Monday, November 8, 2010

Green, No White, No Green Chili

Emily passed her prelim this past week (Yay Em!), in no small part to her charm, smarts, and husband who cooks a mean chili (yes, I'm being modest).  It's tradition for the candidate to provide food for the committee and attendees, and since hers was being held over lunch, I went all out.  Chili, cornbread, and double chocolate cookies were a hit with the academics.  Not that she needed help, but it never hurts to feed them well.  In fact, the main reason for me posting this recipe now is because one of the last questions during her exam was the recipe for this chili.

In blog news, hopefully I will get another post out this week, but I'm headed to New Orleans next week for AAPS.  I will make sure to take lots of pictures and eat a lot of oysters.

I still cannot decide if I want to call this chili green or white.  And neither wheen nor grite sound good, so this time I'm just choosing white.

Southwestern White Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (at least 90/10)
1 onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 chipotle peppers in their adobo sauce, diced
2 4-oz. cans diced green chiles
1 16-oz can tomatillos, drained and chopped
1 10-oz can green enchilada sauce
1 cup dry pearled barley
4 cups chicken stock (2 15-oz cans work)
1 15oz. can cannellini bean beans, rinsed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
11/2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Sour cream

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and cook until slightly wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute longer. Add turkey, breaking it apart and cooking until it has lost its pink color. Add the chipotles, cumin, chili powder, and some salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomatillos, green chiles, and enchilada sauce, cook for 5 minutes, then add the pearled barley, followed by chicken stock. Stir, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. Add beans and cook 15 more minutes, or until barley becomes only slightly chewy. Remove lid, stir in cornmeal and tomato paste, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with a bit of sour cream.

For a bit of deeper flavor (and a bit more work), replace the canned tomatillos, green enchilada sauce, and green chiles with-

8 oz green chiles, stems removed
1-2 jalapeno's, stems removed
1 10oz can green enchilada sauce
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks and stems removed
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat broiler to high. Toss tomatillos, jalapenos, and green chiles in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange tomatillos (stem side down) on a foil lined baking sheet along with jalapeno and green chiles. Place in middle of oven, roast for 5-8 minutes or until slightly charred. Flip and continue to roast until charred on other side. Remove from oven can cool slightly. Peel and seed jalapeno and chiles, remove stem part from tomatillo. Place tomatillos, chiles, jalapeno, cilantro, sugar, green enchilada sauce, and some salt in pepper in a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth.  Add to chili before barley.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Sauce

As I alluded to in my last post, the apple crop is fantastic this year. I'm starting to see a lot of old style apples available in the market as well as a great variety. Someone was running a special of half a bushel for $12 at the farmer's market, so I bit and bought a box. I bought a lot of blueberries this past summer and made jam, and during this time I promised myself I was going to make applesauce during the fall. Better now than never!

After a bit of research, I deduced that applesauce is super simple and easy. Apples, being full of pectin, require no stabilizers or additives to work simply as applesauce. Do you hear that, manufacturers? NO STABILIZERS. In fact, I used three ingredients for this sauce: apples, water, and cinnamon. Oops, wait, that's a lie. I did use some lemon juice to prevent the apples from turning color and I used half fresh cider and half water (more on that in a minute). So 14 quarts of apple sauce cost me approximately $13 to make. That's less than $4 a gallon!

Two tips if you decide to make your own applesauce. First, you need a bit of water in the bottom of your pot to start cooking the apples. They will release liquid on their own, but to jumpstart it, I used 1 cup apple cider and 1 cup water in the bottom of the pot. Secondly, I recommend using a food mill. I don’t know why I have not had one of these for years, it makes sauces much easier to strain and achieve a perfect consistency.

Apple Sauce
Makes 12-14 quarts

12-14 pounds mixed apples
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider
1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick

Fill sink with water and add juice from 1 lemon. Half and core apples, then chop them into rough quarters. Add apples to water to prevent browning. Once all apples are prepped, place very large stock pot (or lobster pot) on stove over medium-high heat and add water and cider. Drain apples and add to pot along with cinnamon stick. Cover.

