Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Medieval Islamic Dinner

A couple of friends have been enthusiastically asking me to cook for them for awhile. We finally found a mutually acceptable date, so the spouse and I went over to their place, and I had the pleasure of cooking for them. I'd been wanting to try some dishes that I'm thinking about for a feast I am co-ordinating in November. I wanted to give them maximum bang for their buck, so to speak, so did the full meal thing: appetizer, main dish, dessert.

For the appetizer, I made a chickpea paste with pita bread. This is an ancestor of humus, but without tahini. It's flavored with preserved lemons, white wine vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and served with fresh mint and parsley, and olive oil. I really liked it. The pickled lemons gave it a unique tang. I did have to run the food processor longer than I usually do to make humus, the lemon was resistant. The fresh herbs added a nice contrast.

For the main dish, I made spice rubbed sauteed beef cubes with almond stuffed dates, on a bed of walnut butter couscous, with fried eggplant with a sweet and sour sauce. The beef is a London broil, cut into cubes. I tossed it with a spice rub of coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger,and kosher salt. It was sauteed with dates stuffed with whole blanched almonds. The sweet dates added a nice contrast to the spicy beef.  I cooked the beef just to a nice medium rare. It came out juicy and tender. The walnut butter couscous was rich and fragrant, I'm particularly happy with it. The eggplant was fried in shallow oil, until brown. It was dressed with a sauce of lemon juice, white wine vinegar, sugar, cilantro, parsley, mint, garlic, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon. The acid of the sauce helped cut the richness of the beef and couscous.

For dessert, I kept it simple. I made fried bananas with pistachio syrup. The bananas were fried in a little butter on the griddle, until golden brown. The syrup was a simple syrup of sugar and water, with a little salt, and rough chopped pistachios. For all it's simplicity, it was very good. It was missing a cold component and a little acid, though. I think next time I will serve it with a little cardamon-honey creme fraiche.

All-in-all, I'm very pleased with this meal. I feel I'm starting to get a handle on plating. I felt really good about timing and multi-tasking to get all the components of the main dish to finish at the same time. I think the balance of flavors, and textures was spot on.


Chickpea Paste with Preserved Lemon

1 8 oz. can chickpeas
1/2 a preserved lemon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. chopped mint
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tbsp. olive oil

Drain chickpeas, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid. Place chickpeas, chickpea liquid, lemon, vinegar, spices, and salt into a food processor. Process until smooth. Place on a platter, sprinkle with fresh herbs, drizzle with olive oil. Serve with wedges of flat bread, like lavosh or pita.

Sauteed Beef with Dates

1 1/2 lbs London boil
8 oz. pitted dates
1/3 cup blanched whole almonds
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. olive oil

Carefully insert an almond into the cavity of each date, set aside. Cut beef into 3/4 inch cubes. Grind up coriander in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. In a small bowl, mix salt and spices. Toss beef cubes with spice mix until well coated. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add dates, saute for a couple of minutes, then add beef. Cook until meat is browned, but still pink in the middle.

Walnut butter couscous

2/3 cup walnuts
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2 cups dried couscous
4 cups boiling water

Place walnuts in a food processor. Process, drizzling in olive oil until walnuts are a thick, peanut butter-like paste. Set aside. Place couscous in a bowl, pour on boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Use a spoon to fluff up couscous. Add walnut butter and salt, stir until butter is incorporated.

Fried Eggplant with Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 eggplant
juice of 1 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chopped mint
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
canola oil for frying

In a small saucepan, simmer juice, vinegar, spices, herbs, salt and sugar over medium-low heat. Cook until sugar dissolves, and garlic is tender.

Slice eggplant into 1/2 thick slices. Put a thin layer of canola oil into a frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry eggplant on both sides until brown, place on paper towels to drain. Plate eggplant, drizzle with sauce.

Fried Bananas with Pistachio Syrup

3 bananas, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt

Place water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer until sugar and salt are dissolved, let cook until slightly thickened. Stir in nuts, set aside.

Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. When hot, lightly coat with butter. Fry bananas on both sides until bananas are caramelized, and softened. Plate sauce, arrange bananas on top.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

German Red Cabbage

For my wine class tonight, we were tasting German wines. So, I decided to make a German style red cabbage. I used the crock pot to slow cook it. It was flavored with apple, red onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, caraway, celery seed, black pepper, and apple cider vinegar. I was really happy with it. The spiciness and apple matched really well with a fruity and peppery Riesling.

German Red Cabbage

1 large red cabbage, shredded
2 small red onions, diced
2 Fuji apples, diced
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seed
1 1/2 tsp. celery seed
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 pinches ground clove
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

Place 1/4 of cabbage in a crock pot. Layer 1/3 of apples and onions. Sprinkle on 1/3 of spices. Repeat twice more. Cover with last 1/4 of cabbage. Pour vinegar over cabbage. Put on lid, cook on high for at least 6 hours. Stir thoroughly before serving.

Happy Eating!

Chicken Party Recipes Part 2

So this is the second set of recipes for the Chicken Party. The first four recipes are already up.

Ravioli with Hazelnut-Sage Chicken

1 9 oz. package fresh mini ravioli
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 + 3 tbsp. butter
12 fresh sage leaves
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
salt and pepper to taste

Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain when done, set aside.

While ravioli is cooking:

In a saute pan, heat olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Saute chicken, seasoning with salt and pepper. When browned, remove from pan. Add 3 tbsp. butter, sage, and lemon zest. Cook until sage is tender. Return chicken to pan, add ravioli. Toss, cook until everything is hot. Garnish with hazelnuts.

Maple-Pomegranate Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Skewers

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 4 inch pieces
6 green onions cut into 4 inch pieces
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ginger

Soak bamboo or wooden skewers in water. Wrap chicken pieces in bacon, place on skewers with scallion pieces. Mix pomegranate molasses, maple syrup, and ginger. Grill skewers, brushing with glaze. Cook, turning frequently, until both chicken and bacon are done.

Sweet Pepper-Zucchini Slaw

3 medium zucchini, shredded
4 small sweet peppers, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 + 1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup pomegranate flavored dried cranberries

Place shredded zucchini in a colander with 1 tsp. kosher salt. Let sit 10 minutes, then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Mix  with peppers. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, salt, and pomegranate molasses. Toss with peppers and zucchini. Chill. When served, garnish with dried cranberries.

Green Chili Chicken Stew

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
14 oz. chicken stock
1/4 cup corn meal
2 medium carrots, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
6 4 inch diameter corn tortillas
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
canola oil to fry

Cut tortillas into thin strips. Place 1/2 inch oil in a frying pan. Heat to 370 degrees. Fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels, and set aside.

Place chicken, stock, and corn meal in a crock pot. Cook on high until chicken is done. Remove chicken, shred, and return to pot. Add cumin and carrots. Cook about an hour and a half. Add celery, cook until tender. Garnish with cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chicken Party Recipes Part 1

The first post on the Chicken Tasting Party has the pictures of the dishes and the descriptions. Here are the recipes for the first four dishes.

Chicken, Hazelnut, and Dried Cranberry Salad

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 salt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tbsp honey.
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
micro basil to garnish

Cut chicken into 1/2 inch cubes. Simmer chicken, oregano, thyme, and salt in a water in a small sauce pan. When chicken is done, strain and cool. In a bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt, rosemary, and honey. Stir in chicken, nuts, and cranberries. Plate, garnish with micro basil.

Asian Cold Noodle Salad

1 lb. chicken tenders
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup lime juice
3 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 small hot chilies, minced
8 oz. rice noodles
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 small white cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 lb. pea pods, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup white parts of scallions, cut in thin slices
2 tbsp. basil, cut in thin strips

Dice chicken. Place unsalted peanuts in a food processor. Process peanuts, dribbling in olive oil until peanuts have the consistency of peanut butter. Whisk together fresh peanut butter, lime, juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and chilies. Place chicken and 1/2 sauce in a sealable plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least two hours. Bring a stock pot of water to a boil. Turn off heat, add rice noodles, let stand ten minutes. Drain noodles, place in an ice water bath to stop cooking. Remove from bath and refrigerate noodles. Remove chicken from marinade, stir fry in a hot wok with a little canola oil. Cool chicken. Toss noodles with chicken, vegetables, and remaining sauce. Garnish with scallions, basil, and peanuts.

