Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sugar High Friday #38: White Chocolate Pudding with Scotch Butterscotch Sauce

I have been blogging sporadically these days and I don't completely know why. Well, I do know why and it involves badness and sadness and a little pain here and there but I won't bore you with the details.

But life goes on and we have to eat. And the holidays come around and we have to eat sweets. Back in December of last year I participated in Sugar High Friday, a monthly blog event started by Domestic Goddess and hosted by various bloggers across the blogosphere. The theme last year was sugar art and, while I was not particularly artistic, I was creative and brave enough to do something I do not usually do: improvise with a baking recipe. I was actually quite pleased with the resultant Pomegranate Kisses, about which you can read here.

And then I kind of dropped out of blogging events. I did make something for one other SHF event, but the results were underwhelming, and my post has been languishing in draft mode for almost a year now. I suppose it will languish for a while longer before I get around to it.

Now that I have started posting more regularly again, I thought I might drop in on Is My Blog Burning and check out the blog events to see if there were any in which I might want to participate. I'm thinking it might help me stay motivated to post more frequently if I have some challenges and deadlines to meet.

I was quite delighted to see that this month's Sugar High Friday, hosted by Zorra at Kochtopf, is dedicated to pudding. Pudding is one of my all-time favorite desserts, but I rarely have it unless it is on the dessert menu at a restaurant. The ready-made puddings that you can buy at the grocery store are not really what I consider to be pudding. They are really just artificially flavored, artificially thickened sauces that just do not have that thick, rich creamy mouthfeel that a real bona fide made from scratch and thickened with egg yolks pudding provides. That being said, I had never made pudding from scratch before and was slightly hesitant about my ability to do so.

I had, however, pulled a recipe for Rich and Creamy Butterscotch Pudding from the January '07 issue of Food and Wine magazine. I love anything butterscotch. It's another one of those things that, if it's on the menu, I'm going to order it. No matter how double-triple-or quadruple the chocolate, how mocha the mousse, how lava-like the center, nothing comes close to the luscious buttery caramel-ly creamy scotchy richness of butterscotch pudding.

So when I saw that the theme for this month was pudding, I knew I had to give it a try. I was a little nervous because I do not have that much experience with puddings and custards and the like, although I did make my friend Bob a fruit tart for his birthday a few years ago that, while it did not exactly look perfect, did taste the way a fruit tart should taste (thanks to Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, whose recipe it was). But what are blog events for if not to give us reasons to stretch our reach that little bit further?

So I went to the grocery store fully intending to buy all the ingredients necessary for butterscotch pudding. And had everything I needed until I got to the baking aisle and found only one brand of butterscotch chips available. And that brand was artificially flavored. What to do? I really really really wanted to make butterscotch pudding. I really really really did not want to use artificially flavored butterscotch for a SHF blog event!

The thought did cross my mind that I might try to make some from scratch, but I quickly (and wisely) squelched that thought. Instead, I opted for white chocolate chips and decided to take a stab at making a butterscotch sauce from scratch to go with it. I found a recipe that looked good at Recipezaar.

I was pleased overall with the end result. The white chocolate pudding was incredibly rich and creamy, and the butterscotch sauce was a nice foil, although it was a little strong. It called for light brown sugar and all I had was dark. I did not think it would make that much of a difference but I was wrong. The molasses in the sugar was a little too overpowering for the more subtle butter/scotch combination and I will definitely use light next time I make this.
Home Cookin Chapter: Desserts

Rich and Creamy White Chocolate Pudding

3-1/2 cups plus 1-1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp Scotch
1-1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 cup white chocolate chips (6 oz.)
Scotch Butterscotch Sauce (recipe below)

Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Set a fine mesh sieve in another medium bowl; set the bowl in the ice water bath.

In a small skillet, combine 1-1/2 Tbsp of the cream with the Scotch, brown sugar, water and salt and cook over moderate heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring the remaining 3-1/2 cups of cream to a simmer with the vanilla bean and seeds. Remove from the heat. Add the butterscotch chips to the hot cream and let stand until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Gradually add the hot butterscotch mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring costantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until thick, about 15 minutes. Do not let it boil. Strain the pudding into the bowl in the ice bath and stir in the Scotch mixture.

Pour the pudding into glasses and refrigerate until thorouthly set, at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve the pudding Scotch Butterscotch Sauce.

Makes 6 servings

Slightly adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, January 2007.

Home Cookin Chapter: Sauces

Scotch Butterscotch Sauce

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp dark corn syrup
2 Tbsp Scotch whiskey
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, cream, butter and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly.

Lower heat and boil gently, stirring often, until sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and stir in whiskey and vanilla.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Can be refrigerated up to one week; warm gently before serving.

Recipe #139231. From Short and Sweet: 150 Sophisticated Desserts in No Time at All, by Melanie Barnard. by Chef Kate
© 2007 Recipezaar. All Rights Reserved.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.5 (

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deep Freeze Summer Challenge: Turkey Mole

Back in June I had grand plans to participate in the Deep Freeze Summer Challenge issued by Chris at Mele Cotte's. It's too bad, too, because it was right up my alley. The challenge was to cook something using ingredients from your freezer, which dovetailed right in with my goal to use everything in my freezer for Operation Freezer Burn.

All that remained in the freezer from last year's Thanksgiving turkey was half of a slightly over-roasted breast and a jar of the rich dark broth that came out of the roasting pan. I knew I wanted to take another stab at mole but was taking my time deciding to get started on it. Chris's challenge was just the motivation to get me started.

The last time I made it (for IMBB 25) , I did not let the mole cook down enough and it was too thin. I also added peanut butter, which Lynda said gave it a slightly Thai flavor with which I agreed and omitted this time around. I did, however, have some sliced almonds on hand, which I did not have last time, so I added those.

I can't remember how I pureed the sauce last time, but this time I just stuck my stick blender into the skillet and smoothed away. I believe I have mentioned before how much I love that thing but it bears repeating at every opportunity. It's a miracle tool.

So here is the mole simmering away on the stove. As you can see, it made quite a bit. I let it simmer for a couple of hours before ladling it over the sliced turkey breast and serving it with some purple potatoes that I boiled, sliced, and drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper, along with a tomato, cucumber, and yellow bell pepper salad. It was quite tasty.

But even while I simmered it for a couple of hours this time, I realized it could still stand to be cooked down some more. So a couple of days later I put it in a saucepan and let it really cook down. It came out darker, smokier, and even more flavorful.