After about 10-15 minutes, start stirring apples occasionally. They will start to cook and soften, but make sure to keep turning them to ensure even cooking. Once apples are cooked to appropriate doneness (decide from texture), place another large pot over medium heat. Using a food mill with medium disk, ladle apple mixture and mill into the clean large pot. Repeat until all apples are pureed. Season applesauce with cinnamon to taste (don't overdo it, the flavor will continue to develop over time) and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes before canning.

If canning, make sure all equipment has been sanitized in dishwasher and lids have been boiled. Transfer hot apple sauce to hot jars without touching any part of the jar that will have a seal, seal jars with boiled lids, and invert for 5-10 minutes. If the seal has properly taken the dimple will be drawn in on the lid top (and not popped out). Canned applesauce can be stored for up to 1 year. Open sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

More detailed instructions on canning can be found at

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Pie

Em's parents were in town this weekend. Just a short visit and lots of fun. John (Em's dad) and I always manage to get ourselves into shenanigans of some kind, mostly involving food and/or beer. We all went to the farmer's market on Saturday morning (sigh, it's almost over for the year) and found apples to be the plentiful item of the day. I mentioned we had a few at home still, so John thought it a good idea to use them all up. "Well, then we just have to make a pie". John's pies are quite a feat. He makes them all the time, even giving them away so people can have nice pies for the holidays. And we all love pie. So we picked up some apples for pie (and a half-bushel for purposes I will write about next time) and headed home.

Pie can be divided into two parts, crust and filling. The crust is by far the most important (at least it is to me), and recently pie crust has had somewhat of a renaissance. Thanks to science (yay!) some bakers figured out that replacing part of the water in pie crust with alcohol can lead to a flakier crust that is simple to work with. This is because while wet, alcohol has a much lower boiling point than water. Vodka, being 60% alcohol, evaporates in the oven during cooking and leaves you with much lower water content and thus a flakier crust. Cool, right? Also, I use a combination of lard and butter in my crust. Lard's fat structure yields a flaky crust, while butter gives great flavor. If you are opposed to using lard, you can use vegetable shortening instead.

And even sheepdogs love apple peel =)
Apple pie filling should be kept very simple. Apple selection is key, as you want a nice tart apple that bakes up well. Golden delicious, northern spy, granny smith (though make sure to combine those with a sweeter apple), or even gala. Past that, keep it really simple. Sugar, a few spices, and a bit of flour are all you really need.

We rolled out the crust, cracked a few beers while peeling apples, and proceeded to just have a blast baking. One of the great parts of baking pie is how it makes the house smell. I love it. The pie was especially delicious, especially after adding some vanilla ice cream on top.
Apple Pie

Crust (for a 9 inch, 2 crust pie)
3 cups flour
6 ounces lard or vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces and chilled
4 ounces butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the lard and butter into the flour mixture until evenly distributed.  The mixture should have small, pea-sized bits of fat worked into the flour.  Alternatively, you can do this pulsing in your food processor.

Chill the water and vodka over ice.  Slowly drizzle the liquid while mixing the pie crust.  You may not need to use all of the liquid.  Slowly incorporate liquid into dry parts of the dough while keeping a constant stirring motion.  Once the dough just starts to come together into quarter sized clumps, stop adding liquid.  Using your hands, combine the dough into a ball.  If it does not stick together well, add a bit more liquid.  Roll the ball tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Filling (for a 9 inch pie)
2.5- 3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 4 pieces
cream or milk for brushing
cinnamon sugar for top of pie

Peel the apples and place them in a large bowl containing water and the lemon juice to prevent browning.  Mix the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, allspice, flour, and sugar in a bowl together.

Remove pie crust from refrigerator, split it roughly 60/40, and rewrap the 60 portion.  Turn out the other portion on a lightly floured surface. Flour the top of the crust and roll the crust to about 1/4 inch thick or so it will cover the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.  Drape the crust over the pie pan and fit it in, lightly pressing with your fingers.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Drain the apples well so no liquid is remaining.  Arrange the apples in a circular pattern, making sure to cover the entire layer evenly and mounding slightly in the middle.  Once half of the apples are arranged in the pie, sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over them and repeat with remaining apples.  Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture and dot with butter.

