Friday, November 05, 2010

I'm not down with OPP, OPE, OPT or OPC

This is one of those things about me that I can't fully explain, but I'm going to do my best.  OPP = Other People's Potato Salad.  OPE = Other People's Egg Salad.  OPT = Other People's Tuna Salad and obviously OPC = Other People's Chicken Salad. 

I can't eat other people's salads.  Freaks me out.  Maybe it's because there's no telling how you make yours.  I have no idea what you put in it.  And I don't like not knowing what's going inside of me!  Maybe it's the sound of these salads as they are being stirred.  That sound has always made me a little uneasy.  But I prefer to be in charge of that sound.  I don't want to eat your sound.  Maybe it's because of the way they look.  All mashed together like no one really even tried to make them look pretty.  Maybe I should change my blog to "Lunatic in the Kitchen".

Monday, October 25, 2010

To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to

This my friends is what a tomato should look like.  That is all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Carbonara-U-Kidding Me?

Easiest food to make with things I ALWAYS have on hand.  Who doesn't always have eggs, spaghetti, Parmesan cheese, pepper, salt, garlic, parsley and bacon on hand.  If you don't, well, I just don't understand you. 

Ok, so I here's my only disclaimer.  This has raw eggs in it.  They get cooked enough from the heat from the spaghetti, but if you've got a bun in the oven...wait until you pop that sucker out to try this.  And if you are sick in any way...GET BETTER, so that you CAN try this.

So here's where it gets a little complicated.  You have to multi-task like a mo' fo'.  You have to be cooking the spaghetti and have it timed perfectly so that when you add the sauce to it, it's hot enough to cook those eggs!  So here's the easiest way for me to get it all done right.

Chop the garlic (3 cloves)
Chop the parsley (a handful - this is a very technical term, I know)
Cut the bacon in to small cubes (four slices)
Grate 1 1/2 cups of Parmesan (don't dare use the canned stuff...that is not Parmesan)
Crack 2 eggs into a bowl
Whisk Eggs & Parmesan together & add a ton of pepper (ton - another technical term) and a little bit o' salt (Parmesan is salty enough).  Now taste it...just's got raw eggs in it, silly! 

Cook pasta as usual.  I use a good, wait for it...handful.  Add it to a pot of boiling, salted water.  

Get a large skillet and cook the bacon until crisp.  Add the garlic and stir until it makes your house smell delicious.  (by this time your pasta should be done)

Drain the pasta, saving some of the pasta water for later.  The second your pasta is drained, add it to the skillet with the bacon and garlic and toss it around to coat it. 

Now here's where you gotta work quick.  You must add the Parmesan/egg mixture into the pasta, stirring like a mad woman/man so as to not scramble your eggs.  If the mixture is a little too thick, add in some of the pasta water until everything is smooth.  Add in the parsley and mix it all together one last time.     

Now plate it up and eat that yummy stuff! 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

JapaKnees Weak Chicken

This is my death row meal.  I'm not kidding.  If I ever go crazy enough to get a death sentence, this is the main course I request for my last day on Earth.  It's called Japanese chicken, but I think it's only appropriate for its name to be upgraded to JapaKnees Weak Chicken, because it will literally make you weak in the knees.  We got the recipe from my Aunt Sharon many, many years ago and I've been making it myself since I was about 15 years old.  I almost hesitated to share it because it's one of those recipes that shouldn't be shared.  I really don't want you to even know about it, but I feel bad for all you poor souls who have never tasted it.  I will stop now with my raving, but know not, I repeat, DO NOT make this meal for anyone you are not 100% friends with.  Because they will be back.  And they will want more.

Chicken (about 2-3 breasts will feed about 3-4 people with sides, but who the hell wants sides with this?)
Corn Starch
Vegetable Oil
Marinade (the longer you do this, the better.  I usually try to marinate my chicken in the morning, giving it at least 8 hours to absorb):
Soy Sauce
Peanut Oil
Red Wine
I will explain how much in a minute (sort of...measuring is not my forte).

