Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cans are okay

Tonights dinner is pretty much assemblage cooking.  The only thing I did was boil water, grill chicken, open a can and run my timer.  For all of that, however, I have a colorful and tasty plate that was economical, easy to prepare, and low heat.  I like low heat in a summer kitchen.

Yesterday I put some chicken breasts in a zip top bag with Stubb's Marinade for chicken.  I have tried the pork and beef versions but they are not as good as the chicken kind.  The chicken marinade is heavy on the vinegar giving the meat a tang and zip that offset a grilled crust nicely.  I have found that marinading overnight leads to a juicier and more flavorful breast than just basting or dry rub alone.

Tonight I pulled out three breasts and as they were coming up to room temperature I prepared the Quinoa.  I discovered Quinoa a few years ago while looking for an alternative to rice, brown rice, and potatoes.  Since I have been cooking with it it has become far more available and because of that it has become a more regular grain on my table.  One of the reasons that Quinoa is a regular during the summer is because of the "low heat" preparation.  I put one part Quinoa and two parts water in a pan, bring to a boil, boil for five minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 more minutes.  After the 15 minutes are up I dress the grain with olive oil and an acid of some sort, today it was red wine vinegar.

I put the chicken on the pre-heated grill and cooked to my preferred crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside doneness.  (This usually takes a good 10-15 minutes with multiple flipping and moving the breasts into, and out of, the hot spots on my grill)

While the chicken was cooking I put together the last part of the meal, and the title of the post.  I opened a can of sliced beets from Stop and Shop.  I have made my own beets, I have opened cans of beets.  I cannot reliably tell the difference except when I open a can of beets I don't look like I have been skinning large animals.  I will continue to use canned beets, the convenience and lack of pink cuticles make it worth the lack of effort; plus my summer kitchen is kept that much cooler.  Over the beets-from-a-can-that-kept-my-summer-kitchen-cool-and-taste-as-good-as-the-ones-that-make-my-hands-look-like-a-skinner I crumbled some feta cheese.  After mixing and grinding on a bit of black pepper my meal was complete.

In all, my stove was on about 8 minutes, one burner only; the cool summer kitchen was preserved for the most part.  My grill was on for about 30 minutes total between the warm up and the cooking.

And there you have it: Dinner is served!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Traffic and Cupcakes

A few months ago I was caught in traffic on my way to work.  There was a truck that had gotten stuck under an underpass on the Hutchinson River Parkway.  I spent the better part of two hours getting to work and when I got there I was relaxed, chipper, and in a great mood.

This may seem counter intuitive, as up until that point in my life traffic was a blood pressure raising, rage inducing, affront to my right to drive a car.  But remembering a line from Dan Telfer's comedy routine about the best dinosaur (well worth the time to find on YouTube) I started to think about cupcakes.

Now in my mind cupcakes are over rated and over done.  The Mrs. Petunia has brought me cupcakes from "The City"and Brooklyn and some were good and some were just too big, to overdone and in my mind too gimmicky.  So as I sat in traffic, drinking my coffee my mind turned to one of my favorite cakes: the Boston Cream Pie.
From fresh Boston Cream Pie made for a casual dinner with a co-worker and his wife

My brother had made one when The Mrs. Petunia and I visited him out in Pittsburgh.  I was inspired and went on to make my own, a lot, at any occasion.  I thought that I might be able to turn this favorite into a cupcake.  

The idea turned over and over in my head through traffic and through the next few weeks.  Eventually I was called away from my duties of teaching to score State Tests.  I became friendly (and honestly a bit competitive) with my table mates.  We all agreed to bring something to eat on the last day and I volunteered them to be my Boston Cream Pie Cup Cake taste testers.  

I used my standard BCP recipe.  For the record it is NOT my recipe but one I found online.

I filled the cups of my cupcake pan half way with the cake batter and baked at 350 (rotating positions in the oven twice) for about 20 minutes.  

