Tag Archives: Sunday Suppers

Sunday Suppers (Tuesday Morning Edition): Fish Tacos

10 Aug
Yummy Fish Tacos

Check out these babies. These aren't mine; mine are still on friend Susan's camera. But, still. Look how yummy!

If you’ve been reading my wee blog for awhile, you might have noted that I’m not a Fan of the seafood.  I’ve tried it–different types–lots of times, and while I can sometimes understand why people seem to like it, to me it all has this underlying I’ve-Lived-Under-the-Ocean-My-Whole-Life flavor that I just don’t like.  I tasted lobster, and I get why people think it’s Amazing.  It’s tender and sweet, but it also has that Ocean-Flavor of which I am not a Devotee.  And then, friend Michael bought a bunch of trout.  Trout, apparently, does not live under the ocean.  It just lives in regular old water.  So it doesn’t have that oceany taste.

The Beloved and I tried it a couple of weeks ago, and although I was a Filled with Trepidation, I actually enjoyed it.  It was mild and Not Fishy.  So now, realizing that I can eat Non-Oceanic-Fish, a whole new world has been opened unto me.  And the first thing  I wanted to try was a fish taco.  At the restaurant, we used to serve lobster tacos, and folks went completely GaGa over them, and I wanted to experience the GaGa Factor with a fresh water fish taco.

So, here’s what I did.  Remember, you can do something else entirely.  This is just to Entice You To Try, especially if you’ve never had fish tacos before.

Fresh Water Fish Tacos
For the fish

  • lovely trout
  • lime juice
  • cumin
  • chili powder (I used Penzeys Chili 3000 because it is Amazing)
  • salt
  • pepper

For the Accoutrement

  • pepper jack cheese
  • guacamole (or sliced avocado)
  • chipotle hot sauce
  • shredded lettuce
  • salsa
  • lime juice
  • corn or flour tortillas

Put the fish in a Vessel of some sort (I used a zip-top bag) and sprinkle liberally with the lime juice and spices.  Let marinate for thirty minutes or so.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add a splash of neutral oil, and cook the fillets until just opaque.  Don’t worry about keeping them whole, just push them around until they’re shredded and cooked through–about five minutes or so.

Warm up your tortilla shells in whatever way you see fit.  Assemble your tacos as desired. They will be drippy, so wear a bib or lean over your plate.  Put in face.

We were fortunate enough to have some of Friend Chuck’s homemade salsa and trout from Friend Michael.  Use whatever you have, though.  You can also dredge and deep fry your fish.  Or poach it.  Cook it however you like, but do consider making tacos once your fish is cooked.  You will not be sorry.  I promise.

A Special Weekday Edition of Sunday Suppers: Happy Drunken Beach Lasagna

9 Jul

How do I love thee, lasagna? Let me count the ways.

We interrupt our usual weekday pastry program to bring you a special edition of Sunday Suppers.  Why?  Because if I wait until Sunday, I might forget everything that I put in it.  And I don’t want to do that–it was really, really tasty.

The Beloved and I spent the extended Fourth of July weekend at the beach with wonderful friends.  Julie and her kids are there for a total of three weeks, and our time there overlapped with theirs (of course) and one other couple’s.  So, for the three nights that all three (and kids) were there, each of us picked an evening to cook.  And then Lisa, who has very Good Ideas, suggested that we each be in charge of an Adult Beverage of the Day along with dinner.  I baked some white bread to take down for Sammich-Making along with some homemade pimento cheese for said sammiches.  Incidentally, if you want to make very simple pimento cheese, all you need to do is shred up your favorite cheese, add some chopped pimentos (or roasted red peppers work just as well) and some mayonnaise.  Season it however you want.

Moving on.  Our Drink of Choice was Pitcher Mojitos.  Always refreshing.  And for the dining portion of the show, we chose to make a lasagna.  Not just any lasagna, mind you.  One made with humanely raised meats; one made with a Whole Bottle of Wine; one with tons of Flavor.   I’m pretty sure we accomplished our goal.  This was quite possibly the best lasagna I’ve ever made.  Granted, I never make it the same way twice, but still.

Before I share with you the extremely long list of ingredients, let me present you with some Lasagna Rules.  These might not be your Italian great-grandmother’s rules for making lasagna, but I think they’re useful.  Take them or leave them, but here they are:

  1. There is no reason to purchase No-Boil lasagna noodles.  Regular, dry lasagna noodles will work just fine.  Honest.  No need to boil.  I promise.  Kudos to the Marketing Geniuses that came up with the product, though.
  2. Lasagna is a dish of layered components.  If you want, you can just layer two components:  noodles and sauce.  Maybe put some cheese on the top.  If you don’t like the ricotta layer, don’t use it.  If you want to add a layer of roasted red pepper, do it.  Lasagna is Open to Interpretation.
  3. You don’t need a hard and fast recipe for lasagna.  If you can make a tomato sauce and Stack Items on top of each other, you can make a lasagna.  (See #2 for more information).

The Lasagna I Made

For the sauce:  I’m not giving any measurements for the sauce.  It’s scalable.

  • organic happy mild Italian sausage
  • happy, 100% grass-fed ground beef
  • some chopped up organic happy bacon
  • salt and pepper
  • Italian seasoning–I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset
  • red pepper flake (since the happy sausage people didn’t make hot Italian sausage)
  • bay leaves–I used three from our very own wee bay tree (bush-let)
  • onion
  • carrot
  • celery
  • garlic
  • bell pepper
  • some roasted red pepper (left over from the pimento cheese)
  • shitake mushrooms
  • tomato paste
  • canned diced tomato
  • a little fresh thyme, oregano and basil
  • a bottle of red wine (I used a cheap-but-drinkable Merlot.  Chianti would be a better choice.  Even so, if you use Merlot, I’m pretty sure you won’t spit it out)
  • Champagne vinegar
  • sugar

The first thing I did was to cook the bacon.  Then, I took the bacon out and saved it, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.  I sweated all the veggies–onion, garlic, celery, carrot, bell pepper, mushrooms and roasted red pepper–in the bacon grease along with salt and pepper.

