November 17, 2008

Mexican Lasagna

What's with me and baking all of a sudden? First quiche (hi, Lorna!) and now a lasagna. Oh, right. It's the kind of cooking where I can start and then go play WoW. I've been on a bit of a Mexican kick recently and you know my penchant for fusion foods, so this meal fit in nicely. I've never made a lasagna before (and, arguably, I still haven't); this dish is lasagna-like in its preparation. That is, it's alternating layers of meat and veggies, a grain-based intermediary, and cheese. We just swapped the meat and veggies for Mexican-spiced chicken, black beans, and corn. The grain (usually pasta) for flour tortillas. And the cheese for, um, cheese.
To begin, start grilling two pounds of ground chicken (that's a lot of ground chicken) in a large skillet. Season the chicken with chili powder and cumin - to give it that Mexican smell and flavor - and add chopped red onions. Brown the meat for at least five minutes and then add your diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Heat this for another two or three minutes, making sure your chicken is well-cooked. The recipe calls for a shallow lasagna pan, but the one I ended up using was really just too large. It doesn't need to be deep, but it's better not to use one so voluminous (you'll see it took a lot of tortillas to cover from corner to corner). Coat the bottom with a little olive oil and then start spooning on your meat (half for two layers). Over the meat add a layer of tortillas - maybe quartered or halved to be more manageable. Over the tortillas add a sprinkling (about a cup) of shredded Cheddar or some other Mexican variety (I still had some left over from the fajita-tortilla soup). Repeat a second time, then bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 425. It really is best eaten hot, so invite friends. Fork through the tortillas and use them to spoon up the chicken. Who needs Taco Bell anyway?
The ingredients for Food Network's Mexican Lasagna are:
  • two pounds of ground chicken
  • two tablespoons of chili powder
  • two teaspoons of ground cumin
  • half a red onion, chopped
  • a 15-ounce can of black beans
  • a 14-ounce cup of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • a cup of corn kernels
  • eight (8-inch) flour tortillas (less is OK if cooking in a small pan)
  • two cups of shredded cheeses (your Mexican favorite)

November 10, 2008

Hash Brown Quiche

Quiche, hmm... how to describe it. Quiche is basically an omelet in pie form. It features egg and milk or cream and possibly meats baked into a crust. For this particular variety of quiche, the crust is made ourselves from hash browns. Preparation is relatively simple: make the crust and bake it; make the omelet/egg mixture, pour it in, and bake some more. Making the crust was a little difficult. The three cups of hash browns weren't quite enough to completely fill the bottom of the pie tin. But spread them out as best you can and try to form a little wall around the edges. Bake this in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes or so.A brown, crisp spot began to form where the hash browns were the least concentrated, so that's a fine point to remove it and continue preparation. Don't worry, the whole thing will end up very crusty (and delicious) when we're done. While this is baking, in a bowl mix together the remaining ingredients. The called-for quantity of green onions might be a little much, so don't feel like you have to obey the recipe strictly. Even though I used cubed ham, feel free to add any omelet-like ingredients you may prefer. Bacon is always a good choice (does my blog need a new motto?). Pour this concoction into the crust when you've removed it from the oven, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another half an hour. It's ready to eat when it's not too soft inside, but don't worry much - it'll solidify more as it cools down. Let sit for a few minutes and enjoy!
Ingredients for the recipe are:
  • three cups of shredded hash browns (if frozen, thawed)
  • four tablespoons of butter (half a stick)
  • three large eggs, beaten
  • a cup of half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup of cooked, diced ham
  • 1/2 cup of diced green onions
  • a cup of shredded Cheddar

