Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Black Bean Hummus

I don't know why ideas pop into my head sometimes, probably at lunch one day.  I enjoy hummus for lunch a couple of days a week, it is easy to eat while I am at the computer finishing my work for the day.  A lot of times I am too busy working to get my work done so I hide in my office for a couple of hours after lunch to finish the things that my boss says are the most important things to do each day, you know except for the things that he pulls me away from those to do or the things that we have to have meetings about why they aren't done...  Wow, nothing so far has made sense I guess this is my round about way of saying that it has been a busy couple of weeks at work and I am a little brain addled and a lot tired.

Anyway I have wanted to share a hummus recipe for a  while, but hummus is kind of a "so what" kind of recipe, I mean everybody knows how to make it, so I wanted to bring something a little different to the table so to speak...  I thought of the can of black beans in the pantry, I enjoy the earthy meaty flavor of black beans then went to work

The recipe:
1 15 oz can of black beans
1/2 cup Tahini
Juice from two limes
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves chopped
4 green onions chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
a little salt
olive oil ( about 1/4 cup)

Put all ingredients except the olive oil together in a food processor then add about 1/2 the olive oil and puree.  Add the remaining olive oil (or not) as you blend to get the consistency that you want.  Serve it with the flatbread of your choice or fresh veggies.  This one is a good play on traditional hummus while still being a little bit of a surprise.

Hopefully things will calm down soon and my posts will be at least somewhat coherent, although reading this one over it is at least funny in a tossed word salad sort of way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scallops with White Grapes

I know I tend to blather on about food often, I suppose that is what a nerdy foodie blog is all about isn't it?  I try new ideas and some old favorites and occasionally come up with something great.  Now I will do my best not to sprain my wrist trying to pat my back but this really turned out well...  Actually frickin awesome!  I picked up white grapes at the market the other day for $ .57 per pound! Great price so I brought them home and put them in the fridge for about 4 days until I realized that they were going to rot before we ate any of them.  So I did what anybody normal person would do and bought some sea scallops, about half a pound of them to round out a dish.

Yes ladies and gentlemen I went out and spent $8.99 to get fresh scallops so that I wouldn't have to throw away the $ .57 worth of grapes that I had in the fridge.  Luckily it was well worth it, this dish was perfect!  The ingredients:
1/2 pound of sea scallops
3 TBS butter divided
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup white grapes cut in half
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by heating half of your butter in a very hot skillet, when it starts to brown put your scallops in and cook for about 3 minutes per side.  When they are done put then on a small plate and tent with foil while you cook the rest of your ingredients.  In the same skillet add the rest of your butter, onions, and garlic then grapes and saute on a hot burner for about 5 minutes until the grapes get that beautiful brownish color at the edges.  Then add the parsley, salt, pepper and lime juice.  When this is done place your scallops on a plate them add the sauce.

This one turned out so great! the delicate texture of the sea scallops worked perfectly with the light sweet flavor of the grapes and the garlic well how could you go wrong?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Caprese Martini

It has been a heck of a few days at work again, I am beginning to think that it will never calm down.  Well that isn't unexpected business usually picks up this time of year and keeps going until the holidays are past so I imagine things will continue to get busier.  I can handle it though I have a new secret weapon ...

If you follow this blog you know that I have spent a fair amount of time this summer messing with my hooch.  Infusing vodka has been quite a bit of fun.  I have learned a couple of things too.  First, vodka can take on flavors of many fruits, vegetables and aromatics.  Second, you only get to try a new martini recipe once (maybe twice) in a day then the experiment gets a out of hand.  This one is by far my favorite from the summer! I started with basil infused vodka.

The vodka was easy, about 2 cups of vodka with a good stem of basil (7 or 8 leaves) let them "steep" for 3 or 4 days.  Once that is ready you just need set it up. Take about a third of a cup of your basil infused vodka, a splash of dry vermouth and a splash of lemon juice and put them into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.
shake away and pour into a martini glass.  I took a couple of grape tomatoes and put them on a bamboo skewer then froze them to use as a garnish, along with a sprig of fresh basil.  That is all there is to it, this one tastes like summer in a glass.

Come home from the crappiest  day of work and shake this baby up and you can relax a bit, at least until the kiddos start the yelling.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting ready for winter

The days are getting shorter, the evenings cool the furnace is turned on a little more often and the grill just a little less.  Gardens are overflowing, well some of them anyway...  I have managed to get a few useful bits of produce from my backyard disaster and some from friends that feel sorry for me.  After I picked my chili peppers and received some tomatoes from my neighbors I looked at the counter and realized that I couldn't use all of this stuff before I was stuck with a mushy moldy mess.  This year I decided to try preserving them.  Years ago I tried canning but I ended up spending an entire weekend giving myself 2nd degree burns in order to make 6 jars of tomatoes that I was afraid to use (right after the canning weekend I took my Serve Safe classes and was reintroduced to the horrors of botulism).

