12.27.2010

Italian Quesadilla -Anti Chef

-sounds pretty wrong huh?, -Italian quesadilla. Well it is not. I made this the other night after years of slow build up. It seems that many different facets of alrightitude needed to align themselves in my thick head before I finally just went for this one. I used a regular old 10" flour tortilla, some leftover meat sauce, ricotta cheese and a little sprinkle of shredded cheddar. Simple.

I mention the build up, so I will give you a little background on that statement. I have worked in both Mexican and Italian establishments. I would never make the mistake of generalizing, as there are many different avenues of culinary wonder to explore in either cultures gastronomy, but I can't help but point out a couple of similarities I have found hard to not notice (and obsess over like a mad person). Both cultures use a lot of tomatoes, and tomato based sauces/condiments. Both cuisines feature a fairly constant grain based staple.(albeit one comprised mainly of corn and the other wheat) And both will often garnish their respectively wonderful offerings with some type of cheese. So I guess it's not that hard at all to figure out why I have always been at the ready when considering a little fantastical gastro-clash. I have even brainstormed the opening of an Italian/Mexican Eatery to feature the mixing and matching of the two countries' best, presented in a whimsical yet tasty way that only my mind could conceive. If not an Italian Quesadilla, then how about a Mexican Calzone? Why not combine the chile relleno with the body of a squid, and do a some "turducken" magic on a tiny little scale. Calamari Rellano? Shrimp, stuffed inside a roasted pepper, stuffed inside of a squid and roasted tender? You have all eaten worse. Look, I make a meat sauce from an old family recipe that is so good that I used to sneak it by the coffee cup full as a kid. Seriously, after dinner, I would ladle it in, top it with grated parma and go eat it with a spoon like chili. I have even dipped tortilla chips into it cold, I know, sounds scary...but it's gooooood. So to heat it up, and dollop it all over a nice buttery-crispy, ricotta-smeared melty and chewy-gooey tortilla...?...well, for me it was far too logical a leap to take. My kid loved it too, what she could get of it, that is. SO--->


easy peasy instructions :

-heat up some leftover meat sauce for adding to the mix when it is ready, about 1/2 cup

-get a non-stick saute pan, or counter top griddle, or something else you like to cook with nice and hot.

-throw in a big splat of butter, serious...you want extra rolling around there, getting brown, call it a tablespoon

-smear some ricotta cheese on the tortilla and place it in the buttery pan, swirl it around to coat with hot butter

-drop the hot meat sauce around on the warming, crisping, bubbling cheesy thing

-sprinkle a little cheddar, or parmesan if you like...and a pinch of salt and pepper

-fold it over carefully when the cheeses are melty and the tortilla is golden brown

- carefully remove from the pan, and if you want to, set it on a paper towel for a second to absorb any excess butter


And that's it. Cut it up, and make sure it's not blazing hot inside if you feed it to your kids. They don't like that so much, the unexpected molten hot cheese-meets-mouth thing.
You can mix and match this up however you would like. I had meat sauce, and I eat it in my sleep. But try this the traditional way if you want. Use leftover chicken breast, arugula, and brie for a nice change. Somebody's growing rocket, right? Use some fried flounder, minus the cheese and dip it in a nice chipotle and pickle remoulade. Put some old pad thai in there, and dip in a sauce made of pan roasted shiitake's, soy sauce and sour cream....believe it or not, even that tastes really, really, good. I worked at a place here on the beach for a good few years. I would mention the name, but the owner is a cheap skate. I do feel that I at least owe it to him to throw him a bone here with a little shout out, but I choose no...for now. Sorry Jim. But if any of you have ever eaten at a "Gour-Mex" restaurant, around milepost 5.5 here in the Kill Devil Hills area that used to win national awards for hot sauces and so forth, you got it. We used to feature a "quesadilla of the day" on the specials menu. And although he wouldn't admit it, Uncle Jojo did the pad thai quesadilla, or maybe it was laab. Either way the mushroom-soy-sour cream thing was involved, and was delicious. He wouldn't admit it because now he hates hyphens. So there you are Jojo. So there ya go, Mr. OBX. And there YOU go, hungry mom's and dad's.  Now get going ! ! !

*kid approved.

Curried Rice and Lentils With Pickled Mango Garnish -killertomato

Sometimes I notice that one cabinet, the pantry, is nearly empty while the one next to it can't be opened without a bottle of some exotic spice falling out. Almost nothing to eat, yet plenty of saffron! Incidentally, saffron rice with the stewed hen I wrote about in an earlier post did make a decent dish one night. We were peering into the pantry this morning deliberating how best to make use of its contents and B pulled down the container of lentils that's been there forever and instructed me to do something with them. "I hate lentils!" was my parting declaration as he went out the door. It's true, I've never gotten excited about lentils. Not even when they were served with Cotechino sausage at La Pietra Cucina on New Year's, not when Julia Child raves about them on TV. But a while back, I pickled some green mangos and though piquant and juicy, haven't really made it past the odd tasting here and there. This is a recipe for curried rice which can be served with many things-I've still got my eye on you, green tomatoes out in the yard- and certainly with lentils and pickled mangos.

For the rice:
2 c. basmati rice
3 c. water
1/3 c. olive oil
1 heaping Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
2 tsp. Tamari
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Warm the oil and mix in spices. After a minute, add Tamari and lemon juice. Mix into cooked rice.
Lentils are simple to cook. It is best not to add salt. You will cover them with water or broth, boil for a couple of minutes, then reduce heat to low and cover until liquid is absorbed. It can take a longer or shorter amount of time depending on the variety- like rice.
I didn't have Tamari today, only the oyster mushroom soy sauce that's been doing a swell job of standing in many places these days.
I got the curry powder at an Indian grocery. I like this brand. I also picked up a box of achar pickling spice that day because I was curious and followed the recipe on the back for pickling green mangos. It involved salting and spicing them and leaving out in the sun for a few days, then jarring and leaving in the pickle cabinet for another few days (yes, I have a pickle cabinet!) which softens and ripens them to their yellow color and juicy texture. I think the mix had fenugreek, chili pepper, turmeric, mustard and aniseed, as far as I could tell, and probably some other stuff too. I might find a good recipe and mix my own next time. This one is toooo salty. Love salt but hate it when it overpowers. However, these so-salty mangos were perfect for dressing up an otherwise unsalted dish.

The holidays are almost over, so I'm saving all citrus rinds to sugar down and candy. Another post on that soon, so stay tuned!

Lentil recipe to try next: pappadums! Indian snack made with lentil flour.

12.20.2010

Tangent in A sharp/last minute ideas for the broke folk! -killertomato

It's Christmas time again and here you are, perhaps living on one compromised salary and deep in debt, or maybe have a small business whose profits, at a week before the holiday, you're still praying will get a little love from the last minute buyers- the ones who can't fathom one more trip to mall because they have so much wrapping to do. Yes I know, it's an overly commercialized holiday, it's been dragged through the mud by capitalism, we should do away with it altogether and just enjoy a nice cup of cocoa by the fire and think about all the real nice things in the world... until better days, of course! Because really, if you had cash flow, you too could be out there overcompensating your shortcomings the rest of the year like everyone else! Just sayin'.

Here's the thing- even though you're broke, you still have to make an effort. People still expect things and people are still gonna give you stuff. You can't be standing there with old, wadded up wrapping paper encasing some sad little candle you got at Goodwill on Christmas Eve when someone hands you a thoughtfully put together gift. Or worse, they give your kids better stuff than you. Remember last year?

"But where's my VTech Video Camera? I was good, I told Santa, where is it??"
"Well I guess our chimney is too small for Santa and he had to just throw what he could down the chute."
"But I thought Santa was MAGIC."
"Well he is, honey, I mean, perhaps some starving kid in Haiti got your presents by mistake. Wouldn't that be a happy accident?"

