Monday, September 28, 2009

garbanzo okra tomato curry

Heat oil (1-2 T).

Saute okra (1/2 - 1#, cleaned and chopped into 1-2" pieces) until browned.

Remove okra from pan. Add some more oil as necessary and turn down heat.

1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
peppers (hot, bell, whatever you got), chopped (very finely if hot pepper)

Add in:
2 chopped tomatoes

1 T cumin
1 T coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel (though I accidentally put in cardamom instead!)
1/2 tsp amchur powder
1 tsp turmeric
Note: the spices are just about what I threw in. Choose your own mix or just a curry powder.

Add liquid if necessary.
Cook for a bit. (3-5 minutes)
Add in:
cooked garbanzos (I put in equivalent of 2 cans)

Cook for a bit longer. (another 3 minutes or so)

Add in cooked okra and let it cook another 5-10 minutes until it seems ready (tomatoes have lost shape, spices are distributed). Taste and adjust spices accordingly.

Eat on rice. Great as leftovers!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

my mouth has changed

I don't know when exactly it happened, but it became clear with tandoori chicken a couple weeks ago: my mouth has changed. My taste buds are far more demanding now, but also more appreciative. If I eat good food - I mean really good food, with fresh, local ingredients and spices that complement - it's like I'm getting high.

When I ate the chicken and curried okra, after I was finished I sat and enjoyed the buzz. The flavors lingering in my mouth, all together in perfect harmony. It's happened several time since: Central Grocery muffaletta yesterday, and just now with Thai basil beef. The sauce is too heavy with the beef - I was too heavy-handed as I eyeballed. I skotch too much oyster sauce, too much fish sauce. But honestly, they make my mouth happy. They work with the farmer's market green beans and zucchini, with the mashed garlic and jalapenos, with the many leaves of two types of Thai basil as I pruned the plants.

Tonight, I'm making okra, tomatoes, and garbanzo something ... probably a curry. Definitely a curry. Coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, turmeric, garlic, cayenne - they'll all make an appearance. They will work an alchemy with my garden-fresh okra, and there will be choirs of jubilation dancing on my taste buds.

I did not know that my tastes would refine as I aged - I thought just the opposite would happen. Not that I ever seriously abused myself with bags of Cool Ranch doritos, but I have partaken.

and maybe that's the secret - now that I'm off processed foods, my taste buds have cleared and are receptive in a way they never were before.

Or maybe it's just New Orleans. This crazy city changes everything about me. And I think I'm going on a fried chicken quest this week - Willie Mae's it is. I've heard so much.

black bean chili

from here (with modifications) - it's soooo good!

* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 onion, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 3/4# or so ground turkey, buffalo, or whatever you have
* equivalent of 3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, undrained
* 1 (29 ounce) crushed or canned tomatoes (or fresh, chopped finely)
* 1 1/2 T cumin (but I am a cumin freak)
* 1 tsp paprika
* 1 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1 tablespoon dried oregano
* 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat; cook onion and garlic until onions are translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring, until brown. Stir in everything else. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 60 minutes or more, until flavors are well blended.


1. Fill a crockpot (I have 4-quart) about 1/3 full of black beans; wash them. Soak black beans overnight (or at least a few hours).
2. Cook them in the slow cooker (suggestions here). (I like to cook them overnight because then I have a great breakfast AND can use the beans to make the chili in the day.)
3. Keep the crockpot about 1/2 full of beans (take out the others and freeze in containers to use later, or eat!).
4. Saute the ground meat in a pan on the stove until brown. Can also cook the onions/garlic this way but it's not necessary.
5. Dump browned meat and everything else into the crockpot and cook on high for about 4 hours or low for about 6-8. It won't burn so is a good thing to cook when gone a long time.

Super good! And healthy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Delicious Home-Made Cooking--It's Working!

I made a short-term culinary goal to try the sautéed zucchini recipe posted earlier.
Today I bought 2 zucchinis, 2 yellow squash, and 1 onion. I also bought more mushrooms because they make me melt.
My plan was to sauté them all and add them to a salad, hopefully with a few strips of steak.
The sautéing was easy, as promised. It all turned out great--and the earlier post about different oils was very helpful, too--even though I ended up using butter.
I discovered a strategy that might work for a while until I build my chops in the kitchen: To satisfy my meat craving, I went to the deli and just bought a slice of cooked tri-tip. It only cost me 2 dollars, it will last me 2 meals, and it gave me time to concentrate on the veggie recipe. I always assumed the deli and other specialty sections of the grocery store were too expensive and therefore off-limits, but if buying smaller portions of well-made, cooked food encourages me to cook and eat vegetables, then I think it's worth it for the sake of my health and education. And it really wasn't expensive at all, especially buying for just one.
Who knows what secrets await me in other sections of the grocery store! I can tell I'll be a food shopping pro in no time!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

curried okra with chickpeas

So, I made "Hyderbadi-style" okra and it was ok. Who knew I wasn't a fan of amchur powder? It's dried green mango and adds a little acid balance (lemon juice can be substituted, I've read). I usually add it with many other things so its flavor doesn't come through. It's really the aroma that I don't like - it's prevalent in many Indian restaurants and shops. It smells ... I can't describe it. Almost like stale smoke-less incense. So this recipe really focused more on the amchur powder, and so now I know.

Anyway, my favorite part is the okra. I slice it into maybe 1-2" segments and saute it alone and can I just say again HOW MUCH I LOVE OKRA. I just can't get enough.

