Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seeking perfection: Aloo Gobi

This week's entry is a couple of tries in the making. I'm trying to fit more vegetables in my diet. This does not mean said vegetables can't be interesting. I love steamed broccoli as much as the next person (well, maybe not as much as Austin the former housemate), but I like a lot of variety in my diet.

For those not that familiar with Indian food, aloo gobi is a dry-spiced dish of cauliflower and potatoes. In my digging around, I discovered that tomatoes are not necessarily a part, although that was what I was most familiar with in restaurants. I thought I'd try it without.

My first try was this recipe, which just came out too subtle, so I started my search again and ended up here. Almost, but not quite perfect. A little too spicy, even for me. I love spicy dishes and this one gets more so the longer it sits, the more plain yogurt I needed to cool it down. My final recipe:

1 head of cauliflower, washed and chopped into florets
5 small red potatoes cut into 2" chunks (a "small" potato here is about the size of my fist. I'm 5'3". Adjust accordingly)
2 small yellow onions
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (I love my garlic press!)
1 t of chopped ginger (you can also use jarred paste or dry if you wish)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t tumeric
2 t cumin
2 t coriander
1 t cayenne
1 t garam masala
2 T oil, separated

In the interest of saving time, I thought I'd try chopping the potatoes and the cauliflower while I was cooking the onions. Don't do this. Chop everything first. Trust me.

I also mix the dry spices together in a ramekin. This helps with even distribution later on

Heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat, add onions and cook until they start to get translucent.

Add your wet spices--the ginger, the pressed garlic stir well. Add potatoes and stir well.

Cover to cook and check about every two minutes until the potatoes are half done--you should feel some resistance when you try to pierce them with a fork.

Add the cauliflower and the remaining oil, stir to coat. add in your dry spices, stirring all the while. Cover, stir every few minutes until potatoes are done and cauliflower is soft, but not mushy.

I can make a meal of this on its own, topped with plain yogurt. I've also served it as a side dish with a mild chicken recipe. 

Questions? Comments? Death threats? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Comfort food in fifteen minutes

I didn't feel like cooking tonight. It had been a long day at the office and it was cold and gloomy outside. On the other hand, I wanted something hot.

In the fridge, there was a pint of white rice leftover from take-out. A good start. It was a little dry, but I mixed it up with some water and put it in the microwave for three minutes and it was good as new.

I love black beans, and try to always have a can of them in the house. Luckily, I did tonight. Into small saucepan over medium-low heat they went, then I added:

a few drops of lime juice
one shake of cumin
one shake of onion powder
one shake of garlic powder
a heaping tablespoon of salsa
half a long hot pepper, chopped
one small jalapeno chopped
one green onion chopped (it was all I could salvage, the rest were pretty scary)
a dash of salt

other variations on this them include a shot of vinegar, a chopped white or yellow onion. 

The chopping took less than five minutes while the rice reheated, heating the beans took another five. Rice in the bowl, top with beans. Top with shredded cheese and sour cream as desired.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where Kate once again cooks by the seat of her pants

Greetings one and all! I know a lot of you out there are doing some holiday baking, and I may do a little more this month, but today I decided to use my dear boyfriend as a guinea pig. He's a brave soul and has a nose and taste for food, so he's really a good person to try news tastes on.

Originally, I had wanted to make butter chicken, or chicken makhini. One slight problem in that I was out of tomato paste and it was pouring rain out. So I adjusted. What did I have? Chicken, butter, a few mushrooms, some peppers, assorted spices. I came up with a taste I really enjoyed, but will be tweaking a bit:

1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of beer (I had Harp in the house)
2 t coriander seeds
1/2 t coriander powder
sliced mushrooms
1/2 long hot pepper chopped
about ten grinds black pepper
1 pound chicken tenders
1 minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon salt

heat a large frying pan at medium-low heat. Add coriander seeds and shake pan gently until the seeds start to pop. Add butter to the pan. When it's melted, add the shallot, the mushrooms and salt, stirring until shallot is translucent. Add the long hot pepper  and powdered coriander and stir to coat. Increase the heat to medium and add the chicken to the pan. Cook until chicken is just done, about fifteen minutes.

I served this with aloo gobi, a recipe I will bring to you next week. I think it would also go well with rice and a green salad.

Enjoy whatever holidays you celebrate, if any!

