The Gastronomist Manifesto

Chefs of the World Unite!

Archive for the tag “recipe”

Pacific Northwest Pride With A Spanish Touch

I moved to Portland a little over two years ago. This burgeoning “foodie town” hasn’t let me down much, although I’m still skeptical as with all things Portland related that there isn’t a hype factor involved a bit. One thing I wont argue with is being so close to and surrounded by one of the agricultural Meccas of the United States. The produce! So good.

Felt like cooking up something special because it was a slow Sunday and I haven’t treated myself in a while. Thought maybe I’d play to the foods of my new home in the PNW, but add a little Spanish-French touch since, well, awesome + awesome…

DSC00708

Salmon With Poblano-Hazelnut Pesto, Potatoes, Asparagus and a Garlic-Pimenton Butter

My inability to gauge portion sizes from raw ingredients lead to a rather hefty plate, which is fine by me when the food’s this good and it’s Sunday (I can nap, dammit!)

First thing is you want to start your potatoes. Depends on their size of course as to how long you need to cook them. Just stab ’em with a fork, ice pick or whatever you have handy after a while to test.

OH! But you think cooking potatoes is just that easy, do you?! Here’s the best trick I’ve learned for doing potatoes: never add potatoes to a boiling pot. See the heat and hot water that carries it takes time to travel from outside to in, when you apply that heat too fast, too hard it doesn’t make that distance very equitably. It’s a caloric class system. What you get is over-done outer parts and raw insides. Also, unless you have health reasons like hypertension, douse the water with salt. Not only does it flavor your potato but I believe something with the osmosis process makes for a more tender tater–least it seems that way to me but I’m not a scientist.

Now the fish… I got a nice bit of salmon, quintessential PNW staple. A sadly rare treat because I’m broke and I will not buy shitty fish (I used to be a fishmonger.) I went with a poaching method with this. Convinience, mostly, there were a lot of dirty dishes with this meal. One my potatoes were done I just popped the fishy right into the water, which was on a medium heat, not at a boil. Water boils at 212 degrees and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees to be safe. See what I mean?

The recipe I adapted this from suggested throwing white wine, garlic and parsley into the cooking liquid. Which is cool, but I find never adds enough flavor to be worth the trouble.

Asparagus. Blanch it for a few minutes. If you want to keep it extra green chill it in ice water after cooking. I’m told a little baking soda in the water also helps.

Now comes the fun part, the condiments!

Poblano-Hazelnut Pesto.

– One handful of hazelnuts (Oregon’s state nut!) Blanched if you want to put in the effort. Initially I was going to make this into a Romesco type sauce, but messed up my levels. But the pesto was a serendipitous result.

– One large poblano pepper, fire roasted. Don’t have a fire? A non-stick pan on the highest heat will burn that sucker black. I found putting our tea kettle over it for pressure got a nice blackness on the skin. You want black too. You can easily scrape off the burnt skin with cold, running water and a paring knife, and that’s the only way to get a soft, roasty pepper.

– Vinegar, just a capful. I like Sherry, but apple cider is more likely in your pantry and works fine.

– Cumin. Half teaspoon ground or about as many seeds.

Take food. Put in blender. Slowly add olive oil in batches or drizzle if your machine has an open top for such. Blend until you have a workable paste and, of course, season appropriately.

Garlic-Pimenton Butter

– Garlic. I used three cloves, small-medium sorts. You *could* just mince them. I have this super-handy toaster oven that I threw them in, in their jackets, for 18 minutes. Makes for a sweeter, less zingy garlic.

– Olive oil in a pain on med-low heat. Minced garlic in! Good dash of good paprika. And when I say good paprika I mean spend money on the real stuff. A lot of cheap brands are flavorless, basically coloring agents. I don’t normally advocate spending more for quality, but paprika’s an exception, the difference is night and day.

– So while your garlic slowly softens and the paprika/pimenton dissolve, how about a pat of butter? Nice texture, great depth, loves salmon.

—————————————————————————–

Serving is pretty evident I hope from the picture! Just sliced the potatoes into rounds (careful that they’re cool), fish, asparagus and distribute the pesto over and sauce around so you can get nice even bites.

Salmon, hazelnuts and asparagus! The only thing essentially Pacific Northwest not included were rain and handlebar moustaches. But that… that’s another post.

One Last Bake of the Season – Eggplant and Polow

Yesterday was cold, today was cold, the end of the week is supposed to go up to 80 degrees. So what better reason to fire up the oven one more time? And I just happened to have one of my favorite vegetables to oven roast, eggplant!

