Dec 18, 2010

Split pea soup

Another in the series of "well, I have this laying around and by the way it's cold": split pea soup.

Having been informed that maybe lentils again might be overkill and that it definitely wouldn't kill me to dial back the capsaicin for a change it was time to find a new legume to play with.  Luckily, split peas were available by the pound from none other than the kitchen cabinet.

But of course there was no ham hock.  So at least I got to improvise a bit:

First, a 1:1:1 mirepoix in olive oil.  Nothing fancy.  A bit of salt helped to draw out the liquid and speed the process and several rough-chopped garlic cloves finished it off.

In another pan, I browned half a pound of chopped bacon which quickly joined the mirepoix, grease and all.  A pound of kielbasa, chopped, joined everything just before the pound of peas, 8 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, and pepper.

Forty minutes, more salt, and a generous amount of lemon juice later and the whole thing was actually better than the more traditional method.  Thank goodness for spare bacon in the freezer....

Nov 19, 2010


Sometimes I just end up craving lentils.  Not sure why or how, but it just has to happen.  This time of year that means a more western lentil soup; in the spring for whatever reason that tends to be dal instead.

This time I just went 'sperimenting (again based on what I had around the house).  Worked like a charm, kept in the refrigerator, and reheated perfectly.

Any good lentils should start with bacon.  In this case, six slices, chopped and then crisped in a stock pot.

To that, add about six stalks of celery, chopped and the same amount of carrot.  Onions would be traditional here but, well, I didn't have any.  Or any garlic; powder had to do there.

And then the fun starts: melt all that together along with two diced jalapenos and one red bell pepper (slightly larger bits are fine here).

In a separate pan, brown a pound of kielbasa and add to the stock pot when maillarded properly.

Retain the fat, though, and roast another sliced red pepper (and two more jalapenos; why not) in it before adding that all in together.

  • about 3/4 pound of lentils
  • chicken broth
  • water if needed
  • balsamic vinegar
  • one can of tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh parsley or mustard greens on top and a dense bread on the side.  Perfect for a slightly chilly day.

Nov 11, 2010

Chili con carne take 2

It's that season again.  And when the pantry is relatively empty it's easy enough just to go with what you have.  This worked out fine and basically proves that con carne is just one of those things you can do just about anything to without messing it up too badly.

This time, sweat two smallish white onions in olive oil until nice and tender.

Add in one to 1.5 pounds ground beef (70-30 if you can get it of course; 80-20 works though I wouldn't go much lower than that).  When that's mostly cooked through, throw in (of course) cumin and oregano along with cayenne in relatively equal parts.  Don't worry, the bulk of the heat will come later.

To that, add:
  • 1 can black beans, half drained
  • 1 can pinto beans, half drained
  • 1 can great northern beans, half drained
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1 can chipotle in adobo, chopped
Mix that together adding water as needed.  Garnish with cilantro (or parsley as that's what I had and it worked fine) and cheese of your choice.

Relatively quick, dead simple, and quite hardy.  Plus, well, hot.  Chipotle in adobo tends to lend itself to that quite well.

Aug 27, 2010

Mmm zuchini season

Just stir fry them.  Trust me.  And make them as hot as you dare; sriracha and mongolian hot oil, I'm looking at you.

That is all.  Off to play with porks.  More later, methinks.

Aug 17, 2010

Simple bean/chicken salad

Well, mostly simple.  The actual prep is just a tiny bit time-consuming (if half an hour counts) but it's very good.  Especially for coming out of a can.

Basic idea: throw together some beans.  Make them taste good.  Make sure you have plenty of protein going so it's a full meal or more.  And make sure it's a complete protein or two.

Basic salad

And I mean really basic.  Five cans.  Oil.  Vinegar.

First, drain a can of diced tomatoes; retain the sauce in a bowl.  You're going to have the colander out anyway; just drain the juice into the bowl.  Crush the tomatoes by hand a bit.

Combine in a large bowl:
  • 1 can black beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can corn, drained (no washing needed)
  • 2 celery stocks, finely cubed
  • Chopped parsley; flat leaf if you have it
  • Tomatoes without the juice
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
 And that's your basic bean salad.  Get that in the refrigerator.


I used two breasts to balance this and it seemed to work.  Marinate in:
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Orange juice
  • Red pepper flake
After about half an hour, toss that in a pan, cover, heat, and more or less poach it.  When done, cube/shred and add to the salad, tossing well.


Prepare rice as normal, except:
  • Use the reserved tomato juice to replace some of your water
  • Add coriander
  • Add one bay leaf
Very hearty.  Best served cold.  Makes a great summer meal.

Aug 8, 2010


Sometimes simplicity wins out.  For me, this often has to do with it being before noon (aka breakfast time), but it can obviously carry on throughout the day depending on your priorities (and the ingredients, of course).  And some classics just call for it.

So, BLTs.  Two versions here, both dead simple in their basic form.  They're definitely toaster oven fare once you get past the bacon itself (and I don't actually object to resorting to a microwave here even if it does come off better in a cast iron skillet every single time).  But the idea remains the same: pick a flavor profile, add a minor twist, and enjoy.

Version one
  1. Cook your bacon
  2. Toast a split bagel under a broiler, tossing on a grated hard italian cheese halfway through
  3. Add either sliced or diced tomato
  4. Add bacon, chopped works well here
  5. Add a green of your choice; I like spinach but an actual italian green would do very well
  6. Layer on alfalfa sprouts (or whatever bean sprouts you happen to have around; mung is particularly nice for the added crunch)
Asiago bagels are an obvious choice here, but onion, garlic, everything, etc all work fine.  As does plain, really.  Just make sure you crush down the top once you're done layering; they become quite unwieldy without some manual encouragement.  Cut in  half and enjoy.  Maybe make two if you're hungry or, ahem, want to use a whole tomato.

Version two

Closer to my heart, of course.  This is the simple version.  If you just happen to have fresh-roasted green hatch this might be the best BLT in the entire history of mankind.
  1. Again, cook bacon, slice or chop it
  2. Toast a fairly hearty bread
  3. Melt a thin layer of cojack on the bread; again, using a toaster oven is easiest here
  4. Add sliced, canned green chile
  5. Layer your tomato, in this case chopped probably is better
  6. Add your choice of lettuce; again I like spinach but romaine isn't bad
Slice.  Eat.  Make another.

If you wanted to go crazy you could, I don't know:
  1. Replace the bread with a sopapilla, stuff the ingredients, make sure you're using good chile, and smother in a red sauce.  But then, that would be complicated, wouldn't it?
  2. Just  use a tortilla to wrap said ingredients, making sure to chop the bacon, and call it a BLT burrito.  Maybe even add a salsa or guacamole to finish it.
But now we're straying back into complicated, aren't we?

(For the sake of completeness, I should link to a post from Farmgirl Fare on pita in general and another great option for BLTs that I've always wanted to try.  Baking at altitude, especially if you're inept in the first place, has proven a problem.)

Aug 6, 2010

So you have some apricots

The family got some apricots from some very nice neighbors who have had the tree for years and only this summer decided to produce fruit.  Lots of fruit.  Way too much to use; they've been giving it away like crazy [ed. many inappropriate similes considered and rejected].

But they're not exactly the tastiest in the world.  I mean, they're good.  They're just not omgwtf wonderful.  And did I mention there are lots of them?

So, we cook.

Apricots, apricots, searching...  No, we're not going to make a jam or a desert or anything overly sweet.  Just not my thing.  And we're not doing pork.  Mainly because I can't find any in the house.

