Friday, October 28, 2011

Roast Veggies

I had some organic vegetables I got from The Fruit Guys and made a meal around them. Sometimes it's better to work out your vegetable dish and then add the meat and side. Yeah, that's how I roll - meat, veg, side. It's the American way. This dish was accompanied with braised beef (steak and ribs with fig) and garlic-and-thyme potatoes.

Heat oven to 500, lay foil on a cookie sheet and oil it. Cut your root veg 1/2 inch thick. I had beets and carrots. Lay out on foil, brush with olive oil, salt them and lightly sprinkle with sugar (not a lot, but a little helps give them a caramelized flavor). I also broke up some cauliflower and added that. Roasted cauliflower is amazing.

Cook for 20 minutes, checking on them in 15. Test with a fork for tenderness. Then, with just a pat of butter, flip them a few times in a hot pan to coat. Serve.

Clean-up means throwing out the foil. Or wash it and recycle if you're that way.

I'll have recipes for braising soon.

Depression Pasta

A new Hyperbole and a Half post just came out. This one is kind of sad but it works out well and Allie Brosh is a true bad-ass. If you haven't read Hyperbole and a Half, hit the archives and be prepared for a lot of laughs - she's insightful, funny, and draws horribly (on purpose) but expressively and hilariously. Here's some great stories: Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts, Simple Dog Goes for a Joy Ride, Wolves, Scariest Story.

Sad Pasta Eater, by Allie Brosh
Her latest post is about depression. As poignant as always, if not quite as funny (because it's sad, yo). Still, one of my favorites. In it she eats pasta (and berates herself for it, that fork-grabber!). So I decided to make Depression Pasta for lunch.

In reality, the recipe for Depression Pasta should be, "in really salty water boil white spaghetti (all of it), drain, plop into large bowl, add cube of butter and bag of grated cheese, eat it all." Because, really, when you're depressed you don't really give a crap. But the worst foods for depression are over-processed refined carbs, followed by sugar, caffiene, and alcohol. Better to eat a small steak and a salad. So, I decided to make a pasta that's good for you.

Best for depression (link) are foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protien like fish, whole grains (not enriched), fruit and vegetables

Depression Pasta

Whole grain spaghetti
Salmon fillet
1 tsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 tbsp chopped garlic
Walnut halves
Salt and/or Old Bay

Bring salted water to boil add pasta (a bunch with about the diameter of a nickle). Boil for 8 minutes. While boiling, rub salt into skin of salmon filet and lay skin-down in hot skillet with 1 tsp of olive oil. Dust top with Old Bay, add a little water to pan and cover. Turn heat down to medium and cook until the top looks done, about 5 minutes. Remove to cutting board. In same pan add remaining olive oil, basil, garlic, and walnuts (optional). Add pasta and saute, flipping a few times. Turn out on plate, slice fish and lay on top of pasta. Keep the skin on, it tastes great and lots of those omega-3s.

I had this with sliced strawberries with balsamic. I'm not depressed but still, I feel great and it was delicious and easy.

Have with a large glass of water and go for a walk. Not a cure for depression, but it'll help. Here's other things you can do: link.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Autumn Hugs

Acorn Squash and Apples

I tried to think of a more romantic name for "acorn squash and apples." Thought first of "Ultimate Taste of Fall" but "Autumn Hugs" works great. One of the ingredients was my spicy apple sauce - an apple sauce I made with curry and jalapeno to go with pork chops. Guess I need to write that recipe down - for now, just assume a bit of apple sauce with some hot spices. The apples I used were winesaps we had picked at an orchard in Oak Glen two weeks before. Winesaps are, apparently, best for cooking. Also good are Jonathans and Romes or any apple you'd use for a pie.

1 large acorn squash
2 large apples (winesap, in this case), cored and cut into chunks
4 tbsp butter (I like butter)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp spicy applesauce (or regular applesauce)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sliced almonds
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract

Cut the acorn squash in half (pierce first and run knife around - it's really hard) and place cut side down on oiled foil on cookie sheet. Don't skin or seed first, too much work and no reason to. Bake at 550°F for 20 minutes (or until quite tender), and bake apple chunks, separately, in a pie pan (watch them - don't overcook). Cool the squash, scoop out seeds and pull off skin. The squash should be a bit mushy and caramelized. Black around the edges means flavor!

Add butter and oil in a skillet and toss in the apples and the squash. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss. Add a little more butter and some water if dry.

Once hot, slide into a serving bowl and serve.

Oh... my... god! That's all you'll hear from your guests. Enjoy.

Note: I made this recipe up but have since searched online for it and found similar recipes. Some use brown sugar, walnuts, and some of them bake it with a crumble crust. I prefer less sweet, the cleaner taste of almonds, and less effort. Your mileage may vary.

The meal: This, with beef roast (Dutch oven with onions and mushrooms), mash potatoes, and red wine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Blog About Cooking

I fell in love with food later in life. My love has grown into something deep and personal. I remember growing up liking food but I was not really attracted to it. My childhood was rather broken. Food was an after-thought. Fish was breaded and fried into leather. Chinese food came in a can. Most vegetables were boiled until gray. There were a few good things, but those were rare enough to be unable to convince me that food could be a pleasure.

When I moved out into the world around 1980 I discovered it was much bigger than I had imagined. Some of the food I thought was just okay turned out to be amazing when prepared right. There was a place in Newport Beach called The Crab Cooker that served on paper plates (still there, still does). It may not be the absolute best, but to my weary taste, it was heaven. My friend Lise took me for sushi (chirashizushi, a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi and garnishes), that I ate with fear and trepidation and almost immediately fell in love with. Then other friends introduced me to Southwestern cuisine, French, authentic Italian and Chinese, Thai, and more. Eventually I had the idea that maybe I could make the food I was falling in love with myself. I got a wok, a cookbook, and went to a Chinese market. I felt like I was in another country and was lost. But I worked for hours and made some really good mushu pork. Quite nearly as good as I had at the restaurant! I could cook! I had made breakfast and a few of my mother's better recipes before but this was something different. I had made something good from another culture. A door opened. Soon to be followed by many more doors.

I've been cooking for 30 years now, and I'm still learning. But I know a lot and I am (if you will permit me to say so myself), an incredible cook. And if you want to be a better cook then you can take dozens of routes to that but I'm going to tell you how I did it and how I'm still doing it so if you'd like to hang out with me and learn right here (and probably teach me a thing or three yourself), then I'd be very happy to have you. At my house, I always cook a little extra because someone will probably drop by and I can't wait to feed them. Or you. Or, you know, you could feed me... if you want to learn. So, come into my kitchen and pick up some of my skills.

I'll be giving out my recipes, teaching you techniques, discussing equipment and how to maintain them, showing you cost-saving tips and shortcuts, telling you what I splurge on and what's not worth the cost. We'll saute, pickle, grill, roast, steam, bake, can, fry, slice and dice and julienne. Meat, fruit, vegetables, appetizers, soups, breads and cheese. We'll season a skillet and a Dutch oven. We'll make sushi. We'll cook vegetarian. We'll haul out the crock pot and the roaster. We'll sharpen our knives and even do the dishes. And we'll eat. Because eating good food is the whole reason for it.