Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beets and Rhymes

Well, I went and did it. I missed my blog two days in a row. I have cooked a few things the last couple of days, but really nothing noteworthy. However, I will tell about it anyway, so here we go with the banalities. Yesterday morning I fried bacon to accompany scrambled eggs. As far as I can tell, three ways exist to cook bacon. Number one: overcook the bacon until it is brittle. Yuck. Number two: undercook the bacon so that the fat is still floppy. Not for me, either. Number three: find the place right between those two so that the bacon is not brittle or floppy, but rather it retains a small amount of flexibility. I usually find this place when I observe grease bubbling on the top sides of the pieces of bacon. When I see it, I remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain. Perfect.

I seasoned my eggs with Salt and Pepper, stirred them together in a bowl, and poured them into the pan with a little bit of bacon grease. I moved the eggs around in the pan with a spatula until most of the egg liquid cooked. Then I extinguished the flame. I say most of the liquid because the eggs will finish cooking in the residual heat of the pan while still keeping moist and delicious.

The wife bought a new toaster a week or so ago, so I broke it in by toasting a few slices of white bread. A little Brummel and Brown (hilarious since I am eating bacon and eggs cooked in bacon fat) on the toast and the breakfast sandwiches were ready. They were actually pretty good, now that I think about it. I cannot tell you the last time I ate bacon.

Let's see. I also cooked beets a few days ago, which no one liked but me. I am still new to cooking beets, so I have only boiled them. Perhaps next time I will roast them in the oven. After the beets cooled, I peeled them and sliced them before throwing them into a jar with olive oil and apple-cider vinegar, a little bit of water, Salt, and Pepper. I like them this way, as I am a big fan of vinegar, but as I said, I was the only one to appreciate them. Vinegar is strong, and if you do not like it, you will not like these beets. A texture issue also exists, as beets, I think, are peculiar to the tooth. But no problem. More for me. These beets put canned to shame, though I will still eat a can of beets if I do not have fresh. Freshly cooked beets have strange affects on my systems, but I will not get into much detail about it. Suffice it to say beet coloring is powerful, and the first time I ever ate fresh beets (not that long ago, actually,) I thought I had developed a serious health problem after observing beet-tinted micturations.

That is it. Oh, I received my Penzey's order on Monday, and I had a hootenanny opening the box. My free sample this time was simple chile powder, which I will enjoy. The peppercorns are great. I would post a picture of the loot, but Janet has commandeered the blogging camera. So here's a low-quality picture of beets in a bowl with Salt and Pepper until we can do it right.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chile Verde de Pollo Sopa

On our very first date, my wife invited me over to her place where she cooked for me Green Chile Chicken Soup. Matter of fact, that may have been the last time she cooked it, as she has mostly retired from the cooking game. She did make her crab cakes yesterday, though, but as I said, she is only mostly retired. I, on the other hand, have cooked this soup many times since. Pa White introduced the dish to her, but I do not know where he first ate the soup or where he found the recipe. Of course, I have tweaked that original recipe some, but the basic form of the soup remains the same.

First you start with the chicken. A few weeks ago, I bought several packages of locally grown chicken legs and thighs. I had thighs left, so that's what I used. I cooked them in a little olive oil and garlic for a bit, and then I added two quarts of chicken broth. Now for the spices, and the list today is impressive: cumin, coriander, Salt, a mixture of tellicherry pepper, cayenne, brown sugar, fennel, ancho chile and paprika, basic chile powder, and a little Rogan Josh. I have no Mexican oregano today, so I just used Pasta Sprinkle from Penzey's, which is a more-than-fair substitute.

The greatest alteration I have made in the soup, though, comes in the type of peppers used. The original recipe calls for canned jalapenos, which are super expensive. I concluded that if I roasted the peppers myself, I would save a bunch of money, not to mention adding a better flavor. This time I used poblanos, which are not very spicy, if spicy at all, but with a nice taste. They roasted awhile in the oven, and then I de-skinned and de-seeded them before giving them a rough chop, and into the pot they went.