Reserve the vegetables and brown the sausage and ground beef.  Add some Italian seasoning and red pepper flake.

Once the meat has browned, add the bacon and vegetables back to your pot and bring everything up to a nice sizzle.  Add the tomato sauce and let caramelize for a couple of minutes, stirring.

Add the bottle of wine, and then cook down until it has reduced by 3/4 or so.  Correct salt and pepper.

Add the diced tomato and fresh herbs, bring up to a simmer.  Taste and correct seasonings.  I’m including the vinegar and sugar in the seasonings category.  I ended up using a lot of sugar.  What with all the wine and tomatoes, there is a lot of acid in the sauce.  The sugar will temper that.  Once you get to the point that you think you have almost enough salt, finish it off with a splash of vinegar.  Yes, I know it’s even more acid, but it’ll add the spark that salt alone can’t add.  Sorry, salt.

Hit the whole pot with your stick blender and blend until the sauce is as smooth as you want it.  If you like it really chunky, you don’t have to use the stick blender at all.  It’s up to you.  By the way, feel free to use this sauce for spaghetti or any other pasta-type dish.  If you finish your pasta with a little cream, you’ll end up with a lovely Bolognese-style sauce, thankyouverymuch.

For the ricotta layer

  • one large tub of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • an egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a few scrapings of nutmeg
  • a little Italian seasoning
  • a couple handfuls of shredded cheese–I used some kind of Italian four-cheese blend, I think

MIx everything but the egg together really well.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Stir in the egg until well combined.

For the other cheese, because you can never have too much cheese

  • provolone cheese–just sliced from the deli
  • mozzarella cheese–ditto
  • more shredded Italian cheese blend

How I put the whole thing together (You can do it the way you want)

  • coat the bottom of the baking dish (I used an 11″x17″ sheet pan–I was cooking for a crowd) with a thin layer of sauce
  • place the dry lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Make sure the noodles are touching–a little overlap is a good thing
  • add another thin-ish layer of sauce
  • put spoonfuls of ricotta mixture all over the sauce and then carefully smooth out with an offset spatula
  • cover with slices of mozzarella cheese
  • add another thin-ish layer of sauce
  • add another layer of dry lasagna noodles
  • another thin-ish layer of sauce
  • add more spoonfuls of ricotta
  • cover that with slices of provolone
  • add another thin-ish layer of sauce
  • dry noodles
  • sauce
  • ricotta
  • sliced cheese
  • sauce
  • dry noodles
  • sauce
  • sliced cheese

Cover the top with parchment and then wrap tightly in foil.  Bake in a 375F oven until bubbling (depending on the size of your pan, this could take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour or more).

Remove the foil, sprinkle on some more shredded cheese and then broil until the cheese is bubbly and browned in places.

If you want nice, clean slices, let your masterpiece sit for about a half an hour before slicing.  If you don’t care that you end up with an ugly-but-tasty pile of sauce, cheese and noodles, cut immediately.  But blow on it before you take a bite.  It are Very Hot.

And there you have it.  Enjoy!  And enjoy your weekend.

Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): Anything Between Two Tortillas Counts As Dinner

19 Apr

A traditional quesadilla, before I went and USA-sized it. (Click the photo for photo credit).

For dinner a couple of nights ago, I had considered making nachos.  I do enjoy a good nacho for dinner.  But then I saw two baking potatoes waving at me like the dolly and the tugboat from the Island of Misfit Toys, and they totally sucked me in with their vulnerable “we just want to be loved” act.  So, I threw them in the oven.  There’s probably some moral to that story, but we’re talking dinner here, people.

So, rather than having Nacho Fixin’s on tortilla chips, we had them on baked potatoes.  Them were good, too.  But then I was left with some vegetarian refried beans and some chili-no-beans that needed a home.  Enter tortillas–big old 10″ multigrain guys.  Delightful.  And just like that, the Leftover-Nacho-Fixin’s-Quesadilla was born.  I know, I know.  It’s not a traditional quesadilla.  Apparently they are always made with corn tortillas with nothing but some melting cheese in them, but here in Uh-Mer-Ka, we cannot leave Well Enough alone.  And I’m pretty much okay with that, especially when it comes to food.  Here, quesadillas have long been a staple of chain restaurant appetizers and can have anything shoved in them from shrimp to tofu to corn.

With that in mind, meet my decidedly Uh-Mer-Kin take on Quesadillas.

More Is More American Leftover Nacho Fixin’ Dinner Quesadillas
This is one of the few meals that I make that doesn’t have a whole lot of homemade parts.  Which is okay, because it’s easy.  And I try to buy Items that don’t have any strange ingredients in them.  Can you make them with Cheez Wiz?  Yes.  Would I?  Um, no.

  • 2 10″ multigrain tortillas
  • a wee bit of vegetable oil
  • about 1/4 cup each chili-no-beans and refried beans.  Or, just go with chili with beans.  Fewer cans to open, you know?
  • some shredded pepper jack cheese
  • sour cream
  • chunky salsa
  • guacamole
  • pickled jalapenos

First, heat up the ingredients that are going inside the tortillas.  For us, that was the chili and the beans.

Heat up a big 12″ cast iron skillet (or whatever kind of skillet you have) and then add some vegetable oil and smear it around with a paper towel.

Put one tortilla in the pan.  Spread on your heated ingredients in a thin layer–no more than 1/4″.  You don’t want a bunch of stuff leaking out of the sides.

Sprinkle on the cheese, and slap on the top tortilla.  Let the whole thing sit there for a couple of minutes, or until the bottom tortilla is a beautiful golden brown.

Flip the whole thing over with a big old spatula.  If you haven’t tried to shove too many ingredients in there, this should go Well.

Let the other side brown, pushing down on the tortilla just a bit to make sure the cheese melts.

Once the quesadilla is golden brown on the second side, remove it carefully to a large cutting board.

