Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually went to school for art, design, and photography. Beyond that, I worked as a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines in the late 90s and early 2000s. I even took a crack at running a PR company for a while. However, cooking has always been in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and culinary arts instructor, my dad's father was a pastry chef, and my mom's mother was a caterer, and at the age of 92, she published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, too, and we're not afraid to experiment. Usually I end up inventing dishes (with or without outside inspiration) with whatever I have on hand, hence "Off the Cuff." I might make very Scandinavian dishes (meatballs, and salmon with dill-potatoes) or ethnic like Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Italian or Spanish. By the way, you can put bell peppers in almost all cuisine! (Drop me a line, at o f f t h e c u f f c o o k i n g "at" g m a i l followed by the dot-com. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Garlic & Pink Peppercorn Butterflied chicken with Pan Gravy


Woopity-doo!! I'm posting a recipe! I think some of you will find this one worth the wait, at least in terms of the gruesomeness of the step-by-step photographs. I have been hoping to do a photo-journalistic instruction on how to butterfly a chicken (a trick I only learned myself last year) but it's so useful for doing whole birds.  Bonus: It was a reasonably sunny afternoon (which meant BETTER PHOTOS!!) And Bonus #2: I wrangled my husband into manning the camera and tripod I didn't have to wash my raw-chicken hands every 3 seconds, set the camera timer. That would have been tedious, and impractical. So thank you, dear for making this infinitely easier. Good job on the pics, too!

Anyway, I wanted to say that I cannot for the life of me handle a raw bird without doing Bill Cosby-doing Julia Child.  Sometimes I really miss the 1980s in a big way. So here's a clip of that to amuse you.

Anyway, back to the bird at hand.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Red Curry Barramundi

Barramundi! Barramundi!! That's fun to say. (I feel like Will Ferrell in "Elf" when he keeps repeating "Frrrrancisssco!! That's fun to say!" Speaking of which, Christmas is less than 5 months away. Wow. And I have not posted a recipe since March. My sincere apologies, but I doubt if any of you feel bereft.)

Anyway. Barramundi! I had never heard of this relative of the Sea Bass (which reminds me of the "Kick his @, SeaBass" line from "Dumb and Dumber" ... okay, I'll stop with the movie quotes.)

So sea bass... Barramundi. I do have a point. I had never heard of this fish before, but saw frozen fillets at CostCo recently and thought I'd take a crack at incorporating it into my seafood rotations.  It's a mild, flaky, white fish, and it's considered a sustainable seafood variety. The fillets defrost quite fast in a bowl of cold water, and cook easily since they're evenly thick.

I've tried a few different twists on using it in Fish Tacos (I'll blog that some other night) and then last night I was jonesing for Red Curry, so I thought rather than chicken or pork, I'd put fish in it.  I had a few garden-fresh veggies from my yard, and incorporated some green onions, yellow zucchini, sugar snap peas, and then a few other things from my refrigerator. 

This is the link to the company that markets Barramundi: The Better Fish


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Basil Mozzarella & Pistachio Mushrooms


I hastily made these little appetizers for a party last night. I have made other mushroom cap hors d' oeuvres before, usually with garlic, parmesan, parsley, or some similar combination. But last night I was trying to figure out what I had on hand, and this was the end result.  Took about 10 minutes to make them, not including the oven-time.

And since I -- as par for the course -- have not posted a new recipe for 2 months, this was a quick one to upload for you to try out.

The measurements are approximate, since I was in a hurry and did not write anything down.

I also only have one photo from the end result, so you can use your imagination for the rest.  (PS. In the photo I intentionally left off some of the pistachios for a friend with nut allergies.)

INGREDIENTS:
Baby Portabella mushrooms (approximately 24-36 depending on the size)
1/4 lb mozzarella (I used firm kind, instead of "fresh" so it wouldn't be as runny when melted)
1 stalk of green onion, or equivalent amount of chives
2 or 3 fresh basil leaves
1 or 2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup of shelled roasted pistachios

DIRECTIONS:

Begin by snapping off the stems on the baby portabella mushrooms carefully so that they leave a little cup to stuff.  If the stem breaks too much, you can scoop it out with a teaspoon carefully to hollow it out. Brush off any loose dirt with a paper towel, or pastry brush. 

Trim off the root end and wilted green tops on the green onion stalk, and cut it into smaller discs.

Use a blender or mixer to puree together the cheese, basil and green onion with the olive oil. Use a teaspoon to scoop cheese mixture into each mushroom cap, and top with a couple of pistachio nuts.

