Monday, May 30, 2022

Won't Take Nothing But a Memory

An unusually barren beach view from a Red Hook construction site. 
Simple, yet perfect combo of Mock Shake and Bake Chicken, with sweet corn and my mom's potato salad. Everyone has their own version of the perfect potato salad.  Did your family use Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing, maybe it was sweet.  Ours was made with a boiled egg and yellow mustardy mix, along with pickle brine on the warmed potatoes, diced egg white, pickles, the smallest chop of celery and no onions.  Paprika only for garnish and salt, no pepper as I recall.  I've not been terribly successful in the past, creating this from memory but finally cracked the code.  
Learned lessons:
  • Ensure potatoes are drained entirely of water by leaving them on the stove on low until all water evaporates.  My mom boiled them whole and we peeled them after they came out of the water.  This way they don't get water logged and keep a rustic flavor.
  • Pour on pickle juice, enough to flavor while the potatoes are still very warm so they absorb all the flavor.  
  • Salt the water generously when boiling potatoes.  Cut the potatoes to the bite size that you prefer, which for me is not too big, but not too small and the pickles, eggs and celery to about 1/2 that size. 
  • The mustard to egg yolk ratio is to taste but error on the side of less mustard until the final mayo is added because it too is tangy.  Remember, you can add but you can't take out.
Mom's Potato Salad

6 Potatoes - boiled, peeled and chopped
4 Eggs - properly boiled and separated
1 heaping tablespoon - Yellow Mustard - don't get fancy, use plain 
3/4 cup Hellman's Mayonnaise
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup pickles & pickle juice

Chop potatoes into bite sized cubes. Immediately add pickle juice, from 2 tablespoons to a 1/4 cup.  
In separate bowl, mash the egg yolks whipping in the mustard a little at a time.  I go for creamy, tangy.  Add mayo until just the right level of Mmmmm is achieved, about 3/4 of a cup.
Get a big bowl and add in celery, pickles and egg whites along with your brined potatoes.  Stir in the dressing mixture until every bit is coated.  Stop when you reach your desired creaminess.  Add salt and paprika to taste. Refrigerate until cooled and married.  Before eating, add one more dollop of mayo to revive the party.

A glorious toasted Everything bagel with tomato, onion and cream cheese - the perfect breakfast. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

You're Running With the Caravan of Fools

 I fried up an excellent dry rubbed bone-in pork chop that I paired with garlicky spinach and mushrooms after work.  I came home to process the news that I had lost yet another 'boss', which in these times holds a very different definition than before.  This time, a familiar company gal, fairly young, who's management style surprised many of us that held high hopes.  It's hard to know why people fail in their new positions, whether it be their own shortcomings, or their inability to follow basic definitions of the job, to lead a crew.  These days, especially in retail, it could be many things out of their control.  Managing people is no longer valued.  Instead, it seems they are given a laundry list of unrelated duties to get accomplished in an insufficient amount of time, and then each day they are called away to put out equally extraneous fires.  Either way, she decided to leave without telling us and we found out by reading the now tired, 'with regret we announce, so and so has moved on' email.  And collectively we reacted horribly, as we tend to do, taking turns sputtering her faults out like discarded sunflower seeds.  I liked her, rooted for her.  She spoke to me very inappropriately and even yelled at me once, which shocked me but somehow didn't piss me off too much.  It was uncalled for so all I could see was her weaknesses, as if I became a mirror.  I was lucky to see others yelled at beforehand and saw their angry reactions.  I realized then, how age helps so much with idiotic behavior.  
It's as if time stops like in Bewitched when Samantha froze the room in order to figure what to do next.  Seconds stretch out and the mind shuts down so that I can see the person in front of me, sometimes as a trapped animal, a scared human, other times an ignorant fool.  Why get upset?  In fact, lately I wander back to when I was in their similar position and ALL the stupid mistakes I made, which I made more than my share.  We're all basically idiots fumbling around mistakenly ignoring our real selves in order to control this man-made facade.  It's a beautiful thing to connect again with our childhood selves that hold such deeper knowledge and better tools to view our days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