Next time I will try based on this recipe, adding some chickpeas. They're also a nutritional powerhouse - and cheap. I will fiddle with the spices though - not crazy of the curry mix I have now. Probably needs more cumin and coriander. I might try to get some fresh curry leaves and try that.

OK, grow, okra, grow! It'd be great if I could harvest enough to also pickle ... but that's looking doubtful at this point because I could eat it fried every day every meal until the end of the season ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

All Together Now!

I think I'm going to try the onion/zucchini sauté this weekend, and I'm thinking:

What if I slow-cooked chicken in advance to eat with it? That'd make, like, a meal, right?

I teach from 3-6 most days this term. Could I put some chicken breasts in a crock pot at 2 and have them ready by the time I get back and sauté the veggies--say around 7? Is that enough time to cook?

Now, suppose I wanted to eat something like a potato with all this? Could I pop a few of those pretty red and blue ones in with the chicken? Would they cook at about the same rate?

Goodness! Is all cooking this exhilarating?!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is 'Misgourmet' a Word?

Something happened yesterday evening around dinnertime that hardly ever happens for this disdainful kitchen-phobe.

I used bits of food I already had to make a new meal. Pause for effect.

When I was at the grocery store last, it was the usual listless, distracted experience for me. I pondered the mushroom section. I love mushrooms, but when I buy them, most--if not all-- wind up rotten in the trash a week later, either due to discouragement or forgetfulness.

I reasoned that trip that I would ONLY buy the mushrooms. No other produce. I would try to use a whole box of mushrooms before they went bad. My version of 'Julie and Julia.' I made a few omelets and forgot about my promise.

Then tonight, I was thinking how much I'd love pasta and zucchini and whether it'd be worth a drive to the market, and I remembered: The Mushrooms!

Serendipitously, I also happened to have the following leftovers in the fridge--all on death-watch: one pre-cooked chicken patty, half a jar of marinara sauce (it's probably 3 weeks old now or more--but I didn't care! I was using The Mushrooms!), parmesan and fresh basil. I dumped them all into a damn frying pan and let time and chance take care of the rest.

It wasn’t until several minutes into this food nirvana that I realized I could also boil some noodles.

I also happened to have a leftover takeout salad in the fridge that I ate as a first course--presto! It was a great meal, and exactly what I was in the mood for!

It almost never works out this perfectly. Part of my problem in synchronization: Having just the right amount of the exact ingredients that I’m craving. What’s tricky is, even if I buy all the things on the same day, different foods spoil earlier than others, so sometimes, if I don’t get right on it I lose some ingredients in the wait.

Another thing I struggle with is leftovers. Last night, everything fit perfectly, but usually, I’ll wind up with a decent cooked meal PLUS an unused half of a zucchini, most of a head of garlic (are they called heads?), half a jar of sauce, etc. I don’t always have clever ways to use these leftovers.

I can see that one of my jobs for becoming kitchen-competent will be to figure out my staple foods and develop a lot of flexibility with those foods.

sauteed zucchini for Jenny

This is one of my favorite things to do with zucchini and other summer squash. Super easy, super yummy.

Heat oil in pan to low medium (I use olive oil for this even though I *KNOW* not to cook with olive oil. I just think it's a great flavor with the zucchini, so I cook on low heat.)

onion, chopped
garlic, minced
dash of salt
(could also throw in celery, bell pepper, etc. but it's not necessary)

You're going to sweat the onions, which means cook over low heat until they give up some moisture and turn translucent.

Then add:
half moons of zucchini (slice in half the long way, then chop)

Saute until the taste is good of the zucchini - the cooking sweetens it and changes its texture. I like it only cooked for a few minutes, so it's still firm to bite but is all glossy.

You can add a dash of soy sauce or such things but it's not necessary. The squash has a great flavor all its own, enhanced with the onion and garlic.

I don't give quantities because I just use whatever I have on hand. I would say for two medium zucchini I'd use half a small onion and 2 cloves of garlic, but I'm totally guessing.

This is great with meat and salad and/or with rice or pilaf or all on its own. It's very low maintenance (cooking on low heat, you don't have to stir much - I just put the lid on and do other things) so you can prepare other things simultaneously.

You can also add a chopped tomato for a different yet also very satisfying dish.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

chocolate yogurt

Do they still make pudding pops? I don't think so. But thinking about them made me start thinking about chocolate and yogurt. Why not?

To about two cups of yogurt I added:

*about a teaspoon sugar
* a heaping teaspoon cocoa (probably more like a tablespoon)
I don't need a lot of sweet but I need a lot of cocoa to satisfy the craving.

Then I added probably about a teaspoon of coffee liqueur and that made something pretty good to something VERY GOOD. Yum!


I have been on the search for The Perfect Oil for years now, and still haven't found what I'm looking for. But here's what I know.

First, understand smoke point (great info & list here). If you put oil in a pan and heat it to saute and it smokes, then the oil is breaking down into free radicals which are carcinogens. So, you want oils with a high smoke point for frying/sauteing, but don't need that for salads and other non-cooked foods. The more refined an oil, the higher its smoke point.