*Sigh* Are we there yet? So even after you've overextended your credit again buying crap for your kids and you're trying to keep your cool and you know, just make stuff for people, halfway to Christmas one morning you're frying eggs and you don't have butter so you use vegetable oil and on the second egg, it sticks, and one kid is whining for no reason, no really, there is no reason!, the other keeps singing "Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg" over and over because NO ONE knows the rest of the verse and now your kids sound like kids did before you had kids- annoying. Somehow, your husband gets to snore away through it all and you start thinking about how you still haven't made anything for all those people and you just want to KILL the fried eggs, or the vegetable oil, or something!!!

Relax, please! Even if you don't have kids and stupid fried eggs, I can help. I'm not one of those extra crafty etsy women; in fact, if I saw Martha Stewart walking up my driveway I'd bolt the door, but I do think making something for cheap is better than buying something cheap, even if you have no talent. It shows you took the time and the thought. Here are three recipes that can help you with that. (There are plenty of others and I could go on and on- for instance, you can't eat mix CDs, but I love being on the receiving end of those.) Then, go to the dollar store and get some Christmas tins, or some pretty cellophane, or even stamp or draw designs on some parchment paper to get them under the tree. It may not be much, but if someone is really comparing, that's their problem!

Nut Brittle
foil, for sheet pan
3 Tbsp. butter, plus some to grease foil
1 1/4 c. almonds or peanuts or whatever you like
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Line baking sheet with foil, grease foil with butter, set aside.
Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in small skillet over medium. Add almonds and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Cook sugar and water in small heavy saucepan over medium high, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. You can use a small brush dipped in cold water to brush down crystals from the side of the pan, but it's not a deal breaker. Boil without stirring about 10 minutes or when reaches 310 degrees. Mixture should be golden. Remove from heat. Quickly add baking soda, stir, and pour onto sheet pan. Wait at least 30 minutes to set.

Creole Seasoning
-What doesn't it complement? Popcorn, crab cakes, a gumbo stew...Put it in a little jar with a pretty label, and presto.
2 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
*Yields about 2/3 cup.

Caramel Popcorn
5 quarts of popcorn
1 c. dry roasted peanuts
1 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pop corn, add peanuts and set aside. It's best if it's still in the pot with some room at the top. Put a large saute pan over medium high heat and add all the rest o the ingredients, excepting baking soda. Stir constantly to melt butter and blend ingredients. As it comes to a boil, either keep stirring or shake the pan back and forth and let it boil for about three minutes as you do so. Quickly add baking soda, stir and mix into popcorn until well blended. Pour onto sheet pan and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.


Make sure to save some for your friends and family!

Curried Sweet Potato "Bisque" -Anti Chef

Well, for the first time this season the temperature here in Kitty Hawk has fallen into the 30's, and that means two things for my friends and I, huddling in poorly insulated houses, and hot soup! I want to share one of my favorites from many years ago, curried sweet potato bisque. I put "bisque" in quotations for a reason. If you kids follow this blog, the purists among you will undoubtedly have opportunities to catch me in some questionable culinary territory. However, being that this is a fairly simple recipe, I would just like to give you a tiny bit of clarification on what makes a bisque a bisque. First of all, a "proper bisque" is usually made of crustaceans, and the ones that would be considered the "second class citizens" of the seafood world. In the old days, these imperfect animals not fit for the market were cooked with wine and aromatics to make a broth, and then cream was added for thickening and an extra kick of flavor. For those of you new to the culinary world there is an expression I love to use, FAT CARRIES FLAVOR. But getting back to calrification, one other cool fact I found in my bisque research was the term "bis cuites", or "twice cooked". In proper bisque making the shrimp, lobster or whatever you have would have first been lightly sauteed in the shell, and then simmered with the wine and aromatics. Finally, to get really old school and barbaric, the shells would be ground up, and then added at the end as a thickening agent. I don't like eating ground lobster shells, but once, over in Thailand....well, never mind. The bisque, stick to the bisque. It is considered "passable" to call a thickened soup of roasted pureed vegetables a bisque in some circles, so here I go.
Get your oven cranked up, and your favorite soup pot on standby for this late fall fineness.

ingredients:

2-3 medium LOCAL sweet potatoes, peeled and rough chopped (or enough to just about fill a 9x13 inch casserole for roasting)
one medium sweet onion, chopped
one carrot, peeled and chopped
one celery stalk, rinsed and chopped
one or two bay leaves
a quart or two of stock (whatever you have, i like fowl stocks, but veggie is cool too, hippies)
2-4 T. curry powder *
2-3 T. olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 c. heavy cream
shot or two of brandy (optional, bur highly recommended, if you have it)
salt and pepper to taste

method:

- preheat oven to 400 degrees, i like a nice char on the edges of the veggies, adds to the flavor profile a bit
- combine all of the chopped veggies in a bowl and toss with the curry powder and a little of the olive oil to coat evenly
- transfer everything to the baking dish and roast for 35 - 45 minutes, or until the veggies are softened and just starting to char nicely
- move everything to a soup pot and add your stock and the bay leaves. i like to add the stock just enough to cover everything, you don't want to go too thin, you can always thin this later with more stock once you have pureed everything, but it is harder to make it thicker without altering the natural texture
- simmer the soup on medium heat for about 30 minutes, just to make sure everything is cooked thoroughly
- remove the bay leaves and then carefully transfer this to a large blender, and blend to puree. it is best to let this cool a bit first, hot liquid + blender = ow-ee.
- return the puree to the soup pot and bring back to almost boiling, but do not boil. whisk in the heavy cream, season with a little kosher salt and fresh fresh ground pepper to taste
- lastly, whisk in the brandy. this is always a great addition in my opinion to ANY creamy soup
- serve hot with whatever garnish you would like, such as creme fraiche, or even a little drizzle of black strap molasses will go a long way, but you don't need anything really, this is a good and flavorful bowl all by itself

* cook's notes:

-curry powder, most of you will probably have some of this you bought at the store, but you can make your own if you have a saute pan and a spice (or coffee) grinder. many cooks prefer to make their own as it is really easy. It is usually just a mix of whole roasted cumin and coriander seed which has been ground and mixed with turmeric and sometimes a few other seasonings such as onion or chili powder. There are also many different kinds of curry. Indian, Thai, Jamaican...wet or dry, and you should experiment with the full spectrum of flavors. For this particular recipe, I love one I get from a Caribbean grocer up in Norfolk, which includes fenugreek...and I also keep good Jamaican molasses on hand to drizzle, as these two extremes of flavor compliment one another very well. This "bisque" idea came to me because I ALWAYS have those two Jamaican condiments on hand. Also, in Currituck this time of year, fresh, local sweet potatoes are cheap and easy to grab by the bushel, right along the side of the highway. So grab some, and make a local farmer happy, your friends and family will be glad you did. -and maybe that farmer will be one step closer to purchasing holiday gifts, and paying the bills. We are all in this together people, and isn't that what this is really all about? Happy ________-days : )

(safety note)
- hot soup in blender. BAD BAD BAD, unless you know what you are doing. There is a serious possibility/risk of this exploding from the heat and pressure and agitation, so it is best, if the soup goes into the blender HOT, to slightly vent the top of the blender, and cover the it with a kitchen towel. Make sure the lid is held firmly in place with your hand, and always start at a low speed first. I repeat DO NOT ADD HOT LIQUID TO A BLENDER AND JUST HIT PUREE WITHOUT PROPERLY SECURING THE LID, YOU MIGHT LOSE AN EYE!!!
-now that you are sufficiently warned, scared, hungry and/or mad...go ahead. make yourself a nice veggie bisque. You may even eliminate the cream if you like and keep it vegan, but don't call it a bisque, again....(hippies)

12.16.2010

Braised Cauliflower -killertomato

Found some lovely cauliflower at Sevananda, a vegetarian health food store here in Atlanta that has a terrific selection of just about everything. I love it! The cauliflower didn't need much encouragement so I created this simple side dish to a pork loin (I think it would be divine with short ribs, by the way):

Braised Cauliflower in Mushroom Stock with Black Pepper and Coriander

2 lbs cauliflower
1 clove garlic, slivered
2 c. mushroom stock
salt and pepper
1 tsp. coriander
olive oil

In a large frying pan, saute garlic for a minute or two then quickly sear the cauliflower over high heat, either stirring constantly or moving the pan so that the cauliflower jumps around like popcorn. You don't want it to burn, just brown it and give it a nice roasted flavor. Add salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and coriander. Add stock and cover pan, reducing heat to a low simmer and cook until the cauliflower is soft.

