Sunday, July 14, 2013

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil

I've worked on a few different approaches to tomato soup, but I think this one is a favorite. I love the flavor imparted by the roasting process, as well as the inclusion of basil. And heavy cream. You can never go wrong with heart-clogging heavy cream.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil

2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, quartered and cored
6 cloves garlic
I medium yellow onions, sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 ounces chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup heavy cream

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2) Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray that has been covered in foil, then drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 min.

3) Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a pot. Add chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

4) Wash basil leaves and add to the pot.

5) Remove the bay leaves, then working in batches, puree the soup until smooth. As you are blending, pour a bit of cream into each blender batch, drizzling it in as the blender is running to temper the cream.

6) Return soup to pot, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I have been using an olive oil called Amphora and really like it. When roasting the tomatoes, it'd be interesting to experiment with different lengths of cooking time to see how a deeper roast would affect the flavor.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

I made this on a particularly hot day, which pretty much describes every day in summer here, and found it to be quite refreshing. I have shaved pears on a mandoline for a salad, so apples seemed like a logical step.

Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

6 tablespoons good quality olive oil
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons organic honey
1 cup dried cherries (about 6 oz.)
1 Fuji apple, sliced thinly on a mandoline
1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts
Your favorite salad greens
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Whisk the first four ingredients together, then season with salt and pepper.

2. Combine greens, walnuts and cherries, then toss with vinaigrette to coat,

These days I am using an olive oil called Amphora. It costs $9 per bottle and is reasonably priced, yet still has a rich flavor. Regarding the apple, I found that I only used about half of it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Potato Tacos

Back in the day I used to gorge myself on the potato tacos served up by Chef Felix at El Ranchero in Vista, CA. In later years I tried potato tacos at other restaurants and was appalled at what basically amounted to flavorless mashed potatoes in a tortilla. For me, the key to a yummy potato taco is preserving the diced potatoes and making sure they have ample seasoning. I hope that I have succeeded as I add yet another taco to my arsenal.

Potato Tacos

1.5 to 2 pounds of white potatoes, peeled and medium diced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter
Cabbage, chopped
Tomatoes, diced
Grated cheese
Canola oil, about 2 cups

1. Boil potatoes until tender, but not crumbling.

2. Strain and gently place potatoes on a sheet pan.

3. Melt butter, then baste potatoes.

4. Combine all spices, then sprinkle over potatoes

5. Heat oil in skillet, then place potatoes on a tortilla. Fry each tortilla and potato filling until it begins to brown.

6. Top with cabbage, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, then feast!

These are really easy to make. I think the hardest part is getting your frying technique down.. I can't really tell you how to do it properly. Everyone has their own style.

As for salsa, I love Herdez. Es el mejor.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Achiote and Chipotle Braised Lamb Tacos with Mango Salsa

Okay, I'll admit it. The thought of eating the leg of some poor little lamb kind of freaked me out at first. Eventually I reasoned that the lamb was probably a real jerk and had it coming. Maybe he lived at a petting zoo where he was the surliest, bitiest little bastard lamb anyone had ever seen. Yeah, that's it.

     These tacos are insane, but you must commit to a two day preparation. If you don't the flavor will suffer and the lamb will pay you back with a gamy taste.

Achiote and Chipotle Braised Lamb Tacos with Mango Salsa

Serves four

2 tablespoons achiote powder
1 tablespoon orange or tangerine juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon vinegar (white or cider)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotles
3 pounds lamb stew meat, in 2-inch pieces
1 cup red wine
1 onion, chopped
2 chipotles, seeds removed
32 ounces cups vegetable broth
3 bay leaves

1) Mix together first 11 ingredients to form a paste. Rub into lamb and marinate for four to six hours

2) Heat 3-4 tablespoons of lard in a dutch oven and working in batches sear lamb meat. Because the marinade is like a paste, the lamb will not sear easily, so simply try to get it as brown as you can.

3) After, deglaze the butch oven with the red wine and add chopped onions then sauté.

4) In a blender, puree vegetable broth with chipotles.

5) Add the liquid to the pan, then add bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook on low heat for about two hours or until lamb is fork tender.

6) Remove dutch oven for heat, then let cool and refrigerate over night.

7) Before service the next day, heat the lamb in the braising liquid. While it is warming, strain two to three cups of the braising liquid intoa  sauce pen. Simmer and reduce into a nice sauce to accompany the tacos.

8) When ready to serve, remove lamb, shred with a fork and place on tortillas with a bit of teh reduced sauce and mango salsa.

Letting the lamb sit in the braising liquid overnight is critical to get rid of any gamy flavour. It's time consuming, but so worth it!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mango Salsa

What is there to say about mango salsa? Uh, er, I know! Do not use a ripe mango. It must be a little immature otherwise you cannot dice it.

