Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Salad

As anyone who has had a dinner of mine or has been following this blog (Thanks!!) knows, I like the salad. A lot.
Most are simple with just a few ingredients, simple to prepare and allow for a dinner to become special. We even have a few named salads. One of our favorites is a replica of a salad we had in Paris...who doesn' t like Paris?

Making Mexican for dinner, have a salad with black beans, avocado and limes.
Having Greek, think Feta, cucumber, lemon and dill.
Italian, copy a Hole in the Wall salad with cucumber, red onion, roasted pepper and provolone.
Making Middle Eastern food, skip the lettuce.

You can add almost anything to salad from beans to cheese to vegetables to fruit. Think hot or cold, too.

I like super simple salads too, with just one or two ingredients, and a simple oil and vinegar dressing. This is where you break out the really fancy (read:expensive) EVOO and Balsamic.

Recipe of the Day: "Mac and Cheese"

There is never a reason to eat the crap in the blue box...NEVER. I know of no cheese that is that color.

Making "mac and cheese" from scratch is surprisingly easy and offers a wide range of options to make it your own. Last night I added caramelized onion and sun dried tomatoes.

"Mac" and Cheese
1 lb pasta, preferable not long shapes (spaghetti) but almost anything will do
2 cups milk
2 Tbs flour
cheese, I used a mix of mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, Parm and goat cheese
bread crumbs
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta until almost done. Drain and toss with a little oil.

While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. This is a variation on a Bechamel.
Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a sauce pan until warm, mean while whisk the flour into the remaining milk.

Once the milk is warm, whisk the flour/milk mixture into this. Season with salt and pepper and heat over medium until this begins to thicken. Be careful not to burn the milk.
Grate or dice the cheese. (I have no idea how much I used, you can adjust to your own taste.)

Add the cheese to the sauce, lower heat and stir to combine. I added caramelized onion and sun dried tomato at this point. Season again with salt and pepper.

Once the mixture is smooth, add the pasta and turn to coat.

Pour the mixer into a baking dish, lightly coated with oil or spray to prevent sticking. Top with the bread crumbs.

Bake in a 400 deg oven for about 20 - 30 minutes until the top is slightly browned and pasta cooked through.
Let sit for a few minutes to cool before serving.

Some variations:
Add white beans
Add par cooked vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes or tomatoes
Add some tomato sauce with the white sauce
Use pepper jack, cheddar, or fontina
Add Italian seasoning to the sauce
Add hot peppers flakes or giardiniera

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This is what happens...

when your dishwasher breaks.

Home Fry

Who doesn't like fries? Freedom or French? Any way you slice it (wow is this punny) they are great.

Cut potatoes into desired shape (last night was thick cut fries) using a mandoline or knife.

Rinse the potatoes in cold water and pat dry. Toss with a little oil, salt and pepper and other seasoning to taste such as garlic powder, Italian seasoning or hot pepper flakes.

Spread fries out on a baking sheet, preferably lined with a silpat.

Cook in a pre-heated 400 deg oven for about an hour. Turning about every 20 minutes or so. If you turn them too often they will have a tendency to break, if you turn them too little one side will be over done while the other under done.

Recipe of the Day: Tomato Soup

Home made tomato soup is surprisingly easy and much better than anything you can pour out of a can. It can take on almost any flavors from Mexican to Spanish to Italian to Caribbean and goes great with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Basic Tomato Soup
one small onion, diced (or more or less)
3 - 4 cloves garlic, sliced (or more or less)
one large can tomatoes
salt and papper
stock or water

Saute the garlic and onion in a bit of oil (and/or butter) over medium heat until soft about 3 - 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Puree the tomatoes in the blender.

Add the tomatoes to the garlic, thinning with stock or water to desired consistency. Cook until heated through, season with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with grated cheese.

Here are a few variations:
Add a can of beans; white, black, pinto, or chick peas
Add extra cheese to make a cheesy soup
Add Saffron
Add crab meat
Add milk or cream
Add hot peppers or hot sauce
Add Jerk Seasoning
Add Garam Masala

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Q & A: Scallops

My brother called last having picked up scallops, pineapple and avocado at the store. What to do with them.

I suggested making a salad with the pineapple and avocado. Dice the pineapple and avocado, toss with a touch of red onion, a splash of lime juice and EVOO and salt and pepper.

Then grill the scallops with a touch of dry jerk seasoning and topping with some of the salad.

Pizza Night in Chicago

After last weeks disappointing results, I had to give it another try. This week I went back to the No-Knead recipe, using half Caputo and half bread flour.