While the cupcakes were cooking I filled a piping bag with my custard (made before and cooled) and put on a star tip.  (Technically I put the tip on, then filled the bag.  It is easier that way) and filled the cakes with custard.  The trick is to push the tip about half way into the cupcake and squeeze until the cupcake "plumps"
Cupcakes piped full of custard

My mistake was in the frosting.  I did not add enough cream to make the Jaques Torres dark chocolate (The Mrs. Petunia knows how to shop for chocolate) glossy like the topping of the inspiration cake above.  The flavor profile was excellent but I need to work on my gloss.  The cupcakes were well received by table mates and co-workers alike.  
The final product.  Notice the lack of sheen on the frosting.
So there you have it gentle readers, from traffic to table; the BCPCC (BCPCC? sounds like a Boston area community college).

 Desert is served.

For my fans

I used to "live blog" my food on Facebook.  I was always pleased with the responses people had with the pictures of my food.  Now that I am rarely on Facebook it seems that my friends miss my food pictures.


Because I have no interest in Pinterest, Twitter, the picture thing through Facebook who's name is eluding me, or any other time sink, I decided to start updating this blog (again).

I have some food I want to share with my friends and because not all of you live close enough to come over for a taste this is the way I will do it, through the Interwebs!

As soon as I figure out how to get pics up seamlessly I think you can expect Baked Falafel, Baltimore Pit Beef, German Potato Salad, Hummus, and my version of Tiger Sauce.

I have a gathering at the house tomorrow and decided to do Pit Beef (gathering of guys, we are trying to be manly Urgh!) which has come up as an option a few times for Baltimore's dish on the SuperBowl Supper.  

For now a picture of the Cherry Pie I baked for my birthday.  (Pie Dough from fresh, cherries from a can, but not cherry filling)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

BBQ Chicken and Rice

Not wanting to go to the market on my way home from work (I got mired in the science stock room) I worked with what I had.  I had a breast and a half left over from my jambalaya experiment as well as some chorizo sausage.  I spied a bottle of BBQ sauce that The Mrs. and I had bought in Tennessee
the last time we were down there to visit her folks and an idea formed. 

I julianned up the chorizo, cubed the chicken (about 1 inch chunks) and diced some garlic and tossed it all in a bowl with oil, rice wine vinnegar, salt, pepper, some pizza seasoning and the aforementioned BBQ sauce.  It smelled wonderful, and only smelled better as the time wore on. 

I put some rice in, and when it came out for its rest I tossed an onion (rough dice) into some warmed oil and let it soften.  (I used a pan that The Mrs. brought to the marriage that I particularly like.  It is a large flat bottomed wok type pan in a nice heavy stainless steel) When the onions were nice and almost translucent I tossed the entire bowl, chicken, marinade and all, into the pan.

I tossed and stirred until the chicken was cooked through but not over done and served it over rice.  My plate tasted delicious for a grand total of 20 minutes of work, we can only hope that The Mrs. feels the same way. 

Pictures to follow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Practice Practice Practice

The culinary countdown has begun.

I realized that I have to cook jambalya for a crowd this weekend, so the poor Mrs. will be my test subject.  I stopped by the grocery today and picked up chorizo, chicken, shrimp, rice and tomato soup base.

When I got home I dusted off my mothers "Harvest Gold" enameled cast iron casserole and set it over low heat with some olive oil.
Harvest Gold, a timeless color
I diced up one onion and two cloves of garlic, tossed them into the warm oil and let them soften.

After 7 minutes or so I cubed up some of the chorizo and introduced the spicy sausage into the "flavor pool" (Thanks Guy).  The sausage gave the onions a lovely dark color, as well as really heady aroma in the kitchen.  After a few more minutes I put some chicken breast (cubed into about one inch cubes) and let it brown on all sides. 

I seasoned with a hint of cumin, some freshly ground pepper, kosher salt and cajun seasoning.

A can of condensed tomato soup went on top of the assorted meats as well as two cans of water to make a thin tomato broth.  I seasoned the broth with two shakes of hot sauce, a dollop of A1 for beef base flavor and a shake or two of worchester sauce because it goes well with tomato.
The base ready for the oven (pre rice)

I cranked the heat up to high, induced a boil and tossed the entire pan in a 350 degree oven for half an hour.  I will toss in about a cup of rice and put back into the oven for another 20 minutes.  When it comes out I will stir in the shrimp and let the residual heat cook them as the rice sets up.  We can only hope it a good starting point for a delish dish to honor the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Shrimp ready to be stirred in