Second, understand rancidity. When the oil tastes bad and makes food it's cooked in taste bad, it's bad for you. They have the same pesky free radicals. I recently had a bad experience with rancid canola oil, so I now store all my oils in the refrigerator. I can take them out shortly before I use them and they'll reliquify.


olive oil is great in salads and other raw foods. High in monounsaturated fats, so good. Very low smoke point so don't cook with it. I use extra virgin olive oil but am not an expert on the virginity of olive oil.

canola oil - this is what I've long used to stir fry, but the more I learn the less I love it. There's a lot of genetic modification of it, so I definitely go organic.

sunflower oil - This has a high smoke point so I've used it for stir fry. It's nice because it has a completely neutral flavor so doesn't change the food tastes. It's supposedly a healthy oil, though it is high in Omega-6's.

safflower oil - I recently read from Dr. Mercola that this is the best saute oil, nutritionally speaking. I'll give it a shot.

peanut oil - is used here quite a bit. It has a high smoke point and goes well with Cajun cooking. It does have a distinctive taste so be careful if you need a really bland flavor. I recently found it organic at Whole Foods which excites me.

sesame oil - pretty cheap, especially in Asian stores, it adds a great flavor (but a distinctive flavor you wouldn't want in everything).

vegetable shortening & margarine -
do not use this horrible crap! It will kill you!

butter is better. Seriously. It has a low smoke point (unless you use ghee/clarified butter, which is still a pretty low smoke point), but butter's nutritional bad rap is unwarranted.

coconut oil - long considered unhealthy, there's considerable evidence to the contrary. It adds a nice coconut flavor to things - I like baking with it and using it to make granola. However, it's one of the few things that gives me heart burn so I've given it up.


I was never a fan of salt; grew up without it and never missed it. When people would salt food and I tasted it, I never liked it.

And then I found sea salt, and the heavens opened up and angels sang.

Seriously. That iodized Morton's style crap - get rid of it! It has a heavy metallic taste and just covers up the good flavors of food.

Sea salt? It enhances the flavors, working with them. It's mellow and subtle, not harsh and screaming like the iodized stuff.

I also need to try kosher salt - I'm told that's very good. I look forward to trying some different types as well, including pink and black, and fleur de sel.

So, I'm no salt connoisseur yet, but I highly recommend that you enlarge your vision of salt.

the easiest chicken ever and chicken stock

Take a whole chicken (3-4 pound fryer). Take the skin off. Put it in the crockpot. Cook it (about 4 hours on high; 8 hours on low - but depends on how hot your crockpot runs - check its doneness close to the bone). Enjoy!

Seriously, it's that easy.

I buy chickens on sale at Whole Foods and freeze them - it takes a couple of days to really thaw. I don't worry about getting every little piece of skin off, but I take off most of it.

The slow cooker needs no liquid - just plop the chicken in. I recommend breast-side down so the juices keep the breasts moist.

There are many ways to fancy the chicken up - I originally made lemon/rosemary/garlic chicken from here (which I highly recommend!). But then the leftover chicken & stock all has that particular flavor, and I like to throw to use the leftover chicken in other dishes so plain is good, too (and the cooked chicken freezes well).

The lemon-rosemary chicken is a great dish to serve to company - they'll be awed and amazed. You can also take the juices from cooking to make a rice/pilaf to accompany and they will be blown away.

When the chicken is done, I take it out (keep the juices!) and when it's cool I strip it of meat. I throw the bones back into the pot (with the remaining juices) and cover with filtered water, throwing in stock vegetables such as carrots & celery if I wish. Then I simmer on low the rest of the day or overnight, strain the stock, and use it in soups or freeze for use later.

tomato cucumber salad & relish

A taste of summer! This is best with luscious farmer's market produce, with full flavor. Do NOT make this in the winter with those horribly pallid tomatoes that are shipped thousands of miles after being picked green and bred to be long-lived rather than have any flavor. Really.

*tomato, diced
*cucumber, peeled (unless the peel is soft & not waxed) and seeded if the seeds are bitter, halved sliced (or chunked); (Persian cucumbers are splendid here, English hothouse are fine; if you use the typical supermarket cucumber then you probably need to peel and seed it)

Prep these and mix them together. If serving as salad, make larger chunks. If using as a relish on a sandwich, then chop more finely.

I usually use a ratio of about one tomato to one cucumber, but it depends on what I have on hand, how large they are, etc. Totally a judgment call.

Then add in:

*lemon juice or rice wine vinegar** (could also use lime juice) - maybe 1 T per 1 large tomato/cucumber, but it's really to taste (start with 1 T and add if necessary)
*salt (sea salt is always better than that iodized crap)
*pepper (freshly ground)

Other add-ins if you desire:
*olive oil (if there's no fat in whatever else you're eating at the same time, please put in a glug of olive oil. Without fat, bodies can't properly access lycopene and other wonderful nutrients)
*onion (red or sweet like Walla Walla or Vidalia are probably best), minced or sliced very thinly in half-rounds
*fresh mint chopped finely (I wouldn't put in much because it will overtake the flavors)
*fresh basil chopped finely (ditto); actually just about any fresh herb: oregano, tarragon, parsley
*garlic minced or pressed (then it's just juice and you don't get a big bite of garlic)
*cheese: a fresh mozzarella or feta goes nicely as well
*bell pepper
*Greek olives

Put everything together and let it sit for the flavors to meld. Tomatoes taste best when not refrigerated so I leave it out for a couple hours before eating. Does keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.

It's great on hummus sandwiches.

** Rice wine vinegar has a really nice mellow flavor - not vinegary at all. It's what I usually use unless I have lemons/juice to use up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

tomatillo papalo salsa

So, if you saw my garden blog entry today, you'd see quite a major insect infestation. I'm led to believe these are assassin bugs, which are beneficials (devouring plant pests) ... but it made me a little nervous about the future of my tomatillos. Some tiny ones are already coming out of their husks and I'm not sure what to do. I had fantasies of canning up oodles of tomatillo salsa to get me through the winter (I love green salsa), but that might not happen. Further, my papalo is almost as tall as me and it's only good fresh - can't cook it.

