Friday, February 28, 2003

A moment of silence
... for the Dulce de Leche flavor of Dannon's La Creme yogurt. My very favorite flavor has been discontinued, according to Out of Our Mouths. How could anyone not like the smooth, creamy, caramel yogurt? It seems its time was bright, but short. I shall have to settle for the strawberry.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Chicken Paprikash

Let's start things off right: chicken paprikash. If you can't cook chicken paprikash, you can't cook Hungarian. Everyone makes this dish a bit different. After sampling many different people's versions, I've come to the conclusion ...mine is the best. By the way, if you have a recipe with garlic in it, it isn't Hungarian. Follow these simple steps, and you too can wow your taste buds. I figured I'd start off with the greatest/simplest one first. If you can't follow this recipe don't even attempt to try any future recipes. Ready? Go!

Step 1: In your favorite cast iron dish, saute 1 diced medium onion and 1 Hungarian pepper in a thin coat of olive oil. (Note: I've noticed that Hungarian peppers are not available throughout this great country of ours. In California, use an Anaheim. In Florida, use a banana pepper. In Denver they call them waxed yellows. But if available choose the Hungarian above all other choices) (More about peppers: you can change the heat content of the dish by removing the seeds/veings inside the pepper. I like a kick: I take the seeds out and keep the veins, chopped up.)

Step 2: As my mother said, you can never add too much paprika. I've taken this message to the extreme. Once the onions are golden brown, add up to a fourth of a cup of Hungarian paprika and stir. I like to add a couple cups of water.

Step 3: This is where I differ from most traditional recipes. I hate bones. I hate looking at them, I hate seeing them, and more than anything else, I hate crunching down on a piece of bone while I'm enjoying my meal. So, I add 4 cubed boneless skinless chicken breasts. Next add some salt and pepper. Add 2 cubed ripe tomatoes and let the whole thing cook on medium high for 30-50 minutes. (Side note: I like to add extra water and extend the cooking time, allowing the moisture to bring in the flavors inside the chicken. REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE.) During this reduction, make dumplings. More on this later.

Step 4: Once the liquid reaches a stew-like consistency, you're ready to eat. Just before serving, add 3 heaping, heaping, heaping spoonfuls of sour cream and get ready for the simplest & most heavenly delight on this planet. Serve with the dumplings.

How to make the dumplings
Making dumplings is an art form. Whatever you do, don't just follow this recipe to the letter. If you do, you will surely fail. The proportion of water to flour depends on external condition that is beyond my control and will change every time. But here's my best shot.

In a large mixing bowl add 2 eggs. This never changes.
Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well.
Add ABOUT a cup and a half of hot water.
Mix together.
Now the tricky part. Add enough flour so it's gooey and sticks to your wooden spoon, but nowhere close to being pasta-ish. So, start by adding about 2 cups of flour and mix; incorporate well - work those forearms! Keep on adding flour until your spoon can retain the dough but isn't stringy. But don't worry - if you go too far, add more hot water.
Let dough sit while chicken paprikash is cooking. If this is your first time making dumplings, err more towards more flour than not. Granted your dumplings will be heavier but that's better than them falling apart. I know I'm making this sound like rocket science but it really isn't that hard.
Get a big pot of boiling water. Spoon in small spoonfuls of dough. After adding the last spoonful, cook for about 3 minutes more.
Strain. Add some oil and butter, and serve. :)
Yummy food product of the day
The U.S. has yet to discover banana sauce. It has been a secret goal of mine to bring this Filipino condiment to baseball parks, where millions of people could enjoy it with hot dogs, french fries, and burgers, just as I do. It's even better with lumpia (egg rolls to you, and another thing baseball park concession stands should have, but let's leave that discussion for another day). Basically banana sauce is a ketchup made with bananas (instead of tomatos), sugar, vinegar, and various spices. It doesn't taste particularly like bananas, but like a sweet sauce or sweet catsup (as it is also known as in the Philippines). My favorite brand, Jufran, has both a regular version (yellow cap) and a hot version (red cap), of which I prefer the regular, but then I'm not a spicy type.

A side note: my other banana sauce-related campaign is to get Jufran to put the sauce into plastic squeezable bottles instead of the glass bottles. Banana sauce is thicker than ketchup and sometimes it just won't come out, requiring lots of shaking and slapping and usually resulting in blobs of sauce everywhere. I finally transferred the banana sauce into the old squeezable relish bottle. Problem solved.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Weird food product of the day
Patis, otherwise known as fish sauce, or nuoc mam in Vietnam, or nam pla in Thailand. It's a Southeast Asian staple made by fermenting small, whole fish in brine, drawing off the liquid, and steeping that in the sunlight before it is bottled. It's very salty and used in the place of salt in lots of dishes, and (I think) is especially good with beef. Foodgoat puts in his goulash. Warning: it's stinky stuff, but don't let that get in the way of using it, it doesn't taste as bad as it smells. And go easy on it: a little bit goes a really long way. My family puts a tiny dish of it on the table so you can spoon a little out onto your food.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Things to freeze
I like to freeze things. It takes the pressure off of trying to use up something right away.

Mushrooms: Wash well in cold water and drain thoroughly. Cut off the base of the stems. You can leave them whole, slice or quarter. Before freezing, you should either blanche or sauté mushrooms in butter or margarine. To blanch, dip them in boiling water with a teaspoon of lemon juice per pint of water (5 minutes for whole, 3-1/2 minutes for quarters, or 3 min. for slices). To sauté, heat mushrooms in butter or margarine in a frying pan until almost done, then set the pan in cold water to cool promptly.

