Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Hello All! We hope this finds you well-fed and ready to eat normally once again. As lunch sits on my desk, I feel remiss in not sharing the tale of its creation.

What we have here is an Orzo salad. Orzo is a delightful, rice-shaped pasta that is fairly perfect for your cold salad needs. Just cook and rinse in cold water while you prepare your other ingredients.

For today's iteration, we first took 2 links of hot italian sausage, which I cooked on the grill the other night while my steak, the shrimp, and Misty's Parrano-covered sockeye salmon got toasty. This brings to mind an important point: if you are grilling, especially with charcoal, don't waste the fire. You can bring many meats to even the most averagely sized grill at one time, and you know you've gots to eat the rest of the week. Grill up those proteins (and veggies and whatever else) and have them at the ready when you want them. Then when you're ready to use them, it'll be like you bought pre-prepared food at the store, only better 'cause you cooked it.

So, to add to the sausage chunks, we dropped in some cubed feta, green onion, diced white onion, celery, 1-2 garlic cloves, parsley, and halved grape tomatoes. Salt and (lots of) pepper. Squeeze in a lemon. Combine your goodness, add some olive oil for viscosity and flava and sit it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. If you don't have the time, eat up, but it won't be as good.

On today's leftover lunch, we rocked this dish up exactly 2 notches: (1) sliced avocado on top; and (2) halved Kalamata olives in the mix. You really don't even need to add salt for your avocado because the olives take care of you.

This is a nice, light dish that you could make in any quantity for a cool, tasty alternative. As I eat it, I feel like I could eat buckets of this lovin, so make extra, you're gonna want it.

Glad to have you back! Robot out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold in Texas

The other night, I made some chicken stock. Not just because I had some chicken parts laying around to make stock with; and not just because I wanted to freeze this stock in ice cube trays so that I could dose out a tablespoon or two at a time to make sauces. It's soup time folks.

Chicken Enchilada Soup
1 onion diced
1 Tbsp Chili powder
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 Bay Leaf
1 Chipotle pepper in Adobo minced
1 Cup Masa Harina
2 Quarts Chicken Stock
1 Can of Crushed Tomatoes -- the small can (14.5oz or so)
1/2 Cup of Velveeta, diced
1&1/2 lbs of cooked chicken
1 bag frozen corn kernels
Chicken bouillon, if necessary

Alright -- dice that onion and sauté it in some olive oil. After you've got your onions nicely coated with oil, add all the powdered spices. Sautee these till they're nicely golden.
Meanwhile, take a quart of your stock, and add your 1 cup of Masa to it, whisk until all the lumps dissolve. When your onion is golden, whisk in the Masa/stock mixture. Stir this concoction until it comes to a boil, or you'll have lumps.
Mince your chipotle, and add it to the pot along with the bay leaf. Add some more of the adobo sauce from the can if you like it spicy. I like it spicy.
Let this simmer/thicken for ten minutes or so. Drink a beer, or open your mail. Whatever. Once the mixture has thickened up, add your 2nd quart of stock, the tomatoes and the cheese.
While the soup comes back to a boil, fire up a sauté pan and dump the frozen corn in with some olive oil. Let this roast in the pan until it’s well, roasted. Then sprinkle on a little chili powder. The roasting process is going to take a few minutes, say 15 - 20.
By this point, your soup should be boiling. Check it for seasoning. If it needs something (cumin, mabye?) add it. You'll note we've added no salt to this soup as yet. You're going to need some, probably a good bit. Make sure your soup is chicken-y enough first. If it doesn't have the chicken flavor you're looking for, add some bouillon. I'll admit, I added a couple of teaspoons. This also adds a good portion of salt. So, add your bouillon before your salt. And taste again. Once it tastes delicious, add your chicken. When the corn is good and roasted, add that too, but save a little for garnish. It looks pretty. If you want your soup thicker, this is the time to add more Masa. Make sure you whisk it in, or you’ll have lumpy soup.

Once your chicken is warmed up, the soup is ready to eat. However, it will be much tastier the next day, if you can wait that long. Garnish your soup with some of the reserved roasted corn, and a light dusting of paprika. Smoked if you've got it. It adds a little flavor to the mix. Maybe you want some lime? Lime might be nice.

Yeah, you're going to have to go buy a 5lb bag of Masa to make this soup, but, you can use it for other things. Like tamales. Looks like I'm going to be making tamales sometime soon. Maybe your Mexican market carries Masa in a smaller quantity than 5lbs. Mine doesn't. Oh well -- that gives us excuses for more delicious experiments.

Also, I admit this is a straight knockoff of the Chili’s Enchilada soup we all know and love. Except this tastes better, mostly because you made it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Indian Extravaganza?

Cory posts about what sounds to be a delicious Indian restaurant, shortly before I'm going to post about some home cooked Indian I made the other night. How odd.

I love Indian food -- What I don't like is the fact that Indian restaurants are generally expensive. I'm not talking fine dining money here, but, dinner for two @ Roti Grill is approaching $40 these days, and they don't print coupons anymore, as far as I know. I've been going to the Kroger @ 635 and Macarthur just because they print coupons for Chatt Cafe on their receipts. Chaat Cafe is pretty tasty too...

