Aug 7, 2010

finally, she thought, rubbing her hands together with glee....

I've wanted one forever. They're hard to come by....
And the best one I was ever able to find was the 1975 version.
I knew someone who had the '75, and it did have more in it, it was thicker and overall a better version, and it still has the varmint recipes, and I could have always spent the $25 or so to get a brand new copy..
Still... I have wanted one forever.
And I just could never justify the $25 for a cookbook that I can honestly say I may never use it.
I have the computer program.

Well, last weekend, I dragged S.o.s-u with me to Mr. K's, a loverly little used bookstore right down the row from the grocery...
Hey. What can I say? I wanted another copy of Illusions, and thought I might be able to get him to pick something up (and he did... The Hobbit. Insert smile here, Dear Reader) and then, right when I was going to walk out with Ryszard Kapuscinski's The Emperor, I spotted it...
They don't....

I dropped the Kapuscinski, put aside the 'give-away' copy of Illusions (when I find them, I tend to buy multiples. I recommend it. Highly. As a result, I've given away like, 6 copies now of the thing. Get it. Good book. Richard Bach) without letting go of my copy or of S.o.s-u's (hey...gotta warp him. Free-thinking. Must be done.)...
So with a more manageable total, I was able to pick up....


And guess what?  It only cost $8. The guy at the counter was laughing at my excitement at finding it. I waxed poetic about the price. He laughed.


And better....

It's the '75 edition. 
Anyone for possum?

Nov 11, 2009


I'm proud of this one.
It's my pizza sauce.
Yes, we make our own pizza. And I've been tackling my own sauce, lately.

5 small ripe tomatoes, peeled and squeezed firmly (easy way to remove the seeds, core and 70% of the juice)
1 oz sun dried tomatoes (dry pack), snipped small
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp Jane's Crazy Salt
1 tsp dried 'Italian Seasoning Blend' herb mix
1 Tbsp prepared pesto (I personally use jarred right now. My basil died)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Bring tomatoes and water to a boil, drop to low, cover and steep for 30 minutes. Stir in Janes and herbs. Blend mixture and remaining ingredients in blender or food processor until thoroughly mixed.

It smells how I imagine parts of the Med smell. The garlic in the pesto underlines everything. Yumyum!

Nov 25, 2008

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I've realized, the more I cook and try things and expand recipes I've made before, that I really cook with words. Words like butter, cream, onion, pepper can all make a recipe. Margarine, non-fat milk, onion powder... These words don't belong. They really don't belong to Broccoli Cheese soup served with baked potatoes and sweet Hawaiian rolls.

I really do cook with words.

Vanilla is fragrant, sugar is sweet, but it goes way beyond that. Creamy, salty, piquant, peppery, these are all words I use in my head when I cook. I can read a recipe and visualize through what each ingredient would taste like what the finished product could be.

Could be.

There is no guarantee in food. You can weigh the outcome in your favor by using fresh, organic ingredients. Barring that, use the best processed ingredients you can get. But if you use a bad ingredient to begin with, you won't get the same results. Case in point: Broccoli Cheese soup. I could up the quality level (and thereby the flavor value) by using fresh broccoli, but it was cheaper to use a good quality frozen. I upped the volume of the broccoli by 100%, the original called for 1/2 a pound. I could have used locally produced cheddar from the Epicurean at 11.99 a pound, but I chose the generic sharp cheddar sold under the store brand. I did use an organic 1/2 and 1/2, which is what the recipe called for. Other than that, I followed the recipe.

Words like margarine, non-fat milk and onion powder really don't belong.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 1/2 and 1/2
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound broccoli, chopped
1 cup carrots, julienned
8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
bacon bits
chopped green onion

Saute the onion in the tablespoon of butter over medium heat until just barely caramelized. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup of butter until it's bubbling. Whisk in the flour. Cook the flour approximately 4 minutes, constantly whisking. Whisk in the half-and-half slowly. Whisk in the chicken broth. Simmer about 20 minutes. Stir in the onions, broccoli and carrots. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. The soup should be thickened.
Process in blender in batches until desired smoothness is reached.
Return to simmer.
Stir in cheddar until soup is smooth and all cheese is melted.
Serve with bacon bits and green onions sprinkled on top.

Nov 10, 2007


It's really just a little taste of New Mexico. There is a restaurant in town that serves something they call sopapillas. They're actually pan-fried tortillas that have been dusted with cinnamon and sugar. I wanted the pillowy goodness that is the sopa of countless meals in New Mexico. Slathered with honey, dipped into salsa, used to scoop up beans, the sopapilla I am used to is a deep-fried hollow piece of bread dough. Mom made them once, from a mix. We always got them at restaurants, though, and in Albuquerque, you have a lot of restaurants that serve sopapillas. Here in TN? No. At least, not that I've been able to find or afford. So they don't exist here. Until today. Today, I used the recipe for Sopaipillas de Levadura from a cookbook the local utility company sells.

