I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Camping Food Part 1

Next week I am taking the annual camping trip. Every year I spend about a week camping out. Friends from all over the country come to join me and we have a great time. One part about camping that I really enjoy is the food. I can hear the moans now. What you probably remember about camping was the one time your dad took you. It was the middle of the summer, 110 degrees out and you went to some crappy lake. It was hotter than crap during the day until it started raining. You wanted to go home and he insisted you stay. The tent leaked and you had to sleep in a crappy wet sleeping bag. That is not how camping should be done. There is a method to camping that can make it more fun than just about any other vacation you might take.

One key is to have good, well maintained equipment. Another knowing how to use it. Another is selecting times of the year when the weather is more moderate - ie spring and fall. Selecting a place to camp is also very important. The more woodsy and scenic the better.

Let me tell you about the last time I camped. It was in April and two friends of mine and I piled in the car and went on a road trip. The first night we ended up in Shrevport Louisiana. We got in so late that we decided not to camp. Instead we stayed at the Isle of Capri Casino. My friend joined some club (for free) and we stayed in an awesome room for $50. Split three ways that was hardly anything. We ate at the in house cantina for like $5 a piece and had some awesome drinks to boot. The next morning we set out for Grand Isle State Park. If you can only camp a few places in your life, one of them needs to be Grand Isle State Park in Louisiana.

It is about an hour and a half south of New Orleans on the gulf. It really is an island and because there is only one road to it, it is fairly isolated. The other thing is that no one knows about it, so there were only a few other people there. In April the weather is perfect on the island. It was 70 degrees and there was a nice breeze.

One the way down we stopped in a grocery store and stocked up on a few things for the night. I bought a bottle of Mount Gay rum and stuff for pina coladas. We also got some food that I will tell you about later.

When we finally got to the island we drove out onto the beach. Yes ON the beach on the sand.

Not in some parking lot next to the beach. We drove down a little ways and found our campsite. On Grand Isle, there is about 100 yards of beach and then some dunes with some scrub trees. You can either camp straight on the sand or you can put your tents up in the dunes under the canopy of trees. It was like sleeping in a rainforest on the beach. There was just enough room hollowed out for our two tents and a picnic table and a fire.

After we got everything set up it was starting to get dark so one of us built a fire and the other two started to get dinner together. The first thing we did was make some pina coladas using a blender that hooked into the cigarette lighter on the car. For dinner I just had a few things and we decided to get creative. We had one of those bagged rice dishes that you can buy, like cheesy rice or something. I also had a couple cans of chicken gumbo soup. I got those two things going. Then we had some andouille sausage that I cooked on the grill. What we did was put some cheesy rice in the bottom of a plate, pour a little chicken gumbo soup over and top the whole mess with a piece of andouille sausage and Louisiana style hot sauce. It was heavenly. Later we drank some Dixie beer and explored the island. There was a light breeze and the waves were crashing in from the gulf. How perfect is that?

The next morning we took my kayak out into the gulf.

That was a ton of fun. Before then I had never used it on rough water. I don't know how to Eskimo roll so I haven't done whitewater yet. None of us tipped over so that was pretty cool.

Then we packed up and went up to New Orleans for some fun. We stayed at a Marriott down on Canal Street. For dinner we ate at a Cajun restaurant right next door to Pat O'brien's. I had red beans and rice with andouille sausage.

I highly recommend that restaurant. Then we went to Pat O'brien's for a hurricane and you can imagine where things went from there.

Around noon the next day we went down to the Central Grocery on Decatur street for a muffaletta sandwich.

The muffaletta is the sandwich that Schlotzky's based their sandwich on. The Central Grocery is the originator of the muffaletta sandwich. So if you are in New Orleans, you should stop there.

We camped once more that week at table rock lake. The whole trip was amazing.

The other great thing about camping is that staying in State Parks is a great way to travel the country cheaply. I have yet to stay somewhere that was more than $10 a night and most are right around $7. Contrast that with what it would cost to stay in even the cheapest fleabag hotel. I have reservations on the water at Lake of the Ozarks State park next week from Wednesday to Sunday and it cost me $36. That included an $8 registration fee. If you know of any way that you can stay 4 nights in some place on the water cheaper than $36 please let me know.

In the next few installments I will be writing about camping food. I like to use Dutch ovens, so I will talk about them a little bit. I will be talking about some old standard camping recipes and ones that you might not think would be possible. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Turkey Enchiladas

More leftover turkey tonight. I'm making turkey enchiladas. This recipe comes from my aunt Julie again. The original recipe called for chicken but I will substitute turkey. It also called for boiling a whole chicken, and used the resulting meat and broth. I did that once and it stunk up my whole house so I just buy broth and use packaged chicken now. I'm also making red bean sauce, you can find the recipe for that in one of the older posts. The last thing I am making is Mexican red rice. I tried for a long time to duplicate the red rice that they serve in mexican restaraunts. I eventually gave up. Then by chance I ate dinner over at my friend's house (a mexican) and his wife made red rice exactly like they make it in the restaraunt. I got the recipe and now I make it all the time.

Chef Julie's Chicken or Turkey Enchiladas

1 chicken or 3 pounds boneless chicken breast.
Broth from the chicken (or 1 can chicken broth)
1 onion
1 can green chilis
1 T chili powder
1 clove garlic crushed
½ tsp garlic powder
½ t cumin
Cheese for topping

Red bean sauce:
1 can old el paso medium or hot enchilada sauce.
1 can pinto beans drained
½ jar pace picante
1 bunch of green onions chopped.

Stew 1 chicken or 3 pounds boneless chicken breast. Simmer with water to cover. Chop onion and microwave 2 minutes. Add onion to chicken in a medium mixing bowl. Add 1 can green chilis, and spices.

Combine 2 ¼ cups browth with ½ cup flour and 1 t salt. Stir with a wire whisk until very smooth. Heat on a medium heat until boiling, stir constantly. Add ½ of mixture to chicken. Save the other ½ for topping the enchiladas.

Divid chicken mixture among the tortillas. Roll and place in a greased pan. Spread thickened broth over this. Cover and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Remove cover and top with cheese. Bake until melted.

For red bean sauce just dump everything except the green onions in a pan and heat it up. Just before serving mix in the green onions. Its nice if they are fresh.

Real Mexican Red Rice

1 cup short grain or medium grain rice
2 cups water
1 1/2 t onion powder
1 1/2 t garlic powder
1 t salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup tomato sauce, just enough to turn the water pinkish red

Dump everything together into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is soft. Remove from heat and let sit 5 to 10 minutes.

Actually I forgot 1 detail about the rice that I remembered when I was making it:
Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the pan and heat it up. Add the rice and cook it for a little while to 'parboil' it. Some of the kernels will puff up like popcorn. I don't know if it makes a huge difference but I do it that way and it tastes EXACTLY like the rice at Mexican restaraunts.

PS COMING SOON - Camping food!!!!! Details to follow in a few days.
Your G Money Chef Loopy Dog,

Monday, October 25, 2004

Now Begin Leftover Turkey

I actually enjoy turkey leftovers. There are so many things you can make with leftover turkey. Turkey casseroles of many different kinds, turkey a la king, creamed turkey over biscuits, turkey enchiladas, white turkey chili, the list is endless. Tonight we are having a turkey casserole according to the recipe my aunt Julie makes. She was a home-ec major in college and is a serious cook. This is my favorite recipe for turkey casserole but you could use chicken too.

Chef Julie's Turkey Casserole

1 cup diced celery
3 cups cooked chicken or turkey
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can evapurated milk (5 ounce)
1 small jar diced pimento
Mix above. You can do this ahead of time, just throw it in the fridge.

Then add
1 can drained water chestnuts
1 can chow mein noodles
1 pkg sliced almonds

Bake at 375 for 45 – 60 minutes until the top is bubbling.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Koko's Chili

Today I made up some chili. As with reubens, there are as many chili recipes as there are mothers. Everyone knows the one with ground beef, tomato sauce, chunked tomatoes, onion, garlic and chili powder. That is pretty much standard chili and it is guaranteed not to offend. You can bring it to any church function and you will get smiles from on high. I have probably 15 different recipes for chili, but my current favorite has absolutely no place in church. In fact, my chili has been banned from the whole state of Utah. I have been working on this recipe for 13 years, but it has been relatively stable for the last 4.

Allow me to opine on what makes good chili. Making the chili should be every bit as adventurous as eating the chili. When people come over to my house they see me slaving over a pot all day. As the day goes on the chili smells better and better until they can't possibly stand another second. At that exact second I serve it up with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and oyster crackers. I have a rule - only I taste the chili before it is served. That rule combined with my constant building it up all day long raises the anticipation to a fever. The other thing that makes good chili is that it can't be duplicated unless you know the secret recipe. It should be different from what you usually get when you get a bowl of chili. Finally, not everyone should like your chili equally. It should be tolerated by some but revered by others. There should be a few people who eat it and just go batty about it and a few who would prefer the standard baby-blue-living-room chili. Not everyone has good taste, so not everyone should like good chili.

