Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Life and Times of Buster

I really intended to post more updates about my basil plant's failure success, but July seriously escaped me! I'm actually surprised that I still have a basil plant to talk about. Anyway, since Plan A was clearly a failure, let me give you a brief run down of the first month instead.

First things first, as you can tell from the title I decided to give my basil plant a name. I tried out a few different names like Benny, Baeza and Betsy, but none of them stuck. So after thinking about it for awhile, I finally settled on Buster. Jesse and I were obsessed with the show Arrested Development, which is sadly no longer on TV, so I decided to name my plant after one of my favorite characters, Buster.

So after coming up with a name, it was time to make Buster grow. In order to accomplish this, I've done several different things -- I water him almost everyday, I've put him in four different windows to find the one he likes (the one with the most sunlight), I've taken him out for a few lazy days in the sun and yes, I've not only talked, but I've actually sang to my prized possession. In case you're wondering, my favorite song to sing to him is "Get Up, Stand Up!" by Bob Marley - more on that in a bit.

After all of the love and caring I provided Buster this month, you probably think he's flourishing. I would expect that too. Well, lets just say its been a hard month and he's not exactly bursting out of his little planter. On the plus side, he is still alive.

I noticed right away that Buster leans. I tried rotating him so that his leaning side faced away from the sun, in hopes that he'd pull towards it, but he held on to his little lean for quite some time. After about two weeks though, he finally started to stand a little taller. That's when I made my near fatal mistake.

I put Buster outside on our deck, for a nice long day of soaking in the sun while I went to work. Yep I was jealous - a whole day in the sun! Here's where the mistake came in, I forgot to check the weather report before I left for work. Just my luck, around 4:00 a massive thunderstorm rolled through the city, pounding Buster's tender little leaves and drowning his roots in inches of rain water. Oh, and then I made the exact same mistake a week later. Real smart, Susan, real smart ....

Poor Buster after the storm :(
SO depressing!

I know, I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I did that to him ... twice!! I guess I don't really need to explain why I've been singing "Get Up, Stand Up" to him. It's taken a lot of work to get him back to even a semi-upright position, but after being beat down by the rain my little Buster fought back.

Here's a picture of Buster in his new favorite location, the dining room window. He's looking a little barren right now, because I just used a bunch of leaves to make a pasta salad, but he's finally standing up a little straighter and looking a little stronger.

Happy Birthday, Buster!

Here's hoping that the second month goes a little better than the first! Since he survived the first 30 days, I think I'm going to pick out a proper planter to keep him in - stay tuned. Oh, and wish me luck on month two!! :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Grilled Salmon

This weekend I decided to make a low-key, semi-homemade, Sunday dinner. Drew was out of town, so since it was just Jesse and me, I decided to make it easier for both of us (read: easy prep work and minimal dishes for Jesse).

First, Let me give you a little back-story on how this meal came to be ...

It turns out I'm kind of in love with Trader Joe's. While I've noticed that they don't carry some of the staples, or if they carry them, they run out quite frequently (i.e. white vinegar), I still love all the variety and prepared dishes they offer. They also have a great frozen section full of poultry, fish, side dishes and desserts!

One of my frequent purchases at TJ's is the Wild Alaskan Salmon. While it comes frozen, the flavor of the salmon is spot-on and it's always great quality. So for Sunday dinner this week, I bought 1 lb. of the salmon, along with an asparagus risotto from the frozen section, which turned out to be creamy and smooth, with a little bite from the asparagus. I usually make a honey-mustard glaze for the salmon, but this week I decided to try something new. After perusing my usual food blogs and recipe sites, I came across one on the Food Network that looked simple and tasty (plus, I had all the ingredients in my pantry!). So while I can't claim this as my own, I'll share it with you anyway because it turned out to be just what I was looking for.

Oh, one more thing, I'm SO disappointed because I forgot to take pictures of the finished product - guess I got a little excited about eating it! Looks like you'll have to use your imagination, and the wonderful photo provided by the Food Network. Enjoy! :)

Disclaimer: I made a few small modifications, such as brushing the salmon with olive oil and adding more marinade while it was grilling, but nothing major.

Asian Grilled Salmon
Recipe courtesy of the Food Network
Serves: 3 - 4
Source: Food Network
Total Time: 25 minutes

1 lb. Wild Alaskan Salmon
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp. for drizzling
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (1 small clove)

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side up on a cutting board and brush with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Flip the salmon, so the skin is on the cutting board, and cut it crosswise into 2 - 4 equal pieces.

Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

When the grill is hot, place the salmon skin side down on to the grates. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula, brush with half of the remaining marinade, and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. It's alright if the salmon is slightly raw in the center, it will keep cooking as it sits.

Transfer the fish to a flat serving platter, skin side down, and spoon the remaining marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest under an aluminum tent for 10 minutes.

I used the resting time to prepare my side dish.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sunday Dinner: ReDo

After our Sunday Dinner hiatus last weekend, I planned a nice grilled fish dinner this past Sunday to make up for it. I made my own lemon-butter sauce for the fish and a fresh chopped salad. Not only did I steam the broccoli, I then sauteed it with a little crushed red pepper for extra flavor. Everything was going really well -- I put the fish in a homemade aluminum foil pack and threw it on the grill to steam in a pool of lemon-buttery goodness. The package on the fish said to grill it for 3-5 minutes and then poof -- grilled fish! The package lied.

I left the fish on for the whole 5 minutes and then decided I would just hope for the best. I took it off the grill and did my best to peek in to see if it was done, but since it had been steaming in the air-tight packet it was really hot, making it impossible to get a close look. Let's just say "hoping for the best" turned out to be a catastrophe. Parts of the fish looked nice and flaky, while others still looked a little less than pleasant. Meanwhile, the lovely fillets that came in the package turned into bite size pieces as I attempted to move everything from the foil packet to a tray.

Drew and Jesse were good sports and ate whatever fish they could, but at the end of the meal we were all still really hungry. Our saving grace was the chunk of Gouda I had in the fridge. We finished our meal with cheese and crackers while watching Dexter -- oh and a few cupcakes.

So, since I clearly don't have a good recipe to present from Sunday night, I whipped up a nice meal Monday night to post on here. I've made a few recipes similar to this one, but this was sort of self-created as I went. Without further ado I present my Sunday dinner redo. Enjoy!

Pesto Tortellini with Tomato and Spinach

Serves: 2-4 (4 if you serve it with salad and bread)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

2 cups pesto tortellini*
3 Tbsp. olive oil
pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
15 grape tomatoes, quartered
9 oz. baby spinach
1/2 cup pasta water
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

*I used the dry pesto tortellini from Trader Joes, but most grocery stores have something similar.

1. Boil a pot of water and cook the tortellini according to the directions on the package.

2. While the water is boiling, slice the garlic and dice the tomatoes.

3. With about 8 minutes left on the pasta, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper and salt to the pan. Saute until the garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and saute another 3-4 minutes.

5. Add the spinach to the tomato mixture and stir occasionally until wilted, about 1 minute. Meanwhile, drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Before wilting:

After wilting:

6. Add the tomato mixture to the tortellini and combine. Add the reserved cooking liquid to the pot as needed. (I only used 1/2 cup to get the desired consistency)

5. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

and now a close-up ....

If only Drew would have been here to enjoy the better of the two Sunday dinners! :)