Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cranberry Pickle - Indian Style

Fresh cranberries are abundant in the grocery stores these days. And for me that means spicy flavorful Indian style pickles. I love Indian spices and flavors and really adore the tangy spicy pickled fruits and vegetables that are a staple in India. They don't have cranberries there but if they did I'm sure they would use them for pickles.

My pickle started with a tablespoon of fenugreek, cumin and a teaspoon of mustard seeds. These were dry roasted in a hot pan and then ground up.

Here you can see the ground spices and red chili flakes. I used Korean red chili pepper since that is what I had on hand.

The next step was to coarsely chop the cranberries. A few pulses in the food processor does a wonderful job.
To make the pickle I heated a couple tablespoons of oil in a pan and popped some mustard seeds in the oil. I added a pinch of tumeric and a teaspoon of hing (asafoetida). The oil was allowed to cool and then all the ingredients were mixed with the chopped cranberries. I also added a bit of lemon juice for some added tang. I jarred them up and put them in the fridge. After a few days these will be tasting great.

This pickle looks absolutely gorgeous when mixed with hot steaming rice.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Coq Au Vin

Nothing says comfort food better than coq au vin. And no time is better for comfort food than the night before Christmas.

I took one whole chicken and butchered it up into pieces. These were lightly dredged with seasoned flour.

Into the pot I started with some bacon. Once the fat was rendered I tossed in a whole head of garlic.

The garlic was removed and some onions and mushrooms were sautéed in the pot with the bacon fat.

The mushrooms were removed. A bit of olive oil was added to the pot and the chicken pieces were browned on all sides. Then in went a cup of red wine. I used a nice Chianti for this one but a Pinot Noir would be great too. When the pan was deglazed I added two cups of chicken broth and some dried thyme. The chicken was stewed for about 15 minutes and then the bacon, garlic, mushrooms and onions were added back to the pot. This was stewed for another 15 minutes or so. The gravy was thickened with a bit of butter and flour and everything was served on a bed of mashed potatoes. YUMMY!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Squash Risotto with Chicken Sausage

Hello dear cooking blog. Please accept my apologies for being away for so long. But I am back and I thought this dish would help make up for my long absence. I just love a nice savory stick to your ribs risotto. While I was rummaging through the fridge looking for something to throw together for dinner I spied some leftover roasted squash. I am growing weary of the typical squash soup and thought maybe I could incorporate this into some risotto. Yes! I still have some decent fresh sage in the garden - a perfect match with squash. And for some protein I have these delicious chicken sausage with asiago cheese and spinach in the freezer. Perfect!

I made a chicken broth with water and some Korean chicken dashi powder. Not quite homemade but it will do in a pinch for this dish. Altogether it was about 7 cups of broth. I chopped up a medium onion and sauteed it in a hot pan with olive oil. Once they were softened I added about 2.5 cups of Korean rice. I use this rice for everything. It has a fair amount of starch which lends itself well to risotto if you don't rinse it. I tossed in the rice, some chopped garlic and some sliced fresh sage. I started slowly adding the broth with stirring over the next 15 minutes. I added some frozen peas for a touch of sweetness and color and added a pound of the chicken sausage. Cooking was continued for another 5 minutes or so until the rice was the perfect texture - not too soft and not to crunchy. It was nicely savory and really filling

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zucchini Kimchee and Fried Rice

If you have a vegetable garden you know what this time of year is. Yes, zucchini overload! Now, there are tons of recipes out there for zucchini that are terrific. But I thought, why not do something a little bit different? I love Korean food and kimchee in particular. So, why not try using this wonderful summer squash in a spicy Korean relish? I looked around and there are few examples out there of zucchini kimchi but I do know that in Korea they make spicy pickles from all kinds of vegetables including summer squashes. What can be wrong with fresh vegetables, garlic, ginger and spicy red pepper? Nothing! I am happy to say my little experiment worked.