While this has little similarity to the magical moles at New Rebozo, I am quite proud of my developing skills with this sauce.
Mole Pasilla

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 pasilla peppers
hot water
1 onion, chopped fine
6-10 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock (I used my leftover turkey stock)
3 Tbsp bread crumbs
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tablet Mexican chocolate (or approximately 3 oz. semisweet chocolate and 3/4 tsp. cinnamon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add peppers and let plump for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove to bowl, leaving oil in skillet. Cover peppers with hot water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove stems (and seeds if you want less heat), break into pieces and chop in blender.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, for approximately 10 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, almonds and bread crumbs and cook, continuing to stir frequently, for 3 more minutes.

Add vegetable stock and blended pasilla peppers. Place in a blender and puree, or puree in the skillet with a stick blender. Add chocolate. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally, until it has reached the desired consistency.

Delicious over sliced roasted turkey or pork chops.

Adapted from several recipes found online and in various cookbooks.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Himalayan Red Rice

When I was in Austin over the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister and I had a chance to take a quick run down to Central Market, which is the local HEB grocery chain's answer to Whole Foods or, more accurately, to what Whole Foods used to be. Lots of unusual fruits and vegetables, lots of familiar and not-so-familiar imported goods, local artisanal breads and cheeses, and a large, healthy bulk section of legumes, grains, nuts spices - something that is an endangered species up here in Chicago.

We don't usually buy much; we're happy to go through the store aisle-by-aisle, sharing information on some of the things we've each tried, oohing and aahing over the things we've never seen, and dreaming about how much we would buy and cook with if we had all the time and money in the world.

And of course we both buy something. I usually find some nice unusual bean - this time it was a repeat of the Anasazi beans I bought last year and some flageolet beans which I have yet to decide how I want to cook.

And I bought some Himalayan Red Rice. I had never heard of it before, and there's not a whole lot of information on it (that a quick google search can yield, at least) out there. But it was such a beautiful rich red color that I knew it had to come home with me.

It cooks pretty much the same as brown rice in terms of time, but as you can see in the photo below it holds its shape quite nicely. It has a strong, nutty flavor and a firm texture. It was quite lovely with the Rocky Mountain Chili with Anasazi Beans (of which more later).

I haven't yet seen this here in Chicago, but then again I haven't been looking for it. I better get cracking - I only have enough left for one more batch.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Earlier this year I wrote this post about Split Pea Soup, which is one of the easiest things in the world to make - the peas do it all. When I made it before I just bought a thick slice of ham, threw it in the pot, and then cut up the ham when it was done.

In the meantime I found a real live hambone at the Apple Market. It was pretty big, so they cut it in half for me. I threw both halves in the freezer and then promptly forgot about them.

Operation Freezer Burn is just limping along right now. What Operation Freezer Burn? you may be asking, and with good reason. My freezer is just as full as ever and, while there has been some significant rotation, there's still just as much, if not more, stuff in there as there's ever been. In fact, now I am putting more spices and nuts and things in there so there is no room whatsoever at the Inn.

But every once in a while, when I was rummaging around in there for something, my hand would bump into one or the other of the plastic bags that held my ham bones. And when the weather finally got cool enough, I decided it was time for some split pea soup. I was already playing with my slow cooker at the time, so I went to The Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook and found a recipe that turned out to be basically the same as the one I already use that is on the back of every package of split peas I have ever bought. The only difference is in the amount of water you use - a quart and a half (6 cups) as opposed to the 2 quarts called for in the stovetop version.

So why bother making this soup in the slow cooker when it's so gosh-darned easy to throw together on the stove? Well, I'll tell you. Because cooking this soup in the slow cooker creates the smoothest, most velvety soft split pea soup I have ever tasted. It comes out so thick that you could almost lift it out in one big lump if you had a big enough utensil. Once you add water and heat it up, the magic begins. If you like split pea soup, you have to try this slow cooker version.
Slow Cooker Green Split Pea Soup

1 lb. green split peas
1-1/2 quarts water
1/2 ham hock
2 bay leaves
1 chopped onion
3 stalks chopped celery
3 carrots, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 cloves minced garlic

Wash, sort and drain split peas. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker crock, turn on low, and let cook for 8-10 hours.

Before serving, remove ham bone. Cut ham off bone; dice and add back to soup. You will need to thin this soup with water before serving.

Loosely adapted from The Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Margaret Kaeter (Adams Media Corporation, 2002).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Doctor Dejamo's Distracted

We are indeed on the threshold of a brave new . . . something. A while back I wrote this post about Fantastic World Foods' Vegetarian Chili mix, which I had doctored up from the package instructions by adding onions, garlic, a jalapeno, cumin, chili powder, and corn. I have to admit that by the time I had finished with it, it was one tasty dish.

A week or so later, I noticed that someone from their website had spent quite a bit of time on that post. It was a little odd, but I figured it was just someone searching the web for items mentioning their products.

And then I forgot all about it. Until today, when I was looking at my stats and noticed that someone had come to that same post of mine from here.

I've got to tell you I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me is flattered that they thought my recipe was good enough to post on their site. And they did have the decency to credit the recipe to me, and to provide a link. But they could have contacted me to let me know they were going to use it, don't you think? Just as a professional courtesy, you know?

And the least they could have done was to make sure they had my blog name correct, right? Or am I being too sensitive?

December Flowers

Happy December. I hope everyone (American, that is) had a Happy Thanksgiving. My brother and nephew drove up for their third annual pre-Thanksgiving visit, and this year I was able to drive back down with them to spend the holidays in Texas. It was a lovely visit, too short as usual, but I am going back for Christmas so it's all good.

It's a snowy day today. I went to the grocery store around 11:00 for my usual Saturday morning trip, which is usually a busy time because that's when all the local assisted-living residences cart busloads of residents for their weekly shopping. It used to be Wednesday mornings (which I only know because I used to have Wednesdays and Thursdays off - in a way I kind of miss those days), but for some reason Saturday has become the morning of choice.

So I'm used to a little bit of a crowd, but I was surprised to see over two-thirds of the shopping carts gone from their stand outside the store. Uh-oh, I thought. This isn't good. The store was packed. It took me a minute to figure out why, and then I realized that everyone was trying to beat the snow. Ok, whatever. I resigned myself to a long wait in the checkout lines and went about my business.

