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Archive for April, 2012

So unbelievably easy I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before.

So we ended up a whole jar of olives from a care package for Martha.  BTW, she is doing really well.  She is starting to ween herself off of the crutches.  Mainly just around the apartment, but it is a start.  Like I was saying, we had this entire jar of olives that I didn’t know what to do with.  Then it occurred to me that I had all of the things around to make a tapenade.  Ted Allen to the rescue!  Some time ago I picked up his book The Food You Want To Eat.  I haven’t done many recipes out of it, but the ones that I have tried were all really good.  So it made sense that this was where I looked first for a tapenade recipe.  Lo and behold, Ted came through for me with style!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint Green Olives; pitted and not stuffed
  • 1 Garlic clove (I used 3)
  • 2 tsp Anchovy Paste (I used about 3 fillets)
  • 2 tsp Capers (I used a Tbs)
  • Grated zest of 1 Lemon (didn’t have, so I used about 2 tsp of lemon juice)
  • Grated zest of 1 Orange – optional (didn’t have, so didn’t use)
  • 5 Tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until a rough paste.

I used my crappy blender because I don't have a food processor. Hence the less than stellar physical appearance.

 

Like I said, this recipe is pathetically easy and tastes unbelievably good.  In fact, after making this on my own, I’m a little pissed that I’ve spent so much money at restaurants and stores to get my tapenade fix.

Best. Scam. Ever.

Okay, it’s not a scam, but it’s one hell of a fringe benefit.  Our friend Martha (the one who broke her hip a couple of weeks ago) is the recipient of some home care meals that the Seminary set up.  Basically, people sign up to cook a meal for someone who needs it.  Be it pregnancy, injury, or whatever else that would qualify.  Since Martha is recuperating at our place, she kindly shared the meals with us.  One of the first meals was a bit larger than expected:

Yes. This is apparently considered "one meal."

There was lasagna, fudge, bread, salad and fixings, banana bread, sparkling apple juice, and whatever else you can see in the picture.  Not only was there an insane amount of food, it was very good.  Especially the fudge.

Categories: misc, supper Tags: , , ,

Jamaica, honeymoon, and one of the best meals I ever ate.

A bit over two years ago we finally went our honeymoon.  It was closer to the fact that we really needed a vacation and decided to call it our honeymoon since we never took one.  Some of the reasons we were putting it off was because of Lindz was busy with school, I was busy with work, and we really didn’t have the money to spare for it.  Finally, one day we decided that all of those reasons were stupid and just went for it.  This was definitely the best choice because we had a blast.  We found a decent deal on an all-inclusive Couples resort in Jamaica, specifically the Tower Isle location.  All food and drinks were included plus there were no kids allowed!  And if you know anything about Minnesota winters, you will understand why we decided to go in January.  As you can see it’s a bit different:

The view out our balcony looking down on "our spot".

We basically spent all of our time in those lounge chairs reading and drinking and eating.  You can’t see it in the picture, but there is a swim-up bar at the right end of the pool that we definitely took advantage of.  Down in Jamaica we discovered a drink called a Miami Vice.  It was half pina colada mix, half daiquiri mix, half rum, and a bit of pineapple just to make you feel better about getting completely sloshed in the middle of the day during your vacation on a Caribbean island.

You can't see the rum, but trust me, it's there.

A plate of jerked happiness.

There were several eateries on the resort and one that we usually did lunch at was a scaled up hamburger stand.  Besides burgers, they served a handful of other items.  Of those other items, my favorite was the jerked chicken.  Not too spicy and full of flavor.  I’m not sure if it was because it was easier or if it was in keeping with the island style of cutting up the chicken, but it was very rustic cuts.  By that I mean they took a cleaver and hacked the bird into portion sized pieces instead of separating out the thigh, breast, etc. like we do in the States.  For me this was a plus because I’ve always been a fan of rustic cuisine.  They had the usual suspects as far as condiments sitting on each table:  ketchup, steak sauce, hot sauce, and my new personal favorite, the local Gray’s Spicy Sauce.  I had never had anything like this before.  It was a little spicy but amazingly well-rounded in flavor.  The best way that I can describe it is that it tasted like a spicy version of Worchestire sauce with a little bit of A1 thrown in the mix.  Lindz will attest to the fact that I used it on everything.  The chicken, burgers, fries, oh it went great with the fries, and anything else that was on my plate and with the bottle in reach.  Yes, I am completely infatuated with the stuff.

