Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Story That Starts with Chickpeas

A friend of mine recently said, "Chick peas are my thing." (Hi Adam!) I can't argue with this. Hummus and falafel, for example, are two of my favorite things, and I've posted a recipe that puts them in a pan with chicken and harissa. 

I came across this entry's recipe a while ago, made it and it didn't quite work. We have since achieved an oven thermometer, which improves the odds considerably

I hadn't made any specific plans to make it again until I made a chicken and white bean dish the other day and accidentally opened a can of chick peas. Read the labels, Kate. Really. So, needing something to do with them, I remembered this. Here's our ingredient list:


  • 2 Cups cooked chick peas. If you're using canned, rinse them well.
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons za'atar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
I love za'atar and it's becoming easier to find. If you can't find it locally, there's always Amazon. 

I have some quibbles with the directions. 

  • Spread out chick peas on a paper towel. Let dry for one hour. (The first time I made this, an hour did not feel nearly enough. Even though the oven temperature was low, they should have crisped up somewhat. I left them out for a couple episodes of The Fall, maybe a little longer)
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Line a heavy rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper and spread chick peas evenly on the pan. Bake in the center of oven for 30 minutes, stirring and turning every 10 minutes (I just shook the pan; I also baked them about 10 minutes longer)
  • Place hot chick peas in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, za'atar and salt.
Theoretically, these will keep in an airtight container for a week. I wouldn't know. I ate half of them and saved the other half for Nexx. 

I made another batch, this time with some homemade chili powder. I made it a little too heavy on the chilis (I had de arbol in the house) and even serving it with some cheese and chunked avocado, they were a wee bit too spicy. Tasty, but a little too much burn.

I did have another use for the leftover chili powder, though. Next entry!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Quite What I Had In Mind: Chicken UnTikka Masala

It's no secret I love Indian food, whether it's spicy or not. I make an aloo gobi that passed muster with the Indian guys on my team at my former job. I grind my own garam masala when I manage to have most of the spices in the pantry (pantry is a bit of an exaggeration. We have the bottom half of a storage unit from IKEA, but I have a drawer in it with nothing but different kinds of pepper, which I find quite cool).

Anyway, most recipes I've found on Epicurious have been pretty good, and they email me recipes on a regular basis, though I know I never signed up for that.

So I found this recipe in my mailbox and thought I'd give it a try. No chicken tikka masala I've ever had has included peas, but peas do go well in curry, so I figured I'd follow the recipe. I'll critique the "quick" part in a bit.


  • 1 (2 1/2") piece ginger, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts), cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup plain full-fat or low-fat yogurt (not Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
--------------------------------------------------------------------
A few comments before I get started. This seemed to be pretty heavy on the salt, so I cut that a bit. I'm also of the firm opinion (I can hear Nexx muttering "Do you have any other kind?) that if you're chopping more than two things, you're  no longer making a quick recipe. Quick to me means 30 minutes from having all your ingredients out to having the food plated on the table in front of your guinea pigs, er, loved ones.

I also had a slight problem with the yogurt. We get our groceries delivered if we need a lot at once. It saves on the back muscles. It does come with its risks, and one of those is missing the email when they're out of something. The plain unstrained yogurt I ordered was replaced by vanilla, which was not going to work. So I cut some Greek yogurt with some cream and I know I was missing some of the tanginess that should be there, so that one's on me.

The instructions:


  1. Pulse ginger and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add onion and pulse again until finely chopped. (You really don't need a food processor, you can chop just fine by yourself. Also, considering the time it takes to put a food processor together, this also removes from the definition of "quick."
  2. Toss chicken with 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. garam masala in a medium bowl. (too much salt, I cut it to .5 teaspoon)
  3. Heat oil over high in a large skillet (at least 12" in diameter). Add chicken and cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean medium bowl. (this took closer to 12 minutes)
  4. Heat same skillet over medium-high and add butter, chopped onion mixture, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. (I did't bother with the salt and black pepper here. There's already black pepper in the garam masala) Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, about 3 minutes (closer to 5). Add tomato paste, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 2 minutes (again, closer to five minutes). Return chicken to pan, add peas, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 1 (3) minute more.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 plates, top with cilantro, and serve with naan.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was tasty, but way too heavy on the tomato taste. I felt like Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode. "Hey Bobby, this is great, but it isn't the challenge food of the week." While we were eating, I started to deconstruct the recipe, starting with eliminating the tomato paste, and Nexx stopped me. He liked it just as it was. 

Success? I guess so. There's two more servings in the freezer that will be very nice on a cold winter's night very soon.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday Booze

So we've been doing an eggnog experiment, to see what booze we like best with eggnog. This post is not about that experiment.

It is instead about a serendipitous finds.

I needed a bottle of champagne. One of the receptionists at my physical therapist's office recommended me Wine Wisdom on 46th Street. They suggested I go home with Henri Goutorbe rosé, and a Balvenie 12yr Doublewood. The rosé is fantastic - dry, without becoming sawdust, with a hint of flowery goodness. That's all I'll say about that too; if you can find it, it is one of the best champagnes I've tasted.