Questions? Comments? Death threats? Happy to hear from you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

In which Kate transforms a recipe without testing it first

The day after Thanksgiving, my friend Scott sent me a link to this recipe for a bourbon cranberry sauce. I read through the recipe, and thought I'd give it a try, but the more I read, the more I thought, "I can do a little better."  Their list of ingredients:

1 pound (about 4 cups) cranberries
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon

The amount of bourbon seemed about right, but a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon for a whole pound of cranberries? That didn't sound right to me. After some mental calculating, I came up with this:

My list of ingredients:
1 12 oz package of cranberries
1.25 cups sugar
generous half teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons bourbon

This is so easy to make, it's scary. If you're teaching a child to cook, this would be a great one.

Preheat the oven to 350F
Rinse the cranberries in cold water, put in a 9x9 baking dish
Stir in sugar and cinnamon until the berries are well coated
Cover the baking dish with foil, bake for approximately one hour
Stir in bourbon, let cool.  Serve warm or chilled (I like it warm)

While cranberries are still in the store, I'm considering trying a variation that uses Gran Mariner and lemon zest. Watch this space!

Questions? Comments? Death threats? Let's hear them!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An odd Thanksgiving Tradition

Last year, I got it in my head to start baking bread. I've made bagels before, so I wasn't completely inexperienced with yeast doughs. Still, it had been a while, so I thought I would start with a soda bread. I'm only a wee bit Irish (a great-grandmother I never met was half-Irish. Touch of English, too, which explains why I have a taste for good whisky and make tea when there's a crisis)

There are a lot of Irish soda breads out there. Which is like saying New York City has a couple Irish bars, but anyway. Some recipes add flavor with caraway, some with raisins, some with oatmeal. I came across one set of base ingredients I liked, then another recipe mentioned using herbs instead of caraway and raisins, and I thought the buttery flavors in the bread would go well with herbs, so I ended up with the following:

3 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
4 T unsalted butter (half a stick)
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (I've made this with rosemary and thyme so far, the thyme wasn't as successful. This year I'm trying chives)
1 Cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
-Add the butter and blend in until it disappears into the dry ingredients--if you can get it the size of large pebbles, you're in good shape
-Stir in the herbs and blend well
-in a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk together
-add liquid to dry ingredients, folding in with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. If it still remains dry, add another tablespoon of buttermilk
-lightly flour a work surface and turn dough onto it.
-fold dough over itself a few times and shape it into a loaf. I've done both oval and round; either works fine
-cut a cross in the center (without fail, all the recipes I've read say this is to let the fairies out. Who am I to argue?)
-bake in center of the oven for fifteen minutes
-turn heat down to 350 F and back for another fifteen to twenty-five minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick in the center. Crust should be deep golden brown and toothpick in the center should come out clean.
-cool on a rack for as long as you can stand it.
-serve with butter as desired.

This went over so well last Thanksgiving, that my uncle asked me to make it again. So maybe later in the holiday season I'll try something yeasty. When I lived in Salt Lake City a friend used to make Parker House rolls every Thanksgiving, and they were delicious. They also were the perfect size for a small turkey sandwich the following day.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beer cheese soup. Hold the chicken.

No, really, hold the freaking chicken.  I like poultry in a variety of presentations. Between marsala, cordon bleu and other variations, I think I've established that I have nothing against the bird and enjoy it frequently.

But there are some places where, in my less than humble opinion, it doesn't belong. In my clam sauce, for example, from a couple weeks ago. There was no reason to put chicken broth in a clam dish. I might add it to the sauce for my chicken cacciatore, but that dish is all about the chicken.

After cruising the web for a couple hours looking for the right beer cheese soup recipe to try, I almost threw in the proverbial towel. Over 90% of the recipes I found contained chicken broth. WHY? I was looking for a very specific flavor profile--beer, cheddar and a little bit of vegetables.

I was surprised to find a recipe for beer soup. Yes, beer soup. I would not lie to you. I may try it at a later date as an academic exercise, but don't look for it any time soon.

Also to my surprise, I ended up with one of Rachel Ray's recipes for this week's venture. I've never been fond of Rachel Ray. I can't handle that much perky. I am the anti-perky (you might have noticed I don't put up a lot of breakfast and brunch recipes). But I have checked out a few of her recipes and this one worked really well:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped 
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer, such as Dos Equis
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • Croutons, for garnish
I liked this ingredient list a lot. It depends on the beer for flavor, by asking for an amber as opposed to a Light or a "lite." A little mustard? Why not, though a bit of horseradish might also be interesting. A lot of the recipes I looked at wanted celery, which I like, but I like leeks much better and might not have thought of that on my own.

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and leeks, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beer and mustard and bring the soup to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese 1 handful at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the croutons.
The instructions here are easy to follow. When you add the flour to the butter and vegetables it's going to clump up until you add the milk. Don't panic, it'll all thin out when you add the milk.