Mushroom stock:
1 lb. mushrooms
1 small carrot, sliced
1 small celery root, sliced
half of a small onion, or two shallots
pinch of fresh rosemary or dried thyme
In a large pot, saute carrot, celery and onion for 3-4 minutes over medium, then turn the heat to low and let the vegetables linger for 5 minutes, turning only once or twice. add mushrooms and cover with about 12 cups of water.

Simmer for two hours.

Strain liquid.

12.09.2010

the wish sandwich -Anti Chef

-you read it right, the wish sandwich. Everybody has heard that one right? Although there are many versions of the joke, I will paraphrase. "Does anyone know what a wish sandwich is? No. What is a wish sandwich? well, a wish sandwich is when you have two slices of bread and you wish you had some meat..." I think I heard it first on Dr. Demento, or was it the Blues Brothers? I forget. The callous truth is, many kids and parents alike will spend a night or two, or more this winter lacking even the bread to fill with that wish.

A good friend of mine, and a bit of a moral compass for me asked me when I first told him about this blog idea, "has anyone given thought to a feature on why American's, among all the other cultures of people in the world actually HAVE a problem with too many leftovers? Has anyone wondered why out of all the people on the face of the planet WE seem to have so much food to throw away?" The thought hit me right out of left field, and I simply responded with something like "hey, that's a great topic for discussion...and I'm sure there will be a message board, or somewhere you can write in and pose that question for others to write in on...". So, on behalf a man that has treated me like a little brother, I offer this.

I like to consider myself quite the comedian sometimes. I take pot shots at celebrity chefs, and write things on here that are sometimes foolish, self centered and cold. I have learned that behavior growing up in this nation, full of cynicism. But that is not all that this nation of ours is comprised of. Our nation is full of loving, caring, compassionate people, who if given the chance, will generally jump to the aid of a fellow citizen, or neighbor in need. This is in my opinion among the qualities that once made America a leader among nations of men. These days it seems however, that it is becoming increasingly hard for our friends and neighbors to make ends meet. There is an expression that I coined around some of my smart alack friends..."the bottom is the new top". What I mean mean by this is simple. In our current economic climate, the ones who have been broke for the last ten, twenty, thirty years or so, haven't really felt all that much change in the quality of life. However, if you are one of those in this country that is used to earning six figures or so, or have had money tied up in the stock market, or other financial institutions then you may be experiencing a world of hurt. Much like the working poor have since my mother's day, and of her mother's ilk before her. I recently listened carefully to a Mr. Bernanke, who is the Chairman of the Federal Reserve comment that this nation is now comprised of two different societies. He stated that for the college graduate unemployment is around 5%, whereas for high school graduates the unemployment rate is around 10%. It is no secret that there is the greatest disparity between the wealthy and poor of our nation in it's history. I could go on about many of the socioeconomic factors contributing to this fact,but it would only be one opinion without much fact to support it, and heck, this is really a platform for sharing recipes for, as i like to call it..."the creative re-use of food". So I digress.

I would just like to come forward and say that even with all the neat ideas that my friends and I throw up here with the pretty pictures, and the smooth vernacular, I waste too damned much of everything. I try to be a good citizen and help the folks around that have less than me, but I can find ways to do more. I feel that I am not alone in this stew of dereliction. I have stood behind men in cashiers' lines at the local market, and witnessed the berating of clerks over the simple asking of that patron to round up their purchase to the nearest dollar to benefit starving, or cancerous kids somewhere. And say what you will about the waste, and skimming done by some charities, rather, use that as an excuse to not spend seven dollars as opposed to $6.43 if you choose to, but really? Does that little bit of change that may just as well be lost in the seat of your car moments later really make that much of a difference in your life? If so, write me. I have 57 cents for you. And I will post your name and address on this blog so that others may donate as well. There is a time for being tight because it all adds up, but also a time to loosen up, because of how it really all adds up. Think.

Just last week, my wife and I were going to the grocery store to but some things we needed, and some of that I am sure would eventually get wasted. There were folks out on the curb from the local food pantry asking passers by to please remember the less fortunate in the community, and were handing out little scraps of paper with a list of food items which they hoped to collect. I won't go into the stress that trip to the grocer was putting on our budget, with rent due and an ailing pet, but I asked my wife to help me remember to find at least one small donation, a can of beans, for the seasonal bags being stuffed for the needy. My mother taught me that even if you only have 50 cents in your pocket, why not throw it in the Charity Kettle. In other words, she said, what more good could it do for you to hang on to? Well this past week, as my wife was heading to the same grocery store, I received a text message from a friend. It read simply "go to the nearest Harris Teeter and find a manager and tell them your name." I forwarded the instructions to my wife, and she was surprised to be handed $250.00 worth of gift cards. When she texted me back, shocked, moved...I returned her text "just thank God your husband hasn't always been such an asshole." And as I recalled the story later to my mother, and with my wife present, my voice cracked, as I humbly, and tearfully recalled the can of beans for the food drive, and the 57 cents for the cancer kids...and said "that's why....that is why we give, because there are always those with less than we have, no matter how little we may think we have."

I gotta wrap this recipe up I think. There is really only one ingredient that matters here. Compassion. You don't even have to know or love someone to help them out, to open your heart, or your wallet, or your calendar...and show someone less fortunate a little compassion. You may even choose to do so anonymously. This time of year, all over the country there are programs like Empty Bowls, and local food pantries which desperately need a little bit of your time, your money, and/or your compassion to help them make someone's tummy, or somebody's kid's tummy a little less grumbly on these cold winter nights. So please, think of how much you have thrown away this year. Not just old food, but time, money and resources on frivolity and self gratifying luxury. And throw that 50 cents in the Kettle, or buy that can of beans, if that is the least of what your life can afford.


-And Jojo, sorry I couldn't do more than the wish sandwich with your query...but what do you want for nothin' ...a rubber biscuit?

: ) -ac

12.08.2010

THIS WEEK'S HOBO! ~ Potato Patties ~ -Lulabelle

When I was little my mother would make mashed potatoes and sometimes we had leftovers hanging around after a couple of days.  At this point it seemed as though there weren't quite enough for everyone to have a decent sized serving.  This was during the years of Reagan-omics ---- we were stretching things as far as they could go!  As I got older and learned more about various religious traditions, cultures, and foods I learned that what my southern mother made from leftover mashed potatoes were known to others as Latkes.  Unlike Latkes, which are most commonly served during the 8 days of Hanukkah (and bring with them cultural and religious significance) potato patties are served during the 3rd day of Leftovers during which we celebrate the stretched wallet and the full tummy.  And maybe, aspects of that aren't altogether different from the Hanukkah story after all?
You've got your leftover mashed potatoes and we know those can vary in consistency which means that the recipe is more flexible--- you'll have to roll with the punches as they say.  Grandaddy was a cook in the Army Air Corps during World War II and he really was instrumental in teaching me and my mother how to cook.  As a result I can make larger meals better than smaller, can make do with whatever I've go around and I'm not afraid to try and make something work!  I think these are good traits for anyone who wants to cook on a budget:  use what you've got, don't be afraid to try something new and make the best of your results.  Let's get to it y'all!

Step 1:      Evaluate the mashed potatoes are they mushy or more firm?  That will effect the amount of milk you'll add (if any).  

Step 2:      Break yourself on egg and mix it into the bowl of mashed potatoes- you can use a whisk or even a mixer but a fork or washed hands do the job just             
                 as well!

