Monday, December 17, 2012

In which Kate finally gives in to to the kale conspiracy

If you read any articles or blogs or medical sites about dieting in the last year or so, you've been hearing about the wonders of kale. No longer a frilly garnish to take valuable plate real estate, but this is a vegetable that should be cherished, worshipped, steamed, baked into chips and of course, juiced.

About five years ago, my sweetie lived in Chicago. When it was too cold to walk to someplace to eat (groceries were not convenient and he didn't have a car for much of that year), we would get delivery. I cannot remember the name of the place, but I did remember a dish they called "peasant pasta" that I thought I might be able to recreate.

I started with a large skillet and about .75 lb. of hot Italian sausage. I like the sweet kind as well, but this is to your taste. I cut the sausage into small chunks--about the size of your average chocolate from a box--and browned it, stirring often.

Once it was browned, I removed it with a slotted spoon and added 1 T of olive oil to the pan. Then I added the better part of a bunch of kale torn into approximately 2" pieces, and five cloves of chopped garlic. Figure 2-3 cups of loosely packed. 

When the kale was wilted and bright green, I added .75 lb of chicken breast, which I had cut into bite-sized pieces. 

Once the chicken was opaque, I added 2 cans cannelini beans (drained and rinsed), 1.5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, one can of tomato paste. For spices I added a teaspoon of oregano and a few shakes of red pepper

I simmered this combination for about an hour until the broth was mostly cooked down. Then I threw a pound of gemelli in boiling water. While the pasta was cooking, I added half a cup of heavy cream to the skillet and slowly stirred in a half cup of shredded grana padano (It was cheaper than the good parmesan this week).

Next up, I drained the pasta. I used gemelli for this because my goal was for a hearty meal, and I wanted a pasta that wasn't going to get lost in all the other flavors. The pasta went back in the pot, as did the contents of the skillet. Several stirs to mix well later and  I had a very tasty meal. Well, I had a meal and a half. Nexx had at least two.

Now, I do have some plans for improving this. More kale, for one thing, possibly onions, though I'm not completely sure about those. Pancetta. Mushrooms. I figure on making this again after the first of the year when the January cold really starts setting into New England

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Homemade bread for the post-surgical patient.

There's a whole lot on the Internet about wheat these days. Must eat whole grains. No, wheat is evil. Wheat is responsible for the obesity epidemic.  Humans haven't really evolved sufficiently to eat grain.

I need to eat more produce, I know this. I also know that I've eaten wheat in various forms all my life and it hasn't killed me yet. I don't have celiac disease. So I am going to eat the stuff here and there. 

I went looking for "easy bread recipes" before I had my surgery and bookmarked this recipe from PBS . I came back to it last weekend when I thought I could stand to do a little cooking, but kneading was not going to be a good idea.

Very simple ingredients:
  1. 500 grams all-purpose or bread flour (17.5 ounces)
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  4. 1 1/3 cups warm water
  5. 1/4 cup olive oil
  6. 2 tablespoons olive oil, in a small bowl

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast to evenly distribute all the ingredients. Add the water and 1/4 cup olive oil, and then mix everything together until you have a uniform dough. You can use your hands, but you'll lose a bunch of dough because it will stick to your fingers. (I love instructions like this. I used a wooden spoon) Using something narrow and sturdy like metal chopsticks or the handle of a wooden paddle works great because they have very little surface area for the dough to stick to.
  2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for 18-24 hours to rise. (for this I have found I have to turn the oven on and leave the dough on the counter.)
  3. Once the dough has risen, you can either make one giant focaccia with all the dough, or split it up and bake smaller loaves. I use a pan that’s 7.5" x 9.25", and it's perfect for half the dough. If you end up keeping some of the dough for later, just cover it back up and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  4. Put the olive oil in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the bottom and sides of the pan with a generous coating of oil. Drop half the dough into the pan, and turn it over a few times to coat it with oil so it doesn't stick to your fingers. Press the dough towards the edges of the pan in an even layer with your fingertips. This is how the focaccia gets its dimpling, so while you want the dough to be roughly the same thickness, the little divots your fingers leave are a good thing.
  5. Use the pastry brush to spread a layer of olive oil onto the top of the dough. Cover and let it sit in a warm place until it doubles in height.
  6. When your dough is almost done rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C). 
  7. When the dough is finished rising, sprinkle the toppings onto the top of the bread. I used kalamata olives (rinsed and chopped) and fresh rosemary. Put the pan in the oven and let it bake until the top is golden brown (about 20-30 minutes).
  8. Remove the pan from the oven, and then carefully transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool. The focaccia is best eaten the same day, but you can put it in a sealed container once it’s cooled all the way if you want to keep it for longer.
 My dough came out a little sticky, so I added a few more ounces of flour. This is also where I discovered I need to generate sufficient heat in the kitchen in order to get my dough to rise.