I ended up in a line that was six-deep, right next to the flowers. And the more I looked at them, the cheerier I was feeling, so I decided to take some of that cheer home with me. And they really do make the day seem brighter. I highly recommend them when you're beginning to feel that winter chill.
On a food note, I haven't been cooking too much lately. What started as just cleaning up my place for my brother and nephew turned into an all-out overhaul that had us toting tons of stuff out to the dumpster, and my brother was kind enough to spend one of their days here while I was at work lugging a bunch of bags of clothes to Goodwill for me. I'm on a roll and am hesitant to stop so cooking is taking a back seat right now. It's amazing how much you can accumulate over the years, especially if you're like me and can't pass up anything that might be remotely useful to you some day. I have a tendency to collect things for the life I am going to have someday, rather than the life I am living right now. It's time to cut back, and I already feel lighter for having so much less stuff in my apartment.

I did find this most amazing loaf of pumpernickel-rye bread at Treasure Island. It was soft, thick and dense and made the most heavenly salami sandwiches I have had in a long time. One of my knitting students made rye bread over the weekend and she said it turned out really well. I have found myself thinking about baking bread lately. It's been over ten years since I made bread. Hmmm . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bread, Cheese, Tomatoes (with a little hummus to liven things up)

Back at the beginning of summer, I had an abundance of red, yellow and orange peppers and it was too early (hot) to roast them. So I worked up a little tomato, pepper and red onion salad with fresh parsley and basil. But I didn't really have anything planned to eat with it. I did have some hummus in fridge, along with a beautiful hunk of Irish cheddar I had bought on a whim at Treasure Island. I started of thinking of ways to out it all together and decided a sturdy loaf of semolina bread would be just the thing.

I toasted two slices of bread, then covered them with cheese that I melted under the broiler. I topped that with hummus and spooned my tomato and pepper salad over that.

And it was one of the best meals I'd had all year. I couldn't stop thinking about it.

And it struck me that it was just one step away from panzanella, a bread salad that I had been wanting to make for a while. So the next step seemed pretty logical:
Those blobs of white (I don't know how they look to you but my computer makes them seem a little scary) is fresh mozzarella, which was really a treat in this salad. The bread was a loaf of whole wheat french that I also found at Treasure Island, although I have not been able to find it since and everyone in the bakery section has denied they ever carried it, which is very frustrating, and makes me question my sanity just the teensiest bit. Actually, it makes me question the bakery people at Treasure Island, but what can I do?
And then the peppers were gone, so I thought an English cucumber would make a lovely substitute. It did. That's just a plain old loaf of country bread there, with the Irish cheddar that was so tasty.
And then I took it that one step too far. While I still think it looks pretty, this caprese-salad-on-a-plate-of-freselle was difficult to eat and, while the olives look good, they were too bland and did not really bring anything to the party. But now I'm thinking a nice caponata might work well. But the freselle was too hard, and really needs to be soaked and used for a more traditional panzanella.

What the hell is freselle? I can hear you ask. I wondered too, so I searched online and found very little. Most of the references are Italian, and I don't need to tell you what happens when you translate a web pate. But Food Maven Arthur Schwartz references it here.

Now that fall is officially here and the weather has (FINALLY!) cooled to actual fall temperatures, I will be focusing more on soups and stews and winter fare. But I will be dreaming about bread, cheese and tomatoes, and what other culinarily creative things I can do with them next summer.

Oh and Missreal - now I'm the worst friend in the world. Yes, we definitely need to get together, and soon. And I think you need to re-register through Google in order to make less anonymous comments.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where Did I Go?

I suppose all of my faithful readers (I think I have three or four by now) have noticed that I haven't been posting lately. What started as an it's-way-too-hot-to-cook-right-now-there's-way-too-much-going-on-in-my-life-
so-I'm-taking-August-off vacation turned into a two-plus month hiatus that has been hard to breach. But the weather has cooled off and I'm cooking again, and things have slowed down so I can maybe start writing again.

You did notice that I said "maybe" up there at the end of that paragraph, didn't you?

The worst of it is that I had finally caught up on all my cooking magazines and now they've piled up again.

Let's see . . . what else? Oh yeah, I have been reading quite a bit lately. And in one of those odd serendipitious moments that life often throws our way, I had two friends (Yam in Hong Kong and Genie here in Chicago) send me invitations to sign up at Goodreads. How could I refuse? Even if it's one more big chunk of time consumption, it's kind of fun to make lists of books I've read, want to read, and am reading. And it's a great way to see what your friends are reading.

You can see what I'm currently reading in the sidebar.

So that's it for now. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Grilled Pork Chop with Mango and Black Bean Salad

It seems every summer there are fruits and vegetables that disappoint me. This year it is mangos. They are one of my favorite fruits and I cannot wait for them to come in season. Sweet and juicy, with a sharp little bite at the back of the tongue, they are the perfect complement to black beans, avocados, corn, and more. They are also good with Vanilla Yogurt, or cut up in a bowl with some chili powder and lime juice. And they are delicious all by themselves.

The mangos I have bought this year taste the way mangos should, but they have been super stringy - so stringy that I can barely cut through the flesh. This past week I bought one last pair of test mangos. If they were stringy, I decided, I wasn't going to buy any more this season.

Alas, each was just one big mass of stringy pulp. But it wasn't a total loss. Even stringy, I was able to get enough flesh off of them to make a salad with black beans and tomatoes, which paired beautifully with my George Foreman grilled pork chops.

Will I stick to my decision not to buy any more mangos this season? Probably not. There's always tomorrow . . .
Mango and Black Bean Salad

1 Mango, peeled and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh serrano or jalapeno pepper, minced
1 14.5-oz. can black beans, drained
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine first eight ingredients in medium size bowl. In smaller bowl or jar, combine oil, lime juice, honey, cumin, salt and pepper and whisk briskly. Pour over salad and mix gently.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hot Turkey

People have found me searching for some pretty strange things, but this one wins the prize so far:
turky hot pretty women.

Scroll all the way down and you'll see what they got.

I found this photo at Cucina Testa Rossa

Blood Orange Sonata

There's a dangerous stall at the little French Market down the street. Sonoma Farm carries the most beautiful selection of infused olive oils, and I simply cannot resist them. And when I get on a kick, I really get on a kick.

