The Determined Cook

A place where perfection lies in the tasty morsel that finds its way into your mouth.

A Treasured Find at the Ventura Flea Market

My Mother-in-Law always finds those gifts that make one’s day, and on Sunday, she did just that.  Having been sick with the flu all weekend, she brought over a paper bag of goodies that she found at the Ventura Flea Market – it was a bag of recipe books.  What a way to perk me up.  Maya and I sat on the couch and went through the bag.  There were two William Sonoma cookbooks (Pasta and Brunch).  There was one on Indian cooking (a large picture book) and then, there was…Chocolate and Zucchini  by Chlotilde Dusoulier.  Chocolate and Zucchini is a blog that I have just fallen in love with.  It is fun, adventurous, and TASTY.  Finding that book in the brown paper bag was serendipitous – I feel invigorated to cook, and am not afraid to change recipes around to suit my tastes…after all, isnt’ t the fun in cooking.

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Getting to Know Julia Child

Ever since I saw Julie and Julia, I have become obsessed with Julia Child (from a distance) – after all, who am I to even familiarize myself with her.  It took my having the flu to have the time to sit down and read.  I started reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1. and to my dismay, the recipes are doable.  Many pages have already been dogeared, with the promise that when my strength comes back I will attempt many of the recipes.  In addition to already having made the cabbage soup, my next try will be the infamous Boeuf Bourgignon.

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Cabbage Potato Soupy Goodness-For a Non Soup Person

Today, I came home early with the flu…baaaaaah!  I was in the mood for something that would wrap me up in the comfort of my favorite blankie, yet give me the energy to not pass out.  Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking has been sitting by my bedside table, taunting me, intimidatingly for days.  I scoured through my fridge and then looked through the book.  The recipe that seemed most appetizing was Cabbage Soup.  However, I had a craving for a melange of cabbage and potatoes, so I took here recipe and altered it a bit.
3 strips bacon
1/2 a head of cabbage (chopped)
2 potatoes (small cubes)
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
I fried the bacon and chopped it into little bits.  In the bacon fat, I sauteed the onions and garlic until caramelized.  Then I added the chopped cabbage and covered it all with the bacon goodness.  Once the cabbage had wilted a bit, I added the potatoes and cup of white wine.  Mixing it as it boiled, I added the chicken broth and water, brought it to a rapid boil, covered it and let it simmer for an hour.
Soup is not my favorite food; however, today was different.  This soup hit a home run for me, and broke the ice between me and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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Easy Chicken Dinner( (for those rush nights)

Strolling through the meat aisle at our local Jon’s market, I set my eyes upon the freshest looking drumsticks.  Never having cooked this part of the chicken before, I was determined to try something new.  When I got home, I raided my recipe archives and found a recipe that Anika had shared with us at our summer party – the one where Anika an Jason’s chicken drumsticks flew off our dining table.  As always, I prepped the chicken the night before and added my own touches.
6 chicken drumsticks (rubbed with salt)
2tsp of Chinese Five Spice
1tsp of Garam Massala
Minute Maid Orangeade (enough to make a spice paste)
Lime Juice
1/2 tsp of crushed ginger
1/2 tsp of crushed garlic
I coated the drumsticks with the spice paste and stored them in a zippy bag, overnight.  For dinner the next night, I spread them on sprayed cookie sheet and put them in a 400deg preheated oven for an hour.  At the half hour mark, I took them out of the oven and basted them with a concoction of sesame oil, ponzu sauce, sweet chili sauce, and a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice.  We served these up with steamed broccolli, carrots, and cauliflower.

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Pine Mountain Brussel Sprouts

Over the weekend we took a trip up to Pine Mountain and stayed at a friend’s cabin.  On the menu for one of our dinners was the bag of frozen brussel sprouts that I had grabbed from our freezer to ensure that we had a vegetable component to our dinner menu.  Not sure what to do with them, I put them in the steamer attachment to my handy-dandy Rival rice cooker.  The brussel sprouts steamed while my rice cooked – when they were fork-tender, I looked and them and was not sure what to do next.  Poking around in the cabin’s fridge, I found bacon and butter, and then reached for my trusted seasonings-salt and pepper. I fried the bacon (semi crisp) and chopped it up,tossed the brussel sprouts and bacon in some melted butter, sprinkled salt and pepper to taste and baked at 350degrees for 20 minutes.  They came out crisp, tender, and delicious…turning my Non Brussel Sprout Spouse into a Brussel Sprout Loving Man!

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Chicken Curry to Impress Great Aunt Maggie, Family Cooking Goddess

Mum was having a family get together and asked if I would help her out with a simple curry dish. Immediately, I zipped through my mental cookbook to find something that would use my crockpot and that I could “accessorize” with the jars and cans in my pantry. Mid-thought, I stopped dead in my tracks. At this party would be my Great Aunt Maggie – Goan cook extraordinaire. What on earth could lowly me make that would impress this Chicken curry with potatoes was the answer. Cooked the day before to allow the rich curried sauce to infuse into plump pieces of chicken breast and yukon gold potato cubes I hoped this would be one for the books.
My chicken curry journey began with my sauteing onion slices, crushed garlic and ginger, and half a green chili with some garam masala. Once the onions had caramelized and the kitchen air was thick with the aroma of curry, I added my chicken pieces. Nudging the chicken around in the pot until it was a rich golden brown, I then added my pantry accessories, half a can of chicken broth, and a Trader Joe’s Massala Simmer Sauce. The pot was filled with golden pieces of chicken swimming in a rich, red, bubbling curry. I turned my stove off, let the pot cool, and put my pot-o-curry love in the fridge for a beauty rest.
The next morning the curry was transferred to my trusty Rival crockpot andset on the 6 hour-medium setting. Four hours into the simmering, I added cubed Yukon gold potatoes. An at the six hour mark, everything was tender, saucy, and fully cooked.
I personally served Great Aunt Maggie with some rice and curry, and later in the lunch, noticed her go for seconds. Lowly cook now has slightly inflated ego…gots to go…more recipes to try.

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