Thursday, August 26, 2010

Traffic light veggie sautee

I'll be honest, this is too simple to call it a recipe.  But it makes for some pretty pictures.

This "recipe" is inspired by things my parents used to cook during the summer when I was growing up.  My dad still makes something like this - I remember him cooking it for me and Matt a couple years ago, to go with his famous cornmeal-and-rosemary-breaded perch.

My parents would buy vegetables from farm stands on the way home from work in the summer, so when it hit the point in the summer where these particular ones were cheap and plentiful, this sort of thing would appear.  My dad worked a lot of overtime, so he didn't cook all the time, but he did the majority of the grilling.  So while he was grilling, he and my mom would throw this together inside on the stove.

Ingredients: green bell peppers, yellow summer squash, red tomatoes.  Use whatever you've got, of course, but if you have 3 colors, it makes it so much prettier.

In a large pan, heat your fat of choice over medium-ish - I used duck fat.  (Yup, I'm STILL using up the fat from that duck.)  Throw in the vegetables.  All of them.  At the same time. 

See how pretty this is?
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers and squash are soft enough.  At first, the tomatoes will release a frightening amount of juice.  But that juice will mix with the fat and reduce into a sauce that coats the other vegetables, and it will look like this picture. 

Less pretty, but more yummy. 
Feel free to peel your tomatoes if you don't want bits of skin in it, but they don't bother me.

You can just season it with salt and pepper.  Garlic is a nice touch - I used garlic powder this time because I forgot about it until it was already done cooking.  Or, do something more creative, and tell me about it in the comments.

Last weekend I actually had time to check out the u-pick section at the farm where I pick up my CSA vegetables.  We have u-pick privileges at 3 different farms included in the price of our share.  I came out with cherry tomatoes, basil, and dill.  I didn't plan on picking flowers, but a few of these were so big and fluffy that I had to take them, even if they were a bit past their prime.  They remind me of muppets.

I used my phone, since I wanted to play around with the changes to the camera UI that came with the new "froyo" update.  This made it difficult to really capture the colors.  Also, see that Munchkin box?  Who's up for a game?  It's been too long.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All About Meatza! General instructions, and my Spicy BBQ Meatza.

I debated with myself about posting this at first, because to me, a meatza is sort of a boring/basic food.  But then I remembered it's really not a typical food, and I've just been too immersed in the primal/paleo culture for too long.  =]

A meatza is just a pizza with meat for a crust.  As you can imagine, there are endless variations.  You can make a traditional pizza analog to crush a pizza craving, with your favorite pizza sauce, melty mozzarella, and your favorite pizza toppings.  Or you can load it up with more toppings than usual since you'll probably wind up eating it with a fork anyway.  You can even get really creative - I've seen Mexican meatzas, curry meatzas, and Batty just made a Shawarma Meatza that looks awesome.

1. Choose your meat.
You've got lots of options when it comes to meat.  Just about any ground meat can work, regardless of how lean or fatty it is.  Beef, pork, venison, veal, turkey, chicken.  You could even use sausage!

2. Prepare your crust.
Now that you've chosen a meat, you've gotta turn it into a crust.  The simplest way to do this would be to just take that plain meat and smush it into a thin layer on a large baking dish, baking sheet, or pizza pan.  Or you can add fresh or dried herbs and/or spices, finely diced onion, minced garlic, whatever you think you want your meatza to taste like.  Or you can use a meatloaf or meatball recipe, complete with egg and whatnot.  My preference?  To just add some dried spices and dried minced onion to the meat.  How thin you make it is up to you - I think anywhere from 1/4" to 1" would work.  Adjust your cooking time accordingly.

3. Bake your crust.
At about 400 F, until it's done.  Probably 10 minutes or so on average.  After it's cooked, pour off as much of the fat as you can.

4. Add toppings.
Add sauce, cheese, veggies, meats, etc., in whatever order you please.

5. Melt cheese/cook toppings.
Throw the meatza back in the oven long enough to heat or cook your toppings, and melt the cheese if you used it.  I like to broil it for a minute or so at the end to brown the cheese (especially when  I know I'll be photographing it).

Click below to see pictures of my "Spicy BBQ Meatza"!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quick and easy meals, and a random moth

I don't always have 2.5 hours to cook a duck... sometimes I do things that are quick and easy, or that can be prepped ahead of time.  Here's a few that I made recently, with limited photos.