My little taste of New Mexico. Notes at the end.

Yield: 4 dozen medium sopaipillas        Total Frying Time: 15-20 minutes
Temperature: Medium-High Freeze Well

1 package active dry yeast 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup warm water 1 teaspoon baking powder
(105°-115°F) 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups scalded milk, cooled 1 tablespoon shortening
4 cups flour Shortening

1. Dissolve yeast in water and add to milk.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and cut in
3. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add liquid to dry
ingredients and work into a dough.
4. Knead dough for 10 minutes, or until smooth; cover, and set
5. Heat 2 inches of shortening in a heavy pan at medium-high heat.
6. Roll dough to a 1/8 ingh thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut
dough into 4-inch squares and fry until golden on both sides, turning
once. (If the shortening is sufficiently hot, the sopaipillas will
puff and become hollow shortly after being placed in the shortening.)
7. Drain sopaipillas on absorbent towels.

NOTE: Sopaipillas may be served as a bread with any New Mexican menu. They may be served with honey, dusted with a sugar-cinnamon mixture and served as a dessert, or may be filled.
I just copied the recipe. I followed it to the letter. Now for the notes? I was the only one eating these. I should have cut the recipe in 1/2. As is, I put 1/2 the dough in the freezer, tightly sealed in plastic wrap and a bag. We'll see how it does. The measurement of 1/8 in the thickness is not a random number. Thicker, and you'll have an underdone sopa. Thinner and you run the risk of losing the puff.
This recipe doesn't talk about rise. The dough does rise. The longer you let it sit, the puffier it gets. Punch it down and roll it out. You'll notice puffier pieces when you fry it up, to the point where it may pop a hole in the sopa. However, the 10 minutes or so it takes to get the shortening up to temp is long enough for a rise for this dough.
Let your yeast dissolve for about 5 minutes or so. Don't just dump it on in.
Scalding milk: Some will say this step is unnecessary. I find it to be completely necessary. The milk was thicker, the natural sugars in the milk came through more (I tasted it), and it wasn't just milk. It had been changed. SO SCALD IT. Heat it over the burner in a small pan, medium heat, until a handy thermometer reads 180. Stir frequently. Take it off the burner. That's it. No big deal. And it really does sweeten the milk.
Kneading: USE FLOUR. The dough is sticky, but you won't need much. I had a handful on the mat when I dumped it out of the bowl to knead it. That's about 1/2 cup. I had about 3 tablespoons left over. Do not overflour while kneading. Do not overknead.
I did not use a mixer. This was mixed by hand. With my hands. I wonder how it would do as a twisted dough so you didn't have to turn it over yourself. It's a distinct possibility and may be doable with the frozen dough.

So I now have sopas.

Oct 23, 2007

Braise... Recipe Tuesday

Continuing the theme of braising for flavor, I give you....

Braised Shredded Beef

2lb bottom round roast
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely minced
1 cup beer (drink the rest. If it's not drinkable, don't use it)
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 T worchestershire sauce
2 T teriyaki sauce (I used store brand)
1/2 tsp yellow mustard (basic yellow, please)
3 T honey
5 c. water
2 T Steak seasoning (I used McCormicks Montreal Steak)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Jane's Crazy or other seasoned salt mixture
1 T butter

Mix the teriyaki sauce, worcestershire sauce, honey, vinegar and mustard together in a microwave safe container. Heat for 30 seconds on high, stir, heat 30 more seconds. It should smell like a steak sauce. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the onion and celery with 1/2 the seasoned salt. Pat the roast dry. Rub the steak seasoning, chili powder and remaining seasoned salt over the beef, all sides.
Melt the butter over medium high heat. You should be using a Dutch oven, oven-safe large casserole dish or a covered stew pot (I'm using the stew pot).
Sear the beef, all sides. Remove the beef to a plate.
Saute the celery and onions over medium heat until translucent, scraping the fond from the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes more. Deglaze the pan with the beer, cook down by 1/2. Pour in the teriyaki mix with 5 cups water. Heat to a simmer. Add the beef and any accumulated juices back into the pan. The liquid should just barely cover or almost cover the roast. Add liquid if necessary (beer, water, broth). Bring back to a simmer.
Remove from stovetop to pre-heated oven. Roast for 2 hours. Check the beef. If it doesn't pull apart easily, continue roasting for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it rest uncovered in the pan juices for approximately 15 minutes. Remove meat from pan, refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Once the beef is cooled down, start shredding. You'll want to remove any residual fat or connective tissue. This means use your nature-provided utensils (hands) and get into it. If you think the shreds are a little too long, cut them. You can use scissors or just cut the roast in 2 or 3 places across the grain.