For the past couple of weeks I had been eyeing the Cuisine Perel fruit-flavored vinegars that suddenly appeared on the top shelf of the oil and vinegar section at Treasure Island. What first caught my eye was the beautiful shape of the bottles, and then I noticed it was flavored vinegars. And while they all intrigued me, the one that stood out the most was the blood orange vinegar (anyone who knows me surprised out there?). I was able to resist the urge to grab it and buy it right then and there the first time I saw it, but I have to tell you I had to fight pretty hard.

So a couple of weeks later Bob and I decide to stop by the market after our post-walk brunch to see what's there. They don't have a lot of fruit and vegetables there, just two stands. Everything else is arts, crafts, flowers, baked goods, and food products, including the Sonoma oils. Those clever people put out bowls to sample, and once I tasted the flavored oils, I knew I was in trouble. I actually bought the lime-infused oil first (which is delicious with corn, but we knew it would be, didn't we?), and then went back the next week for the blood orange oil.

And once I had the blood orange olive oil, it only made sense for me to hurry on down to Treasure Island to pick up that blood orange vinegar as well, right? And the two together made the most lovely vinaigrette. I followed my usual recipe, substituting the blood orange vinegar for the red wine vinegar, and adding 1/3 cup of the blood orange olive oil after whisking together the canola oil and the regular olive oil.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Heaven in a Glass

Now that the dog days of summer are panting at the doorway I am seriously on the lookout for anything that will cool me off. Imagine my joy when I discovered that my most favorite beer can finally be found in Chicago!

As most of my friends know, I am not much of a drinker these days. The occasional cocktail before dinner, with a glass or two of wine during the meal, usually does it for me. My days of frozen margaritas chased by tequila shots are long behind me, although these days I find myself feeling as if I had stayed up drinking all night the next morning after just one glass of wine.

And I have never been much of a beer drinker. I never really liked the fuzzy buzz of a beer high, and I didn't really care for the taste - it was too bitter for my delicate tastebuds. Or too sharp. But everyone drank it so it was impossible to avoid.

The only beers that I could manage to swallow without making a face were Lone Star Long Necks. And, oddly enough, Mexican beers, especially Tecate (but only with limes). Luckily for me, drinking Lone Star was a matter of pride among my friends so I rarely had to deal with Schlitz, Bud, Pabst, or Coors.

But there was one other Texas beer that appeared as often as Lone Star. There's a little town not too far from Austin called Shiner, Texas, that's been home to the Spoetzl Brewery since 1909. And back when I was in college, they sold their Shiner beer for a ridiculously cheap price, so it showed up frequently at parties. It came in short, squat bottles, and tasted like piss to me. It kind of looked like piss to me, too. I shunned Shiner beer like the plague.

Fast forward about five years and I was working at the Austin Public Library. Quite a few of us had gotten into the habit on payday Fridays (we were paid every other week) of going to Scholz's Beer Garten for a little socializing and unwinding before the weekend. There were never less than ten of us; more often there were close to twenty people sitting around several pulled-together tables in the back yard, where we would order french fries, onion rings, and endless pitchers of beer.
There were many fine and lively conversations that took place around those tables. We talked about work, politics, music, and life. We would start around 5:30 in the afternoon and most often would stumble out around midnight. Most often we would head to our various homes, but every once in a while we would not be ready for the evening to end, and a few of us would find ourselves at Flapjack Canyon for a midnight breakfast. And one of those times we still weren't ready for the evening to end and found ourselves on a 3:00 a.m. road trip to Mexico.

I liked the beer at Scholz's. A lot. It was dark and kind of yeasty, and it wasn't as bitter as most of the beers with which I was familiar. When I found out it was Shiner Bock, you could have knocked me over with a feather. When I bought my first six-pack and found out it was as good in a bottle as it was in a pitcher, I never looked back. I still did not drink beer that often, but when I did, it was always Shiner Bock.

And then I moved to Chicago. After a search I pretty much knew would be futile before I even started, I gave up on beer. Which wasn't really a big sacrifice because I wasn't that big a fan of it anyway, right?

A couple of months ago I was walking down Chicago Avenue on my way to meet some friends for brunch Kitsch'n. And plastered on the side of a building was a huge painting of a bottle of Shiner Bock. Wow, I thought. It must be coming to Chicago at last!

And then I forgot about it. Until a few weeks ago, when I was pushing my cart up to the checkout lanes at Treasure Island, and I saw sixpacks of Shiner Bock piled high on the floor in front of the liquor section. I didn't even have to think about it. I swooped up a sixpack, brought it home, and put it in the fridge to chill.

And then I waited. I think I was a little afraid it wouldn't taste as good as I remembered it. I also wanted the perfect moment to arrive, which I know is risky. But I was waiting for one of those hot days that just cried out for an ice-cold beer.

And that day finally came. It was a Sunday, and the temperature got close to ninety. I had been out in the sun, and on the bus on the way home the thought came unbidden - "What I need is an ice-cold beer." I got home, pulled out my cold Shiner Bock, poured some into the same kind of beer glasses they used at Scholz's, and took a sip.

And that cold, icy goodness just flowed down my throat. It was every bit as good as I remembered it. And the memories that came with it were just as sweet.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Find of the Week - Sweet Olive Oil Tortas with Cranberry Port Goat Cheese

The Big Apple Market on Clark Street is quickly becoming one of my favorite grocery stores. They have an amazingly broad range of items for such a small store and I often find little surprises in all of the aisles. My most recent discovery is Las Legitimas y Acreitadas Tortas de Ines Rosales. You really should click on the link; they have a most impressive website.I had never heard of these before, but I first saw them a couple of weeks ago on the sweets table at the front of the store. By the fourth time I saw them I knew I had to try them. So I bought a package, along with some cranberry cinnamon goat cheese, and brought it home with me.

Each torta is individually wrapped, so I opened one up and took a test bite. Crisp but not too crunchy, a little greasy from the olive oil, a little sweetness almost immediately eclipsed by the sharp pungent bite of anise - it was delicious. And when paired with the goat cheese, sublime.
My plan was to just have that first taste, and then later I would make one to photograph, but somehow they all disappeared before I could take a shot. So I have sacrificed for you, dear readers, and bought another package just so I can show you what they look like.

They were out of the cranberry cinnamon goat cheese I had bought to go with the first batch so I settled for the cranberry port wine goat cheese (more sacrifices for you, dear reader). It was even better. Next time I will go to Pastoral to find a nice Spanish cheese to go with it so I can stay true to the region.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cavatappi with Purple Asparagus and Romesco Sauce

Several years ago, I clipped out a recipe for a sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. And then completely forgot about it during my roasted red pepper period, when I was making all of that muhammara and Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

On one of my Saturday walks with Bob we ended up at the Lincoln Park Green Market. There were big beautiful bunches of purple asparagus so I snapped up a couple. I wanted something lighter and fresher than my usual tomato-based sauce with which to prepare them - preferably something that I did not have to cook.