One important note: either made this ahead of the rest of your meal, make the rest of your meal ahead, or get some help in the kitchen. You really need to be whisking almost constantly. I served this with a salad and some turkey tenderloins and it made an excellent accompaniment. The leftovers were a main dish with a salad.

I think I might cut down to 1 large carrot and throw in a shallot instead. The suggestion to use gruyere instead also intrigues me. I'm saving that for a later dish.

Questions? Comments? Death threats? I'm all ears!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

another crumby recipe

I haven't deconstructed anything recently, unless you count the below as deconstructing my last bread crumb and herb mixture. I've been in a more creative mood in the kitchen, and have really enjoyed myself. If you have a recipe you'd like me to deconstruct, I'd love to hear from you.

This recipe is a crumb mix for chicken, though I suspect it would work on pork chops as well.

3/4 cup panko
1 heaping T of lemon peel
1 heaping t dried thyme
1 heaping t parsley
1 heaping t sage
a few grinds of black pepper to taste
1 t garlic salt

This one worked really well on about a pound and a half of chicken breasts (cooked covered with foil at 375 for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through). I didn't even oil them beforehand and they came out nice and crunchy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. The herbs worked very well together, and the overall effect was light and tasty.

To add some earthiness to the meal, I caramelized some onions, mixed them with some mushrooms I sauteed in white wine and olive oil, and stirred them up with some quinoa. If you haven't tried quinoa, I recommend it. It's got a nice nutty flavor, but not so strong that it doesn't work with herbs and spices. I also served some peas. Overall, I was very pleased with the combination.

This doesn't mean I'm done with bread crumbs. Not by a long shot. Putting this together was a lot of fun, and I'm sure I'll be doing it again!

Questions? Comments? Death threats? Let me know!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hot Stuff! Chili revisited

When I lived in Nashville, a deli in my office's building made a red chicken chili that I loved. I knew I'd never make it taste exactly the same as John's, so I took my basic chili recipe and made a few modifications. This is what I came up with:

1.75 pounds of chicken tenders cut up
2T olive oil for browning chicken
2 cans kidney beans (I used Goya)
2 large cans Muir Glen diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 Jamaican hot pepper, fine dice
2 small yellow onions chopped
1 jalapeno, fine dice
2 heaping T of chile powder
1 heaping T of cumin
1 T ground cinnamon 
1 T cayenne
2 bottles Harp

WTF? I hear some of you say. Cinnamon? Yes. Cinnamon has a good amount of savory applications. Look for a Mexican spicy fish and a Greek Cinnamon chicken in coming weeks.  There's also Cincinnati chili, which, when I tasted it, had strong flavors of cinnamon and chocolate. I loved the canned stuff, I can imagine what a good home-made batch would taste like.

Besides, I ran out of cumin.

I made this in a Dutch oven, because my crockpot only holds about a pound of meat and beans. First, I sauteed the chicken in some olive oil until I no longer saw any pink parts, then added my beans, veggies and spices. I cooked it on low for about four hours, covered, stirring around every 30 minutes. For the last hour, I took the lid off, letting some of liquid evaporate.

I served this to a very skeptical sweetie. He'd never had a chicken chili before, and had strong doubts when I mentioned the cinnamon. After three bites, his attitude was "shut up and let me eat." I consider that a success.

One note, I found this recipe to be much more compatible with cheese than sour cream. I used Sargento's low-fat four-cheese Mexican blend.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Variations on a mollusk

I find quite a few recipes on the Food Network. This time, I found two, took elements from each and came up with something I'm calling Linguine Oreganata with clams.

It's a little hard to quantify my white clam sauce. It involves clams, clam juice, lemon juice, garlic, white wine and a load of fresh parsley.  It's a refreshing dish, more for spring and summer than fall, and I thought I'd try finding a red clam sauce recipe. Best one I've ever had came from Christiano's restaurant in Syosset, Long Island. If you're a Billy Joel fan, this is allegedly the Italian Restaurant his song "Scenes From" was written about.

I found this one by Robin Miller and thought it worth a try, though I was planning to  substitute either wine or beer along with the clam juice for the chicken broth. I wanted to taste the clams, not chicken. Unfortunately the people who deliver my groceries had other ideas and didn't include the thyme or basil.

I'd heard of a dish called clams oreganata, and I wondered if it might translate to a pasta dish. I found Giada DiLaurentis, who despite looking like she'd break if you hugged her too hard, seems to have a good eye, tongue and nose for Italian food (never trust a skinny cook!). I pulled some ideas from her recipe, skipping the mint, and came up with this, which generously served 2:

3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T minced shallot
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
1 T lemon juice
1 6.5 oz can minced clams (Snow's is what I get in New England)
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1 T dried parsley
bread crumbs
linguine (I used fresh from Buittoni)

Put water on for the pasta to boil

heat the butter and the olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the garlic and shallot, stirring occasionally until they are translucent and just starting to turn brown.
Stir in the clams, the juice from the clams, the wine and the lemon juice until well-blended
Cook pasta until just tender, drain.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley
Add oregano and cook for two minutes more.

