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Tag Archives: Cooking

This is How I Stretch My Boundaries

Yesterday, I posted a ramble that included a promise to share pictures of the pizza I made.  You know, the one that was going to break down my traditional pizza making and eating ways.  So, without further ado … well, let me explain.  This isn’t completely groundbreaking for me, but it certainly isn’t a pizza you’ll find at any Round Table or Pizza Hut near you.  I kind of combined two recipes from the cookbook I mentioned and came up with this.  On the crust, olive oil, garlic and a little fresh parsley.  Mozzarella cheese (but not a lot — which is a transition for me, less cheese isn’t necessarily a bad thing).  Then pancetta and two whole eggs.  Bake.  When done, sprinkle some more fresh parsley on top.  Add some dabs of homemade pesto.  Dust with parmesan.  And there you go…

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Verdict?  Yummy.

Food, Glorious Food!!

I write so many things, have so many conversations with people, I lose track of what I say where and to whom.  I think I wrote a post about this here, but who knows, maybe I didn’t.  The intro here is this — cooking is very much like writing.  Just as there are an endless number of stories to tell (no matter how many times they have been told before), there are countless recipes to make.  Countless ethnic foods to try to master.  There is just an endless string of foods, dishes, and treats to try to create on my own.

While the oldest was home from college, he mentioned that he had pupusas for the first time while back in Long Beach.  A pupusa is a dish native to El Salvador.  It is, according to Wikipedia, “made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla … that is usually filled with a blend of … cheese … cooked pork meat … refried beans.” I have had a pupusa once or twice and wasn’t that impressed.  To me, it was a whole bunch of tortilla without a lot of filling inside.  The next time in Long Beach, I think I want my son to take me wherever it is he had pupusas at — the ones he kept raving about.

While I was on my sojourn around California this past week, I ate at Me and Z’s, a Mexican restaurant in Arroyo Grande.  Unlike most such restaurants, they served a complete meal.  A bowl of soup was a part of the meal and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with caramel ended the evening.  All for the regular price of a dinner.  The soup was albondigas — Mexican meatball soup.

So, understand something about me.  I am most definitely not a soup person.  Keep your chicken noodle away from me.  And most other soups as well.  But, the right soup at the right time can do wonders.  Matzah ball soup on a Jewish holiday — as long as the balls are soft and not like cannonballs.  Minestrone, with beans and pasta, served before a quality Italian dinner.  There are moments when soup is the right thing.  But, rarely, almost never is it something I pick out as a meal for myself.

That’s the think about cooking though.  Every once in awhile, you get to push the edge of the envelope.  So, tonight, in my castle, dinner was Albondigas soup and pupusas.  First came the meatballs.

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A combination of ground beef, chorizo, one egg, some grated carrot, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, and cumin.  And roll them up.  Time to brown them.

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The recipe said that the meatballs should be cooked in the soup, but that just seems a little bit too much for me.  Maybe cooking meatballs in the broth produces a different effect, but when browning them produces this much grease …

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… why would I want that in my soup?

Meatballs done, it was time to put the soup together.  Chicken broth, diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, celery, cumin and a few minutes of simmering…

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While the pot was warming up, I worked on the pupusas.  And this is where my plan failed.  Pupusas are supposed to be made with masa — the corn flour used to make corn tortillas.  There is a balance between flour and water with masa that I have just not got down yet.  But I tried.  It was too dry.  I was never gonna make pupusas with masa.  Fortunately, I’ve been making flour tortillas for years now and know what I’m doing with them.  I threw out my attempt at masa-based pupusas and made a quick batch of flour tortilla dough.  I let it rest for a few minutes and then started making my pupusas.

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I’m calling these Gringo Pupusas — for the white boy who can’t handle masa, make them with flour.  Each pupusa has some queso fresco and a crumbled meatball inside.

The soup is simmering — meatballs added in, as well as some zucchini.  Pupusas cooking on the griddle.

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And the end product…

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Oh wait, that’s my son, doing what 16-year-old boys do.  Let me try again.

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The verdict … there were three leftover pupusas after dinner.  My kid wants two of them for lunch tomorrow.  I’m taking the third and a tupperware container full of soup for lunch myself.  Were they perfect?  No.  I will keep trying to make them with masa and see if I can make them authentic.  But for now, a little gringo pupusa and albondigas soup isn’t a bad way to eat on a Sunday night.

 

You Know You Want It

What you might ask am I talking about?  What could I know about you that you may not even be willing to admit about yourself?  What do I know that you don’t?  It’s rather simple.  It should be obvious.  Please, seriously, you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Fine, what you want, what you need, what you’ve been begging for without realizing you were doing it, is another post about pizza.  And, if nothing else, I am here to serve your needs and wants.  So …

I learned a couple of weeks ago about a different way to make a pizza.  You prepare it in a skillet or frying pan, cook on the stovetop for a couple of minutes and then put it in a very hot oven to finish.  Staying at a cabin with limited kitchen resources (I mean, when are these cabin owners going to recognize they need to have a baking stone in place).  Well, this cabin doesn’t even have a regular oven.  Just a toaster oven.  It’s larger than most, but still, not an oven.  Not a baking stone.