DSC00663

Roasted Eggplant

1. Pre-heat the broiler of your oven with a rack close to the top. As that’s heating take an eggplant and slice into rings. Optional: You may want to dose them with salt on both sides to draw a little of the bitterness out. Wash the salt off and dry them with a towel after about 10-15 minutes. Season the eggplant slices and coat with a thin layer of olive oil, both sides.

2. Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. When I made mine I wanted my eggplant to have little contact with the cooking surface so I rigged a sort of roasting rack out of rolled up aluminum foil. This prevented sticking and slightly better heat distribution, but is optional.

3. Check on your slices after 6-7 minutes. The tops should be slightly browned, give or take depending on your oven and the eggplant itself. If so, flip them over and let them go for another 5 minutes to brown the other side and soften the middle.

4. When you are satisfied with their doneness, sprinkle on some feta cheese and pimento peppers (i.e., what green olives are often stuffed with and readily available in jars.) Throw them back under the broiler for a minute or two if you want the feta to soften a little.

5. Garnish with some fresh herbs if you have some (parsley or mint = best; I had cilantro which also went well), some good olive oil and/or some cracked black pepper as you like it.

Polow

Polow is a transliteration of an Iranian rice dish, similar to pilaf in other countries. There are numerous types and interpretations on this basic dish, here is mine.

1. Cook basmati rice–brown or white–per instructions with a few shakes of turmeric or, if you’re a baller, some saffron threads (more traditional, but also more $$$.)

2. With the rice going dice plenty of onion (I made 1 cup of cooked rice and about 1/43 cup of onion), a couple garlic cloves–minced, a small handful/palmful of dried dates, the same of raisins and one tomato. Sautee the onion in olive oil over a medium-low heat until it turns translucent and begins to take on some color. Add the other ingredients to the pan and continue to cook until the fruits/veggies soften and meld flavors. Don’t rush this step. Let it cook slowly and gently.

More options! Polow is frequently made with meat. Diced chicken, beef or lamb can be cooked with or seperately with the onion. I kept things vegetarian and threw some TVP in with a little water–not flavorful but upped the protein content. Other common & tasty additions: pomegranate seeds, lentils, peas and nuts.

3. When your rice is done and your sautee mixture soft and happily married, combine with the rice along with about a level teaspoon of cinnamon or a little less than, plus some lime juice (about half a lime.) If you have garam masala spice that can be substituted for a deeper, more complex spice profile. I wanted to keep my flavors simple this time; choose what suits your mood.

4. Throw in some fresh herbs just before serving or over top of the dish. In Iran herbs are a crucial ingredient and many types are used if the many recipes I’ve found have anything to say. Parsley and mint again would be the best picks. I again used cilantro just because I had it, and it works splendidly. Basil, dill and tarragon would also be excellent. Just avoid stronger, pungent stuff like oregano and rosemary.

 

It Can Only Be… Stir Fraud!!!

I haven’t really thought about this blog in a while. Cooking creativity was slumping, broken camera issues and a lacklustre pantry due to this Capitalist Crisis we’re in were the main reasons. But tonight, I made a spur of the moment decision to try something new: tofu stir-fry that has no oil whatsoever! Now some recipes I’ve tried before call for swapping oil for water (and nothing else different) and my opinion is that they all suck. It tastes steamed and bland, keeping health food stereotypes obese with justification. Mine is way better!

no-oil stir fry

No list of measurements/time.¬† ūüė¶ My apologizes, but I wasn’t thinking I’d post about this until I was eating it.

Pre-prep: Making rice, chopping veggies and setting your oven to something around 275-300 F.

1. Take a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat. Take tofu (always extra-firm!) and place them in thick slices onto the pan (no oil!) You could cube them now, but if you leave them lengthwise for now it’s easier to sear them. Wiggle gently and turn when just a little brown onto another side. Keep doing this until all sides are done. Carefully remove and cube your tofu to desired morselness.

2. Lower the heat a bit and begin to assemble the sauce of your choosing. If do this in an empty pan the better, as you can adjust it easier. Soy sauce, broth, minced garlic, five-spice powder and pepper was all I can remember adding to mine. You can borrow from any recipe you like with this rule: no prepared sauces or thickening agents! This is a braise, meaning liquid. Those GM Party Banned items will just turn to gel, not seep into the tofu and probably burn all over your pan.

3. When you’ve got your sauce tofu/protein goes in, veg goes in and for a nice braise you do not want things completely covered 60% is a rough basis. Too little and dry out could happen (BAD!); too much and heat just wont transfer quickly (NOT GOOD.) Then into the oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables. Turn food over once or twice to give everything a dunk and check the liquid (evaporation will only be a problem if you had a pithy puddle to start with.)