Eggplant Parmigiana with Chicken Alfredo Sauce

For eggplant parmigiana:

2 medium white eggplant
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. Italian herb seasoning
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2 eggs, beaten
canola oil for frying

Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, and salt. In a large frying pan, put 3/4 inch of canola oil, heat to 370 degrees. Run eggplant slices through egg, then dredge with breadcrumb mixture. Fry eggplant in oil, a few at a time, turning over once. Cook until golden brown on both sides.

For chicken alfredo sauce:

2 boneless skinnless chicken breasts
1 cup butter
2 cups heavy cream
2 8 oz packages cream cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste.

Season breasts with salt and pepper. Grill on a hot grill until cooked through. Let cool, then shred meat. In a large saucepan on medium-low heat, melt butter. Add cream and cream cheese, stir until cream cheese is melted and incorporated with the butter. Add parmesan and garlic, stir until melted. Add shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Hoisin Barbeque Sauce

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs
3 small white cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 large red onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 plus 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. whole allspice berries
1 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
24 Hawaiian sweet rolls

Place chicken in crockpot on high. When cooked, shred. For the pickle, place cucumber and onion in a bowl, mix with salt and lemon juice. In a small saucepan, place 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, allspice, cloves, peppercorns, chili powder, and sugar. Bring to a boil, cook until sugar is disolved. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature. Pour over cucumbers and onions, place in refridgerator to chill. For barbeque sauce, in a saute pan over medium heat, saute garlic in olive oil. Add hoisin, soy, and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Cook until thickened. Add barbeque sauce to shredded chicken in the crockpot. Cut rolls in half, place on a cookie sheet cut side up. Place under a low broiler for about a minute, until rolls are lightly toasted. Put a layer of chicken on each bun, top with pickled vegetables.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Garlic-Sage Chicken, Chrispy Fried Okra, and Rainbow Chard with Bacon

Tonight was about using up things that needed to be used. I had about a pound of chicken breast left over from the Chicken Tasting Party. I also had some purple okra and rainbow chard from our CSA that needed to be used before it went bad. So far, I've only found two ways to use okra effectively, throw it into a soup or stew just before serving, or bread it and fry it. Admittedly, just about anything can be made tasty that way. I had some leftover bacon, and bacon and greens is always a good combination. Finally, I had leftover sage, and sage and chicken are a classic.

The chicken is sauteed with onion, garlic, and sage. I used both the stems and leaves of the chard. They have different textures, and I like the contrast. The chard stems are cooked in the bacon fat, then the greens and some rice vinegar added to steam and wilt. I breaded the okra in seasoned cornmeal, then fried in hot canola oil.


Garlic-Sage Chicken

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
12 large fresh sage leaves, cut into thirds
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Toss chicken cubes with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. In a medium-hot pan, add olive oil and chicken. Saute until browned, but not completely cooked. Add onion and sage, cook until onion is nearly translucent, then add garlic. Cook until chicken is done, but still moist.

Crispy Fried Okra

1/2 lb. fresh okra
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 egg, beaten
canola oil for frying

Trim okra, then cut into approximately 1/2 inch long pieces. Mix cornmeal, salt, and spices in a bowl. In a small saute pan, add about 3/4 inch of canola oil. Heat to 370 degrees. Toss okra with egg, then cornmeal mixture, until well coated. In small batches, fry okra until brown and crispy. Be careful not to crowd the pan.

Rainbow Chard with Bacon

2 bunches rainbow chard
1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Chop chard into 1 inch long pieces, keeping stems and leaves separate. In a stock pot on medium heat, cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon. Cook stems in bacon fat until tender. Add leaves and vinegar, put on lid. let steam until chard is wilted. Return bacon ton pan and toss.

Happy Eating!