The holy of holy's of condiments: Grays Spicy Sauce.

One of the other restaurants that we went to was one that featured asian cuisine.  It was situated out on a couple of small piers that had pagoda-like structures for seating.  The food was good, the setting was amazing because you were right on the sea, but the lighting was terrible.  We could barely see what we were eating.  Which I am realizing is a huge pet peeve of mine.  That place also would have benefited if they had pulled a table or two out of each pagoda and had a little more elbow room.

The place we ate most often was at the buffet.  It was open for breakfast and supper every night.  This is going to sound strange but it was easily the second best out of the four major restaurants on the resort.  There was a wide variety of food, they switched up the options at every meal, and most of all, it was really good.  This is where I had osso bucco for the first time.  When was the last time that you saw ox tail on a buffet?  I honestly can’t remember all of the different dishes that they had out on all of the nights, plus the salad bar and the piles of fruit available.

The best place that we ate at was the French restaurant.  It was basically on a whim that I ordered the deconstructed beef wellington.  Normally, I am not a fan of anything deconstructed.  I think it is an excuse for chefs to be lazy and charge more for a dish.  This meal was the exception to the rule.  I know a lot of people will describe this or that meat and how it is “melt in your mouth” tender.  Rubbish.  The beef wellington that I had was truly melt in your mouth.  I have never before experienced anything that succulent and flavorful before or even since.  Lindsay had something else, but being the loving husband that I am, I gave her a bite of mine.  Of course, I then had to fight her off until I was able to finish off my plate.  If we weren’t in such a nice setting, I would have licked my plate clean.  As it was, it took all of my restraint not to even in a shirt and tie restaurant.

I would recommend going (especially during the off-season), but I am going to throw in a couple of clarifiers.  We did none of the touristy things the resort had to offer.  No day trips (found out later that they were huge tourist traps), no catamaran tours, no paddle boats, no nude beach (did I forget to mention the little island in the top picture is clothing optional?), and none of the other activities either.  We sat, read, drank, ate, and just generally relaxed.  This is our idea of fun though.

R.I.P. Auntie Theresia

Last Saturday, my great-aunt passed away at the ripe ol’ age of 94.  (The obit is here.)  I have met very few people who were always genuinely happy to see you and Theresia was one of those.  Even if our family visits weren’t the most regular.  For most of my life, she and Grandma Rose (they are sisters) lived in the same apartment building and later in the same assisted living housing, so it was really easy to duck in and say “Hi.”  The catch was that she wasn’t at home all that much because she was off visiting somebody, or shopping, or doing something at church, or out for heaven knows what reason.  One of Auntie Theresia’s passions was baking.  As an added bonus, she was unbelievable good at it.  Her two signature desserts, angel food cake and coffee cake, are the gold standards in our family.  It is considered high praise if someone said that you came close to Auntie Theresia’s version.  Like all great cooks, she loved to share her creations and we were more than happy to oblige.  She was also very prolific in her baking.  When we did manage to cross paths and visit, she always had some kind of treat already sitting on the counter or she pulled something out of the freezer to thaw even before you had a chance to sit down.  And if you were really lucky, you managed to catch her when she was cleaning out the freezer and she would send something home with you.

Many people in my family have tried to reproduce her recipes.  Most have had decent luck with the angel food cake.  No one has been able to nail her coffee cake recipe though.  My sister Michelle probably comes the closest with a version that’s about 87% of Theresia’s sinfully delicious coffee cake.  All the different fillings that Theresia used were wonderful, but the one that everyone fought over was the poppy seed filled one.  It had so much poppy seed in it, you couldn’t pass a drug test for a year after only one piece.  There would be a layer of three-quarters of an inch of poppy seed across the whole cake.  Combined with milk and sugar, the poppy seed layer was always the best part.  As a very close second, was the crumb that she put on top of the cake.  It is a combination of sugar, flour, butter, and lard that approaches foodie nirvana.  Remember fat equals flavor!