We ate the bread with some piave vecchio cheese. It didn't look very pretty, but it was delicious. We only left it to cool enough so we could pick it up and eat it. I did one on Sunday with half the dough and another the following day. This will be done again.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I love pancakes. If you find yourself in Connecticut, I will take you to Chip's Family Restaurant, which has the best pancakes I've ever had. Light, fluffy and if you like, in a metric ton of different flavors. And yes, Nashvillians, they're loads better than Pancake Pantry.

I've never actually made pancakes from scratch. I grew up on Bisquick, which always tasted just fine to me, until I went to Chip's.

And since I'm taking it easy, I'm using a pre-made mix. Specifically Arrowhead Mills buckwheat pancake mix. I first came across buckwheat in crepes around 1992. I spent much of my spare time at the theatre in Park City, Utah (there were some fabulous people in that organization, but we've since fell out of touch). Up the street was the Cafe des Artistes, which did savory buckwheat crepes. Yum. Nice depth of flavor and a nuttiness that I really enjoy. The cafe closed down before I left, sad to say, but it was a fun place and I think fondly of Val, who used to regularly wear a shirt that said, "Bite me."

Basically, for today's brunch (for two), I added 8 ounces of apple pie filling to my pancake mix and whisked it in just enough to make sure everything was well-blended. If you mix it too much, you get chewy pancakes due to an increase in gluten.

I figure you can probably use applesauce, which will give you a more even flavor and texture, but I think the pie filling added some nice texture to it. I enjoyed with a bit of butter. I have had apple pancakes with sour cream, but that never quite worked for me. 

There are two very good reasons why I don't have pictures today. One is, we ate the pancakes too quickly. The other is, well, I kind of suck at making pancakes. I can't seem to keep the pan at an even temperature, whether I let it cool or turn the heat down. Add to it that my stove is at a bit of an angle and well . . .they were tasty, but they were not pretty.

My next batch of pancakes will be a bit more involved. There will be bacon, for example, and probably chocolate chips. I got this idea from the nice people at Vosges, who make a bacon-chocolate bar. As Peter Sagall of Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, fame said when he tried it, "I can now die happy. And sooner."

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 26, 2012


I'm a bit under the weather at the moment. After much discussion with my GYN and then an oncologist he recommended, I scheduled a hysterectomy for 11/5. Hurricane Sandy rescheduled it to last Monday, but the procedure is over and done, the panic attack (at least I think it was a panic attack) that sent me to the ER is over and I am in the process of writing a very snarky letter to the hospital administration.

But what, I hear you ask, does that have to do with cheating? Well, for the next five weeks or so, I am under stern instructions to take it easy. While I'm good for short walks, anything that requires a lot of movement, especially bending is pretty painful. Twisting is right out.

I still have to eat, and ordering out gets pricey, so for the next few weeks, I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do with this blog. I'm going to post the quick, easy meals that can be as much assembly as cooking. The ones that don't take a lot of time, and you can do in your sleep and still feel like you presented your self and your loved ones with some semblance of nutrition. For example, my dinner tonight:

  • 6 ounces chicken torn from a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store's deli
  • half of a small container of brown rice leftover from delivery
  • 1/3 can of Amy's Curried lentil soup (I am not being paid for this endorsement, though I'd love to be).
First step, put the soup in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Next step, resurrect the rice. This means taking it out of its cardboard container, flaking it with a fork (because some had stuck together) as I put it in a microwave-safe dish. I stirred in about 2 T of water and put it in the microwave for two minutes. Poof! Fluffy rice.

This went down on the plate, beside the chicken. I didn't bother heating the chicken, I find rotisserie chicken to be yummy cold. I did sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper. Your blood pressure may vary.

I let the soup cook down a bit until it was more of a sauce, and spooned it over the rice.

