Thursday, April 30, 2009

Basque Chicken

The only way I made it through this recipe without eating the dog was by drinking a bottle of wine. Sometimes getting drunk before dinner is the only way to forget how hungry and increasingly desperate you are. The wine was the high point of the meal really. It didn't take any effort. It didn't confuse me with odd directions. It didn't refuse to cook. Even on the best day I'd be glad to have several bottles of it in my house actually.

As a general rule I don't even like Chardonnay, there are a few I will make an exception for and this is my new favorite. The Optimus is a killer bottle for $11. It isn't a cloying oak monster. Nor is it a tropical fruit smoothie disguised as a wine. It is instead a balanced blend of slightly buttery pear and green apple with a honeyed finish. It's so easy to drink you won't know you've had half the bottle while staring at the inexplicably raw chicken that has been on the oven for an hour until you're at the grocery store later singing to the leeks. I have a feeling this is going to be my summer wine this year.

You may have guessed by now that the meal itself gave me some trouble and you would absolutely be right. I'm still holding a grudge against it a day later. It was that annoying but (Lindsay don't read this part) I loved it so much I already have plans to make it again next week. Next time I'm going to go 30 Minute Meals on it, making a much simpler version of this amazing but picky original version.

It started out fine. Boiling artichokes—I adore artichokes almost as much as curry so I knew this recipe was going on the menu right away. Blanching a tomato which was odd but once it was done I totally understand why the recipe called for it. Once all the vegetables were chopped I had time waiting for the artichokes to get tender and the chicken to brown, to relax. That should have been my first indication something was wrong. I've read The Julia and Julia Project, when a French recipe seems too easy you've probably mucked something up. The fates are up there somewhere laughing at you enjoying your wine knowing things about to hit the fan. Without the proper amount of stress and insanity it isn't properly French.

Following the recipe I put the chicken in the oven to bake for 12 minutes. Took it out, did some stuff to it and put it back in for another 10. It was crispy on the outside and the recipe said that was all there was it so it should be done, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. The chicken halves we were using were still totally raw in the middle. I put them on stove for a while longer and drank some more wine, glaring occasionally at the chicken pan. During this time I ate my artichoke furiously. The thermometer I stuck in the chicken said it was done. So you would think it was done, right? Nope.

I literally threw my hands in the air and did what I always do when a recipe makes me want to throw dishes across the room, I passed it on to the fella. He made that chicken his bitch. He put it in the pan like he meant business and stood supervising it while drinking his wine and making his artichoke disappear. He took the chicken's temperature which read as well done. We re-plated it for the third time. Do you think it was done now? Sorry no.

This chicken wasn't giving up. I swore at the chicken, cursing its relatives and everything holy to it as I tore it's flesh from the carcass. The fella looked at me like the crazy person I was at that moment. I then explained to him I was cutting out the middleman and just putting the bloody (literally) chicken meat in the pan and cooking it sans bones. This worked much better, the meat cooked in a couple minutes and gave it a chance to combine nicely with the mushroom and wine sauce when I added it to the pan to reheat.

The fourth time we sunk our forks into the meat it was divine. The chicken was tender, the sauce was delightful and what remained of the vegetables I hadn't already snacked on were scrumptious. Maybe I'm a food masochist and waiting for the food makes it taste that much better after the build up of anticipation. Or maybe I was so drunk I probably could have eaten the dog at this point. Regardless I'll get back to you when I come up with a better version of this meal.

Until then anyone know where a girl can get a reliable meat thermometer around here?

Basque Chicken

2 large artichokes, trimmed
1 large ripe tomato
2 pounds bone in chicken or 2 baby chickens
3 tablespoons butter
3 ounces chanterelles (I used white button mushrooms)
1 garlic clove, germ removed, finely diced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken broth

Poach artichokes in salted water until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes or when the outer leaves are easily removed. Cut the heart out of the artichokes and set aside. Discard leaves or dip them in some butter as a snack while waiting for the chicken to cook.

Cut a conical plug from the stem of the tomato. Blanch tomato in the boiling artichoke water for 10 seconds. Remove from water and peel off skin. Cut tomato in half, squeeze out seeds and juice to discard. Coarsely chop the remaining pulp.

Preheat oven to 350.

If using whole chickens season the inside with salt and pepper then truss them with string so legs are up close to the breasts and the wings are firmly in place. Simply season under the skin of the chicken if using bone in pieces.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in an oven safe pot large enough to hold both chickens. Brown chicken on all sides, about 5 to 10 minutes on each side. Add more butter if necessary to keep meat from sticking. Cover pot and place in oven for 12 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven. Spoon in the artichoke bottoms, sliced chanterelles, and tomato around the chicken. Return the pot to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the internal temperature is above 165. Remove from the oven again. Set aside chicken to keep warm while preparing sauce.

Put the pot full of mushroom, artichoke, and tomato on a burner over high heat. Add garlic, wine, and broth. Bring to a boil and cook until liquid is slightly reduced.

Serve the chicken with pan juices and vegetables spooned around them.

Original recipe from The Lutece Cookbook by Andre Soltner.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some Food I Won't Ever Be Posting Recipes For

What is the shared obsession with gelatinious things in food from the 50's and France? This all looks quite scary. The more traditional recipes in the book are quite good but I make sure to never look for the pictures of them because the photographer found a way to make everything look frightening.

Casino Lobster. Did it just finish playing poker? I don't get it.

Fish in Outerspace. Apparently these are not fish of some sort and not creatures from another planet.

Edible Horse. This is an appetizer of some sort. I'm still looking for the appetizing part.

Chest Burster Chicken. I made the mistake of reading this recipe. That's a whole chicken then coated in candied aspic. The other things are hard boiled eggs with the same treatment then on a bed of aspic. It looks dangerous.

Roulette Ham. Who looks at a perfectly good piece of meat and thinks "hey let's put goo on it, that would be awesome."

All of this from Modern French Culinary Art which is a self contained gallery of regrettable food.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lamb Korma

It's just like me to check out a new stack of complicated French cookbooks and immediately begin cooking the only Indian recipes in them. What can I say--even after two months of this diet I'm not any more enamored of French cooking than I was to begin with. It's more of a morbid fascination than anything. Curries, daal, and naan are still my favorite things to make. Yet the mysterious ingredients and elaborate process required to make terrine and aspic intrigue me. So until I'm done with Montignac, France and India will keep battling it out in my kitchen. It's been fun so far.

Korma is what happens when you slow braise meat marinated to tenderness in yogurt or cream, then slather it in a complex mixture of spices. It's killer. The marinade does all the hard work. All that's left to do is brown the meat and watch it cook. Couldn't be easier. Well there is is matter of tracking down 10 different spices from where ever it is you store them, but its well worth the hunt.

This was some of the most authentic Indian I've ever made. It's worlds better than the Rogan Josh I order time and again at the near by Indian place. Same basic idea but I got to control the spices and the fat content. Then I went and ruined the notion of any calories I saved by using yogurt instead of heavy cream in the lamb by making fried cauliflower as a side.

It's a ridiculous thing to make really. The fella asked “Doesn't deep frying something defeat the purpose of eating a vegetable at all?” I think I threw a towel at him. Logic has no place in the kitchen. This was all about satisfying an urge. Several times last week I read food bloggers talking about how fried cauliflower tastes exactly like popcorn. So I wanted to give it a try seeing as both the fella and I have been missing popcorn.

It tastes nothing like popcorn but it is good in small qualities and it went well with the lamb as a side to absorb all the delicious korma sauce. This particular dinner pleased me to no end. I already know this recipe will be in heavy rotation on my menu list.