The Balvenie 12yr Doublewood was a great find. It's silky-smooth, and not a hint of smokiness. So if you're looking to drink peat, well, perhaps this one isn't for you, but otherwise it's a great Scotch.

Here's a holiday dessert drink. I know my normal measures are in metric, but when talking about ounces and drinks, American seems to work better for me.

Combine all the ingredients in a glass. Stir well. Serve. Repeatedly as desired.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Who Says You Can Only Have Dressing at Thanksgiving?

I didn't try it until I was in my teens, but when I did, I fell in love with stuffing (in the bird) and dressing (out of the bird). I've had both in multiple forms and formats including:


  • Wonder bread cubes (hi Janet!)
  • Pre-seasoned bread cubes, which are a bit salty, even for me, and Nexx will tell you I put salt on my salt.
  • Rice, usually a mix of short grain and wild rice, which isn't rice at all.
  • Cornbread, which is not my thing. So very not my thing.
  • Stovetop out of a box. Again, a bit salty, but convenient as all get out, and if you add a few things, you can spread the salt among the other ingredients.
  • Leftover bread from that Italian place in Stamford. Fabulous food, and we ordered delivery one evening and they send us enough bread that I was easily able to fill my 9x13 baking dish.
Getting into ingredients, and I'll * the ones I've used. This year's ingredients are in blue:
  • Celery*
  • Onions*
  • Chunks of roast pork (yum!)
  • Oysters*
  • Chestnuts (not my thing)
  • Walnuts*
  • Apples* (I adore apples and onions together)
  • Hard-cooked eggs
  • Breakfast sausage--before you say "wrong kind of sausage," note that a lot of breakfast sausage has a nice measure of sage)
  • Smoked sausage* (a personal favorite)
  • Kielbasa* (bring on the garlic!)
While Nexx was trying yet another store to find us a turkey breast, I asked him to pick me up some bread. He came home with a sliced round loaf of "country bread," which was perfect. The ingredients on the package said, "wheat, yeast, salt." Not sure how sugar got left off the label to feed the yeast, but it was nice that it wasn't the first ingredient.

I spread out the slices on a baking pan on Tuesday night, put it in the oven and ignored it for 24 hours. One Wednesday, I cut it into cubes (we need a serrated knife, sweetie), but the actual creation didn't get going until the duck was in the immersion circulator.

  • Bread cubes from above
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2.5 Cups chopped onions
  • .5 pounds of kielbasa--about half a package (I wanted smoked sausage, but let Nexx have his way), chopped into .75" pieces
  • .5 pounds of shucked oysters, chopped. We had a can, and reserved half the oyster liquid
  • zest of half a lemon (I wanted a little brightness to counter the richness of the oysters)
  • 1 quart turkey stock
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter to be melted 
  • 1 egg, beaten (I'm honestly not sure this is necessary, but it seemed like a good idea).
  • 2 Tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 shakes of garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Fines Herbes 
Saute the kielbasa over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to the point where it starts releasing fat & juices, but take out of the pan before it gets brown. 

Chop your vegetables. Put them in a bowl, no need to separate

I used our stew pot, as our biggest bowl was too small. Put in the bread cubes and the herbs in your and toss until well-mixed. Next up, the vegetables and meat, a little at at time, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper.

Add the melted butter and stir in, then add the broth one cup at a time, continually stirring until the bread cubes are damp and soft. Put in 9x13 baking pan, cover with foil. Bake at 400 F for 60 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until top is crispy. The most fun thing about dressing, to me, is the interplay of all the different textures.

Next time, more oysters, but otherwise I'm very happy with this. I think Nexx is too because he's been very busy the last few minutes scarfing the leftovers.

Cheers! 

Who Says You Can Only Have Dressing at Thanksgiving?

I didn't try it until I was in my teens, but when I did, I fell in love with stuffing (in the bird) and dressing (out of the bird). I've had both in multiple forms and formats including:


  • Wonder bread cubes (hi Janet!)
  • Pre-seasoned bread cubes, which are a bit salty, even for me, and Nexx will tell you I put salt on my salt.
  • Rice, usually a mix of short grain and wild rice, which isn't rice at all.
  • Cornbread, which is not my thing. So very not my thing.
  • Stovetop out of a box. Again, a bit salty, but convenient as all get out, and if you add a few things, you can spread the salt among the other ingredients.
  • Leftover bread from that Italian place in Stamford. Fabulous food, and we ordered delivery one evening and they send us enough bread that I was easily able to fill my 9x13 baking dish.
Getting into ingredients, and I'll * the ones I've used. This year's ingredients are in blue:
  • Celery*
  • Onions*
  • Chunks of roast pork (yum!)
  • Oysters*
  • Chestnuts (not my thing)
  • Walnuts*
  • Apples* (I adore apples and onions together)
  • Hard-cooked eggs
  • Breakfast sausage--before you say "wrong kind of sausage," note that a lot of breakfast sausage has a nice measure of sage)
  • Smoked sausage* (a personal favorite)
  • Kielbasa* (bring on the garlic!)
While Nexx was trying yet another store to find us a turkey breast, I asked him to pick me up some bread. He came home with a sliced round loaf of "country bread," which was perfect. The ingredients on the package said, "wheat, yeast, salt." Not sure how sugar got left off the label to feed the yeast, but it was nice that it wasn't the first ingredient.