I started with about 4 cups of zucchini sliced into 1/4 inch rounds. If the zucchini was too big around I split it into smaller pieces before slicing. The zucchini was sprinkled liberally with salt and left to stand for about an hour after which I rinsed the squash and drained it well. To make the kimchee sauce I used about 1/2 cup of Korean red pepper flakes 8 large cloves of garlic, 1 inch of ginger, minced, a tbps of sugar and about 2 tbsp of fish sauce. Green onions would have been best but I didn't have any so I slivered up about one half of a large yellow onion into this as well. The pepper mixture was mixed well with the squash and it was placed in a jar to ferment for about 24 hours. I put it in the fridge after one day. This kimchee is not sour at all and I think I like it best freshly made. I used an Italian Costa Romanesca variety of squash that is my favorite. It has a great mild flavor when raw that matches well with the kimchee.

One of the things I like to do with kimchee is to make kimchi fried rice. I had this for breakfast this morning. I just sautéed some of the kimchee in a bit of sesame oil, added some pieces of cooked chicken meat and then fried some leftover white rice with the whole mix. A breakfast only an Asian (and I) could love.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken sausage with peppers and cannellini beans

When I moved from California to the Fargo-Moorhead area way back in 1996 there was a great little Italian restaurant in Dilworth, MN that I used to frequent. It was called Paisano's, had a nondescript decor and was situated in, of all places, a Howard Johnson's motel. Although the casual atmosphere was nothing to write home about they had a dish on their menu that was absolutely scrumptious. It was a chicken dish served with peppers, sausage with a tangy bean sauce. If I recall correctly it was called country chicken and peppers but I may be mistaken. Sadly, Paisano's closed many years ago but I still remember this hearty delicious dish.

Inspired by the Paisano's dish I created a chicken sausage and peppers meal with cannellini beans. It is lighter than the meal from the restaurant as that one was swimming in butter.

2-4 chicken sausages (I used 2)
1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
4-5 chopped pepperoncini peppers
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium carrot chopped
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste
1 19 oz can of cannellini beans with liquid
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

I started this dish by sautéing the carrots and onions in a little olive oil, salt and pepper for about five minutes, just until tender. The dried oregano was added at this point. I then added the garlic and peppers to the pan and cooked them down for another few minutes. Next I added the chicken sausage and the beans with their juice along with the fresh tarragon. The pan was covered and this was simmered for 4-5 minutes until everything was heated through and the flavors were married. The lemon juice was added at the end of cooking and everything stirred together well.

I ate this dish as is but it would be terrific with some good crusty country Italian bread.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Coffee Roasting at Home

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh roasted coffee except, perhaps, the smell of freshly brewed fresh roasted coffee. Some may call me a coffee snob but after roasting my own coffee beans at home for the last three years I have a hard time quaffing any other sludge that comes from beans that were roasted more than a few days before. Ground coffee from a can? I'd rather have instant. Even the whole bean coffee from the grocery store tastes like cardboard to me. You see, coffee is very much like wine. There is a great range of flavors and profiles depending on where it was grown, how it was harvested, the soil, the climate and finally how it was roasted. If you truly want to explore the subtle nuances of coffees you need to roast it yourself. Coffee flavors peak about 48 hours after roasting and then go on a decline - a much shorter lifespan than wine.

So, how does one roast their own coffee? There are several home coffee roasters on the market either using a hot air method (like a hot air popcorn popper) or a heated drum. The air roasters are the least expensive and can roast enough beans for a couple of pots of coffee. The least expensive is the FreshRoast Plus. It is simple enough but does not give you good control over the roast levels and it is easy to burn the coffee. You can find several places selling it for about $90 by doing a little bit of searching on Google. A step up from the FreshRoast is the i-Roast. It is also an air roaster but with a better design and it can roast up to a cup of green coffee beans. That is the one I have used for most of the last few years. It will set you back about $180 but it is worth it.

I finally moved to the next level - a drum roaster and I couldn't be happier. The HotTop coffee roaster is the cadillac of home roasters. It has much better control of the roasting as you can specifically set the temperature and time of the roasting. This one should last me for years.