On Recipes

There is something I'd like to touch on that I feel is implicit in my posts, but I'd like to make it explicit. When I put up a recipe, it is intended to be descriptive, not proscriptive. That is, it is meant to document what I did, but not to put limits on what you do with it. So, I may specify certain ingredients, but their use just means it's what I had. Say I specify Persian cucumber, unless I give you good reasons why they are superior for this purpose, just use whatever cucumbers you have. Feel free to substitute, reduce, increase, add, remove, etc. to your hearts desire

Then come leave a comment and tell me what you did, 'cause I'd love to know.

Happy Eating!

Chicken Party

The spouse is mildly addicted to the House Party website. It's kind of a weird site, where commercial companies offer stuff if you host a party to promote their products. There are a limited number of each party, so you apply, and you might get chosen, or you might not. The spouse has won a few, including one from Werther's, where they sent us bags and bags of candy, and now one from Foster Farms.

Luckily, they didn't mail us chicken. Instead, they gave us two $25 coupons, fourteen reusable shopping bags, a cookbook, and a chef's jacket. Amazingly, the jacket fit me almost perfectly. So, I added a picture of me in it to the blog. To pay for all the swag, however, you have to hold, and document, an actual get together.

So, the plan by the spouse was to have people over, and do lots of little dishes. We ended up settling on eight courses. Now, we both have been enamored of the concept of a tasting party for some time. The little dishes are really cute, and the spouse found some on sale cheap. Seemed like a good thing to try. We did a few old favorites, a few from the recipe book they sent, and few made up on the fly by me.

My goddaughter did yeoman duty as sou chef all day. She was a joy to work with, and I couldn't have pulled it off without her help. The spouse chipped in, as well as doing the bulk of scullery work keeping the pans clean throughout the day.

 For the first course, we went with a favorite cold dish; chicken, dried cranberry, and hazelnut salad. It has a great blend of tastes and textures, with chicken, dried cranberries, celery, nuts, yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, and herbs. I've done variations on this many times, and it works well with walnuts or almonds. You can also add a little diced granny smith apple, instead of the celery, for a little more tang.

I garnished it with a little micro basil from our CSA.

For the second course, we made a cold Asian chicken noodle salad. The chicken is marinated in the dressing, which has fresh ground peanut butter, fish sauce, soy sauce, chilies, garlic, and lime juice.  The chicken is then stir fried, and chilled. It's added to cold rice noodles along with fresh pea pods, and carrots. The noodles are dressed with the same sauce as the chicken was marinated in. It was garnished it with scallions, basil, and chopped peanuts.

For the third course, we made eggplant parmigiana with chicken Alfredo sauce. I had some beautiful white eggplant from my CSA. It was very firm, and quite mild. I breaded it with a mix of fine bread crumbs, shredded Parmesan, and Italian herbs. It was fried in very hot oil until brown and crisped, then placed in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. The goddaughter made the Alfredo sauce. It was a mix of butter, heavy cream, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and garlic with shredded grilled chicken. It was garnished with micro basil.
For the fourth course, we made pulled chicken in hoisin barbeque sauce with pickled cucumbers.and red onion. The chicken was cooked in a crockpot, then shredded. The BBQ sauce has hoisin sauce, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce, The cucumber and onion are pickled in lemon juice and cider vinegar, flavored with clove, allspice, black pepper, and chili powder. It's served on a toasted Hawaiian sweet roll.

For the fifth course, we served hazelnut-sage chicken with ravioli.We used a mini ravioli. The chicken was sauteed with sage and lemon zest, and then tossed with the ravioli. It was garnished with chopped hazelnuts. The consensus among the cooks was that we should have used more zest, as the lemon just didn't come through.

For the sixth course, we made bacon wrapped chicken skewers with maple-pomegranate glaze with a pepper-zucchini slaw. Hard to go wrong with bacon, and the pomegranate molasses and maple syrup, with a hint of ginger, had a great sweet/sour thing going. The slaw, is a red wine vinaigrette, was garnished with pomegranate flavored dried cranberries. The acid in the slaw helped cut the fat of the bacon and the sweet of the glaze. I'm most proud of this one. I feel it was my most original of the day.

The seventh course was a miniature version of the lime marinated grilled chicken soft tacos I made earlier. We used mini corn tortillas here, and diced things smaller in proportion.

