Friday, July 22, 2011

Uptight, Everything's Alright

It's been so hot here there haven't been words. Been spending the summer in Brokelyn, the stay-cation if you will. You wait all year for summer and then complain about how hot it is. Extreme heat can make you grouchy and I start to feel like an infant kicking it's legs and bawling in one of those onesies. You can feel that most people or a lot of them anyway are away at some exotic or relaxing location. They're summer home perhaps. But it makes it more tolerable to go take walks or bike rides for the common folk. Less populated this town could be comfortable. Imagine Trader Joes if you could actually shop and look at the product instead of forced to make your decision and move on because there are 7 other people trying to look at the same item.

We did our usual Saturday morning decompressing ritual. Ate a quick breakfast than set out to see an afternoon movie in the cool air conditioning comfort. Horrible Bosses. Ehhh. Just okay. Definitely had its moments and we enjoyed it. Kind of like this summer. Kinda surprised Jennifer Aniston is doing soft porn now. Does Hollywood really have to slut out our aging female stars who made their careers mostly off of their looks? Creepy if you ask me.

On the way back found some purple potatoes, fresh sweet corn and red bell peppers for my pork stew. Had the most beautiful piece of pork. Not the go to meal for a heatwave but sometimes you gotta heat it up to cool it down.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hot Town, Summer in the City

The heat from the devil's lair has come up to greet us this week. It's so hot the chickens are laying hard boiled eggs. We were two degrees off from setting the highest ever recorded temps in NYC. It makes cooking a bit of a challenge. I had some left over hamburger meat to use up so I made a fast chili mac using canned black and cannellini beans as well as fire-roasted canned tomatoes, and boxed chicken stock.

To add a fresh homemade quality I roasted some banana peppers stovetop and added them in along with onions, garlic, cumin, chili powder, you know, the usual suspects.

It is so hot that when P went out for his bike ride instead of taking UV Ray protection, I just told him to take his dental records.

It Ain't Me Your Lookin' For, Babe

All I wanted tonight to make me happy in life was a huge pepperoni pizza. New York pizza, not chain style cardboard with fake cheese. Large slices of foldable, holdable, napkin soaking loveliness. But P wouldn't do it. He wouldn't go there with me on my only request for solace. He takes my joy like that. He's an evil, evil man.

So, I gathered my crumbled dreams together and we had leftover night. I took the left over Tandoori meat, sliced it and added pepper jack cheese for quesadillas. I re-steamed some of my Mexican brown rice and beans, which by the way is even better than the white rice version. Sides of the yogurt cuke salad and finally some cherry salsa.

A fun mid-week meal. No need for thousands of empty calories with a greasy artery clogging pie. What was P thinking? Men have no sense. Thank goodness I have the wherewithal needed to stay focused and keep structure in this outfit. Sheeez, some people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You're Bloody Well Right

I'm going to quit rolling my eyes when I see a new salsa recipe because everything I've tried new this year I've loved. Adding fruits really does give base recipes so much zip bam boom! And then once I ventured out of my traditional comfort zone I realized there is a whole world of interchangeable herbs, fruits, onions & peppers to make salsas. This is just like with pestos when I opened my eyes to the fact that you can add any nut, any cheese and any herb and get such amazing new flavor sensations each time.

Cherry Salsa with ripe cherries pitted, mint, basil, peaches, jalapeno, onion, lime, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper. I won't lie, its a bloody mess to pit those ripe cherries but out of this world once you let the flavors meld.

More, More, More..How Do You Like It, How Do You Like It

I tried to make Tandoori chicken. Found a great recipe on ( I did make a great tasting dish, however it lacked something that I can't quite put my finger on. I had Tandoori chicken about 15 to 20 times but from the same restaurant. It was wonderful. I loved it. The flavors stick in my mind from years ago. I craved it again, so I tried to make it. I'll have to continue to research the spices and ingredients in other recipes to find that missing taste. I didn't do the ghee basting, which could be very important. What I did since I hate to waste, is took the skin off and then laid it on top while the chicken cooked so it wouldn't dry out. But maybe the butter in addition to individual spices add up to the flavor I desire.

The cooking method is probably also important, but I had to bake mine and then quick broil it to get it to look grilled.