First, cut chicken into bite sized chunks.  Place your chicken in a bowl that will allow for enough liquid to cover it.  Cover chicken almost entirely in soy sauce.  Splash a good glug of red wine in with it (maybe 1/8 cup).  Then add in about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.  It should taste very soy saucy with a good hint of peanut oil.  I have also been adding in a splash of Mongolian fire oil because I love heat.  Stir it all together so it's combined, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

Once your chicken has been marinating for a good 6-8 hours, get a ziplock bag and some cornstarch.  I usually use about 1/2 can of cornstarch for about 3 chicken breasts.  Put cornstarch in the ziplock and add chicken (drained of the soy mixture) in batches so everything gets evenly coated.  Place coated chicken on a cutting board.  Once all the chicken is coated, place a large pot on the stove filled with vegetable oil.  You are about to deep fry, so make sure you have enough oil for the chicken to swim in and make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy!

Heat oil in pot to 350 and add chicken to oil in batches of about 8-9 pieces of chicken.  Stir so they don't stick.  It takes about 5-6 minutes per batch.  The chicken will float when it's ready and it will be a dark brown.

Lately, I've been making a mustard dipping sauce with Country Style Grey Poupon (the grainy one) and a little mayo or sour cream, whichever you prefer.  Or you can eat it by itself.  I would eat this chicken off the floor of a barn. 

Eat up Johnny.  And don't forget...keep this one a secret unless you really love someone.  It's my most favorite thing in the whole world.  Don't make me kick your ass for passing it along to just any old Joe Schmoe.  This one is special.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Hummus Among Us

I need to go to Greece.  ASAP.  I once had a guy named Nicoli teach me how to say "eat shit" in Greek.  Knee-tros Skat-aah (obviously my spelling is off, but that's the phonetic version).  Or at least that's what he said it was.  I was probably going around all night telling people that I had a third nipple for all I know! 

This recipe, my friends, is the opposite of eating shit.  It is the simple, easy-to-clean-up recipe for hummus that I crave on a weekly basis.   

One can of Chickpeas (reserve liquid)
4-8 Cloves of Garlic (I like to burp up garlic for the rest of the day, so I go with 8)
1/2-1 lemon
1/4 cup of Tahini (if you can't find Tahini or you don't want to spend $9 on it, buy one of those natural peanut butters and use the oil that settles on top)
Olive Oil (about 1/2 cup)
Pita Bread (the fresher the better)
Herbes de Provence (or any dried herb you like)

Here's what you do.  Throw the chickpeas (not the liquid just yet), the garlic, lemon and tahini into a food processor and pulse until pasty.  Start to add in olive oil.  If your hummus isn't getting all smooth and creamy, add in the chickpea liquid until it's reached your desired consistency.  Add salt.  Now here's the fun part.  Taste it.  If you need more garlic, add it.  If you need more lemon, squeeze it in.  This is one of those recipes that you have to stand over the food processor and dip your finger into over and over again until you get that perfect hummus!  I even add a little cayenne to spice mine up!

Once you have made the hummus you would be proud to serve to your friends and family, preheat your oven to 350.  Take out your fresh pita (we are fortunate to live near a store that makes them fresh daily Thank you Jerusalem Market & Restaurant on Summer Avenue) and spray the top with a very light coating of PAM.  Sprinkle Herbes de Provence on the pita and add a little Kosher salt.  Bake for 3-5 minutes, just until the pita is soft and warmed through.

Knee-tros Skat-aah!  Or rather, enjoy your delicious hummus!  


Monday, August 23, 2010

The One & Only Mike & Tony's

They claim to be the "Greek Answer to McDonald's", but in my opinion, that really doesn't do this place any justice.  They are nothing like McDonald's.  NOTHING.  They don't look like a McDonald's, they don't operate like a McDonald's, and they sure as hell don't taste like a McDonald's.  The main reason being, their food is FRESH.  Yes, FRESH.  It is made to order.  It hasn't been sitting under a heat lamp all day.  It's made from REAL ingredients.  I banned McDonald's from my body long ago.  I don't even let my friends bring their McDonald's into my house.  It's not welcome here.  You eat outside.

