Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This is another one of the new canon of recipes that is blogged ad nauseum and really doesn't need my thoughts. However, its what I made last night and I did ad the twist of a squeeze or two of blood orange juice as I was out of lemons.

The original recipe is this one from and is easy as pie and super delicious. Here it is as I cooked it;

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon blood orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place sprouts in a cast iron pan. Add garlic, orange juice and oil and toss to coat. Season generously with salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Put pan in oven on top rack for 20 minutes and stir to coat with the hot oil. Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cook for another 5 minutes. The Parmesan can be left out if you like.

Add more salt to taste if necessary and eat as if ravenous.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chicken with French Green Lentils

I adapted this recipe from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. This book is really handy if you suddenly want to whip up something Indian or use an Indian ingredient you haven't before. Every recipe I have tried from it has turned out great.

His dish in this case was Chicken with Yellow Split Peas and had curry leaves, ginger and mustard seed which I didn't happen to have on hand. I did however have French green lentils.

Chicken with French Green Lentils

1 cup French green lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 small onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
6 skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in lentils and return to a boil, reduced heat and simmer until they begin to get tender. Stir in the tamarind paste.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. add the cumin seeds, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and cook, stirring constantly until aromatic, about 15 seconds.

Add the minced, onions, garlic and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until beginning to brown.

Arrange the chicken pieces meat side down on the onion mixture and cook until the chicken turns lightly brown. Add the salt and the turmeric. Pour in the lentils with their cooking water and give it a couple of stirs.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked and the chicken is done, about 45 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.

His recipe went on to cook mustard seeds in oil and add the curry leaves ultimately pouring the oil over the dish.

Even without this step it tasted quite delightful and evocative of the streets of Hyderabad...I can only imagine.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Banana Ice Cream

This is a crazy authentic tasting ice cream that only has one ingredient, banana. It can be accomplished using bananas a bit past their prime which makes it a great alternative to banana bread every other week. I cannot remember where I originally found this recipe. I imagine it was invented separately by many people.

I have seen more elaborate recipes but they often necessitate an ice cream maker and it seems an awful lot like gilding the lily.

Banana Ice Cream

Somewhat melted as I was having a heck of a time
 getting a decent picture...which I did not.

Cut bananas into inch long slices and place on flat surfaces such as plates or trays.

Pop into the freezer for 1 1/2 hours or so.

Toss into a blender and puree until creamy.

It can be hard on the blender motor if
your's is cheap like mine.

You will need to press the bananas down into the whirring blade, the pressing is probably best done with the motor off as evidenced by this wooden spoon.

The result is uncannily ice cream and is delicious in any use necessitating ice cream. Like eating ice cream.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Black Quinoa

Quinoa is a seed from South America that has a high percentage of protein. The protein is unusually complete for the human diet for a plant food.

As Finn and I were filling our plastic bag with black quinoa at Sunflower, A woman beside me asked how I wash it. Having never cooked black quinoa, I was glad she did ask, otherwise I would have cooked it sans ablutions. And now reading the Wikipedia link, this is to remove the mildly toxic saponins that can cause gastric issues.

As it is, we decided that cheese cloth would work and I ended up using a kitchen towel.

Also, having forgotten the cooking time as being similar to white rice I cooked it pasta style in a lot of salted water for 45 minutes. I don't think it really suffered texturally but I will definitely cook it rice style (2:1 water to quinoa, steaming method, 18 to 20 minutes) next time.

I generally treat cooked quinoa as I would rice. In last night's case I stirred in cheese and frozen peas. Delish.

Horrible Picture of Cheesy Peasey Black Quinoa

It was lightly sweet and earthy. I definitely have to try a tabouli with this nutritious seed.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Daddy Bread 2, The Bakening

Previously I mentioned a no knead dough recipe, the source of which escapes me but when I find out I will reference it. We call it Daddy Bread to distinguish it from regular bread for 5 year old Finn.

I've described how to use it for pizza dough, but not bread. Here is how you fashion it into a boule. One recipe of Daddy Dough will make a few boules or pizza crusts.

After your dough has aged in the fridge overnight (you can work it after the first 2 hour rise but it will be very soft and wet, still works though) grab a hunk about the size of a grapefruit, a 1 pound grapefruit. You're going for about a pound.

Using a lot of four in the process to minimize sticking, pull the bottom of the dough under working in a circular patter. You'll end up with a mushroom cap of dough with a smooth top and the dough bunched up on the bottom. Place your dough round on a well cornmealed peel.

Pre-heat your oven to 450°F with your pizza stone or upturned cookie sheet on the rack and a small pan for water on the bottom. You'll be pouring 1 cup of warm water in that pan when you put your dough in the oven.

Let your dough ball rest/rise (there won't be much rising) and your oven pre-heat for twenty minutes. Cut an "x" or cross-hatch in the top of the dough ball with a very sharp knife. Slide it on your stone/pan and pour the water into the pan on the bottom. Bake until the crust is golden brown and delicious. Mine always takes about 30 minutes.