The soup has a good kick to it right now as those spices are blooming in the heat of the pot. As soon as the chicken thighs begin to fall apart, I will add a little butter and flour roux to give it a bit of thickness. The original recipe states to add milk to the soup, but adding milk to a very hot pot of soup can have undesired consequences. If that soup is even slightly more than barely boiling, the milk will break immediately. I do not want the soup to break, so today I plan to add a little cream at the end to mellow the heat. Very nice. Served with a few tortilla cheeps, Green Chile Chicken Soup is perfect on a day like today here in central North Carolina, with a cloudy sky and rain falling through the slightly cool air.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Turkey Pie In The Sky

Oh hey, it's Turkey-Pie day. Turkey Pie is one of my all-time favorites. It is not a simple thing to make, but even with its many steps, it is still a worthwhile dish to make occasionally. In the fridge I had thawed a small, bone-in turkey breast, so this morning I threw it into the oven after I seasoned it well with Old Bay. Old Bay usually just kind of sits in my cupboard, waiting to be sprinkled on shrimp, but I like it, so lately I have been using it. The turkey breast cooked just a little too much as I was out walking the dogs, but I like my poultry well done anyway and the gravy in the pie will accommodate slightly overcooked bird. Plus that gave me the opportunity to eat a bit of good and crispy skin.

I wanted to make some turkey broth also, so after I picked the meat from the carcase, I threw the carcase into a pan and nearly covered it with water. A little Salt and Pepper, and that is all. The broth became quite tasty, and after the turkey remains cooled, the dogs enjoyed a special treat. I made a roux from the pan drippings and a bit of cornstarch, to which I added my broth after allowing the roux to cook some. I did not have enough turkey broth, so I also added about half a quart of chicken broth so I would have some gravy for the pie just in case I messed up and dried it out.

But before all of this happened, I had to prep the vegetables that would compose most of the filling. I sauted in a fair amount of olive oil half of an onion, a few stalks of celery, several carrots, and two yellow peppers. Also in the pan was a bag of tiny potatoes that I found on the bargain produce rack at HT for a buck, a couple diced cloves of garlic and a mound of dried basil. I covered it and let it cook until the potatoes were somewhat tender. They would finish in the oven, of course.

By now, I have my vegetables, my gravy, and my turkey in the pie pan, and it's time to make the crust. The first couple times I made Turkey Pie, I crusted the bottom of the pan as well as the top, but it seemed to make everything too dry. Also, it's quite a savings on calories with only one layer of crust, and a flaky crust it is. A couple cups of flour, a bit of salt, a small amount of ice water, and about half a cup of vegetable shortening go into making this crust. After mixing, I rolled out the crust and covered my pie filling. Into the oven it went for about an hour. The pies did not turn out as handsomely as I wanted them to, due to a little gravy leak, but they still tasted good. I ate a sample bite or two (quality check, I call it), but that is the cook's prerogative, like The Little Red Hen. Now my turkey pies are done, so I'm getting ready to eat and watch the basketball games. How bout them Eers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweet 16 Chile Con Carne

Today is the day of reckoning. Either we're going to win, or we'll lose. Pretty simple. So LET'S GO MOUNTAINEERS! That said, I am cooking a pot of chile right now that will be ready to be dug into by tip-off time at 7:27.

Chile is one of those dishes that is made differently every time. This time, I started out with my mirepoix, to which I added a red pepper and a yellow pepper. I cooked that awhile in a little olive oil, and then I added a pound or two of ground beef and a bag of red beans I cooked earlier. I also added a can of crushed tomatoes. I bought some stupid-hot chile powder today, but I only used a tiny bit because the wife cannot tolerate that much heat. So I used the basic mild chile powder, some cumin, Salt and Pepper, and today I also added a bit of Old Bay because my chile needed a little zipadee. It did the trick, and I am now reminded that I need to add a beer to the pot, which I will go and do now.

And it's one beer for the chile, one beer for me, and that's a good ratio for now. I fully intend to eat my chile this evening with a few tortilla chips, a little sour cream, and perhaps even a few crackers spread with peanut butter. I am very much looking forward to eating chile and watching the game. What a night, eh?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Decomposer Soup And Sprouts

I decided that my foot was well enough to go and play basketball this evening, so that is what I did instead of cooking much dinner. I played three games in a row and then we lost thankfully because I was out of gas. I am a bit apprehensive about playing, and I am sitting here considering icing my foot awhile as a preventative measure. I will keep my fingers and my toes crossed that I did not reinjure myself.

Before I left, though, I cooked a bundle of asparagus that we bought at the Piedmont Triad Farmers' Market on Saturday. I steamed it a very small amount of water and then sauted the stalks in olive oil and Salt and Pepper for a minute. Now, that's some good eating. Asparagus is one of my favorites.

