Saturday, December 28, 2013

I didn't measure this one . . .

Greetings friends, and I apologize for the delay. I have actually been cooking and now that I have a few days off you may see a few new posts before I go back to my 90-100 minute commute.

I was in New Orleans back in September, and part of the fun there is tasting a ton of different things. In a shop I forget the name of, that had a ton of hot sauces and local jams/jellies/preserves, there was a big display of pecan oil. 

I was intrigued. I've seen recipes (usually salad dressings) that involved walnut oil, but not pecan. I grabbed a bottle.

One of the uses I've seen online for it is roasting cauliflower, but I haven't done that yet. I let it sit in the cupboard for a bit, and then an idea occured to me. Why not pasta?

Specifically, pasta with andouille, romano cheese, caramlized onions and some red pepper.

My best approxmiation:

  • 1 pound pasta of your choice. I used cavatapi, because it's full-bodied and will stand up to strong flavors.
  • 2 medium yellow onions--the kind you get in the red net bag.
  • 2 T butter
  • 12 oz andouille, sliced. If you're not familiar with andouille, it's time to introduce yourself. It's delightfully spicy and double-smoked. I believe I read somewhere that at least one of those smokings is over sugarcane, but I can't find the reference.
  • 3/4 cup romano cheese
  • 2 t red pepper flakes. 
  • 1/4 cup pecan oil
Chop onion into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. Melt the butter in a sauté pan on low heat and add the onions, stirring constantly until caramelized and dark brown.

Start the water for the pasta. 

After you remove the onions from the pan, add the andouille and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

I used a spice grinder for the red pepper. A mortar and pestle will do or you can buy it in ready-to-grind jars.

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Turn off the burner. Add the pecan oil, swirl it around a bit so it picks up the warmth from the pot. Add the pasta back to the pot, then the cheese, onions, pepper, and andouille.

At the last minute, I added about a teaspoon each of thyme, parsley and marjoram. 

Stir well, dish it out and enjoy. You'll have a sweet & spicy blend of deliciousl.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Special Guest Meal: Savory Crepes

I've had this on my iPad for a while. I got the iPad about six months ago to study for the CAPM on the train, and ran into a bit of a financial bind. While Verizon has a lot of good signal, it also has a lot of dead spots and I was sucking down data at a rate only exceeded by the ingestion of morning coffee.

I killed the data plan and started using the iPad for other things and it is fabulous sitting on a kitchen counter, easel-style for keeping a recipe handy, or for making notes.

Earlier this year one of our foodie friends gifted my sweetie with a crepe pan and he finally got a chance to try it out. These are nicely eggy savory crepes and the ingredients go as follows:

2 eggs beaten gently
30 g cake flour
100 g all-purpose flour
350 g milk
3 T melted butter

additional butter for greasing the pan.

Mix all liquids and solids separately.
Mix in the flour gently and get as much of the balls out for crushing. Don't worry too much about getting them all.

While letting the batter rest, heat your cast-iron enameled crepe pan over medium head. Butter the pan and ladle the batter into the pan. Use the wooden t-tool that came with the pan to gently spread the batter around. Let it cook until it's dry on top, then flip. About 20-30 seconds later, it will be done and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Use extra paper towels to keep the crepes separately. Makes about 6.

I filled these with a combination of pink sauce, pork cube, onions and mushrooms. It worked out rather well. Next, I want to try sweet crepes, with lemon juice and just a little sugar.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stir Crazy 5 mac & cheese with Mexican fixings

Hi folks, it's been a while. I had this great idea about catching up this morning, but then I slept. Then we had to go to the grocery store because I didn't have any poblanos and then I had to change my plans and buy cubanelles.

I'm not sure where I got the idea to do this, but I adore chorizo, and I've made it with scrambled eggs and cheddar, so why not pasta?

I used the basic recipe I settled on way back when, with the addition of about 7 oz of chopped chorizo and about a half cup of chopped cubanelles. I zapped the chorizo in a pan first thing to release some of the oil.

For cheese I used 2 cups of sharp cheddar and one of jack. For some reason, this batch came out a little thinner than usual, so Nexx grated some more cheddar. At the last minute, I stirred in two T of Dos Equis

The sauce got stirred into the pasta first, this allowed the starch from the pasta to thicken the sauce a little bit. Next I added the peppers (raw, I wanted a fresh crunch) and then the chorizo.

