What have you been up to in the kitchen?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chapatis and hummus

I had plans to do hummus and pita bread, but being the prepared person that I'm not, I forgot yeast. So, I've found a simple substitute for the pita, Chapatis bread - an Indian staple. The hummus recipe yields 3 times as much as you can buy in the average container for a fraction of the cost. I've added rosemary and extra garlic as a way to spice up the basic recipe, but you can flavor your hummus to your own preferences!

For the Chapatis you'll need...

2 cups chapati flour or ground whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup of water

Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and gradually stir in the water, mixing well with your fingers. Form a supple dough and knead for 7-10 minutes. Ideally, coverwith clear film and leave on one side for 15-20 minutes to rest.

Divide the dough into 8-10 equal parts. Roll out each portion in circle on a well-floured surface.

Place a heavy frying pan over high heat. When steam rises from it, lower the heat to medium and add the first chapati to the pan.

When the chapati begins to bubble turn it over. Press down with a clean dish towel or a flat spoon (I used a spatula) and turn once again. You might need to experiment a bit to get your bubbles to the desired golden brown.

Remove the cooked chapati from the pan and keep warm (piled up between two plates works, or foil and parchment paper) while you finish the rest.

For the hummus, you'll need...

3/4 cup dried chickpeas or two 14 ounce cans, well drained
juice of two lemons
2 (or more, to taste) garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
2/3 cup tahini paste
salt and ground black pepper (to taste)
extra olive oil and cayenne pepper for garnish

I've also included rosemary in my batch, though most fresh herbs would work. Parsley is a common seasoning and garnish as well.

If using dried chickpeas, put in a bowl with plenty of cold water and soak overnight. Drain and cover with fresh water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 1 hour until soft. Drain.

If you're using canned chickpeas, skip all that. Drain and process the chickpeas in a food processor to a smooth puree. Add the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, cayenne pepper and tahini and blend until creamy, scraping the mixture down from the sides of the bowl.

Season the puree with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with olive oil and cayenne pepper. Grab pile of warm chapatis and devour!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cookbook Love and the Swordfish Fiasco

The current issue of the New Yorker magazine (Feb. 13 & 20, 2006, the anniversary issue) contains a funny article about cookbooks, by Nora Ephron. Here is an excerpt:

"Thanks to 'The Gourmet Cookbook,' my mother herself was in the kitchen, whipping up Chinese eggrolls from scratch...The recipe doesn't begin to convey how stressful and time-consuming an endeavor it is to make eggrolls, nor does it begin to suggest how much tension a person can create in a household by serving eggrolls that take hours to make and are not nearly as good as Chinese takeout."

There are a few other good articles in this issue, too, on subjects other than food and cooking. I highly recommend it. Get some of that good Chinese takeout and read a magazine tonight instead of cooking dinner!

That is exactly what I should have done tonight. Instead, I got ambitious and decided to try something new: Let's have grilled swordfish! I wanted to celebrate the sunny, 75-degree dead of winter here in California. The swordfish was awful. I don't know if it had gone bad, or if it was just bad-tasting fish, but the minute I tasted it I lost my appetite and didn't eat anything for dinner. Best to stick with the tried and true: grilled salmon, or better yet, raw hamburger.

If the swordfish wasn't bad enough, I made a dessert that flopped, too. It was cherry cobbler from a mix. You'd think it would be hard to blow it with a mix, but I did a good job of it. It looked fine coming out of the oven, nice and brown on top, but the biscuit topping was runny underneath. I remembered that's why I never make cobbler because that always happens. Stick with the tried and true: ice cream.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Things I love at Trader Joe's

The following have become staples in my kitchen. They are currently saving my life;

1. whole wheat pitas. They are good for everything. I use them for sandwhiches, I eat them with hummus, I make them into mini pizzas. They form the basis of my breakfast wrap. They taste good with melted cheese. They are great.

2. Pastry wrapped Brie. This is what I eat when I want to have a hurting stomach the next day. Note - I am lactose intolerant but trying to convince myself that I am not. I love brie. I love baked brie wrapped in pastry dough. It's in the cheese section. It's heaven.

3. Frozen - precooked brown rice. It's in a box, in the frozen section, it comes with three packages of rice each serving 2 people. It takes three minutes to cook in the microwave. PERFECT rice every time. Note my rice problems in past posts.

4. Pirate's Booty. Reminds me of the cheese puff I used to eat as a kid, but healthier and franky, anything with the word Pirate and Booty in the title is good for me.

5. Just Chicken and Just Salmon. It's amazing, it's cheap, it's pre-cooked and ready to eat. I use the chicken and put it in a toasted pita in the morning with some melted chedder. The chicken is also good in sandwhiches or salads. I need quick protein fixes in a big way so it helps out. I haven't tried the salmon yet but i bought it and am looking forward to it.


It's been a while and I forgot about this post. I tried the Salmon, it scared me, but I wasn't sure how long it was good for.

I love everything at TJs

Nasty Chicken and Rice

I've been lazy. I've been busy. I've been eating out a lot. I certainly have not been cooking, but recently decided to cook the chicken in the fridge. Chicken and brown rice, mmmm good. Note - this recipe bombed. NOT, was "the bomb", just - bomb. Awful. Don't try this at home.

I didn't have a lot to go with the chicken so I tossed in about 6 ice cubes that were made of lemon juice (they were in the freezer). I then COVERED the chicken breasts with lemon pepper and some salt. I let cook. Eventually the lemon ice cubes melted, and then I added some water. I cooked the chicken covered. I looked in the freezer again and saw some frozen pineapple pieces. I tossed those in. Everything cooked down. Chicken was finished. I put the frozen TJs rice in the microwave for three minutes and ate it.