November 6, 2008

Dessert Panini

In the mood for something sinfully delicious, yet sinfully easy to make? How about this dessert panini? Yeah, I can't think of a more original name and I can't find the original recipe (which I deviated from anyway), but it's delicious and very simple. I did make it on my panini grill, but I suspect any sandwich-grilling solution would work. Let's dive in, shall we?
To start, spread creamy peanut butter (or any other dessert-like spread) over the "insides" of two pieces of white bread (per panini). Quarter a banana in half and then length-wise (like the picture above demonstrates). A whole banana is a lot per panini unless you really dig banana... Put these banana slices on your peanut butter and spread miniature marshmallows all around (they'll kind of stick to the peanut butter). Now for the part that requires coordination: take one half of a panini and, using your mad skillz, flip it on top. You can do this without losing any marshmallows, I swear. Butter a side (or both) and warm up your panini-grilling mechanism. Once it's nice and hot, start cooking each panini (and butter any sides you may have not buttered yet). Grill for only a few minutes (we're not cooking any meats here) and then remove. You should have nice, grilled cheese-looking lines on your paninis. Cover them in a dusting of powdered sugar and then line with chocolate syrup. Diabetes, here we come. Enjoy!
The ingredients are straight-forward:
  • two slices of white bread per panini
  • creamy peanut butter (or another sweet spread)
  • a banana or less per panini
  • miniature marshmallows (as many as you can manage)
  • butter (to spread on the outsides of the paninis before grilling)
  • powdered sugar and chocolate syrup to cover (and help you die faster)

November 2, 2008

Chicken Fajita-Tortilla Soup

Sorry, gang. I'm a week late again. This meal was from last Sunday (October 26). Sometime in the near future I'll be cooking for this week. I've been tied up with recurring migraines and carpet installation, so it's been tough to find time to cook for fun. But when I did, I wanted to make some real pleasure food. Rachael Ray (no matter how you feel about her personally) can cook up a tasty meal. This "soup" ranks high on my indulgence meter. It's seasoned chicken with spicy tomatoes and veggies over tortillas with shredded cheese. OMG, delicious.
To start, prepare a bowl with crushed tortillas and shredded cheese (Rachael Ray's recipe called for Pepper Jack or a sharp white, but I used a four-cheese Mexican mix). Then chop up some chicken into bite-sized chunks (I've found that half a pound per person works well) and begin cooking in a large skillet with olive oil. Season the chicken in the pan with coriander, salt, and pepper and cook for three or four minutes. Then add the sliced onion, bell pepper, and jalapeños. Add more salt and pepper and continue cooking for six or seven minutes. The veggies should be crispy at this point. Add your diced tomatoes (I chose pre-jalapeño flavored) and chicken stock and heat through. Then simply ladle this soup in the bowls over the tortillas and cheese. Feel free to add more cheese or crushed chips if you'd like. You should end up with a gooey, delicious mess.
Ingredients list (not from Rachael Ray's book verbatim, but what I used), halved for two:
  • a pound of thinly-sliced chicken cut into cubes (for two people)
  • half a tablespoon of ground coriander
  • half a large onion, sliced
  • half a green bell pepper (or red if you'd like), sliced
  • half a jalapeño, sliced
  • a 14 ounce can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (seasoned if you'd like)
  • two cups of chicken stock (or so, eyeball it)
  • corn tortilla chips
  • shredded cheese (Pepper Jack or something Mexican)