Warm, filling, protein & fiber. I'm currently out of fresh produce since I can't drive and my main grocer isn't delivering until they bounce back from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Next week--apple pancakes, without any chopping.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shopping the Sales

I am a very lucky person. I live outside of the borders of New York City, but being in one of its bedroom communities, I have a lot of its benefits. One of these is a store called Fairway. Besides the best cheese counter I've seen outside of Murrray's Cheese Shop in the Village, they occasionally have fabulous sales, and I've never had anything from the store that wasn't of the highest quality. And when I don't feel like cooking, their hot bar makes a damn fine cheese steak.

I was in the mood for pesto (which I bought, I don't do a lot of cooking in November), but Nexx, as he has often mentioned, is a meatitarian. Meat is necessary at two out of three meals (caffeine for breakfast). I'm really not living with a male human. It's a six-foot cat in an Asian man suit.

Anyway, at a lovely Italian restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama I had some lamb finished with pesto, so when we went to Fairway, we looked at chops. I wasn't in love with the way they looked, then Nexx drew my attention to some boneless legs--nicely wrapped in twine. The price was right, so into the cart they went.

I've made lamb a few times, usually chops, though I have roasted an entire leg. The one I bought was about 3/4 of a pound, which I figured would feed the two of us pretty well, especially with pasta.

Lamb and garlic do well together and I had a glut of garlic in the fridge. Focusing my rage at the politcal ads on television, I used a paring knife and stabbed several holes in the roast, about 3/4 of an inch apart. Into the holes, I slipped some slivers of garlic. Once that was complete, I added a light sprinkle of salt, followed by some freshly ground pepper. Instead of your standard olive oil, I used some lemon oil. Lemon and basil go well together in various presentations (including gelato) and I thought it would lighten the meal up a bit.

I roasted the lamb at 425 F for about thirty minutes, which was a guess. I stabbed it with the meat thermometer (I'm really not that violent a person, I promise) and it registered on the low side of medium rare. I pulled it out of the oven, covered the pan with foil and started the water for pasta.

While the pasta was draining and its pot was cooling, I sliced the lamb thinly. Some of the garlic fell out onto the cutting board, but my sweetie valiantly rode to the rescue and ate them. After tossing the pesto with the pasta (say that five times fast), I put it onto plates, topped with sliced lamb and added a touch more pesto to top everything off.

We served this with a Spanish red wine--a tempranillo, if I recall correctly. Pairing this dish with alcohol is kind of tough. Pesto can be pretty delicate, so a white might be called for. Lamb, on the other hand, is rather rich and can stand up to a red. The red and the basil didn't quite work, but I can live with that.

It's not a combination I expect to have every day, or even every Sunday, but if Fairway keeps having the lamb at that price, I look forward to finding other things to do with it.

What's your favorite way to eat lamb?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Minty Fresh

Well, not just minty, there's a whole lot of other flavors in this recipe. But while I used up all the cilantro and basil in preparing the dish, I have a colander full of mint left and the kitchen smells great.

I'm not sure what I was looking for when I found this week's recipe, but this caught my eye. I've never made Thai food before, though the ingredient list had something suspicious. Let's take a look.

  • 2 Thai chiles, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free fish sauce (such as Thai Kitchen brand)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 garlic clove, chopped
  • 12 ounces rice stick noodles (maifun)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) vegetable oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemongrass from peeled bottom 4" of stalk
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) cilantro, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) basil leaves, coarsely chopped, divided
  • Large butter lettuce leaves

  • If you guessed the sugar seems a bit high, you're thinking the way I was. You might recall from the coffee jelly and the ginger beef  entries that my local Asian authenticity monitor (hi Sweetie!) that American interpretations of Asian recipes seem to contain a hell of a lot more sweetener than needed.

    So I cut the sugar down to a teaspoon.

    I strongly recommend you draft a sous chef or a medium-sized child who thinks helping in the kitchen is fun. There's a whole lot of chopping to do.

    Chop the peppers and the ginger and juice about three limes before you do anything else. This way you can put the dressing together and let the flavors blend. Then do your herb chopping.
     . . . . 

    Whisk first 4 ingredients, 2 teaspoons ginger, and garlic in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Set dressing aside.

    Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, 2–4 minutes. Drain; put in a large bowl.

    Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add chicken; stir 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoons ginger, shallot, and lemongrass. Stir until chicken is cooked through, 3–4 minutes. Add to noodles. Add half of all herbs and half of dressing; toss to coat.

    Line bowls with lettuce leaves. Divide noodle mixture among bowls. Top with remaining herbs and dressing.

     . . . .

    One thing I will ding the nice people at Epicurious is not mentioning that when you drain rice noodles, immediately rinse them with cold water. I run my fingers through them to make sure they're all cold and not sticking together. 