I spread the top of ours with thin layers of sour cream, salsa and guacamole and then topped the whole deal with pickled jalapenos.  You can do whatever you want with yours, though.

Then, cut the whole thing with a pizza cutter.  You could cut it into skinny little slices, but we cut our guy into six big pie wedges.  A delightful dining experience, indeed.  And fast.  And easy.

And there you have it.  You use whatever you have in the fridge.  Any kind of little pieces of meat and/or vegetables are fair game.  Pretty much as long as it’s good with cheese, it’s in.  I’m pretty sure the one hard-and-fast requirement for quesadillas–even US of A quesadillas–is cheese.  Toppings are entirely optional, but who wants to serve a naked quesadilla?  Load that puppy up.

Sunday Suppers (Monday Morning Edition): Fish-N-Chips–So Good They’ll Make You Drop Your Aitches and Break Out Your Best Rhyming Slang.

22 Feb
fish and chips recipe

'Ello, me loverlies.

So, from what I understand, it’s Lent.  Somehow I forgot about Fat Tuesday altogether, and I didn’t get soot smooshed on my forehead on Ash Wednesday.  I don’t give up anything for Lent, mainly because I am Pious and Holy all year long and spend a lot of time Denying Myself Items I Want.  But for some reason, this year I have fixated on Fish on Friday.

I don’t even like seafood.  Honest.  One time I took The Beloved away for a Surprise Birthday Weekend à la plage, and for dinner he ordered some sort of Witch’s Cauldron full of Ominously Bubbling Stuff with tentacles and claws and What Not hanging out of it.  I had to Look Away and try to concentrate on my blackened chicken pasta.  That’s pretty much the only alternative to seafood at a seafood restaurant, unless you want to go the Kiddie Menu route, and I can no longer pass for 12.

So it was truly out of character for me to pipe up with, “Hey, how’s about some fish-n-chips for dinner on Friday?”  The Beloved’s mouth fell open a bit, but as he rarely gets seafood at home he quickly agreed.  So, we snagged 12 ounces of flash-frozen cod fillets and tossed them in our freezer until Wednesday evening, when I decided that I prolly needed to thaw them out before deep frying them.

Now, where does a fish disliker (hate is too strong a word) like me go to learn how to make fish-n-chips?  Why, Alton Brown, of course.  I looked at his recipe for a general idea of proportions and for his specific beer recommendation (brown ale) for the batter.  And then, I left it up to The Beloved to come up with the seasonings.  Here’s what we ended up with:

Beloved’s Beer Batter

  • 6.5 oz flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Old Bay, onion powder and garlic powder, to taste
  • Some Penzeys 4S–the Spicy Kind
  • a 12 oz bottle of brown ale (we used Brooklyn Brown Ale)

Whisk all dry ingredients together.  Pour in the beer, and whisk until the batter is Pretty Smooth.  Because of the dark beer, it will be an ugly color, but just go with it.  I promise it will all turn out Okay.

Let the batter sit in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before using.

For the fish

  • some corn starch
  • seasoning of your choice
  • at least 3 quarts of peanut oil.  You could use another kind, but it’s what we had that was Suitable for Deep Frying, so it’s what we used.

Take your fresh or thawed fillets and pat them dry.  Very Very Dry.  Sprinkle with the seasonings of your choice (we used some more Spicy 4S), and then dredge lightly in corn starch before dunking them in the batter and carefully placing them in the hot oil.

For the Chips (Fries)

  • 2 Big Ass floury baking potatoes–we were amazed at how big they were, and we just had to have them
  • The aforementioned oil
  • whatever sort of salty seasoning you prefer.  We used a mixture of 4S and fine sea salt.

We pretty much followed Alton’s rules for dipping the fish and frying them.  We also did the two-stage fry for the potatoes.  The first at 325F to blanch and the second at 375 to brown and crisp them up.

If you don’t want to go look at his rules, Alton says to make the fries first and hold them in a 200F oven while you’re dipping and frying your fish.  That’s what we did.  We mixed up the beer batter before we made the fries, so it probably was in the fridge for closer to 30-45 minutes.  It was Extremely Thick when we took it out to use.  I think next time we’ll reduce the flour to 6.5 oz.  I have used that measurement up there in the batter ingredients.  If you think you’ll use it within 15 minutes, go ahead and use a full 9 oz of flour.  Of course either way it’s up to you.  I’m just trying to present you with all your Options.

beer battered cod

'Ello, beer battered and fried cod.

After the two-stage (325F/375F) chips/fries fry, we fried the fish at 350F.  I think ours took us between 5-7 minutes to cook, but I’m not really sure.  Besides, yours could take longer.  Just keep an eye on it and take it to a lovely deep golden brown.  Maybe even a little deeper than you think you should.

homemade seasoned French fries

Cor Blimey, but them whips are beauties!

We served ours with malt vinegar, and I even made Jaunty Newspaper Cones for the fries.*  Sometimes I fear that Martha is trying to Possess Me.

Anyway, take it from me–even if you are not a fish person, you will at least be pleasantly surprised by these guys.  The fish was juicy and perfect and plump; the batter was crisp and deeply golden brown; the chips were very potatoey and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  All in all, it were a Fine Meal Indeed.  One that’ll make yer Minces light up an’ get yerself to the Aunt Mabel as fast as yer Scotches can carry ya t’ shove them in yer Boat an’ take a big bite wif your Hampsteads.   A Simply ‘Eavenly Meal, innit?  I Turtle Doves ye, I duz, Lillian-n-Jocks.**

eating fish and chips

The penultimate bite.

homemade fish and chips

'Appy, 'appy 'usband.

*from The Funny Times.  We read it first before we made cones out of it.  Thanks to lovely Neighbor Roberta for hooking us up with FT.

**Fanks to Cockney Rhyming Slang for the translation.

Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): Italian-Inspired Braised Short Rib Ragú

1 Feb
This is not mine--I don't have any pictures of the process, actually.  Shocking.  This is pretty similar to the color and texture of mine.  It looks like this person used homemade pappardale.  You certainly could, too, if you want.

