Thursday, February 16, 2017

Diner Classic: Sausage and Peppers

How do you update a classic? In this case, the sausage is braised whole. It stays incredibly juicy and tender. A whole habanero pepper is dropped into the braise to add heat. Tartness comes from apple cider vinegar. The secret ingredient to calm everything down and bring the dish together is sugar.

Package of 5 or 6 sweet Italian sausages
1 red pepper, chopped to bite-sized pieces
1 yellow pepper, chopped to bite-sized pieces
1 white onion, peeled and sliced
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 habanero pepper, pierced with a knife on all sides
2 big handfuls of fresh, chopped parsley
3 bay leaves

Put everything, except the parsley, in a big pot and simmer for 45 minutes, covered. Add the parsley during the last 15 minutes and continue to simmer for 15 more minutes, uncovered. Remove the habanero pepper and bay leaves.

Serve over yellow rice.

For the yellow rice: Put 1 cup of good old Carolina long-grained rice in a pot. Add a tablespoon of butter, one teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of salt and a pinch of saffron.

Add 1-3/4 cups water, bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

Decadent Pepperoni Pizza

Artisan flatbread
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
Mozzarella, thinly sliced
Pepperoni as desired
Shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese as desired
Dried oregano

Combine the buttermilk, ricotta, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper. Spread on the pizza crust.

Dot the pie with the tomato sauce. Add the mozzarella. Add the pepperoni. Sprinkle on the Parmesan. Sprinkle on the oregano.

Bake at 425 for about 25 minutes until the mozzarella is bubbling and starting to turn brown. 

Decadent White Pizza

Uh oh. I'm on a pizza kick again. Here is the white slice of your dreams.

Artisan flatbread
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Onion, sliced
Portabello mushroom, sliced
Shredded Parmesan cheese as desired
Balsamic vinegar as desired

Combine the ricotta, buttermilk , olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. The goal is to have something spreadable. Too thick? Add buttermilk. Too thin? Use more ricotta. Spread  the mixture onto the bread.

Decorate the pizza with slices of onion and mushroom. Top with the Parmesan.

Bake at 425 until the Parmesan is bubbly and starting to turn brown - about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar before cutting and serving.

Homemade Chips and Habanero Salsa

Salsa is a great treat to eat and make. Making it forces you to find that balance between sweetness, tartness, spicy, salty and bitter. It's a great lesson in combining flavors.

Two cups canned San Marzano tomatoes, pureed or fresh ripe tomatoes if in season
1/4 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Cilantro, one handful, chopped
1/2 habanero pepper
Olive oil

Lime juice

For the chips:

Flour tortilla
Ancho chili powder

Take two tortillas, stack them and cut into eighths with a pizza wheel or a knife. The yield will be 16 chips. Cut up more tortillas for more chips.

Place the tortilla chips on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 oven until blistering and brown - about 20-25 minutes. While they bake, make the salsa.

Check the habanero pepper for heat by cutting off a little sliver and tasting it. If your tongue is on fire, you got a hot one. If not, you might want to try 1/2 a habanero. You can use other spicy peppers. You can even use cayenne pepper or your favorite hot sauce for that spicy kick.

Blend the tomatoes. Add all the other ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasonings as desired. Why the olive oil? It adds a shine to finished product.

When the chips are done, season with salt and ancho chili powder.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Steakhouse Salad

It doesn't get much easier than this. It's what you want to eat.

1/4 head iceberg lettuce
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Blue cheese dressing
Chopped bacon
Sliced scallions
Chopped and sliced radishes

Chop a head of iceberg lettuce in half from head to base. Chop the halves lengthwise into quarters.

With the chopped side up (so all the crannies hold the seasoning) sprinkle with red wine vinegar.

Season with salt and pepper. I like a lot of fresh ground black pepper.

Generously spoon the dressing over the lettuce.

The chopped bacon will now stick to the dressing.

Sprinkle on the scallions and radishes.

Use as much of the ingredients as you think they will like.

1/4 head of lettuce serves one person (or one lonely guy). Using all four quarters will make four servings.

I told you it was easy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

They All Can't Be Winners

Salsa is a great condiment or dip. For a cook, making salsa teaches flavors and combinations of flavors.

I had the saltiness. I had the sweet from a touch of honey. For heat I had a jalapeno. For the tang I had lime juice and the tomatoes. For the bitter accent I had fresh cilantro and some onion. For shine, a little olive oil.

I decided to get fancy and roast the vegetables. Mistake number one. Everything dried out.

The tomatoes were "tomatoes on the vine". They were the only tomatoes that looked decent. They were this weird yellowish orange on the inside. Mistake number two.

The salsa was so thick you could stand up a spoon. The color was totally off.

Appetizing, isn't it?

This time of year, grape or cherry tomatoes are probably the best bet for salsa. That or canned crushed tomatoes.

Once again, the best ingredients you can get generally make for the best finished product.

Other cookbooks will show only the wins and not the fails. Today I failed. Tomorrow I'll see if I can't get a win.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Summary

I promised not to talk about techniques and equipment. But, clearly you should have some idea of what you are doing in the kitchen. You should should be able to follow a recipe. That's why I wrote this. Follow the recipes and make them your own.

Newbies are welcome, but there are better ways to learn techniques other than this book. I can write, "Thinly slice three scallions." It's up to you to know what that means. Sometimes you will be required to chop finely or mince. You should know the difference. This book is the next step in your cooking journey where we will try different ingredients, flavor combinations, and so on.

My first marriage, I did much of the cooking. Single, I continued that trend, simply as a way to save money. In my second marriage I really stepped up my game as we entertained and my second wife worked in New York, had many rich friends. They certainly knew what good food tasted like.

I felt like I could really cook when one of our guests didn't want the dinner I had made. I switched gears and made Veal Marsala in about a much time as it is taking to write this chapter. He liked it.

The veal fillets were expensive. It was USDA Choice or Prime. I don't remember. Simply, this was the most tender veal I ever had. You could cut it with the side of your fork.

So, lesson number one is: Get the best ingredients you can afford.

Lesson number two is: Get all your ingredients together on the counter prior to cooking. This is the mis en place you may have heard of on cooking shows.

Equipment: You should have, in no particular order, the following:

  • A sharp knife and a cutting board

  • A way to keep the knife sharp

  • A stainless steel pot for soups and sauces

  • A bigger pot for chili, roasts and stews

  • A really big pot to make pasta

  • A frying pan

  • A vegetable peeler

A mini-processor or blender can come in very handy, especially if you are making soups, smoothies or chopping a lot of vegetables.

After the second marriage and single again, I began to expand my knowledge of ingredients. I would walk into a supermarket and get a bunch of tomatillos for example. Then I would figure out what to do with them. For instance, I made the green tomatillo chili shown below.

With a little confidence, I made Pad Thai:

I have a real passion for baking now.

Apple Pie:


These days I am trying to cook more vegetarian dishes and making classic meat and chicken dishes with less fat. This is not just a concession to old age. We all should try to eat a little lighter.

Because I don't drink anymore, I don't cook with wine anymore. I am on the lookout for a place that sells denatured wine.

Read recipes, watch cooking shows and practice. It will be worth it.

The Lonely Guy may be poor, but he eats like a King.