Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hot and Sour Soup and Sesame Noodles

The Lonely Guy Cooks Chinese

Hot and Sour Soup: The heat comes from white pepper and the sour comes from rice wine vinegar.

Sesame Noodles: The taste comes from sesame oil, roasted sesame seeds and peanut butter. I got the basic idea for this recipe from reading other ones. Once I got the general idea, I developed this - and no doubt nontraditional - recipe.

The soup can be assembled quickly. Do that first.

Hot and Sour Soup

32 oz vegetable or chicken stock
4 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms
4 oz sliced cremini mushrooms (sometimes labeled "baby bellas")
1 handful of soybean sprouts - fresh if possible or from a can, drained and rinsed
1 handful of finely sliced scallions
6-8 oz firm tofu cut into rectangular strips
1/4 - 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
Chili flakes as desired - start with a good pinch
White pepper as desired - try 2 teaspoons for starters
2 tbsp Soy sauce for color and saltiness
1 large beaten egg
2 tablespoons cornstarch and water made into a slurry at the last moment

Get all the ingredients in a pot except for the egg and the cornstarch. Bring to a simmer.

Slowly drizzle in the beaten egg while stirring the soup.

Once the soup returns to a simmer, slowly drizzle in the cornstarch slurry while stirring well.

Taste. Add soy for more saltiness. Add white pepper for more heat. Add more vinegar if desired.

Simmer slowly. 

Note that this recipe can be vegan if the egg is eliminated.

Sesame Noodles

8 oz lo mien noodles, fresh if possible - or spaghetti
1 round tablespoon of creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 pinch of sugar
Hot cooking water as needed to thin the sauce
Roasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions, bean sprouts for garnish

I am amazed at the thickening power of peanut butter. I probably added 5-6 tablespoons of cooking water to get a sauce with a syrup-like consistency.

Slowly warm the peanut butter, sesame oil, ginger, chili sauce, vinegar and sugar. Add water as needed while warming to get a syrup-like consistency. Taste. Adjust the ingredients as desired.

Cook the noodles or pasta according to package directions. Add the noodles to the pan with the sauce. Stir and toss. 

Plate and garnish with roasted sesame seeds, scallions and sprouts.

Fresh bean sprouts, shiitakes, lo mien noodles and roasted sesame seeds might not be available in the local supermarket. I have a Korean market near me that also has Chinese, Thai and Japanese products. I will bet that a local gourmet market would have these ingredients as well.

Substitutions? Any mushroom will do. No lo mien? Spaghetti or vermicelli pasta will work. Worst case scenario with the sesame seeds is you buy the raw ones and toast them in a dry pan. No rice wine vinegar? One tablespoon of white vinegar will substitute. No fresh sprouts? There are the La Choy sprouts in a can, but I can't recommend them.

These recipes were a lesson in flavors and balance of flavors. As far as enjoyment, I am a hot and sour soup junkie. Now I can make it at home.

The sesame noodles... well, when I keep shoveling the grub into my pie-hole, I know I have a winner!

London Broil Steak

No, it's not a dish for one or two. But it's the leftovers I look forward to.

Get a 1-1/2 to 2 pound London broil. Season both sides with a good amount of kosher salt and ground black pepper.

How do you cook this thing? Why, you broil it! You know that broil setting on your oven that you never use? Here is your chance.

This works best on a grate as shown above with the meat at room temperature. Take note of the direction of the grain in the meat.  In this case it looks like it is running north-south. When the broiler looks and feels hot, start cooking 5" to 6" from the heating element.

You will need an in instant read meat thermometer as shown below.

Broil the first side until it looks nicely brown and sizzling on top. About 6-8 minutes. Check the temperature in the center. It should be about 100 degrees. Flip the steak over and start broiling the other side. We are looking for an internal temperature of about 130 to 135 degrees. This will give you a medium rare to medium doneness. This is already a slightly tough cut of meat. Cooking it past medium would make it extremely tough.

Cooking happens fast now. Maybe only 3-4 minutes on the other side.

Out of the broiler:

Cover the meat with foil and let rest for 8-10 minutes. Remember the grain? Slice against the grain and enjoy.

Serve with sauteed vegetables or a salad.

Leftovers! Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Steak tacos. Steak chili. Steak and eggs the next morning.

Pizza Adultified

I'm on a pizza kick. Pizza is literally a blank canvas for vegetables, cheese, meat or some combination of those ingredients:

This is a flat bread pizza painted with red sauce with dolmades rice filling. Feta cheese was added after baking.

Here is a flatbread pizza with ricotta and half-and-half as a base with sauteed fennel, onions and slices of apple:

I don't mind using an artisan flatbread as a crust. It saves time, but I make my own crust as well. Here is a typical cheese pie with Swiss chard:

Fennel and sausage:

Here is my favorite adult pizza at the moment:

Artisan flat bread
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 handful of sliced yellow peppers
1 handful of rough chopped onion
A few dollops of red sauce

Salt and pepper
Dried oregano
Olive oil

Paint the bread with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and oregano.