The final course was an old favorite, green chili chicken stew. A friend developed this recipe, and it is classic. Chicken, celery, carrots, and green chilies, with cumin just works beautifully. usually served over corn chips, I instead garnished it with fried tortilla strips. It was additionally garnished with shredded cheddar cheese.

Since this post is getting soooooo looong, I will end here, and post the recipes in a separate post.

Happy Eating!

Friday, September 21, 2012

French Bread


My wine class was covering food and wine paring last night, so we were asked to sign up for specific foods. I signed up for bread, and secondarily, for the fruit, I found cheap oranges, and an enormous papaya that were perfectly ripe. For the bread, I wanted to bake a nice, simple french bread. My recipe is based on this one from the website. Got to say, is two for two on superlative recipes I've looked for. I made two batches, one plain, one sesame seed. The plain batch had an egg wash to get a crispier crust, and I used a milk wash to hold on the sesame seeds in the second batch.

One thing I like about this recipe is that is one utilizes one raising. Makes for a faster turn around between batches. Also, the food processor does all the work of kneading for you.

Food Processor French Bread

1/2 cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup water
1 egg, beaten

Place 1/2 cup warm water, yeast, and 1 tsp. sugar in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse processor once or twice to mix. Let stand 5 minutes, or until yeast is foamy. Add 3 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. sugar to processor bowl. Process for 30 seconds, then slowly add 1 cup water to the running processor. Process another 60 seconds. Check to see if dough is to sticky. If it is, add 1 Tbsp. of flour at a time, processing 15 seconds after each spoon of flour, until dough is not excessively sticky. Lightly grease a cookie sheet, and scatter cornmeal over it. Divide the dough into two parts, and roll into logs about 10" long. Place on cookie sheet. Cover with a warm, wet towel. Let rise about 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a shallow bowl of warm water on the lower rack. When dough has finished raising, brush with egg, then place in oven. Bake 10 minutes, then turn temperature down to 400, and bake another 15 minutes.
Happy Eating!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

End of Summer Bounty

This is the last box from our CSA for the summer. This time around we got spinach, lettuce, rainbow chard, zucchini, onions, white egg plant, purple beans, mixed sweet peppers, heirloom tomatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes, and micro basil. I tasted the purple beans, and they are surprisingly sweet. I think at least some of them will get just lightly blanched, and made into salad with the cherry tomatoes. I have a surfeit of eggplant, so I think eggplant parmigiana will be a dinner soon. As always, if anyone has any good ideas for using these vegetables, let me know.

Happy Eating!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pork and Apple Meatballs with Goat Cheese Chili Rellenos

For tonight's dinner, I wanted to use some of the beautiful sweet chilies from my CSA. I've never made chili rellenos, but they are one of my favorite foods, so I thought I'd give them a try. I used these instructions  from as my basis.  I'm pretty happy with the results. I'm not sure what varieties I used, as Suzie's didn't let me know what we had. I used two medium size chilies, and two slightly smaller chilies, which are the ones pictured. I roasted the chilies on the grill, until the chilies were soft, and the skins blackened. Once cool, I removed the skins, then made a small slit in each chili, and removed the seeds and membranes with a small spoon. The filling is a mix of cream cheese with a little goat cheese, and a little cumin.  I whipped the cheese smooth, then piped it into the slits in the chilies. The batter is egg whites beaten to stiff peaks, with the yolks whisked lightly with a little salt, and folded into the whites. I deep fried the chilies in 375 degree canola oil, until golden brown.

For the protein, I had some lean ground pork, so made meatballs with granny smith apple, and an apple cider reduction sauce using some Ace Joker hard cider. This is a medium dry cider with a distinctly champagne-like taste and texture. I added a little rosemary and cinnamon to the meatballs, and the cider reduction had some honey, cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of cloves. I browned the meatballs in a pan, then finished them in a 300 degree oven. I reduced the cider by about two thirds. It worked great as a dipping sauce.

For the starch I made rice with black cumin seeds. I placed two cups of white long grain rice, 4 cups water, a tablespoon of black cumin seeds, and a teaspoon of kosher salt in my rice cooker, and cooked it. It went very well with both the meatballs and the reduction sauce.