And that's when I remembered the Romesco sauce recipe that had been filed away and forgotten. After a little searching I found it and took a look at it and decided it might just be the perfect topping for my dish.

Now that summer is here, I am using the absorption method to cook my pasta. I have started using chicken stock instead of water, which makes it extra tasty. I sliced the asparagus and sauteed it in olive oil until it was just tender. I cooked the pasta, topped it with the warm asparagus, and covered both with the Romesco sauce, which I did not heat. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be - fresh, light, and incredibly flavorful.

And every time I went into the kitchen I would grab a spoon, open the refrigerator, and scoop out some of the Romesco sauce. I can't get enough of the stuff.
Home Cookin Chapter: Sauces

Romesco Sauce

1 dried ancho chili
2-4 red peppers, roasted and peeled
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cups peeled hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped and toasted
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ancho
chili and cook approximately 1 minute on each side, until it just
starts to smoke. Remove it from the skillet, cut it in half and place
it in a bowl with 1 cup boiling water, or enough to cover. Let stand
for 15 minutes. Remove from water and chop.

Place hazelnuts and almonds in food processor bowl and process until
you have crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive
oil and process until smooth. Keeping the processor running, gradually
add the rest of the olive oil until an emulsion forms.

Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times, July 2006 issue.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.5 (

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki and Couscous

Happy Fourth of July for all of you Americans out there. I hope the weather cooperates with your plans. It's supposed to rain here, but I don't really have any big plans for today anyway. Foodwise, it's never been my favorite holiday, and since fireworks are banned inside of most city limits, the fun has pretty much gone out of it for me. I'm not really into crowds so, other than my first year here, I do not venture anywhere near downtown for the Taste of Chicago and the fireworks. Yeah, I know . . . I'm no fun.

The George Foreman Grill experiments continue apace. So far, the results have all been good. I find that I'm still more excited by the vegetable possibilities than the meat, but I'm still grilling my fair share of that as well.

I was so thrilled to have re-discovered Middle Eastern Turkey burgers that I still had a taste for them after the last time I made them. I also was eager to see how they would work on the grill. And since I had some ground lamb in my freezer and I'm still working on getting things out of my freezer faster than they go in (still no success there, alas), the opportunity was ripe for Middle Eastern Lamb burgers.

This time I had given it some thought, so I knew I was going to be making tzatziki, so the day before I was going to cook up the burgers I put the yogurt in cheesecloth in a strainer, covered it up, and left it in the fridge overnight. By the next day I had Greek yogurt - smooth and creamy and very dry. I grated the cucumber, salted it, and let it drain for about an hour and a half. The resultant spread was rich and creamy; it was so thick, though, that I actually had to add milk to it to thin it out some.

The lamb was lean and the onion was not enough to moisten it up quite as nicely as it does the turkey. Plus, I cooked it a little longer than I should have which did not help. But I would make it again and cook them a little less. If you want the recipe for the lamb burgers, just follow the link here and substitute the lamb for the turkey.

After I had boiled the water for the couscous and added the grains, I threw in some sliced green onoins. After it had rested for five minutes, I added dried mango and chopped pistachios as I fluffed them up. Tasty.

The tzatziki was the biggest success of this meal, though. As long as you plan ahead and start it the day before you need it, it really doesn't take that much effort. And the possibilities are endless in terms of what you can do with it.
Home Cookin Chapter: Sauces


1 container (16 ounces) plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 English (seedless) cucumber, not peeled, seeded and finely chopped plus a few thin slices
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or dill plus additional sprigs
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Spoon yogurt into sieve lined with cheesecloth or coffee filter set over bowl; cover and refrigerate overnight. Transfer drained yogurt to medium bowl and discard liquid.

Meanwhile, in colander set over bowl, toss chopped cucumber with 1 teaspoon salt. Let drain at least 1 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. In batches, wrap chopped cucumber in
kitchen towel and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Pat dry with paper towels, then add
to bowl with yogurt.

With flat side of chef's knife, mash garlic to a paste with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add garlic, chopped mint, oil, vinegar, and pepper to yogurt and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 or up to 4 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature, topped with cucumber slices and mint sprigs.

Yield: about 1-1/2 cups

Per tablespoon: about 17 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrate, 1 gram total fat (0 gram
saturated), 1 mg cholesterol, 182 mg sodium.

The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, edited by Susan Westmoreland (Hearst Books)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Shredded Zucchini

I checked out for while, in case no one noticed. I haven't been cooking that much lately, and haven't felt much like writing about what I have been cooking. But it's a new day in a new month, and I have hopes of returning to regular posting and I have to start somewhere, so I will start with this post that I started last month.

I've been happily making use of my za'atar, most notably recently as a seasoning for this lamb chop (no, not the George Foreman Grill lamb chop). This was cooked the good old-fashioned way, in the broiler. It was quite delicious.

While I usually add rosemary to my roasted new potatoes with garlic and olive oil, for this meal I added marjoram because there's marjoram in the za'atar and I thought that it would complement the lamb nicely. It did.

But I wasn't sure what to do about the vegetable. I had some zucchini about to go bad in the refrigerator, but I didn't know what to do with it. I always have such high hopes for zucchini at the grocery store, when I see them all fresh and deeply green. And I love to eat zucchini. I just don't know how to cook them. They have a high water content, which means they turn from raw to mush in a matter of seconds, and I hate them mushy.

I leafed through some of my vegetable cookbooks and came across this recipe for Shredded Zucchini, which the author said was a good method when you did not have enough time to salt and drain them (!). I had neither the time nor the inclination, so I decided to try this recipe. It was a little messy and I am compulsive enough that I never quite trusted that I had squeezed out enough liquid so I kept squeezing and squeezing until I could feel the little shreds turn to mush between my fingers, but overall the recipe was a success.

I did not have fresh herbs so I used dried, which was ok, but I think this dish would become spectacular in the summer prepared with fresh herbs.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Shredded Zucchini

4 medium zucchini (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh herb leaves
freshly ground black pepper

from Vegetables Every Day, by Jack Bishop (HarperCollins, 2001)
Trim the ends from the zucchini. Shred the zucchini using the large
holes on a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor. Wrap
the shredded zucchini in several layers of paper towels or in a kitchen
towel and squeeze gently. Continue squeezing, using new towels if
necessary, until the zucchini is fairly dry.

