Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ground Beef Assistor

There are a wide variety of products out there that help you turn plain ground beef (or whatever) into a complete meal by providing the extra ingredients and seasonings needed. I am not a fan of these products, because a well-stocked pantry should have pretty much everything you need to make beefy-macaroni casserole. I came up with this recipe off the top of my head 10 minutes after I got home from work one day last week and it was probably the tastiest thing I've had in a while.

BTW: Feel free to notice how carefully I've avoided the use of any trademarked names or phrases in this post!

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (14 ounces) plain tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 2 cups dried macaroni pasta (small shells, elbows, etc.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (topping)

Brown the beef, onion, celery, and bell peppers together in a dutch oven or large, heavy skillet. Add all remaining ingredients except the cheese. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked. Put into serving bowls and sprinkle with the cheese. Makes about 12 servings and is great the next day heated in the microwave.

Note: Depending on how much liquid was in the tomatoes (and how moist the veggies were), you may need to add more water to allow the pasta to cook. Ideally, the stew should thicken up so there is very little liquid in it just as the pasta cooks completely. You may need to add 1/2 cup of water once or twice during cooking if the stew sets up while the pasta is still crunchy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

Although lamb is the traditional meat for this dish, I use lean ground beef because it's quite a bit easier to come by. Sauteeing the mushrooms and onions separate from the beef gives the stew a deep, rich flavor, without toughening the meat (which can happen if you brown it too long).

  • kosher salt
  • 4 russet potatoes, cleaned, optionally peeled, and cut in half crosswise (so they are as spherical as possible)
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 ounces) plain tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • spice mixture - grind together in a spice mill or coffee grinder
    • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
    • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
    • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flake
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Put the potatoes into a large pot and cover with 2-4 inches of cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 2 quarts of water in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 15-25 minutes, or until a paring knife slides through without much resistance (do not overcook so they start to fall apart). Drain and mash -

Meanwhile, put the beef into a large dutch oven over medium low heat with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Gently cook the meat until it is no longer pink, stirring frequently - you are not trying to deeply brown the meat, just remove it's raw red color. Pour the meat into a large bowl and set aside.

If there is not 2-3 tablespoons of grease leftover from the beef in the dutch oven, add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and mushrooms with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt for 5 minutes, until the onions have softened and started to brown. Add the garlic and saute one more minute, until the garlic is fragrant and lost its raw bite. Deglaze the pot with the canned tomtaoes. Add the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Balsamic vinegar, spice mixture, and cooked beef. Stir well to combine. Gently fold in the bay leaves, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes and uncovered for 10, gently stirring occasionally.

Preheat the broiler to high. Remove the stew from heat and fish out the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Spoon on the mashed potatoes and smooth into an even layer on top. Sprinkle on all of the cheese and put under the broiler for 1-3 minutes, until the cheese starts to bubble. Serve immediately

We plate the 3A's their portion, then top our portions with cheese.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jo Goldenberg's Parisian Bagels

If you haven't made one of this week's bagel sandwich recipes but are planning on trying one, you may want to try making your own bagels from scratch. It's not that hard, and if you don't live near a real bagel bakery, these may be the best bagel's you've ever had!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bagels & Lox

I guess this week is bagel week. Bagels are actually my favorite bread of all time, so I'm surprised I haven't done them earlier. Anyway, I'm sure most people have heard of eating bagels with lox (cold smoked salmon), but you can't just toast a bagel and throw some fish on it - there's a right way to do it!

Ingredients (Per Sandwich)
  • 1 Sesame Bagel, split and toasted
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 2 thin slices of red onion (or a couple of teaspoons of chopped green onions or chives)
  • 2-3 ounces nova lox, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 2-4 slices tomato
  • kosher salt

Spread the cream cheese over both halves of the bagel. Put a teaspoon of capers and an onion slice on each half. Fold the lox slices so it fits on the bagel halves and put some on each one. Top each half with tomato slices and a small pinch of kosher salt.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Skyline Bagel Sandwich

With credit given to Gandolfo's Deli, this is one of the tastiest bagel sandwiches I've ever eaten! It's also one of the simplest and easiest to make at home that I've discovered. Gandolfo's version cost's almost $4, but in 5 minutes you can make it at home for less than $1's worth of ingredients!

Disclaimer: I've never actually witnessed one of these being made in the deli (their kitchen is hidden in the back), but I've eaten many of them. This is my best approximation of the sandwich, but I don't guarantee that it's identical to the recipe used by Gandolfo's! I am not claiming to represent Gandolfo's Deli in any way, officially or unofficially.

Ingredients (per sandwich)
  • 1 bagel, (I prefer Bubba's onion bagels)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2-3 slices tomato
  • 1-2 ounces of thinly sliced turkey, ham or Canadian bacon
  • 2 teaspoons softened butter

Split the bagel and toast the cut side (my toaster has a "Bagel Mode" for this, but you could also use a toaster oven or broiler). Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over high heat and quickly heat up the meat so it slightly browns (if you don't want to heat up or wash a pan, cook for 30 seconds in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl - it won't brown as much but will taste nearly as good). Spread the cream cheese over the cut side of one of the toasted bagel halves. Add the tomato slices and put the meat on top. Spread the butter over the cut side of the other half of the toasted bagel and top the sandwich with it, cut side down. Press firmly with your hand (or cook in a Panini press for 30 seconds), slice in half, and serve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Curry Cheddar Pockets

These are like a cross between Indian samosas and English pasties. Rather than use traditional pastry crust, this recipe uses a biscuit dough for added tenderness and flakiness, which is accompanied perfectly by the cheesy filling. Also nice is that a can of ready-to-use biscuit dough (like Pillsbury) tastes nearly as good as homemade biscuit dough (although it's not that hard to do).

  • 2 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a large dice
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons apple jelly
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Indian curry powder (not Thai curry paste!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white (or black) pepper
  • one pound biscuit dough (or one large can of refrigerator biscuit dough)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Mix the apples, cheese, jelly, curry, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Divide the biscuit dough into 8 pieces (about 2 ounces each). Roll one of the pieces out on a floured work surface until it is a thin circle about 7 inches across. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the apple mixture onto the dough circle, spreading it out over one side of the dough and staying about 1/2 inch from the near edge:
The yellow circle is the dough and the orange blob is the filling.
(I am clearly not a graphic designer - sorry I forgot to take actual pictures)

Fold the far side of the dough over the filling, leaving the 1/2 inch of the near side hanging off:
Fold the near flap back over the pocket to close it off (the grey part above). Press with a fork to tightly seal the pocket. Place the pocket on the sheet pan and repeat with the remaining dough. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the pockets are golden brown.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Green Tomato Pickles

Where I live (Utah), the weather is not exactly perfect for Tomatoes. The Springs are chilly and the Summers are short, so during some years the tomatoes don't all get to ripen before temperatures get to freezing. Unless you want to waste those green tomatoes you have to figure out how to eat them. Most people have heard of fried green tomatoes (thanks to the movie), but green tomato pickles are quite tasty too.