October 24, 2008

Marcella's Indonesian Satay

Satay, if you're not familiar, is a dish of Indonesian origin: meat grilled on a skewer (in that way similar to Japanese yakitori and the well-known shish kebab) with spicy seasonings. The flavor comes from a marinade of sweet soy sauce and finishing with a peanut sauce dip. This particular meal was put together from a number of sources, most of Marcella's selection, and so reflects a unique take on the classic chicken satay. The overall plan is to make a marinade for the chicken, grill the chicken on the skewers, and then cover the chicken in our peanut sauce.
To make the marinade, mix in a bowl a tablespoon of the following ingredients: coriander, salt, sugar, crushed or powdered garlic, vegetable oil, regular soy sauce, and sweet soy sauce (which you may need to get at an Asian market). Toss the chicken, cut into small cubes (probably smaller than you see in these pictures), with this marinade and cover it for 45 minutes to an hour. When the chicken is ready, put a fair number on each skewer (here I chose eight, but you may want more if yours are cut smaller). Grill for about three or four minutes, rotating, grilling, rotating, and then grilling until the insides are well-cooked (this varies depending on how large the pieces of chicken are). To make the peanut sauce, we'll whip together smooth peanut butter with the sweet soy sauce we used in the marinade. Lime can be added to cut the taste and then add hot water until the sauce can be beaten down into something pourable (to smother the satay in) or dippable.
The ingredients for the marinade are a tablespoon each of:
  • ground coriander
  • salt
  • sugar
  • crushed garlic
  • vegetable oil
  • soy sauce
  • sweet soy sauce
The chicken used were fresh, boneless breasts (think about half a pound per person) on wooden skewers. The peanut sauce was made with:
  • smooth peanut butter
  • sweet soy sauce
  • lime to taste
  • and hot water to soften the mixture

October 19, 2008

Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary

In the mood for a quick dinner, but want something healthy and delicious? Try lamb! This meal can be cooked inside, which is good since it's only around 45 degrees outside (autumn in New York). Grilled lamb is very tender and easy enough to cook. Your kitchen, however, will smell like lamb for days afterwards.
Brush both sides of your lamb choices with lemon juice and season with the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Grill for 4 minutes and flip, cooking for another 4 (for rare). Remove and cover for a few minutes before serving. Marcella and I chose to add baked potatoes to this simple meal. Hmm, I don't have much else to say. Sorry for the delay in posting. Happy cooking!
The ingredients for this lamb (excluding the baked potato) for four people are:
  • four pieces of lamb (chops, shanks, or shoulders - whatever your preference)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of fresh rosemary sprigs
  • plenty of salt and pepper for seasoning

October 9, 2008

Apple Strudel

I am back from my two week trip abroad and I come bearing recipes! This apple strudel was demonstrated in a cooking lesson on our Viking River cruise ship, the Viking Sky. I brought back the recipe and, since it's apple season here in the Northeast, thought I'd try another dessert. Desserts are tough and my past record hasn't been so bright, but maybe this would turn out better with Marcella's assistance! This strudel is prepared in two parts: making (and then rolling) the dough and preparing the stuffing which is wrapped in the dough before baking. Since this takes some explaining, I'll use a few more pictures than usual. Again, I made half the amount the recipe calls for, which the pictures reflect but the quantities listed don't.
Making the dough required some guess work, so I'll just give you my advice. On a smooth surface or bowl, combine 0.75 or so pounds of flour (with two tablespoons of butter and an egg) with just enough water to keep it held together but not enough for it to be sticky. You don't want to see cracks in the dough nor should you have to pull it off your hands as you knead it into a ball. Cover the dough and let sit for 45 minutes.
Start preparing the stuffing by cutting up half a pound of apples (this is about one apple). Combine with raisins, bread crumbs, cinnamon, rum (Marcella recommends Myers's - great for cooking, a little rough for shots), shredded nuts, and sugar. When the dough is ready, spread it out on a cloth or wax paper (aluminum foil like I used is not a smart choice). Push the dough out to the sides in a rough rectangle (also unlike my picture), keeping it as thin as possible without having any holes. Too thick dough at this stage will result in a tough shell at the end (as you'll see I ended up with).
Tough yet? Here's the hard part: you'll want to use the cloth or wax foil to roll the stuffing up in the dough by forming a 'U' and sort of pulleying it around the strudel until it's completely covered. Try and get it something like the picture above (but more attractive). I forgot this step, but you should paint the top with melted butter. Ooops! Bake this at 340 (a European temperature?) for 45 minutes. Make sure you don't bake the cloth (or wax foil?). Remove and serve hot! The Viking Sky team recommends with vanilla rum or vanilla ice cream (you gotta love these folks).
The ingredients as provided to me by the Viking Sky team (thanks, guys, you were fantastic!) is as follows (twice what I used) for the stuffing:
  • one pound of apples (about two apples, your preference of type, I used McIntosh)
  • 2 oz of raisins
  • 2.5 oz of bread crumbs (plain)
  • one tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 2 cl of rum (a shot or so, told you it was European)
  • 2 tablespoons of shredded nuts
  • a half cup of sugar
And for the dough:
  • 1,5 (1.5) pounds of flour
  • 4 tablespoons of melted butter
  • one or two eggs
  • water and a pinch of salt (to taste, ha, take it)

