Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meatballs! Great with Tri-Colored Pasta and Fresh Marinara Sauce (and a bad Bill Murray Movie)

Here's a little known fact no one will care about...

The absolute best job I ever had in my life was as water sports director at a summer camp during my college years.  I always look in on any movie having to do with summer camps (except the Friday the 13th series... I mean really, who likes those things?).  Some are memorable and fun (Indian Summer) some are pointless and sad (Little Darlings)...

And one has a hideous theme song that once you hear it, it will haunt you forever.

Meatballs, the Movie.  A pleasant enough diversion, but a HIDEOUS song in the middle always pops it's ugly head up whenever I make meatballs.  Lucky for you all, I can't find the song on youTube.  But trust me... You don't want to hear it.

But you do want these meatballs...

They are simple...

50%/50% mix of 1 lb each Pork Sausage and Hamburger
1/2 cup diced Onion
1/2 cup diced Red Pepper
4 cloves smashed and minced Garlic
a couple Eggs
2 TBS "Not your Grandmother's Herbes de Provence" (or a bit of oregano, parsley, thyme... whatever spices you have on hand and like)
Bread Crumbs to coat
Canola oil to fry

Toss everything except the bread crumbs into a kitchenAid mixer with the hook attachment and mix away (or get your hands dirty and mix)

Spoon out about a rounded teaspoon amount and form into a ball.

Fry in a bit of Canola Oil.  Turn a few times to get each side a little crispy.

Serve with some pasta and your own fresh made Marinara sauce (come see my weekly guest post at OUR KRAZY KITCHEN today for a Marinara Sauce recipe... So easy and so much better than the jar!).

You are smart enough to do this without photos, but I took em, so i am going to show em...

Here's a few shots to show how easy it is...


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Presentation Obsession - A Vegetable Garlic Cupcake

I am obsessed.

I am not complaining, I am thrilled to still be in the running for the Next Food Blog Star contest (Have you voted?)

But the structure of the contest is a challenge in itself.

Voting ends on Thursday.  We do not find out until Friday if we make the cut, but then we only have 2 days, three hours to accomplish and blog the results of the next Next Food Blog Star challenge.

Which is to plan a menu for a "Luxury Dinner Party".  So, my invitations are out, I have started a little prep work, and am shopping for the dinner.  For the most part, I have set my menu; open to change every time I surf around and see new options, but I have to stop doing that.  

Now I am pondering presentations.

For example... I am planning to serve boeuf bourguignon.  Julia Child's Boef Bourguignon.  It's a dish that can be made ahead of time, has an historical cache' that most people have now heard of (thank you Meryl Streep), and most importantly, is among the most flavorful main dishes possible.  But I am racking my brain trying to come up with a presentation that says luxury for the dish.  When you get down to it, it is just beef stew.  Any thoughts on how to make beef stew look luxurious?

I thought I had it.  I was going to do a criss cross, kind of elongated "X", with a couple TBS of Pea Puree, over a couple TBS of Sweet Potato Puree, with the stew above.  I even sketched it out to help visualize it.  Then my wife said it looked like a negative image of a pirate flag.  Still may happen, just with more swoops and panache to avoid the "shiver me timbers" subliminal image.

Like I said... Any ideas???

Another problem is taking successful dishes and making the individual servings.

Do you all remember this dish...

I was very pleased with the look, it even got selected to be included on TasteSpotting.  But part of the challenge is to do individual platings for all your guests (more luxurious).

For the recipe to the tomatoes and beans (and a little garlic), click HERE.

But today I want to share this individual serving presentation I came up with for the dish.  A little extra effort, an extra ingredient; but that is part of the definitions of a luxury dinner party.

So, here's my thought process to get the big dish down to a small size.

Option one would be to just make the same image, just smaller, less beans, less tomatoes (sadly, less garlic) and still a bed of beans with a cherry tomato topping.

But then my obsession kicked in... Cups.  Cupcakes!

If I add a base circle of prosciutto ham, arrange the beans on the outside and then add the tomatoes in the center, it is similar, but different.  A cup size makes a dramatic presentation, and I think I have a winner...

