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.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I was on call Christmas Eve so I made shawarma in our surgery lounge 'the swamp.' It turned out really well. Everyone liked it. I served homemade pitas, Jerusalem salad and garlic yogurt sauce with it. The George Foreman Mini Rotisserieworks great for making shawarma or Turkish Doner. Tonight we are making tacos al pastor in the swamp. I'll post a recipe for that at some point.

In other news, my digital camera has died. I was taking pictures of the shawarma and it jumped out of my hands and broke into 1000 pieces. I will upload those pictures at some point. I am afraid my site will be photo free for a while until I can replace the camera.


4 pounds of boneless leg of lamb, cut into thin slices

1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 t ground oregano
2 t salt
2 t pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

Marinate the meat overnight. Stack onto a George Foreman Mini Rotisserieand cook for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool a little and then slice from the rotisserie onto the plate.

Jerusalem Salad

1 cucumber, peeled and diced
6 plumb tomatoes or 3 regular tomatoes, diced
1 bunch green onions, diced
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 good healthy amount of mint, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything up and refrigerate for a couple hours.

Garlic Yogurt Sauce

1 small carton plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, pressed
salt to taste

Mix everything up and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours to combine flavors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In Search of: Shawarma At Home

When I lived in Chicago there was this great Middle Eastern joint around the corner from my apartment. We always used to go there and eat. Most of the recipes were actually Turkish I think. If you are ever at Diversey and Broadway, walk about 1/2 block north on Broadway and you'll see a place called Cousin's. That is the place.

The decor is really neat. If you want you can sit on pillows and eat at a low sitting table.

There was this time we were in there eating and these rich kids came in. They were hardly kids - they were in their late 20's and early 30's - but their attitudes about things were completely juvenile. One kept talking about wanting to go volunteer in Hawaii so she could hike for a couple weeks. None of them had any worries about money and you could tell by the completely bizarre and unrealistic conversations taking place. Most of the talk was about getting Kate Spade bags etc. We are still laughing at them.

So that brings me to my favorite thing on Cousin's menu - Turkish Doner.

That looks a lot like gyro meat doesn't it? I think the gyros that we get in the US are made from ground up lamb that the press together with a bunch of spices. Turkish Doner is the Turkish version of gyros. The difference is that for doner, they take actual lamb meat and slice it thin. They pile up a bunch of slices of it on a spike and cook it in a vertical rotisserie. Usually they put a piece of lamb fat on top so that the lamb fat drips down and bastes the lamb as it slowly cooks. When it is time to serve the doner, the guy comes by with a big knife and shaves off a few pieces. At Cousin's they served it with a rice pilaf, some flatbread and roasted peppers if I remember right. Cousin's had Turkish Doner for a while but then they stopped selling it. They sold so much of it that it wasn't profitable for them to have other dishes available and they didn't want to just be a Turkish Doner shop. That was the last I had of Turkish Doner for a while. I haven't been able to find it anywhere in KC.

Last April I was in South Beach. I was interviewing for a plastic surgery fellowship down there. A couple of my plastic surgery buddies and I went out for a good time in South Beach. It was about 3 in the morning and we were walking back to the car. One of the guys I was with was Isreali and we walked past an Isreali restaraunt.

He insisted that we stop. I asked him what was good and he said shawarma. So he orders me a shawarma. They put 'salads' on it along with a yogurt sauce. One of the salads was Jerusalem salad. I think I have a recipe for that elsewhere on this blog. I also had tabouleh (one of my favorites). They took a pita and stuffed it with shawarma and topped it with the salads.

So what is shawarma? Well they make chicken shawarma, turkey shawarma and lamb shawarma. It is basically exactly as I described Turkish doner, only better because it was in a pita, it was 3 in the morning and it was topped with 'salads.'

Since that time I have been obsessing about shawarma. I have been looking all over for it and I can't find it in KC. I have decided to make it at home and I have been researching it over the last few weeks. I looked all over the internet for gyro makers, doner makers and shawarma makers. Every one I found was between $1500 and $2200! Also they have to be loaded with like 50 pounds of lamb to work properly. No thanks.

So I was thinking about how I could do the same thing only smaller. Ding! A light went on. A rotisserie would work. You know, the infomercial rotisseries. I looked into rotisseries and found one that would work perfectly - the George Foreman mini rotisserie. Big enough for a 4 pound roast or 1 chicken.

I recently came into $50 as a birthday present from my grandmother on my wife's side. The just so happens to be the exact cost of the George Foreman mini rotisserie! How perfect.

