Culinary Experiment #7: Pasta Puttanesca

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I don’t always write about savory recipes but when I do…they’re pretty awesome.

Seriously. After this recipe, I definitely feel inspired to cook more “real meals” instead of desserts or tiny appetizers.

When it comes to preparing food, I’m more of a dessert person. If there’s a party, I’m the one most likely to bring the sweet stuff. I love baking and it just comes naturally to me.

Main courses, on the other hand, don’t usually pique my interest enough for me to want to make them. Sure, I might drool over photos of them on Foodgawker like everyone else, but I hardly ever experiment with cooking new dinner dishes myself.

Also, I’ve had a few bad experiences with preparing savory foods. The spices would be all wrong, the texture would be gross and I’d just be standing there in the kitchen trying to salvage a hopeless dinner, having wasted an hour of my life and bunch of ingredients.

But then this spicy diva known as Pasta Puttanesca sashayed her way into my kitchen. At first I was skeptical. There were   a lot of ingredients. And I’d just come home from work, so I was super-tired. But as everything came together, it was just so…pretty. A myriad of colors and textures. Vibrant reds and greens and golden caramels.

The sauce in a Pasta Puttanesca is not just some simple, smooth pasta sauce. It’s chunky yet light. It’s earthy with just the right amount of heat. It has a tendency to be a bit brine-y, but a bit of dark brown sugar will soften that salty bite.

This sauce, if it were a lady, would be sultry, dramatic and fierce. It’s also very versatile. I can see it as a main course for either a girls’ night in or a romantic dinner for two. (Maybe use a touch less garlic if cooking for the latter though.)

A few recipe notes:

  1. Technically, I didn’t mince the garlic like it says to in the recipe. I had a jar of readily chopped garlic and just used that instead. It tasted great to me and didn’t seem to overpower the other ingredients. But I do like garlic and I don’t mind biting into a piece of it. I think the danger here though, as I’ve read recently on the America’s Test Kitchen website, is that bigger pieces of garlic are more likely to burn and turn bitter as you saute them with the onions and continue to cook the sauce after the tomatoes are added. But I think if you’re constantly stirring anyway and you keep an eye on it, it should work out fine and it won’t burn.
  2. When you get to the part of the recipe when you have to let the sauce simmer on low heat, be mindful of how hot your stove gets on the “Low” setting. My stove doesn’t get hot enough on the “Low” setting to actually simmer the sauce and so I had to turn up the heat to what’s considered “Medium” heat on my stove, 5. Like my mom says: “If it’s not bubbling, it’s not simmering.” Keeping this in mind is the difference between a great Pasta Puttanesca sauce and a weird gazpacho dumped onto your angel hair pasta.
  3. Presentation: You don’t have to place a scoop of this sauce onto a bed of pasta like I did in some of my photos. I just did that because the sauce is really the star of this dish and this post and I wanted to show off as much of it as I could. I personally think the dish tastes better when it’s all mixed up. You can even mix the pasta and the sauce in the skillet and serve it that way.
  4. I love shredded Parmesan cheese. You don’t have to top your Pasta Puttanesca with it. But I did and I love how it makes the pasta cheesy and adds a bit of creaminess to this spicy dish.

This is my fifteenth post! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one and the other ones I’ve posted. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions, questions and stories!

I’d also like to thank Beth M. of  Budget Bytes  for posting this recipe.

I hope you all have a lovely day!

Culinary Experiment #6: Chocolate Root Beer Cake

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I almost don’t even need to write a post about this recipe. The photos speak for themselves.

It’s chocolate and root beer. Bubbly, cocoa goodness baked in a cake.

Biting into this dessert, you can’t help but imagine that this cake is the  love-child of a glorious union between a chocolate milk shake and a root beer float.

The combination of chocolate and root beer sounds kind of simple. But there’s a layer of complexity to it that will intrigue most foodies. And that layer is made of brown sugar and allspice.

Not only does that layer deepen and intensify the flavor of the chocolate, it complements the root beer nicely and takes a one-dimensional cake with a cloying soda-pop sweetness and makes it just a touch savory, reminiscent of a spice cake.

That said, it may not be for everyone. And don’t go into making this cake with the expectation that it’ll taste really sweet. You’ll be disappointed…for a little while. And then you’ll keep eating it because the longer it sits the better it gets. And then you’ll share it with your friends and they’ll love it, which somehow makes you love it more too.

That’s what happened to me. I thought it would be just as sweet as one of those grocery store bakery cakes. It’s not. But it doesn’t matter, the flavor of this cake is so rich you fall in love with it anyway.

I don’t have very many notes for this recipe as I ended up following the recipe exactly, as I really wanted to taste this cake in its unadulterated form:

  1. As the recipe notes, the batter will look lumpy. And to prove it, there’s a photo in the slideshow above that shows the batter in all its lumpy glory. Please don’t over-mix the batter just to get it perfectly smooth. You might ruin the texture of the cake that way.
  2. I didn’t have a skewer or a chopstick on hand to poke holes into the cake. I just used a spoon. It worked fine since the longer the cake sits, the more the root beer soaks into the cake. And it will soak all the way through. This is a very moist cake.
  3. Don’t worry if the glaze/icing turns out to be kind of drippy. It’s supposed to be that way. If you want a thicker icing, however, you’ll need to add more confectioner’s sugar. But beware, it might make the icing too sweet. If you want a topping that’s more spreadable, try whipped cream: It’s decorative, non-drippy, and has the right amount of sweetness.

