Sunday, April 30, 2006

Grilled and Stuffed Peppers

After a long, annoying week of cold and rain, this weekend has been terrific. I decided to do a meal entirely outdoors and actually use my grill's side burner. I've had this thing for four years and it's the first time it's actually seen flame.

1/2 cup white rice, steamed and cooled
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 red onion, diced
1 lb. medium ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 small can tomato paste plus equal amount water
2 red peppers, halved
2 green peppers, halved
grated chedder cheese

Heat oil, then sweat onions until translucent. Raise heat, add beef and brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once browned, add garlic, basil, and oregano. Combine, and add tomato paste, and water. Combine and add rice and mix until consistent. Reduce heat and keep warm.

Grill peppers until slightly blackened but still firm, then move to cooler side of grill on top rack to roast. Once softened, add filling and top with grated cheese. Roast until cheese melts and serve. Great with a salad or on a bed of kernel corn.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Caribbean Chicken with a Peanut Brown Sugar Spiced Rub

I ripped this from License to Grill, but adapted it to the oven because I was feeling lazy.

A bit like jerk seasoning, not as hot and a lot sweeter. Very yummy.

10 chicken thighs, skinless but bone-in

1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Place the peanuts and bay leaf in a coffee grinder and reduce to powder, place in large mixing bowl. Add all other seasonings and combine.

Coat the chicken and bake for 60-70 minutes at 300 C

Shorter and higher temperature cooking would scorch the sugar.

Little Better Burger

Yes, I know you already know how to grill a burger. You may want to try this out though...not much work and makes them more juicy and flavorful.

Ok, make a slice of toast. Remove from toaster and let it cool down to room temperature again. Drop it into a blender or food processer and destroy it into a powder. Dump that into a large mixing bowl.

Add a teaspoon each of: salt, pepper, garlic powder, cornmeal
Add 1/2 teaspoon each of: cumin, ginger
Mince an onion finely and toss in.
Crack an egg in there too.
Add a tablespoon of Worcestershire if you have it.

Now mix it all up well, and then add in 2 lbs of ground beef. Using your hands (nothing else will really do it) combine the whole mess and make your patties.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Braised Pork Chops w. Cajun Ragout

I barely have a recipe for this, as I basically threw it together from stuff we had around the house. It was actually really good and I'll try to recall it here.

The pasta side is a simple garlic-butter sauce with a little parsley. I intended to use linguine but at the last moment realized I didn't have any. Spaghetti it was.

1 tbsp canola oil
2 pork chops
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
2 tbsp chopped parsley

At the bottom of a Dutch oven, heat oil until just smoking. Add pork chops, and let sit untouched until they release easily from the bottom (3-4 minutes, but give them a tug-test with tongs to see for yourself). Flip and repeat, then remove and store to one side.

Add peppers and saute briefly until slightly softened. Add chicken stock and tomato paste, then Cajun seasoning. Combine until consistent, then re-add pork chops and reduce to low heat, and cover with lid. Simmer for 45 minutes, checking now and then to stir the liquid mixture and add a little stock or water if required.

Remove pork chops and plate, then cover with the sauce. Serve with pasta or rice or whatever starch you prefer.

Mediterranean Sausage w. Basil Soup

I've not been cooking much lately (outside of some terribly boring stuff) since Ryan was injured, but now that the long weekend is here I have a little extra time and energy (Ryan gets up several times a night and needs something, so sleeping has been rough for over a week now).

So, the soup. Amazingly good, better then most $12 bowls at upscale restaurants.

1 tbsp canola oil
2 onions, diced
3 links medium or hot Italian sausage, sliced or crumbled
1 cup red lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2 tbsp basil
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted if possible
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp each basil and parsley, finely chopped (for garnish)

In a Dutch oven, heat oil until almost smoking. Add sausage and cook until browned. Remove and keep warm in a foil-covered bowl.

Add onions and saute until softened. Add chicken stock, lentils and cook for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.

Add basil and pine nuts. Puree with stick blender, or food processor (in batches).

Return to pot and add sausage, heat through, then serve in warmed bowls garnished with the 50/50 mix of parsley and basil. Pass out some warm crusty bread too.

* As an alternative method, grill or bake the sausages separately, then slice thin and add them to the bowls at the end with the garnish. Nice presentation and also accommodates your vegetarian friends who snuck in for dinner.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cajun Sausage and Peppers

Please make this. It's inexpensive, easy, and extremely good. The flavors are spicy and deep and taste like hours of work. Bask in the cheers of your guests, who are devastated by your casual brilliance (ok, I'm pushing it, but it's yummy).

The flavors are intended to mimic Jambalaya, by the way.

2 strips bacon, sliced small
2 links hot italian sausage, removed from casing and sliced*
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 rib celery, diced**
1 green pepper, diced
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf

Medium shape pasta, penne or rotini are both good here.

In a dutch oven-type covered pot, fry bacon for one minute. Add sausage and stir on occasion until browned and cooked. Add onions, stir for one minute, then add garlic and do the same.

Add celery and peppers and stir until slightly softened. Add the can of tomato paste, and stir to coat. Continue frying until the paste darkens...the sugars in the tomato will caramelize and deepen the flavor.

Add the chicken stock, and all the seasonings, and stir well, scraping up any bits from the bottom to make sure it's all combined. It should be fairly thick.

Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. This would be a good time to add the pasta to the (salted) boiling water you have on standby.

When done, add pasta to the pot and combine well. Plate and toss on some parsley and parmesean. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy

* much easier if the links are cold, almost frozen but not quite
** I didn't have celery on hand when I made mine

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Macaroni and Cheese

In 1937, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinner was introduced in the U.S. and Canada. The timing of the product's launch had much to do with its success. During World War II, rationing on milk and dairy, and an increased reliance on meatless entrees, created a captive market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families. Now, of course, you can enjoy this delicious product simply because you want to.

First, the pasta. A noble food of rich and ancient history, this should be prepared with care and respect for ideal flavor and texture. Generally speaking, the more water the better (to disperse starch), and it should be well salted (imagine sea water as your ideal). Bring the water to a strong boil and use high heat for the duration of cooking, as fast cooking of the noodles will produce better results. Stir often, and when you believe them to be approaching al dente (firm to the tooth) remove one and eat it. When at the right level of doneness, drain immediately and return to the pot.

Add two tablespoons of good quality, fresh butter (not margarine, which has inferior properties of flavor and richness) and 1/4 cup of whole milk. Stir gently (being careful not to damage the shape of the macaroni) until all noodles are evenly coated. Add the cheese powder in a nice even layer on top to help avoid clumping. Again, stir gently to coat evenly. Serve immediately for best texture and moistness. Enjoy.