  • 4-6 Green Tomatoes, sliced into 8-10 wedges each
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place the tomatoes and onions in a large glass jar (or other non-reactive vessel). Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a stainless steel saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Fill the jar with the pickling liquid. Seal tightly and let cool on the counter for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 3-5 days. They keep for 3-months in the fridge.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pan-Seared Chicken with Tomato Chutney

One of the worst things you can do to chicken is to overcook it. That is especially true of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. However, due to the risk of food-borne illness, you must thoroughly cook your poultry. This leaves you with a razor-thin line: fully cooked, but not overcooked. I avoid dry, tasteless chicken by using a hybrid method: 1) Sear the chicken's outside over high heat. 2) Make a sauce using the fond created by the searing process. 3) Slowly finish cooking the chicken in the sauce. This method has many advantages: searing brings flavor, slower finishing makes it hard to overcook, and cooking in the sauce enhances flavor and moisture. Make sure to use an instant-read thermometer several times during the last few minutes of cooking to ensure your chicken is safe to eat, but not dried out.

  • 3 tablespoons Canola oil, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of any excess fat or rib meat
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
  • the zest of one lemon
  • the juice of half a lemon (i.e. the one you just zested)
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small granny smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly salt them on both sides. Heat 2 tablespoons of the Canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until it just starts to smoke. Lay the chicken breasts in the pan, spread out as much as possible. Sear without moving or stirring in any way for 3-5 minutes, or until the breasts have fully released from the pan on their own and have a deep golden crust (if you do this with sufficient oil and a hot enough pan, it will not burn, however you may want to use a splatter guard). Flip, searing for another 2-3 minutes, Remove from the pan, put on a plate covered with foil and set aside. Immediately reduce heat to medium to prevent the fond from burning.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Saute the onions and green pepper for 3-5 minutes, until the peppers are crisp-tender and the onion is softened. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds to a minute, until it becomes fragrant and has lost its raw bite (do not overcook it). Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes, scraping any brown fond off the bottom of the pan. Add the apples, lemon zest, brown sugar, cinnamon, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Nestle the chickens into the chutney as deeply as possible (pouring any collected juices back into the pan), bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the chickens have reached an internal temperature of 155-160 degrees. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice or couscous.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lamb "Korma"

I am not an Indian food expert - although I do love to cook and eat it! My problem lies in terminology: Based on several Wikipedia articles, I'm pretty sure that a "saag" always contains spinach, "vindaloo" is marinated in wine or vinegar, and "tandoori" is roasted in a clay oven, "keema" is made with ground meat, and "korma" is made with stew meat - although I'd appreciate any correction by someone who has actual first-hand knowledge of Indian culture and cuisine. One thing I do know for sure: the following recipe is tasty. Even if it isn't "real" Indian food, it is at least Indian-inspired, and for that I thank my subcontinental friends.

  • 3 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 2 pounds lamb stew meat (or lamb chops that have been cut off the bone and cut into 2-inch cubes, or you could use beef stew meat like chuck)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala (an Indian spice mixture containing cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, and cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (for medium heat) or cayenne pepper (hot), optional
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Lightly salt the meat and toss in two tablespoons of the oil. Working in batches, quickly brown the meat in a large skillet over high heat (do not crowd the pan). Reduce the heat to medium. Add one tablespoon oil and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the garam masala, chili flakes, garlic, and ginger and cook for 1 more minute. Add the meat (and any collected juices), sweet potatoes, beans, half-and-half and yogurt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook on low heat for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add lemon juice, and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Serve over rice or pita bread.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Three Bean Stew

So I'm putting on my Seinfeld hat: What's the deal with three bean salad? Why don't we ever see other foods with three beans: Three bean burritos? Three bean baked beans? Three bean hummus? If three beans is good for salad, we must make it good for other things too - like stew! I love bean stew. Normally you see soups and stews with only one kind of bean: canellini (minestrone), pinto (chili), red (jambalaya). Well here we have it: Three Bean Stew. The base recipe is vegetarian, but you could add grilled and sliced sausage (like kielbasa), bacon bits, or ham (practically any pork product!) if you wanted some extra meaty goodness.

  • 2/3 of a cup each of dried pinto beans, red beans, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 8 cups of water (use filtered if your tap water tastes funny)
  • 2-4 cups leftover vegetable parts (celery and bell pepper tops, carrot sticks, onion slices, parsley stems, or other aromatic veggies, see note below), roughly chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup each of onion, celery, carrot, and red bell pepper, cut into a large dice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (from half a lemon)

Soak the beans in the water overnight. Make sure that as the beans soak up the water, there is enough to keep them fully submerged at all times. Do not let the beans soak for more than 24 hours or they will start to become mushy and flavorless.

Put the leftover veggies, bay leaves, and garlic in a cotton stuffing bag. Put the veggie bag, beans (with their soaking water), and 2 tablespoons kosher salt together in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours, or until the beans are cooked, adding more water as necessary to keep them covered. (They will not be a mushy as canned beans. They should have a pleasant toothiness when cooked correctly, but they will not be crunchy.) Remove the veggie bag and discard (the veggies, that is, not the bag - it can be washed and reused). Drain the beans in a colander, catching the cooking broth in a bowl. Reserve the beans and broth for later.

Heat the olive oil in the stock pot over medium heat. Sweat the remaining diced veggies with a heavy pinch of kosher salt for 3-5 minutes, or until the carrot starts to soften but is still a little crunchy (do not brown the veggies - turn the heat down to medium low if necessary to avoid frying or sauteeing). Using a fine mesh strainer, sift the flour over the veggies, stirring to evenly coat them. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the flour starts to brown, another 3-5 minutes. Slowly pour in all but 1/2 cup of the broth, stirring constantly. Stir in the thyme, sage, and pepper. Add all but 1/4 cup of the beans and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, blend together the reserved beans and broth in a blender or food processor and pour the mixture back into the stew (you can skip this step and just pour all the broth and beans into the stew if a thinner consistency is desired). Season with more salt and pepper to taste, add the lemon juice, and simmer for another 3-5 minutes, until the stew reaches a desired thickness (it will thicken slightly as it cools). Remove from heat and serve over rice with hot sauce on the side.

Cooking the beans with the leftover veggie parts basically turns the bean cooking liquid into veggie broth, saving you from having to buy some and using up a bunch of vegetables you were probably going to throw away. If you don't have any leftover veggies (for example, you gave them all to your potbellied pig), you could add 1-2 cups of vegetable broth to the soaking liquid before boiling the beans, as well as using additional broth to top off the beans if too much liquid cooked into the beans or evaporated. Back to ingredients.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brats with Peppers and Onions

Now that fall is upon us, we must consider tailgating! Fall is my favorite time of year to be outdoors - the crisp air, the smell of leaves on the grass, the awesome power of 300-pound offensive linemen crushing a linebacker...it makes you almost giddy with excitement! Great tailgating is all about preparation: it's hard to do a lot of cooking over a portable grill. To be successful, you must do as much cooking as possible at home, then use the grill as a last-minute finisher. Brats are a great example of this technique.

  • 4 bratwurst sausages
  • 1 bottle beer (regular or non-alcoholic)
  • 1 red onion, frenched
  • 1 green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 hoagie rolls
  • 1 bottle of mustard (regular or spicy)

At home: Simmer the sausages in the beer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Tightly wrap in plastic and store in a sealable container in a refrigerator or cooler until grill time. Put the peppers and onions on a large piece of aluminum foil. Add the oil, salt, and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Spread the veggies into a single layer and seal the foil into a packet not wider than your grill. Refrigerate with the brats and proceed to the grill location.

Grill time: Heat the grill for direct heat (all burners on high for gas grills). Put the veggie packet on the grill, flipping once per minute for 5-10 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked and caramelized (if using charcoal, you can put the packet right on the coals). Grill the brats for 2 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Toast the buns for 30-60 seconds. Place a sausage in each bun with mustard and veggies.