I have never worked up the nerves to try this recipe, but here is Auntie Theresia’s Poppy Seed Coffee Cake recipe (as found in the Holy Trinity Centennial Cookbook, Royalton, MN):

Ingredients – Dough:

  • 3 1/2 C Milk – scalded
  • 1 1/4 C Lard
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 10 C Flour

2 yeast cakes and 1 package yeast dissolved in 1 C lukewarm water, 2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp sugar add to above ingredients.

Mix and let rise, punch down and let rise again.  Divide dough in greased 10″ round or 7″ square pans.  Spread filling (see below).  Gather sides to the the middle, pinch together and press down.  Spread on dough (beat 1 egg and 2 Tbs sugar mixed so crumbs stick).

Crumbs:

  • 5 C Flour
  • 1 C Butter
  • 1 Tbs Vanilla
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 C Lard

Mix until crumbly and spread on dough.

Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 6 C Milk
  • 1 C Half & Half

Bring to boil and add 2 lbs ground poppy seed, 6 C sugar, 1 Tbs Vanilla;  boil slowly for 1 hour stirring frequently; let cool.

Bake at 350 F degrees for 30-35 until brown.

Mind you, this is verbatim from the church cookbook and I’ve never done this before, so if you have questions, ask Michelle.  She is getting better as the years go by.  Michelle did want me to say that this is a very sticky dough, so be warned.

Not Theresia's coffee cake, but it's the closest picture I could find.

As a very strange aside, I find comfort in that Fr. Virnig will be co-officiating the funeral.  He was the priest at Mom and Dad’s church while I was growing up, and then he moved over to Royalton where Grandma and Theresia lived.  Then when Grandma passed, he was one of the officiants at her funeral with my cousin, Fr. Tom.  I guess I just like the continuity.

I just want to leave saying that Auntie Theresia will be missed, and more than just for her food.

Who is General Tso anyway?

The short answer is “I dunno.”  This is because the origin of the actual dish is lost in the murkiness of the 20th Century.  Assuming, like most claims that it is directly connected with General Zuo Zongtang (anglicized as Tso Tsung-t’ang) is pretty much a falsehood.  No one (at least according to a quick Google search) in China makes this dish.  Some come kind of close, but they do not have a sweet aspect to them.  I think it is telling that in General Tso’s hometown of Xiangyin, in the Hunan Provence, they are unfamiliar with the dish.  What does have the ring of truth to it is the origin story with Chef Peng Jia.  He was a chef that fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war.  In 1973 he moved to New York and opened a Hunan cuisine restaurant there.  He started off cooking traditional recipes and then began modifying them to suit the tastes of everyone who was not familiar with the flavor profile.  Which at the time was pretty much everyone since his was one of the first Hunan restaurants in the country.  There is even a claim that Henry Kissinger was a fan of this dish and had it regularly when he was in New York.  The long answer summarized is that it is an Americanized version of a Hunan dish which is, at best, named after a Qing dynasty general and civil servant.

Since the time of is mysterious origins it has become a staple of Hunan-style Chinese restaurants everywhere.  It is a dish that is so popular and simple enough that I use it to judge the quality of whatever Chinese restaurant that I’m in.  (I do the same thing with Reubens).  I finally took the time to scour through the internet and find a recipe that sounded like it had potential.  Being an Americanized dish, my Chinese cookbook resources were never any help.  I finally found one that sounded good and only called for ingredients that I had on hand.  (Seriously, how many people have potato flour in their cupboards?).

This recipe is from Siam Oriental Restaurant (that’s all the info the generic site gave me).  My notes on the ingredients are in parentheses.

