Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tag! You’ve hit my sweet Butt!

I know I haven’t been around in while and I am sorry for that, however if you read my blog you will know that I am now working and have little time to post. I am back and yes, this particular post refers to early October. As far as my next post, I do have something in the works this weekend (Nov.13-14) …It may take me a few weeks to post, but I know you will all love it and so I appreciate your patience.

(October 2010)…I’ve been a bit distracted the last few weeks, as I caught a nasty cold and my body didn’t want to attempt anything. What exasperates me is that for the almost 2 years I was out of work, I never got sick. Yeah, there were times I was out of the weather, but never with the common cold or flu.

A month and a half into my new job, I have to call in sick, because I got the bug! What bug, it’s hard to say, but it consisted of Sinus Headaches, congestion, fatigue, nausea, Smoker’s cough (Yeah I’m a smoker – I think most cooks/chefs are smokers, have you ever seen Hell’s Kitchen?-They all smoke!) and complete weakness to the touch!

No matter, I think I am finally over the 2 week mess of feeling like crap and finally had the energy to be productive during my weekend time.

This blog is about how good I am about cheap eats and keeping it real. It’s about how I am innerly (yeah, it’s a real word (adv)!-not sure why spell check has deemed it bad) proud I am that I can cook. I made some really great eats today and am excited to tell you all about it.
I was thinking bolognaise sauce when I came up with this simple concoction, because there were many ingredients I didn’t have to make the classic sauce. I was also feeling good enough to make my own pasta today, so not only am I going to bring you a great sauce, but will give you a repeat of the pasta recipe.

So, I have a pasta machine, hand cranked of course, but if you as the reader does not have one, you can skip the pasta recipe and go straight to your supermarket and buy some fresh tagliatelle for this ultimate dish. If you can’t find Tagliatelle, Fettucini or Papardelle will work just as well with this recipe.

I am thinking honestly, that I may like this dish better than the plain ole meatballs and spaghetti dish! The fact that its fresh pasta and sausage sauce really gets the left (or is it right?) of my brain on overload of senses and taste.

Sweet Sausage Tomato Sauce with Homemade Tagliatelle:
Special Equipment: Food Mill, Pasta Machine
For the Sauce: Which is the best part of this pasta dish:
  • Garlic-Finely Chopped (NOT MINCED) About 8 Medium or 6 Large Cloves (me, I used a whole clove!)
  • 1 28oz Can Whole Tomatoes
  • 2 Tbls Dried Italian Herbs…Fresh is best…Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary
  • 1 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ¼ inch Slice of Pancetta-Chopped into fine cubes
  • 1 Medium Onion roughly chopped, but uniformed (Size of Onion Chunks is personal)
  • ½ Can or ½ tube of Tomato paste
  • 1 Lb of bulk Sweet Italian Sausage (if you want it spicier, replace with Hot Sausage)…Remove Casing if you can only purchase in Link form.
  • ½ Cup of water or wine if you prefer (I couldn’t afford the wine)
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (Please get the good stuff!)
  • S & P to taste

Prep Ahead: Take can of whole tomatoes and run through your food mill in a bowl until it looks like tomato soup. If you are using Dried Herbs, add to the tomato puree and put to the side.

Start with a deep hot skillet, add olive oil and pancetta. Cook pancetta until crispy and remove to the side. Add garlic onions and sausage over medium heat and cook until sausage is browned. Once Sausage is cooked, add the crispy pancetta, tomato puree and bring to a low boil. Add tomato paste and wine and mix in thoroughly. If you are using fresh herbs, go ahead and add those. Stir until sauce has thickened and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Don’t forget S & P to taste.

For the homemade Pasta-experts (About 1.5-2 lbs – Will feed 4-6 people)

Now I should let you all know that traditional Tagliatelle in the Italian world purely Egg, Flour and Salt, but I seem to have pasta making issues with that blend. So I go with my old standby which includes semolina and from my eye and preference Extra Virgin Olive Oil and depending on the weather in my apartment, a little bit of water if necessary.
  • 2 C AP Flour or Superfine 00 Italian flour
  • 1 C Semolina Flour
  • 1 ½ Tsp Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
  • 4 Large Eggs (Room Temp)
  • 1Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ¼ tsp or more of water if necessary

After Pasta is cooked, add to skillet of sauce and cook for another minute or 2. Plate and put freshly grated or thinly sliced parmesan cheese (use a vegetable peeler to get those fine slices). A little more fresh pepper and you are set to go! Enjoy everyone!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheese Freeze – Gougeres!

So when I actually had money to spend, being in NYC, delivery for anything is just a given. Take out, Dry Cleaning, Laundry, Drug Store (inlc. sundries), and most of all groceries. I tell you, I had quite the pampered life for a little while.

There is one major On-line grocer in NYC that I was very loyal to, until I lost my job and to be honest, a few of my orders that included fresh herbs were a bit disappointing and I had started to order less and less from them. However, what I did and still do trust with them is their Meat, Fish, Cheese and Bakery departments. They offer a lot of options and the quality is fantastic. I just wish their fresh produce was better and more consistent.

Another major positive for this on-line delivery grocer is they have amazing and I do mean amazing “ready to cook” meals from great restaurateurs around the city and also offer great local frozen options from bakers and artisanal retailers. As for general groceries, they do lack a bit with new items, but they do have what you need overall.

Most specifically for this post, it’s about a product I ordered when it was available, frozen Gougeres, made from a cheese/restaurant retailer called Artisinal Cheese. They were expensive ($10) and if I remember correctly, only 15 per box. Regardless of the expense they were such a lovely treat, popping one or two in my mouth were just so heavenly.

Not until I was broke and craving gougeres, was I thinking about how to make them on my own and store them in the freezer (hey, I am single, most recipes call for 30-40 gougeres…Cooking isn’t the issue, but eating them all for myself, the quantity is a bit too much in one sitting). I want the convenience of taking out what I need when I want it.

I looked up various recipes and found only 3 that seemed to be most authentic from the frozen version I became accustom to. One from Jacques Pepin for Food & Wine Mag, the other from Epicurious and the final from Artisinal Cheese via Fresh Direct (my on-line grocer).

After reading these recipes, it actually brought me back to my early teen days when I wanted to make homemade éclairs and cream puffs. The trick is to understand how to make a Choux, which is a no more than a thick doughy roux if you think about it. My Mom encouraged me to figure out how to make these sweet treats and with her help, I knew at a young age how to make such sweet gastric delights.

Because I had previous knowledge and understanding of how to make“choux” dough, following and making the gougere recipe was a simple task and really, really quick to put together. The trick this time was not only to make the cheese puff treats, but to freeze them prior to cooking, like the frozen packages I bought from FD, then figure out the actual cook time from a frozen status as it will differ from the recipes.

The following recipe I used as a test, yields about 30-40-1 inch radius (or a tad less than half a dollar size) gougeres. One thing I did not like about this recipe is that there was way too much paprika. My next attempt, I will use less. Although, my hat is off to Jacques Pepin, as he is my male French chef hero and regardless of the overwhelming paprika, these came out delicious!