Roll out the remaining crust so it will cover the pie (it should be larger than the first and overhang the pie pan).  Fold in half and cut 3 vent holes for steam to escape.  Brush the edge of the bottom crust with cream or milk to help the crust adhere.  Lay the top crust gently over the apples.  Trim the crust so that 1/2-1 inch of overhang remains.  Gently tuck the crust under itself, rolling onto the pan.  Flute gently using your thumb, making sure you are sealing the two pieces of crust together. Brush the entire top of the pie with cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake in oven for 45 minutes.  The crust should be golden brown, the apples should be bubbling, and when pierced with a knife through the vent hole, the apples should yield little resistance.  Allow to cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Italian Dinner

A big thanks to all who voted for me in Round 2 of PFB. Unfortunately I did not make it through, but I'm so grateful and happy to have been included in the competition. And since they told us to plan ahead, I already had all the ingredients for a fancy schmancy dinner party! What, did you think I would cancel it? Not a chance.
My cooking usually leans toward Mexican and Asian influences, but I'm a lover of Italian food as well. I have dabbled in making my own pasta, and I love Bolognese sauce. Italian is something I really enjoy but don’t cook often enough. I figured this was a good opportunity to cook outside my comfort zone, and the flavors I was hoping to obtain paired well with the fall. So it was time to roll up my sleeves, drink a few beers, and get to work.

I decided to have a pseudo-Italian themed dinner, with the goal of feeding myself, my wife, and two good friends on a budget. Four courses, $40 budget. There is some discrepancy as to what my actual budget would be since I have food on hand at the house, but the main goal was not to buy $80 in groceries just for the meal. I ended up spending $21, though if you count the bottle of wine we had, let's call it $30. Sweet! More than anything, I wanted to enjoy the food, to keep it (somewhat) simple, and also to cut my prep time down once guests arrived.
I did my research in a few cookbooks and selected some complementing recipes (thanks Ted Allen and ATK!), and then I chose dessert. Is chocolate cake traditionally Italian? No, but if someone put a moist chocolate cake in front of you at an Italian dinner I'm willing to bet you wouldn’t turn it down.

Our Menu (recipes at end of post)

1st- Tuscan white bean crostinis with sea salt and olive oil
2nd- Wilted green salad with apples, blue cheese, and an orange vinaigrette
3rd- Kale and ricotta ravioli with tomato sauce
4th- Chocolate blackout cake

My biggest undertaking was making my own pasta. Kneading the dough (I cheated and used my food processor to mix), making the filling, stuffing and crimping the ravioli take a looooooooong time. It’s totally worth it, and I’m sure the time gets cut down if I’m more focused (sheepdogs are fun) and make it more often.

Matt and Sarah arrived Saturday evening and were promptly mauled by my sheepdog Molly. She loves them a lot, and since she doesn’t have a tail, her butt wiggles for about 20 minutes after someone fun shows up.
I started everyone off with crostinis topped with a Tuscan white beanspread. It's similar to a Ted Allen recipe, and is really a cheap alternative to hummus. That's not to say it's not delicious, because it is, but it's also really simple and I always have the ingredients on hand.
After that (and watching the end of the Michigan game), we moved to the table where we had set some super fancy place settings. I love our dining room table, but usually it houses stuff rather than food. That's just how it goes. The salad was wilted greens with some toasted walnuts and bleu cheese. We all gobbled it down, because next up was the pasta!
The ravioli, I mean, oh my goodness, it was so good. The tomato sauce was the same I made a month ago when I had lots of tomatoes from the garden. My freezer is packed full of frozen blueberries, tomato sauce, and soon my pantry will be full of apple sauce. Making food like this saves money! Takes a bit of effort, but when making dinner it’s a life saver.
Back to the ravioli. The pictures speak for themselves :)
Dessert was accompanied by Doctor Who. Oh yeah, the other main reason we had Matt and Sarah over. Converting them to loving the Doctor. The cake was a chocolate blackout cake, which was just amazing, especially the pudding! I could have eating just a bowl of that.
We all had such a great night, and I made some of best food I have ever made. My philosophy has always been “food makes people happy”, and this one didn’t even break the bank. Hope you all enjoy.

White Bean Crostini (adapted from Ted Allen)

1-15oz can white cannellini beans, rinsed
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
salt and pepper
1 baguette or French loaf, sliced into 1/2-1 inch slices
finishing salt (optional)
chopped parsley (optional)

In a food processor add beans, garlic, lemon juice, hot sauce, sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.  Process until combined and drizzle in 5 tablespoons olive oil, process until smooth.  Season to taste, but if using finishing salt, ease up on the salt.