But wait.  Let's think about traditional pairings.  I mean, I'm pretty sure apricots are used all over south asia and the great middle east, right?  (Wikipedia says yes and much, much more.)  Ok, so let's think about, say, Iran.  Maybe Turkey.  What would compliment a mild pear-like fruit...

Pistachios.  Just stay with me here; this is about the point where my brother declared that either the proposed dish or I were "weird".

We have a high-sugar, medium-flavor fruit.  We need it to shine.  Something rich with a nutty yet still slightly sweet taste?  Perfect.  Plus the oils are delicious; otherwise almonds would do the trick.

So let's do this thing.

Combine in a food processor:
  • 18 or so apricots, cored
  • About a ramekin of shelled pistachios, washed several times if salted
Whir together.  10 1-second pulses are fine; you don't need to feel obligated to pulverize the pistachios.  You definitely want to get rid of some of the excess salt though.

In the meantime, start heating a decent sized sauce pan with a bit of oil (olive is fine).  Also, start thawing some chicken if need be.

Once the oil is hottish, add the seeds of three cardamom pods, maybe four or five cloves, and a very small number of cumin seeds, in that order, waiting for each to become fragrant before adding the next.

[Tangent, not required for the recipe at all: this is actually an entire idea based on a decidedly non-French style of cooking.  We're toasting spices, not aromatics.  The aromatics come in later and are left either stewed or nearly raw.  It's just a different way of flavoring things and if you're serious about making food that resembles anything from persian to indian and even further east into parts of China, get this technique down.  Through lots and lots of experimentation.]

Once your spices are toasted, add the apricot slurry.  Reduce heat and add:
  • White or rice vinegar
  • Sugar (if needed; if the apricots were quite sweet omit this)
Slice your chicken (two decently sized breasts or so) in thin strips then add that.  Let that cook while the sauce reduces and caramelizes a bit.

After half an hour or so, add a sliced onion and a medium to large tomato cut into about 16 parts.

And walk away for awhile for the whole thing to simmer down so the sauce can permeate the chicken and reduce further.

Serve with rice and some sort of salad, possibly with pita.

6.0221415 mashed salad

Umm.  Chemistry jokes are in right now, right?

Ok, so no.  So this is guacamole.  If you've never done it yourself, fix that. If you have, learn to go for minimalism; avocados are in season.

For some magical reason, the local grocery store has ripe avocados on the shelf.  This, for the record, never happens. Most avocados are firm and slightly, umm, bitter?  At least when you buy them.  But apparently right now they're just slightly soft and perfect for just slicing into, which is good, because I wasn't about to give them enough time to ripen to that state.

So, a very, very basic guacamole.  Combine in a suitable bowl:
  • 2 ripe avocados, type doesn't really matter as long as they're about medium sized, but do reserve one pit
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Either some very finely diced garlic or two or three dashes of powdered garlic
And that's it.  Just stop.  Don't add onions.  Don't add anything to heat it up.  It just isn't needed.  A good guacamole should bring out the avocado flavor, not smother it and use the guacamole as an agent.

Mash by hand.  It's actually fun if the avocados are ripe; they squish like playdough.  Make sure everything is well-combined, wash up a bit, and then serve with chips or whatever else.

On the title?  It's a pun.  That is all.

Aug 4, 2010

On knives

Keep them sharp.  Especially for onions.

Yeah, it hurts.  I'll live.

Jul 26, 2010

Carne adovada

I'm not sure why I haven't written this up yet, but it's well past due.

Carne adovada.

As far as I can tell, this is a pretty localized dish from north-central New Mexico but has migrated out a bit.  Sadie's used to be the standard.  Back when it was a little hole above a bowling alley the food was so good that it got in the way of bowlers on a good night.  Then they actually bought a full space and it was still good.  But I haven't had theirs in years and I've had to make do with my own.

The basics are simple: you're going to make pork as hot as you can with a red paste or sauce and then, pretty much invariably, add raw onions.  Huntley Dent has done his research and has broken down the basic dish into two categories: wet and dry.  Wet means a nice red sauce that can be eaten with tortillas; dry is more of a rub than a sauce and is meant mainly for the meat itself and not as a sauce.

But there are many more variations.  Is your pork (and it's always pork) sliced thin or cubed (1-2 inches isn't uncommon)?  Does the flavor come from the sauce or the meat?  Do you spice it or just let the chili speak for itself?

If I'm at a diner in, say, Espanola, I'll take cubed any time.  I don't know what they do to it to make the flavor permeate and I'd rather not speculate.  But a breakfast with carne adovada, hash browns, and tortillas is to die for if you find the right place.

But.  If you're doing it yourself, here's a basic recipe for a wet, thin-sliced dish best served with tortillas.

In a food processor, combine:
  • 1 medium onion
  • Several pinches of cumin
  • Double the cumin with oregano
  • 3 generous tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1 package of hot to very hot chile powder, preferably Chimayo but any will do if it comes to it
  • Cayenne if you want more heat
  • Water until you have a paste
And then slice your pork.  Thin, please.  Something like 1/8th inch.

Also, onions.  Sweet is good here, so if you can get vidalias, good.  Otherwise standard yellows are fine and whites are okish if you're going for maximal effect of the hot.

Layer the pork slices, then onion, then sauce in a baking dish (pyrex is best here).  A second layer is great.

And then let that sit.  For at least 12 hours.  Preferably more.

To finish it, bake covered in foil at about 325 for half an hour then remove the foil and return to the oven for another half hour.

Shred both the pork and the onions and serve that in flour tortillas with cilantro and whatever else you'd like in the mix.  Pico de gallo is good here.  And if you did it right, have water on hand.  Lots of water.

Jul 25, 2010

Avocado/tangerine salad

Simple as can be.

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 tangerines
  • A decent amount of goat cheese
  • Two handfuls of almonds
Combine that with spinach.  Dress with:
  • Sesame oil
  • White wine vinegar (rice wine vinegar would work here too)
  • Ground ginger
  • Garlic powder
And that's it.  The flavors blend extremely well what with the sweet from the tangerines and almonds, the sour goat cheese, and the various spices (plus whatever it is that avocado has).  The textures work well varying from the crunchy almonds down to the almost melty cheese and avocado.

In a large enough batch this could be a meal.

Lemon-tomato chicken

Sometimes the best food comes out of a totally spontaneous list of ingredients and a deadline.

In this case, dinner for 4.  I have:
  • 3 chicken breasts, frozen
  • Pasta (settled on linguine)
  • Garlic
  • Dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
On sale at the store I found:
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 grenade of lemon juice (you know, the lemon juice that you find in the produce section bottled like a lemon/grenade)
  • Cheap dry red wine
Lots of stuff you can do with a combination like that.  So why not make it complicated?

Chicken prep

Thaw, obviously, then place in a bowl (whole).  Cover in lemon juice and add oregano.  Toss thoroughly and let that sit for, oh, an hour.


In the meantime, start with the tomatoes.  To keep things summery, I didn't really want to cook them but I still wanted tomato flavor in with the chicken.  And given the choice of linguine, just chunking the tomatoes wouldn't work anyway.

Solution: quarter them, set up a colander over a bowl, and crush them by hand until they're just small bits.  Then salt them to sweat the juice, toss well, and set them aside to slowly drip.  Go ahead and press them by hand occasionally.

Then rough-chop most of the bunch of parsley and set that aside for now.

Then obviously the garlic.  I used lots.  In the same spirit as the tomatoes, I want some cooked and some raw, but you can just prep it all the same way.


