Saturday, December 11, 2010

Garlic Sauce

Because we were both working from home yesterday, Misty joined my lunchtime activity, which is watching a tv show from OnDemand. Hot stuff, I know. We chose, fairly randomly, an episode of "Best Thing I Ever Ate" about foods with garlic. Disclosure: we LOVE garlic.

One of the cooks on there talked about a tomato-based garlic sauce served with pasta from Bove's Cafe, in Burlington, Vermont, and we decided it had to be recreated.

Step one: create your tomato sauce base -- for us tonight, 2 28oz cans of Hunt's Petite Diced tomatoes (drained and rinsed), 1 6 oz can Tomato Paste, roughly 25oz Vegetable Broth (it was sitting in the fridge . . . I figured, it beats water), rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, sugar. Cook on low heat uncovered for now.

Step two: put half a stick of butter in sautee pan, melt it down on low heat, and, when melted, add 30 cloves garlic (our local ethnic grocer has them pre-peeled at about $1.75 for this quantity). Let the garlic cook down until it is very soft -- keep it moving around the pan so you don't burn it. This should take about 25-30 minutes.
Step three: add the garlic to your sauce and cover sauce if it is to a good consistency. You will want everything to simply soften at this point, so you want to retain the moisture by covering. If your sauce isn't thick enough yet, leave it uncovered for now.

Step four: press out about 10 more garlic cloves into the sautee pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil to brown the garlic. Brown it down about 5-10 minutes and add to the sauce.

Step five: continue to cook down the sauce until you are ready to serve with pasta.

Tonight, we're having gnocchi with our garlic sauce!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kalamata Tomato Focaccia

I wanted some bread today, and decided what I really wanted was some focaccia. If I had some rosemary, I probably would have used that, but I didn't, so I put some thyme in.

Basic Focaccia
1 Packet Active Dry yeast
1/2 cup tepid water (110 degrees)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (+more for the topping)
2 cups AP Flour
Olive Oil

Step 1 -- Mix the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl until the yeast dissolves. Let this proof for ten minutes.
Step 2 -- once the yeast mixture is foamy, add the 2 cups of flour, the salt, and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. The more oil you add, the richer the bread, but it can be pretty overpowering, so start small, and the next time you make the bread if you want more, you can add more. If the dough is still dry, add more water a tablespoon or so at a time. Once the dough comes together, place it on a floured surface and knead for a minute or two until you get a slight skin on the dough.
Step 3 -- Place your doughball in an oiled bowl and cover with a moist towel. Place this bowl in a warm place and let it rise till it doubles in size (30 minutes or so). Preheat your oven to 475.
Step 4 -- Once the dough has doubled, punch it down, knead it again for a minute or two and place it on a sheet pan which you've lubed with olive oil and a light dusting of cornmeal.
Step 5 -- I shaped my dough into a rough square shape about 3/4 of an inch thick. Then I poked holes all in the dough with my fingers. These holes will help the topping to get down into the bread.
For my topping I combined 10 chopped Kalamata olives, a dozen chopped cherry tomatoes, a teaspoon of thyme and olive oil with a little salt. You could top your's with just olive oil and salt if you like, or rosemary. Whatever you want, really.

Bake at 475 for 15 to 20 minutes. Mine took every bit of 20 tonight, and turned out awesome.


I've never been a huge Hummus fan, as the texture was always something I couldn't get past... Something about spooning mud onto a cracker and then eating that muddy cracker didn't ever appeal to me. That is, until I had the artichoke hummus @ Ziziki's in Dallas. This, is something I can get on board with. It's light, lemony, not gritty at all, yet they claim there are indeed garbanzo's in it. Who am I to question them? I'm only interested in repeating (or at least approximating) their recipe at home. Below is an admittedly more beanie knockoff, but it's pretty damn tasty...

