making food from anywhere, with anything

recipe

at last, a reprieve

Hello everyone.

This weekend, I took a micro-vacation to visit my aunt and uncle in Indiana. Before heading out there, I received a challenge:

It is your job to plan (and assist cooking) our meal for the Saturday evening you are here. The requirements are vegetarian only, no eggplant, keep it simple.

Vegetarian food (by the by, I added a vegetarian tag for my posts…). How would I plan a menu without relying on pasta? Or veggie burgers? Wait, no eggplant?

In any case, I began scouring the blogs I most frequently turn to when in need of something easy, impressive, and adaptable.  I also did some consulting (thank you, Alex), and decided I would throw together my take on Iranian food.

Nearly the minute after I got to my aunt and uncle’s house, the cooking began.  I began by making Mast o Khiar, which is just yogurt, cucumbers, and mint.  We didn’t have any mint, so I substituted with dill.  Really, though, you could use whatever herb you have on hand if mint eludes you.  It’s probably one of the easiest side dishes to make.  All I did was add one English cucumber (the long, seedless variety) to one 16oz tub of plain greek yogurt.  I chopped up as much dill as I thought necessary, sprinkled a little salt and pepper, and threw it in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so.  Initially, I was a little skeptical about using greek yogurt out of fear it would be too thick, but it loosens some with the liquid from the cucumber.  I would only use greek yogurt for this recipe because I really dislike thin, soupy yogurt.  This dish is cool, refreshing, light, and perfect for hot and humid days.  With mint, it would have been even better because it’s such a bright herb.  I’d even recommend adding a teaspoon of rosewater to add a wonderful aromatic component.  Rosewater is wonderful on super hot days.

Up next was my take on a Shirazi salad.

(excuse the poor photography)

Again, we had no mint, so I switched things up a bit.  This is another insanely easy dish to make, and is something you can prepare about an hour or so ahead of time.  It calls for cucumber, tomato, red onion, lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and mint.  I won’t bother giving you measurements, because it’ll depend on how many cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions you plan to use.  Because we didn’t have mint, I just added salt, pepper, and garlic.  (I had to sneak some garlic in somewhere.)  Personally, I should have used more lime juice.  All in all, it was quite comparable to a salsa.  While I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this side dish, fresh vegetables are always an awesome addition to any meal.

And finally, for our main meal, I attempted kuku sabzi.  Kuku sabzi is essentially an intensely-herbed frittata.  Really, the eggs are more or less a vehicle for the herbs.  For about 6 eggs, you should use a cup of fresh: parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives.  You can add in about 1/3 cup of walnuts, if you want, and you must also add 1 tsp of baking powder.  The baking powder makes the eggs fluffy and sponge-like.

kuku sabzi

(I promise, the other side of the kuku sabzi was much more herb-dense.  The herbs floated to the top of the mix while cooking, which is to be expected.)

Procedure:

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 6 eggs, salt, pepper, and baking powder.  Whisk to combine.

2.  Add your chopped herbs and walnuts to the mixture and whisk again.

3.  To a medium nonstick skillet, add some olive oil over medium-low heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the egg mix and cook for approximately 20 minutes over medium-low heat.  Check the bottom of the egg every once and a while to ensure nothing is burning.  It should get to be a nice brownish color.

4.  Now.  You have two options.  You can get out two spatulas and try to flip this thing yourself, or you can cut it into quarters and carefully flip each piece.  I opted for the two spatula method, with my aunt holding the skillet.  After three or so flip attempts, the kuku sabzi flipped with no spillage.  Cook the other side for another 20 minutes over medium low.  (I got impatient, as I often do, and cranked up the heat so it would cook faster.)

Cut into pieces and serve.

The kuku sabzi was really cool, actually.  It was light and airy, and really flavorful because of the herbs.  The herbs are the star of this show, so I resisted the urge to add any sort of spices like turmeric or something.  Salt and pepper do the job well, allowing the herbs to stand their ground.  While some lemon zest would’ve been a nice accompaniment, why mess with tradition (especially on the first time making it)?