So ... when life gives you assassin bugs, make salsa!

1/2 pound husked tomatillos - boiled (about 10 minutes) or roasted until starting to blacken (I will probably cut them in half and put on the grill - but because so many are tiny, they'll need to go in a container or a pan)

Chop those up with:

onion (maybe 1/2 red)
garlic (3-5 cloves)
jalapeno or other peppers, stemmed and deseeded (2-5 - depending on the pepper heat and size)
lime juice and salt & pepper to taste
papalo - I'll start with a small amount and add in gently - it's a distinct taste so don't want to overpower

a little sugar and/or water if necessary

I'll eat the salsa with black beans, but it'd be splendid with chips or quesadilla (oh ... actually, that sounds really good ...)

crockpot yogurt

I followed directions from here.

--8 cups (half-gallon) of milk--pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized. (I use all nonfat and it works just great!)

--1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt (you need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter) (You can also buy the dried starter packets. You can also freeze the yogurt in 1/2 c portions, which is what I do. You can only use starter from prior batches a few times before the bacteria lose their oomph.) (Note: the best starters are PLAIN YOGURT with live cultures. Dannon works well, and I've used Activia to start the last few batches and it turns out AWESOME. All generic plain is good as long as they don't add other junk like sugar, etc.)

--thick bath towel

I start in the evening about 5:00 pm and it's ready in the morning.

I used a 4 quart crockpot.

Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation. (I put it in my gas oven with the pilot on, which seems to keep it at the perfect termperature.)

Let it sit for 8 hours. (Or a bit longer - the longer it sits, the tangier it gets. I think I've left it up to 10 hours or so.)

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened---it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt. Put the crockpot directly in the refrigerator to let it chill and that will thicken it some. However, I find that the yogurt is still runny. If you want it thicker, strain it (I line a colander with a tea towel and put the yogurt in it with a bowl underneath. If you want it thick like supermarket yogurt, it only takes a few minutes. If you want it thick like yogurt cheese, it needs a few hours.) (Whey is the liquid you're draining out if you thicken it. Keep the whey and use it in soups, breads, or anything else calling for water or stock. It's pretty much flavorless and is packed with nutrients.)

I've tried other methods of thickening, such as adding in dry milk powder and I found that useless (and expensive). I could add in gelatin, but I like the texture better without that.

Note that you don't get the full amount of yogurt that you put in as milk if you strain it. I just now got (from 5 minute strain) about 5-6 cups of yogurt and about 3 cups of whey. (I don't know how much milk I put in because I just eyeball it - probably 8-9 cups.)

Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days (or longer ...).


Why make your own yogurt when you can just buy it from the store?

First and foremost, I find the taste far superior. Chop up some strawberries in it and it's heaven.

Plus, it's cheaper. Even buying cheap plain nonfat yogurt is more expensive than making it myself. And I can better control quality - I know exactly what's going in it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

taste of Argentian summer tuna cold casserole

My Argentinian friends made this for me once and it very much hit the spot. It's a great, simple, satisfying lunch. They say it takes like summer to them because everybody eats it on picnics.

*cooked rice (I usually make it with about 2 cups of uncooked rice)
*tuna (I put in about a can per 1 cup uncooked rice)
*green onions (1-2 per cup rice)
*mayonnaise (maybe a Tablespoon per cup rice - until the rice sticks together; sometimes I have to add more the next day - depends on the rice quality I guess)
*peas (frozen works great)

Cook the rice; I don't think it matters if it cools down all the way. Mix it all together. I add peas last so I can gauge how much I want in there.

Mix it all up and put it in the fridge. He put it in a bundt pan and chilled all day, which was a nice shape and cut nicely for servings. I put it in a casserole dish.

I especially like it served with fruit, such as grapes or cantaloupe.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

homemade mayonnaise

I decided to make homemade mayonnaise.

It sounded good. I don't plan to ever do it again.

Granted, it was a pain that I couldn't use a food processor or blender because I was making such a small amount. And, I didn't have good oil to use (my canola was rancid, olive oil WAY too strong). And, I'm not really a mayonnaise fan (wanted it for the broccoli salad and the Argentinian tuna casserole I'll make in the next couple of days).

That all said, it freaked me out to see all that oil being used. That's a lot of fat AND a lot of money. Homemade mayonnaise will clearly save me neither calories nor money. Plus I think I ended up using more than the usual amount in the broccoli salad because it wasn't sticking right.

So, maybe I would do it again someday. But not anytime soon!

chicken cabbage salad

From the newspaper. Always a hit - super yummy!

Cook the chicken (recipe called for 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts; I've used just one boiled with Old Bay or Tony Chachere's until done; I don't find leftover chicken to work very well)

1/2 large head cabbage, diced
2-3 large carrots, diced (I shred them)
1/2 bunch green onions, sliced
Combine in large bowl, then add chicken & dressing.

1/4 c fresh lime juice (about one large lime or two small; doesn't have to be exact) (really, fresh is sooo much better than from a bottle, especially in this, because it's a major player)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 T fish sauce (1 was sufficient)
red pepper flakes
combine & stir well, taste and adjust. (It doesn't taste good to me at this stage, but added with herbs later it's good. )

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 T chopped fresh mint (I usually omit the mint & basil because I think it makes the salad too busy)
1 T chopped fresh basil
1/4 c peanuts plus more for garnish (the peanuts are fabulous in this, so don't omit!)

