Student journalists cook up a feast this summer

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4D

Origins, family – and frat brothers – can all influence the cuisine choices for college students.

The Sacramento Bee's interns have been getting together after hours to cook for each other. They have tapped into food memories from childhood, experiences in their first kitchens and a camaraderie built this summer while working together as reporters. A few of them shared some favorite recipes.


Crawfish étouffée

Recipe from Andrea Gallo, Louisiana State University:

Growing up in Lafayette, La. – the heart of Cajun Country – I was privy to some of the most cultural food in the world. Crawfish étouffée (pronounced ay-too-FAY) embodies the best Cajun and Creole flavors with its blend of seafood, rice and spices. It's popular at Louisiana's frequent festivals because it serves large numbers of people, plus it's delicious.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound peeled crawfish

2 cans cream of mushroom soup (can substitute with low-fat cream of mushroom soup)

1 can Rotel brand tomatoes

1 can Cajun-style stewed tomatoes

1 stick margarine

1 large onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped (can substitute garlic powder)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups uncooked rice

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt the margarine and sauté the seasoning and vegetables in a large pot on the stove.

Add the soup and tomatoes, then mix. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook on low for 30 minutes.

Cook the rice separately. Serve étouffée over cooked rice.


Summer caprese pasta

Recipe from Julie Granka, Stanford University:

Since I'm The Bee's science intern and a biologist, you might expect me to recommend this dish for its showcase of tastes and colors, made possible by plants' conversion of sunlight into energy by photosynthesis. You might also expect me to praise the caprese pasta because of the hardworking chloroplasts of its basil, the flavorful and fragrant chemical compounds of its garlic, and the ripeness of its tomato fruit. (Yes, tomato is a fruit.)

But here, I speak from my Italian heritage, and more importantly, my love affair with cheese. Though this isn't one of my grandmother's recipes, she'd be proud of its garlic, olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan, which I often ate by the spoonful at her kitchen table. It's also easy to prepare, especially for large groups of interns (you can do most of the work in advance).

INGREDIENTS

6 fresh medium tomatoes (even better with nice ones from a farmers market)

1 red onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 bunch basil

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed

1 pound bowtie pasta

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, grated

INSTRUCTIONS

Dice and chop the tomatoes. Put them in a colander to drain while you make the rest.

Put the onion, basil and garlic into a large bowl (the one you'll serve from). Stir in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Add the tomatoes once they're mostly drained. Let the mixture sit for an hour or more – the longer the better (you can put it in the fridge).

When you're almost ready to eat, add the diced mozzarella to the bowl.

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water with some salt (my grandmother swore by this), until it's al dente (Italians can't eat mushy pasta).

Drain the pasta and mix it into the bowl with the tomatoes.

Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Rasam

Recipe from Ravali Reddy, Stanford University:

This easy-to-make spicy version of tomato soup is about as basic as Indian food can get. Rasam comes in many forms and is a staple in the south Indian diet. My parents are from Hyderabad, and this particular dish was my go-to comfort food as a kid.

As a college student, I don't have the time or the assortment of spices needed to make other Indian dishes, but this rasam recipe is simple and delicious, making it the perfect choice for my life as an intern this summer.

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin

2 dried red chili peppers

1/2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste (available at any south Asian grocery)

2 cans tomato sauce (Hunt's)

2-4 small pieces tamarind

3/4 teaspoon coriander power

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 tablespoon rasam powder (available at any south Asian grocery)

Cilantro (for garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oil in a large pot.

Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and red chili peppers.

Add the ginger-garlic paste. A small amount of finely chopped garlic works as an acceptable substitute.

Pour in the cans of tomato sauce.

Refill the cans with water and pour in 4 cans of water.

Add the tamarind pieces, coriander powder, salt and rasam powder.

Stir occasionally and allow rasam to boil for 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot as either a spicy tomato soup or over rice.


Tomato chutney

Recipe from Uzra Khan, Yale University:

I am from Mumbai, and my family and I eat this chutney at home all the time. It has a mix of tangy, sweet and spicy flavors, and keeps for weeks in the fridge. You can eat it with rice and curry, or even as a condiment over toast, in tacos, in sandwiches, etc.

The garnish, or "baghar" which translates as "tempering," involves frying whole spices and adding them to the dish with the oil. It enhances the flavors of the spices, and is typical of a lot of south Asian daal and chutney dishes.