Back to the lecture at hand...(thanks Snoop).  My dad taught my sister and I a LOT about food.  Mainly, to not be afraid of it.  To try new things.  So it's no wonder my dad knows a ton of little hole in the wall restaurants in Pittsburgh.  One of them being Mike & Tony's

I can't tell you the first time I ate at Mike & Tony's in the South Side of Pittsburgh.  It's probably because I went into a state of bliss with the first bite I took.  I'm pretty sure I was young, maybe twelve or so.  I can tell you that I've only ordered the gyro and french fries and I've never eaten anything else off the menu.  There is no need to.  The gyro is the best gyro you will ever eat.  Ever since I've moved away from Pittsburgh, I've been searching for my Mike & Tony's gyro, with no luck.  That's 19 years people.  For 19 years, I've been searching for my Mike & Tony's away from Mike & Tony's.  

Fortunately, my dad still lives in the 'Burgh and makes SURE to put aside some time to visit my favorite gyro place in the world.  On my last visit, we tried to figure out what makes them so good.  My dad thinks it's the tzatziki sauce they make.  Which is so fresh and cold and is a great contrast to the hot spicy lamb meat!  I think it's their pitas.  They are so soft.  They taste like they just came out of the oven.  Which is usually my problem with OPG (Other People's Gyro's ~ thanks Naughty by Nature).  The pitas seem old.  I am most definitely not down with OPG.    

But honestly, I think Mike & Tony's just makes their gyros with such love.  The meat is so juicy and well seasoned and they don't skimp on the amount they give you.  The lettuce, onion and tomato are fresh as can be.  The pita is soft and delicious.  And the tzatziki is fresh and flavorful.  If you are ever in Pittsburgh, please do yourself a favor and head to Mike & Tony's for the best gyro in the United States and maybe even the entire world!  I will forever be in search of my Mike & Tony's away from Mike & Tony's, but I'm pretty sure they are a one-of-a-kind.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ciao Bella Panzanella

Translation ~ Hello Beautiful Bread Salad!!

Yesterday I woke up feeling like crap.  Not only did someone break out the window of my broken car I was going to try to sell, to steal my broken CD player, but I had a little too much Saki at sushi dinner the night before.  Whose brilliant idea was it to pair alcohol with raw fish?  That's not drinking food!  That's a hangover waiting to happen!  Needless to say, for lunch I ate the heck out of some Mexican food to relieve the headache.  So for dinner, I needed something light and semi-healthy to get me back on track for my weekend at the Lake.

I was inspired by a show I saw on Food Network, Barefoot Contessa, where I first learned about Panzanella.  Basically, Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that consists of pretty much anything you have on hand.  Usually it has tomato, onion, bread, basil, oil and vinegar.  But there are many variations.  Here's how I made mine:

First I took a loaf of Italian boule and cut it into 1 inch chunks.  Then I put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and added the bread with some salt (I use Kosher salt...I like it so much better than table salt).  While the bread browns (make sure you stir it often), I cut up tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and red onion and tossed it all in a bowl with some salt & pepper, a tiny bit of olive oil and a tiny bit of vinegar.  Forgive my lack of measurement.  Just do it to your taste.  If you don't like vinegar, don't use much.  I personally can drink olive oil out of the bottle, so I use a little more when I cook the bread than most might.

Once the bread is to your desired level of crunch (again, do what you like, I like my bread to be cut-the-inside-of-my-mouth crunchy) add it on top of your veggies.  Top with some shaved Parmesan and you've got yourself a delicious Italian bread salad.    


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Wham, Bam, Thank you, Lamb!