Buffalo wings

I found some chicken wings on sale recently, which I don't think I've ever cooked before.  (When I say I found meat "on sale" I almost always mean the use-or-freeze-by date was 1 or 2 days away so it was heavily discounted.  This often happens with meat that people aren't sure what to do with, like turkey necks, or that ground beef-pork-veal mixture that makes THE BEST meatloaf).

I used Alton Brown's recipe for buffalo wings.  Well, I used the technique anyway... for the sauce I mixed roughly equal parts of Frank's Red Hot and melted unsalted butter (I finally figured out where to find the Kerrygold in Wegmans!).  Just going by what I remember from working the grill at Crossroads back in the day.  =]

The key is steaming the wings for 10 minutes, then letting them cool/dry in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Heck, you could steam them in the morning before work, then leave them to cool until you get home.  They take 40 minutes of roasting time, but it's pretty hands-off, so you can still lift weights or play Starcraft.  Or whatever it is YOU do in the evenings.  They came out great - even Husband, who doesn't like meat on bones so much, said they were good.  They do get a crispy skin as if they were fried, and they were more moist inside than most commercial wings.  Heck, I'd consider paying full price for chicken wings just to do this again!

Freshly-steamed chicken wings.

Sorry I have no pictures of the finished product, this was back when I wasn't sure if i'd ever be able to get them off my camera.  I served them with Steamy Kitchen's Kale-llaloo.  This was fantastic!  It's basically the same as my usual kale "recipe" but with added coconut milk... but that coconut milk adds a perfect amount of sweetness.  I cooked it a lot longer than 5 minutes at the end, until the sauce had thickened.

Mexican beef

I threw a chuck roast into the crock pot (still frozen, even!) and added onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and taco seasoning mix, and cooked on low most of the day.  When I got home, I shredded the meat, and served it two ways:

For Husband, in tortillas with sour cream and salsa.
For me, in a bowl, with sour cream, salsa, and avocado.


My favorite kitchen item (a Le Creuset 3.5 quart braiser/casserole in cassis) is awesome for making frittatas!  And frittatas are an awesome way of using up leftovers.  If you don't have a pan that can be used both on the stove and in the oven, you can cook the fillings and mix them with the eggs in a baking dish - but that takes a lot longer to cook, and maybe would be better described as a crustless quiche.  So you should probably just go out and get yourself a cheap cast iron skillet.

The method:
  • Cook/heat meats and veggies in the pan - drain if it gets too liquidy.
  • Add egg mixture.
  • Cook until most of it is set, but the top is still runny.
  • Add cheese if desired.
  • Throw under the broiler until fully cooked and browned.
This particular frittata had bacon, leftover pork, onions, and lots of shredded zucchini.  Too much zucchini, in fact - it didn't hold together very well.  Seasonings included garlic, chili powder, ground mustard, seasoned salt, and pepper.  I topped it with thinly sliced tomato and a teeny bit of parmesan cheese.  These pictures were taken with the phone.

Cooked meat and veggies.
Isn't it pretty?
Closeup - a little messy looking.

Not food...

While I'd make an exception for Diana's mealworm cookies, I don't think of insects as food.  This moth was hanging out on my window at work (yes, all the way up on the 4th floor!).  He refused to open his wings whenever I put my phone up to take a picture.  But I enjoy the blurry view of the east side of campus behind him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anyone else enjoying Starcraft II?

I just wanted to mention that I am actually having a lot of fun playing Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, despite my complete lack of skill in RTS games.

The story is excellent and the game really immerses you in it - every board you play feels like it's contributing to the progression of the plot.  There's corny humor, and cheesy romance, and a bit of an old western feel (hmm, a western in space starring a hunky and lovable rebel... this sounds familiar... except in SC2 there are aliens, and far fewer women).  The characters are fun, the voice acting is good... and as with all Blizzard games, there are a few knock-your-socks-off cinematics.

And the achievements... oh, the achievements.  I'm a total achievements-whore.  My blood elf shadow priest was "the explorer," and had "/love"-ed all those animals.  When the new Plants vs. Zombies achievements came out on Steam yesterday, I instantly started working on them.  And the plethora of achievements means many, many hours of replayability.

Basically, as usual, I agree with Morgan Webb's review

So if you play as well, I'd love to add you to my friends, so I can get all jealous when you get more achievement points than me.  Comment here, or friend me on facebook (since you can request all your facebook friends with the click of a button).

Monday, August 9, 2010

My step-by-step photo guide to cooking a duck! (Or overcooking a duck...)

I roasted a duck!

Thanks to Martha Stewart's instructions, it wasn't all that difficult.  The results were good.. and I think with a little tweaking it could be great.  I'll definitely be trying this again some time.  I've decided to post this as a step-by-step photo guide to cooking a duck, in case anyone else out there is interested in trying it.