September 12, 2008

Mac and Cheese Lorraine

Oh, Rachael Ray: when will you learn that we aren't all professional chefs? This meal says "mac and cheese" in it and "lorraine" - in this case that means smoked bacon - so it must be simple and delicious, yes? Well, it's also too complicated for one person to manage easily. So grab your favorite cooking buddy and come along. This meal is three parts: two simple and one difficult. All of these parts can (and should) happen simultaneously, which is why I recommend a cute and capable partner.
The gentleman that I am, I took charge of the pasta and bacon and left the hard part to Marcella. Simply boil your favorite short-cut pasta and a fair quantity of smoked bacon. Remove the bacon from the frying pan or skillet and then add and caramelize the onions (about 10 minutes or so). For the last minute, add the white wine and cook it together or skip this part if you don't have white wine ready. The complex part is the cheese sauce. Melt the butter into a saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Oh, and that part is impossible; good luck. After a minute, whisk in the chicken stock and milk. Bring this to a boil, cooking for a few more minutes until thick. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese. Add nutmeg, mustard, and more salt and pepper. When this is finished, mix together the pasta and onions and stir in the sauce. Top each with bacon and enjoy!
The ingredients for Rachael Ray's Mac and Cheese Lorraine are:
  • a pound of short-cut pasta
  • a half pound of bacon, chopped up (more bacon is always better)
  • a tablespoon of olive oil for the pan in which we cook the bacon
  • two onions (less, if you want, but this much is actually OK), quartered and thinly sliced
  • a half cup of dry white wine (optional)
  • two tablespoons of butter
  • two tablespoons of flour
  • a cup of chicken stock
  • a cup of whole milk
  • two cups of shredded Gruyère (this cheese just keeps showing up, doesn't it?)
  • a little grated nutmeg
  • a tablespoon of Dijon mustard

September 2, 2008

Bacon-Feta Stuffed Chicken

For the past few weeks, my good friends Katie and Drew McCrory have been staying with me as they prepare to (hopefully) close on their (hopefully) new home. This meal, from the 24th of August, was made by them and, well, I think the pictures speak for just how delicious it was. The directions sound simple, but are not. Slice into the deepest part of your chicken breasts and fill them with feta cheese and bits of bacon. Cooking in a skillet with oil until browned would be simple if the chicken wasn't bulging and falling apart with delicious innards (doesn't the phrase "delicious innards" sound just appetizing?). Katie did a fantastic job keeping the chicken together while flipping to cook the other side. Finish by adding the diced tomatoes. If you have a husband, he should prepare a luscious, Greek salad in the meantime, as Drew did. Since this is one of the best looking meals I've shown here, I'll just shut up now and let you see the pictures. Recipe below.
The ingredients to Taste of Home's (a site they recommend) Bacon-Feta Stuffed Chicken are:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled bacon (more is OK, as always)
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled feta (for the chicken alone)
  • salt and pepper
  • a tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • a tablespoon of dried basil