As another side dish, I attempted to make hummus without tahini.  Word to the wise (or perhaps the not so wise), this doesn’t work.  Don’t even.

Before I began my marathon dinner preparation, my aunt and I made this awesome bunt cake a la Betty Crocker.

awesome cake

It came out sooooo good.  While I’m not a confident baker, this cake was rather easy to make.  It used sour cream, and we put this awesome cinnamon-sugar-walnut mixture between layers of batter.  And who doesn’t love gooey cinnamon sugar in their cake?

So, what did we learn today?  Vegetarian food doesn’t always have to involve pasta, eggplant, or processed soy.  It can be bright, inventive, flavorful, and best of all, simple.

Have fun:

Which cheese is the best?
(polls)


record breaking heat

Hello everyone.

It’s hot here in New Jersey.  I mean, 100+ degrees (F) hot…plus humidity.  To some, this is every day weather and is, therefore, no big deal.  For us, however, this is record-breaking, danger zone, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot.  On days like today, the last thing I want is a heavy meal.  So, what to have?

Ceviche.

Ceviche?  Yes.  You can make something as elegant as ceviche at home.  And with much ease, I might add.  In fact, it’s one of the easiest things I’ve made.  Ceviche, a dish with its relatively unknown roots attributed to South America and Spain, consists of citrus marinated seafood and a few other basic ingredients.  This dish relies on an important chemical reaction between citrus and seafood.  The seafood in ceviche is technically not cooked, as no heat is applied to it.  Instead, the citric acid in the marinade induces what is called denaturation.  De-what?  Well, the citric acid manipulates the proteins in the seafood, changing their physical and chemical properties.  After sitting in the marinade, the seafood turns firm and opaque, just like it had met heat.  So, do you take the same risks with eating seafood in ceviche as with eating sashimi?  Yes, actually.  While the citric acid does modify the seafood protein, it does not kill off any bacteria and such that could potentially be hanging around your fish.  However, if you buy fresh fish, then you really don’t have anything to worry about.  Really.

So, for my ceviche, I used tilapia.  I wanted a firm white fish, and it was either that or cod.  I think tilapia has a meatier texture to it, and cod seemed too flaky for this.  After consulting a variety of sources (like here and here), I began making my citrus marinade.  The following is for just under 1 1/2 lbs. of tilapia.

3 limes, squeezed of their juice

about 1/4-1/3 cup of orange juice (I only used this because I realized I definitely did not have enough lime juice……it worked out well)

about 3 pinches of freshly minced cilantro (fresh is a must. no exceptions.)

about 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tomato, seeded, diced

about 1/4 of a cup of red onion, diced

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

3 tilapia fillets cut into bite-sized pieces

tilapia ceviche

So, basically all you need to do is get a shallow dish.  Lay out all your fish pieces in the dish.  In a separate bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and then pour over the fish.  Cover with plastic wrap, and throw it in the fridge.  I would marinate this for 20-50 minutes.  If you take it out before 20 minutes, there’s a decent chance the inside of the pieces will be quite raw.  If you like that sort of thing (I certainly don’t mind), then go for it.  If you leave it in longer than 50 minutes, it will probably have the texture of overcooked fish.  Ew.  In any case, my ceviche tasted fresh, bright, and citrusy.  The fish got a huge kick from the cilantro and the onion, and the texture was very meaty.  The pieces of fish had some bite to them, which I really enjoyed.  The garlic undertones complimented the citrus so nicely.  It really hit the spot.

So, what goes along with this awesome ceviche?  How about tostones?  Ah, tostones are awesome. I’ve had good (crunchy on the outside, pillowy and soft on the inside) and bad (rubbery….tough….) ones.  If you like french fries, you’ll like tostones even more.

So, what the hell are tostones?

perfect tostones

Very simply, fried (green) plantains.   Get a cast iron skillet. Fill it about 1/4 inch of the way with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat.  You’ll know the oil is hot enough when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in and it bubbles.