Koko's Chili

Makes about a saucepan full.

Brown 1 strip of bacon in a saucepan. Remove the bacon and set aside. Cut a 1 pound piece of cheap beef into about 1/2 inch cubes. Brown the meat in the bacon grease for about 15 minutes.

To the meat add:
8 oz tomato sauce
15 oz can pinto beans, drained
1/4 t MSG
1 T dried minced onion
1 t beef bouillon powder
1 t chicken bouillon powder
1/4 to 1/2 t cayenne pepper (be very careful with this, less is more)
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
2 t minced garlic
1/2 T paprika
1/2 t seasoned salt (I use Johnny's)
1/2 c beer
the strip of bacon, crumbled up

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to very low so that the mixture just simmers. Cover and simmer 1 hour 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beer as necessary when it gets too thick. Throughout the course of the recipe you will probably have to add about 12 ounces of beer.

Next add:
1 T chili powder
1/4 t seasoned salt
2 t brown sugar
a squirt of ketchup

Cover and simmer 1/2 hour more.

Next add:
2 t chili powder
1/3 t seasoned salt
1/4 t MSG
2 t cumin

Cover and simmer 1/2 hour more.

Finally add:
1/2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t minced garlic
1 t dried minced onion
1 t beef bouillon granules
1 t chili bouillon granules

Cook for 1/2 hour and then remove from heat. I like to let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. It gets better the second day.

Today when I made it instead of cayenne I used 1/2 of a dried Caribbean red hot pepper ground up in a coffee grinder. I grow these in my garden. For the chili powder I used a brand made in Topeka Kansas called Jose Lopez chili powder. It has a bunch of different things in it like clover and nutmeg and is very tasty. I like to add the spices a little at a time, that is why the recipe is broken up into chunks. It really does taste different if you make it this way instead of adding it all at once.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Sides for a perfect Turkey

I made up some sides to go with the turkey. I thought I would have a practice run for Thanksgiving, with much less food. I made some whole berry cranberry sauce, escalloped corn and a junk plate pasta salad. I also made up a loaf of sourdough pumpernickle bread. Recipes below.

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

1 bag cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Heat water and sugar until boiling. Add cranberries, reduce heat and boil 10 minutes. Cool.

Its really that easy. Don't buy that garbage in the can. You can make awesome cranberry sauce in just a few minutes.

Muriel's Escalloped Corn

1 can cream style corn
1 C. milk
1 egg (well beaten)
1 C. Cracker crumbs
1 T. Onion
1 T. pimento (optional)
¼ tsp. Salt
½ cup cracker crumbs that you heat in a skillet with butter

Throw all this stuff together and bake at 350 for about a half hour.

That is my grandmother's recipe. Its simple to make and it is the classic that you remember. Why make it complicated when you know it works?

Junk Plate Pasta Salad

1 bag mixed spiral noodles, cooked
pepperoni, cut up
black olives, sliced
green olives with pimento, sliced
1/4 cup parmesan
1/4 cup smoked cheddar cheese(or whatever you happen to have in the fridge), diced finely
a few small pieces of brocoli
cherry tomatoes, cut up
pepperocini peppers, cut up
green onions, diced
red, green, and yellow peppers, finely diced
1 T horseradish
Italian dressing of whatever kind, enough to coat everything well
hard boiled egg, sliced
a little sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
parsley, either fresh or dried

Combine everything in a big bowl and refrigerate. You can add extra ingredients if you have them. In the tradition of junk plates, I just took a bunch of stuff from the fridge and threw it together. Its pretty tasty as far as pasta salad goes.

Smoke that Turkey!

Today is smoked turkey day. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that smoked turkey is probably all dried out and nasty and that it sucks. You would probably rather eat turkey prepared by the local school district than a smoked turkey. I am here to tell you that you need to have your head examined. As far as I am concerned there is only 1 way to prepare a turkey. It simply must be smoked.

A properly smoked turkey is the most juicy, flavorful bird you will ever eat. In fact, the first time you carve a smoked turkey you will wonder if it is fully cooked because the meat is so juicy and soft. There will be a deep pink ring on the outer surface of the meat that corresponds to the 'smoke ring.' In fact, the flavor is so perfect that you don't need to add anything to flavor it. Yeah thats right, you heard it. Add NOTHING to this turkey. No spices, no fancy marinades, no nothing. You can write it on the stone tablets. Thou shalt ONLY prepare turkey by smoking it.

Sam's club didn't have any turkeys yesterday so I had to get a frozen turkey breast from the local grocer. Thats just fine by me. Another benefit of smoking a turkey - you don't have to buy anything but the cheapest one.

If you want the bible on smoking any kind of food and the bible for bar-b-que, you simply must get Smoke and Spice. If you have been smoking meats and you don't have Smoke and Spice then you might learn a few things. Smoke and Spice is the bible of bar-b-que. If you only buy one book on bar-b-que you should buy Smoke and Spice. The authors talk about various bar-b-que styles from around the country and give all kinds of different recipes and methods. I learned all of the useful information that I know about bar-b-que from Smoke and Spice.

Here is how I smoke a turkey. I have one of the traditional 'Water Smokers'. I don't have the money for anything fancier and for small scale a water smoker works just fine.

1) Fire up some charcoal. Do not use lighter fluid. Instead use one of those charcoal flutes that you can get at most stores now. Once the smoker is heated up and you have your water pan full, put the bird on the grate and close the lid.
2) With the bird in the smoker the next step is to add smoke. TO do this, you need some wood chips that have soaked in water. My favorite are mesquite but you can use just about anything.
3) I only use about 2-3 handfuls of wood chips. There is such a thing as getting too much smoke, and the bird will taste like an ashtray, so only 1 round of smoke and only 2-3 handfuls.
4) After smoke has stopped, brush bird with melted butter.
5) Every hour or so stir up the coals and add more if necessary. Every time you stir the coals brush with butter. Most times i get my birds pretty well smoked in about 4-5 hours. I check the internal temperature of the meat to be sure its cooked. The bird will be golden brown.
6) Let the bird sit for about 15-20 minutes before carving.

Voila, smoked turkey!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Food purgatory

Help! I'm trapped. I have only had a few tasty meals this week. Everything else has been anything but memorable. Last night I had a meeting and there was pizza at the meeting. I was unimpressed. I can't seem to get excited about chain pizza anymore. That is what I call feeding, not dining. Animals feed, people dine. I will have a little reprive tonight, although it is nothing new. There is still a little leftover soup, and I have half of a soujouk sausage left. Unfortunately I ate up all the sourdough so I will have to buy some bread tonight. My wife wants to eat the soup and have panini's again. I guess that is fine but the minute my bowl of soup is gone the soup fairy is coming to dump whatever is left in the pot. She made the soup and she made a HUGE batch of it. Soup is good for maybe 2 or three meals, but then I get sick of eating the same thing over and over.

This weekend I have a lot of good stuff planned. I am going to pull the trigger on a smoked turkey, which means I have to get to Sam's tonight no matter how late I work. I have to get a turkey, some charcoal and some wood chips. I'll write more about that later.

Also I am planning a loaf of sourdough rye and a loaf of sourdough whole wheat. More on that later as well. I might also make up a small pot of chili. Anyway I gotta run.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Bread Keeps Getting Better!

Last night I had fried egg sandwiches on the leftover sourdough and it was incredible. The bread actually got better after a couple days! Most of the home baked bread I have made has not kept well. This stuff actually gets better.

Tonight we had leftover soup and panini sandwiches. I used the last of the sourdough to make the paninis. I got a Breadman Panini Maker. They work very well and are cheap. Don't try to make panini without a panini maker. It just won't work.

I got some Soujouk beef sausage from the Medeterranian market. Soujouk is a Turkish beef sausage that is nice and hard. These paninis were delicious - here is the recipe:

Panini Koko Recipe

2 slices bread
a few thin slices Soujouk sausage
1 slice mozarella
1 slice fresh tomato
a little greek seasoning
1 slice roasted red pepper
olive oil

Place sausage on bread, then a piece of pepper and the slice of tomato. Dash some Greek seasoning over the tomato and pepper. Top with the piece of cheese. Brush both the top and bottom of sandwich with olive oil and cook in the panini maker until nicely toasted.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Soup, Sandwich, Squash Night

Tonight is a good night for soup, sandwich and squash. I will have to make some acorn squash tonight (I love it so much.) The recipe is somewhere in this blog. I think I will make fried egg sandwiches. These are super easy and delicious, especially if you serve them with green tomato relish or picklelilly. That may sound like an odd combination but everyone I have ever made one of these sandwiches for has gone batshit over them and demanded jars of picklelilly. I'll post the recipe for picklelilly later tonight. It is my grandfather's recipe, although my grandmother claims to have originated it. The reason I know my grandfather is right about it being his recipe is that he got it from his mother, who used to make it all the time. In fact, during the great depression, my grandfather says that he used to sell fried egg and picklelilly sandwiches to his next door neighbor for 10 cents a piece. 10 cents was a hell of a lot of money during the depression. He says his neighbor had a lot of money. This story has been verified by other family members, so the source of picklelilly is no longer in doubt. To make one of these sandwiches you just toast a couple pieces of bread and fry an egg. Then you put some picklelilly on and eat it up. Sometimes I add a strip of bacon but not always. Thats if you want to be all gourmet or something.

