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.