As most of you know, Craig and I try to make at least one elaborate dinner each week. It's either something we know and love or sometimes we try to conquer something only a seasoned chef could pull off, most times with no problem, (toot toot on my horn!) We don't do dinner parties very often, mainly because I have the same fear that George Costanza's dad did on Seinfeld - poisoning all my guests! But this week I got creative during one of our dinners and took photos of our Roasted Rack of Lamb dinner with a dijon, garlic, rosemary, breadcrumb crust, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you all since it's definitely one that will win over guests, or if you're in trouble with the wife/husband, will most likely win back their affection. 

First things first, I'm not a professional chef, as you may know. So I'm not going to give you exact measurements, especially for this dish because as far as I'm concerned, you can't add too much of anything to it! Here is the list of ingredients. 

1 rack of lamb (we get ours at Costco - cheapo!)
Dijon Mustard
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
1 handful of parsley, chopped
Olive oil
about 1 1/2 cups of Breadcrumbs 

Pre-heat your oven to 425. Wash & dry the lamb.  Then put the dried rack on top of a cooling rack, fat side up and place that on top of a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil (for easy clean up). Next, generously salt and pepper both sides of the lamb.  Cover the rack with the dijon mustard and sprinkle on the chopped rosemary (I like my rosemary chopped pretty fine so I'm not chewing rosemary branches while I eat). 

Next, mix the garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Add olive oil until the mixture is no longer dry but don't add so much olive oil that it's pasty - you want a crumby mixture, that sort of resembles wet sand. Once you get the desired consistency, take the breadcrumb mixture and pack it onto the rack of lamb until it's completely covered. 

Cover the bones with aluminum foil so they don't burn. I insert a meat thermometer into the meaty part of the chops first so that I can just pull out the meat at 135 degrees (for medium rare), approximately 25 minutes. Then let the rack rest for 10 minutes to keep in all those yummy juices. Cut between each bone (your knife will pretty much tell you where you can go) and enjoy!  I usually eat the outer chops since they are usually cooked slightly more, while Craig eats his meat while it breathes! 

I kid you not, you will say wham, bam, thank you lamb when you take your first bite.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cravings for Cubans

I get mad cravings.  Some of my days are entirely ruined because I can't satisfy a craving I have.  I mean seriously, what's a girl got to do to get an extra toasted Everything bagel with a little butter?? And by Everything I mean salt, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, garlic and onion.  Don't try to give me a bagel with sesame and poppy seeds and call it an Everything them's are fightin' words.  And by toasted, I mean browned and crunchy.  Not white and dried out.  And by a little butter, I mean spread a light coating of butter on.  Don't get out your boat oar to schmear so much butter on that I have to get my canoe and put on my life jacket to take a single bite.

See, I get cravings.  And they are specific.  And I want them to be made the exact way I dream them up.  So the other day I was craving a Cuban sandwich.  I've only taken a bite of someone's Cuban before.  I have never actually ordered one.  So I figured that I would just make my own, because that's the only way I was going to get it like I wanted it.  And here's how I did it.

I took a pork tenderloin and poked a million holes in it and marinated it in orange juice, garlic, salt & pepper and lime juice for about 4 hours.  Then I roasted it at 325 for about 30 minutes.  Then I sliced it paper thin.  Then I got some french bread, the soft kind, not the kind that breaks your teeth (though I love that kind) and I cut it in half and put yellow mustard on both sides.  Then I put the thinly sliced pork on the bottom, topped that with Virginia baked ham from the deli.  Then I topped the ham with dill pickles and then Swiss cheese.  Then I topped it with the other half of the bread and panini pressed the whole thing.  It was toasted perfectly, melty, mustardy, porky, hammy and cheesy!  And I couldn't have bought it anywhere and had it taste as good.  Try it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Garden of Eatin'

A Facebook friend of mine started posting pictures of her daily lunches consisting of all raw fruits and vegetables.  I would drool at the image of bananas, beets and cherries on her plate.  But I never did anything about it.  Until now bitches...

