Monday, January 30, 2017

Ratatouille and Red Lentils

So, we're going to start with these ingredients.

1 medium zucchini
1 white onion
1 baby eggplant
3 plum tomatoes
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup of red lentils
3 cups of low sodium vegetable stock
A few leaves of cilantro or parsley

Seasonings, used as desired:

Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Curry powder
Black mustard seed
Chili flakes
Balsamic vinegar
Lemon juice

We're going to slow roast the vegetables on a sheet pan.

If we did good, we can put something together that looks like this...

...or this.

Time to get out the big knife. Slice the zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and onions into 1/4 inch thick or thinner rounds. You can peel the zucchini and eggplant or partially peel them like I did. The stripes look nice.

Thinly slice 6 cloves of garlic.

The red pepper and yellow pepper get cut into squares. Halve the pepper, remove the stem and seeds. Cut each half in half. Trim the curly round ends. Stack the slices and cut width-wise in the middle. Looking at the picture above I think I would have been better off slicing each quarter into thirds. Bottom line: Cut the peppers into bite-sized pieces.

Take a sheet pan and oil it with olive oil. Lay down parchment paper on the oily pan. The oil helps it stick. Oil the parchment paper. Get all the veg (except the garlic) on the parchment. Brush all the veg with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Put into a pre-heated 300 degree oven for 60 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the roasting process. My oven is hotter on one side than the other. I have to do this. Halfway through, throw the sliced garlic into the tray and be prepared for the roasted garlic smell that will permeate the kitchen.

Make the lentils. Cook 1 cup of lentils in three cups of water or low sodium vegetable stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Longer than 10 minutes and you get mush. Cooking lentils is not like cooking rice. It's more like cooking pasta.

Drain the lentils and season with salt and pepper - at minimum. I used black mustard seed and curry powder as well. I know, masoor dal is not European. Think of it as India meets France. Plus the protein in the lentils make this a complete dish.

The sauce: Season the diced tomatoes with salt, chili flakes, rosemary, sage, thyme and balsamic vinegar. Simmer in a big pot.

After one hour, take the vegetables out of the oven and add them to the sauce. Bring back to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Plate the lentils in the middle of a plate by pressing them into a food ring or cookie cutter that has been oiled.

Plate the ratatouille over and around the ring. Gently remove the ring. Garnish with a cilantro or parsley. Squeeze lemon juice all over to brighten things up.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Beef on Beef Burger

This recipe is for meat lovers. I got the idea from the Roy Rogers Double-R-Bar burger which included roast beef. Roy Roger's restaurants are few and far between these days but the spirit lives on.


2/3 pound ground beef, 85%/15%
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Deli provolone cheese
Deli roast beef
Beef bouillon
1/2 cup water
2 slices raw white onion
4 slices of Italian style white toast (for two burgers)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coleslaw (recipe follows)
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and pepper to season

The ground beef I buy comes in 1-1/3 pound packages. The 85/15 (85% lean) is half the price of the 93/7 (93% lean) and has twice the flavor. The preference here is 80/20 if you can find it.

Cut the meat in the package in half. Cut the halves in half. We're making two 1/3 pound burgers. Save the rest of the meat for a meat sauce, or more burgers.

Season your two halves by sprinkling Worcestershire on each. Form into patties.

Season the top of each patty with salt and pepper.

Make beef juice by combining the beef bouillon cube and half a cup of water in a small pot. Bring to a simmer.

Make the condiment by combining the ketchup, horseradish and Dijon mustard.

Put the oil in a frying pan. Get the pan hot to the point where you see the oil shimmering. Swirl the oil around the pan.

Place the patties in the pan, seasoned side down. Now season the top with salt and pepper. Flip when you see blood start to ooze out the sides. Personally, I am looking for a rare burger. For a medium burger, flip when you see blood ooze out of the top.

Continue cooking for the same amount of time you cooked the other side.

You can use a meat thermometer. 130 degrees would be rare, 140 would be medium rare. 150 would be medium. 160 and your on your way to well done.

There is the poke method to test doneness but it's a little hard to explain without a video like this one:

Finally, doneness can be tested by making a little incision on the edge of the patty and looking at the color of the meat. Nice and pink to red, that is rare. Just pink is medium rare to medium.

Assemble the burger:

Spread the horseradish condiment on both sides of the toast.

Place coleslaw on the bottom.

On goes the burger.

Place two slices of provolone cheese on the burger.

Heat the roast beef in the beef juice. Still dripping with hot, salty goodness, place the roast beef on top of the cheese.

