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Cheddar Bacon Biscuits July 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 9:56 pm

I love baking, but I definitely prefer the savory over the sweet so I don’t get to do it enough. This is the cure for what ails me. These are totally worth getting up a little early to make, and they don’t even take that long. Great for houseguests, but worthy of any lazy Saturday morning.

Start by frying up 2-3 slices bacon. Turn your oven on to 400. While the bacon is cooking, make some coffee and start  your dough: Combine 2 cups flour with 1/2t baking soda and 1/4t salt. Using a pastry tool or two knifes, cut in 3 1/2 T cubed, chilled butter. Mix in your bacon (crumbled of course) and about 1/3 cup (or, uhm, more) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese. Toss in a half pint of buttermilk (or about a cup, if you measure from a larger container). Mix it all together. Drop by heaping spoonfuls on a greased cooking sheet. Smaller biscuits will take about 10 minutes, mine were about 20. they are ready when they are golden brown, and holy crap are they delicious. The inside is fluffy and moist and salty, while they outside has the perfect crunch.

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Spanish Friday

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 9:48 pm

Instead of an appetizer, yesterday I made a delicious summer blackberry limeade.  The blackberry is definitely the strongest flavor and this juice isn’t too sweet, either. Simply blend 1 cup water and 1 cup blackberries. Strain out the seeds and solids. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup lime juice/juice of 4 limes, and another 5 cups water. Done!!

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Pan con tomate is the staple dish of Spanish tapas bars. It is incredibly simple and delicious, and is a healthy alternative to a heavily buttered garlic bread. Simply toast 1/2″ slices of soft loaf bread (batard is ideal, but you can wing it with others; 400 degrees for 10 minutes worked perfect for us). For each slice take half a clove of garlic, and rub it into the toast until you are left with just a little nubbin. This technique with raw garlic will give you that wonderful tongue zinging flavor that is lost with any cooking. Then take half a tomato, and rub that into your toast as well. This sweetens and moistens the bread. At this point, you are ready to go. If you want a little more flavor, salt & pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil will do the trick. Thin slices of manchego cheese will take the flavor an entirely different direction, try it both with and without and you will be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

Garlic shrimp. Another incredibly simple and healthy recipe. Sautee up about 6 cloves chopped garlic in a couple T olive oil, add diced dried red chile or chili flakes as you prefer. After about a minute or so throw in a bay leaf and some medium sized shrimp (deveined), cook a few minutes (will vary depending on size of shrimp/prawns) until thoroughly pink. Discard bay leaf and garnish with parsley.

Green beans with olives. Trim fresh green beans and cook in boiling water for about 7-9 minutes. Drain. Toss with 1-2 T butter and s&p (to taste). Toss in a handful of chopped Spanish green olives. The olives are mellowed by both the butter and the green beans, I was very impressed that the saltiness was not overpowering.

No cava at the grocery store, so we enjoyed our Spanish expedition with some prosecco:

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Taco beans. June 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 3:50 am
Tags: , , , ,

Quick post, since I ended up making a pretty lazy dinner: tacos. And for the most part, I scrounged these together, so I think that’s kinda cool. I think the key to a taco is the quality of tortilla. If you are going to pile on tons of flavor and toppings, or make a batch of enchiladas, go ahead and get Casa Crapito. But if you want something easy (and healthy), it’s worth spending a little more money and a few more calories on the good stuff. Lately I am partial to Mi Abuelita Bonita’s green chili corn tortillas, but these are only available in Northern California.

Other than the tortillas, the only other thing to worry about are your beans. If you have lots of toppings, plain black or pinto beans (drained and rinsed, if canned) are fine. But for a simple taco, I recommend the following: Saute up 1/2 diced onion in some olive oil (canola oil would work, too) on med-low heat. While your onion is cooking, open/drain/rinse a can of black beans. You’ll also have time to chop up 2 cloves garlic and throw them in with the onion. Spice with cayenne pepper and cumin (~1/2t each, to taste). Canned beans are high sodium, so salt to taste/as needed.  Give all the flavors a minute to come together and become aromatic, then dump in your beans and heat through:

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From there, trudge forth with whatever is in your fridge or cabinets. For me, this involved sour cream, red pepper strips, and a wedge of lime:

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Tomorrow I may saute up my lonely little zucchini, or shred some cabbage, or experiment with black bean and goat cheese tacos. I love a bean taco.