Toast the baguette under the broiler and spread the bean puree over the bread slices.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bread slices and garnish with parsley or finishing salt if desired.

Wilted Green Salad with Pecans, Blue Cheese, and Apples (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 3-inch strip orange zest
1 shallot minced
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
10 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed
1/2 apple (golden delicious are nice), cored and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted

In a Dutch oven or pot heat oil, orange zest, shallot and sugar over medium low heat until shallot is soft.  Remove pot from heat, discard zest.  Stir in vinegar and juice with a bit of salt and pepper, add spinach and cover, letting spinach steam for about 30 seconds.  Transfer to bowls and garnish with the apples, pecans, and blue cheese.  Serves 4.

Fresh Pasta (adapted from Marcella Hazan)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups flour (all-purpose or low protein)
1 tablespoon milk

In a bowl, combine eggs and milk. Slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mixture (here's where you can use the food processor) until you achieve a slightly dry dough. Marcella says "When you think the dough is right (i.e. does not need any more flour), wash your hands, dry them completely, and plunge your thumb into the dough. If it comes out clean, with no sticky matter on it, no more flour is needed." You may need to add more flour as you knead. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead, stretching the dough lightly and folding it back in on itself for about 8 minutes.  It should take on a slightly shiny look and be very smooth.  Wrap in plastic wrap and store for up to 2 hours.

Kale and Ricotta Ravioli

1 recipe fresh pasta dough (makes about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch kale (about 1/2-3/4 pound), chopped and stems removed
1 cup ricotta cheese (not whole milk)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups red sauce (meat or tomato)

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add kale and stir frequently until wilted and cooked.  Season with salt and pepper.

Process the kale mixture, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg yolk, basil, salt, and pepper in a food processor until mostly smooth.

I would write in here exactly how to make the ravioli, but I suggest you seek out something with more pictures, such as a cook book or video to better get an idea.

Heat sauce over medium heat until simmering, cook ravioli and sauce lightly with red sauce.  Serve immediately.

Chocolate Blackout Cake (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
2. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl.
3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.
4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carrot Cake

 It's my claim to fame, my piece de la resistance, and the reason I'm married. It's carrot cake. My mom made this cake before me and her mother before that, and I have largely kept it the same. If I could get away with it (and not get really fat) would make one every week. I (and Em) love it that much. The raisins add texture and sweetness, the nuts a bit of crunch, and the carrots stay intact to give you bright flavor.  But somewhere along the line of all of this writing this, testing that, I discovered a few things about my carrot cake that I added to the recipe to make it more....great? Consistent? Something like that. Anyways, onward.
Being an extremely moist cake (thanks to the 3 cups of carrots), baking time can SERIOUSLY vary. So be warned, and I recommend doing two things to ensure it comes out properly. 1) Rotate half way through. Be gentle, but the cake can take the rotation, it will not fall if you don't throw it against the wall. And don't go by time, go by look. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. 2) Buy a new oven. Ok, so maybe that's not really an option. But most of us are graced with ovens that just refuse to heat evenly. My solution? Baking stone. I picked one up from my local kitchen supply store and have kept it on the bottom rack of my oven at all times. It greatly evens out the heat in my oven, not to mention it's great for baking pies, pizza, and bread on to get a nice browned bottom crust.
My other change calls for a bit of change in the cake recipe. I have found an extra teaspoon of cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg can boost the overall flavor of the cake while still leaving it sweet and not overbearing. I also changed the way I add the nuts and order, which seems to help my cake come out a little more even. One last note, do not eat this cake unfrosted.

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped fine (use your food processor)
1 cup raisins
3 cups shredded carrots (use that nifty little grater attachment on your food processor or a box grater)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl (stand mixer), beat sugar and eggs together until fluffy. Add oil and beat well. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, mixing to combine. Slowly add the flour until incorporated, then beat well to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at this point to ensure even mixing. Add the nuts and raisins followed by the carrots last. Be careful not to over mix with the carrots (I even finish the last few stirs with a spatula so I don’t turn them to mush). Transfer to a 12 cup bundt pan that has been greased well (I like Baker's Joy). Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cake is done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before inverting on to a cooling
rack. Let cool 2-3 hours before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I prefer the Neufchatel or 33% lighter for its creaminess)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened
16 ounces powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
Milk, as needed (will most likely need at least 2 tablespoons)

In a stand mixer beat the butter and cream cheese for about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Slowly add the powdered sugar (in about 2 ounce amounts), beating well in between.Add milk to thin out slightly, then incorporate the rest of the powdered sugar until a thick consistency has been achieved (you don’t want it dripping off the beater). Frost cake evenly and serve.