    This worked out very well. While I love a creamy rich Thai curry (especially one with lots of basil), this is deliciously light, but not lacking in flavor in the slightest. The only flavor changes I'd make is up the ginger with the chicken to a full tablespoon.

    There were no leftovers. They were eaten by the authenticity monitor.

    If you try this, let me know if you like it, or if you made any variations of your won. Thanks for reading!

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Rub the duckie

    I've been tossing this idea around in my head for a while. Duck takes very well to fruit, but I live with a man who does not like cooked fruit, though some exceptions can be made for citrus.

    I kept forgetting to buy the Chinese five-spice powder I wanted to use, but I did get some orange peel recently. While the traditional duck l'orange is too sweet for my sweetie, I thought maybe I could spice it up a bit. I put together the following:

    3 T dried orange peel
    2 T dried lemon peel
    1.5 t salt
    1 T ground ginger
    1 T crushed red pepper
    1 T garlic powder

    Blend your spices together well--ground ginger, even of the best quality can sometimes clump up.

    I'm still using the method I found from Emeril, bless his heart. With this pan-roasting method, it's easy enough to do on a weeknight. Not that there's anything wrong with saving a bird for a nice Sunday dinner.

    I really liked this one. The ginger dominated, but the citrus added a touch of both light and bitterness that gave the whole combination a lot of depth. The sweetie had two helpings. I promised him I'd eat the rest for lunch tomorrow, because he doesn't want me to it in front of him, since tomorrow is leftover night.

    I still intend to try a variation with five-spice powder, though maybe I will use sesame oil instead of olive. Watch this space!

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    Fried Fish Friday

    Good fish isn't cheap. My favorite white fish is halibut and I usually only get it in restaurants because it can run as high as $23.99 a pound. I can half a pound of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee for that. The sweetie does not eat tilapia, he finds it personally offensive, no matter what is done to it.

    Cod can be good for some dishes--it makes great fish tacos, for example. Lately, though, I've been going for flounder. It doesn't break the bank, has a nice flaky texture and can be cooked in just a few minutes.

    I was poking around the network and saw an easy recipe for frying fish--coat with yogurt & herbs, dredge in corn meal and fry. I was going to make the recipe as is, then I thought, chips. If there is fried fish there should be chips.

    Last time I made fish, I oven-friend some cut white sweet potatoes, and they came out pretty good, but when it comes to weeknight dinners, I like fast as much as I like inexpensive.

    This is when I remembered my friends at Food Should Taste Good. They make crackers and chips in a variety of flavors, one of which being sweet potato. What if, I thought, I coated the fish in this tasty combination of corn & sweet potato crumbs? My list of ingredients was delightfully short:

    2 5-7 ounce flounder filets
    .25 C canola oil
    2 T plain yogurt
    freshly ground black peper
    chip crumbs. I'm not really sure how much you need. I crushed the whole bag and it was way too much.

    First, crush your chips. Put them in a large zippered freezer bag and squeeze out all the air. Attack with rolling pin, visualizing the face of the stupid idiot on their cell phone who cut you off in traffic yesterday. Switch the position of the bag around several times as you roll the pin on it until you have a bag of crumbs. Put the crumbs on a large plate or in a container that will hold your fish when it's flat.

    Heat your oil in a pan on medium-high heat.

    Unpack your fish and unfold it if necessary. Stir some freshly ground black pepper (I would guess about .25 teaspoon) into the yogurt and stir well. Coat the fish with the yogurt mixture. I used a silicon pastry brush for this and it was the exact tool for the job.

    Dredge your fish in the chip crumbs and gently place in the hot oil. Cook for two minutes, turn over, cook for two minutes more. You don't want to turn the fish too many times because it will flake apart. Drain fish on paper towels. A brown paper bag also is good for this kind of draining.

    I served the fish on a bed of baby spinach, and spent the rest of Friday evening feeling inordinately pleased with myself. I hope you try this one and enjoy it. 

    Another bonus, it's gluten-free.

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Variations on a theme of chili

    I was joking with my sweetie that if I ever published a cookbook, I might not go with Knives, Fire and Fun, but rather "Kate's Throwing Things in a Pot Again."

