Friday, August 26, 2005

Roasted Rock Cornish Game Hens

A really simple meal that my mother often made when I was a child: cornish game hens roasted in a paper bag. It must be the equivalent of roasting fish in parchment; there's something about the paper bag that allows some of the skin to crisp while the juices keep the bird moist. I found myself craving this the other night and asked her for the recipe. It's a great thing to make when you're tired or short on time:

1 rock cornish game hen
breadcrumbs to coat chicken
3-4 Tblsp. melted butter or margarine
1 brown paper lunch bag

Heat oven to 400. Salt and pepper game hen generously inside, a little outside. Melt butter and rub all over chicken. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over all, pressing in to help adhesion. Then place the game hen in a paper bag and tie with twine at the top (I only had a big paper grocery bag on hand, so I cut it off at the top and folded it over instead). Place in a roasting pan, turn oven down to 375, and roast for one hour. This was nice with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes mashed up with a tablespoon of finely minced canned chipotle pepper, butter, and salt) and a salad.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Tomato, Basil, and Parmesan Flatbreads

Originally uploaded by rachelita2.
A restaurant recently opened up in my area that has delicious but overpriced flatbread pizzas-- not even pizzas, really, just good flatbreads topped with various combinations such as fig, prosciutto, and blue cheese. But when I discovered a recipe in my new Best of Cooking Light cookbook that has an excellent, crunchy flatbread dough, I was sold-- overpriced flatbread pizzas no more, unless someone else is paying...

The dough is good and crunchy and cooks quite nicely:

1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. olive oil

Combine boiling water and cornmeal in a bowl, let stand 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl, rest 5 minutes. Combine cornmeal mixture, flour, and salt in a food processor, pulsing until blended. Turn on food processor, and slowly add yeast mixture and oil until dough forms a ball. Knead 4 times, dough will be sticky, place in oiled bowl and put in a warm place to rise, at least 1 hour, until doubled. Then punch down the dough, let it sit 5 minutes. Divide into 4 balls, roll each into 10 x 6 inch ovals. Place on baking sheet dusted with cornmeal.

The topping: the recipe calls for a combination of sliced yellow and plum tomatoes, but this was too complicated, so I add sliced tomatoes. Then in a small bowl mix 1/2 cup minced fresh basil, 4 tsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and 4 minced garlic cloves. Grate 1 cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese. Fresh basil is essential here-- it's part of the point of why the final product is so good.

Heat oven to 475. Divide tomatoes among the 4 flatbread ovals, bake 13 minutes. Spread basil mixture and cheese over bread, bake another 2 minutes or until melted. Yields four beautiful, crunchy little pizzas.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tastes Great - Less Filling

It seems odd to think that this is early August and the summer is pretty much over-- schools have started here in Florida and meetings and classes at the college where I teach will start very soon. Apparently parents have begun to protest the early start, angry about having their kids in 90 degree school buses.

I never did manage to update about food from Morocco-- not because I couldn't, but because it was so hot there that every time I'd go to the internet cafe the temperatures outside were around 105, and cooking and writing about food were the last thing I wanted to do. Despite having the Sahara desert in the southern part of the country, Morocco is not normally as hot as it's been this year-- its climate is usually more like Georgia's.

But I'm back now and my current resolution is to try to make recipes that don't involve a lot of elaborate ingredients and preparation. In an attempt to be frugal, I'm hoping to develop the ability to improvise with what's on hand, so that I don't end up in the grocery store each day spending money on random ingredients that languish unused in the pantry.

Tonight I started preparing some of the recipes from The Best of Cooking Light, which my sister gave me as a birthday gift. I've been surprised by how much I've gotten into this magazine in general over the past two years, and they really do try to find ways to make things taste great while sacrificing little in flavor.

I made Fettucine with Cashew Cream, a recipe that promised to be a lot like Fettucine Alfredo, but without any butter or cream. I had my doubts that cashews could somehow be turned into a sauce that didn't have a basically nutty taste, and I was really surprised by the end result: it was delicious, more intriguing than any run-of-the-mill alfredo sauce, and tasted nothing like cashews at all.

Cook 8 ounces of fettucine while working on the sauce. First process 1/2 cup roasted cashews in the food processor for two minutes, scraping down the sides. Add 1 1/4 cups water slowly until well mixed. Place cashew cream into a small saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce the heat, whisking for one minute. Remove from stove.

Then heat a skillet with a little olive oil and saute three minced garlic cloves for 30 seconds. Add cashew cream, pasta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and pepper and salt to taste. This supposedly made four servings at 378 calories each, but between two of us we finished the whole thing...