Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sausage and Peppers Diavolo

    Fra Diavolo is one of my favorite ways to enjoy pasta. The simple combination of olive oil, garlic and red pepper is just fantastic. It's just the right combination of richness and heat. I figured that base could be used for any number of recipes. I'm pretty sure I've had chicken diavolo before. Maybe not. I'm not 100% sure. I might have hallucinated it. Regardless, I had a lot of bell peppers left over from the garden last season, so we decided to dig some out of the freezer and use them in this recipe. I figured combining sausage and peppers with pasta diavolo was a sure thing. I was right. This was delicious. If you don't like it, obviously you cooked it wrong or possibly have a damaged palate. I forgive you. This time. As always, any notes are in blue.

Sausage and Peppers Diavolo

  • 12 ounces Farfalle (that's what we cooking types call bow-tie pasta. Nothing impresses your dinner guests like pretentiousness) 
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed (the choice of sweet or hot sausage it up to you. Either will work here)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (use extra virgin if you happen to have a surplus of virgins in your house)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can use less if you're a wuss)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 
  • grated Asiago cheese for garnish
  1. In a large, non-stick pan, brown Italian sausage and break into crumbles. On medium-high heat, this will take about 5-8 minutes. Make sure to drain off any excess oil. Add the garlic, onion and peppers about half way through.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions (the directions for the pasta, not the directions for anything else. Following instant pudding directions here would not be helpful)
  3. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the sausage and pepper mix. Add the olive oil, red pepper, basil, and Parmesan. Toss to ensure everything is evenly coated.
  4. Throw a big helping on a plate and top with grated Asiago.
Good times!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vegetable Uber Quiche

     Ah, the much-maligned quiche.  Is it macho? It makes no difference to me. It uses a lot of eggs, and that's what really matters. I'm a big fan of anything that uses lots of eggs. The only thing that keeps me from making quiche with any regularity is the crust. That's why I love the idea of a crustless quiche. Granted, a crustless quiche is very much like a breakfast casserole. I guess that's another win. This particular quiche is loaded with all sorts of veggies. So many, that I have dubbed it an "Uber-Quiche." I'd like to think that all the veggies cancel out the eggs and cheese. As far as I'm concerned, eating this is like eating celery. With cheese. And a bunch of eggs. Whatever. It's delicious and I plan on making it again. Feel free to mess with the veggies used. If you're making it a point to do exactly what I say every time, you're accepting a fair amount of risk. As always, any notes are in blue.

Vegetable Uber-Quiche
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 heaping cup shredded cheddar-jack cheese
  • 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup kale, spines removed
  • 1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Greektown seasoning (available from The Spice House. If you don't have it available, it uses: salt, garlic powder, Tellicherry black pepper, onion powder, oregano and lemon peel)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C, Gasmark 5)
  2. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all the vegetables to ensure an even distribution. Pour the vegetables into the baking dish and spread them in an even layer.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and cheese (make sure to take the eggs out of the shells. That's very important). Pour mixture over vegetables in baking dish.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until eggs are completely set.
Good times!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

     Sometimes you find recipes in odd places. This particular recipe came by way of a book I found at a garage sale last fall. When I dropped fifty cents on Southern Recipes and Legends, I didn't expect to find any real gems. Mostly I thought the legends would be fun to read. Once you get past the shaky editing, you start to find some recipes that are genuine winners. A particularly good one was for Bonnie Doone Plantation Thanksgiving Cookies. That's a hell of a mouthful to say. The cookies are also a hell of a mouthful. They are packed with all sorts of goodies. There's chocolate, oats, cranberries, raisins, walnuts (if you want them). I wound up renaming them Loaded Oatmeal Cookies. They are super easy to make and the recipe yields over 3 dozen cookies. As always, any notes and changes are in blue.