August 27, 2008

Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken

Oh, I'm so lazy. I have been cooking, at least for the weekends I've been in town. This meal was from the 17th of August, sent to me by my mother in a Cook's Illustrated newsletter. I really enjoy sesame-based Asian meals and this was no exception. Cooked in two parts, the sauce itself is the most complicated. The recipe calls for mixing these ingredients in a blender or food processor, but I've yet to acquire either. So in a bowl I mixed peanut butter, minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, the rice vinegar, Tabasco, sugar, and some sesame seeds. From the boiling pot (see below), I added tablespoons of water until this sesame oil mixture was soft enough to stir well.
Boil the Asian noodles (yeah right, or spaghetti). In the meantime, spray a cooking sheet with vegetable oil. Place the chicken breasts on the sheet and broil until the chicken is lightly brown (or at least cooked throughout). Once removed from the oven, let the chicken cool and cut it up into smallish pieces. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. I know, weird right? But this meal is basically served cold. Toss the noodles with the chicken and cover with the sesame oil sauce you made earlier. Then add scallions and shredded carrot and cover with more sesame seeds. Eat!
The ingredients list for Cook's Illustrated's Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken is:
  • a 1/4 cup or so of sesame seeds
  • a 1/4 cup of chunky (or smooth) peanut butter
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced or through a garlic press, if you're fancy)
  • a tablespoon of ginger (fresh or not)
  • 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
  • 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar (or regular sugar, really)
  • a pound and a half of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • a pound of fresh Asian noodles (or spaghetti)
  • 2 tablespoons of actual sesame oil
  • 4 scallions, sliced somehow
  • a medium carrot, grated

August 3, 2008

Roasted Peppercorn Turkey Panini

A few weeks back, my mother and grandmother came to spend the weekend with me. Not one to miss an opportunity, I enlisted them in choosing and helping me fashion a lunch for the three of us. After a long weekend of cleaning and shopping, nothing hits the spot like a delicious, not-exactly-healthy panini. This particular recipe came from a book on cast-iron grilling, but applied equally well to my less antiquarian cooking methods. That is to say, I used a panini grill and not two pieces of ribbed metal. I wonder if George Foreman has a panini grill, as it really is the trendy version of his famous "grilling machines".
I had to highlight the sliced avocado, as it something to behold. These paninis are made in fun sections. For each one, butter a side of its two pieces of multigrain bread (for serious, multigrain actually tastes good here). Prepare a mixture of the mayonnaise, sour cream, chipotle pepper, lime juice and zest, and cilantro. Spread this on the non-buttered side of each slice. Spread the turkey breast between the paninis, laying it along one side each, and then top with the cooked bacon. Put the paninis together and grill them until the cheese has melted, about 7 minutes or so. Once removed from the grill, add the sliced avocado in the middle, slice, and serve. To slice an avocado, by the way, peel it, pull out the core, and then cut length-wise until it's in thin slices, being careful that they don't fall apart. This my mother taught me and she did it fantastically.
The ingredients to make four are as such (please don't sue me):
  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of "chopped chipotle chile in adobo"
  • 1 teaspoon of lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro (if you want)
  • 2 tablespoons of softened butter (for each side of the paninis)
  • 8 slices (or 2 * n) of whole wheat or multigrain bread
  • 8 slices of provolone cheese
  • a pound of deli-sliced peppercorn turkey breast
  • 8 slices (or more!) of smoked, cooked bacon
  • a ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut in 1/4" slices
The chilis in adobo sauce you can find in the Hispanic section of your grocery store (did I say that unracistly?). The sliced provolone can be found in your fresh dairy section.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