Before I list the recipe I used and other recipes to consider using, I want to give you explicit instructions to “pre-freeze” and store these treats, so that when you are ready to serve, you can just pop them in the oven when you are ready.

When you make any of the gougere recipes I have provided, if you decide to freeze instead of cooking immediately, make sure you have enough room in your freezer to accommodate a sheet pan (mine is 13x17).

When you complete your choux dough, pipe onto your sheet pan (with a parchment lining) as per the recipe instructions (NOTE: you can pipe them closer together to fit more on the pan if you are not baking them immediately). But rather than putting in the oven, immediately put in the freezer for about 2 hours. Once frozen, remove the frozen choux from the sheet pan to a proper freezer bag.

When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, place your frozen gougeres approximately 2 inches apart and bake for 20-25 minutes. However, and this is important!!!! After 5-10 minutes in the oven, sprinkle Fluer de Sel and additional cheese on top. Continue cooking until golden brown. Remember, each oven temp is different, so it is ultimately up to you to decide when these treats are done.







Pour votre santé et profitez-en! (To your health and enjoy!)

Recipe 1: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/aspen-2002-gougeres
The Recipe I used in the Pics Above.
Recipe 2: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Gougeres-102306
Recipe 3: http://www.freshdirect.com/ (Below)

GOUGERES (FRENCH CHEESE PUFFS)

From "Artisanal Cooking" by Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman
Makes 55 Gougères
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons course sea salt
  • 2 pinches cayenne
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted with 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons grated Gruyère (from about 4 ounces cheese)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the butter, 1/4 cup milk, water, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and the cayenne in a 2-quart saucepot and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then add the sifted flour and baking powder. Remove from heat. Stir well with a wooden spoon and return to the heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the dough pulls away from the side of the pot, approximately 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat again and transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 3/4 cup of the cheese and paddle on low, until just warm, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs to the mixer, 1 at a time. Continue to mix the dough until smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes. The mixture should be cool.
  3. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a #6 tip.
  4. Pipe the dough into 1-inch rounds, each about 1/2-inch high. Allow about 1/4-inch of space between each gougère. Each tray should fit about 28 gougères.
  5. Brush the top of each gougère with the remaining 2 tablespoons milk and sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère and some sea salt.
  6. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Turn the trays around and continue to bake until the gougères take on a deep, golden-brown color, approximately 7 minutes more. Serve hot from the oven or keep the gougères, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 2 hours, then reheat at 400°F for 2 1/2 minutes.
  7. Bake until golden brown, approximately 7 to 10 minutes.
  8. Serve hot from the oven or keep the gougères, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 2 hours and reheat in a 400°F oven for 2 1/2 minutes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mish Mash My Spaghetti Made a Splash!

Long about a Saturday Night…a couple of glub, glubs relaxin’ drinking some beer, thinkin’ ‘bout food. Well I looked in my cupboard and put my face in the fridge, I scratched my head and I grabbed all the leftover stuff and then I made a Mish Mash of my Spaghetti splash and well, I had a blast!
 
Ok, that opening statement is probably lame and geeky, but it’s been in my head for about a few weeks now and just had to start this post with it. It actually explains why I seem so giddy right now. Not only do I have a mash of a recipe for you, but I am also informing those who actually do follow me, that I finally, after 2 years ( I won’t say long, as time has gone by very quickly for me, even if I wasn’t productive) have a JOB! Yes, I finally have a job with a very prominent organization.
 
I don’t know if I can legally state the company name, but what I can tell you is that they are a Fortune 500 Company, they are currently listed as one of the best companies to work for in 2010, they are also listed as one of the best companies to start a career in (this is especially noted for those upcoming youngungs).
 
The company I am working for is one of the most respected tax & accounting firms out there. The fact that I can now put their name on my resume will open tons of doors. No matter, because the division/folks I work with after just a week, are most incredible and I am truly excited to learn more from them.
 
Back to the Mash…I started this blog to keep me busy while I was out of work. However I found that I truly enjoy posting my cooking/baking efforts for all those who are interested in these antics of mine. So, I do promise that I will continue to update this blog with every effort. Though the postings may not be as consistent as they have been; so, for those who do follow, please keep checking in. I really do appreciate your loyalty.
 
Today is a new day, as I am officially going to coin the phrase “Mish Mash Eats” AKA “MME” or the Eats can be substituted for Pasta which would be “MMP”. So unlike “EVOO” or other crazy culinary coined phrases, from some well know celebrity chefs/cooks, are in some ways just bogus to us regular folk who are just trying to make a meal out of nothing. MME, MMP or MM(any other major addition),is much easier because the acronym includes anything and everything you might have in your kitchen that is edible.
 
MME is just that, a Mish Mash of Eats left over in your pantry, fridge or freezer to create a satisfactory meal concoction. You just have to be open on how you utilize the ingredients. MME does not mean throw all that you have in a pot and hope it will be tasty or even edible. MME does have to have some compromise to the taste buds and work well with the all the other ingredients.
 
Now the MME I have for you is of singular left over stuff and not “leftovers” from a previously prepared meal. My leftovers in this instance are the bottom of the jar kind, with a half a box of Pasta, which would now make this meal an MMP.
 
I occasionally come up with odd MME’s that eventually are really tasty, but I will admit that all my MME’s are very fattening and without frying, probably have the same fat and calories as if you ate a burger with cheese. But in my case, I only have enough for one serving anyway and no leftovers to temp me even more. So those watching the waistline, should not be offended or disgusted, but rather take the “technique/method/idea” and make a healthier MME (or MMS –Mish Mash Salad) to make you feel better.
 
 

 
So here are my ingredients for my MME/MMP – these are all approximate measurements…use your eye on what you have left. If you have less of what is listed, use it anyway. This is all about using the bottom of the jar, not about exact measurements.
 
Mish Mash Pasta 
  • Any Pasta – About 1-2 servings Left in the box
  • Ricotta – about 1/8th Cup
  • Capers – about 1 tbls
  • Sour cream – about 2-3 tbls
  • Salsa – about ½ jar
  • Basil – about 4-5 Leaves-Chopped
  • Parm Cheese – I always purchase whole Parm Cheese to grate on Demand…If you buy the “jar” or pre-grated crap, use the little you have left.
  • Gorganzola – I had this on hand from another recipe…I used only a portion of what I had, as it is a strong cheese, but what it does if used properly with an MME gives a bit more flavor, like adding S&P to taste. When mixed with other milder cheeses, it will enhance those flavors.
  • Half and Half – about 1-2 tbls.
  • Garlic – I always have this on hand and never try to run out…so for me, 5-6 large cloves minced work. Eyeball it depending on how much pasta you are actually cooking. 5-6 cloves of Garlic for ½ lb of pasta is good for me!
  • Oil…I Only use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for 99% of my cooking. But if you only have corn/canola or other oil, that will still work. Just keep in mind that some oils are stronger than others. A sesame or flavored Oil may be too much, but what would I know…it’s your taste buds. 
So now to prepare this MME: This time I am going rogue on my previous instruction template and explain more about the method/technique. Look, in some ways there is no right or wrong way to put an MME together. But there are times where you still have to be somewhat methodical about it.
 