In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and add half the garlic.

Remove the breasts from the marinade and cube into about 1/2 inch pieces, retaining the marinade for later use.

Once the garlic is just turning golden, add the cubed chicken and cook most of the way through, stirring often.  Then add the reserved marinade and your tomato drippings and take the mixture down to a simmer.

In the meantime, make pasta.  Use slightly less water than usual and make sure you salt it liberally.

When the pasta is done, drain and add about a cup and a half of the pasta water to your chicken mixture along with a decent splash of wine.

Let the chicken mixture come to a boil and then slowly reduce it until you get a thick enough sauce to slightly cover the chicken bits (the starch from the pasta water will help this along nicely and the sugar from the tomato will nearly carmelize).

Fresh toppings

Combine your tomatoes with the parsley and the rest of the garlic.  Add a spritz of lemon juice and toss together.

Serve, letting everyone choose how much of each component they'd like and finish with grated hard cheese.

Another very nice summer dish.

Jul 20, 2010

A sandwich

This goes back a few years, but it's definitely a summer recipe.  It's sort of loosely based on a mufuletta.  And since it's a relatively cool day with no sun, I figure it might be perfect.


Odd place to start?  Sure.  But why not?  This is going to serve the role of oil and vinegar in the final product while adding something, umm, tapenady?

In a food processor, combine:
  • A 60/40 split of kalamata olives and normal black olives
  • 2 cloves of garlic (for once I'd strongly advise not going overboard here)
  • 1 small handful of italian parsley
  • A few chives, somewhat chopped
  • 2 small spoonfuls of capers, rinced
  • A small amount of oregano
Blend that, adding olive oil as needed, until you have a paste.


So when that's done, select your bread.  I'd recommend a baguette.

Halve your loaf, boule, whatever, and get some of the guts out.  You will have to make room for the other stuff.

So start adding:
  • Tapenade to both pieces
  • Feta
  • Salami
  • Spinach
  • Banana peppers, sliced
  • Roasted red pepper, sliced
  • Tomatoes, sliced, salted, and drained in a strainer
  • Whatever else strikes your fancy (though I'd recommend not taking the salt content up from here)
Recombine your two halves and wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to, say, overnight.  Slice and serve.

Jul 12, 2010

Dal and chicken

Ok, so this did require some prep time.  And it wasn't optimal; I love masoor dal for something like this but it wasn't to be had.  Chana helps though.

Three parts.

First, just prep some lentils.  Boil them as usual, not adding spices.  They'll keep for days; don't worry.  Just pull them when they're done and it's all good.  This is where I'd prefer red lentils, but those can be somewhat hard to come by, so do as you can and will.  The standard green/french worked just fine.

Second, prep some chicken.  Thaw whatever you have and make it ready for marinating.  Breasts worked fine here.

In a cast iron skillet, heat some oil.  Neutral is better but olive works.

Add to the hot oil, in this order:
  • Palmfull of cumin seads
  • Half that whole coriander
  • Garlic, if desired
  • Brown mustard seeds; if not available sub in yellow
  • Whole black or white peppercorn
  • Mustard seeds; have a lid ready to cover as they pop like crazy
Drop the heat and add cayenne powder.  Turmeric wouldn't hurt here either.  Stir to combine.

Drop that all in a bit of yogurt, combine in a ziploc back with chicken, let sit overnight.

Third, add a small amount of oil to a small sauce pan.  Toast about three cloves and a cinnamon stick along with the innards of three or four cardamom pods.  Additional cumin sead wouldn't hurt here either.

When that has been toasted, add your lentils and one can of chana dal (chickpeas; whatever) drained and one can undrained.  Simmer that down after adding turmeric (to taste, but be generous) and salt (again, don't be stingy).

While that is simmering down, start grilling your chicken.  Take it to medium-well at least; the yogurt will have softened it enough that it shouldn't be tough nomatter how much you overcook it.

Spoon 3/4 of your bean mixture into a blender and puree it; add it back to the pan.

Slice the chicken on bias.  Serve with a flatbread and some greens and you have a great meal.

Jul 1, 2010

Bread salad

Look!  It's both summerish and has actual amounts!


  • 4 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup red onion
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup (or more; can you really have too much?) shredded basil (traditional Italian)
  • 6 cups dense crusty bread in 1-inch cubes
Add the bread last, preferably after a few minutes so the other flavors come together.  You can always toast fresh bread to get the right consistency, but if, say, you live in a high arid climate, your older bread will hit the sweet spot before molding anyway.

Chill, serve.  It's absolutely wonderful.

Jun 27, 2010

Pad thai

I've done this a few times now. It isn't what you get from a Thai restaurant. Apparently it's also even closer to the real thing than what you can get in this country.

I based this largely on several readings of this extensive post. It's really good. And then I ignored much of the advice and came up with the following.

So, two parts: sauce and assembly.

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce, more or less. The stuff is salty so take that into account.
  • 1/2ish cup -- maybe more -- rice wine vinegar. This was basically because tamarind paste is hard to find; I'm sure it's better done the right way.
  • Pure cane sugar -- more than expected
  • Sriracha (plenty)
  • Garlic-chili paste (also plenty)
  • Water to take salt down and get a sauce that will reduce properly under very high heat
Let that all combine for some hours on low heat. You can even keep it for some weeks. Fish sauce is an amazing preservative.


As per suggestion, I've decided that woking up one serving at a time is the best way to go. Not only does it let you customize to the taste of your fellow eaters, it just comes out better.

But first, noodles. I've used pho. Soaked in hot tap water for less than about five minutes. Make sure these are ready to go.

Take your choice of proteins. I like chicken for this; beef is too aggressive, I hate shrimp, and I don't much care for tofu. If you're going to use shrimp, be sure to add it later than you would the chicken (which goes in first).

Slice your chicken, preferably breast for this (trust me, you won't miss the fat), quite thin. This is rather important, as you really don't want any single serving to be in the wok for more than, say, 90 to 120 seconds.

Crush some peanuts, preferably unsalted. The easy way: put a bunch of peanutes in a ziploc bag and either use a rolling pin to roll them into near pulp or, say, a cast iron pan. Either works.

Dice some green onion.

Chiffonade some basil, preferably Thai or purple, but we've talked about those before.

Wash some bean sprouts. More than you think.

If desired, let about an egg per serving come to room temp. I also hate egg, so I don't add this myself, but it's not only traditional, it's almost required to be "real" pad thai.


Heat peanut oil, plenty, in a wok. Toss in any non-seafood with a small ladel-full of the sauce. Cook that nearly through as quickly as possible.

Add noddles and bean sprouts.

If using egg, push everything in the wok to one side save some of the sauce and basically scramble the egg very quickly on the bottom of the wok.

Add shrimp here and make damn sure the heat is high enough to cook quickly.

Add peanuts.

Add more sauce, probably a few ladels if your heat is high enough.

Finish with basil, green onion, etc.

Serve with lime slices and more peanuts for maximum effect.

Mmm. Realish pad thai.

Early summer risotto

First, read up on the basics of a decent risotto.  I'm not inclined to repeat myself, so that's what you get for an introduction.  (And seriously, this stuff becomes second nature after awhile; it's not like you have to read a recipe for risotto and do more than skim to see what ingredients are added when.  It's a great dish for experiments.)

This is a side dish, I suppose.  It can work well with anything from salmon to chicken to beef.

Start off the dish as usual: onions, garlic, rice, wine, stock in that order.

Let that go about half way to done; judging that might take some time.

Add about a dozen capers, drained and rinsed, choped finely.