We also bought a bag full of button mushrooms at the Market. The wife bought some, and I unknowingly bought some more, so I wanted to use the large quantity quickly by making a nice mushroom soup, a process entailing many steps. First, I cleaned the mushers a little before slicing them. I had a nice moutain of mushrooms in the pan, to which I added a few tablespoons of butter, a few cloves of garlic, and two nice green onions, also from the Farm Market. A little dried basil in the pan, as well.

After that cooked awhile, I added a quart of chicken broth and a bit of a Parm-Regg rind for flavor. I increased the fire and brought it to a boil before simmering the soup for at least 30 minutes. I should have stopped right there and called it finished. The soup was fine. But no. A recipe I read earlier stated to process the mixture and then strain it. Okay. I tried to use my hand blender, but it is unsuited to hearty jobs, I have discovered. A newer, more powerful hand blender is now on the cooking-gadget list. So instead of the convenience of a hand blender, I had to break out the food processor, and I promptly made a mess by adding too much soup, some of which escaped the container when I give 'er the power.

Soup processed and strained now, a bit of cream would really have finished the dish, but I had no cream. I had milk. So I made a quick roux and I added it to the pot along with the milk, and brought it back to a slow boil. The soup really did not thicken, but the taste was there. I did not realize how much I liked the soup until I ate a little bowl today when I arrived home. Very good, but no pictures since Janet had the camera in her purse.

I also like making tomato soup in this way, and I hope to grow enough tomatoes this summer to cook a big batch. Last year, I saved some seeds from the maters I grew, froze them over winter, and planted them a few days ago. So here's to cotelydons and to tomatoes, another one of my favorites, and in my estimation just about as close as a person can get to eating sunshine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pizza and wow-wow-wow-Whip Its

Sometimes a small respite is nice, even from your favorite things, and for most of this weekend, I breaked from cooking. Friday we went for Mexican cuisine, and yesterday we decided to order a pie from Spring Garden Pizzeria. Janet chose pineapple and bacon as our toppings, and I thought they sounded way better than they actually were. I ordered the cheese browned a little, and that pizza was cooked just the way I like it. (Thanks for the advice, KB. You're a fine mentor.) We also ordered fried mushrooms. Spring Garden prepares their menu from fresh ingredients, and these mushrooms were terrific; big with a thin breading, cooked just right and served with ranch and horseradish sauces. I am gaining an appreciation for horseradish at this point in my life.

So we ate pizza and watched two movies: “Couples Retreat” and “Whip It.” Full of familiar actors, “Couples Retreat” was tolerable, though at times I felt my attention drifting away from the story of these married-awhile couples participating in a marriage-saving retreat in a tropical paradise. The location was beautiful, but the movie, generally, was not. Two tines out of four.

“Whip It,” on the other hand, was a little better. The quite pretty Ellen Page finds herself in the middle of a thriving roller-derby culture in Austin, Texas. Nothing can keep this girl from playing in the roller derby, not her lunatic mail-delivering, pageant-participating mother, not her sports-and-beer-fan father, not her age, not even the Oink Joint, where she works with her best friend. She skates past adversity with ease. Whatever. A decent flick; three tines of four.

We watched these movies, even though the Bobcats were on, even though the NCAA tournament was on, because sometimes you just have to compromise, ain't it the truth. Speaking of the truth, this morning I placed my Penzey's order. I will admit that I dropped a hundred, but good spices make good dishes. I am excited for my order's arrival. Penzey's includes a sample gratis in each order, so I am excited about that, too. Last time, they sent Poultry Seasoning, and I enjoyed it enough to order more this time. So until next time...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Just-In-Case Post

Last night, I attended a redundant meeting for the summer employees down at Grasshopper Park. So after that meeting I stopped at the Mykonos for a quick Greek salad and chicken souvlaki. It was good. Generally I order the gyro yeero geero jiro whatever—people call it what they want—but I am fond of souvlaki. The salad is kind of skimpy on ingredients, however, or at least it seems to me. Two tiny kalamatas, maybe two cherry tomatoes and two pieces of cucumber. On the menu, pepperoncinis are listed, but I found none, and that makes me sad. I also added a tomato that I diced.

So by then it was quarter 'til eight, and of course it is NCAA tournament time, a great time of year for basketball fans, and I resigned to the couch, where I essentially remained until 6:30 this morning. Right now I am waiting for Janet to get home so we can have our Friday dinner date. I do not know where we're going, Fish Bones maybe, but she just pulled in so we'll see. In the meantime, I'm having a Miller Lite or two with V8, an olive, and a pickle. Bis Spater.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Corned Beef with Cabbage and Noodles for St. Patty's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Yes, I wore my green today; two shades, matter of fact, and I even stopped at the store to buy some Guinness. Fortunately for me, I only bought a four-pack because I do not like Guinness. Actually, today is the first time I ever remember trying Guinness. I just do not like stouts. I originally intended to make a glaze for the corned beef with Guinness, honey, and brown sugar, I think it was, but it was not to be.