What a thing to find in an ancient traditional French cookbook from the 50's full of scary pictures of what is supposed to be food but looks like alien creatures swallowing other smaller unrecognizable creatures. This is the stuff of nightmares. I will have to try to get pictures of these dishes as seen in the pages of this book, they really need to be seen to be believed. I am oh so glad I didn't notice them before cooking the korma or may have lost the curage to try making it.

Lamb Korma

2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
3/4 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 cup coconut oil or ghee
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced

1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (it could use more)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated coconut

Trim off and discard fat from lamb. Cut meat into bite sized pieces. Mix with the yogurt, salt, cumin, turmeric, and cardamom in a large bowl and let marinate for at least 2 hours.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil or ghee over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onions and garlic until browned and tender. Add another tablespoon of oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan and add the remaining spices. Stir thoroughly, toasting the spice mixture for about 2 minutes. Remove onion and spice mixture from pan and reserve for later.

Place pan on medium high heat, add the remaining oil and begin to cook the lamb until browned on all sides. Pour off any excess fat.

Add the onion and spice mixture back to the pan, cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Pour in the water, cover and allow to cook another 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add more water if needed.

Just before serving add lemon juice and coconut. Stir well and serve.

Original recipe from Modern French Culinary Art by Henri-Paul Pellaprat.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flourless Naan

It has been one whirlwind of a weekend. A distributors tasting at the wine store I work in on Friday. Then a wine get together with some friends on Saturday. We call our group Wasted and we lived up to our name, drinking some nice Australian and New Zealand wines. Then selling wine on Sunday. For the moment I'm ready to take some time off from wine, I say, as I make plans to drag friends to yet another tasting this Friday.

With all of that I fell a bit behind in my cooking. I was missing some things to make one recipe. After thawing the meat for another meal the fella brought to my attention that it required being marinated over night. Crap. It was already 6 and we were a little punchy from spending the entire afternoon cleaning so there was no time or brain cells left to pull together a make shift meal. We got out the Indian take out menu instead.

Mixed grill, spinach chicken, and a black lentil daal, it was the comfort food we needed at the moment. While the fella was out picking up the food I threw together some flourless naan. It is not low fat and it it is not cheap. Almond flour will set you back about $10 a pound unless you have the patience and time to grind up your own. And between the nut flour and coconut oil, you are looking at a calorie monster. As a treat to fill the breadless void however it is perfect and oh so easy.

The trick is to whisk it up at the very last second, get the pan the right temperature and brown them to the right level on each side. My first couple naan came out well, the last one did not as my pan was too cold and the almond flour had sucked up all the liquid so the consistency was wrong. They really need to be fried up quick to get the right effect.

These are amazing. The coconut oil makes them taste a lot like the real thing and they are nice for sopping up all the delicious Indian sauces from your plate. And they smell dreamy, like a fresh baked bear claw. It sated my pastry lust for at least another week. Seriously I was at Lazy Jane's, the best bakery/coffee place in town, this morning having brunch with friends, and I didn't even give the world's greatest scones a second look. When I was a sugar addict I would have sold the dog for one of those fruity scones, flaky and topped with just the right amount of tart lemon glaze. Thanks to the power of almond flour I was able to just say no.

Flourless Naan

1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup coconut milk
(or 2 tablespoons soy/almond milk and 3 heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt)
1 1/2 teaspoon oil
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
coconut oil for frying (about 2 tablespoons)

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, baking soda, coconut milk, and oil until frothy.

Melt about 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Just before you are ready to fry the naan, mix the almond flour and salt into the wet mixture. Pour onto hot skillet in portions the size of a small pancake. Fry until bottom is browned, flip and fry other side until brown and crisped through.

Add another 1/2 tablespoon oil to pan and allow to come back to temperature before cooking the next bit of naan. The mixture will suck up all the oil and cake onto the pan otherwise. Repeat with the remaining naan mixture adding more oil each time as needed.

Original recipe from Oreganicthrifty blog.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vegetable Biryani

I'm going to leave all you lovely people to think about this recipe for a while. Like say a week, just until I can refresh myself enough to not feel foodie burn out anymore.

This blog has done everything I was hoping for. It gave me the motivation to stick to the diet and writing here every day got me in the practice of writing again. The only problem is I now have a back log of creative writing sitting in my notebook begging for attention. So I'm using this week off from food blogging to edit some writing, I fear if I don't submit something for critiquing soon my writing group may kick me out. Which would be particularly embarrassing considering I'm the one who started the group.

I've been neglecting my fellow writers and my muse in the name of giving you all delicious recipes. And will go back to doing so as soon as I get the next great American short story typed up so my editing team can correct my grammar, punctuation and sentence structure and bring me back down to earth. I'll probably still post little wine reviews as I go long just so no one misses me too much. And when I come back I'll be armed with a new cache of impressive French meals.

But getting on to the recipe. This version of Biryani isn't much like the kind found in Indian restaurants which is high in fat and usually drowned in oil. They're both tasty but this is a low fat, high fiber more healthful recipe. The great thing is you can swap out the vegetables for other ones you like better, its best with a combination of root vegetables and crisp fresh vegetables that are in season. Add some well seasoned rice, create a blend of spices, toss it in the oven and you're set for a filling super flavorful meal. It's perfect for people who like Indian but don't like spicy.

The fella made Dal with it and we were quite happy. We also opened a bottle of Chateau St. Michelle Gewürztraminer which was very basic and easy drinking. It wasn't anything spectacular but it was sweet and spicy so it fit with the Biryani nicely.

Vegetable Biryani

1 cup brown rice
2 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods, seeds only
2 cups vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons water

2 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/ 2 cauliflower, broken into florets
1 small head broccoli, broken into florets
5 ounces green beans, cut in 1 inch lengths
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice

Put rice, cloves, and cardamom seeds into a large saucepan. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until stock is absorbed but rice is still crisp. Do not fully cook the rice at this point.

Preheat the oven to 350. Put garlic, onion, all the spices, and water into a food processor to blend into a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste then spoon the spice mixture into a large flameproof casserole dish and cook over low heat about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetables and 6 tablespoons of water to the casserole dish, cover and cook for about 12 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding cilantro towards the end of the cooking time.

Remove the cloves from the rice and spread rice over vegetable mixture, sprinkle with the lime juice. Cover and cook in oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Fluff up rice and combine before serving, topped with more cilantro.

Original recipe from The Ultimate Healthy Eating Cookbook by Anne Sheasby.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Halibut with Sun Dried Tomato Butter and “Potatoes”

This is one of my favorite low maintenance menus taken of course from a Rachel Ray recipe and improved upon. There are three different things to work on all at the same time (four if you add a steamed green vegetable to the mix as I do) but none of them take any effort. It's almost too easy after some of the things I've been making, that probably means I need to start coming up with really complex menus soon to make up for it.

I have a thing about not liking plants from the lily family raw. It probably has something to do with the fact I'm allergic to the flower. This I found out the hard way a couple years ago when the fella bought me a huge arrangement of purple and orange lilies. It was gorgeous and exactly my taste and my favorite colors. It should have been perfect birthday gift except for the fact that the next day I woke up unable to breath and spent the rest of it feeling like I was about to die at any second. We put the lilies outside to think about what they had done and I miraculously returned to normal.. The poor pretty lilies got re-gifted to a friend and the fella wisely has not buy me flowers since. It's better that way, I prefer my flowers alive in the ground and to be able to breath.

So though I adore garlic, shallots, leeks and on a limited basic onions they absolutely have to be cooked in order for me to eat them. This makes things interesting considering the large quantities of raw onions people seem to toss on seemingly everything I've ever ordered in a restaurant. I also cook the hell out of

The original recipe for this called for both raw garlic and scallions, obviously that had to change I have a tried it a couple times that way and hated it so this time around I took the time to cook them both slightly before adding them to the butter spread. This I loved. It made the spread much less intense and allowed the sun dried tomato to really shine. If you're into raw lilies feel free to just mix up the butter ingredients and save yourself some time.