This is not mine--I don't have any pictures of the process, actually. Shocking. This is pretty similar to the color and texture of mine. It looks like this person used homemade pappardale. You certainly could, too, if you want.

Photo Credit

Hello, all.  I do hope everyone had a lovely weekend.  We spent ours Snowed In.  The Blizzard of ’10 began on Friday evening and didn’t let up until late Saturday night.  We were prepared, though.  In our kitchen, we had the Means to Create hot cocoa, egg dishes, chocolate pound cake for Lovely Neighbor Susan’s birthday and Short Ribs.  What more could you ask?

I purchased Said Ribs a few weeks ago, and had them nestled in the freezer in the event of Inclement Weather.  When we heard that the Blizzard was going to attack on Friday evening, I stayed one step ahead and cooked the ribs on Thursday evening to eat during the White Out.  This goes completely against my Spur of the Moment Nature, and I cannot explain why I played Against Type in this instance.  Suffice to say, I’m glad that I did.  So was The Beloved (who incidentally is hard at work right down the hall since we are Still Snowed/Iced In).

My initial thought was to make French-inspired short ribs.  I was going to use some Herbes de Provence and go with sort of a Boeuf Bourgignon-type construction, with pearl onions and mushrooms as garnish.  When I consulted the Spice Cabinet, I realized that I don’t own Herbes de Provence.  I also realized that my carrot was bendy like Gumby.  Oops.  That’s more like me, don’t you think?  So, I can’t make a classic French mire poix without a carrot.  I briefly entertained the idea of Asian-inspired ribs, but we had just had the Asian-type chicken wings a few days before, and I didn’t really have enough Asiany ingredients for garnish.

I puzzled and puzzled ’til my puzzler was sore, and decided to go Italian.  So, down came the canned tomatoes, the red wine, the balsamic vinegar and my wonderful Tuscan Sunset from Penzeys Spices.  Here’s the list of ingredients and what I did with them to make Something Incredibly Satisfying:

Italian-inspired Braised Short Rib Ragú
Ragú (from the French ragoût) is just a well-seasoned meat-based sauce usually served with pasta.

  • 4 meaty, meaty beef short ribs (on the bone)
  • olive oil
  • I did not own a big old onion, so I peeled about 15 pearl onions and used them. Use a big onion if you have one.  Or not.
  • 1 large rib of celery, diced
  • 1/2 shallot, minced (yes, that would have been a part of my French flavors, but it was Pressed Into Service for my new idea)
  • some high-quality Italian seasoning.  That Penzeys stuff rocks–I highly recommend it.  It has some fennel in the mix, which is lovely)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (Penzeys expects us to believe that, with their Tuscan Sunset “who needs salt?”  Well, I do.  And so do you).
  • some mushrooms, sliced (I think mine were wee portobello, but use what you like)
  • a cup or so of dry red wine
  • about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • some chicken stock (I made some about two weeks ago.  I used a bunch for chicken and dumplings, and I still had almost a gallon left over.  I reduced it down to a quart for easier storage.  I used about a cup of it, plus about a cup of water).
  • a large can of whole tomatoes, juice and all
  • dried porcini mushrooms (they were here, so I snipped some up with scissors and just dropped them in the pot–I used maybe 3 of them)
  • some sugar

Okay, this is going to sound like a Very Lot of Work, but it’s not so bad.  I put the ribs together, including browning, in under 30 minutes.  Honest.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 225F (or so–anywhere from 210F-250F will be just fine)
  2. Let ribs come up to room temperature.  Pat them dry.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, and sear on all sides in hot olive oil.  Set aside.
  4. Add the onions and celery.  Let them get kind of golden, and then turn down the heat.
  5. Add the shallot (or garlic, if you’d rather) and the fresh mushrooms and cook everything down until dry-ish.
  6. Deglaze pan with wine and vinegar.  Reduce until almost dry.
  7. Add the chicken stock, water (if you’re using it) and tomatoes.
  8. Throw in the Italian seasoning.  Taste and add salt and/or pepper, if necessary.
  9. If it’s tasting at all bitter or weird, correct this with a bit more salt and some sugar.
  10. Snip in the dried mushrooms.
  11. Nestle the seared ribs into the sauce you’ve just built.  Pour in any juices that accumulated under the ribs.
  12. Let everything come up just to a boil, and then cover and let it finish cooking in the oven for at least 1 1/2 hours.  I forgot about ours and ended up letting them go for about 4 hours.  They were just fine, because I was cooking at such a low temperature.
  13. Test the ribs-they should literally fall off the bone and shred very easily with a fork.
  14. Now, cool everything down in the pan.  I ususally take a big old ice pack, put it in a big freezer bag, and put it in the pan to help cool things off quickly.
  15. Once it’s cool-ish (no more than about 110F), remove the ice pack, put the lid back on, and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Whatever you do, Do Not Remove the Meat and let it cool separately.  If you ever read a recipe that tells you to take the meat out, just ignore that step.  Braised meat must be cooled in its cooking liquid.  If not, as it cools–alone and naked–any liquid that is in them will be squeezed out as the proteins contract.  Then, no matter if you serve them later in a sauce, they will be Dry and Stupid.  Always, always cool braised meat in its cooking liquid so that some of that moisture is trapped in the meat protein structure when everything cools together.    Heed my warning, humans.