Pork and Apple Meatballs

1.2 lbs lean ground pork
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 granny smith apple, diced
2 medium eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
a pinch nutmeg
2 Tbsp. canola oil

In a large bowl, mix everything except oil together. Form meat mixture into golf ball sized balls. Add oil to a medium hot pan, and fry meatballs until golder brown. Transfer pan to a 300 degree oven, and bake until cooked through.

Apple Cider Reduction  Sauce

24 oz. (two bottles) Ace Joker Hard Cider
4 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
 a pinch ground clove

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until volume is reduced by about 2/3.

Goat Cheese Chili Rellenos

4 medium sweet chilies
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. goat cheese
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
four eggs, separated

Roast chilies on a gas grill or over a gas burner, until chilies are soft, and skins blackened all around. Cool, then peel off skins. Make a small slit in each chili, and use a small spoon to remove seeds and inner membranes.

In the bowl of a mixer, add cheeses, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. beat until smooth, then transfer to a piping bag. pipe cheese mixture into the slit in each chili. Do not over fill.

In a chilled bowl, beat egg whites to medium peaks. Whisk egg yolks with 1/4 tsp. salt. Fold yolks gently into egg whites.

Lightly coat chilies with flour. Dip chilies into egg batter, coating liberally. Fry in 375 degree oil until golden brown on both sides.

Happy eating!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grilled Bourbon Marinated Skirt Steak with Garam Masala Potatoes

This September is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record in San Diego County, so we are still grilling pretty much every meal possible. Tonight I made bourbon marinated skirt steak with garam masala grilled potatoes and chili oil brushed grilled zucchini.
I marinated the skirt steak for about one half an hour.  The bourbon added a nice flavor to the steak. You want to grill it to just medium rare to medium, which with thin skirt steak doesn't take but a few minutes. Let it rest about five minutes, then slice thinly, across the grain.
The potatoes were sliced about one quarter inch thick, and tossed with olive oil, garam masala, and kosher salt. I grilled them first, getting them golden brown, then moved them to the upper rack of the grill to bake while I did everything else.
The zucchini were sliced about one half inch thick, and sprinkled with salt. I let them sit about ten minutes to release a little excess moisture, then brushed with chili oil. I grilled them to just tender.


Bourbon Marinated Skirt Steak

1 1/4 lbs. skirt steak
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
Place all ingredients in a sealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least one half hour. Grill to medium rare to medium. Rest for five minutes, slice thinly across the grain.

Garam Masala Potato Slices

4 medium russet potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. garam masala
2 tsp. kosher salt
Cut a thin slice of skin from either side of each potato, then cut potatoes into one quarter inch thick slices. In a large bowl, mix oil, garam masala, and salt. Toss potatoes slices in oil spice mixture until liberally coated. Grill on both sides until golden brown, then place on upper grill rack to back until tender.
Happy Eating!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Home Made Tortilla Chips with Cumin Salt

So, I've determined to 'follow my bliss', as Dharma used to say. For me, this means giving up trying to work in the IT industry, and going back to school for a culinary degree.  For the cost of the program, the Culinary Arts department at Grossmont College is very good, and very popular. As a first semester student, my odds of getting the baseline classes for savory and pastry were slim and none. I did get into an elective course, Wines of the World. It's a fun class. Chef Dave is funny, knowledgeable, and passionate.

We, the students, are encouraged to bring foods to pair with the wines. Last week we did a test tasting, and I brought some nice persian cucumbers from my CSA. This week, Chef Dave rrecommended chips as a good accompaniment to what we are drinking. Tonight is Champagnes of the World.

My Original thought was to make sweet potato, or even mixed root vegetable chips. But then I remembered the left over corn tortillas from the other night's soft tacos. No reason to let those go to waste. We bought a kilo, and barely reduced the pile by a noticible amount.

So, I pulled out the deep fryer, and topped off the oil. Got it heated to it's hottest setting, 375 degrees. This is really important; when deep frying use a high temperture oil, like canola, peanut, or grapeseed, and have it as hot as possible without smoking That will help ensure that foods will not be greasy. I cut the tortillas into 16ths, and fried them in small batches, making sure not to crowd the basket.