In this MME/MMP case, it’s really about how the above ingredients fit into what you eventually want, which ultimately becomes and “Alfredo” or “White Sauce”. There lies the actual technique. If you know how to make a “white sauce”, then you can figure out how to incorporate all of the ingredients above. If you don’t know how to make a “white sauce”, it’s pretty easy.
 
Many of those who think they can’t cook or even are afraid, already have applied master cooking techniques without even realizing it. For instance, has anyone ever made homemade Mac & Cheese? The base of the Cheese mixture is what is called a “white sauce”. The real “white sauce” is essentially and even mixture of Butter (maybe even oil), Flour and milk. Butter, Flour and Milk can be substituted for any other “like” ingredient.
 
So, how do you make a “white sauce” (which is an actual culinary requirement) and then make it your own variation with all the bottom of the jar ingredients or even follow a proper “white sauce” recipe?
 
Here’s my hacked method for quick and easy white sauce:
  1. Take a sauce pan over medium heat
  2. Add butter and/or Oil until melted/hot.
  3. Add Garlic (in this recipe) and sautee for just a few moments. You don’t want the garlic to burn.
  4. Add Flour and whisk immediately
  5. Add Dairy: Half and Half & Sour Cream – Heat until sauce thickens. (note: this may thicken quickly if it’s a small serving)
  6. Add Cheese to melt
--The above is your Quick and Easy White/Cheese Sauce--
  1. Add Salsa or Tomato Sauce
  2. Heat until slightly thickened again. It won’t get as thick as earlier.
  3. Transfer your cooked pasta to sauce pan and mix.
  4. Add Ricotta, Capers and Herbs to Pasta and mix again.
  5. Don’t forget to S&P to taste! 
There you have it…MMP-Mish Mash Pasta!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mac Attack!

So, ok, I eat a lot of pasta, as there is definitely a pattern in most of my posts. This post is no different, but I hope in this case, it will give you ideas on “Food to Go” or “Fast Food” for the whole family. It’s all about making something ahead of time, portioning it out and storing it for those meals to take to work, a snack for the kids after coming home from school or even late night eats.

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t love one of the greatest comfort foods of all time, Mac & Cheese. Yeah, yeah, it’s not the healthiest food around, but if it’s in moderation, like all other things in life, indulging yourself every once in a while shouldn’t make you feel guilty.

About twice a year I make myself a “family sized” batch of homemade Mac & Cheese. I have this great recipe I found in Saveur Magazine many years ago and never looked at another recipe again (well that’s not entirely true).

Now you may be asking, since I am single why make so much for myself?

Well, the main reason is that I know that I can portion it and then store each portion in the freezer for when I have that cheesy craving in about 5 minutes. If I decide to take a portion to work, it will thaw by lunch time and I can nuke it for just 2-3 minutes.

That’s less time than if you made a box of the store bought “blue box” or a family sized portion of the frozen “orange box”! The only major difference is that you took one day out of a 6 month timeframe to prepare the dish that can last you several. And I must say, it still only takes about 40 minutes to prep and cook all together.

That is the great reward for planning out meals. BTW Did you all even know that you can freeze your Homemade Mac & Cheese? A 9X11 or 8X11 baking dish will yield about 8 to 10 servings and lasts me about 3, 4 or even 5 months. For Snack portions you may even get 12-14 servings! That’s why I only make 2 batches a year! But those with family members of 4 or more, I would suggest making 2-3 batches of Mac & Cheese, so then you will have plenty in the freezer for all that get the craving. If packaged properly in the freezer, it’s there for the taking in individual servings!

So here is my favorite Mac & Cheese recipe I always turn to…Obviously, you can omit the spicy spice and substitute whole milk for 2% or Heavy Cream to Half & Half or Light Cream. Try different cheeses like Gruyere, Emmentaler, mix different cheeses like Parmesan and Cheddar or Gorgonzola and Emmentaler, Gruyere or Cheddar, whatever your cheese taste buds desire.

So, in the recipe, you want to get Ditalini for the “Tube” Pasta, but it was not available for me at the time, so I used Conchigliette (baby shell pasta). If either types of pasta are not available, you can always use the good ole Elbow Macaroni standby or any other small pasta that the cheese sauce will stick to. Half sized rigatoni or even small penne will work too. But don’t go with the smallest of small pastas like Orzo or Farfamille as that would be way too dense and not work.

I also added some thinly sliced tomato on top, as this was a childhood favorite memory when my father/mother baked homemade Mac & Cheese for the fam. As the "tomato thief", I love that addition to my mac, the tomato adds a nice sweetness that you don’t expect with each bite.

So from the oven:


SAVEUR Macaroni and Cheese
This grown-up version of a childhood favorite is a great way to satisfy that deep-seated yearning for melted cheese.
  • 8 tbsp. butter
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 3⁄4 cups hot milk
  • 4 cups grated cheddar
  • 1 lb. short macaroni, cooked
  • 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh bread crumbs 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 6 tbsp. butter in a medium stainless-steel saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes (flour mixture must foam as it cooks, or sauce will taste of raw flour). Stir in cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and stir in 2 cups of cheese. Cook, stirring, until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
  2. Combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl, and season with salt. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the bottom of a buttered 8" × 11" baking dish. Place one-third of the pasta in the baking dish, top with 1/2 cup of cheese, then repeat, layering pasta and cheese, ending with cheese, making three layers in all.
  3. Pour cream over assembled macaroni and cheese. Melt remaining butter in a skillet. Add bread crumbs, coat with melted butter, and sprinkle over macaroni and cheese. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. 
IMPORTANT - Freezer Storage Options:

FULL BATCH OPTION: You can freeze the entire batch, but if you do, DO NOT BAKE!  Freeze pre-cooked!!!  When ready, take out for cooking, if in Glass/Pyrex, let the glass come to room temperature, if in metal, it is ok to put directly in oven.  Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes at 400 degrees, not 350 as stated above.

PORTION OPTION:  After baking, cool as per the original instructions, then put in refridgerator for 4 to 24 hours to set.  Then portion out the Batch and seal each serving in individual freezer bags.  If you have one of those vaccuum pack devices, even better!  When ready to eat, take a serving/portion and nuke for approx 5 minutes, even if frozen solid.  If the portions are smaller then I would say about 3 minutes in the nuke machine.  Nuke timing will depend on your Nuke Model.

I hope I have given you some ideas on planning and storage for at least one of the best comfort foods out there.  So, even for all of us that are single, it's ok to make a family batch of food, as long as you can portion and store it properly in the freezer for later eats!  Planning will save you time!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Crazy and not so Lazy Sunday and a Pasta Treat!