Mango Salsa 

1 unripe mango, diced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 Jalapeño chile without seeds, minced
1 cup diced cucumber
Fresh chopped cilantro leaves
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Easy. Combine and toss.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Middle Eastern Spiced Carrot and Potato Soup

I was working in the garden and found a bunch of carrots still in the raised beds. Knowing that they would likely not do well through the hot summer, I decided to make soup. I have experimented with a few different carrot soups and this is yet another attempt. They have all been pretty good and this one is a good addition to the mix. The inclusion of potatoes makes it quite filling.

Middle Eastern Spiced Carrot and Potato Soup

½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 bunches (roughly 2 pounds) carrots, peeled, chopped into medium size coins
3 medium potatoes, chopped into rough dice
1 teaspoon sugar
6 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander for garnish
Greek-style yogurt  for garnish

1. Heat oil in pot, then add onion and fennel and sweat for 10-20 minutes until soft and translucent

2. Add garlic and spices and sweat for another five minutes.

3. Add carrots, potatoes, sugar, and stir.

4. Add stock, bring to boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are soft.

5. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth and return to pot.

6. Add salt to taste, then garnish with yogurt, coriander and a pinch of cumin.

I used Yukon Gold potatoes as they cook rather quickly and have a really nice texture and flavor.

I love all the funky shapes and colors of homegrown carrots!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pasta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil

The missus has a new chef position, so it's up to me to pull dinner detail for a while. Awesome! I am pretty slow in the kitchen and tend to flavor rather complex dishes, so I need to build up an arsenal of quicker, easier meals. I figure it's hard to go wrong wit pasta, so here's a simple dish with a surprising amount of flavor. This dish will serve two and only takes 30 minutes to pull off.

Pasta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil

8 ounces spaghetti
10 ounces cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Small basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Set four quarts, salted water to boil and cook pasta to al dente. Reserve 6 tablespoons of the water.

3. Put foil on a baking sheet, spray with Pam and place tomatoes, garlic, oregano and 2 tablespoons oil on it. Cook until the tomatoes are just starting to burst, about 10 minutes. Be careful to not let the garlic burn, so you may want to place the sheet on a top rack.

4. In a saucepan, combine the 6 tablespoons pasta water with 2 tablespoons of water. Boil for a few minutes to reduce and emulsify. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter. Toss the sauce with the pasta and tomatoes/garlic.

5. Garnish with basil leaves - be generous - and use a microplane to grate Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

About the Parmigiano-Reggiano - It's expensive, but I prefer to use the real deal.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Breaded Chicken Cutlet with Veloute Sauce and Marjoram

I don't eat a lot of chicken. It's not my favorite kind of meat and eating a large piece of it kind of squicks me out. Nevertheless, in small portions and carefully prepared, I am okay with it. Tonight's meal was designed to give me practice with pan frying, sauce making and enduring the chewy weirdness that is chicken.

Breaded Chicken Cutlet with Veloute Sauce and Marjoram

Chicken melanese, 1 cutlet per person
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Bring vegetable oil up to temperature

2. Dip the chicken first in the flour, then the egg, and finally the bread crumbs. 

3. Cook the chicken in the oil.

4. Drizzle with veloute sauce and serve. 

     The veloute sauce instructions can be found here. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of minced marjoram for a nice bit of flavor. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon and Ham Hock

I was escorting the missus on her shopping duties, so I decided to do some marketing of my own. Sadly, I don't have the same budget as my wife's clients, so I was taken aback by the prices at Whole Foods and Gelsons. Holy hell, I paid $11 for two ham hocks and $5 for four pieces of thick cut bacon.

     Despite the wallet gouging, I managed to pull off a wonderful meal. I understand that black-eyed peas on New Year's Day are a traditional way to ring in the new year in the South. I guess I am a day late, so maybe next year.

Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon and Ham Hock

16 ounces black-eyed peas, frozen
4 slices thick cut bacon, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
48 ounces chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 ham hock

1. Cook the bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat. Remove bacon when it is browned and reserve for another use.

2. Sweat onions, garlic and celery in the bacon grease until soft.

3. Add stock, ham hock, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high until it starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer.

4. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Skim occasionally.

5. Blend 1 cup of the stew in a blender then add back to the pot.

6. Remove ham hock from stew and pull out as much meat as possible. Place meat back in stew and serve.

     This is an easy to prepare, yet flavorful stew. In the future I might try substituting the celery with fennel in order to add some depth of flavor.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Strawberry, Pineapple and Orange Juice Smoothie

I've been working on formulas and methodologies for my goodness, reading about what delineates between a smoothie, a slushy, a frappe, a milkshake, etc. I still have a way to go as I'd like to eventually incorporate powders and other nutritional supplements.

     For today I wanted to work on a simple ratio from yesterday's effort. It came out pretty well, so perhaps it's a good formula - 14 to 16 ounces fruit, 8 to 10 ounces juice and 7 to 8 ounces yogurt.

Strawberry, Pineapple and Orange Juice Smoothie

7 ounces frozen pineapple
7 ounces frozen strawberries
10 ounces orange juice
7 ounces vanilla yogurt

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and let 'er rip.

     You can adjust all of the ingredients by an ounce or two to suit your needs. This makes four large glasses of fruity goodness.