This horribly divine butter is great on the fish and beans but it would be sinful not to slather it on some warm potatoes. Unfortunately potatoes aren't in my near future. Instead we made a much better fake out cauliflower version of mashed potatoes than the ones I posted the recipe for a week or so ago. Boiling the cauliflower made it too wet, it wasn't possible to add cream or butter to it without making cauliflower soup. Steaming solves the problem, this makes the cauliflower the right texture to mash and mix with your favorite creamy mashed potato fixings. Top it with the sun dried tomato butter and you won't know they aren't real potatoes.

Drinking a glass of the Cline Viognier made this dinner even more enjoyable. I've already talked a couple times about how much I love everything Cline so it was no surprise that I fell in love with this bottle. It was super floral (more along the lines of roses and not lilies thankfully) on the nose and the perfect balance of dry and sweet. There were all sorts of delicious summer fruits on the first sip, I got pear and a tart apple where as the fella loved that it was citrusy. With fish and faux potatoes I couldn't have picked a better wine.

Halibut with Sun Dried Tomato Butter and “Potatoes”

1 tablespoon oil
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
3 tablespoons softened butter
2 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, finely chopped

In a pan warm the oil over medium heat, add garlic and scallion and cook until tender but not browned. Place in a small bowl to cool then add butter and sun dried tomatoes, combining well to create a soft butter mixture to use when serving meal.

3 tablespoons butter
4 six-ounce halibut fillets (or whatever tender white fish you choose)
2 tablespoons flour (if you can use it)
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in the same pan you used in the first step over medium heat. Season fish fillets with salt, pepper and flour (if using it) on both sides. When butter is fully melted and foamy start pan frying fish. Cook fish about 8 minutes total, longer if using a thicker piece of fish, flipping over half way through cooking time. Transfer to a serving dish when cooked through.

1 head cauliflower, cut into rough florets
1 tablespoon butter
1/ 4 cup milk or cream (maybe less depending on how creamy you want your “potatoes”)

Place the cauliflower pieces in a steamer and cook until tender. Mash cauliflower in large bowl until the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add butter and enough milk to make cauliflower creamy. Season with salt and pepper then serve topped with sun dried tomato butter.

Original recipe from Everyday with Rachel Ray.


I'm not sure about the name of this wine. Eroica means “heroic” in Italian referring I think to the symphony Beethoven dedicated to Napoleon. However Chateau Saint Michelle being in Washington I don't understand the reasoning behind the name at all.

What I do know is I love this wine. In fact I've yet to have a less than stellar wine from Chateau St. Michelle. A couple years ago I visited their vineyard and liked every single thing on the tasting list. It's a shame more of their wines don't make it to Madison because they are out of this world. Their Rieslings especially stand out in my mind so I was excited when I sent the fella out on a wine run and he came back with the Eroica. I really hate to brag but I do have the best boyfriend ever.

I threw together Berry and Rosemary Chicken Thighs and some asparagus for dinner to pair with the wine. It worked out well. The sweetness of the jam in the food played off the sweet, spicy wine nicely. And the asparagus brought out some tart green undertones. The only problem with this wine is it is additively sweet, almost to the point of being cloying. It's really more of a dessert wine, better enjoyed alone to get the full effect. Just watch out for the sugar headache it left us both with afterwards. It has a powerful 12 percent alcohol content and it isn't joking around.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sweet Potato Fries

Oh steak fries how I've missed you!

Okay so they weren't quite steak fries but they were close enough. These sweet potato fries were out standing and I can't thank our friend Lindsay enough for blogging about them (she posts a lot of good simple recipes from a variety of cookbooks, you should start reading her right away.) It wasn't until I reread the rules for eating on high fiber days that I realized sweet potatoes count as a high fiber, low GI ingredient. The exact second I found that out I remembered these fries and put them on our list of recipes for this week.

Combined with portobello steaks, a baby spinach salad, and a California red wine made for a very happy making meal. I even went the extra mile and made spicy ketchup by mixing half jerk sauce with half organic unsweetened ketchup. This made an extraordinary dipping sauce that perfectly contrasted the sweetness of the fries. That with the well marinaded tender portobellos almost made me forget I was on a often complex frustrating diet. Figuring out fake out recipes that make me stop missing things I wish I could eat it what keeps this diet from making me crazy. That and the wine.

I've read about the Red Truck wine several times this week so when a long day at work drove me to knowing I needed wine I decided to stop into the grocery store across the street from my 40 hour a week job and find it. This wine isn't super special but its a very drinkable blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre all from California. It's big and tannic with hints of chocolate and licorice. Nothing intense but some nights I want something that doesn't blow me away and this did the trick. Besides I was just drinking it with dinner to whet my appetite to go out to a Shiraz/Syrah tasting. They were all bargain wines but I still had a blast.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons fructose
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then into wedges. Toss wedges with oil. Combine fructose, salt and pepper, shake onto sweet potatoes, toss again.

Put on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil spreading out wedges as best as possible so they don't over lap and bake for 15 minutes. Pull them out, turn them over, and bake for another 10-15 minutes until they’re golden brown and crispy on the outside. Sprinkle with more kosher salt and/or cumin or your favorite fresh herb.

Original recipe from Lindsay at Fork Full of News.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jerk Chicken

This is a special request for Splot who wondered what made the house smell so yummy the other night and photographer boy to whom I keep forgetting to send the recipe for chicken that will hurt your tongue.

The recipe is actually a pretty spot on interpretation of authentic jerk. It tastes a lot like the jerk sauce from the best Jamaican restaurant in town, David's which is about the only restaurant that will motivate me to drive literally all the way across town. It's that good. Their sauce is slightly heavier on the vinegar however which makes it amazing on kidney beans and rice. However for a straight jerked chicken this recipe is much more delicate and flavorful. Be warned, it will however kill at least one of your taste buds with insane spiciness but you'll love every moment of it.

Jerk Chicken

1/2 cup malt or white vinegar
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons molasses (we use agave nectar)
2 tablespoons oil
2 scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros,) chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground ginger

5 to 6 pound roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
1/2 cup lime juice

*Safety note: Scotch Bonnet peppers are very hot. Use gloves when handling them.

Put vinegar, rum, molasses, oil, peppers, onion, scallions, and all the spices into a food processor, blend until mostly smooth.

Place chicken pieces in large bag, pour in lime juice and coat meat well. Add the jerk paste and coat chicken thoroughly. Seal bag and refrigerate over night.

Remove chicken from bag when ready to cook it. Reserve marinade and place in a small sauce pan. Bring marinade to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Set aside to use for basting chicken and as a sauce while serving.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken skin side up in foil covered baking pan in a 350 degree oven or on the grill covered with a foil tent. Roast for 50 to 60 minutes until the chicken is done and juices run clear. The internal temperature should be 170 degrees in the breast. On the grill cooking time with be just over an hour when keeping grill temperature between 350 and 400 degrees. Baste occasionally while cooking with leftover marinade. Any remaining marinade can be used as a dipping sauce when serving.

Original recipe from Simply Recipes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Crockpot Funky Chicken

Some girls like to be surprised with jewelery or flowers. I think both are a waste of money. Nothing thrills me more than being surprised by food. Especially coming home to a house than smells delicious when I thought I was coming home to an empty refrigerator.

The fella and I still haven't recovered from Easter and therefor haven't had time to go grocery shopping. I thought I was going to be eating whatever cheese was left over, a can of black beans and an apple for lunch between jobs today since there was no other food in the house. Instead I came home to the scent of spicy poultry and the dog laying on the floor near the door in a puddle of her own drool.

