Saturday, January 30, 2010


I have found that I will often mention that I will write a post "in a couple of days" if there is a component to a plate that I made that isn't in the original post. I have also found that I don't always follow through. Sometimes my attention deficit disorder gets in the way other times I just forget or the dish just doesn't seem as cool a couple of days later. The Breadsticks I made the other day with the Stromboli seemed a little like the latter... there really isn't that much exciting about them except that they were great and so easy.

I can't really call this a recipe, but more like a procedure to use the leftover dough. After I had the dough for the Stromboli all laid out I had about a tennis ball sized hunk left, Here is the link to that recipe, (or I suppose you could just scroll down two) or you can use store bought dough if you like . I rolled it out on my floured counter top then brushed it with Garlic Butter and topped with Parmesan Cheese, and some Italian Seasoning really this couldn't be easier, then I cut it into one inch wide strips.
This is the only part that might be the slightest challenge, I took an end of the strips in each hand and twisted them in opposite directions until they rolled into straw like thingies. I put these on a sheet and brushed with garlic butter again. Really can you over do garlic butter? Then popped it into the oven they took about 15 minutes to bake.

These were slightly crunchy and really full of flavor, I convinced Mr. Man and Miss Lu that they weren't all that good but only so I could get more of them for myself.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shrimp in Paper

This is one of my favorites,when I was updating the menus at a little Italian restaurant that I friend of mine owned this is one that I put onto the menu. When the package of dinner comes to your table it is like opening a present. You tear open the parchment and and the scented steam pores out it is a fun experience. It is really a beautiful dish too I couldn't do it justice in my pictures, I may have to sign up for a photography class... anyway the effect in real life is cool you open up the parchment and think something like "wow that is cool... it smells great" you see the picture and think "bag of garbage" sorry.

It it really simple to make, on the bottom is Cous cous that is really simple for the two I made:

3/4 cup Cous cous
3/4 cup boiling chicken broth

Put the dry Cous cous in a bowl add the chicken broth cover and let sit for about 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.

Take a 12x12 inch piece of parchment, spray the bottom with a little pan spray then, on each sheet put:
3/4 cup Cous cous
2 TBS Diced Onion
2 TBS Diced Bell Pepper
5 ounces of raw peeled Shrimp
2 TBS Pesto Sauce (I just bought some at the grocery store, I like to make it myself, but that wasn't happening this week)Pull up the sides like a big Hershey's kiss tie it up and put into a hot oven for 20 minutes. The shrimp is perfectly done, everything is infused with the Garlic and Basil flavor and odor, The cous cous comes out with a little bite to it but flavorful and light. It is great.

It makes me a little sad, because it really is
a cool dish, I just couldn't get the right picture

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Ok, as I understand it there are some football games coming up that are important. I have to confess one of those guy-card losing moments... I had to ask the guys at work when the Superbowl is (February 7 by the way) so I could plan menus. I have fond memories associated with this annual event and like the food that we associate with it (related post to follow). Though I don't always bring the appropriate food to the party... turns out if you show up to a Superbowl Party with baked cranberry brie and crudites you won't get invited back the next year.

This one however will get you the invite for years to come; even if your fri
ends send you out for snacks during the game the food will be welcomed year after year. Stromboli is a Chicago classic dish simple to make and a great addition to any sports themed party the crust is the French bread dough that I talk about often a yeast dough that is non-threatening and easy to make:

2 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 TBL Sugar

1/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 cup of water with a tsp of vinegar in it

2 tsp dry active yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let sit until it starts to activate (gets foamy at the edges) while you are waiting mix the dry ingredients together, then add the activated yeast water, the other cup of water and vinegar; mix with dough hooks for 2-3 minutes until well blended. It should form a nice ball and pull from the sides of the bowl well. Give it a quick spray with vegetable oil and set aside. This takes about 2 hours total so plan your time, after the first hour have a kid pound the dough down, turns out that part is fun... or kneed it for a few seconds to deflate and set aside for another hour.These are pulled into little balls about the size of a handball (I was going to say Miss Lu's fist but most of you haven't met her) then rolled out into 6-7 inch circles and set aside. I left them on the counter while I set up the rest of my ingredients, they were:

Marinara Sauce (store bought)
Cooked Italian Sausage
Sauteed peppers and onions
Mozzarella Cheese

Let everybody stuff their sandwich willy-nilly with their favorites, mine had a little of everything Miss Lu's just Sauce and Cheese the rest were somewhere in between. Once stuffed fold then like a bad burrito and put onto a baking sheet brush the top with a little garlic butter and put into a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 an hour. The Breadsticks were made with some of the dough that I had left, that post should be up in a day of two.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cilantro Lime Chicken Breast

Kris' sister lives in Arizona, I am not sure how it came up the other day when they were talking and she said something about it being nice there because they could cook out 52 weeks a year... Kris said that I still cook out all the time. I know that some of you in Southern states find it hard to believe but after I finish my fall and early winter earthy vegetable binge I am ready for spring cooking somewhere around January 7. I need food cooked on a grill!

I made one of my favorites yesterday, Lime Cilantro Marinated Chicken:

Juice from 4 limes
2 cloves of Garlic Coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 bunch of Cilantro coarsely chopped
splash of rice wine vinegar
1 TBS Honey
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put into a Ziploc bag with 2-3 Chicken Breasts and let marinade overnight. When it is time to cook scrape the snow off your grill, break the ice off of the propane tank and fire it up.

Oh God, food that tastes like summer... I have missed you so. Kris and I were talking while we were eating, I have over marinated food in the past and it can get kind of a rubbery funny texture, but this particular mix worked well for a 26 hour soak.

The side dish pictured is Cilantro Lime Orzo... It didn't turn out so well, one of the Chefs that I work with makes a Lemon Basil Orzo that almost makes me cry when I have it, I thought I would try a variation on that. I guess back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Raw Fettuccine

I have a friend who is a vegetarian... I know imagine that, she won't eat animals. She used to frequent a restaurant on the north side of Chicago that specialized in all raw food. I asked her once how the steaks were and she was gracious enough not to tell me that I am a dork. The owner has some long story about enzymes in all natural food that are ruined by heating them up blah blah blah. I never managed to listen to him ramble on, but the idea intrigued me a bit. Here is my venture into raw vegetarian food.

The Sauce was easy it is this is enough for 2 or 3:
3 Plumb Tomatoes diced
1 Clove of Garlic minced
5 big Fresh Basil Leaves Chopped
Splash of Olive Oil
Splash of Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Maybe a raw food purist would take issue with the Olive Oil and Balsamic, but he can shut up I am the one eating this. I took about a third of this and put it into the food chopper to get that saucy consistency and added it back to the rest.

The "Noodles" are finely cut Zucchini. I used to have a Mandolin that I used to cut stuff like this, the first day that I opened the package I cut myself across four knuckles while putting it together (yeah chef, good job) It was so sharp. About a year ago I threw it away it had dulled to the point of not being safe anymore. I thought I would be able pick one up in the next few days but turns out they weren't for sale everywhere like I thought they would be. Anyway to make the Fettuccine here I had to improvise a little I used the vegetable peeler to make long strips of zucchini then cut those into Fettuccine like strips. No ingredient list here... one Zucchini per adult, just cut into strips then noodlie things. What is pictured is one Zucchini cut like I described and about 1/2 of the sauce in the recipe

So you ask, "in the end how does it taste?" Well it is good, the flavors and textures really pop when you eat it very fresh and bright... but to me it is hard to consider a plate fill of raw vegetables (no matter how cool they look) anything other than a salad. Mind you a good salad but after my Raw Fettuccine I had the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce that Kris made while I was working on this.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poached Salmon

While I have been going on with my piles of comfort food and other things that have no business being on my plate after the holidays (Sweet Potatoes cooked in bacon fat, yummy but I do have a waistband to think about too). Many of my fellow bloggers have been highlighting delicious light recipes (Shrink my Ass series, Vegan Month and recipes like this come to mind). I feel kind of like a smoker at a red cross convention. I thought I would lighten things up this time, have a little fun and poach salmon. This looks like a lot of stuff is going on but really was easy to prepare plus it is an impressive looking and tasting dish.

