Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad

Sesame oil is one of the magic asian flavors that can be really fun to play with. This recipe doesn't use it! It comes out great. The basic technique here is to toast and blend sesame seeds into a paste that then gets thinned with soy sauce, mirin, and rice vinegar (a few more of the magic asian flavors) and mixed into the salad. If you don't like spending big bucks on a McCormick jar of sesame seeds looks for a cheap bag in the international section. Add the veggies you want, or even chicken or tofu, and serve at room temp. When refrigerated, you don't get the right texture and the flavor is reduced.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Indian Spice Carrot Soup

Fall is almost here! Time for orange soups. Carrots, squashes, red lentils, cream of tomato, lots of delicious orangey options. This particular one is carrot with some indian spices to give it some character. Great with crusty bread.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mystery Fruit

Can anyone identify this fruit? It tastes like a mix between papaya and cherimoya... delicious. Eats like ice cream. Any guesses?

Banana Bread

Cook's Illustrated came through for my office with this banana bread recipe. We had an emergency with a number of bananas going bad over the weekend - black enough that they got passed over for the new all-yellow bananas from Peapod Monday morning. Banana bread is great for past their prime bananas because their intense banana flavor is muted and more tasty in a cake. You can make this recipe with stuff you have on hand (if you generally have yogurt in the fridge) and it is very quick to make. I would have added chocolate if I had some in the house - banana-chocolate is one of my favorite combos.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pork Shoulder Chops

I am a big fan of pork on the grill. My favorite is jerk pork, but I decided to give this Martha Stewart recipe a try. The premise was good: use meat from the shoulder that is a bit more marbled than the lean loin chops, marinate in lager, and grill with a good BBQ sauce. I found these in the store called Boston Butt Chops - but while I like a good roast Butt, the chops weren't spectacular on the grill - I think a brined loin carefully not overcooked would be better. (By the way, the Boston Butt and Picnic Roast are both cuts from the shoulder.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Chicken Stock Lie

Good restaurants have a few secret weapons they use to make their stuff taste better than home-cooked dishes. I have set upon discovering and dismantling their dominance wherever possible. One of these advantages is a good stock. Stock-making seems to be one of the first lessons in many cooking schools and courses I have seen, and why? It's the base of so many recipes, and it is responsible for the rich, meaty taste in those recipes.

Store-bought chicken stock (which I use regularly, by the way) is pretty much a lie. Although there is varying quality, many options are little more than broth and rely on lots of sodium or MSG to fake a meaty flavor. It works, but if you can, try real stock.

The pictures here are of my home-made chicken stock, just out of the refrigerator. The slow cooking of the chicken bones extracts the gelatin, and leaves a rich, chickeny stock that's not based on salt or fat. The basic recipe is to save your raw chicken bones and backs in the freezer, then when you have enough, fill a pot, cover it with water, throw in an onion and a celery stalk, bring to a boil, and simmer all afternoon. A strainer and a fat separator are useful to separate the liquid when you are done. Pour it into gladware tubs and freeze until you have a recipe that calls for stock.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Corn Spoonbread

Something about the name "spoonbread" just sounds delicious. A reminder of bread pudding. This recipe from Cook's Country, while good, is way too much effort when warm, yummy, moist cornbread can be achieved with much less fuss and with far fewer dirty dishes. (My favorite recipe is still Cook's Illustrated's version.) This dish is incredibly light and is for all practical purposes a souffle, which means it has beaten egg whites folded into the batter. In the end, though, this concept won't stay in my file.

By the way, I have heard a number of comments on this blog that ask where I get the pictures posted here. Well the answer is that I take them all, and what is pictured is the actual food I made. It's a little demonstration that anyone can cook, and with a careful camera, take pictures that make it look good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cauliflower Flatbread

Yes, cauliflower bread. This is a very tasty "bread" where the flour is more of a binder for the cauliflower than the other way around. It's another of Mark Bittman's creations. It's acually vegan because it uses coconut milk instead of regular - and it cooks in a cast iron pan in the oven. Check out the recipe. I could eat this all day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pickles to the Next Level

Recycling a Costco-sized pretzel barrel into a refrigerator pickle barrel gets you the most spicy garden mix for your chopping time. In went a head of cauliflower, a pound of carrots, a bunch of celery, a few chili peppers, and some pickling cucumbers for good measure. I've always wanted to try those myself... If this comes out well I'll try a fancier pickling liquid... plain old white vinegar, salt, and chilis does a pretty good job on its own.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chicken Diavola

So this is the chicken that I brag about. The skin is burned, yes, but it has done its job... protecting the meat, and giving the meat a hint of a smoky taste. If you have never butterflied a chicken before, you must. Cut out the backbone and put it in the freezer for making stock later. (More on this soon, I made stock this past weekend). Then flatten the chicken out and it's perfect for grilling or roasting without drying out the white meat and undercooking the dark. See how the leg meat has started to pull up the bone? I like my legs that way because I like leg meat really cooked firm. And the breast is still juicy! Another tip from Cook's: Put the spice rub under the skin. Diavola is a bit spicy - the rub is a cooked garlic-red pepper-black-pepper mix. Thanks to Howard and Lauren for the use of the grill!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kung Pao Chicken

Chinese is another type of food that has a few tricks you need to learn, but once you have you can cook most dishes better than the Chinese restaurants. Getting them to be very authentic is another matter and takes some time and a few strange ingredients. This recipe, originally by Fuschia Dunlop on her travels to China, is a good one, and my version is slightly Americanized due to several ingredient substitutions. But it's delicious, and I did have the Sichuan peppercorn in the pantry which gives it a distinctive flavor.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More Bittman Salads

I can't get enough of these 101 Simple Salads. This is number 14 on the left and 9 on the right. Simple. Grated carrots in a vinagrette with cumin. Mango and jicama with coconut milk and curry. Jicama is the easiest thing to slice up, good crunch with a touch of sweetness, and not that expensive.