I ground up the cardamom and spices fresh. I put slits in the chicken and also poked it all over. I marinated it in yogurt, lemon, ginger, garlic, and all the spices overnight. I feel like it was so close. My best guess is that I just needed to put a bit more cayenne, more cardamom, more coriander. I remember the spice and heat kinda reaching up and slapping me around a bit the first few bites. This was more of a love tap. I wanted it a little more rough and tumble.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pull Over At the Local Fat Burger

You've heard of Fat Burger, well these are flat burgers. We were set to go eat burgers with a friend the next day but I had to make this hamburger meat. So I made patties but divided them in half and then flattened it out until it was very thin. I figured, how bad could it be. Topped with a little cheddar cheese, onion, tomato and pickle. I put it on those 100 calorie sandwich thins toasted and served with chips, salsa, and ripe peach slices. For a quick and fun little side, I grated sweet potato and sauteed it with a little cumin powder and salt. It cooks up fast and still keeps a nice semi-sweet flavor.

Do you remember Klymaxx, the all girl R&B band with all that attitude? Actually I had never heard of Fat Burger until around 1984. At the time I was living in California but not in LA where the burger chain was located, trying to figure out what the hell Klymaxx was saying in the song The Men All Pause. There is a line when Lorena "Lungs" Stewart sings 'pull over at the local Fat Burger'. That song was about being fierce. The eighties were pretty dumb in general but I liked that band. How many all-girl R&B 'bands' did you ever see, not just a singing group. They played instruments and wrote. A member called Fenderella.... C'mon!

And I Seem To Find The Happiness I Seek

So what else to do with this amazing braised turkey meat and mole sauce. Good Lord someone pinch me - that's it...Turkey Mole Enchiladas!

It's close to 100 degrees today and I'm not putting that oven on so I decide to do them stove top. And the flavors are so delicious, I don't need to add but a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese only to the top. Inside, I'll just stuff with the sauced meat and raw onions. I'll steam the corn torts instead of dipping them in oil to save even more calories.

This is a foodie's dream. Easy preparation, fantastic base ingredient all ready to just add with all its glory.

Basically all I had to do was to assemble these and chop up fresh lettuce, onion and tomato as the crowning touch. Heaven...I'm in Heaven.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In the Merry Old Land of Oz

I make lists in my mind all week of things I need to Google. Don't you love Googling? Google is like Oz. It's all knowing. Sometimes I have complex issues to research and other times, just small silly topics that I need to clarify at a later date. Well tonight was that date. I had the apartment to myself and time to kill.

Earlier that day I had the foresight to plan me a little cocktail for the evening. I bought a pint of Raspberry Sorbet and some fresh mint. In a chilled glass I put orange juice, a big scoop of the sorbet, mint leaves and then finished it with seltzer and fresh squeezed lime juice. For me?! I shouldn't have.

Now all mighty G...where did the term 'in a coon's age' come from?

If You Wanna a Do Right All Days Woman....

I like to enjoy my mate. And let me tell ya, sometimes he don't make it so easy even when he's 'right'. I definitely don't enjoy him when he's hungover. He likes to go out and have fun sometimes. Nothing wrong with that. So I have to send him with the best fighting chance to come home in descent condition. It's a gift to myself. Who wants to hang around with a grouchy sick hungover guy? You have to come up with solutions. Create your own reality. Why not? I've done it for years.

I pack enough in P's stomach to absorb a good percentage of the alcohol. People joke about amateur drinkers but you'd be surprised how many times P, who I consider a high level professional beer drinker at this point, had gone off without a full belly, thirsty and tired. You get a little older, you learn a little bit. Not a lot, but maybe enough to sometimes save yourself some misery.

This time I sent him off stuffed with a ginormous cheap steak. I marinated it in my tomatillo sauce, garlic and lemons. A nice piece of sweet corn on the cob and snow peas with a huge glass of cold milk and a wheat roll.

She Blinded Me With Science

Mole is the calculus of cooking. And I sir am no Isaac Newton so I leave that sauce to the professionals. But one late night Rick Bayless episode and I'm thinking at least I can attempt a decent version albeit semi-homemade. A pack of turkey wings and legs-for-days were the inspiration for this weeks project.

Since I'd been braising all these chicken thighs, why not turkey? Seemed better than any other method. Turkey parts browned then braised in beer, cumin seed, garlic, onions and stock.

After about 3 hours, the meat was calling me to just eat it as is. So moist and fall off the bone. But I had to experience the mole. I refrigerated the meat overnight and then used the braising liquid with the mole paste the next day to make the sauce. Good idea monkey! I think that may have put this over the top.