Assemble the veggie cupcakes in a cupcake liner, in a cupcake pan.  Makes it easy to transfer to a plate, then unfold the liner, slide out from the bottom and you are ready to serve...

But, much as I like the look, this dish didn't make the cut for my menu. First, it is a bit time consuming to make. While making the dish ahead of time is possible, the problem is keeping the dish hot, without continuing to cook. I am pretty proud of my beans. I have been able to master the art of cooking to a snap, completely hot, yet still have a snap to them. I always think that the measure of a restaurant is not their main courses (anyone can cook a steak); but the measure is their side dishes, and specifically their vegetables. It is just too easy for a restaurant to have a pot of beans going, a medley of summer vegetables in the warming oven. Sure, they are served hot, but also hot and limp.

The challenge is to be a part of the dinner, as well as the cook and server. Taking the 20 minutes or so that it would take to make fresh and serve hot from the skillet is just not an option (and still follow the concept of the challenge).

So, the obsession continues...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Drunken Grapes With Goat Cheese... Another Poker Night Treat - And a QUESTION

Anyone keeping score... The Dentist dropped another $20 bucks last night.  Kansas City has NFL fever right now.  The Chiefs are undefeated, and Chief fans are making travel plans for the Super Bowl.  In my little corner of the world, the neighborhood poker game has been moved to Monday nights so we can watch Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith (I wish, who are these new guys???) and Monday Night Football.  Of course, back in the glory days of humble Howard and Dandy Don, and the $1 pitchers of beer at my old college hangout, the end of the game was just the beginning of a fun night.  Now, the goal is for the poker game to last until half time so we can get home to walk the dog and kiss the babies (but mostly to go to sleep at a decent time).  But I digress...

So, another night with the guys means another poker snack. 

There is a little back story for these...

As most of you know, I am still in the running for the Project Foodbuzz, Next Food Blog Star.  It's not to late for you to vote, and BTW, if you do not have a Foodbuzz account, it is fast and easy to sign up and get involved (and vote for me).  Takes minutes, and gives you access to most of the best bloggers out there all in one easy to navigate place (and you are also eligible to vote for me).

The NFBS challenge page has a listing of the 400 bloggers still in the running, with photos and headlines of the dishes they made for challenge #2 (remember my Okinawa Sōki Soba).  I was looking over the competition, and was thrilled to find a new blogger to follow.  The SHOWFOOD CHEF, by Chef Cathy is a terrific read.  Lots of very pretty presentation pictures, as well as wonderful recipes.  Seems to have a lot of desserts, but a nice mix of courses.  It's always fun to find a new blog to follow.  Even better to find one that has items worth stealing and claiming as your own.

Like this one...

Could not be easier...

A little Bourbon (Jack Daniels for everyone!)
A little Goat Cheese
A little chopped Pecans
A little bunch of Grapes
and a few toothpicks
and less than a minute apiece to make

  • Soak the grapes in the bourbon for 2 hours (longer if possible)
  • Take a teaspoon of goat cheese and form into a tight ball
  • Roll the goat cheese ball in the pecans
  • Heat the pecan/cheese balls in a 300 degree oven until just warm (only about 3-5 minutes)
  • Skewer a grape and a pecan/cheese ball and done

Chef Cathy had a bit nicer presentation (see her photos by clicking HERE).  But these were certainly nice enough to serve to a bunch of losing poker players my friends and neighbors!

And now, I need your help...

My next assignment in the Foodbuzz challenge is to host an "elegant" dinner party.  I am planning "A Night in the French Wine Country", and having an outdoor dinner.  The weather is supposed to be nice, but a tad chilly (70 degrees when we start, dipping to around 60 by the time we move to the firepit for dessert).  I have a patio heater ready to roll, but I do not want add to an already potentially cool feeling.  I don't want to serve a sorbet as a pallet cleanser.

Any suggestions for a room temperature (or better yet, warm) pallet cleanser???


Monday, September 27, 2010

Brownies for Everyone! - But first, VOTE now, Vote early and Vote Often

I am so thrilled...

I made it to round 2 of the Project Food Blog - Next Food Blog Star contest!