Once you have your shred, you can freeze it, eat it cold, eat it hot, mix it with sauces, use in place of 'precooked ground beef'... It's very versatile.

To use for barbecue: Re-heat the beef in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it sizzles. Add approximately 1/4 cup barbecue sauce of your choice for each serving. Stir, serve on buns.
To use for burritos or tacos: Re-heat the beef in a saute or frypan over medium-low heat until it sizzles. Add your burrito or taco seasoning according to package directions. If you want to spice it up yourself for burritos (which I frequently do), stir in some chili powder, some chopped onion, some cilantro, some salsa. Stir, serve on tortillas.
To use for soups: Add some to your favorite soup.
To use for sandwich filling: This is a trick from one of my uncles. Saute a handful in a non-stick pan with some garlic and steak seasoning. Stir in a tablespoon of sour cream. Serve on toast. YUM.

Oct 17, 2007

Osso Buco

I freely admit I stole the original recipe from Michael Chu over at Cooking for Engineers. That said, you know me... I never met a recipe I couldn't mess with and this proves to be no different. The changes? I used a blend of beef and chicken broth, crushed bay instead of bay leaf, cab instead of chardonnay, and no gremolata. Yes, you heard me. No gremolata. No parsley in town and I went to 3 grocery stores. I was lucky to find beef shanks. So I improvised. Adapted. Overcame. I used chopped green onion on top. Let's go to the kitchen, shall we? Served with a rice dish (mix), I give you...

Osso Buco
(original recipe available HERE)
4 to 6 beef shanks (all they had, folks. All they had)

4 cups broth (2 chicken, 2 beef, used 1-14oz. can each, plus 2 icecubes of my homemade stock)

12 oz. Cabernet Sauvignon
(I'm using Yellowtail. It's drinkable without being 'foody')
1 white onion (white is a different flavor than yellow)

1 carrot

1 large celery stalk

2 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoons crushed bay

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

salt, pepper

4 tablespoons butter

Cornstarch slurry IF NEEDED (1 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp COLD water, stir together, mix into sauce if thickening needed)

chopped green onions for garnish

Special Hardware: Dutch oven or stock pot with lid (can use foil to cover)

Dice the onion, celery and carrot. Mince the garlic. Drain the tomatoes. (Fig. 1) Salt and pepper the shanks. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Raise the temp to medium and brown the shanks. DO NOT CROWD YOUR POT. This is a searing step to get some carmelization going on and create some fond in the pot. Crowding produces steam and e
arly stewing. Our goal is to build the flavor. Do not move the meat once it's in the pan. Let it go about 5 minutes per side. Once your shanks are done, remove them to a plate and set them aside. (Fig. 2)
Saute the onions, scraping the fond as you go until the onions are golden.
(Fig. 3)
Add the carrots and celery, cook until the celery is slightly translucent.
(Fig. 4)
Stir in the garlic, cook for a minute or 2 more.

Pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium high. Scrape your fond. Simmer until reduced by 1/2.
Add the tomatoes, broth and bay. Stir and bring back to a simmer.
(Fig. 5)
Add the shanks back in, big side on the bone up so you don't lose the marrow. The liquid should almost cover or just cover the shanks. Bring back to a simmer. (Fig. 6)
Cover, place in the oven and cook for 2 hours.

When it's falling off the bone (and it should be), remove the meat from the pot.
Boil the the liquid in the pot to reduce it to a sauce, using the cornstarch slurry as needed. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.

Place a shank on a plate, scoop some sauce over it, top with green onion (or gremolata if you have it), serve. (Fig. Finish)


It's low heat on the butter so you cook away the water in it but still leave the yummy bits.

I use the 2 broth cubes to make up the extra for the full 2 cups.
You could also use some of the juice off the tomatoes if it bothers you.

Oct 11, 2007

You want fries with that?

You ever have a day when you just really don't want to go anywhere or do anything? I'm having that kind of a day. Shakedown is still going on (read that as "I'm still unpacking my kitchen"), there's not much food in the house - we've been frozen food-ing it for the past week or so- and I want something... Not microwaved.

