Simple Pan Fried Corn

Image

Serves 4 (as a side)

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 6 mins

 

Tools

Heavy skillet

 

Ingredients

2 ears of corn on the cob

¼ cup sweet peppers diced

1tbls olive oil

1 tbls butter

1 clove garlic roughly chopped

1 shallot (or small onion) diced

¼ cup celery diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Chili flakes to taste

 

Method

Place skillet on stove on high heat.  While the pan is heating, remove the kernels from the corn cob. When the skillet is slightly smoking, add olive oil and butter (the olive oil keeps the butter from burning).  Add the garlic to the skillet and stir until you can smell the garlicky smell.

Add all the ingredients and toss.  Let the ingredients cook for three minutes without stirring (this will caramelize the sugar in the corn and onions).  Add salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Stir again and allow to cook for three more minutes.

Remove from heat and serve.


TeFal Fresh Express Max – Food Processor Review

As a child I lovingly recall Christmases with my family.  It was tradition for my grandparents to feed all the town’s elderly or handicapped that would have otherwise spent Christmas alone.  My pap and his friends would drive around town making pick-ups all day long.  I would sit on the steps and listen to the laughter and chatter all day long.  These were my favourite Christmases.

My Nanny and my Mom and grandma (aka Nanny) would start cooking days in advance for all of the guests that would come.  Cookies, cakes and nut rolls would be made weeks in advance and frozen.  Turkey, ham, chitterlings (pig’s intestines for those that don’t know), mac and cheese, spinach casserole, greens, candied yams, and the list goes on.  I would sit in the kitchen as they gossiped and prepared the feast. As they worked they would task me with jobs safe enough for little fingers.  Blocks of cheese as long as my six year old arm would be laid in front of me; a box grater placed in my hands; I would be set at the table for what seemed like two rotations of the sun. I would grate and grate and grate.  I would grate until my fingers were cramped and I could no longer feel it when I would grate tiny slivers of finger tip into the bowl.  I grated so much cheese as a child I think it borders on child abuse. And this happened every year of my childhood.  Needless to say, I hate grating cheese.

Fast forward to last week. I picked up my new best kitchen friend at Costco. It’s simply the bee’s knees.  Let me introduce you to the Tefal Fresh Express Max.  We’ll call her TT for short.  My girl slices, she dices, she chops, she grates, she just amazing! I got her for £50 (but the suggested price is £80).  Let me just break down the details for you.

photo (2)

First, what’s in the box?

1 completely useless instruction manual

1 base/motor

5 conical blades with different uses

1 flippy plastic thing that connects to the slicer blade to become the dicer

1 spouty thing that guides the food to the blades

1 plunger to push the food down the spouty thing

1 cap that holds all the pieces together when storing

Getting started:

Ok, so this was a bit tricky.  The instructions were useless.  Imagine IKEA instructions 10 times worse.  There is a written section but it refers to the pictures that don’t make any sense so they’re pointless.  It took two of us about 20 minutes to figure out how to put it together. It’s quite simple once you get it but it’s not intuitive.  To attach the spouty thing, you have to insert it with the spout pointing to 1 o’clock then turn it counter clockwise to click in place.  The blades don’t actually click in place and it seems like they might fall out but they don’t but you have to put it in and jiggle it lightly until it doesn’t fall out. Then you’re pretty much set to go.

The machine has two speeds, slow and turbo, with instructions to indicate which type of cutting with which type of food works best.  Just hold down the on button (which is giant and red on top so you definitely can’t miss it).  Put the food in the spout and use the plunger to push it down and voilà (remember to put a bowl in front to catch everything). I grated 300g of carrots in about 20 seconds. I made two gallon sized bags of coleslaw mix in about a minute.  The thing handled carrots and two types of cabbage easily.  I even chopped pickles to make tartar sauce.  The only thing it didn’t do was chopping tomatoes.  That seemed to perplex little TT.  I ended up with a lot of tomato juice and the flesh of the tomatoes just kept spinning on the outside of the blade. I’ll try slicing tomatoes and let you know.  The best part is that I grated a 6×6 inch block of cheese in about two minutes.  AMAZING.

