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Friday, September 30, 2011

Dad strikes again. Zucchini Moussaka.

Size does matter
  Holy crud. I thought Arthur was big. This week Dad had another giant zucchini. I named him Philip. Obviously I couldn't just do the same thing so I thought. (think think think) I wonder if you could use zucchini to make Moussaka instead of eggplant. I DON'T KNOW EITHER!!! Let's try. 
 I have nothing against eggplant, in fact I really like it but I didn't have any. C'mer Philip, I have a knife that wants to get to know you. MWAAHAHAHAHA.

 If you DO have 3 good sized eggplant then use those. Look for ones that are heavy for their size.

The best way to get thru Moussaka is to break it down into steps. Meat part. Vegetable part. Sauce part.

I broke down your mise-en-place just like that. We'll do each one separate.

1# ground beef or lamb or half-half
1 medium onion, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TB tomato paste
salt-pepper (kosher, fresh ground please)
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 TB Oregano
1 TB+ fresh parsley chopped
1 solid pinch Nutmeg
1 tsp lemon zest
juice from one lemon
8 oz dry red wine

3 good sized eggplant or one Philip. He's somewhere around 5#'s I think. Peeled in stripes (pictures)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (again)
grill to 400 degrees

Sauce: Classic B├ęchamel
1 part butter to one part flour (roughly 1 TB each)
small pinch nutmeg
Salt-pepper (ok you get it)
1 egg-yolk, beaten
2 cups whole milk, scalded. this means bring it to a boil and remove from heat immediately

For the top:
1 cup shredded Parmesan or Asiago or Romano. If you can find Mizithra use that. It's getting easier to find specialty cheeses.
Some chopped fresh herbs. I used Basil, Parsley, Mint and Thyme. Yes I said Mint, it's a Greek dish. Mint isn't just for garnishing dessert plates ya know.

OK Meat first.
Heat up a heavy pan
Add a splash of olive oil and add your meat in crumbles.
It will brown better if you don't stir it too much so LEAVE IT ALONE
Season with salt and pepper
Add your spices (cinnamon, nutmeg)

ok NOW you can stir it around
Add your onion and garlic once the meat is cooked about half way thru.

Sweat those around until clear.
Add your lemon peel and lemon juice. Stir.

Add your Tomato paste. Stir again.

OK the  best part. ADD THE WINE.
Keep stirring until it reduces and doesn't look watery.
Remove from heat and put in a bowl or whatever to cool.

DIE PHILIP DIE !!!  Vegetable second
Grab your peeler
Make stripes by dragging along lengthwise
It's not just for pretty, it makes it cook more evenly and removes a bit of the bitterness that peels have.
Slice into 1/2 inch slices (like wheels)
Toss in salt. Add more salt. No, more.
We need to sweat out some of the water. We don't want soggy. Maybe you do. Maybe you're just a big ol' soggy lover.

Lay in layers of paper-towels and let sit for 30 minutes. The salt will pull out the water and transfer it to the towels. The water will remove most of the salt. Neat huh?
 Toss it all in olive oil and pepper.
 Normally you would brown these off in a big pan adding more and more oil until Greece calls and tells you that they're out. I have a better idea. Because I'm using Zucchini I decided to grill. Ok not a big stretch because I live in Arizona and grilling is our State Sport. I Heated up the grill to 400 degrees and laid them down just enough to put some light grill marks on both sides.

Hopefully this works. Remove to a cool plate.

SAUCE: This is B├ęchamel. Sadness, none of my pictures survived. No I don't know why.
No worries. Easy stuff.
Heat up the milk until just boiling, remove from heat quickly. Set aside
In a separate pot melt your butter (medium heat, let's not go nuts)
add the flour and pinch of nutmeg
stir around until it stops smelling "starchy" you'll know, trust me.
Add your milk and with a whisk...whisk until it thickens. Remove from heat.
Now you could stop there, it'll still work. If you want to GUARANTEE it will work, then do the next part.
If you have your beaten egg-yolk handy add a small amount of the sauce to it and stir quickly. This is called "tempering." It will increase the temperature of the yolk without cooking it. We need both the yolk and sauce to be the same. Once stirred together add the egg part to the sauce part and whisk again over low heat. It will thicken and get all pretty and glossy. Remove and set aside.