    Today's chili came about because I have homework again, and it's pretty convenient to make chili on Sunday and not have to worry about cooking for a few days. I decided to go  for something a little different and ended up with:

    3/4 cup of whole garlic cloves
    8 small tomatillos, chopped
    4 can tomatoes & green chiles
    1 can whole-kernel corn
    2 cans low-sodium black beans 
    2 pounds of stew beef, cut to bite-sized pieces
    2 pork chops, also in bite-sized pieces
    1 dried habenero with seeds, minced
    1 baseball-sized red onion, diced
    .25 cups Cajun Power garlic sauce
    1 T Chinese black bean & garlic paste

    2 heaping T of chile powder
    2 heaping T of cumin
    two heavy shakes of smoked paprika
    2 heavy shakes of cinnamon

    1 bottle of Guinness

    I started with my stew pot on one burner and a skillet on another. A little oil (I used a bit of olive and a bit of canola), and pan-roasted the garlic for about ten minutes. In the stew pot, I started adding the canned items, stirring as I went, then the fresh vegetation. In the skillet went the meat and a little salt, a little bit at a time, until brown. The idea was to infuse the meat with the roasted garlic. 

    Eventually, everything got into the stew pot. I added the Guinness last, brought the pot to a very low boil, then turned it down to simmer for about four hours, stirring thoroughly every 20-30 minutes. When I say stir thoroughly, I mean really get in there and move the stuff around, scraping the bottom so nothing sticks

    I thought it might have needed more onion, but my sweetie convinced me that it didn't. We served it over spaghetti, with some queso blanco and for me, some sour cream.

    The sweetie is currently on his third bowl. I was hoping to get another couple of meals out of this (we fed ourselves and my cousin tonight), but at the rate he's going. . .

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    You had me at bacon

    I have not been doing the cooking I have in previous summers for a variety of reasons. One, it's too darn hot (cue the Kiss Me, Kate music) and I haven't always felt like eating.

    I have tried a few recipes but I have just not been happy enough with them to share with y'all. If something goes wrong, I want to be able to figure out exactly what. The chicken stew recipe from last entry came out okay. Nexx (the sweetie) loved it. I thought it needed a slightly richer flavor. Unfortunately at the time I was out of chicken broth and only had dark beer in the house. Which reminds me, I want to make chili again soon.

    Anyway, we hadn't had pork in a while, and I like making a good pork roast or loin. This time I got a 3-4 lb roast and found this recipe to go with it. Too easy to be true? My kind of recipe, in other words. Let's take a look:

    1 pork loin, about 4 lbs.
    7 cloves garlic, mashed
    7-8 slices bacon
    kosher salt, optional
    freshly cracked black pepper
    2 tsp. rosemary (dried or fresh. Like the Hungry Mouse, I used dried because that was what I had in the house)
    I think I used a few more garlic cloves than requested. It seemed more logical to just use the entire bulb. I've been having trouble getting just the right atmosphere to keep my garlic in. In the fridge, it sprouts. On the counter, it dries up. I've considered a garlic keeper, but then I thought I'd take the advice of a family member who said I obviously wasn't using enough garlic.
    For bacon, I used Applegate Farms' Sunday bacon. I have no idea what makes bacon good for Sundays (sundaes are a whole 'nother story). We had this on a Thursday night.
    • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet or roasting pan with foil and fit with a roasting rack. Set it aside.
    • Mash up the garlic. (a garlic press is a beautiful thing and quite the time saver)
    • Set the pork roast down, fat side up, and cover with the mashed garlic and spread the garlic all over the pork (you may want to soak your hands in vanilla extract after you get the garlic out from under your nails)
    • Sprinkle the roast with kosher salt (optional)
    • Starting at one end, lay the bacon on top of the roast. Overlap a little bit to account for shrinkage. tuck ends under.
    • Sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper
    • Sprinkle with rosemary
    • Roast at 450 f for fifteen minutes. (this will get the bacon cooking)
    • Turn the heat down to 375 and cook until the pork is at about 150 degrees on your meat thermometer
    • Remove from oven, tent your roast for about 15 minutes at it will come up to about 160 degrees, which is medium for pork.
    • Slice and serve
    I cut and onion into eights and roasted it along with my pork when I dropped the temperature--usually a half an hour to forty-five minutes will do for an onion. You want the edges black and the insides soft. Brush it with a little olive oil first.

    I served this with snow peas onto which I put just a touch of lemon juice. I loved the resutls. Nexx bit into his and said, "I don't know what you did to the pork, but this is delicious!"  Always nice to have validating feedback.

    Comments, questions? Got a recipe you'd like me to try? Let me know!