So, I’m still not really working and I have so many hours in the day/week/month to accomplish things. And I do keep busy, but there are some days, where you really feel as if you accomplished more than normal. This past Sunday (08/15 actually), I felt like I just hopped, skipped, jumped and went overboard with being productive on what generally is considered a luxury/lazy day off.
 
I actually woke up later than usual today around 10 am just in time to catch Christiane Amanpour on This Week (I think she is doing a fabulous job BTW). I wasn’t really “Feeling” it, meaning I woke not feeling all that energized and any real plans for the day, but I watched This Week and wondered how I am going to manage being a couch potato tonight, since all my favorite TV shows just happen to overlap from 9-11 on 4 different channels! 8 pm shows are a gamble, as Nature on PBS airs, but if it’s an episode I’ve seen, Big Brother wins out…Tonight the Golf Game on CBS made the decision for me.
  • ABC-Scoundrels 9 pm
  • TNT-Leverage 9 pm
  • AMC-Rubicon 9 pm
  • HBO-Hung 10 pm
  • HBO-Entourage 10:30 pm
  • AMC-Madmen 10 pm 
How much does it suck that all the good shows right now are all on Sunday Night? I can’t afford a DVR right now and some of the channels seem to be a bit lazy these days and not posting full episodes on-line or On Demand until the day of a “new” episode (TNT) or removed (AMC) all full episodes entirely for some odd reason. This has truly frustrated me, as I will have to stay up until 1 am to watch all my favorite shows and still manage to miss one of them, but ABC and HBO at least posts their episodes the next day online or On Demand. Thank you ABC & HBO! AMC and TNT-Get your SH*T together!
 
This brings me back to my original set up, which is the great feeling of being more productive than usual. I had a slew of things to get done, which was all about the right timing except for one major chore. So, I hadn’t really been putting things off, I knew what I needed to complete was coming and today was the ultimate day! I will say having a feeling of such accomplishment really brings up the morale and boost of energy.
 
I started with the dishes, which was the one chore I had ignored for a few days, but I went further and cleaned out my fridge and freezer, refilled all the empty seltzer bottles (8 in all) with fresh water for future refills of my 2 Brita pitchers (I know, not that big a deal).

I have cats and they can occasionally spit up those fur balls, and whattya know, they both had the urge while I was sleeping, yeah disgusting, but that got me cleaning my floors, not that they were that dirty anyway…except for their intestinal mess.
 
I took out the Fridge/Freezer and what I had for recyclables to the garbage. Walked around the block (Queens has longer blocks than Manhattan). Watered my new Basil plant I purchased on Saturday, because I am sick of buying Basil that rots in 24 hours and wasting money I just don't have. Actually found a weird little albino bug on one of the leaves, not sure what it was, but I killed it.
 
I also updated my resume, re-posted it on all those well known sites, I started building/developing an Access DB for an Arts Non-Profit Organization that will help automate their Vendor Sales Reports and even Data Entry processes and am writing this post! Looked up all inclusive Spas in the vicinity for my Bodega Family, the daughter is getting married in Mid September. I called my mother, took pics of the food for this post and cleaned them up with Photoshop.
 
BTW, I usually take about 20-30 pics of my food and then choose the best pics and I rarely modify them…meaning that I do not enhance color or layer in details. On very rare occasions I will use the Auto Level for Brightness, if it happens to be a dark day or remove a spec (a spec on the plate, but not on the food) that shouldn’t be there. All other modifications to my pics are cropping and resizing for web only. So what you see is what I eventually eat and if you are lucky, you get to eat it too!  And YES, I do pretty up my food even if it's serving just me.  I figure why should I not give myself the experience!?
 
On to the cooking and other stuff…With all my dishes scrubbed and cleaned, it was time to make some Lemon Simple Syrup for my individual Lemonade fix (I made 2 glasses). I will have a separate post for this. I made a new batch of Chicken Broth, part to use for the Pasta treat and the rest to freeze for another food concoction. Earlier during the day I had already put together the instructions for the pasta treat.
 
So, have I tired you out yet? I would think even for myself, I would be exhausted and even reading this post over; I must be some mad person trying to take on more than I can chew! So, since I’ve been so productive today, it’s time to make the treat I deserve and so I did.
 
Are you ready? Are you hungry now? Time for Orecchiette, Peas, Sweet Sausage, Mint & Creamy Ricotta!
 
To note on the ingredients, I did not opt for a spicy Sausage, because I felt at the time of purchase it would hold up with the Mint better. However, after making and tasting this dish, the mint would hold up with the spicy sausage, as long as it’s fresher than fresh. So, if you opt for spicy sausage, make sure your mint is extra fresh! I would not choose a sausage like Chorizo, as that would overwhelm the mint, and Cilantro would be a better addition.


 
Orecchiette (Italy's little ears), Peas, Sweet Sausage, Mint & Creamy Ricotta
Serves 4-6 as a Main Dish, 6-12 as an appetizer
  • 1 Lb Orecchiette Pasta
  • ½ Lb Bulk Sweet Pork Sausage (about 3 links, remove casing) **can use any sausage you like**
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic finely chopped ( I use 4-6 personally)
  • 10 Oz Peas
  • 2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese (about a few tablespoons)
  • 16 Oz Fresh Ricotta
  • About a Handful of Fresh rough chopped Mint
  • S & P to Taste
Preparation:
  • For Pasta, follow package directions, however make sure you remove/drain you pasta just before Aldente. About 1 to 1 ½ minute.
  • In a hot fry pan, add a few tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive, add garlic and sautee for a few moments. Add Sausage to pan, break up and sautee until cooked through. S & P to Taste
  • Add Broth to fry pan and let reduce, add peas and pasta, cook for about one to two more minutes until the rest of the broth has been soaked up by the pasta.
  • Stir in parmesan cheese to taste (this will help thicken the extra liquid to a sauce)
  • Place pasta in individual bowls and add a dollop of Ricotta on top, sprinkle fresh mint leaves and serve.
Manga!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Basil Bliss

Basil is another one of my favorite foods/herbs; the perfect complement to my personal red/orange/yellow/green or multi color Tomato bliss. I think you might imagine my next favorite, but that’s another blog, but I will say it’s always white and should be consumed fresher than fresh. ;)

There is nothing that I can think of, except maybe…hmmm, I can’t think of anything, Basil can’t go with. Now keep in mind, there are several varieties of Basil, so if you want to challenge Basil's infinite use, use it as a desert garnish, choose the right variety, like sweet or lemon basil. Choose the right basil for cooking and/or drinking liquids.

I realize that Sweet is the most common, but if you have access to the various types, use them accordingly.  How tasty would a Lemon Basil sorbet be?  I quiver with enjoyable passion of the amazingly tasteful exotic flavor.

I can tell you if you choose Sweet (which is most commonly found) or Lemon Basil, this is excellent in mixed drinks that may generally call for Mint; if you are serving a spicy drink, more spicy Basil is appropriate, like Spicy Globe or Purple Ruffles.

