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Fun with Food

First of all, I love cooking. Even more, I love eating good food. Now granted, there are only two of us in the house, so it’s a good thing we’re big on leftovers. Over the years, I’ve had no trouble adapting larger recipes to accommodate, say, 4 people. There are always at least enough leftovers for lunch the next day, if not dinner.

One of the coolest things I’ve heard of is the Lonely Gourmet, which eliminates any excuses for the “I can’t cook for just one” crowd. Come on, we’ve all been there. And it’s the perfect option for those who hate leftovers. Just make enough for one; double it for two.

I’m alway on the lookout for new ideas or new recipes. I experiment and invent often. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes a recipe requires improvements or tweaks. One thing that irritates me, though, is when I run across a recipe I really want to try that calls for a tiny amount of something you simply can’t get in a tiny amount. Example: chipotle in adobo sauce. What to do?

Well, I had an epiphany a few months ago when a recipe I was trying said “puree 1 chipotle with a little of the adobo sauce…”. My first reaction to something even remotely vague is to find a work around. In this case, screw it, I’m pureeing the whole can of chipotle and adobo sauce (which was about 4-5 chipotles). Boom! I used a couple teaspoons worth of the puree for the recipe I was trying and set aside the rest.

As it happened, I had made pesto the day before after being giving a huge bunch of basil at the farmers market. Waste not, want not. I freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray, remove the cubes, and store them in a zipper bag in the freezer. 1-2 cubes are perfect for a simple pasta or chicken dish. So I immediately thought “ice cube tray” when I wondered what to do with the pureed chipotle. It worked brilliantly. I measured out approximately 2 teaspoons in each cube space, which filled them about halfway. (Test your own trays, as I’m sure they’re all different.)

Over the next few weeks, whenever I ran out of ideas for a quickie dinner, I remembered the pureed chipotle and tried it out. The first big hit was super easy:

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cube (approx 2 tsp) pureed chipotle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Season chicken with salt and pepper and bake for approx 32 minutes, or until chicken is done. While the chicken cooks, combine the pureed chipotle cube and sour cream in a small saucepan and heat on very low heat to melt the puree and gently warm the sour cream, stirring often. When the chicken is rested, plate it and top with the sauce. Delicious!

We are not lovers of super-hot foods. I prefer flavor to heat. But a little zip in a dish is always nice. However, if you like your food on fire, double the amount of chipotle I use and you will get lots more heat.

The latest experiment I did (to great success) was an adaptation of Pasta with Creole Ragu that originally appeared in Jay Solomon’s 150 Vegan Favorites. All the vegans out there will have to forgive me the adaptation of adding chicken. However, use this in the vegan version (just eliminate the chicken and make one seasoning adjustment) and it’s wonderful.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 chicken breasts, diced
salt and pepper
1 cube pureed chipotle (approx 2 tsp), defrosted if you remember
2 large carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 green or red pepper, seeded and diced
2 large celery stalks, diced
2-4 large cloves garlic, minced
(Add up to 1 cup of any other veggies you have around. I threw in half a diced zucchini with the tomatoes.)
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (or any amount leftover from a 6-oz can used in another recipe)
3/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano (vegans, use 2 tsp)
12 ounces linguine or spaghetti

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper. When no pink remains, stir in the pureed chipotle. Add the carrots, onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, (any other veggies), tomato paste, wine, parsley, and oregano and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain in a colander. Plate and top with the sauce. Serve at once. (serves 6)

5 Responses to Fun with Food

  1. Sarah C. August 5, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    I freeze so many things in cubes that it’s getting out of hand:
    – sofrito (try Daisy Cooks – http://www.daisycooks.com/pages/recipes_detail.cfm?ID=1 – I can never find the ajices dulces so I just throw jalapeno in) – this is the best one because you can just throw a cube into a can of black beans and they taste AMAZING. I also throw it in tortilla soup as the base seasoning.
    – garlic – we buy the giant peeled box at Sam’s, throw them in the food processor, and freeze. This works because we have an unhealthy obsession with garlic (“It says 2 cloves? How about 8?”)
    – chicken stock (for when you just need a little – I’m a showoff and I make my own)
    – cilantro, mint, any other herb we have too much of
    – green onion – couldn’t get through it all so now it’s good for stir fry

    • hopedoty August 5, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      Oh, these are all great! I do my own veggie stock, but I’d love your chicken stock recipe. I’ve never found one I love. I recently heard about freezing pureed cilantro in a tiny bit of oil. Will definitely have to try that as well!

      • Sarah C. August 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

        Honestly, I just save the ends of vegetables and chicken bones in the freezer until I get a full bag, then put that in the crock pot with water, a bay leaf or two and a dozen or so peppercorns. (If the carrots get too bendy, they go in the stock bag.)
        I don’t usually salt it until I use it though. I got the idea from here, but I strain it instead of pureeing it: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/01/homemade-chicken-broth-crockpot-recipe.html

        • hopedoty August 8, 2011 at 9:43 am #

          Great, thanks. I will have to try this one. I’m with you, I never salt stock until I use it. Better control of flavoring that way.

  2. Sarah C. August 8, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    It’s a good way to use up little bits of veg you wouldn’t otherwise. Leeks seem to be the key if you do veg instead of chicken stock, although they’re like 4 bucks! My friend made something with leeks and I kept the tops to make stock – I’m so cheap ;)

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