Note: If you're just having this at home, you can forgo the grilling and do this on a griddle or flat top. Just sautee the veggies over high heat, brown the brats, and toast the buns in the oven or broiler.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kielbasa with Cabbage, Apples, and Sweet Potatoes

I know, the title isn't very creative, but it sure is descriptive! No "Cabbage Surprise" or other such nonsence. I like to know what I'm getting in a recipe up front, and this certainly delivers. Now, a couple of notes on this recipe: The sweet potatoes can be steamed any time from immediately before doing the rest of the dish, up to a day or two before, so don't get discouraged at the extra prep (I originally encountered this dish with canned sweet potatoes - don't be tempted to use them!) Second, if you like beer with your sausage (and if you're a beer drinker, I assume you do!), you could substitute the apple cider in the recipe for a bottle of beer for a more earthy (i.e. beer-y) flavor. I am not a beer drinker, so I'll stick with the cider for myself.

  • 12 ounces steamed cubed sweet potatoes, cooked al dente (not all the way soft)
  • 8 ounces unsweetened apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 6 cups coursely shredded cabbage (about 1/2 of a head)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound fully-cooked keilbasa sausage, cut on the bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch wedges (toss the pieces in a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice to prevent browning if they'll sit for more than 5 minutes before cooking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Bring the cider, mustard, and caraway seeds to a boil over medium-high in a large skillet. Add the cabbage and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the cabbage starts to wilt down, 5-10 minutes. Add the kielbasa, apple, sweet potato and pepper. Gently stir to combine and cook for another 2-5 minutes, or until the apples and cabbage are crisp-tender but not raw.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Easy Pasta Casserole

This quick pasta casserole is very good and rediculously easy to do. With the exception of the dairy, all of the ingredients are inexpensive pantry (or freezer) staples, making this great for cooking on a budget while still being nutritious and tasty.

  • 1 pound tri-color rotini, farfale, or other casserole-friendly pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tub (15-16 ounces) of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesian cheese, divided (Please use the good stuff - ideally, it should have a rind that has "Parma" stamped on it. If you do use pre-ground stuff, at least get some from your store's deli instead of from a green can.)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (Yes, fresh from an actual nutmeg nut!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 jerks Worchestershire sauce (It's the secret ingredient!)
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup course breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water, drain, return to the cooking pot and set aside off heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add spinach, shallot, garlic, and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the shallot has softened and the garlic has lost its raw bite. Add ricotta cheese, half the Parmesian cheese, milk, nutmeg, chili flakes, pepper, and Worchestershire sauce. Contintue to cook over medium-low, stirring constantly until the cheeses and milk have come together. Add remaining kosher salt to taste. Dump the spinach mixture into the pasta pot and stir to combine. Spray a large casserole with nonstick spray. Pour the pasta/spinach mixture into the casserole and top with the mozzarella cheese. Mix the remaining Parmesian and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the mozarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Marinated Potato Salad

If you want your potato salad to have lots of flavor, you really should start it at least 8 hours before you want to eat it. This gives the vinegar enough time to really penetrate the potatoes and give it some underlying acidity before putting on the creamy mayonnaise dressing. I guarantee that no one will think this salad is bland!

  • 2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cleaned but not peeled
  • kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade would be nice)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • one half to one whole clove garlic, sliced as thinly as you can
  • 2-4 tablespoons diced dill pickles or dill pickle relish, to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot. Add just enough cold water to cover by 1/2 inch and add a very heavy pinch of kosher salt per quart of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are just soft - do not overcook. Gently drain and rinse under cold running water for 30-60 seconds, until just cool enough to handle with a tea towel. Rub the skins off with the towel, being careful not to mash them. Once peeled, slice into 1/2 inch slices and put into a large plastic bag with the vinegar. Marinate for at least 8 hours, up to 1 day.

Mix together remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a couple of pinches of kosher salt (to taste). Gently fold in marinated potatoes and any vinegar left in the bag. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note: Other herb combinations can be used instead of parsley and tarragon. You could also use basil and thyme, mint and dill, or cilantro and oregano. Just add whatever fresh herbs you think you might like 1-2 tablespoons at a time until you think the flavor is strong enough!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

Traditionally, Chicken Parm is pan-fried. This puts a lot of people off of it because of the mess and extra fat content that comes with it. However, it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to bake a delicious and juicy Chicken Parm that has very little mess and only a fraction of the fat.

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, "enhanced" or brined*
  • 1 1/2 cups course seasoned bread crumbs (homemade or store bought)
  • 1/2 cup ground good Parmesan cheese, with the rind cut off and reserved
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup flour
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels (or thaw and dry enhanced chicken breasts). Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Mix the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese in a pie pan or other wide, shallow dish. Mix the eggs and water in another similar dish. Put the flour in one more dish. Dredge a chicken breast in the flour, shaking off any excess. Coat with the egg mixture and then move to the bread crumbs, coating all sides and pushing firmly to adhere. Put the breaded chicken on the baking sheet and repeat with the other pieces. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and a heavy pinch of kosher salt. Sweat for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent (do not brown them, if they start to sizzle or jump around, turn the heat down). Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato sauce, chili flake, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese rind. Simmer very gently over low heat until the chicken has baked for 20 minutes. When there are 5 minutes left, remove the rind and discard. Add the basil and gently simmer for the remaining baking time.

Remove the chickens from the oven. Place a thin layer of sauce over each one (2-4 tablespoons, as you like it). Put 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese on top of each one and return the baking sheet to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the chickens have an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Serve with pasta marinara and garlic toast.

*Enhanced chicken breasts have been injected with a salt solution that makes them juicier and more tender. They are usually sold individually quick frozen (IQF) in bags labeled "Chicken enhanced with a solution..." or something like that. If you don't have (or want to buy) enhanced chicken, you can brine your own (which will probably taste better anyway, but takes more time). Mix 12 ounces of pickling salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 quarts of water in a 2 gallon plastic tub (or clean picnic cooler). Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved and add the chicken breasts. Brine for 6-12 hours in the refrigerator, or add a pound of ice in a tightly sealed zipper bag if doing in a cooler (changing the bags every 4 hours or whenever it melts, making sure the ice water doesn't leak and dilute the brine). Back to ingredients

Monday, August 31, 2009

Soy Dressing (and salad)

We had egg rolls for dinner the other night (just frozen ones cooked in the oven - shocking!) and we wanted a salad. Michelle made a lovely salad with lettuce, carrots, sesame seeds, mandarin oranges, and chow mein noodles. However, we needed dressing for the salad and a dipping sauce for the egg rolls. I did a little thinking and came up with a single recipe that worked for both!

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sushi vinegar (or 1/4 cup plain rice vinegar plus 1 tablespoon sugar)
  • 1/4 cup salad oil (soybean, peanut, or canola oils work well - not olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 jerks Worcestershire sauce (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Wisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined. Drizzle over salad or use as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, pot stickers, sashimi, etc. You could also use it as a marinade for chicken or beef stir-fry.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pita Pizzas

This week we had Italian Sausage and White Bean Soup. The recipe calls for only 1/2 a pound of sausage. With the leftover sausage we made Pita Pizzas.