The soup definately IS my grandmother's recipe. I have about 10 different recipes for minestrone soup and I have eaten probably 50 different versions. For some reason I always come back to this one, because it is one of the first soups that I remember eating and enjoying. It is easy to make and probably pretty good for you too. What more can you ask?

Muriel's Minestrone Soup

3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped into bits
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ c. parsley (dried is ok)
2 carrots, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
½ of a medium cabbage, finely sliced
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
28oz. can diced tomatoes
½ c. pasta
13oz. can kidney beans
2 qt. Chicken broth

Brown bacon in stock pot and remove from pot. Cool and chop into bits. Sauté onion, garlic and carrots in bacon grease slowly. Add the potato, cabbage, parsley, basil and salt. Cook 45 minutes in 2 qt. Chicken broth. Add tomatoes, kidney beans and pasta. Cook until pasta is tender.

I am already scheming up a loaf of bread for this weekend. I have to start early because you have to do a few steps several days in advance. I am making a loaf of sourdough pumpernickle bread. I am also scheming a smoked turkey, but that may take some considerable motivation.

The recipe for picklelilly can be found here.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Muriel's Cobbler

½ c. sugar
½ c. flour
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 T melted butter
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. Vanilla
pinch of salt.

Mix together and pour into a greased, small square pan. Pour chopped rhubarb or cherries over the top. Then combine ½ c. sugar, ½ c. water, 1 T melted butter and a dash of cinnamon and pour over all. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Thoughts on weekend cooking

Everything was delicious last night. The hashbrown casserole turned out absolutely perfect. I tweaked the recipe a little. My earlier versions had a lot more butter in them, but I found myself thinking that the texture was too gooey. This final version has only 3 T butter and I actually put about 1/2 that amount in, and I only used it to butter the pan. Its key to make sure that the potatoes are thawed out before you put them in the mix. It will seem a little stiff when you first mix it up but don't worry, the cheese will soften things up along with the cream of chicken soup.

The meatloaf was delicious and comforting as always. It is hard to beat that recipe unless you are going for different affects. When I have meatloaf I just like plain old meatloaf, and that is a perfect recipe. I made it in a bread loaf pan because I think it makes better sandwiches that way. Because it is thicker it takes a little longer to cook than 1 hour. You can tell its done by sticking a thermometer in the center. It should read 160. The other thing I do when I am making it is to periodically pour off some of the grease/liquids that arise. One last modification that I usually do is turn the temp up to 400 for the last 15 minutes because it glazes the ketchup on top a little better. Finally both of these dishes have to sit for about 10 minutes before you slice them up. It helps them firm up a bit. Don't skip the cooling step or you will regret it.

The deviled eggs were perfect. I have tons of different recipes for deviled eggs depending on what mood I am in. I like Elvis' recipe because it doesn't have any mayo or prepared mustard in them. Also the bacon is a nice touch. Its just a little different than what most people are used to. The texture is sometimes a little dryer and crumblier than what I would think of as deviled eggs, but that is a blessing because I like to put a little hot sauce on my eggs, and they soak it up nicely.

Another treat we had last night was my grandmother's recipe for cobbler. The original recipe calls for rhubarb, but its kind of out of season. The good news is that you can use just about any fruit you have available and it will still be mindblowingly good. My wife made it with cherries from our cherry tree that we froze. Let me tell you, when this stuff comes out of the oven it is divine. I like to pour a little milk on mine. I will post the recipe later.

Finally I must speak of the wild-yeasted bread. If bread were to fall from heaven, this would be the bread. It was by far the best sourdough bread I have ever tasted or made, and it is tied with the baguettes as my favorite bread. The crust was perfect. It was crispy and chewy. The bread itself had nice big holes and was chewy like I like it. I made two boules (round loaves. The first one came out of the oven and I cooled it. Looking at the bottom of the loaf gave me an idea. One thing that I like about Panera bread is that the crusts are nice and tan and they have this shine about them. There are also little tiny airbubbles in the crust that add interest. The bottom of the first loaf had that appearance. I tried to figure out how it got it and the only difference I could find between the top and the bottom of the loaf was that the bottom was on parchment paper that was coated with canola spray oil. So for the second loaf I tried a little experiment - I sprayed the top a couple times with spray canola oil. The result - bread perfection. The crust was everything I have ever wanted in a piece of bread. It was perfect. I saved that loaf to eat tonight with meatloaf sandwiches.

Just a few quick thoughts on the formulas for bread. Since you have such long rise times the yeast makes the starches in the bread into alcohol and CO2. The CO2 gives you the nice bubbles in the bread, but the alcohol makes the dough softer than it would normally be. Long rise times = more alcohol = gooeyer dough than you thought it would be. I found the baguette bread to be some of the gooeyest dough I have ever worked with. Although the texture and flavor were perfect, I think that a little less water would improve the recipe. Because the dough was so gooey it didn't hold its shape quite as well for the proofing rise. The baguettes were a little flatter than what I am used to but obviously still delicious. That recipe would be absolutely perfect for making a flatter dough like ciabatta or for making pizza dough. The next time I make it I will add a smaller % water. Likewise the sourdough was a little moister than I would prefer and it didn't puff up quite like I like from sourdough. It rose up a little more than the baguettes and a little bit higher than a flatbread like ciabatta would, but not as high as I would like from a boule of sourdough. One thing I will have to keep in mind is that the dough softens a LOT as it ferments. Anyway thats it for today. Meatloaf sandwiches tonight. Later on in the week I feel like Italian food. I also feel a smoked turkey coming on in the near future.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Mom's Meatloaf

1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
2 pounds ground beef
1 ½ cups soft bread crumbs
2 eggs
¾ cup water
1/3 cup ketchup
Extra ketchup to put over the top while baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix everything up and shape into a loaf. Pour some extra ketchup over the top. Bake uncovered 1 hour or until done.

Hash Brown Casserole

1 can cream of chicken soup
3 T melted butter
1 t salt
½ t black pepper
½ c diced onion
2 c grated colby
2 pounds thawed hash browns
Diced ham (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9X13 pan. Mix everything together and bake uncovered for 35 minutes.

Deviled Eggs a La Elvis

6 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/4 t dry mustard
1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
2 slices bacon

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble. Peel the eggs when cool and cut in half lengthwise. In a mixing bowl mash the yolks with remaining ingredients until smooth. Fill the centers of the eggs with the filling. Sprinkle with paprika.

Stew Fairy pisses off wife - no spaghetti for me

The title says it all. My wife wants me to make meatloaf, I get to choose the side. That sounds good to me. I have a great recipe for meatloaf that I got from my mom. I think she got it off of a package of Lipton Onion Soup mix.

For the appetizer I am going to make something that Elvis would like. In fact, this recipe came from Elvis' cookbook. Actually it came from his chef Alvena Roy. She was Elvis' chef from the time he was 19 on. She teamed up with a couple of authors to write all of her recipes that she made for Elvis into a cookbook. The book is speckled with anecdotes about Elvis and comments about his favorites etc. His favorite cheeseburger recipe is in there, along with his favorite peanut butter and banana sandwiches. If you want a great book for old-fashioned American cooking, you can't get much better than Fit for a King - The Elvis Presley Cookbook. I will make his recipe for deviled eggs, because I freaking LOVE deviled eggs.

There is a story behind the side dish. As a general rule I don't like to eat at chain restaurants. Its not that I don't respect their right to do business and I certainly appreciate the convenience. The other thing that is nice about chains is you know what you are going to get. Chicken tortilla soup at Chili's is the same in Denver as it is in Washington D.C. The thing is, when I want to eat familiar foods I make them at home. That is why I spend years trying to recreate Gino's East Pizza. Its so that when I move away I can have it at home. When I eat at a restaurant, I am generally looking for something new or a new twist on a familiar recipe so that I can learn and enhance my own cooking. So anyway I got dragged into a Cracker Barrel once. I had never eaten at one so I just ordered their version of the junk plate. It came with this delicious version of hash brown casserole. Now I have a confession to make. I have been back several times since (always in disguise) to get that hash brown casserole so I could figure it out. It is pretty famously good, and if you don't get there early enough it will be sold out. I have a casserole that tastes almost exactly the same, so I will be making that. Since I have leftover ham I will add ham to it.