About a year or more ago, I went out with my co-workers after I was recently let go and we met up at this bar that served a mean Pear and Basil Martini. The bar treated the drink like a Mohito, by muddling sweet basil instead of mint, served up in a martini glass. I remember that I kept asking the bartender to add more basil to my drink until it became more basil than pear and vodka because I love Basil no matter what! The Bartender thought I was crazy!

One suggestion is a twist on the tried and true Bloody Mary-We all think that Celery is a great munch, and that should not go away as the primary green for the Bloody Mary, but if you are a spicy person, muddle in some spicy Basil as an extra special addition to give your Bloody Mary a more special kick your guests will be talking about.

Hey, a Bloody Mary is essentially Tomato Based, so adding its herbal significant other can’t hurt and not make it taste like spaghetti sauce. Remember, you’re not adding oregano or marjoram and garlic, which would ultimately make a drinkable tomato sauce concoction (which wouldn't really be that outlandish and very tasty).

But, today is about Pesto, an amazing mash of Basil, Parsley, Olive Oil, nuts, cheese and additional herbs. I learned to make Pesto the old school way, originally in a mortar, but now that I own a food processor, it makes life so much easier. So I won’t subject any of you to that old world method.

There are several ways to make pesto, and not all of them need to be basil centric, but to me, the best pestos are basil dominant. Not all pesto’s need to have cheese either; my recipe this round/post is dairy free, although my pics do show slivers of cheese as a garnish only.

The one thing to note is that this is so easy to make and if you’re a person that buys that store bought stuff, you’re really missing out on the true taste of homemade fresh pesto. I will admit, on short notice, store bought pesto’s are for just that, last minute-short notice, but honestly, if you compare freshly made to store bought, you will notice the difference. For the time it takes for you to pick out pesto ingredients to the “Pre-Made Brand”, you could have made your pesto at home 2 fold.

One major difference is that homemade, you can mix it up. You can add more or less of each of the ingredients. You are not bound to what the store bought brand has sold you. You can add different herbs for different flavors and taste that will compliment your meal or appetizer. This is why I highly suggest you start and learn to make your own.  Remember, making Pesto homemade will cost you much less than if you purchased it for a quicky to get out of cleaning extra dishes or save time on your overall meal prep.

Let's just say you are making boxed pasta, the cook time is about 8-9 minutes for "aldente".  Within the 8-9 minutes, you can make pesto in about 3-4 minutes, while the pasta is cooking.  A min or 2 to peel/crush the garlic, set up the Blender or Food Processor, add the rest of the ingredients and 1-2 min to process.

Homemade Pesto, will last in your fridge for about 5 days or more and is also freezable up to 1-2 months (honestly I’ve kept homemade pesto for 2 weeks in a tight lid container in the fridge).

BTW: The cracker in the pics are a multigrain brown rice “thin cake”. I found these in my local organic market a week or so ago…Again, I am not one to promote, but these snacks are better than the thick Rice Cakes we all think and are familiar with at the supermarket. They are a product of Belgium; Suzie’s Thin Cakes. Gluten, Cholesterol, Fat and Sugar free and they are quite yummy.



Basil Mint Pesto
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Basil
  • ¼-1/3 bunch Fresh Italian Parsely (about a handful)
  • ¼ bunch Fresh Mint (about a ¾ handful)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (medium sized) If you are a garlic freak like I am, add 1 more.
  • 6 oz of Pine Nuts or about a handful
  • About 1/8 to ¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Please use the good stuff for this)
  • S&P to Taste
  • Optional: ¼ cup Grated Parm Cheese 
Add Basil Leaves, Parsley, Mint Leaves, Garlic and Pine Nuts, and Cheese (Optional) to Food processor or Blender; Pulse until a medium rough chop. Slowly drizzle in Extra Virgin Olive oil (you may not need all of it)…you should process until ingredients are well blended; pesto should not be too “wet” and should have a consistency of say, a thickened vinaigrette minus the vinegar. Do not over process! You do not want a Puree! You want to see the herbs!

Ideas on mixing it up with Pesto:
  • For Nuts Try: Almonds or Walnuts or Pecans or Cashews or hazelnuts
  • For Herbs Try: Tarragon or Marjoram or multiple varieties of Basil or Cilantro or Lavender
  • For Cheese: Any Hard Grating cheese will work; Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano or Asiago
  • Other Thoughts: Sun Dried Tomatoes or Flavored Olive Oils or Roasted Garlic or Roasted Shallots or Roasted Peppers. 
Pesto for simple and quick dishes:
  • Mix in with your favorite Pasta or even Rice as a primary sauce
  • Mix in with your favorite Tomato Sauce for an extra kick!
  • Replace Mayo or Mustard on Sandwiches, Pasta and Potato Salads
  • As per the Pics above, use as a base spread for Appetizers
  • Use as a “Dip”
  • Add to Mashed Potatoes for extra flavor
  • Even mix in with soups
 As Lidia would say “Tutti A Tavola A Mangiare!”

Monday, August 2, 2010

Risotto-PLBTG

Pancetta (P), Leeks (L), Bursting Tomatoes (BT) and Gorganzola (G), what more can you ask for in dish! I love risotto as much as love cooking it, and who doesn’t love the idea of taking an old BLT concept to an Italian rice dish!

I am going to be short and sweet on this post…I think I said all I can say about Risotto in one of my previous posts: Risotto Done in my Italian way

So, if you read my previous post on cooking risotto, you should be comfortable making different versions of this incredible dish.

Risotto with Pancetta, Leeks, Bursting Tomatoes and Gorganzola
Serves 4-6 as a main meal-can serve up to 6-8 as an appetizer
  • 2 c Arborio Rice
  • 2 Medium Leeks-Cut into ½ in slices and fully washed
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic Minced
  • A few Tbls of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Slice ½ inch Thick Pancetta (If you use Bacon, use about 2 extra thick slices) About 1/3 cup.
  • 12 Oz Cherry Tomatoes
  • ¼ cup Gorgonzola-Crumbled or if you like Soft.
  • 6-8 Cups Broth (you can use Vegetable or Chicken-I have used Homemade Chicken Broth for this Version)
  • 1-1/2 c Dry White Wine (Pino Grigio or Chardonnay-Buy what you would drink)
  • S/P to taste **Note if using Bacon be careful on the salt**
  • Basil-Chiffonade for Garnish 
Make sure you have all your ingredients prepped ahead of time. It will make the process easier.

Step 1: Cut your Leeks and Garlic and set aside
Step 2: Cut your Pancetta into small cubes
Step 3: Heat up your Broth in a separate pan and keep it on a very low setting to keep it hot.
Step 4: Prep your Tomatoes: In a fry pan, add some EVOO and Tomatoes over medium heat, cover and let tomatoes cook until a bursting stage…about 8-10 minutes. Set aside covered to maintain heat. –You do not want to add to rice as you are cooking it, as the tomatoes are at this point very delicate.

