Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ginger sweet potatoes

Tonight, I decided to put some dried guajillo peppers to good use by using them with broiled tuna a la this recipe. Instead of the rice and greens on the side, though, I wanted to do some sort of mashed sweet potatoes. And so this 3recipe was born:

Peel and dice 3 small-medium sweet potatoes -- about 2 cups once diced. Using water, boil until soft, then drain. Return sweet potatoes to pot and add:

1 Tbsp butter
1-2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp ginger syrup
salt to taste

If you didn't get any ginger syrup from your brother for Christmas, I imagine 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of ground or grated ginger and a tablespoon of maple syrup or brown sugar would suffice as a substitute.

Mash everything together until it looks like baby food. I didn't try this, but I suspect a dash of ground hot pepper might go over very well in this dish.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ricotta - White Wine Sauce

Hello all,
Tonight I'm going to share a quick, tasty sauce that I've made a few times now.
I'm going to give you the general recipe for the sauce, and then list a few variations that I've tried.

  • Olive Oil
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cup White Wine
  • A few splashes of white wine vinegar
  • 6-8 Heaping tablespoons of ricotta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Fennel
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
1) Saute the garlic, onion, spices (expect salt) in the olive oil.
2) Add the white wine and vinegar and simmer for a few minutes.
3) Slowly stir in the ricotta a few spoonfuls at a time and simmer gently.
4) Once all the ricotta is added, add the Parmesan cheese and salt and simmer for 5-6 more minutes, until it thickens slightly. While it's simmering, taste it and see if it needs more salt and pepper (it probably will).
5) Serve over pasta.

That's it! Now, it'd be a fairly boring dish as is, so I've added a few veggies to help give the sauce a bit more body. I've tried adding peppers and broccoli to the sauce by sauteing them in with the garlic/onion/spices. I've also added spinach into the sauce by sauteing it quickly just before adding the white wine. Both have been pretty tasty.

So, basically, I've given the basics for many tasty dinners! Please experiment and leave any more tasty combination you find in the comments!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Curry coconut squash soup

Soup is perhaps my favorite way to consume squash, although I didn't discover this until recently. This dish was surprisingly easy, considering I had to use the blender.

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1" polyhedra
1 ginormous carrot (or 2 large ones), peeled and sliced roughly
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped

Boil until soft. (20-40 minutes)

These go into the blender. I had to split it into two batches, and to each batch I added:

1 pat butter
juice of 1/2 clementine
1/4 can lite coconut milk
1 glorg maple syrup (~1 tbsp)
maybe 1/4 c pecans
4 spoonfuls plain yogurt
some salt
some pepper
~1 tsp curry powder (use your judgment)
enough of the water used to boil the veggies to fill in most of the voids

Soupify. Reheat if necessary.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pesto pasta with brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomato, roasted cauliflower

This wasn't meant to be an entropic dinner.

On the way home from work --tired and brain-fried-- I had it in mind just to cook some pasta and mix it with pesto for a quick, simple dinner. But by the time I got into the kitchen, some of my creative impulsiveness had returned and I was able to whip up the following:

Pesto pasta with brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 box rotini pasta, cooked and drained
1/4-1/2 cup pesto
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
~15 brussels sprouts
olive or grapeseed oil
black pepper

Rinse and halve the brussels sprouts (after removing the "stem"). Sprinkle with paprika and black pepper. In a small frying pan, heat ~1 Tbsp oil over medium high. When hot, add sprouts and fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the outsides have browned. (Alternatively, you could broil or grill the sprouts) Combine with pasta, pesto, and tomatoes and return to heat if necessary. Add salt to taste.

Notes: I'm discovering that brussels sprouts are among the most underrated vegetables; buy them fresh (not canned) and roast or brown them and they are quite fantastic! For the pesto, add it a large spoonful at a time until it tastes right to you. I used pesto we made this summer with our bumper basil crop, which I found to be more lightly flavored than most, so I went with around 1/2 cup.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 cauliflower
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp sweet vinegar
ground cumin
dried oregano

Rinse cauliflower and remove core (or cut into small pieces). Drizzle with 2-3 Tbsp oil and toss lightly (or brush, if using the head whole). Sprinkle with oregano, cumin, and salt and bake at 450F for 45 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp oil with the vinegar and ~1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp oregano. When cauliflower is done, remove from oven and cut into pieces if necessary. Shake dressing well, pour over cauliflower and stir.