4. When you feel confident in your braise’s done-ness remove (CAREFULLY) and place back on the stove top. Now you need a slurry, which is not in this case a way to describe weather in my homestates of MI and OR, but a mix of cornstarch and water. Make it in a bowl, about a tablespoon should be plenty and enough cold water till you can whisk it to solution. Never add the cornstarch directly to hot liquid because that just makes corn lumps.

5. Put the heat fairly high on the stove and wait for a boil to begin. Keep stirring and add the slurry in doses (you can always add more but never take out.) The slurry will start to thicken the sauce. When it’s to your liking, you’re finished! Serve over rice, noodles, nachos, whatever and consume. (Note: you can make slurries with other thickeners like flour or arrowroot, but only cornstarch has that oily mouthfeel to it.)

no oil stir fry 2

Though I’m not on a “diet” by any means, I’ve been working out a lot more and naturally eating well is crucial. I’m estimating that rather huge dish was about 700 calories. And use the fork for comparison, it’s an especially large plate. 700 calories in a main meal isn’t a lot for an active person’s diet. My daily needs are about five times that. But the good thing is while this had more calories than a Big Mac, it had 1.5x the protein and half the fat.

Iberian Pulled Pork

The other day I made bigos, the national dish of the Polish people (pierogi be damned.) And I had this nice big steak of pork shoulder leftover that I wanted to use as soon as possible. The resulting creation…

Pork shoulder roasted/confit over yellow split/green peas and a spicy tomato sauce. A dish I think would be loved by the old comrades of the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo.

For the Pork:

1 pork shoulder steak, bone in
seasoned vigorously with: salt, pepper, paprika (the real kind), garlic powder, fennel seed and a bay leaf or two.

1 Roma tomato, sliced
a few slices of onion
1 jalapeno, sliced

1. Preheat an oven to 250 degrees.

2. Rub pork generously with seasonings. Transfer to a sheet of tinfoil. Place tomato, onion and chili over top and fold the foil over to seal. Lay on a baking sheet and place in the oven.

3. After about 4 hours remove the package, open carefully! (steam burns!) and remove vegetables and juices from the foil packet (don’t spill!) Re-fold the foil over the pork and return to the oven for another 40 minutes. Meanwhile…

4. Add the contents of the the vegetables and juice to a small sauce pan and begin to reduce while breaking up the large pieces (the tines of a fork work perfectly.) Stop when you get to a “sauce” consistency.

5. When the time is up on the pork, remove it from the oven and let it rest AT LEAST 15-20 minutes. Once it’s rested, transfer to a plate or cutting board and begin pulling the meat into shreds (two forks, hand in hand, do this perfectly.)

THE LEGUMES

1. Cooking yellow peas, lentils or rice according to their nature. For simplicity and the health benefits of steaming, toss the green peas over the mix 10 minutes prior to the other thing being finished.

2. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

PRESENTATION

1. Bed of legumes/rice, shredded pork, sauce. Done.

The real great thing about this dish is it utilizes simple, cheap ingredients for the proletarian budget. Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts of meat there is. Lentils and peas are pennies. Add a tomato, onion and a pepper, plus a few spices you’re likely to have, and you’re set. Did I mention this is also really easy to make?

My (Famous) Spicy Coconut Hash

I used to make this all the time for people I’ve lived with. At least once a week. It was rather popular, not to mention cheap for us college students.

For a single serving breakfast for myself I am taking:

1/2 russet potato, diced (I hate using half because they store poorly, but so it goes)
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup of black beans (not pictured, but when I make this for more people it’s worth adding for color, taste and good health)
cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds
half a handful of shredded coconut
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Dice your vegetables.

2. On a medium heat add oil in a thin layer to a wide frying pan. When hot add your onions and your spices. I recommend whole seeds if you have them–cumin is almost essential; mustard, coriander, fenugreek also add a nice “pop,” but you can substitute powder or even just curry powder. Either way, add them right away so they have time to open up and develop. Give it about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the potato and jalapeno (if using.) I would lower the heat. My electric stove has a 1-10 heat level and I cooked this on level 3. You have two basic choices with hash, low and slow or hot and with lots of oil. I prefer the first. Takes a long time, but doesn’t come out slippery. Stir frequently to prevent the potatoes from sticking.

4. Cooking time is going to vary by the size of your dice on the potato. After about 15 minutes I start testing pieces. When you are satisfied, crank the heat up to medium high and add the coconut, green pepper, lemon, tomato and black beans. Here, it’s like wok cooking, you want to bring those flavors out fast, but keep stirring or you’ll have potato crust on your pan. Just a couple minutes is all.