Sorry for the delay, and another CSA veggie picture

I started using the "real" camera to take pictures (a cheap Sony Powershot, versus my usual Motorola Droid cell phone).  Then I realized I have no idea where the cable is that plugs the camera into a USB port.  I looked through all our boxes of cables and connectors (yes, we have multiple boxes - we're both computer geeks and Husband is/was a musician).  And since it's Sony, all their cables are proprietary so I've gotta order it online.

I discovered today, though, that my laptop's built-in card reader can handle these memory cards, so I just need to get all my pictures off the camera while I'm at work.  If I have time today I'll get the highly-anticipated duck post up, but for now, here's what I got from the CSA this week:

Carrots, onions, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, garlic, tomatoes, kale.

And here's a closeup of some chopped veggies - I tried to make ratatouille in the crock pot, which didn't turn out so well, but it sure looked pretty before it was (over) cooked.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homemade Italian sausage!

I love Italian sausage.  I like it in links, patties, or crumbled.  I like it hot or mild.  I like the classic pork, or the lighter poultry varieties.

What I don't like is sugar, and I can't figure out why everyone feels the need to put it in their sausage.  And I'm not sure I like whatever other "natural flavors" are often included, either. 

So I set out to make my own.  I found this awesome recipe, with ingredients I not only recognize, but have in my kitchen!  (With the exception of fennel seeds - I had to pick some up for this.)

I'll post my take on the recipe below.  I increased the spices, mostly due to using fatty ground pork and knowing some of them would get "washed" out when cooking. 

2 1/2 lbs ground pork
3 very large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried rosemary (crushed)
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (or flakes) (to taste)
2 tsp fennel seeds (whole)
1/2 tsp kosher/sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley

I mixed it up in the morning before work, thinking it might help the flavors blend by the time I cooked it for dinner.  Here's the mixture:

I went to get the real camera... and the battery was dead.  Next time, I promise.
I made it into 6 very large patties, and cooked them until they reached 160 F.  I didn't time it.

One of them would probably be a good size for a normal person.  I ate two.  (What?  I only eat once a day!)  I topped them with sauteed onions and peppers, and some spicy brown mustard.  Non-primal-Husband's was on bread, and he ate two as well, and said he liked it.

I'll increase the basil, oregano, and rosemary next time - maybe even double them.  And while I thought the amount of pepper in the original recipe sounded insane, they might be on to something, I'd increase that too.  And if you really like fennel, I'd bump that up, but I thought this was a perfect amount.  Overall, they were just as good as Wegmans if not slightly better, cost about the same, and it was such a relief knowing there was no sugar or other crap in them.  Maybe the next experiment is to buy some casings and make my own links.  Maybe.

Meatballs in blue cheese sauce... meh

On Monday I attempted to make the Meatballs in Blue Cheese Sauce "recipe" from Free the Animal.

I added some garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper to my ground beef.  It was about 1.75 lbs.

Meatballs starting to cook in a mixture of bacon grease and olive oil.
Here's my choice of blue cheese.  I should mention I don't know anything about blue cheese at all.  It was an impulse buy at Greenstar, the local natural foods co-op.

Once the meatballs were cooked I set them aside and realized that between the fat I started with and the fat that came out of the beef, I had a lot of freaking fat sitting there in the pan.  I filtered it into the jar you see in the photo below... I'll use it to cook something else eventually.  I know some people say the fat from ground beef tastes bad, but I disagree, and I can't figure out why it would taste worse than other beef fat.  *shrug*  I added stock to the pan to make the sauce... it's turkey stock because that's the only homemade stock I had.

Once the stock was slightly reduced (but not nearly enough - oops) I added blue cheese.  Probably over 3 ounces.  I cooked a while longer until all the cheese chunks were melted and the sauce was nice and smooth, stirred in some butter, then added the meatballs back in.  At this point, my phone refused to take a decent photograph.

I turned off the heat and stirred in some sour cream, maybe 3 tbsp.  My camera kept acting up, but here it is (sorta), along with the balsamic braised kale I made.  I put the meatballs in a bowl because the sauce was a lot thinner than I would have liked.

I vowed that next time, I would use the real camera.

They were ok, but I think I used too much blue cheese.  After eating one bowl of them I was really sick of the flavor.  It was a cool idea, and I might try it again, with beef stock and less cheese.

Why am I eating at my computer desk, you ask?  See the previous post.  =]