The Stew Fairy

My wife was making hints at eating leftover stew today. I was dreading it. I woke up early for some reason this morning and I couldn't get that damned stew out of my mind so I went and quick dumped the rest of it. There wasn't very much left but there was enough that I could get tricked into eating it again. When she asks where the stew went I am going to say that the Stew Fairy came and got it.

For tonight I have a loaf of sourdough bread rising today. I also have designs on making some home made pasta and making a meat sauce for it. We'll see how much energy I can muster today.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Bread was the Star

Well that was definitely the best bread I have ever made or eaten anywhere. The bar has been raised. The loaves came out of the oven golden brown and puffy. I let them cool on the cooling rack until they were just a touch warmer than room temperature. It took about 20 minutes. I tore off one end and took a bit and chewed. At first there was a very pleasant nutty flavor and as I continued to chew the flavor changed and became more complex. The texture was absolutely perfect and it could not possibly be better. The crust was crispy and chewy and separated ever so slightly from the underlying bread. The bread itself was chewy and full of large air pockets. I ate it by itself because it was so delicious. It needed no butter or any other adulterants.

The stew was a disappointment and I don't recommend it. Maybe it was because the bread was so good, but I think I like the American Stews with tomato base much better.

Boeuf Bourguignon

I bought a bottle of Smoking Loon 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon to serve as the wine. I don't know if it is any good but the price was right, and California wines seem to be pretty good.

Boeuf Bourguignon

4 strips Bacon
1 pound lean Beef, cut into cubes
1 medium Onion, diced
1 cup Burgundy
2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 cloves Garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
freshly milled Black Pepper
2 carrots, cut into chunks
3 medium onions, cut into wedges
1/2 pound Mushrooms, sliced

Fry bacon and set aside. Cut your beef up into chunks and brown on all sides in the bacon fat. Remove. Add diced onion and saute in remaining fat. Add flour to wine and shake up so that no flour particles remain. Add wine to pot. Add the meat back, along with the spices. Bake in a 350 degree oven, covered, for 2 hours. Next saute the onion chunks and carrot slices in a little olive oil until starting to soften. Add to the pot with the sliced mushrooms and the crumbled up bacon. Bake for another hour and then serve.

Several times during the baking you need to check it. The sauce will need to be diluted with water so that it doesn't dry up. I just added a cup at a time and stirred. I checked it like every 1/2 hour or so.

Pain A L'Ancienne Baguettes

There are a few interesting things in this recipe. One very surprising thing is that the author of The Bread Baker's Apprentice prefers to use what he calls 'instant yeast' in his recipes. Instant yeast is just rapid rise yeast or quick rise yeast depending on the brand. He likes to use it because he says you don't have to dissolve it in water (proof it) before using it. The reason it is surprising is that most of the bread books I have read are real snooty about the yeast and very strongly discourage using rapid rise yeast. I never understood why because it is the same strain of yeast as in regular (active dry) yeast, there is just more live yeast present per volume in rapid yeast. I have always used rapid rise yeast just because I am impatient. I proof it anyway just because I have gotten bad yeast before and spent all day waiting for some dough to rise that never did.

The author, Peter Reinhart, is a genius I am convinced. Not because of any one particular recipe but because of the system he presents. He has an amazing grasp of the microbiology and chemistry involved in bread making. He learned the following method in France from a baker in Paris. The author thinks that the cold fermentation method will revolutionize baking in America. I think that it is a great method for making bread and crusts and things, but I hate to be the one to break the news. Making dough up the night before and letting it chill in the refrigerator overnight has been around since fridges were invented. My grandmother has been making her dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, pecan rolls etc using that method since the 1940's. Also, I think a lot of pizza restaraunts that get their dough made elsewhere end up with refrigerated dough. And finally, you can go to any grocery store in America and buy ready made dough in the fridge/freezer section. So hes right, but he was right 50 years ago. The cold fermentation method DID revolutionize bread baking in America.

I am now making an effort to start baking using baking formulas by weight. I will present the Baker's Percentage Formula and the wieghts that I used. I would suggest buying the book to figure out how to use the Formulas. He explains it very well.

Pain A L'Ancienne Baguettes

Baker's Formula
Bread Flour 100%
Salt 2%
Instant Yeast 0.7%
Water (approx) 79.6%

Here are the wieghts I used (in grams)

500 g Bread Flour
10 g salt
3.5 g yeast
400 g water

His method is as follows:
Have the water refrigerated ahead of time. Pour it into a container and add ice cubes. Let it sit for 2 minutes and then measure out the correct amount. Combine the dry ingredients in the mixer and then add the water. Using the paddle attachment, mix it together for 2 minutes. Then using the dough hook, mix it for an additional 4 minutes. Spray a little spray cooking oil on top of the dough, put it in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, 4 or 5 hours before you are going to make it, take it out of the fridge and let it warm up and rise until double at room temp. You will need a lot of flour to make this into baguettes, because the dough is very wet. Without degassing the dough too much, divide it into 3 even pieces. Let dough rest 5 minutes. Then stretch it out and form a baguette, again without degassing it too much. There is a lot of art involved in doing this, and I will defer to the book to explain it. He left out the proofing step and went straight to the oven, but I think it was a mistake. Let the baguettes rise up, covered with oiled plastic wrap for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 550 with a baking stone positioned somewhere in the bottom 3rd of the oven. On a rack above, have a cast iron skillet waiting. Have 1 cup water boiling on the stove. Before putting loaves in the oven you need to slice the tops on the diagonal with 3 cuts. Transfer the loaves into the oven and dump a cup of boiling water into the cast iron skillet to make a blast of steam. 30 seconds later mist the sides of the oven with water to make a little more steam. Do this 2 more times, then lower the temperature to 475 degrees. Bake until golden brown and then cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes or so.

He gets the loaves into the oven by inverting a cooky sheet. He then puts a sheet of baking parchment down and sprinkles a little semolina flour or corn meal down. Then he puts the dough logs on that to proof and covers with oiled plastic wrap. He puts them into the oven by sliding the parchment and loaves together onto the baking stone. He doesn't remove the parchment and he bakes it in there with the loaves. Anyway my dough is rising right now. I will let you know how everything turns out.

Indian Recipes

I have lots of Indian Cookbooks but my two best are Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking and Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking. Neither one is complete by themselves, but between the 2 books you can pretty much figure out any Indian recipe.

Chicken Saag Recipe

2 T vegetable oil
2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1 T ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground red pepper
1 t salt
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed (do not drain)
1 pound chicken cut up
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 t Garam Masaala

Brown garlic and ginger root in oil. Stir in chicken and brown. Add everything else but the whipping cream, cover and simmer for an hour or longer, until it looks right to your tastes. Adjust salt. Add cream, cook 1 minute longer and serve.

Tandoori Chicken

2 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into pieces to put on the grill or on skewers
1 t salt
1 juicy lemon
15 oz plain yogurt
1/2 medium onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
2 t cumin
1 inch ginger, peeled and quartered
1/2 hot green chili, sliced
2 t garam masaala
3 T red food coloring
lime wedges and cilantro to serve

Cut a few slices on the surface of the chicken so that spices etc can get in there.
Brush chicken pieces with food coloring and let sit for a while as you prepare the marinade. To make the marinade comine the yogurt, onion, garlic, ginger, green chili and spices in the blender. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Strain the paste through a strainer and save the liquid. Put salt and lemon juice over chicken and let sit a little longer, then put the marinade on the chicken. Marinate for 6 to 24 hours, stiring every once in a while. When you are ready to make them, get a charcoal grill going and grill the chicken pieces, either on skewers or just by themselves. To serve, put the pieces on a platter with lime wedges. Sprinkle a little cilantro over the top. You can also serve with a garnish of grilled onions if you like.

I got a scale.

I bought a scale yesterday. It was pretty cheap. I bought the Salter Microtronic Scale from Williams-Sonoma. I am kicking myself because Amazon had it $13 cheaper. Oh well. Anyway I bought this particular model because I don't really need one that weights up to 11 pounds. Also on the 5 pound model, the sensitivity is a little better and it can weigh down to 1/8 ounce. The models that had higher weight limits had less sensitivity. You need the 1/8 ounce sensitivity because a lot of the bakers formulas will have you weighing out amounts this small or a little bigger if you make one loaf recipes. The other thing that is nice about this scale is it is battery powered and very small. When you are done with it you just pop it back up on top of the cupboards.

Later today I need to post a few recipes. I have had requests for tandoori chicken and chicken saag. I will post those later today. Also I will post my recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon and the recipe for baguettes.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Preparing for the weekend.