Raw coffee beans, so called "green beans" are generally cheaper than roasted beans and are much better quality. I usually order my beans from a place called Sweet Maria's who go around the world sourcing small crop coffee. They have wonderful tasting notes and information on optimal roasting levels. You can find many other sources for green beans by doing a little searching.

Here are some beans in the roaster. It has started its preheat cycle.

The temperature is rising and you can see the green color of the beans turning over into a tan and eventually brown color.

The HotTop will automatically spill the beans out into the cooling tray when the desired temperature is reached. These beans were roasted to a "Full City" roast which is just before they become very dark and shiny from extruded oils.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Spicy Watermelon Soup

At a friends house several years ago I had a soup that just knocked my socks off. It was orange in color and the flavor was interestingly savory with a kick of heat. We all had fun trying to figure out what the base of the soup was. When my host revealed to us that it was made from watermelon I was blown away. I couldn't imagine that watermelon could make such an interesting savory soup. I am having some friends over for a 4th of July cookout tonight and I thought I would make this soup or at least a variation on the theme. Searching the web I found just the recipe that my friend used over on the Epicurious web site. You can see it here. I did make a few changes to that recipe but what turned out was a wonderfully delicious and refreshing soup.

~6 cups of chopped seeded watermelon
Zest and juice from two limes
3 tbsp of caramelized onions (I had them prepared for burgers later)
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp Thai hot and sour soup paste
2 Jalapeño chilis, seeded
Salt and pepper to taste

The watermelon was puréed in a blender until smooth. A heavy bottomed pot was heated and a bit of olive oil was added. Into the pot was added the chopped garlic, chopped ginger and the soup paste. This was sautéed for about 30 seconds until the aromas were rising from the pan. The lime zest was added and about 1/3 of the watermelon purée was poured into the pot. The mixture was heated to a simmer and cooked for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper was added to taste. The hot soup was placed into a blender with the chopped peppers and lime juice. This was blended and the rest of the watermelon was added. After blending until smooth the soup was strained through a fine strainer.

The combination of cooked and fresh watermelon marry perfectly in this dish. The heat comes through and the Thai soup paste gives another dimension to the flavor profile. I added the soup paste in part because I did not have lemongrass on hand and that is one of the ingredients in the paste. I absolutely adore the bright orange color that cooked watermelon takes on. This could be served warm but I plan to serve it cold. Either way it is delicious.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kicked up pizza bianca

I had a hankering fro some chewy bread like substance tonight so I whipped up some of my 5-minute bread dough using 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4.5 cups of all purpose flour. I was thinking of the Roman pizza bianca which is typically a simple flatbread made with a high hydration dough topped with olive oil, salt and rosemary. I added a few other ingredients to this no-cheese pizza. The dough rose for about 3 hours before I took a hunk of it and stretched it out into a square. I doused the dough liberally with olive oil and topped it with sliced garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh tomatoes and arugula leaves. The whole shebang was sprinkled with kosher salt and baked in a hot hot oven until crisp and bubbly. It really hit the spot.

Friday, June 12, 2009

W. C. Burger

Greetings my poor neglected food blog. It has been a while since I've posted. Yes, life gets in the way sometimes. But I'm traveling in Colorado now and just had to share this burger that I found at the Whistler's Cafe in Nederland, CO. This is a charming old mining town just west of Boulder at the end of Boulder Canyon Drive. The views were spectacular and this burger was great. It starts with a bacon cheddar cheese burger kicked up with jalapeños and cream cheese served on a toasted bagel. It sure hit the spot for a very nice brunch at 8300 feet.

Friday, April 17, 2009

DS Cooks Grilled T-Bone Steaks

My son is 11 and I'm very happy that he has enjoyed his FACS class at school. FACS (Family and Consumer Science) is modern vernacular for what I used to know as Home Economics. Anyway, in his class he has been learning about food and nutrition and they were assigned to make dinner for their families and report back about it. Well, I'm delighted to see that DS is picking up some of my love for grilling. We planned out a meal consisting of grilled T-bone steak (medium rare), grilled sweet potato, grilled potato wedges, grilled onions and grilled asparagus. He made a terrific meal (with only a little bit of help).