Just before serving, toss salad with herbs & peanuts - add more peanuts as desired. (Probably better to add the herbs in just before eating rather than leaving in there overnight.)

simple bacon fat-fried okra

A shameless snack!

I have about 10 pods of okra from my garden (today & yesterday's haul), and they are very small and tender, so ...

I'm cooking a couple slices of "black forest" bacon for broccoli salad.

Keep the grease in the hot pan, toss in the clean, trimmed okra (I cut off the cap end almost to the seed pod; I don't wash because I know they're from my garden - just brush them off).

Let fry a couple minutes without stirring, then keep an eye on them and stir until nicely browned.

Drain and enjoy!

In the future I will try them cut up, with cornmeal, etc. - but this simple method will be wonderful!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

more okra recipes to try!

masala bhindi (stuffed) (bhindi is the word for okra in a language in India - not sure which one - but honestly it's a good thing I already turned in my name change application because I'd probably make "Bhindi" my middle name!)

bhindi ki subji (stir-fried)

gumbo (with chicken & andouille, since shellfish makes me ill)

spicy fried okra (with potatoes)

Hyderabadi-style okra

... and so many more!

Now I just need my okra plants to be yet more prolific!

London broil

I always have a dickens of a time figuring out how/what to marinade London broil (which is usually top round; I buy when on sale at Whole Foods).

So, here's the marinade I usually assemble. (I don't like to use red wine because I think that overpowers the meat.)

For about 1# of meat, I used approximately the following:

*1/3 c soy sauce
*2 T sesame oil
*3-8 cloves garlic (depending on size)
*onion - green, white, sweet, red - whatever! (the dehydrated are a good money saver)
*ginger - about 1-2" piece, peeled
*pepper - a bunch of fresh ground (maybe 20 turns) - no need for salt b/c of soy sauce
*honey or brown sugar or maple syrup - less than 1T (I don't like my meat really sweet)
*(citrus zest if you want)

Whirl all that together in a food processor/blender (I let it sit with the dehydrated onions for 5 minutes or so and then whirl). (Or, can chop everything finely and stir it all together.)

Then add:
*3 bay leaves

And leave to marinade at least a few hours and preferably overnight. (I put in a glass dish that fits the meat well, covering it with marinade. Can also use a ziploc-style bag.)

Then cook on grill ... depending on thickness. For about 2" thick, I'll try 7 minutes on each side over medium heat.

When you take it off the grill THIS IS IMPORTANT - don't cut into it right away. Put some foil over it and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. (If you cut into it right away, all the juices flow out and it's dry.)

Then cut thinly against the grain (making the tough fibers very short) and serve.

London broil is great with salad, vegetables, rice ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

tandoori chicken, Indian okra & tomatoes, spinach raita

Tandoori chicken from here


  • 1 (4 to 4 1/2 pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed (I used chicken thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


With a fork, prick holes in the chicken pieces. Using a knife, cut diagonal slices 1-inch apart, and 1/2-inch deep into the larger pieces. Place the chicken in a baking dish. (I kept the skin on to keep it all moist, and then it burned & I could take it off. So I cut/poked through the skin into the flesh.)

In a blender, combine the oil, onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, and process on high speed to a paste. Add the paprika, salt, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne, and process until well blended. Add the yogurt and lemon juice, and process to a smooth sauce, scraping down the sides to combine all the ingredients. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Turn to coat evenly, rubbing the marinade into the holes and slits. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat a grill.

Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place on the grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes on the first side. Turn, baste as needed, and cook on the second side for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn and continue cooking, as necessary until the chicken is cooked through, but still tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. (Alternately, bake in a preheated 425 degrees F oven on a baking sheet for 35 minutes.)

(I cooked 10 min on first side, about 5 minutes on the other, then basted and cooked each side 2 minutes. I could have cooked a little longer - slightly pink inside but fine.)

Truth: this didn't really taste like tandoori chicken. But it was darned good!


Indian okra & tomatoes from here.
(But I'm changing the directions.) (Note: While this was fine the day it was cooked, warmed up the next day on some rice it was FAB-U-LOUS. A real taste treat. This will definitely stay in the okrepetoire.)

Combine & set aside:

2 teaspoon cumin ground
2 teaspoon coriander ground
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed ground (or take these as seeds and then grind)
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoon vegetable oil (or less)
1/2 lb okra; trimmed and left whole (or frozen) - about 20 pods - (I'm not sure the value of keeping the pods whole - I might try them sliced next time)

Heat oil. When oil is hot, add okra in a single layer & fry without stirring for 1 minute. Cook for a few more minutes, turning until lightly browned. Remove w/slotted spoon & set aside.

2 cup finely chopped onion
Saute until light golden (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently.

Then add & cook until caramel brown (8-10 minutes:
2 cloves pressed garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Add spice mixture & stir a few seconds, then add:
1 1/2 cup finely chopped peeled fresh tomatoes; or 1 small can whole tomatoes
salt to taste
water or the juice from the canned tomatoes (recipe says 1 cup but that was way too much)

Cook for a bit until mixture thickens (about 3 minutes). Then add the okra back in and cook a bit (recipe says 20 minutes, but no way - just a few would have been way better).