Amazing boyfriend that he is, the fella had gone out and bought a roasting chicken at 7AM and found a recipe for cooking it in our new programmable crockpot before he went to work. I was blown away. Having something tasty to eat made my day and made me fall in love with him a little bit more. I'll take surprise chicken over roses anyday.

The combination of sweet and spicy make a perfect chicken with very little work. It was tender and flavorful. The meat fell off the bones and by flavoring it differently on the inside and outside it added depth to a really simple recipe.

Crockpot Funky Chicken

1 lime, halved
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon fructose
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pound whole chicken
1 clove garlic
1 serrano pepper, halved

In a bowl, juice half of the lime. Stir in the soy sauce, fructose, coriander and cayenne. Rub this mixture into the skin of the entire chicken.

Place the other half of the lime, the garlic, and the serrano in the chicken's cavity. Truss the chicken and place in slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours.

Original recipe from How to Make Love and Dinner at the Same Time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake

This recipe lulled me into a false sense of security. It only has two ingredients it will be simple, right? Very very wrong. Those two ingredients tested my patience until I was swearing up a storm and very nearly gave up on it several times. Things were not improved by the fact I started making this at midnight the night before Easter. That is never a good idea and yet I make the mistake time and again. Apparently there is something about midnight that screams last minute baking.

There were plenty of other problems along the way. Unsweetened chocolate must mean something very different in France because Montignac keeps talking about unsweetened chocolate with different ranges of cocoa content. Here, at least in Madison, the only unsweetened chocolate is 100% cocoa baking chocolate which I am now going to assume has a very different texture than whatever Montignac was cooking with. It is also bitter requiring me to wing it and add fructose until the cake tasted edible. If you're using 100% cocoa chocolate you'll want to keep tasting the cake mixture and adding fructose until it tastes sweet enough, and then add a little more.

The other problem with unsweetened American chocolate is there are no additives in it to thin out the chocolate so when I went to add the egg yolks to the warm chocolate I got a hunk of chocolate scrambled eggs. A dozen eggs and 2 boxes of chocolate in a blob of ineligibility that defiantly was not going to fold into the egg whites.

It was about then I started swearing, then I called for the fella who was smart enough to be hiding upstairs. I was on the verge of angry tears at wasting all this chocolate and the recipe making a fool of me. The fella just looked at me like I was crazy, which I was. His mere presence in the kitchen calmed me down enough think that adding milk might help with the solidified chocolate situation. That would have been fine except the milk was way curdled which only further fueled my rage, wondering why it was in the fridge so long past its due date. Thankfully I found some heavy cream and there was just enough to thin out to chocolate so that the egg whites could be folded in.

After all that drama I had no optimism left as I threw the cake into the pan and wondered what could possibly make it edible after only 8 minutes of cooking. Oddly enough it rose into a beautiful bake like dessert and popped easily out of the pan. The next day I melted more chocolate for the topping and was really excited to try it.

After dinner I took a warm knife to it, then I hacked at it with a fork, then I threatened to throw it against the wall. The topping on this cake would not crack. I had to use all my strength to break through which caused the cake to shatter into unattractive bits rather than allowing itself to be cut into wedges. My family went with the flow and gladly accepted odd shaped pieces of chocolate cake which continued to put up a fight on the plate, refusing to break apart.

It was worth the effort, the cake bit is very fluffy and delicious. The topping is yummy as well but impossible to break, I would suggest making the topping much thinner than the recipe calls for. We also didn't think it was sweet enough even with the addition of fructose so we drizzled agave nectar over our slices. Then it was perfect, it would be great with jam, fruit, maple syrup, anything to break up the pure chocolate.

This cake taught me that there really is such a thing as too much chocolate, believe it or not.

After eating it we were all drunk on it. 100% cocoa is not something to mess with especially when combined with a bottle of wine. It was LSD cake, we were out of our minds after one tiny piece each, giggling at nothing and talking about things not fit for polite company. Two nights in a row now I still haven't slept well, its that powerful. I have years of over caffeination under my belt from surviving on nothing but coffee for 8 hour shift playing barista in busy cafes, and yet even that did not compare to the rush from the cake.

This cake needs a warning label. It is amazing but hallucinatory.

Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake

11 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate (plus 6 more for topping)
10 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons fructose
1 cup heavy cream (to thin out your chocolate if necessary)

Line the bottom of an 8 inch round pan with baking parchment. Heat the oven to 500.

Place a large glass or ceramic bowl over a saucepan of barely boiling water to create a double boiler. Break the 11 ounces of chocolate into smaller pieces and place in bowl. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth, about 10 minutes then remove from the pan and let cool at least 5 minutes. Taste the melted chocolate, depending on the cocoa content of your chocolate it may need to be sweetened. I added 2 tablespoons fructose.

Using a hand held electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. This will take a long time to accomplish, you're finished when you lift the beaters from the eggs and the peak you pull out of the mixer stays stiff.

In another bowl beat the egg yolks until they are well combined. Slowly add them to the melted chocolate. If the chocolate and egg yolk mixture is too stiff to stir easily or turns into a sold mass, add the heavy cream until it has a thick mouse like consistency. Add a couple tablespoons of beaten egg whites and stir to combine. Quickly and gently fold in the rest of the eggs whites until the mixture has a consistency of a soufflé or light mouse. Do not over mix.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the pan and bake for exactly 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before placing in refrigerator covered for at least 12 hours.

To finish, turn cake over onto a flat work surface and remove from pan. Melt the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler. Add remaining 2 tablespoons fructose to sweeten if necessary. When fully melted pour a thin layer of chocolate over cake and refrigerator for 15 minutes. To serve dip a sharp knife in hot water and use to slice cake in very thin pieces.

Original recipe from Slim Forever the French Way.

Crockpot Boeuf En Daube

From the emptiness of the bowl by the time I got around to photographing it you might be able to guess how good it was. And you would probably be right. After all the time I spent stressing about large amounts of expensive beef going to waste, this ended up being my favorite part of the meal. That was a pretty impressive feat considering the amazing things that were on my Easter dinner menu.

Cauliflower “Potatoes”
Steamed Fresh Green Beans
Boeuf en Duebe in the Crockpot
Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake

Not a tradition holiday menu by any means but it worked out well. Doing the main dish in the crockpot really freed us up to concentrate on the side dishes, not to mention enjoying the company of my family rather than running around slaving over a hot stove. It was even less maintence than a roast or a turkey. The day we were cooking it that is, the days leading up to it we spent a lot of time babying this beef.

First we had to go out and buy a crockpot big enough to handle 5 pounds of beef, a pound of shallots and a bottle of red wine. This was actually good motivation to finally go out and do something we've been talking about for awhile. As much as we use the crockpot we really needed a nice one that was programable, it will make our lives much easier.

Next I spent the week making sun dried orange peel. This wouldn't have been a problem except there was no sun to speak of most of the days leading up to Easter. Thankfully Friday and Saturday were sunny and that seemed to give the orange peel long enough to dry out. But leave it up to the weather to add extra stress to preparing this meal. Supposedly fresh orange peel works just as well but we didn't have to find out this time.

Now came shopping for wine. Burgundy isn't an easy wine to find and the couple that were in town were all over $20 which was more than I was willing to spend on a wine that was going in a recipe. Someday I will put the investment into buying a nice bottle of Burgundy but it was not going to be now. Beaujolais is technically in the Burgundy region of France and there were several I'd tried before that I thought would work fine to cook with. The Georges Deboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau is too green to make a drinkable glass of wine but I think it did fine in the beef. It actually helped to make the recipe a bit less boozy which I was worried about.