He learned the wonderful joys of cutting onions!

In addition to the grilled foods mentioned above DS wanted to make a special appetizer. I think it was quite creative, myself.

The veggies came out GREAT.

And the steaks! Yummy.

I think I'll let him cook more often.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Morning Medley

The sun is shining and work is calling. I made a quick and healthy breakfast before I headed out the door this morning. I love to flash sauté vegetables and then cook them with eggs. This has fresh asparagus and canned garbanzo beans in it. I added just a tiny hint of an Indian hot lime pickle for some depth of flavor. The eggs were scrambled with the vegetables. I used one whole egg and three egg whites to cut down the fat of the yolk. Sometime I just use all whites but I find a little bit of yolk makes for a more satisfying egg dish that is less watery and rubbery. It was SO good. Now I'm off to work.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Country Style Pork Ribs

Nothing says lovin' like slow cooked, dry rubbed, country style pork ribs. I started with these thick cut bone-in country ribs.

I made a dry rub with freshly ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, red chili powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper.

These were rubbed into the meat and the ribs were placed in a zip lock bag and allowed to sit for about four hours in the fridge.

Meanwhile, I made some skillet corn bread. I followed this recipe from Cookworm but I left out the herbs. It is a nice recipe. Not too sweet and the yogurt adds a nice acidity to the bread. I did use skim milk and nonfat yogurt but I didn't skimp on the butter.

I "smoked" the ribs in the oven. I placed a rack on a sheet pan and placed the ribs on top of the rack. Into the pan I poured some liquid smoke and wrapped the whole thing in foil. I thought the smoke aromas would rise up and flavor the meat and I was right. The ribs had a wonderful delicate smoky flavor. I cooked them covered at 375 F for two hours and then removed the foil and crisped up the ribs at 400 F for another 30 minutes. The meat was falling off the bone delicious. I didn't cook any bbq sauce onto the ribs but I did dip the meat in some on the plate. With a side of cornbread and coleslaw, this rib dinner sure was satisfying.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not your typical Pot Roast

Here I sit in Fargo, North Dakota. We've been all over the news lately for our record flooding. We are winning the battle against the water. The river is coming down. Unfortunately, so is about two feet of new snow. Yes, once again, we are socked in with a blizzard. Sometimes I think I want to just go to sleep and wake up in 2010. But the high water and blizzard just make us work harder up here in Fargo. As much as I yearn for spring (and I saw my tulips coming up a week ago) I am slapped by mother nature again reminding me that she still thinks it's winter.

Since I can't get out and the sandbagging has ceased (for now) I made a slow cooked pot roast. But this isn't your typical pot roast. I loaded this one up with strong Asian flavors and served it with rice. It all started with this grass-fed rump roast from a local farmer.

I love to slow cook meats in my Turkish clay pot. I really appreciate my dear friend who gave this pot to me. It has been used a lot.

I made a sauce from strongly flavored Asian ingredients. Of course I didn't measure anything but let me try to approximate it for you. Into a blender I put in 6 garlic cloves, about an inch of fresh ginger, a tbsp of hoisin sauce, 3 tbsp of red miso paste, 2 tbsp of fermented black bean sauce, 1 tbsp srirach hot sauce, 1 tbsp of nuoc mam fish sauce, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp mirin and 2 tbsp of sugar, give or take.

This was all blended up into a thick marinade.

The meat was drowned in the sauce and it was rubbed into every crack and crevice of the roast.

Into my pot I put a large cut up onion and 6 large carrots, cut into large chunks. I plopped the roast onto the vegetables and poured any remaining sauce on top. This was covered and placed in a 250 F oven for about six hours to slowly cook. After the first three hours I basted the roast with the pot juices every hour or so. As you can see from my first picture I served it with the carrots on rice with a side of asparagus.

At least someone is enjoying the snow.