***This is now where you should not leave the pan at anytime***

Step 6: Pre-Heat a Large Fry pan or Dutch Oven over medium heat. (for Risotto newbies…I mean a Large. The rice will double in size as its being cooked)
Step 7: Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Pancetta. When Pancetta has slightly browned add Leeks and Garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes until Leeks have melted properly.
Step 8: Add Arborio Rice and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Cook, stirring until rice becomes opaque in color.
Step 9: Add White Wine and continue to stir rice until all liquid has dissipated/soaked into the rice
Step 10: Add 1 ladle or 1 cup of Broth for each interval, continually stirring the rice and liquid…Meaning add 1 ladle or 1 cup of Broth and stir until all liquid has dissipated/soaked into the rice, then add another ladle or 1 cup of Broth…Continue this process until you get to about the 5th ladle/cup. Your rice at this point should start to have a starchy milky look to it. This is good, as Arborio rice should have that starchy milky liquid.

***IMPORTANT***

Now for the first taste test…The Rice should be Aldente-“To the Tooth”…Which means that the rice should have a little bit of a bite, but not too much. You want the slightest resistance of the rice. If your rice is still crunchy that you can taste the crunch more than the rice itself, you will need to add more liquid. At the 5th Ladle/Cup, you should start to taste. Make sure you keep on tasting prior to each broth addition from this point on!

Step 11: Continue to add the remainder of your broth (you may not need to use all of it) until rice is done and turn heat off.
Step 12: Add Gorgonzola cheese…Stir until everything is incorporated or until cheese has melted.
Step 13: Serve Risotto, and add a few Tomatoes on top of rice and Basil as the garnish.

Cin Cin!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boiled PerfEGGtion

So, I am not one to really endorse products (yet), but I do feel the need to endorse a Website that I believe will help everyone, when it comes to the basic food product we call the “Egg”.

How many times have you wanted to hard boil/cook eggs and when you do so, you go by what Mamma or Grandma (maybe there are some dads and grandpas too) taught you? You boil water and place your eggs in boiling water for 10-15 minutes depending on the egg size, some of the eggs from the boiling process crack and after the process those eggs are now hard boiled/cooked with green yolks and rubbery whites.

Well, for many years, I followed what I was taught and observed in my family and one day, a few years ago I decided that I “didn’t” know how to hard boil/cook an egg properly. I always had trouble with the green outer ring of the yolk and sometimes a rubbery white, which in my book isn’t all that tasty and proper to serve to anyone, including myself.

So, I determined that all my previous experience was a bad habit and did my research. There are many great websites about eggs out there, but the one website I found, which is advertised in a quiet way is the Incredible Edible Egg site.

Not only do they provide great egg recipes, but they also provide the basics. I’ve searched other well known “Egg Brand” sites, but for the basic essential way to Hard Boil Eggs and I found that the Incredible Edible Egg site provided the best, simplest instruction and consistent results every time. Also, their method of Hard Boiled/Cooked Eggs has not let me down yet. For the past 2 years, the method they provide has not let me down once.

Other methods just don’t make any sense and the Incredible Edible Egg method literally just works the best. My eggs come out perfectly every time, no green rimmed yolks, no rubbery whites and the eggs are easy to peel.

So, I urge all of you out there to forget what you were told on how to hard boil/cook eggs and re-train yourself to the Incredible Edible Egg method. I am not kidding…I have not been disappointed and therefore is the reason I have posted this blog!
Basic Hard Boiled/Cooked Egg Recipe Link
For those who are lazy and don’t want to check out the site, here are the instructions:

  1. PLACE eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. ADD cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. HEAT over high heat just to boiling. REMOVE from burner. COVER pan.
  2. LET EGGS STAND in hot water about 15 minutes for large eggs (12 minutes for medium eggs; 18 minutes for extra large).
  3. DRAIN immediately and serve warm. OR, cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then REFRIGERATE.
Note: Unshelled Hard Boild Eggs can last for 1 week in the Fridge.  Shelled should be consumed same day.

Enjoy Everyone!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Too hot to cook in the kitchen?

Well, this blog may be off topic, but recently for us NYC folks, the Washington Post (can’t site the exact article, I don’t have a subscription and heard it on the news) recommends trying to ban air conditioners all together. I say to the WP writer, are you really listening and speaking up for the general public to even propose this issue? Are you not taking your proper meds or are you on LSD? How much of a weed whacker are you? Could you at least find alternative solutions to the actual issue and recommend those ideas?

The environment is important, but if you are a person like I am, AC and/or Cool livable air is important to your health and even sanity (I’ve heard way too many horror stories of people in hot weather literally go crazy and kill people). I do believe in Eco Friendly Options and I have one that will act as an AC but is not…Simple suggestions like mine can change the world a little more at a time…

I personally made sure my recent AC Purchase was environmentally conscience and if I can afford it in the future, will replace my bedroom AC with the same expectations as my new appliance.

Look, there is a simple way to advocate folks all over the country to minimize their use of air conditioners. Try changing to a “De-Humidifier”! Now, one of my AC’s has a De-Humidifier setting and on crazy hot and humid days, I switch from AC to the De-Humidifier setting and I keep just as cool as if I had the AC setting. Luckily, if I do choose the AC setting it is also environmentally friendly by not spewing out all those crazy CFCs and as much energy as my old window unit. Also, changing to the De-Humidifier setting, my energy usage drops from 1400kw(AC) to 300kw(DH) and on the Fan is about 200kw. It’s a huge difference when it comes down to your electric bill!

Folks, it is about simple physics here…If you de-humidify, you remove the hot and wet air in your home or apt, which ultimately makes your life easier with cool dry air. Most de-humidifiers spew out cold air while sucking in the hot wet air, so it almost acts like an AC, but on a lower setting. AC settings don’t care which air and can still pump in humidity, even with central air.

So, for those who seem to not be able to live without AC, I challenge those to try a De-Humidifier through the summer months. I’m not saying every hot day should be AC free, but on those really humid days that the weather service announces that humidity is high, try it out. I guarantee it will work. The overall Temp may still be high, but it’s dry and more comfortable than if wetness is in the air. 80 and Humid can feel like 90-95 degrees. 80 and Dry, feels like 80 and Dry.

Look, Dry heat is hot and AC is great for Dry Heat, but you have to be in the desert for that. But if you live off the coast where humidity is really the heat culprit, try out my advice. Save the environment and your energy bill by either changing your AC settings to De-Humidify, if available or purchase a De-Humidifier for your home/apt and use in place of the AC. It WILL save you money overall on your electric bill and you probably won’t be a part or cause of the overall brownouts in your neighborhood.

Though, the real important factor is that you eventually buy an AC that is ultimately environmentally friendly…Less CFCs and Lead Free, which I was lucky enough to purchase about a year ago…and I feel better that when I do put the AC on, I am not F’ing up the rest of our world.