I am on call Christmas Eve and I have to be in the hospital for 24 hours. Can you say George Foreman Shawarma on Christmas Eve??? What would Jesus eat? Shawarma. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yucatan Barbacoa

My latest project was to make shredded pork the way that it is made in Yucatan. In Yucatan they take pork (sometimes a whole pig) and rub it down in spices. Then they wrap it in banana leaves and bury it in a pit in the ground and cook it all day. That particular manner of cooking pork is called barbacoa. Different regions of Mexico do it different ways, but in the Yucatan they use pork. I think they do lamb or goat in central Mexico and beef head in Northern Mexico.

At any rate there are several problems that one encounters when trying to cook barbacoa in the Midwest in winter. First, there are no banana trees around. I know that you can get banana leaves frozen but I just don't have the interest to go that far with it. The other problem is that the ground is frozen, currently with a foot of snow on top. There is not much chance I am going to dig a pit in my backyard right now. So to solve these problems I decided to get creative.

What makes barbacoa different from American style bar-b-que is that the meat is steam roasted rather than smoke roasted. The steam comes from the banana leaves and from the meat juices being tightly trapped in the fire pit. It isn't all that hard to recreate these conditions in your kitchen.

First you are going to have to acquire some achiote seeds. If you are lucky enough to have a source for these at hand, then go buy some. I had to do a google search for achiote seeds. I bought mine over the internet.

Here is a photo of all the ingredients in the barbacoa rub. The achiote seeds are red and in the center of the photo.

So the first step is to make your barbacoa rub. Here is the recipe:

Barbacoa Rub

1 T achiote seeds
2 t oregano
1 T black peppercorns
1 T cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
3 whole cloves
1 inch of cinnamon
1 T salt

Combine the above ingredients in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until powdery. Then mix the rub with 10 cloves of garlic and place in a blender with the juice of 1 lime. Blend until smooth. You may need to add more lime juice to get the right consistancy.

Next rub the pork down with your mixture and marinate overnight.

The next day put a piece of tin foil down on the counter and a few lettuce leafs on top of it. Then put your marinated pork on like this:

Next add a few green onions on top of the pork.

Finally, add more lettuce on top and wrap the whole mess in several layers of aluminum foil. Place in a Dutch oven and bake in the oven at 275 degrees for 8 hours. That is assuming that you have a 2 pound pork roast.

Meanwhile you need to make something to eat the pork with. I decided to serve it on tostadas with home made refried black beans. Add a few salsas and you are set.

Hot Hot Hot Sauce

6 tomatillos
1/2 onion
20 dried red peppers (like cayanne)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
a few cloves of garlic

Boil the red peppers for a few minutes and place into a blender. Boil the tomatillos for a few minutes until just starting to soften. Throw everything into the blender and blend until smooth. Return ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Let cool. If you know me personally, ask me for the real name of this hot sauce.

Refried Black Beans

Take 1/2 pound of black beans or more if you like and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Finely dice up 1/2 onion and add to the beans. Add 2 strips of bacon, crumbled, along with their grease. Don't leave out the grease you health nut. Live a little for chrissake! You will need to boil these for one to a few hours or until they are very soft. You will occasionally have to add water. At the end of cooking, taste the broth with the beans. It will be very bland. Add 1 tablespoon of ground cumin and a teaspoon of salt and taste it. You will need to adjust the salt to your liking. I usually end up with about 1 tablespoon of salt for a 1/2 pound pot of beans. Now is time for the refried part:

Get a cast iron skillet very hot. Add a little olive oil to the bottom and then dump in the beans. Use a potato masher to mash up the beans. You will have to cook these for a few minutes until it thickens up a bit. You don't want the beans to get too thick because then they just suck. I get mine to about the point of runny mashed potatos. When you let the beans cool they will thicken up considerably.

Oooh the timer just went off! Your pork is done. Lets pull it out of the oven and unwrap it!

My goodness! I am sure that there are multiple local, state and federal laws against pork so perfect, juicy and tasty. Thats OK. We don't need to get the cops involved, this will be our little secret.

Finishing Your Barbacoa

To prepare the pork I shredded it using two forks and put it into a bowl. I added the juice of one lime, 2 t ground cumin, 2 t salt and 2 t chili powder.

Homemade Tostadas
Now is not the time to get lazy. Make your own tostada shells. It is very easy. Buy some corn tortillas. Get a skillet hot on the stove and add some oil. Drop the tortillas in the oil one at a time. When one side starts to bubble up flip it over. When it looks done fish it out of the oil with some tongs and put it onto a piece of newspaper. Immediately shake a little salt over.