5. Season with salt and pepper. The red drizzle in my picture is sriracha sauce. If you like heat it adds a nice brightness too.

It’s been years and years since I made this but it is just as amazing as I remember. Sort of like hash browns you’d expect in the Caribbean. Now I remember why people were always begging me to make this.

Also, this is a totally original dish. I’m afraid that if I Google it I’ll find other people have done the same; but, this is one of my prouder inventions.

Also, also, I need to get a camera that is able to focus on an inanimate object  in plain daylight. All my pictures look like crap here.

The Rant and the Recipe: A Twist on Macaroni and Cheese

Recently NPR’s “All Things Considered” did a feature on a series of billboards in NY trying to scare Americans into thinking cheese is a prime cause of obesity in America and working towards banning it (“no more cheese! except in our taste for billboards!”) The perpetrators of this horrendous propaganda are the PCRM–one of the most illegitimate and scam-fueled crack-pot organizations on the food scene today. Dig yourself into the bounty of their scam charade.

Granted, foods topped with cheese are often bad on a nutritional level, but the campaign reaches the lowest dregs of logic and reason. A lack of general nutritional sensibility in America is not going to turn 180 by a ban. But research-based information is not for the PCRM and their financiers’ (PETA) strong suit. Scare tactics are. Good, legit, pragmatic diet tips from experts (the PCRM is none of those things) say the same thing: Moderation.

Moderation is not “cleanses” that do absolutely nothing but psych you out. It’s not the “Diet Plan of the Season.” It’s not “lose 20 pounds in a week with this simple trick.” It’s not PETA acting under and funding false “physician” groups to promote vegan diets. Lose weight? Cut calories. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Above all, a good, moderate health plan means not expecting results in unreasonable time spans. I myself am trying to lose weight, and I’ve dropped 13 pounds in several months, and no special diet plans were involved, just the same common-sense and scientific advice that’s been preached for decades now. And you know what else? I get to keep my cheese! As in this recipe…

Mac ‘n Cheese… With Chorizo, Roasted Peppers and Baked in Acorn Squash

This was a tinge of inspiration. I’ve seen plenty of recipes calling for baking items in hollowed out squash; and I know of baking mac ‘n cheese. This was just a touch of inspiration and more-so, this is a middle-finger to the PCRM, who say we should banish cheese. Here is my counter strike. This dish is *not*, I should say, low in fat or calories, but it does take a very common comfort dish and does diminish the calories, adds hella flavor and is really fun to prepare. And it’s pretty easy, despite the number of steps involved.

To start, you need to heat an oven to 400 degrees. Let it heat and take a baking pan/dish and line it with foil (this makes for 1 second clean-up later.) Take an acorn squash and split it in two.¬† Advice, comrade!: Acorn, butternut and many squash varieties are hard to cut even with a sharp chef’s knife or cleaver; thankfully, my friend Jess passed along this amazing bit of advice for cutting squash: put it in the microwave for one minute at a time, repeating and testing the process until that squash yields to your knife. I don’t know how I’d prep squash without her advice. It works like magic.

When your oven is heated, throw your squash in, on the foiled sheet, for about 40 minutes. I would advise using the top rack as it’ll crisp up and brown the top of the squash more, but this is not really important. Meanwhile, or within that cooking time….

Take approximately 1/2 a link of Mexican chorizo and draw a knife across it so you can split its casing. It’s important here to note that there is a major difference between Mexican and Spanish chorizo. Normally, I prefer Spanish, but Mexican chorizo is raw, soft and essential here. Add it, whole, to a small pan with a light coating of oil on a med-low heat (and when I say “med-low” I don’t mean “medium!”) Stir and try to break it apart gently with a spatula or spoon. More advice from Party Command: I rarely cook with chorizo, and even though I bought fresh-made, spatulas and forks could not break it down to a “crumble.” If this just happens to you too, just pass it too a cutting board and use a knife.

So when the chorizo was getting brown, had released some juiciness; I tossed in one minced garlic clove and about one half of a roasted red pepper (store-bought, you can find them in the deli section of a Whole Foods.) With a dash of paprika, salt and pepper; I lowered the heat to low and just let them sit.