**Next day update: black bean and goat cheese quesadilla with diced red peppers and a squeeze of lime was really good for lunch today!! No picture because I like my tortillas burnt and crispy and unphotogenic.

 

Chilled corn bisque and BBQ pork! Summertime! June 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 6:12 am

Because of work stress, I haven’t been cooking much. I was overdue for some dinner hosting (my favorite cooking conditions) and a casual dinner with a friend turned into a small dinner party. Everything came off great. This meal also came together very well for me even though I’m swamped with work, which really speaks to the simplicity of the recipes.

Last night I prepped my corn bisque. I got the recipe from the CL website, and although the reviews were unanimously rave, a few folks claimed it to be too much work for a non-hosting occasion. Pish posh!! Soup, in general, is a combination of easy and time consuming. This is more of the former than the latter, honestly. Prepping a day of head of time is practical, but not much work if you enjoy being in the kitchen. Since the recipe is blended and then strained, you don’t need to worry too much about your chopping technique. With the simmering stage, I didn’t worry too much about how thawed my frozen corn was, either. Like I said, easy.

Melt 1T butter over med-high heat, and add 1 cup chopped onion until clear. While your onion is cooking, whisk together 3T cornstarch into 3 cups chicken broth (mine included some homemade stock, which I would normally caution against in a veggie soup, but a bisque can handle it). Right about now your onion should be cooked through (about 3 minutes), just quickly chop up a clove or two of garlic and add to onions for 30sec or so.

Add broth/cornstarch mixture, and 4 cups corn kernels (= 8 ears = 2 standard frozen bags). Don’t forget salt and pepper, and be generous with cayenne pepper. The creaminess of the dairy and sweetness of the corn are a great match for some kick! Bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes:

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Using a food processor (or blender), puree the soup in appropriate batches. Strain each batch through a sieve or mesh. A generous mopping of your mixture over the mesh will increase your soup yield, and it’s also fun and mushy. You can either discard your mush, or play around with it for some fried corn cakes! Once you have strained your soup, add a 1/2 cup each milk and half-and-half. Chill in fridge.

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When ready to serve, bring to room temperature for about 30 minutes. The bisque is great with 2-3T crab meat and 1T avocado. I soaked canned crab in milk (to reduce tin flavor) during the room temp period, and didn’t bother draining since it was going into a creamy bisque. The original recipe calls for fresh chopped basil, which would be a great compliment, but is not missed too much if you don’t have it.

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In total, this recipe made me about 6 appetizer servings of bisque, and it was totally worth it. Simmer, strain, fridge, serve. Pretty easy. The key is to get enough cayenne, but I am in the habit of never measuring spices anymore so you’ll have to go with your gut!

Now to the heavy stuff. Historically speaking, I’m not a big pork fan. I like cured pork meat, but that’s about the extent of it. But this summer I have been embracing the pulled pork sandwich like nobodies business. I also have a beautiful Crock Pot I have not used yet, despite deep longing to. So, it seemed obvious to make this recipe when it was handed down by a friend.

The really fun part about this was preparing the meat and Crock Pot before going to work. It reminded me of childhood meals, I felt like a multi-tasking professional mother. (Although, you could probably cook the pork for 4h on High, if you needed to sleep in before hosting a weekend bbq!)

This morning I took my 3lb pork shoulder (bone in preferred) and knife-cut 10-15 deep X’s in the tissue and shoved whole cloves of garlic into each cut in the meat. Rub all sides generously with a spice blend of whatever you want. I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and even a few dashes of dry mustard and cumin. You can always spice at the end, if neccesary (although I doubt it will be!):

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IMG_0429Brown the edges of your pork in a pan, starting with the fattiest side. This should take about 10 minutes, all told. This helps seal in flavors and texture, but the meat will fully cook in the slow cooker so no need to worry about perfection on this step. Toss your shoulder roast in the Crock and top with a whisked mixture of 1 cup root beer (or other dark soda) and 1 cup bbq sauce. Cook on Low setting for 8 hours or until you get home.