This meal came from July 27th. The band and I had just finished our five hour marathon set and we were looking for something simple and guy-friendly to eat. This buffalo chicken recipe was both good man-food and "healthy" because of the salad. No, maybe my logic doesn't hold, but it sure was yummy. Here, now, is something any dude can make on a Sunday.
Preheat your oven to broil. What makes this chicken so delicious is that it wasn't contact-grilled. Put the chicken between two sheets of wax paper and flatten it with a hammer or some other chicken-flattening-device. Then mix together two teaspoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of hot sauce (your preference, but probably not something small like Tabasco sauce). Toss and coat the chicken in this and then place the strips on a baking sheet. Broil until the chicken is done throughout (four to six minutes), turning once half-way. This makes the chicken unbelievably tender and the smell of the hot sauce is fantastic. The salad is straight forward: Romaine, celery, carrots, and scallions. Put the chicken on top and cover with your dressing of choice (the recipe recommended a home-made blue cheese, but we just bought some from the store).
The ingredients for Food Network's buffalo chicken salad are:
  • 16 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper hot sauce (or your preference)
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • about 8 cups of Romaine hearts (just buy a bag from the grocery)
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, coarsely grated (or buy a bag of grated carrots: easy)
  • 2 scallions, sliced (if you want)
  • blue cheese dressing of your choice

Pasta Stir-Fry

I am so unbelievably behind. This simple meal was from the 20th of July. I'm going to power through it and then through the next so I can catch up. Pasta stir-fry is an easy Italian/Asian blend (and you know my penchant for fused genres). It requires preparing three separate ingredients at once and then mixing them together.
If you can get a friend to help, this will go much easier. We are preparing - at the same time - the pasta, the chicken, and the stir-fried vegetables. Boil the pasta to al dente in salted water and drain when finished. Slice and then cook (or cook and then slice) the chicken. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or wok adding the onion, red pepper, ginger, and eggplant. Let this cook for a minute and then add the garlic, broccoli, tomatoes, and soy sauce. I love the smell of cooking soy sauce. After a couple more minutes, add the drained pasta and chicken. If you can, aim for the pasta to be finishing the same time as the chicken. That is, right as the vegetables have simmered for a few minutes. Toss this around and cook it for another minute, then serve.The ingredients for this pasta stir-fry ("courtesy" of Food Network's website) are:
  • a package of linguine (whole-wheat, if you choose)
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • a medium onion, sliced
  • a red bell pepper, also sliced
  • a 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced (I just used a liberal amount of ginger spice)
  • half a small eggplant, sliced into small chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • a cup of broccoli florets (if frozen, thawed)
  • a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • a chicken breast, cooked and sliced
  • 2 scallions, sliced (for garnish, if you choose)

July 17, 2008

Ernestine's Japanese Pie

Ernestine Childress (my grandmother) claims that this recipe isn't hers, but since it's her friend's Japanese friend's recipe, this is a close enough abbreviation. Even though I haven't highlighted one of Tene's recipes before, her influence is present in many, many dishes I've prepared. And, while on vacation home in the Carolinas, she gave me this recipe. I can't honestly tell you what makes this recipe Japanese, but a Google search for "japanese pie" reveals other recipes similar to this one. In any case, here we go with the preparation.
The ingredients list is shown below. Simply combine all ingredients together in a bowl. This makes, basically, a full pie. Feel free to add a little more of the quantity you desire the most, but don't be too concerned about the presence of vinegar in this recipe: it's easily overpowered by the sugar and butter (although it does give us this deep, rich color). The two ingredients you probably don't have handy are coconut and pecans. Both, however, can be picked up in your grocery's baking isle. Unsure what kind of vinegar to use, I just bought some balsamic. After baking, below is how it turned out (while still hot). Once cool, it's easier to cut into pieces, but is very delicious while hot (and can be eaten with a fork).
The ingredients to Ernestine's Japanese pie are as follows:
  • 1 stick of margarine (8 tablespoons) or butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of coconut
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • an unbaked pie sheet
Mix the ingredients together and pour into the pie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes at 300 degrees. Eat!

