Tag Archive | Cooking With Gail

Cooking With Gail Presents: Amira Smoked Basmati Rice!

Amira Smoked Basmati Rice
All Photos By Gail

Do you like Rice? I sure do. I especially love fragrant, long grain  Basmati Rice from India. India! Seriously, it is the most delicious rice. Maybe you have shied away from making Basmati Rice in your home due to the additional required preparatory steps — such as rinsing, and then soaking the rice prior to cooking  — which can seem a bit daunting if you are used to the no fuss approach of throwing rice in a pan with some water, bringing it to a boil, and then forgetting about it for 40 minutes, which is a no-brainer.  I understand how you feel.

Amira Smoked Basmati Rice

But when you break it down, Basmati Rice preparation and cooking time takes maybe 10 minutes longer than traditional rice, so it can hardly be argued that it is a vastly longer or more labor intensive process. It just takes a little getting used to. I was recently sent a package of Amira brand Smoked Basmati Rice and I had fun making it and taking pictures of the process so you can see  that you don’t need to be scared to try something new. Come along and let’s have a little culinary adventure, shall we?

Basmati Rice Prep

Besides a spoon and a pan to cook it in, you will need a measuring cup and colander or strainer. Measure the rice (a general guideline is one part rice to two parts water, but the exact directions are printed on the bag so zero guesswork is involved) and pour it into the strainer. Next, run the rice under cold water from the tap for a minute or so, shaking it slightly to expose all grains, which will remove the excess starch.

Soaking Rice

That was fun, right? It gets better. Now transfer the rinsed rice to the pan and cover with water. Set a kitchen timer, or keep an eye on the clock, for 25 to 30 minutes while the rice soaks. You can either do prep on other parts of the meal during this time, or watch TV or play Words With Friends, which is something I enjoy doing.

Basmati Rice is a long grain rice by nature, but there is a very noticeable quality difference with Amira’s Premium Rice, which is extra long grain.  Amira smoked basmati rice is an all natural extra long grain rice, which is smoked in the ancient Persian tradition, resulting in an aromatic, smoky rice.

Once the rice is done soaking, drain it, and then add it back the pan with two cups of fresh water, bring to a boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook for ten minutes. While the rice cooks, your kitchen may smell like you are baking a ham, but don’t be alarmed. After ten minutes, turn the heat off, move the pan to a cool burner and let it rest for ten more minutes. When you remove the lid, the rice will look something like this:

Amira Cooked Rice

Oh my, isn’t that beautiful! You can’t really tell from this photo, but the rice grains are so long that you may even freak out a little. It is really quite extraordinary.

Meal on a Tray

Here is a photo of my delicious and super easy-to-prepare single ladies dinner of two Trader Joe’s Masala vegetarian burger patties and huge pile of fluffy Smoked Basmati Rice, seasoned with little salt and some butter, because I love butter on my rice. What I discovered is that, after cooking, the smoke essence remains more in the fragrance than the actual flavor of the rice. So you do not need to be afraid that the rice will have a harsh, overly smoky, or meaty taste. It will just taste like delicious rice. Find out more about the Amira brand at Amira Dot Net.

Amira Rice Serving Suggestion

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Cooking With Gail Presents: Chicken Stifado

Kaldi Sauce and Bag of Rice
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome to another exciting installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a delicious dish from whatever I already have on hand in my apartment! Today we are making something I call Chicken Stifado, mostly because it features the Stifado variety of Kaldi’s All-Natural Mediterranean Cooking Sauces, which I was turned on to at a recent Editor Showcase.

Kaldi Olive Oli

Shortly after meeting the nice folks at Kaldi, they sent me a care package of sauces, and a bottle of both their lovely Extra Virgin Olive Oil and also one of their Organic EVOO. Excellent.

Kaldi’s Stifado cooking sauce, made from a traditional Greek recipe, contains a delicious blend of Red Wine, Onions and Allspice, along with other natural ingredients, and while it is generally suggested that this sauce best compliments a Beef dish, we are using chicken because that is what I had in the freezer.

What’s really great about these Kaldi sauces is that you just add meat or vegetables, and it makes an authentic tasting dish that people will think you slaved over instead of just opening a jar — which is my kind of cooking! So, this is how we do easy Chicken Stifado ala Gail!

(Note: before you even start your chicken, put a pot of rice on to cook, because that takes about 45 minutes, and you want the dishes to be done at the same time. Time management!)