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Not my day

    A while back, I had some rewards points to spend with my bank. They went to an Amazon gift card, and then they threw in some magazine subscriptions. I picked Outdoor Photography, Wine Spectator, and Bon Appetit. Tonight's entry (long overdue, thank you for your patience) was supposed to be a chicken & chickpea stew from their pages.

    I ran into a small problem. Seems I ordered chicken thighs with skin on them, and the recipe called for skinless, so I put the thighs in the sink, de-skinned them, trashed the detritus and scrubbed out the sink, thinking I'd been rinsing most thoroughly.

    I browned the chicken, mixed up the spices, let the chicken stew for a bit, then put a strainer in the sink and dumped the chick peas in the strainer and started to rinse. And they kind of foamed--the disposal backed up some soapsuds into my chick peas. I was not going to take any chances, so out they went, to be replaced tomorrow. Tonight, I sent out for gyros.

    Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. . . 

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Fizzy limeade for grownups

    I was in Fairway a few weeks ago and they had agave syrup on display. I wanted to see what the fuss was about, so I bought a bottle of the light amber. I took it home and ate a little bit off a spoon and decided I liked it quite a bit. I put the following together:

    1 T agave nectar
    Juice of 1 lime
    3/4 oz vodka (one shot) I happened to have some Chopin in the house

    stir all ingredients together and pour over ice. Fill the glass up to the rim with seltzer. Toast to finishing the workday without screaming.

    I do feel obliged to mention that agave is NOT, according to any health journal I've looked at, a non-caloric or low-glycemic substitute for sugar. You'll see claims that it's "sweeter" so you might use less. According to this article by the Mayo Clinic, it does trigger a need for insulin. I am not a medical professional, consult your doctor, et cetera. 

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Help! I sound like a magazine!

    As I mentioned in my last entry, we just moved. While we're mostly unpacked, it took a while to get everything into the kitchen, so I have not done as much cooking as I would have liked. I did marinate a flank steak in ancho chile powder and garlic with a little vinegar recently, but I wasn't thrilled with the result. My sweetie really enjoyed it, so it may have simply been to subtle. My dear Nexx never smoked and has much more sensitive taste buds than I. As for myself, I thought it needed more acid and salt. On the bright side, I was able to get a very nice texture on a less expensive cut of meat. When I've improved the recipe, I'll post it here.

    I was a little worried a few years ago when I moved to Connecticut. I spent my teenage years in an affluent suburb of Massachusetts and I used to joke that the town was as pretty as a postcard and had about as much depth. Okay, I wasn't really joking.  Anyway, I was concerned that Connecticut would be similar, that I was going to be living the life I had spent the last twenty years running away from.

    I needn't have worried. Despite the stories of yuppies and preppies and whatever the current abbreviations are (they used to call my kind of household DINKS, double-income, no kinds), Connecticut has pockets of character. And in Stamford, we have some ass-kicking pizza.

    Where the magazine comment came in is when we had some leftover Remo's pizza the other night. When we went out for the original dinner we had some fresh (!) bread with olive oil as well as some fresh sliced mozzarella for an appetizer. We went home with half a personal pie each. I knew half the pie wouldn't be sufficient, and I'm still having a hard time chewing salad, so I found myself "jazzing up" our dinner of leftovers with some roasted cauliflower. I thought of making the balsamic version I did some time back, but then I found this recipe and said, "Hmmmm."

    Our ingredients:

    • 1 lemon
    • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-size florets
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (I used grana padano, which is a little more complex than parmesan and quite delicious)
    • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

    Besides the cauliflower, which you want fresh anyway, I'm happy to say I had all the other ingredients in the house as a matter of habit. The grana padano was a money-saving effort because imported parmesan is getting ridiculous in price.

    The instructions were very easy to follow:

    1. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.  
    2. With a sharp knife, remove skin and white pith from lemon and discard. Working over a small bowl, cut the lemon segments from their surrounding membranes, letting the segments drop into the bowl. Drain the juice from the segments.
    3. Toss the lemon segments, cauliflower, oil, salt and pepper on the baking sheet and spread evenly. Roast until starting to soften and brown, stirring once halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes.
    4. Sprinkle Parmesan and capers over the cauliflower; stir to combine. Serve garnished with more Parmesan, if desired.