  1. The next day, skim off most of the fat.  Leave some of it–some of it is olive oil, anyway.  Plus, keeping some of the fat will add to the overall lip-smackiness of the dish.
  2. Remove the ribs from the sauce, shred the meat and discard the bones and any huge fatty pieces.  The bones have Given Their All for the Cause, so don’t be sad about tossing them.
  3. Set the shredded meat aside and reheat the sauce to a boil.  Let the sauce reduce for a few minutes, just to intensify the flavors.  Taste, and adjust the seasonings.  You might need some salt, pepper and/or sugar.  I even added a touch more balsamic at this point.
  4. Now, take your immersion blender (or use a regular blender) and blend the sauce until it’s smooth.  That’s right–blend all that onion, celery, tomato, mushroom, et al into a thick, smooth sauce.  Or you can leave it a little chunky.  I like the mouthfeel of the thick smooth sauce, though.
  5. Once the sauce is smooth, turn the heat to Pretty Low and add in the shredded meat.  Let the meat warm up while you cook your pasta.
  6. I used a pound of wide egg noodles because I like Egg Noodles.  Other possibilities include rigatoni, farfalle, penne, ziti or any other hearty pasta shapes that will hold a thick sauce.
  7. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, reserving just a bit of the cooking water.  Put the pasta and water back in the pot and pour on all the sauce.  Add either a healthy splash of olive oil or do what I did–add a couple of tablespoons of butter.
  8. Over high heat, stir everything together, blending the sauce and the pasta well, until the butter is melted and the sauce is velvety.
  9. Serve with bread for mopping up the sauce and a salad, if you want.  We did without the salad because there were so many veggies in the sauce.

The whole vat of ragú and noodles fed us for three meals.  If we had bothered to make Side Dishes, we probably could have stretched it to 4 or even 5 modest portions each.  I generally get tired of leftovers after the second day.  That’s when I tell The Beloved that I don’t want to eat Poison Food and I’d rather eat a pack of ramen noodles.  But this was so good–so rich and flavorful and warming and filling–that I happily ate leftovers not once, but twice.  High praise, indeed.

So, guess what?  My video camera came last Thursday!  I’ll be spending the rest of today trying to put together the Inaugural Episode of PMAT Live!

Have a lovely day, all!

PS  Ever wondered how folks in our neighborhood have fun in the snow?  Well, here you go:

Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): The Most Thoughtful Christmas Gift Ever and Curried Vegetables over Brown Rice

11 Jan
stocking exchange

Left to right, Lizzie, moi and Julie

You prolly didn’t know this, but I am one of the Three Musketeers.  No, not those musketeers, sillies.  The Three Musketeers of the neighborhood I grew up in.  This is how it happened.  You see, my parents befriended another couple two years before either couple had children.  When my folks bought their house in 1964, the other couple bought three doors down on the same street and moved just a few weeks later.  Even so, my mom and Queenie Embraced and Cried as if they were never going to see each other again.

Then, along came moi to my parents, and along came Julie to Queenie and Ivan.  Julie is still one of my two best friends, almost 44 years later (her birthday is in April).  Living back-doors to Julie was Lizzie, the third musketeer and my other best friend.  All three of us have known each other forever, and although there were times when we weren’t in close contact with each other, we have remained fast friends to this day.  I count myself very fortunate to know and have both of them in my life.

Lizzie moved an hour and a half away when we were fifteen.  An hour and a half is a long way when you’re car-less, not to mention driver license-less.  Still, we all kept in touch, seeing each other when we could.

When college came along, we all pretty much just did our own thing, seeing each other once or twice a year and calling on birthdays and such.  A couple of years after graduation, it dawned on us that we’d all ended up in the same career:  teaching.  Lizzie is an amazing regular ed teacher, and has been teaching in South Carolina for 22 years.  Julie earned a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy and went on to teach various Exceptional Education classes in public schools in North Carolina.  After teaching pre-school for several years while her kids were little, she is in her second year back at a public school and will have her own classroom next year.  If you have an elementary-aged child with an exceptionality, I highly recommend you move to Charlotte and get in her class.  And I bumbled into Special Ed, myself, earning my Master’s and teaching for 16 years.

Teaching, education was always something we could talk about.  It was one of the things at the center of our own Venn Diagram.  We shared stories, asked for and gave advice and laughed when we recognized our own “kids” in each others’ stories.  And then, one day I ran away and joined the circus.

I guess my friends were happy for me.  No, I take that back.  I know they were happy for me.  I can remember calling Lizzie on the way home from teaching one day after I’d already handed in my resignation and was waiting for culinary school to begin.  I told her about this job I had gotten in a start-up bakery in Orlando, and I remember her being very excited for me and telling me that she knew I’d do well.  All of us still talked a lot about teaching–I’d left the profession, but I hadn’t forgotten the lingo.  And both Lizzie and Julie love to cook, so we did talk about cooking, too.  When I worked in restaurants they didn’t really have a point of reference.  Neither did I, really.  It was all new to me, too.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we talked–and still do–about all sorts of things.  And we sing Girl Scout Songs.  Loudly.  Lizzie sings them well, and Julie and I Harmonize, which is my Euphemism for Sing Off Key.  But work is generally a huge part of people’s lives, and work chat always seems to come up, especially when folks have similar jobs.

Well, all was right with the world, and then I started The Blog.  And the website.  And writing for others.  And working in my jammies–all as a way to combine my teaching background with my passion for cooking and baking.   Well, maybe not the jammies part; I just like to wear them.  My friends were happy for me.  Sort of.  And I get it:  it’s kind of odd to have a job that I can do in my PJs.  Oh, and let me tell you another thing about Julie.  She is a Very Smart and Amazing Person, but she abhors computers.  Really.  She can use one to check email and go to websites and What Not, but as far as the nuts and bolts go, she is quite intimidated and wants nothing to do with the nuts (folders) or the bolts (facebook).  So, my whole I’m-building-a-website-writing-a-blog-writing-for-others-making-Squidoo-lenses–all-0n-the-computer is a very Alien Concept for her.  We don’t talk about my work now, because she doesn’t really understand it.  We still have plenty to talk about, though, so worry not, friends.

On the other hand, Lizzie reads my blog, and she has even referenced it conversation before.  She asks how things are going and seems interested in all my jammies-clad goings on.  And now, we’re at the part where I talk about the most thoughtful Christmas gift ever.

As you guys may remember, The Beloved and I stuck mostly to homemade and Heifer International gifts this year.  But, The Three Musketeers have been getting together on Christmas Eve morning at the Cracker Barrel in Rock Hill, SC for brunch and a stocking exchange for a few years now.  We all take turns stuffing gifts in the stockings–I get presents from Julie and Lizzie, Lizzie gets presents from Julie and me, and Julie gets presents from Lizzie and me.  And we have a Very Small Spending Limit.  The stockings are fun, but the real present is the three of us, eating and laughing together, without husbands and without kids (or kittens).  The Three Musketeers ride again!