Raw Chicken

Whatever type of chicken you are using, make sure it is washed, thawed and ready to go in the oven. I cut up a chicken breast into a few pieces, sprinkled some salt on it and put it in a 425 degree oven in a pan with a little EVOO in the bottom to prevent sticking. I let the chicken spend about 10 minutes in the oven before I took it out and then poured the sauce on it. No particular reason, it just seemed like the thing to do.

Chicken with Sauce

This is what the chicken looks like with the sauce on it. That’s right: yummy. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to cook a piece of chicken, but for this dish I stuck to about 30 minutes (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your cut of meat) in a 425 degree oven, turning each piece at the halfway mark and basting it with more sauce. It smelled amazing!

Chicken with Green Olives

Garnish with sliced green olives, if you like, and throw it on the plate with some brown basmati rice, or the starchy side of your choice.

Chicken Dish on Tray

And don’t forget a glass of wine! I like a Cab-Shiraz myself.

I want to add that the way the allspice mingles with the tomatoes really gives the sauce, and whatever it cooks with, a fantastic, old world gourmet taste. I want to try it next with beef, because if it tastes this great on chicken, Beef Stifado would probably be mind blowing. Each jar holds 16 ounces of sauce, so that’s enough for a few meals at least!

Find out more about Kaldi Products, get recipes and shop their 50% Off Greek Sumer Sale at Kaldi Tastes Dot Com!

Easy Pasta Carbonara Featuring Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon!

Jones Diary Farm Bacon
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome back to another enlightening episode of Cooking With Gail, a post where I make a delicious dinner from stuff I already have in my house. Today we are making a super easy Pasta Carbonara featuring Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon. Bacon is something I like to keep on hand when possible, and recently I was sent an assortment off tasty meats from Jones Dairy Farm, including several types of Sausage, Ham Steaks, Canadian Bacon and, of course, the Cherrywood Smoked Bacon pictured above. What I am trying to do is use these meats in ways that differ from the standard manner of just cooking them up for breakfast with a side of eggs. While Pasta Carbonara does include both Bacon and Eggs, you will be surprised at how fancy these ingredients can taste. Fancy!

Raw Bacon

What you will need to make Pasta Carbonara ala Gail for one is:

Three or more strips of raw bacon (I like to cut it in half for easier cooking)

One egg (beaten)

Margarine or butter

Pasta of your choice (I used spaghetti)

Cheese (optional)

Beaten Egg

While the pasta cooks in boiling salted water, cut the bacon in half, if desired, and fry it up until crispy. Beat the egg well and set aside. Lay the cooked bacon on paper towels and then, when cool, break it up into smaller pieces.

Crumbled Bacon

You may be thinking that Bacon is Bacon, and that all Bacon is created equally delicious. I am here to tell you that this is not necessarily the case. Jones Diary Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon cooks up quickly and gets very crisp, because it has an excellent balance of fat to meat on each strip. I do not know if that is owed to their superior butchering technique, or if they have magic pigs, or what. I just know that when I say I like my bacon cooked until it is “stiff, like little boards,” this is what I am talking about.

Another stand out quality of Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon is the slightly sweet taste that is infused in the meat from the mild Cherrywood smoke. The flavor is distinct and noticeable immediately on your fist bite. I really love it.

But let’s get back to the Carbonara Prep!

Hot Pasta and Butter

Return the cooked, drained pasta to the pan and add butter or margarine to taste, to add flavor and keep the noodles from sticking together. Next, add the beaten egg a little at a time, stirring well between each addition to blend and let the hot pasta cook the egg into a smooth, sauce-like consistency. In this case, it’s all in the wrist. At this point, you can add some grated Parmesan cheese, if you like. You are almost done, and ready to eat a delicious, home cooked meal!

Pasta Carbonara Finished Dish

Plate the Pasta and add crumbled Bacon on top! So easy, so quick and so darn good! Make sure you have a glass of your favorite red wind on hand to accompany this fine dinner!

Get more information about Jones Dairy Farm meats, get recipes and find out where to purchase them in your neighborhood, at This Link!

Cooking With Gail Presents: Savory Italian Wontons

Nasoya Wrappers
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome to another installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a meal from whatever I can find in my house. The weather has been a bit inclement here in NYC just recently, and getting out to the store can be a pain. On a recent snowy and bitterly cold evening, I was staring down my open refrigerator in search of ingredients to make into some kind of interesting meal.

Nasoya Wonton Wrappers
There are about 40 Wonton Wrappers in Each Package!