Grab about 3 green plantains.  Slice the skin lengthwise, and peel off to reveal the plantain itself.  Slice into 1-inch thick pieces on an angle.

Now, you’re going to blanch the pieces in the oil.  Fry the pieces on each side for about 1-2 minutes (until lightly golden).  Do this in batches.  Lay the pieces out on a paper towel lined plate.  Once cooled, take a wooden spoon or the bottom of a small glass — whatever you have on hand — and smash lightly.  The pieces should still be in tact.  Once you’ve done this to all of the pieces, put them back into the oil and fry for another 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the pieces have reached a medium gold color.  It’s okay if some get a little dark (one of mine got kind of crispy….).  Immediately place them onto a paper towel lined plate.  This is so the oil gets wicked away from the pieces, resulting in a crispy crust with a delicate interior.  Sprinkle some salt over top of the tostones, squirt some lemon juice too if you’d like.  These tostones were perfect.  I can’t even be modest about it.  I have never made them before, but they came out so crisp on the outside, yet so tender on the inside.  And with just the right amount of salt and lemon juice, it was a PERFECT addition to the light and airy ceviche.

Usually, tostones are served with a mojo.  I chose to serve mine with some guacamole.  I love avocados.

ultra chunky guacamole

They seem like the perfect fruit (?) to have on a blazing hot day.  They’re creamy, light, decadent, and so damn good for you.  I like my guacamole chunky, so I didn’t mash this as much as I could have.  All I added to this was 1 avocado, juice from 1/2 a lemon, a few pinches of freshly minced cilantro, 1/2 a tomato, diced, 2 TBSP of diced red onion, and a pinch of salt.

I could’ve just spooned this out of the bowl and eaten it.

So, that was probably the perfect meal for a 100 degree day.  Light, citrusy, and satisfying.  Mmmm….


you’ll need many a napkin to eat this sticky rack of deliciousness.

Good morning all.

My life has been overrun by my part-time job, internship, and now the World Cup.  What will I watch when the World Cup is over?

Anyway….We celebrated Father’s Day a few days early this year.  Initially, my plan was to make some delicious hanger steak.  I’ve seen hanger steak at this one grocery store I often turn to for my foodie needs.  However, (as predicted) the store did not have hanger steak in stock when I was, of course, looking for it.  So, Plan B?  Barbecued beef short ribs.

rubbed ribs getting ready for the oven

I started off by rubbing the ribs with a nice spice mix.  For two slabs of ribs, I used (adapted from here):

4 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP smoked paprika

3 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

I let the ribs sit in the rub all day so all the flavors could marry.  If I had things my way, I would’ve smoked these ribs for about 4-6 hours over low heat with hickory wood chips and such.  Buuut, I don’t have a smoker.  So instead, I opted to braise the ribs first, then finish them on the grill.  In a roasting pan with a rack, add 1 16oz bottle of beer and some water so that there is about an inch of liquid in the pan.  Place the ribs that you rubbed at least 12 hours ago on the roasting rack and put them in the pan.  Cover with foil, and place in a preheated 250F oven.  Roast for 1.5-2 hours.  Check your ribs after an hour to be sure there is enough liquid.  When the ribs are done (the meat on mine was falling off the bones – a challenge to get on the grill, but so worth it), slather (and I mean SLATHER.  BATHE those ribs) in some barbecue sauce and grill for about 10 minutes.

While you’ve got some time on your hands as the ribs are braising, you may as well make your own barbecue sauce, right?  Well, I did.  I had no idea what I was doing, and it thankfully came out really well.  I adapted this sauce from a variety of sources in an attempt to combine the best of both tomato-based and vinegar-based sauces.  My sauce started out involving about…

1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of ketchup

1 TBSP molasses

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp paprika

some freshly cracked black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

2 TBSP brown sugar

sweet and spicey short ribs

Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened to your desired consistency.  I think I cooked mine for about 20-30 minutes.  It was perfect timing, really.  Once I put it in the refrigerator, the sauce thickened up really nicely.  The sauce was REALLY vinegary at first, but it sweetened throughout the cooking process.  Throughout cooking, I added a few more shakes of paprika for an additional smokey flavor, and a few more shakes of cumin for….well, mostly because I enjoy cumin a lot.  The sauce was sweet, but had a nice kick.  A perfect blend.

