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.


We have a winner! June 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 4:45 am
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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.


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!


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).


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.


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




Chicken Fajita Tacos with Jicama and Mango April 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 2:44 am
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It’s only April but here in the central valley we got hit with a heatwave of 95 degree afternoons. I hadn’t cooked for a while so I was pretty excited to return to the kitchen, but I kept finding recipes that required oven time. This dish is not only very easy but requires very little stovetop time. I will definitely be revisiting in the summer. The following recipe would probably make 3-4 servings, depending on your appetite, and is modified from Cooking Light.

Jicama and Mango Salsa: Julienne about 3/4 cups jicama, 1/2 cup mango, 1/4 cup red onion. Combine 1T fresh lime juice, a dash of each  sugar, salt, and pepper. If you want this more ‘salsa’ like, dice your ingredients.

Chicken Fajita Filling: Take about a half pound of chicken breasts and slice into fajita chunks. Mix together 1/4t each chili powder and cumin, and about 1/8t ground chile pepper (or cayenne powder is a good substitute). Lightly salt your chicken, then sprinkle spice mixture evenly over your pieces. Saute in 1t olive oil
for about 3 minutes, or until cooked. Remove chicken, and saute 1/2 a red bell pepper and 1/2 cup red onion, each sliced thin. Cook the veggies for only about 2 minutes, then return the chicken in with them and cook another couple minutes.

Heat corn tortillas. Add a few mixed greens. Maybe, if you want a treat, some sour cream. Then chicken and veggies. Then salsa. Marvel at how easy it was to make such a colorful and beautiful dish.