I mixed a tablespoon of cumin into a 1/4 cup of salt, and sprinkled the chips with it while they were draining on a paper towel. I think they are very tasty. Hopefully my classmates will agree.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grilled Lime Chicken Soft Tacos and Mexican Rice

Our CSA has provided us with an abundance of peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos over the last few weeks, so I thought a good Mexican meal would help use up some of that. As well, a friend gave us a pile of limes from her tree as well. Some were what you expect limes to look like, small and green. A few, however, looked like lemons; large and yellow. Scratch them, and they smelled of lime.

The lime marinated chicken came out moist and tangy. I got a good sear, and great grill marks. Slicing it across the grain ensures that it will be tender. After turning of the gas to the grill, I used the residual heat to warm up the fresh corn tortillas from my local tortilleria.

I made salsa verde, which I love, with the tomatillos.  I had a pile of wonderful cherry tomatoes from the CSA, so diced those up. I had some mixed sweet peppers, no idea what varieties other than pale yellow, orange, and bright red. I grilled those, to get a nice char on the outside, and then sliced them in thin strips. I also included some chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, and a couple of lime wedges, just in case.

Instead of sour cream, I used fat free Greek yogurt. It works really well, having a great mouth feel and tang, and being healthier, to boot.

I am generally not a fan of Mexican rice, as served at most restaurants. I haven't worked out what they do, but there is always an off taste to me. So, I thought I'd try my own, see how it came out. I'd recently tried it in a rice cooker, and it was better flavor wise, but the texture was off.  I was determined to get it right.

My recipe is based on this one from the website, which has an average rating of a smidge under 5 stars, with nearly 500 reviews. It deserves it! The method is flawless, most of my changes are out of frugality, the ingredients I had to hand, and preferred flavor profile. It produced the best Mexican rice I've ever had. Part of that may be ingredients.

For the tomato puree, I used a couple of largish yellow heirloom tomatoes, and 3 or 4 small red ones, all at the upper edge of usable ripeness. I used serranos instead of jalapenos, because that's what I had, but the flavor was great. I cut way back on the cilantro, as I didn't want it to be the dominant taste. Finally, I pureed the tomatoes and onion a little at a time to creep up to 2 cups, rather than make more than two cups and throw away the extra, as recommended in the original recipe. Just seemed wasteful to me. Rinsing the rice did seem to produce a wonderfully fluffy rice. I found that the aroma of the toasting rice was heavenly.


Grilled Lime Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
zest of one large lime
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. dehydrated onion
1/2 tsp. dehydrated garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cumin

Place all ingredients in a sealable storage bag. Remove as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Remove breasts from marinade, pat dry. Grill until done. Rest meat for 5 minutes, then slice thinly across the grain.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

1/2 lb. tomatillos, hulled and washed
1 serrano chili
1 shallot, diced
1 Tblsp. diced cilantro
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
juice of 1/2 a small lime

Cut tomatillos in half; place cut side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Place under a low broiler until soft, and slightly browned, about 3 - 5 minutes.  Let cool. Roast serrano chili over a burner until charred. Cool, remove skin, seeds, and inner membranes. 

Place tomatillos, chili, cilantro, salt, and lime juice in a blender.  Blend on low until smooth.

Mexican Rice

8 -12 oz. ripe tomatoes, cored
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 serrano chilies
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tblsp. minced garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tblsp. chopped cilantro

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender, process onion on, adding tomatoes a few at a time, until you have 2 cups puree.  Remove stems, seeds, and inner membranes from serrano chilies, then mince. Place rice in a strainer, and rinse until water runs clear, 1 - 2 minutes. In a large ceramic lined cast iron pot, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat for two minutes. And rice, fry about 8 minutes, until translucent and lightly toasted. Add garlic and serrano chilies, fry and addition couple of minutes. Turn heat down to medium low, and puree and stock. Just bring to a boil, then put on the lid, and place in oven. Bake about 25 minutes, until fully cooked.  Stir at the 15 minute mark to incorporate everything evenly.

Happy Eating!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tortelloni with Carrot Green Pesto

I love when you can use something that many people would throw out, like old bread, or vegetable trimming (but that's a future post). In this case, we are talking carrot tops. They have a wonderful green taste, like a mild parsley. They can be used in salads, but I've found that they make a superlative pesto.