Notes: most of the credit for this dish goes to Meghan, who co-writes a cooking and wine blog with her husband Doug (my former colleague). Her version is slightly different, but as she mentions, you can be pretty creative with the sauce/seasonings you use. For the vinegar, I used Trader Joe's Orange Malbec Champagne Vinegar (or something like that), which is quite sweet and fruity as vinegars go. You could do just as well with a wine vinegar or some lemon juice and a little sweetener.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beet Soup, Fried 'taters, and Tomato Salad

Not the most adventurous of experimentation tonight, but each of these is a bit of a twist on some established recipe.

Beet Soup

I actually followed a recipe for the most part -- from the excellent 12 Months of Monastery Soups, but with a little alteration at the end.

1 qt water
1 bouillon cube (I used vegetable)
2 beets, cubed
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced (I added this myself)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar (I used raw sugar)
salt and pepper
garnish (see below)

Combine the water, bouillon, vegetables, oil, and sugar in a soup pot and cook over med-low for 30 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and cook for 10 more minutes. Blend the soup in a blender (it'll take 2 or more loads) and return to the pot. Heat for 5 minutes and ladle into bowls. The original recipe called for chopped fresh dill and scallions as a garnish, neither of which I had, so I substituted a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of dried dill weed, which seemed to turn out just fine.

Salt 'n' Vinegar Fried Baby Potatoes

A classic twist on a classic! Or something like that...

~2 cups baby potatoes perhaps cut in half or quarters
vegetable oil
1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 (maybe 1 1/2) Tbsp white or white wine vinegar

Heat a little oil in a frying pan over medium, then add the potatoes. Fry, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. Turn off burner and add the vinegar and rosemary while stirring. If the vinegar does not all absorb or evaporate after a minute, drain the excess, then add salt to your taste. I used Holy Smokes' smoked salt for extra awesomeness.

Tomato-Lemon salad

OK, I based this one on the classic tomato-basil-mozzarella-olive oil-balsamic vinegar salad, but replaced everything except the tomatoes with a related item. I'm not going to say it's better than the classic dish, but I'm not going to say it's worse, either!

2 tomatoes, diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
a couple generous pinches of shredded parmesan cheese
a small glug of grapeseed oil (only because I used the last of our olive oil in the soup)
fresh cracked pepper


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blackberry-Jalapeno hot sauce

One of my goals each summer (since last year anyway) is to prepare a batch of hot sauce. Of course, being an entropic chef, I can't just go with one of the tried-and-true recipes to be found online; nope, it's time to get creative!

This particular recipe started forming in my mind when I found the purple jalapeno plants in our garden were beginning to produce some moderate yields. The deep purple color just begged to be paired with a dark, flavorful fruit, so I picked up some blackberries to give the sauce its body. As I continued to form the sauce in my mind, I kept coming back to something dark, rich, and complex... maybe akin to a fruitier version of Pickapeppa. So, I thought: let's start with some onions and garlic, sauteed until well-browned, then blend in the peppers and berries, some balsamic, a toss of raisins, maybe a spoonful of cocoa, and finally some cardamom to keep things fresh.

Then I thought that maybe I oughta get the peppers nice and smoky by grilling them with some smoke pellets. That, as I will point out later, was probably a mistake.

Here's what I ended up using:

8 small purple jalapenos, skewered and grilled with smoke pellets
2 large red jalapenos, skewered and grilled with smoke pellets
1 poblano pepper, skewered and grilled with smoke pellets
1/2 pint blackberries
1 small white onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
~1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (any light oil will do)
~1/4-1/2 cup dark raisins
~3 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
~5 Tbsp white vinegar
~1 Tbsp cocoa powder
seeds of 5 cardamom pods, ground

I took care of the grilling first, keeping the grill closed to make a smoke chamber for ~10 minutes, then opening it up and putting the peppers closer to the coals to blacken the skins. Once cool, the peppers were peeled and set aside with seeds and ribs intact. Meanwhile, I sauteed the onions with the oil for ~10 minutes on medium-low, then added the garlic and continued cooking for about another 10 minutes until both garlic and onion were nice and brown. The onions and garlic went into the blender along with the peppers, blackberries, raisins, cocoa, and cardamom, until everything was just blended. Then I added the vinegars bit by bit, blending with the highest setting between additions, until the consistency was something like a thin BBQ sauce and the sauce tasted sufficiently acidic (a glass of milk was kept handy to cleanse my palate between tastings!) When the sauce was ready, I strained it to remove the seeds (pepper and blackberry) and put it into a sterilized pint jar, which it filled perfectly.