fresh garden herbs

Now that the ribs are figured out, it’s time for the side dishes.  I decided to make grilled vegetable kebabs with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, onion, and little bell peppers.  To go along with the vegetables, I made a sauce inspired by the chimichurri sauce native to Uruguay and Argentina (and probably other countries, too).  It’s an awesome sauce, traditionally made with parsley, garlic, pepper and olive oil.  I needed all of my parsley for the crab cakes I planned to make, so I used basil, oregano, and cilantro.  The recipe is adapted from here.   It turned out really nicely.  Cilantro is such a powerful herb, and when combined with garlic, it stands out with such an intensity.  I minced the garlic VERY finely (almost to a paste) so it functioned on an aromatic level, as well.  (Yesterday, I spread some of the sauce on some bread and made a sandwich with it.  I hope to use the rest of the leftover sauce as a marinade — it’d be awesome with chicken.)

Along with the grilled vegetable kebabs, I made some crab cakes.  I used the same recipe as in here, except I added a little more mustard and worcestershire sauce.  The difference ended up being minimal, but the cakes were still REALLY good.

jumbo lump crab cakes

Completing the compendium of side dishes was some awesome Mexican-inspired grilled corn on the cob, adapted from here.  I grilled the corn for about 20 minutes, rotating the cobs every now and then to ensure even cooking.

a riff on Elote

Then, I deviated from the original recipe a bit and spread only a little butter and mayo on the warm cobs.  I felt 1 TBSP of each was waaayy too much.  I grated some cotija cheese, sprinkled it on the cobs, and dusted with a little smoked paprika.  The cobs were still fairly warm, so the cheese ended up melting slightly.  The mayo and cheese added a nice salty bite to the juicy, sweet corn.

And that was that!  It was a fantastic and flavorful dinner.  I don’t usually like barbecue sauce (I have been rather vocal about my dislike  — the bottled nonsense is always way too sweet…), but thought this was deliciously savory, sticky, sweet, spicy, and perhaps most importantly, addictive as all hell.  I could’ve eaten an entire rack of short ribs (in all fairness, there isn’t THAT much meat on ribs).

whew!

Happy Father’s Day to all, and Happy Summer, too!


timely

Good morning everyone.

I did say that I would post again in a timely manner, so I’m attempting to make good on my word.

Two items are featured today: polenta that no one in my house liked, and pork that generally everyone felt tasted good.

Let’s begin with the polenta.

I tend not to post my failures on here, partly because I never take pictures of them, and also because I’m thinking of making a worst hits post in the future.

So, polenta.

cheesey, herby polenta cake

Polenta is essentially coarse corn meal cooked in water.  Typically, 1 1/2 cups of polenta is cooked with about 4 cups of water.  The water can be salted, as you would for pasta or potatoes.  The cooking liquid doesn’t have to be just water, of course.  For more flavor, you could substitute any stock of your preference, or you could even add a bit of heavy cream for some deliciously silky polenta.

I decided to just cook it in water.  To a medium sauce pan, add 4 cups of cold water.  Then, add 1 and 1/2 cups of polenta.  Begin stirring, and turn on the heat to high, bring to a boil.  This will need your constant attention…so keep stirring!  If you don’t, it will stick and scorch.  And who wants that?  Once it begins to form a porridge-like consistency, add seasonings, herbs, whatever you want.  After all the water has been absorbed, turn the heat down to medium-low/low and add 1 TBSP of butter.  Then, fold in some cheese, perhaps marscapone or creme fraiche for a really velvety consistency, or some gruyere or cheddar for a nice bite.  And there you have it.