Aside: capers are neat.  Some people have them; they're basically crazy.  What they do is add a floral note to a dish that you basically can't duplicate.  Probably because they are, in fact, flower buds.  Subtle but it adds quite a bit.

Finely chop about half a red bell pepper.  Grate sufficient cheese.

Don't forget to keep stirring and adding liquid.

When the mixture is about 90% done (ie, it's getting noticeably harder to stir), add the red pepper.

Finally, the basil.  Cooked basil loses flavor fast, so this goes in nearly at the end.  If you have fresh, great.  If perhaps you froze some from last year, make sure you give it enough time (and hot liquid and massive amounts of stirring helps here) to defrost.  Chop finely, add that, let that go for another minute or two, then add the cheese, take off the heat, and stir it in.

Works wonderfully.

Jun 22, 2010

Mustard green salad

Mustard greens are tasty, and when they're in season they're quite cheap.  So check around.

This seemed to work out well:
  • Mustard greens
  • One sliced red pepper
  • One sliced cucumber; don't bother scooping seeds or anything but do peel it
  • Bunch of chopped walnuts
  • Goat cheese
  • White balsamic vinegar
Quite tasty.  The flavors all compliment one another.

If you're somehow goat cheese-impaired (not that I have anyone in mind), a mix of blue and feta might do you, but it won't be as good.


This is truly not seasonal, but it came up in my archives and I don't want to lose track of it.  Back to risotto shortly, I'm sure.

To start, sweat one large red onion in a, oh, cast iron pot.  Crush and peel garlic and add halfway through the sweat.  Near the end, add four or five chopped, but not diced, carrots.

When said sweat is done, add:
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 cans garbanzos (liquid optional; the flavor really varies if you add it or don't)
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Parsley (dried)
  • Rosemary
  • Red wine vinegar
Bring to a boil.  Add:
  • Eightish baby red potatoes
Simmer for 45 minutes.  Add:
  • Two zuchinis all sliced and diced as you'd like them.
Let that go for ten minutes.  Serve, adding some greens (mustard worked great on my first try).

Lots of leftovers but it reheats like a dream.

Orange quesadillas

Dead simple if a little weird.  But trust me; they're good.

  • 1/2 medium orange
  • 1/8 or so white or yellow onion
Preheat the oven to 450.

Sprinkle a large (I think we're calling these "burrito size" now) tortilla with the onions.  Add either sliced or shredded cojack in a relatively thin layer.  Sprinkle the orange chunks over that.  Add Cholula for some heat; you really don't want to add the acid that comes from Tabasco here.

Layer on another tortilla.

Bake for 15 minutes on a high rack, flipping once at about 10 minutes.

Let that cool, slice, and eat.  Absolutely delicious.

Edit: and by all means serve this with guacamole.  It really is a perfect compliment.

Risotto: basics

Back to the basics.  I haven't started to go full-on chile and heat just yet.

And so: risotto.

Now, I'm going to assume that almost everyone who actually reads this knows what risotto is, but for the sake of anyone who doesn't and still stumbles across this: it's rice.  Creamy, delicious rice.  Usually with other stuff in it.  It's labor-intensive (less so if you trust Alton Brown ; I've never tried his method).

So here's a basic recipe; a few variations are to come whenever I get them properly written up.

Chop one medium yellow onion and soften in olive oil until transparent in a medium round-sided pot or pan.  A bit of garlic here wouldn't be uncalled-for.

In the meantime, bring some sort of broth (use chicken unless you have a reason not to) to a simmer in another, smaller pan.

Add about a cup of arborio  rice to the pot, take the heat up a bit, and toss vigorously.  Eventually, the edges of the rice grains will get translucent.  This is a good thing.

At that point, hit the pot with a cup or so of wine (again, use white until you get the idea down; I'm actually pondering what would happen with sake at this point).

Keep stirring; the alcohol will more or less vaporize.  When that's only slightly wet, start adding your heated broth.

Then stir.

Then add more broth.

Then stir.

Start at a low heat; knowing when to add more liquid is much easier if it's a slower process.  Higher heat will indeed finish the dish faster, but it also risks ruining it.  Especially when you live in a mile high desert.

Repeat.  And repeat.  Your arm will get tired.  So drop the heat and grate some cheese.  AB calls for reggiano exclusively; I like asiago as per usual.

Go back to stirring.  Eventually this mixture will firm up; the stirring is noticeably harder.  Taste the rice; it should be done.

So add the cheese.  Slowly, stirring to incorporate.

And you're done.  Take that thing off the heat and serve.  It will be delicious even plain like this.  But there's oh so much more that can be done.

Jun 20, 2010

Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo.  Yeah, this usually means some combination of tomato, onion, and sometimes something vaguely hot; often jalapeno.  It's usually boring and comes off more as a salsa that someone forgot to blend than anything else.

This is not the pico de gallo I grew up with.  Not even close.  What I know, as far as I can tell, is all New Mexico.

  • Four fine chopped clementines (or equivalent amount of orange; the clementines are nicely sweet though)
  • One medium jicama, cubed up into something like 3/8 inch chunks
  • One generous handful of parsley (replace with cilantro if desired), choppped
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • Optionally, you could add some lime juice.  I'm personally not a fan, especially if you've already used clementines -- there should be more than enough liquid in there already.
I suggest taking the amount of red pepper flakes up or down depending on how much the pico is supposed to be a cooling agent for other foods.

Toss all that around and it's ready to serve.  If you've never used jicama you're in for a real treat.

And for goodness' sake, don't use tomatoes.

Black beans

This one's easy.  And tasty.  You can modulate spice if need be, and they're slightly (but only slightly) on the unusual side for just standard black beans.

  • One half white/yellow onion.  Pretty small bits.
  • Four or five cloves of garlic
Sweat in olive oil.  Add:
  • About 1/3 of a 7oz can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, rough chopped, with some of the sauce itself.  This stuff is potent, as it turns out.  Save the rest for another day.
When that's all nicely combined, add:
  • Two cans of black beans, one of them without liquid
  • One can chicken broth
Bring all that to a boil and reduce it down until the liquid is just covering the beans.  Cover, reduce heat, add some salt.  You can hold that warm as long as you need and beans will just get softer and mushier, which can be desirable.

Tri-tip burritos

For some reason summer for me means tri-tip.  And tri-tip is good.  And very occasionally on sale enough to justify.

After experiencing several experiments on a small smoker (thank you very much Mr. McCormack; all was quite welcome) I decided to give it a shot on my own.  Which naturally meant not traditional smoked beef; that would be too mundane.  Even if I did have a smoker.

Solution: slow-cooked, heavily marinated beef with green chile in a tortilla.  How could that go wrong?  (In this case, it actually didn't.)


In a food processor, combine:

  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Ancho (for smokey flavor so not too much; this isn't your heat source)
  • 1/4 package of hot chile powder (hot molido, in this case; this is your heat source)
  • 50-50 white vinegar and water until there's a thin paste (it's easy enough to modulate the amount of vinegar down a bit, but you do need a decent amount to tenderize the beef)
Cover your tri-tip with this stuff, pour the rest in a baking pan with the meat in it, cover and chill.  Probably best overnight, and probably better if you pierce the meat several times.

Green sauce

The next day, or whenever you're nearly ready to start actually cooking the meat, start up your green sauce.

In a sauce pan, sweat in olive oil:
  • 1 medium onion, 1/4 inch dice or so
  • Garlic, minced
  • Some whole cumin
In the meantime, thaw 1 container green chile (yeah, i used Bueno extra hot for this as well; I could live on that stuff).