Step 3:      Re-evaluate the consistency and it is more like pancake or cake batter you'll want to thicken it up a bit so that it doesn't run when you drop it in the     
                 pan. If you wish to thicken it up you can do any number of things like add a bit of flour or add some leftover black, kidney or pinto beans if you had   
                 them - they've got enough starch to thicken it up a bit.  If you had corn you could add that as well.  I prefer to add something like the corn or beans   
                 because they've got a bit more nutrients than just flour.  Don't be afraid to try different sorts of flour- try cornmeal or oat instead of just flour.

Step 4:       Get out your skillet/ frying pan and spritz it with your oil of choice.  I try to be a health conscious girl (it makes me feel better when I NEED some
                  kind of special treat that is NOT healthy!!) Some people believe in Canola Oil and others support Olive Oil and either of these will do the job.  I    
                  grew up southern but with a mother who was concerned about weight control and healthier eating and my cooking style reflects that.  Take  
                  ownership of your own styles!

Step 5:       Spritz your pan- I'm not deep frying these things!  And heat it up a bit on low.  While that gets going form your little patties (they should be about 
                  as thick as you'd make a cookie) before placing them in the pan to cook.  From this point on you'll handle them like a regular pancake- check them 
                  with a tooth pick or fork to see when they're done.

Potato Patties can be served for dinner that evening and even may be around for the next day depending on how many you made.  Maybe a little soysage biscuit could be put together using the patties instead of the biscuit.  And by all means feel free to adapt this recipe to your family and your leftovers.  I love spinach and think that might be a great thing to throw in as well as onions, maybe even pepper, summer squash... the possibilities are endless!  Take inspiration from Latkes- they have some great traditions of putting applesauce and other sweet as well as savory toppings on the Latkes.  Use something other than left over potato products, too!  Give it a shot!  You never know what you might find!  Maybe some leftover chicken would be tasty... and cheese seems to be popular as well.

12.06.2010

Pizza Dough -killertomato

People tend to visibly recoil when you start talking about making pizza dough at home, so I'm going to give you the easiest recipe I know of, because I really want you to make pizza!

When it seems like there's nothing to eat in the house, you can pull together something really fun and filling using some flour, yeast and whatever you've got on hand. You can do anything you want, just as long as you don't ever refer to it as "'za" around me- for some reason that grates on my last nerve like gravel on a sharpening stone.

We've made pesto pizza when we didn't have cheese, done a "Mexican" style pizza with leftover grilled chicken, stewed tomatoes with lime and garlic topped with some cheddar and jack, and I know there's a hotdog pizza that's popular in Germany that I haven't tried because my history with 'dogs has been a rocky one. Another time recently, I was too lazy to make tomato sauce and just layered fresh tomatoes with salt and pepper over an olive oil brushed pie, topped with mozzarella and basil. Yum!

The dough:
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water (105 degrees)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. salt
4 c. all purpose flour

Stand Mixer:
In the bottom of mixing bowl, put warm water and sprinkle in yeast, let stand 10 minutes. Add oil and stir with finger. Add flour and salt then knead with dough hook attachment for 2 minutes on low, then 10 minutes on medium, then rest for 5 minutes, then mix 10 minutes more.
Let rise overnight in the refrigerator covered in an oiled bowl.

By hand:
Sprinkle yeast into measuring cup with warm water, let stand for 10 minutes, add oil. Combine salt and half of flour in a large bowl. Add liquid and use wooden spoon to combine.Add remaining flour and stir until cohesive mass forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If you've not kneaded by hand before, you lightly roll the dough towards you and push away with the heel of your palm over and over. Try not to put too much pressure on the dough and it will thank you later. Form into a ball and let rise overnight in covered, oiled bowl.
Now you can roll out the dough into a circle with a rolling pin or practice hand tossing it. I recommend the latter. It's fun when you get it down so just keep practicing with any extra pieces of dough that are left. Eventually, I'd like to get to a place on this blog where I can upload my own video demos, for now I suggest heading over to YouTube with a search for hand tossed pizza dough.

You'll be baking your pizza in the hottest oven you can at home, that's typically about 500 degrees in a conventional oven. We began to suspect that we made enough pizzas this summer to raise our power bill and actually tried grilling them on a pizza stone outside over the charcoal grill with the lid pulled down. It kind of worked...but needs tweaking. More on that later!

12.03.2010

Carolina Persimmon Puddin' -Anti Chef

Well, now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and all the food television is moving on to the next holiday season (can we still call it a season?) I figure it would be a good opportunity to post a recipe that has been a favorite of the good folks of the North Carolina Outer Banks for the last couple hundred years. I work as a tour guide most of the year now, in a little place called Carova Beach. It's tucked in between Corolla, NC and the Virginia border...where the Wild Spanish Mustangs still roam free and you can only access your home or vacation paradise by four wheel drive vehicle. Many different species of wild and edible plants and animals live there. Aside from the horses, we also have wild boar (tasty), raccoons,duck potatoes, opossum, white tailed deer, cat tails (yeah, they have an edible shoot like bamboo), and Bob White quail...to mention a few.

This time of the year is one of my favorite times. Not only have all the tourists gone home, leaving the beaches and dunes to us, but the last of the summer fruit hangs heavy on bare branches just waiting to be eaten. The leafless orchards remind me of jack-o-lantern trees once the oblong leaves turn red and finally fall off, leaving behind the ripening pumpkin colored fruit. Every creature in the north beach loves to grub on the persimmons, from the horses to the crabby folks at the Carova Beach Volunteer Fire Department. My Great Aunt lived up there for more than forty years, and among the dishes we looked forward to during the cold weather holidays was Persimmon Puddin(g). My Uncle was a crabber, so we always had crab dip, or crab cakes in early fall, and rockfish (striped bass) in the winter...but the persimmons were always the unlikely, but delicious star of this season's Holiday spread. They grow WILD all over the place, dispersed by all the industrious and hungry quadrupeds, and all you have to do is pick yourself a bunch and get to it. Just make sure that they are ripe, for if not, they will turn your face inside out. It's always fun to watch a young'un figure this fact out for the first time. Harmless and fun. They usually ripen after the first frost, which rarely comes early for us...just right for setting us up for Christmas desserts. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do, once left alone to our Autumnal wanderings, out here in the middle of nowhere. So without further, - yeah....yeah...yeah.... you will need enough ripe persimmons to yield around two cups of pulp once the skins and seeds are removed.

ingredients:

2c. persimmon pulp

3 c. milk

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 c. all purpose flour

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

-dash of cinnamon

(some fools use nuts, chopped, one half cup)

whipped cream

method:

- preheat your oven to 350 degrees

- puree the skinned and seeded pulp in a food processor

- in one large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients

- in another large bowl combine the pulp, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla and beat well

- add the dry ingredients to the wet, combining thoroughly ( this is where some jack asses might add nuts)

- pour mixture into an 9" x 13" baking dish (you don't need to grease it)

- bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until the blade of a thin knife comes out clean

- serve it warm, with the whipped cream.

- tell somebody you made it, they might be impressed.

12.01.2010

HEAT Us Cheap -The (vegetable) Butcher


~from Cutiepie:  Hey y'all!  Our first hobo, The (vegetable) Butcher, is one smart mother-shut-your-mouth.  He can do stuff with a half rotten fridge that is better left untold...yet somehow hasn't killed anyone and leaves them wanting more...enjoy the treasure that a lucky few have known about for years...