The stocking rule does not extend to their children, though.  Lizzie has a daughter who is almost four, and Julie has two kids, 11 and 15.  And I have kittens.  I got a Very Keen wine bottle lamp from Julie’s kids–it has a string of Christmas lights shoved inside of it, and it is decorated in Festive Holiday Style with a little cork with a wire Christmas tree on top.  I’m pretty sure that Shellie and JW picked out that present themselves.  Lizzie is still picking out the gifts from Lily, though.  And guess what she got me?  A plate!  Not just any plate, mind you:  a big, white, square plate.  For my food photographs!  How keen is that?!

You guys know that I don’t really fancy myself a Food Blogger as much as I do a Food Teacher, but people like pretty pictures, and I guess you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and there are too many commas in this sentence so I’m done with it.  Anyway, I cannot tell you guys how touched I was that she took the time to find me something that I can use at my job.  I mean, it is a gift that says, “I’m not sure I completely get what you’re doing, but I support you anyway.”  And I’ve already used it twice.  So, let it be known throughout the land that, unless otherwise specified, any photos of food that show up on Ye Olde Blogge  on a big, white, square plate were taken by Me.  I’m not sure that they’ll be any better than before, but at least I’m shooting on a white background now.  And I have a Clamp Light, thanks to Drew‘s kind suggestion.

Well, that was certainly a long introduction.  If you’ve hung in this long, you are a true friend.  And now, without further ado, our dinner from last Sunday.  And the Lily plate:

Veggie curry

Not bad, if I do say so myself. And, my! What a lovely plate! Thank you, Lizzie and Lily.

Look at how I made it.  The food, not the plate:

toasting spices

First, I sauteed some onion and then added some of that Balti seasoning from Penzeys along with some garam masala. And salt. I cooked the spices--carefully--until they were Very Fragrant.

making curried vegetables

Then I added 2 cans of whole tomatoes and kind of mushed them up a bit with the spatula. I think I also added about 1/2 cup of leftover chicken stock.

curried chick peas

Then, in went 2 small-ish cans of chick peas, plus some of their liquid.

curried vegetables

Hello, cauliflower and sweet potato.

curried potatoes

Oh, hey! I have a white potato that's getting a little long in the tooth. I'm'a toss him in, too.

curried vegetables

Did you think I'd forget about you, bell pepper? Not likely...

simmering curried vegetables

Simmer, simmer, simmer with the lid on until everyone is tender. Take off the lid and let it reduce and thicken a bit. It will be better the next day. And the next.

Yes, if you want to roast or saute the veggies a bit to deepen the flavor, please go ahead.  I wasn’t in this for the long haul, though, so I just diced/chopped everybody up and let them go.  Yes, you can certainly add meat.  Chicken, lamb, goat–even fish.  Of course it’s that easy: cook onions, toast spices, add liquid and veggies, simmer, adjust seasonings, stuff in face.  No, you may not have my plate.

Sunday Suppers: Porky Stir Fry

3 Jan
stir fry

PMAT stir fry, sans wok

Well, hello all, and Happy New Year!  I know that I said that my first post after the new year would be about puff pasty, but since it’s Sunday, I figured I’d just go for a Sunday Supper and deal with puff pastry tomorrow.  I hope that’s okay with everyone.

Before I get all recipe-y, let me just say that I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.  The kittens had a great first Christmas, although poor Ruthie had to hang out at the vet’s over the holiday due to an Icky Eye.  Very sad; we missed her.  Camille still thinks that Ruthie doesn’t smell quite right after her five nights at the vet, so she is still hissing at her.  She needs to get over it.  Wally is all like, “Oooh, new girl!” so he isn’t phased a bit.  Wally is a Special Case.  Here is a picture of the children playing with their Christmas Goodies:

kittens at christmas

Ruthie always takes the high ground. Work smarter, not harder, Wally. Camille is just going to shoot the bird down with her death ray eyes. Take notes, Wally Big Head.

And now back to the Original Post.  Stir fry is a wonderful way to use up leftover…anything.  I had some pork, bell peppers, carrots and shallots.  Voila, a stir fry.  I used to have a very Keen hand-hammered wok.  I got it from Publisher’s Clearinghouse.  Seriously.  Remember back before entering on-line, you could enter through the mail by licking stamps for magazine subscriptions?  Well, once they sucker you in with magazines, they start sending stamps for Stuff.  Since I am a Sucker, I licked a sticker for a 5′ long body pillow and one for a wok, complete w/lid, spider, ring, spatula-thingy and a bamboo whisk.  If you’ve ever wondered if that stuff really shows up, it does.  The body pillow lasted for a couple of years, and I had the lovely wok for a long time until The Beloved rubbed off on me and, before a move, I asked myself if I used it frequently enough to warrant the space it took up.  The answer was no, and away it went, hopefully to a Good Home.  So now I am wok-less.  I get around that by using a large saute pan on a small burner turned up to high.  The main cooking happens in the center, and then I push the cooked ingredients out to The Perimeter to stay warm.  Not a perfect system, but it’s cheaper than a new wok.  Did I mention that I’m a Cheap Sucker?

I’m not going to write down all the ingredients I used, because stir fry is all about the process and technique, not so much about a standard recipe.  Just go with it.  Oh, and another thing: I don’t have a fully stocked Asian pantry, and the term “Asian Cuisine” is a Very Broad Term.  I have a few ingredients that I keep on hand that lend some of the base flavors, but by no means is this hard-core Asian cooking.  Then again, I’m not in Asia.  I’m using what I have to evoke the spirit, if not the letter, of the cuisine.