Pictures at dinner time Gentle Readers; fingers crossed.
Dinner is Served

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I made pizza tonight.  Ever since The Mrs. bought me a pizza stone I have been experimenting with breads, pizza and fococcia to name a few things.  I used to let my Bread Man 3 million make the dough for me, but decided a few days ago to try my hand at making the dough on my own.  I put the dough hook into my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer, bodged together a dough recipie and let fly.  The results were delicious.  I remember My Man Alton had said something about letting the dough rest in the 'fridge over night.  I put a chunk of my dough in the fridge and baked it off the next day.  It was twice as good as the day before.  I had made a white pizza because I was out of tomato sauce, but it was good enough to share with a co-worker or two, both of whom confirmed my (clearly unbiased) opinion that I had "done good". 

Last night I put together a batch of my dough, let it sit over night and cooked it today.  The difference is marked.  The overnight crust has a great balance of chewy, light and crisp.  Part of the overall effect is the oven and the stone, but I am convinced that the dough has to be right to take full advantage of all the parts that make up a good pizza. 

I also subscribe (now) to the "less is more" theory of pizza making/eating.  Two toppings at the most is my new motto.  Of course I am making smaller pizza's so I can make two or three, each with it's own topping and be happy. 

Pizza Dough
3 cups AP flour (or 2 cups AP one cup Whole Wheat)
3-6 Tablespoons of olive oil
One Packet of Yeast bloomed in one cup of warm water
Two Tablespoons Sugar
One teaspoon salt. 

I put the dry (Flour, sugar and salt) in the bowl of my stand mixer and sift with dough hook. 

Then you add the oil, starting with 3 Tbs. Turn the mixer on to medium and wait until the oil incorporates with the flour.  (you may need to push the flour down the sides of the bowl) add oil untill you get a good slightly lumpy but dry flour. 

I add the bloomed yeast and warm water in two stages.

I turn the mixer on to low (be sure to lock the head down once the dough comes together) and add up to another half cup of warm water untill the dough forms and is kneaded by the dough hook.

I let the mixer run for about 7-10 more minutes then take the dough out of the bowl and form it into a "jellyfish" and put it in a bowl (glass or aluminum are what I use) that has been sprayed with olive oil.  I cover the dough with wax paper and cover the bowl with a wet tea towel and put in my fridge overnight.  I punch the dough down in the morning, re-cover and use when I get home. 

If you have a mixer, or some time on your hands and want a good workout, I suggest you try making your own dough.  I never would have a year ago, but now that I have I don't see going back any time soon.  It is dead easy, cheap as chips, and gosh-darn tasty. 

So there you have it Gentle Reader, Pizza is served. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

From the Sea

I found some Atlantic salmon at my local Pathmark.  It looked good, and (while farm raised and fed feed for color) had a nice body and fat striation.  We haven't had fish in a while so I threw cation to the wind and picked up 3 portions.  I figure I can feed the two of us, and me for dinner tomorrow out of these three slabs.  If The Mrs. is particularly hungry she can have two portions.

I have seasoned the fish with salt and pepper, then sprayed with olive oil (using my new kitchen gadget the olive oil atomizer) and have placed them skin side down my black oven sheet.  (over foil for ease of cleaning)  I will introduce them into a VERY hot oven (490 because of the foccacia I am baking as well) on the top rack and hope for them to be done in 10 minutes or so.

I will put the fish in the oven as soon as the rice comes out.

The rice is 1.5 cups of water brought to a boil
1 cup of rice poured into the boiling water
Stir with a fork or chopsticks and put the lid back on the (oven proof) pan
When it all comes back to a boil, put the entire thing into your oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 mintues take the pan out and let it rest for 10 minutes
After the 10 minutes, take the lid off the rice, fluff with a fork (or chopsticks)
The rice should be soft and fluffy.
NB: there is very little chance of burning the rice during this as there are no "hot spots" on the pan and the heat is even all around.
Also: so long as the oven temp. is above 350 and below melting point of the pan, the water will do it's thermal insulation trick and keep the rice at optimal cooking temperature.  I have used this technique for years and have (with the exception of a few *magnificent* faliures) had good results.

I will pull the fish when it flakes nicely under the fork (about 10 minute as I said above) and let it rest while I assemble the rice on a plate.

It is a simple dinner, but tasty and vaguely nutritious.

Dinner is served!

We won't mention the brownies for desert.