Ingredients (Sauce):

  • 1/2 C Cornstarch
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 1 1/2 tsp Garlic, minced (I used 3 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ginger, minced (I used a thumb-sized piece)
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 C White Vinegar
  • 1/4 C White Wine
  • 1 1/2 C Chicken Broth, hot

Ingredients (Meat):

  • 3 lbs Chicken, deboned and cut into large chunks (can use either light or dark meat)
  • 1/4 C Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 C Cornstarch
  • Veggie Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 C Green Onions (1 bunch ~ 1/2 C)
  • 16 small dried Hot Peppers (I used 6 and very coarsely chopped them)

Mix the half cup of cornstarch with the water.  Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, half cup of soy sauce, vinegar, wine, and chicken broth.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and refrigerate until needed.  Next, in a separate bowl mix the chicken, quarter cup of soy sauce, and pepper.  Stir in the egg.  Add the cup of cornstarch and mix until the pieces are coated evenly.  Add a cup of veggie oil to help separate the pieces.  Deep fry the chicken in batches at 350 F degrees until crispy.  Drain on some paper towels.  Place a small amount of oil in a large skillet and heat until the pan is hot.  Add the onions and peppers and stir-fry briefly.  Stir the sauce and add to the skillet.  Place the chicken in the sauce and cook until the sauce thickens.  Serve with rice.

I had clumping issues when I mixed the cornstarch in with the chicken.  A better option may be to spread out the chicken on a baking sheet and dust it that way or just to simply grab each piece separately and bread it by itself.  On the whole, a decent recipe, but I think the next time I do this I’ll follow one of the other recipes that I found.  It just seemed like the flavor could have some more depth to it.

I forgot to take pictures while I was cooking, so all I have is one shot of the leftovers.

An interesting side note is the cornstarch and water slurry that is made in the first step is a non-Newtonian fluid.  More specifically, it is one type of non-Newtonian fluid called a dilatant.  Normal fluids have a constant coefficient of viscosity (or a constant rate at how the liquid wants to flow).  For example, water has a low viscosity which means it wants to flow easily while honey has a high viscosity and is very sluggish while moving.  In a dilatant the more stress you put on it, the more viscous it becomes.  So in plain english  this means that the cornstarch slurry will flow on its own if not agitated.  But if you try and stir it vigorously, it becomes “thicker” and harder to stir.  Another way of looking at it is that it starts to act more like a solid instead of a liquid.  For a very cool demonstration I defer to Adam and Jamie of MythBusters fame:

Days gone by . . .

Our lives are currently up in the air because our future plans decided to take a hard left turn in the last month.  So we’ve been exploring different possibilities.  One of which was moving back to Decorah, IA, where we first met.  Through various discussions, we decided against this and are planning on staying in the Twin Cities for the foreseeable future.  But these discussions had me reminiscing about when we lived down south.  Below is a list of some of the highlights of one small town in the “good corner of Iowa”.

A very regular stop from when I first moved down there was Oneota Food Co-op.  As I explained to people more than once, this way I got at least one healthy meal per week.  As true as that may have been, I also made it a regular stop because the food was really, really good.  This was almost entirely due to one cook there, Ruthie, but I’ll get to her in a bit.  The Co-op was also my go-to place for anything that the normal grocery store didn’t carry.  Which for 99% of my very early experiments this was a great place for supplies.  A few years ago they moved into a larger space and overall it was a very good idea.  However (and there always is one, isn’t there?), I miss the smaller, more intimate feel the old store had.  Of course along with the new store and new merchandise they had a bunch of new hires which completely diluted the pool of people I knew which didn’t help the coziness factor.  Still a great place, but like everything else it changes.  Not good or bad, just it’s different from what it used to be.

A welcoming sign.