I don't mind microwaving. I like the speed, there's a host of prepared products out there that are quick, easy, at least semi-nutritious, and cheap. But I really am not in the mood for a tv dinner or a burrito or a pot-pie or something like that. And yeah, Lean Cuisine meals DO qualify as a tv dinner to me. You heat it and peel back the top covering for a meal in a tray. That spells tv dinner.

So what to make? The microwave stuff is also usually stove friendly, but that doesn't count. I am just simply not in the mood for that. I want... Oooh... I know. I want fries. French fries, even though they were 'invented' in Belgium. I want hot, steamy fries, all that salty goodness... Most people, at this point, would pack up the car and drive to the local burger shack to get fries that are uniformly cooked to and held at temperatures specified by the shop's local board of health... I'm not most people. I really don't want that. But my freezer does hold a bag of fries (2 lbs for $1.50 at the local grocery) and I have shortening and I have kosher salt.

And I have a day off.

It's pretty basic, folks. Heat oil, insert fries, cook until golden , drain, salt.
First, I'm using frozen. It's what I happen to have on hand. Fresh is best (slice a potato how you like, fry it up), but I'll take frozen today. I use shortening because saturated fats, even saturated fats like vegetable shortening tend to brown things better. If you get the fat hot enough, you don't have to worry about it in moderation. I'm not saying it's good for you, you shouldn't eat fries with every meal, but the equivalent of the size of a small fry made at home will not hurt you on a day off.

Heat the shortening to 350 degrees. I use a saucepan (higher sides) to ease up on any splattering. If I were at my mother's house, I'd pull out her Fry-Daddy, but since I don't have one, I use a standard stainless steel saucepan. Why not non-stick? Metal utensils. I don't have wooden tongs, I don't have a silicone strainer. So I use a stainless pan and metal tongs and all is well in my world.

While the shortening is heating, create a 'drain rig'. This is a half-sheet pan lined with newspaper then paper towelling, then a cooling rack turned upside down. The upside down means the wires are resting directly on the paper. No drippies to clog up your food. This is a tip from Alton, folks, in I'm Just Here For the Food.
And it works. So create your drain rig handy to the melting pot of fat. Get your salt into an easy-to-use container (I recommend a small bowl or similar receptacle. I typically use a little 4 oz. juice glass). When your fat has come up to temperature (350 min., 400 max.), pull the fries out of the freezer, open the bag, grab a handful (my hands are small. I grabbed 10 fries the first pass). Set your handful as gently as you can in the hot fat and stand back. There will be splatters. Cook until golden brown. Remove using tongs or a spider (I have no spider, I used tongs). IMMEDIATELY after removing, put the fries on your drain rig and sprinkle liberally with salt. Turn them over, salt them again. I did 2 handsful. Napkin in the hand, fries in the napkin. YUMMY!French fries

Sep 27, 2007

OOOOh, my my my.... Linked goodness

SO I was watching the Daily Buzz this morning and they had a blurb on, a directory of all things food related. It was named by Time in 2005 as one of the 50 coolest websites and it's a welcome addition to my links list (meaning I will soon add it to the right, Dear Reader).

I've actually been thinking about doing Thanksgiving dinner on trenchers this year, mainly 'cause I hate doing dishes (especially for a crowd). Any thoughts on that? Anyone tried it? I'm a former SCA'er, so I've had feasts on them, but how easy is it to do or to fake doing? I'm thinking bread bowls or bread plates. Ideas? It's going to be for anywhere between 4 and 8 people (depending on who comes by), so I'd like to get it planned out beforehand. And I'm looking for ideas.

If you have ideas for me, please comment or email me at darkneuro at gmail dot com.

Oh. Breakfast this morning? Because I'm moving? Hot tea with honey and a microwaved frozen thing. Better than the wheat crackers, ham and potato chips I've survived on (lack of food in apartment I'm moving from) for the past 2 days. Tonight it's spaghetti. YUMYUM.

Happy eating!

Aug 13, 2007

It's been such a LOOONG time...

....since I've posted here in the Kitchen. It's not that I haven't been cooking, I've just been cooking seriously cheap and weird lately. Seriously cheap: Get a package of smoked sausage and a package of red beans and rice. Combine. Seriously cheap: lettuce+raw veg+ sliced meats=chef's salad. Tuna salad... When you use 1 can of tuna (well drained), 1/4 red onion, 4 hard boiled eggs, 3 stalks celery, 1/4 bell pepper, 4 tablespoons relish, 4 tablespoons mayo, it's weird and crunchy and not really 'tuna salad'....

So as you see, Dear Reader, it's been cheap and weird. So I thought, in the interest of keeping this place alive, I'd share some of my favorite food and recipe links and maybe YOU will be inspired to cook something. Wait for next week. I've got some ideas. Please be aware, this could be considered food porn.