Place a slice of raw onion on the beef.

Top the burger with the other piece of toast, slice in half and enjoy!

Green Cabbage Coleslaw

Cut a green cabbage into quarters.

Thinly slice one of the quarters into slaw. Place the slaw in a resealable container.

Add a small grated carrot.

Season with celery seed, salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with white vinegar.

Add a couple of tablespoons light mayonnaise and mix well.

Let's Discuss!

Why the raw onion? I got the idea from the Peter Luger Steakhouse house "salad." It is a thick slice of beefsteak tomato, topped with a thick slice of white onion with the Peter Luger sauce poured on top. Besides, onion and beef go together like... fill in with the analogy of your choice.

The provolone cheese should be sharp. Usually this means an aged cheese.

Red cabbage can be used to make the slaw or some combination of red and green.

The slaw should be made the day before to soften the cabbage and for the flavors to meld.

Why the Italian white toast? Inspiration came from Louis' Lunch in New Haven Connecticut. They are considered the oldest hamburger maker in the country and they have always served their burgers on white bread. It just works.

Why not toasted and buttered buns? There is not much taste in a potato roll for instance and this is already a rich sandwich - the butter would be overkill.

Slaw is not crucial. I have also made this with crispy lettuce.  I just like the flavor the mayo and vinegar brings.

The onion might be better placed on the burger and cheese. As it stands, the onion was sliding off the sandwich - a little.

The burger itself would be better if smashed down after it hits the hot pan. As you can see, it doesn't fit the bread. Alternatively, you could cut the crust off the bread.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Chicken Paprikash Like Mom Never Made

This is a tomato and onion based recipe with plenty of paprika and a sour cream sauce.


2 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (hot or sweet) or smoky paprika (pimenton)
A little more paprika to sprinkl on the chicken
3/4 cup sour cream

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

In a hot pot, add the vegetable oil. Sear the chicken for 5 minutes on one side then 5 minutes on the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate. Sprinkle some paprika on the chicken.

Dump the sliced onions into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the onions start to sweat.

Add the garlic and continue to stir for another 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and paprika. Stir.

Add the chicken back into the pot and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Take the chicken out again and add the sour cream to the sauce and stir.

Plate the chicken with the yellow rice from the chili recipe or with buttery, egg noodles.

Generously ladle the sauce over everything. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kitchen Sink Chili

This is a pork chili, but any meat can be used. You can go vegan as well. I would use 3 portobello mushrooms, chopped and reduce the amount of sauce.


2 lb Pork Tenderloin, seared, braised and then 1-1/2 lbs chopped

The Braise

1/2 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock

The Chili

1-1/2 pounds pork tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch cubes
28 oz can crushed tomato
15.5 oz can black beans, drained
15.5 oz can red beans, drained
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 yellow or orange pepper, cut into short strips
1 large Poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tbsp powdered Ancho chili pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
Kosher salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Braising liquid as needed to thin the chili
Corn flour (masa harina) as needed to thicken the chili
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Yellow Rice

1 cup extra long grain rice
1-3/4 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp turmeric
A pinch of saffron
A healthy pinch of salt

Garnish (optional)

Chopped white onion
Cilantro, chopped
Scallions (green onion), chopped
1 Lime, cut into quarters
Light sour cream
Extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Sriracha chili sauce or other hot sauce

Put two tablespoons vegetable oil in a heavy pot.

Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Sear all sides of the tenderloin in the hot oil. Set aside.

Add the other braise ingredients. Put the tenderloin on top. Cover the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.

One hour will cook the pork to a point where it is done, but still nice and slice-able.  1-1/2 hours will give you a nice, shreddable, pulled pork. That is perfectly acceptable too. 

After the pork is done, let it cool to the point where you can chop it up. We're looking for bite-sized pieces.

Strain the braising liquid into a container. Use the liquid to add to the chili if it gets too thick. Get rid of the tired, used up vegetables.

Everyone in the pool. All the chili ingredients now go into the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.

After 30 minutes, check the seasoning. If it lacks salt, add a couple of pinches of salt. Add more cayenne pepper  if you want more spice. After one hour, taste again. If the chili is too soupy add a teaspoon of masa harina (corn flour) and stir. Masa is a great thickener. Keep adding a teaspoon at-a-time to reach the desired thickness.

For the rice, melt the butter in a hot pan. Add the rice and toast it in the butter, stirring constantly for about three minutes. Add all the other ingredients and stir. Cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. When done, fluff up the rice with a fork.