I am not going to sell you on a particular product/brand, but if you are eco conscience, then make sure your AC is: ECO-FRIENDLY CFC free GREEN R-410A refrigerant Lead free RoHS compliant components and make sure it has a de-humidifier option as well as a timer.

There have been many recent articles that the “energy star” logo is not all that energy efficient and it really is important you do your homework regardless of this most marketed brand name of energy efficiency, which has been recently proven, does not follow through the way it should be doing.

-Have a Seat (and hopefully listen)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tapenade my Whahhhhht?

Get ready to spread your love all over the place with the versatile French based recipe called Tapenade. Don’t know what Tapenade is? Well, I pity the folks who have never experienced this versatile and extremely tasty concoction.

So, it was in the early morning/late evening, oh who am I kidding, it was I thing around 2—3am, I was watching and flipping channels and came across a repeat of Alton Brown’s Good Eats on Olives. Unfortunately, the recipes from this particular show are not on the FN website (I checked!), which is a shame. Sorry FN, but if you repeat shows from years back, better ensure the recipes are still on the site, otherwise, stop repeating them! But no worries, for specific ingredients or measurements, because if you ultimately know the basics, you can pull it off.

This is a No Cook, No Bake and even Non Dairy recipe, but Vegans beware, this does have anchovies. Yes, you can make Olive tapenade without Anchovies, but the taste is not the same if it’s a culinary distinctive taste for the real thing (I’m holding my rants about Veggies and Vegans back right now).

Dictonary.com describes it as:
ta•pé•nade (tä'pə-näd') n. A spread of Provençal origin consisting of capers, black olives, and anchovy’s puréed with olive oil.
My personal Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts describes it as:
TA-puh-Nahd; ta-pen-AHD;
A thick paste made of capers, anchovies, olives, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings from France’s Provence region; used as a condiment, garnish and sauce.

Both are correct, but Dictionary.com doesn’t go further by explaining this is just more than a spread. Tapenade spread is not just for crudités or bread anymore, but can be used in many food applications, especially when it comes to fish. What both neglect to add is what those “Provencial” seasonings are; the seasoning basics include: Garlic, Parsley, Lavender, Chervil, Tarragon etc. Lavender really does give a distinct flavor.

What you should know is that these ingredients are all subjective in the world of culinary adventures in today’s world. I personally like foods in the original origin, however when there is a food that can span other culinary nations, I’m all for “spreading” the knowledge around. Even though France is the country of origin for this amazing spread, the ingredients are so very Mediterranean in origin, which means that multiple countries can claim their own version, which is great for all of us and my Italian twist on things!

Tapenade is not just a spread for crusty bread or appetizer bound. Tapenade is an amazing spread to replace Mayonnaise and/or Mustard for sandwiches, and can also be a great crust for meats, fish and chicken. As Alton Brown put it years ago (It’s not an exact quote),”there ain’t nothing this food can’t go with!”

I recently made a huge batch of Tapenade (Italian Style) and because I made so much, gave half away to my friends/owners of my local bodega. The beauty of Tapenade is that it does last a long time if stored correctly. Up to a year in the Fridge, believe it or not!

My whole point to this post/blog is that you should not be afraid of such a “French/Culinary” food called “Tapenade”. This is the easiest condiment/spread to make. This really for those who are beginner cooks and this recipe should be the standard to general cooking.

Tapenade is such an incredible and easy recipe these days vs. what I remember, w hen I first learned about it. It’s like making Pesto, Salsa, Guacamole, and can be prepared quicker than cooking spaghetti (depending on the olives you get)! If you have 10 minutes or less, you can make homemade Tapenade, provided you have a food processor or blender to make your life easier.

BEWARE: Tapenade has a Strong and Condensed Flavor! A little can go a long way!

My Italian Tapenade Recipe (off the top of my head..All ingredients are approximate…If followed exactly about 10-12 servings or more-this is my guess):
  • 1 Pint Alfonso Olives (pitted)
  • 1 Pint Sicilian Olives (pitted)
  • 3 Cloves-FRESH Large Garlic
  • ½ Bunch FRESH Italian Parsley
  • ½ Bunch FRESH Basil
  • 2 Tsp Small Capers (Salted or in Brine)
  • 1 Can or Jar of Anchovies in Olive Oil (Only need about 4-5 anchovies)
  • ¼-1/3rd cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Note: add by eye…You do not want the mixture to be too wet or too dry.
  • S & P to Taste
Optional:
  • 1 Tsp Dried Provencal Herbs with Lavender (The lavender brings an amazing distinctive flavor)
So, if you have a Food Processor or Blender, please follow these instructions:
  1. Add Olives, Capers, Anchovies, Garlic, and Herbs to food processor, pulse to medium grade chunkiness.
  2. Start the the Processor or Blender again with a low setting (or use your “pulse instincts”): Start streaming in Olive Oil slowly until mixture is fully incorporated, but not liquefied or like a hummus/smooth texture. The texture should be slightly chunky.
  3. Store in proper locking containers in the refrigerator. Apply to fish or meat marinades, substitute tapenade for Mayo or mustard or just enjoy on a good slice of bread on its own.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sardines Revisited

When I first started this blog, I posted a quick write up on how I love Sardines (Saltines and Omega 3) and the fact that I think they get a bad rep. I also posted a link to an Alton Brown, Good Eats recipe “Sherried Sardine Toast” that I had not tried out at the time, however recommended to folks who are willing to eat these lovely little fishes.

Well, I took the plunge and tested out this recipe and OH MY TASTE BUDS! The Alton Brown episode was extremely mouth watering, especially if you are a person who loves to eat sardines like me, but at the same time it does not do the justice it really deserves until you taste this wonderful snack/lunch and even more.

I personally had this tasty delight for what I call “Lupper”, the time between a late lunch and supper, which is generally when I eat, as I am not a big breakfast or for that matter a big lunch eater. I mainly see myself as a dinner hound and the occasional over the sink/counter eater.

Not to get off subject, but did you know that there is a difference between Supper and Dinner? Well, there was in my family according to my Nana on my father’s side. Supper was the feast between 4pm and 7pm on holidays and Dinner was any meals eaten a few hours later-between 7-9pm. Now…Don’t have a frenzy, I know this is backwards as the dictionary is Dinner first, then Supper. But hey, I loved my Nana (even though not that educated) and that’s how it was in my family.

So, back to the Sherried Sardine Toast…Again, WOW! I really think, if you are a person who may be a bit squeamish about sardines, to try this recipe out. The toast and the smooth buttery taste of the Avocado; with the initial splash of the sherry vinegar on the tongue really tones down the Sardine fishiness. I even believe that if the canned Brisling Sardines are still not something you want to be adventurous with, try just canned tuna in oil as a starting point. I might even try this with anchovies and add some small capers (not caper berries-but hey this could work too)!