Stir in a little & garnish with:
3 tablespoon chopped cilantro


From The Spice Box:

Spinach yogurt salad (Palak Ka Raita)
2 c yogurt
1 c boiled, chopped spinach
salt to taste
1 tsp oil
1tsp mustard seeds

Beat the yogurt with a fork in a bowl until smooth. Add the spinach and stir.

In a little pan heat the oil and add mustard seeds and fry until they pop. Pour over salad. Stir & refrigerate until chilled.

(This was pretty good but either the seeds or oil was rancid - blech.)

Sugar-Coated Pecans

Adapted slightly from Allrecipes.Com

2 egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1 pound pecan halves
1 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease one baking sheet, or just use parchment paper.

2. In a mixing bowl, whip together the egg white and water until frothy and stiff. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

3. Add pecans to egg whites, stir to coat the nuts evenly. Remove the nuts, and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven, and let it cool. If you like cinnamon, go ahead and sprinkle a bit more cinnamon onto the pecans, and mix them well.

6. Let the pecans cool to room temperature, so that they're crisply, sweetly glazed. ^_^ Store in an airtight container and enjoy alone, sprinkled on top of ice cream, or on top of warm desserts. =)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rosemary Maple Spiced Almonds

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Nuts even. But I'll give it a try on Friday. From here.


  • 2 cups whole raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (I think 1/4 c would be sufficient)
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • Sea salt, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine almonds, syrup, rosemary, cayenne, and sea salt in bowl. Stir to coat well.
  3. Spread on a sheet pan (parchment paper lined is great for clean up).
  4. Bake in the oven for 10-14 minutes. Watch carefully as they burn quickly.
  5. Remove from oven and cool.
  6. Once cool break up the nuts. They can be stored in an airtight container for about a week.
Quilt group is on Friday and I volunteered to take a cake for our birthdays, but somebody ELSE called dibs on cake (which he will buy - ugh - little worse than grocery store bakery cakes) and I was told I could bring "snacks like cheese and crackers." But two other people volunteered for that, so what to do?

Look through my cupboard and figure it out. This recipe sounds nasty - such a weird combination. But I have everything on hand (thank you, Trader Joe's) and it's simple, so hopefully it's good!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

lassi love

Mango lassis are popular in Indian restaurants and for good reason: super yummy! I think of it as dessert after a light meal or a meal itself if I'm not really hungry.

I find that little cools me down in hot humid weather like hot tea or a mango lassi. Hey, those Indian people knew what they were doing.

There are lots of recipes on-line and they mostly revolve around yogurt and fruit. Can add milk, sugar, cardamom, ice. Look, if it tastes good, then you've made it right.

I think it's best if the mango is at least mostly thawed - better flavor. My yogurt is really thick (made it myself and strained it) so I added milk. No sugar or cardamom though. I add ice for substance.

The Magic Bullet is perfect for this.

Almost out of mango so next time I'll use raspberries and then other fruit (bananas are good). I might also try to grind some almonds into it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

along the lines of chicken chilaquiles

I will never again throw away old, stale tortilla chips!

This is definitely a "use up whatever leftovers you have" kind of dish and it's perfect! Yum!

Saute until translucent:
*onion, chopped
*garlic, minced
*chili and/or bell peppers, minced

Add and simmer for a bit:
*red salsa (red or green)
*fresh tomatoes

*chopped cooked chicken
*coarsely chopped spinach
*crushed stale tortilla chips

Cook through then eat with black beans on the side!

Good with cheese or sour cream on top, pero no los tengo - y tampoco no los necesito.

Ms. Iris's Potato Salad

From Ayanna, who made it yesterday and YUM!!

7 - 8 red potatoes
2 - 3 eggs
(If have time, cook the day before and refrigerate overnight.)

Add in:
~1/8 cup chopped onions
~1/8 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 stalk celery finely chopped
1/2 - 1 tsp white vinegar (she specifically said NOT to put this in, but I think this gives it a really fresh taste)
~ 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 - 3 tbsp sweet relish
~ 1 tsp yellow or spicy mustard
~ 1 tsp extra fine granulated sugar (optional, of course:))
mc cormicks season salt to taste
a little old bay seasoning - a few shakes
1 - 2 tbsp parsley (I think it would have been even better if i had fresh parsley)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper - optional
1 - 2 tbsp pickle juice

Mix ingredients and sprinkle with paprika.

pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoes and smoked cheese

Based on a recipe from 365 Ways to Cook Pasta by Marie Simmons.

This amount is for a large group or plenty of leftovers - can easily halve it.

1 pound pasta, cooked until al dente (tubetti, rotini, shells - whatever small shape you like; I used elbows yesterday). After you cook it, drain it well in a colander and cool running water. Put back in the pan, toss in a few good gollops of olive oil, and let it cool and forget about it while you're doing other things.

Combine together:
fresh ripe tomatoes (I used two largish Creole tomatoes - could have used another)
sundried tomatoes (I probably used 1/2 c of packed in oil sort, chopped finely)
1 T red wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have around, though I'd avoid balsamic because it would color the salad unattractively)
garlic, crushed (I used about 7 small cloves because it seems I never get enough out of the crusher)
salt and pepper
pinch (or two) dried oregano

Then add to tomatoes:
8 oz smoked gouda (my fave, though any kind of smoked cheese with substance is good)
chopped fresh basil (I used what I had - about 15 leaves)

Mix well, then add in the cooled pasta and toss to blend. Chill until time to eat (though I like to take it out a bit before, so it's not fully chilled - being a bit warmer makes the flavors richer).