You Surround Me with Your Boundless Love

Before I pass over, I'd like to conquer as many chicken recipes as humanely possible.  As with soups, many follow a template, which I'm learning very late may be the case with a lot of cooking.  Brown the chicken on both sides, remove from pan, add vegetables then deglaze with some type of slurry, wine or stock.  Afterwards, the oven proof pan is put in at 450 degrees, along with the added chicken to finish.  Often, a pan gravy is then made, as was the case here.  
It's fascinating how simple twists can transform everyday yardbird into something special, like adding apples, honey and mustard.  The natural sweetness combined with the tartness of the mustard came through deliciously in the sauce.  Serving with a bitter garlicky green was bonus.  A mashed cauliflower could have been nice with this as well.
So many things can be wrong in the world and atrocious news is being broadcast each moment.  For many of us, it is becoming overwhelming. You can't ignore it nor can you do much about it.  So, when I look down into my Le Creuset Dutch Oven, and see loving abundance, a new creation, a usable art, I feel comfort and soul-nurturing satisfaction.  I resist the urge to worry and try to replace angst with gratitude that my needs are being met in that moment.  

Monday, May 23, 2022

So It's One More Round for Experience

Peanut Sauce Stewed Chicken

Do you love Thai peanut sauce?  Wouldn't it be wonderful on almost everything, especially a slow cooked stewed chicken? The answer is yes, yes it would, and yes it was.  I bought a jarred version online but after tasting the overly sweet and slight off-taste, I decided I could do better and made my own version.  This is an incredibly, instantly rewarding effort that you should try today, whether it be on noodles, as a dipping sauce or over a rice bowl.  
I get the fear trying to create Asian cuisine due to lack of culinary confidence.  It feels too mysterious to tackle with my mere mortal powers. I've always believed Asian food should be left to the professionals.  Which for this sauce is silly, especially as it uses common everyday elements.  This isn't the next level coconut milk, red curry paste type, it's more for beginners.  I made it first by taste and then researched recipes that were basically the same ingredient list.  
  • Peanut Butter 1/2 cup (I used crunchy, most advise creamy)
  • water 1/3 cup
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil
  • Garlic Chili Paste (big dollop)
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Rice Vinegar or lime (splash)
  • Honey (a squeeze)
Think of it like you're seasoning a BBQ sauce, but the base is peanut butter.  In other words, use as much as you like of the seasonings,  Because this would simmer for two hours, I made it super pungent as it would mellow during cooking. Keep tasting for your best version. 
I pan seared the chicken first on both sides before adding the sauce and then transferred to the oven on 325 for two hours. Drumsticks hold their constitution and are perfect for stewing.

And a repeat for a lunch box meal the next day

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Something in the Wind has Learned My Name

Breakfast tacos could stop wars.   Using one grill pan, I heated my soyrizo, scrambled the eggs just slightly before transferring into the tortilla, folding in half then finishing in the oven for a warm toasty tort and giving time for the cheese to melt and let the eggs rise and puff to the occasion.  One is more than enough but two says to your stomach, I love you twice as much

It also provided plenty of fuel for a walk around the neighborhood only to find one of my better ideas had come to fruition, a storefront type of food business.  No coming inside, no tables, nothing but a window and someone handing you food.  For me, this is a dream.  Take out is a huge business now.  Yes we love to eat out but equally and possibly more often, many prefer to grab and go.  But we also want amazing food.  Through the years, I tried to envision an introvert's food business, how it would look much different than an ordinary social hot spot.  I loved the idea of a quick hand off, a private transaction, almost intimate, like a  concoction made just for you.  
In my hometown, in a scary neighborhood, there was a place where late at night you could buzz a side door of this old brick apartment house. You had to climb up onto unlit wooden porch, stick your money in the mailbox slot and out would pop a nickle bag.  It was magical, dangerous and exciting.  This made getting weed effortless and far preferred to having to sit with your seller making small talk, smoking the obligatory joint while awaiting the moment to make your escape.  
This pop up Empanadas shop was perfect!  Cutely decorated and inviting, the window open and someone right there to hear and fill your food desires.  Still too full to try one unfortunately but hope to return. 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Shine Your Teeth to Meaningless

