Wednesday, April 12, 2017

GUEST POST FROM JERSEY BEAT PUBLISHER JIM TESTA

I've been trying to eat vegetarian as much as possible. I love doing stir fries and quiches, great way to use up leftover veggies and it's fun to work with different flavor combinations. But my favorite recipe is my pantry burritos.

I made these because I had half a can of leftover vegetarian baked beans. I mixed the beans with one package of instant Mexican rice (the pouch you microwave kind) and a bag of shredded Mexican mix cheese. (There are lots of vegan cheeses out there if you dont want to use a milk product.) Microwave the rice, warm the beans, and toss everything together in a bowl. Then stuff burrito size flour tortiallas with the mixture. Brown them gently in a frying pan to crisp the tortilla (it also melts the cheese and helps them stick together) then top with a jarred salsa or mole sauce. Yum yum!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I realize it's been a LONG time since my last post. A lot of the cooking jawns I've rolled with I've had to come up with for various reasons. But things have been useful and satisfactory for a while so I've had no great impetus to invest new recipes.

But there's been a confluence of circumstances. My blood pressure started acting up in late 2015 and I had to add fruit to my diet on a daily basis. My metabolism has slowed down so I find myself putting on weight very easily and having a hard time shaking it. And now it's Lent and typically I give up goodies. Rolling econo I grab whatever fruit's cheapest at the grocery store - so that's apples and oranges. Just been thru an oranges phase so back on apples. But I ate the latter so regularly last year -- that I'ma little sick of 'em. One solution was to bake 'em - just cored an apple, added a little sugar, mebbe a splash of red wine, mebbe raisins. And into the toaster oven for about 45 minutes. Which was good enough.

But the coring kinda sucks without a proper coring tool so I tried slicing up the apple and wrapping in foil and making 45 minutes. And actually that cooked worse than the whole apple.

SO I decded to try nuking the sliced apple for 5 minutes in a sealed Pryex dish. That worked GREAT! Cooked thoroughly and was pretty delish. And then I started with add ons and frankly each one was mighty fine. Though at the same time, none was necessary, so I'd count each as a valid and delicious variation to be deployed as yr fancy dictates.

In each case you start with a sliced apple (skin on), nuked for 5 minutes in a covered Pyrex dish. The add on options are:

teaspoon of cinnamon

tablespoon of raisins

teaspoon of butter - diced and sprinkled throughout yr pile of apples

tablespoon of leftover rice (I usually have some cooked brown rice lying around)

I'd also tried sprinkling a tablepoon of bran cereal or Grape Nuts over the cooked apples - and that was OK but frankly I thought they were better with the rice or with no grain products whatsoever.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Beets Squashing 'em!

this one's quick and dirty -- every year squash sprouts out of the compost pile and in the spirit of science, I transplant them around the backyard in any place that'll accomodate the 10 foot long vines the result. by Summer's end we've got a boatload of butternut squash - which is not my favorite vegetable to work with. but after managing to give away a decent amount, I was left with a couple squash and wanting to clear 'em out so as an experiment took my (previously posted) borscht recipe and swapped out beets for squash... and it came out GREAT! While all the other ingredients remained the same, this one substitution yielded a golden soup that more savoury and a tiny bit thicker. This in turn made the spices, especially the cayenne less prominent, more subtle. the final effect was delicious!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Italian cuisine in the raw

OK - so this recipe is NOT comprised of leftovers per se, but for some folks - especially if you live in non-bourg suburbs or rural areas and do a little vegetable gardening, or have friends that do - you're likely to find yourself inundated with the late Summer tomato crop. And there's tons of obvious things you can do with fresh tomoatoes, but one that I'd not considered before is making fresh spaghetti sauce with it.

We were out for drinks and small plates with some friends over the weekend, and our friend Joan berated me for chimping with another friend, Jim Testa, about hot spaghetti sauce option. She was advocating basically a raw sauce. I replied that what she was describing was like a cold putanesca, or putting salsa on spaghetti. Either way, an interesting idea.

So here's a simple way of putting this together on the fly, and assuming that you're doing one serving at a time. And if you wanna serve more -- just multiply!

MUSIC:
Louis Prima Capitol Collector Series - a nicely perverse mix of New Orleans jazzamatazz and ethnic Italian bonhomie.

Ingredients
1 ripe tomato, coarse chopped (and I'd leave the skin on, or you can peel 'em if you'd like)
1 TBSP onion, FINELY chopped (and you can use regular yellow onion if that's what you have around or you could get something fancier like sweet Vidalia if you'd like)
2 cloves garlic - peeled and put in microwave for 30 seconds - to soften and sweeten
2 leaves of basil, coarsely chopped
1 TBSP grated Romano cheese (you could use Parmesan but...at least around here, that always turns out to be incredibly bland)
one serving of freshly cooked pasta (whatever that means for you)

Mix the first 5 ingredients together
toss with hot pasta
top with a shake of red pepper flakes or a couple grindings of black pepper

then go pour yourself a glass of wine, set the table - let it sit for a minute so the hot pasta cooks the other ingredients a little bit, and they get a chance to flavor the pasta. Bon appetito!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tomayto Tomahto (Du Plenti!)

Jim Testa of Jerseybeat.com just sent me the following query:

"Do you ever make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes? I got a bushel for $3 of bruised tomatoes from a farmers market.
It's simmering now but I'm not sure if I should leave it chunky and rustic or give it a whir with the immersion blender and smooth it out."

Lotsa interesting questions in this.
Folks would recommend that you peel and seed tomatoes before making them into sauce. And while that's valid
1) seeds have important nutrients
2) usually I do this with cherry tomatoes and peeling is impractical - so I don't and I've never had bad results.