The assignment as to step out of our comfort zone and make a"classic" from a different cuisine.

I went a little overboard a did 4 different "Asian" cuisine recipes...

Cong You Bing Scallion Pancakes (Chinese in origin)

Chinese Five Spice Cookies (A hybrid of proper English high Tea and a Honk Kong Classic)

Vegetarian Salad Spring Roll with two dipping sauces (Vietnamese)

And for my final "turn in" recipe, Okinawa Sōki Soba (Okinawan)  

I had the time of my life and enjoyed every minute.  Lots of chopping, lots of mixing, exploring new Asian specialty grocery stores and working on adapting new techniques.  I did select Okinawan cuisine for a reason, please take a second to read over my entry post.  With the state of health in the US, maybe we all should look deeper into why Okinawa has the longest living people on Earth.  Click HERE to see my  post... Okinawa Sōki Soba - Next Food Blog Star Challenge #2 - Okinawan Cuisine.  I am pretty pleased with it.

So now, I am going to again ask for your vote.  The competition is getting really steep.  400 of the best will be narrowed down to only 200 next week.  And when I say best. you should see what the rest came up with.  Very humbling just to be considered with these folks.

So, my friends, please take a minute, look over my post, decide if I accepted the challenge and  did my best (I think I did).  Click HERE and do that vote thing.  As always, you can vote for more than one person, so if you like mine, and you like your own or another blog buddies, voting often in this case is encouraged,

And as a bribe... how about a brownie!

Last week, I showed you a raspberry dipping sauce perfect for any chocolate dish...

This week, I will show you the brownies I will serve you all when/if i get enough votes...

Has anyone else noticed how many brownie recipes have been floating around lately with coffee as an ingredient.  There is a reason.  Coffee brings out the flavor of cocoa powder and makes the tastes different.  It is a winner.

So, here's what I did...

1 cup semi-sweet Chocolate chips
2 sticks Butter
1 cup light brown Sugar
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
2 tsp instant Coffee crystals
3 large Eggs
1 1/4 cup unsweetned Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
Double Pinch of Salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Melt 4 tablespoons Butter and all the Chocolate Chips in microwave using 15 second bursts, stir in between zaps
  • In your Kitchenaid, mix, cream the remaining butter with the two sugars.  Add the Vanilla, coffee, eggs and the cooled melted butter/chocolate mix.
  • After all the wet ingredients are combined, slowly add the flour and cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  • Spread the batter in a 9X9 greased baking dish.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick can be inserted and removed without anything sticking.
  • I drizzled a little melted white chocolate (thinned with a bit of Cream) over the raspberry topped brownies for the presentation...
Best Brownies I have ever made or ate!

Perfect to sahre at a victory party... help me get the victory!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Okinawa Sōki Soba - Next Food Blog Star Challenge #2 - Okinawan Cuisine

A week ago, I was asking, "Can I be the Next Food blog Star???"  To all of you who voted, a sincere thanks.  The concept behind the contest that Foodbuzz is putting on is very exciting and a big challenge.  I was thrilled to discover that I had made the initial cut.  Moving on to challenge #2 (and hopefully beyond) gives the lucky 400 an opportunity to put our cooking skills to the test.  This challenge will cut another 200 from the "game." So, every vote will count.  Stay tuned to my begging post when I pass on the voting instructions (and again, thanks for all the votes I received).  

Challenge #2 sounds simple... "How well can you tackle a classic dish from another culture? We're bypassing the French and Italian standards in favor of more challenging cuisines."  We are to pick a cuisine out of our comfort zone, something we have never tried, explain why we chose it, how we went about recreating it and show off a finished product.

So first, pick a cuisine...

I wanted to go Asian.  With the exception of a bad experience at a noodle bar in Las Vegas (could have been a bad attitude on my part, donkey called my "all in" with an Ace - Rag to my pocket queens and sucked out... but I digress), and the neighborhood Chinese take out joint, I have almost no experience with true Oriental cooking.