When I got home, the wife already had the cabbage, potatoes and carrots chopped and in the pot cooking. She said she was taking over the cooking today since she is fully one-quarter Irish. She made good use of the Guinness by dumping a can into the pot along with the aforementioned items, some onion, garlic, a couple cloves, Salt and Pepper, and a little chicken broth. My contribution to the meal today is that I boiled the beef last night for a while because I wanted to eat dinner before ten o'clock, which is pretty close to this old man's bedtime. Then I would have missed writing in my blog for two days, and that must be avoided, for fear of never returning.

I am also cooking noodles, fast be damned. When that cabbage is boiled, I intend to chop a bit of it and saute it with the noodles in a little butter and top it with grated Parm-Regg and Salt and Pepper. Cabbage and noodles isn't Irish, Janet said, but I disagree. I have not eaten cabbage and noodles in forever, and today I fully intend to. So good to me. The dish could have tolerated more butter, but what couldn't?

So I pulled the meat from the cooking liquid and sliced it against the grain. It was quite good. I would love to have another just like it for Reuben sandwiches, and perhaps I will concoct those tasty victuals soon.

(Money, it's gotta be the shoes. Today, a woman at the office where I've been working arrived wearing a pair of sweet bright green shoes. I said that I liked her green shoes for St. Patty's Day, and she was like, oh, I didn't realize today was St. Patrick's, etc. Also, Michael Jordan became majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats today. Look for an NBA championship soon in the Queen City.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

...Been In This Pot Since Half Past Two

Who don't love some beans and cornbread. I love em. I had no idea what I was going to eat for my dinner tonight, so when I saw a bag of mixed beans in the pantry today, I knew dinner would be beans and cornbread. (I am excluding cornbread from my bread fast.) So I have been cooking the beans for the past few hours trying to get them softened. I think they probably need another hour to be perfect, but I exhausted my patience awhile ago and ate a bowl with a chunk of cornbread.

At one time, I was a great fan of Eddie Murphy (recall the Mr. T and GI Joe bits), and when I hear the word “cornbread,” I am always reminded of the scene in “Life” featuring Eddie and Martin Lawrence in the mess hall of the prison. A huge man asks Martin if he's gon' eat his cornbread. I have not watched this movie for years, but I still consider it to be Eddie Murphy's masterpiece.

A guy also told me that I nicknamed him “Cornbread” in high school, but I have no recollection of that. Then there's that Louis Jordan song “Beans and Cornbread.” Everyone knows the chorus of that tune, “beans and cornbread had a fight,” though some might have thought the lyrics were “beans and coffee,” which is not unreasonable.

My bag of mixed beans contained pintos and what appeared to be navy beans. Usually I soak my beans overnight, but I did not consider cooking them today until I arrived home. So I just boiled them for about an hour and then lowered the heat and covered them for a couple hours more. As I said, I already ate a bowl before they completely finished because they smelled good. The beans' texture should be smooth, but my early sample was not smooth yet. I also added some Sandwich Sprinkle (a nice seasoning blend, though a tad salty), a bit more water, and half of an onion which I chopped largely. Good beans. Musical fruit. Everyone knows that tune, also.

Cornbread was simply cornmeal mix, eggs, a little honey, baking powder and soda, and maybe two tablespoons of butter, part of which I used to grease the pan. I melted the butter and mixed it in, then spread it into my dish. I will have to get the wife's opinion, but I think it tastes good, with a very subtle sweetness from the honey. It might be slightly dry, but that's fine because I want it to withstand the fury of hot beans and juices.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Special WVU Big East Champions Edition

Last night, we imbibed our dinner at JP Looney's Sports Bar while watching those Mountaineers win their first Big East basketball championship. In the true form of this year's team, keeping fans in suspense right until the very end, Mr. Butler cleaned up the Hoyas as time expired.

During the game, we sampled a few different vodka spirits that the Big Dog recommended. Not bad. We sampled a bit of the old Jagermeister. Not bad. We sampled a few ounces of that old standby, Miller Lite. All was well right until it was time for me to leave, when I was struck suddenly by the hiccups. You see, I rarely participate in the consumption of liquor, but as last night was a special one, I threw away my cares for a while with a few of my fellow Mountaineers. Then there was something about a left sweat sock, and when two o'clock suddenly became three o'clock, I fell asleep to the sounds of ESPN announcers talking about basketball and me dreaming of the chirp chirp of sneakers on wood.