What could make this even better?  Nothing. This is already so very amazing but TT is even easy to clean. For all of the food (except cheese) I simply ran the blades and the spouty thing under a warm tap for a few seconds and it was completely clean.  The cheese took a bit longer (about a minute) to clean.   The attachments are all dishwasher safe (top rack) but they’re so easy to clean, why put them in there.  Finally, everything stacks nicely and neatly and sits in a corner.

The cons of this I can’t find many but if you force me to say something I’d say it would be nice if I could set the thing to stay on instead of holding it to keep the blade moving. It would also be nice if the contraption came with a matching bowl.  That’s really all I can think of.

The verdict

I love it, I would buy it again.  It cuts my kitchen time by half.  It’s compact but powerful and easy to clean which makes it a great tool in my eyes.  The price at Costco is just right however, at £80 I would have to think more about it (and then purchase it anyway).


Spice Up Your Rice – Simple Rice Recipe for Every Day

Close-up of grains of jasmine rice

Close-up of grains of jasmine rice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it weird that I love plain white rice?  When I say plain, I mean rice boiled – that’s it.  I like the taste of good quality rice.  I’m not talking about Uncle Ben’s boil in bag, I’m talking a good basmati or Thai jasmine rice. When it’s cooked well, they’ve got a very unique flavour that is amazing. I know that rice nutrition is next to zero but I would eat it every day if I could.  My husband thinks it’s weird that when I finish a meal at a Chinese restaurant, I actually take a spoon and eat the remaining rice from the bowl.  If there’s no more rice left, I’ll order a bowl of plain rice just for me to eat.  OK, I recognize this is a bit weird but hey, that’s me.

Rice, although it seems simple, is notoriously hard to get right.  My friend Gail, who is the queen of microwave cooking once taught me how to make rice in the microwave (yeah you can actually do that).  She made it seem absolutely simple until I actually tried it.  The one step she neglected to share with me was that you’ve got to turn the microwave to 50% power (really important step).  When I opened the microwave, I had a bowl of hard, black, glassy goo.  Not only did I discover that it is possible to char food in the microwave, but I also learned that burnt rice really stinks and the smell doesn’t go away for months.  Needless to say, I never tried that again and I perfected making rice on the stove.

So here are a few ways with rice because, although I love plain rice and can eat it everyday, I’m probably the only non-Asian person that can say that.

Plain Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 1 minute

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice

2 cups water

Method

Rinse rice under cold running water until the water is no longer cloudy.  Add rice and water in pot and place on high heat.  Once rice is boiling, stir, cover pot tightly with lid and reduce heat to low. Do not remove the lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes (this is a good time to get other parts of your meal started).  At 15 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked and water is absorbed.  If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more.  At this point, if there is still water waiting to be absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and remove lid and let stand.  The rice will continue to absorb the water and any excess will begin evaporating.

Beans and Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice (rinsed)

1 10oz can of beans (kidney beans, black beans, gungoa peas are good options)

¼ cup diced onion

2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp dry)

1 cup chicken broth

1 clove chopped garlic

1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)

Method

Drain the beans over a measuring cup that can hold at least 2 cups of liquid. In this same measuring cup, add chicken broth until the total liquid measures 2 cups (if you’re a little short, add additional chicken broth or just plain water). Set the liquid and beans to the side for a moment.

Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid).  Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic).   Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix.  Add beans and liquid to the pot, stir and drop thyme sprigs on top.  Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 without removing the lid. If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more.

Cilantro/Coriander Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice (rinsed)

¼ cup diced onion

2 handfuls (about 1 cup) chopped cilantro/coriander

2 cup vegetable broth

1 clove chopped garlic

1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)

Method

Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid).  Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic).   Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix.  Add the vegetable broth.  Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 without removing the lid. Remove lid and add the coriander/cilantro to the pan and stir.  If the rice is still wet, cover and continue to cook.  If the rice is the right consistency, cover the pan and remove from the heat for 5 minutes.

Serve.


Where have you been?

You know, sometimes life gets in the way. So this is what happened:

I was on a roll. You guys were getting at least one post a week (which I’m hoping you we’re enjoying). Then it happened. I was writing a post on nachos that included my world famous (ok just all my friends famous) guacamole and my lime salsa recipes. Lets just go back to the guacamole…it’s so good you can eat it with a spoon and I’ve seen it done. Anyway, I spent hours writing the recipe because as you may or may not realise, unless otherwise noted these recipes come straight from the Black Girl Test Kitchen (aka me).