Mix the ricotta, buttermilk and grated cheese. You want a thick pancake batter type of consistency. Spread evenly onto the bread. Season with fresh ground black pepper.

Add the raw peppers and onions.

Add dollops of red sauce to the pizza.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes.



Friday, December 30, 2016

Keeping the Edge

Using a sharpening steel like the ones here...

keeps the edge of your knife sharp. Sharpen before every use.

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The Victorinox 10" Chef's Knife


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Sunday, December 25, 2016


The Lonely Guy Cooks Greek

I got the idea for this recipe from a colleague who is slightly allergic to eggplant. His wife would substitute thin slices of potato for the eggplant.

The cheese sauce which tops this dish is a little time-consuming to prepare, but it has lots of flavor and binds the dish together.

This recipe will make a 7" X 10" or 9" X 9" tray of moussaka. I used a 7" X 10" Pyrex tray. This recipe makes about six servings. Freeze half.

Greeks love their lamb, but you can make this with beef. I compromised with a 50-50 mixture of beef and lamb.

1 large eggplant, peeled
1 large baking potato, peeled
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
2 medium white onions, chopped
8 ounce can tomato sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Olive oil as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Set oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees Celsius)

Cheese Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup light cream or half-and-half
1 large egg
1/2 cup pecorino Romano cheese
1 pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Slice the eggplant 1/4-inch thick. Slice the potato 1/8-inch thick.

Brush a cookie sheet with olive oil.

Coat each side of sliced eggplant and potato with olive oil then season slices with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the slices on cookie sheet as will fit. Broil under the broiler until brown, turn and broil the other side. If slices are left over, broil another batch.

Oil the baking dish. Place eggplant and potato slices on the bottom.

In a large skillet, combine beef and onions and cook, stirring, until the beef is no longer pink. Drain the fat.

Add in the garlic, tomato sauce, cinnamon, oregano, salt and black pepper to taste.

Pour the meat mixture over the eggplant slices.

Arrange the remaining eggplant and potato slices over the beef mixture.

Make the Cheese Sauce

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan, whisk in flour and cook until mixture is just starting to get golden. Don't stop whisking.

Gradually stir in the cream. Keep stirring until thick and starting to bubble. Reduce the heat to low.

In a small bowl, beat the egg,  stir in two or three tablespoons of the cheese sauce (but not so much that it cooks the egg), then add egg mixture to sauce mixture. Stir well.

Stir in the Romano cheese. Stir well.

Pour the cheese sauce over the mixture in the baking dish.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or golden brown on top.

Let stand and congeal for 30 minutes or so. Cut into squares.

If freezing any extra servings, wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a large resealable bag or container. Keep in the refrigerator until cool and then place in the freezer.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Falafel Burgers and Tomato Soup

Start with the tzatziki sauce.

1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup peeled, seeded, finely grated cucumber
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dried mint leaves
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Normally, I would use freshly chopped mint but couldn't find any that day at the market.

The cucumber: Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. You should be left with two cucumber canoes.

Grate finely on a box grater or chop it up real good with a chef's knife. Keep the juice. The Greek yogurt is very thick.

Mix all the ingredients together.

Next, make the falafel.

16-20 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained, washed and drained again
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil for the falafel
1 tbsp water plus more to get the right consistency for the burger
4 Saltine crackers, finely crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup olive oil for frying

Mash all the ingredients together in a bowl with the back of a soup spoon. If the mixture is crumbly, add 1 tbsp of water at a time until you can form into a ball. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Start the tomato soup.

28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 large, fresh tomato, chopped
1/3 cup peeled, seeded, finely grated and drained cucumber
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Generous squeeze of lemon juice.

To drain the cucumber, grate on a paper towel.

In summer, I would use very ripe, peeled and partially seeded tomatoes. I say partially seeded because I like some of the jelly-like substance that holds the seeds. Chop and pulse the pieces of tomato in a blender, just short of a puree consistency.

Put everything in pot and bring to a simmer.


Form the chickpea mixture into patties and shallow fry in the oil. Fry a little past golden but not brown. If you don't fry long enough, they will fall apart.

When done, drain the oil from the burgers on a rack or some paper towels.

Serve the falafel with the tzatziki, tomato and lettuce on a pita or some other kind of soft flatbread.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Homemade Pappardelle

There is nothing like fresh pasta. The techniques in this recipe go back hundreds of years. The pasta dough itself can be used for fettuccine or ravioli as well.

A little less than 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Grated cheese

Make the dough. Sift both flours together on a large work surface and make a well in the center. Place the eggs, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then pour into the well; with a fork, break up the eggs, then gradually mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until combined.


Knead by hand. Gather the dough into a ball; flour the surface.

To knead, push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over itself and turn it 90 degrees (1/4 turn). Continue pushing, folding and turning the dough for 5 minutes.