June 30, 2008

Grandma Maroni's Meatballs

Who is Grandma Maroni? I have no idea. But if you want to use this recipe yourself, just substitute your grandma of choice (but don't use Grandma Ward). There are actually two recipes here: meatballs and a tomato sauce (also Maroni's). You can combine these two with spaghetti for a regular meal or serve the meatballs with a dipping sauce. Since we were having band practice this Sunday (I'll be gone next weekend), I thought I'd just prepare some food for my friends at the same time.
These meatballs are actually easy to make and I used the full quantities in the recipe (which made ~16 moderate-to-large-sized meatballs). Meatballs aren't particularly appetizing to photo and the bottoms were crispier than the pictures show, but they were also quite delicious. Just combine the ingredients listed below in a good-sized mixing bowl, roll into 1 to 2 inch round balls, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Like the recipe says, if they are still too squishy when handling, add more bread crumbs.
The tomato sauce is nothing particularly fancy: it's basically crushed tomatoes combined with sliced garlic and diced onions. I must admit that I prefer my pasta sauce out of a can and without these fresh ingredients. What does that tell you? You can lead a horse to the kitchen but you can't make him cook. The goal, really, was to make something that anyone could enjoy, without being too fanciful or flavor-foreign. In that regard, the meatballs were good "finger" food and could be dipped into the sauce for some extra pasta-y flavor. OK, I promise I'm done with the hyphenated words.
Oh yeah, here are my friends being awesome. From left to right: Peter, Cory, and Jon. By high score, our band is a ranked a little over 300 in the world. And now for the recipes. Grandma Maroni's Meatballs:
  • 1 pound of ground chuck
  • 0.5 cups of bread crumbs
  • 4 large eggs
  • 0.5 cups of milk
  • 3/4 cups of grated Romano cheese
  • 3 ounces of grated onion
  • 1/4 cup of diced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 0.25 cups of chopped basil
Just combine all these ingredients in a bowl, roll into balls, bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes, and serve. And for Maroni's sauce (I used a quarter of these ingredients):
  • 6 ounces of "good" olive oil (whatever)
  • 12 garlic cloves (!), sliced
  • 1 or 2 onions, diced
  • 2 (!) 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper (1 teaspoon or so each)
  • 1 "large handful julienned fresh basil leaves"
Again, this sauce seems a little much. Just buy a can of Ragu and you'll be fine. ;-)

June 24, 2008

Black Forest Ham and Gruyère Panini

OK, OK, OK, it's not really Black Forest ham, I couldn't find any of that, it's just regular deli ham. Proper Black Forest ham (with capital letters) - from the Schwarzwald region in Germany - is cured with a myriad of spices for one to three months. Albanian ham - from the Clifton Park region of New York state - is sold pre-packaged as lunch meat. Anyway, what's with this cookbook's fascination with Gruyère?
Oh, yeah, so... I bought a panini grill. A friend of mine clued me in to a great deal (she stays up late looking for sales on cooking equipment, apparently) and so I thought I'd indulge. Paninis and panini grills have been trendy this past year, but paninis are actually quite delicious and, if you can convince yourself, rather healthy. Alright, before you grammarians start complaining, I know "paninis" is a catachresis, but you're just going to have to deal. "Panino" is the singular and "panini" is the plural; I'm not saying panino.
So back to the sandwich... Between the (rather large) pieces of Italian bread, we've got a spread of Gorgonzola, caramelized onion, Albanian ham, and sliced Gruyère. When we afixed the Gruyère atop the turkey burgers of a weekend prior, we found that this cheese is simply too hard to melt in such a format. In between hot grill presses, it melted fantastically and was absolutely delicious. As the top and bottom of the bread was buttered for this panino (sigh), the grill left absolutely gorgeous marks upon each. Seven minutes, as the recipe commands, is simply too long for such bread (soft, but not crusty). Five would work fine, though maybe it would vary if you used a more gourmet roll (pro tip: pick up some from Panera on your drive home).
And now for the recipe, which serves four (please don't sue me). Adjust your quantities as per your guests:
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh tarragon (if you choose)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley (if you choose)
  • 4 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, softened
  • 4 crusty (curmudgeonly?) Italian rolls, sliced horizontally
  • 1 pound of Black Forest (or Albanian) ham, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices Gruyère cheese
  • misc. quantities of butter, sugar, salt, and pepper as detailed below
We'll want to caramelize the onions first, so melt 2 tablespoons of butter into a cast-iron (or non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced onions for two minutes, then reduce heat to low and season with 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Sauté for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once removed from heat, you can toss the onions with the tarragon and parsley. Butter both sides of your crusty Italian loaf (that was fun to type) and then combine 2 tablespoons of softened butter with the 2 tablespoons of softened Gorgonzola. Spread the Gorgonzola on the insides of the rolls, layer with the caramlized onion, the ham, and then two slices of Gruyère each. Grill these sandwiches in the panini grill for five to seven minutes and then eat while hot.