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When you get home your house will smell really good. Simply drag your shoulder roast out, and start peeling the meat off with two forks. Discard the fat and bones. It’s really fun.

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Combine your meat back with the sauce in a pot, and cook over low heat until the liquid thickens (you can also do this in your slow cooker), maybe 10-20 minutes…

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Enjoy on a bun with coleslaw:

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We have a winner! June 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 4:45 am
Tags: , , ,

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Clockwise from 10 o’clock:

Trader Joes brown rice medley. I never cook rice at home, but this stuff is delicious and hearty and complex is flavor. Don’t be scared by the daikon radish seeds, this stuff is not crunchy at all. It’s chewy in the way a good brown rice should be, with an extra nutty flavor.

Roasted green beans, with lemon wedge. Crank up the oven to 400. Toss trimmed green beans with olive oil, a couple cloves minced garlic, salt, pepper, and grated lemon rind. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Although I used fresh green beans, this would definitely be freezer bean friendly, just thaw beforehand or cook frozen for an extra 10 minutes or so.

Roasted garlic bread. Store bought. Couldn’t resist.

Pisto Manchego! With my upcoming trip to Spain, I’m finally diving into some home Spanish cooking. This recipe is incredibly healthy, easy, and surprisingly delicious in it’s simplicity. I pulled it from one of my favorite sources, the New York Times’ Recipe for Health page. What appealed to me at first was that I could use up the zucchini and canned tomatoes I already had lying around, but also that egg cooked in!! Is there anything a runny yolk won’t make taste great?? If you look over the recipe it may look deceptive because there is no spicing, but you won’t notice.  It’s also probably the healthiest entree I’ve made all year: it’s just a lot of veggies, and a little bit of oil.

On to the cooking. The great thing about cooking foods like these is that you can chop up your veggies as you go. Timing isn’t really that essential, because remember, it will all cook down for a long time.

Heat up 2T olive oil over medium heat. Toss in 1 chopped onion, cook for a few minutes. Then add in the 4 cloves chopped garlic you cut up while that was cooking, and stir for another couple minutes. Toss in 2 pounds of diced zucchini and/or summer squash, and salt (I used a 2lb package from Trader Joe’s, missing a couple zucchini from last week’s pasta salad). A fun variation would be to add in some bell peppers! Stir your zucchini for about 5 minutes. Then toss in one large can of Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes. I’m not normally a brand girl, but if you’ve ever had Muir Glen roasted tomatoes, you will never turn back, the flavor is off the charts. Make sure to add in a pinch of sugar and a generous helping of salt, and turn up the heat so as to start reducing the liquids a bit. This mixture should stay at this temperature for about 10 minutes. At that point, turn down the heat to med-low, and let the mixture simmer for 30-35 minutes. I stirred every 5-10 minutes or so, and you can also taste for seasoning while stirring. The idea is to get your veggies nice and mushy, and cook off the liquids. If you look at the original recipe, they refer to adding water, but with the canned tomatoes this wasn’t an issue. However, you may want to make sure your mix is staying moist enough.

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Now the good part! Create a little well in your mixture, and crack an egg inside. The whole thing is good for 6 or so eggs, but the egg won’t save for leftovers, so just cook what you will eat and save the rest for later. Cover, and cook until the whites are set, but not the yolk. Ready to serve, especially with some shredded asiago for extra flavor and saltiness!

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This dish can easily made as a side without an egg. Or you can save it in the fridge, and make leftovers with eggs in the oven. I’m going to toss it with some pasta. This stuff is GREAT, so filling, so yummy, so healthy, and pretty f’ing easy (although a bit time consuming).

