nor plans to cook, so we turned to the deep freeze. To make a long story filled with the itemization and removal of every meat in the freezer (Josh) and much hemming and hawing (me) short, eventually we came up with these shrimp enchiladas.

It became a true pantry challenge. Without the ideal amount of Monterey Jack - my favorite for enchiladas - on hand, I filled and topped the enchiladas with a combination of Monterey Jack, Queso Fresco and Double Gloucester (I was itching for the Camembert, but I knew Josh would have a hard time with shrimp-Camembert enchiladas). I used Dorot frozen cilantro and canned Hatch chilies in my sauce, and against what would usally be my enchilada preference (corn), flour tortillas.

With proper planning, and more/better ingredients I think these could be dinner-party worthy. Prepared only with what I had on hand, however, they were spicy, gooey and hot on a cold winter night - a decent substitute for buffalo wings indeed.

For the sauce, you will need:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
Half a can Hatch green chilies, diced (half reserved)
Half a small red onion, diced (half reserved)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chili powder
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped (or two cubes of Dorot frozen cilantro)
1/4 cup shredded cheese

Melt the butter over medium-low heat and add flour to make a roux. Cook the roux for about a minute, then pour in milk and whisk constantly for another minute. As mixture thickens, whisk more frequently. Once mixture has thickened, add salt, green chilies, onions and garlic and whisk again. Add all seasonings, lime juice and cilantro before adding cheese. Reduce heat to low.

For the enchiladas, you will need:

8 flour tortillas, warmed just before rolling
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound mixed cheeses, shredded
Reserved Hatch chilies
Reserved red onion
Olive oil for searing the shrimp

Place peeled shrimp into a medium bowl. Toss with salt, cumin and cayenne.

Heat olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. When oil begins to smoke, add in as many shrimp as possible without crowding and cook for a minute on each side (you do not want to cook the shrimp through - just brown the outsides, as they will continue to cook in the oven). Repeat until all shrimp are browned. Remove shrimp to a plate and set aside.

To assemble:

Place a warmed tortilla on a flat surface. Sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons of cheese, then add 3-4 shrimp per tortilla, a sprinkling of diced red onion, and a teaspoon of chilies. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the enchilada and place it into a baking dish. Repeat until your baking dish is full. Pour prepared sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkle remaining cheese on top, and place in a 400 degree oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

Serve with fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Ciabatta Bread

This was my first recipe prepared with my stand mixer. I peered over the top of the bowl, marveling as the dough hook worked its magic on what moments before had just been flour, sugar, water and starter. The slow, satisfying thwack-thwack-thwack of kneading dough against the bowl continued long after I had walked away from the kitchen. KitchenAid - the home cook's best friend, indeed.

For my first run with the mixer, and for a bread recipe I picked from the sky, the results were both fantastic and fleeting - the bread didn't stick around long, which with only two people in the house, is usually a good sign.

To make a sponge/starter, you will need:

1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup bread flour

In a small bowl, stir together 1/8 teaspoon of the yeast and the warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.

In a separate bowl, stir together (above) yeast mixture, 1/3 cup of the water, and 1 cup of the bread flour.

Stir together by hand for 4 minutes (there is a good reason for this - the dough takes a while to come together due to the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients), then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Note: the sponge/starter will not be runny like many starters are. Over the next 24 hours, it will develop into the right consistency. You'll know when it's ready, as it will smell a little beer-like.

To make the bread after 24 hours, you will need:

Your sponge/starter
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tsp brown sugar
2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for oiling the bowl in which your dough will rise)
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a small bowl stir together yeast, warm water and sugar and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy in appearance.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook, blend together yeast mixture (above), your sponge/starter, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened; add salt and mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. The dough should be relatively firm at this point and clear the sides of the bowl.

Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is doubled in bulk when pressing a finger into the top leaves an indentation that doesn't bounce back.

Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet and form into a free-form oval or circle.

Cover loaf with a dampened kitchen towel. Let rise at room temperature until again doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

At least 45 minutes before baking ciabatta, put a baking stone on the lowest position in your oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees (do not put a cold baking stone into a hot oven!). Bake ciabatta for 15-20 minutes on baking stone, or until golden brown. Tapping on the underside of the bread with two fingers (like you were flicking it) should produce a hollow sound.

Adapted slightly from TriniGourmet

I Don't Believe It

Oh my goodness, I actually have one.

The coveted KitchenAid. Yep, it's in my kichen, courtesy of my brother and Josh. All I'll say is this: I have wonderful, thoughtful guys in my life.

To everyone's surprise, I had no interest in a purple mixer (overkill, in my opinion). Instead, this "pistachio" color fits right in with our purple/blue/green/white backsplash and compliments the purple quite nicely.

So now I'm looking for suggestions. What would be, or what was, the first thing you prepare in your KitchenAid? I'm sure this baby can handle just about anything I can think to throw in it, and I really want to see it in its glory (i.e., not cookies which I could make with a hand mixer).

I'm a bit late with the sentiment, but I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and an enjoyable new year!