Friday, December 30, 2005

Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese

Leftover blue cheese + lunch the next day = pasta salad. Ryan got up on a chair and watched me the whole time, and was stealing red pepper and celery to munch on. I'm really happy that he likes to try new things and isn't a picky eater. He had a big plate of the finished salad too. I'd like to add I sure wasn't eating blue cheese pasta salads when I was three, more like fried potatoes and macaroni. :P


8 ounces dry rotini
1 strip bacon, cooked and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
4 ounces Blue Cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped finely

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sesame seeds


Cook pasta according to directions. Immediately rinse with cold water and drain well, then transfer to large mixing bowl. Chill in the fridge.

Meanwhile, cook strip of bacon and dice, then transfer to a medium bowl.

Add celery, red pepper, red onion, salt, and pepper.

Combine blue cheese, milk, and mayo to make a smooth paste.

Remove the pasta from the fridge and combine everything, including the parsley.

Heat a clean frying pan until very hot, remove from heat and add walnuts and sesame seeds. Toss and swirl about as they pop and smoke a little. :) Add to pasta once the sesame seeds toast. Serve immediately, or serve as is.

Pork with Blue Cheese

The full food-nerd title would be Pork Chop with Blue Cheese, served with Grilled Asparagus and Creamy Brown Butter Garlic Potatoes but that ain't gonna fit in the title.

The only thing requiring effort here is the potatoes. The pork chop is just a pork chop. The blue cheese is just blue cheese with a little cream mashed into it to make it smooth rather then crumbly. The asparagus, just drizzle with some olive oil and coarse salt, and...grill it. I also made some glazed carrots on the side, but I kept them out of the photo.

Creamy Brown Butter Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 4 servings

1.5 pounds russet potatoes
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 ounce grated Parmesan
¼ cup finely minced chives

Peel and dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place potatoes and garlic cloves in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a slow boil. Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and stir as it cooks, until bubbling and nutty-brown. Remove from heat.

Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain off the water. Add brown butter and all other ingredients. Mash.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Humble Omelet

Our little family spent the Christmas holidays with my wife's parents, and during this four-day vacation I was pretty much forbidden from cooking (it really was a vacation). All the family meals were planned ahead of time, and aside from a bit of "stir this, chop that" I was a bystander. By the 3rd day I couldn't take it anymore, so I foraged into the fridge for leftovers and threw together a broccoli and ham omelet for my wife and myself, for lunch. Nothing special, but I was in severe cooking withdrawl.

Oh, and there was some "Old" chedder in there too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Today was actually supposed to be meat loaf, but my grinder is missing a part, and I'm sure getting that replaced will be an insufferable ordeal. So, plan B was using an eye of round roast for...chili!

I love cooking traditions, and usually prefer to be historically accurate when possible. However, I'll concede to flavor and appearance. Hence, there is tomato and beans in this chili ("real" chili is basically onions, beef or pork (depending on what you read), roasted ground chilies and some other spices).

If you can stand to wait, make the chili on the day before you actually plan to eat it. Leaving it overnight in the fridge does magical things with the smoothness and depth of flavor. Also, when you think it's "done" taste it first...if the garlic is too sharp, simmer it for another 15-30 minutes and taste again.


2 lbs. cubed beef or pork
salt and pepper, per taste
2 tablespoons neutral oil (I used canola as per usual)
4 large onions, roughly chopped
1 bulb (yes, bulb) garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans (red kidney beans are for the weak)
1/2 liter beef stock
1/2 cup good quality chili powder
1/4 cup cumin
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup oregano
1 tsp. cayanne pepper, or 2-3 diced jalapeno peppers (both to taste)
flour or cornstarch for thickening as needed

1. Heat oil in large dutch oven until just smoking, and in BATCHES sear and brown the beef cubes, setting aside each batch before the next. Once all the beef is set aside, reduce heat to medium and add the onions and garlic. And a bit of water if needed, and scrape up all the flavor from the bottom of the pot. Cook 10 minutes or so until softened.

2. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and beef stock. Also return beef cubes to the pot (any juices from the meat cubes, that goes in too). Stir, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or so.