Start by making the poaching liquid. To do that start with Mirepoix, if you aren't familiar with that term, simply put mirepoix is a mixture of coarsely chopped Onions, Celery and Carrots (two parts onion, one part carrot, one part celery). It plays an important part in many sauces and stocks. As an added bonus when you say Mirepoix people really think you know what you are talking about.

The liquid has:

1 qt water

1 cup red wine

1 cup mirepoix

2 cloves garlic
1 stem of tarragon (I like tarragon, you can use whatever aromatic herb(s) you like.

Some of the trimmings from the vegetables that I served with this dish

Salt and pepper

Bring it to a boil then turn to medium heat and let it cook for about an hour, by the way the house will smell great! When it has reduced by half strain it off so you just have the dark flavor filled liquid left, keep that at a simmer until you are ready. I topped this with Baby Bok Choy, Yellow Squash, Green Onion, and Baby Portabella Mushrooms. I sauteed these in about 2 tsp of Sesame Oil and 2 tsp of Corn Oil (Sesame Oil can be pretty strong) then added a few Sesame Seeds. When the vegetables were all chopped I put them into the hot saute pan for about 5 minutes tossing often. As soon as the vegetables went into the skillet I put the the salmon fillets into the lightly simmering liquid. Depending on how thick your salmon fillets are this will take 3-5 minutes to cook. In the end, the salmon was tender and flaky with nice subtle flavors to it. The vegetables just can't be beat they are great!
Baby Bok Choy, isn't it cute?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Clementine Ginger Glaze

I just got a new toy! nothing big it is a food chopper, in the past if I had to chop something I would either chop chop chop away with a french knife or, if I am feeling all Iron Cheffy, two knives. When I do that it is a good time to stand back, a couple of times I have chopped a little more than I wanted to. I picked up my new toy Monday on my way home from work and wanted to use it immediately so once I got home I tried to talk everyone into something chopped for dinner. "Chicken? How would you like that chopped?"

I decided to make pistachio crusted Chicken with Clementine Ginger Sauce. I had pistachios (I love pistachios!) so the crust was an easy idea. I have seen pistachios served with Asian inspired sauces before so that was my inspiration with what was really a refrigerator cleaning journey. Clementines were $1.98 for 3 pounds at my store so I had good base, I will start with that:

Juice from 8 Clementines (I used a lime juic
2 cloves of fresh Garlic coarsely chopped
1 tsp fresh Ginger peeled and minced

1 1/2 tsp Soy Sauce

2 TBL Triple Sec

1 tsp Chili Sesame Oil

1 tsp Rice Vinegar
Salt, Pepper

1 1/2 TBS Brown Sugar

I put everything except the Brown Sugar into a small sauce pan and let it simmer on low heat while I prepared the chicken (about half an hour) I wasn't in a hurry the ingredients:

3 Chicken Breasts

1/2 Cup toasted Bread Crumbs (Panko Bread Crumbs if you have them)

1/2 Cup Chopped Pistachios

To chop the Pistachios put them in your new chopper and pulse until they are the consistency you want, mostly pretty fine with some chunks left for texture.

Mix them half and half with bread crumbs
Egg Wash
1 Egg

1/4 cup milk (I used Cream this time... Again cleaning fridge)

Flour mix
Salt Pepper
Garlic Powder

Chili Powder

Really I don't measure the flour part it is just to make glue. Turn your oven on to 350, set up your Flour, Egg Wash and Crust then put enough vegetable oil into a pan to cover the bottom and start heating that up. Take the Chicken Breasts and put them into a freezer bag (freezer bags are pretty sturdy) then get the best kitchen tool ever the kitchen mallet and beat the snot out of them. I use the flat side of the mallet because I am not interested in tearing the bag to shreds and splattering Chicken juice all over the kitchen. Take the now thin Chicken Cutlets out of the bag and coat them in Flour, then Egg Wash, then the Pistachio Bread mixture and throw them in the hot oil.