I spread out the slices on a baking pan on Tuesday night, put it in the oven and ignored it for 24 hours. One Wednesday, I cut it into cubes (we need a serrated knife, sweetie), but the actual creation didn't get going until the duck was in the immersion circulator.

  • Bread cubes from above
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2.5 Cups chopped onions
  • .5 pounds of kielbasa--about half a package (I wanted smoked sausage, but let Nexx have his way), chopped into .75" pieces
  • .5 pounds of shucked oysters, chopped. We had a can, and reserved half the oyster liquid
  • zest of half a lemon (I wanted a little brightness to counter the richness of the oysters)
  • 1 quart turkey stock
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter to be melted 
  • 1 egg, beaten (I'm honestly not sure this is necessary, but it seemed like a good idea).
  • 2 Tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 shakes of garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Fines Herbes 
Saute the kielbasa over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to the point where it starts releasing fat & juices, but take out of the pan before it gets brown. 

Chop your vegetables. Put them in a bowl, no need to separate

I used our stew pot, as our biggest bowl was too small. Put in the bread cubes and the herbs in your and toss until well-mixed. Next up, the vegetables and meat, a little at at time, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper.

Add the melted butter and stir in, then add the broth one cup at a time, continually stirring until the bread cubes are damp and soft. Put in 9x13 baking pan, cover with foil. Bake at 400 F for 60 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until top is crispy. The most fun thing about dressing, to me, is the interplay of all the different textures.

Next time, more oysters, but otherwise I'm very happy with this. I think Nexx is too because he's been very busy the last few minutes scarfing the leftovers.

Cheers! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Things That Didn't Go As Planned

So it's just two of us for Thanksgiving this year, and that means we're in no way we're going to do a whole turkey. I was going to make the turchetta. That turchetta is a fantastic recipe, and is highly recommended, especially if you're fortunate enough to, like me, have access to an immersion circulator.

What I didn't count on is the NYC-area grocers not carrying just turkey breast. We looked at Food Emporium, Fairway and the Amish Market, as well as on Amazon Prime Now and Fresh Direct. None of them had just simple turkey breast; all they had were turkey breasts prepped by their butchers somehow, but none plain.

Kate suggested we do chicken, because there were plenty of those available. I didn't want chicken for Thanksgiving, but the Amish Market had two perfectly serviceable duck breasts, so duck became the poultry du jour.

Unlike most of my recipes, I am not going to give measurements, since I don't have them. I was prepping this on Wednesday right before we went out, so time was a little constrained. The steps will be chronicled, with notes about what could've gone better as well.


  1. Take the duck breasts out of their packaging. So many people neglect this step, but I find it critical since plastics have terrible texture.
  2. Remove the fat layer, but not completely, like I did. Leave about 1/4 of it, because that's a bit critical to proper flavouring.
  3. Flip the duck over, and score the meat deeply, once or twice length-wise and about 4-6 times width-wise. Do not cut all the way through the meat, though, just about 2/3 of the way through the meat.
  4. Into the meat, rub in the following:
    1. Dried orange peels
    2. Dried sage
    3. Dried rosemary
    4. Garlic powder
    5. Salt
    6. Pepper
  5. Put the two breasts together, with more salt in the meat, and tie them together using butcher's twine.
  6. Into the bag it goes, with a bit of olive oil, fresh sage (oops, forgot this part), and a little bit of black truffle oil, and then seal it with a vacuum sealer.
At this point, the entire bag should rest in your fridge overnight.

I then cooked it for 3 hours at 57.5ºC in the immersion circulator. Afterwards, I seared the outside in my new carbon skillet using really hot avocado oil.

It was pretty good, according to Kate, but I think it could've been a lot better. I would rate my efforts a C+.

More Thanksgiving Prep: Rosemary Olive Oil rolls

This started out as an accident. Word to the wise: even if you've made a recipe before and know it pretty well, read it all the way through before you start. I'm going to get right to the ingredients of the base recipe. Thanks here go out to Beki D. who I occasionally call Mom even though she's two years older than I am.


  • 3-3.5 Cups flour (the recipe called for Gold Medal or Better for Bread flour. I used a store brand that was unbleached and unbromated)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package regular or quick active dry yeast--2.25 teaspoons (I used a package of regular)
  • 1 Cup very warm water--120-130 degrees Farenheit (use your oven thermometer)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  • Cornmeal
I also added 2 Tablespoons of dried rosemary

The recipe starts with, 
  • I large bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast (and the rosemary). Add warm water and oil. Beat with electric mixer (I used a wooden spoon, rubber scraper, and my fingers) on low speed one minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 Cup at a time to make dough easy to handle dough will be soft
Where I screwed up, was I read 3 Cups of flour. This meant I had a very dry dough on my hands. I added 2 more Tablespoons of olive oil and another Tablespoon of water and that brought it together pretty well. That got me a soft damp dough.