Toss the clam/tomato mixture with the pasta. The pasta will absorb most of the liquid. Put onto plates, top with bread crumbs. Serve with white wine.

I was really pleased with the results. The flavors were subtle, but I could taste each individual note while I was enjoying it. Ken said I could use more clams next time. If I do that, I'll probably up the oregano and white wine as well. If you try it and have improvements, let me know!

How do you like your clams?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stir Crazy III Stovetop mac and cheese

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll recall earlier this year I made a couple posts with variations of mac and cheese. You can find the latest here.

I think I have the cheddar formula down this time, but let's start with the basics for anyone who's just joined us

3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 cups whole milk
3 cups cheese
1 pound your favorite pasta

For this batch, I used a cup and a half of smoked gouda and a cup and a half of the sharpest cheddar I could get my hands on. Success! We had the smokiness from the gouda, and the nice sharpness from the cheddar and no graininess at all.

Regarding pasta, I'm not going to tell you one noodle or another. For a cheesy dish, I like rotini or small shells, something that will grip the sauce and bring it to my mouth. If you're feeding kids, you might go with the traditional elbows, there's no wrong answer here.

Since I've made this, I've tried a few different "upscale" mac and cheeses at a few different restaurants. Boston Market is nice and creamy, but I think they use processed cheese food (sounds like something cheese eats, doesn't it? You can thank my friend Barbara for that one) as opposed to cheese. A restaurant chain in the south called J. Alexander's makes a nice one using gruyere, and I think that will be a project sometime in November.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Death threats? Let's hear them!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Special Guest Post: Beki D's Pho

When a lot of people think of Vietnamese food, they think Pho (unless you're one of my HealthStream friends, then you're likely to think bun. Mmm. Bun bowls . . but I digress). I've tasted some delightful pho from various locations, but never considered making it myself until my dear friend Beki posted this elsewhere:

Quick and easy Pho
soup broth choose whatever will compliment your choice of meat (I used 2 cans of chicken stock)
rice stick noodles (aka rice vermicelli, pho noodles)
meat You can use any type of meat I used chicken
1 star anise
thin sliced young ginger
(a medium to smallish nub) Make sure its “new” ginger as its not fibrous and is much easier to slice I use a microplane grater that does thin slices.
thin sliced shallot (I used 2)
thin sliced garlic (I used the rest of the garlic we had, maybe 3 small sections I could have used more)

bean sprouts
fresh cilantro
fresh basil
minced green onion
thin sliced carrot or julienned carrot
snow peas
water chestnuts
baby corn
plum sauce
siracha sauce (HOT stuff)
fish sauce

The original recipe didn’t really give amounts, so I think the porportions will work well. Even the kids ate it.

What I did:
I took 2 cans of broth and about 4 cups of water and tossed them in the pot. I turned up the heat to get the broth to boil. While waiting for the broth to boil, I sliced thin some ginger, some shallot, and garlic. I tossed that in along with the star anise. Once the broth was up to a boil, I tossed in the meat and let it cook.
While I was waiting for the broth to come up, I put on the kettle to boil. I put the rice sticks in a bowl and then added the hot water to let the noodles steep. I drained them once the broth was ready. Fish out the star anise. The steeping of the rice noodles took about 15 or so minutes.
Once those bits are ready, Get a bowl and put in whatever garnishes you want to have. Put in some noodles and ladle the broth and make sure you get some meat. You might want to steam the pea pods a bit if you don't like them crunchy.
You can add any accompaniments you want, a lot of this is suggestions.
I haven't made this yet, but it's on the list now that it's getting cold and soup sounds more and more tantalizing. It's also coming up on chili season. I have a chicken chili in mind for later this month, with long hot peppers and not a small amount of garlic.

What do you cook in the fall? Le't's hear it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

? School of Improvised Cuisine

When I worked as a computer tech, I used to say I graduated from the Wing-It School of Computer Science, an affiliate of the CYA School of Business.

I need a name for my cullinary improv school, out of which tonight's recipe came.

You may recall a while back, I bought some marjoram. I'd found a recipe involving pork, but I don't have all the ingredients, so I decided to focus on what I did have in the house.