6 wheat pitas
bottled pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 pound Italian sausage, crumbled and cooked
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits
4 ounces Canadian bacon
1 thinly sliced Roma tomato
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil two large baking sheets and lay pitas on them flat side down. Spread 1-2 tablespoons sauce evenly over each pita. Distribute mozzarella cheese over all the pitas. Pick up to three of the remaining toppings for each pita in your favorite combinations. Distribute Parmesan cheese over each pizza. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and the pitas are crispy on the bottom. Rotate the pans top to bottom halfway through.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spinach & Turkey Skillet

I'm not normally a fan of turkey skillet recipes, but this recipe defies my expectations! It is by far the best sauteed turkey dish I've ever had. I think it's so tasty because it uses turkey breast cubes (which stay juicy) instead of ground turkey (which is dry, flavorless, and generally nasty!).

  • 6 oz turkey breast tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ C. chopped onion
  • 2 cloves, garlic minced
  • ¹⁄3 C. uncooked rice ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 C. fat free reduced sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 C. fresh spinach leaves, torn (chopped collard greens or chard would also be nice)
  • 2⁄3 C. diced plum tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Season the turkey with salt. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add turkey pieces; cook & stir until lightly browned. Remove from skillet. Reduce heat to low. Add onion & garlic; cook & stir until tender. Return turkey to skillet. Stir in rice, Italian seasoning & pepper.

Reserve 2 tablespoons chicken broth. Stir remaining broth into mixture in skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes or until the turkey is just barely pink in the middle. Stir in spinach and reserved broth. Cover; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and spinach is wilted. Stir in tomatoes; heat through. Serve with parmesan cheese. Makes 2+ servings

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Greens, White Beans and Barley Soup

This is a nice summer soup for when you have lots of fresh vegetables and greens that need to be cooked up. It's not too thick, although you could mash the beans with a potato masher prior to putting them in if you wanted something more hearty for winter time.

  • ½ pound carrots, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onions
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups sliced mushrooms
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups cooked barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can (16 oz.) Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1½ pounds collard greens, washed, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Red or Yellow bell pepper strips

Cut carrots lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into ¼ inch pieces. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmery. Add carrots, onions, and kosher salt. Sweat until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and sweat for another 4-5 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and sweat for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.

Increase heat to high. Add vegetable stock, cooked barley, beans, bay leaves, sugar, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add greens and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and discard. Stir in vinegar and season with pepper sauce, fresh ground black pepper, and garnish with bell pepper strips.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A blast from the past: Chicken & Kale Roulade

One of the recipes from last week's cooking demo was one of my favorites that I've posted on this blog before. In case you missed it last time, here it is again!

A roulade is a meat burrito - a flat piece of meat that you top with filling, roll up, and cook. It's a great way to turn a boring piece of meat (a boneless, skinless chicken breast) and turn it into something more elegant. This version is baked with a crispy crust on the outside, but you could just as easily braise the chicken in a savory sauce if you wanted to.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any rib meat or fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced white or cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups stemmed, washed, and chopped kale, packed
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms, onions, and a pinch of salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and the onions have browned. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add vinegar, broth, oregano, pepper, and kale. Cook, stirring frequently, until the kale has cooked down and the the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a medium glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick spray. Using a meat mallet (or a aluminum pie tin and a heavy can of food), pound the chicken breasts to a thickness of half an inch. You may want to butterfly the breast if it is very thick (i.e. more than 1 inch). Lubricating the mallet with water or vegetable oil can help prevent tearing (as will using the minimum amount of force necessary). Spread the kale mixture on the chicken and roll up in to as compact a package as you can make it. You may want to use toothpicks to secure the rolls (if you are gentle about handling them, that may be unnecessary). Put the breadcrumbs onto a dinner plate or other dish. Brush as much of a chicken roll as you can with mayonnaise and turn upside down onto the breadcrumbs. Finish coating the chicken with mayonnaise and (gently) roll to coat with breadcrumbs. Place seam side down in the baking dish and repeat with remaining chicken rolls. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Rest uncovered for 5 minutes and serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

In our Cooking with Hearty Greens booklet, we also included another family favorite: the meatball sub.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kale & Sausage Stew with Greek Flair

This is a family favorite.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 pound uncooked Portuguese sausage or hot Italian sausage
1 ¼ cup hot chicken broth, divided
6 cups (4 oz.) coarsely chopped stemmed washed kale
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat olive oil in large pan. Add onion and cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until tender. Break sausage into bite-size pieces and add to pan. Brown sausage on all sides, about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add kale and ½ cup chicken broth. Stir. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until kale is tender.

Beat eggs with lemon juice in a heatproof bowl. Gradually add remaining ¾ cup hot chicken broth to egg mixture into kale and sausage mixture. Simmer over low heat 1 to 2 minutes or until egg mixture is slightly thickened. (Do not bring mixture to a boil or eggs will scramble).
Serve over rice.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jicama, Greens, & Pasta

I'm all for "Waste not, want not", so I was thrilled when I found this recipe, in preparation for Jake's upcoming Cooking with Greens class, which uses jicama. I don't have to worry about tossing the remaining jicama out.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup peeled and chopped jicama
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (about 14 oz.) fat -free reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 oz.any white beans or frozen black eyed peas
4 oz. uncooked medium pasta like radiatore
1 head chicory, mustard greens, or kale washed stemmed and thinly sliced
2 to 3 hot pepper sauce (optional)

Heat oil in large saucepan. Add bell pepper, onion, jicma, celery, and garlic. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, tomato paste, oregano, and black pepper. Bring to a boil; stir in beans/black-eyed peas. Cover and simmer over low heat 20 minutes or until peas are tender.

Cook pasta according package directions. Drain and set aside.

Add greens to saucepan; cover and cook on low until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in pasta. Cook until heated through. Season to taste with red pepper sauce. Garnish as desired.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jicama Summer Salad

When I saw that jicama was on sale at Sunflower, I immediately thought of this delightfully tasty and easy salad.
3 cups cooked white rice, chilled
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups diced red/yellow/orange bell peppers
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup diced jicama
1 cup cooked chicken or turkey breast
3/4 cup slice green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup thick and chunky salsa
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 large romaine lettuce leaves
lime wedges (optional)

Combine rice, beans, bell peppers, tomato, jicama, chicken, green onions, and cilantro in large bowl; mix well.

Combine salsa, lime juice, oil, and salt in small bowl. Add to salad; toss well. (Salad may be served immediately or covered and chilled up to 8 hours before serving. Serve salad over lettuce leaves with lime wedges, if desired.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dollhouse Cakes

A friend of our has just started a business called Dollhouse Cakes. These cakes are just darling. What a fun and cute little treat for any occasion! To get things started, Raven is having a Grand Opening Giveaway. You have to check it out!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garlicy Tuna Tostada

The nice thing about simple salads is that they have so many uses. This one works as an appetizer or you could make it a meal by paring it with a nice bowl of tomato soup.


Garlic Mayonnaise
  • 2-3 heads of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups mayo
  • 1 cup garlic mayo (recipe above)
  • 2 cans tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup bell pepper, cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 medium size tortillas or tostada shells.

Garlic Mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the outer paper off the garlic heads, leaving the individual cloves intact. Cut about 1/4 inch off the top of each head, just exposing the inside of each clove. Place each clove on a small square of aluminum foil, cut side up. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil on each one and wrap up in the foil. Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and light brown. Squeeze the cloves out of the head and chop fine. Whisk into the mayonnaise. Chill. Makes 2 cups.


Mix all ingredients except onion and tortilla in a medium bowl. Distribute over tortillas and top with onions.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ramen Cabbage Salad

Continuing our recent theme of cool salads for summer. This one with a slightly Asian twist!