Quick Break here to say... I have been told no fewer than
500 times that it is so easy to do this part, "all you have to do is keep one hand for the wet ingredients and one for the dry." However for me I end up with two hands coated in goo and when giant chunks fall off into the hot oil I get splashed. I just set this mess up on the edge of the sink so I can rinse my hands often.

Back to work now, cook the chicken cutlet for a minute or so on each side to get that nice crust then put them on a cookie sheet and into the oven to finish. While they are in the oven take your sauce and strain then put back into the saucepan, add the Brown Sugar and cook for another 10 minutes until the chicken is done. Put the Chicken down and drizzle with the sauce.

Seriously this sauce is wicked good, look at it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spring Rolls

I have been feeling like such a slug lately, a couple of days ago I woke up with my eyes all crusty, once I managed to walk/stumble/stagger to the bathroom mirror I found the reason... Pink eye or some other evil attack on my eyes and sight. Over the next few days this turned into a cold.

In a few posts I have mentioned that I have kind of a precarious hold on my "man card" to begin with... Once you brag to your buddies about your new stick blender or kitchen torch it is pretty much shot. In some ways I am rather proud of that, one of them being that on the rare occasions that I do get sick I just suck up and go. In the four years that I have been at my job I have used 1 sick day, I think now that if I do come down with a debilitating illness I can take up to 5 weeks off, before I use them all up. Like vacation days I am almost afraid to use my sick days, I know, it makes no sense.

Instead of shuffling around the house in a bathrobe carrying a hot water bottle I like to pretend that everything is "just fine" turns out that may be even more annoying. Were I just sick and laying on the sofa at least my insanity would be localized. The way I am I go to work and act like I am "just fine" but do a half assed job at best. Then go home and shovel the walk or some other goofy task that I probably wouldn't do if I were well, but I have to prove that I am "just fine." That being said I have about 5 dishes lined up in my kitchen to prepare for this blog but every time that I go in there I just shuffle back and forth between the refrigerator and counter wondering what to do, it is all so confusing. Usually I can't think of anything, you know like open the refrigerator door, or clean off the counter eventually I just give up and sit down to watch Wow Wow Wubbzy for the 107th time that day (Mr. Man's Favorite).

Anyway, this dish is actually a one I made late last summer but just never found it's way to this Blog, it is really good and easy to do... maybe I started on my fall root vegetable kick the next week. A few years ago I used to work with some caterers around the Chicago and I saw Spring Rolls come up at a lot of events, depending on what you put inside them they can be inexpensive and face it, they look all fancy-pants. These are simple to make Spring Roll Skins are available at any Asian Grocery Store. These are kind of strange creatures they transform from brittle, extra thin communion wafer like thingies to extremely pliable gluey wraps by soaking them in water for just a few seconds.

Ok they look like something from Invasion
of the Body Snatchers here but they are good.

This isn't really a recipe since it is basically a sandwich that you are making, The ingredients are:Spring Roll Wrap (one per roll)
Cooked Shrimp (4 per)
Julienned Carrots and Cucumbers (small bunch per)
Mesculin Salad Blend (handful per)
Wasabi Vinaigrette (1 TBS per)

The Wasabi Vinaigrette is easy here is how you make it:
1 TBL Wasabi Powder
1 TBL Honey
3 TBL Olive Oil
3 TBL Rice Wine Vinegar
2 TBL Water
1 TBL Salt
Mix it all up with a fork and it is ready to go.