3. Add all spices, re-cover, and simmer for 30 minutes longer*. Taste for the garlic intensity (see above). Also, beef cubes should be fork-tender before serving (tough? simmer longer). Thicken as needed with the flour or cornstarch (mix with cold water first. Too thick? Add a little more beef stock). Serve. Garnish with a pinch of chedder cheese, or a small spoonful of sour cream if you like.

* if you're using a very inexpensive, nasty, grisly cut of beef (and you really should be, and I usually do for chili), this low simmer can be 6-8 hours long. A slow cooker works great here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Beef Bourguignon

I personally cannot stand the taste of alcohol (wine, beer, anything), but I love cooking with it. The alcohol flavor cooks away, but only after it acts as a flavor enhancer (alcohol can react with any oxidizing substance to form aldehydes -- compounds responsible for flavors such as almond, cinnamon and vanilla among others) and of course, the flavor of the good wine itself, minus the actual alcohol.

I suggest you make this on a weekend when you have a few hours free, as not everybody works from home like yours truly and is able to check a simmering stew now and then. If you don't simmer this for at least a few hours the beef will be very tough.


2 lbs. beef, 1.5 inch cubes
salt and pepper
1/4 cup neutral oil (I used canola)
4 onions, diced
1 cup good red wine
6 carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bouquet garni
boiling water
chopped parsley for garnish
1 frozen cube or a few spoonfuls of demi glace (if you have it)

1. Toss the beef cubes in a large bowl with flour, salt, and pepper.

2. In a dutch oven over high heat, add the oil. It should be smoking hot. Sear and brown the meat on all sides in BATCHES. I did three batches myself. If you add it all at once you'll suck all the heat out of your pot, no searing will happen, and the beef will boil and look horrible. Set aside as you sear them off.

3. Once the beef is set aside, add the onion and reduce to medium heat. Sprinkle some flour over the onion, and just as they soften a little, add the red wine. Scrape up the beef flavoring from the bottom of the pot into the cooking liquid, so the pan is "clean". Bring to a boil.

4. Return the beef to the pot, along with the carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni (and the demi glace if you have it) . Add enough boiling water to cover the meat by 1/3 (covering the contents plus another 1/3 of the depth beyond that). You need to allow for this to cook back down for the next two hours. Simmer. For two hours.

5. (optional) I removed, with tongs, the carrots and beef cubes into a ceramic bowl, topped it with foil, and kept it hot in the oven set to low. Strain the liquid, return it to the pot. Toss out the strained onion bits and boquet garni. Add a tablespoon of butter to the gravy and stir to combine it evenly.

I served this over a big spoonful of mashed potatoes, then the gravy pours gently over the whole pile. Garnish with some parsley and enjoy. Have some more of your red wine with it, and you're a better foodie then I am.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Steak with Braised Leeks

Leeks are one of those "exotic" things I never ever had in my house growing up. In fact, the first time I've had them in my life was the first time I met Karen's parents...her mom had made a leek and potato soup. Where I was raised, my grandfather was the cook, so the cooking style was dated roughly 1940 (he'd learned a thing or two from the army cooks, and before that, lumber camps). I was a teenager before I found out that garlic wasn't really a powder (thank you, Wok with Yan).

The braised leek recipe is here. And the marinade I used for the steaks, here. The corn is just pan-fried with onions and some red peppers, then tossed in is some salt, pepper, chili powder, and paprika. I also roasted some squash for a side dish (chop in half, then in slices...toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, wrap in foil and fire it in the oven for an hour).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Broccoli Soup w. Goat Cheese

This recipe is from Gordon Ramsey, so it should taste positively enraged (catch him on television to see what I'm referring to). Actually, this is an extremely simple soup, the base of it is essentially broccoli, water, and salt. Tastes clean and fresh, it would be a great way to celebrate harvesting broccoli from your home garden. I'll be making this again.

1 kg broccoli
Sea salt and cracked pepper
4 slices soft goat’s cheese
walnuts, lightly toasted
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

1 Cut the broccoli into florets. Bring 800ml salted water to the boil in a pan, add the broccoli and simmer for about 4 minutes until tender but still bright green. Drain, reserving the liquid.

