Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooking in Public

Happy New Year everyone! Yes, I know we are half way into month one, but I wasn’t willing to just jump into resolutions (and subsequent failure) so I have been wresting with what I want to do this year and the all-important How! You’ve got to give me a little credit since I have set my sights pretty in reach with no great drives to lose 100 pounds, save 1000 dollars or be nice to others 1 million times. Instead, I am making small goals within bounds that are purely for me. So saying that, this blog is going to change a touch, at least I am making the efforts to give it a bit of a routine. Yes, I know for all the artsy folks out there, routines are stifling and so unproductive, but for me they work. It’s part of my personality type. I like have a schedule and boundaries to work with (whether they stand or not.)

My quest for this touch of retentive elegance aligns with it being Monday and my day to share with you two of my favorite things – food and reading. From now on, until I change my mind, the weeks will begin with an introduction to cookbooks, cooking magazines, blogs and such that I have come to love or recently discovered and found I could not live without. I call it “Cooking in Public”, sort of like sex in public, but without the fear of being arrested, though it does have that thrill of sharing something so precious for everyone to gawk at. And what better way to kick this off than with my decade-long, unconditional relationship with Cooking Light Magazine.

Golden from the get-go, CL has been there for me from the start when I found out my love of eating was just a wayward symptom of my true love for cooking and all things food. I don’t recall how I happened upon my first issue back in 1999, but I have ever issue since categorized by year on the lower shelves of my cookbook book case, an easy grab for those lonely nights.

Life a favorite porn magazine (if there are such things anymore), I lustfully gaze at the photogenic sweethearts on each page, drooling and contemplating what I could do with each morsel while feeling my adrenaline rush. “Yeah I need me some of that” my mind mutters as I turn the page to yet another hot dish. Unlike sex mags though, I feel free to share my hot finds with others and alter the recipes as I see fit to expand on their endowments and satiate myself with their tongue-licking talents.

OK enough with the sex euphemisms. From time to time I revisit these parts of my past, but I look forward each month to the next issue, quietly finding time to luxuriate in the bathtub, on the bed or even nestled on the couch to devour each page of recipes, tips, tools and gadgets.

Over the years, this staple has inspired me to cook more than any other source turning me into a cook that many can appreciate. I have often thought about trying the whole Julie and Julia thing and making every recipe in at least one issue, but I neither have the time or the funds, so I pick my favorites and go from there. This month (a double issue), I so far have made Chipotle Bean Burritos, Salmon Croquettes and my own spin on Tuna Noodle Casserole (using the recipe as a guide and going from there.)

I have linked these to the recipes on the Web site, but that is so cold and you really miss out on the luxury of holding the glossy pages and admiring the true quality of those high-resolution food images.

My Tuna Noodle Casserole

I refuse to make a special trip to the store to make this comfort food staple meal, so I had to improvise on their recipe. It came out great! In fact, it turned out so good I figure I can substitute the tuna with chicken and maybe Paul will try it. I bet you could add more veggies like cauliflower, peas, artichokes, and whatever you like to make it full vegetarian, and even cut back on the pasta. I wonder how this would be with orzo??!!

8 ounces  whole wheat rotini ( I may have used a bit more or less since it was whatever was left in the box
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil from sundried tomatoes
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup  chopped carrot
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped broccoli stalks (We had them left over from the other night and I like to eat them as a snack with carrot sticks and grape tomatoes)
½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil (they were left over from the orzo made over the weekend)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup left over marinara sauce (it was left over from the batch Michelle made for Christmas and even if a drop remained it was not to be wasted)
1-1/4 cups fat-free milk (I used it to rinse out the sauce jar)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese (replaces the cream cheese since I didn’t have any)2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
2 (5-ounce) cans light tuna in water, drained and flaked
½ cup bread crumbs

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, celery, pepper and tomatoes; cook 6 minutes or until almost tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in sauce and milk; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thick. Stir in cheddar cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Remove pan from heat. Stir in noodles, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and tuna. Spoon mixture into a shallow broiler-safe 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bread crums. Broil 3 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

What has inspired you to cook? Or what thrills you in the kitchen?


Peter Lavelle said...

I love cooking for others. The impetus to cook is equal to my desire to please who's eating. Eating what? Whatever makes them happy.

For myself - steak and kidney pudding can't be beat. Anything I can feel reducing my lifespan.

Praers said...

Oh the joys of Heartache on a Plate. My favorite life shortening dish is Fettucine Alfredo with lots of butter and cheese. I generally pair it with red wine so I am helping to unclog my arteries as the fats drift past.

I do love cooking for others as well as learning about others who also love to cook. I am more adventurous than most making it sometimes a challenge to par down my recipes to suit the general public, but that can be fun too.

I never had steak and kidney pudding though, sound very adventerous.

Pierre Lavellé said...

Lol. You could probably plan a three course meal based on the physiological consequences of the ingredients.

You've cooked for the public?

Steak and kidney pudding is quite traditional - in England, that is. The country I call home. The suet from which the pudding is made is largely animal fat.

Praers said...

I've never officially cooked for the public, but I think cooking in public involves things as simple as sharing recipes and thoughts about food with others in any medium.