When the onions are basically transparent, add:
  • 1 yellow or orange pepper (red will do; going for sweet here) in smallish chunks
Sweat that down a bit, then add the green chile (likely still partially frozen), some water, and turn the heat up.  Let it come to a boil.

Thicken as desired with cold water/flour until reasonably thick -- you want it to drop, not run if that makes sense.

In the meantime, start on the meat.


Bring an oven to 450 or so.  Bring meat back to room temp on the counter; probably start this just before you start on the green sauce.

To do this properly, heat up your cast iron and Maillard that thing on all sides.

Then throw the meat in a baking pan, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so (100 F?) and toss it in the hot oven.

Take it out, remove from pan and set the nice pasty bits aside, wrap in foil and return to the oven until it reaches 125 - 130.

Remove, let sit for 10 - 15 minutes in the foil, then slice thin against the grain.  Return slices to the now likely cool sauce with any retained juices.  Toss around to coat a bit.

Final product

Heat tortillas.  Place meat in tortillas.  Smother in sauce.  Try to close and eat without making a ridiculous mess.  Chopped fresh cilantro would be awesome here as well.  Consider avocado and black olive as well.  Maybe even some lettuce of some flavor.

Serve with black beans perhaps?  Pico de gallo wouldn't hurt either.

Jun 17, 2010

Basic beef stir fry

(Part 3 (1 is here; 2 is here) of what I've taken as a challenge from my cousin.)

Since I can't sleep, I might as well write, right?

I'm assuming that I got my taste for noodles with stir fry from my mother who got it from Taiwan.  Most parts of China and southeast Asia would insist on rice instead.  So we'll go with rice this time.

First, get your rice started.  Do it as you will.  I'm not violently opposed to rice cookers even.  But a stove top Basmati really is better.

Basic ingredients:
  • Beef, sliced thin.  Preferably a cut without too much gristle.
  • Bell peppers, sliced as you like, but I also like to do long and thing for this
  • Water chestnuts, lightly chopped
  • Bok choy, chopped
  • Ginger, garlic, the usual
Also have on hand and ready:
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Soy sauce, and please use some type without MSG and with salt
  • Sugar
  • Corn starch
  • Water
Heat your wok.  Add oil -- preferably peanut at this stage.  Maillard the beef; it shouldn't take long.  White sesame seeds are optional at this point but oh so tasty.  Remove and set aside.

Wipe the wok with a paper towel once it's cool enough to do so.

Add about a 50/50 blend of sesame oil and, if you can find it, Mongolian hot oil.  Vegetable time, but only go about half way through the cooking process.  Usual order; start with garlic, add ginger, add peppers, add water chestnuts.  Then bring the heat way down.

And this is where we develop the sauce.  It's pretty much to taste, but the listed ingredients will give you an idea of where to start.  Both the sugar and the corn starch will thicken, and the water is obviously there to make sure it isn't too thick.

When you're happy with the sauce, turn the heat back up a bit, add the beef, and toss in the chopped bok choy.  If you've timed it right, the rice should be about done as well.

And that's a meal.

Jun 15, 2010

Simple med pasta

I'm not going to claim this is Italian or French or Greek or what have you; it isn't.  But it tastes good?


Take a few frozen chicken breasts, chunk them up (it's just easier when they're frozen) and thaw in a a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, and perhaps some oregano (but don't overdo that; not only will there be more later but it's easy to overdo).


Farfalle and especially campanaelle seem especially suited to this mix, but any short, robust pasta will do.  Get your water going, salt it, etc.  Toss in your pasta.


Maillard the chicken in a saute pan.  Add chopped garlic (obviously?), finely chopped jalapenos (technically optional), sliced red onions, chunked bell peppers (preferably red), and let that all heat through while the chicken reaches full temp.

Season with more oregano, black pepper, and some basil.  Powdered works here just fine.

Add a can of diced tomatoes, juice and all.  Let that reduce a bit; shouldn't take long.

Add chopped Greek olives (kalamata being the obvious choice), cut the heat, add the pasta, and crumble generous amounts of feta while the mixture is still warm.

Serve.  This can easily stand alone but does wonderfully with some sort of cucumber salad.

Jun 12, 2010

Very basic pasta

So many pasta dishes get so complicated so quickly.  This isn't one of them.

Boil water; don't forget to salt it.  It really is better that way.  Eventually add, say, angel hair or some other thin version of spaghetti.  Cook that through.

In the meantime, get to chopping.  Mostly garlic.  Lots of it.  And parsley.  Lots of it.

Add olive oil to a saute pan and lightly toast the garlic.  Once the pasta is ready, add that as well.  Once the pasta is well-coated in oil, kill the heat and add the parsley.  A little red pepper flake at this point wouldn't kill anyone.  Toss further. 

And you're done.

Grate a hard cheese over the top upon serving.

And yes, this compliments the salmon perfectly.

Basic salmon

Perfect summer dish.  Light, doesn't too much overheat the kitchen; can't go wrong.

Basic idea:
  • Melt a patty of butter and add about as much olive oil in a small saute pan
  • Add two salmon filets, skin up
  • Finely chop a whole ton of parsley
  • Juice half a lemon
  • Flip the salmon to finish
  • Drizzle the lemon on top and let that reduce a bit
  • Add some parsley at the last minute
Serve with the rest of the lemon and parsley.  Preferably with pasta.

Arroz con pollo

So one of the major ways I've learned to cook random things is to read about a half dozen sources, integrate the knowledge, and finally try something.  That's pretty much what happened here.  Sources include Dent, Cook's Illustrated, and the interwebs.

The concept, brought up by Cook's, was to do a decent to good arroz con pollo in a single pot.  This is harder than it sounds but far from impossible.

The pot

Cast iron dutch ovens are magic.  Especially when well-seasoned.  Nothing bar nothing translates better from the stove top to the oven.

The marinade

First step is to get your chicken marinating.  This worked for me:
  • Chopped garlic.  Lots.
  • White wine vinegar.  Straight white vinegar ought to work.
  • Dried oregano
  • A bit of cumin
  • Chicken, of course.  I used breasts, four of them,  because I just always use breasts....
Let all that sit for some time; probably over an hour and less than three.

Start the process

Add oil to your dutch oven, heat it, chunk up an onion, and saute.

Take the heat up and brown your marinated chicken on all sides, reserving the marinade.

To the marinade, add:
  • 1 bag frozen peas.  No, seriously.
  • 1 container of extra hot green chile (I happen to like Bueno; nothing tastes quite like pure hatch)
After the chicken has browned (god bless the Maillard reaction) add:
  • Remaining marinade with additions
  • 2 cans or one box of chicken broth
  • Red pepper flakes if so desired
  • 4 tomatoes, nicely chunked up
  • Roughly 3 cups of rice (short or medium grain would be traditional but use what you have)
Bring that to a boil, cover it, and toss it in the oven at 350 for half an hour or so.

Pull that out, toss it up, and you've got quite the meal.  Serve with perhaps cilantro or pico de gallo.

On a bit of a more traditional note

(I swear I'll be back to stir fry very shortly.  But I was just going through records and this stood out.  And besides, it's one of those lovely Colorado spring days that feels like fall already.)

So it's Boston.  It's Christmas.  It's cold.  And there are only the two of you, and frankly you're both studying like crazy most of the time.  What do a Norwegian/Dutch atheist and a vaguely Germanic agnostic do under such circumstances?