This recipe also wanted cognac which was more of an investment that I was looking to make that day so I went for the next best thing and got a small bottle of Korbel brandy. Both made of them are made of grapes, who cares, right? There was so little of it in the actual dish it didn't make a difference, you could probably leave the distilled liquor out of this all together and not even notice, the wine is plenty.

With this the crock pot we served up the soup and finished up the vegetables during the last hour of cooking time. We also opened a couple bottles of wine. The Parducci Petite Shiraz was a huge disappointment. I was excited about it being organic and sustainable produced on a family farm which is all well and good except the wine stunk. It tasted like fermented grape juice and nothing else, it had no subtlety or depth. My mother asked me to review it and “do my thing.” All I could say was, “It tastes like grapes.”

At that point I opened the Conquista Malbec, the wine that is the love of my life, which I knew I liked and actually had good things going on in it. It's produced biodynamically without pesticides but doesn't have the expensive organic certification. At the same time its actually a good well rounded spicy wine unlike so many wines that make a big deal about being organic or green which they use as their selling point forgetting to actually put the effort into making a good wine. So many of these organic wineries just throw an unpalatable mix of grapes together and think the organic label will keep people coming back for more. A boring undrinkable wine is bad regardless of its sustainability. Unfortunately I've yet to find many good organic wines, they all taste largely the same.

Ah well, my family isn't big on wine anyway. My mother got to try a couple different wines she wouldn't have gotten to otherwise, that all that mattered. Hopefully the strange Easter won't keep my family from coming back for another meal. They were probably glad they brought their own bread to comfort them through courses of food they're never heard of.

The beef was actually pretty decent. I don't know that I would ever feel the need to put that much effort into making it again but it was a fun experience. It tasted nice served over the faux potatoes with some green beans on the side. A pleasant special occasion meal for sure. Now I know what the big deal about Beef Burgundy is.

Crockpot Boeuf En Daube

5 pounds prime beef, cubed & trimmed of fat
1 pound shallots, peeled and coursely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped finely
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bottle Burgundy wine

2 tablespoons oil
1 pound smoked bacon, chopped
1/2 ounce dried mushrooms (we used a couple ounces fresh buttons mushrooms)
6 pieces of dried orange peel *
1 tablespoon brown sugar (we omitted this)
4 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 8-ounce can chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 tablespoons cognac (or brandy)

Marinade the beef with the herbs, shallots and garlic over night in the bottle of red wine in a sealed container.

Before cooking, drain wine and reserve for later. In a large skillet sear and brown the beef pieces over high heat in the oil until brown, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Place browned beef into the crock pot.

Fry the bacon pieces until crispy and golden brown. Drain bacon, reserving fat for later and add bacon to the beef in crockpot.

Brown the shallots and garlic in the bacon fat then add to the crockpot. Add all the other ingredients, except the arrowroot and cognac to the crock pot, including the reserved wine. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for up to 6 hours. (If you want to use the oven preheat it to 325 and cook slowly for approximately 4 to 6 hours; check towards the end, the meat should be extremely tender.)

Half an hour before the end of cooking time use a ladle to remove some of the wine stock from the crock pot. Place in a small bowl and whisk in the arrowroot. Add back into the crockpot to help thicken sauce. It should have the consistency of a glaze not a gravy. Add the cognac to the crockpot and allow to cook until the timer goes off.

Traditionally this dish is made the day ahead of time to allow the meat to further marinate then reheated for serving over mashed potatoes.

* To make dried orange peel, peel 2 oranges and cut peel into narrow strips. Place on a flat surface and leave in direct sunlight for a couple days. Or place on a baking sheet and bake overnight at a very low temperature. Fresh orange peel will work in this recipe as well but will change the intensity of the citrus flavor in this dish.

Original recipe from

B Double E Double R U N

After a month and a half of doing this diet the fella and I have finally started to get comfortable eating out. Of course we've only gone out all of three times, but still it's progress. The temptation to eat out lessens when you're spending such massive amounts on fresh produce every week and when you realize what a battle it is to find something on a menu that has no sugar and no carbs. All that work and its easier to make something at home. However when we just can't handle cooking one more dinner we have figured out how to eat Indian at our favorite place in town.

The fella orders the tandoori platter which is a low carb dream, just grilled meats and veggies. I get a savory lamb dish with a creamy sauce free of sweeteners which is a little weird without the rice but it works regardless of the looks we get from the waiters. It's a testament to the fact I was raised in the mid west that I feel insanely rude and guilty not eating everything on the table. It's hard to get over the eat everything on your plate ethos that is so ingrained into so many of us and is a problem with being on this sort of diet, it makes you kind of a pain in the butt patron. However I always make sure to tip a little extra for being difficult not because I have to but because I'm constantly annoyed by the picky customers at work and want to but a little good karma into the world. And the dog benefits from the rice situation since we bring it home for her and she gets a little treat for the next couple days. Everyone wins and no food goes to waste.

After dinner we went to see Todd Snider, one of my favorite folk singers. He's always a good time, telling funny stories and singing touching, relevant yet often funny songs. It was the best night out I've had in a long time but it involved out of the strangest moments in my recent memory. Beer isn't allowed on this diet so in order to have a drink I had to order extremely bad wine in tiny bottles, the things you see in grocery store and run in the other direction from. Not only that I was drinking ghetto wine while singing along with the guy who it most famous for writing Beer Run. This diet keeps making my life more and more interesting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Salmon and Sorrel Troisgros

The fella made this the other day when he took a half day. When I came home the house smelled divine. Of course that tends to happen when heavy cream is involved. It was nice to take a night off from cooking. Not to mention priceless to come into the kitchen to see the fella clawing at his remaining hair looking totally baffled, the kitchen a mess asking me, “Why are these flipping directions so complicated?” If he didn't before, now he knows what I've been going through. Happily for us both the Boulud cookbook that has been causing us both so much frustration went back to the library this evening. He's been good to us but it's time to move on.

For such a seeming simple recipe this meal really puts you through the paces. It has a fussy sauce. It requires the use of a sieve on said sauce. And it requires keeping the sauce edible while thin cutting slippery pieces of salmon. The fella cheated and used full thickness salmon when I assured him he didn't need to impress me with fish mongering skills at this point in our relationship.

Sieving off the solids in the sauce creates a really creamy but delicate sauce. Somehow it managed to be both delicate and decadent at the same time. The crisp perfect asparagus probably helped even out the naughtiness of the cream. Though I do have to admit at this point in the diet I've lost my ability to feel guilty about eating a meal with a pint a cream per serving. I figure with all I have to deny myself it's the least Montignac can do to allow me some heavy cream.

I also found perhaps the best wine to pair with this dish. The Aveleda Fonte Verde screams spring to me. It's tart and full of green apple flavors not to mention a semi sparkling feel on the tongue. Yet there is the sweetness of tropical fruit in there too. And at about $7 it's a wine I can afford to buy every spring to brighten my spirits as the long grey days drag on before summer actually appears. The added bonus was it was just what this sauce needed, the tartness of the wine accented the cream and the sorrel.

Salmon and Sorrel Troisgros

1 teaspoon butter
2 medium white mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped, rinsed and dried
1 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces sorrel, washed, dried and cut into very thin strands (baby spinach marinated in lemon juice for a couple minutes works as a good substitute)

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, then add mushrooms, shallot and white wine. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil while keeping a close eye on the pan. Boil until wine is completely evaporated.

Lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Pour in the cream and let cook very slowly for about 15 minutes, until the cream is thickened enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Using a metal sieve or cheese cloth, strain the cream sauce off of the vegetables into a bowl or another saucepan.

Add the sorrel (or spinach) to the cream sauce and put saucepan over medium high heat. Bring cream just to a boil and then remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

2 center cut salmon fillets about 1 inch thick and skinned

Using a long thin knife, slice each salmon in half horizontally, creating two wide thin pieces of fish. It should look like the salmon version of scallopini.