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the
zucchini and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini
is tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the herb and salt and pepper to

Serve immediately.

Servings: 4

Exported from Home Cookin 5.5 (

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Greetings, Y'all

I'm in Austin for the weekend. Not much to say so far except WHOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEE! It shore 'nuff is hot down here. Got up at 5:30 this morning to go write with my brother, then took a walk along Town Lake at 9:00 in the sweltering heat (all right, it wasn't that bad in the shade, but it felt like full-on roasting in the sun). It's almost 2:00 in the morning now and time to go to bed.

I'll post when I'm back in Chicago. Got me some visiting to do!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fantastic World Foods Vegetarian Chili

So I got all of these Fantastic World Foods products on sale at my neighborhood Jewel a while ago, and I decided it's time I started doing something with them. I bought four packages of their Nature Burger mix, 4 packages of organic whole wheat couscous, and 2 packages of vegetarian chili.

For some reason, I assumed that the chili was just the nature burger crumbled up instead of an actual chili mix, complete with spices. Sometimes I do that - I just decide that something is going to be a certain way without really looking at it or thinking it through. So I was not altogether pleasantly surprised to discover that it came pre-seasoned and spiced. All you needed to add was a can of beans and a can of tomatoes.

Naturally, that was not enough for me. For one thing, once I opened it and smelled it, I could tell right away that it wasn't going to be spicy or "chili" enough for me. It was going to need some major doctoring.
Doctor Dejamo to the rescue. It came out good enough that I will use the second box readily enough, and will even consider getting more after that is gone. It cooks up in less than half an hour and all I need to have on hand are beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, cumin and chili powder, all of which I usually have.

This was excellent to take to work for lunch.
Doctor Dejamo's Chilied up Chili
Makes 6 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
2-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 package Fantastic World Foods Vegetarian Chili
1 14.5-oz. can black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 10-oz. bag frozen Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Corn (or regular sweet corn)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder

Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add chili mix and stir well. Add all other ingredients except the corn. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add corn and simmer until heated through.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Oh-My-God! New Rebozo: "The Best of Casual Mexican Cooking"

Happy Memorial Day. To those of you here in the states for whom it's a holiday, I hope you're enjoying it. To those of you for whom, like me, it is a day off, I hope you're enjoying that as much as I am. To those of you who have to work today, I hope you are getting paid time-and-a-half for it. For those of you who have to work and don't get paid time-and-a-half, isn't that illegal?

Life has been distracting me again and I haven't felt like posting. I have been cooking a little, but I don't really have anything to show for it yet.

My friend Lynda and I have been trying to get together for about 3 months now, but things have kept coming up that have caused us to reschedule again and again. Our schedules finally cleared up this past week and we decided to meet for dinner after work on Tuesday night.

Lynda suggested a Mexican restaurant in Oak Park called New Rebozo. I checked out the link she sent me and it looked pretty good so we agreed to meet out there. I was a little concerned about how long it might take to get there, but it's about a half-mile walk down Harlem from the Blue Line to Madison Street so it was convenient and easy to find. Of course, once I got to Madison Street I turned the wrong way first, but that's because I'm an idiot and ignored Lynda's directions so I can only blame myself for that. But I saw some other restaurant possibilities on my little detour, so it wasn't a total waste of time, and I still managed to get there just before Lynda.

We were there early in the evening; the restaurant was virtually empty when I walked in and I waited about five minutes (long enough for me to step back outside to check their hours to make sure they weren't still closed) before the hostess came to seat me. But when she did come out, she was nice and friendly and seated me right away. Lynda walked in less than a minute later. After that our service was fine.

Lynda ordered a margarita and, while I was tempted, I opted for iced tea instead. But Lynda let me have a taste of her margarita and it was excellent. The drinks had just arrived and we barely had time to dip our chips into some salsa when an energetic, smiling man practically hopped over to our table with two plates in his hands. I had already read about this from Lynda's link so I realized that this was Francisco Lopez, the owner.

"Oh my god! How are you tonight?" he asked. "Fine," we said. "Oh my god! Let me show you our specials tonight. Oh my god! They are so good!" He then proceeded to show us what was on the two plates.

On one plate was a form of chile relleno that, I must admit, looked as good as the ones I am used to eating in Texas and have not been able to find up here in Chicago. It was full of nuts, raisins, and cheese and looked truly delicious. But once I set eyes on the second plate (that Lynda had already told me about), I had made up my mind what to order.

The cuisine at New Rebozo is based on the cooking of Lopez's mother. The specialty of the house is 12 different mole sauces. They make six a week, and the second special consists of four enchiladas, each served with a combination of the six moles. The night we were there these were the moles:
mole poblano (what most people think of when they think of mole)- made with chocolate and poblano peppers
mole verde (mole pipian) - made with pumpkin seeds and ancho peppers
peanut mole
cashew mole
macadamia nut mole
chestnut mole

The first two moles were each served with a whole enchilada; the other four were split between the other two. The hardest choice I had was what kind of enchiladas I wanted. I have only recently realized that I do not care for chicken in most traditional Mexican dishes. It just does not have a strong enough flavor to hold up to the other ingredients. Beef has almost too much flavor, and I do not care for that much melted cheese in any dish. Pork has become my favorite taco and enchilada filler, but they did not offer pork. Oddly enough, one of the choices was guacamole, which I suppose is not that far of a stretch from avocado, but still seemed a little unusual. The last choice was chorizo, and while I am not a fan of Mexican chorizo (at least the greasy Tex-Mex version I was used to from home), I opted for two guacamole enchiladas and two chorizo, hoping that the chorizo would be closer to the Spanish version. They did not offer me choice of which enchiladas to go with which moles, so I hoped for the best (not that I would have necessarily known which flavor would go best with which filling anyway).

They chose well. One chorizo enchilada came with mole pipian, and the other was split between the peanut and the chestnut moles. A whole guacamole enchilada was served with the mole poblano, with the other split between the cashew and macadamia nut moles.

All were delicious. The mole poblano was a little sweeter than I was expecting, but the sweetness was immediately counterbalanced by one of the most deceptively complex mix of spicy and smoky flavors I have ever encountered. It was absolutely perfect, with all of the flavors swirling to the surface and back so there was no one overwhelming taste. It was the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and smoky.