I followed the rest of the recipe closely, using the variant at the end to make rolls instead of loaves.


  • On lightly floured surface, knead dough about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  • Grease large bowl with shortening or spray with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size. (Rising time is longer than times for traditional breads, which gives the typical French bread texture.) Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.  (I go for the full two hours. If your kitchen isn't that warm, you can turn the oven on to 200 degrees F to warm it up a bit. Or start baking something else. My friend Rick, who lives in Florida told me he puts his out in his car. I can't make this shit up.)
  • Grease large cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray; sprinkle with cornmeal. 
  • Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half into 15 x 8-inch rectangle. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side, to form a loaf. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Roll gently back and forth to taper ends. Place both loaves on cookie sheet. 
  •  Cut 1/4-inch-deep slashes across tops of loaves at 2-inch intervals with sharp knife. 
  • Brush loaves with cold water. Let rise uncovered in warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. 
  • Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool. 


Tips and variants

  • If you prefer a more crunchy crust to this delightful bread, spray the loaves with water right before baking and add a pan of water to the oven.

Crusty Hard Rolls: 


  • Grease large cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray; sprinkle with cornmeal. After deflating dough, divide into 12 equal parts. Shape each part into a ball; place on cookie sheet. Brush rolls with cold water. Let rise uncovered about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. 
  • Heat oven to 425°F. In small bowl, mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over rolls. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until brown. 12 rolls.
Where I need some work with rolls is mine were not exactly round and pretty. Taste test indicates they are a go. We won't eat all 12, so the rest will go for snacks with cheese and fruit.

Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Prep: Another Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving this year is a little different. Due to time constraints, Nexx and I aren't headed up to Massachusetts, but instead will be home, just the two of us.

I made cranberry sauce today and doing some baking tomorrow. I'm going for lemon-ginger scones, I think, and possibly some rolls. I'm not completely sure about the rolls because we've got a very rich dressing coming and do we really need them?

I'll make up my mind tomorrow.

Today's was a smaller batch, unlike my previous recipes. Inconveniently, a large package of cranberries is 12 oz, and a small one is 7 oz, so the measurements are not quite exact. 7 oz is close enough to a third of 24 (two packages).

Ingredients
  • 1 7 oz package of fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup of sugar (I removed about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (about one small orange)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon (we got something called Rumble)
  • 1 Tablespoon Gran Marnier
  • juice of half the orange you zested

Preheat the oven to 350F. Rinse the cranberries in cold water and drain, but don't dry them. Pour them into a glass baking dish in one layer. Stir in sugar, zests and cinnamon until well blended--the cranberries will be coated with sugar, but you shouldn't see the spices. I use a rubber scraper for this. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and  bake for 55 minutes. After removing from the oven, stir in orange juice, bourbon, and Gran Marnier. Hide in fridge until Thanksgiving dinner.

When I talk about this recipe, I often get a surprised comment of, "You bake your cranberry sauce?" I don't think I'd have it any other way. Even with the foil, the tops of the cranberries are going to dry a touch, so you have a nice interplay of textures.

If all goes according to plan, there will be an entry about our main dish and other sides. 

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Variations on a theme: Split Pea Soup

I find myself in a position with a lot more time on my hands than I'd like. My day job, which was grant-funded, ran out of grant and eliminated my position. No projects, no money, no Kate. This means right now, I have two jobs: finding a new day job and staying sane. Part of staying sane is finding things to do.

I know I've made split pea soup at least twice since this post, but I can't seem to find the links to the posts. This is rather embarrassing. The good news is, the base recipe worked fine with the tweaks I remembered, and of course I tweaked it again.

The final ingredients list for 4 servings


  • 1 pound dry split split peas 
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced, then cut into half-circles. Rinse well. Rinse again.
  • 2 large carrot, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2.5 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
  • garlic salt to taste
  • freshly ground peppercorns to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon tumeric
  • 16 oz smoked sausage, sliced to 1/2" pieces

The process was pretty much the same. Lightly heat the sausage on the bottom of your pan for about ten minutes, stirring constantly. You want it to release fat, but not get crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add your garlic and onions, if you need more fat, add a bit of butter. You could, if you had some, use duck fat, I plan to try that some time. Love the stuff, but that's for another entry.

Toss in the carrots and leeks, then add your spices. Tumeric will combine with the fat turning everything a lovely golden color. Stir every 2 minutes are so until onions are soft--you should be able to cut one in half easily with your stirring implement. I use a wooden spoon, but as you wish.

Add the broth, add the peas, stir well. Bring up to medium-high heat until it starts to bubble. Stir some more until everything looks mixed. Put the heat down to simmer.

Eat lunch. Do some laundry. Watch some Netflix. Stir once an hour. When the peas are soft, they will begin to split and you're ready for blending. I ended up simmering for several hours because Nexx was scheduled to be home late. 