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 package ramen noodles (do not cook them!)
  • 1/2 cup salad oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk together oil, vinegar, sugar, and ramen seasoning packet. Toss together cabbage and noodles with dressing. Serve with chopped green onions and sunflower kernels on top.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mac Salad

A nice cool salad for those hot summer afternoons. Great for a Saturday lunch, backyard barbecue, or Hawaiian luau.

  • 1 lb macaroni noodles, well cooked in salted water
  • 8 ounces frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and serve chilled.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beef Stew

One of the most economical ways to cook is to use bones to make homemade stock. You can get beef soup bones from the butcher very cheaply, plus they add texture and flavor that you can't get from canned beef broth.

  • 1-2 lbs beef bones
  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus extra for the bones
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 small red potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsely
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Turn on the broiler. Lightly oil the bones and brown on a sheet pan under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, tossing occasionally to evenly brown all sides. Remove from the oven and set the oven for 250 degrees.

Toss the stew meat in 2 tablespoons of the oil and half the salt. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Quickly brown the meat, working in batches so as to not crowd the pan. Put the meat on a clean plate and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat over medium-high heat. Brown the onions, carrots, and celery with the remaining salt. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds and evenly sift on the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the flour is just started to brown. Slowly stir in the water and bring to a full simmer. Add the potatoes, pepper, and bay leaves. Cook in the oven for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender. Remove the bones. If there is any meat or marrow on them, cut/scrape it off and stir back into the stew. Stir in the parsley, thyme, and lemon juice. Serve over rice or pasta.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guava Cake

Now that you've had Tuesday's pork, you need a delicious Hawaiian desert to follow the meal. Guava cake is probably my favorite cake. Although it's a little fussy, it feeds a crowd and is quite tasty!

Note 1: To do the cake, frosting and glaze, you need 3 cups (2 cans) of guava concentrate, one cup in the cake, 2 tablespoons in the frosting, and the rest in the glaze.

Note 2: I actually prefer orange-mango or passion-orange-guava (POG) concentrate over straight guava for this recipe! You can use whichever fruit you like.

Note 3: Don't wait until the cake is frosted to start the glaze. It takes a long time to cool to room temperature. If you do forget to start the glaze early and it is still hot when the frosted cake is cool, you can put the saucepan in an ice water bath to chill it quickly; however, don't let it get so cold that it won't pour!

Guava Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 3 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup frozen guava juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 cup Sprite (0r other lemon-lime) soda

Grease and flour a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Mix all ingredients and pour into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool.

Guava Cake Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons guava juice concentrate, thawed
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cup Cool Whip

Cream together cream cheese, guava concentrate, and powdered sugar. Fold in Cool Whip. Frost cooled cake and chill in fridge.

Guava Cake Glaze

  • 15 fluid ounces (i.e. 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons for frosting) guava concentrate
  • ¼ C water
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch

Bring guava to a boil in a saucepan. Shake the water and corn starch into a slurry and whisk into boiling guava. Simmer until glaze is translucent. Cool to room temperature, pour on chilled frosted cake. Chill again and serve.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kalua Pork

A real Hawaiian favorite, this meal is ridiculously easy (and delicious)! You can tell all your friends that you dug a pit (imu) in the back yard and cooked a whole pig with hot rocks and taro leaves!

  • 5 lbs. pork shoulder (butt roast)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • liquid smoke
  • about 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Trim off any thick fat cap off the pork (don't leave it bare - a little fat is good for flavor). Lightly rub entire roast with salt, then rub in a thin layer of liquid smoke. Place pork in the slow cooker with water, then cook on low for 16-20 hours. Shred in pot with two forks, stir to evenly distribute juices. Serve with white rice. Serves 15

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jalepeno Burger Surprise

The surprise is that the jalapenos are cooked right into the hamburger patties. This makes the heat more low-level and subtle than stacking the chiles on top. Also, as long as we're mixing in jalapenos, we might as well add some other ingredients as well, just to make things extra-flavorful.

  • 24 ounces hamburger meat (I like a 50/50 mix of ground chuck and sirloin)
  • 2-4 small jalapeno chiles, roughly cut into large pieces (remove the ribs if you want less heat) - you could use more powerful chiles to your liking if you want it hotter (such as Serrano, Thai, or birds-eye)
  • 1/2 small onion, cut into wedges
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle chile powder
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (really!)

Put the jalapeno, onion, and garlic in the food processor. Chop in one-second pulses until a fine mince is formed (do not over-process, or it will turn to mush). In a large bowl, gently mix the jalapeno mixture with the remaining ingredients - your hands (with vinyl or latex gloves) are the best tool to mix thoroughly while avoiding over-mashed beef. Form into 6 patties and grill for 4-5 minutes, flipping once. Serve with normal burger fixings (including Monterrey Jack cheese added for ), also possibly including the recipe below!

Bonus Recipe - Chipotle Ketchup!

Place 2 cups ketchup (I like Hunts), 1 canned chipotle pepper and 1 teaspoon (up to 1 tablespoon if you like the heat!) of the adobo sauce from the can in a blender. Mix on high power for 10-20 seconds, or until smooth.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Spicy Mexican Meat Sauce

So you might be asking yourself, isn't a spicy tomato meat sauce just chili? I say that it most certainly is not. In my opinion, chili is an entirely different kind of stew made with cubed chuck shoulder and thickened with corn masa (or chips). This is a much simpler sauce, designed to be quick and easy. You could serve it on a hot dog or hamburger with cheese, or if you're feeling adventurous, put it over spaghetti (Cincinnati style).

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried chipotle chiles (freshly ground or from a jar)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Cook the beef over medium heat in a stew pot or dutch oven until it loses the raw red color. Add the onion, bell pepper, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, chipotle chile powder, and oregano. Continue to cook until the onions have softened and the bell pepper is crisp-tender. Add the garlic and green chiles and cook for one more minute. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, lime juice and cilantro. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the flavors are well blended. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a hot dog in a toasted bun with shredded cheddar cheese.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Foil Dinners

Cooking in foil has a lot of advantages: very little mess to clean up, it's very moist and juicy, and it can be done outdoors without a kitchen. Since I'm going camping, I thought I'd share my recipe for a great foil dinner that makes camp cooking a snap.

Ingredients (per person)
  • 8 ounces ground chuck or sirloin (do not use round - it's too dry!)
  • 1/2 small envelope instant onion soup mix
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed/minced fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flake
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced thin
  • 1 carrot, quartered and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 potato, sliced thick
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water

Mix the ground chuck, soup mix, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and chile flake in a medium bowl with your hands until combined, working it into a large loose patty about 2 inches thick (do not tightly pack the meat together). On the middle of a 18 x 24 inch piece of aluminum foil, combine the carrots and onions in a pile that is roughly the same diameter as the beef patty (if not a little bit larger). Drizzle the water onto the vegetables and sprinkle with half the salt and pepper. Place the beef patty on top of the pile. Season the potatoes with the remaining salt and pepper and place on top of the beef. Tightly wrap up the foil, making a pouch - I like to crimp together the sides over the center line of the foil and then fold over the top and bottom flaps. At this point you can either bake your pouches in the oven for 30-45 minutes or you can put it on a bed of coals in a grill or campfire for 25-35 minutes per side, or until the meat reaches 150-160 degrees. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before serving in the foil pouches.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I went on vaccation and didn't cook anything...

