• erin

    Dumplings with my family
    A recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, I found myself with no money, no kitchen equipment, and an exceptionally huge appetite. Ideas, improvisations, and yummy meal solutions were discovered in the kitchen of my very first apartment.
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    I've been getting a lot of requests and suggestions for the apartment kitchen. I LOVE these suggestions, keep them coming!

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    em570039@mycia.net

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Roasted Tomato Soup

A bit of a bug put me in the mood for soup. I immediately thought of tomato soup – I love it and generally only make it in the summer when the tomatoes are the ripest. But it sounded so good, I thought I would try it with good quality canned tomatoes and roast them to boost their flavor. I used olive oil for richness and balsamic to bring out their sweetness and acidity, and was really happy with the results. After I made, I ran around my house with a spoon forcing everyone to taste. What did I discover? No one (no one) in my house likes tomato soup, leaving me with the whole pot to myself! (Oh yea)

Panfried Pork Chops with Tomato-Mushroom Sauce

What? You think I’m using way too many mushrooms? Well, you’re right. I even hid the mushrooms from you in the meatball sub (I put mine on as a last minute addition after I’d assembled and photographed Matt’s sandwich). I admit it, I am a mushroom addict. There is reason to my madness – they were massively on sale at my market last week. And, I’m totally in love with them.

So yes, I made a mushroom sauce for some pork chops over the weekend. But this sauce has tomatoes stirred in, which gives it acidity and a really nice body (i.e. you add tomatoes and you’ve got insta-sauce). So I figure this could be a tomato-onion sauce, a tomato-corn sauce, a tomato-cauliflower sauce, a tomato-sausage sauce…you pick. Or, if you’re a mushroom obsessed diner like me, you can leave them in.

Either way, don’t worry. I’m out of mushrooms. For now, anyway…

Spicy Rice and Beans

A few times I like to cook and eat vegetarian. Ok, so more than sometimes. So basically, multiple times a week, I turn to Matt and say “cook whatever meat you want that goes with this.” The man is a major carnivore, but it does not stop me from my tasty plotting. I started craving rice and beans this week – warm and hearty and perfect in cold weather. When I got home from work, I went for a walk with the dog and the roommates, came home, and had dinner on the table in less than half an hour. A perfect night.

Black Pepper Grits with Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions, Steak, and Over Easy Eggs

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a major egg fan. Poached, over-easy…ok, I admit it, anything with a rich, runny yolk has my heart all a-flutter. But since Matt is not much of a breakfast fan, I don’t often indulge my cravings to have breakfast for dinner. Which is a shame, because it’s easy and super fast, and it’s the perfect way to use whatever sounds good.

This dish certainly had several items that were cooked different ways, but I optimized space and still managed very little cleanup (and some leftovers). You could always use sauteed tomatoes (I just love the flavor and juiciness of the roasted), bacon, sausage, or any leftovers you had in the fridge (grits are a pretty delicious delivery system for almost anything). In the end, it may not be the prettiest thing to look at, but that doesn’t matter, because first chance I got, I smashed it all up into one, big, delicious bowl of breakfasty goodness.

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Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole with Poblanos, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Corn, and Red Onions

This dish doesn’t sound like much. I say that because when Matt said this afternoon “Let’s make something simple for dinner” and I suggested this dish, he didn’t exactly jump up and down. It sounds basic, and maybe even dull. But what pushes something like this over the top (and always does) is really good ingredients and really good flavor. This seemingly simple casserole was bursting with flavor: poblano and bell peppers, sweet corn, moist chicken, and really good cheddar cheese. If you want to take something to the next level, insert flavor whenever possible in a dish like this, even if it means and extra step: roast the corn and the peppers, season the chicken with herbs and spices, or cook the rice in broth instead of water (which makes for an incredibly flavorful base). The end result was as satisfying as it was quick – and could easily be altered with all sorts of different ingredients to suit your taste.

White Beans with Sausage, Tomato, and Mushrooms

I saw a recipe once on Epicurious for a dish with white beans and sausage. I loved the idea, because white beans (you may have heard me gush about them before) are so creamy and delicious. Combining my favorite beans with sausage (turkey or chicken sausage for a healthier option) and some homemade tomato sauce and I had the perfect substitute for pasta. At the same time, the beans added a heartiness that really filled me up – a wonderful warm, chunky stew of sorts that was tossed together in no time, especially if you have tomato sauce on hand. Even if you don’t, this meal takes less than a half hour.

Pizza with White Bean-Rosemary Puree, Bacon, Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes, Onions, and Parmesan

I love making pizza for a quick meal. Now, normally, some people think of “pizza as a quick meal” as picking up the phone, ordering, and waiting with $20 by the front door. But since I love making bread doughs and freezing them in individual portions until I need them, pizza is a great thing to make when I need a fast dinner. I just take the dough out of the freezer (put it into the fridge) on my way into work, and when I come home, I have dough ready to go. I can fish through the fridge and use whatever meat, veggies, and herbs I have on hand. For this version I made a quick puree of white beans and herbs from the garden (I just love the white beans – so rich and creamy, makes a great sauce substitution for this pizza).

Best of all, the warm, bubbly, cheesy result is incredibly satisfying – like I’d spent hours waiting for it to come to fruition (or to the front door). But the whole thing is done in minutes. All in all – the ideal meal: portioned for one (especially convenient as Matt hates pizza), uses up leftovers, and is done super fast. Hmm. Maybe I’ll go make another one.

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