I prefer my stick blender on high speed for turning the soup velvety smooth. If you have a regular blender, don't add more than 2 Cups at a time and keep a hand on the lid.

About five minutes before serving, stir in the sausage. Ladle into bowls, serve with chunks of Swiss cheese and some crusty bread.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tweaking a recipe for the better--savory scones

Happy Sunday everyone. I am writing this feeling quite happy with myself and also enjoying a rather dry mimosa.

I'd taken it into my head to make savory scones. Partly because they sounded delicious (if not traditional. My British friends are probably screaming), and partly because I need quick and easy breakfasts in the morning. 

So after some searching, I found this recipe, but the more I looked at it, the more I felt the need to tweak. Here's the ingredients, my tweaks, as usual, are italics.

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I reduced this slightly. There's bacon and onions involved, so there's plenty of sodium going on already)
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper. (The recipe suggests reducing to a teaspoon if you want a strong peppery taste, which is what I did. Next time, I think I'll try two, the pepper got lost in the cheese)
  • 1.5 Cups grated cheddar cheese (I always go for sharp. Aged if I can afford it)
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into 1-inch pieces (I used 8 slices of a rather thick bacon and it worked out fine. Cook it until it's crispy--taste it as you cook)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced (I went with a cup of caramelized onions, which was about 2.5 onions the size of softballs or small grapefruit)
  • .75 to 1.5 Cups Buttermilk
  • heavy cream (optional. Can be substituted for half of the buttermilk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons of water
I found this recipe appealing because bacon, cheese, and onions go very well together. In omelettes, in sandwiches, mixed with pasta. 

One of the things I noticed in the picture, was there was more filling than scone. The scone dough was used as a binder and not much else. That, in my opinion, is cheating yourself out of some deliciousness, and not being very nice to the concept of the buttery, crumbly scone. I think mine look a little better.



I followed the directions otherwise:

  • Preheat oven to 400 (if you live in an apartment, you might want to consider opening windows or turning on the a/c to get some air circulating). Grab your peppermill and start grinding - use a full tablespoon for a wonderfully peppery background or reduce by 1 tsp for less pepper flavor.
  • Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl on low speed. With mixer running, gradually add cubes of butter until the mixture is crumbly and studded with flour - butter bits about the size of small peas. Add grated cheese and mix just until blended. (This can also be done by hand: In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Gradually cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles small peas. Stir in cheese.) I went with the manual method. I use a whisk to blend the dry ingredients, then a large fork to smash the butter to bits (I have to release those violent thoughts somehow)
  • Add green onions, bacon and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk to flour and cheese mixture. Mix by hand just until all ingredients are incorporated. If dough is too dry to hold together, use remaining buttermilk, adding 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball. (I needed a lot more buttermilk that 3/4 Cup to get this into a ball. I'd start with a cup and add from there next time). Stir as lightly and as little as possible to ensure a lighter-textured scone (I agree this is important). Remove dough from bowl and place it on a lightly floured flat surface. Pat dough into a ball. Using a well-floured rolling pin, flatten dough into a circle about 8 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 8 to 10 equal wedges, depending on size scone you prefer.
  • Whisk egg and water in a small mixing bowl to combine. Brush each wedge with egg wash. Place scones on a Silpat-lined baking sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle. Serve warm.
___________________

I actually have a scone pan that will do 16 mini scones. I ended up having to make four drop scones because I filled the pan quite nicely. I didn't do the egg wash either. Instead I brushed them with cream.

They came out delicious. I'm not sure they will last very long, but if they do, I plan to freeze them individually in sandwich-sized bags so they will be easy to toss into the microwave for breakfast.





Thank you for reading. Comments always welcome!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

It's bean dip, not hummus

I love white beans, though usually I have them in an Italian dish, like one of the many tuna & white bean salads I make in the summer (that's one of Nexx's favorite dishes).

I totally stole this idea from my favorite neighborhood bar, when I saw it on their menu. I've had hummus, of course, I've even made some, and I've had both fava beans and black beans as dips and enjoyed them, so why not cannellini?

Note I do not refer to items that aren't made from chick peas and tahini as hummus. It drives me batshit when people do. It's like calling a round piece of bread with a hole in it a bagel when it wasn't boiled before baking. End rant. 

It was easy to find the recipe that I'm blogging about this week. Giada di Laurentis has some great recipes, and the ingredient list is simple:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons (for those four tablespoons I added truffle oil, though I think I should have used more)
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 pitas
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano


I used a bit more garlic than called for (raise your hand if you're surprised). 

Our instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. (I'm lucky enough to have a stick blender and it worked just fine). 



Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.

Cut each pita in half and then into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Pour the remaining oil over the pitas. Toss and spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color.

Serve the pita toasts warm or at room temperature alongside the bean puree.
When I had blended everything, it had tasted kind of bland to me. Totally my bad for not trusting the recipe and giving the flavors time to blend. I added a bit more lemon, and well, I kind of overdid it. I served it with red peppers as well as pita. The picture below is our gaming table set up for company.


