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Friday, August 31, 2012

You cook in a kitchen, not a vacuum. I reveal where the magic comes from and deals with more of Dad's giant produce.

I know what you're thinking. "WAHHH NICK all your recipes scare me, I can never cook like you."

I call BS

I know most Chef's would have you believe everything they do comes from on high like some stone tablet from Mount Sinai. I ain't true. Inspiration can come from any direction. For me it's part my Mom and Dad, part friends, part just stuff that I see or hear about or experience. It'll just hit me. "Hey you know what  would be even COOLER?" Add this, subtract that, change this, yippity-yehaa, something new.

 I've had several postings that came from an idea through an e-mail or conversation, someone wanted to share a family recipe or a favorite meal. Reneene's Chulupa-Beef, Mariam's Assyrian chicken, Mom's Rum-Balls...etc.
 It's not that there was anything wrong with the original, it's just more fun for me to play around with an idea than to reproduce it exactly, write about it and take the credit. That would be stealing.

 Also, my Dad is at it again with the super-huge produce. Remember Arthur and Philip (the giant zucchini) from a year ago? He grows everything in horse manure and sand. Would ya look at the size of that patapan squash? Nobody told him he's supposed to harvest it small. So anyways.....

About a year ago my WHS friend Lisa K. sent me this nifty little recipe using one of my favorite spices, Cumin. Here it is right from her email.

 Its a no brainer...I like to do Cornish game hens...the juice of 4 or 5 lemons...lots of butter to make the sauce brown and thicken...salt ...pepper ...and tons of cumin...I sprinkle enough to make the chx almost green...I do the cumin last so it doesn't get "washed" off the meat...I bast it here and there and the butter makes it golden if some cumin comes off during basting it's all in the sauce...the sauce just needs to reduce in the oven and its magic! Baste often...oh yeah ...I bake it at about 375 to get the liquids reduced in the oven...I also do put the pan low in the oven so sauce will reduce faster...I do this with chx breasts too...they just don't stay in the oven as I really work the sauce lower in the it...totally good and totally good for you healthwisesmile...I hope you enjoy!...let me know how you like it smile..
I got more recipes if you are ever blocked...loll

Just like Lisa's 

Is there something wrong here? Did I think it was flawed? NO WAY. It's great just the way it is. Lord knows I love Cumin but when you send me a recipe it's like giving me a new toy, I gotta monkey with it.


One whole chicken, divided.
4 cloves garlic, shmushed
Fresh Mint
1/3 cup of ground Cumin*
1 TB Chili Powder
2 Lemons. I'll show you what to do later.
6 oz Greek Yogurt, unflavored please, duh
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and crushed Black Pepper

*Some words about using ground spices: When using stuff like Cumin or Chili Powder in a dish like this it's a good idea to toast them up a little. Just heat up a small pan and toss around for a bit. This activates the oils in the spices and really brings out the flavor. In this case we all know what Cumin smells like ok? Should I say it? It's a musky spice and so is my armpit, 'nuff said.
toasting up both the cumin and chili powder

As soon as it starts to toast up, toss it around in the pan and remove from heat, dump into a bowl.

Add the juice from both lemons and all of the peel from one. Here's how you do that. Get a peeler and gently peel JUST the yellow part away from the nasty bitter white stuff underneath. Try for a good long strip.

Lay a couple pieces at a time on top of each other and carefully turn them into very small shreds.

Turn them across and carefully render them into small tiny squares. 
That's my hand, it's how ya know I'm keepin' it real

You'll end up with a pile of this stuff. 
BUT NICK I BOUGHT THIS EXPENSIVE MICRO-PLANE THINGY, CAN'T I USE THAT?? Sure, Micro-planes have their place, that place is in the bakery where you don't want the texture to interfere with the final product. In this dish we don't want soft little strings of peel, we want all that lemony stuff. 

Slice the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice through your fingers to remove the seeds into the same bowl. I'd put up a picture but I can't squeeze lemons, remove seeds and take a picture at the same time. 

Don't throw those exhausted lemons halves away, if you pack them with salt as they dry out they make little but mighty room de-oderizers. 
takes the funk out of your life

Ok so in the bowl you should have the spices, lemon peel and lemon juice. Add the Greek Yogurt, smushed Garlic Cloves, chopped fresh Mint, big pinch of Black Pepper, smaller pinch of Kosher Salt and a solid amount of olive oil. Whisk all that together, it looks like this. 

Dump that over your divided Chicken pieces, nice even coat on all sides please and let sit in the 'fridge for 'bout 3 episodes of True Blood. Bilith is the funniest word I heard this whole week. 