Ideas for the leftover frosting? Goes well with fruit

Vote for Project Food Blog #2

Thanks to everyone for voting me into the second round of Project Food Blog!

The second challenge is underway, where I tackle Indian food to cook outside my comfort zone.  

Voting is still open, so go vote for me!  Many thanks

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Indian Reservations: PFB #2

Thanks to all who voted for my first entry to Project Food Blog!! This post is my submission for Challenge 2: The Classics. We were tasked with selecting an ethnic classic that is outside our comfort zone, research, and make the recipe as authentically as possible. Voting for this challenge takes place from 9AM Eastern September 27th through 9PM Eastern September 30th. I hope you enjoy it and vote for me by clicking here to vote (click on the heart at the top of the page!).

Chicken tikka masala is by far my favorite Indian dish , and I always make it a point to get a big helping whenever I go out for Indian food buffet. Although I know the dish is not traditionally “Indian” and actually has origins in England, I crave the spice and rich garam masala flavors. Translating these flavors to my home kitchen has been difficult because I’m not familiar with the style cooking and flavoring. Indian food is way outside my comfort zone but I wanted more than anything to finally perfect this dish So that I can enjoy chicken tikka masala whenever I want to. This is a journal of my adventures dating back to my first attempts in 2008.

Attempt #1, September 2008: Saw a jar of tikka masala sauce at Trader Joe’s. Thought about the way chicken tikka masala warms me from the inside out. Bought the jar, brought it home, heated it up, simmered chicken breasts, served over rice. It was extremely bland and watered down. Texture was unappealing Attempt #1 failed.

Attempt #2, March 2009: Used a recipe printed from a website claiming authentic Indian food. Sauteed onions in oil, added spices, including curry powder, and garlic to cook. Added spice mixture, mostly curry powder again, to cook in oil. Added tomatoes and plain yogurt, sauce tasted bland. Simmered chicken, tasted, sauce had not developed additional flavor. Wife would not eat so we had peanut butter and jelly. Attempt #2 failed.
Attempt #3, July 2010: Went to Indian market, bought garam masala spice blend. Told to cook onions in oil until brown followed by addition of spice mixture. Added tomatoes, and yogurt. Tasted, sauce tasted like chalk. Added more cumin, yogurt, and salt. Sauce still tasted like the backside of a station wagon. Chicken remained in refrigerator, pizza ordered. Attempt #3 failed.

Attempt #4, September 2010: Fed up with failed attempts and inspired by Food Buzz Challenge, started completely from scratch. Sat with wife and three cookbooks, pulling best ingredients and techniques from each. Oil vs. butter, amount of masala spice, and yogurt amount all debated. Wrote original recipe from this research. Made Alton Brown’s masala mixture, toasting whole spices and adding to a grinder. Slightly adjusted for more cumin (which we like) and less cardamom (which we are still in the “getting to know you” stage). Spice mixture smelled distinctly nice and warm.

Added combination of oil and butter to Dutch oven, cooked onions until well browned. Added two teaspoons of masala mixture along with garlic. Had plethora of fresh tomatoes from garden, so roasted, then pressed through food mill instead of using canned tomatoes. Wife pointed out to season with salt as sauce cooks, adjusted seasonings. Pot smelled like Indian food. Could this work? Added chicken breasts, poached until just cooked (160oF). Removed chicken and shredded. Added yogurt, coconut milk and cilantro to sauce, thickened with cornstarch. Served over rice and tasted. Spicy, warm flavors combined with tender chicken. Attempt #4 SUCCESS!
Chicken Tikka Masala

1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons AB's garam masala (or you can use a blend such as McCormick)
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup frozen peas

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine oil and butter until hot.  Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt, sauté for 10 minutes or until browned.  Add chile, ginger, and garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes until garlic is extremely fragrant.  Add sugar, garam masala, a bit of salt and pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes or until spices are extremely fragrant.  Stir often to prevent burning.  Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, bring mixture to a simmer.  Add chicken breasts to poach, flipping halfway through, cooking until 160°F on meat thermometer, about 20 minutes.  Remove chicken and let rest briefly, then shred.