Quite the delicious combination. I also added a bit of chili powder to my bowl right before serving. I drank the rest of the beer alongside.

I am quite full. And quite happy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What a jerk

When I lived in Tennessee, there was a Caribbean-themed place known as Calypso Cafe. It was a little pricier than fast food and scads, scads, better. They did a curry chicken with apples, mustard greens, a beautiful jerk chicken and I’m damned if I know what they did to the black beans, but they were always fabulous.
This being Labor Day weekend, grilling was somewhat obligatory. While I love my barbecue recipe, it involves a little too much sugar for a diabetic friend. After some discussion with my darling Nexx about what we should put together, I decided upon jerk chicken. The challenge–a recipe without a hell of a lot of added sweetener, and something I could adjust because half of my gaming crowd (aka the Overthinkers) doesn’t have my appetite for heat.
So, there came the searching. I discarded a ton of recipes as being not quite what I felt I needed and settled upon this recipe. Our ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 4 serrano or jalapeño chiles, chopped with seeds, or 1/2 Scotch bonnet chile, chopped without seeds
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 lb boneless pork loin, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil plus extra for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallion (optional)
I tripled the recipe, because there are six of us, all with a healthy appetite for meat. I switched out the pork for chicken thighs (I think I had about 14). Being sensitive to the heat issue, I reduced the serranos by 1/3 and scraped out the seeds (a bit of a bitch since the insides of a serrano are similar to Lucky Strikes as being firm and fully packed.
I had fun with this, after all the chopping and scraping. For one thing, I got to use my spice grinder for the allspice and the black pepper. I adore that little gadget. I had originally bought it for eating flaxseed on my cereal or yogurt, but it’s shown to be perfect for spices. It’s adjustable and it has an auto-shutoff.
All the ingredients went to the blender, and turned into a thick liquid that went immediately into two ziploc bags, followed by the chicken thighs.
I may have said this before, but ziplocs are the best thing in the world for marinating, in my less-than-humble-opinion. As long as you seal them properly (and I have had situations where I didn’t), it’s easy to turn them over and properly distribute the marinade.
Six hours or so later, I handed the chicken to Austin for grilling. Eight minutes a side brought back juicy chicken. Nexx and I shredded it and we served it with optional green onions as a garnish, and limes as an enhancement.
Nexx tried to steal mine. I did not stab him with my fork.
Have a jerk recipe you want to share? Let me know, I plan to do some pork at some point and I know there are places I haven’t looked.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I don't know what they are, but they aren't crackers

You may have noticed I'm rather fond of carbohydrates. Pasta, bread, the occasional pastry.

I also like crackers. A lot. Especially with soup. Or cheese and fruit. Or a big glass of milk. The commercial ones are not, however, the healthiest thing on the grocery shelves. 

Not wanting to give them up, but thinking cutting out processed snacks is a good idea, I thought I'd try to make my own. 

As usual, when trying something new, I read a ton of recipes. Many of them involved butter and a food processor, but I came across a few that used olive oil as the fat.

Then I got a little more free-form than I usually do when trying something new.

So, a couple cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, about a third cup of olive oil, 2/3 cup of water, the better part of a bunch of rosemary that had dried out in the fridge but was still plenty fragrant. I needed a little more liquid, so I threw in some chopped garlic in olive oil (yes, I buy chopped garlic by the jar sometimes). I had some grated parmesan that needed to be used up, so I threw that in, along with some pepper.

I had parchment paper in the house, so I didn't have to grease the pan. I rolled out the dough onto the parchment paper, ran the pizza cutter over it, poked holes in the little rectangles with a fork and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about fifteen minutes.

The crackers poofed up in the oven and I took them out when they started to turn brown around the edged. They're not quite crunchy and there's too much pepper. They're more like tiny peppery biscuits.

They did go rather well with the tomato soup I had for lunch (Amy's, it's a little sweet). I think they might be okay with cheese. 

They don't crunch, but they're not a complete failure.

Another learning experience. 

And no trans fat. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Needs tweaking--almond chicken

I've wanted to make today's recipe for a while. It reminded me vaguely of a korma, but garlicky. I've also never made a recipe where bread was part of the sauce.