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
aka Bonnie Doone Plantation Thanksgiving Cookies
via Southern Recipes and Legends by Nancy Rhyne
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups cranberries, pitted and mashed slightly (we substituted 1 cup of craisins)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (omitted)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190F, Gasmark 5)
  2. Combine all ingredients (I certainly hope you have a Kitchenaid or something similar, because this batter will be stiff. Mixing it by hand is going to be a chore). 
  3. Drop by teaspoon (I assure you, you don't want to do this. Go by tablespoons. You'll still end up with 40 or so cookies) onto a greased cookie sheet. 
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes (this is pretty accurate. Do not go by the consistency of the tops of the cookies; they will be very soft right out of the oven. Lift one up and check the bottom. If it's golden brown, it's done. The cookie will set up once it cools off).
Good times!

Bootleg Cheddar Bay Biscuits

     Red Lobster is one of those restaurants I like despite the fact I should know better. You just can't say no to unlimited shrimp or crab legs. One of my fondest memories is going to Red Lobster with The Wife and watching her eat crab legs. She would just bend the legs until BANG! Crab meat on the table. Crab meat on the wall. Crab meat in her hair. Crab meat on my glasses.
It was similar to this, but with crab meat.
Truly, it was inspiring. Naturally, any trip to Red Lobster would be punctuated by cramming as many Cheddar Bay Biscuits into our bodies as was possible. Then we'd ask for a bunch extra and a to-go box. If we didn't leave with a dozen biscuits, we weren't trying hard enough. Eventually, I figured I should just figure out how to make them myself and save the trip and inevitable hammersmash of crab meat. I searched the interwebs and found a couple recipes (the main biscuit recipe and a Biscuit knockoff) that I combined and modified into what we feel is a damned close approximation of the Cheddar Bay Biscuit. Don't eat these right away. Give them about an hour for the butter to settle in. Then pop one in the microwave one for about 30 seconds and tell me it's not the real deal. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Bootleg Cheddar Bay Biscuits
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup solid bacon grease (every home-made Biscuit recipe I saw said to use shortening. I used bacon grease because I felt it would add a nice flavor. Also, it's all I had on hand. I'm not making a special trip for shortening) 
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese
For Brushing on Top
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400F (200C, Gasmark 6)
  2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl (generally you are instructed to sift these items into the bowl, to which I say, "bite me.")
  3. Cut in bacon grease until mixture starts to make large crumbs.
  4. Add milk, cheese, 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Mix until combined (I used the Kitchenaid for a few seconds. Don't overdo the mixing, though)
  5. Drop 1/4 cup portions (I just used an ice cream scoop) of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes or until tops of the biscuits turn light brown.
  6. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and salt.  When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush the butter mixture over the tops (use it all. To not use all this mixture would be a mortal sin).
Good times!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Double Banana Cake

     My first foray into layer cakes was for The Wife's birthday a couple years ago. I found the recipe in an issue of Bon Appetit and figured I'd give it a whirl. I would consider it a fair first effort. The thing looked pretty rough and weighed a damned ton. However, it tasted fantastic. There's just something about a layer cake that impresses me. I'd like to think that it all started with some guy saying, "I like cake so damned much, I'm going to just start stacking them on each other and frosting the whole thing. Pancreas be damned!" Fair warning, I consider all layer cakes to be PITAs, so be ready to put in some work. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Double Banana Cake
via Bon Appetit

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter plus more for pans, room temperature (since I never have actual butter on hand, margarine was used)
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (about 6 large)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (still using margarine)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (good lord, I hope you have a strong pancreas)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ripe but not mushy bananas, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter two 8"-diameter cake pans with sides 2" high. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper rounds (I left my parchment square shaped. I didn't have a compass handy and didn't feel the difference in shape would alter the flavor). Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 1/2 cups butter and sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. With mixer on low, gradually beat in flour mixture, scraping sides of bowl. Mix in bananas, then sour cream. Divide batter between pans.
  2. Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–55 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes in pans on wire racks.
  3. Invert cakes onto wire racks; let cool completely. Remove parchment. Using a serrated knife, trim off rounded tops (Nope. I went ahead and stacked those sumbitches as is).
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until light and fluffy, 6–7 minutes.
  2. Place 1 cake on a plate. Spread 1 cup frosting over. Arrange banana slices on top. Top with second cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake; chill for 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cakes (Protip: Maybe wait a while for the cakes to cool off before putting on the frosting. I didn't, which explains why my cake looks like it has eczema).
Here's an alternate cake recipe if you prefer rhubarb
Good times!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce (lal shorve vala murgh)