Meanwhile, add yogurt and coconut milk to sauce along with cilantro and peas.  Combine corn starch with 2 tablespoons water, add to sauce to thicken.  Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Add chicken back to sauce, heat through, and serve over rice.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pasta Ala Easy

It's summer, and my garden has exploded.  It's what makes this part of the year so wonderful, the fresh produce and simplicity of the food I can make with it.  This previous weekend I did not plan for dinner.  It's these times that I enjoy much more than my wife.  While I think "oh man, I can make something really unique and fresh" and Emily thinks "what kind of Chinese should we get?"

Well, thankfully it's the summer, and my garden has been producing well.  Rather than opt for something complicated, I chose to create a fresh tomato and basil pasta, something the Italians call "pasta cruda".  Tomatoes, garlic, and basil tossed with a few other ingredients make a delicious and simple sauce.  You should easily be able to make everything you need for the sauce in the time it takes the pasta to cook.  And my wife never once mentioned anything about Chinese.

Easy Tomato Pasta

1 pound penne, rigatoni, or other tube pasta
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Boil pasta as directed, reserving 1 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes until soft.  Add garlic and oil to a large bowl with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add red pepper flake, salt, pepper, basil, cheese, and tomatoes to bowl.  Drain pasta, add to bowl, and toss to combine.  Add a little bit of water as needed to loosen sauce.  Serve warm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Food Buzz "Next Food Blog Star" Entry #1

As a publisher at Food Buzz, I have decided to enter their competition for “The Next Food Blog Star”, not only in hopes to expand my blogging opportunities, but also to give me a chance to glance inward at my motivations and grow as a writer and cook over these last years. I’m really honored to be a part of this, and a little giddy considering that Dana Cowin is going to read my blog. The first entry is “What defines you as a food blogger and why should you be the next food blog star?”

My love of food began as a child, with my dad being an executive hotel chef and me spending Saturday mornings going to work with him and watching him make huge amounts of beef consommé or roasted meats. My mom usually cooked at home and was also a great cook (and baker). My journey started when I was about 8, hungry, and not willing to do any work for it. I wanted brownies. My mom, busy at the time, told me to make them myself. From the back of the house she walked me through it, making me assemble all the ingredients and mixing them in order until finally I was rewarded with gooey, hot brownies. Success! And I never looked back.
S'mores Cupcakes
Flash forward to my college years, and my cooking really took off when I met my wife, Emily, and we moved in together. I feel this is directly related to her being what I call a “taste test subject”, a job she still does not object to. We both love food, and she loves that I cook for her. So I began trying out new cuisines, stocking ingredients I was gaining familiarity with, and cooking dishes both of us could enjoy on a college budget. Now I’m out of school and a chemist, and I always say I love my job, but food is my passion.
Avocado and Pineapple Salsa
For me starting a food blog was about sharing recipes and experiences as I cooked. I wanted to write down my thoughts, my successes/failures, and my experiences as I grew as a home cook. This serves as both a tale of my cooking life as well as a reflection for me to look back and see what I have learned. I also want to share my recipes with friends and family as well as compile a collection of knowledge and experiences for future generations of my family. What defines me is a pure, whole hearted love for all things food. I love to eat, to cook, and the joy both of these bring to me and friends or family (and even my Sheepdog).
Braised Artichokes
I cook the same way I approach chemistry, trying to make every dish (or reaction) the absolute best it can be. My first blog, Boilermaker Kitchen, was a journal of my experiences, recipes, and places I dined. It served me extremely well, and over this time I formulated a point of view, something I feel I can be used to teach and share with home cooks around the country. I try to make meals a bit on the cheap, using what’s on sale and what’s in season to maximize the taste and minimize the cost. So that’s where Cooking With Wolfes came from, an idea I’m extremely proud of, food without the fuss.

Molly Dog!
I believe I have a lot to share in my writing, both recipes and experience. My science, my Southwestern upbringing, even my Midwestern stint where I really learned to experiment and hone my craft. It’s something I put my heart into, and I think people enjoy my cooking and the experiences I have to share.