As per smoothing out or leaving chunky - literally tomayto, tomahto. Why not split the load between two pots and smooth out one. Or just wait till your done - scoop half into one container and smooth out what's left.

If you've got tomatoes left you can always make a putaneso which is, um like hot salsa. You just chop up the ingredients, throw 'em into a hot pan with a little olive oil and cook a couple minutes and voila! reputedly prostitutes would greet a customer, set a pan cooking and when "business" was done, so was the sauce!

here's an article on the possible health benefits of eating tomoatoes -- tho no mention of which part of tomato provides which benefit: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273031.php

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Guest Recipe from Jim Testa - slow cooked, expired, blade steaks

Jim Testa - longtime (35 years and counting!) editor of the NJ/NY undie music bible Jerseybeat.com is my oldest living friend. We went to Rutgers College together when Springsteen was playing the Commuter Student Center for 50 cents. He's my son's godfather, has been to all my weddings (was best man at the first!) etc. He's been a supporter of this blog all along, has hit me with various challenges I've posted and now here's a recipe of his:

"I went to the supermarket and they had packages of blade steak on sale, plus a few were about to expire so they were an additional $2 off. So I got a couple pounds of steak (not really a staple on my current budget) for about two bucks.

I go home and google it, and read that blade steak is super tough and really only good if slow braised. But I didn't want to go back to the store, and I was out of celery and carrots.
I had a half bulb of fennel, an onion that was about to go south, and some leftover sundried tomatoes.
So I whizzed that into a paste in the food processor.
Browned the meat well with Salt & Pepper, then took the meat out and browned the paste. Added a little tomato paste
put the meat back in, added a couple of bay leaves, and let the thing cook low and slow for 3 hours.

The result was a delicious pot roast that was soft as butter. The sun drieds added a piquant umami flavor to the sauce. Not bad! And great served with horseradish mashed potatoes.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Devolving A Classy Roman Pasta Concept

Sorry for the absence. Life's been happening. Also, just haven't been hit with the inspiration for anything especially useful, tasty or novel...until now.

I was reading the New York Times Magazine (3/22/15 issue) and came across an intriguing piece on Roman pasta + sauce preparation. The basic premise was that the author assumed that the indigenous paste/sauce custom was for quickly made, very thin sauces. But he got schooled by a local chef.

It turns out that while he got the ingredients right, he got their USE wrong.

The actual tech in question called for taking VERY al dente paste, mixing it with a slightly watery sauce, or taking solid ingredients (grated cheese, pepperocini, proscuitto, etc) and actually adding water and then stirring them vigorously over medium heat for several minutes. What happens is that the pasta cooks further, absorbing water out of the sauce while dissolving a bit and emulsifying the sauce. So you wind up with nicely cooked pasta, dressed in a thick and silky sauce that adheres to and coats the pasta thoroughly.

All this is cool enough and I recommend that you look up the full recipes at the NY Times. BUT what struck me is how easily this adapted to the use of leftover pasta and either leftover sauce or thus ennobled store bought sauce.

THE MUSIC - I'd go with "Louis Prima: Collectors Series" coz - it's kinda wierd how he can pull off doing "Buena Sera" as unctuously as Dean Martin and "Basin Street Blues" with the same gruff charm as Louis Armstrong. While you're at it, you might wanna check out Gary Krist's book "Empire Of Sin" which studies the history of the vice business in New Orleans (Prima's hometown) but also homes in how the lives of Italian immigrants and their descendants and African Americans intertwined during the period that gave rise to Jazz (which is why you find musicians of both ethnic groups laying claim to its "invention") So here's a couple strategies:
* say you have restaurant leftovers including pasta already in sauce; and let's say for argument's sake that it comes with meat balls.
you separate the meat from the pasta, putting the former aside - perhaps throwing it right into a toaster oven to heat, or to wait for nuking
heat up either a non-stick pan or a heavy iron pan coated with a hint of olive oil, then throw in the pasta with a quarter cup of water
stir vigorously with a big wooden or metal spoon for about 5 minutes
dump on plate, and add warmed up meat, or nuke meat for two minutes and add.
In this case while you're just reheating this dish, you're also adding depth to the dish, taking it up a notch quality wise

* or you might have some plain pasta without sauce you're looking to use
IF you have no red sauce, you could buy a jar of the most economical sort (they're all kinda sweet and vile anyway); finely chop one onion - saute till carmelized and add to sauce along with a table spoon each of dried oregano and basil; mix well and let that sit over night - or at least for a couple hours to infuse that store bought muck with some more pronounced, non-sugary notes; I'd tend to add some hot pepper flakes as well to give it some zing
again, you heat up an appropriate pot or pan, add the sauce, then pasta and stir vigorously for 5 minutes or so
I'd add two ladles of sauce for every adult helping of pasta
Here you're taking a very pedestrian dish and making it something kinda special with this simple bit of tech in the process of heating it up

* finally - if you're working with leftover pasta, and nothing but kitchen staples
I'd heat up your pot or pan, add a hint of olive oil, then dump in your pasta
for each adult helping of pasta add
2 TBS of grated cheese (Italian preferred, but honestly you could shred up ANYTHING you have in the fridge)
2 TBS of carmelized onions
1 TBS of crumbled basil OR 1 tps of red pepper flakes (I wouldn't mix these coz in this dish you want one or the other taste to pop)
1/4 cup of pitted olive (chopped or whole as you prefer) OR de-stemmed pepperocini (chopped or whole - tho I think you'd want 'em chopped so they can get distributed nicely through the dish) or finely chopped tomoatoes (these can be fresh or canned
1/4 cup water
stir vigorously for 5 minutes or more