I actually planned to make this last week, but forgot a few crucial items with the groceries.  Here's the list of ingredients:

  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 cups cubed crustless white bread
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup dry sherry or white wine (I used the latter)
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper (plus more for seasoning)
  • 1/2 t saffron (the recipe says optional, I disagree)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 chicken legs --thigh and drumstick. I ran into a bit of a problem here. My grocer sells chicken legs in packages of six. I bought a whole chicken, cut up.
  • 1 onion, minced (I used one about the size of a softball)
  • 1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

and the directions:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add almonds and stir until golden brown, about 3 minutes; 

This recipe, all throughout, runs hot. I scorched the almonds on my first attempt, even though I was stirring constantly. The second batch, on low heat, were much better.

Transfer to paper towels. Place 1/3 cup almonds in a blender or food processor. Set aside remaining almonds for garnish. 
Add bread cubes and garlic to same pot. 
Cook, stirring frequently, until bread is golden brown and crisp, 4-5 minutes.  I think I cooked it a little longer than that. A piece of bread escaped the transfer to the blender. It was delicious.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer to blender. Add broth, Sherry, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, saffron, if using, and a large pinch of salt; process until almost smooth. Set aside.

I used the "mix" setting on my blender.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot and cook, turning down heat if needed to prevent burning, until chicken is golden brown on all sides, about 12 minutes total (this step is just to brown the skin). Transfer chicken to a plate.

This step, in my not so humble opinion, needs a little more olive oil and slightly lower heat. My darling Nexx also thinks the skin should be crisp, not just brown, so we're trying that next time.

Add onion to pot; cook, stirring often, until onion is caramelized around edges, about 6 minutes. 

Um . . . no. You can't get anywhere close to caramelizing onions in six minutes. Also, the liquid in the onions has a bit of a deglazing effect on the pan. Figure at least fifteen minutes to get them to the desired state.

Add sauce and chicken to pot, pushing down chicken to submerge. Bring sauce to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide chicken and sauce among bowls. Garnish each serving with reserved almonds and chopped parsley.


I served this with green beans and the rest of the bread that I used for the cubes. I wasn't 100% in love with it, though I tasted a lot of potential. My main complaint is the sauce was too heavy on the chicken flavor and it overpowered the almonds and garlic. I really only tasted the saffron halfway through my second helping. 

So next time:  more almonds, probably more garlic, crispy skin, maybe a touch more wine (Nexx disagrees), and a little bit of time to reduce the sauce before eating.

If you tweak, do let me know.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jazzing up the comfort food

I love the tuna tuna melt. Up until recently, my favorite presentation of such was open-faced on top of an English muffin. For a long time, I was convinced that swiss was the perfect topping, but I have branched out.

Because of the new job, I spend a fair amount of time in Grand Central Terminal. Knowing they have a captive audience waiting for the trains, the powers that be have installed a metric ton of fine shopping, including Grand Central Market.

Grand Central Market has some amazing things, and they've pulled in some of the best food purveyors in the city. Elizabar's Farm to Table, Zaro's bakery (cupcakes!) and Murray's Cheese.

Murray's is new to me as of last year. My friend Pat introduced me when we were in the Village to see a couple of Hitchcock movies at Film Forum. Oh my oh my, the chacuterie. . .

This week I came home with some asiago pressato, a young cheese that's creamy with a tiny bit of a bite to it. I also bought Nexx something runny for Nexx with a name that escapes me.

I still adore my English muffins (crumpets are also quite good), but I need to eat more vegetables. I forget where I saw this, but instead of using bread, I have been stuffing the tuna salad into bell peppers and melting the cheese on top. It's a great way to experiment with flavors, the peppers add a crunch to the experience.

What's your ideal tuna melt?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Not dead yet

Hi everyone, I know it's been a while. There have been a lot of changes at Chez Kate and to my regret, the cooking has been cut down to weekends and holidays.

I have a new day job. It's utterly wonderful and comes with a ninety-minute commute. By the time I get home, I'm not up for doing much more than pouring a bowl of Cheerios (they help the cholesterol level. Oatmeal is for cookies).

But it's now warm and Austin the minimalist got his mitts on a huge piece of salmon. While I have been known as the Person Who Makes Salads (tm), I decided to break out of the box and make something with potatoes. The salmon was going to be grilled with a sesame ginger glaze, so I needed something that would match.

Kitchen Inferno had the perfect solution. Roast potatoes with a Thai-chile vinaigrette. There was a fair amount of chopping to do, but rather worth it. Here's our ingredient list:

1.5 pounds small red potatoes, quartered. (I actually used small Yukon, and they came out with a perfect texture.