So, a few weeks ago while @ Target, we bought some Archer Farms Tikka Masala sauce. Yeah, yeah, I know I should be making my own sauce, as this is a food blog, but, I didn't want to take the time, and I didn't want to have my first foray into Indian home cooking fail miserably, so, I consulted an "Expert".

That being said, I did put a nice Indian spice rub on the chicken before I sauced it, that, I did make on my own.

Indian Rub --
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp each: Garlic Powder, Turmeric, Thyme, Cumin, Coriander and Ginger
1 tsp of Chili Powder
pinch of cinnamon

That's it. Check your Chili Powder for salt level, and season the meat/veggies accordingly with salt and pepper before cooking. I was able to season the one pound or so of chicken I sautéed last night and still had enough left over to season the peas and shallots (slice shallots thin, sauté in olive oil. Add frozen peas, cook to desired doneness, season, serve) that I served with our Tikka Masala.

Yes, next time I'll make my own masala sauce. Once I make it to the spice market, or farmers market, to get some garam masala and cardamom.

Oh and here’s that Chili Powder I promised you weeks ago:

Chili Powder –
4 parts Paprika
2 parts Garlic Powder
2 parts Salt (table, not kosher)
1 part Cumin (maybe more, if you like it more cumin-y)
1 part Chile New Mexico powder
½ part Chile de Arbol powder (hot!)

Mix together in and give it a taste. Add more salt/garlic/Chile to your taste. Also, if you want to add some Ancho, Chipotle or otherwise, that would make an excellent addition to the mix.


NYC Thanksgiving

Upon a recent trip to the Dutch outpost in the New World/food mecca, New Amsterdam, which people in certain circles have now presumptuously begun calling New York City, I and my wife-to-be, Misty, found several ways to fill our now-sated bellies. Though we were in the city to visit BeefRobot's vegetarian contributor, Libby, we took this meal with a high school friend of Misty's and his wife.

I will stick to a report of the finest meal, which took place at a tiny spot in the East Village, Graffiti. Operated by Jehangir Mehta, this place satisfies your food needs like few others. All the plates are small, and come out in succession, making for the perfect family style meal. Also, every bottle of wine is $25 - an excellent concept at worst. You can venture into the $35 all you can drink plan, should you choose that particular course for your evening, though we decided against this, as one of our number was preggos. For the record, el prego was/is not Misty, as far as we know.

The menu is divided by item price, which is pure genius. We started with the green mango paneer, and found ourselves enmeshed in a yummy deluge of pure goodness soon thereafter. This paneer actually had its own independent flavor: sweet, salty, milky; paired with the green mango lovin and placed atop a small piece of naan, it is truly transcendant. We then had the three cheeses plate, which starred two more-solid white cheeses and one more-soft white cheese. Memory fails, but they were all very good and were a nice second part to the meal.

Third up were the scallops, sliced thin and topped with pickled ginger and candied red chili. These were showstoppers, no doubt, and nothing I can add will further explain to you the delight the scallops caused in us. The fourth plate was a noodle roll with seaweed salad in the bottom and topped off with duck breast. This was my favorite of the night. Ridiculously good.

We followed that up with the Graffiti burger, fingerling potatoes, and chipotle mayonnaise. This was 2 mini burgers that we cut in half. The burger was deliciously juicy and starred some rockin sauteed onions on top. Next up was pork bun with apricot chutney. Uh, hell yes! This pork bun beat out the lunch pork bun we had at DimSum in Chinatown, hands down. The fluffy, pancakey bun kicked the hell out of the DimSum sweet roll version. Oh, and the meat inside was gloriously juicy, topped in some sort-of-barbecue goodness. I feel like we ate another item, but am drawing a blank; rest assured, it was awesome.

We started finishing up the meal, at the suggestion of Mr. Mehta, who was also our waiter (awesome!), with a prosecco lychee martini. Ohdeargod, this thing is ridiculous. They took lychee slushee (or whatever the proper culinary term for that is) and added prosecco. I think I just found meaning in life!!! This was a handsdown success, and even preggo had to try it!

Our dessert-dessert was a three sorbet delight: salty guava, grapefruit, and blood orange. Salty guava is delicious, especially followed up by the slow tension of the acidic-yet-sweet-undertoned g-fruit, and resolved with the front-of-the-tongue-titillating, sweet blood orange. We also had a fruit crumble of unremembered variety with ice cream, and it was good, just not stellar like everything else.

The price is your normal fine dining, $50 a person, which, considering our location, was damn good. The place is tiny, and I highly recommend reservations. They have a couple of stool spots for 2, which I understand come in very handy for the odd single diner. The kitchen is unbelievably tiny for the quality of food they put out here. Seriously, there are 2 industrial hot plates and 1, maybe 2 people cooking. You can barely scoot behind them to get to the bathroom and, once in there, have very little change of actually doing the required 180 to sit. In any event, the place succeeds completely, with expansive use of the basement via the front steps (which are outside). The constant opening of the door might be my only complaint, but it is mightily overshadowed by Mehta's and his chef's service, attention to detail (almost without a thought, but after asking our permission, they converted every dish to a 4 person dish), and overall tastiness of their food. Get a reservation now!!