You can serve it like that, or you can preheat your oven to about 350F and pour the polenta into a cast iron skillet (or some other oven-proof dish).  Spread it out so it’s even, top it with more herbs or cheese, and throw it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.  It forms a delicious crust on the outside, and maintains its creaminess on the inside.  *I* thought it was very good.

The other night, we were set to have pork chops.  So, with my day off, I decided to roast them until they were fall-off-the-bone tender.

roasted pork chops with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs

I generally followed my previous roasted pork recipes and made an interesting sauce prior to putting this all in the oven.  In a medium saucepan, I combined 2 cans of diced tomatoes, about a cup of red wine, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and fresh basil, oregano, and tarragon from my garden.  I am LOVING my basil plant, it is going crazy  out there and it’s REALLY fragrant.  By far one of my favorite herbs.

In some olive oil, saute about half a vidalia onion until soft.  Then add garlic, loads of salt and pepper.  Stir, add the wine and cook out some of the alcohol.  Then, add the tomatoes and mushrooms.  Reduce about 1/4th of the volume.  Then, add the herbs.

Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the pork chops and place in an oven proof dish.  Pour the sauce over the chops, and put in a preheated 350F oven for about 2 1/2 hours.  Serve with some egg noodles and you’re all set.

Tuesday, I am (hopefully) going to a book signing with Anthony Bourdain.  Holy. Shit.


Embarrassment.

Hello everyone.

Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my disappearance.

I really haven’t cooked at all since I’ve been back home, with the exception of Mother’s Day.  Within the last year or so, my Dad and I have successfully joined forces in the kitchen to make good food for my Mom (hi Mom!) – whether for her birthday or Mother’s Day.

This year, I unfortunately had to work the evening of Mother’s Day, but we made an awesomely huge lunch to make up for it.

First up is grilled lamb chops.  Yes, lamb.  As many of you may have observed, this blog is called everything but the baa.  I’ve undoubtedly explained this in the past, but will reiterate here.  I try to avoid eating lamb.  Not because it tastes badly, but because of how much I enjoy living lambs.  I make exceptions for occasions such as these, because lamb is one of my Mom’s favorite things.

Having said that, here is roughly what we did.

grilled lamb chops

with a bright lemon-herb sauce

I have to say, I highly prefer grilled lamb over roasted.   Then again, I find I tend to have a preference toward almost anything grilled.  I enjoy the smokey flavor.  Initially, we thought the sauce’s recipe called for too much lemon zest so we halved it.  Personally, I would have appreciated the full amount, but even with half it tasted wonderfully.  The lemon serves two purposes here.  The zest functions as an aromatic enhancement, while the juice brightens the intensity of all the herbs.  I thought the combination of mint and rosemary with lamb seemed a little tired, and was so happy to find this recipe.  The thyme and parsley pair quite well with lamb.

We decided to go with a surf-and-turf theme and make some serious crab cakes.  Seafood is one of my favorite food groups (in fact, I think it may be THE favorite), but I make it a point to avoid restaurant crab cakes at all cost.  In fact, you should avoid commercial crab cakes as well.  It’s well-known that the cakes are nothing but filler (be it bread crumbs, crushed crackers, or whatever other non-crab ingredient they throw in there).  I actually quite pride myself on these cakes, adopted from here.

UBER crab cakes

I only had 1 lb. of jumbo lump crab meat, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly.  The bottoms were a little crispy, at which I initially freaked out.  However, it worked out well, because crispy crab meat is delicious.   After they came out of the oil, I set them on a plate lined with two paper towels.  Do this, otherwise the oil will sit in the cakes and make them soggy and greasy (and who wants that?).  Next time, I would probably increase the amount of Worcestershire sauce a little bit, as well as the mustard.  I love the taste of crab (more than lobster, if I’m honest), but I wanted some more of the other flavors in the cakes.  Nevertheless, these cakes were great because I was able to control how much filler went into them.  Once you make these, there is no going back to those….excuses you get at most restaurants.