As I mentioned before, I'd probably skip the smoking step if I were to do it again. I severely underestimated the amount of smoke these peppers would absorb (my previous smoking experience has been with meats and potatoes). Probably just grilling them would have been enough, maybe a dab of liquid smoke later on depending on flavor. Apart from the overpowering smokiness, though, the sauce seems to have turned out pretty well. I'm letting it mellow in the fridge for a bit, hoping the flavors blend some more, so we'll see what it's like in a couple of weeks. At the very least, I should be able to salvage it by incorporating it into a large batch of BBQ sauce.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet'n'smoky corn-tomato chili

It's that time of year: tomatoes are ripening furiously, we've got corn up to our, uh, ears, and the hot chili peppers are coming into full bounty. That means there's only one thing to do: make salsa!

Oh! and chili!

Two things to do: salsa, chili, and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope. Three things!


Anyway, chili. Some people will insist that true chili is little more than spicy ground beef in a smoky sauce... none of these fancy vege-tables like beans and tomatoes. Personally, I think that's great if you're going to put it on a hot dog or some nachos, but I'm much more open-minded when it comes to chili by the bowl.

In this sense, chili is the perfect dish for the entropic chef, because you can sneak almost anything into it and still have it come out tasting pretty good. In Cincinnati, they even make it with cocoa and cinnamon, a trick I've tried a few times with pretty good success. But for today, I'm going back to basics, more or less.


5 large tomatoes (the riper, the better)
3 jalapeno-style peppers
4 ears of corn
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin 1" strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
chili powder
ground cumin
ground coriander
salt and pepper
ground beef/turkey
1 can kidney beans
whole coriander (maybe a dozen seeds)

Before we delve into the chili, though, we've got to do a little prep work. I actually did this the night before, at the same time as I was making a grilled dinner.

Skewer 3 jalapeno-style hot peppers and grill them until their skin turns dark-brown and blisters. When cool, slice in half, remove the skin and scrape out the seeds. Three peppers will give your chili a little kick, stopping just shy of providing an actual "heat" sensation. If you like your chili hotter, leave some of the seeds in.

You'll also want to grill the corn. There are several methods to do this, but it's basically a trade-off of how much work you want to do and how good the finished product will be. You want a nice browning-blackening of a good portion of the kernels, but the entire cob should also be cooked through. What I've found seems to work is first to peel away all but the last couple layers of husk, then peel those down but don't remove them from the ear. Clean up all the silk, then carefully fold the attached husks back up to cover the ear. Soak the ears in water for ~30 minutes, then place on the grill directly over the coals (or flames, if that's your bag). Depending on how hot your grill is, you'll need to turn the corn every 2-5 minutes. When your corn has some nice fire marks on each side, remove and cool. Slice the kernels off the cob.

OK, now on to the chili itself. If you don't mind bits of tomato peels floating around in your chili, simply core your tomatoes and chop them up. Otherwise peel them first and then do the same. Place the tomatoes in a large pot and cook over medium. Meanwhile, drizzle ~2 Tbsp of vegetable oil into a skillet and saute the onion and red bell pepper over medium until the onions are translucent. During the last two minutes of sauteing, add the minced garlic. Add the entire pan to the tomatoes. At the same time, add the grilled pepper halves (either whole or sliced) and the corn. Generously add chili powder -- a tablespoon at least. It's hard to overdo chili powder in chili. Add ground cumin and ground coriander to your taste (I think I did about a teaspoon of each). (Note, if you are using ground beef or turkey, I'd recommend adding half or more of the spices into the meat itself while it browns, and add the cooked meat to the chili at this point, along with the rest of the spices.) Let simmer for 10 minutes and taste the broth. Decide if it needs salt or pepper or more roasted chili seeds for heat. Simmer for 10 more minutes, then add beans, kielbasa, and/or whole coriander seeds if you want any of these. Finally, let simmer for another 10-20 minutes and then serve.

Some notes: I actually split the chili into two separate recipes after adding the corn and spices, so as to make a vegetarian version for my wife and an omnivorous recipe for myself. They were basically the same except the veggie chili contained beans, while mine had kielbasa and whole coriander instead. Kielbasa might seem like an odd choice, but true to the theme of this blog, it was what I had around and ready -- actually it was the leftovers of the previous night's grilling. For the coriander seeds, I actually used green ones from the cilantro plants in our garden -- the flavor kind of splits the difference between the freshness of cilantro and the sweet citrusy flavor of the dried coriander.

I was actually surprised at how sweet the chili turned out, especially without any added sugar or other sweetener. Starting from fresh, ripe tomatoes set the stage, and using a large amount of sweet corn along with the red bell pepper only increased the sucrosity. If that's not your thing, I'd say cut back on the corn, or add some lime juice, lemon juice, or white vinegar. But I personally had no problem with the way things turned out, so I'm counting it as a success, even if slightly unintended.