I don't do a lot of breading, I don't need the extra calories, but it's a lot less than say pan frying, so I started with a cup of panko. Please note I don't say panko breadcrumbs. Panko means breadcrumbs, otherwise you're saying breadcrumbs breadcrumbs. Like Automated Teller Machine machine or spiced chai tea. Anyway, I like panko over American bread crumbs because they're flaky and soft and crisp up nicely in the oven, sealing in juices.

I ended up with the following:

1 cup panko
1/2 t garlic salt
1 t dried marjoram
1 t dried parsely
1/2 t dried thyme
about 20 grinds of black pepper

This coated 6 thin-cut pork loin chops that were about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick with plenty leftover. I served them with mashed potatoes, broccoli and corn. The whole meal was very tasty, as judging by the amount of food my sweetie attempted to steal from my plate.

This is a recipe that needs more experimenting. There was a vague herbal flavor that stayed at the front of the mouth, but nothing really definable. The herbs got lost in the pepper.

So, we shall consider a good, home-made herb breading my next perfection project. Which reminds me, I did so another version of the macaroni and cheese, that'll be coming up in a couple of weeks.

Next week, we'll have a special guest. A dear friend and a fabulous cook, my friend Beki, who makes her home in West Seattle. Beki has an easy-to-follow pho recipe that demystifies a favorite Vietnamese dish. I think you'll love it.

Questions? Comments? Death threats? Let's hear them!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Too much information! Or how Kate found what was in front of her the whole time

Back in the earlier days of the World Wide Web, I'd come across a great recipe for chicken marsala. It wasn't difficult, but tasted like it had taken lots of preparation, in other words one of my favorite types of recipe.

It was on a page of low-carbohydrate recipes, but I couldn't remember the URL. The site had no distinguishing graphics, it was all text. So I went searching.

A Google search for chicken marsala results in 293,000 recipes. Even if I didn't have a full-time job and a life, I couldn't go through all those in a reasonable amount of time. But I did look at quite a few.

Some had ingredients I didn't feel belonged in the recipe. Emeril Lagasse would have you add his famous Creole Essence. This one asks for cooking sherry, which to me is nothing but wine-flavored liquid salt. Epicurious, one of my favorite sites, adds cream and lemon juice. I knew the flavor profile I was after and none of these were it, so I kept hunting.

I liked the concept of the whole Cooking for Engineers site, but I really didn't like the recipe on this site at all. I really don't think the chicken needs to be brined, and the author had problems dredging chicken in flour. Instead of figuring out or learning how to do it  properly he spends time and effort on brine.

When I went shopping, still without a recipe, and figuring I may have to wing it, I saw veal scallopine on sale and it dawned on me that a)if you can do something with a chicken paillard, you can do it with a veal cutlet. Back to my trusty search engine.

And immediately, I felt like an idiot. Who is one of the most famous Italian chefs on the planet? Mario Batali. And not content with just one recipe, we have a few variations.

Basic Marsala cutlets:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 veal cutlets
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala

For the basic: In 12-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. While the oil heats, salt and pepper both sides of each veal cutlet. Dredge through the flour, shaking to remove any excess flour.
Place the floured cutlets in the pan and fry until golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the cutlets over, and pour in the wine. Continue cooking until almost all of the wine has evaporated and a thick gravy-like sauce has formed.
Garnish veal with chopped parsley and extra-virgin olive oil
I served with angel hair with olive oil and parmesan cheese and a salad.
I haven't tried all the versions yet, but I really liked #2, which had only small changes from the basic:

  • 4 leaves fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala

  • For number 2: Prepare the pan and the veal cutlets as described above. When the pan is ready, add the sage leaves, pushing them around to infuse the oil with their flavor. The sage will become lightly fried. Remove the sage leaves and set them aside for garnish. Add the mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the floured cutlets and cook until golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the cutlets over, and add the wine. Continue cooking until the wine has evaporated and a thick gravy-like sauce has formed. Top with sage leaves. Garnish veal with chopped parsley and extra-virgin olive oil.
The sage adds a really nice subtle flavor to the sauce, and I think a level of sophistication. 

What are some of your variations on this classic dish? Other comments, questions? Let's hear them!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roast. . .cauliflower?

Hi everyone!

I hope you had a fabulous Labor Day weekend. Mine was severely busy, and involved a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which was a lot of fun, though the drive was long.

We ended up eating at a small-town diner on the way home, and while the dessert was delicious, the rest of the meal was kind of lackluster. Canned, overcooked green beans. Not my thing anymore, not when I know what fresh tastes like, and even frozen ones can retain crunch and more flavor. So, I've been inspired to find recipes that use veggies creatively.