June 16, 2008

Tandoori Chicken Salad

I had a hard time picking what to cook for this week's meal (last week I was down in NYC at MoCCA and visiting friends). I wanted something simple, but not boring. After much deliberating (debilitating?), I found this recipe for Tandoori chicken salad from Food Network's website. Tandoori chicken is an Indian dish where the chicken is marinaded in a curry-esque yogurt. The meal is simple: make the yogurt marinade, grill the chicken, then add it atop a salad.
The marinade was simple enough: yogurt with Garam masala, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and a minced jalapeño chili. Garam masala is an Indian blend of cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, and other spices. Turmeric is a Southeast Asian spice from the ginger family often used in curries. Thoroughly coating the chicken and grill it along with some of the marinade until there's no remaining pink.
Once finished, add it to a salad of iceberg lettuce, cucumber, scallions, jicama, or your preferred greens. The recipe actually calls for cabbage, radishes, and cilantro, but these aren't really of my preference, so I did without. I had never heard of jicama before; it's, well, a potato/yam-like starchy thing that looks rough from the outside but is very juicy and crunchy on the inside. Without much flavor itself, it absorbs those its paired with. It was actually very delicious!
And now, by popular request, the ingredients and preparation. First, the link to Food Network's recipe: Tandoori Chicken Salad. It looks to be for a limited-time only, so print it now if you want to keep it. The marinade's ingredients are:
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons of Garam masala (powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic (minced or powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • a jalapeño chili, minced, if you so choose
Just stir these all together and cover the chicken thoroughly. Keep the chicken marinading while preparing the salad thusly:
  • shredded iceberg lettuce, as much as you need
  • shredded red cabbage (I just used a bag of mixed salad greens)
  • 1 cup of sliced radishes, if that's what you're into
  • 2 cups of sliced cucumber
  • a small bunch of sliced scallions
  • 1 cup of finely chopped cilantro leaves (unless you're Ian)
  • 1.5 cups of diced jicama
Just combine the grilled chicken with the salad vegetables and enjoy! How easy was that?

June 3, 2008

Gruyère Turkey Burgers

What do you do when summer arrives and you've spent all winter eating and hibernating? When you've got some extra pounds to lose before beach-bound sunbathing, but you just can't pass up the opportunity to grill out? Try replacing your double-stacked bacon cheeseburger with one of these!
Fresh ground turkey (extra lean) is a great, healthy substitute. Aim for half a pound and cook for five minutes or less per side. Make your patties too large and they won't cook through quick enough. Dry turkey is no good. While the burger is grilling, we'll go ahead and throw on everything else: some sliced mushrooms and sourdough bread to use as a bun. Before the turkey is completely finished, cover it in grated Gruyère and let the cheese melt for a few minutes.
Gruyère is a hard cheese, imported from Switzerland, and is generally expensive and exquisite. Once the cheese has had time to melt, move the turkey burgers onto the sliced pieces of sourdough bread. Cover with the mushrooms and enjoy your healthy alternative to the normal American excess. How easy was that? Fancy!