And finally, for the vegetable component to the meal, I blanched some green beans and tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Simple, but so good with lamb.  The beans were so crunchy and full of vibrancy.  In fact, a squirt of lemon juice over them would’ve been great.

crunchy green beans

And that is that!  I made blackberry souffles (first try ever!) for breakfast, but never took pictures.  They turned out nicely, but I wasn’t that enthusiastic about them.  I guess I expected something different (I’ve never had a souffle before).

Oh, fun fact.  I turned 21 this past Tuesday, and to celebrate, I got cannolis instead of a birthday cake.  If you are in the Central Jersey area, PLEASE go to this bakery.  They have a location in Brooklyn (which is what the site links to), and one on Middlesex Ave in Metuchen.  They have some of the finest cannolis I have had the pleasure of eating.  Good bakeries are dying out, so SUPPORT THEM (but leave all the cannolis for me)!

screw cake


in under an hour.

Hello everyone.

Today is the last day of the semester, and yesterday was a farewell party (of sorts) for one of my classes.  We all had to bring food, and while most people brought doritos or out-of-the-box brownies (which were really chewy, and not in a good way), I decided to make somewhat of a meal.

I called it paella, even though it bares little resemblance to an authentic paella.  Especially since I made it in less than an hour right before class.  Perhaps I should call this “chicken and rice,” rather than paella.

hot off the stove

Excuse this, but I have to:  Someone in my class took it upon themselves to remind me that paella is usually made with seafood.  So, I returned the advice (?) by telling her that when there is a meat involved, paella is traditionally made with rabbit (or chicken, or really, whatever you have on hand…as paella is what would be called a “peasant dish” because any and all ingredients available go into it).  This only provoked another snarky comment regarding the paella she had when she was in Spain, and I resolved to let her rant because it clearly made her feel better to put down the food that I busted my ass to make before class.  I just want to say, I know what I made isn’t authentic paella, but I did put effort into what I brought.  I left work an hour early to make it.   When she learns how to make proper, not-soggy deviled eggs (they were so soggy, they fell apart..no exaggeration), she can come to me with paella instructions.

Now that that little story is out of the way, I’d have to say that the chicken and rice came out pretty well.  The chicken was especially flavorful because I threw it in a marinade the night before.  It involved red wine vinegar, cilantro, bay leaves, pepper and lots of paprika.  What the exact proportions of all the ingredients were, I’ll never know.  If you want to make an authentic paella, I advise you to go here. It is the most authentic recipe I’ve yet to find, and I’ve been searching for months.  I really ought to invest in a paella pan…perhaps I’ll add that to my ever-growing summer “to do” list.

Anyway, that takes care of my chicken and rice inventory.  Now, all I have left in the freezer are some miscellaneous berries, two chicken drumsticks, and two pork chops.  Plus an assortment of leftover pork, “paella,” and spanakoptia.  Will this tide me over until Monday night?   Perhaps, especially since I need to use up the last of my spaghetti.  It will be interesting…


Macadamia nuts are native to Australia. And are toxic to dogs.

Good evening everyone.

It’s been a few days, but I’ve been trying to clear away my leftovers.

Tonight was pork night.  Slow, deliciously roasted pork loin chops.  No knife needed.

tender, juicy pork

Ingredients:

2 pork loin chops

1/2 cup beef stock (home made preferably)

1/2 cup red wine

1 overflowing spoonful of creme fraiche

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

4 sprigs of thyme

salt and pepper

dried parsley (use your judgment)

5 or 6 small gold potatoes, cubed

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled

olive oil & butter

Method:

1. preheat oven to 350F and chop, smash, season, etc. everything to get it out of the way.

2. rinse and pat dry the pork chops.  season generously with salt and pepper.

3. in a saute pan with sides, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  once the butter’s foam subsides, sear the pork on both sides so a nice, brown crust forms.  remove when done.

4. in the leftover fat, add onion and saute for about 2-3 minutes.  add the garlic, thyme, dried parsley and beef stock.  simmer for 2-3 minutes.

5.  add dollop of creme fraiche and stir until melted completely.  taste and add salt and pepper as needed (you should probably just make it a habit to taste your food constantly…and use a different spoon every time you do)

6. simmer for 1 minute, then add the red wine.  simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the alcohol has cooked out.