Two of the community projects that I got involved in were the Puppet Project and Edible Alien Theatre.  The Puppet Project came about as a brain-child of one of my then bosses.  She was always involved in musical theater and did at least a workshop (possibly more, but I don’t remember) with a group here in the Cities called In the Heart of the Beast.  Heart of the Beast does puppet theater and parades with puppets of all kinds and sizes.  What we did was build a bunch of backpack mounted puppets for the annual parade.  That was a yearly occurrence for awhile and a huge hit with everyone.  Around the same time a different project got started.  This was the Edible Alien Theatre.  The idea was centered around dinner theater.  A little song and dance to go with a really good meal.  I was involved in various capacities with the first six years.  I was everything from backstage help to a troll to a cross-dressing cabaret girl (true story).  You may ask why I would put myself into embarrassing situations like this.  The truth is two-fold.  It was 20% because I missed my theater days from high school.  The other 80% was Ruthie’s cooking.  Oh, I should mention that Ruth was half of the brains for EAT (again, more on Ruthie later).  I’ve been called a food-whore many times in the past.  And, well, it’s true.  I will do anything given the proper food incentive.

I'm the troll on the left. And yes, that is the hostess under the sheet that we kidnapped for the show.

Again, me on the left. Not one of my better drag outfits. I look better in a slinky black dress.

One of the interesting people that I met through Edible Alien Theatre was David Cavagnaro.  He let us use his house one year for the show.  David is an amazing photographer who specializes in nature and garden photography.  He is well known for his shots and for good reason.  He has the dedication to find heirloom varieties of various vegetables, plant them, nurture them to beautiful fruition, and then finally arrange them and take breathtaking photos.  Total respect for him and his work.

Carrots are only middle-ish on my favorite veggies list, but this picture makes me want to eat lots of them.

And finally onto one of my longer standing food crushes.  Ruth is a self-taught cook (and rightfully proud of it) and a good ol’ Iowegian country gal.  I’m sure I first ran into her cooking at the co-op, but what I really remember is her catering the second StoryPeople Christmas party that I went to.  In each bite you could taste the love and passion she poured into the dishes.  I know that it’s a very over-used phrase, but I’m not using it flippantly.  Each little nibble was an excursion into the realm of food-gasm.  I’m not too proud of it, but I did eat myself stupid that night.  The copious amount of good wine probably didn’t help matters either.  Yes, it was a night of culinary hedonism.  This theme was repeated for quite a number of years and in quite of a number of places.  One of my favorite memories of Ruth is when she was cooking fried rice at the co-op.  The back entrance led through the amazingly tiny kitchen.  It was so small that having a cook and a dishwasher in it at the same time was ok as long as the dishwasher only leaned to grab stuff.  I’ve seen Ruth cook in this kitchen for years, but my favorite was the fried rice because it seemed like she was doing twenty different things at once.  Reaching for ingredients to throw in the wok, tossing the wok, scooping up some rice for the next batch, putting out plates to serve on, and I think you get the idea.  I realize that this is really no different than any other kitchen anywhere else during the lunch rush, but she has such a grace about her while doing this it was amazing to watch.  Also, she was more than happy to chat with you while you were waiting to grab your to-go box.  Or it could just be because the fried rice was my favorite dish of hers.  Since I’ve been several hours drive away from Ruthie’s cooking, I was extremely pleased to see that she started her own webpage called AWEsome Cookery!  She developed a gluten sensitivity around the time that I left Iowa, so she is an excellent resource for really good gluten-free dishes.  Oh, Ruthie, how I miss thee.

I couldn't find a decent image of Ruth, so I went with the next best thing: her fried rice!

To finish things off, a quick shout-out to my StoryPeople People.  Thanks for the best job ever!

This is a two piece sculpture that I designed while working at StoryPeople. Never a big seller, but I like it.

Um, yeah. I’m Polish.

To make a very long and sleep deprived story short, Lindz and I spend the last day and a half in and out of the ER helping a friend because she broke her hip.  Don’t worry, she is fine.  Got some pins and a rod installed and on the road to recovery.  Anyway, didn’t really have a chance or the energy to make anything resembling a meal today or even the desire to go out and get food.  So Lindz ended up finishing off the leftover pizza in the fridge and I just operated on auto-pilot which apparently meant sausages and a quick homemade coleslaw.

Seriously, the only way this could possibly be more of a Polish stereotype is if I had a glass of Vodka with it.

Once again, I blame my upbringing.

Categories: family, supper Tags: ,

Have I mentioned I have the bestest wife ever?

Seriously, who else would put up with my weird-ass whims?