Coat the bottom of warm dinner plates with the sorrel sauce and keep warm as fish cooks.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with enough oil to keep fish from sticking without frying it. When pan is hot, slip in the fillets. Cook for no more than 2 minutes, then flip the fish to cook the other side for another 10 to 30 seconds until fish is warm yet still pink at center without being raw.

Serve immediately by placing warm fish in the center of the sauce covered plate.

Original recipe from Cafe Boulud Cookbook.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Whining About Wine

Tonight I learned an important lesson; don't take sex advise from food writers and don't take wine advice from sex writers.

It might seem obvious to you, but as someone who drinks a lot of wine and has tried many of the readily available wines in Madison in the $10 to $15 range sometimes I have to resort to getting wine recommendations in creative places. Since I agree with Violet Blue in most things I thought I could trust her taste in wine. I'm linking to her food blog because it's topical and safe for work but it's easy to find her sassier commentary if you chose.

So I went out and bought a bottle of Cellar 8 Zinfandel or as she calls it No 8 Zinfandel. A play on her protestations over Proposition 8 seeing as it's a Californian wine and all, it's kind of fitting. However the wine is not good. It is reminiscent of the bad taste I get in my mouth when thinking about the injustices of the world, things like Proposition 8. It tastes tart, full of ire, and has a bitter tannic after taste.

I vote no on this wine. But yes to freedom to drink bad wine and love whom ever you choose.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Dal Before the Storm

Right about now you're probably thinking to yourself, “Wait I thought this was a blog about some crazy French diet and French cooking. What happened to the complicated French recipes, lady?” To which I would tell you a woman has needs. In this case the need for spices, specifically the need to sniffle in joyful pain over a bowl of stew perfectly seasoned with curry and cayenne. Therefore I've taken a break from insane French recipes that have me online translating ingredients like courgettes, aubergines and fresh coriander into plain English in order to cook. (Zucchini, eggplant and cilantro, in case you were wondering.) I just can't take it right now. Sorry, Boulud it's not you, it's me.

Also I'm a little scared about Sunday. It's Easter and I've invited my family over for a feast. I've never had a family holiday dinner at my house before so I'm entitled to a tiny dose of freaking out, right? Rather than doing something simple like roasting a chicken I had to go and make things as complex as possible by promising Boeuf En Daube. Five pounds of beef, a bottle of Burgundy, and a pound of shallots cooked for eight hours, this couldn't possibly go wrong. There is nothing to be anxious about at all. Oh no. There is also a complicated torte involved for dessert, I should add. It will be fine, really. Did I mention I have to work on Easter morning? There really need to be more hours in a day and less yuppies needing to by wine and lattes.

Thankfully I thrive in stressful situations, they turn off the part of my brain that over thinks and is busy keeping track of all of the people I'm currently holding a grudge against in chronological order. Take that out of the picture and suddenly the genius part of my brain kicks into gear and amazing things happen. However I need to rest that part of my brain until Sunday so until then I'm going anti-Emeril and taking things down several notches. Bam.

Dal surprisingly enough is one of the easiest things in the world to cook. I would have never thought it after the many highly flavored satisfying bowls of it I've cooed over in ethnic restaurants certain that it was too complex for me to ever try my hand at. This is why I need the fella around (okay one of about a million reasons, he is also useful for reaching things on high shelves) he gets in the mood for things and insists we make then regardless of their difficulty. He is either very brave or very silly because we've made some nutty stuff on the spur of the moment to curb a craving. This particular craving worked out very well because I will now being making Dal quite often.

The original recipe calls for split peas and requires an hour of cooking. The heck with that I say. We used lentils. Unfortunately in the excitement of buying $30 worth of organic boeuf we forgot the lentils. The good news is we had red lentils hiding in the back of the cupboard and they were lovely not to mention they cut down the cooking time even more. They are the tenderest lentil so only need about 10 minutes or less to absorb water. So we sat down to Dal while waiting for the vegetable curry to takes it's sweet time cooking. During which time the fella asks, “Is this what it means to eat in courses?”

It's a fair question considering we usually sit down and eat our various dishes in one frenzied swoop as I'm not very good at planning out cooking times in order to eat any other way. This was a nice change of pace. And we even got to eat while the sun was out.


8 ounces lentils
2 1/2 cups water (more if you want a thinner soup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, or 2 medium fresh, skinned and diced
1 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon mustard seed

cilantro for garnish

Combine lentils, water, salt, curry powder, tomatoes, and onions in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer to cook covered until lentils are tender, time will depend on variety of lentils being used. Add more water to adjust the consistency of the soup as the lentils absorb the liquid.

Add the oil, garlic, and mustard seed and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, until garlic is tender.

Add salt and pepper to taste and top with cilantro if you like.

Original recipe from The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

For the Love of Stainless Steel

No more crappy teflon pans. No more pots we've had since college. No more fighting with a cupboard full of mismatched lids that don't fit anything.

Thanks to the fella we now have a full set of Calphalon stainless steel cookware and it is divine. I feel like we finally have a grown up kitchen with pans that match and work the way they should. The difference between these and pans with a sprayed on nonstick surface like teflon is like comparing apples to flourless chocolate cake. They aren't even in the same category.

The fella made chicken burgers in the 12 inch frying pan to break it in the afternoon he bought them and was beside himself with glee. He's holding back in the picture but you should have seen him practically bouncing around the kitchen while taking these beauties out of the box, like a kid with the best new toy ever.

These heat evenly, require a lower temperature to do the cooking, and actually heat the food all the way through since the whole pan gets hot not just the part touching the burner. Those were the best burgers ever. And they even worked wonders on the weird falafel things I made the other night, just a tiny bit of oil and they didn't stick at all. Usually I have horrible problems turning food over due to not being a very talented flipper but all that changed now that the food just glides around the pan rather than putting up a fight.

I'm a love. With the fella for doing the research and finally going out and buying these instead of us talking about it for another year. And with the pans for making cooking so much easier. I finally understand what the big deal is.

Falafel Salad with Grilled Vegetables

This is what happens when I'm in the mood for a new version of falafel and have been spending time lingering in Raw food blogs looking for desserts and bread substitutes I can eat. The Raw food thing intrigues me but I could never do it. Just modifying this recipe for dinner frustrated me to the point I had to tap in the fella to cook while I did dishes for awhile unmolested by the falafel that refused to blend.

The pumpkin seeds were a problem. First of all we could only fine salted and roasted pumpkin seeds which made the falafel super salty. Also pumpkin seeds are a bitch in the food processor, or at least in mine. It was not going well and when I added the rest of the sticky viscous ingredients it was even less cooperative. Eventually after much swearing (on my part) and gentle coercion (on the fella's part) we got a mixture with a nice consistency. Unlike other falafel recipes that tend to fall apart in the pan, there was no risk these doing so, once those pumpkin seeds gave it up these were some hardy balls of falafel . And aside from being too salty they were delicious. Who knew that pumpkin seeds, sun dried tomatoes and olives would go so great together.

While the fella was sweet talking the falafel mixture into submission I grilled the veggies on one of my favorite things in the kitchen, the grill pan. This is as close as I get to grilling so I would be lost at moments like these with out it.

The falafel and veggies on top of some baby spinach made for a delicious and very filling dinner. Not bad for borrowing an idea for something uncooked and turning it into a big warm salad. I am curious about the directions for an uncooked flour free tortilla and hummus made from macadamia nuts. If I can borrow a dehydrator from someone I would give his carb free breads a try.