Stir Fry Technique, PMAT-Style

Small pieces of:
protein (meat, poultry, soy-product) or leave it out for a veggie fry
vegetables, all cut to more-or-less the same size

a little neutral oil with a high smoke point (maybe a tablespoon or so)

grated ginger or galangal
soy sauce
fish sauce
some sort of hot sauce or hot chiles
an Asian spice blend
herbs such as lemongrass, cilantro, Kaffir lime leaves, etc.
toasted sesame oil

a little cold stock or juice (orange juice is nice) mixed with a tablespoon or so of corn starch

crushed toasted peanuts
toasted sesame seeds
diced green onion

  1. Marinate the protein for thirty minutes or so in a mixture of your Chosen Flavorings
  2. Heat pan to Very Hot.
  3. Add oil until it shimmers.
  4. Stir fry the protein more-or-less in the middle of the pan.  You can do this in batches if you need to; don’t crowd the pan.
  5. Push protein out of the way, and add the veggies in order from longest-time-to-cook to shortest-time-to-cook, starting each in the center of the pan and then pushing to the sides.
  6. Add all the protein back in, if cooking in batches.
  7. Add the stock/juice/slurry and toss everything together until the sauce thickens
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  9. Serve over rice or noodles.
  10. The end.

As I said before, I had pork, bell peppers, carrot and shallot to use up.  I marinated the pork in some ginger, chile sauce and soy sauce and made the slurry out of a little fish sauce and orange juice.  It was very simple and very tasty.  Just like yours will be.

Sunday Suppers: Thufferin’ Thuccotash, PMAT Style

13 Sep
Not your run of the mill anemic succotash.  With grudging apology to folks who like the anemic kind.

Not your run of the mill anemic succotash. With grudging apology to folks who like the anemic kind.

I am not a succotash purist.  Anemic stuff.  Corn and lima beans swimming in some white stuff.  Weee.  Nope, give me some depth of flavor; a little bite; a little meatiness from some tomatoes.  And creamy white stuff turns into a splash or two of heavy cream.  This is a wonderful fresh meal, born of the farmers’ market here.  One stand was selling shelled peas–I’m not sure what kind; there was no label.  If you know, please let me know.  Otherwise, I’m going with Field Peas.

Anyone recognize these pea guys?

Anyone recognize these pea guys?

Another stand had some lovely white corn.  Yes, please.  The rest fell into place.

PMAT Succotash

  • fresh Field Peas (or limas or pinto beans or whatever).  I think my cryo-vacced bag weighed a pound
  • three ears corn (more or less, depending on how much you Like Corn)
  • olive oil and butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • diced onion, to taste
  • pepper flake, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (only use if you’re using fresh peas/beans that need to be cooked.  If your beans are pre-cooked, you won’t need the stock)
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (or about 2 cups worth of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced)
  • any herbs you have lying about–fresh or dried
  • maybe 1/4 cup heavy cream

As you can see from Ye Olde Ingredient Liste, this is a pretty simple preparation.  You can add some meat to it to make it a little heartier.  You can serve it as a side.  You can season it however you like.  I think the Official Definition of succotash is something along the lines of a dish made from corn and beans.  The rest is up to you.  Here’s how I made ours:

Sweat onion in olie oil (okay, one of my letter keys isn’t working right now.  Guess which one.  How does this happen?  I blame the kittens.  From now on, an Apostrophe will play the part of That Letter). Anyway, with salt and pepper and pepper flake.  Until soft.

Butter hearts corn.  Corn hearts butter.  Why not let them both get what they want?

Butter hearts corn. Corn hearts butter. Why not let them both get what they want?

Cut kernels from the corn, thusly:

Step one: place ear firmly on upside down paper plate (or paper bowl)

Step one: place ear firmly on upside down paper plate (or paper bowl)

Slice kernels off with a sharp chef knife

Slice kernels off with a sharp chef knife

Scrape cob with back of knife to get all out all the pulp and milk

Scrape cob with back of knife to get all out all the pulp and milk

Toss the peas/beans into the pan with the onions.  Add the chicken stock and some herbs and simmer until mostly tender.  This took me about 30-ish minutes.

Once the peas/beans are mostly tender, add the tomatoes and corn.  Simmer to heat through.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt/pepper/herbs as necessary until you like it.

Splash in the cream and reduce by about 1/3.  Taste again.  Because it’s good.

And that’s really it.  It’s easy to make; it’s cheap to make; it’s wide open to personal interpretation.  It contains Cream.  What’s not to like?

A Personal Anecdote Regarding Succotash
Last Thanksgi’ing, The Belo’ed and I went to see his aunt and uncle in Delaware.  I helped Auntie to make the meal.  Auntie is Not Used to being helped, and does things Her Way.  At any rate, my parts:  creamed cauliflower and stuffing.  She made succotash, and I made some extra beschamel for her, since I needed it for the cauliflower, too.  I asked if she wanted to put some tomato in her succotash.  You know, to mix things up a bit?  She was Scandalized.  “That’s not how I make it.  Uncle wouldn’t like it.”  I thought to myself he would if he tries it, but I was Meek and said okay.  Uncle piped up and asked how I make my succotash.  I ga’e him the run down, and he said that perhaps he would like it that way after all and maybe Auntie could do it that way Next Time.  She looked a bit Nonplussed, and e’en though I’m generally a Nice Person, I quietly enjoyed The Moment.

Sunday Suppers, Monday Edition: Frijoles y Chorizo

24 Aug
Will definitely have this again when it gets cooler.

Will definitely have this again when it gets cooler.

I admit, I used the Spanish word for beans and added that “y” in there to make it sound like some kind of authentic Mexican food.  I don’t know; maybe someone, somewhere in a wee Mexican village has rolled this number out before, but I just took inspiration from Mexican ingredients and Forged my own Path.  Regardless, it was Extremely Tasty.  We had it over brown rice, once with queso and once without.  Tonight, we’ll have it over pasta, a la chili mac.  It would also make a Ridiculous nacho fixin’, a burrito stuffing or just a great hot dip.