So I spent the first part of my day in a kind of hungover fog, the type that is best navigated on the couch asleep. I can appreciate the occasional hangover, and I did not feel nearly as bad as I could have this morning despite my older age and lessened abilities. But after getting some Biscuitville in my belly, I was downright jolly. Biscuitville is a place that I only visit rarely these days, but their biscuit sandwiches are the best around, particularly the fried chicken biscuit. I ended my bread and pasta fast on Friday for a few days, by the way. I intend to resume tomorrow.

So this evening I missed the first quarter of the Bobcats game, their sixth victory in a row and a franchise record, since I wanted to make a bowl of pasta and tomatoes. In my pan I diced half of an onion fairly small and sauted that with olive oil and two cloves of garlic. I had a can of whole plum tomatoes, so I added that after my onions sauted awhile. I squished the tomatoes with my wooden spoon, added Salt and Pepper and Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle, and cooked that mix just until it began boiling. I used the very last of my Pasta Sprinkle today, so I will be placing a Penzey's order this week sometime, which is kind of exciting. By now, I was hungry and anxious to watch the game, so I bowled my spaghetti (I had not eaten pasta for two weeks), and it was as good, no it was mo' betta, than I remembered spaghetti being. With a nice and simple sauce, the pasta dish was an excellent addition to watching the rest of the game.

I also fried a burger. Keep in mind that I am still not feeling 100 percent yet (as if I ever am) from last night, so a burger is always a good food choice in these situations. I cooked it in my little skillet with Salt and Pepper, and when it was done, I threw a piece of cheese on it, the kind you have to unwrap, which is my favorite for cheeseburgers, covered it and steamed it until the cheese was luscious, as my wife might say.

A bit of Duke's, a small amount of yellow mustard, a little sliced dill pickle, and some lettuce, and I was pretty satisfied with my cheeseburger. I am back to healthier eating tomorrow, though, or at least back to keeping a good adherence to the Golden Mean.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Steaks Are High

Well, I missed writing last night due to a lack of inspiration. Plus, the Pirates were playing a spring-training game on the TV. The Pirates did not win, as usual, losing to the Orioles 3-2, but it was fun getting acclimated with the current players. I love the names of the leagues during spring training—the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. So Go Buccos! I am getting excited for baseball season and spending the summer at the ballpark watching our beloved Greensboro Grasshoppers.

Anyway, last night I cooked a few pork chops in the skillet that were so unremarkable that I just passed on remarking about them completely—until right now, I guess. They tasted all right, as I sauted them in a little olive oil and the juice from half of an orange. I ate mine with a little Hot Bone Suckin' Sauce, and with my coleslaw on the side, it was a decent meal. Seriously, no better name exists for any type of sauce, I think. Also, I made a bowl of guacamole with tomato and lime juice that started the meal.

Tonight, however, I am typing and waiting for my dinner to finish cooking. On the menu is New York Strip steak with potato gratin and succotash. I just tried the succotash, and it tastes right fine. Lima beans are my favorites, but mix those little buggers with corn and all of a sudden you have succotash! I added just a little pat of butter, and a little Salt and Pepper.

Last time I made a gratin, I used entirely too much liquid, so I used much less tonight. It should taste good, with cheddar cheese, a little bit of butter, Parm-Regg, and Salt and Pepper. I needed a little comfort this evening, I suppose, hence this powerhouse.

Steaks I simply seasoned with Salt and Pepper and seared in the skillet until they browned. I did not intend to make a steak sauce, but the glaze in the pan looked so appetizing that I had to. Some Worcestershire, a little water, and mounted with a small pat of butter after it cooked a short time. I enjoyed the meal quite a bit, as did the wife. And that is all, certainly for this evening, as Hazelnut and I prepare ourselves to lay on the couch and watch the Mountaineers in the Big East Tournament.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eat Fresh Fried Fish...

Earlier today, I got a hankering for some fried fish, so on my way home I stopped for a few pieces of flounder and a small head of cabbage. I also really wanted to eat macaroni and cheese, which to me is the best side dish for fried fish in the history of side dishes.