Asian food is a broad concept.  Asia, being the largest land mass on Earth, has the largest variation of dishes.  Westerners simply do not take the time to separate the different, and lump the whole, order their General Tso's chicken, and believe they have sampled Asian cuisine (when, in fact, there was not a dish called General Tso's chicken pre-1970, and then, it originated in New York City... But I digress again).  Indian cuisine is different from Thai, which is different from Chinese, which is different from Japanese, which is different from Siberian... All Asian.

Powering up my search engine, I did a little reading.  Superficially, I looked into all of the cuisines listed above (soon as I can find a polar bear heart, I have a terrific sounding Siberian recipe to try).  But I was fascinated by one locale.

Okinawa, one of the smaller Japanese islands located about half way between the main island of Japan and Taiwan, has a distinctive diet, different from Chinese as well as Japanese.  They also, on average, outlive every other nation on Earth.  The Japanese are the longest living population by nationality.  But, a resident of Okinawa is five times more likely to live to be 100 than a resident of the main island.

There must be something about the diet that is healthier than any diet in the world.

That alone makes it worth digging deeper.

Here's what I found ...

  1. Generally, the traditional diet of the islanders was 20% lower in calories than the Japanese average.
  2.  Contained 300% of the green/yellow vegetables (particularly heavy on sweet potatoes). 
  3. The Okinawan diet is low in fat and has only 25% of the sugar.
  4. The Okinawan diet is lower in grain, 75% of the grains of the average Japanese dietary intake.
  5.  The traditional diet also includes a relatively small amount of fish (less than half a serving per day) and somewhat more in the way of soy and other legumes (6% of total caloric intake). 
  6. With exception of pork, almost no meat is consumed; virtually no eggs or dairy products are consumed either. Okinawans include pork in their diets. However, the fat content of the pork is eliminated; prior to the preparation of the pork, the fat is boiled off.
That last one is a bit tough for me to believe.  I have spent the better part of my life trying to pull as much flavor out of a cut of meat as possible.  Trimming fat, leaving enough to flavor the meat is an art form much appreciated in the home of BBQ (Kansas City).  Boiling meat guarantees that the flavors will go down the drain long before it goes through your digestive system.  Kills the taste.

But, in for a penny, in for a pound, and the challenge is to look beyond our comfort zone.

So, I uncomfortably prepared to boil my pork.

I selected an Okinawan Soba as my dish.  It is primarily a noodle dish, with the boiled meat seasoning the water (a pork stock) that is absorbed into the noodles.  The boiled pork is then seasoned with a glaze and served as a garnish to the noodles.  Soba is the most consumed dish in Okinawa (another reason to make the recipe).  Even the Okinawan McDonald's serves a form of Soba.

I looked over many recipes and came up with a hybrid of my own that seems to cover the concept of making this classic (within the limitations of shopping in Kansas City).

I got a great deal of help at 888 International Market.  This is a HUGE Asian specialty supermarket in the suburbs of KC.  The staff was very helpful in helping me locate items I was not familiar with, as well as offering cooking tips once I told them what I was planning.

From a vast array of fresh seafood (I recognized about half), to fresh vegetables (again, about half), to imported packaged foods to a huge frozen food section, this place had it all.  Combined with a knowledgeable staff, I was set!

Here's the "out of my comfort zone" ingredients I found there...

  • Bonito Flakes- Dried, fermented tuna.
  • Mirin - Japanese sweet rice wine
  • Okinawan Soba Noodles- Dispite the word "Soba" meaning buckwheat in Japanese, Okinawan Soba noodles specifically DO NOT contain buckwheat.  I looked and could not find an explanation, but in order to make true (remember, the challenge is to make a classic recipe) Okinawan Soba, no buckwheat is allowed.  The market had several packages of Soba noodles, but only one Okinawa Soba style.  One was enough.
  • And finally, I needed a bit of Sake (whoop de do!)
  • They also had Pork Belly in stock at a very low price.  My butcher shop would order it, but does not normally stock it.  And of course, anything specially ordered is specially priced.
  • And finally, they had pork ribs sliced against the bones.  Again, something my butcher would have done, but the Asian market had it all in stock (like it was a common ingredient... Who knew?).
OK, supplied with the above ingredients, along with my pantry, here's what I did...