But as nearly perfect as it was, my favorite was the mole pipian. The more subtle flavors of this mole, which came with the chorizo enchilada, were truly sublime, perhaps because they were less familiar flavors to me and I could not identify them all. The most familiar was the musky flavor of the roasted pumpkin seeds. If I had to choose only one mole next time, that would be it.

The other moles were all delicious, but the flavors were all somewhat similar. The macadamia nut was my least favorite (in all fairness, it's also my least favorite nut, though), and the peanut was a little bland. The cashew mole was tasty, and the chestnut mole was rich and luscious. It was a little too sweet though (and I can't believe I'm the one who's saying that), but would have been something to behold as turned into some kind of dessertB.

Lynda chose steak that came with the mole poblano and the mole pipian. The presentation was exquisite - the steak was rolled and somehow placed vertically inside a ring of grilled onion which sat on the plate with the moles each on one half of the plate. It looked awesome and she said it was delicious.

There were some oddities, however. The salsa was good and spicy, but the chips looked and tasted like they were baked, and I did not care for them very much. Each entree was accompanied by a plate of Spanish Rice and black beans. The black beans were rich and flavorful, but the rice looked like it was made with frozen mixed vegetables and I wasn't even tempted to try it.

After we had finished our dinners, Fernando Lopez came running back to our table. "Oh my god!" he exclaimed. Are you ready to try the oh-my-god delicious dessert?" If I hadn't been so full I would have tried something, but I will have to save that for my next visit.

All in all, this is a truly unique restaurant that, even with the few not-so-great chips and Spanish rice, will definitely have me going back for more.

And in the meantime, I plan to find me some mole verde recipes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hot off the Grill (and a Little Hot under the Collar)

Yesterday I stopped at my neighborhood Jewel on the way home from work to pick up a few things, one of which was strawberries. I have grown quite fond of slicing them up and serving them with my late night treat of fat-free French Vanilla yogurt. The way they had them displayed in the store (they were on sale), the packages were stacked in a high narrow pile between an equally high pile of cantaloupes on one side and pineapples on the other. In addition, there were boxes of pineapples stacked waist high on each side of the floor. There was a woman there before me, slowly and laboriously reaching for a package, inspecting it closely, then just as slowly putting it back and reaching for the next one. The way the strawberries were arranged, it was impossible for more than one person to get to them at a time. There was another woman standing just to the side of the woman, who was obviously waiting her turn to get at them. I had no idea how long she had been there, but she gave an impatient little shake of her shoulders and wandered off just about the time I walked up.

Now I am all for checking out your produce before you buy it, or anything else for that matter. Certainly you want nothing but the best. But this woman checked out each and every box of strawberries, slowly and deliberately, and was taking her time about it. She seemed oblivious to the fact that there was someone there, obviously waiting for her to finish. For every five or six boxes she inspected, she would put one in her cart. Did I mention that she moved agonizingly slowly as she reached up, grabbed a box, put it close to her face, and then just as slowly reached up, put it back, and moved slowly over to the next box?

After about 5 minutes (that felt like 20) I just couldn't take it anymore. I was sure she was finished after she had put the fourth box in her cart but no, there she went again, reaching for yet another one.

I couldn't help myself. "Jesus," I said, to no one in particular. But she heard me, turned her head, and said "Do you have a problem?" All sorts of possible responses circled in my head, and I'm not terribly proud of the one I chose. "I was just wondering if you were ever going to finish," I said as I walked away, hearing her say "Looks like someone is having a bad day" as I pushed my cart away from the strawberries. "Yep," I said, and pushed on.

And immediately felt bad about it. Certainly she had the right to spend as much time as she wanted inspecting her food before she purchased it. Lord knows I'm picky enough about that kind of thing, although I will say that if I notice someone else hovering around the same section, I will try to accommodate them so we both can get at our desired product.

So I felt kind of bad as I went off and bought the other things on my list before going back to the strawberries after she had gone. And I had little pricks of shame as I caught glimpses of her as I worked my way around the store.

And found myself being extra super nice to everyone else I ran into for the rest of the evening.

It has taken a couple of false starts, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of my George Foreman grill. It's not quite as easy as the "set it and forget it" philosophy of the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, but it comes pretty close.

I mentioned in the previous post that I have already been successful with a lamb chop. Tonight I'm getting some burgers ready to see how well that goes. My only real disappointment so far is that all of my research has shown that it is not a good idea to try to grill chicken legs, or the breast with the bone in for that matter. But it's a minor setback because otherwise I am quite pleased and looking forward to exploring the possibilities even further. Grilled pineapple, anyone?

Last night I grilled zucchini. I cut each one into three lengthwise strips, seasoned them with salt, pepper and Penzey's Sunny Paris spice blend, and grilled them in two batches of three each. About six minutes per batch, and they cooked just right. I'm especially thrilled that it worked so well with the zucchini, because it is a difficult vegetable to cook properly. It has so much water in it that it goes from raw to mush in seconds flat. It held up just beautifully in the grill. Tender but not mushy, it definitely had some substance.

Of course, this may just be a passing fad, but I plan to enjoy it. Do you, or does someone you know, have a George Foreman grill? What kinds of things can it do?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Slow Cooker Chicken Legs Paprikash with Roasted Pepper Sauce

OK. It's been a couple of days now since the tragic deleting of the post and I am ready to try to re-create it. As I'm sure you all know, this second version will not come close to reaching the wit, creativity, and intelligence of its predecessor. So it goes . . .

I haven't been too creative in the kitchen lately. Sometimes I get a little carried away with the possibilities and will buy ingredients for two or more preparations for the same ingredients and not realize it until I get home and have too many options. The end result is usually less than satisfying whichever way I choose to go. I had not been terribly pleased with anything I had created in a while. Perhaps that's another reason I have been taking refuge in the comfort of old stand-by recipes.

The weekend before last I had bought some chicken legs so I thought I might take a stab at some kind of Marsala with mushrooms, peppers and sweet cream Sherry I use for my Mexican Wine Cookies and which usually gets a little questionable before I can use it up. So off to the grocery store I went to get the mushrooms, peppers and some shallots I thought would make it a little classier than if I just used plain old onions.