 

Summer Pasta Salad May 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 3:25 am

I haven’t posted in a while. I have made some good food, but it either wasn’t photogenic or even photographed at all. I made a bland carrot-leek-apple soup not worth discussing. I am working on perfecting a no-mayo summer slaw recipe, so no use talking about it in the meantime. And I haven’t been cooking terribly much. But it is time to resume!

While putting away groceries this evening, I realized that I have a lot of canned goods in my cupboard. I’ll be moving in about two months, the last three weeks of which I will be traveling. So, I made an inventory list and vowed to plow through as much of it as I can. It’s inevitable that things in your cupboard are things you’ve already had too long, so it’s good motivation to finally eat up!

The majority of the food falls into the following categories: pasta/rice, canned tomato stuff, and roasted peppers. I don’t really eat much pasta anymore, which is why I end up with random half full boxes and bags of different shapes that never get eaten. So, the month of June is going to be a little starchier than usual for me.

Well, it’s hot, and I’m going to be working throughout this holiday weekend, so I needed something to last a few days. This pasta salad is so good, I may have to make more for a Memorial Day picnic.

Summer Pasta Salad

everything but the pasta!

Boil some water, salt it. Throw in enough small pasta to make ~4 cups finished product. (For mine, I mixed two different tri-color shapes, killed two birds with one stone!)

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While that is cooking, chop up whatever vegetables you have around. I used 1 orange bell pepper and 2 zucchini. I opted against blanching the zucchini, figuring marination would cut a bit of the bitterness, as well as any initial heat from the pasta (I was right!). I also threw in 1 jar artichoke hearts and Sevilla olives.

If you’ve got some vinaigrette in your fridge, go ahead and use that for your sauce/marinade. But, I had used all mine up for some grilled chicken and made a simple sauce of: 4T olive oil, 3T balsamic vinegar (any vinegar you favor would be fine), lemon pepper, and of course salt. Throwing in herbs would work, whatever!

Drain your pasta. Mix everything together. If you are an asiago addict like me, shred some in. Chill for about an hour before serving. Delicious with a glass of rose!

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Tortilla Chip Chicken w/ Creamed Corn and Potato Wedges May 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 3:08 am
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Today, I am going to link to original recipes and discuss my own modifications, thoughts, and photos. This is partially out of laziness, but it’s also kind of cool to compare the photos of the online articles with my own end results.

Chicken with Tortilla Chips

The original recipe is from a recent issue of Gourmet, and I stuck pretty close to the original recipe with the following exceptions: I halved the recipe, and all I could get were wings, not drumsticks.

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delicious bird

The final result is really delicious! My only concern, once I bit in (notice the impatiently eaten-straight-off-the-sheet wing), I realized that with the skin on and a lightly oiled sheet I had made what could not possibly be considered a particularly healthy dinner. Maybe I’m wrong. But it tasted too good to be healthy. Also, on that same note, I’m not sure what the point of a lightly oiled sheet is as much of the fat from the skin renders onto the pan. The last thing I would mention is that if you are looking for something spicy, there was ZERO punch from the spices (I even sub’bed some cayenne powder), so if that’s what’s important in life to you I would take some liberties. But, I am completely satisfied with this recipe and would definitely try again!

I also made the potato wedges that are linked on the chicken recipe, although I didn’t make any stupid mayo dipping sauce. I also sprinkled all the potatoes with some romano cheese I had lying around as soon as I pulled them from the oven. Now to the real star:

Creamed Corn with Leeks and Bacon

leeks in bacon grease

leeks in bacon grease

This recipe is AMAZING. And, dare I say it: the bacon is totally unnecessary! That’s how good it is. The only modification I made was to use frozen corn instead of fresh. I can only imagine how much BETTER it will taste when I definitely make this again with fresh summer corn. The real winner is the leek: while saute’ing up the leeks in the bacon fat, I started to get REALLY excited. Their flavor is mild but absolutely heavenly in this side dish, and I think the powerful and salty bacon overpowers the leeks. In the future I would suggest either cooking the leeks in bacon fat (if you keep a jar), or just using one piece rather than four.

creamed corn in cast iron skiller

creamed corn in cast iron skillet

dinner!!

dinner!!