Canola oil (since I had some help from my dear Nexx, we ended up with rice bran oil. It was light with a tiny hint of nuttiness. Not cheap enough to use every day, unfortuately)

For the vinaigrette:

.25 cup rice wine vinegar
2 T minced fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic, minced 
2 T sesame oil
3/4 cup canola oil (see rice bran oil above)
2 t minced fresh Thai chiles
2 T minced fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Black sesame seeds, green onions and fresh cilantro for garnishing.

I had to do a fair amount of tweaking for this recipe. There were five of us for dinner and two of us don't have my love for things hot. So while I expanded the recipe, I added some poblanos to mellow out the dressing a bit. I ran a bit short on rice vinegar, so I ended up adding more peppers to add to the acid.

Lightly coat the potatoes with canola oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are browned and tender.

I roasted for about 45, stirring once to get an even roast. These are the best roasting potatoes I've worked with. I shall remember this.
While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette. While the potatoes are warm, toss with viniagrette. Top with black sesame seeds, green onions and fresh cilantro.

I love the way these came out. I would not recommend making the viniagrette too far in advance they way you might with some recipes. This took on a little bit of a burn from the peppers, but not too much. I also chopped a few extra peppers for folks to use as a garnish.

There were no leftovers, I consider that a success. I think this dressing will also work on cucumbers and plan to try it on a few other things.

Thanks for reading. I have not abandoned the blog and will try to be here a little more often.


Friday, February 15, 2013

KM Chang or Kate's lettuce wraps

I love a lot of the food at PF Chang's, and their lettuce wraps are to die for. After ordering them for the nth time, I wondered if I couldn't make my own, especially cutting down on the sweetener. As in, use none at all. After an afternoon of mental dissection, I came up with:

1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 T sesame oil (I plan to cut this by 1 next time)
3 T soy sauce
3 T rice vinegar (I plan to increase this by 1 next time. Make sure you are using a rice vinegar that has no sugar or salt added)
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 T chopped fresh ginger (the younger the better)
1 T chopped garlic
1 can water chestnuts
3/4 cup green onions in 1" pieces (about a bunch)
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

Leaves of your favorite lettuce. I used butter, or Boston lettuce because my stomach doesn't like iceberg very much

add 1 T of sesame oil to a saute pan on medium heat. Sear the chicken on both sides, add the chicken broth, half the soy sauce and half the vinegar and simmer until about half of the liquid is gone and chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from pan.Add other T of sesame oil, the mushrooms, water chestnuts and ginger. stir well to combine then add the rest of the soy & vinegar and red pepper. Stir constantly for about five minutes, until fragrant.shred or dice chicken, return to pan, stirring to coat. Add green onions, stir until they are bright green.

Serve in lettuce leaves.

..............................................................................................This is a recipe that came out better than it had any right to. It was a bit heavy with the larger amount of sesame oil, so I think adjusting that down and adjusting the vinegar up will lighten it up nicely. Next time, I think I may also serve some bean sprouts on the side to add if we want some additional crunch, though the water chestnuts do a good job of that.

 My sweetie took some great pictures, which I will add as a separate post. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

variety in the vegetation

I try not to be boring when it comes to cooking. Admittedly, I generally have the same thing for breakfast (espresso and a protein drink with almond milk), but when it comes to dinner, it's important to me to mix it up a little. Boring eating leads to not feeling sated, which can leave a person reaching for the Haagen Daaz.

I like a lot of fish, but it can get pricey, so I try to shop the sales. It is, apparently a good time to buy Spanish mackerel. I recently had it as sushi and rather enjoyed it. When I saw it on sale, I pounced.

This week's recipe is very simple. Roasted mackerel over radicchio with avocado, with a lemony vinaigrette (which actually involves no vinegar, but I digress).

  • 6 (4-to 5-ounces) mackerel fillets with skin, halved
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 medium head radicchio (about 10 ounces), leaves torn
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 medium avocado, thinly sliced

  •  .  . . .

     I heartily recommend drafting some help to peel the radicchio for assistance with plating. I threw in some butter lettuce more for color and to fill us up, since there were no carbs in the recipe.

    Your how-to:

    Preheat broiler.
    Make several diagonal slashes (1/8 inch deep) in mackerel skin about 1 inch apart. Coat both sides of mackerel with 2 tablespoons oil, then season with 3/4 teaspoon salt (total).
    Broil mackerel, skin side up, in a 4-sided sheet pan about 4 inches from heat until just cooked through and skin is crisp in spots, about 7 minutes.
    Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1/3 cup oil, lemon juice, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons vinaigrette, then toss radicchio and parsley with remaining vinaigrette.
    Serve salad topped with avocado and mackerel and drizzled with reserved vinaigrette.
     . . . . . 