Now the software that I use to produce this blog auto saves everything so on this particular day (which was a particularly beautiful day in London) I decided it would be safe to just write the post directly in the software. Normally I write in Word and copy the final draft into the blog.

Everything was going well. Everything was formatted, spell check complete, photos placed strategically to add to your viewing experience. Everything was saved (I checked multiple times that I was saving it). All ready to post for your viewing pleasure. I hit what I thought was the post button and a weird error message popped up. It was stuck. I couldn’t get it off the page. There was no little x in the upper right corner. There was no cancel button. A wave of panic cascaded over my body. You know the one – pounding temples, sweat around the hairline, clammy armpits, a flutter in the tummy all indicating that your day’s work is about to be flushed down the electronic toilet.

Well the error message did go away and with it so did my article. Then I got mad. I got mad at WordPress like I had just caught it cheating on me after 30 years of marriage. I have dumped life long friends for far less. This was an act of electronic betrayal. I trusted it and it used me. Took all my work and left me with nothing ( I want you to picture Scarlet Ohara drama right here). And on top of this I missed out on a beautiful London summer day. I would have been far more forgiving if the sun hadn’t been out that day. So we had to separate.

During our separation I began studying to be a life coach (www.bethebestme.com coming soon) which has taken a great deal of my time. I’ve also started a new job which is super intense and required all of my mental energy to get up to speed.

After our long separation and a really good vacation to the Caribbean, I’ve decided to give it a second chance. I am reconciling with the blogosphere. Plus I’ve got lots of new recipes to share. I’ll be back with some new recipes and helpful articles on a regular basis again starting this week so tell all of your friends I’m back and subscribe!!

By the way did I mention the guacamole?


Lemon & Rosemary Chicken in my new terracotta roaster

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 10 minutes + 8 – 24 hours marinating time (if you are marinating but not required)

Cooking time: 1.5 hours

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole chicken (medium size, giblets removed)

1 lemon (juice and peel)

5 sprigs (sticks) fresh rosemary

3 cloves garlic whole

1 onion quartered

6 tbls olive oil

Salt (to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

TOOLS:

Paper/kitchen towel or clean dish cloth/tea towel

Roasting pan (I use a terracotta roasting pan for this recipe but any roasting tin can be used)

Kitchen twine (if chicken is not already trussed)

1 large resealable freezer bag for marinating

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 200C/395F.  If using a terracotta roasting pan DO NOT preheat the oven.

Rinse the chicken inside and out and dry with paper towel.  If your chicken is not tied (trussed) you will need to do this using kitchen twine.

Once you’ve trussed the chicken,  salt and pepper the cavity and rub in about 1 tbls of olive oil.  Stuff the chicken cavity with the onion, lemon peel, garlic cloves, and rosemary.

If marinating the chicken, salt and pepper the outside of the chicken.  Add the remaining olive oil to the freezer bag along with the juice of the lemon, place the chicken in the bag and seal. Squish the chicken around in the bag.  Marinate for several hours or overnight.

If not marinating place the chicken in the roasting pan and pour over lemon juice.  Then pat on olive oil and then salt and pepper the outside of the chicken.

To cook the chicken place into the oven uncovered for 1.5 hours.

Terracotta roaster:  Soak roaster (top and bottom) in cold water for 10 minutes before cooking.  Place chicken in roaster, cover and place in cold oven.  Roast at the temperature noted for 1.25 hours remove the lid for the last 15 minutes to brown.

Test the doneness of the chicken by piercing the chicken in the thigh joint with a sharp knife.  The juices should run clear when the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with your favorite vegetable.

THE VERDICT:

I bought a terracotta roasting pan years ago because it was pretty. This was well before you could type a few words into Google and get 1000 answers to any question imaginable.   I had no clue what to do with it but because the box had a chicken in the roaster, I figured I could at least use it for that.  When I got it home I stuck a chicken in it, popped it in the oven and hoped for the best. I was so surprised when my normally bland, dry roasted chicken was moist, juicy and tasty. The only change was the pan. Well, I used that thing a few times but you can only make whole chickens so much when you’re single. It got packed away and through many moves, and many storage units, it was carted away by the storage fairies.