Meet my delicious, guilt free lunch consisting of avocado, red pepper, peaches, plums, grapes, cucumber, tomato and Gouda cheese (cheese causes me no guilt - it's Gouda for you!) Yes, I went there.  Thanks for the inspiration Shelby!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Souper Black Bean Recipe

Here's my quick and easy recipe for Black Bean Soup. This recipe will make about 4 normal sized bowls of soup. If your Craig and I, it will make 2 bowls. But who ever said we were normal?

5 strips of bacon, cubed
1 1/4 cup of onion, I prefer Spanish because I like their accent.
3 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of black beans, strained, but not rinsed (make sure you will be alone after you eat this soup, or at least eat it with someone you feel comfortable ripping hideous farts in front of! ~ I'm just being honest).
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon of cayenne (we like it hot around these parts)
1 tablespoon of Sriracha (get this stuff if you've never tasted it, it's in the Asian section of your grocery store)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook bacon to your desired crispness. I like mine a little more on the crisp side. Add in onion, and cook until you can see through the little buggers or until translucent. Add in garlic until you can start to smell its deliciousness. Add in chicken stock and scrape all the bits of flavor off the bottom of the pan. Add in can of tomatoes and the 2 cans of beans. Then throw the rest of the stuff in and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.

At this point, you can eat the soup as is. I personally like to throw it all in a blender (BE CAREFUL PEOPLE, I've had black bean soup burn the hell out of my hand and spray my entire kitchen because I overfilled the blender with hot soup. So only blend a few ladles at a time, do not learn the hard way). After you get it all blended, put it in a bowl and top with cheese, sour cream, green onion and cilantro.  Eat with tortillas.

Fastest, Fiberlicious, most Delicious, Fartiest meal you'll have!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Easiest, Yummiest, Summertime Dinner EVER!

Beef with Bacon & Bleu Slider

Jalapeno, Cheddar Beef Slider

Lamb Burger with Arugula & Rosemary/Garlic Mayonnaise

Sliders are the fastest, easiest thing to do for a large crowd of people because all you really have to deal with is making the burgers and providing the toppings. I stuck my buns in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. Seasoned Ground Beef & Ground Lamb with Cavender's and grilled the burgers for about 5 minutes. Then we just put whatever we had in our fridge on top! Delicious, fast food that tastes WAY better than any fast food restaurant. And I highly recommend the lamb...baaaahhh!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nelly Frittata

I've been trying to do the gluten free thing, but as you know, bread is my weakness. So even though I'm pretty sure I have a gluten allergy, it's just not easy for me to consistently eat like I should. Me without bread is like Abbott without Costello, like breakfast without bacon, like a junkie without a fix. It just doesn't work, and there's no reason to put my loving husband through the pain that is me, without bread. But since I'm trying to be good to my only-get-one-chance body, I have been trying to make some adjustments to my diet. And this is one of the latest gluten free creations. Chorizo, Egg & Potato Frittata. And yes, I am aware that this type of eating is not good for me either :) I'm a glutton for good food, it puts a smile on my face! Don't make me explain the junkie without a fix thing again.

Recipe here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

For the Halibut

Potato Encrusted Halibut

Encrusting anything is hard. I usually end up with a decrusted, encrusted piece of chicken or fish every time I try this method of cooking, but this is a no fail recipe. At least, I got it right the first time, so I'm calling it a no fail recipe. I put the fish over a bed of wilted garlicky spinach and had a side of arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette and a shaving of Parmesan. The potatoes turned out perfectly crispy, and the fish, perfectly flaky! Try it! Here's the recipe.

PS - I didn't use Yukon Gold, I just used a good ol' Russet. And I also don't have a mandolin, so I used a potato peeler to make thin slices.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sexiest Veg

My new favorite veggie has to be the beautiful Swiss chard. Not only is it delicious, it's also tasty and healthy too! And damn it if its not one of the sexiest greens! Here's how I eat it.