2 Whiz the broccoli in a food processor with enough of the liquid to half-fill the chamber, to give a velvety texture.

3 Reheat the soup in the pan; adjust the salt for taste. Put the goat’s cheese slices into warm soup bowls and pour in the soup, to one side. Top with the nuts, grind over some pepper and drizzle with olive oil to serve.

Beef Kabobs and Couscous

Two recipes at once for today, and this was just for lunch. Clearly, I'm riding a wave of post-sickness kitchen energy here. So, how was it? Awesome, thank you. As I was making this it occured to me I've never made couscous before, which is hard to explain. I make things from pretty much every culture on the planet (excluding Inuit...hard to find good seal at Price Chopper), but so far I've managed to cook around it in some way.

The idea for making the actual kabobs came from a Good Eats episode, and the recipe is here (broiled them rather then grilled...hey, there's like 2 feet of snow around my BBQ). The recipe for the couscous is below (and I also grilled some red peppers seperately).

Couscous With Spices

1 small onion, minced
1 carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups hot water or chicken stock
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
2 to 3 tsp ground cumin
2 to 3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pine nuts, optional

Heat oil in saucepan. Stir in onion, carrot and celery. Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in couscous, pour in water and cover.
Let rest 5 minutes then add herbs and spices. Season with salt and pepper.

Fluff with fork and sprinkle with pine nuts. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Braised Chicken with White Wine

Ok, this was really good, and it felt great to cook again. Basically a ragout based on a mirepoix, this tasted very "French" to me, much like anything with flavor based on thyme and white wine, I suppose. Anyway, we all loved it, even Ryan.

· 4 chicken breast halves, bone in
· salt and pepper to taste
· 1 cup all-purpose flour
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· 1 tablespoon butter
· 2 cups diced onion
· 1 cup diced celery
· 1 cup diced carrots
· 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
· 3 bay leaves
· 1 tablespoon dried thyme
· 1 cup dry white wine
· 2 cups chicken stock

1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour until completely coated. Heat oil in a Dutch oven, then add butter and melt. Quickly (before butter burns) add chicken breasts until lightly browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

2. Sauté the onions for 2 minutes. Stir in the celery and carrots and cook for about two more minutes. Season with garlic, bay leaves, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Deglaze the pot with white wine, stirring until nothing is stuck to the pan, then pour in the chicken broth, and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low.

4. Return the chicken breasts to the pan, cover, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the chicken, then thicken the remaining stew as per your liking.

Serve with baby boiled red potatoes (not shown, this was my "picture serving"), and garnish with fresh thyme (like I should have but didn't).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pasta with Feta and Tomatoes

Hey, I'm back. Alive! I made this tonight, and it was pretty good. Although honestly the beans were a little chalky for my taste, thus I'd make this again with some diced red pepper instead. Or, even better, roasted red peppers (blacken them with a torch, then strip the charred skins, and dice).


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, diced
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces penne or rotini pasta
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
2. In hot frying pan, combine butter and olive oil. Add chicken and saute until cooked. Add garlic, and toss in pan for 1 minute.
3. Add tomatoes and beans. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
4. Toss with pasta in serving bowl, and sprinkle with feta. Garnish plates with chopped parsley.

serves 4

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Marshmellow Holiday Squares

My first guest star. wife.

I decided tonight to create a new holiday tradition for our little family. I have fond memories of Christamas baking with my Mom and Dad. Making the shortbread, gingerbread, Hello Dolly's, Pecan Puffs, my dad making his rum truffles...I wanted to start making these memories for/with Ryan. I read a couple recipes on the internet and created this. Ryan should be old enough to help me make it again next year. Happy Holidays and enjoy! Karen.

Marshmellow Holiday Squares

5 cups mini-marshmallows
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup flaked coconut
12 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 peanut butter

Score bar bits

Using a double boiler...or a metal mixing bowl overtop of a pot of boiling water...melt the butter and peanut butter together then add the chips, mixing until smooth.