The first intriguing item I found was a package of Nasoya brand Wonton Wraps. My neighbors have used these wraps and absolutely rave about how great they are for filling with just about any kind of leftover, so I knew they would be adaptable to my creativity – or lack thereof! In the Freezer/Fridge I also found:

4 Ounce Ground Beef Patty

One 4-ounce Ground Beef Burger courtesy of Omaha Steaks

Pasta Sauce

Jarred Pasta Sauce

Sartori Aisago Cheese

Sartori brand Asiago Cheese

Thus the idea for Italian Style Wontons was born!

Ingredients Prep

Here are all of the ingredients laid out, with the wontons now ready to be assembled. Don’t worry if you have no idea what are doing (raises hand), as a step by step, visual guide on how to fold and seal a wonton is included in the package.

Nasoya Wonton Wrappers Recipes 2

They also include a few recipes, which were helpful to use for reference in deducing how exactly the wontons should be cooked. More about that later.

\Sample Wrapper with Filling

Into the center of each wonton wrapper put one small teaspoon of meat sauce topped with a small pinch of cheese. I am not kidding when I say that you must not put more than one teaspoon of filling in each wonton. If you overfill them they will not be easy to seal, and then you will be sad.

Completed Wontons Before Cooking

This what they look like once they are all pinched and twisted. Pretty! You may be surprised (I sure was) to know that just 4 ounces of cooked, lean ground beef yields 15 plump wontons! Wow, what a feast!

Wontons Ready for the Oven

Here they are all ready for the oven! Before baking, brush each wonton lightly with melted margarine and be sure to spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray or just brush with leftover melted margarine (which is what I did).

There was not an exact cooking time or temperature recommended for my on-the-fly creation, so I came up with a baking estimate of 425 degrees for 8 minutes. This proved to be pretty accurate, as the wontons came out lightly golden brown, and slightly browner and crispier on the bottom, which was very desirable.

Cooked Wontons

Since I was basically experimenting, I baked the wontons in two batches. This is what the second batch looked like coming out of the oven. As you can see, they are a bit dark at the edges (though this yielded no discernible burnt taste). I chock that up to the oven being really hot after having cooked the first batch. I’d recommend that if you are going to use the “batch method,” that you lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and cut the cooking time down to 7 minutes for the second batch. Your mileage may vary.

Ready to Eat

Now you are ready to eat these delicious morsels of goodness, so just arrange them on a plate with a small dish of warm marinara sauce for dipping (I used the leftover shredded Asiago cheese for a garnish). Mmm…so super tasty! I would like to point out also that it is perfectly OK for you to eat these wontons using only your hands. And as everyone knows, eating with ones hands makes all foods taste better. Enjoy!

For delicious recipes and additional information on Nasoya Wonton Wraps, and other Nasoya Products, please visit Nasoya Dot Com.

Cooking with Gail Presents: Easy Tofu Stir Fry!

Nasoya Organic Tofu

Hello and welcome to another installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a meal from whatever I can find in my house. In this episode, I made the most delicious Tofu Stir Fry using Nasoya brand Tofu Plus, which is a fantastic, cholesterol-free meat substitute, even if you are not vegan or vegetarian! Nasoya Tofu Plus is organic non-GMO and vitamin fortified, so you know it’s a healthy choice.

Nasoya Organic Tofu Diced

Some of you out there might be a little afraid of Tofu, because it seems exotic and foreign, but really you can use it just like you would use most proteins – and it is so easy to prepare, because unlike meat, there is no skinning or deboning involved. All you have to do is slice it and throw it in the pan. One container of Nasoya Tofu will serve two to four people, depending on how you are preparing it. I used half the container so I could make enough stir fry to two meals.

Storing Nasoya Organic Tofu

Tofu Storage Hint: If you do not use all of the tofu for one meal, Nasoya recommends that you refrigerate it in an airtight container and be sure to cover it with water (see above photo). You’ll want to change the water daily (it’s like having a pet, in that way) and be sure to cook it within five days after initially opening! Unopened tofu will stay fresh for months and it can also be frozen.

Tofu will absorb the flavor of any sauce it is cooked with, which makes it great for Asian or Indian dishes or as a ground beef substitute in pasta sauce. All you need to have on hand to make Stir Fry is noodles or rice of your choosing (I used Trader Joe’s Brown Basmati Rice, which is my favorite) and some vegetables, such as frozen broccoli. Stir fry is also a great way to use any leftover vegetables from a previous meal.