Let's turn our attention to the Patapan Squash. I just sliced right across

 tossed them in, Salt, Pepper, Garlic and Olive Oil. In that order. 

 laid the slices across the grill. 

turned 'em once, removed from heat, added some chopped fresh Basil -done. 

Here's the science. Yogurt (Greek style, that crap from anyone else is dead) is just full of wittle tiny enzymes that help extract all the yuck from our bird. Many cultures across the world use different substances to accomplish the same thing.In the U.S. we brine (unless you're a douche) In the U.S. South they use butter-milk. In Latin-America they use citrus juice and vinegar. In Europe, wine. In Asia they turn to fermented Soy. Whatever you use, the process is the same. Remove the blood and stuff, save the nummy. No idea what I'm talking about?

Heat up the grill, grab the tongs. 400-425 F please. Bill S.  Kevin P.  Are you paying attention? Of course you are.

Lay your Chicken pieces skin side down.

if you grab them and they feel stuck, let them go on heat until they release

When they give, flip them over.
fire good
Just plate up. Garnish with some fresh lemon peel and mint.

Yeah I did some rice pilaf action, I gotta keep some magic for myself

We are cooking poor, eating rich.
 Get your grub on. 
p.s. Hey Troy, she's a keeper.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Don't tell ME there's no food in the house.

see anything you like?

Leftovers. Don't scream and run-away, just hear me out.

 I offered my sister-in-law a challenge. "Pull a bunch of stuff you want to get rid of out of either the fridge or freezer and I'll cook dinner tonight." 

Just put whatever on the cutting board. I have something to prove. Keeping basic, good ingredients at ALL times means you ALWAYS have dinner. So with an evil laugh as she was leaving for the day and out of sight, she did just that. I heard thunking and that plastic bag rustle. I came out of hiding and took a quick look. Just like that certain TV show I have to use all the ingredients but can add anything else from the pantry. 

Neat, right? Let's get to work. 

We have as you can see. 
Ground turkey 
Roma tomatoes
Some peppers
Bacon bits
Pre-cooked brown rice. 
Black apricots
Whole-grain mustard
garlic, onion scraps
Green chilies in a jar

And of course my sister-in-law keeps a mean kitchen with a great selection of spices, fresh herbs and the like. I love her to tiny little bits. 

In addition I used some fresh mint and basil from the backyard. An egg, some bread crumbs. Pinch 'o' this and that. You'll see. 

ok first thing is to get organized and prepped. I knew I would have to get the skin off those apricots so I started some hot water and got a bowl of ice. This is called concasse. Just drop them into boiling water, count to 40 and plunk them into the ice water. 

Peels come right off. Chop it up. I found some of those kiddy cups of Mandarin orange slices and added one of those to the mix. Chopped up 2 stalks of celery, chopped seeded Roma's, the chilies, a dab of the mustard and the left-over brown rice. Found a bit of unflavored greek yogurt (perfect) added that as my binder with fresh Basil, Mint and Parsley. Checked my seasoning and added a touch of paprika and cumin. 

Put that in the 'fridge to chill. 

Ground turkey time. Meatballs are pretty easy but without any fat in them are really really blah. Lucky for me I had some bacon bits to play with but I didn't want the smokey flavor so I did what anyone would do, I put those bits in a strainer and poached them in hot water. Leaves behind the bacon, takes away the fake smoke flavor.

 On my way. Added chopped onion, garlic, mint and parsley again, salt-pepper, a little chili powder, one egg, some bread-crumbs I found and a splash of milk. 

use your hands to mix !!

Got it all mixed together and using slightly damp hands got the ball rolling. I just baked them off at 375. 

Time to finish up. 

A word about curry. Unless you are buying it from a nice man named Ghandi, do not buy the pre-made stuff in a tin box. Easy enough to make your own. Just follow the list of spices and add or subtract at will. Here's the ratio I use. Turmeric (yellow), Cumin(brown), a touch-a-touch of Cardamom(grey) and some chili powder(red). 

Mine looks like this. 
When working with ground spices you should always throw them on heat first rather than add them to a finished sauce. In this case I added them after I started the peppers, celery, garlic and onions. 
I heated up my pan added 2 TB of butter, yes butter. Then the veg and tossed them around with the spices adding a pinch of salt and black pepper. 

Add about a TB of white flour at this point and toss that around to absorb any remaining butter, we're basically making a roux.

 Finish by adding some whole milk which is what I had. Even better if you have any coconut milk around but I didn't. Bring it up to simmer and continue to stir until thickened.


The meatballs should be done by now so I just lifted them from the baking pan and added them to the sauce, turning to coat and let them on simmer for a few. Pretty much done at this point.

I plated with some trimmed Romaine lettuce. A nice spicy bite with the meatballs with a cool-down from the rice salad.

We are cooking poor, eating rich. 
Go get your grub on.