Take the mixing bowl off of the heat and add the walnuts, coconut and marshmallows. mix thoroughly until everything is well coated.

Pour the entire contents into a buttered glass casserole dish, smoothing until even.

Sprinkle the Score bar bits onto the top.

Refridgerate for an hour before serving. Keep refridgerated.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Potato Soup with Veg and Bacon

Mmm. Made this mostly for my mother-in-law, as the family was visiting this weekend (my son's 3rd birthday). Again, helps to have a stick blender for this. If it's a little too thick when it's time to serve, add a little milk.

6 thick slices bacon

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced

4 cups chicken broth
4 cups cubed potatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt

cracked pepper


1. In frying pan, cook bacon until crispy. Drain, chop finely, and set aside.
2. In dutch oven or large pot, heat oil until almost smoking, then add onions, carrots, celery. Stir on occasion, until slightly browned and reduced to about 1/2 it's original volume. Remove from pot and set aside.
3. Add potatoes and chicken broth, turn heat to medium-low and simmmer until potatoes are soft. Use stick blender to puree smooth. Return vegetables to pot, add bacon, season with salt to your liking, and serve. Garnish each bowl with a little cracked pepper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Veg Soup with Lentils

Soup again. :) Recipe is here. The most useful part of this recipe is actually the simple vegetable stock made in the first 1/2 of it (I didn't use mushrooms or fennel in the stock). Knowing how to make your own stocks will elevate your cooking skill and open doors to some great food. Actually, that's a good idea...I'll post about making stocks sometime (lobster stock was the best I've ever done). Demi glace also, if you're feeling hardcore.

I ate four bowls of this. I'm pretty full right now.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chuckwagon Pot Roast

No, I'm not a cowboy...the name comes from the gravy having a base of BBQ sauce. I always make this in my slow-cooker. This is not a show-off dish, it's a family meal.

1 blade beef roast approx 1.5 kg
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup bbq sauce*
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 cup worchestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef stock
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 onions, chopped

Dry exterior of roast with a paper towel, then dust with flour, pepper, and salt. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and sear roast on all sides. You want a nice brown crusty surface. Place the roast in the cooker, and add the carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Combine the bbq sauce, dry mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and beef stock. Wisk together and pour over the roast and vegetables.

Cook on low for about 9 hours...test the carrots and potatoes before serving.

Tips: If you brown the vegetables in the skillet, much like the roast, it'll be better overall. But it's not required. You must sear the roast, however. A slow-cooker will not brown meat, and the results are not appealing either in taste or appearance.

To serve, remove the roast and then the vegetables into seperate platters, then you're free to thicken the sauce if you like.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Not "spicy" as in hot, but spicy as in cloves and cinnamon. If you ask Ryan, they're "yaaaaaaaayyy!" good.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.

  3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not over bake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Garlic Clam Linguine with Wine

My wife is out tonight watching the new Harry Potter movie (or trying to, it was sold out...too many little munchkins), so I got to make whatever I wanted. Well, I usually do that anyway.

1 slice bacon, cut lengthwise then chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can baby clams, drain ½ the juice
¼ cup white wine
½ tablespoon butter
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Any long pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti)

Parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley

  1. Add bacon to a hot, stainless steel frying pan or sauté pan.

  2. When browned, add olive oil and onion, and stir occasionally until softened. Add red pepper and garlic, stir often to prevent garlic from burning.

  3. Add can of clams, white wine, and butter. Heat through, then add tomatoes and salt / pepper. Heat through and serve on pasta. Top with parmesan and parsley (this dish needs a little color).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

White Bean and Hot Chili Soup

Another light, healthy meal. Makes four servings, each are 316 calories, 7.6 g. fat.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can white beans
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp chili flakes (or more if you like it zippy)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
parmesean cheese

1. In large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir frequently, for 3 minutes or until translucent.
2. Add all other ingrediants (except the parmesean, which is a topping). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the carrots are softened. Serve garnished with parmesean, and maybe a celery leaf if you want to show off.

