Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy halloween: from the pistachio pork chop monster

two great tastes that taste great together, but look weird before cooking. i learned this from a whole roast pork loin recipe, which instructed me to incise into the fat with a small knife around the outside of the loin, and insert pistachio nutmeat. i liked the flavors so much i changed the technique a little for pork chops, which i enjoy more often. i cut slits into the chop near the ring of fat and then insert the nuts. even on the grill, most of the nutmeat will stay in the porkmeat--as the chops change texture while heating, they swallow the nuts into the flesh. served this with baked squash and a salad. nice flavors for autumn.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

effective storage and use of twist-ties

with more and more stores in lincoln offering selections of bulk dried goods, here's how to make twist-ties work for you.
first, storage. i was visiting a friend when i noticed a jar of twist-ties in her kitchen... it was an emptied jar of marmite, with a well-designed label that she liked, and so she put it to practical use while enjoying it on her counter. using an old jelly jar that appeals to you works just the same. it's much handier than fishing around for them in a drawer.
when you buy something in bulk, you need to label your purchase clearly with the plu for the cashier's sake...but go ahead and also list, for your own benefit (whether on the twist-tie or a label on the bag itself), the date of purchase and the price, and yes, what it is. of course you'll be able to identify your purchase later, but better safe than a show-off.

Monday, October 29, 2007

hard-boiled egg tips and basic recipe

now matter what your standard practice for preparing hard-boiled eggs--if you're boiling up several, this tip will come in handy. use a pasta pot with a built-in strainer, and put the eggs in that strainer; of course, making sure there's more than enough water in the stock pot to cover the eggs.
that way, when they eggs are done, you can lift them out all at once, and shock them under cold running water, easily maintaining consistency of doneness one egg to next.
the two things that most affect ease of peeling are: age of eggs (too fresh won't work; but unless the chickens are in your backyard, don't worry), and overcooking. you need to stop the cooking as soon as the egg is done.

to make it quick, if you don't already have a favorite way in mind, here's one: eggs in enough cold water to cover with an egg's worth of room on top, onto stove, medium heat. once the water boils, cover and remove from heat. after ten minutes, remove and shock with cold water.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

this oxymoron is worth the money: jumbo shrimp

i bought shrimp at the midwest seafood event. 18-20 count per pound, on sale for 9.99/lb.
it's so much easier and quicker to serve shrimp when there are fewer pieces to prepare. before grilling, i pulled off the legs and almost all the shell (leaving on the last piece meant the tail would stay on till they hit the plate, and they were simple to devein and butterfly before going on the grill).
this is the shrimp on the bed of quinoa and vegetables described in the last post. i threw little cups of the bell peppers onto the grill just long enough to soften, and then used them as an edible garnish version of stuffed peppers.

one season blends into another

the late frost led to strange kitchen-fellows today. first, the last culling of a friend's organic tomatoes and bell peppers...and then, an almost-ripe, in-season, reasonably-priced (68 cents!) persimmon from super saver.
i chopped all these up, together with an onion and a jalapeno, which is what you see here. i sauteed this mixture, long and low, in olive and peanut oil. in another pan i prepared quinoa, figuring the nuttiness of the grain would balance out any unwanted tartness in the fruit and vegetable mix. the slow, caramelizing heating of the fresh ingredients took care of that for me even before tossing the two panfuls together--for a rich, comforting plate of food. pictures of that to follow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

this bowl of fruit cost 2.50

no, not the bowl itself at a garage sale...what's in it. and at ideal of all places.
i haven't been able to find pomegranates yet this season for less than two bucks each. but this week ideal has an advertised sale of two pomegranates for a dollar. and my favorite citrus, grapefruit, is a great ad sale price of three for a dollar.
the avocado was a surprise. on sale for fifty cents each because they're ripe and ready to eat today.

Friday, October 26, 2007

free cooking demonstrations at midwest seafood tomorrow morning

it's their one year anniversary at their 5560 s. 48th st location. tomorrow, saturday 10/27, from 9 am to noon, they're having seafood cooking demonstrations, q&a with the owner and a chef--and free samples!
that little fish is the label for my cutting board specifying it's for seafood only. the green one's for vegetables, the yellow one's for poultry, and the the red one's for all other meat.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

quick breakfast on a crisp morning

two slices of whole grain bread--this is the flax seed bread from wheatberries bakery. then one sliced apple, a handful of grated cheddar cheese, and a dash of cinnamon. toaster oven, 350 degrees, five minutes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

agent ninety nine

still on the sale rack at cetak's: napa valley thai basil marinade, now for 99 cents. combine that with a value pack of chicken thighs from hy-vee for 99/lb (that sale was over yesterday, though-sorry!) and sit back and enjoy how great this smells baking up.
this marinade would be great with pork...good prices on that all over town this week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

which came first: the mushroom or the egg?