Let cool on a rack and enjoy! The crumb is soft and a little dense and the crust is awesome.

There is a Mark Bittman recipe circulating currently for a no knead bread dough that I must try. More on that later.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soda Bread with Baking Powder

In the last couple of weeks I have made both biscuits and "soda" bread comparing ones made with all purpose flour or half whole wheat, half all-purpose flour. The ones with only all purpose are lighter and fluffier but the ones made with half whole wheat flour have a satisfying chew and great wheaty taste.

A couple of weeks ago I gave my favorite kitchen staple method for biscuits. This is a similarly adapted method for making a sliceable quick bread if you have no buttermilk on hand. My inspiration for this was the chapter on soda bread in Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne. Half of the all purpose flour can be replaced with wheat.

Baking Powder Soda Bread

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup or so milk

Preheat oven to 400°F with covered dutch oven inside.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. While beating with the handle of a wooden spoon, pour in the milk until you have the dough comes together. It shouldn't be as soft and silky as biscuit dough.

Remove the lid form your preheated pot, dust the bottom with flour, turn your dough into the pan, recover and cook for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on rack and serve as soon as it is cool enough to eat. You can also wrap in a towel to keep it soft until serving.

Slice and eat with lots of butter.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oatmeal, Polenta Style

I have been trying for some time to come up with a savory use for oatmeal besides a filler in bread, meatloaf and haggis. I have been stirring butter, milk and spices into my morning oatmeal with limited success. Baking spices just seem to work better with sugar or in a curry.

This morning I mixed a scant 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella into my mush. It was beginning to take on a polenta vibe. In his book Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford reminds us that there was polenta before Columbus and therefore pre-corn. It was most likely made with barley and to paraphrase Buford, who tried it in his kitchen, was like trying to find something good to eat in a bowl of dirt.

On our familiar corn-mush polenta we often see red sauce and cheese. So I went there. Onto my oatmeal went a dollop of garlicky pizza sauce, some grated Parmigiano Reggiano, Italian herbs and red pepper flakes.

The result? Really not bad at all! Nice ratio of carbs to fat, satisfying texture and flavor, I felt like I had eaten something. I could see trying to work this into a dinner sidedish; pre-Columbian polenta with post-Columbian sauce.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Braised Baby Bok Choy

At the 17th Street Market here in Tucson they have a variety of unfamiliar Asian vegetables that are fun to experiment with. When you come across one of the baby bok choy shaped cabbages, a great method and presentation is braising.

The whole vegetable is browned and then wet cooked in a flavorful liquid. Here's how I do it;

Braised Baby Bok Choy

2 tablespoons oil
8 or so baby bok choy, whole

flavorful liquid (I just eyeball the amounts);
oyster sauce
hoisin sauce
soy sauce
sesame oil

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the bok choy.

Cook turning occasionally until brown in places.

Add the flavorful liquid, I would say about 3/4 of a cup. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat and cover. I check them every 5 minutes until they are done to my liking.

Remove to a plate. The liquid can be thickened by adding a tablespoon of cornstarch and bring back to the boil for a moment. Be sure to taste for seasoning before spooning it on the vegetables as it can end up quite salty.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Makin' Bacon

Further to the aforementioned bacon potluck, the method I used to create large amounts of delicious bacon with very little trouble was this;

Lay strips of bacon out in a single layer on a foil lined cookie sheet.

Slide cookie sheet(s) into a cold oven and set for 400°F. Start checking for doneness at about 17 minutes. Mine took 21 minutes to achieve fantasticness.

For my dish I made bacon/bacon pizza, half with jalapeños.

For the sauce I doctored up a simple store bought sauce with; bacon fat, garlic, Italian herbs, wine and bacon. For the cheese I used half smoked Gouda and half mozzarella, grated. I put bacon both below and above the cheese.

I was bested by a scone, a cupcake and some popcorn. Perhaps I could persuade the winners to share their recipes here?


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beef and Stout & Shepherd's Pie

Saturday I made beef and stout and Sunday I repurposed it into shepherd's pie.

I use chuck for all my long cooked beef recipes because it tastes good and is meltingly tender when long cooked at a low heat. Round in my opinion is not worth buying unless it is a top round steak for marinating and grilling rare. Long cooked bottom round at it's worst tastes like liver and has a rubbery texture.

Beef and Stout

2 - 3 pounds chuck cut into large cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 onions, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, cut into big chunks
1 bottle porter or stout
a few sprigs fresh thyme pulled off the stem

Season the beef chunks and toss in flour to coat.

Gratuitous Scimitar Shot
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the beef in batches not to crowd (resulting in grey boiled beef) and brown on all sides.

Remove each batch to a bowl. When the beef is finished browning add the onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and browned and the mushrooms have exuded their juices and are beginning to brown.