Rest the dough. Wrap in plastic and set out for 30 minutes - or overnight in the fridge.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a large work surface. (I have to use my kitchen table). Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and dust with flour. Roll the dough from the center towards the edge in all directions. The dough should be see-through thin. If it is sticking, dust the dough and the work surface with more flour.

Trim the sheet of dough with your knife or pizza cutter into a rectangle.


Loosely roll up the dough and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Unroll the noodles and dust with the semolina to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside on a sheet tray and cover with a kitchen towel until ready to cook.

Now, you can make the sauce or use a quality store-bought vodka sauce. Heat it up in a sauce pan. Rao's is a good brand. Or, your favorite marinara with enough light cream to make a pink sauce.

Cook the fresh pasta in a gallon of boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes.

Drain. Stir the pasta into the sauce.

Serve and garnish with Romano cheese and chopped parsley.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Soup as a Meal

Eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a peasant for dinner. Do I believe that? To an extent, yes. I think it is not a good thing to have a big meal at night and then go to bed. Seems like a surefire way to gain weight. Having broken that rule many times, I do feel better when I have a simple meal for lunch or dinner.


Sour Purple Cabbage Soup

  • 1/2 head of a large purple cabbage

  • 1 medium carrot

  • 1 medium potato peeled (or several new potatoes)

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup sauerkraut

  • 32 oz water or chicken stock or vegetable stock

  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Remove as much of the white core of the cabbage as possible. Shred the cabbage. Cut the potato into chunks. Slice the carrot. Put all ingredients in a big pot. Add the cider vinegar, sauerkraut and stock (or water) and simmer 30-40 minutes. Let cool.

In batches if necessary, add everything into the blender and blend until smooth.

Serve a big hot or cold bowl with a big dollop of fat free Greek yogurt and a hunk of crusty bread.

With the antioxidants and probiotics in this dish, you will feel strong. Strong like Russian bear. Strong like bull? Or was it strong like Polish ox? Anyway, it's delicious!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Pot Roast and Horseradish Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

This is what you will need for the roast - plus salt and pepper.

I got a good deal on this bad boy.

A big old hunk of beef.

The beef was labeled "bottom round". I think any product with round or rump or roast in the name qualifies for this recipe.

My bad boy was about 4-1/2 pounds. I just happened to be cooking for my daughter and her husband. I had one cancellation. Normally, Lonely Guy cooks for one or two, but this was a special occasion.

I am glad I got the big cut because a lot of fluid leeched out during the cooking process. Plus, it was so good it was one of those you can't stop eating.

The biggest pot I have is a pasta pot and this is what I used for the braise. A braise refers to simmering in a little liquid (but not submerged and boiling).

3 big carrots
5 celery stalks
1/2 large white onion

6 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup sauerkraut
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 5 pound beef bottom round
1 handful of chopped parsley

Cut off any of that silvery, bluish fat off of the roast. It never gets tender.

Cut off some of the white fat cap, especially if it's thick.

Oh my gosh, wrestling with this big piece of meat and trying to remove the fat must have looked ridiculous. It took awhile and I made a mental note to re-sharpen my chef's knife.

Give the beef a massage with a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Get the oil hot in the pot and sear all sides of the beef. It's heavy so you will need barbecue tongs and fork to flip the big guy around. I was moderately successful with this approach. I ended up using my hand. Get it browned all over and set aside.

Chop up the carrots, celery and onion and throw them into the pot.

Put the beef in the pot on top of the veggies.

Place the kraut and garlic on top of the roast.

Add the chicken broth, water and vinegar to the pot. Cover.

Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 3 to 3-1/2 hours on the stove top. I went 3-1/2 hours.

Remove the beef and cover with foil to keep warm.

Strain the juice in the big pot into a little pot and boil until reduced by half. Taste the gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the beef and reheat in the hot gravy before serving.

Garnish with the chopped parsley.

Left-overs? Beef tacos or beef sandwiches with a spread of the horseradish mashed potatoes and some steak sauce. Serve with a big dill pickle. Yum! Or, how about a slider with barbecue sauce and coleslaw?

Horseradish Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

2 big Russet potatoes - peeled
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Light (lower fat) buttermilk as needed to get a creamy consistency
Salt and pepper

Chop up the potatoes into one inch chunks and boil for 30 minutes.

Strain the water and put the cooked potato chunks into a big bowl.

Mash the potatoes with a good old potato masher or a dinner fork.

Add a good amount of salt, probably at least two teaspoons, and black pepper. Mix.

Add horseradish. Mix.

Keep mixing and add buttermilk, about 1/2 cup or more, until you get a nice creamy consistency. It may look like a thick soup but as it cools, it will tighten up thanks to the starch in the Russets.

The bottom round was surprisingly lean. The mashed potatoes used no butter or cream. Served with a Greek salad, this was meal you can feel good about -even after going in for seconds.