...so I have absolutely no idea what to post! My Dad grilled some wonderful tri-tip. My sister cooked a variety of awesome dishes ranging from sauteed green beans to cocoa nib cake (and I have no idea where to get those recipes). My Mom made pancakes and french toast and popcorn (with her new fancy movie theater popcorn popper). The one thing I did cook while visiting was German pancakes, which is just like Yorkshire pudding, but with butter instead of beef drippings. Anyways, I didn't want to miss posting today, but you'll have to wait till Thursday for an original recipe. Until then, try the ones I just linked to!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Triple-Tomato Pizza

I don't like a lot of meats on my pizza. In fact, my favorite pizza has very little other than tomato-based products.

  • 1 recipe pizza dough from Tuesday
  • 1 tablespoon plain olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced/pressed fine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • a hunk of Parmesan cheese rind (off of a real hunk of parmigiano reggiano, if you can get it)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (if packed in oil, drain and rinse off the oil)
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (from the aforementioned hunk!)

Prepare the dough through the rise step, but do not shape it. Heat the plain olive oil over medium heat and sweat the onions with the salt and red chili flakes. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and cook for 30-45 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and oregano and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the cheese rind and cook for 5-10 minutes at a low simmer, reducing heat if it starts to boil.

Shape the dough according to Tuesday's recipe and place on the pizza peel as instructed. Remove the cheese rind from the sauce and discard. Brush the dough with the extra-virgin oil and spoon on 2-3 tablespoons of sauce. Spread the sauce to evenly cover the crust. Sprinkle on the sun-dried tomatoes. Evenly spread the mozzarella and cover with Roma tomatoes. Bake as instructed on Tuesday. When the pizza is done, pull from the oven and sprinkle on the basil and Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pizza Crust

Most people think that homemade pizza won't be as good as one from a real pizzeria. Really, there are very few things that you need to make excellent pizza at home: a pizza peel (you gotta get the pizza in and out of the oven), a pizza stone (or some ceramic tiles from a hardware store), and a good dough recipe. Now while you need to spend money on the first two, I've got you covered on the last one!

  • 4.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm (not hot) water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt)
  • 1 package instant yeast
  • cornmeal for the pizza peel and stone

Put about half the flour into the work bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water, salt, and yeast and stir to combine. When it is all combined, put a greased dough hook on the mixer and put on medium speed. Slowly add flour, increasing power as needed to keep the hook moving, until the dough climbs up the hook and is not very sticky (you may need only 4 out of the total 4.5 cups this recipe calls for - don't just add it all as you don't want the dough too dry). Knead for 5-10 minutes, or until you can pull a little piece of dough off and stretch it into a thin membrane (known as a "baker's window" because you can almost see through it). Put the dough into a bowl more than twice its size, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for an hour. If you do not want to start cooking after an hour of rise, place in the refrigerator until you want to start cooking.

Put your pizza stone on the bottom rack of a cold oven and remove any other racks. Set the oven to 450 and turn on.

Lightly flour a clean countertop or large cutting board. With floured hands, place the dough ball on the work surface and start stretching to match the size of your pizza stone (if you want thin and crispy crust, only use half the dough per pizza). When the dough is stretched out almost as much as you need, pull the edges out a little bit and pinch together a lip of dough for the crust on all sides. Lay the dough flat on the work surface and make it bumpy by "knocking" it with your knuckles or fingertips. Put a thin layer of cornmeal on the pizza peel and carefully move the crust to the peel. Add sauce (sparingly), cheese and a topping or two. Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal onto the hot pizza stone and carefully slide the pizza off the peel onto the stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is crispy.

SPECIAL PREVIEW: If you wait for Thursday, there will be a post for the best set of sauce and toppings for this pizza you can do!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stovetop Popcorn

So air-popped popcorn is a great treat. Fat-free (until you add butter), quick, easy - I'm a fan. However, it is lacking in the flavor department. Also, it is really hard for salt to stick to dry popcorn, and popcorn needs at least a little salt to be all that it can be. Alton Brown developed this procedure for doing popcorn on the stovetop, and I must say that it is the best popcorn I've ever had. Since supermarket kernels are bred for bulk and poppability, you might want to consider specialty kernels on the Internet or a health food store - they actually have a flavor of something other than butter and salt!

A Note on Popcorn Salt
I only buy two kinds of salt: kosher and pickling. I really dislike the metallic taste that iodized salt has. Kosher salt is very cheap and tastes great on most stuff. However, you should not use kosher salt on popcorn, it's too course. You can make the fine powdery popcorn salt they use at movie theaters by putting regular kosher salt in a blender and grinding it down on high power. If you don't have any kosher salt, you could use pickling salt, but it's still a little course for me.

  • A large stainless steel mixing bowl (available from the restaurant supply store for cheap)
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • An oven mitt, hot pad, or welding glove
  • 3 tablespoons vegatable, canola, or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup good-quality popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

Pour the oil into the bottom of the mixing bowl. Add the popcorn kernels and sprinkle on the salt. Tightly seal the bowl with foil and poke 15 holes in it with the tip of a knife. Put on the oven mitt, put the bowl over medium-high heat and gently shake back and forth (if you've ever done Jiffy Pop, you know what I'm talking about). When the kernels start to pop, shake vigorously (this is the part where it might burn, so keep the popped kernels moving)! As soon as the popping stops, immediately take off the heat and remove the foil. Gently stir/toss in the butter and serve hot.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Orange Slush

There's nothing like a delicious fresh-squeezed orange drink, especially when you've kicked it up by making it frozen! Your frozen dessert will taste much better if you use fresh squeezed OJ, but from the carton is OK too.

  • 1 ice cube tray of frozen orange juice
  • 6 tablespoons (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) orange juice (non-frozen, but cold as possible)
  • 1 cup cold whole milk
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix in a blender until smooth and frothy. Serve immediately. Makes about 4 cups.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Slight Format Change (Sorry)

As of late, I've been having trouble making 3 posts a week. I figure consistency is more important than volume, so I'll be making new posts on Tuesday and Thursday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mexican Lasagna

I love enchiladas. The one problem is that they are messy and hard to make. Why go through all the trouble of rolling up tortillas with cheese, meat, and sauce if it's just going to ooze all over the place when you eat it. Why not forgo the filling and rolling and just layer it - like lasagna! (Why should the Italians have all the fun?) I know this is really just "enchilada casserole," but "Mexican Lasagna" sounds so much more exotic!

Taco Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (freshly toasted and ground would be nice)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Mexican Lasagna
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (4 ounce) can hot green chilies
  • 1 recipe taco seasoning, see above (or cheat and use a packet of prepared taco seasoning - but it won't be as good!)
  • 15 corn tortillas
  • 14 oz farmers cheese, chopped/crumbled (or use 15 ounces of cottage cheese, queso fresco, or any soft and mild flavored cheese)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of black beans
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (more if you like it)

Season beef with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until no longer pink; drain (a stainless steel colander works well for this). Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, and taco seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine farmer's cheese and egg; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Put down a layer of 5 slightly overlapping tortillas (you may need to tear a couple in half to get them to fit and cover evenly). Evenly spread a third of the beef mixture into the dish, half of the cheese/egg mixture, and half of the beans. Repeat with another layer of tortillas, meat, cheese, and beans. Add one more layer of tortillas, the remaining meat sauce, and all of the shredded Mexican cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pork Spareribs with BBQ Rub #2