---I used to cut up cows, now I cut up carrots...you won't find any strict rules with me as I'm a hobo that uses my hands...at least I wash first...(sometimes)...---


As we head into late autumn, Daylight Savings Time plunges us into darkness at an alarmingly early hour.  We stumble out of bed in our cold, dark houses, and after a full day's work we find ourselves sitting in that old familiar blackness once again...before we even get through rush hour. By the time most families are gathered to finish homework, share a meal and get ready for the next day's routine, most of the free heat provided to our homes by the sun has radiated its way back into space.  This is the time of year that mental health professionals make their quotas, thanks to Seasonal Affective Disorder, alcoholism, and whatever other disorders stem from lack of sunlight and overexposure to crappy holiday music.  We can counteract the negative effects of the changing seasons by providing an environment that promotes warmth and togetherness, complemented by healthy, hearty meals.  Before you reach for the thermostat at night, it's time to start using the oven again.
+
Summer, here in the Deep South, means that I make every excuse to avoid meals that require any baking, roasting, or broiling.  You won't find any stock pots bubbling away on my stove in mid-August, either.  I've even been known to move the toaster oven to the back porch, just to bake a potato or cook a few chicken breasts.  It's just too damned expensive to keep our old house cool during those sweltering months.  In addition to cold salads, I lean heavily on that holy trinity of summer cooking...the grill, the microwave, and the crock pot.
As the leaves turn and the mercury plummets, it is with great pleasure that I dust off the roasting pans and the soup cauldrons.  The rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, and winter squashes that I have been missing are once again restored to my shopping list. The oven is great for all of these winter staples.  It also excels at multi-tasking...while the veggies are roasting to perfection,  leftovers can be reheated in a dish to the side...and while this is going on, some flaky fish filets can be cooking away, snugly sealed in a foil envelope on the rack below.  Grab a loaf of crusty bread from the freezer and throw it in for the last five minutes.  You get the idea...the possibilities are endless.
+
Our most recent roasting session included artichokes, onions, carrots, garlic cloves, brussels sprouts, and bell pepper halves...all misted lightly with olive oil cooking spray and rubbed down with a bruised clove of garlic.  I "parboiled" the artichoke beforehand by putting it in the microwave for a few minutes in a covered pot with few millimeters of water.  For the oven, 400 degrees seems to be a good temperature setting...not so hot as to char the greener veggies, but just enough to take care of the larger chunks and any of the starchier roots...that, and it's an easy number to remember.
+
A watchful eye is key...for reduced fat cooking, there's a fine line between golden perfection and having to order Chinese as you fan the smoke out of the kitchen.  If you are incorporating ingredients that require longer cooking times, I would suggest using separate roasting pans.
+
Things don't have to end with the main course.  Have a cobbler standing by, or a sheet of pre-arranged cookie dough ready to pop in as dinner comes out.  Even a pot of plain old water can be used to make tea or cocoa or to fill a hot water bottle for the bed, or to humidify a dry house.  The oven doesn't care if you're cooking a 20 pound turkey or a Pop Tart, so use your imagination and take advantage of every bit of that extra heat.  This isn't so much a recipe posting as it is a suggestion to use your heat creatively to bring folks together, all the while saving on the utility bill.  Do more than cook.  It harkens back to a time when every home had a fire burning in its hearth...and that fire was the center of family life.  Once the sun went down, that was it...no central heat, no TV, no artificial light.
+
Just candlelight, quilts, and conversation.
+
It went beyond physical survival...it was how human beings endured the cold and the darkness with their sanity intact.  Perhaps, by using the warmth of the kitchen as a means to bring us together, we can capture a small bit of that in our own modern homes this winter.

  
The (vegetable) Butcher

11.27.2010

Nacho Tartlete -Anti Chef

-funny story. my good friend John used to run a New Mexican to-go joint in Corolla, NC called Donkey Hotay's.

It rocked.

I used to help him out a little when my "tour guide" schedule allowed me to, and he gave me food at half price. I would have paid full price though, 'cuz it was 'effin' good! Damn you Juanito!!! Damn you twice for leaving the beach hell we shared! Ahhh...ay Papi...Anyway, as he was pulling up stakes to move to the D.C. area and try his luck at a more "Urban Donkey", we banged our heads together briefly to try and brainstorm "signature items" that would be both neat and quick treats to make and consume, but also inexpensive to create and items that would be in keeping with the "funky" sort of dressed down atmosphere that he had worked to create. Anyway, one night it hit me....and I laughed,thinking of the two words together, nacho tartlete. I think it could fit in here under a trilogy of recipes entitled : "what to do with the rest of the tortilla chips in the bag when they're already all broken up anyway". But, we'll keep it short, cliffhanger for now, just the nacho tartlete one. So, if you have a mini muffin pan, or you can "get" one somehow, then follow along.

The inspiration of this recipe comes from trying to eat cheese dip with a little pinched crumble of broken chip left overs, and getting cheese on my digits. I was feeling all cave man and so I took the next logical evolutionary step by thinking of a way to jam their two separate goodness-es together, like a little "New Mexican Takeout Leftover Reese's Cup" kind of thing. The first step would be to get the cheese combined with the tortilla chips which involved crushing them into a fine meal, easy. Part two was the "what do I cook it in ?" moment, and non stick muffin pan jumped in, the thought of melting cheese against a surface that it won't adhere to was just too enticing to turn away from. I started thinking of other things that would go great in there, or on top. Chili, taco meat,re fried beans, micro brunoise of lettuce, tomato, olives, fresh hot peppers, sour cream...creme fraiche...what ever...I was high, and it was time to make this! Excuse me..."high"... on life, um...kids. So you should be almost ready to do this without me by now, as it is truly brainless, except for the gathering of the ingredients you wish to use, and the making sure you don't burn the house down when a craving for a little 'snaq' like this one strikes...

ingredients (only suggestions) :

- a non stick mini muffin pan
- about a cup or two of finely crushed tortilla chips ( you can smash 'em pretty good with your hands right in the bag)
- about a cup or two of any cheese(shredded) or cheese dip you may have laying around that fit the flavor of the fever
- about a cup or so of ingredient 3* (chili, taco meat, re fried beans)
- a bunch of garnish stuff, or not

method:

- preheat oven to 400 degrees
- mix about half of the cheese and half of the tortilla crumbs together to form a loose sort of mixture (if you use cheese dip, don't go too wet)
- fill the muffin holes about a third of the way with the tortilla and cheese mixture
- add a dollop of ingredient 3
- top with a sprinkling of the tortilla and cheese mixture to sort of cover and fill the muffin hole
- bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until bubbly and browned
- allow the tartletes to cool to near room temp and then carefully remove them
-garnish them as fancy pants as you would like or don't, they will be great as is, trust me

* cooks notes:

- ingredient 3 just means whatever you have, I often use this at home as a different way to enjoy a chili I made, or leftovers from the local Mexican Restaurant, whatever
- you can really dress this up if you want to, use a little leftover chicken breast instead of chili or beans and top with a dice of sweet onion and cilantro, or a nice cool salsa verde,
or dice up some little tomatoes and peppers and paint some sour cream on from a squirt bottle to decorate, turn this bite into a little amuse bouche for your next party, or just eat them in your underwear, standing in the kitchen next to the oven, and the mess you just made at 4 a.m., like the first time I ever tried to make them. DO IT!

11.24.2010

Mystery Solved -killertomato


Every now and then I find a scrap of paper with some ingredients scribbled on it with no title or directions holding a place inside a novel or poking out from behind the washing machine. This particular doodle was found inside a shoebox full of similar fragments (organized chaos just works for me). I was noticing that we had rice, chicken, and carrots with which to fabricate our victuals and as I scrutinized this magical recipe, it began to shape up into just the thing to take chicken and rice from boring to fun. It looked like a recipe for sweet and sour sauce!

Here it is:
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp fish sauce
4 scallions

B had done his usual great job of finding natural chicken from a reputable, local company, which I had deboned yesterday and made cutlets with the breast. Those were sauteed and set aside while the rice got going. I only have brown rice right now, which is so much healthier and subsequently causes people to make faces at its mention. So that was going, and it takes a lot longer to absorb the water so I had put it on first along with the 5 sliced carrots boiling in water. After the chicken was sauteed, I left most of the fat in the pan and added the garlic and red pepper to cook briefly over medium heat. (I did not have any ginger and I think it would have added a pleasant zing to this sauce but they certainly don't stock that next to the faded Banner sausage cans down at the corner grocery.)