[*edit*]  Lindz thought that I should point out that she is not Polish and that it’s my t-shirt.  Hopefully that helps to put things in a little better perspective.

Categories: family, misc

My favorite roast chicken plus a couple of new side dishes

This happened around a month ago, so the details are a bit sketchy in my brain.  I know someone came over and ate with us, I recently went grocery shopping, and I needed to use the chicken because it wouldn’t fit in the freezer anymore.  Other than that, make up whatever back story you want.  It probably will be more interesting than what really happened.  Just for the record, I’m not excluding the possibility of a ninja attack.  They’re sneaky like that.

So, the roast chicken recipe is hands-down my favorite one that I have ever done.  I try to do it on a regular basis since I can get great birds from Mom (she raises some for butchering every year).  The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef, one of my first cookbook purchases way back around the turn of the century.  Also one of my favorites that I constantly turn to first for ideas.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken, whole; about 3 lbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tbs each of Basil, Parsley, and Marjoram; mixed together (I use dried, if you use fresh go with a small handful of each and finely chop them)
  • 1/4 C Olive Oil
  • 1 Lemon; quartered
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Tbs of Rosemary (again I use dried, go with 2 sprigs if you have fresh)

Preheat the oven and a roasting pan to 425 F degrees.  Clean up any odd bits of the chicken, i.e. pin feathers, excess fat, anything that got missed inside of the cavity, etc.  Rinse the chicken, inside and out, and pat dry.  Rub the cavity with salt.  I usually use around a couple of teaspoons.  Gently grab the skin, breast side, by the neck and separate the skin from the breast.  The easiest way to do this is to poke a couple of fingers down in between.  Just be careful not to rip the skin.  The skin is attached better between the breasts, instead of trying to separate things, I just leave it as two tunnels.  Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt down in the tunnels, followed by most of the herb mixture and a drizzle of olive oil into each.  Stuff the cavity with the lemon, bay, and rosemary.  Tuck the wings under themselves and truss up the bird with some kitchen twine.  I won’t go into how to truss the bird because I’ve done it numerous ways and still haven’t found a method that I like and works well.  I’m assuming that it’s more user error than actual methodology.

Make a three or four shallow cuts into the thighs to help the heat penetrate (dark meat takes longer to cook than white) and rub in the remaining herb mixture you have left.  Rub the entire chicken with a little olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Remove the hot roasting pan and add a little oil.  Place the chicken on one side, breast down, and put back into the oven for five minutes.  Switch to the other side, again breast down for another five minutes.  Finally, flip the bird onto its back and cook for approximately one more hour.  When the chicken is done, let it rest for ten minutes or so.  That way the juices can absorb back into the meat instead of ending up on the cutting board.  The skin ends up nice and crispy, while the meat is juicy and flavorful.

For side dishes I adapted two recipes from the book I’m currently reading, A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright.  I’m only about a hundred pages into it, but so far it is a great history of food of the entire Mediterranean area.  There is plenty of emphasis on the food of the poor (which doesn’t get talked about a lot, period) as well as the over the top feasts like when we think of de Medici’s and the like.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in food history.  The first recipe I did almost verbatim from the book, the second, well, not so much.

The first recipe that I did is called Salatat al-Malfuf from Syria.  It is a pretty basic cabbage salad, but I would like to make some tweaks the next time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head Savoy Cabbage (about 1 lb); damaged leaves removed, cored, and shredded
  • 1/4 C Sea Salt
  • 6 Garlic Cloves; minced
  • 2 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 6 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried Mint (I didn’t use this because I didn’t have any, but I think it would be great in here)

Toss the shredded cabbage in a large bowl with the salt and let it sit for an hour.  Thoroughly wash the salt off of the cabbage by dunking it in water.  Taste a piece to make sure the salt is washed off.  Place in a clean bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.  Serve at room temp within an hour.

I like the idea of this recipe, but letting the cabbage sit that long with that much salt wilted the hell out of it.  I think the next time I do this, I will go lighter on the salt and definitely lighter on the time it sits.  Also, I think the “dressing” of lemon juice and olive oil could be cut in half because there was a lot sitting in the bottom of the bowl when everything was eaten.