Artichoke Kalamata Hummus
1 Can Garbanzo Beans (I've found that Bush's are indeed the Best)
1 Lemon
2/3 Cup Marinated Artichoke Hearts
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Pepper
1&1/2 Tbsp Roasted Garlic (roasted garlic in olive oil -- probably equal to 3 cloves)
2 Tbsp Kalamata Olive spread (available in your grocer's olive bar)
Olive oil and salt to taste

Zest and juice your lemon into the bowl of your food processor. Add the rest of your ingredients and pulse to your desired texture. If your hummus is too dry, add a little olive oil. Salt to taste, and serve. I like mine with pita bread.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stuffed Flounder, Beet Salad

Delicious dinner tonight in the works. I'll start with the beet salad. Take beets (we had 3), cut off stems and greens. Put beets in a big pot of water to boil for about half an hour. Greens can be eaten like mustard/kale/etc, but we are reserving ours tonight. Pull out beets and rub off the skin, which will come off fairly easily. Slice off the ends, toss those, and slice the rest of the beets. Put your grill pan on medium heat and toss the sliced beets with balsamic, garlic, salt, and pepper. Save the liquid while you grill your beets, 2-3 minutes per side. Put your beets back into the balsamic mix until you are ready to serve. Tonight, we are eating quickly, so they will come out of the balsamic pretty quickly. Put the beets atop salad (tonight is arugula blend), and add goat cheese to the red discs. I DO like beets.

On to the stuffed flounder. We did a twist on the original. My fish, by the way, was only beheaded and cleaned, but I didn't tell the monger to open up the pockets in the fish's body for stuffing. I'd recommend having them do it, but really it is quite easy. Just slip your sharp filet knife from the bottom of the midline downwards the length of the fish and then repeat from the midline upwards towards the top of the fish. For the stuffing, we used shrimp and a cilantro deliciousness. Take a bunch of cilantro, pull off the leaves and put them into your Cuisinart. Add 2 cloves garlic, a pinky-sized piece of ginger (yea, look at your pinky), 2 tbsp grapeseed oil, 4 tsp maple syrup, a dash of fish sauce, a dash of soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Hit the blend until you get your consistency, which is much like pesto. We stuffed the flounder with this and some shrimp and put it in a greased 12x9 pyrex at 350 for 30 minutes or so. Word.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Every once in a while, we buy the mondo pack of mushrooms from Costco. In weeks where I have to eat the whole thing myself, I have to get creative. This week, I achieved. We had some Strawberry Balsamic vinaigrette left to us by some departing friends, and I wondered, what will we do with this? The other factor going into this is that I have a 1lb tub of mixed spring greens, also from Costco. It is $4, so don't hate.

Anyhow, I cut up about 10 big mushrooms, dumped in the vinaigrette, and let them marinate up. They went into my dinner salad, along with feta and a heated, healthy portion of the black bean/pineapple/red onion/avocado salsa I had done earlier in the week. This was a fantastic salad, and I owe it all to the sweet balance the Strawberry Balsamic mushrooms brought to the plate.

Sorry for the delay in posts. Blame Brad.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lamb Chops

I have cooked lamb chops before. They are generally good, solid fare. This time, they were much, much more!

Using pieces of recipes from various sources (Blake, Brad, google), I put together the method that would be lamb dinner. First, the meat. I bought a tray of 8 lamb chops from Costco about 6 months ago, cooked 4, froze 4. These chops are about 2.5 inches thick and have a similarly sized width. The day before I was to have lamb goodness, I put the frozen meat into the fridge overnight, pulling it out a couple of hours before I cooked it the next day. When I pulled it out, I added my "marinade." (quotation marks to be explained shortly...)

Second, the "marinade." Very simple: Maille whole grain mustard and 4 cloves of garlic, black pepper. I slathered the mustard all over the chops, using roughly 8 ounces of the stuff. After that, I pressed the garlic straight into the bag, 2 cloves per side of meat, and let it sit out on the counter for another hour. (That is actually a lie, because, had I set out the lamb on the counter, you would have assumed this would have been my kitchen counter. I would not have dared do this, however, because the ambient winter temperature in my kitchen is generally 60, a poor temperature for thawing meats. Thus, I took my baggie of lamb goodness and sat it on the ottoman beside me as I watched basketball.) I digress. So you see - not much of a marinade; much more a "marinade;" perhaps a slather.