And on the way home from the grocery store I stopped at Best Buy purely on an instant-gratification impulse and bought myself a George Foreman grill. Before you laugh, let me tell you how this came about. They have one at work and my boss was grilling herself a beautiful tuna steak in it and she said to me, "You have to get one of these." And her tuna steak did look beautiful and easy, smelled heavenly, and cooked itself smokeless (unlike the "Great Grill-Pan Lamb Chop Smoke Disaster of 1999" which set off my smoke detector and left a greasy pall in my apartment for over a week even if it was the best damned lamp chop I ever had at home). So I thought maybe it was time I considered getting one. What finally decided it for me was when she mentioned that her mother even roasted vegetables in it. Visions of roasted peppers, eggplant, and zucchini danced in my head. And then, whenever I mentioned to any of my friends that I was thinking of getting one, they all either had one themselves or had friends who used them regularly.

So I bought it and brought it home and, having no self-control whatsoever, decided I had to use it right then and there. So I cup the peppers in half, brushed them with olive oil, and threw them on the grill. I had to do it in two batches, even with the larger grill I had opted to buy, but it only took about 20 minutes for both. They peeled relatively easily after sitting in a saran-wrap covered bowl. So ok, the GF Grill was a good thing. (I have since grilled a lamb chop in it with just a little, manageable amount of smoke. It was delicious).

The only problem was that I had roasted a major component of my Chicken Marsala dish. It so discouraged me that I threw the chicken legs into the freezer and ended up sauteeing the mushrooms and shallots with the sherry and eating them for dinner that night. But my freezer is still too full, even with all my work on Operation Freezer Burn, so I took them back out last weekend and started thinking about what I should do with them.

I didn't feel like putting a lot of time and effort into it, so I decided to use the slow cooker. I really liked the slow cooker drumsticks I made last summer so I thought I would do something along those lines. Early Sunday morning I cut a large onion into eighths and put it in the bottom of the cooker, added the chicken legs and seasoned them with salt, garlic powder, pepper, and a ton of Hungarian sweet paprika. I had planned to make Muhammara with the roasted peppers, but they were still sitting in a bowl on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator waiting to go bad so I applied triage and threw them in with the chicken legs. I added some red wine and a little bit of water, turned the cooker on, and let it go until late afternoon.

The chicken had cooked beautifully, and the paprika had infused everything with a deep rusty reddish-brown tone. The cooking liquid looked and smelled divine, but it was thin and there was a lot of it so I needed to figure out a way to make some kind of sauce with it. Inspiration hit and I put it into a saucepan and brought out my super-duper handy-dandy hand blender and pureed it. I mixed a couple of tablespoons of the sauce with a tablespoon of flour and poured that back in and let the whole thing simmer for about an hour while I cooked up some brown rice.

The end result was absolutely delicious. The sauce was thick and rich; chicken tender and full of flavor. It was just the success I needed in the kitchen to motivate me to keep experimenting and creating. Which is a really good thing because the farmers markets are just now starting up again for the season here in Chicago and I am raring to go.
Slow Cooker Chicken Legs Paprikash with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Serves 6-8

1-2 large onions
4-6 roasted, skinned and seeded red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
8 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks), skin removed
1/2 cup red wine or Sherry
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
garlic powder to taste
black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1 Tbsp flour
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Cut onion(s) into wedges and layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the roasted peppers. Lay four of the the chicken legs over the vegetables and season to taste with the salt, garlic powder and pepper. Sprinkle half the paprika liberally, making sure every piece of chicken is well coated; repeat with the other four chicken legs.

Carefully pour in the wine and the water, avoiding the chicken so the spices don't wash off. Set slow cooker to low and cook, 6-8 hours or until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from slow cooker and keep warm. Pour the liquid into a three-quart saucepan and, using a hand blender, puree the mixture. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the liquid into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix thoroughly, making sure there are no lumps. Pour back into the saucepan with the pureed sauce. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about one hour, while you prepare brown rice.

Serve the chicken over the brown rice and spoon the sauce liberally over the chicken and the rice. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Dog Ate My Blog Post

Or she would have, if I had a dog. The truth is, I absent-mindedly moved away from the page just as I was finishing my post so I accidentally deleted the whole darned thing.

And today I notice that Blogger has a new feature that automatically saves drafts every minute. Where was this feature on Wednesday night, I'd like to know?

I was too discouraged to even think about it until today. I will most likely rewrite and post it tomorrow.

So much for my return to blogging :(

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers

I took a little unannounced vacation from blogging last month. Work is still taking up a lot of my brain cells and while I have been cooking, I haven't been doing a lot of new things to write and talk about.

I'm still finding myself remembering old standby recipes that I haven't made in years. Operation Freezer Burn is still plodding along, but it seems like I am still putting more things in than I am taking out so I am always looking for things to take out. I had two packages of ground turkey in there, and I was thinking of making the Turkey Walnut Loaf I had reviewed from the 12 Best Foods Cookbook. But it was a surprisingly warm day and I didn't want to use the oven. I considered making some kind of Bolognese sauce for pasta, but it just felt like it would be too much bother.

That's when I remembered a recipe I've had forever - something called Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers. I found this recipe back in the mid '80s. At that time, the only Middle Eastern food with which I was familiar were the falafel sandwiches we bought from a cart off the Drag at The University of Texas. They were delicious, but I didn't know they were made from chickpeas. The only chickpeas I knew were those gross garbanzo beans dried out and languishing in a bowl at the condiment end of the salad bar, and who in their right mind would ever eat one of those? As I've mentioned before, tabbouleh was a tasteless mess of bulghur interspersed with little bits of minced tomato and cucumber, garnished with parsley, that someone would inevitably bring to one of our potluck parties that sat untouched at the table and would eventually be thrown away.

Even with my limited knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine I was pretty sure this was not a terribly authentic recipe. But it is surprisingly good; somehow the added ingredients are just enough to keep the turkey moist and flavorful.

The original recipe suggested making sandwiches with pita bread, but they weren't terribly satisfying that way. I like them served over brown rice with a lemon-tahini sauce. Actually, they're really good with tzatziki, and I guess Greece is close enough, flavor-wise.

I often take these to work for lunch. They travel well and reheat beautifully.
Home Cookin Chapter: Poultry

NOTE: I have no idea where I found this recipe. If you recognize it and know where it came from, please let me know.

Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 clove garlic
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Combine turkey, 1/4 cup green onions, garlic, lemon peel, cumin and blend well. Shape into 4 patties. Grill until done.

In small bowl, combine yogurt with remaining green onions.

Good over brown rice with lemon tahini sauce or tzatziki.

Servings: 4

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (
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