My company agreed that it was a bit heavy on the lemon. I think I'm going to need to play with this a little bit before I find it perfect. I really liked the lemon with the red peppers, though.

About truffle oil--it's an indulgence and I don't use it very often, even though it is pretty versatile. Salads, pasta, sandwiches, and you only need a little bit. My current bottle came as a gift for my 50th (how the hell did that happen?) birthday. I poked around Amazon, and this is one of the of the highest rated for under $20. 

Questions, comments? Let's hear them!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Feeling Indulgent

In the case of many ingredients, if you can make a sandwich out of it, you can probably make a salad out of it, or even toss the ingredients with pasta. Today's recipe is a combination of ingredients I've had as a sandwich with a salad on the side.

My ingredients list (this makes four meals, no sides needed):
  • .5 lb of prosciutto, sliced into .25 inch long strips
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 Cup chopped tomatoes 
  • 4 Cups arugula torn into small strips
  • 1 pound orchiette (Orchiette means "little ears." I find it at the grocery store. Farfalle aka bow-ties would also work. Nexx doesn't like farfalle for some reason. Go figure)
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or (1 Tablespoon fresh, cut into strips as thin as you can make them).
  • 6 oz shredded parmesan cheese, or more to taste

Zest the lemon, and set aside.

Set your water to boil, add salt if you wish (I always do), then cut up the tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Add the lemon zest and stir gently so you don't break up the tomatoes. I use the pink rubber scraper from this set, it has a slightly pointed tip, so it's easy to get under things, and a scoop feel to it

Chop and add your garlic. Alternately, add a Tablespoon of chopped garlic from a jar. Add to your tomatoes. Next, add your basil and gently stir in. 

By this time, your water should be close to boiling, toss in the pasta, stir, and let cook according to package directions. When I get orchiette, the brand takes about 9 minutes for al dente. Hate hate hate mushy pasta. Sorry, almost had a rant going there. Shred your arugula. Slice your prosciutto, keep it in a loose pile. It's a pain in the ass, but resist the temptation to stack it up and slice it all at once. It sticks together.


Drain your pasta, turn off the heat, but don't shake the water off it like you might do usually. The curve of the pasta will help hold a little water. This will help the other ingredients stick. It's also a lot easier than remembering to reserve pasta water, which I never do. Anyway...

Add your olive oil to the pan and swirl it around. Add your pasta back to the pan, then one at a time, add your tomato mix, cheese, arugula, and lastly the prosciutto, stirring well, still gently. Your arugula will wilt a bit, but will still have some crunch to it upon serving. The prosciutto will get a little warm, but will still retain that deliciously rich texture.

Scoops into bowls. Top will black pepper if desired. Can be served either warm or room temperature. If you do room temperature, you can top it with a few shakes of balsamic if you want a bit of acidity--taste it first, the lemon zest already adds some.

Another alteration is not to add the arugula, but rather place the arugula on a plate and scoop the pasta over it. I prefer it mixed in. If you just won the lottery, you could also add pine nuts. 

Questions, comments, suggestions, request? Let us hear from you.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

舞乙女 (Maiotome): Dreaming of Dancers

The Kate received a bottle of 紅乙女 (Beniotome, "young lady in crimson") sesame shōchū from her colleagues for her recent birthday. We debated what to make, starting with simple cocktails. Then I found this recipe for 舞乙女 (Maiotome, "dancing young lady"), a winning cocktail in 1984 Hotel Barmen's Association, Japan Competition:

  • 20 mL Beniotome (Gold is what was specified)
  • 15 mL Crème de Framboise
  • 10 mL Cointreau (Probably can use other white Curaçao)
  • 10 mL Grenadine Syrup
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice


Wet the lip of the cocktail glass with a lemon. Place the rest of the ingredients into a shaker, add some ice, and shake vigorously until the shaker is too cold to handle. Strain into the prepped glass. It's a short drink, and the aromatics of the Beniotome seems to have a short shelf life, so enjoy relatively quickly after pouring.

Despite its name, the shōchū itself is quite clear, so the crème de framboise and grenadine syrup add a fantastic red colour, and the shaken Cointreau turns cloudy, turning the ruby-red drink into something less transparent.

I didn't quite like the presentation in the cocktail glass, so into an ice wine glass it went for this shot, with some of its ingredients in the background:




I spent a bit of time before making the drink to set up this shot, as to not make the drink wait too long.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More things to do with things in jars

Hi everyone,

I've been planning to post about this recipe for a while. It's pretty easy, needs just one sauté pan and is absolutely delicious.  It's from the folks at Bon Appetit. Here's our ingredients list:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 8 chicken thighs (The recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on, but I've made it without either and it came out just fine)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (which works out to about half a cup.)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (you can also use a couple teaspoons of jarred chopped garlic)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste. (read the ingredients when you're shopping, some have salt and/or sugar, and who needs extra of those?)
  • 1/4 Cup harissa paste (more on that below)
  • 1/3 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (which I always seem to forget to add)
  • Lemon wedges for serving. I recommend at least one lemon per person.
About harissa. It's a chili paste that originates from Tunisia. Naturally, it's going to vary in intensity according to exactly where in the region you're getting it. The good news? You can get prepared harissa in a jar from Amazon just use 1/2 a cup or more to taste. This is the brand I use: 


Preheat your oven to 425 F. Heat the oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper (I sometimes use garlic salt in place of kosher salt here). In two batches, cook chicken until browned, about 5 minutes a side. Remove chicken to a plate.