I like pan frying fish, so I coated the filets with eggwash and cornmeal and placed them in the pan with hot oil. The coating browned nicely in places, and the fish was quite edible, but it did not cook like I am accustomed to fish cooking. I like it when the fish cooks to almost a cottony consistency, is how I've heard it described, but this fish would never become that. After I fried it awhile, I was sure it was thoroughly cooked. It flaked, it broke, it was done; but the appearance was not white. I think it was just the variety of fish, but what do I know.

So instead of mac and cheese, I made baked fries. Very nice. I seasoned the potatoes with that essence blend and a little more salt, and then I coated them with a little bit of olive oil before throwing them into the oven. The wife liked the fries quite well, but she is a potato fanatic, anyway. The edges crisped a little, so they were certainly tasty dipped in a little Heinz ketchup.

But I also had to use that head of cabbage, for which I paid exactly 29 cents. As I said, I have strong feelings for this new dressing of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, a little Duke's, lemon zest and juice, Parm Regg, and Salt and Pepper, and Janet thought it would make a fine cole slaw, so I prepared some of that. (I am going to eat a spoonful when I am done writing this blog, as a matter of fact.) I should have added a carrot or two, but I did not.

I enjoyed my dinner tonight, though that fish had kind of a weird texture. It certainly was not from the Shrimp Man, but it was all right.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Vegetable Don't Get Curried Away

I have a few different curries from Penzey's in the cupboard, so tonight, with a friend's influence, I decided to cook a vegetable curry. Let me tell you, I am not disappointed. On Saturday, I went to the grocery and picked up asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I intended to use them on Sunday afternoon, but fortunately for me, I didn't use them at all. Plus, I did not want to eat any meat this evening, so it worked out well, I'd say.

I started the dish with a small onion, which I diced and sauted in olive oil along with a couple cloves of garlic and a tablespoon or so of freshly chopped ginger. As these items cooked, I retrieved from the cupboard my curries (Maharajah, Rogan Josh, and Vindaloo blends from old P's), a little more cumin, chile powder, Salt, and Pepper. The Vindaloo blend is quite hot, so I only added a small amount. The first time I ever used this blend, I nearly burned my lips off, as I am wont to say.

With the extra oil in the pan, the spices formed a paste, and to this paste I added my mushrooms, asparagus, and broccoli. I also diced a tomato and added it to the mix. A quick stir, and then I added a couple cups of chicken stock. Covered now with a pizza pan I like to use as a lid, I let this cook until the vegetables were just tender. I spooned a lot over some barley I made to eat with the vegetables, a little more Salt and a little more Pepper, and this curry was ready. As I sit here, I still feel a slight amount of heat from the spiciness of the curry, and I enjoy it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Black-Bean Chile

Tonight I am tired, blog, so I intend to keep it short and sweet while I tell you about the chile (my preferred spelling of the dish from here on out) I made this evening. I really did not feel like cooking, so I was fortunate to have a few quality ingredients in the freezer already prepared for just that reason. What I really felt like doing was continuing to lay down on the couch with Hazelnut and watching TV.

A week or so ago, I made tacos with homemade tortillas, which I enjoyed so much. Ah, bread. (The wife just tried the chile, and she said, "Mmm, what good flavor that has.) Well, the taco meat was essentially chile. I cooked a lot of it, so I froze some, and tonight I thawed that chile and put it into a pan with two cans of black beans and a little chicken stock. Very good. Under most circumstances, I would have augmented the chile with a peanut-butter sandwich--a combo I learned from the lunch ladies of Spencer High School--or peanut butter on saltine crackers, at least. Peanut butter and chile are very good friends. Or tortilla chips, but I ate no bread tonight. I satisfied myself with a dollop of sour cream, a little bit of cheese, hot sauce, and jalapenos.

Usually when I make chile, I add one or two large cans of tomatoes to the dish, so it is tomato-based. I also use a variety of at least five kinds of beans. This version of chile is meat, beans and spices. It makes monster tacos. I would also love to eat it on chile dogs. With yellow mustard.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tiny Chicken Legs

Last evening, the wife suggested that we eat dinner downtown at Opa Taverna. We enjoyed the place; a nice, kind of long and narrow restaurant with a three-man band playing traditional Greek music on guitars and bouzoukis; I think that's what they are called. It was the first time we had been there. Janet mentioned that she had been wanting to eat there for some time now. Better late than never, I said, and then I apologized.

So we ordered two Amber Ales, brewed less than a mile away at Natty Greene's, and I had my eye on a bowl of cannellini-bean-and-vegetable soup du jour. Good soup, despite being served lukewarm. With a little more heat, freshly-cracked pepper and a bit of Parm-Regg, it would have been just right. So the next time I make soup, I will try a version of it using my own suggestions.