Well, make Christmas dinner, of course.  On the menu:
  • Game hens
  • Roasted root vegetables
  • Candied walnuts
  • Fruit salad
It just makes sense, right?


This is going to form the basis for the walnuts and the dressing for the salad.  And it takes awhile, so start it first.

In a small saucepan combine:
  • A cup or so of apple cider
  • One cinnamon stick
  • Ground nutmeg, but not too much
  • Ground clove, but again not too much as this might actually numb your mouth
  • Ground allspice
  • About 3/4 inch freshly grated ginger
Bring that all to a simmer and then turn it way down.  Reduce to at least half if not a bit further.  This could take a few hours but won't require constant attention by any stretch of the imagination.

Salad dressing

Combine the majority of the reduced syrup with olive oil (probably straining the syrup).  Let that cool.


Toss the rest of the syrup with a generous amount of walnuts.  It coats amazingly well, so just keep the nuts coming until you think you're just about to spread it too thin.  Serve this as an appetizer and/or with the main meal.

Root vegetables

I chopped up about eight medium potatoes and three leeks into roughly similar sizes and vastly different shapes.  I could see adding carrot or sweet potato (which I can't stand and would never use but each to their own).

Combine chunked up roots with generous olive oil, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan.  A larger roasting pan than you think you'll need.

Toss that in a 500 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour; you want to get that nice slightly shriveled thing going.


In the meantime, prep your hens.  Usual poultry stuff; take out the spine and the sweetmeats and all that.

In a food processor, grind up thyme, rosemary, and oregano.  Preferably fresh on all.  Add a touch of olive oil just to make it easier to work with.

Slather both hens, inside and out, with the mixture.

When the roots are ready, place the hens on top and use whatever is left of the herb mixture to cover some of the root veggies.  Cover the roasting pan and return to the oven (reducing the heat a bit; 350 should be fine.  Keep probing the hens until a breast hits 170 or so (and remember that since game hens are so small they won't coast for as long).  I'm guessing this took 45 minutes.


Hunk up three nectarines and an apple (fuji? granny smith?  something to offset the flavor and add crunch).  Toss that with spinach, add the dressing, toss again, and dinner is ready as soon as the meat is.  (Originally the walnuts were going in here too but they were so good on their own that we just started munching on them right away.)

This generously served two as a feast and could easily scale.  Game hens are one of those interesting items that fluctuate in price so dramatically I don't even know whether to be suspicious.  But it was a lovely and relatively low cost meal and really quite nicely eaten by candle light on the floor in the living room.

Jun 8, 2010

One of my best yet most failed experiments of all time

(Part 2 in a series that I consider a challenge from my cousin.)

I love pad prik khing.  There's this phenomenal place in Littleton, CO that does it just right: Wild Ginger.

The basic idea: a protein of your choice with green beans and a red sauce that could probably remove paint.  Oh, and a bit of basil for balance.

  1. I would recommend going to Wild Ginger and you're a fan of Thai food if you're anywhere in the area.  The tom yum gum is also amazing even though I have a deep detest for shrimp.  And that should tell you something.
  2. Do not go to Wild Basil and please do not get them confused.
So, the idea: marinate the proteins first.  In this case tofu and since I hate tofu, chicken.

Basic marinade:
  • Small amount of sugar
  • LOTS of sriracha sauce
  • Small amount of fish sauce (no, trust me, it's good when cooked)
  • A couple of spoonfulls of that nice Thai hot garlic paste; brand so far hasn't mattered
And you let that sit and talk about politics in the North Caucasus or books or movies or something for half an hour or something.  Maybe for people who have/want kids you'd rather talk about babies.

But at about that point, you want to parboil the green beans.  For god's sake, don't cook them through.  But blanch them a bit; they'll come out greener that way.

Toss said ingredients in a wok and start stir frying like mad.  Add sriracha like crazy.  Add a bit of soy just because.  Add some fresh ginger.  Add more sriracha.

And then start reducing.  Add sriracha as needed to make the consistency right.  Maybe some water might be called for as well.

Meat should be done.  Tofu should be done whatever that means.  But just leave it in.

As the sauce reduces, well, do the "logical" thing and keep adding sriracha.  A bit of cane sugar is also a nice touch.  Nothing bad could come of that, right?  Right?

Eventually, you'll have a thick sauce of tofu, chicken, some sort of sweet red sauce, and hopefully a whole ton of green beans.  Garnish with fresh basil; thai basil if you can get it, purple if you can't, and normal if you can't get that.

Maybe you should have made substantial amounts of rice as well.

I couldn't finish my chicken.  I think I lost about a gallon of water through my eyes and forehead.  My mother, the other victim/scientist, did about as well with her tofu.  Even the beans, which were absolutely awesome and at peak season, couldn't be touched (well, not true, we ate a half a pound of them).

But that, people, was a good prik khing.  And no, not pad prik khing; we did use rice.

But wow was that a meal worth remembering.

Bastardized chicken curry thing

This isn't curry.  This is barely Indian.  This is not how you make Indian food.

It is, however, simple and quite tasty.

This was stolen and modified from, I believe, Food and Wine, although good luck finding it on their god awful website.  It literally took me 80 minutes the first time -- and I knew what I was looking for.

The link to the original recipe is here (and OK, the website has improved).

But like I said, it's been modified through much trial and error.

First, a side point that will become relevant later: garam masala is a finishing spice.  It is not one of those things you toss in and let stew for hours or some such.

Basic ingredients:
  • Oil of some sort; standard vegetable seems to work fine
  • Yogurt. In this case any plain variety is fine but I still like full fat.
  • Red onion; sliced
  • Four to six jalapenos.  Red if you can get them.  Seeded if you're feeling weak; otherwise leave them in as extra capsaicin on the tongue never actually hurts.
  • Chicken breasts; probably three or four to serve four or five.
  • Turmeric
  • Curry powder -- I think hotter is better but moderate as you will
  • Garlic, and naturally the more the better; finely chopped
  • Naan or pita
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce of some sort
  • Garam masala
Slice the chicken into something like 1/8 inch strips and toss those in a bowl.  Cover in yogurt and add sliced jpeps if you dare along with the curry powder and turmeric until the whole thing is nice and yellow and spicy.  Let that sit for a bit; at least until you're done with the rest of the recipe and preferably up to an hour.

Slice tomatoes to taste and chop the lettuce.

Slice the onion; heat the oil.  Sweat them a bit until just barely translucent.

Toss in the chicken mixture with the onions.  And keep tossing.  And tossing.  Otherwise the yogurt will separate.  This should simmer down nicely.

Drop the heat.  This is kind of important.

Start with your chosen bread.  Either toast the pita or tell whatever the naan package tells you to do.

Add more yogurt and garam masala to taste; both will sour the mixture but in a good way.

Serve the chicken/onion/yogurt thing with the tomatoes and lettuce plus the bread.  Really can't go wrong on this one though I really wouldn't call it Indian food.  Either stuff the pita or do the more traditional thing and just scoop ingredients from the plate.  In fact, this wouldn't go wrong with the Ethiopian method of serving everything on a platter and letting everyone scoop from there.

Very basic stir fry side dish

(Part 1 in a series that I consider a challenge from my cousin.) 

As stated, very basic.
  • Snow peas, ends snapped as needed.  About a pound.
  • Half a red pepper, finely cubed
  • Garlic to taste, chopped finely
  • Sesame oil, but not too much
Heat the oil.

Toast the peppers slightly.  Add garlic, but don't over-sear it.  Add snow peas.

If you're in the mood, grate some ginger and add that with the garlic but it really isn't needed.