I have no idea what sort of wine to pair with something like this so I went with what I was in the mood for. Root:1 wines from Chile are some of my favorites. The Sauvignon Blanc is a tropical fruit salad of yum. And the Cabernet is full of red fruit and spice. It isn't super complex, it just makes for good drinking when you want a big bodied red that isn't going to make you think to hard about it. My only warning is, let this bad boy open up for an hour or so before drinking. Straight from the bottle it is too tight and will punch you in the uvula, its worth the wait, I promise.

Falafel Salad with Grilled Vegetables

1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped (I skipped this)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
8 sun-dried tomato halves packed in oil
3 tablespoons cilantro
1 clove garlic, coarsely shopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olives (I used black olives)
2 teaspoon oregano
Pinch cayenne
Pinch pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Process all ingredients in a food processor until thoroughly mixed. This may require adding additional oil or lemon juice in order to get a consistency that will allow itself to be well blended.

Form into small flat rounds and brown on both sides in an oiled pan over medium heat. They should be warmed throughout but not over cooked.

3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 a medium red onion, sliced
1 fresh tomato, sliced

2 cups baby spinach or mixed greens

Combine oil, lemon juice, and salt in a large bag or a bowl, marinate all the vegetables, except for the spinach, for a couple of hours. If you're short on time brush marinade on on vegetables before cooking. Heat grill pan over medium high heat and place vegetables over heat in small enough batches to prevent over crowding. Cook vegetables to your preferred level off softness and set aside until all vegetables are finished grilling.

Cover bottom of individual salad bowls with baby spinach then cover with 1/4 of the grilled vegetables and falafel. Top with hummus or a bit of toasted sesame oil if you like.

Original recipe from The Raw Chef Blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Raw Clementine Gelato

I wish I could have gotten a picture that captured how very tasty this was. You'll just have to look at the pictures at the Raw Food Blog that actually do it justice instead of making it look like a bowl of scrambled eggs.

Until recently I didn't give the Raw Food movement much thought, it seemed a little too crazy even for me. However in my search for truly unsweetened desserts I kept running into Raw recipes that looked really tempting. Aside from honey and dates I can eat everything they cook with, which are a lot easier and cost effective to substitute than Splenda or other nasty fake sweeteners in diabetic recipes that are so heavy in sugar substitutes it makes me cringe.

The second I saw this recipe I knew I would be making it. After the success with the gelato I plan on making the accompanying cheesecake very soon. The only problem is I'm wary to buy an ice cream maker, I feel like the second I had one the urge to make ice cream would disappear. So I had to get creative to get something resembling gelato consistency out of this recipe. As it freezes it turns into a triple layer terrine as the nuts sink to the bottom, the coconut oil sits in the middle and the juice floats to the top. I found running a fork through it and treating it like a granita worked out alright. It mixed the layers together but didn't quite get it creamy. After a month with no dessert other than carob chips and homemade sorbet this was heavenly regardless of the texture.

Now we have a box of left over Clementines to snack on and the ingredients to experiment with other Raw desserts on hand. These are both exciting things. I also discovered that Breyers has a whole line of low carb ice cream bars. The fruit bars are sweetened with fructose and something I loved even before this diet so it was a nice surprise to find out I could still eat them. And they have chocolate bars that have small amounts of Splenda in them which could come in handy next time I have an emergency chocolate urge.

Raw Clementine Gelato

2c cashews
1/ 2 cup coconut butter/oil
1/ 4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cup almond milk (we used unsweetened hazelnut milk)
1 cup Clementine juice
2 teaspoon Clementine zest

Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. Taste for sweetness, you may need to add extra agave if your Clementines weren’t that sweet.

Pour mixture into a rectangular container and place in the freezer to set. Once set but not frozen through, run a fork through it breaking up the layers of the gelato that will have separated while setting. Blend the gelato together in a bowl using fork or mixer to combine. This won't make a smooth gelato consistency but it tastes lovely without buying another kitchen appliance. Alternatively, you can pour the mixture (unfrozen) into an ice-cream maker if you have one.

You can make your own almond milk(it is difficult to find unsweetened nut milks in the store) by blending 1 cup of almonds with 3 cups of water, and straining through a nut milk bag or sieve.

Original recipe from the Raw Chef Blog.

Cauliflower "Potatoes"

The lack of certain very basic food has become a problem for the fella and I lately. While out for dinner with friends the other night we were developing elaborate plots to steal the delicious smelling fish and chips from a girl at the table next to us. It was only after chanting “22 pounds, 22 pounds, 22 pounds” over and over again that I was able to stop myself from doing so. Looking at every greasy yummy fry as a chance to gain back a pound of carb weight made the forbidden food much less appetizing but it didn't take away the potato urge all together.

For me figuring out legal substitutes for things like potatoes and bread is a fun adventure. Gluten free, vegan, and raw food diets have already figured out a lot of things its just a matter of finding recipes and modifying them with ingredients I can eat. These innovative foodies had not only figured out cauliflower “potatoes” but also cauliflower “rice” which I'm also going to have to try.

Even the fella who doesn't regularly love cauliflower thought the faux potatoes were a nice substitute, they were similar enough to the real thing that it took away the urge to pounce on the food of strangers at least. My potato lust has been satisfied for now, I would defiantly make them again. They went with ground chicken “hamburgers” and the unsweetened organic ketchup we found perfectly and gave us an evening of eating where we felt briefly like we were cooking as if we had never started this crazy diet.

The important thing in making these is to make sure to blend them a lot to get the right consistency. There were a few hunks of cauliflower in ours and it really took away from the potato illusion. Seasonings help as well, with some good steak seasoning from a McCormick grinder and a pat of butter I really believed they were potatoes. This was our dry run on fake potatoes to see if they were edible. Next we will try them on my family when they come over for Easter dinner and see what people who haven't gone low carb think of them. No Mom, this isn't enough of a reason to not come to dinner, you can bring normal potatoes too.

Cauliflower “Potatoes”

2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon low fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 pat of unsalted butter (optional)
your favorite seasoning mix as topping

Put water, vegetable stock, garlic cloves and cauliflower florets into large pot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the lid and let the cauliflower simmer energetically for a few more minutes, letting the broth reduce. When you’re certain the cauliflower is soft, take off burner, and drain cauliflower. Throw away one or two of the garlic cloves, but keep one, depending on how garlicky you want your “potatoes.”

Combine garlic, cauliflower, yogurt, and Parmesan in your food processor and process until smooth. Add seasonings before or after blending, taste and adjust seasonings. Top with one pat of butter, any extra seasonings and chopped green onions or chives.

Original Recipe from the Book of Yum Gluten Free Cooking Blog.

Grilled Zucchini Lasagna

This lasagna is evil. Usually I say that and mean it's so good it needs to be locked away so that one isn't tempted to eat the whole thing. This time I actually mean it, this recipe is evil.

Several times while making it either the fella or I have had to leave the room or house, tensions run that high while trying to make it. It is a complicated little bugger. Getting the sauce the proper consistency, the noodles cooked just right, and zucchini grilled is enough to make the best cook rip out their hair. We learned after the first time not to bother making the roasted pepper ourselves, it just adds to the stress.

I've made much more intense and complicated recipes without losing my head so I'm not quite sure what makes this recipe so irritating. Probably doesn't help that the original recipe is written in confusing language bordering on gibberish, which is a problem with all the recipes in this particular book. Unfortunately the recipes in High Flavor Low Fat Vegetarian Cooking are so good we keep going back to it even after being tortured by it time and again. It's just we let 6 months or so go before we attempt to cook anything in it, which is about the amount of time it takes for me to forget how frustrated the recipes make me and decide it's a good idea to create one of them again.

The good news is the end result is almost worth all the effort. For a dairy free vegetarian recipe it does a very good job of faking the taste of a big cheesy high fat lasagna full of grease and other bad things. It's surprising what well seasoned sauce and grilled vegetables can achieved. It's rather filling and satisfying and went really well with the Cline Syrah. Then again I'm biased and have loved everything from Cline.