2 lb pork bones
1/2 lb belly pork
3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups bonito flakes
3 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pork stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon awamori sake
1 tablespoon mirin
1 pkg (14 oz) fresh Okinawan soba
1 green onion, cut into 3-inch lengths

  1. In a saucepot, cover pork bones and belly pork with water. Bring to a boil; drain and rinse (I did it, I didn't like doing it, but I did it). 
  2. Add the 3 quarts water; bring again to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. 
  3. Skim and continue cooking for 30 minutes more. 
  4. Remove pork bones from stock and discard; remove belly pork and cut into 3 x 2 x 1/4-inch slices. Put the meat in a large frying pan to season.
  5. To stock, add bonito flakes; boil for 2 minutes. Strain stock and discard flakes. 
  6. Add soy sauce; simmer for 2 minutes. 
  7. In the skillet, combine sugar, pork stock, the 3 tablespoons soy sauce, the sake, and mirin; mix with the meat slices and cook, turning occasionally, until well glazed. 
  8. Meanwhile, back at the stock pot, return to a boil, add the Soba noodles and cook for 4 minutes. 
  9. Place 1 cup noodles in 4 serving bowls; add 1 cup seasoned stock. Garnish with pork and green onion. 
Makes 4 servings.

And the verdict... The meat had a surprising amount of flavor.  As you would expect from boiled meat, it was incredibly tender.  The glazing of the pork as the final step added the tastes of the sugar, sake and soy sauce.  The noodles (again, remember the meat is a garnish, this is actually a noodle dish), cooked in the pork stock had a distinctive flavor.  Most of the stock was absorbed into the noodles.  In just the time it took for me to photograph the dish, the noodles continued to absorb the stock to the point that less than 1/2 a cup of liquid was left by the time I started eating.

As served, this is an Okinawan style Sōki Soba.  Meaning there is extra pork served with the noodles.  A Sōki Soba is served on special occasions, like weddings, births, returns of the prodigal son and when the recipe is to be entered in the Next Food Blog Star Challenge

I was very excited about the challenge, and did quite a bit of reading about my options.  In addition to the main dish shown here, I made a three course meal of the challenge with an appetizer of Vietnamese Vegetable Spring roll (with two homemade dipping sauces (HOT Soy Sauce and Hoisin), and for dessert, I made a Chinese 5 Spice butter cookie, usually served in Hong Kong for an afternoon high tea service.

Voting starts tomorrow... If you think I accomplished the challenge and did myself proud, come back for voting instructions!  Lots of talent out there, I need your votes.


Chinese Five Spice Cookies

For my Second Project Food Blog Challenge, I am asked to step out of my comfort zone and investigate a new cuisine.  So, for a few days, I have been reading up on Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai foods.  Steeped in a history and culture rarely deeply explored in western life, it has been an eye opener.

These little gems are a blending of two cultures.  And no where in the Asian world are two cultures more in contrast than on the tiny island of Hong Kong.  Just slightly larger than Manhattan, but A population density nearly 25% higher (Manhattan - @71,000 people per square mile; Hong Kong 0 @92,000 people per square mile).

The history of the island is deep, rich and fascinating.  For centuries, a prosperous fishing village that became a focal point of the Opium Wars of the 19th Century.  Due to it's location and deep water ports, back when the sun never set on the Union Jack, Great Britain "leased" the island and it's population (how do you lease a population??? Certainly a question that needs further exploration) for 99 years.  Beginning in 1997, "control" of the island was granted to the People's Republic of China, with a charter that grants largely autonomous rule for the next 50 years.

One interesting date fascinated me.  I spent an hour surfing around the web to get the story of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII (the second war to end all wars).  The battle for Hong Kong started with an air attack on December 8th, 1941.  Yes, an incredibly well planned,  and devastatingly well executed attack on the United States controlled island of Hawaii (Pearl harbor) was followed up within hours by an equally devastating attack on British controlled territory.  During the 3 years of Japanese occupation, 1/2 of the civilian population of the island was killed or transported to prison camps, never to be heard from again (presumed killed).

But I am digressing from the recipe.  But, next time I get a Jones for reading a history book (I get them sometimes, History major in college), I plan to hunt down a history of Hong Kong.