So I know I've posted ribs before, but these are different. The last time, they were baby back ribs, which are smaller, more tender, and a little less juicy than spareribs. Additionally, spareribs have a much higher meat/bone ratio and a bit more fat, making them more succulent and chewy as you eat them. Besides the difference in meat, this rub is sweet/savory - no heat; I think this lets the flavor of the pork shine though more. One word of warning about this recipe: the sauce is tangy! If you like a sweeter sauce, add ¼ cup brown sugar, but I don't recommend it ;)

Rub Ingredients
This makes more than enough rub for one large rack of ribs, but not enough for two, so double it if you're serving more than 4 people.
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1½ tablespoons Old Bay seasoning (a seafood seasoning, but you could use creole seasoning or chili powder instead)
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper
Sauce Ingredients
This definitely makes enough for two racks of ribs
  • one 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup 
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Rinse and pat dry one or two racks of pork spareribs. Lay the ribs on a large piece of aluminum foil (one piece per slab). Liberally apply rub to both sides of the ribs and pat on to adhere. Lay the ribs meaty side down on the foil and wrap tightly. Place the rib packets on a sheet pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but 8-16 would be best. Discard the foil and smoke the ribs low and slow for 2-4 hours (6 if you really like 'em smoky), meat side down for the first hour, then meat side up for the rest.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile mix all sauce ingredients together and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Get new sheets of aluminum foil. Put the smoked ribs on the foil and start to fold up the sides so the sauce can be poured on. Pour on enough sauce to thoroughly cover the ribs, but not to submerge them. Seal the rib packet and cook in the oven for another 1½ - 2 hours on a sheet pan.

Combine any leftover sauce and all the liquid from the packets in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until thickened. Keep the ribs wrapped in foil while the sauce simmers. Rest the ribs for a total of 15-20 minutes before cutting into individual pieces and serving with sauce on the side.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quick Pork Stir-Fry

Sometimes you don't have time to do a big production dinner. That's why I keep a few "essentials" in the freezer at all times. Some leftovers combined with frozen vegetables and some pantry staples make for a quick and tasty dinner that even kids will eat.

  • 2 packages Ramen noodles (since you're not using the seasoning, it doesn't matter which kind)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 pound frozen stir-fry vegetables (I like Western Family's "Premium Stir Fry")
  • 8 ounces leftover roast/grilled pork (loin, tenderloin, chops, etc.), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or black)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a medium bowl, soak the Ramen noodles in plenty of hot tap water. Have a colander handy so you can drain them quickly. Mix the soy sauce, broth, vinegar, sugar, pepper, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch in a lidded jar. Seal and shake vigorously to evenly distribute the cornstarch and remove any lumps. Heat the sesame oil in a large saute pan over high heat (or use a wok if you have a wok burner, but please don't use a wok on a normal kitchen rangetop!). When the oil just starts to smoke, add the vegetables. Stir so the vegatables are a spread out as possible, to maximize evaporation of the water that melts off. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are completely hot and start to soften. Add the pork and cook until heated through, 30 seconds to a minute. Give the sauce a final shake (to ensure the cornstarch hasn't settled) and add to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, or until it has thickened slightly. Quickly drain the noodles and add to the pan. Gently toss to evenly break up/distribute the noodle bricks and coat the noodles in the sauce. Serve immediatley.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken & Raspberry Sauce

Raspberry sauce? Yes! This dish is quite nice with a side of rice and some roasted asparagus.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard (yellow or brown - your choice)
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (with or without seeds, as you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Season both sides of the chicken with the salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel saute pan over medium heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the chicken and cook without stirring about 5-6 minutes per side, or until the chicken is golden brown on the outside and the middle reaches 150-155 degrees. Remove the chicken to a warm plate and cover with aluminum foil.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, stirring to remove any browned bits. Add the mustard and vinegar and simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid reduces by about half. Add the jam and reduce the heat to low, simmering until the jam has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cold butter, one piece at a time until it is all integrated. Put the chicken back in the pan along with any accumulated juices. Toss the chicken in the sauce. Serve the chicken with the remaining sauce on the side (for rice or veggies).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad

First: I'm sorry for the week (or more) without a post - I'm such a slacker!

Second: Now that the weather is nice (more or less) all the time, it's time to bust out the BBQ. I know a lot of people like to grill salmon hot and fast, but I prefer smoking it low and slow. The smokiness adds a real depth of flavor that you don't get from cooking it over high heat. If you don't have a grill or smoker, you can use a broiler or grill pan along with a light spritzing of liquid smoke for added flavor.


  • 1/4 cup pickling salt (don't use table salt - it has a metallic taste from the iodine)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon 5-spice powder (ginger, clove, cinnamon, anise, fennel)
  • 20-24 ounces salmon, pin bones removed (or use 4 frozen salmon fillets, thawed)

Combine the salt, sugar, garlic, pepper, and the 5-spice powder. Rinse and pat dry the salmon. Apply about 2 tablespoons of the salt cure mixture to each side of the salmon (don't apply to any skin). and pat on to adhere. Reserve the remaining cure for another purpose (or the next time you make this recipe!) Tightly wrap in plastic wrap, place on a lidded baking sheet or pan (to catch any liquid) and refrigerate 6-10 hours (or overnight). Discard plastic wrap and rinse off the salt cure with cold water. Pat dry and place on a rack on a baking sheet. Put in a cool, dry place with a small fan blowing on it for 2-3 hours, or until the fish dries slightly and a tacky skin has formed (called a pellicle).

Meanwhile, light 1-2 quarts of charcoal briquettes using your preferred method (I prefer a chimney starter and newspaper, and I discourage lighter fluid when smoking because it can leave a slight chemical flavor). Soak 2-4 handfuls of hardwood chips (depending on how smoky you like it) in water while the coals get hot. When the coals are hot, dump them onto only half the grill. Drain the wood chips and put directly onto the coals. Put the grill grate on and put the fish on the cold half of the grill. Put on the lid, with the vent placed on the opposite side of the grill as the fire. All the vents should be half closed. Smoke until the fish reaches at least 140 degrees (30-45 minutes), but you can go longer if you want a smokier flavor (I generally go to about 180-200). Either serve the fish immediately (very nice as a fish sandwich on sourdough toast with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato), or put on a plate wrapped with aluminum foil, chill completely, and put into the salad that follows.


  • 1 pound of pasta (rotini, fusili, or some other twisty variety), cooked according to package directions in salted water (it should be soft, not mushy - a little bit past al dente), rinsed and chilled.
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped, lightly salted, and put in a colander (in the sink or with a bowl underneath!) for 15-30 minutes to drain excess liquid
  • 1/4 cup roasted bell peppers (either freshly roasted or from a jar), chopped.
  • 1 recipe smoked salmon (see above), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 3-4 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons red or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

Toss together pasta, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and salmon. Mix together oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and pepper and fold into the salad until everything is coated. Serve with fresh melon slices and garlic toast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cross-Rib Pot Roast

I think we too often overlook some very fine pieces of meat because we are unfamiliar with them. I went to the store the other day and the butcher was out of chuck roast (my preferred pot roast cut). Since I really wanted to do a pot roast, I looked for other cuts. I've been disappointed by round/rump cuts as pot roast, and I wasn't in the mood for brisket. That left the cross-rib roast. I'd never personally done one before and was not disappointed - moist, tender, and flavorful, I'm sure I'll be doing this again soon.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 cross-rib roast, 2-4 pounds.
  • 1 small onion, frenched
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a dutch oven over high heat. When the oil is smoking, brown all sides of roast, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove roast to a plate, reduce heat to medium-high and add remaining oil and vegetables. Saute veggies until the onions are softened and everything starts to brown, 3-5 minutes. Deglaze the dutch oven with broth and add the soup. Stir everything to combine, add the bay leaf and put the roast back in the dutch oven. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and roast in the oven for 4-5 hours, or until the roast is fork-tender. Remove the roast to a serving dish and cover with foil. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Using a stick blender, puree the remaining liquid and vegetables. Shred the roast with two forks and mix in some of the pureed gravy. Serve with potatoes or as a sandwich with gravy on the side.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuna Quesadillas

A nice way to use up leftover cabbage, since most people I know always have a can of tuna around for emergencies.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can tuna
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled queso blanco (Mexican white cheese)
  • 8 large flour tortillas

Saute the cabbage in olive oil in a large nonstick pan set over medium-high heat until the cabbage starts to brown. Add the chiles, tuna, and lime juice and reduce heat to medium. Cook until almost dry and transfer to a medium bowl.