My new book The Bread Baker's Apprentice arrived yesterday. I spent some time looking through it. To say the least this is a must have awesome book if you care anything about making good bread. If you are content with Wonder Bread then don't waste your money. I have been serious about making good bread ever since I started my quest to make Gino's Pizza. I even made a serious study and a serious effort to master wild-yeast breads, or sourdough bread. It has been a few years since I kept a sourdough starter going because my last one got infected and I threw it out. The other reason I haven't started a new culture is because I tried one when I first came to my present location and the bread that it made didn't taste all that good. You see, the quality of sourdough bread you can make depends largely upon the type of yeast that grows wild where you live. I gave up after a few months. I thought I would try it again, and early this week I started a new culture using my old and top secret methods. When I got the book yesterday the first thing I did was open to his chapter on wild-yeasted breads. To my surprise, his method for making sourdough is almost identicle to mine, with a few refinements. I came to my present method after years of experimentation and many, many, many crappy loaves. Unfortunately there really weren't any good books on sourdough until I bought The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Every book I looked at had little bits and pieces of the puzzle but no one place had the whole picture. To get the whole picture took me years of experimentation.

Also looking through the book, he approaches bread with the idea that you will have to make it at home, and that you don't have $20,000 steam injected ovens and proofing boxes. I think I could really get along well with this guy. He seems to have the same passion for tasty food that I do, and his book certainly shows the depths to which the food-obsessed will go to perfect something.

There are many new recipes in the book that I will have to try out, and he introduces a new concept to me - baking by weight according to baker's formulas. I have to get a scale today.

Anyway the plans for food this weekend should make some supremely tasty dishes. Tonight I am taking the wife on a date to an Indian restaraunt that we like a lot. I make tons of Indian food at home, but not this weekend. I was shopping at a store that I have nicknamed 'Whole Paycheck' yesterday and I found a certain Indian spice that is very hard to come by, even in Indian grocery stores. I think it is a conspiracy. This particular spice is an absolute necessity for certain dishes to taste right, and many recipes intentionally leave it out (I think) so that those of us of non-Indian descent cannot make tasty Indian food at home. As with everything else at 'Whole Paycheck' it was of high quality but extremely expensive.

One technique that shows up in The Bread Baker's Apprentice is the technique of cold fermentation. I discovered this on my own several years ago when I was trying to figure out why Gino's tastes so good (see the part in my recipe about refrigerating the dough). Gino's uses the technique as a convenience rather than as an enhancement. I started making most of my breads using the cold-fermentation technique after I tasted Gino's pizza dough. The author's method is a little more deliberate than mine was, and I am eager to try it. Everything I was doing he does one step better. I love this book. So for tomorrow I will start a cold fermenting baguette tonight. Tomorrow we will have an all time classic - Boeuf Bourguignon with baguettes. I will post my recipe for Beef Burgundy and his recipe for the baguettes tomorrow. Until then, Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debates tonight

Actually I was wrong, the presidential debate is tonight. I can't wait. Last night we watched another hour of Lonesome Dove. Remember? It was that miniseries with Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Ricky Schroeder and the rest? Its awesome and we watch it once a year. I think amazon has the whole 6 hour deal for under $12.

The reubens were good, but tonight is a whole different story. I am pretty sure that the authorities need to be alerted. Someone HAS to put a stop to all this delicious food! I got tonight's recipe out of GQ magazine a couple years ago. I subscribe because of the articles. In fact, those people who are saying that they read playboy for the articles have no excuse. The articles in GQ are just as good and there are no nudie pics. The recipe comes from a diner in Los Angeles that all these Hollywood types eat at. I had never eaten chicken a la king before, but the ingredients sounded so good that I just had to try it. Both my wife and I love it and this is one of our favorite dishes. I hope you will like it too, but this is another one of those times that you need to have people around you when you eat it. You might faint or even worse your head might explode.

Chicken A La King

5 1/2 T Butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken breast sliced into pieces.
2 T sherry
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
8 ounces mushrooms (white and sliced)
4 ounce jar of pimentos

Texas Toast Garlic Bread

1. Melt 4 T butter in a pan and whisk in flour over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and add chicken broth and whisk. Whisk in the milk and raise heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer whisking constantly. Remove from heat and whisk to remove any lumps. Return to heat and bring to a simmer and cook for one minute. Add in the chicken, sherry, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

2. In a pan over medium heat melt 1 1/2 T butter and saute the mushrooms. Add with the pimentos to the chicken.

3. To serve, spoon the chicken mixture over Texas Toast Garlic Bread cut on the diagonal.

4. Texas Toast is that thick cut white bread. To make it into garlic bread, lightly butter both sides and sprinkle with garlic salt. Broil in the oven on each side until toasty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Reuben Sandwiches

I'm hungry for reubens. There are as many ways to make reubens as there are mothers. I think a lot of how mothers end up deciding on a recipe depends on what ingredients are available to them. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, so not much was available in terms of quality corned beef. Even so, I love this particular recipe for reubens, so that is how I make them.

Reuben sandwich night is the perfect night for the soup/salad/sandwich routine. Its fairly healthy and really easy to put together. I don't have the time to make any soup today, so I will have to try some canned. I always try to find something exotic at the store.

Reuben Sandwiches

2 slices of dark pumpernickle rye bread
1 slice swiss cheese
a few slices of corned beef. We always got the kind that comes in the plastic package, is square, and sliced real thin. I don't even know if it is real corned beef but it tastes good. Carl Budding is the brand that comes to mind.
sour kraut
thousand island dressing or Russian dressing

Place beef on bread, then sour kraut, then dressing, then cheese. Butter the outsides of the bread and grill. The cheese will run down through the sour kraut and be extra delicious.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Iowa Farm Burritos

Tonight we are making my mom's old recipe for burritos. She got it from this lady that we used to know that lived on a farm. My mom made them all the time after she got the recipe. I used to stay overnight at that farm occasionally when I was a kid and this lady made them one time. I remember the meal because I also got a Welch's grape pop. At the time I wasn't in to the whole red bean sauce, but I sure am now. I remember that when she made them it was the first time that I liked the burritos, and from then on I always looked forward to them. What I liked was that the tortilla was crispy on the outside and a little gooey on the inside. I also liked that the diced onions tasted a little sweet, because they carmelized when they baked. I was like any kid though, and I only ate the parts that I liked.

Why are these Iowa Farm Burritos? Because you can make them on an Iowa farm with no problems, and this lady lived on a farm. You will have no trouble getting the ingredients for these burritos. I was just in a small town with <500 people in it in northern Iowa. Its out in the middle of nowhere and they have an old time general store/grocery store there. I found all of the ingredients needed to make these burritos.

Another thing to mention is that the red bean sauce is what really makes the dish. You can make it as mild or as hot as you like, but I usually make it blisteringly hot so that I sweat when I eat these. I can't do that tonight because my wife is pregnant and she will kill my ass. I will have to add some fire to my own plate. Thats OK because I grew these carrabean red hot peppers in my garden this year. I have been drying them out in the food dehyrdrator. Then I grind them up real fine to make a supercharged version of cayenne pepper. The teeniest little pinch of this powder is enough to make an entire pot of soup spicy. Last year I made the mistake of pickling the red hots. They are far too hot even for me to eat more than every once in a while. I tricked my friend (who ate up all my Turkish leftovers) last year into eating one and he rolled around on the ground hiccuping for a half hour. I felt sorry for him so I ate one too and did the same thing. Don't worry, this sort of thing goes back and forth. He pulls tricks on me constantly.

Anyway these burritos are awesome. I like to serve up my burrito and then pour red bean sauce over. I like to let it sit for a couple minutes so that the red bean sauce has a little chance to soak into the tortilla. They smell SO awesome when they are cooking. I would highly recommend serving these with grape pop.

Iowa Farm Burritos

1 pound ground beef
1 package flour tortillas, burrito size
1 onion, finely diced
grated yellow cheese of some sort. I like cheddar but if you like colby use it instead. The original lady made it with longhorn colby. I remember that specifically because she gave me a piece of it and I walked around mooing like a cow for 10 minutes in celebration.
Refried beans in a can.

Brown hamburger in a pan. Add onions and cook until the onions start to soften. To make the burritos take a tortilla and spread a little refired beans on using a butter knife. Then fill with hamburger, onion mix. Line them all up on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until the tortillas start to get a little crisp. Then ends will just start to turn a little brown. Then sprinkle cheese over the top and bake until melted. Serve with red bean sauce poured over.

Red Bean Sauce

1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can old el paso enchilada sauce. For old ladies use mild. For me use hot or at least medium.
about 1/4 to 1/2 cup pace picante sauce.
Chopped green onions if desired.

Dump everything but the green onions into a sauce pan. Heat until boiling then reduce heat so that it just stays warm on the burner. Taste it and add salt if it needs it. About 2 minutes before you are going to serve it add the green onions and stir it up. You want these just to soften a teeny bit. YOu don't want the green onions to be overcooked and look like you added cheap spinach or something.

I will be thinking of these bad-boys all day today. My friend has the world record for number of these eaten in one sitting. Can you believe he ate 7 of these things? I don't know how he did it but I remember the car being particularly fragrant the next day.