But, let's get back to the cookies... These are NOT Chinese cuisine, but are a hybrid of British shortbread cookie (served at formal British Teas), seasoned with an Asian spice to please their Chinese guests (whose tea services are equally important to their culture).

Many of the posh Hong Kong hotels still serve a High tea service, and these cookies are a part of that ritual.

Here's what I did...

 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tsp Almond Extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder

  • Whip butter until creamy (go Kitchenaid!!!), beat in sugar and Almond Extract.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour and five spice.  With motor running, add the flour mix to the butter 1/4 cup at a time.  Blend completely.
  • VERY IMPORTANT, wrap dough in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Press dough into cookie molds, or roll  into a sheet 1/3rd inch thick.  Pick a cookie cutter and go at it... If you like a sweeter shortbread cookie, top with decorative sugar (I do and did)
  • Transfer cookies to parchment paper lined baking sheet , bake until lightly brown, about 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool!
A very distinctive taste.  The five spice is gentle, but there.  Difficult to identify, not unpleasant at all.  The cookies taste of Almond more than the other spices, but again... An unidentifiable treat.

A BIG thumbs up on these cookies.

These were served as a dessert for my Asian inspired meal.  I also made some Vietnamese style Spring Rolls and an Okinawan Soba noodle dish... And those are posts for another time!


Gỏi Cuốn - A Vietnamese Vegetarian Spring Roll (The Secret is in the Sauce!)

For my Second Project Food Blog Challenge, I am asked to step out of my comfort zone and investigate a new cuisine.  So, for a few days, I have been reading up on Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai foods.  Steeped in a history and culture rarely deeply explored in western life, it has been an eye opener.

These caught my eye for their visual appeal.  In Vietnam, the commonly seen (in the west) golden colored tortilla style wrapping is replaced with an opaque Rice Paper wrapper.  This let's all the colors of the veggies shine through, making a wonderful presentation.

Very simple to make, a bit bland in taste... Till you add the sauces.

But first, the spring roll.  Actually, this is more accurately called a salad or summer roll, as it is not fried.  It is meant to be a salad in an easily eaten form (no plate, no fork needed).  In Vietnamese, called a  gỏi cuốn, they are as common as American Freedom Fries.  Makes you ponder if we as a country would be as fat if in place of French fries, we ate a Summer Salad Roll...

But I digress....

Here's what I did...

1 cup Water
1/2 cup Rice
1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into julienne strips
1/2 Cucumber, again, peeled and julienned, avoiding the seeds
6 Rice Wrappers
2 cups fresh baby Spinach Leaves
1/4 cup Cilantro leaves chopped

  • Bring water to boil, stir in rice reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.  Allow to cool completely.
  • Dip a rice wrapper in water for about 10 seconds to soften the rice paper (no longer than 10 seconds, it becomes too soft and tender to work with any longer)
  • add a layer of each of the veggies and top with a bit of rice in the center of the paper.  Tube shaped.
  • fold one end over the top of the veggies, fold the sides over and then roll to finish the roll.  the wet rice paper is self sealing.
  • Ready to eat!
But wait... The secret is in the sauces.  I made a scratch Hoisin sauce, and a HOT spicy soy sauce.  Scroll past the photos to see those recipes.

But first, here's a couple photos so you get an idea of what I am describing...

And now the sauces... Long time readers know that I am a heat guy.  Love the spices.  My wife is more of a flavor gal.  She loves the different spices, including sweet, salt, and just a bit of heat.  So, in the spirit of harmony (reunification if you want to explore the history of Vietnam symbolically in my choices), I made two distinctive Asian dipping sauces...

First, the heat -

1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
2 diced dry Red Chilies
1 tsp Sugar

Whisk it all together.  The heat comes from the red chilies.  When you dice the chilies, if you carefully remove as many of the seeds as you can, the sauce will be less hot.  Also, as the sauce mellows, it gets hotter (like me).  So, make a day ahead of time, and it will curl your toes!  