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minute until cheese is bubbly and hot.  They are good served warm, but also quite tasty even at room temperature.  They are really easy to make, and pretty fancy-tasting.  The basil makes a nice bright flavor contrast to the umami earthiness of the mushrooms, cheese & pistachios.  Try experimenting with other herbs if you'd like-- sage, oregano, or rosemary, used in moderation so as not to be too bitter.  Remember a little goes a long way.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Smoked Salmon Pasta a la Greta Garbo


Greta Garbo-- star of the silver screen, one of the most iconic faces of the Golden Era of Hollywood, well known for her roles in Anna Karenina and Camille -- was also famously Swedish, which means she shared her heritage with yours truly.  Okay, so we're not related that I know of, but we do have that DNA overlap.  Allegedly, this is her favorite pasta-dish, culled from one of my mom's Swedish cooking magazines, and I would like to imagine that on those days when she "Vanted to be alooone" she curled up in a cozy wool blanket with a big bowl of this stuff. 

This is another one of those stand-by dishes my mother has made since I was a little girl, and in fact, here is the original recipe that Dad scanned for me from Mom's cut-out recipes in a binder.  It is really quite quick to make, and something like elegant comfort food!

The heading there says "Celebrities' favorite recipes".  Even if you have no idea who this mega-star of the 1930s was, make this dish, and pour up a glass of crisp white wine...

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 lb smoked salmon, cut into small chunks -- (Also, please note that the type of smoked salmon that I use is the "hot smoked" salmon that is more firm, and crumbly, and still has skin on that needs to be peeled off.  The cold-smoked salmon that still looks more like Lox and still can be sliced into thin strips is not the kind I would recommend in this recipe.)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
2-4 ripe, red tomatoes, such as plum, Campari or Roma (or one can diced tomatoes)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, (you could also use basil or oregano to sprinkle)

Pasta -- enough for four servings, preferably a thick toothy kind, like linguine, tagliatelle, pappardelle, or fettucine

DIRECTIONS:

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds until skins split.  Set aside and cool to touch, and then peel off the skins. 

Cut up salmon and tomatoes, and mince garlic.  Start with one clove, add more if desired....

Heat the oil in a skillet or sauce pan at medium, and then stir in tomatoes, garlic and salmon.  Stir over medium heat for a minute or so to heat through, and then pour in cream.  Reduce heat, and let simmer, while pasta is cooking. 

Drain pasta, drizzle with more olive oil, if desired, and ladle into bowls, and top with salmon-sauce.   Sprinkle with grated parmesan if desired, and sprinkle on fresh parsley (or basil or oregano.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Official Off the Cuff Tutorial on Kitchen Organization

An organized kitchen makes cooking more fun, and far more efficient
LONG POST AHEAD.  I'll try to break it up with my sardonic humor, and photographs. 

I have been tossing this around in my head for a while, and decided to create a separate blog post on how to organize your kitchen area and make it as functional as possible.  Cooking is a complete drag if you feel like it's a chaotic endeavor that requires a lot of running around.  And, of course, I have now finally come to a point in my life where I have lots of cabinets, an ample kitchen island and a spacious work area.  So lest I come across as condescending, talking about how to organize a kitchen, when many of you have tiny apartments and/or rickety old cabinets and lack of functionality, I just want to assure you that I have also lived in places with small kitchens and lack of counter-space.  My goal here is to provide you with as much useful information for making the best of what you *do* have. For someone endeavoring to make use of this kitchen organizing session, I would set aside a whole day, and remain flexible to tweak things after the fact, if you find that you under-assessed some of your needs.


Ultimately, cooking and maintaining your kitchen will be easier and more fun when there is a good groove and flow.  (Groove and flow.  Sounds like some new sub-genre of electronic music, doesn't it? First it was Drum and Bass, Jungle, Trance, Techno, and now it's Groove and Flow.  So on that note, crank up some good music and let's get to it.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oven Pancake

Happy New Year...

I get busy-- as you can tell it's been almost 3 months since my last entry, but I made a quick "Oven Pancake" last week, and managed to take one (not very good) photo of it right before I devoured it.

Oven Pancake, or Ugnspannkaka as we call them in Da Ol' Country, is also similar to Dutch Babies, or German Pancakes, but the ratio of flour, eggs and milk is a little different.  Traditionally, a Swedish Ugnspannkaka (Oongs-pun-KA-kah) is served slathered in melted butter, topped with lingonberry preserves, and sides of crispy bacon.  It sounds like it should be a breakfast meal, and honestly, I don't know why it couldn't be, but we have always eaten it for dinner growing up.  I didn't have any bacon that night, but I did have some homemade frozen pork-sausage patties which were delicious on the side as well.

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
Butter for  greasing baking dish, and for spreading on top
Cranberry or lingonberry preserves (or other fresh fruit, or other preserves of your choice)

[Could that list of ingredients be any easier? You probably have all of that on any given night.]

