Wednesday, June 17, 2009

technical difficulties...

I guess I have reached my image size until I can work it out my next few posts will be without images.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

The Management.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pizza Night in Chicago

Wednesday may be Prince Spaghetti night in some homes...but Monday is turning into Pizza Night at ours. I once again tried a new recipe. This one came via my mother-in-law who pointed out a who set of articles on on pizza.

I tried this one. With a few tweeks. I added more salt, used High Gluten Flour and added oil.

I also made a simple salad of greens, a thick mustard vinaigrette and shaved Parm.

The simplest way to get nice big pieces is to use a vegetable peeler.

For the pizza this week I wanted to try something new. I went for a "sausage" and onion with BBQ.

I sauteed the onions, then added the "sausage" and cooked until browned. Then poured on some BBQ sauce, and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

Though good, the flavor still wasn't there. The best still is the no-knead dough.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eggplant Parm

I learned how to make many great Italian (American) dishes when I worked at Comella's when I was in high school. One of our favorites is eggplant parm, which we often, as we did last night, eat as a sandwich.

Eggplant Parm Sandwiches
Eggplant, sliced thinly, peeled or unpeeled
bread crumbs
Italian Seasoning
tomato sauce
hot peppers (optional)

Start by slicing the eggplant, it can be either peeled or unpeeled.

Toss the slices with salt and let sit at least an hour in colander with a pan under. This help soften the eggplant, so that after it is cooked it won't have that chewy texture.

After the eggplant has sat, rinse quickly and pat dry with a towel.

To cook, prepare three dishes. The first with flour, the second with eggwash (egg with a touch of milk) and the final with bread crumbs. Season these with salt and pepper. If using plain bread crumbs adds some Italian seasoning to them. Set them up right next to your pan.

Heat up a little oil in your pan as you begin to prepare the eggplant. Dredge (coat both sides) the eggplant in the flour, then dunk in the eggwash and finally in the bread crumbs, then place in the hot pan. Cook for about 5 minutes on a side until golden and cripsy. When done, place on a towel lined plate.

Once you have enough eggplant to make your sandwich, slice the bread and top with slices of the eggplant. Top with cheese and broil for a minute to warm the cheese.

Meanwhile warm up the tomato sauce.

Top with the tomato sauce and hot peppers.

To make a baked Eggplant Parm, cook all the eggplant and set aside. In a baking dish, pour in enough pasta sauce to cover the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant, then with cheese. Alternating between eggplant and cheese. After a couple of layer, pour in more sauce, then continue with the eggplant. Finally top with more sauce.

You can also through in other vegetables as well, such as spinach or mushrooms. Or other cheeses such as mozzeralla or fontina.

Bake in a 400 deg over about 20 - 30 min until hot.

This will store well before cooking either in the fridge or freezer.

Recipe of the Day: Baked Brie

Baked Brie is a wonderful appetizer that everyone loves. You can wrap it in pastry, but I like the simplicity of this recipe.

Baked Brie
One brie, any size
brown sugar, enough to coat the top
almonds, enough to coat the top

Remove the top of the brie to expose the inside.

Place in a baking dish, or back in the wood round that it came in. (If using the wood container, make sure to remove any stickers before putting in the oven.)

Top with the almonds in a single layer, then with the sugar.

Bake in a 400 deg oven until the cheese is soft and the sugar has caramelized. You can also finish under the broiler for a minute.

Serve with bread and or crackers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Yes, it is true I am a Sandwich Artist. As many of you know I worked at Subway when at Rochester, and there learned how to make a lot of sandwiches very fast. The funny part though is that there is actually no "art" to their "artistry". They have a formula and you better stick to it. As for at home though, that's were the fun begins.

I have always been a big fan of the sandwich, maybe its the similarity to pizza...bread, cheese...

The sandwich is so versatile, with a few basic components you can make an infinite number of sandwiches. By changing the bread, protein (cheese and or meat), veggies and dressing you can rearrange them to create almost any taste.

Last night we went to a friends baseball game (Go Lukey!!) and brought sandwiches with us. I had picked up some great looking mushrooms at the farmers market. I sauteed these with a touch of salt and pepper and oil. I topped with a yellow tomato, wild arugula and fresh mozzarella. Then a little salt and pepper and Italian seasoning and EVOO and Balsamic. To really make your sandwiches taste great, make sure to season them with salt and pepper. It makes a good sandwiches turn great.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why buy apple sauce?

Or pear sauce for that matter?

It could not be easier and cheaper.

I had a pear that was a touch past its prime, perfect for turning into sauce.

Peal (or don't) pears (and/or apple) and core.
Add to pot with a touch of water or juice (e.g. apple, orange, cranberry...).

Cook until soft. This will largely depend on how ripe and how much fruit you are cooking. But it doesn't take that long.

Let cool, and mash or puree.

This is the same basic "technique" I used to make ALL of my son's baby food. Why pay for the jarred crap when you can make it yourself?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Italian Sausage Thingies

As I've mentioned, I'm not the biggest fan of fake food. One thing that we do love though is the taste of sausage with peppers and onion. I attempt to recreate it using the sausage-less sausage from Trader Joe's

Saute an onion and a pepper with salt and pepper and some Italian seasoning. Add the "sausage" and cook until hot.

Serve on a toasted bun with hot peppers on top.

Another week...another pizza

A couple of weeks ago there was an article in the New York Times about pizza making, and in it included a recipe by Jeffrey Steingarten. I thought I would give it a go.

I made the usual white with hots.

And a red with spinach.

I do not think I gave the dough enough time to proof (rest). The texture was nice and it was easy to work with but the flavor just was not there. Maybe I'll try again and let it sit over night.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Tapas are a easy, though somewhat time consuming. They are great for a larger crowd as you can put out a variety of dishes and people can mix and match to their taste. Many can be prepared in advance, which is great for parties.