Mole is made with a gazillion spices and peppers. You'd have to be a mad scientist to try to make this from scratch, although there are good condensed recipes on the web now. I have to wonder though if they could be half as rich. The thing is Dona Maria has a great jarred paste. And Rick says the pastes are used in Mexico regularly. You go to the market and they scoop it up out of these huge mounds. But the bigger mystery is how the hell did my mom make this from scratch? Okay, again, Midwest, the 60's and 70's. There wasn't real dried peppers to buy, certainly not 6 varieties..and certainly not at the Kroger's on South Anthony where we got our groceries. The only international items were Chef Boy R Dee and Chung King. She didn't have star anise or any exotic spices that I knew of. I know she did bring out that Mexican chocolate like it was gold. I always had to taste it because I wouldn't believe it wasn't sweet, like she told me about hundred times. But how did she do it? My moms mole was deep and rich in flavors. The color was intense. I liken it to listening to Aretha Franklin as a child. I knew it was damn good but I wasn't quite able to grasp it and it scared me a little.

It's the Time of the Season for Verde

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. Mexican green tomatoes. Salsa Verde. Oven roasted tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapenos, blended with lime juice, cilantro, salt and 1/4 cup of water or broth and all the roasting juices. Make it with less heat in the summer and it becomes a light, citrus-y tart tasting fresh condiment to add to just about anything, including burgers, chicken or marinate steak in it. Amazing with shrimp! Hot or cold, stir it in rice, add it to eggs, dip chips in it!

Tomatillos are in season early August and are still a bit hard to find anywhere so I blend a big batch when I can and we enjoy it all week.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gotta Get Off, Gonna Get, Have to Get Off From This Ride

Why did I decide to make omelets this morning? Making omelets takes a skill. I'm still working on my technique big time. But for me its more the mental challenge that always gets me. It happens so fast once the eggs hit the pan. You have to be ready with your additions. The pan has to be just the right heat. You have to constantly stir it and keep it light and fluffy. And all the while the only thing I can think about is the moment when it comes out of that pan and onto my plate. Will it roll and cooperate or will it stick? Will it look soft or too dry. How the hell can you have medium high heat and not get that brown on the outside. Make the madness stop!!!

I love tomatoes in an omelet but they do tend to add too much moisture, so I salt them beforehand and let their juices run off first. Also, I add them at the last minute. I like the vegetables to taste fresh inside so I slice them super thin. A fresh herb and the whole thing comes to life.

I loved the combination of thinly sliced hard salami, white onions, basil, tomato and jack cheese.

Fresh avocado slices on top and some buttered toast and you can leave me alone.

So Go Running for the Shelter of a Mother's Little Helper

No one is going to nominate this meal for a Bon Appetit cover but nevertheless, it was pretty tasty and easy for a mid week meal.

Another pantry dinner. A chicken helper if you will. Stewed chicken thighs, cream of mushroom soup, bulgar wheat to replace rice or pasta (leftover stash...I'm trying to use it now before I find it a year later and can't identify it), frozen vegetable medley, frozen spinach and some green onions to top.

The small touch was to include real chicken stock instead of milk for the sauce, and add garlic and onions.
I was nine when General Mills introduced Hamburger Helper and I celebrate them because that was the year my mom and dad started their restaurant, started working 4am to after 11pm at night seven days a week and coincidentally adopted my little brother T who was 1 years old. Needless to say, the amazing homemade meals stopped abruptly that year.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

This 4th of July I celebrated my independence by waking up and riding directly to work. I customer serviced some nice, some ridiculously bitter 'old trolls and then rode back home.

I had worked a major busy Sunday the day before while it felt like the whole city was at the beach. Seemed like the big Fourth of July weekend was turning out to be a dud firecracker for me.

Determined to have me a celebration I came home and made a simple but festive meal. Started off with my version of jalapeno poppers as an appetizer. Par boiled halved jalapenos stuffed with jack cheese, chorizo and garlic, baked until soft and melty. A green apple, arugula, cucumber salad with lime vinaigrette. A keeper! Best thing ever. I found that idea on some medical website. Thin steak sandwiches on toasted Italian bread with avocado and grilled onions.

It wasn't fireworks, barbecue, the beach, cold beers, fun in the sun 4th of July. I wasn't up for any of that nonsense anyway really. I just wanted some peace. Nothin' ain't worth nothing but its free.