This is meant to be hot, but a contrast is this easy recipe for a Hoisin sauce.  Commercial brands use sweet potatoes as a base.  I found an easy recipe, replacing the taters with peanut butter.  The taste was nearly identical.  This is a favorite dipping sauce for Jackie.  I didn't tell her about the peanut butter, she was VERY happy with the homemade, so no need to bother her with the details.

So, here's the sweet -

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 tablespoon molasses 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
20 drops hot sauce, habenero or jalepeno
1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

And mix and serve!

These were served as an appetizer for my Asian inspired meal.  I also made some Hong Kong style Chinese 5 Spice Cookies and an Okinawan Soba noodle dish... And those are posts for another time!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom - topped with a tangy OLIVE PESTO

Vegetarian for a night...

And why not, when it has this kind of tang and taste.

This is another of those, "if you can make dish A, and Dish B, Dish C is a snap" recipe.  

The Dish A is a marinara sauce. Lots of tomatoes and garlic, and a little basil and my beloved "Not your Grandmother's Herbes de Provence"  herb mixture

I did a pretty detailed post on making your own.  It is easy and much more filled with flavors than the jar, but the jar will certainly work in a pinch.  Click HERE to find my Marinara sauce formula.

The Dish B - The pesto is made with Basil, Kalamato Olives, Parmesan Cheese and some Ricotta Cheese (in place of olive oil) to make it creamy.  Could be a bit of a stretch to call it a pesto, but at least it is pesto inspired.

Here's what I did to make the Olive Pesto...

1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 cup finely chopped Basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup minced Kalamato Olives
1 TBS "Not your Grandmother's Herbes de Provence"  herb mixture (feel free to substitute thyme, rosemary, whatever herbs you have on hand and enjoy (but take a look at my formula for the herb mixture... works great in this)

So easy, pop the Basil, Olives, Herbs and the Parmesan Cheese in a food processor and pulse till well blended.  Fold everything into the Ricotta Cheese and you have this creamy olive pesto.  Works great as a dip (everything tastes great ona Ritz).

Or, you can roast it along with the mushroom.

OK, time for Dish C, the final product, the Stuffed Porobello Mushroom.

First, rub the "meat" side of the mushroom with a little olive oil and roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes to soften it up.  I drizzled just a bit of Balsamic Vinegar into the ribs of the shroom.  Roast it rib side up.

Then, add a layer of the Marinara Sauce

Add a layer of the Olive pesto.

Return to the oven just long enough to heat everything evenly, about 10 minutes.

And hey... Great news, thank everyone who voted, I made it through the first challenge in the Foodbuzz, Next Food Blog Star!  From a starting line filled with over 1800 bloggers, 400 made the first cut.  Thanks again.

It gets much more challenging each week.  Today I will be immersing myself in Asian Cuisines.  The challenge is to step out of your comfort zone and make a dish from another culture.

So, no steak, no Mediterranean Herbs... Noodles and 5 spice, will be my immersion...

See you tomorrow with my next challenge post (wish me Ganbatte ne (I think that means Good Luck, but a "do your best" kind of wish for good luck... it's complicated)!)


Friday, September 24, 2010

Just a Sandwich - What to do with a Gallon of Pulled Pork Leftovers - Day 7 - Sandwich Wreath

In the beginning...

Was the Sandwich...

It's time to go full circle with my leftovers.  I started with simple sandwich on a store bought bun (but I did feed 73 people), and then followed with 7 days of leftovers.  7 meals, with pulled pork as an ingredient, but none of them the same.  Kind of a primer if you will on going beyond just a microwave warm up.

But here's the last of my pulled pork leftovers, full circle indeed, and a big hit for poker night...

You can quote me, I admit it,  God is a better omnipotent being than I am.  (S)He created the Heavens and the Earth in 7 days.

But, in the Cul-de-Sac, I am pretty impressed with what I "created" in my 7 days of Pulled Pork leftovers (I'll get to the sandwich in a minute).
Back on Day One, I made a Cottage Pie (some may say, Shepherd's Pie).

Day Two was the "birth" of my now infamous Redneck Cupcakes, pulled pork on the bottom, with a topping of Beer Bread and Provolone cheese!