I knew I wanted gyro meat, so I ordered the souvalki platter. It came with a bit of rice and a vegetable medley of squash, green beans, and those wee, tiny carrots, a bit of rice, and tzatziki sauce. The meat was excellent. Flavorfully cooked on a rotisserie, its hand-hewn peels held an appealing crispness. I did not eat my piece of bread, though it looked good.

Janet ordered a lamb dish called Youvetsi, served with mashed potatoes and that same vegetable medley. I tried the meat, and the sauce was so familiar to me, a kind of red sauce with a capsicum flavor, just like the sauce that my grandmother cooked her stuffed peppers in. Succulent meat. Delicious sauce that goes well with gyro, also. I am generally not a fan of lamb, or perhaps I have just been deluding myself that I am not a fan of lamb. Anyway, dinner was good, it was fresh, the ingredients were good, and we will surely go there another time, preferably when I am eating bread again.

I knew what I wanted to eat for my breakfast this morning, and when I woke, I dumped a container of ratatouille into the little skillet and heated it. Then I added two beaten eggs, more Salt and Pepper, and I ate Ratty Eggs for breakfast. I think I also put a little bit of cheese on the top, but it was not necessary.

But the real treat came later in the afternoon in the form of small chicken legs that I baked for a while and then I broiled for a while to get that skin so nice and crisply browned. To me, few things are more unappealing than undercooked chicken skin. Since I had cilantro that needed to be used, I also made more chimichurri sauce. It was as good this time as last, perhaps better, since I added a green onion to the mix. So after the legs baked, I spread a small amount of chimichurri on them, and it was good to me. I also had some tiny chicken legs with hot sauce, which is truly my favorite way to eat tiny chicken legs. And I ate chicken meat and celebrated the Mountaineers overtime win versus Villanova.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Meat 'n Taters

For the past several days, I have been allowing my body to consume its own energy stores, of which a good quantity exists. Kenny and I were talking one afternoon about matters of health, and he mentioned how the body enjoys a break from the extra digestive work required when you overeat (that's the gist of it). He also told me that his dad does not eat on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I think it was. I got such a hoot out of the idea of just not eating all day, and I am not at that point yet, but I think it's an attainable goal for me. I have realized that the less food I eat now, the more opportunities I will have to eat in the long run.

Oh, I have been eating, but I am eating in a vastly different manner than I ever have before. I love bread and pasta, and I can assure you I have eaten more than my fair share, but I have exempted myself from those items for a time. I can see the results of my internal feast, and it makes me happy that I have decided to do a good deed for my body. Unfortunately, I have noticed a few minor side effects.

Nausea hit me today after consuming my carrots and apple at lunch, and I realized suddenly the effect of such a dramatic change in diet. I had not considered this, but I think it's a good thing. I could surely use a good cleansing. I also noticed that I am not hungry, or rather I haven't been thinking that I feel hungry.

Breakfast has been a yogurt and a fruit/cereal bar (not included in the sacrifice). Lunch has been carrots, apples, peanuts, and today I ate an orange, also.

So with the serious dearth of stick-to-your-ribs food around here lately, I made a big chunk of beef with potatoes and carrots tonight. First I sauted a small onion in some olive oil. I threw in a couple cloves of garlic and what dill remained in the fridge. Then I seasoned the beef with essence blend, threw it in the Dutch Oven with chicken stock and chunks of potatoes and carrots, a little more Salt and Pepper, and I let it cook. By now the potatoes are soft and smooth and the carrots are al dente. A few sprigs of cilantro, and my good dinner awaits.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Ate It Before I Could Get a Picture

Blog, I feel like we've become friends; that I can tell you things, and that you understand and are sympathetic. It's nice spending time with you. That's why I don't mind telling you that this afternoon I became nauseous after lunch. I don't think it was the ingredients of my lunch that made me sick, but rather it was an unclean container that I tried to re-use to store my carrots. STUPID IDEA. What else did I have? An apple. I used sanitizer before lunch. Had to have been the container for the carrots. I also had a few peanuts, but I never touched them. So I remained nauseous long after I arrived home this evening, and I did not feel like eating. Eventually I felt hungry, so into the kitchen I went scratching my head because I had no idea what I was going to eat. I am still giving up bread and pasta for a while, so throwing together something to eat is not as simple as it has been. Last week, a nice and easy pasta dish would have been my meal. Tonight my meal was based on Romaine lettuce.