I'm having a bowl as I post's really good. As it so happens, today is the first snow of the year, this is a great soup for a cold day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Eating light tonight, after the weekend food-fest. I make this light salad dressing all the time, and we never seem to get tired of it.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. majoram (or a dash of oregano)
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/4 cup honey (or white sugar)
ground black pepper to taste

Kraft recently put out a bottled version of this, and I thought I should try it. It's beyond horrible. I really have no idea how it escaped the layers of taste testing that a big food company has.

On another topig, last night I made a really good curry sauce to pour over some roasted chicken pieces and rice, but I basically made it up on the spot and didn't record anything. I was dumb. Hopefully I can re-create on my next go, and I'll post it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin

Can't really go wrong with that. Served on top of steamed yellow beans, and garlic mashed potatoes. The good stuff is the pan sauce, helped out with a cube from my demi glace stash. We were close to licking the plates. Next time I'm using green beans though...the yellow ones don't stand out when on top of Yukon gold potatos.

I'm done, I'm cooked out. We're eating mac 'n cheese and tuna sandwiches for a few days while I recover.

Sorry about the blurry photo, I didn't notice until the food was all gone. :(

Banana Pancakes

Mmmmm pancakes. These didn't last long, I had to make them a 2ed time just to get a picture.

(note to Lori: I doubled the recipe for the five of us)

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tea spoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, mashed

1. Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt. In a seperate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegtable oil, vanilla and banana.

2. Combine the two bowls and mix until mostly smooth (a little lumpy is good).

3. Heat nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add a dab of butter to the center of the pan, and then 1/2 cup of batter. Brown, flip, serve. :)

I also threw together a seperate pan of apple-cinnamon topping.

2 apples, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon white sugar

heat a nonstick pan, add oil. Add apples and briefly fry and toss. Mix together all over components, add to the pan...when thickened, serve on the pancakes.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Salmon with Dill Cream

We have some visitors for the weekend (Lori and Tom) so I'm showing off a little, naturally. Did the (see below) frittata for breakfast, nothing fancy for lunch (my wife and Lori were out shopping, Tom and I had BLT's) and for dinner, Salmon with dill cream, over grilled asparagus and mushroom risotto, with dill-parsley olive oil, and spicy corn on the side. I'd say it was all really good...lot of effort but the result was satisfying. I also made a cream of snow pea soup, but honestly I didn't care for it. The dill cream for the salmon, however, was gooood.

1/2 cup light mayo
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh dill (or 1/2 dried)

Yeah, not exactly health food. Oh, wait...I used light mayo. It's fine. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2005


For those of you that don't live near one, Lone Star is a Tex-Mex restaurant (think Mexicali Rosa's mated with a steakhouse) and they have a terrific salsa that you have with your chips while you wait for your main order. My co-worker Victoria was talking about how she wanted to make her own salsa, as the bottled stuff lacks the freshness of homemade (true). We got to talking about yummy Lone Star salsa, so I tracked down the recipe (thx Google). She made it, brought it into work so I could sample, and she nailed it…I think it's perfect.

4 fresh tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 small jalapeno peppers (seeded and minced)
2 minced fresh garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, minced (or more, per your taste)

1. To easily peel tomatoes, cut an X into the top or bottom of the tomato and place in boiling water for a few minutes remove, let cool slightly and remove skin.

2. Dice tomatoes, place in food processor add tomato paste, chopped peppers, minced garlic, cilantro, salt, onions and oil. Process until mixed.

3. This mixture usually fills my food processor, so I empty this into a bowl; add the can of diced tomatoes and process to chop the tomatoes a little finer. I then put this into first mixture and mix.

4. At this point the salsa is ready to serve, but if left to sit in refrigerator for a few hours the salsa will thicken and the flavours will intensify.

5. This method produces a fine textured salsa. I you like a chunkier salsa, I sometimes place onions, seeded peppers, cilantro, garlic in the processor whole and process until chopped. I then take the tomatoes and pulse them until I have the texture I like.