Then the other day on a freak trip to the neighborhood ghetto mall, I decided to go to T.K. Maxx (that’s T.J. Maxx in America). I’ve never been to T.K. Maxx here in London but everyone always raves about it so, I thought I’d give it a go. I walked through rows handbags tossed among bottles of perfume and lotion, stepped over mismatched shoes, climbed the escalator and entered kitchen heaven. I could feel tears of joy welling up in the corners of my eyes as I gawked at an entire floor dedicated to home supplies and kitchen stuff. Rows of Le Creuset, 20 types of salt and pepper grinders, every type of pot or pan I could ever want, muffin tins and tea pots.

At this point I must tell you that I’ve inherited a kitchen gadget gene from my mother. Before I moved to England, I believe that my mom and I were in a race to see who could buy and use every useless kitchen gadget known to man. .   Magic bullet – I’ve got it (in fact I had three). Home rotisserie – had that before George Foreman slapped his name on one. Ice cream maker – that one’s ticked too. My mother has even inherited an electric pressure cooker which I only left because the current here in the UK would have caused me to blow up my house if I plugged it in.  It’s a bit like crack; once you start buying kitchen gadgets you just can’t stop.  To be honest, I might sell my husband for a professional Kitchen-Aid stand mixer (my Mom has one that has about an inch of dust on it and I am so jealous).  But I digress.

So strolling up the isles, I discovered a lovely burnt orange terracotta roasting pan with lid that brought back wonderful memories of lovely tender roasted chicken. In total about $12 for the whole contraption. These usually cost at least $30-$40. Great chicken plus a good deal – I’m sold!

This Sunday I thought it only proper that I take our little roasting pan on its maiden voyage. I went on the internet to see how to properly use the thing (because you know at T.J. Maxx you don’t always get the box) and discovered that the pot need a ten minute soak in cold water before putting it into a cold oven. Oops never did that with the other one.  The point is that water soaks into the porous clay and, as the roaster heats up in the oven, steam is released. The steam does the cooking and you get a juicy, fall off the bone chicken (even the breast meat).

The only drawback of the terracotta roaster is that the chicken doesn’t get that crispy dark brown that I love so much. If you take the lid off for the last 30 minutes of cooking the chicken will get a lovely tan but it won’t look like you just came back from Boston Market with a rotisserie bird. If you follow this recipe and don’t use a terracotta roaster, your chicken will have a beautiful dark brown, crispy skin that will make you fight your mama but,  may not be as juicy as the terracotta roasting pan.

This chicken recipe is an original but having Googled “terracotta roasting pan recipes” I’ve discovered that you can make slow cooked stews in them as well as other meat and fish.  So maybe with so many possibilities this roasting dish won’t go missing. By the way, I don’t think my mom has one of these yet but I bet by the time she gets to the end of this post one will be on its way from Amazon.


Even YOU can make a great steak

Steak is one of the most difficult foods to make well.  It seems that something that seems so simple has perplexed so many people.  Here are a few tips that will guarantee that you make the best steak dinner ever.

Pick the right piece of meat

It’s important not to skimp on the quality of the meat.  Remember more expensive is not always better.  Steaks aged for 20 days or more will be more tender.  Cuts like fillet are more difficult to cook at home so choose sirloin, ribeye, or other cuts that have a little fat running through it.  Interestingly, the butcher recommended an onglet (or eye steak) which is a cheaper cut which gives you the feel of a fillet but half the price and easier to cook.  To make cooking easy, make sure that meat is one to 1.5 inches thick.  Remember once you buy them try to use them within one or two days.  Don’t freeze the steaks because the freezing/thawing process changes the consistency and the flavor of the meat.

Warm it up

Never cook a steak directly from the fridge.  When the cold meat hits the hot pan the muscle fibers will spasm resulting in a tough steak.  Make sure the meat warms to room temperature by leaving the steak on the counter for 20 – 30 minutes.  The closer to room temperature the meat is when you cook it; the more tender it will be.