When I first saw this recipe, I was a little curious and a lot intrigued. I like cauliflower in its most typical steamed fashion. I also find it delicious in curries like an Aloo Gobi (all spelling errors mine). I've had it raw, and like most Americans, I've had it smothered in cheese, but never roasted. This recipe allows you to enjoy the cheesiness of a childhood comfort food with the sophistication of a good balsamic vinegar. It also employs marjoram, which I have heard is making a comeback in culinary circles. I put a great deal of thought into this, and I couldn't for the life of me think of anything I'd ever eaten with marjoram, though I'm sure I must  have.  If you ask my friend Beki, it never went out of style, but I digress:

    8 cups 1-inch-thick slices cauliflower florets, (about 1 large head; see Tip) Make sure your favorite large knife is really sharp, or it could get stuck in the core of the cauliflower.Also, beware the crumbling of the edges. You will have little bits of cauliflower everywhere, but it's worth it.
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon dried marjoram
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Freshly ground pepper to taste I have a grinder with a blend of peppercorns, about five grinds worked here
    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
   2. Toss cauliflower, oil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until starting to soften and brown on the bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Toss the cauliflower with vinegar and sprinkle with cheese. Return to the oven and roast until the cheese is melted and any moisture has evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes more. 

No quibbles here. The recipe is straightforward and easy to follow.  What you'll end up with is a mix of textures, as the bits that came into contact with the pan with be softer, yet there is still some crunch. I thought I should have cooked them about five minutes longer, my sweetie disagreed. While this was meant to be four servings, I didn't serve a starch with dinner and we ate the whole thing, including scraping the burnt cheese off the bottom of the baking pan in a very undignified fashion.

Tips & Notes

    * Tip: To prepare florets from a whole head of cauliflower, remove outer leaves. Slice off the thick stem. With the head upside down and holding a knife at a 45° angle, slice into the smaller stems with a circular motion—removing a “plug” from the center of the head. Break or cut florets into the desired size.

I actually sliced straight down, and removed the core parts as necessary, I think it worked just fine. No need to complicate a side dish with geometry unless it's absolutely necessary.

I served this with chicken in a cream sauce with chives. The vinegar contrasted nicely with the chive sauce.  

Let's hear from you! What's a creative way you do vegetables? Questions? Comments? Death threats? (just kidding) Please comment below.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Wet Rub (sounds kinky, doesn't it?)

This week's recipe is a real find. Besides being hearty and flavorful, the vegetables give you a mix of colors and textures that make it a joy to partake. I pan-zapped the steak, because of apartment grilling regulations, and I have to say this is a delicious summer dish.

I found this one on the Eating Well website. I'm not sure if I got there by search terms or if I was clicking links and found myself here. I love the combination of lime and chile together (this also works well with tuna. When I perfect that, I'll post it here), and even more so I love the mellowness of sherry vinegar. Further, here was a potato salad that wasn't loaded with mayonaise. I sincerely prefer my potato salads with a vinegarette-style dressing instead of mayo. While a creamy salad can often offset a spicy main dish, the lime, chile powder and garlic on the steak's rub are not going to make you turn red, sweat, or have steam blow out your ears while you're scrambling for some bread or a glass of milk.

When I looked at the ingredients, my first thought was, "This is not enough." So I doubled all the supporting players.

        1 teaspoon lime juice
        1 teaspoon chili powder
I prefer "Mexican hot" style
        1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
        1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste
        8 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed
        3/4 pound small purple potatoes, (see Tip), scrubbed
I was not blessed with finding purple potatoes at Whole Paycheck, so we went with some baby reds; unpeeled.
        2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
        1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
        1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
        1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
        4 large radishes, sliced
        3 scallions, thinly sliced
        1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1.    Mix lime juice, chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic in a small bowl to form a paste; rub onto both sides of steak. Refrigerate the steak.

I think the next time I make this, I'm going to make the rub and prepare this step a day ahead of time. While it's important to marinade in the fridge (there are exceptions), it's also easier to get an evenly-cooked piece of meat if you let it sit (covered, of course) and come to room temperature before you cook it.

2.    Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain, let cool for 10 minutes, then quarter.

3.    While the potatoes cool, preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack (see Tip) or pan. Grill the steak, turning once, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 140°F, about 10 minutes total on the grill or 16 to 20 minutes in a grill pan. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

4.    Whisk vinegar, oil, cumin, pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the steak and any accumulated juices, the potatoes, radishes, scallions and cilantro; gently toss to coat.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I got raves from my primary audience, and while I had issues with the amounts, I wouldn't change the ingredients at all.