Last night I made several which I'll highlight.

Tortilla Espanola
1 - 2 small potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, sliced
8 eggs
about 1 Tbs salt

Toss the potato and onion with some oil and cook in a non stick pan or in the oven until soft but not browned.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs and salt in a large bowl. Once the potatoes are soft mix with the eggs and let sit 15 minutes. (This rest is the trick to making tortilla not an omelet.)

Heat a pan and coat with oil and add the egg/potato mixture. Cover, and cook a couple of minutes until the tortilla begins to set. Using a flexible spatula reach under the tortilla to make sure that it does not stick to the pan. It will still be soft but once the bottom sets you want to be able to rotate it in the pan to prevent sticking. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes until it is almost set. Flip* and cook the other side until completely set. Serve warm, room temp or cold.

*There are several ways to flip the tortilla without covering your kitchen in egg. The easiest is to slide it out onto a plate, cook side down. Then flip the pan over the top (so the raw side is now in the pan) and flip the plate and pan together.

You can also do the triple flip method. Put a plate over the pan and flip the tortilla (cook side up) onto a plate. Using another plate, place it on top and flip again (cooked side down.) Then place the pan on top and flip again.

A favorite of ours is Patatas Bravas (Bold Potatoes) or fried potatoes with "spicy" sauce. The Spanish are known for many thing, the best football (not the stupid American game) in the world is one, spicy food is not. I tend to make them spicier then you would find in Spain, but you can make to your taste. Traditionally it is served with aioli, which I often don't make every time, but it is a nice treat.

Patatas Bravas

potatoes, cubed
salt and pepper

Bravas Sauce
canned tomato sauce (or canned whole tomatoes, blended until smooth)
salt and pepper
hot peppers

To make the sauce blend the sauce ingredients. Adjust to taste. Warm slightly before serving.

Toss the potatoes with oil and salt and pepper. Bake in 400 deg oven, turning, until crunchy about 45 minutes.

Top with sauce.

Pimiento Alinado
Roasted Peppers in oil
salt and pepper

The simplest way to roast peppers is over a gas stove. Place directly over the flame and cook, turning until charred all around. Be careful not to over cook, it will turn white.

Once the peppers are charred, place in a bowl and cover with plastic, foil or a dish towel. Let rest until cool. Then peal the blackened skin. Though temping, DO NOT run under water. You will be washing away all the flavor. Using your hand you can scrap most of the skin and the seeds and core. Then using a kinfe, scrap the pepper clean.

For this dish, place in a shallow bowl, add sliced garlic and season with salt and pepper. Let rest before serving.

By far our favorite tapa is Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp). In this country there is a wide interpritation of this dish, in Spain there is none. It is shrimp bathed in garlic oil, served piping hot in a small ceramic dish. It is also know as Gambas Pil-Pil, the "pil-pil" being the sound it should make when it is served, hot and bubbly.

Gambas al Ajillo
garlic, sliced
hot peppers

I am convinced that one of the keys to making this dish is the hot peppers, known as guindillas. I have been know to bring them back from Spain.

Place everything exept the shrimp in a cazuela.

Cook in a 450 oven until the oil is hot and garlic is starting to brown.

Add the shrimp and cook about 3 - 4 minutes, then turn. When they come out the oil should be boiling hot. Serve with lots of bread to soak up the oil and garlic.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Q & A: Mashed Potatoes

My brother called last evening asking what to do with over-mashed mashed potatoes. Thinking he could use an immersion blender to get creamy potatoes, ended up with a gluey mess. He had two questions; 1. can they be fixed, and 2. if not, what to do with them.

The answer to the first is: NO. When you over whip potatoes, the starch in the potatoes comes out turning them into a gluey mess that is unfixable.

This leads me to the second: now what. The two things that came to mind were to make cakes out of it or soup. To make potato cakes, cool the potatoes then mix with an egg and flour to form a nice texture. Then flavor with cheese or fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Pan fry a couple minutes on a side until golden on each side. Serve with some dressed greens.

To make soup, start by sauteing vegetables in some oil until soft. Add the potatoes, and stir to combine. Then thin with milk or stock.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stir Fry

Stir frying is a simple and quick way to prepare dinner. Rather then try to time the cook of the different vegetables perfectly, cook each separately. Then toss in a bowl when they are almost done. See the bowl in the background below. Make sure that the wok (or pan) is really hot, the idea is that things cook quick over high heat. The veggies will be cooked, but still have some crunch.

After you cook each item individually, make the sauce in the bowl. I used this Kung Pao Sauce with the addition of peanuts, from Ming Tsai. (As a side note Ming's restaurant Blue Ginger, is in my home town yet my parents have never taken me. Also, my friend Liz can confirm that Ming is really nice, as I had heard.)

To go with our veggies, I made some fried tofu. To help with the frying, press the tofu between a couple of plates lined with towels and a weight on top, I used a mellon (organic of course). Let this sit for at least 30 minutes.

Toss the tofu with a mixture of flour and corn starch, salt and pepper.

Then fry in a little oil. Cook a few minutes per side until browned and crispy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pizza ... again

Another week, another pizza night.

Last night I made a sauce with roasted tomatoes. Cooked them with some garlic for about 30 min at 400 deg. Then mashed up to make a sauce.

As I've mentioned, my mother-in-law is not exactly known for her cooking. But one dish that I have made, or at least taken and modified, is "potatoes, onion and cheese". For last nights pizza I played off this combination.
I thinly sliced a potato and an onion and sauted in a touch of oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Saute until cooked through and slightly browned.

Once again I made four pies.
Roasted tomato

White with hots

Potato onion and cheese

White with arugula