Soak the wraps for a couple of minutes then in each one put the four shrimp topped with carrots, cucumbers then a generous handful of salad mix top with the Vinaigrette then wrap like a burrito. These will keep overnight if you want to just cover with a damp paper towel plastic wrap. If it is just for your snack eat-up!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sweet Potato Hash

The comfort food menu continues, I really need it... sometimes the New Years season causes me stress, especially the last couple of them. This year I have seriously considered going on a good old fashioned bender. Couple of bottles of vodka and avoid the stressors altogether, however as responsible grown ups we have to stop that and deal with stuff and I like to use a lot of comfort food to compensate. My beautiful wife Kris often says that I am the only person that could take someone that struggled with anorexia her whole life and make her fat. I don't agree with the "fat" part, but you see my point I compensate for bad feelings with food. What else works so well?

Sweet Potato Hash was on the menu that I served my friend on Christmas. Similar to the Ham and Gravy, even if you have never tried this it has a comfort food quality to it that is hard to describe... it just makes you feel warm all over.

I have made this dish two ways both were wonderful, but you will soon see why I made it the second way.

This serves about 4 people, Ingredients:
4 Sweet Potatoes peeled and diced
1 Onion finely diced
1/2 pound Bacon diced
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder.

The first time that I made this dish I fried the diced Potatoes in vegetable oil. I heated enough oil in a small saucepan to cover the diced sweet potatoes (the oil was 375 degrees). I did it in two batches and cooked them for about 8-10 minutes. Here is where it gets good, while the second batch is frying saute bacon and onion together over pretty high heat, when the second batch of potatoes is done frying pull it out of the oil and into the saute pan. Saute until all ingredients are cooked through, maybe another 5-7 minutes. This is the way I made it for the pictures, it is wonderful the Sweet Potatoes are caramelized on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

In the spirit of New Years however; really how often should we pull something out of frying oil and immediately put it in rendered bacon fat? Whats next coating it in heavy cream and butter? Ok, that sounds kind of good but stop... When I made this for my friend Rochelle on Christmas I did everything exactly the same except I boiled the diced sweet potatoes. The Hash looked like a more traditional hash the sweet potatoes looked like they had been beaten up a bit, they needed a little more seasoning but they were good and I made up for any loss by serving it with ham gravy. Still on a kick from the gravy, maybe I should sell that in jars. Anyway it is your kitchen and your family/friends you decide which works best for you, both are delicious.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

My dad is a Southerner, born in Kentucky, a self acclaimed red-neck and proud of it. When I asked him for a pot and pan set for the sandbox (I would have been about 5 then) he told me they were girl toys, quashing my nerdy foodieness for a time. He was a normal man with a regular blue collar job. My mom did most of the cooking, we had a pretty normal household for the 60s and 70s when I was a kid. One of the things that my mom couldn't stand is Black eyed Peas... there is a Southern tradition that eating black eyed peas on new-years day is good luck so dad was pretty insistent.

This January 1 I made them for me and my family, I did a little research and about black eyed peas I found that they are a southern tradition for good luck and prosperity and eaten with pork to symbolize moving forward (a chicken walks backward when it eats, a cow stands still but a pig roots forward). I made the black eyed peas to highlight a dish from my youth, now I am going with they really are good luck.

This New Years Day I made a family breakthrough, it probably wouldn't sound that big if I went into all the details but it was. Miss El (my 11 year old) had a great time too which is what it is all for. I had a chance to see her playing with Miss Lu and Mr. Man, we haven't been able to do that in a while. The way their laughter filled our little house while she was here... well it is hard to describe but really nice.

The Good Luck Featured Dish
Ham and Black Eyed Peas:

1/2 pound of dried Black Eyed Peas
Ham Bone and end pieces left over from Christmas (see last post)
1 Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 bunch of Mustard Greens washed really well and chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by soaking the beans overnight in the refrigerator
The next day trim the usable portion of the ham off the bone put the bone, the onion cut into large pieces, and the garlic into the chicken broth and let it simmer for about 3 hours. Take the bones and the big hunks of onion out and add the Black Eyed Peas add some water or chicken broth if you need too I didn't this time simmer for another half hour or so then add the greens (the tradition says that represents more money in the next year we will see). Then simmer for another 20 minutes add salt and pepper to taste.