Rinse and dry the chard and cut off the rough ends. Chop up about 2 slices of thick cut bacon (you can leave this part out if you're trying to watch your weight or don't do the pork thing). Add bacon to a large saute pan and cook until almost crisp (just use olive oil if you skip the bacon). Add in about 3 cloves of chopped garlic and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Once the garlic becomes soft add in the stems of the chard, cut into about 1 inch pieces. Stir the stems coating them with the bacon grease or olive oil and then add about 1 cup of chicken stock. Keep at a medium heat until the chicken stock reduces and stalks are tender, then add in the chard leaves, roughly chopped. Wilt the leaves as you would spinach and add salt and pepper to taste.

It's such a quick and tasty side dish! Your family will love you for it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Take Me to Bread or Lose Me Forever

Breads. French Bread, Sourdough, Multi-grain, Whole grain, Soda bread, Pita bread, Bagels, Baguettes, Naan, Rye, Boule, Foccacia, Ciabatta, Flatbread. There are literally thousands of types of Bread. Every culture has a Bread. Bread can be used as a utensil. It can be used to keep cookies soft. Hell, here's 7 uncommon uses for Bread right here . You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Bread is heavenly. I love Bread. If you know me, you know that if I had my pick of one last thing to stick in my mouth, it would be buttered Bread. Textured Breads are my favorite. If I nearly break my jaw chewing Bread, I'm in heaven. If I chip a tooth off some seed or grain in my Bread, don't send me to the Dentist, just give me a piece of Bread and I'll make a tooth mold from it. Notice that the word Bread is capitalized here. That's because Bread is so good. It deserves nothing less than capitalization!

My point is...Bread is awesome. And you should make your own, because besides eating Bread, there's nothing better than your entire house smelling like Bread. I suck at baking, but since I love Bread so much, I've decided to give it a go...for Bread's sake. And here are my new Bread babies:

Rosemary, Salt & Pepper Ciabatta Bread


Multi-grain Whole Wheat Bread

Aren't they beautiful? I have already eaten both of them and they were delicious, and healthier than the Bread you buy in the grocery store, because you actually have free reign over what ingredients to use. If you want true whole grain Bread (not the crap that SAYS it's whole grain), you can make true whole grain Bread. If you'd rather have sesame seeds and flax seed than oatmeal and cracked wheat, by all means, add in whatever makes you happy!

I will probably look a little doughy in a bathing suit this year, but at least I'll smell like freshly baked BREAD!!

(The Multigrain recipe is adapted from America's Test Kitchen Recipe and the Ciabatta recipe was made after watching an episode of Anne Burrell's "Secret's of a Restaurant Chef", so if you want 'em - search for 'em and if you can't find them, I guess I will give them up if you ask nicely.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Finally Mastered Scallops

Usually when I make scallops they turn out resembling the texture of a rubber eraser. You know, the pink kind that we all once chewed on in Elementary School. Don't act like you never put one of those in your mouth. But this time, they turned out perfectly! They could have been a little more browned, I know, but the texture was similar to the texture of scallops I pay $22 bucks a plate for at nice restaurants! Melt in your mouth delicate. And this meal was healthy! Asparagus, cherry tomatoes, garlic, shallot, a little lemon, a touch of butter, crushed red pepper, salt & black pepper and some chicken broth. All sauteed together in one pan. Don't be afraid of scallops. Even if they turn out bad the first couple of times, they still taste good. But when you finally master them you can invite people over and blow their minds with your expert scallop cooking techniques!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Southerner Within

I have always loved Southern food. Grits, cornbread, black-eyed peas, biscuits and gravy, home cookin' that takes all day long to make and makes the entire house fill up with comforting aromas, it's a thing of beauty. I also love big antebellum homes surrounded by beautiful azalea bushes. I used to think I MUST have been a Southerner in a past life. But then I remember how improper I am.