I have several cans of tuna in the pantry, and so I thought what the hey? Tuna salad. Romaine leaves in the fridge have been storing nicely, but they need to be eaten. So far so good. Whereas I usually use a decent quality bottled dressing for my salads, KB inspired me to make my own dressing for the tuna salad this evening. It contained: apple cider vinegar, olive oil, about a tablespoon of Duke's mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice, a little bit of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, Salt and Pepper, and some of that dill that I had in the fridge. I whisked all of that together and then I added a few capers. I had to add a little bit of water to the dressing, but it absolutely needed it. I wondered if the dressing would be too thin after adding the water, but it was still thick enough to adhere to the Romaine lettuce, and that pleased me immensely.

So I spread the leaves around a plate, placed a bit of tuna on top of the lettuce, and drizzled some of that dressing all over it. As I finished plating my salad, I intended to get a picture, but the camera was in the other room and that salad looked so appetizing that I had to eat it straight away. But KB has me onto something new and improved now, blog. New and improved.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

fried-potatoes-with-caramelized-onion-and-dill-scrambled-egg tacos

Oh, what better way to spend Sunday morning than in the kitchen, drinking strong coffee with a little bit of Bailey's, and filling the air with pleasant aromas of food cooking. I aimed to fix breakfast, and the target I had in mind was fried-potatoes-with-caramelized-onion-and-dill-scrambled-egg tacos.

I liked the homemade tortillas that I made last week so well that I decided to make more. More fluent this time, I was, practicing how much flour to use to keep the dough from sticking to the pin and rolling thinly the dough. I was listening to Tito Puento and making tortillas. Earlier I started caramelizing an onion, and since cooking tortillas takes its fair share of time, the onion would be ready when the tortillas were cooked.

I do not own a comal (yet) and I have been cooking each tortilla separately in a six-inch skillet. Now that I think about it, I could probably use the griddle or a griddle pan to cook two or three at once, and next time I will do that to cut down on the time required.

Then I diced a few potatoes and dropped them into the pan of hot veg oil. Salt and Pepper only, and covered until they soften and brown. Yukon Gold is what I like these days. Creamy texture and good flavor are their attributes. When they crisp but retain a creamy interior--that is what I am looking for in a fried potato.

I had fresh dill in the fridge, so I threw a few sprigs into my scrambled eggs, and it complemented the taco well. I think Janet put sour cream on hers, and I used HOT SAUCE, but next time I'll make some kind of sauce for the tacos.

Post Script:
Fortunately, I do not have THE GOUT, according to test results. Unfortunately, something is amiss in my foot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pollo Borracho

I was looking through a cookbook of Mexican dishes yesterday, and I found a recipe for Pollo Borracho, or drunken chicken. Great name, yes? It all sounded very appealing, and in the end it was edible, but I did not love this version of the dish. I do love personal ratings systems, however, so I give it three tines out of five.

What an impressive list of ingredients, though: tequila, chicken, raisins, apples, nuts, a banana, Salt, onion, garlic and chicken stock. The recipe called for chicken thighs browned in oil, but I was using a nice breast that I initially thought I would cut into chunks, coat with flour, and pan fry. But I didn't do it that way to save a few calories. Instead I boiled the chicken (No better way than boiling to get rid of all the fat and lusciousness, is what the wife said,) which is not a bad way to cook chicken, but not my favorite. Then I shredded it with my fingers. I left some chicken out of the dish to make tacos, but I decided, since I have been killing the breads lately, to curb my bread intake for a spell, sort of like my own version of Lent, since I am a heathen, not a Catholic. So if I decide to eat my chicken tacos today, they will be made with lettuce instead of tortillas, and that saddens me a little. I will get over it.

So after sauteing most of those groceries for a time, I added the stock and the tequila and let it cook to evaporate the alcohol. The tequila flavor was still present in the dish, and it was tolerably good alongside the sweetness of the fruit. Unfortunately, all of those flavors together were a bit different than what I am accustomed to, and that is probably the reason I did not love it. But it's good to use different ingredients in different ways occasionally to give you a new flavor perspective. Even if you don't love the dish, you may generate an idea that perhaps will incorporate itself into a future meal in a way that is most pleasant to the palate.

My original intention was to cook chicken chimichangas with rice since I had homemade tortillas from Sunday, but instead I was swayed by the exotic name--Pollo Borracho. I probably ordered chimichangas 20 times before I even considered ordering anything else, so if you can sense my disappointment, you're right. But in the long run, I am healthier for not frying tortillas yesterday, and healthier living is the main point of making your own food, I think.