So this allows some variation as well. I had some beet greens to eat but not many, and I was craving this salad & had smoked mozzarella in the freezer.

So, I sauted five cloves minced garlic with the chopped beet greens and about 2/3 can diced tomatoes until the greens were softened. I tossed that into the mix (omitted the crushed garlic & chopped fresh tomato) and yum!

I like beet greens for their light beety taste, but that didn't come through at all because of the melding of all the other strong flavors - it was more like spinach, a green to go with others.

broccoli salad

When I first graduated college, I worked a summer at a farm. At the end of the day, the sketchy produce that couldn't be sold the next day was left to the gleaners, and we could take it home as well. I would come home with big boxes packed with fresh produce, and Amy and I would experiment in the kitchen making free meals.

This broccoli salad, inspired by her mother when on a religious potluck bent, is one of my favorites. It can be adjusted to what you have on hand, and it's a great way to get some raw broccoli!


broccoli, raw, chopped
onion, minced - sweet (Vidalia or Walla Walla) or red (I think red is prettier but it can be strong)
raisins and/or dried cranberries and/or grapes
sunflower seeds or almonds (chopped/slivered/etc.) or pine nuts
[sun dried tomatoes]
bacon (fried until well done and crumbled/chopped)

red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

This is an eyeball recipe, so I'll guess. I used a bunch of broccoli (two medium heads bundled together) and chopped up the florets to a medium size and some of the stalk (finely).

With that, about half a medium red onion - chopped finely.

Two slices of bacon, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 c grapes sliced in half (easier to eat), 1/4 c sunflower seeds. (No sundried tomatoes because I used those in another recipe at the same meal, and I'm not crazy about them in the salad.)

For the dressing, I didn't read the label and accidentally dumped in a bunch of red cooking wine. So then I realized I didn't have any red wine vinegar (which I really think is best for this recipe), so I added in some rice wine vinegar. Maybe 1/2 c mayo and 1/4 c vinegar and 1/4 c (or less) sugar. Taste it and adjust accordingly - it should be mildly sweet and a little vinegary to enhance flavor and creamy. You'll know it's right when it tastes great!

Then mix dressing & salad ingredients and you'll be the hit of the party!
Little trick: I hate the smell of bacon frying in my house because it lingers and BLECH! Maybe I'm hypersensitive, maybe the stovetop fan doesn't work - whatever. THIS is the way to do it:
Side burner on the grill, baby. And if I didn't have that, I'd do cast iron straight on the grill. Let the neighborhood salivate and save my house the stench. Awesomeness.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

hamburger/ hot dog buns - super easy!

Hmmm ... cheaper than store-bought, taste better, and better for us? Yeah, making them is a no-brainer, especially when this simple!

From here.

Homemade Hot Dog or Hamburger Buns

Heat to melt butter, then cool to about 120 degrees:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Then add in:
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 package instant yeast

about 4 1/2 cups flour (I used about 1 1/2 c whole wheat, the rest white all-purpose)

When the dough pulls together, (it will form a soft ball) turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes).

Divide dough into 12 -16 equal pieces (I made 12 hamburger buns, though probably could have been 16).

Shape into smooth balls, flatten slightly, and place on baking sheet. (I flattened too much - they spread out too much. Better to leave smaller around than you want them at this stage.)

Let rise for 30 to 35 minutes. When buns have almost doubled in size bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

"You can brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse sea salt, or whatever you like. You can add dry onion soup mix for onion rolls. These are very versatile!"

rhubarb raspberry crisp

I brought back frozen rhubarb from Susan's yard and frozen raspberries that I picked with Amy - and this sounds yummy! It would also be really good with strawberries instead of raspberries, or any other fruit sort of combo. Because the top is pretty simple, mixed flavors in the bottom work well.

From here.

The crisp:

* 1 cup rolled oats
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
* 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used less - more like 1/3 c)
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) cold butter, cut into chunks (yes, it's a lot, but the crisp I grew up with had 1 cup butter!)

1. In a large bowl, mix oats, flour, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. With your fingers or a pastry blender, rub or cut butter into oat mixture until coarse crumbs form. Cover and chill.

The berries:

* 6 cups fruit (I used about 2 c rhubarb & 4 c raspberries, all frozen though they thawed by the time I put it in the oven)
* 1/2 - 3/4 cup granulated sugar (depends on tartness)
* 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch

2. In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, raspberries, and rhubarb and mix gently to coat. Pour into a shallow 2- to 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle evenly with topping.

3. Bake in a 350° oven until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Very good with ice cream!

Wacky Cake

What's wacky? You mix it in the baking pan itself, and it's missing some typical ingredients (eggs, butter, milk). Rumor is it started being popular during war rationing, though others refute that. It's found on dozens of sites - I first found it here when looking for a cake to fit in a 9x9 pan (didn't want to make a bigger cake).

This was very popular with my friends and fantastic with vanilla ice cream. Very moist (don't decrease sugar or it'll be dry) and good chocolate flavor. I will definitely make this again!


Mix together in a 9 x 9" pan:
1 1/2 cups flour
3-4 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make three wells; into well #1:
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Well #2:
1 tablespoon vanilla

Well #3:
4 tablespoons melted butter or veg. oil

Pour over the top and mix until combined.
1 cup cold water

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean).

I didn't frost it because eating it with ice cream!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


There are many smells that make me very happy - often I cannot associate a particular memory to them, but they activate something.