Next, I added the brown sugar, vinegar, fish sauce and some mushroom soy sauce we have, instead of tamari.

 (*You may have an even better substitute than what is called for...a big part of my approach is to get you to use what you already have rather than run to the store for ingredients or decide you can't make something.)

The sugar made me want to treat it like caramel so I amped up the temp to high and moved the pan around while it boiled and thickened. This is when I realized your rice and chicken should be plated so you can sauce it immediately. I still had to mash the carrots, so that wasn't going to happen and so I didn't let it thicken that much. I think that's better, because there was some left over that was saveable. I only had two scallions to slice and scatter over the top, and that was fine too.
The carrots were mashed and peppered well and given about a tablespoon of hot cream, which was really just whole milk we get from a local dairy that's super creamy. The baby would be sharing so I set that aside for her and put a little butter and salt on the grownup's carrots. What was left was put into a container for her to chow down on the next couple of nights.

Maybe in the future I'd do carrot croquettes with this, ever had those? They are formed and deep fried like salmon croquettes, really fun.

11.22.2010

Rose Hip Tea -Cutiepie Spacepop

We are lucky enough to have rose hips growing right outside of our house...wrapped around the mailbox...and ready for picking.  Why do a post about basically boiled water on a food blog?  Well, several reasons really...and the main one is that they were there...just sitting there...not doing anything much...until The Butcher called them out and as is his fashion...plucked them to their deaths...


Here is a little background on rose hips....first and most importantly, they are LOADED with Vitamin C...packed...super packed!  That is a good thing as the weather gets colder and we all start to sniffle and some of us even lose our voice...like me...The rose hip is formed after the rose has lost its petals and the seed pod grows.  When things got tough in the second world war...the Brits were said to have supplemented rose hips for their lack of citrus.  The plant we harvested from is a wild variety of some sort...not the prettiest flowers but its made up for that with the rose hips.  Since it is largely neglected it has some of the best rose hips around...no pesticides, no tinkering with in any way.

You can use the rose hips right away or you could dry them...its up to you really...just be sure to remove the seeds as there is some lore about their irritant properties.  It is so simple to make a cup of rose hips...crush the fresh ones and boil them...let them steep for as long as you can.  You can sweeten the drink, or not...its up to you.  I like strong, strong, strong tea...and while this is technically an infusion, we will stick to tea as it takes less time to type...  I have yet to make a cup from dried rose hips...but I have so much that I am sure the end of the stash will be dry enough in no time.  I've read its a good idea to de-seed when the pod is half dried...it is much easier to extract that way.  I will have to update you later with what I find.

I have had some excellent feed back from a lot of you!  My friends abroad, namely A Brilliant Life, have really made some great comments about the tone of ease when it comes to making the dishes.  She does not have available to her the items we have available to us here in the states...so she has expressed inspiration when reading about the "whatever you have on hand" method.  With this in mind I decided to throw in this incredibly simple, yet, for me, inspiring post.  To look around you...a little differently...you will begin to see that you don't necessarily have to be a farmer to reap bounty from the land...in this case...from the mailbox.

11.17.2010

Marinade...in this case for meat... -Cutiepie Spacepop

Now that it is entirely too cold to grill...I follow suit in my usual timely manner...

Be warned my fruitarian friends, advert your eyes!

I live with an ex-butcher...really.

And while this has rarely come in handy since I was a vegetarian until I got pregnant...it has, post baby, come in handy a few times.

I'm not one to eat a lot of meat. Its just not me...not for any reason other than I don't really care for it. However...there are times...and in those times this is when The Butcher's expertise comes in handy. I haven't a clue on what constitutes a good cut...or what the clues are to skip that one and move to the next. So he does that rare purchase.

For those of you who like a good steak, two words: Chuck Eyes.

This used to be our little secret many years ago, but as The Butcher noted recently, this cut seems to have been catching on. Probably because it is so affordable when compared to similar cuts...and in my opinion (and we know I have limited knowledge on the subject...) it is just as good.


What makes it better? Fresh marinade.

There is something in fresh oranges and pineapples that make a meat turn to mush. Be careful, it really can do this! If you follow the below, an hour should do you. You don't need to do a thing other than flip the steaks half way through the marination time.

What is a serving really...its marinade...so I don't think there is too much to worry about in terms of nutritional content...this is a freebie, taste only sorta thing.

Fruit Marinade

2 Oranges - juiced (I threw the whole thing in...peel and all)
About a quarter of a fresh Pineapple, cut the death spikes off
1/2 a head of Garlic, don't be shy
Soy Sauce - I use low sodium and if not that then some Bragg's does the trick
Ginger Oil - this is one of those nice surprises...

Now, no juicer, no problem...have a blender?  Or a food processor?  No?....Well, you need to go borrow one...go on...I'll wait....

Ok, now whatever food obliterater you have managed to get your paws on, go to town.  If you are lucky and you have a juicer, then you can skip the straining necessary for the blender or the food processor.

Throw all of it together and let it rest.

As noted, this has like super funky enzymes, or some shiz, in it that really break down the meat...if you leave it on too long you might be eating meat pudding...and outside of a Ren and Stimpy cartoon, this is just wrong.

Don't throw away the pulp you have!!  Wait for a following post to get an idea what to do with it...in the meantime, put your trimmings, garlic skins and all, in the freezer.

Dig in!

Apple Cake -killertomato

This is a very easy recipe for apple cake that's also pretty economical. Even the caramel icing doesn't use much of the butter, cream and sugar it calls for. If you have never baked a cake, this one is great to start with. I'll walk you through the caramel but the cake could be finished without any icing in my opinion.
+
This cake is like most and gets better and better with the quality of the ingredients. If you are making this in the fall, you can find interesting varieties of apples around you. Apples have the potential to produce infinte varieties, so why not give them a chance at survival? Red Delicious and Granny Smith are all fine and good but they're like that annoying little bastard who always got picked first for the team while you inwardly cursed at the bores who just went safe instead of with you. I went on the hunt to see what I could find. The first trip was to the weekly farmer's market that is held near by, but it was too early perhaps, and I'm not even sure that any of the usual farmers there are growing apples (we did find some small pears). So being lucky enough to live close to the State Farmer's Market in Forest Park, GA (which is near Hartsfield Airport) I drove there the day before baking and found several farmers from the North Georgia Mountains showing off their apples. There were many different kinds including the usual suspects, and I wound up choosing Mutsus for their softness. They were selling by the bag and the smallest was $5, so with the rest I'll be making and freezing apple sauce for the baby, as she loves it in her morning oatmeal.
+
Here's the recipe:
3 c. flour
4 eggs
2 1/2 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 apples, peeled and sliced
1 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. orange juice
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
5 Tbs. sugar to dress apples
2 tsp. cinnamon* to dress apples
+
Grease and flour tube pan. Why a tube pan? Because it will be much easier to get your heavy cake out of the pan without disaster striking if you can remove the bottom. Peel and slice apples and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
 