    I always appreciate a recipe that tells me where to put the oven rack. It can make such a huge difference and this is not a lesson you want to learn the hard way

    When a recipe says "sharp knife," take it seriously. I was able to get out the lemon segments without mangling them too much, which is a big change from my first attempt and supreming an orange. I opted  not to drain the juice. Since the capers were to be rinsed, I thought the extra bite from the citrus would be nice. I probably also went a little overboard on the black pepper. I blame Nana, and damn do I miss  her.

    I loved the results. The recipe says this makes 4 servings. It made two from a small head of cauliflower. Lemon and capers work pretty well together. Capers you can almost consider the poor person's truffle. Added correctly, in a small amount, they can really class up a dish. And unlike truffles or truffle oil, capers are within Joe or Jeanne Average's budget.

    With spring being upon us (though the temperature in Stamford has yet to hit 70), you'd think I'd be going more for fresh vegetation. Unfortunately, I still have that bite plate in my mouth to go wtih the braces. Chewing raw veggies, especially cruciferous (I may not have spelled that correctly) is still difficult.  I have until next April and then one of my first meals is going to be corn on the cob.

    Coming soon--a different kind of fish coating. Stay tuned!

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    I like it both ways

    Welcome back, everyone. It's been a slightly crazy time. Not only did I just wrap up a class with the first term paper I've had to write in mumble  years, but my sweetie and I moved into a new apartment, so we've spent a lot of time cleaning, packing and moving, and now goes with the unpacking.

    But a couple weeks ago, I did one of my recipe searches, looking for the perfect hummus recipe. As with many foodstuffs, there were variations out the whazoo including one from Alton Brown that used peanut butter instead of tahini. I may never forgive him.

    I'm all for fusion if it's done right, meaning there is respect for all the fusing cultures involved. I had some fabulous Peking duck fajitas a long time ago for example. I also believe that some names of foods are often stretched beyond recognition. 

    My favorite example of this is the bagel (I've lost my recipe, but I may attempt these again sometime soon). As far as I'm concerned, a bagel is not a bagel unless it has been boiled before baking. This is what makes a bagel so dense and chewy on the inside.

    Hummus has become one of those things. My understanding is hummus is not hummus unless there are chick peas and tahini (ground sesame) involved. If you mush fava beans or white beans or black beans (all of which I enjoy), you don't have hummus, you have bean dip. There is nothing wrong with bean dip, folks. You don't have to tart it up and call it hummus. Viva la bean dip!

    Anyway, I put two recipes together. They both started with:

    • One 14.5 ounce can of chick peas, drained. Reserve the liquid
    • 1/3 cup tahini
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • liquid from the chick peas as needed for texture
    • 1 teaspoon of salt
    Version 1
    • 6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 6 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

    Version 2
    • juice of 2 fresh limes
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 2 cloves of garlic

    I made these in my blender, which took a lot of patience. If you don't have a food processor, I recommend picking up the blender unit and shaking it a few times. Air pockets will form and you'll need to do a lot of stirring.This is where adding the liquid from the canned chick peas will come in handy. It takes a while, but it is so very worth it.

    I served these to one of my gaming groups with some bell peppers (red, orange, gold) as well as some cucumbers and some lentil crackers. There was none left, which I take as high praise.

    Thank you for reading! My next Project Management class doesn't start for a month, so hopefully I'll have some time to do some more posting. As always, your comments are welcome.

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Making ingredients again

    I am currently quite pleased. I attempted something today that it had never occurred to me to do. I was inspired by this article, which made everything seem so very easy.

    So today, I made ricotta cheese. I cut the recipe in half, but here's the original ingredient list:

    8 Cups Whole Milk
    .5 cup buttermilk
    1 Cup heavy cream
    3 T lemon juice
    .5 t salt

    Line a large sieve with a layer of fine-mesh cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.
    Slowly bring milks, cream and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
    Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain for an hour. After discarding the liquid, cover and chill the ricotta. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
    I found the instructions pretty easy to follow. At least I thought I did. I added the lemon juice and turned the heat down. Two minutes later, when there was no curdling, I realized I hadn't put in enough lemon juice. Back up with the heat, added more lemon juice, yet I was only getting very little bits of curd. I added some more buttermilk and then I got the curdling action I wanted. Into the sieve. 
    An hour later, I had ricotta. The lightest, fluffliest, melt-in-your-mouth ricotta ever. I stirred about half of it into some polenta (about 1.5 cups dry) along with:
    1.5 Cups chopped tomatoes
    .25 cups fresh basil, torn
    .5 cup chopped onion
    .5 cup chopped mushrooms (chantarelles were on sale)
    It was so good I forgot to top it with the parmesan, though I did drizzle it with a bit of olive oil before serving.
    The day before, I had started some shoulder steaks marinating in a bottle of Paul Newman's Italian dressing. Quite tasty, but the polenta was definitely the star of the show.
    Thanks for reading!