The second recipe is called Col-i-flor from Catalonia (the very northeast corner of Spain).  Surprisingly enough, this is a cauliflower recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lbs Potatoes; peeled and cut to the same size as the cauliflower florets
  • 10 oz Cauliflower florets (about one small head)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp White Wine Vinegar

Place the potatoes and cauliflower in a large saucepan and cover with two inches of slightly salted cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until both are easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a serving dish.  Mix the oil, vinegar, and salt to taste.  Pour over  the cauliflower and potatoes and mix, breaking them up a bit.  Serve immediately.

So that’s the recipe from the book.  Here’s how I did it:

  • I skipped the potatoes and just doubled up on the cauliflower because I had a very large head
  • I added a pound of fried and chopped bacon because everything is better with bacon
  • I ended up using 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar just to give it the punch I think it needed

Assuming that you just didn’t skip down to the end, here’s your reward for reading this really long post:

Well worth the effort in the kitchen.

My kind of surf & turf

A couple of weeks ago, our friend Erin (a.k.a. Ringer) came over for a visit and some food, cuz that’s how we roll.  A very quick aside, she found a different all-you-can-eat sushi place that we are going to try at some point in the future.  Anywho, I was put in charge of making supper for the three of us.  I know, big surprise.  I had run across a recipe for bacon wrapped fish fillets and I wanted to give that a go (a Jamie Oliver recipe of course).  This was one of those situations where I took the basic idea and did all the details on my own.  Naturally, there was one or two flaws that happened in the process, but I’ll get to those later.

First off, the ingredients.  I had some nice cod fillets that I had bought a few days prior that would work perfectly.  Also from the freezer was a pound of bacon.  For seasoning, I used a dill dip blend that I had sitting in the cupboard for way too long.  It may be my Polish background, but in my ever so humble opinion, dill goes great with fish, especially cod.  As a final ingredient, some extra virgin olive oil for a little binding action for the seasoning.

Not a lot of ingredients, but they work amazing together.

I mixed the dill blend into some olive oil and drug the fillets through the mixture for an even coat.  The next step was to lay out four slices of bacon side by side and lay a fillet on top of it.  Then the bacon came up, over, and finally tucked under.  I found that it worked a bit better to do the wrap at a bit of an angle because it fit around the fish better.  I repeated with the remaining fillets.  I took the last bit of oil/dill mixture and smeared on top of the bacon just to help round out the flavors.  Here is the first thing that I will change the next time I cook this.  The bacon didn’t crisp up enough by the time the fish was done, so I’m thinking that if I partially cook it before wrapping the fish that will help it crisp up as well as helping the second issue which I will get to in a bit.

A perfect picture of impending doom.

I put the fillets on a baking sheet and popped them into a 475 F degree oven for around ten minutes.  Basically long enough for the fish to firm up throughout.  The near disaster started about five minutes into the cooking process when the bacon started to render and the fat was pouring onto the heating element in the oven.  Amazingly, I didn’t set off the fire alarm with the amount of smoke that was coming out of the oven.  Which is good since we live in an apartment complex with hard wired alarms.  We had a string of fire alarms several months ago because people kept burning food.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to become a hypocrite for swearing at those people as well as doing the walk of shame out of the building.  Which brings me to the second thing I would change.  Put the fillets on a half-sheet, or any kind of pan with sides!  Despite the chaos and mess, the fish turned out really well.  The only downside was the not-so-crisp bacon.

Surf, turf, and dirt. Terry-style.

Ringer’s favorite part of the meal was the tomato salad that I literally whipped together in three minutes at the very last second because I needed something else to go on the plate.  All it contains is diced tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch or two of salt to bring everything together.  Ringer liked it so much, she finished hers, what was left on the counter, and what Lindz left on her plate.  I’m taking it as a compliment.

The silver lining to the oven fiasco is that it finally motivated me to clean the oven like Lindz has been asking me to do for quite some time.  I’d call myself a procrastinator, but I think I’ll have time to do that later.

 

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