7.  add pork to a small roasting pan.  pour liquid over chops, and add potatoes to the pan.  cover the pan with foil and put in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours.  After one hour, flip the pork.  After 2 hours, check the pork.  If you can pierce it easily with a fork, it’s done (the fork should really melt into the meat with little to no force on your behalf).

slow cooked pork in a creamy red wine sauce

I’ve got the beginnings of a cold right now, and this was one of the best comfort-food dishes for it.  It wasn’t too heavy, it was nourishing (pork is always good for the soul), and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender.  It was practically falling apart as I sliced into it with the fork.  UGH, SO GOOD.  The creme fraiche added a whole other level to the sauce.  It lightened it up while thickening it.  So savory, so good.  I could’ve eaten 5 more chops like this.  The potatoes were perfectly cooked.  They just absorbed all the delicious flavors of the pork, beef stock, creme fraiche, red wine, garlic….everything.  Delicious.  It seems like 2 hours, in my oven, was the perfect amount of time.  I encourage you to braise things.  Yes, these dishes take hours, but come on…I got all my laundry done in the meantime.  Plus, your house will smell SO GOOD.


what do you do with extra phyllo?

Good morning, everyone.  Yes, a morning post.

Yesterday I tried to use up all my remaining phyllo dough by making a version of spanakopita.  However, I had some left over sheets of dough…probably about 6-7 sheets.  What to do with it?  Make more spanakopita?  No.  Already have way too many leftovers.  Make baklava?  Close, but no.  I have none of the necessary ingredients.

After scrounging around my refrigerator, I noticed I had an unopened container of creme fraiche and some pumpkin butter.  What an interesting combination…

phyllo triangles with creme fraiche and pumpkin butter filling

Drizzled very lightly with honey, these triangles make a nice dessert…..or breakfast.

Ingredients:

phyllo dough

olive oil (or unsalted butter, whatever you prefer)

pumpkin butter

creme fraiche

*by the way, when working with phyllo, it always helps to lay it out on a baking sheet or other flat surface, covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel.  it keeps the dough from drying out, which is very important*

Method:

1. preheat oven to 350F.

2.  lay out one sheet of phyllo and brush the top with olive oil (or your fat of choice).  lay another sheet on top.  repeat the process until you have 3-4 sheets.

3. vertically, cut about 2 1/2 – 3 inch wide strips.  at the top of each strip, add maybe……2 tsp of creme fraiche and 2 tsp of pumpkin butter.  fold as you would a flag (i posted a youtube video on how to do this in an earlier post)

4. continue this process until you’ve used up all your dough.

5.  line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place all the triangles on.  throw in the oven and bake until the triangles are golden brown.  i’d say…about 15-30 minutes depending on your oven.  just keep an eye on them.

a breakfast treat

The creme fraiche and pumpkin butter turned out to be a really good combination.  It sort of tasted like a creamier pumpkin pie wrapped in buttery phyllo.  You can fill these with anything, though, to make them either sweet or savory.  I had some last night fresh out of the oven and they were so crunchy and gooey.  This morning, I had some that had been in the refrigerator.  They weren’t as gross as I thought they would be.  In fact, the filling hardened slightly, and it was actually really enjoyable (at the expensive of the phyllo’s crunch).  Drizzled with honey, it was a perfect pastry-esque breakfast to have with some good coffee (I would’ve preferred an espresso, but whatever).


The average Australian will consume 18 beef cattle and 90 sheep in his or her lifetime.

Hello everyone.

Yet another fun fact about Australia and food.   I sense a trend…anyone who guesses what sparked my latest obsession with Australia gets a prize.  Seriously, I’ll mail you something food related (disclaimer: this doesn’t count for people who already know the answer)!

Tonight, I decided to use the rest of my frozen phyllo dough.  It’s been in the freezer since February, and I was afraid it was just going to dry out if I kept it in there longer.