Serve as is, preferably in a black bowl.

Doesn't get simpler than that.

Jun 5, 2010

Fried chicken

I have absolutely nothing to add to this.  Have fun.

May 25, 2010

Sausage bread

I don't know if I'd even consider this a recipe.  Except for the fact that it has instructions and results in food; I guess that counts.

I end up craving this stuff on colder days in the spring and fall.  I have no idea why.  But it's a comfort food par excellence.

  • Store-bought pizza dough in a tube
  • Melty Italian cheese mix
  • Spicy Italian sausage
  • Red pepper flake
  • Fennel seeds
Cook your sausage with the additives above if desired.  Make sure it's mostly done; it will cook a bit more in the oven but just make sure it's more or less ready to go.  Also make sure it's well broken up.

Crack the dough and spread it on a baking sheet.  In layers, add the cheese and the sausage.  Roll the whole thing up into a loaf and toss that thing in an oven at about 350 for, oh, half an hour.

Remove, let cool a bit, slice, and eat.  Try not to have too much.  It's really very easy.

Also, wonderful as a leftover for the next few days.  If it lasts that long.

May 23, 2010

A salad to die for

Note: this just happened to be what my parents had on hand one night when they asked me to make a salad.  It just happened to work wonderfully.

Basics on the salad:
  • One large grapefruit.  I think ruby red works better aesthetically but use what you have.
  • Greens.  I like spinach.  Obviously.  Arugula is great here as well as is any bitter green.
  • Walnuts.  Nice and chopped, but not too fine; you want the texture.
  • Your choice: either goat cheese or crumbled blue cheese.  Both seem to work; blue does a bit better for some reason.
  • Bell peppers wouldn't hurt anything.  Neither would a bit of cucumber.  And frankly jicama would be awesome here.
 And then you dress it:
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar (and actually rice wine vinegar works here too).
  • Coriander
  • Just a touch of garlic
  • Powdered cumin
  • Just possibly a dash of ground lemon grass?
And that, friends, makes a salad.

May 18, 2010


I miss lots of things about Georgia.  No, no.  Again, that GeorgiaKhinkali is high on that list.

Unfortunately, getting the proper number of pleats in the right kind of wrapper seems nigh on impossible and so I'm reluctant to even try it.  But I do crave it between about Mtskhetoba and New Year's Eve and then again every time it really rains in the spring.

Luckily, while hunting for something entirely different, I ran across something new and different that might meet (some) of my needs without going overboard: an Afghan version of dumplings of a similar nature that seems to be called mantu.

After surveying several recipes the basics seemed simple enough: savory beef with lots of local seasonings in wanton skins, steamed, and then served with a mint yogurt and possibly lentils.

Not khinkali but it sure sounded promising.  And it was.  But I couldn't help but mess around a bit with the recipes; I know enough about cumin, turmeric, and thickening to at least try adding tomato paste to thicken.

I'm going to skip the lentils; they didn't work.  We'll focus on the actual dumplings.


Roughly a pound of ground beef (nothing below 85/15 please; 70/30 is just tasty)
About two small or one large onions; finely chopped
Garlic; garlic never hurts; finely chopped

Let the onion cook through to a firm but translucent state.  Add:

1/2 can of tomato paste
Generous amounts of cumin
Decent amounts of both coriander and turmeric

At this point I'd also probably add some green onion in the future but I didn't on this run.

Let that simmer and thicken.  In the meantime, combine:

Yogurt -- the fuller the fat the better
Mint -- for one small rameken of yogurt I think I used 8 sprigs, chopped coarsely

Get a steamer ready and pull out your wonton wrappers.  I halved them (you know, the big ones); it seemed to work.

Once the meat is nearly cooked through, spoon it on the paper and wrap as you see fit.  If you've never worked with wonton wrappers, well, wet the edges?  It's really not that complicated.  Fold up and steam until the meat is done and the papers are quite soft and somewhat translucent.  Do this in batches until you've either run out of meat mix or run out of wrappers.

Serve with the chilled yogurt mix.  Hot if you can.

It may not be authentic mantu.  It's definitely not khinkali.  But it is damn good.

May 10, 2010

Magic elixer

I am not a doctor.  I have no formal training in pharmacology.  Honestly, I've never tried this thing myself.  But it sure seems to work.

Have a major cold or a minor flu?  Can't sleep?

Yeah, try this.

Put a double dose of green Nyquil in a blender.  Add two or three generous spoons of chocolate ice cream.


Drink that thing up.

Wait half an hour and you will be asleep.

I have no idea why the ice cream makes a difference but it does.  You can blame my brother, who I had to carry to bed on more than one occasion, for discovering this.

May 5, 2010

Orange chicken tacos

Hot, sweet, and acidic makes a great combination if you can balance it right.  An orange salsa chicken wrapped in tortillas is a good way to balance all of that.  Call them burritos, tacos, whatever.  But it works well.

Two variations.  The first is my modification of a family recipe and the second is the original.

Baking method

Thaw one can of orange juice concentrate enough to get the thing out of the cardboard tubing.  Dump that in to a pyrex baking pan.

Add a generous amount of jarred salsa; Pace Picante seems to work best -- hot is better but medium seems to work just fine.  Go for about 3/4 of the amount of concentrate.

Add three or four frozen chicken breasts.

Toss into the oven at about 350ish.  Bake until the chicken is nearly done and the orange juice/salsa mixture has reduced a bit.

Remove and slice the chicken relatively thin.  Replace it in the mixture and return to the oven until the chicken is done and the sauce has reduced a bit further; bumping the heat here isn't a bad idea.

Remove the chicken again and keep the remaining mixture as a sauce.

Grilling method

This one takes a bit longer but the ratios are about the same.

Combine orange juice (concentrate doesn't work as well here), salsa, and thawed breasts.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at the very least one hour and at the most about eight.

Pull the chicken; grill it until done to taste.  Slice to serve.


Flour tortillas seem to compliment these flavors better than corn but either will work.  Use whatever normal fixings you would for a taco or whatnot; lettuce, cheese, black olives, etc.  Guacamole is for some reason contraindicated but fresh avocado slices seem just fine.  If you use the first method I'd recommend staying away from excess tomato; there's already plenty of acid.

Assemble at the table; simple as could be.

Alternatively, this can work out exceptionally well on a salad.

Oh, and the leftovers can be put to many a good use.

Apr 22, 2010

Random dal

This was an experiment from a few years ago, but it turned out to work.


Bring to boil:

 * 6 cups water
 * 1 cup lentils of some sort (I like some of the more interesting varieties but experiment as you will)

Cook for a long time, until lentils are soft and mushy.  Add:

 * 1 can garbanzos, strained and washed

Cook through, bring off heat.

Other stuff

In large pot with, oh, for kicks, walnut oil (I happened to have some at the time), toast:

 * Pinch of brown mustard seeds (only use yellow if that's all you can find; brown have a much earthier taste that compliment the dish much better)
 * 15-20 black peppercorns

When those pop, reduce heat and add:

 * 1 medium onion, diced
 * About the same amount of sliced carrots

Let that cook for a bit.  When onions brown, add:

 * 4 cloves garlic
 * 1 or 2 serranos
 * Generous turmeric
 * Some coriander
 * Cayenne
 * 1 or 2 cups water as needed
 * Bean mixture
 * Small amount of garam masala

In that order, mind.  You need to not toast the garam masala.  And don't add too much.  The cinnamon in the stuff gets to be overwhelming, and really, there's already enough flavor in there without overdoing it.