My mom taught me this recipe; it's so easy to make, since there literally are only two steps, and it tastes like home!

INGREDIENTS

8 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 whole green chilies

A few curry leaves

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste or minced garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon oil

Pinch of salt

For garnish:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2-3 whole dried red chilies broken in half

4 small garlic cloves, chopped

A few curry leaves

2 tablespoons oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Put the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, chili powder, green chilies, curry leaves and oil in a pan and cook covered on medium heat until the tomatoes are cooked and the mixture resembles a paste.

Flavor with salt and add the sugar.

For the garnish, heat oil in a frying pan and add first the garlic, followed by dried red chilies, cumin seeds and, lastly, the curry leaves. Allow them to fry until brown.

Pour the garnish over the tomato paste, and allow to cool.


Beer can chicken

Recipe from Max Ehrenfreund, Yale University:

Beer can chicken isn't just for frat bros. The beer keeps the chicken moist and flavorful, and you can vary the recipe easily by changing the spices.

It's very easy to prepare. Even if you weren't your house's grillmaster in college, you have to try to screw up on this dish.

Besides, it's very cheap, and for the quantity of food, you don't have to work very hard. You can serve a big group of friends, or you can freeze the meat and eat it for the rest of the week.

INGREDIENTS

1 chicken

Salt and pepper, chili powder, or other spices

1 can cheap beer

INSTRUCTIONS

Light your coals if you are using a charcoal grill. If you're cooking indoors, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the chicken liberally with the spices.

Crack open the beer (you can also remove the entire top of the can using a can opener) and drink about a quarter of it. Leave enough in the can so the chicken won't tip over.

Set the beer in a pan and fit the cavity of the chicken over the open can. I like using a pan, though some folks set the can (and the chicken) directly on the grill. You can collect juices in the pan, the pan blocks direct heat, and it's easier than trying to fit the chicken on the can when it's already sitting on the grill. The chicken should balance upright on its two legs and on the can.

Move the pan with the chicken and beer in it to the oven or to the grill, and close the cover.

Sit down with your copy of The Bee and read until done, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

At this point, a meat thermometer inserted into the bird's thigh should read 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from heat.

Let the chicken cool. Be careful when you remove the can. There may still be boiling beer inside, and you don't want to spill, so use a pair of tongs or wear gloves.

Carve and serve with beer.


Chicken enchiladas

Serves 8

Recipe from David Ruiz, Stanford University:

This recipe comes from Mexico City, where my father learned it from watching his mother. I've been eating these since I can remember but I have never tried to make them. My brother tried a couple of times and swears he's a better cook, but my dad swears all of his sons are insane, so it's a moot point.

INGREDIENTS

For the sauce:

Six 7-ounce cans tomato sauce

6-8 chopped serrano chili peppers

1 cup chopped cilantro

3 cloves of garlic, halved

2 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of flour

For the enchiladas:

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 white onion

16 corn tortillas

1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Begin with cooking the chicken. Coat pan with olive oil. Cook chicken breasts with salt and pepper, roughly 7 minutes on each side. Set chicken aside to let cool.

While the chicken cools, you have time to make the sauce. Pour the cans of tomato sauce into a blender with chopped chilies, cilantro, garlic, salt and flour. The flour is added to give thickness to the sauce. Blend at the "purée" setting, making sure the sauce is not too thin. If desired, add more chilies, cilantro, garlic and salt. Leave sauce to the side for now.

Go back to the chicken and shred it by hand into strips.

Now pour roughly 1/3 of the sauce into a separate pan and bring it to a light boil under a slow flame. After the sauce boils, turn off the flame. This sauce will be used to coat the tortillas.

Move the other 2/3 of the sauce into a pan and place shredded chicken into same pan. Sauté for a few minutes.

While the chicken cooks with the sauce, fry the tortillas in a pan with a little oil. Fry the tortillas for no more than 10 to 15 seconds per side, so that they are still flexible.

Place the tortillas in a strainer to drain excess oil. After tortillas have been drained, place them one at a time in the sauce pan designated earlier. Turn to coat both sides.

As tortillas are coated thoroughly, place them into 2 separate 13-by-9 inch glass casserole dishes. Fill each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of chicken and sauce mixture. Fold over the filling and place the enchilada seam-side down. Continue until all tortillas are filled.

Top with remaining sauce and shredded cheese.

Place into oven at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

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