Add the beef and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Pour in the beer. Add water if necessary to make sure every thing is covered and season with salt and pepper.

Increase heat and bring to a boil. When boiling reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Add carrots and cook an additional 1/2 hour. Serve with soda bread and potatoes if you like.

Shepherd's Pie

4 tablespoons butter or oil
4 tablespoons flour
1 recipe beef and stout
1 small bag frozen pearl onions
1 cup or so frozen peas
1 recipe of your favorite mashed potatoes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat butter over medium heat in a large pan until frothy. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add beef and stout and, stirring, bring to a simmer. Once it begins to bubble, it has thickened up. Stir in the onions and peas.

Pour mixture into a baking dish.

Top with mashed potatoes and bake until potatoes begin to brown.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baked Tomatoes

Do you ever have a bunch of tomatoes about to go south because you don't put them in the fridge because cold turns off a flavor component in tomatoes that can never, ever be turned back on again? I do almost every week.

This is one of the two oven related way of cooking off said tomatoes and breathing new life into them. The other is roasting.

I improvised the stuffing with what was on hand.

Baked Tomatoes

A bunch of tomatoes
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
half of a small onion, chopped
a couple of garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
salt and pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise.

Squeeze the halves to remove some of the tomato water and seeds. You can use strained tomato water as a cold soup or drink base. I have not done this. Cold tomato based soups taste like V8 to me.

A great tool for removing the pulp is a grapefruit spoon. I do tend to scratch myself with the serrated edge on occasion but it does help you get through the stringier parts of tomatoes, squash and grapefruit.

Remove pulp, chop and set aside in a bowl. Place tomato halves cut side up on an oiled baking sheet. This would have worked better if I had placed them there already stuffed. It was rather fiddly and involved extra cleanup.

Season with salt and pepper. To the bowl with the tomato pulp add the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, herbs and salt & pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

Divide stuffing mixture between the tomato halves. Sprinkle with the cheese. I forgot about the cheese and added it halfway through the baking.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese and bread crumbs begin to brown. Let cool a bit and enjoy.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gramma Fish

One thing you hear repeated over and over again about fish cookery is "do not overcook". Also oft repeated is 8 minutes an inch. Meaning cook 8 minutes for every inch of fish thickness.

While I agree that fish is delicious when not completely dried out, I grew up spending the summers on a lake in Minnesota. My Grandma (Gramma) would freeze the fish that I caught and cleaned in water in milk cartons. Once the whole family was around and there was enough fish, my Gramma would thaw it, season and dredge it in flour and cook it to a crisp in hot shortening.

The result is crunchy and tasty. I did something similar last week with the able assistance of my buddy Carl Gulliver. I replace the shortening with oil (more because I don't have shortening in the house than for health reasons, I mean, you gotta live right?) and added smoked paprika to the standard salt & pepper seasoning.

Gramma Fish

oil to fill a skillet 1/4" or so deep
8 fish fillets, tilapia works great, it's very similar to the panfish we caught as kids
salt, pepper and smoked paprika to taste
flour for dredging

Heat oil over medium heat in non-stick skillet.

Season fish with salt, pepper and paprika. dredge fish in flour. I place it on both sides in a pie plate of flour.

Let fish "rest" while oil comes to heat. If I was using an electric skillet I would have set it at 350°F.

Fry fish in hot oil until first side is crispy and brown.

Turn fish and repeat.

When fish is done to your liking, it should be crispy, remove to paper towels.

Serve (with pan roasted broccoli, orzo in cheese and butter and beer, if you like).


Monday, March 14, 2011

Baking Powder Bicuits

This is the cheater recipe for biscuits as it does not use baking soda and buttermilk. The fat can be replaced with lard or shortening but I used butter as I had it on hand.

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold fat, cut into 6 chunks, again, I used butter
1 cup milk

Preaheat oven to 450°F

Grease baking sheet.

Add flour, baking powder and salt to a large bowl.

Stir to combine. Add chunks of butter and toss to coat with flour. Rub butter between fingers and break into smaller chucks.

The goal here is pea-sized bits of butter coated with flour. Add milk and stir just to combine.

Turn out onto well floured work surface. Sprinkle flour on top as well to keep fingers form sticking. Press dough until you have a flat mass about 1/2 inch or so thick.

Use a cutter or a can with both ends cut out to cut into rounds. You'll want to cut them as close to each other as possible to maximize how many biscuits you get out of the first virgin pressing of dough. You will reform the dough once or twice more to get a few more biscuits out and these will be less pristine and will rise misshapenly and ostensibly be tougher and less fluffy.

Place the rounds on your greased cookie sheet barely touching at the edges.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown and delicious.

Place on a rack to cool. Delicious cut in half and slathered with butter or jam or honey or whatever is yummy with biscuits. Finn likes one half with jam and one half with honey.

The same recipe can be used with half of the flour replaced with whole wheat flour with satisfactory results.

Note satisfactory results