Here the recipe says to drain off all but 1Tablespoon drippings out of the pan. I am not that exact, but if that's what makes you feel comfortable, go ahead and measure. 

Add onion and garlic to the pan, stir frequently (as in don't leave it to sit more than 10 seconds at a time) until the onions are softened (almost translucent and a bit yellow), about 3 minutes:



Add tomato paste and cook until it darkens, about one minute. Add chickpeas, harissa, and chicken broth, bring to a simmer. 

Nestle chicken, skin side up in the chickpeas, transfer skillet to the oven. Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Top with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rerun because coffee

Hi again. We just got back from Coffee-Con in Brooklyn. I lost track of how many different kinds of coffee we tried. Cold brew, different types of brewing supplies, though Chemex was probably the most popular. I went to a tasting with two kinds of coffee and several different things to pair with the tasting from vanilla cookies to tamarind paste. Considering the possibilities, we were actually pretty restrained in our spending. My darling Nexx bought some coffee. I came home with some Colombian Sugar. Yes, I realize that sounds too hipster for words, but a) it tasted delicious and b)It was only $5.

So, after coffee and sweets, we headed home and I got to thinking about oen of my favorite recipes from a while ago:  Coffee Jelly. Set the wayback machine to 2011

..........................

Yes, folks, you read it correctly. As I type this, I have coffee jelly hopefully gelling in my fridge. I first had this with my sweetie and a dear friend at a Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York. It was as delicious as the concept was astonishing.

You may have noticed I don't make a lot of desserts. This is generally because they require more exact measurements than I tend to use. I wasn't exact with this either, so let's see how it goes:

My ingredients (makes 4 half cup servings):


  • 4 oz espresso (purchased from the nearby cafe. We don't own a coffee maker) (this has since been rectified)
  • 12 oz water
  • 1 heaping T of sugar (according to the local authenticity monitor, the sweet in this dessert should be incorporated into the whipped cream topping)
  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin, which works out to about a Tablespoon


funnel
coffee filter

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 T of water
Add the coffee, gelatin and water to a small saucepan. Stir on low until gelatin and sugar is dissolved. Strain through coffee filter (You can use your coffee maker for this). Pour into serving dishes. Chill. Write blog entry. Check fridge every 20 minutes until sweetie tells you to calm down and go watch the Criminal Minds marathon on A&E.

I'm leaving the making of the topping to my sweetie. Later this evening, or possibly tomorrow, we will have the results.

.......................

The results were delicious



A friend in Tennessee makes this as a special treat for family gatherings. The local authenticity monitor is amused. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sous-Vide Equipment Review

Hi everyone, this is Nexx, and I've been a guest contributor a couple of times, and here's my first post as a contributor. Here's a short equipment review of the Sansaire immersion circulator. As Kate mentioned in the previous post, I'm a huge fan of sous-vide for many types of cooking. I Kickstarted this, but this fantastic gadget has been available on Amazon for some time.

TL;DR: this is a fantastic piece of kit, if a little expensive, but will pay for itself in many, many time-saving ways. I use it almost every time I cook everything, either for its intended purpose as an immersion circulator, or as a handy water pump for other purposes.

The Sansaire immersion circulator is extremely easy to use. Just plunk it in what will become your hot water bath, turn it on, spin the large, well-damped ring to rapidly set the target temperature, and the circulator will quietly do its thing. Quietly is pretty important to me; we live in a small apartment and there really aren't very many places for us to escape the noise.

It's not just useful when heating things; there are times when you have to arrest cooking in a hurry. Just dump the food into a water-tight vessel, put ice and water in the bath container, and let the immersion circulator run while the heating element is turned off.

One of the most underrated methods for cooking frozen chicken is to just freeze it with herbs and a little olive oil in the bag, and then when ready to use, just toss it in the appropriate temperature water bath. It's fantastic for lazy weekday meals, especially combined with frozen vegetables that we toss in the microwave.

Another underrated feature: being able to cook meat to the perfect internal temperature. There are ways to use this method to create something that cannot easily be made otherwise. I've recently made beef steak stew where the beef cubes were left at medium rare using this method.

The Sansaire is not without its flaws, however. I have the Kickstarter edition, and the fit and finish of the plastic cover over the heating element can be a lot better. I also wish it would notify me - audibly is fine, via an app would be better - when the water bath reaches the target temperature. Also, with a larger water bath, it can take a little while longer to reach a higher target temperature, but that can be ameliorated by using a large plastic tub with a lid instead of a stock pot.