I agree with (Peter) here that whole cinnamon is the best thing to use if you've got it. It's cheaper by the bag and you just put it into a coffee grinder to pulvarize it into a super pungent powder that will leave a lasting impression on the tongue later.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. *See bottom of page to get a recipe for homemade baking powder. Sift it 3 or 4 times for a lighter texture. I swear by this, even for pancakes. Mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange juice and oil in that order, whisking after each one. Combine with dry mixture and stir well, until all is smooth. Batter will be thick. Pour half into pan and then put apples in, then the rest of the mix. Bake 80 minutes at 350 degrees. As with all cakes, it may take less or more time, depending on your oven, etc. If the cake is beginning to pull away from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean, it's done. In my electric oven, it was about 70 minutes.
+
Caramel glaze:
(This may or may not be the same recipe we used in a restaurant I once worked at. I guess if someone comes across this and is pissed, they can just leave a spiteful comment. I really don't remember as I use several different caramel recipes now.)
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
salt (pinch or dash depending on your love of salty caramel.)
1/2 c. half and half or heavy cream- half and half works fine and you can use it for more things later.
+
Get a fairly big saute pan, just don't use a tiny one, and put it over medium high heat. Put cold butter in and let it melt a little, don't think you are helping the process along by letting the butter soften a little-you're not. Add everything else, and your cream needs to be cold too. Now just slide the pan back and forth towards you without stopping. Watch it all start melting and swirling together. Tell it that it's beautiful. Keep going. See those bubbles? Good, it's coming to a boil. Keep going. Now it's starting to form a blob, like brown ectoplasm perhaps. It's starting to grow legs as if it may stand up and try to ooze out of the pan and go attack a town. As it starts to pull away from the pan and form a cohesive mass like this, take a spoon that you have nearby and let some of the caramel run off it. Does it go fast or slow? Thick or thin? Just as it starts to go slowly and heavily, take the pan over to the apple cake and begin spooning it over the top. You can see it thickening up qickly so you must do this right away. YUM!
+
Baking powder- Two parts baking soda mixed with one part cream of tartar makes baking powder. Sift them together to make sure it's all even. It keeps for a while but I usually make just enough, to avoid future stress.

Honey Kix and Panko Breaded Chicken -Anti Chef


Any other moms or dads out there just love the feeling of cooking for five or six hours to create a big fancy pants meal only to have your little angel(s) give you the high hat? Okay, how about ...has anyone ever felt like just feeding your kid cereal until they turned into it? No? ...hmm, can anyone tell me the fundamental gastronomic differences between a Dorito and a Coke? No again? What about between kids cereal and chicken/seafood breader...? Ahh, getting warmer now...pretty much no difference at all. You may find a few extra or omitted spices based on which of the two we are talking about, but other than that there is no huge difference in the contents of your kids cereal box and one of those packages of pre-mixed chicken or seafood breader you buy at the grocery store. Most cereals are made almost completely of corn, or corn meal...and most any cook who has worked in a tourist trap of a beach town like mine will more than likely confess to having prepared at least one fried offering that has been breaded in some sort of pulverized breakfast staple. Or have none of you ever heard of Cap'n Crunch Shrimp, or Fried Ice Cream...yep, that's just corn flakes on there folks, smashed up corn flakes. (they were probably going bad to start with, after some kid-less hack surfer/restaurant manager that didn't know shite brought them in in case any kids wanted them) The truth is, LOTS of cooks crush up LOTS of stuff to "crust" something with, and that idea strikes people for the strangest of reasons...that strange urge to coat something perfectly nice in something which would seem at first completely wrong. Stupid, stupid, busy humans.

In this case found myself with WAY TOO MUCH Kix cereal in the pantry...kid tested, mother approved... and WIC friendly. If I could have given it out by the flung handful for Halloween I would have, but we live on a busy road where no one tricks or treats...and to throw it around blindly is just wasteful, so....Honey Kix and Panko Breaded Chicken. Lately, my kid won't go anywhere near chicken unless it is in some mechanically separated, reassembled and fried form. I figured if I could find a way to get her to eat some nice, organic, hormone and hate free chicken breast without having to go to the trouble of setting up (and breaking down) my counter top fryer then it would be well worth the experiment. Before I give you the skinny on the breader, I want to stress...this is ONLY good as a kids thing. I tried to do it all fancy as a dinner for me and the wife (as the pictures will show) but it was just a peculiar sort of sweet. Maybe with a nice honey barbecue sauce or something that would either go well with, or contrast with the sweetness of the cereal...but as a kids finger food, good for dipping in honey, or honey mustard, or whatever....this is cool, and better for them than fried chicken nuggets.

Photobucket

Step One: Wash The Chicken:
Most folks don't realize just how filthy those chickens' tiddies can be after being trapped for hours, or days in that plastic, shrink-wrapped Styrofoam hell they're packaged in. All of those good old bacteria that come along with the meat are laying there, all over the surface just waiting for you, so wash your breasts. Just run them under cold water for a few moments and rub off any schmutz they may have accumulated whilst bound, then just pat the clean breasts dry with some paper toweling. If they are large, I like to cut them into two pieces which will cook quicker and are kid friendly.


Photobucket

Step Two: Breader:
In a food processor, pulse about two cups of cereal until you achieve the texture of lumpy corn meal -- or a little smaller pieces than the panko. Add the panko and continue pulsing to blend, transfer to a large zip lock bag. (gallon size works great)


Photobucket

Cook: Preheat Oven to 400 degrees:
Moisten the chicken pieces with water, then toss them a couple at a time into the Kix and Panko mixture to coat. Place the breaded pieces in a 13x9 inch baking dish, do not grease or spray it. Bake the chicken, after shaking it, in the center of the oven for around 20 to 25 minutes. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees. Discard any unused breader and the bag.
In closing, please remember...handling chicken like a careless jackass will sicken you and/or the ones you love. Always wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water after handling ANY raw meat, and be sure to wash, clean and disinfect all food preparation surfaces the meat may have come in contact with. And don't do anything stupid when handling raw meat...for example, don't photograph your kid's cereal box, which he or she may like to play with, next to raw chicken. I am a trained rule breaker. Do as I say.

11.10.2010

Basic Vegetable Soup -killertomato

This recipe is so basic and simple it seems silly to print it except that we've eaten so much of it lately that I think it's worth noting if not simply for this one reason: After a stretch of eating it for 4 or 5 days straight,we were beginning to curse the monotony until I noticed everyone's skin just glowed.

We radiated.

We didn't even know we'd been missing all the nutrients necessary to have the complexion we wished for until push came to shove and it was time to throw everything in pot and cook it.

Incidentally, I grew up eating this, alternately with a steady diet of beans and cornbread (with chow chow), just about every night. Really, my parents would joke that I must've come from another planet for making faces. But for all the redundancy and pinings for a more glamorous lifestyle, no one ever got sick and we all had fabulous skin- and of course I know now that this diet probably sent my brother and me to college. This is impossibly cheap as well, so enjoy...
  • In a large stock pot, take a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of flour and stir constantly over medium to make a roux.
  • After it has become a golden sort of cream and coffee color, put about 4 cups of tomatoes in. They can be canned or fresh, but if fresh, scald briefly and peel first.
  • Stir into roux and add salt or pepper. If using canned tomatoes from the store, you can throw in about 2 Tbsp of sugar to cut that metallic taste.
  • Now put all vegetables that you have available into the pot and add more seasoning and stir again.
  • Fill the pot with water, and any herbs you like. I prefer to keep it more or less simple, 2 T. dried oregano, 1 tsp. thyme, 1 T. paprika, 1 tsp. file, dash cayenne and a bay leaf. (Then I add some fresh basil when I take it off the stove because we have gobs of it growing in the yard.)
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.

11.05.2010

"roasted stew and biscuitry" -Anti Chef

It's cold here. I spent the better part of Election Day standing outside "stumping" for a couple of really educated people I know who were running for local Board of Education seats. I don't really like politics. I like good food, mind bending dialogue, rain on warm summer days and the under dog. But at times when one finds the self in a 'povertous' stretch one will often make choices contrary to those made in a time of more financial clarity. Isn't that what this blog is about??? Where am I ?

Anyhoo -
when I'm not standing out in the cold to try and be of help to a friend, or answering the forwarded office phones for seventy five dollars a week whilst the boss and Mama play in Jamaica, I like to spend my time writing cerebral horror poems and cooking meals that warm both heart and home. I made a roast over the weekend with the expectation of my in laws. I won't bore you with that recipe...unless you ask me. But you know how a roast has all kinds of good accompaniment with the carrots, onions, celery and parsnips...resulting and including bad ass gravy....mashed potatoes, and nice green side. I chose peas, which I added to a saute of tiny little diced carrots, onion, and some butternut squash I had laying around. Again with the butternut squash and peas and carrots recipe, later...ask nicely this time. (hay zoos) It was a nice supper. So - you know there's leftovers. Ahh....that's where I was, am....the leftover thing.