Sheet Pan Kofta sans the kebab 
I experimented with these herby, oblong meatballs, but instead of grilling, I roasted atop my sheet pan vegetables to save time.  Lots of parsley, grated onion, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, red pepper flakes, all-spice, cumin combined with ground beef and formed into little footballs. 475 for 20-25 minutes and you have a succulent, spicy meal.  
I was big-girl hungry on this day and added a dinner salad, along with these awesome chorizo and cheddar stuffed roasted jalapenos.  Through the years I've stuffed many a jalapeno, usually parboiling and leaving whole, scraping the innards or sometimes not if I want extra spicy.  But halving them and filling is by far easiest and you can eat twice as many!  If you doubt the smoky flavor punch you get from the common jalapeno, think again and try stuffing a few tonight.  

If you are feeling a little lonely, as my 'on the spectrum' coworker says, it's okay! in the most upbeat, confident voice. Her simple yet, perfect words make brilliant sense. It's a lonely time and I figure we're all sensing it in one way or another.  But also as she says, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter!  She's absolutely right according to almost every philosopher and spiritual leader.  Recognize the gloomy seclusion, smile at it, accept that it's real and have no fear of it.  It's just passing through. It's not you.  Admire a cheesy jalapeno and relax, you are okay in this moment. 
Soyrizo and Cheddar Stuffed Jalapenos

Snow in end of May for sis in Colorado
bake uncovered for 20 minutes on 450

Friday, May 20, 2022

This is How We Do It!

Mid day brunch
Who says fried rice doesn't make an excellent breakfast, especially when you include ham, eggs, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.  I love inclusive meals, one pan, the get'er done factor of completing a dish all in one shot.  The ease, the perfection of simple ingredients. THIS is 2022 cooking! This is what it's all about!  This is how we do it!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

It Takes All Kinds of Kinds

Mock Shake and Bake Chicken, Brown Rice and what I'm officially naming Mexican Cabbage Slaw

If you like a fresh, crunchy slaw, you may like to make a vat of this.  The only time stealer is cutting vegetables but this is when it can feel like art if you allow yourself to get into it.

Red cabbage (sliced thin)
Apple (your choice) (julienned) *sometimes I use Granny Smith, other times a sweeter Gala
Carrots (shaved)
Red onion (sliced thin)
Jalapenos (seeded and diced small)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a dash)
Apple Cider Vinegar to taste
Lime (1 squeezed over and wedges served alongside)
Cilantro (garnish and mixed in)
Lots of salt and freshly cracked pepper

Let this sit together awhile to develop flavors.  I'm not a traditional coleslaw gal much, although I do enjoy it when it's not too sweet.  This Mexican take revs up the vibrant colors and flavors.  It's summery and refreshing.  It makes a great side for burgers, chicken or Hot Dogs and gets better the more it marinates.  

Sunday, May 15, 2022

It's Time to Live in the Scattered Sun

Maya Taqueria Delivery - Carne Asada bowl.  I love this idea, a Mexican Rice bowl.  I used to make these at my dad's restaurant when I was a kid wandering the kitchen before they had a name.  It's another great candidate for a lunch box meal but you could fortify it with more vegetables. I will attempt soon and report back!

An Everything taco and two carne asada tacos for mi compadre

Spring happens even when you're not looking
Spring is revitalizing in so many ways but one that always takes me by surprise is how after a good rain, the leaves on the trees seem to fill their branches overnight leaving giant green canapes. Suddenly there is shade on the streets and the air is filled with life again!  Colors everywhere pop up as if they were black and white in the winter.  The difference the visual makes on the psyche is significant.