Have the right tools

A heavy gauge non-stick pan or griddle pan are the best tools for cooking a good steak.  If you don’t have an iron skillet or griddle pan, just make sure you have a good non-stick pan that can take very very high heat without warping.  Make sure you have tongs or a spatula to turn the steak.  You don’t want to pierce the steak with a fork while it’s cooking.

Make it hot

The pan must be SUPER hot to cook a good steak.  Normally I leave the skillet on the stove on the highest heat for at least 10 minutes to make sure every surface of the pan is at its hottest. It’s hot if you sprinkle a drop or two of water in the pan and it cracks and sizzles and evaporates completely in a second or two. Here’s where I advise you unplug your smoke detector and turn on your exhaust fan and open the windows.  We’re going to make it really smoky.  Again, it’s really important that you are sure that the pan you are using is able to handle the high heat and distribute the heat evenly across the entire surface of the pan or you may have a fire on your hands.

Less is more

When it comes to seasoning a steak, less is best.  Simple kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper allows the flavor of a good steak to come through. Add a little butter and parsley as garnish after cooking makes it perfection.  I also recommend Montreal Steak Seasoning for a really good complement to steak.

Don’t overcook it

I know a lot of people will disagree but steaks are not meant to be eaten well done.  A little pink won’t hurt you and it adds flavor and juiciness to the meat.  It’s very difficult to cook a steak well done without ruining the flavor. This is because when you cook a steak to well done in the pan, when you remove it from the heat it will continue to cook.  By the time you eat it, it will be dry and tough.  A one to 1.5 inch steak should be cooked for four to six minutes on each side depending on how hot you can get your pan and how well done you want it.  Just try it once for me –  cook your steak to medium (well done on the edges pink in the center but no bleeding) and you’ll definitely understand the difference in taste and I bet you won’t get sick.

Let it rest

When you’ve cooked the steak, you’ve got to let it rest.  Resting allows the steak to settle down and distributes the juicy goodness throughout the meat. Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes before you serve it. Place the steaks on a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil or waxed paper (grease proof paper).  Also resist the urge to poke or pierce the meat to test if it’s done enough.

Steak with Garlic and parsley with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 2

 

TOOLS

Heavy gauge frying pan or griddle pan

Mixing bowl

Non-stick baking Sheet

Tongs (or something to turn the steak without piercing it)

Garlic press

INGREDIENTS

Steak cut of choice 1 – 1.5 inches thick

2 tbls peanut, sunflower or vegetable oil (DO NOT use olive oil)

Kosher salt or sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic pressed

2tbls salted butter

2tbls chopped fresh parsley

Roasted Potatoes

4 large potatoes

10 shallots whole & whole (or 2 small onions quartered)

2 tbls Olive oil

1tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1 tbls fresh cracked black pepper

1 ½ tsp dried rosemary (or 1tbls fresh rosemary chopped)

Green salad to serve

METHOD

Preheat oven to 400F/200C

Start by removing the steak from the fridge.  Drizzle peanut oil on steaks and massage into the meat.  Season to taste with salt…be generous because some of the salt will burn off in the pan. Add pepper and set aside to allow to warm to room temperature.

While meat is warming wash and chop potatoes into equally sized chunks.  Place the chopped potatoes on a dish towel or paper towel and blot dry.  Place the dried potatoes in a mixing bowl along with shallots and add all of the remaining ingredients. Mix well to coat all potatoes. Place on baking sheet and place in oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.

Begin heating the pan for the steak. Place pan on stove on the highest setting. Heat the pan for 10 minutes (keep a close eye on it).  When the pan is hot, place one steak in the pan.  Allow the pan to heat back up to temperature for about a minute before adding the second steak.  Allow the steaks to cook (don’t touch them) for at least 4-5 minutes.  Turn the steaks and cook on the other side for 1 minute less than you cooked the first side.  Remove from pan and place on plate.  Cover with foil or wax paper.

At this point the potatoes should be done.  If so, remove from oven and set aside.

Make the butter by placing butter and pressed garlic in a microwave safe bowl.  When steaks have rested and you are ready to serve, heat butter in microwave for 30seconds to 1 minute until completely melted.  Add parsley and mix well.  Pour over steaks just before serving.