* Don't forget to grate your cheese and chop your herbs

Now we assemble.

pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Layer your vegetable along the bottom of a baking dish. Over-lapping slightly.
first layer

second layer
Add a layer of meat (half)

Add another layer of vegetable

third layer

Add the rest of the meat and half the herbs and cheese

cover it all with the Bechamel Sauce.

 Get it all down along the sides and all the way to the bottom.
Top it all with the rest of the cheese and herbs.

Bake it in oven for 45 minutes to an hour until the top browns lightly

Let it sit for AT LEAST 15 minutes before you try to cut it.

Thanks Dad. Thanks Philip.
We are cooking poor, eating rich. Get your grub on. Ciao.

AAANNNDDD just because I love my nephew Hayden and he kept me company in the kitchen today. Here he is in all his shirtless glory.

yeeaaahhh that's his smile 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nick's peach sangria. Memories of basis new american

such a pretty dining room
   Once upon a time there was a magical place. It wasn't big, it wasn't well known but it was very-very cool. It was a little neighborhood restaurant called "basis new-american." (lower case on purpose)
A well thought out menu, a dynamic and eclectic wine list (thank you very much) and a terrific staff made this place magic. Sadly it closed in July of 2010. A victim of the crappy economy. I miss the calamari. It was unlike any you've ever had.

basis played host to my WHS RAMS right before the end. Everyone had a good time.
the WHS RAMS send their love to our friend DEE
The cool kids table

Ol' buddies !

 Once upon a time our owner came to me with a drink special idea. "Twinkles" he said. (that was my nick-name) How 'bout a Sangria or something like that? OK. So I went through all my books and magazines and I put this together. We served it every summer until the end.

The formula is simple:

Keep in mind we made this in huge volumes so if you don't need this much, reduce. C'mon you can do math right?

12 ripe peaches pitted and sliced
1 bottle of Riesling 750 ml
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup peach schnapps
1 bottle of peach nectar (this can be tough to find) 38 oz
1 bottle of white grape juice 64oz
handful of fresh raspberries
one orange sliced
2 lemons sliced

Combine everything in a large container and let it soak overnight. Pour over ice in a large glass and garnish with some of the peach slices and a few raspberries. One glass makes everything so much better.
Two makes everything fantastic.

yes please

Tonight we're Cooking poor, DRINKING rich. Get your grub on. Ciao.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A zucchini so big it should have it's own Facebook page.

Before we begin. Yes all the obvious innuendoes about "size" have been made.

My Dad grew a big sumbitch of a zucchini. His name is Arthur. Yes he has a name. What? You don't name your giant produce? That's just weird.

Arthur sat on the Kitchen counter DARING me to turn him into something yummy. So I did.

I grabbed some vegetables from the fridge. Some herbs from the garden, a pound of Italian Sausage, Parmesan and bread-crumbs. And a long serrated knife.

Red and green Bell Peppers, Red Onions, Garlic, fresh seeded Tomatoes.

Sliced Arthur length-wise. Going slowly. Using a spoon, scooped out the inside to make a boat. 

Browned and drained the sausage. 
Sweated the vegetables, added Salt-Pepper and Oregano. Combined everything in a bowl with shredded Parmesan and Bread-crumbs. 

Drizzled some Olive Oil on the Zucchini and seasoned it with S&P. Stuffed both halves and topped it with more cheese and bread-crumbs. 

After about an hour in a 400 degree oven. Testing with a fork to make sure it was tender. Removed it from the oven, let it rest for a quarter of an hour. 

Slice, serve. Maybe a little Tomato sauce. That's it. Cooking poor, eating rich. 
Good-night Arthur. Thanks
Now go get your grub on, Ciao.