About an hour later, I removed the lamb from its bag onto the nonstick grill pan. This will be the only part of my meal I will change for next time because the mustard simply stuck to the grill pan and burned up. I spent the latter half of the cooking time scraping mounds of burnt mustard from the pan so the meat could actually maintain contact with a hot cooking surface. Turns out mustard globs aren't good heat conductors in this respect.

Third, the cooking procedure. I cooked the lamb for about 6 minutes on each side over a medium high heat. You will note there are 6 sides to my lamb chops, so these got good and cooked. I opted to not bake them off, though if I choose this option next time, I will use less mustard in the "marinade." When I was done, they were a perfect rare to medium rare in the center and were excellently tender on the outsides.

Fourth, the fix. After taking a bite, I noted my lamb tasted good, lamby, mustardy, but that it lacked punch. This is where I pulled a fast one. I grabbed my massive container of dried parsley from the spice cabinet and shook out about 3 tablespoons into a bowl. I added roughly that same amount of olive oil, then squeezed in half a clementine that was staring at me from the cutting board, and dripped in about 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar. I topped it off with a couple cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and whisked vigorously for 10 seconds. This, my friends, was the most fantastic part of my meal: the chimichurri. Had I not recently visited old favorite Texas de Brazil, I may have not recalled the utility of the chimichurri re: meats, but having done so, my brain was checked in. I opted to dip my individual bites into the chim, as this is my general treatment of any side sauce; I do not enjoy dumping a mess of sauce over my meal. You may beg to differ.

In the end, though, this lamb chop meal was a fine one. And yes, I did have sides. As I cooked the lamb, I ate a tomato/cucumber/carrot salad (add rice wine vinegar, olive oil, clementine juice [because it was sitting there], salt, pepper, garlic) and for a starch, I had some homemade croutons. I ate two of the chops, and fully admit to cleaning the bones like a champ.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Birrieria Aguinaga

So, a while back I lost a work related bet with one of my sales guys. The wager was a taqueria lunch of the loser's choosing. So, thanks to a recent DMN article about the popularity of the taquerias around town, I chose Birrieria Aguinaga. This joint was recognized for its Goat (Birria) tacos, so we figured we'd give it a shot.

We arrived at the location on NW Hwy shortly after 11:30, and the place/parking lot/neighborhood was empty. This isn't normal for this side of town, but I can only assume we were early. When on the way home from work, and around dinner time the parking lot is always packed.

My meal started with delicious chips and salsa -- They were not superb, but pretty tasty. I ordered two Birria tacos, one Carnitas and one Al Pastor. All on flour tortillas (with the cilantro and onion on the side). I know I'm non traditional, but I prefer the flour tortilla, and want to make sure I'm not over cilantro'd. The plate of taco's came with some DELICIOUS pickled onions. The flour tortillas were clearly homemade and fresh.

The Birria taco is delicious -- it's vaguely smoky, greasy and tender, much like good barbacoa. This was my first experience with birria, but I'll be back for more, it was perfect just with a squeeze of lime and a few of the pickled onions.

My carnitas was also a fine specimen. I treated this more traditionally and loaded the tortilla down with cilantro, lime and onions, and added the house green salsa. The carnitas was tender, with just the right amount of crispy on the edge.

The Al Pastor left something to be desired. It was clearly Pork, not the traditional lamb, but I'm ok with that. It didn't have the usual slight sweetness one associates with al pastor. I loaded it up with lime juice and pickled onions and enjoyed it none the less.

I can assure you I'll be back for a fine goat taco, but have many more locations to scout out for my favorite carnitas in the NW Dallas area. We're now making bi-weekly trips to different taquerias, so I'll continue to update.