     It's always nice to find a flavor-packed recipe that comes together quick enough to use as a mid-week meal. This particular recipe was a fine way to use up a big pack of discounted chicken thighs that was taking up room in the freezer. You are welcome to use any cut of chicken you'd like. While the recipe comes together in less than an hour, it does qualify as a PITA, since it requires constant vigilance until you get to the simmering stage. It's worth it. We served it up with a side of Stir-Fried Green Cabbage with Fennel Seeds. This makes for a satisfying meal that's mercifully low on calories. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Chicken in a Spicy Red Sauce
lal shorve vala murgh
via Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking

  • 2-1/4 pounds chicken pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (we grated ours, since chopping ginger is more trouble than it's worth)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Generous pinch asafetida optional (this is a powder that's available at Indian grocers. Alternately, you can get it at The Spice House online.)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 inch stick cinnamon
  • 6 cardamom pods (didn't have the pods on hand. I did have cardamom seeds. I used about a dozen)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 dried, hot red chiles (I used my own dried cayenne)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (don't be a wuss, use 1/4)
  • 1-1/2 cup canned, chopped tomatoes (I used canned whole tomatoes. They'll break up during the cooking)
  • 12 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks (I'm pretty sure we cut ours into 1/2 inch chunks because I don't read directions particularly well)
  1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces lightly with salt and black pepper and set aside.
  2. Put the garlic and ginger into a blender, along with 3 tablespoons water and blend into a paste.
  3. Put the oil in a wide, nonstick pan and set over medium high heat (I used my enameled Dutch oven. I figured there's be a lot going on here and I didn't want everything spilling over the sides of my pan. The Wife will abide a small mess, but nothing extravagant). When the oil is hot, put in the asafetida if using. A few seconds later, put in the cumin seeds. Wait 10 seconds and put in the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves and chiles. Stir for a few seconds until the large spices begin to turn darker. Add the garlic and ginger paste. Stir and fry it for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken, turmeric and cayenne. Stir and fry for another minute (nothing like dozens of tiny time constraints to make you want to order a pizza). Add the chopped tomatoes, potatoes, 1-1/4 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are tender (I'd be more concerned with the chicken being done. An undercooked potato won't kill you). 
Good times!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smothered Beef (or Pork, or Lamb if you're a Rockefeller)

     "Smothered" foods always struck me as unfortunately named. "Smothered beef" conjures images of someone in a field holding a pillow over a cow's face. This particular smothered dish comes by way of Madhur Jaffrey. This is just packed with all sorts of wonderful flavors and made for a tremendous meal when served over some basmati rice. If you haven't given Indian food a try, I can't recommend it enough. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Smothered Beef 
labdhara gosht
via Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking
  • 1 pound boned shoulder of lamb (AHAHAHAHAHA! I'll have the butler get that out of the fridge as soon as he's done wiping my ass with hundred dollar bills. I used stewing beef. Pork will work, too) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (we just grated it to save time)
  • 1 medium sized tomato, peeled and finely chopped (can't be bothered peeling. We just chopped it)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 fresh, hot green chiles, cut into fine rings (leave the seeds in there, you big baby)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put all the ingredients except the oil, garlic and black pepper in a bowl and mix well (I love recipes that are basically "throw all the shit together and apply heat.")
  2. Put the oil in a Dutch oven and set over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir until the pieces turn medium brown.
  3. Throw in the meat mixture and stir a couple times. Add the 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 90 minutes, or until the meat is tender. 
  4. Uncover and turn heat to high until sauce is thick. Sprinkle in black pepper to taste.
Good times!