No photo until I make it myself. Naturally, we have like 6 jars of salsa lying around to use up first.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Squash soup

Just so nobody gets the idea that I “chef it up” all the time, tonight the wife and I were tired, so we had tuna melts and canned tomato soup. Decided to skip the candles and cloth napkins also. :P

Anyway, a couple hours after dinner, I got my second wind and whipped up this squash and sweet potato soup. Karen loved it, which surprised me as she somewhat dislikes both sweet potato and squash. She loves curry, but you don't strongly taste “curry” in the soup, it’s just part of the background flavor, so I don't know why she enjoys this, but I won't complain.

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
Chicken stock
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala (if you don't have this, double up on the curry powder)
Cayenne pepper
Olive oil for drizzling (optional)
Pine nuts, toasted (optional)

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook onions until soft, but not browned. Add butternut squash, and potato, and season with salt and pepper again. Cover and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, stirring occasionally. Add enough chicken stock to just cover and season with all spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, covered.

Remove the stems of thyme. Carefully ladle the soup into a blender or large food processor, or use a stick blender in the pot if you're clever. Pulse until no lumps remain. Serve, topped with pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

It’s really good to have a stick blender when you make your own soups, by the way. They’re not terribly expensive, and much, much easier for cleanup then running the whole thing through a food processor (in batches no less).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Frittata

From what I've gathered, the frittata most likely preceded the omelet. There's certainly less technique just mix it all up, pour it in a pan, and off you go. Also, omelet's are an individual item, if you have multiple guests one large frittata is easier to manage then trying to crank out 6 omelets while people are waiting.

For the one I made here the mushrooms were not added as part of the egg, but individually placed on as the egg was setting in the hot pan (like you would put a topping on a pizza). It just looks nicer that way, but it's not required at all.

Frittata tips (and eggs in general):

Use a non-stick pan with a heavy base. If you have one of the cheap thin ones, please throw it away, right now. Ok, welcome back. Now, see, a heavy base (hopefully made of a thick disc of bonded material such as copper or cast aluminum) conducts the heat so it's of even temperature. As Anthony Bourdain said, if it can't kill someone with a blow to the head, it's not heavy enough.

If you have more then one heavy non-stick pan, use the newest one. In fact, set aside your pretty new one and use it just for eggs, nothing else. Let nothing but soft plastic spatulas touch it, no scrapers or abrasives and for #%$* sake no
SOS pads. This is your precious egg pan and none shall touch it but thee.

Try using 1/8th teaspoon of cream of tartar per every 2 eggs before you beat them. Trust's subtle, but they really do end up being fluffier and...well, just better. Use a pinch of salt also, unsalted eggs are fairly bland.

Whip the eggs at an angle...meaning the top of each arc should come out of the egg solution and aerate the mixture. 30 seconds should be good enough, and use some energy to whip some air in there. Your eggs will be lighter and fluffier. Add the (cooked but cooled) accessories (onions, peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, potato, bits of ham or sausage...) to the egg mixture afterwards, and only very briefly stir to distribute things around.

Have your oven pre-heated and ready at 400c, top burner only (broiling).

You will use some fat in the pan, meaning butter. Margarine only in a dire emergency. "Non-stick" is a relative term, eggs will NOT just slide out of a dry non-stick pan, unless it's a faked TV commercial. It needs help with a little melted butter...besides, butter tastes awesome, hello. The pan should be medium hot, enough so the butter is frothing. Don't let it froth for long, butter burns easily and turns bitter and, well, horrible.

Just as the egg starts to set up a little, it comes off the stove and into the oven to broil a bit. The pan will already be hot when you slide it in there, you just want to finish the top of the frittata, which should at this point should still be quite liquid. Layer some cheese on there too if you like, and maybe some thinly sliced chives. Once it's solid (reach in and jiggle the pan a bit) it's done, but it's better to brown it just a little. (not too much, burned egg is nasty).

The general idea is to cook the bottom 50% on the stove, and the top 50% in the oven.
Slice it up like a pie and serve with the usual bacon and fried potatoes. Now have some coffee and soak in the compliments. You rule.

There are many recipes out there, but hopefully this technique stuff is helpful, also.