To serve, put a little refried beans on the tostada and top with pork. Add the fixins that you like. I added a little pico de gayo, some guacamole, my secret-named hot sauce, and a tomatillo/chipotle hot sauce.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gino's East Pizza Recipe

I thought I should post my copycat of Gino's East Pizza. This is a recipe that I have been working on for years. Over the last couple years I have learned a lot about bread and what adding different ingredients does to the texture and taste. Consequently I started adding a lot more oil to the dough. The other thing I added just recently was cream of tartar, an idea I got from someone who was on a website discussing my copycat recipe and what it was missing. I can't imagine that my recipe will change that much from this point forward, although I said that last time.

Gino's East Pizza Recipe

For the dough:

Mix the following ingredients in your mixer bowl and let sit until it starts to bubble:

1 cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 T sugar

When bubbles have formed (about 15 minutes later) add:

1/2 t yellow food coloring
1/4 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup corn oil
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir everything up and then add:

1 pound flour (about 3 1/2 cups if you don't have a scale)

Kneed the dough for 10 minutes in your Kitchenaid mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise on the counter. You can make this up in the morning for pizza later that night. Just set it on the counter and let it rise on its own all day.

When you are about an hour from wanting to eat your pizza, start the oven at 375 to preheat. A half hour later roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Butter your pizza pan very well. Put the rolled out dough in the bottom of a deep dish pizza pan and form the dough up the sides of the pan.

Here is a picture of my pizza pan and server. I bribed a waiter at Gino's East when it was on Superior Street in Chicago to get the pan and he threw in the server.

When you have your crust formed in the pan add 1 pound or so of mozarella cheese and top with pepperoni or whatever toppings you want. Then put the sauce (see below) on top.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust is browning and the cheese is bubbling.

Gino's Pizza Sauce

1 36 oz can of whole tomatoes
1/2 t basil
1 tablespoon salt

Pour about half of the juice from the tomatoes off. Then put the tomatoes in a bowl along with the rest of the ingredients. Mash up with a potato masher and refrigerate until ready.

When the pizza is done baking you want to let it sit for 8 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

American Food for German Company

I recently had a German medical student over for dinner. He wanted typical American food. So I made beef stew, corn bread and apple pie for desert. He also didn't think that Americans could make good bread, so I made my recipe for baguettes, which he thought were outstanding.

Beef Stew

1 pound beef chunks
2 potatos or so
2 carrots
1 onion
3 stalks celery
2 t salt
1 t thyme
1 t basil
1 t garlic
3 cups V8 or enough to cover the ingredients

Brown meat in a skillet. Chop up the vegetables to the size desired and put everything into a casserole dish. Pour the V8 over until everything is covered. Bake in the oven at 300 for 5 hours or until done.

Mom's Corn Bread

1 cup sugar 1 T baking powder
2 eggs beaten ¾ t salt
2 cups white flour 2 ½ T melted butter
1 cup yellow corn meal 1 ½ cup milk

1. Combine sugar, corn meal, and flour, baking powder, salt. Stir wel.
2. Make well, add milk eggs and butter. Beat by hand.
3. Grease and flour a 9X13 cake pan
4. Pre heat oven 350 and bake 30 minutes.

You can stir in at last minute 1 can drained blueberries for most tasty blueberry cornbread.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hamburgers Revisited

One thing about cooking that I really enjoy is that you can always find little ways to improve on old recipes. I have talked about my hamburger method in other posts on this site. Recently I have added a new technique - I grind my own hamburger. To do this, you take a big piece of chuck steak and rub about a teaspoon of salt into it, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. The next day use a meat grinder and grind it up. Be sure to wash off the salt first! I use the large grinder grate on my kitchenaid mixer. By salting the meat overnight it helps the meat hold juices a little better. If you grind the meat yourself it is #1 cheaper and #2 not so packed together. If you read my hamburger posts, I talk about how you shouldn't pack the meat too tightly in patties.

Also shown in the picture is a recipe that I make called scalloped leaks and onions.

1 pound leeks, halved lengthwise and chopped
1/4 stick butter
1 1/2 pounds onions, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 pounds shallots, cut into 1/4 inch slices
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar
1/4 t paprika

Saute onions, shallots and leaks in butter. Cover and cook over low heat about 10 minutes until soft. Remove lid and cook until excess water has evaporated.
Stir cream into mixture and transfer to a greased baking dish. Toss bread crumbs and cheese together and sprinkle over the casserole. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 375 for 20 to 30 minutes until everything is bubbling.