I am no Sausage Expert, but I have used a couple of different kinds of chorizo.  One kind seems to be at least partially dried and is dice-able.  The kind that I bought for this Particular Meal was a raw spicy minced beef packed into plastic casings.  Once cooked, it had the texture of a country pâté.  See:

See; this is how it looked after I broke it up a bit....

See; this is how it looked after I broke it up a bit....

...and this is how it looked all cooked.  Note:  It's hard to tell when it's done because the spicing is so red.  I let it go until the spices started smelling toasty.  Good call.  Way to go, me.

...and this is how it looked all cooked. Note: It's hard to tell when it's done because the spicing is so red. I let it go until the spices started smelling toasty. Good call. Way to go, me.

This was a Good Thing, because I was wanting the chorizo to sort of disappear into the sauce and flavor the whole dish.  Way to go, Particular chorizo; I appreciate you.

Frijoles y Chorizo

  • 3 TBSP oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • ground coriander
  • ground Ancho chili
  • ground cumin
  • chili powder
  • pepper flake or hot sauce, to taste
  • about 8 oz. spicy beef chorizo, crumbled and cooked
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • dried beans–I just dumped some in.  I used pink beans, but you could use black beans or pinto beans or cranberry beans or Your Favorite Bean
  • water, beer, chicken stock, beef stock or a combination of some of those.  Enough to cover the beans by 1 inch

Heat the pan; heat the oil.  Sweat onions, celery and bell pepper with salt and pepper for about 5-10 minutes.

Add the spices and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, or enough to toast the spices.

Cook until the spices are fragrant.

Cook until the spices are fragrant.

Add the cooked chorizo, tomatoes, dried beans and liquid.  (I only had some really hoppy IPA and a Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre, and I was out of stock, so I actually used water.  It was fantastic, honestly.  Using beer and stock would have been Awesome).    Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy.  This’ll take about 2 hours, prolly.  Leave the lid on to keep the liquid from evaporating while the beans are cooking–they’ll soak up a lot of water.  Oh, here are the beans I used:

Hello, Mexican pink beans.  You could use canned to drastically cut down on the cooking time.

Hello, Mexican pink beans. You could use canned to drastically cut down on the cooking time.

Cool and refrigerate for a day or two.  Reheat, and serve however you like.  When reheating, go ahead and leave the lid off to concentrate the flavors just a bit.  Then taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Try to keep your cat from eating it.

What?!  I have no interest in your stupid beans and chorizo, human.  Yeah, right.  Nice try, Wally.

What?! I have no interest in your stupid beans and chorizo, human. Yeah, right. Nice try, Wally.

Sunday Suppers, Monday Edition: Pizza, Baby!

17 Aug
This isn't my picture, but it's definitely my kind of pizza.

This isn't my picture, but it's definitely my kind of pizza.

One of the first things The Beloved and I do when we move to a new place is to find the best local pizza place we can and Buy From Them.  We’d rather support a local, stand alone than a Crazy Big Chain operation.  The place we have found in NC is a little place called Papa’s Pizza and Subs.  They don’t have a website, so you’ll just have to trust me.  It is G-U-D good.

We order from Papa about twice a month, and we have been Very Pleased–even their delivery guys are really good.  Yay.

There was a time though–a Sad and Dark time–when we didn’t have a good local pizza place near us.  The only thing to do was make our own.  Even now, with Papa’s down the road, we might have a hankering for pizza brushed with truffle oil sometime, and then we’ll just make some.

Here’s the recipe we used at one of the restaurants I worked at, scaled down so you don’t have to make a billion pizzas.*  You’re welcome.

Easy Pizza Crust

  • 4 oz high gluten or bread flour
  • 4 oz AP flour
  • 4 oz water
  • 1/3 oz fresh yeast or 3 g. dry yeast
  • 1/2 oz. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 oz salt (7 g)

Just put everything in the mixer with the dough hook and mix/knead on medium-low speed for 8 minutes and medium speed for 4 minutes.  Divide dough in half, round and cover.  Let rise until doubled, then roll out/stretch, top and bake.  If you want a chewier crust, top the pizza, cover and let rise again for about 30 minutes before baking.

Pizza Sauce
Yes, I guess you can buy pizza sauce, but it’s really easy to make.  I usually use San Marzano tomatoes or Romas–canned–a fair amount of olive oil, onions, garlic, tomato paste, pepper flake, salt, pepper, lots of oregano, thyme and basil.  Here’s how:

  1. Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil until softened and translucent.
  2. Add tomato paste, salt, pepper, pepper flake and dried herbs and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute or two.
  3. Add the undrained tomatoes and mash in the pan.
  4. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  You’re only going to be using a small amount of sauce on a pizza, so it should be very flavorful.  Add a pinch of sugar or a splash of balsamic if the flavor seems dull.
  5. Puree with an immersion blender, blender or food processor until it’s as smooth as you want it.  For a nice, even texture, run it through a food mill with the medium disc in place.

Other Things to Spread on Pizza Dough Besides Tomato Sauce

  • Pesto
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Sweet and sour sauce
  • Steak sauce
  • olive oil
  • Alfredo sauce
  • aioli
  • Plum sauce
  • Chimichuri sauce
  • Chutney
  • Etc.

Tasty Items to Put on Pizza
If you like it, you can probably put it on a pizza.  I usually decide on my “spread” first and then choose toppings that will complement it.  Of course, you can choose your toppings first and then choose your spread.  Whatever works for you.

Pizza Rules

  1. Less is more–don’t overload the dough–you want to taste the bread once it’s baked.
  2. Bake the pizza on a pizza stone or quarry tile close to the bottom of the oven.
  3. Bake at the highest temperature your oven will go.  Mine goes to 525F.
  4. If you have a pizza peel, lightly sprinkle it with cornmeal before building the pizza on it. Shake it often to make sure it’s not sticking.  When you’re ready to bake, transfer the pizza from the peel to the baking stone by placing the end of the peel at the far end of the stone and shaking/jerking the peel back towards you.

And there you have it.

*a true 1x recipe makes 27 6oz. rounds.  I generally made x2 or even x3.  Every. Day.

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