Get the casserole dish...and don't worry about any habit you may see forming. Trust your old pal the anti chef here, it's me kids...this is going to be great, and it wont hurt a bit.

You need basically enough stuff to fill a 9 x 9 inch or 9 x 13 inch dish, and a can of biscuits. Yeah, you could make some, but most people exist in a world so busy that they never have time to even let the biscuit they get from a drive through cool before they eat it, let alone envision or dare i imagine undertake the "old fashioned" task of actual biscuitry. They, much like I, perpetrate counterfeit biscuitry...obtaining previously manufactured biscuits - either canned, or baked from a mix and served warm, over counters, through windows....bad, bad, biscuit. So, make some of your own if you have the time, the recipe and the balls....go ahead....what, okay Cutiepie....i will also post my Grandma's biscuit recipe they are nice, ask nice...whatever.

Photobucket

So take all of the leftovers, slice the roast into chunks, cut up the onions and carrots and parsnips and celery from the roasting operation, throw 'em in a nice large sauce pan with the leftover bad ass gravy, and green pea and butternut side remnants....heat this up slowly and gently....that's slowly....and ....gently....then pour this "stew" into whichever baking dish it best fits in. You want a thick stew consistency, but if your gravy has gotten too thick it won't work, you may have to thin the mixture out a little with some sort of liquid....water or stock....stock if you have it, but water is cheap. Also if your gravy has gotten too thick...it is probably not bad ass, but somehow, you will live.


Photobucket

Once you have your "stew" in the baking dish place a layer of biscuits on top and bake as directed on the biscuit can...I did it at 350 for about 17 minutes...you just want to make sure the "stew" is well heated before going into the oven with the biscuits and everything should be just fine. Also, with most canned biscuits being really thick, I like to
rip them into thirds by tearing them, "flaky" ones are really easy to separate into three different "layers" and this bakes up nicer than full biscuit size....gives you a better stew to biscuit ratio...very important, or at the very least, a ratio not to be under considered. Just bake the extra biscuits on the same baking pan as the "roast and biscuit" cooks on.

This is one of those flying by the seat of your pants ones, but it is also really, really easy. Once you have gone through the four to five hour process the day before to prepare the roast and everything else this is a breeze. And bear in mind, I got a 2.69lb eye of round roast for about thirteen bucks...add the veggies and all we are looking at maybe twenty and it feeds four grown ups and a two year old for two full meals....well, she will be two in a couple of months, but they fly by. Time flies by...so spend it with the ones you love. Embrace unemployment if you must, and go back to the roots on how to survive the tough times. Buy good quality products to feed your family with, and make the most of everything you buy...and that will excuse you, and me...for canned biscuits once in a while. Our country didn't seem as fat and lazy to me when "the king, the clown, and the colonel" (thanks Tony Bourdain) weren't getting so much of our time and money because the schedules we maintain to actually provide for our families do not allow us time to actually see our families...fast food has gone from a treat, or cheat, to a way of life for many of us, and it is a bad scene.


I guess I should throw up a biscuit recipe, since in my Grandmother's day, having flour, baking powder and shortening "around" was part of having a kitchen, and making biscuits was more common than making a fuss at the counter over whether or not you wanted cheese, or mayo on that...think about it...think about your grandma.
-ac

11.04.2010

Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin -Anti Chef


Alright, here's one that all of you can make, but some of you may think you can't, but you really can. There are just a few ingredients, easy, no frills cooking instructions, and it is a wonderful side dish that goes well with most anything.I came up with this by bastardizing a recipe for a potato gratin that I have used for years. It is a great recipe, but I found myself one day without enough potatoes to make a gratin, cakes, mashers or anything, so I got creative. I was actually fairly amazed at how well it turned out. I would put it on any fall menu were I still game-fully employed in the regular restaurant industry. I hope you will try it out, and I hope you like it.

ingredients:

- one small to medium butternut squash, peeled
- enough small to medium sized potatoes to make the squash weigh two pounds (about two), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- one quarter sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1.5 c. heavy cream ( do not be scared here)
- 3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese ( you can use the expensive stuff if you want, but you don't have to, and most folks have this on hand already)
- salt and pepper to taste
- sprinkling of dried thyme, about a teaspoon

method :

- first of all, I must try and demystify the butternut squash. Sure, you see them in the store and think, "hmm I bet that would be good, but I dunno....looks like a lot of work..." Stop right there. It is easy as pie to break one down if you follow a simple procedure. Use a normal vegetable peeler to peel it, although you may have to be a little more aggressive in your peeling stroke, it will peel just like a carrot. Make sure when you peel it that you get all traces of green rind looking stuff off, down to the flesh. Once you have it peeled, lop off both ends with a sturdy knife. If big knives scare you, place a kitchen towel between your hand and the blade of the knife as you apply even pressure over the whole of the knife, one hand on the handle, the other over the back of the blade. At this point I like to break it down further in two steps, the "neck" and the "bulb". The neck is easy, just slice it down the center along it's length, and then slice those halves into 1/8 to 1/4 inch pieces. The bulb requires a little more cleaning, but not that bad. Just slice it in half and use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds*. Then break it down so that you have slices similar to those of the neck. Easy squash butchery, there ya go! Now you are ready.

- since the recipe calls for 2 pounds of vegetable matter, you will need to use a scale, but not really though, although it is great to have a digital scale around the house for baking etc. If you can't find one at your local kitchen supplier, or you don't want to visit your local "head shop" then go on line. There are many different types of scales, you just want to make sure you get one that will allow you to use various forms of measure (metric/standard...) and that will handle poundage. I like to start by placing a large, light weight bowl on my scale and "taring" it, or "zeroing" it out.

- as you begin to cut up your veggies, add them to the bowl, that way you can keep an eye on the weight, start with the potatoes first, then the squash and again, if you really go over, just use a little more cream and a bigger casserole dish.
- once all of your veggies are in the bowl, potatoes, squash and sweet onions, add all the other stuff and mix well. use the same bowl you measured in, less mess.
- transfer the ingredients to a lubricated 9"X9" casserole dish and use your hands, or a spatula to press it evenly into the dish. if the stuff looks a little dry, no matter, the squash will release a bit of moisture during the cooking process and provide all the liquid the dish needs. if you have gone over with the veggies and they don't fit, move up to 9"X13" and increase the cream in the recipe by one half cup, for a total of 2 cups...the cheese, that's your call.
- cover the dish and bale @ 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, carefully remove from the oven using potholders and remove the covering. place the casserole back in the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until she starts looking too browned.
- allow the dish to rest 10 to 15 minutes to set, then enjoy. this will provide a nice side dish for at least 6 to 8 people ( with the small casserole)

* cook's notes.
1) yes, if you so desire to go through the laborious task of sorting seeds from pulp, they are very much roast-able like pumpkin seeds, good garnish material, or additions to morning cereals, hot or cold.
2) you may choose to dress this one up by using fresh thyme in the dish, and fresh parsley or chives as a garnish, and I absolutely LOVE the use of fresh herbs as well as other ingredients whenever possible, however, the theme of this show is to make the most out of what you have, most folks have dried thyme in their spice rack, and if you don't, and you like my recipes. do yourself a favor and get some SOON. It is a big favorite of mine and shows up frequently.
3) This recipe suggestion, like most of mine, is but a template...a place from which to start exploring. I use Yukon Gold potatoes because I love them, but you can use any potato you want, sweet potatoes even. I have heard that the more orange the food, the better it is for you, but I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NOR A NUTRITIONIST AND YOU SHOULD RESEARCH NUTRITION FACTS ON YOUR OWN, maybe we can eventually set up a ling to a website for that type of info??? But my point is, play around a bit, mix and match flavors and ingredients, I bet a little curry powder would go a long way in here. In any case, get familiar with easy to make recipes like this one so that you can throw together good, home cooked foods for your soul and your family.