This year I decided to try my hand at drying my extras, I love the flavor and texture of dried tomatoes and dried chili peppers are almost a no brainer!  I looked around a for some suggestions and came up with the easiest I could find.  Both were simple most of the work done while I was asleep.  The instructions for the chilies mostly suggested about 12 to 14 hours the tomatoes 8 to 10.

Here is how it went I cut the chili peppers from my garden in half lengthwise, laid them on a cookie sheet and put them into my oven on the lowest setting (170 degrees) when I got home from work one day; at about 9:00 pm the same night I cut all of my roma tomatoes in half sprinkled them with a little kosher salt and placed them open side up on another pan and put them in the oven next to the peppers then, here is the hard part... then I went to bed.

When I got up the next morning I turned the oven off and left these new treats in there for the day.  They came out perfect, the chilies dry and crispy the tomatoes the consistency of raisins, sweet and chewy.  We will see where they end up this winter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Apple Dumplings

The seasons are changing here in the Midwest, I always have trouble with the in between seasons, one day I want to make something light and summery like chilled asparagus with a citrus vinaigrette the next I want to roast root vegetables in a balsamic glaze.  Last week it was cool all week we went from running the air conditioner early in the week to turning the heat on in the middle of the night on Wednesday.  I got my mind set on a slow brazed dinner cooked for several hours followed by Apple Dumplings.  Of course the weather was absolutely beautiful this weekend; Sunday was sunny and 80 degrees.  Being stubborn I stuck with it... the house was a little warm when I finished, but smelled WONDERFUL, the meal started with slow cooked brisket and ended with my first attempt at apple dumplings.  I made three... that is one for me, one for Kris and one for the kiddos to look at.*

Apple dumplings are today's post, the ingredients:

for the dough:
1 Cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 TBS of granulated sugar
pinch of salt
3 TBS butter cut into small bits
1/4 cup milk

for the filling:
2 small Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and diced
1 lunch box pack of raisins (you know the little 1.5 oz boxes that your mom made you eat)
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 TBS butter melted
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425
For the dough, sift the first 4 ingredients together.  Then add the butter I like to use my fingers to work it together until you get the texture of course meal (or the look of wet sand).  then add the milk and mix with a fork until moistened.  Turn out dough onto a floured surface and kneed a few times until just mixed (this is a biscuit dough if you over work it you will have a tough crust).  Then roll it out, I rolled mine into a long flat thing so I could cut it into 5 or 6 inch squares.

To make the dumplings, mix the filling together then divide among the squares.  Pull the four corners of each square up and pinch then seal the edges.  Transfer to your baking pan then brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake these guys for about 25 minutes.

*The kiddos look at any new recipe with distrust... this is actually adapted from a recipe for 6 but I knew that there was no way I was going to use 6 of them.  In fact the one that the kids looked at then ignored I had for breakfast the next day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jicama and Grilled Red Pepper Salad

We were having one of those suburban kind of moments, we started chatting with our neighbors over the fence one day.  We have all been so busy that we have hardly said "hello" in several weeks.  A friendly talk that lead to pleasant conversation then cocktails on the patio.  As the evening was winding down we were saying that we don't get together enough and we should have dinner that weekend.  My mind started going... dinner! what should we do?  We have shared a lot of stuff with our neighbors over the time that I have lived here, they let me raid their garden, I have made food for some of their parties, we have watched each others kids and once I managed to spill 45 gallons of rotten leaves and sludge next to their buffet table right before a family gathering in their yard.

As we discussed getting together our neighbor Jennie said that she would bring some side dishes, "No no" I said "I have a salad I want to try."

Then Jennie offered,  "Oh, We have brats, we could grill out! or red hots!"

"Really, I'm good, I'll take care of it... Ouch!"

The "ouch" was my reaction to Kris kicking me in the shin.  As we walked away I asked what that was all about.  Kris took a moment to inform me that I needed to stop talking and since the subtle hints that she was giving me; you know like standing behind our neighbor jumping up and down while waving  wasn't getting my attention (really who would see that as a hint?) she had to kick me.   "Couldn't you tell that Jennie wanted to bring something?"

