Friday, September 11, 2009

Cooking Shows vs. Home Cooking

This is old news but, NPR had a little segment featuring this guy Michael Pollan who just wrote a new book called Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch. I've been a huge fan of Michael Pollan ever since I heard him on Terry Gross back in 2001. He's an NPR regular and very prolific writer who focuses on food. He examines food culture, food history, and of course the food industry. His recent NY Times article was really interesting. I found it appropriate to post because he examines why more and more Americans are tuning into reality cooking shows. And the irony is that Americans are cooking at home less and less. It was fascinating to me because I'm secretly obsessed with watching The Food Network even though most of the time the chefs are cooking meat. I think it's because I'm under the impression that I'll learn something relevant. Check out his article here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Polenta and Broccoli with Chicken-less Strips

Here is my shot at using the Chicken-less strips from Trader Joe's for the first time. (Click here for my beef-less strip recipe.) My instinct was to sauté them with broccoli using a Italian-inspired sauce. Luckily, I happened to have a tube of polenta (also from TJ's) which was pre-prepared. 30 minutes later I had a yummy meal that I couldn't stop eating. It got the seal of approval from the super-picky boyfriend too.

Trader Joe's Chicken-less strips
Olive Oil
Tapatio Sauce
Red Chile Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare two pans. If possible, one of them should be non-stick. Spray or cover both pans with Olive Oil. First slice open the plastic containing the polenta. Make 1/4 inch slices after peeling away plastic. Turn on heat for the non-stick pan. In the meantime, chop tomatoes. Check the non-stick pan to see if the oil has heated. If so, then place as many slices of polenta that will fit onto the pan. While polenta is frying, chop broccoli if necessary. Normally, I buy the already chopped broccoli - it's a great time-saver.

Once the polenta turns brown on one side, you may flip it with a spatula. As long as you've oiled the pan enough, it takes a lot to burn them, so don't worry about it too much. Go back to the regular stick pan that you oiled and start heating that one too. Tomatoes should go in after the pan has heated. Meanwhile watch your polenta. Flip and flip. Once they're completely done you can retire each slice onto a plate and then start adding more. They keep really well and can be re-heated without losing a lot of flavor so it's good to cook the entire tube.

By now the regular pan with the tomatoes should be ready for the broccoli, then chicken strips. Add about 4 Tbsp of Tapatio, 1 Tbsp of red chile pepper and salt and pepper to taste. The dish can get salty pretty quickly so taste it before adding more salt. Stir and cover. Turn to low heat. Check after a few minutes. Make sure that the broccoli has cooked all the way through before turning off heat. You want it to be soft yet crunchy.

Periodically check on your polenta during the entire cooking process. There's a little mult-tasking involved in this dish, but I guarantee it's easy and definitely worth it. Once all of the polenta is pan-fried go ahead and place a couple pieces of polenta and a spoonful of the broccoli mix next to it. The way to eat this dish is to use the polenta as if you would bread. Spoon some broccoli onto the slices and take a bite! Great for breakfast or brunch! Mmm.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Slice Chop Pare Techniques

I admit it, I am a Food Network junkie. Chopped and Iron Chef are my favorite shows. Although they're just like 'sports for food' and not very vegetarian friendly; for some reason I enjoy watching them. I think it's because I believe that I'll learn by osmosis or something.

One show that really annoys me is that Alton Brown show. BUT I did come across an episode that was extremely enlightening and helpful. It's great especially for someone like me who loves to cook, but was never formally trained... I learned by watching my Mom. No offense mom, but even you didn't show me these tips and tricks. Watch and learn.