Questions? Comments? A recipe to deconstruct? Let's hear it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Which Kate wonders when a recipe becomes hers

Recipes evolve. Sometimes you're out of one ingredient and need to substitute another. You may not like an ingredient, but like everything else about the recipe. Sometimes local ingredients creep into your traditional cuisine, even if the tradition is based hundreds of miles away. I'm pretty sure that's how we got the California roll (nothing against the California roll, mind you. I do prefer my avocados with eels, though)

A while back, I bought some hing powder. I'd originally bought it for the possibility of making samosas, but after realizing that none of my cooking equipment was really appropriate for deep frying, I scrapped that idea. Anyway, I came across this recipe and thought it sounded tasty. Then, upon my second reading, I noticed that the author got it from Manjula's Kitchen. So I thought, why not go to the source?

Well, remember what I said about being out of ingredients? Yeah, that. While Manjula's recipe is, I suspect, more authentic, there are some things like fenugeek seeds that I don't usually have in the house. Manjula also didn't use mustard or hing, but she did use coriander, which I love.

So following both recipes, I came up with this:

4 small new potatoes, chopped into cubes My personal definition of a "small" potato is one about the size of my fist. I'm 5'3". Cubes here, I typically make about 1"
2 Tablespoons Oil I had also bought peanut oil in preparation for the aborted deep frying. I've also used olive oil and they've been wonderful either way
1 teaspoon cumin powder  I was out of seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon hing
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
about six grinds of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 long green chile or two serranos chopped the serranos were about three inches long. I liked it better with the serranos, but the milder lighter green chile (I forget its full correct name) was also tasty

Heat oil in pan on medium heat. When oil is hot (test with a drop of water, listen for sizzle), add seeds, stirring well until seeds start to pop. Add powdered spices, and stir a few times. Add potatoes and about 3 tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (occasionally for me means every 3-4 minutes). When you can comfortably pierce a potato with a fork, add the peppers and stir well. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, until peppers are soft, but still have a little crunch to them.

Serve topped with yogurt, if you wish. Fight over leftovers with boyfriend. Consider a success.

So what do you think folks, can I call the above "Kate's spicy potatoes?"

Other comments, questions, recipes, let me know!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Memphis Barbecued Chicken or Kate's favorite spice rub

Back in the day, I used work part time in bookstore, a job/hobby I've had off and on for several years. Besides the generous discounts, there was the opportunity to read books as they hit the streets, or before somebody snatched the last copy off the bargain table.

You never know what you're going to find on the bargain table. By sheer good timing, I came across this small book called The American Grill. I can't find it on Amazon, but if you want to go hunting, the ISBN is 0-8118-0699-5

I've made this recipe several times, in four different states, and everywhere it's received rave reviews. My sweetie's reaction was to tell me it was horrible and he had to eat the whole platter to protect me. My knight in shining armor.

One 3.5 pound chicken, cut into quarters (this can also be made with boneless skinless breasts or tenders)
Olive oil for coating
1 Cup Hickory spice chips (I've never used these, but if you try it, let me know!)

1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon allspice
4 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika.

Coat chicken evenly with olive oil. I use a basting brush. My favorite is a silicone one. Bristles tend to soak up the oil, and might tear chicken skin.

Mix spices in a bowl and blend thoroughly. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken and let it sit at room temperature until your coals are ready (if you're using a gas grill, let it sit about 20-30 minutes).

Sear chicken on each side for 5 minutes over high heat, then cook the chicken on medium heat for ten minutes a side for a total of 30 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and let sit ten minutes before serving.

I actually don't have any bones to pick with this recipe. It's flavorful, it's not overly spicy so can be served to those with delicate palates. For accompaniments, I suggest corn on the cob and a light potato salad.

I may try it with smoked paprika, just for variation. Watch this space!

Questions? Comments? Recipes to deconstruct? Let me know!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here's the rub (adapted for roasting)

One thing about living in an apartment is it tends to be frowned upon if you grill on your balcony, should you have one. I don't let that stop me, nor should you let it stop you.

Sometimes the broiler works in place of the grill, but in this week's recipe, I opted for roasting. I also served the fruit for dessert because someone else who lives in this apartment doesn't like fruit with his meat. is a new site to me. I found it when a friend of mine linked to it on Facebook and checked it out. It's a sharing site, and one thing I liked about it is you can upload your version of a recipe. I may do that with this one:

  • Spice Rub
  • 4  teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4  teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4  teaspoons garlic salt
  • 3  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • Pork
  • 1  pork tenderloin (1 1/4 pounds)

Mix all Spice Rub ingredients. Place pork in heavy-duty resealable food-storage plastic bag. Sprinkle with Spice Rub. Turn bag several times to coat pork. Seal bag; refrigerate 15 minutes.