Then you cool them and freeze. Good to keep around for stir frys, fried rice, pasta sauce!
And more comfort food
Burritos are especially comforting, because they're warm and full of cheese and sour cream and guacamole and all sorts of yumminess mixed into one hand-held format. The best ones in Cleveland are from Que Tal. Order a Build-Your-Own Burrito (I get small and never finish; Foodgoat gets large and always does), and get rice, refried beans, ground beef, grilled onions, guacomole, sour cream, and your choice of hot sauce. Enjoy!

Friday, February 21, 2003

Comfort food

Sometimes you just feel like eating junk food. Last night we had breaded chicken fingers and poppers with honey mustard and blue cheese sauces, french fries (or freedom fries, however far you're taking this French boycott thing) with cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream, and broccoli with cheddar cheese and bacon.

It took a lot of work and many dishes and utinsils (it was all from scratch, except the poppers), but it was worth it. Just like eating at the Lizard, except a lot cheaper.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Food pyramid

The USDA recently revised their food pyramid. The good news: you're supposed to have plant oils at most meals. So now I can fry to my heart's content and use olive oil indiscriminately.

The bad news: white rice (and white bread and pasta) have been bumped to the top, meaning "use sparingly." Instead, you're supposed to eat lots of whole grains. This is going to be really hard. Goodbye Calrose and french bread, hello brown rice and wheat bread and oatmeal! Bleah.

It was only a dream

Last week at the grocery store, between the 1% and the skim milk, we found something we had never seen before ... 1/2% milk.

Would we notice the extra half percent of fat? We decided to try it. And ... yup, you can tell the difference, although just barely. It's just slightly thicker, a bit more "milky" than the more watery skim. So this week I looked forward to getting more, but alas, it was gone.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Unexpected results
What to do with leftover mashed sweet potato? Use the wonton wrappers I never got around to trying and make sweet potato ravioli. But instead it ended up as scrambled sweeet potato wontons. We put a bit of the sweet potato on a wonton, covered it with another wrapper, sealed it and cooked it up for a few minutes in boiling water.

So far, so good. But then the wrapper got translucent, so it didn't look like ravioli. And then after draining it, some of them started falling apart, so that by the time we got to frying them in butter and olive oil, they were pretty much scrambled. Not a total loss, though, because it was easy and quick and it still turned out tasting pretty good.

Monday, February 17, 2003

The hard way

Because of the blizzard outside, there's no going home for lunch today. I didn't want to go the cafeteria though, since I was just there last week, so I turned to my last-resort meal, stowed away in the department freezer: two packets of White Castle frozen cheeseburgers. They weren't so bad.

But, they weren't so good either. The lesson: no more buying food at Costco that I've never tried before.
Fried rice
Easiest thing to do with leftover rice. Slice Chinese sausage, cook in a bit of water, add cold rice and a little oil when all the water is gone, and fry the whole thing up with soy sauce and green onions.

Speaking of which, my very favorite rice is Calrose. Short-grain, sticky, and very good.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

MMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm Donuts

Friday, February 14, 2003

French protest

By just calling it onion soup. And by adulterating it with Japanese sake, using red wine instead of white wine, and beef stock instead of chicken stock. But it still turned out quite tasty. So the following recipe, from, is not necessarily to be taken literally.

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
10 cups thinly sliced onions (from about 5 large)
1 cup dry white wine
10 cups chicken broth or water
Three 3-inch pieces baguette, halved diagonally
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Melt butter in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Stir in onions. Cover and cook until onions are very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Add wine. Cover and cook until liquid has evaporated and onions are pale golden, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add broth. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into flame-proof bowls. Top with bread & sprinkle with cheese. Broil until cheese melts and bubbles, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. OR: Arrange bread on baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese evenly over bread pieces. Broil until cheese melts. Top soup with toasted cheese bread and serve.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Baking soda experiments continue

A glass of ammonia, left overnight in the oven, doesn't exactly dissolve all the gook, but with a little bit of baking soda does make cleaning the oven a lot easier than with baking soda alone. I imagine Easy-Off works even better, but I didn't have any of that and it would probably kill a couple of brain cells anyway.
Turns out glazed walnuts are pretty easy to make:

1. Toast walnuts in a dry skillet.
2. Drizzle with real maple syrup.
3. Toss to coat and cook until there all the syrup has been taken up.
4. Cool.

Done. Yummy! We had it with what started out as a chicken stir fry, but I think it would be better in a salad.

Thursday, February 6, 2003

So the Japanese dinner worked out pretty well, made california rolls, tempura with yams and cucumbers, and miso soup. Have yet to make the pearl tea though

Monday, February 3, 2003

Got lots of experimental things at the Asian market yesterday -- stuff for sushi, miso, Japanese bread crumbs, and a milk tea kit (mostly to get the fat straws). Things are much cheaper at the Asian market than at the grocery store, like the spices and tofu (89 cents, vs. $2!). Couldn't find bonito flakes though, which you use to make dashi.

The day before, I also went to the West Side Market, and got sour cream, yogurt, potatoes, 5 pounds of yams (my favorite!), and raspberries that pretty much turned out to be rotten. Had gyros there that were very good, I'd never had them before.