It was great, though I still think it could use more salt.
Once again I made four flavors, red, white with hots, caramelized onions and potato rosemary.

To prepare the potatoes, slice them thinly. This is best done with a mandoline, but can be done with a very sharp knife.

Rinse them in cold water, then pat dry. Coat with a touch of oil, salt and pepper.

While the oven is heating for the pizza, I par-cooked them a few minutes on a side, until they are soft but not browned.

Let them cool before assembling the pizza. Brush the dough with a little EVOO, then lay the slices on the dough, sprinkle generously with rosemary and Parm and season with salt and pepper.

Here is the finished pizza.

The white with hots in the foreground and red in the back.

Finally the caramelized onion.

This is definitely better than last week, but still not perfect. Oh well, I guess I'll have to try again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions are great to add to salads or sandwiches. They are also the base of French Onion Soup. I also use them on pizza (which i did tonight).

The trick is really to take your time. If you rush the onions will cook too quickly, the goal is to have the sugars in the onion caramelize, turning golden brown, giving a sweet taste.

Slice the onions thinly.

Add a small pat of butter and olive oil to a pan. Cook over low to medium and add the onions, turn to coat. Sprinkle with salt.

Cook over low to medium heat for about 40 mins to an hour (or more) depending on how many onions, stirring occasionally.

If they begin to stick, add a little water to help scrap any sticky pieces from the pan.

Cook until golden brown.

Recipe of the Day: Popsicles

My son asked for popsicles the other day. To make them healthy and tasty, without the sugar and HFCS is easy as blending.

Wash and chop fruit. I used strawberries, but almost any will do.

Puree in a blender with a touch of lemon juice and sugar.

Pour into popsicle molds. Or if you don't have you can use ice cube trays. Once they are set but not completely frozen you can use tooth picks for handles.

Freeze. Eat. Smile.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pollan On the Media

What better than Michael Pollan and NPR?

Roasted peppers

There are several ingredients that I like to have in my refridgerator. Roasted peppers is one. They are a great addition to salads, to top pizzas or as a dish of their own.

With a gas stove, it only takes a few minutes to cook.

Place pepper directly on top of gas stove. This can also be done on a BBQ.

Rotate as they blacken and cook until they are black and blistered. Try not to over cook, they will turn white if they are over cooked.

Once cooked, place in a bowl and cover.

Let them rest until cool.

At this point they can easily be peeled. Resist the temptation to place them under running water. The skin will easily rub off.

Once most of the skin is off, cut into large sections and using a knife scrap off the rest of the skin and the seeds.

Place in a container with a touch of oil. They can be store in the refrigerator for days.

Recipe of the Day: Salmorejo

We first had this when visiting Cordoba during Semana Santa (Holy Week). It is a simple dish that is great on warm nights with a glass of tinto de verano and some crusty bread. It is also served with a sesame cracker.

about 2 lbs ripe tomatoes
1 small loaf bread
3 - 5 gloves garlic
salt and pepper

Tear the bread and soak in water.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in blender.

Top with the bread and about half the water, garlic, EVOO, vinegar and salt and pepper.

Puree until smooth and creamy.

This is traditionaly served with chopped hard boiled egg and jamon.

Friday, April 24, 2009


The other night I made a few easy Greek dishes. With a greek salad and some bread its easy to turn these couple of dishes into a whole meal.

2 - 3 potatoes (I used golden)
3 - 4 cloves garlic (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper
2 -4 Tbs milk or cream
white wine vinegar
Peel, dice and boil the potatoes in salted water until soft.

Peel the garlic and mash with salt and pepper to form a paste.

Pass the potatoes through a ricer.
Mix in the garlic, milk, and vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

The end result should be thinner than mashed potatoes and should have a bit of a bite from the garlic. Serve with bread for dipping. Its also a great alternative to mashed potatoes.

Tzatziki: Yogurt Cucumber Dip
about a half cucumber, peeped and seeded.
about a cup of Greek Yogurt
2 -3 cloves garlic
about half lemon, juiced
salt and pepper

To seed the cucumber, use the pointed end of a peeler or a spoon to scrap the seeds out.

Puree until finely chopped using a food processor , then squeeze out any moister, pressing with a spoon in a fine colander.

Chop the garlic and add to the cucumber and put back in the processor. Add the yogurt, EVOO, lemon juice and salt and pepper and mix until smooth.

Let this refrigerate for several hours before serving. Serve with bread for dipping.