Don’t forget to let me know what you thought of this post and the recipe. I’d love to hear your comments and questions!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

P.S.: I’d like to say thank you to  Jenelle of for posting this recipe!

Culinary Experiment #5: Avocado Fries

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Can’t take your eyes off of those sexy bread crumbs, can you? Those avocado slices have been fried in panko. Panko is a Japanese-style of bread crumb that is lighter and flakier than the kind of crumbs you’d normally find in Western cuisine.

Some advantages to using panko:

  1. It absorbs less grease or oil when you fry with it. Which means less fat and the food doesn’t have that trademark overwhelming, heavy greasiness that most fried foods can develop.
  2. Presentation: If you just want a light and airy crispy look to your food, the flakiness of panko crumbs can provide that. Since each crumb is shaped like a flake, there’s less of a chance of them clumping together and you’re more likely to see whatever you’re frying, whether it’s avocados or seafood, come through the surface of the dish. That way you’re not just seeing monochromatic shades of “bread brown”, you can actually see little pops of color of what you’re actually frying.
  3. Staying power: It’s sad when something you just fried loses its glorious crispiness just hours later. But due to its low-absorption of grease, panko can stay crispier longer, and so your dish can also stave off that nasty oily sogginess longer.

Ok, I know at this point I sound like an annoying infomercial, right? You’re totally waiting for me to say, “But wait! There’s more!”

Yeah, that’s not happening. There isn’t any more. On to the recipe notes!

Here’s the recipe.  It’s from a blog called “Circle B Kitchen” written by Patrice Berry.

  1. I actually kind of halved the recipe when I made it because I didn’t want to spend the money on a second avocado. They can get pricey! But even when I made only one avocado’s worth of fries, I still produced a large number of fries. Seriously, if you’re going to make these, make sure you invite some friends or family over or else it might be a waste of food unless you’re really into avocados like me.
  2. For a dip, I used a bottled ginger salad dressing. So. Good. The dressing’s citrus-y, spicy, sweetness cuts through that creamy avocado and puts a happy zing in your mouth. And the dressing, the version by Makoto, also has a savory aftertaste that’s kind of addictive. I love it. I also think hot sauce would be great with these fries too.
  3. A warning to those with limited counter-space, plates and patience: The only annoying thing about this recipe is that you’ll need to set up an intense prepping station. Like you almost need a different plate/bowl for each ingredient. Most of the time you’ll spend on this recipe is on prep. Frying is a breeze. And after…Well, afterwards you’re just happy. Deep-fried Nirvana.
  4. Timing and temperature: If you’ve got one of those fryer thermometer thingies, use it…it’ll allow you to follow the time set by the recipe much closer. I do not own one, so I pretty much just waited until the oil got hot and bubbly. (Basically, I started heating the oil at the beginning of the prepping process of my avocado slices.) Since I had no idea how hot the oil was, I just did trial and error and eyeballed it.) As a result, when I followed the time set in the recipe, the first couple of fries were a little burned. So after that, I just waited until the other fries looked as deep golden as they did in the recipe and just pulled them out then.
Don’t forget to let me know what you thought of this post and the recipe. I’d love to hear your comments and questions.

Wow, I’m seriously on a roll this week! Two blog posts in two days! I feel super-productive.

Hopefully, this week is shaping up to be a wonderful and productive one for all of you as well!

P.S.: I’d like to say thank you to Patrice Berry of “Circle B Kitchen” for posting this recipe!

Culinary Experiment #4: Baked Eggs in Toast Cups with Melty Cheese and Bacon

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I’m back and I’ve brought you ♫ breakfast ♪ !

Yes, the sing-song voice was necessary. I absolutely love breakfast. It’s my favorite meal. You want to make me happy? Waffles. Want me to fall in love with you for the morning? Bacon. Need to atone for general faux pas and meanness? French toast. And bacon. And cheesy scrambled eggs.

Anyway, back to today’s breakfast recipe.

I found a recipe that combines almost everything I love about breakfast. It has eggs, buttery toast, cheese and bacon. It’s quite possibly a food dream ripped from Ron Swanson’s sub-conscious.

It’s that good. It’s Ron Swanson-awesome.

You can find the recipe here. It’s from a blog called Foodie with Family co-written by food writer Rebecca and her stepmother Valerie.

Notes on the recipe:

  1. From the pictures I took, I know it looks like I only used one piece of bread, but I actually used two to make one toast cup. As you push the bread into the muffin tins they tend to tear and so you’ll need to patch up the holes that form with more pieces of buttered bread. I ended up using almost a whole other piece of bread to fix the holes in the first one.
  2. This recipe is highly customizable: from the baking times to the filling/topping options. Feel free to mix it up!
  3. If I were to make this again, I’d probably add veggies. I’m thinking red bell peppers. Or chopped broccoli. Or spinach. I think they would cut through all of the richness of the meat and dairy products already in it and provide a tasty contrasting flavor.

As always, if you decide to try out this recipe –or just to drool over the photos in this post– let me know how it goes in the comment section below.

Wait. Scratch that. I don’t need a play-by-play of the drooling. Ew. But do feel free to tell me what you think. I’d love to hear everyone’s comments and questions!

Ok, now go forth and have a fabulous breakfast and a lovely day!

P.S.: I’d like to say thanks to Rebecca and Valerie for posting this recipe!