Crankychef’s Blog

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ajo blanco! September 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 2:13 am
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I haven’t posted since early summer, before I took a trip to Spain that was culinarily amazing.  Since then I haven’t been cooking too much because I moved into a new place (with a beautiful antique Wedgewood oven that is crankier to deal with than even myself) and have been working, frankly, too much to cook at the end of the day.

I made some gazpacho when I got back. It was the worst. I felt discouraged.

Today, I have made up for that loss. I made a nice ajo blanco, essentially a white gazpacho of bread, almonds, and garlic. Given my recent kitchen failures, I didn’t want to curse myself by taking photos of the process, so instead I have the finished soup (which looks, frankly, like milk).

This is so simple. I’ve never actually had this dish before so I have no clue whether it is authentic tasting or not, but I am happy with it:

Soak chunks of crustless baguette (~3 cups / 1 baguette) in cold water for 5-10 minutes. While soaking, make an almond powder (ideally, a flour) with 1 cup blanched almonds. You can blanch them yourself by quickly immersing in boiling water, then submerge in cool water and remove the hulls. But I used slivered, blanched almonds which cost just as much without the work. Combine almond flour with 2-3 cloves garlic and 1/2 t salt in a mortar and pestle. Don’t got one? Do your best with a glass and ceramic bowl. Ideally, you should create a paste. I absolutely did not, and this came out fine. By the time you are done mashing, your bread is all soaked and you should squeeze all the excess water out of it, and blend to a paste in a food processor. Then add the almond-garlic paste to the bread and blend. Then add about 1/3 cup olive oil, blending in slowly. Blend in about a cup of chilled water. At this point you should have a nice milky soup, add up to 1T sherry or white wine vinegar and up to 1/2 cup more chilled water to taste. Chill for at least an hour. Serve with homemade croutons (from the cut-off crusts!) and some grapes, melon, or other mild summer fruit.

The recipe above will yield about 4 cups of soup total. The soup is light and refreshing, but also quite rich. At first bite I thought the 3 cloves of garlic were in fact too much, but after a few bites the flavor mellowed significantly. A small bowl was perfect with our dinner, accompanied by an olive plate, green salad, lamb mint sausage, and labneh.






Taco beans. June 23, 2009

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


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:


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.


Beef Kofte Sandwiches! March 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 12:10 am
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This is so easy and DELICIOUS that it was easy to prepare even after a long and exhausting day at work. I grabbed this recipe from the Cooking Light’s Quick & Easy section and was not disappointed. This recipe is also very easy to modify: I actually forgot to add an egg to the meat and everything came out amazing. So you could easily halve this and omit the egg without any worries. I discovered another trick: if your patties catch on fire in the broiler, they are even better, plus it’s like a mini-adventure in your kitchen. The char not only accented the beef, but carmelized some of the big chunks of onion. Lastly, the leftover patties were GREAT, just microwave for a minute. Today I packed a mini container of labneh, pre-sliced up my veggies, and then assembled the sandwich fresh at work. Easy.

Get yourself 1 pound lean ground beef (or lamb!) and mix in: 1 lightly beaten egg (or not!), 1/2 chopped white onion, 1/3c. breadcrumbs (I used panko to good effect!), 1/4c chopped fresh mint, 2T tomato paste, 1-2 cloves minced garlic , shake in some combination of salt, cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, and allspice.

Shape into 8 patties, and broil for 4 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, dress 1/2 pitas with plain yogurt (I highly recommend either Greek yogurt or labneh, which should be a staple of any kitchen), sliced roma tomatoes and cucumbers. Awkwardly stuff giant kofte ball in sandwich, at which time your pita bread will start to break, but you won’t care because this is such an amazingly delicious and perfect meal. I ate my inaugural kofte w/ tabouleh and olives:



Jarlsberg Quesadilla! March 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 3:21 pm
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I bought a hunk of Jarslberg and didn’t know what to do with it as I don’t use much cheese in my home cooking. Luckily, there is an official Jarlsberg website that offers some simple recipes. I ate this quesadilla religiously for about a week:

The key is making a nice fresh homemade salsa, as it lightens up the heavy cheese and bacon flavors. I am not a fan of cilantro, so I omitted it from this recipe, but you can add it if you are a normal person. Add chili if you like heat. But I like this very mild and sweet version: Gently mix together: one diced tomato (seeds removed), 1 finely chopped shallot, ~2 cloves chopped garlic, juice of 1 lime, and s&p to taste.

In frying pan, cook 1 piece bacon per quesadilla. Remove to paper towel, and drain fat. Crumble that delicious bacon. Shred some Jarlsberg, approximately 1/3 cup. Spread cheese, bacon, and salsa on 1/2 of a folded tortilla. Fry up that quesadilla (the bacon fat residue in the frying pan is perfect!). Top with more salsa. Eat daily until supplies run out.  Double portions (2 tortillas) for a dinner portion, but this half size is perfect for a quick lunch or a side.



Apple, Garlic, Cheese Salad

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 3:07 pm
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This is an amazingly simple and refreshing salad that was brought to me by a good friend. It includes all of my favorite ingredients, is easy to prepare, and is easy to portion for as many people as you need, even just yourself.

chop equal parts apple and asiago cheese into small pieces. mince or chop a few cloves of garlic (~2/serving). sprinkle with lemon juice. enjoy!