I ended up ordering the bread book and superman from amazon. I'll have a review up after a couple weeks or so.

Superman Dies

Christopher Reeves died today. Superman
was the first movie I ever saw in the movie theatre. I think I will buy it today. I also am thinking of getting a book on bread baking, the one I am currently considering is The Bread Baker's Apprentice. More later.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Junk Plates

Tonight is Junk Plate night. A junk plate is when you take leftovers from a few different nights and combine them on one plate. A really good junk plate has multiple different kinds of cuisine on one plate. Tonight would have been a really good junk plate night. We had Chinese, Turkish and American food. But alas, it wasn't to be. My wife ate the ham fried rice in her lunches. Then I went on a 20 mile bike ride with my friend today, and he ate up all the Turkish food. So we are going to have mediocre junk plates, with left over hot ham sandwiches and a fresh acorn squash. I froze the rest of the ham so next week we can start fresh.

Earlier today I made some bagels for breakfast which we spread with cream cheese. Unfortunately I don't have a really good bread book to recommend. I am still looking. Bakers don't like to give up their secrets. The following bagel recipe is a combination of a bunch of different recipes and techniques that I pryed out of bakers in New York and Chicago. If you haven't ever had a bagel in New York, then you haven't ever had a bagel. If you get them real early in the morning when they are still hot from the oven they are the best. They have a somewhat crispy outside with a chewy inside. Below is my recipe and it makes bagels that are as good as you can get if you are outside of New York.

Koko's Bagel Recipe

2 cups of warm water
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup of oil
1 Tbsp. salt
5 or more cups flour (mixture of white and whole wheat)
4 quarts of water
2 Tbsp. of brown sugar

Dissolve the yeast in water and add the sugar. Let sit until bubbles form to be sure that the yeast is active. Stir in four cups of the flour. Add flour a little at a time until the dough is the right consistancy. Let rise in the oven.
Punch down, knead for a few minutes and divide into 18 pieces. Roll each one into a rope 1 inch in diameter and 6 inches long. Form rings, pinching the ends together firmly.
Preheat oven to 375º.

Bring some water to boiling on the stove and add 2 T brown sugar. Boil the bagels in the water a few at a time. When they rise to the surface let them boil a minute longer. Bake on a baking stone until the tops are golden brown.

Recipes from last night

The stuffed eggplant recipe is called Imam Bayildi, which translates Swooning Imam. The story is that when the imam came home from the mosque his wife had whipped up a dish for lunch. On tasting it, he fainted. I think his head exploded.

I had to alter the recipe from Sultan's Kitchen a bit because I couldn't find any Italian Eggplants (they are smaller) or Italian green peppers (long and skinny and mild). The recipe makes enough to eat as a side for 3 or 4 people.

Stuffed Eggplant

1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
about 1/4 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley, or regular parsley, chopped
1/2 t sugar
salt and freshly ground black peper
1 long green chili that is mild like an Anaheim or 1/2 of a regular green pepper cut into long strips

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Peel off half the eggplant skin on the eggplant in alternating lengthwise strips. It should look striped. Make a deep slit in the eggplant but not all the way through. Sprinkle the eggplant inside and out with salt and let soak in clod water for 20 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onions, garlic, tomatoes, parsley and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little cold water and stir. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 12 minutes. The onions need to be soft. Let it cool.

Rinse off the eggplant. Heat olive oil and fry the eggplant until its lightly browned on both sides. Put the eggplant into a baking dish open side up. Saute the green pepper. Stuff the eggplant with the onion mixture and lay the eggplant on top. Drizzle it with a little olive oil and pour about 1/4 cup water into the pan. Cover with tin foil and bake 40 minutes.

The next recipe is called Yogurtlu Kebap, which translates Kofta Kebabs with tomato sauce and Yogurt-garlic sauce. Apparently the guy who wrote Sultan's Kitchen
has a restaraunt called Sultan's Kitchen. He says that this is the most popular dish at the restaraunt. I believe it. I altered the recipe a little bit so that I could use ingredients that are available where I live.

Kofta Kebabs with Tomato Sauce and Yogurt-Garlic Sauce

2 slices bread
1 pound ground lamb or ground beef (use ground lamb)
about 1/4 cup of yellow onion, grated
2 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 T paprika
1 T ground cumin
1/4 c finely chopped Italian parsley or regular parsley
salt and fresh black pepper

Comine the above in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to throw the kebobs on the grill.

To make the tomato sauce, I used 4 roma tomatos from my garden. Drop them into boiling water for a minute and then drop into cold water. Remove skins. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the tomatos, cover and cook for a few minutes. Mash them up well with a potato masher but leave a few chunks. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The butter sauce to drizzle over the top of everything is made by taking 1/2 stick butter, melting it and adding 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon parsley and about 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Yogurt-Garlic sauce is made by combining 1 cup plain yogurt with 1 cup minced garlic. Add a little salt to taste, cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes or so.

To make the kebabs you will need these special kebab skewers. They are flat and about 1 inch wide. This prevents the ground meat from slipping off the skewer. You can get them at some specialty food stores or you can try to find them online using google. You pack the meat onto the skewers and the kebobs will be flat and a little bit wider than the skewer. Grill the meat and a few long green peppers that have been seeded. I used Anaheim chilis. I also took an onion and cut it into quarters and cooked that too.

To assemble the plates, take a pita and cut it into strips and lay it on the plate. Put the meat, a couple pieces of grilled onion and a green pepper and put it on top of the pita. Then put a little of the tomato sauce over it and then a little of the yogurt sauce in splashes. Finally splash some of the butter sauce over and sprinkle the whole dish with a little finely chopped parsley.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Sultan's Table

Well dinner is going to be a little late today. I had to go back to the hospital to operate so when I would have been cooking in the afternoon I was doing my other favorite thing.

So how do you make pita bread you ask? Well the Turkish name of the recipe I am making tonight is Susamli ve Corek Otlu Pide Ekmergi. This translates to Pita Bread Topped with Sesame and Black Caraway Seeds. The Turkish recipes I am making tonight are from the book Sultan's Kitchen. I don't have any other Turkish cookbooks and I recently just got this one from Amazon. It is really excellent because of all of the superb pictures. The recipes are easy and well explained with ingredients that you can mostly find at the store. If you have any interest in making and eating delicious food, I highly recommend you get this book. If you could eat at my house tonight I am very serious, your head would explode. I give this book a 5 head exploding rating out of a possible 5. Your neurons might not be able to handle the excellent food contained in this book, mine can't possibly.

So anyway went to Sam's Club and bought a 3.5 pound boneless leg of lamb. It was 12 dollars. This makes it only a little more expensive than ground beef, and I can get at least 5 meals out of this much lamb. What I do is cut out the best parts to make into kebobs on the grill. The scraps and fat I make into ground lamb using the grinder attachment to the Kitchenaid Mixer. Amazon has one listed for $159 which is an amazing price on one. I have one and use it constantly. My Grandmother has had one for decades. They make a lot of things easier and if you do a lot of cooking or baking you should look into one if you don't have one already. I will talk about this mixer a lot on this webpage, because besides this little dinky $20 food processor I bought at Walmart, the mixer is the kitchen implement I use the most.

This recipe makes a huge amount of pita breads, so you might want to cut it in half. I have simplified the recipe from Sultan's Kitchen. I hope he doesn't get pissed at me. I bought the book and I encourage you to as well.

1 package yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 t sugar

4 cups flour
2 t salt

Combine yeast and water and sugar and let the yeast start bubbling to make sure it is active. Add the flour and salt and beat with your mixer for 10 minutes or so. Let rise until double in size.

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 T sesame seeds
1 T black caraway seeds

Mix the eggs and the milk together to make the glaze. Take the dough and divide it and make it into balls. Roll out into 8 inch round pieces, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Glaze each piece of dough with the glaze and sprinkle with the seeds. Hopefully you have preheated your oven to 450 and you have a baking stone in there heating up nice. Drop the dough rounds one at a time onto the stone. The pitas will be lightly golden on top when they are done.

I gotta go cook. I'll post the recipes for the stuffed eggplant and kebobs tomorrow.

Food Fit for a Sultan

I am on my way to the grocery store to get the ingredients for:

Home made pita bread
stuffed eggplants
ground lamb kebobs with tomato sauce and garlic yogurt sauce

Its Saturday, and this is usually the day that I get the best food. Today is Turkish food day. More later...

Friday, October 08, 2004

Gino's East Pizza Recipe

I bet you can't guess what is rising in my oven right now. I got home a little early today and put the dough together. If you look at the remnants of my original recipe, you will see all of this nonsense of making a slurry with the corn meal etc. I figured out that it doesn't really matter.