Finally, it's not critical that a vacuum sealer is used; Archimedes method works perfectly well. However, if one is to be used, I own a predecessor to this model that seems to do the job. It's also a great stand-alone item.

All in all, the Sansaire immersion circulator is a great piece of equipment, worthy of inclusion in any kitchen. It's stylish enough and with a small enough a footprint to be left out, which means it will get used often if so desired.

The Good
  • The ergonomics is fantastic.
  • Not a unitasker!
The Bad
  • Fit and finish of the heating element cover could be better.
The Terrible
  • The clip to keep it clipped to the vessel is a bit fiddly.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Things to Do with Things in Jars

Hi everyone, 

Many changes over the past several months.  First and foremost, I have a new kitchen, which came with an apartment in a a very loud neighborhood in New York City. I have a little more room to work, which is nice. Counterspace! 

Another foodie change is my darling Nexx Kickstarted an immersion circulator, so there have been some interesting sous vide experiments. Expect more guest posts, but not a ton of them since that's quite the luxury item, and I certainly don't expect everyone to have one. Hopefully, you can expect more posts in general, as my average daily commute is down to 25-30 minutes instead of 90-110.

I get regular emails from a few culinary sources and recently saw one for enchiladas with tomatillo salsa. After a few reads, and some additional internet research I decided not to bother following any recipe and I could do it myself. My ingredients list:


  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1.25 pounds total
  • 1 jar tomatillo salsa (I see this in most grocery stores)
  • 3 Cups chopped onions (about a 1/2 inch in size)
  • 6 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or an overflowing Tablespoon of minced garlic from a jar)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried cilantro
  • 2 green onions cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound of thinly sliced pepperjack cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • 3 limes 
  • .25 teaspoon of powdered habanero chile (more on that later).
  • 16 8" corn tortillas

In a sautée pan (or a frying pan if that's what you have), heat 1Tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. Add your garlic and onions , and cook until the onions are translucent. Toss in mushrooms, and cook until the onions are starting to turn brown around the edges. Sprinkle powdered chiles, stir well, then remove to a large bowl

In the same pan, lower the heat slightly and heat another Tablespoon of olive oil. Stab your chicken with a fork a few times, squeeze half a lime, sprinkle with garlic salt and cilantro then place spiced side down in the pan. Repeat the stab, squeeze, and sprinkle on the other side of the chicken. Cook, turning frequently  until chicken is just barely cooked through.



If you have a meat thermometer, until the temperature is between 145 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken to a plate, let rest for five minutes. Have a beverage, use the rest room, read your email, whatever. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cut into the fattest part of your chicken every so often and remove the second  you don't see any pink. I flip every 2-3 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350Fahrenheit 

Cut the tops of your green onions into 3/4 inch pieces and stir into your onions and mushrooms. Cut the chicken into small pieces, between 1/2 and 3/4 inch in size, and place it and any juices that accumulated into the onion mix. Mix well. Have a bite of chicken. Adjust spice level if you feel it's warranted.

I happen to have two 9x9 pans in my apartment, hence the 8" tortillas, so that's how I'll be describing the  next few steps.

Spread a thin even layer of salsa on the bottom of your baking dish.

Layer 8 tortillas with paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds. If you don't have a microwave, place then on a sheet pan (sans paper towels) in your warm oven for a minute or so. You don't want them cooked, just flexible.

Assembly:
Lay a slice of the pepperjack on a tortilla. Trim to fit. Hold the tortilla in your non dominant hand, curling up one side about 1/3 of the way. It should look like a letter J from the side (apologies for not having a picture, Nexx was getting his hair cut at the time and I still only have two hands). Spoon in 2-3 Tablespoons of filling. Gently, as if you were handling a small animal, roll into a cylinder and place seam-side down in the baking dish. 

When the baking dish is full, pour enough salsa to coat, cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, which will give you enough time to slice or chunk some avocados to go on the side. I also drained one can of black beans and mostly drained a can of low-sodium black beans and heated them in a small pot with a teaspoon of vinegar. Two enchiladas per adult worked well.



A few notes:


  • I ended up doing several pans. The first time, I put 4 enchiladas in each. The second, I managed to carefully stuff all 8 in the 9x9 baking dish. Well, mostly. I ended up folding the last one in half and putting it on top.
  • A little cooking spray in the baking dish would not be a bad thing. I just don't happen to have any at the moment. I use it so infrequently that the can I had when we moved had expired.
  • If you have larger tortillas, I would recommend laying them flat on your work surface to fill.
  • Nexx suggested more green onion flavor, and I think he had the right idea, so I will double it next time.
  • More salsa would not be a bad thing
  • I happened to have a jar of Dave's Smoked Habanero Powder. I have no idea where it came from. If you gave it to me as a gift, thank you very much! You could use cayenne pepper, if you don't feel like pulverizing a dried chili.  Alternately, chop a fresh hot pepper--I'm thinking Serrano--or if you want a touch of cumin, regular chili powder.
  • I'm really happy with the recipe in general. We ate a lot of it and I didn't get tired of the leftovers.
Thoughts? Ideas? Let me hear from you!