Saturday, May 3, 2014

Plated Recipes I am excited about for the week of May 26th

Plated just updated their menu with the new plates for the week of May 26th.  I feel bad for my wallet because there are 5 new plates I really want to try.  Here are are favorites ranked in order of of most appealing.

I am a big fan of tofu but I never seem to know what to do with it.  I can't tell you how many tofu packages have gone bad in my fridge while they waited for me to figure out what to do with them.  Greek salads are also high on my fave list so it will be nice to have to a protein to pair with this salad if I ever figure out how to cook on my own without Plated.

Plated has been putting together some really tasty looking pizzas and tarts lately but they haven't been including any type of side with them.  It looks good, but it just doesn't seem like enough food on its own to be a satisfying meal.  I would have to serve this with a salad or vegetable side and that means I would have to go to the grocery store (which I hate).  That doesn't make this plate a good value for the money.  But it just looks too tasty for me to quibble over something like like that.  I could put balsamic vinegar on my shoe and enjoy it.  For this plate, It looks like you are going to have to roll out your own crust which means I have to get a rolling pin.  They also say you can use a water bottle so I maybe I will try that and see how it goes.

I have never breaded fish before, but I bet baking the fish is easier than frying and definitely better for you.  This is made with pollock and comes with romaine hearts and russet potato "chips".  I don't usually see 2 sides come with a plate so this seems like a really well put together meal.

 Leek, Asparagus, and Fava Bean Risotto

Someone over at Plated really likes leeks because you see this ingredient pop up almost every week.  They haven't converted me yet but maybe this plate will.  I am bit skeptical at their 30-40 minute prep time on this plate because the few times I have made risotto it took me much longer.  Overall, this looks like a really good veggie dish and Plated always knocks those out of the park. 

Is Lo Mein made from linguine?  Well it is in this plate. The recipe looks a little light on seasonings to make it flavorful but I have no clue how to cook any type of Chinese food so this would be a great way to start.

If you want to check out Plated, you can get 2 free plates through this link.  By clicking on my Plated links on this blog you will also be supporting my Plated addiction.

In The Trenches Plated Review: Za'atar Bread with Babaghanoush and Labneh

I was excited to see Babaghanoush on the Plated menu for this week.  Not only would I learn how to cook Babaghanoush but I would also learn how to spell Babaghanoush.  Plated continues to have really good vegetarian options that I can't resist and this was high on my list to cook.  It was my first meal I choose to make from this week's shipment.

Here's everything that came with the meal for 2 plates:

 This is what $30 worth of curated food looks like.

I am not sure why they always use just one garlic clove.  Nothing good ever comes from just one garlic clove.  If I had any garlic on hand (but I don't because I am a Plated customer who hates going to the supermarket) I would have thrown it in this recipe.

I went against the recipe order and strained the labneh first because the recipe recommending doing this at least 20 minutes up to overnight.  What is labneh?  Well, apparently it's just strained yogurt.  Per Wikipedia, the yogurt is strained "to remove its whey, resulting in a relatively thick consistency (between that of conventional yogurt and cheese) -- all while preserving yogurt's distinctive, sour taste."

So this is me straining it over my plastic coriander:

The recipe recommended using a fine mesh strainer but I'm a food novice who gets their ingredients shipped to them in a box so I clearly don't have those kind of tools.

Then I cut my eggplant up, seasoned it and threw it in the oven for roasting:

Annoying part #1 of this recipe was having to use half of the smoked paprika for this part of the recipe and the other half later.  I don't know who can quantitatively distribute spices from a tinyass plastic bag, but it wasn't me.  If they want us to use half of something later, they really need to put it in a different package.

One thing that is super-novice about my cooking abilities is my knife skills.  Plated gives you all your ingredients whole so there is a fair amount of chopping in some recipes.  The chopping and other prep work for this recipe was minimal and took way less time than the 25 minutes it took to roast the eggplant.

 I had 15 minutes of extra time that I could use declutter and dust my unused dining room table and also tidy up some of the mess I made in the kitchen so far.  I also was able to move forward to cutting up my naan bread.  Annoying part #2 of this recipe was that Plated only sent 2 pieces, which definitely wasn't going to be enough with the volume of babaghanoush (I was able to spell it without looking it up!).  They also sent me a thrashed piece that was paper thin in one quadrant so that didn't help either.

After my eggplant came out, I was able to throw my naan bread in the oven with the Za'atar.  What is Za'atar?  Well, it's "a condiment made from the dried herb(s), mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt, as well as other spices. Used in Arab cuisine, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East" (thanks Wikipedia for filling in my vast culinary knowledge gaps).

The eggplant turned out pretty good but it was way too hot to handle for a little while. That added a little bit more to my total time.

The naan bread did not cook properly.  I think maybe it was not supposed to be cooked at the same temperature as the eggplant so I was able to get an even brown to the bread and it also overcooked a little.

I moved onto making my babaghanoush.  Annoying part #3 of this recipe is that as I was squeezing my lemons, I really wished they had provided me with those mesh shower caps for lemons that you get at restaurants so I didn't have to pick out every seed that fell out.  

Now, what the heck, Plated recipe editor - you recommend finely chopping the eggplant on the first page of the recipe in the general description, but do not put this recommendation in the actual steps of the recipe!  I didn't glance back to this until I had already thrown the ingredients all together in my bowl so I ended up with super stringy babaghanoush.

Still it didn't turn out so bad.  We had half of the babaghanoush left over after the bread was gone but it went well with some leftover tortilla chips we had in the pantry.  The labneh paired really well with the mild spice of the babaghanoush.