Serve with rice, which for this seems to go well with toasted cumin.

Very hearty.  Give it a shot.

Apr 21, 2010

Chili con carne

I have an issue with chili. I don't mind the stuff, but I tend to get aggressive and insist that "real" chili is green. And has hominy. And is actually called pozole.

But that doesn't stop me from occasionally doing a true con carne. Because, really, it can be good.

In a dutch oven, brown 1.5 pounds of ground beef with generous amounts of cumin, oregano, and sage. Remove the beef, retaining the fat.

In the fat, sweat 2.5 medium onions -- chopped to half inch or so bits
-- and 8 serrano peppers all chopped up, seeds and all. Browning the onions a bit isn't a bad thing either.

Add the meat back in along with:

* 1 can tomato sauce
* 1 can tomato paste
* 1 quart beef broth
* 3 generous spoonfuls pace picante
* 3 cans small red beans
* a bunch of salt

Simmer for about 45 minutes. 1.5 hours wouldn't hurt.

Ten minutes prior to serving, add two hunked up bell peppers if desired.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese.

Apr 17, 2010

Salad and burgers

Two parts on this one, either of which can be done independently to great effect.  I was working with goods on hand in both cases.


Combine a green of your choice (I used spinach; again, on hand, but a bitter would have been better) with thinly sliced bell pepper, some nicely chopped carrots, and half a ruby red grapefruit.  A few pecans wouldn't hurt things; chop finely.



  • Turmeric
  • Coriander
  • Oregano (I happened to have fresh on hand)
  • Powdered garlic
  • Powdered ginger
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar (go light; grapefruit is plenty acidic)
  • Juice from the rest of the grapefruit
Proportions are to taste.  The only constant here is the grapefruit juice.


Combine 70/30 ground beef, soy sauce, dry parsley, and powdered garlic.  Cook to taste.

Serve on butter buns or kaiser rolls or bagels or whatever else you might have around.

Combine dressing and salad.  Serve, possibly but not necessarily, chilled.

Apr 16, 2010

Peasent food is the best

This seems to be a recipe I originally got from my parents and then modified significantly. It's dead simple, messy, delicious, and a great thing to modify for any range of people.

Six basic ingredients:

Roasted red peppers (jarred is not only fine, it's basically ideal)
Goat cheese
Olive oil

For two people I like to use two heads (yes, you heard the right, heads) of garlic, two demi-baguettes (Costco does exceptionally well here believe it or not), a small loaf of goat cheese (the most expensive part by far), rrps and basil to match.

Heat the oven to 350. Toss the garlic on to an oven sheet, unpealed (well, maybe take off the outside layers of skin), and toast until very fragrant.

In the meantime, split your bread and lightly cover the inside with olive oil. Set aside. Also, rough chop the basil and red peppers.

Drop the oven to 250. Add the bread and keep it on until it starts to color and crisp just a bit.

Plate all items, including lumps of goat cheese, for all eaters. Have them combine ingredients on the bread, squeezing out individual garlic cloves (which should now be at most semi-firm and more likely quite squishy) on the bread, followed by peppers, followed by cheese, followed by basil.

While it's a decent appetizer, it can easily be a full meal (for two as described above).

Just trust me on this one.


This can be done the right way or the wrong way as far as I'm concerned. Most people do it the wrong way.

Enchiladas do not need to be rolled to be good. In fact, I really prefer them stacked.

This style really isn't found outside of New Mexico as far as I can tell, though we have at least one decent restaurant in Denver that stacks memorably.

Homemade is still better.

This is a variation that, as family legend recalls it, came in a supplement to an Albuquerque phone book[1] with a few variations from Huntley Dent[2] and experience. Without further introduction:

In a skillet -- preferably cast iron as that doesn't stain -- slowly heat some oil or shortening. I'm really digging butter these days but that's more of a personal choice. You'll be making a roux[3], so add more than you need just for base vegetables.

Dice some onions. White seems best. One, maybe two if they're small.

Dice some garlic. Maybe four or five cloves; this one doesn't need to be overkill.

Add all to the skillet. Onions should remain semi-firm and the garlic should be fully extracted for flavor.

In the meantime, mix a packet of red chile powder -- available at
decent grocery stores, and labeled for heat -- with water. It'll clump;
be persistent.

Chimayo and hot new mexico are my favorites for this one.

When onions are done, add flour to match the oil, cumin, and a touch
of oregano. Make a roux.

Take off heat, add powdered chile and water to roux. Back to heat,
bring to a simmer and cover for a bit. Don't let the sauce burn; it
seriously affect taste.

When the sauce is done, layer thusly in pyrex (for easy cleanup):

Corn tortilla
Onion/garlic mix
Shredded cheese (I happen to like cojack but cotija is great here too)

Keep stacking, usually about 3-4 tortillas high.

Bake at 375 until all the cheese is melty and the tortillas have slightly crispy edges.

Garnish with lettuce and tomatoes. Guacamole is a great side here as well.

[1] No, seriously.

[2] See my Manifesto.

[3] If you don't, well, I'll write that up someday. But you should. They're important.

Apr 14, 2010


So I've finally decided to start a food blog. For this you can blame my cousin.

What this is not

This is not a recipe blog. I may include amounts of ingredients at times; usually I won't. If you're looking for something that specifies 1 3/8 cups of sugar or some such, this is generally not for you. I assume a basic knowledge of how ingredients work together and thus just hand you general guidelines.

Having said that, I will occasionally specify amounts. It usually means I'm still unsure of the recipe myself. But I won't post something that didn't at least work.

But I do know what I'm doing

I make New Mexican food, Mediterranean food, Chinese food (usually coastal or fusion), Thai food, and sometimes just plain weird fusion. Usually it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. And I'll admit to that when it inevitably comes to pass..


I don't bake. It never works for me. Any baking post should be considered suspect and not just because I live at 5,000'. It isn't my strong point and never will be.

Influences and resources

Joy is my bible. If you don't have a copy, get one.

My mother lived in both Europe and Taiwan during her childhood. Whatever she learned she passed on to me.

Huntley Dent's Feast of Santa Fe is phenomenal and if you don't own a copy I'd highly recommend it.

Alton Brown's work has been influential on me. Both his show and his books have been quite illuminating though I don't always agree with his approach to a given recipe. Along with that, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking has been an amazing resource.

I hate to admit it, but Bobby Flay has been helpful from time to time. Giada de Laurentis has as well, though I still maintain that she doesn't really follow her own recipes.

Madhur Jafrey has also been very helpful.


  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Goat cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil/seeds
  • Garlic
  • Coriander
  • Turmeric
  • Lemon
  • Various vinegars
  • Bell peppers
  • Fresh spinach (thanks to the girl)
  • Ginger
  • Fruits, especially berries and citrus
  • Powdered peppers
  • Sriracha
  • Pastas of all sorts
  • Kalamata olives
  • Cheese ranging from a good loaf of goat cheese to a pound of cojack or cheddar to a bit of good blue. Reggiano is never bad and asiago is a great substitute. Feta is currently my favorite for salads.
  • Yogurt
  • Bagels
  • Bacon
  • Sausage -- preferably Italian and hot


So it turns out that I'm also a half decent photographer. Of things that aren't food. Consider a photo a luxury.

I don't even like the plating process. Making food pretty seems very secondary to making it taste good.

And about me

I live in Denver with a cat and a woman I love very deeply. I more or less grew up here, but have also lived in Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Kansas, Massachusetts, and the Republic of Georgia (the one where Stalin was born, not the one in the US).