Think about it. If you are Gino's East, you want to be able to make pizza really really cheap. It also has to be so easy to make that any idiot off the street can make it for you. My old recipe was way too complicated and would be WAY too expensive to make on a large scale, so it can't be the way Gino's does it. The most distinctive thing about Gino's crust is that it is bright yellow. My problem is that I was trying to get that yellow color using corn meal, and the more corn meal I added, the more difficult it was to keep the crust from getting grainy.

I actually came to the answer to the yellow crust by way of Cuba and India. Let me explain. I was trying to make tandoori chicken for years. I could get it to taste right but I couldn't get it to turn bright red, no matter what combination of spices I used. I looked at lots of Indian cookbooks, but it wasn't until a lot later that I found a cookbook with the secret in it. Then I took a trip to Key West and at at a laundromat. I got a Cuban sandwich with yellow rice and black beans. I loved it and immediately tried to figure out how they made the yellow rice, not thinking that it would translate into a Gino's pizza crust eventually. I bought the book Cuban Home Cooking from a gift shop in Key Largo. As it turns out, yellow rice was probably based on the Spanish recipe Saffron rice. But saffron is damned expensive. To make yellow rice in Cuba, they use a powder with a couple spices and yellow food coloring! I went to a Cuban grocery store in Miami and bought 6 bottles of Badia Amarillo Yellow Coloring. Its funny because I have six bottles of it. I make yellow rice all the time and I haven't even used a tablespoon of it yet. So anyway that solved 2 problems. I figured out that Tandoori chicken is red because its got red food coloring in it, and Gino's East pizza crust is yellow because its got yellow food coloring in it. Problem solved.

A few other secrets are that they use the cheapest possible flour - H&R (hotel and restaraunt) flour. They get the dough made at an outside supplier and it arrives, refrigerated, in big containers, early in the morning. The dough waits all day to be made into pizzas. That explains why if you get a pizza there late in the evening the crust almost has the flavor of beer. It has risen so long that it begins to ferment.

Gino's East Pizza Crust Recipe

1 cup of warm water
1 package yeast
1/2 cup cornmeal or corn flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 T corn oil
2 ½ to 3 cups of cheap generic flour
Yellow food coloring – the real secret to why its yellow.

Take the water and put it in your mixer. add yeast and a touch of sugar. Let the yeast foam up to be sure that it is active. Then add the rest of the ingredients including 2 1/2 cups flour. I usually end up adding between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoons of yellow food coloring. Using a dough hook, kneed the dough until it is well combined. If the dough is sticky add a little more flour. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Let the mixer kneed the dough for 10 minutes. Put it in the oven to rise. If you desire a late in the day pizza taste (beer like), then let it rise all day.

Assembling the pizza -
Preheat oven to 350. After the dough has risen take your deep dish pizza pan (or a round cake pan with straight sides) and coat the inside of it with a very healthy coating of melted butter. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick and up it in the pan. Then pinch the dough up along the sides of the pan. Now put your cheese, and I mean a lot, into the crust. Then add your pepperoni, and finally your sauce. Bake in the oven until the crust is starting to brown and cheese is starting to bubble up through the sauce. The little edges of the pepperoni should also be starting to crisp.

And thats about it. I hope everyone is watching the debates tonight, an informed public is best.

Here is a video of the whole process...I've changed the recipe and methods just slightly so don't be alarmed.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Quest for the Holy Grail of Pizza - Gino's East

For some reason blogger puts the newest posts of the day on top of the older ones. If I were reading this blog, I would start with the oldest post of the day and move up the page. A lot of the recipes I am going to post will require a lot of explaining and if you start from the top it might not make sense.

Getting Back to the Quest for the Holy Grail of Pizza

During my second year of medical school I had eaten Gino's enough and had experimented enough to have figured out most of the pizza. I knew how to make their sauce, I knew where they got their pepperoni from (more on all of these subjects later), and I was closing in on the crust. The hardest part about making Gino's East pizza is getting the crust right. Like I said earlier, they have a really yellow crust. Most of my efforts to duplicate the crust centered around getting enough cornmeal into the crust to make it yellow without having it be grainy. At some point I got the right method down, or at least what I thought was the right method. When that first pizza came out of the oven using the new method my wife and I loved it. It was the closest thing to Gino's that I had ever eaten outside of Gino's. It was still a little off but it was almost 100% like the real thing. I was so excited that I posted the recipe on a website forum called topsecretrecipes.com. I included my email address in that original recipe and I got emails from all over the world with testimonials about how close it was to the real thing. I don't think that forum exists anymore but if you want to see a remnant of that recipe you can go to google and type in the words 'Gino's East Pizza Recipe.' The top link that pops up links to my recipe, although it has been trimmed down quite a bit from the original post, and they don't give me any credit. The no credit thing is fine by me, because they trimmed the original post down so much that the recipe doesn't make any sense. The other thing is that I have finally perfected the pizza, and I no longer make it according to that old recipe, in fact my new recipe is much simpler. I will go through each of the components of Gino's pizza in turn and then tomorrow I will post the crust recipe.

The Sauce

Gino's East and many other Chicago pizza restaraunts serve their deep dish pizza with the sauce on top of the cheese and other ingredients. If you are used to Pizza Hut, the whole sauce on top thing might freak you out. The other thing that is different is that the sauce has chunks of tomato in it, and that is much different than typical chain pizza sauce.

One thing that I learned from The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook
is that many of the Chicago pizza restaraunts use 6-in-1 Brand tomatos. Giordanos uses 6-in-1 to top their stuffed crust pizza for instance. Finding these 6-in-1 tomatos is difficult even in large cities, and forget about it if you are in a small town. The best place to find them is in a big city at an Italian Grocery Mart or Deli. Honestly that is the only place I have ever seen them, so whenever I go to an Italian Deli I stock up on 6-in-1.

You're in luck though, because Gino's doesn't use 6-in-1. They have a sauce made from plum or roma tomatos and you can easily duplicate it at home with no difficulty. To make enough sauce for 1 - 12 inch pizza you only need 1 28 ounce can of plum tomatos. Which brand you choose is not hugely important. Remember, a restaraunt like Gino's wants a big profit margin, and they are not going to want to spend a lot of money on crazy expensive tomatos like San Marzano or something else. In a pinch I will use canned plum tomatos or even canned whole tomatos if plum are not available. Mostly what I do is make my sauce from actual plum tomatos but it certainly isn't necessary. I grow a strain of tomatos in my garden called Super San Marzano. I think they make a pretty good sauce. We can a bunch of them up every year so I either have some canned ones on hand or there are fresh ones in the garden. To make the sauce from fresh tomatos I will get a pot of boiling water going on the stove. I drop the tomatos into the boiling water for a minute or so and then remove them, placing them in cold water. This allows the skin to separate from the tomato. Once I have a fair number of peeled tomatos I put them into a pan and cook away, using a potato masher to chunk them up after they get going.

I will assume that you are not into making pizza sauce from fresh tomatos, and that is just fine. Here is how I make Gino's East Pizza sauce from canned plum tomatos:

one 28 ounce can of plum or roma tomatos

about 1 tablespoon of salt

a pinch of basil

a pinch of oregano

fresh ground black pepper

Take the tomatos and sauce and place into a bowl. Using a potato masher or just your hands, mash the tomatos up so that there are no chunks bigger around than a quarter. Once this is done, add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Do not use too much basil or oregano.

You don't need to cook the tomatos, just make sure they are well combined. Be very careful with the basil and oregano. Gino's uses very little if any. Why add expense? One trap that I used to get into when I first started cooking was too add more basil and oregano or other spices to a dish to make it taste right. The herbs and spices aren't really there for taste in most cases, they are their to add subtle overtones and smells to a dish. I finally figured out that the reason the food didn't taste quite right is that there wasn't enough salt in it. Gino's sauce, if you taste it by itself, is very salty. That is the secret of Gino's sauce - not too much on the herb/spice side, and a healthy dose of salt. Make sure you taste it often when you are adding the salt though. The pizza is for you, not for me.

The Cheese

Gino's East of course uses mozzarella cheese. I was unable to bribe any of the wait staff to get the brand, and I am sure they probably don't know. I imagine that Gino's is like most restaraunts and their cheese comes in huge plastic bags without any labels from some local supplier. It probably is not a brand name that you can just go out and buy. So don't worry about it. I experimented with all sorts of different cheeses and I have yet to find anything that works much better than Kraft low-moisture part skim mozzarella. Just be absolutely sure that you don't buy the low fat version of any mozzarella. It will not melt right and you will hate it.


I will be making a pepperoni pizza on Friday, but Gino's offers lots of toppings. As extra toppings you can order Sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, canadian bacon, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, green olives, sliced tomatoes, fresh garlic, anchovies, pineapple, jalapeno’s and extra cheese.

The Gino's Supreme comes with cheese, sausage or pepperoni, onions, mushrooms
and green peppers. The Gino's Vegetarian comes with Cheese, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, green peppers, asparagus, red peppers, yellow squash. They also make a spinach pizza.