DIRECTIONS: Beat all ingredients in a bowl, until well blended and a little bit frothy at the top.

Pour into a buttered baking container of some sort. (A small lasagna pan, for instance, or an oven proof cast iron skillet would also work as long as there was plenty of butter in the bottom of whatever it is to keep the crust from sticking.)

Bake at 375-400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  (If your oven tends to run hot, go for 375.  You don't want the top to burn.)  The Oven Pancake is done when it's browned on top, bubbling and fluffed up around the edges and the center is firm to the touch. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chicken Pumpkin Paprikash

"Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash." -- Harry Burns

Well, if you're a fan of late-eighties chick flicks starring [pre-collagen] Meg Ryan, wearing ill-fitting, floppy sweaters, chunky shoes and otherwise being her adorable self, then you've probably seen the classic "When Harry  Met Sally," and you might remember that scene at the museum where they are talking all funny about Paprikash.


I had not had much insight into this dish in the past.  So sometime last year, I decided to look it up, and was not disappointed.  It's one of the most yummy and reasonably healthy comfort-foods, especially delicious on a cold, foggy autumn evening such as tonight.  Not only that, but it's quick.  I can whip up a skillet full in about 25 minutes, which hits the spot every time. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Congratulations to....

The winner of our July contest for my birthday month is Christiana at YarnDarlin who wins the OXO Cheese Plane! Thanks for participating, and be sure to stay tuned for future contests, new recipes, organizing tips, and cleaning tips in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Birthday Month Giveaway!

July is my birth-month, and I started this blog three years ago (technically in June on another server, but then I transferred it to Blogger in July of 2010).  So in honor of those two events, I'm going to give away one of my favorite ever kitchen gadgets, which is the remarkable "cheese-plane."  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stir Fried pork with eggplant, peppers and shiitake and noodles

I made this twice in a month, because it was quite good. So I figured I'd share it with my faithful 15 readers, because that's what I do-- I'm so nice, right?  And there is a decidedly Asian slant to so many of my recipes when I go through them, but what can I say? Living on the West Coast has a pretty predominant Asian-cuisine influence on a person.  I assure you, though, I also had Swedish meatballs with red potatoes and lingon-berries, just a few days later.  It was just like a trip to the cafeteria at IKEA, only homemade.

So since I didn't blog this immediately, and only took photos the second time, I had to scribble down notes from memory, and it turned out roughly the same both times.  I guess that's the thing about most recipes-- they don't always turn out identical, but you're going for a basic effect and that's usually good enough.  It's "Off The Cuff Cooking" after all.

INGREDIENTS:

Main ingredients:

1/2 package of Stir Fry style Rice Noodles -- soak in hot water according to package directions
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms -- soak in the same water as the rice noodles, at the same time
3/4 - 1 pound thinly sliced pork (I had 4 pork cutlets that I cut into strips)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, (red or white) thinly sliced
2 small eggplant (or one medium sized one) unpeeled, and cut into 1/4" thick "half moons"

Marinade for meat:

2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 whole lime (half of it for the marinade and half of it cut into wedges for garnish)
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha Sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic

DIRECTIONS: 

First, cut up the eggplant about half an hour ahead of time, and soak it in a bowl of salty water. 


Secondly, whisk together the marinade in a small bowl.

Cut the pork into strips.  Let the meat marinade at room temperature in the sauce while you prepare other ingredients.  Reserve a small amount of marinade to drizzle over the finished dish. 


Then, start soaking your rice noodles and shiitake in a pot, according to package directions.  Some instructions vary, so definitely follow those, and take the timing into account.


Prepare your other vegetables, and when the eggplant has soaked in salt water for a while, preheat a wok or skillet at medium heat, and put in 1 tbsp each of the coconut and sesame oil, and reserve the rest for frying the meat.   


Place the eggplant half-moons evenly in your skillet and fry them on each side until they're tender, and somewhat browned.  Don't crowd them, and set the finished ones aside in a bowl or on a plate, to add to the finished stir fry later on.  Cook the eggplant in batches until all done.


Use the same skillet and turn up the heat to medium high now, and add the rest of the oil.  Stir fry the meat in small batches until browned and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.  Set aside the cooked meat in the same bowl as the eggplant. 



Now stir fry the onion, and bell pepper in the skillet few minutes until they're tender and browned.  Add in the rice noodles, and shiitake, along with a few table spoons of water to deglaze the skillet.  This adds a nice savory flavor to the noodles. 


 Add in all the meat, and eggplant, and pour over any marinade that's still left over, and stir rapidly to prevent sticking.  When everything is reheated through, remove the skillet from the burner, and serve up a piping hot and tasty noodle dish.

Add more lime juice and sriracha if desired.