Final Results:
My Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes vs Plated Cook Time: 40-50 minutes
Flavor: 5/5
       All the spices worked really well together and they were ones I wouldn't have thought to use.
Skill Level Required: 2/5
        Pretty easy recipe to make.
Portion Size: 3/5
        Not enough naan bread.
Mess Level: 2/5
        All my cooking dishes fit in one dishwasher load, which can be rare for a Plated Recipe.
Likely to Cook Again?: Yes.
        I would use flavored naan bread that my supermarket has instead.  I also would cook something else with it to make it seem more like a full meal instead of appetizer.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Plated Recipes I am excited about for the week of May 19th

Plated has posted their new plates for the week of May 19th.  These are the plates I am looking forward to in the mail.

My first plate with Plated was a salmon dish. I was skeptical about mailing fish but they proved me wrong by sending a couple of beautiful salmon steaks that tasted amazing.  I am really looking forward to this plate because the salad looks delicious. I love making my own salad dressings because they end up tasting such much better than bottled versions.  I am really not looking forward to chopping an onion, though.  Can't Plated figure out a way to ship a chopped onion?  Oh well, I can't wait to pair this with a cheap bottle of white wine.

Black Bean Burgers with Lime Cabbage Slaw

Black bean burgers are my favorite!  I have been living off the frozen versions from Morning Star so I would love to know how I can make my own fresh.  The Cabbage slaw sounds tangy and would be a good side for me to learn how to make to pair with other recipes.  This recipe is also going to introduce me to adobo sauce and sounds like it has a bit of a spicy kick.

Gnocchi with Carrot Top Herb Pesto, Peas, and Green Beans
After my Gnudi disaster, I was afraid that this plate would involve making the gnocchi from scratch but the ingredients state that the gnocci is shipped to you already made.  I may leave out the arugula because it has overpowered some of the other Plated dishes I have made in the past.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In the Trenches Plated Review: Ricotta Gnudi with Asparagus, Peas, and Mint

This is my first "in the trenches" Plated Review and boy did it not go well.  If this had been my first Plated experience, it may had been my last.  The idea seemed very appealing.  I had never heard of gnudi before but it looked like comfort food with an upscale twist.  Gnudi is a kind of pasta that is similar to gnocchi, but it is made with ricotta instead of potatoes.  The Plated website described this recipe as "easy" and they were way off.  But then again I signed up for this service because I have zero clue how to cook.

This is what I got for my $30 for two plates:
Yep, that's right they included actual pads of butter in the box like you would get at a lower level restaurant.  I wanted to laugh at the silliness of shipping such a small amount of butter but I didn't end up having any butter in my fridge so it was much appreciated that they included it.

I started mixing up my cheesy dough.  They wanted you to add zest from the lemon.  Come on, Plated recipe editors, I don't have a zesting tool.  I am getting my meal ingredients shipped to me via Fedex, why do you think I hang out at William Sonoma buying kitchen tools?  I don't even have a cheese grater.  It's sad but true and I think for those reasons I am the typical Plated customer because if I had all those tools or had any cooking knowledge I wouldn't be paying $15 per plate for something I have to cook and clean up myself.

It was at this point that something started to go terribly wrong.  I was supposed to mix in all the flour until the dough stopped being sticky.  That never happened.  The dough was a sticky mess that I was unable to form into the shapes they were asking me to.  There was no "rolling" this dough, so I did my best to form 4 equal ropes from it.

I soldiered on with my inaccurate gnudi even though it seemed like I was veering far from what Plated intended.  And I haven't even mentioned the mess this was making yet -there was flour everywhere and I had gnudi dough up to my wrists.  And I then I ended up with something that looks nothing like the recipe pictures:

Whatever, I tasted the dough and it still tasted good, so I figured I would run with my free-form gnudi. After I chopped all my vegetables and herbs, half an hour had passed since the start of the recipe.  Keep in mind, this recipe was only supposed to take 30-40 minutes and I was only halfway done.  I blanched my vegetables and boiled my gnudi.

My gnudi got even more blob-like and shapeless but they did not fall apart in the water and I was able to sautee them per the recipe.

The gnudi didn't turn out so bad but the recipe took more than twice the time they said it would and my kitchen was a mess afterwards.  I liked the taste of the gnudi but the overall plate was tarnished by the aggressive tarragon they put in the recipe.  I don't think I have had that much tarragon before and it made the meal taste woody and weird.  If I ever get tarragon in another Plated box, I will probably not add it. Here is my final product.

Final Results:
My Cook Time: 1 hour 18 minutes vs Plated Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Flavor: 2/5
       Herbs were overpowering and ruined the dish.
Skill Level Required: 5/5
        I didn't know what I was doing, this seemed like a very high level dish to make.
Portion Size: 5/5
        Lots of vegetables, which I usually love, but they were overpowered by tarragon.
Mess Level: 5/5
        2 pots, 1 large pan and all my prep cookware needed two dishwasher loads to clean.  I also got flour and dough everything.
Likely to Cook Again?: Absolutely not.  
        I like the idea of gnudi, so if I ever get the courage to try again, I will probably try this recipe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I am addicted to Plated!

I am addicted to Plated and it's actually a healthy addiction.  With a full time job and a 2 month old baby, my trash can was overflowing with takeout pizza and Thai boxes.  I realized I needed to make a change to the way I eat.  I didn't want to pass my lazy and unhealthy food habits on to my daughter and I wanted to take better care of my family.  I was watching Shark Tank on my DVR one weekend and I saw the solution to my situation: Plated.  This great service provides awesome recipes (many of them vegetarian) and ships the freshest ingredients to you so you can cook in your own home.  I will be posting my Plated results and reviews here.

Check out Plated today!