Wipe out the pan with paper towels that have been dipped in a little bit of oil. Heat the pan over medium heat. Brush one side of a tortilla with oil. Put in the pan oil side down and brush a little water on the other side. Put 1/4 the cabbage mixture on the tortilla along with 1/4 of the cheese. Brush one side of another tortilla with water. Make a sandwich with the other tortilla, water side down. Brush a little oil on the top side. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the bottom tortilla is golden brown. Flip and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes, again until golden brown. Keep warm while repeating with the remaining tortillas and filling. Makes 4 full-size quesadillas. Serve with sour cream, diced green onions, and hot sauce.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Introducing the "Mexican" tag

By the way, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, I have marked all the Mexican-flavored dishes with the "Mexican" tag. This should make finding the spicy recipes you'll want for this week very easy.

Fish Tacos

It's Cinco de Mayo week. Two bits, four bits, six bits, a peso. All for tacos, Stand up and say so!


  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly ground from toasted whole seeds would be best)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lime's worth of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets, cut into 2-ounce strips
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw
  • 1 cup mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, including salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge while preparing the rest of the dish.

Mix together flour, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a pie pan or small square casserole. Dredge the fish strips in the flour, shaking off any excess so only a light dusting remains. Place floured fish strips on a wire rack until they are all floured.

Heat oven on its lowest setting. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmery. Carefully lay as many fish strips as will fit in the pan without crowding it. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Put the cooked fish in the warm oven (on a sheet of aluminum foil or a sheet pan) as you cook each batch.

Meanwhile, heat a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the middle and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the cooked side is light brown, speckled with dark brown. Flip and sprinkle salt on the cooked side. Toast the second side for about half as long, until it just starts to color. Remove the tortilla and quickly (and gently) fold in half to make a taco shell, with the salted/browned side out. Hold it folded for about 30 seconds while it cools (you may wish to use tongs or paper towels to avoid burning your fingers). When it cools slightly, it should hold it's folded shape. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Note: If you are not an experienced kitchen juggler, you may wish to make the tortilla shells first, then cook the fish. As you become more familiar with the timing, you may want to save time by cooking both at the same time.

To serve: place a fish strip in a taco shell. Top with onion, tomato, cabbage, cheese, and sauce.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Baked Beans

I'm going to a barbecue today, and I need to bring a dish to share. I think baked beans is the best BBQ side dish ever, and in case anyone asks me for the recipe, I figured I could put it here!

  • 1 pound Great Northern beans, picked over to remove stones and bad beans
  • 1 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped (remove the ribs for milder flavor)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cans vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Soak the beans overnight (no more than 12 hours) in a non-reactive bowl in plenty of water (enough to cover the beans by several inches).

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Drain the beans, reserving the leftover soaking water. Add enough broth to the soaking water to make a total of 4 cups of liquid, set aside. Cook bacon, onion, and jalapenos in a large dutch oven over medium heat until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, molasses, and brown sugar. Stir to combine and cook for 30 seconds. Add the beans and water/broth mixture and bring to a boil on high heat. Add the salt and peppers, stir, cover, and bake in the oven for 6-8 hours, until the beans are tender.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barley-Mushroom Risotto

Normally, risotto is a rice dish (in fact, an Italian would say that you can't make risotto unless it's with rice). However, any grain that releases starch and absorbs liquid as it cooks can be made into risotto (or a least a risotto-like porridge). The barley and mushrooms in this recipe give the dish a earthy richness that is almost beefy. You could make this as a main dish for a light supper or it would go great as a side dish to almost any meat - especially steak!

  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I like the vegetable better)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups packed chopped spinach, kale, or other greens
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the good stuff, not from the green can!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (to taste) fresh ground black pepper

Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan or kettle. Reduce heat to low and keep it hot.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat until shimmery. Add onion, mushrooms, and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms have browned and the onions are fully cooked. Add barley and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is almost completely absorbed. Add more broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly at a simmer until each addition is absorbed before adding the next 1/4 cup. After 20 minutes of this, add bell pepper and continue adding/stirring broth. There should be about 30 minutes total cooking time. When the last addition of broth goes in, add spinach and simmer until the spinach is cooked and the barley is tender. Stir in cheese and black pepper and serve.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beef with Cabbage and Carrots

Who hasn't had some leftover ground beef that needed to be cooked up? This recipe only takes a few minutes to cook up and uses up leftover meat and vegetables that you were just going to throw out anyways. If you don't like/have carrots and cabbage, you could use bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, or anything else you would stir-fry.

  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (AKA sushi vinegar)

Brown beef in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Increase heat to medium-high and add cabbage, carrots, caraway, salt, and pepper. Stir fry for 5-10 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened. Add vinegar and cook for 30 more seconds. Serve immediately with rice.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Super Chocolatey Cookies

Most "chocolate" cookies are not very chocolatey. I believe the problem is that they are normally made from cocoa powder, which contains only chocolate solids. Cookies made from coca powder will not have any cocoa butter, which gives richness and savoriness that is sorely missed. These cookies have no cocoa powder at all - all the chocolate flavor comes from actual chocolate - 3 kinds in fact (semi-sweet, bittersweet, and unsweetened) - complete with the cocoa butter. The presence of all that fat makes these cookies quite fudgy - more like brownie bites than cookies. One important thing to note is that this cocoa butter will crystalize and become grainy if it cools too quickly. To prevent this, it is recommended that you let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet set on a cooling rack.

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (not chopped bittersweet bar chocolate - the texture won't be right - I prefer Ghiridelli's 60% cacao chips)
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (put cold eggs in hot tap water for 2-3 minutes to warm them up)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Hershey's are good)

Create a chocolate melting rig by wrapping a small metal bowl with an electric heating pad and putting that in a large glass bowl. Put the unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate along with the butter in the metal bowl and turn the heating pad on high. Stir every few minutes until the chocolate is smooth and glossy, between 30 and 60 minutes. Remove metal bowl from heat and set aside to cool slightly. If you're in a rush, you can use a double boiler, but the heating pad is a lot less stress.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer on medium-high until very thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in chocolate mixture until combined, 30-60 seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a large, stiff rubber or silacone spatula, fold the flour mixture and semi-sweet chips into the chocolate-egg mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let thicken for 20-30 minutes, until the batter looks like thick brownie batter or ganache.

Meanwhile, put the oven racks on the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and drop by heaping tablespoonfulls, 2 inches apart (I use a #60 disher). Bake until cookies are shiny and cracked on top, 11-14 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through the cooking time. Let cool completely on the baking sheets set on cooling racks before serving. Makes between 35 and 50 cookies, depending on how heavy you scoop the batter.