Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food groove

Planned some party food for a coed (clothed) bachelor party shindig this weekend.

We also did a late dinner at a fantastic local joint, but I wanted to make sure there were snacks for before and after.

Other than making waay too much food, it was a terrific success. Used lots of local produce from my CSA share, prepped almost everything 2 days in advance, and got a sweet deal on some pork butt.

Here's a rundown of the party menu plus some shorthand recipes.

Strained yogurt dip
1 tub plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
scant teaspoon lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients. Strain using cheesecloth and a colander (or, in a pinch, coffee filters and a colander) overnight. Unwrap, taste, adjust for seasoning, put in pretty bowl. Serve with assorted crackers and veggies.

Potted cheese

Spinach artichoke dip
fresh spinach
2 boxes cream cheese
2 jars artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 cup parmesan, shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup mayo
1-2 cups leftover garlic scape pesto

Chop and boil the spinach briefly, drain and squeeze out water.
Microwave cream cheese for a minute or two until it's mixable.
Toss everything else in, mixing well. Pack it into a big oven-safe dish.
Refrigerate for a day or two, cook at 350 for a half hour until top is lightly browned and dip is rocket-hot.

Sweet Satan's Seed (aka sweet and spicy roasted nuts)

Pulled pork
6 pounds bone-in pork butt
assorted herbs, 1-2 Tablespoons, including fresh cillantro
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon crystalized tamarind
couple shakes of soy and worchestershire
1 tablespoon lemon juice
good handful of salt
2-3 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed

mix into a paste. Rub all over pork. Let sit overnight if you have time.
Next day, toss the pork in a Crock-Pot and cover with
12 oz red wine
12 oz mountain dew
1 tomato, roughly chopped (or a can of tomatoes)
water or chicken broth as needed to bring liquid level 2/3 of the way up the roast.

Set on low for at least 8 hours, up to 12.
Drain liquid, let pork cool. Shred, mix with whatever BBQ sauce you like, or leave unsauced. Serve on good quality buns like yeast buns.

Chocolate Chipotle brownies
Box brownie mix plus ingredients to make the brownies (eggs and oil usually)
1 can raspberries in syrup
1-2 tablespoons dried chipotle powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.

Drain raspberries, reserve liquid.
Make brownie mix to package directions, using raspberry juice in place of any water that the recipe calls for. Mix in chocolate chips. Pour into pan, spread drained rasperries on top, swirling into batter with a knife.

Line a baking pan with oiled parchment paper. Bake according to package directions. You may need to bake a bit longer because of the additional liquid from the rasperries. These will never get completely dry because of all the liquid, so it's OK if they stay a bit squidgy. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice with a pizza cutter.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I did it again!

Late Thursday night, while searching for a treat to make for my boss's birthday, I realized I had all the ingredients for this. So, in under 2 hours, and to the chagrin of all those chefs that swear by mise-en-place, I literally threw together a pineapple upside-down cornbread cake.

And it was awesome. A coarse, but sweet, crumb, and a sumptuous, sweet sugar glaze on top.

Maybe that's my calling, to show people how to throw together tasty meals with whatever's on hand. A cookbook of sorts. I'm not sure, though, can you write a cookbook if you have no formal training? Well, of course you can, but will anyone read it?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


These days, I do more cookbook reading than actual cooking, although I’m trying to get back into the habit of experimentation. However, it means, practically, that I’ve got dozens of recipes I’d like to try, floating around in my brain, at any given time.

There are certain recipes that will appeal to me, and it may take me weeks, if not months, to finally get to them. The catalyst for making it might be a paycheck, the weather, a social event, or simply availability.

For the truffles I made last week, it was partly viability, and partly a social thing. I needed to bring a dish to pass for Memorial Day, and I realized I had all the ingredients on hand to make them.

These truffles are adapted from Sally Schneider’s book “A New Way to Cook,” which is sort of a healthy eating cookbook. Her philosophy seems to be threefold: 1. use quality ingredients, 2. use processed foods sparingly, and 3. go ahead and use tasty fats, but use the minimum amount possible for the maximum punch.

Now, these truffles aren’t healthy, but they are healthier. If you can limit yourself to eating only a few, they are even healthier. Much like my friend The Brass Chef, I’m of the belief that if it doesn’t taste good, it’s not worth eating, even if it’s “healthy.” So something like low-fat pizza (shudder) is really anathema to me. Better to limit myself to one slice, or better yet, just eat pizza less often.

Her truffle recipe uses chestnut puree to thicken and bind the truffles, so you can get away with using less chocolate AND whole milk instead of heavy cream. If you have a food processor, and you can find pre-roasted pre-peeled chestnuts, this recipe is pretty easy to make, as far as truffles go.

You basically simmer the chestnuts in some milk, on very low heat, until the nuts are tender and the milk has reduced. You add your chocolate, and process the bejeezus out of the mixture until the nuts are completely smooth and incorporated into the mix. You add some flavorings or booze at the end, then refrigerate for a few hours to let everything firm up.

Then, you roll the truffles, and coat in cocoa powder. Which is somewhat messy, but fun.

Once I put these out at the party, they didn’t last long.

Schneider talks about how the chestnut puree has a texture similar to a starch like potato starch, and also thicken like a starch. So I’m tempted to rework the recipe to use some other starches such as dried powdered potato starch (found some at my local Asian mart).

I’ve got the rest of the ingredients, other than the chestnuts, still sitting at home, so it’d be a no-brainer. Further updates as events warrant.