no matter how deep a sale i can find on sliced mushrooms, i never buy them. generally, they look awful and not fresh at all.
i understand the impulse to buy them--because of the structure of mushrooms, they can be difficult to cut into uniform pieces...and pieces uniform of size result in pieces uniform of texture when cooked, which is extremely important.
the day i first cut a mushroom with a hard-boiled-egg-slicer remains a banner day in my culinary existence.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

maple apple crisp

baking has always been a challenge for me, because you can't fly by seat of your skirt: exact ratios are important. so i am including a recipe i made up, with measurements which i almost followed, which somehow turned out excellent.

maple apple crisp
preheat oven to 350.
in a mixing bowl, combine, for future use for topping:
half cup rolled oats, half cup flour, half cup turbinado, pinch of salt, pinch of nutmeg.
set aside.
grate an inch of ginger root. mix the bounty of that with a 3/4 cup of maple syrup--real maple syrup, nothing with corn or fructose or fillers in it.
set aside.
use an apple corer on six apples. throw the slices into whatever baking dish you have in which the apples will make a layer. then pour the ginger/syrup mix over the apples and toss.
set aside.
take the mixing bowl of blended dry topping ingredients and mix in a 1/4 cup of softened butter or shortening--i used healthy balance spread so that i could feed this to vegans, and also because it's already whipped softlike--it doesn't need to be completely blended in, just a choppy mix-up-together.
put the mixed topping ingredients on top of the coated apples.
cook--i mean bake, excuse me--about thirty minutes, or until the topping gets crispy.

gingerly and with respect

i can't think of another ingredient that can be so good or so bad, depending upon preparation, than fresh ginger root. here's my advice.
use a peeler to remove enough skin to expose the part that you want to use in the recipe. then use a grater to pulverize the peeled section of the root. you cannot, no matter how good you think your knife skills are, render the ginger edible with a blade. no one wants to feel a woody chunk between their teeth when trying to enjoy a dish.

williamsburg without the skinny jeans, trucker hat optional

i wish there was an f train to get there... the name of the shopping center at 40th and old cheney is williamsburg village. that's usually a little out of my way, but i had another errand in the area so stopped in to the hy-vee to buy some cheese. this location has a basket on their cheese island with very tiny pieces of their fancier offerings. it's great because it's enough to make a little cheese plate, or a way to try something new, without spending a lot of money.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

sugar sugar

when buying citrus, and especially grapefruit, opt for the less perfect looking piece of fruit. those little brown spots mean more sugar and sweetness inside the rind.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

the meat for the week shall inherit the earth

and it's all centered at 70th & pioneers. i know it's out there. take your dog to the dog park, take a walk around holmes lake, get an oso burrito, have some stellar wheatgrass juice at nu java, browse the shoes and purses at footloose, have lunch at the new location for the oven, work in a meal or drink at venue if you have the bread.
anyway. the honey baked ham place is selling huge ham bones for 2.99 ea as a special. it's not per pound, it's per frozen bag o' goodness. i bought one, and there's a lot of meat still on the bone in question, but more importantly there is that huge bone that will flavor up some soup this weekend and make the dog very happy afterwards. see photo.
that was only the beginning. cetak's had the pineapple bratwurst marked down, and the top sirloin was 4.99/lb. then across the street at hy-vee, there was the start of a three-day sale of shrimp for 3.99/lb and sliced smoked turkey for 2.99/lb. they also had a lot of manager's specials in the meat dept of which i would have taken advantage if i hadn't already garnered such stated succulence. someone go buy that veal before i do. please.
the hambone and dogs went into the freezer. the sirloin and shrimp get cooked up tonight and the turkey is for sandwiches--lunch for the week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

handy to the core

once you use an apple corer, you'll never go back. very handy whether you're having the apple (or pear) as a snack or using it in baking. a favorite quick breakfast of mine is a sliced apple dipped in freshly ground peanut butter.

after vacation, before grocery store

this was what i came up with to make a lunch out of what was in the kitchen, after a week out of town. boiled some frozen pierogies while preheating the oven to 350. then laid them into an olive oiled pyrex baking dish, covered with pizza sauce, mozzarella, and torn-up slices of pre-cooked bacon. while that baked up to a nice golden brown, i took a potato peeler to a chunk of romano. the thin slivers of cheese sunk into the hot dish on its way to the table.

Friday, October 5, 2007

dinner last night

i started with sauteeing brussels sprouts and leeks in six slices of chopped bacon, and toasting pine nuts in another skillet. when the sprouts took on a bit of color, i added a small amount of water and covered. about five minutes later, i took the butterfly chops i got on sale at cetak's and put them on the grill with sliced apples. then added cold white rice from the night before, and a little more water, to the steaming sprout and bacon mixture, and covered it again. as soon as the pork is done (and i've put a little brown sugar on the apples), i added the toasted pine nuts to the sprouts and rice...and dinner is served.