But there was a cast iron skillet that was the right size for an individual pizza that fit in that toaster oven.  I gave it a whirl.

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I didn’t get it quite right.  I made my usual pizza dough.  Recipe you ask.  Well, I don’t know anymore.  It’s basically an incredibly small amount of yeast, a bit of salt and another bit of sugar.  For this one person crust, I used a little more than 1/2 cup warm water and then added flour until I got dough of the right consistency.  If you’re a breadmaker, you’ll know what I mean.  If you’re not, I’m not sure how to explain it further.  The dough spent a couple of hours rising while I … now, don’t be shocked by this … worked on The Irrepairable Past, producing almost 1,000 words.

I oiled the pan, heated it.  And I mean really heated it.  Flipped the dough in.  Drizzled some olive oil on it, added some minced garlic.  Then mozzarella, sausage, tomatoes and red onions.  The pizza stays in the pan on the stovetop for a couple of minutes before it goes in the oven at a high temperature.  I had it at 450 degrees before I switched it to Broil to get it up to 500 degrees.

It came out pretty good.  The only problem is that I think I had it on the stovetop too long.  The bottom crust in the center was more than just suitable charred.  So, lesson learned.  Less time on the stovetop.  I do think this method of making a pizza has the potential to produce a perfect crust.  I’m going to keep experimenting with it.

Chicken Burgers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Every now and then I try to go healthier.  Typically with only partial success.  With a busy day for most of us, I thought about just grilling burgers and then thought I could at least make them chicken burgers.  A little healthier.  What is a burger though if fries don’t come along with it?  So, there you have it.  A chicken burger on a homemade ciabatta roll, with jack cheese and sliced avocado.  And french fries.

Here’s the recipe:

1 lb. ground chicken

2 chopped green onions

2 TBSP chopped cilantro

2 tsp chopped garlic

salt and pepper

a bit of lemon or lime juice

 

I mixed this and the patties were somewhat … gooey.  So, I added some bread crumbs.  Maybe about 1/3 of a cup.  I fried the patties in a skillet, topped with the cheese and served.  Sad thing is that while the ciabatta was good, the best part of the meal was the french fries, brought frozen from Safeway and heavily salted.

 

Pita!

As part of my commitment to do something different around here, I no longer will be posting pictures of food without telling a story.  So, girls and boys, ladies and gents, sit yourself down.  It’s story time…

Downtown Sacramento has this dilemma.  It’s where all the state workers are.  It’s where all sorts of other 8-5 workers are.  8-5 means they all leave at that magic hour and return to their suburban homes.  For the most part, by 6:00, most of downtown Sacramento becomes a ghost town.  There have been efforts to “revitalize” the area, but, well, there’s a dilemma.  If you build it, will they come.  Or, do they need to come before you build it.  Over the last few years a number of restaurants have tried to establish themselves in anticipation of the much planned revitalization, which has taken fooooorrrreeeeeevvvveeeerrrrr.

One of the restaurants struggling to make it is Trio.  It’s been there a while.  Maybe a year?  It’s this odd combination of a buffet, a sit down restaurant, and a market — offering breads, dips, and ingredients for making your own dishes.  Their menu is Mediterranean.

After walking by the place off and on over the months and wondering what the place was like, I read a review of the place in the Sac Bee that spoke glowingly of the place.  This week, I lunch there with a couple of colleagues.

You ever have a meal you never expected.  It began and ended with the pita and dip they served when we sat down.  The dip, rather than being the traditional garbanzo bean based hummus, was pinto beans (I think) and a range of vegetables pureed into this incredibly flavorful dip.  But, the star of the show was the pita bread.  Clearly, it was not store bought, mass-produced, easily split and turned into a sandwich pita.

Much like homemade tortillas, it’s impossible to explain just what the difference is between the mass-produced stuff and the tortilla or pita bread that is real and fresh and “home made.”  The pita at Trio was the latter, not the former.  The three of us would have been happy with nothing more than the pita and the dip they served with it.

This, of course, compelled me to “try it at home.”  I’ve made pita bread before.  Once.  Here’s the second time.

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It’s thicker than what you get at the store. But, it’s absolutely incredible.  Warm, right off the griddle.  An avocado dip (grilled red onion, garlic, jalapeno and avocado, add lime juice and cilantro and puree).

While I was making the pita, outside on the grill, a butterflied leg of lamb and some chicken were soaking up the heat.  both marinaded in olive oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic and a mix of herbs from the garden (oregano, basil, rosemary).    Which, of course, led to this …

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Pita with romaine, a mix of chicken and lamb, and homemade caesar dressing.  I’m pretty convinced this is the way to go.

Dinner.

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