Cline is solar powered and self sustaining though not certified organic (they aren't all natural and that certification process is damn expensive.) Last summer the fella, his two sisters, and I went on a trek through Sonoma and had the best time at Cline. They had a farmers market of veggies grown on the grounds and the garden they do their tastings in is beautiful. I can't wait to go back soon.

Sadly only their very basic wines are readily available in Madison. Their Cool Climate Syrah is to die for but I haven't found a bottle of it since Sonoma. Their basic Syrah was a decent substitute, nice fruit and tannin balance. It was everything I expect out of a $10 California Syrah, it was easy to drink and not too big though I do love a fruity Australian monster Syrah just as much. When I'm in the mood for a particular varietal but can't make a decision I go for the Cline, all of their wines are winners. And they help take the edge off after waiting endlessly for dinner to finish cooking.

Grilled Zucchini Lasagna

4 roasted red peppers (homemade or from a jar)
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup bread crumbs (we skipped this)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of hot water
2/3 cup vegetable stock (1/3 cup if not using bread crumbs)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 medium zucchinis
2 teaspoons oil
9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
20 basil leaves

Roast, peel, core and seed the red peppers if roasting them yourself. Set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat, cook onion and garlic until soft but not browned, about 4 minutes. Combine peppers, onion mixture, and bread crumbs (if using) and puree to a smooth paste in a food processor. Add vinegar, saffron, and enough vegetable stock to make a thick sauce (it should be the consistency of soft ice cream.) Correct the seasoning, adding salt, pepper, cayenne and vinegar to taste.

Preheat a grill pan to high heat. Cut zucchinis lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Brush zucchini slices on both sides with oil and grill until limp, about 2 to 4 minutes per side.

Cook the lasagna noodles in rapidly boiling salted water for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 8 by 11 inch baking dish. Spread 3 of the noodles over the bottom. Arrange 1/3 of the zucchini over the noodles. But 1/3 of the basil leaves over the zucchini, then 1/3 of the red pepper sauce on top of that. Make a second and a third layer in this fashion.

Bake the lasagna for 30 to 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated through.

Original recipe from High Flavor Low Fat Vegetarian Cooking.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rigatoni with Absolutely No Raw Tomatoes

I can't keep it to myself any longer. The world needs to know about the fella's deep dark secret so I don't have to be alone with the knowledge.

He's a raw tomato hater.

There that's out. My parents thoroughly approve of him and so do I as he is rather nifty and near perfect. But when I confessed this bit of knowledge to my mother she said, “You have to break up with him now.” She was mostly joking but you have to understand the deep and all consuming love for raw tomatoes that I was born into. Supposedly they were almost all she ate when pregnant with me and I have very fond memories of big plates of juicy fresh from the garden tomatoes being very satisfying snacks during the summer months. So to join my life with someone who has culinary nightmares and can be run out of the kitchen by threats of raw tomatoes was a little odd in the beginning.

We've now compromised and found ways around this problem. I leave the raw tomato off his half of meals which means more for me or I cut them so thin he can't notice their texture which seems to work. This also means that when he isn't around I have a dirty secret food I always run out and gorge myself on. Better a pint of cherry tomatoes than one of Ben and Jerry's. It's kind of fun having something innocuous I have to hide from him, my taboo little secret.

The problem is in our rush to plan a weeks worth of meals we picked this recipe without really reading the preparation instructions. So when I started making this recipe I was momentarily panicked to learn to was supposed to be a cold pasta salad type thing. I decided to proceed unscathed however and just put everything in a pan and cooked it. Take that recipe! And it turned out great, the fella never even knew how close he came to eating raw tomatoes for dinner.

Perhaps one night when I'm eating this alone I'll try the cold version. But for now here is my impromptu version of the recipe. It was delicious with some pan grilled zucchini and red peppers.

Rigatoni with Tomatoes

3 cups rigatoni (use less if you like your noodles sauce heavy and don't like left over pasta)

1 clove garlic, minced
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (I used 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste (not in the chilled version)

1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a pan over medium heat combine combine the garlic, tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, capers, and tomato paste. Cook until garlic is tender and all the ingredients are well combined. Just before removing from heat add oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar until sauce is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place pasta in bowls and top with as much sauce per bowl as you like.

Original recipe from High Flavor Low Fat Vegetarian Cooking by Steven Raichlen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cardamom Chicken

This is the second night in a row that we've eaten something that just didn't do it for me. It's starting to make me despair and wonder where I went wrong figuring out the menu for this week. The fella had to convince me that not liking dinner wasn't an excuse not to write and share the recipes with the world. Perhaps someone else will love something I hated and who am I not to post the recipes for other people. Besides everyone has cooking failures, it would be dishonest not the show the bad along with the good. The fella is a very wise person. So here I am to tell you about another dinner I didn't like.

In this meal's defense after typing out the recipe I don't think I did it properly. The pan wasn't heating up and I was impatient so I ended up with soft thoroughly cooked chicken with no browning. Then of course the pan was too hot and the spices got over heated. Next the yogurt curdled halfway when I thought the heat was low enough to add it. This made the chicken taste unpleasantly like baby spit up and had the fella wondering what I'm eating when he's not around given that I could recognize that flavor.

Without the yogurt incident this probably would have been a completely different dish. I can't tell whether it is supposed to be saucy or creamy. Mine turned out a thick sauce with tiny curdles. Even so the fella loved it and would have eaten the entire thing if I hadn't restrained him and pointed him towards a lonely apple in order to jealously guard my portion of left overs for tomorrow. Maybe I'm too hard on my cooking and it was better than I realized. I'm just glad the fella is enjoying these dinners, someone should.

There were high points to the meal like the perfectly steamed asparagus we had on the side and the Washington Hills Gewürztraminer we drank with the meal. The wine wasn't anything special on its own, very light and drinkable but missing the spicy profile that a Gewürztraminer should have. With the slightly spice chicken however it really popped and showed sweetness and tropical fruit that I wasn't tasting while drinking it alone. Not too bad for a cheap wine sitting in the impulse buy case stacks at Whole Foods.

Cardamom Chicken

1 pound chicken breasts, cut in bite size pieces
2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 whole cloves
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

1/2 cup plain yogurt
cilantro, to garnish

Heat skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper then cook until browned lightly on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and saute onion, garlic, and ginger for about 3 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the spices and lower heat, toasting for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Reduce the heat further to low. Add the yogurt and slowly bring to a simmer, stirring the entire time. Do not boil.

Return chicken to the skillet and coat well with spice mixture. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Garnish with cilantro.

Original recipe from 30-Minute Asian Meals by Marie Wilson.

Crockpot Chickpea Casserole

As a friend of mine would say, this was a perfectly serviceable meal. There was nothing inherently wrong with it but at the same time I didn't fall in love with it. Something was missing from it but I can't figure out what. Salt and pepper didn't help. Red pepper flakes didn't help. Those were my only plans of action as I sat eating the left overs trying to figure out what to do to make it more exciting.

If we made this again I think it would benefit from doubling the red pepper and the quinoa to give it more flavor and texture. As it was there were probably too many chickpeas, which I love but at a certain point there really is such a thing as too many of them, they overwhelmed all the other ingredients. If you like spices this would be improved by upping the spices as well, even adding some others to it to give it a more complex flavor. However I have no further advice about spicing this dish up, it was nice to come home to on a long day but I can't honestly sing it's praises.

Crockpot Chickpea Casserole

1 red pepper, chopped (I would use 2 next time)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced (we omitted these)
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup quinoa, uncooked (I would at least double this)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

Remove the bay leaf and add salt and pepper to taste when ready to serve.

Original recipe from How to Make Love and Dinner at the Same Time.