My eyes watered and my mouth burned. I totally over lemoned and over peppered that damn chicken. It was a classic case of SPICE OVERLOAD. What a shame.

What should I have done differently? (obviously used LESS.....)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Just what the doctor ordered

It's been one of those weeks. By Tuesday night, therapy is needed. Brownies (from a box) and a couple glasses of 2002 Shiraz. Yes, I bought it for the label, which gives no information about the product in the bottle but insists that emus are, indeed, insane. Not great (bargain buy at the supermarket), but it'll do the trick, and I still won't do the dishes.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Evil Style Corn Chowder..

Chestcold, need comfort food, made up soup, turned out pretty damn good.

2 Cans Whole Kernal Corn (2 cups if you're using frozen corn)
1 large red bell pepper, cut, de-seeded and diced into small cubes
1 large can evaporated milk
3 tblspoons butter or margarine
2-3 medium sized potatos
Lots of fresh milk (just add till it gets as thin as you like your chowder)
Salt & Pepper to taste. If you have a spice rack a tiny bit of crushed oregeno seems to go well with it, but like always when using oregeno I think it only gives food something green sprinked in. :P

Serves ??? Who knows, it makes an easy 6 large bowls of chowder, should freeze well too. If you're serving more just add in an extra can of corn and another potato, tblspoon of butter, and more milk for every 3 people.

Now for the easy to make..
Take a large pot, fill 1/2 way with water set on stove and bring to boil. While the water is boiling, peel, wash and cut the potatos into small cubes, as well as the pepper. Add potato to boiling water and boil 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat, pour off most of the water slowly trying to save as much of the starchy water as possible. Return pot to stove, add corn (drain water from can 1st), diced pepper, evaporated milk and 2 cups of fresh milk and return the mixture to a slow simmering boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes adding more milk to thin to whatever consistancy you like (less milk = thicker chowder, more milk = thinner soup, as well as salt & pepper. I go easy on the salt and use enough black pepper to give it a somewhat hotter taste.

If you're living alone, or a couple.. you can scale this down using a 1/2 can of evaporated milk, 1 can or cup of corn, 1 large potato, about a 1/3 of a bell pepper diced, 1 tblspoon butter and start off with 1 can of fresh milk. Prepare as above. That should make 2-3 large bowls of soup.

Serve with a toasted sandwhich.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ravioli Nudi

Men come up with some great recipes, and what could be more typical male than a nudi recipe? Let's open a nudi bar in downtown Petaluma. That should boost the economy.

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman of the New York Times. He says that nudi is the Italian name for pasta stuffing that is served outside of the pasta because the cook got lazy when it came time to stuff.

Ravioli Nudi

1/2 pound each veal and pork, or other ground meats
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced onion
Salt and pepper
1 pound fresh or dried pasta
4 Tb butter
20 sage leaves (if you have only 19, forget it)

In a bowl, combine meat with egg, cheese, parsley, onion, salt and pepper. Mix well. Form into balls 1/2-inch in diameter. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Cook meatballs in water for 5 minutes; remove with slotted spoon and keep warm. Cook pasta in the same water until tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot cook butter and sage together until butter is light brown, about 5 minutes.

Before draining pasta, reserve a bit of its cooking water. Drain pasta, toss with butter-sage mixture and enough reserved water to make it saucy. Top with meatballs and serve with Parmesan.

Heaven on a bun

My new, beautiful, stock-pot arrived this past week, and not having enough chicken carcasses to make stock, it was decided to inagurate the pot with some lobster. This recipe comes from the January 2006 issue of Bon Appetit.

1-2 pound live lobster
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup mayo
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter
2 high-quality hot dog buns (straight sided)
chopped fresh chives

Plunge lobster into large pot of boiling water; cover and cook for 9 minutes. I had two smaller lobsters, both fit just fine in the pot after being inspected by the very concerned cats. Using tongs, transfer lobster to large bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Twist tail and claws from lobster body; discard body. Crack claws, remove meat, pull apart and remove cartilage. Using kitchen shears, cut tail in half lengthwise, remove meat. Cut claw and tail meat into 3/4 inch pieces, transfer to medium bowl.

Add chopped celery (neither B. or I like celery, so I substituted green onions), mayonnaise, and lemon juice to lobster and mix until blended. Now, I got the measurement for lemon juice and butter mixed up. After draining off a bit of the excess once I realized my mistake, I added a touch extra mayo to compensate. Surprisingly (or not) the more lemony flavor was just fine, especially with the green onions. (this part can be prepared 4 hours ahead. cover and refrigerate)

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add buns and cook until golden brown on all sides, turning often, about 5 minutes. (this is made the meal truly decadent). Cut lengthwise slit in top center of each bun, pry open. Divide lobster mixture between buns, sprinkle with chives and serve.

(devour, no pause for pictures...sorry...too good!)

"Ok, so my life doesn't suck, but I am lazy" Leftovers.

Take leftover salmon fillet from last night. Mash with mayo in container you saved it in. If you horribly oversalted it when you cooked it, like I did, don't worry about salt and pepper. If you cooked it to be edible, consider salt and pepper. Toss in a bit of curry powder. Toast some bread, I used sourdough. Make a sandwich, and eat it over the sink, thus negating the need for dishes. Drink wine straight from bottle.

Thank you Allison, for the suggestion.