For the side, I sauteed together mushrooms with green and cherry peppers, garlic, and red onion.

I did use a commercial  chicken and cheese tortelloni. Tortelloni are ideal for pesto, as they have lots of nooks and crannies to pick up the pesto.  I boil the pasta, and drain it when it is perfectly al dente. Once drained, I return it to the pot, and toss it with the pesto.

I like to strip the leaves off the stems, as the stems are a little tough. For nuts, I find that toasted pecans work great, although this time I used a mix of hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds, because that is what I had in the house.

Carrot Green Pesto

3 cups carrot fronds, rough chopped
1 cup chopped nuts
1 Tblsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup olive oil (approximately)

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor.  While food processor is running, drizzle in olive oil, about a teaspoon at a time, until pesto is smooth.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Meat Loaf with Yogurt - Dill Mashed Potatoes

Last night I was in the mood for comfort food. Being raised by a single mother, we were frequently cash-strapped.  Meatloaf was a way to stretch cheap meat even further. But, like a lot of less expensive things, it is also a vehicle for great flavor.

I like to use a mix of ground meats in  mine. This one had chicken, beef, and mild Italian sausage.  I used the course bread crumbs collected the last time I cut up old bread. I like herbs in my meatloaf, so there is rosemary, time, basil, and oregano in  it. To add umami, I like to use mushroom ketchup, but Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, even various fish sauces work as well.

I added non-fat Greek yogurt and dried dill weed to the potatoes.  It made them creamy, and the tang was a good match for the meatloaf.

For greenery, I made a salad with heirloom yellow tomato, banana and cherry peppers, celery, and mixed sprouts.


Three Meat Loaf

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground chicken
1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage
2 medium eggs
1 cup course bread crumbs
2 Tblsp. mushroom ketchup
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. kosher salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients, press into an ungreased non-stick loaf pan.  Bake 45 minutes, or until completely cooked.  Remove from pan, let rest for 5 minutes, slice on the bias to serve.

Yogurt - Dill Mashed Potatoes

4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tblsp. dried dill weed
2 tsp. kosher salt

Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain, return to pot. Add yogurt, dill, and salt.  Mash to preferred consistency. I prefer mine a little rustic, so I can tell they were real potatoes.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Late Summer Abundance

So I picked up my box from my CSA this afternoon.  It was a goodly haul. Two heads of lettuce, rainbow chard, mixed sprouts, a variety of sweet peppers, purple okra, white cucumbers, white egg plant, zucchini, onions, and a big box of cherry tomatoes. If anyone has some innovative recipes for any of this, post them in the comments.Especially for the peppers and eggplant, because I have so much.

I still have tomatillos left from the last box, if that helps.

Happy Eating!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hash and poached eggs

For breakfast I decided to make hash and eggs. Our CSA had provided us with quite a few peppers We had a lot of potatoes from Golden Share, with which we also participate.

I'm still working on poaching. I'll get it down, eventually. I was using too narrow a pan.  I'll try a larger pan next time.

For the hash, I diced three small red skinned potatoes, one half a small yellow onion, one small red bell pepper, one small green bell pepper, and one each of a cherry pepper, a banana pepper, and a Serrano chili. In a medium-hot pan, I started frying the potatoes. Once partially cooked, I added the peppers and onion.  Cooked everything for a bit then added about a tablespoon of minced garlic, one quarter teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder, and kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender.

Plate the hash, then gently place the poached eggs on top.

Happy eating!

Back to Blogging

Sorry I haven't been blogging. A combination of computer issues, being distracted by the Olympics, and re-modeling my kitchen have kept me away.

Good news on the school front.  I'm now a Grossmont student, and while it is insanely difficult to get into culinary classes, I did manage to get one, Wines of the World. Looks like it will be fun and challenging.

We got back into our CSA. We subscribe to Suzie's Farm, and have been very happy. I like the variety of things we get, it challenges me as a cook. The produce we get is very fresh, and more flavorful than stuff from the grocery store.

That's the news for now, as always, Happy Eating!