hard squash

it's ninety degrees today, but the fall squash is back into the stores. it will always be on sale somewhere for 49/lb--check the links on the top right for sale prices--so don't pay more than that unless it's organic or some crazy heirloom variety you just can't resist.
baking squash is ridiculously easy. get the oven to 375. put the squash in an ovensafe pan, and pierce with a knife. (don't bother trying to slice it half at this point--it will be much easier later.) as soon as liquid or steam starts escaping from the piercings, it's done. should be about an hour. then remove from the oven, slice in half. scoop out seeds--i find a serrated grapefruit spoon works well. then you can either scoop out the meat and mash up with the dressing, or serve the halves intact with dressing poured in. my standard dressing is orange juice, maple syrup, butter (you can substitute some olive oil), and freshly ground whatever ratio works for you.

brussels sprouts

showing up in stores again at a reasonable price. i prepare them for cooking by cutting off any remaining stalk and removing any discolored outer leaves. then i cut an x into the base, which might or might not help them heat more evenly. after that, i soak for a few minutes in cold water to dislodge any buried grit, and rinse, and commence to cooking.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

good deals at cetak's

cetak's has a lot of stuff marked down three butterfly chops for less than three dollars, and this eight-pack of garlic dogs for just over three.
while you're out that way, the 70th & pioneers hy-vee has some gallo wines on closeout for two bucks each. of course it's crappy wine, but two bucks! i haven't seen a price like that since i could get two buck chuck at trader joe's.
i cannot express how much i miss trader joe's. sigh.
anyway! sounds like time to make some mulled wine if it cools off out there...or sangria if it doesn't.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

leeks onto the web

two pieces of advice about leeks: buy leeks that are uniformly cylindrical through the white part...if they bulge at the end, they're old and will be tough. and, don't bother trying to get all the dirt out before you chop them up. slice them up however you want and then rinse. worlds easier.
these leeks went into a pan with grated ginger, toasted sesame oil, and freshly ground pepper. i kept this over low heat for about ten minutes. then when i put the tuna on (see below), i covered the leeks and removed from the heat. served the tuna on a bed of leeks and rice. big hit all around.

i heart midwest seafood!

as in the store on south 48th, across from o yummy. sure, the tuna was 16.99/lb, but it's sashimi quality. when i cut this piece into two steaks, the knife slid through it like butter. i just had to sear the sides and could leave it this beautiful dark pink inside. it tasted wonderful and the texture was lovely.
fresh fish flown in every morning. you've got to check it out.,+NE&fb=1&view=text&latlng=40757991,-96653717,5141441228599470420#

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

brats and pierogi

jalapeno bratwurst from cetak's. fried it up in a pan with some onions and red pepper, while parboiling some premade potato

dumplings. moved the meat to a plate in the oven and finished the pierogi by browning them in the same pan the brats were in. there were salad greens, too...sure there were!

skin and bones

i didn't think i'd cook with so much chicken when i had a halfway (quarterway?) decent kitchen again, but then it keeps coming up at 99/lb somewhere. the bacon wrapped chicken of a previous post was boneless and skinless (and 99 instead of 3.99/lb), hence, the added fat of bacon. this last sale at hy-vee was for breasts with ribs still attached; and sure, that means bones, but it also means skin. then the marinade can be more about flavor than just keeping it from drying out. this batch got smeared with pureed red peppers and olive oil, mixed with diced red peppers and green onions.

Monday, October 1, 2007

still stalking broccoli

i have two regular ways of preparing broccoli, and they're the same process but with one of these two combinations of ingredients: shallots and almonds, or onion and peanuts (this one gets some tamari). no shallots/lb at hy-vee (comment redacted), so i went the onions and peanuts route this time.
soften up the onions, til they're buttery, in peanut and toasted sesame oil (use olive oil for shallots/almonds), and you can keep this going till you're five minutes away from everything else hitting the table as long as you keep an eye on it. add a handful of chopped nuts, stir while everything gets acquainted. then add enough liquid of your choice and adjust heat higher to start steaming the broccoli you add next. adjust heat lower (to simmer/steam) and cover till broccoli's almost done, then move to a cooler place on the stove top...the pan and the oil within will stay warm enough to keep contents cooking even after you turn off the heat, so keep that in mind.

latest kitchen improvement, four bucks

i have no counterspace in my apartment kitchen. i've kept an eye out for the perfect piece for one wall. if i lived elsewhere i would have just gone to ikea...but i ended up with something much better, still with the ideal proportions. while garage saling, i saw this sewing machine cabinet--which has all the solidity you'd expect from this era, thankfully without the weight of the machine. this particular piece is flat on top instead of ornately ridged, which makes it more practical for my use. the top folds open to twice its width on very sturdy hinges; and the waterbowl for the pets still tucks underneath, so they're already used to it.
oh yeah... i saw the price tag of five dollars and was frowning at it--thinking there must be some mistake--when one of the women having the sale approached and said, "you know, i think she would take four."

recycling dropoff locations in lincoln

it's been a few days since i've posted; i've been out of it with a cold and so not much has been happening in the kitchen...and what has happened (some good miso soup!) never made it onto digital. somehow, though, the kitchen still got destroyed and there was so much recycling to do yesterday. here's a link to a good map for dropoff locations in lincoln.
i'm putting a link in over on the right, as a page element, too.