    I enjoyed this quite a bit. The fish is rich and the slightly pepper flavor from the radicchio was a nice match. I'm glad I added the butter lettuce, because the contrast in taste and texture was delightful.

    Saturday, February 2, 2013

    Making Ingredients Again

    This is a quick entry, but I suspect I'll be referring to it often. I've wanted to make some herbed olive oil for a while, and shortly after Thanksgiving, we bought something we've been threatening to do for a long time--a box of quart Mason jars. I'm planning on preserving some lemons, possibly making chicken stock. My darling Nexx made a strawberry-basil cocktail that was a fascinating experiment in flavors.

    One of those jars has been sitting for the last couple of months with six sprigs of rosemary and the peel of a lemon in it. You may notice no proportions here. I guessed.

    I guessed well, I'm happy to say. The mixture has been used on both lamb and pork, and there are chicken and potatoes in its future.

    Sunday, January 27, 2013

    Especially for my Aunt Barbara--Lentil Mushroom Soup

    I've been tossing around this recipe in my head for a while. I was going for hearty without being too heavy, so no cream in this one. A dollop of sour cream, on the other hand, may work for your palate (it did for mine, though not for Nexx).

    First, the fungus:

    4 oz dried crepe mushrooms
    1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
    .5 cup chopped shitake mushroom stems (I'm using the caps in lettuce wraps)

    A little aromatic:

    3 cloves of garlic minced
    1 cup of onion finally chopped

    A bit of legume:

    one cup dried brown lentils

    Some fat:

    2 T butter

    This and that:

    6 cups boiling water
    2 cups beef broth 
    1 T dried thyme
    Worcestershire sauce
    salt to taste

    Stir the dried mushrooms into the boiling water, turn off the heat and let sit for about an hour. While they are sitting, melt 1/2 the butter in a small pan and sautee the shitake stems with a little Worcestershire sauce. Remove from pan, add the other T of butter and the onions, stir on low heat until the onions turn golden and add the garlic. Continue stirring until onions are dark brown and carmelized.

    After your hour has passed, add the onions & garlic, crimini shrooms, the lentils, thyme and salt, still well and put the heat up to medium high. Stir in beef broth and bring to a low boil. Turn heat down to low and let it simmer for about an hour or until lentils are soft.

    This was served alongside some leftover roast pork. I will be doing this again, this time adding parsley, a touch of lemon and some cayenne. There may also be beer involved, as soon as I figure out which one. 

    So now this week's mission is to drink several different kinds of beer. Challenge Accepted!

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    once again, hold the sugar

    I forget how I found tonight's recipe, but I knew the minute I read it that I was going to have to make it. I love sesame and ginger together, and the opportunity to try a new pepper? I'm not going to pass that up.

    I did make a few adjustments of my own, starting with the sauce.

    ¼ cup + 3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
    3 tablespoons sugar
    3 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder (gochugaru)
    3 large garlic cloves, pressed
    1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
    2 tablespoons finely grated fresh peeled ginger, juice and pulp
    1 tablespoon lightly toasted sesame seeds

    I followed the above with the exception of the sugar, which I cut down to a teaspoon. I also made it a day ahead to give the flavors some time to meld.

    This afternoon on my lunch hour, I threw five chicken thighs in a sauté pan with about a cup of low-sodium chicken broth, two tablespoons of garlic and about a teaspoon of dried cilantro. I stewed the chicken for about an hour. From there it went into a deep rectangular plastic tub for shredding. I use two forks to shred it, then stirred in the sauce and put the whole thing in the fridge until dinnertime.

    The dressing for the slaw, I also made the night before:

    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon palm sugar or dark brown sugar
    1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
    2 teaspoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon finely grated fresh peeled ginger

    I dropped the sugar to half a teaspoon. I also didn't mix it in a bowl. For dressings, I prefer to use a jar, just screwing on the lid and shaking well. If you like the ArgoTea in bottles, those bottles are the perfect size for a dressing.

    I shredded the cabbage and tossed it with the dressing on the rest of my lunch hour.

    For dinner, I just heated up the meat and piled it on plates. Instead of potato rolls, I added some rice crackers on the side. Nexx didn't even bother with the crackers.