I made two adjustments in the ingredients. I put in 2 teaspoons of garlic salt and 2 teaspoons of garlic powder. I also increased the cayenne to a full teaspoon

If I'm handling a spice rub, I usually do just that, *rub* it on the meat. Pat the extra all over it. Get to know your meat a little bit, learn it, love it. No, not that way you silly pervert. You know who I'm talking to.

I used a roast, which is a little fatter than a tenderloin, so I wasn't sure how to time it. Fortunately, the recipe does come with some advice: cook until it reaches 160 on a meat thermometer. Mine is a dial-style like this $10 one here. There are others that are digital and cost three times as much. If you need to go digital, by all means do.

The roast I cooked was about a pound and a half after I trimmed the fat off it. The total time was a little over an hour. I took it out when the temperature reached 155 degrees, and then let it sit for 5-10 minutes before carving.

Tender and juicy pork goodness with a little bit of spice. For sides, some black beans with chiles and onion, and some blue corn chips.

Next week: a Memphis bbq rub!

Questions? Comments? Recipes to try? Let's hear from you! And as always, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

There's the Rub (placeholder)

Hi everyone! I took a much needed break last week and am going to be getting back to regular blogging . . .tomorrow.

It was going to be tonight--I have a pork roast that will be covered with a Caribbean spice rub and served with rice and beans, with fruit for dessert. This was going to go up last week, but I discovered I left out a crucial ingredient, so I have to make it again. 

Please stand by, I really appreciate your patience. Meanwhile, there should be an entry up tomorrow night, and I have another winner of a spice rub to go up next week.

Meanwhile, I come to you, spatula in hand, for some assistance. 

I need something to tear apart, folks. Or send me an idea, and I'll research like I did with the pesto. 

I have tons of recipes that work, some (like the ones I got from the food Network's Mario Batali (and why did they release him from Iron Chef? Idiots) that don't need any adjustment at all. You'll see some of those in later weeks.

Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Salad Days Fin

I apologize for the lateness of this weeks post. I've been digging through recipes, experimenting, and then had a doctor's appointment.

The nice thing about the doctor's appointment is it takes me near Whole Paycheck, and I come away with wonderful things like nice fresh strawberries.  I had them for dessert the first night, with some Greek yogurt and a spoonful of Nutella. Then I started thinking of various recipes I've seen and tasted and put the following together:

Mix of baby lettuces
fresh sliced strawberries
slivers of chevre (soft goat cheese)
freshly ground black pepper
touch of light oil (not flavored)
balsamic vinegar.

This blend is fun, sophisticated and has a great mix of textures. I've seen recipes for strawberries with pepper and balsamic over ice cream or by themselves, but I thought the tartness of the goat cheese would make a good counterpoint.

And one more with protein! 

Toasted pine nuts
fresh basil (though I often make it with dried in the winter)
a crushed garlic clove or two
chopped cold chicken
just enough mayo to moisten
salt and pepper to taste

a scoop over salad greens makes a nice low-carb lunch, and the nuts help make it filling. If you have a nice multi-grain bread, it makes a fabulous sandwich. With some good parmesan or provolone and said bread, you can grill it (or press it) for a hearty lunch that won't leave you feeling heavy.

I hope you've enjoyed July's salad days. I had a lot of fun putting these recipes together. 

Next week starts a couple of weeks of spice rubs. Stay tuned!

As always, comments, questions, et cetera are welcome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Toss it! (Salad Days Part 3)

This week's salad is another one from the college of Winging It (I also graduated from the Wing-it School of Computer Science in the late nineties. It's an offshoot of the CYA School of Business, but I digress). I developed this a long time ago for use at Pot Lucks when I couldn't afford to bring much. It makes a great side or a great meal or a great sandwich stuffed in a pita, depending on how you decide to serve it:

Tossed Chef's Salad

1/2 pound deli ham sliced thin 
1/2 pound sliced turkey
1/2 pound sliced swiss
1/2 pound of cheddar, in thin slices

Optional ingredients:
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/2 pound roast beef

1 head iceberg lettuce torn (since we're feeding people and not rabbits)
1 package spring mix to vary texture and taste.
1 cucumber sliced
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Cut meats and cheeses into roughly 3/4" square pieces. Toss all ingredients together, top with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Serve. It's that easy.

This was always a hit at parties I brought it to. It's crunchy, full of interesting tastes and textures, and full of protein, so even big macho guys who never eat veggies will eat it.

If you can get your veggies at a farmer's market or a health food store, you won't have to worry about washing the wax off your cucumbers. (this applies to English hothouse cucumbers as well). Peels should be left on cucumbers to help you avoid gas.

Questions? Comments? Critiques?  I haven't heard from anyone in a while, all comments are welcome!