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Wrong protein

    Another adventure in salmon tonight. I liked this recipe a lot for several reasons. It uses salmon without dill, it uses balsamic vinegar which I love. It's also quick, which means it's good for a weeknight supper and then I can get back to studying or watching Sam Neil be ominous on Alcatraz.

    The ingredients sounded like they'd go together:

    • 6 5oz salmon fillets
    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 T white wine
    • 1 T honey
    • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 4 t Dijon mustard
    • slat & pepper to taste
    • 1 T chopped fresh oregano
    1. Prehead oven to 400 F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray
    2. Coat a small saucepan with non-stick cooking spray. Over medium heat, cook and stir garlic until soft, about three minutes (I was not stirring fast enough, obviously, my garlic got kind of toasty).
    3. Mix in white wine, honey, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered for about three minutes, or until slightly thickened. (more like 5-7 minutes before it started getting thick)
    4. Arrange salmon fillets on baking sheet. Brush with glaze, sprinkle with oregano.
    5. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until flesh flakes easily. Brush with remaining glaze and season with salt & pepper

    I have a few quibbles with this one. The glaze was tasty and tangy, though I didn't taste the Dijon at all. My sweetie found it too sweet, but admitted that the balsamic would be overwhelming without the honey. The oregano didn't really add much. I think it might be better to add it to the glaze itself, let it release its essential oils into the glaze.

    The big thing, though? I kept wishing my salmon was chicken. My sweetie agreed that this would work much better on something white-fleshed, either white fish or poultry. So this means we have some plans. One to make this again, sans Dijon, with a much dryer wine (the labels sometimes lie) with some chicken. Two, we may have a guest post from my sweetie coming up as he designs some enhancing flavors for salmon. Stay tuned!

    Coming soon--overstuffed quesadillas!

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Happy New Year!

    This has been an interesting month. I wrapped up 2011 being sort of sick, which kind of killed the week I had taken off from my day job. I've made a few things, some memorable and some less so. I'm going to talk about a couple of the less memorable ones, that might be able to be saved.

    The first one was an herbed chicken I put together. I've used yogurt and spices as a successful coating for baked chicken before. My vision was marjoram and black pepper and nice juicy chicken.  

    I think I goofed in trying to use Greek yogurt for this one. I did thin it out a little bit, but it was more like a frosting than a coating. I just wasn't thrilled with the results. My sweetie liked some of it, but we agreed that this was not my best effort. I will be experimenting some more with this one.

    Another one, I made last night. I didn't make a New Year's resolution to eat more fish, but we are starting to do so. Salmon is very low in mercury (unlike two of my favorite, tuna and halibut), so I think I'll be looking for a lot of salmon recipes in the future. Fish is also the easiest protein for me to chew these days. I can only eat so much soup, yogurt and quiche.

    Now I like the herb dill as much as the next chef. Heck, I have a friend called Dill (though that's short for Dillanger). Still, I wanted something a little different. This gets challenging with a couple of different palates in the house. The sweetie doesn't like teriaki, and the mustard/brown sugar glaze I made when we still lived with Austin didn't go over too well either.

    So you can imagine my delight when I found this recipe. That is, until I made it:

    • 3 lbs salmon (I actually had about 3/4 of a pound, two small fillets, and this recipe was just enough to marinate.
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use Kikoman)
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 3 T oil (I used vegetable, as my other choices were peanut, olive or sesame and I wasn't sure any of them would work)
    • 1 large clove garlic, crushed (or in my case, pressed)
    • 2 tsp dijon mustard
    • Handful fresh chopped parsley. (Whose hand, I ask you? My hands aren't very big, someone who's over six feet is going to have  much bigger ones. I decided on a generous quarter up)
    Marinade for 2-3 hours. Broil

    Definitely trying for three hours next time. On my sweetie's suggestion, I will be cutting down on the soy sauce. It overwhelmed everything. I think I will also increase the lemon peel, cut down on the oil and add a little more garlic. Possibly, there will be some thickener to make the marinade into a glaze afterwards. We'll see how it goes.

    Next time: Flounder. Really Easy Flounder.

    Comments? Questions? Recipes to try? Let's hear from you!