Hominy is one of those things. Yummmmminy!

Here is the posole I'm just beginning and my plans for tomorrow (guided by the recipe here and on the label of the hominy "Los Chileros de nuevo mexico "white corn posole").

Makes 3-4 servings (but not for hugely hungry people).

*hominy [you can use canned]. I got dried hominy in the Mexican section of Whole Foods (next time: to a Mexican grocery store where I'm sure it will be cheaper - I was just hoping to find organic, but I didn't). I just put a cup in to soak in water in a non-reactive pan (a crockpot, actually) overnight, making sure there's enough water {I read 5 cups to 1 c hominy}. Tomorrow I'll cook it for a couple of hours on high alone (stock would be good, but I'll probably use water because it's cheaper), and then I'll add in the other ingredients to slow simmer for full flavors.

When it's pretty done, toss in:

*pork or beef - I used pork loin, chopped into pieces (almost half a pound)
*onion (1/2 a large)
*garlic (maybe 3-4 cloves)
*2 jalapenos, deseeded and chopped (I have in my garden ... otherwise I would probably use dried hot chili pods)
*jar anaheims diced
*can diced tomatoes
*2 tsp cumin
*1 tsp oregano dried
*fresh oregano sprig
*some beef bouillon
*epazote if you have it

Slow simmer in the crockpot for a few hours. Add cilantro (or papalo), sliced/shredded white cabbage, white onion, radishes, and sour cream/yogurt/cheese to serve. Lime on the side.

I like food like this, that takes at least a day to make, for a few reasons. It tastes better - richer and more flavorful without unhealthy things added. It tastes like real food. It's healthier (because I'm not going raw foods). And, it's a lot easier because the work is broken up.

Hominy is corn that is nixtamalized, which means treated with lye (a base). This process makes the corn's nutrients digestible. Ah, those ancient Mayans, Cherokees, et al were sure smart. It's what grits are made from.

If I'm up to it, I'll make these cornmeal biscuits to accompany the posole (freezing most of them and substituting yogurt for the sour cream - because they'll go good with various bean dishes). i read here that I should add 1 tsp of baking soda for every cup of yogurt substituted for sour cream.

NOTES: it tasted a little watery. Stock would be good, but then soak the hominy in the refrigerator overnight.

okra & sausage from Ms. Virginia

I gave a basket of okra to my neighbor and she exclaimed, "Oh, good! I have some smoked sausage that I'll cook this with and it'll be so good."

Oh, how do you do that Ms. Virginia? (and actually the smoked sausage is from yesterday - I was there for that conversation when a young woman on her lunch break from work dropped off the smoked sausage for her uncle who had just turned the corner - literally - so told Virginia she could have it. I love my neighborhood!)

Clean the okra , dry it, chop it with a sharp knife ["How thin do you slice it? I heard it gets too slimy if it's too thin"; "The slimy doesn't bother me, and if it's too slimy you can add just a tiny bit of vinegar - and the sharp knife sure helps")

Fry it with some onion and garlic, maybe some bell pepper [I'm thinking of the trinity, but she didn't mention celery]

Cook that sausage in with it [I didn't ask, but probably over rice] [I just transcribed an interview with the author of Gumbo Tales who said: "I find this to be an amazing sausage town. It’s one of my favorite things about it. Poor vegetarians"]

Add some chicken breasts in to make a meal of it all.

So simple, so flavorful, so New Orleans. Sometimes I look at okra and think, "Oh golly, this will be a process" - a roux, a stew, or pickling. (None of which is really a terrible process at all but sometimes I'm just tired when I see 20 pods of okra.) But cooking it down and "smothering" with it is always fantastic.

Virginia is the one who told me about blueberry dumplings which I will try for sure next year. She describes things really well, is a fantastic source of knowledge, and generous with said knowledge.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

lentils with greens and preserved lemons

This name needs a snazzy title, but I'm better at cooking than title-making.

From here. (An adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation of Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Cooking, this is one of my staples until the preserved lemons run out.)

1 turkey kielbasa (or any kind of sausage - it's phenomenal with lamb mergeza)
1 cup brown, black, or French green lentils (washed and picked over)
1 cup sliced onion
oil for frying
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (or other herbs)
greens: spinach, kale, chard, etc. About 10 oz frozen or a pound or so fresh.
1-2 medium Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped rind of preserved lemons (2 quarters)* (see below)

In a frying pan, brown the sausage (use oil if necessary). Add the onion and saute, then the garlic and cilantro, and the lentils. Saute them a bit. Add the potatoes and enough liquid to cover (water or stock or potlikker). Bring to a boil again. Add the chopped greens now or later, depending on how cooked you want them.

Bring to the boil, lower the heat, and cook at the simmer for about 45 minutes hour. Stir in the chopped preserved lemons and season.

Like most things I cook, the proportions are highly variable - depending on how much green, lentils, etc. you want. Everything can be adjusted to taste, how many servings you want, how soupy, etc.

I really like the taste of food itself and that's why despite being a major herb/spice connoisseur, I don't like masking tastes with sauces and other flavors. The preserved lemons here are a special taste all their own, and the sausage adds a nice depth, and the greens just a hint of bitter and the lentils add great texture and flavor too.

Preserved lemons: When life gives you lemons, make preserved lemons! I basically followed these directions and these. I made a quart last December and have really been enjoying them. I guess their refrigerator life is more like six months, but I'll finish them up rather than tossing them, and I look forward to a fresh batch of local lemons this fall/winter!