So, after consulting this very good site about the basics of spanakopita, I decided to go my own way about it.  For those unfamiliar with Greek cuisine, spanakopita is a spinach pie made with phyllo dough as the crust.  I’ve always been too intimidated to make this, but once you get the hang of working with the dough, it’s really easy.  Really.

a different sort of spanakopita

Ingredients:

1/2 bag of spinach, chopped

1/2 cup of feta, crumbled

1/3 cup marscapone

2 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

phyllo dough

other herbs like dill, parsley, or even onions.  you can really put what ever *fresh* herbs you want into this, it’s a blank canvas.  i just had nothing on hand.

Method:

(preheat oven to 350F)

1. mix the spinach, feta, marscapone, salt and pepper in a bowl.  (frustrated because the marscapone is sticking to the spoon you’re haplessly abusing your mix with?  well, the only solution is to use your hands.  sure, it may be gross or…icky, even.  sure, it may make a nasty squishing sound when you dive your hands in.  but, it’s the best method.)

2. brush bottom of an 8×8 (or 9×11, whatever you have) pan with olive oil.

3. place a sheet of phyllo in the pan.  brush the top of it with olive oil.  put another sheet on top of that, and repeat this process until you have 6-8 layers.

4.  place the spinach mixture on top of the phyllo dough layers in the pan.  spread it around evenly.

5.  plae another sheet of phyllo on top of the spinach mixture, and brush with olive oil.  place another sheet on top of that, and repeat this process until you have another 6-8 layers.

6.  bake  until the top is a golden brown, for about 30-50 minutes.

This was so good!  Next time, I will definitely add the fresh herbs because it lacked a little bit of flavor.  However, the marscapone made the filling pretty creamy, which was very pleasant.  Yes, pleasant.


# # There are more than 150 million sheep in Australia, and only some 20 million people.

Hello everyone.

Hope you enjoyed that fun fact for this evening.  It’s an oldie, but goodie.

Anyway, I had no idea what I was doing for dinner tonight.  I knew it would involve chicken, but had no other plans.  Today was not conducive to planning out a meal.

So, I threw a bunch of random things into a pot (and then a pan), and called it a meal.   It came out tasting, well, really damn good.

chicken with a balsamic and caramelized onion reduction

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup water (or good chicken stock if you have any)

1/3 cup soy sauce

4 or 5 sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

freshly cracked black pepper

ginger

turmeric

basil

butter

extra virgin olive oil

Method:

1. in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the balsamic vinegar and half the water.  bring to a light boil so the acid cooks out.  i’d give this about 10 minutes (you’ll know the acid has been cooked off once it doesn’t sting your nose when you take a whiff).  if the level of the liquid seems to be too low, add the other half of the water.

2. meanwhile, in a large saute pan with sides, heat 1-2 tbsp butter and 1-2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  once the butter is foaming, add the chopped onions and cook until brown and caramelized.

3. add the soy sauce, bay leaf, and thyme to the balsamic vinegar.  turn the heat down so it simmers.  if need be, add more water.

4. rinse and pat the chicken dry.  sprinkle liberally with turmeric, basil, and ginger.  i tend to go light on the ginger because i’m least fond of it.

5. once onions are browned, add the vinegar mixture to the pan.  scrape up any brown bits and give it a stir.  add the chicken and cover.  cook on medium heat for about 7-10 minutes (depending on the size of your cuts of chicken).  after about 10 minutes, turn the chicken over and cook for another 7-10 minutes.  remove the chicken to a plate once cooked, and crank the heat up to high.  boil the sauce so it reduces by about half.  there should be barely enough liquid in the pan to coat the entire bottom.

For whatever reason, I thought this worked really, really well.  The turmeric and basil are a weird combination, but it worked for me.  It was a weird….pan-asian, italian fusion.  The chicken came out really tender, too, which is always a plus.  I’ve been eating a lot of dark chicken meat lately (it’s cheaper), and have forgotten how much I enjoy white meat.  People argue white meat has no flavor.  I disagree – its flavor is just different than dark meat, and it’s just as good.