Back-tracking a bit, just a bit before you start that mix of sausage and peppers, put a sauce pot of water to boil for the macaroni noodles. For the mac ‘n cheese part of this dish I went all out… Whole Foods boxed, but you can use the old Kraft if you want too. Although boxed mac ‘n cheese is not as good as the “real thing,” this recipe is not about “the real thing.” This is about simplicity and comfort food. So take your box, cook it as the directions say, and wait for MY further instructions…

Watch your pan of sausage/peppers/garlic and when the garlic starts getting a slight tan and your chorizo is cooked through, stop cooking. Add this to your mac ‘n cheese from a box when that’s done too, and stir. After 40 minutes in the oven the acorn squash should be tender–you can test with a fork–remove and when it’s cool enough to handle scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Reduce your oven temperature to 300. Spoon out a seedles bowl in the squash and add the mac ‘n cheese to where it’s just overflowing. Here you can sprinkle bread crumbs over top or hit a drizzle of olive oil if you like–but this is optional.


My gorgeous girlfriend, displaying the final result of the mac ‘n cheese.

Place the squash-mac back into the oven and let it cook until it gets to your level of done-ness. Here I do not think opening the oven to check is going to harm anything. If you want it lightly browned or crispy–use judgement and remove. Allow the bowls to cool. When ready serve on a plate. Best of all, this is easily tweakable. Vegetarian? Omit the chorizo, use tempeh or a diced veggie. Unsure about, or can’t find chorizo? Swap chorizo for Italian sausage or Andouille sausage.

This is comfort food at it’s best.

First Post. Tonight: Peanut Butter and Jelly Tacos!

It has been suggested to me over the years once in a while by friends that I should start a food blog. But I kind of have the impression that having a food blog is like how people all wanted to have SUVs in the 1990s;¬† the number of people who think they need one is much smaller a ratio than those who actually should have them. Another analogy might be people’s pictures of their pets, a thing more people want to share than there are people who actually want to see it. But I’m having, because until now I’ve just been sharing recipes and cooking experiments on Facebook, which is just too frustrating with the way things display plus the annoyance of Facebook’s less-than-mediocre interface.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY TACOS!

That’s right, you heard me. I had been thinking about the use of jellies and marmalade in savory cooking and this idea just popped to mind, why not use jalapeno jelly, a south-east Asian-esque peanut butter concoction and make tacos?

To make this you will need these ingredients and some good sense of portion because I didn’t do any measuring.

corn tortillas
1 jar of jalapeno jelly
peanut butter
3cups of cooked rice (brown or white)
red cabbage
carrot
onion (go with your preference for what you like raw – I picked yellow)
green apple
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp of green curry paste (adjust to heat preference or sriracha could do fine)
1 tbsp of lime juice
cilantro, if you don’t have the “it tastes like soap” gene (which is an actual gene, FYI.)

First, get the rice cooking. If you have a bit of turmeric  add just a dash for color.

Next, get your peanut butter and a small bowl. Add the peanut butter to the bowl. I’m guessing I’d just just shy of a half a cup followed by the lime juice. Mince your ginger* and to the bowl along with the curry paste. Mix together, adding more lime or water if it’s too thick to mix, however, this is a spread and not a sauce so don’t let it get runny. This can just sit while the rice cooks to let the flavors mingle.

*Advice comrade: To mince ginger the easy way. One you have the skin off and a piece approximately the size of a soda bottle cap either place it on the cutting board and smash it with the flat-side of the chef’s knife and smash it, or if you’re not comfortable smacking a sharp knife, putting the ginger between cling film or wax paper and crushing it with something like a can of tomatoes works just as well. This will not only make it easier to mince, but smashing breaks the cell walls of the ginger root releasing a lot more flavor. Also works on garlic and even fresh herbs.

Once your rice is or is close to done, start prepping your vegetables. Best thing is to shred and julienne. Cabbage, apples and onions should be done with a knife. I think the large setting on a four-sided cheese grater do better for carrots, daikon and firmer vegetables. What I wrote down is what I used, but any vegetables you like can go in. Just keep it raw if you can, you’ll want the crunch.

Organize a station for setting up the tacos. Heat the tortillas in a microwave real quick to keep them pliant (5 sec for each tortilla. ) Spread your peanut base across the middle of the taco. Next lay down the jalapeno jelly. Rice and vegetables plus cilantro and you’re good.

Advice, comrade: I personally found my tacos were sweeter than I’d expected at first, but that didn’t bother me at all. Marinated onions would’ve been good. If you wanted to add meat to this I think you could really go just about anywhere. Grilled meats would all be perfect; this would also make a killer summer party meal. If you want to make it tasty and sound totally horrible, trade tortillas for nacho chips, use chopped cooked white fish, make the peanut sauce runny and just go with Peanut Butter, Jelly and Fish Nachos.

Post Navigation