I've talked a bit here in Oak Ridge about not having "my" Mexican places to eat at. Here's recipes from one of them, Garduno's Restaurants, in Albuquerque. They've got up their recipe for Roasted Red Chile Salsa. YUM YUM. Along the same lines is this offering from PNM, the Public Service Co. of NM, their Cocinas de New Mexico cookbook. Tacos, posole, refritos, empanaditas fritas, sopas and Navajo Fry Bread, they have it all. GREAT traditional recipes.

Here's a great resource from Figleaf: The World's Healthiest Foods. Interesting reference site geared (as the title suggests) to healthy food. Another great reference site if you like cheese (and I do) is the Wisconsin Cheese and Dairy board. They've got a bunch of free things you can get, including a 'cheese chart' (reminds me I need to get another one, actually), and downloadable files as well. A great chile site is Dave's Fiery Foods. He runs the Fiery Foods Show that goes between Albuquerque and Vegas.

Here is a place with just about every cuisine known in Asia: Warning: Heavy popups. It's got Philipino, Japanese, Chinese, Thai... Go play, but turn on your pop-up blocker.

These are some sites I've been perusing lately: Stephen Cooks, One Hot Stove, and Live to Eat. Interesting, but I've been strapped for time and such and can't make some of the beautiful recipes they have.

Desserts are best (in my opinon) purchased, and who better for chocolate than Jacques Torres? I can vouch for the quality of the product. I can vouch for the incredibly fast shipping. This man should be given a medal.

This next site... Whatever you think of the woman, the court case, the jail time, the magazine, the tv shows... Martha Stewart has some excellent recipes. And let's not forget Food TV, Emeril's (even if you think he's a tool) and Williams-Sonoma. Ideas, people. Utilize them for IDEAS....

So happy eating, and I'll see you next week!

Jul 1, 2007

Master Recipe: Beef with Rice... Recipe Tuesday (!)

I'm really kindof excited about this one. This, I believe, qualifies as a Master Recipe, meaning it's good on it's own and it can also be used as a base for (at the very least) a few other recipes I've managed to think up (and have tried 1)....
SO, let's go into The Kitchen™ and see what we can make, shall we?

Beef with Rice (Makes 1 Master Recipe)
1 pound ground beef (I got a chuck, 80/20 blend)
1/2 large yellow onion chopped fine
1/2 bell pepper chopped fine
2 T. grill seasoning (I use Montreal flavor grill seasoning by McCormick)
2 T. worcestershire sauce
15 1/2 oz. beef broth
1 cup basmati or Texmati rice

Brown the beef and onion over medium heat until the beef is just barely cooked and the onions are translucent. Drain as much fat out of the pan as you can. Throw in the grill seasoning, the bell pepper and the worcestershire sauce. Stir and cook for approximately 3 minutes or until the bell pepper is just starting to show a softening. Stir in the beef broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, drop the heat to low/med low and set a timer for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir to combine.

There you go. Easy, cheap and boy-oh-boy, was it GOOD. I served it to myself in a bowl while I was reading. It was really a quick and dirty "What's in the house to eat?" meal. But in thinking about it later, I realized I had made somewhat of a Master Recipe, something that could be combined with just a few other ingredients to make... well, just about anything.

1. Take the finished meat, sprinkle it with chili powder, layer it with Velveeta(tm) cheese and tortilla chips in a casserole dish, broil for approximately 2 minutes. Serve with salsa, sour cream, lettuce and tomato (Nachos!-Made this. Thumbs up from Sic_un, too)
2. Take the finished meat, mix in 1 8oz. can of tomato sauce and 2 teaspoons chili powder (and yes, I mean the mixed powder), stir until thick. Load it up in burritos and/or tacos (Tacos! Burritos!)
3. Take the finished meat, mix in 1 20oz. can of chopped tomato with basil. Throw in some seasonings (oregano, thyme, marjoram, 2 or 3 finely diced cloves of garlic), simmer over med low heat for about an hour or so (Pasta Sauce!)
4. In a bowl, shred 1 carrot and chop 1 stalk of celery fine. Microwave it with about 1/4 teaspoon water for about 2 minutes or until hot. Mix it with the meat mixture, roll into egg roll skins. Fry until brown (Lumpia!... or at least as Lumpia like my mom makes)
5. Stir in another can of broth (or carton... use what you like. Make your own. call it 2 cups for luck). Simmer for about 30 minutes, throwing in a bag of frozen mixed veg (broccoli, carrots, beans) for good measure. (Soup!)

There. Master Recipe. What can YOU come up as a variation?