Stir Fry on the Stove

After sautéing the chopped tofu over medium heat with some margarine and soy sauce, I added the steamed broccoli and then the cooked rice. Then I added a bit more sauce and stirred a few times to mix and let the flavors meld for a few minutes. This Broccoli and Brown Rice with Tofu Stir Fry was so healthy and delicious that I was overjoyed to have made enough food for another dinner the next day (when I jazzed it up by adding some chopped onion and an egg)!

Find out where to buy Nasoya Tofu and get amazing Tofu Recipes at Nasoya Dot Com.

Cooking with Gail Presents: Belgian Waffle Sundae Featuring CherryMan Maraschino Cherries!

herryman Maraschino Cherries

Hello and welcome to another exciting installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a delicious dish from whatever I already have on hand in my apartment!

In early July, I attended both the Summer Fancy Food Show and Summer Food Fete almost back to back, and I returned home from each with a ton of tasty snack foods to sample.

Pearl Sugar Belgian Waffle

At Summer Fancy Food, I picked up this Unique Belgique brand- Pearl Sugar Belgian Waffle. These thick waffles are a wildly popular snack in Europe and this one was dotted with crunchy Pearl Sugar crystals, which made it extra sweet and decadent. When I came across this specialty treat in my kitchen cabinets, it said only one thing to me: Belgian Waffle Sundae!

Waffle With Ice Cream

You may recall that a while back I was sent an entire cooler full of Thrive brand Ice Cream, so I knew I had the appropriate vanilla ice cream already waiting just inches away in my freezer.

Belgian Waffle Sunday

The delicious fudge sauce is courtesy of Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, who included a jar of their house-made sundae topping in a gift bag after I attended a dessert showcase event at their Union Square location. Food Swag!

The sundae was shaping up nicely but, of course, it needed a Cherry on Top. As luck would have it, I had a Fun Size jar of Cherryman Maraschino Cherries in my fridge that I’d picked up at Food Fete — see how it all came together so effortlessly! Yummy and indulgent with zero shopping involved!

Cherryman makes an all natural, Farm to Market Maraschino that is sweet but not overly so, and that still maintains a fruity, natural cherry flavor. They’re also preservative-free and can be used in lots of recipes — including in your favorite cocktail! Learn More about Cherryman Maraschino Cherries, get recipes and find out where to purchase their products at This Link!

Cooking With Gail Presents: Single Lady’s Pasta Night

Del Grosso Garlic Pasta Sauce

Hello and welcome to the second installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a meal from whatever I can find in my house. This week, I was very busy making the scene and had no time to grocery shop. So, Friday evening found me at home, famished and looking through my pantry for foods I could combine into some kind of tasty meal without having run out to the store or resort to ordering in.

Fortunately, I had a new jar of La Famiglia DelGrosso pasta sauce, specifically Aunt Cindy’s Roasted Garlic Gala (check out their awesome website and you can see that each sauce variety is named for a family member, cute)! When you open the jar of this sauce and have a little taste, it tastes like a fresh tomato sauce with a bunch of good stuff in it, which is what I like. I really do not care for those brands of jarred sauces that have so much corn syrup in them that they taste like candy (makes a face). No, thank you. Here are the ingredients in this fine sauce: Imported Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Imported Olive Oil, Fresh Onions, Roasted Garlic, Sea Salt, Basil, Natural Garlic Flavoring, Black Pepper and Parsley. No sugar added! And you can even see the little chunks of garlic right through the jar! It is like sauce you would make in your home if you were not lazy, like me.

Of course I had some spaghetti pasta at the ready, but needed cheese to top the dish, and I was out of the cheese I normally would add to pasta. What to do? Well, as luck would have it, I also had in the fridge a newly acquired package of Emmi Gruyere Cheese.

Emmi Guyere Cheese

You might recall that I wrote about Emmi Cheese Fondue a while back, which is when I became a fan. Gruyere cheese is really a kind of Swiss cheese, which one does not normally associate with red sauce pasta dishes. But since Gruyere is also hard cheese with properties similar to Parmesan, I figured it would grate up well, and I was right. The slightly salty, nutty flavor also went really well with garlic in the sauce, and it melted nicely on top of the hot pasta. Very delicious! Here is a photo of the finished dish.

Pasta with Sauce and Cheese

I’m not suggesting that everybody is going to get behind putting Gruyere cheese on their pasta, but I would encourage you to step outside the box and get a little bit creative when you are trying to make dinner with what you have on hand. Emmi Cheese is a great product which paired harmoniously with the DelGrosso sauce in this case. I recommended both products be kept on hand in your pantry or fridge for all culinary emergencies, or just for everyday use!