So the pictures I have posted are not exactly the "Toast" the recipe calls for exactly, but at the time, I only had what I had.  So that should tell everyone that you don't necessarily have to have a boule to make this treat.  I used an italian long loaf of bread and cut it in long wedges, which is actually perfect for the snack/appetizer form which will yield 8 smaller slices instead of the bigger 4 the original recipe recommends.  For a more substantial meal, then use a thicker loaf of crusty bread as stated.

So, be adventurous for the rest of this month! This recipe is perfect for a Snack, Appetizer and if you are like me, perfect for “lupper” and a late night snack!  Just keep in mind, this is a recipe that does not store for more than the day you prepare it. Yes, you can make half (the toast should be prepared as you serve it)  for the early part of the day, but best make and eat the next half before the day ends.



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cool your Cucumbers! Will ya?

Hi folks, sorry for the long delay in posting a recipe. Been kinda busy these days and like in my previous post, the foods I’ve been preparing and/or eating haven’t been all that exciting to write about.

As much as I love to cook, I still can’t figure out how all the chefs in the world can cook in such a hot environment through the summer months. Granted, you do lose a lot of weight, as it’s like being in a sauna somewhat, but try being in a sauna for eight or more hours straight. I know I can’t do it, that’s one reason I never went into the culinary arts profession.

With the real summer officially on the way soon (June 21st) and with more and more Hot and Humid days to come, cooking hot meals in the kitchen are just too much to take (FYI A Science Fact: After the Summer Solstace the Light loses 1 Minute a Day until the Winter Solstace, then the 1 Minute is gained again until the Summer begins again!). Eating hot meals in the summer months has somewhat always been a bit unappealing appetite wise for me and I am always looking to expand my main dish repertoire to cool and refreshing dishes that minimize the usage of heat.

I love using a grill, but I’m in an Apartment with no back yard to place a grill. All I’ve got is a grill/griddle to place on my stove top and even that generates a lot of heat, even with the AC on in my kitchen! If I can’t stand the heat, should that really mean I should get out of the kitchen? I think not and neither should you!

The other day I had been talking to one of my recruiters whom I gave my blog address to view my recipes. Turns out we had a lot in common when it comes to certain foods. She had checked out the Chilled Tomato and Avocado Soup and then we started discussing Russian foods, as she was from the Ukraine. She mentioned she had a few recipes for me, but I couldn’t wait and started looking for a Chilled Cucumber Soup recipe we had discussed, on my own.

So, my cold cucumber soup craving lasted for several days until I couldn’t stand it anymore…I found several recipes and like I usually do, take bits and pieces and modify. I can’t remember where I actually got this recipe from so sorry if I don’t provide an original link, but here is my modified version.

Please note this is not a “Dairy Free” recipe, but it IS a No Cook, No Bake recipe. However, you can substitute certain ingredients, which I will mention in the Ingredient list.
Chilled Cucumber & Dill Soup
Makes approximately 4 servings
Special Equipment: Either a large Blender or Food Processor.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Dill (You can use ½ Tsp dried if that’s all you have)
    • Note: You can switch the Dill out for other Herbs such as: Mint, Tarragon, or even Lemon Thyme for a very distinct flavor. If using fresh herbs, I opt for double the dry measurements.
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (One Medium Fresh Lemon)
  • 1/2 Tsp celery salt (can use Sea Salt, but the celery salt provides a distinctive flavor element Salt cannot)
  • 1/4 Tsp pepper or try white pepper only
  • 2 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
    • Note: I used Kirby Cucumbers as they are my favorite. I used a total of 9 Kirby’s, reserving 1 Peeled but not seeded for adding a chunky element to the soup
  • ¾ or 1 Cup of sour cream or plain yogurt
To Prepare is extremely simple…
  1. Add all ingredients in the order listed except for the Sour Cream/Yogurt to your Blender or Food Processor.
  2. Pulse the ingredients until fully puréed. Once puréed, add sour cream/yogurt and pulse until combined.
  3. Place soup mixture in a glass or plastic bowl (Metal bowls are not good storage for this type of soup) in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours (24 would be even better-especially if using dried herbs) until well chilled. BTW: This soup can last for at least 4 days in the fridge. I wouldn’t recommend freezing this.
  4. Serve with a sprig of the Herb of choice and I would even go as far as drizzling a fragrant Olive Oil if that fancies you.
Enjoy and eat Cool!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What the beef?

Alright, I know my last post wasn’t exactly food, but my blog is about food and “conversation” in the kitchen. That would include Art, Music, Politics and whatever else is discussed alongside food or not.

I’ve gone the ultra boring route of food this month…simple sandwiches, plain ole spaghetti and salads that are not all that intriguing to post to everyone. So, my culinary attempts this month are a bit scarce and I apologize for that. I’ve been a bit more focused on the job hunt, with good activity, however nothing that’s panned out yet. But right now, the month of May is seemingly about art…my art.

Any good follower has seen my last painting and I hope everyone liked what I created. This next painting is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while now, but never could paint it as I wanted until now. I just somehow found the feeling and it all came together as I saw in my head and dreams for so long.

I haven’t named it yet, but I will tell you that this picture may seem happy, but it ultimately tells the story of a heart falling to the bottom with a protective barrier. I never thought I would have to explain my art in a depressing way, but this picture is a bit special to me right now.

However, even though what I painted is such an emotional thing, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a happy painting to others. As I always say and others may say: “Art is in the eye of the beholder, regardless of the original intent.”

I hope you all like it.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

I do other things than just think of food to cook…

I do come from a family of great artistic talents; I unfortunately did not get the professional art bug like my mother, father and younger sister. However, I do have and artistic side which I dabble in every few years. Whether that be sketching, painting and/or wishing I didn’t give away all my jewelry making materials and machines. I am good with my hands and am not afraid to get dirty.

When I was, and went to High School, I was fortunate to be going to a public school that provided an amazing selection of art courses and one of those courses was Jewelry Making. As a teenager, jewelry couldn’t be a better choice for me, especially coming from a family that prided themselves as true artistic people.

So I took the class, and as I remember, the only class I attended 100% of the time I was in HS. I had a great teacher, who put up with my teenage crap, and to my astonishment, still believed in me, even though there was another student who was technically and more imaginative than I ever could be and brought all her ideas to a real product, unlike me (my father, trying to help had to show off with his own designs…I still have them).

I can’t remember the girl’s name, but she could design and bring to life “bugs” in a scale of Jewelry, even though the creations were not wearable, they were amazing and I felt inside, I would never be that driven and creative in the Jewelry World and because of that I doubted everything about my talent. Yet, I was (with strings) considered to attend a prominent school in MA to further my Jewelry making endeavors.

I ignored it all and decided to just work for a living; To prove that I am a Smart, Talented and exceptional person in the “real” working world. I wanted to get my hands on technology that I was denied in HS and move forward and be a success in the working world.

Alright, I’ve blabbed enough about my personal BS and have most definitely made you wonder what the hell this post is about…

Well, I’ve gotten so bored not working, my creative side is finally coming out again…

Here is my most recent painting…If anyone wants to purchase, just comment, I'll get back to you.