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).