Plate the chili and rice with any of the garnishes you like. I like lime juice and cilantro.

Turmeric which gives the rice its yellow color will stain anything it touches. Cook the rice in a stainless steel pot and stir with a stainless steel spoon.

I made the mistake of stirring the turmeric and saffron rice with a rubber spatula. I now have a rubber spatula that is a happy yellow in color. 

This recipe makes a big batch of chili. I served two people and had leftovers the next day. I froze the rest.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Salmon Burgers


For the burger:

.75 to 1.00 lb salmon fillet
10 Saltine crackers, smashed to crumbs
1 round tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 large Vidalia onion or one medium sized red onion
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 or 4 potato buns depending on the size of the burgers

For the tartar sauce:

1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sweet relish

For the fries:

1 medium to large Russet potato

Poach the salmon in simmering water, about 10 minutes. I used a .82 pound previously frozen fillet. Fresh would have been much more expensive. Don't use the stuff in the can. Use fresh, frozen or previously frozen.

When the tip of the knife can pierce the fish easily, it's cooked.

Scrape off the flesh from the skin. Place the salmon in a bowl and continue to flake with a fork.

Rough chop the onion and use a food processor or mini-prep to mince it up. Of course, if all you have is chef's knife, use that.

Put the salmon in the food processor with the onion and pulse until you have a fine mince. Again, a chef's knife will work.

In a bowl add the salmon, onions, Dijon mustard and lemon juice and mix well with a spatula or using your hands.

Add the Saltine crumbs and mix well. Make the crumbs by placing the crackers in a Ziploc bag and smashing them with the side of your fist or by using the blunt end of a meat hammer.

Form the mixture in 1/4 to 1/3 lb patties.

Put the oil in a hot pan and fry the patties, about 5 minutes per side. Remember, everything is cooked so all we want to do is get a nice sear on the burgers.

For the fries, wash and scrub the potato. Cut off the ends off of the potato. Cut the potato in half, lengthwise. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Toss the fries with some oil and bake on a rack for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. As soon as they are out of the oven, season with salt and powdered rosemary.

Mix all the ingredients for the tartar sauce: Mayonnaise, lemon juice and sweet relish.

To assemble, generously spread the tartar sauce on the top bun.

Lay the burger down on the bottom bun. Top with tomato, sliced pickles and lettuce.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Blue Plate Special

Today's Blue Plate Special is baked, sweet and spicy chicken with baked, sweet potato fries and tangy, purple coleslaw.

Marinate the Chicken

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Add teriyaki marinade to cover (but not drown) the chicken. Add two tablespoons of sriracha chili sauce. Move the chicken around with your hands to combine the sauce with the sriracha. Wash hands. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Make the Slaw

Cut a purple (red) cabbage into quarters. Remove the white core from one quarter. Shred with a chef's knife.

In a bowl, toss with salt, pepper, white vinegar, celery seed and light mayonnaise. Eyeball and adjust the ingredients until you get the flavor you want.

Make the Fries

Peel the sweet potato.

Cut off the ends.

Slice each side to square off the potato. You should have a sweet potato bar.

Cut in half lengthwise and then the halves in half, lengthwise.

Turn the sliced gold bar of sweet potatoes over, one quarter turn.

Cut in half and then the halves in half.

Toss with vegetable oil, season with seasoned salt and bake on a sheet at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, turning half way through.

Bake the Chicken

Remove the tray of fries. Place chicken on a wire rack, set on a baking sheet, in the hot oven.

Reset the oven temperature to 380. Bake for 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, put the fries back in the oven so they will get hot.

Plate and serve as above.



Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Lighter Eggplant Parmesan

No ingredient list is really necessary. Eggplant, olive oil, mozzarella, tomato sauce and grated cheese.

Peel the eggplant. This is optional. I find the skin slightly bitter and hard to digest.

Cut the eggplant in to 1/4" slices. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Broil until you get some color. Take out of the oven. Flip each piece over, brush with olive oil, season and broil again.

Splash some tomato sauce on the eggplant. Slice mozzarella and place on each round. Put a half of a grape tomato in the middle. A slice of ripe tomato would work too. Sprinkle with grated cheese. I used pecorino Romano.

Bake at 375 degrees until cheese is starting to melt - about 15 minutes. Then broil until the cheese starts to brown.


Garnish with a little dried oregano.

I thought about a balsamic vinegar reduction to drizzle around the plate, but I was hungry!