I was going to talk to our neighbor and see if we could meet halfway on dinner plans, but never did, really once someone mentions dinner and my mind starts going I stop listening anyway... dinner was:
Flank Steak with a bourbon and brown sugar glaze
Cheesy grilled potatoes
Jicama and grilled red pepper slaw

That is it, the salad that I have been wanting to try!  The recipe was from a 14 year old Bon Appetit with some adaptations:
a handful of cherry wood chips soaked for at least half an hour
1 bunch of green onions
2 red bell peppers

Juice from 1 orange
Juice from 2 limes
1 TBS honey
1/2 tsp cumin
2 TBS olive oil

1 jicama root julienne cut
14 oz bag of baby spinach

For the roasted vegetables put the soaked wood chips into a foil bag with a few holes in it or a smoker box and set on the coals (or over flames if you are using a gas grill) for a few minutes until they start to smoke then put the onions and peppers on the grill to char/smoke.  When the onions are charred take them off and set aside, leave the peppers on until the skin is black (turn them often) then peel them.  Don't worry the smokey flavor stays with them.  Cut the onions into 1/2 inch pieces then the peppers into strips.

For the dressing mix the orange juice (about 1/3 cup) and lime juice (about 2 TBS) with the other ingredients  and blend.  The roasted veggies and dressing can be made a day ahead.  When it is time to serve julienne the Jicama then toss with the dressing and the roasted veggies.  Serve on top of the baby spinach.

Dinner was fun!  However I realized that as that pesky autumnal equinox draws near the sun sets earlier we finished dinner in the dark outside. Jennie and John were nice enough to bring a lamp for ambiance.

Aren't they cute?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Breakfast Chilaquiles

Ahh, a holiday weekend which means one thing for me... I will have at least one good breakfast, I like the early morning time to poke around the kitchen.  Normally I get to work by 6:00 am add to that my hour commute and I don't have a lot of time to make breakfast before I leave.  Granted, at work I can pick a bit of bacon, get an omelet made for me or just have a bagel with cream cheese but all of those loose something when eaten at my desk with the constant chance of interruption...

"Bryan, there is a lady out front that wants to talk to you because we ran out of cream."
"Couldn't you get some?"
"Oh, I got her cream... she wants to yell at you for making her wait."

Kinda kills the enjoyable breakfast experience.  Today, however I had the chance to enjoy breakfast all around.  The Kiddos were watching Batman (with Batgirl in it) and Camp Rock while I made breakfast Chilaquiles.  This one is really good!  The ingredients for each:
A few tortilla chips
4 oz of Chorizo 
2 Eggs
Shredded Fontina and Cheddar cheese. (why those cheeses? it is what I had, use your favorite)

Nothing is really measured here, it all goes into a small casserole dish, so if it doesn't fit you have too much of something.  Preheat oven to 350 while you cook the chorizo, once that is done build it in your dish(s) start with a few tortilla chips then chorizo then crack the eggs on top.  Being careful not to break the yolks add the salsa then the cheese.  Put it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, I like my eggs kind of soft, I don't know how to judge this you just have to use that psychic feel.  This one came out just right the perfect mix of flavors with the soft baked eggs and the melted cheese.

Wow, there is just no way to make raw eggs look good, I just wanted to give you a feel for the assembly.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Preserved Citrus Trio

WOW it has been a week for me, it seems that all I have had time for lately is getting to work, coming home then going to bed.  Things at work have been busy and the days there have been getting longer... add to that the construction on my "expressway" to and from and well time gets away.   I have a few posts in the works but haven't been able to take the time to sit down and write.

This post is a little different twist on one from a year or so back, to give you a quick history... a recipe at work called for preserved lemons and gave a quick recipe for them it involved cutting lemons almost all of the way through, packing then in Kosher Salt and microwaving them for several minutes.  I said to one of the chefs that I work with "this can't be to traditional recipe handed down for generations can it?  Microwave Tagine?" 

I started looking around and came upon several recipes that were all pretty similar, none of them involved a microwave, but did involve a week or so to prepare.  I made a jar and LOVED them!  they went onto several recipes from Tatines to Fruit Compote.  This year I decided to shake it up a little and make a preserved citrus fruit trio for fun (I know I am just a wild man).

It is pretty simple the ingredients are:

2 Oranges
6 Lemons
8 Limes
2/3 cup Kosher Salt
2 TBS sugar
1/4 cup Olive Oil

Take half the fruit (that is 1 orange 3 lemons 4 limes if you are bad at math) and and blanch then in boiling water for about 5 minutes to then set aside, when they are cool enough to handle cut them into wedges an put them into a bowl.  Remove seeds but try to leave the flesh in tact as much as possible.  When they are all cut put them the salt and sugar and toss together.  Put the citrus rinds into a jar then add to that the juice from the remaining fruit until covered.  Set on the counter, covered for about a week shake it at least twice a day, again I set mine by the coffee pot so I could remember.  After 6 or 7 days add the olive oil and put it in the refrigerator so it is ready to use later.

Confession time, preserved citrus fruit is great to use in Tagines, Stews or as a tart component to fruity dishes but I like to just eat them right out of the jar it takes the flavors of salty and tart to a level that I hadn't pictured before