I once left a hefty tip for a waiter to figure out what Gino's uses for pepperoni. They use Anichini Brothers in Chicago. I think I remember walking by this place a few times. It is right downtown there, I think on Clark Street. Their phone number is 312-644-8004. I don't know if they would sell you any pepperoni or not. I doubt it. I haven't found any pepperoni that tastes exactly like it, but I have found some that have been satisfying enough. What you want is a pepperoni that is cut a little bit thicker than the garden variety Hormel brand at your local grocery. If you want something real close go to the deli counter at your grocery store and ask them to cut you some pepperoni just a little bit thicker than Hormel cuts it. You want it to be about as thick as if you stuck 3 Hormel pieces on top of one another.

Now you know everything you need to know about the sauce, the cheese and the pepperoni. Tomorrow I will post the recipe for the crust and how to put everything together.

Zen and the Art of Pizza Making

Last night's dinner went well, although I am now thouroughly sick of ham. I will have to wrap it up and put it in the freezer. We'll have bean soup or something in the next couple weeks. Also New England Boiled Dinner is a good fall recipe.

Tonight I have to go to a meeting and there is food served at the meeting, so no cooking. That is good though, because I am planning on making pizza Friday night, and before I post the recipe there is much explaining to do.

Yeah everybody likes Pizza Hut, Dominos, Little Ceasars or their local favorite joint, and thats just fine. I like those places too. People from St. Louis like St. Louis style pizza. People from New York like New York style pizza. People from Italy think that we're all idiots and that their pizza is the only pizza. More power to them. I have eaten pizza in all of those places (except Italy) and a few others. I enjoy them all because they are different and each has its own good qualities. In fact, I make pizza at home in all of those different styles and I have spent years studying the pizzas from different places and learning how to make them. As we move along in this blog, I will go into each different kind.

That brings me to a point. The pizza I will be making Friday night is in my humble opinion, the best pizza that can be found anywhere on earth. Like I said, I'm not knocking pizza from other places. I enjoy those styles of pizza as well, but seriously folks, Chicago Style pizza is the best. To be even more specific, Gino's East Chicago Style pizza is the best. Let me say that again, just in case you missed it. Gino's East Pizza is the best.

I first ate Chicago style pizza when I was like 9 or 10 on a trip to Chicago. I wasn't all that impressed because I hadn't yet developed a palate for anything beyond Pizza Hut or Godfathers. So I sort of forgot about it. The next time I ate Chicago Style pizza was when I was a junior in college. I went to Chicago to interview at Northwestern Medical School. Right down the street from there was Gino's East. It has since moved, but when I went there for the first time it was right down the street from Northwestern Medical School. I was completely blown away by Gino's East pizza. It was so much better than any pizza I had eaten that it immediately became my mission to eat at all of the different places in Chicago and learn how to make their pizzas.

At that time we had the internet but there was no Google and no Amazon.com. It really was the olden times. I got back to college and went straight to a book store looking for books on Chicago Style pizza. I was expecting to find a book that had recipes for all of the different pizza places. Nothing like that existed. I scoured the internet and was able to come up with a couple of basic recipes for Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. I tried some of them out, and the best one approximated Uno's Pizza pretty well but did not taste or look anything like Gino's. Plus I was using the wrong pan and I just didn't have it figured out. So I took a weekend trip back to Chicago and ate at Gino's, paying real close attention to the pans, how they served it, etc. I tried to find pans like the ones that Gino's uses, but the closest I could find was a straight sided round cake pan. Let me tell you, it really was the stone ages back then. There really wasn't any real interest in making pizza at home back then. But the straight sided cake pan worked pretty darn well.

For the next several years I continued to experiment trying to make Gino's East Pizza. I got closer and closer, but I couldn't get the crust to look right. They have a real yellow crust that has corn meal in it, but not big chunks of corn meal, real fine ones. The other problem that I discovered with using corn meal in a pizza crust is that if you use too much it makes the crust taste grainy.

I ended up going to Northwestern for medical school and I continued to work on my pizza. While I was there I found a book called The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook.
Its an awesome book that really helped with some of the baking problems. I also learned for the first time how to make a stuffed crust pizza like they serve at Giordano's. The author goes through the whole process of how to make pizzas and has tons of photographs. If you are new to making Chicago-Style Pizza, I highly suggest that you buy this book and digest it. You may have difficulty finding it in bookstores outside of Chicago, but you need to get it. Just click on the highlighted words and your browser will be pointed to Amazon.com. They have it for about as cheap as I've seen it anywhere, and if you order it from them it will be at your house lickedy split.

The other thing you need to do if you want to make serious Chicago-Style Pizza is eat it. You have to go to Chicago and actually eat at the original restaraunts. I know that some of the places have metastasized to cities around the country. For instance you can go to Uno's Pizzeria in most cities now. The problem is that the pizza served at these little satellite places is in no way anything like the pizza that you get at the real Uno's. It is pretty tasty, provided that you aren't used to the real thing. I would suggest that you proceed with caution, however. If you have not eaten Chicago-Style pizza before, I would take it easy and make sure that you have a supporting friend or family member with you, or perhaps many more. The chances are, if you have only eaten Dominos or Papa Johns or Pizza hut, when you bite into a real Chicago-Style pizza your head will explode. It is just too delicious for most people to comprehend. I have seen some real meltdowns at Gino's, believe me.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Grandma's Ham Sandwich Recipe

Now given that this recipe is from around the time of WW2, and meat was fairly scarce, and ham was probably extremely pricey, I would venture a guess to say that the recipe probably came off of a can of spam. Although it has been demonized lately, Spam was actually quite a popular product back in the day. Spam even has its own website. I bet you can't guess which state eats the most Spam. Well as it turns out, Hawaii enjoys the most. There is even a cookbook from Hawaii called Hawaii's Spam Cookbook. I have also seen other spam cookbooks in gift shops and the like.

Now its time for the recipe:

Muriel's Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

½ pound cubed boiled ham
½ pound cheddar cheese (mild)
1/3 cup sliced green onions
2 hard boiled eggs
½ c stuffed olives
3 T mayonaise
½ c chili sauce (not hot sauce but Heinz Chili sauce, two totally different entities)

Combine ingredients, put onto buns. Wrap buns in tin foil. Cook 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Mine are in the oven as we speak. In ten minutes I am going to be putting some serious hurting on a ham sandwich and a piece of squash!

Acorn Squash Recipe

One of the things we will be having tonight is acorn squash. I remember when I was a kid the only time we saw acorn squash was in the fall. Now you can get acorn squash just about any time of year, but its quality varies widely throughout the year, depending on where it has been grown and how long it has to ride in a crate to get to your plate.

When we lived in Chicago I was treated to dinner at Charlie Trotter's twice. I will never forget those meals. The whole experience was incredible. He serves dishes that are in season, and both times I ate there it was in the fall. Consequently there was a lot of squash served. I loved his food so much that I bought one of his cookbooks Charlie Trotter's Vegetables. I have to say that the recipes in that book take some time to prepare but they are all delicious. I will occasionally make one or two dishes from the book when we have company.

The Method
Well here is my method for making acorn squash. My recipe is for 1 squash, which should serve 2 people. I split the squash down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Then I put both halves face down in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Then I poke a few holes in the plastic wrap and put it in the microwave for 15 minutes. Your microwave may cook faster or it may cook slower depending on how strong it is. A good guide is 10 to 20 minutes. You'll know that it is done when it is soft enough to eat. I know some people might consider microwaving food to be a travesty, but it is tough to beat the microwave for cooking acorn squash. It literally steams in its own juices.

Next I preheat the broiler in the oven. While the oven is heating I take 3 tablespoons of butter and put it in a bowl. Add to the bowl 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Then microwave the bowl until the butter is melted. Take that mixture and put some of it into each squash. Then put the squashes face up (you need them to hold the goodies) and put it under the broiler. It will only take a few minutes and you will know it is done when the edges of the squash start to brown a little bit and the brown sugar/butter that has splashed up on top of the squash lip starts to carmelize. Take it out of the oven and serve, but warn people that it will be piping hot. Nothing sucks more than burning the taste off of your tongue.

Dreaming of Dinner - Recipe to follow

Last weekend we bought this huge ham from Sam's Club. It didn't look that big until it came out of the oven. I guess that is because everything at Sam's Club is big, and it was only $20. When was the last time you saw a Black Forest Smoked Ham go for anything less than a mint unless it was just a few shavings from the deli counter? So anyway we have been eating ham since Saturday. First it was ham with acorn squash and a potato casserole. Then it was ham and swiss on onion buns with red beans and rice. Then it was another Ham and swiss on onion buns with red beans and rice (I liked it so much the first time). Yesterday we had ham fried rice. Tonight we are planning on making these ham sandwiches from a recipe that my grandmother had since back in world war 2 times. We are also planning on eating some acorn squash and a salad with the sandwiches. Later on I will post all but the salad recipe, as anyone can make a salad.