Day Three I made a spiral stuffed Mushroom Meatloaf (with a bacon wrap.... Pork, wrapped in pork!)
Day Four was appetizer day (but these were so good, we never got to a main course, just ate em up over the stove as we made them), with a pulled pork Quesadilla
Day Five... Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!!!  Follow the link for a formula for making your own pizza dough.  I seem to make about 6-8 pizzas every 2 weeks.  just too easy to pull a bit of dough out of the fridge, slap some leftvers on, add cheese and you have a 10 minute lunch.  
Day Six had a Tex-Mex feel with Enchiladas, stuffed with tropical salsa and Spanish rice, while topped with a rich thick cheese sauce (really good)!
Toss in a couple of dishes that used the leftover pulled pork; but I either didn't list on the blog or used as an opportunity to guest post and Bingo Bango Bongo... No numbers, but still a fine use for pulled pork leftovers...

Firehouse Mac "n" Cheese.  A rich thick luxurious 3 cheese macaroni and cheese topped with an amazing caramelized pulled pork!
And finally, breakfast, a fast easy Julia Child style Omelet... So easy that I didn't bother with a post, but just as tasty and just as deserving to be included in this roundup!
I have about a cup left that is sitting in my freezer, waiting for the first nasty- cold- miserable- windy- rainy day of fall so I can make and appreciate a bowl of chili!

But let's get to this sandwich... Dramatic presentation.  Perfect for a special dinner when a simple meal is called for (but you still want to show off).  I make a ton of money off the Dentist that comes to my poker game.  I have to toss him a bone just to get him (and that Dr wallet) to show up week after week.  This was the bone I tossed...

The bread is the only tricky part... I used the formula for Moomie buns.  Easy (use a breadmaker and it takes minutes of hands on effort)....

� 1 c water 
� 2 tbsp butter or margarine
� 1 egg
� 3 1/4 c. flour
� 1/4 c. sugar
� 1 tsp salt
� 3 tsp instant yeast

� Place all ingredients in your bread machine. Select dough. Allow to run cycle.
� Dump out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces. With each piece, slap into a bun shape. Usually 4 or 5 slaps will do it. Place on greased cookie sheets or your bun pans, cover; rise about 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes til golden. Cool on wire racks. 

I did substitute a cup of Whole Wheat Flour for one of the "regular" flour cups.

Spice Mixes I Love!Instead of making buns, I made a long tube and formed a circle.  I topped with a bit of my "Sodom and Gomorrah" Sesame/Garlic Salt mix.  Sesame Seeds are a natural, but the mix also includes Garlic Flakes and coarse Sea Salt.  When watching the guys eat, I noticed that many would turn their sandwiches upside down so the topping of salt, garlic and sesame would hit their tongue (home to most of your taste buds) with extra flavor first!

Let's speed this post up... 
  • Follow the Mommie Bun recipe above (breadmachine on dough setting only)
  • form into a circle
  • do an egg wash (beaten egg, brushed on the top, makes a beautiful golden brown and delicious color, but also aids in the salt mix sticking
  • sprinkle generously the salt mix (while I HIGHLY recommend you use the "Sodom and Gomorrah" Sesame/Garlic Salt mix, just using coarse cut Sea Salt on the top would work.
  • allow 30 minutes for the dough to rest and rise a bit
  • cut a few slits in the top so steam can escape as it cooks
  • do all this on parchment paper
  • 14 minutes in the oven and bingo bango bongo...

And now, just make a sandwich... Slice the circle of life carefully...

I added...

  • A layer of Spinach Leaves
  • A layer of sliced Dill Pickles
  • A layer of Pulled Pork
  • A layer of sliced Provolone Cheese (after this step, I put the whole sandwich under the broiler for just 2 minutes, long enough for the cheese to melt)
  • And finally, A layer of Pickled Red Onions.

Me, I'm a pulled pork kind of guy.  But imagine the day after Thanksgiving and serving this bad boy up with a layer of turkey.  Almost worth making two turkeys for just so you can do a week's worth of leftovers!

And it worked.  The Dentist ate, I took him for another $35 and he thanked me as he left...

I love my cul-de-Sac!

 Make the dramatic tableside presentation, and then slice away... 

It's just a sandwich.