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.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Collard Greens

I'm all about collard greens. Its story time on the blog. The reason I thought about collard greens tonight is very convoluted. I'll start from the beginning.

When I was a kid I used to ride a bicycle into town and back every day in the summer. That totals about 20 miles just getting to town and back, let alone what I did in town. I used to bike into FD to the Country Club Pool to swim for a few hours and then I would bike around town seeing friends, especially the incredibly few female friends that I had when I was growing up. You might say I was a bit of a Napoleon Dynamite character when I was younger.

OK, confession time, I'm still a Napoleon Dynamite character. I'll never change. I play the concertina for Chrissake! Anyway back to the biking. When I graduated highschool I bought a Trek 720 in preparation for college. It is a hybrid bike, halfway between a mountain bike and a road bike. My reasoning was that there are no mountains in Iowa, so why a mountain bike? Yet the bike needed to be a little more sturdy than a roadbike, what with all the hopping curbs and whatnot that comes with urban riding. So I bought the hybrid and I own it still today although it is in extreme old age.

A funny story: the bike has been literally at the bottom of lake Michigan. When I was in medical school I used to ride from Lincoln Park down to class every day. One day it rained and I rode back after the rain stopped. I hit a wet spot of pavement at the same time a poodle ran under my tire. I wiped out and the bike slipped off the edge into the lake, at a point where the water was 12 feet deep. There was a lifeguard standing right there so I thought I would ask him for a rope. My idea was to tie a stick and some sort of a weight to the rope and try to hook the wheel to pull up the bike. The lifeguard says "I don't have a rope." Looking at the rope around his neck I said "So you don't have a rope?" He says "Nope." All the while the old lady who owned the poodle was bitching at me that I scared her poodle, which was unscathed. In protest I stripped buck-assed naked right in front of the two of them and dove into the lake after my bike. It was early March in Chicago mind you. The seat of the bike was still filling with water and was sending little air bubbles up to the surface. I followed the air bubbles down to the bike, grabbed a wheel and swam up to the surface. The lifeguard was kind enough to pull the bike out of the water for me. By the time I got to the surface with the bike my muscles were starting to freeze up for some reason and I could barely pull myself from the water. I reckon it might have been a little dangerous but a point had to be made. The old lady was standing there in shock saying "Well I never!"

I have been interested in getting back into riding bikes. Today when I was in Kroger's I stopped by the magazine rack and looked at a magazine on biking. Right then I had a flashback to college. Easy E and I were at a tailgate party discussing plans for RAGBRAI. One of our friends had some sort of a bus and was touting its virtues. He was trying to recruit us and another guy to come work on the bus, explaining in detail what needed to be done. It sounded like a real pain in the ass. The third guy, in the middle of a complicated explanation blurts out "Dude, I'm all about riding the bus."

Back to greens. I'm all about collard greens but I'm not all about preparing them from whole greens to finished greens. You have to wash each leaf, take out the stem and tear it up. They sell prepared greens in the can but I detest them. In the south they also sell greens in a plastic bag that you can make according to your own recipe. I think its cheating. After the flashback I went and bought a couple bunches of greens.

I only had collard greens one time when I was growing up. I think I was 12 and we were reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. I asked my mom to make some and she begrudgingly did. I loved them but she had something against collard greens and we never had them again. The next time I ate them was at a soul food restaurant in Harlem called Sylvia's. I freaking love collard greens. I'm all about eating collard greens though, not so much about making them. A convoluted story to be sure, but all the connections are there if you take the time to read carefully.

Here is a recipe for greens from Emeril's Delmonico. My mom sent me that cookbook a while ago. How ironic.

Collard Greens

4 strips bacon
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T brown sugar
1 pound (2 bunches) collard greens, rinsed, stems removed, torn into pieces
1/2 t black pepper
3/4 t vinegar
1/4 cup beer (Hmmmm, what to do with the rest of the beer?)
1 1/2 t molasses
pinch of salt

Brown bacon and set aside. Saute onion in bacon grease. Add garlic and the rest of the ingredients except the greens. Cook for a little bit until forming a sauce. Add the greens and cook until wilted. Cover and cook 30 - 45 minutes on medium heat. You may need to add a tiny bit more liquid during cooking.

Notes: seriously, that turns out to be enough liquid. I thought the recipe was wrong at first and thought about adding water. It worked out the way it is written pretty well.

Ali Baba Chicken

Here is a dish that is one of my favorites. I can't remember where I first ate the dish but it was a long time ago in a restaraunt in New York. I did a little research and came up with my own version of the dish. I know that readers will be shocked by the amount of garlic in this dish. NOT TO WORRY. Because you leave the cloves of garlic whole, it doesn't taste all that garlicy. To test my theory I served this dish to my grandmother on the sly. She had no idea that there was garlic in the recipe at all, let alone that it contained such a massive amount. I'll let you do your own experiments and see for yourself. Sometimes it takes a little courage to cook truly tasty food.

Ali Baba Chicken

Combine in a bowl:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T paprika
1 T kosher salt
1 T black pepper

In another bowl beat 1 egg and 1 T milk.

In another bowl place about 1 cup very finely ground croutons.

Split chicken breasts in half to make thin pieces of meat. Pound with a meat hammer. Dip chicken breasts first in flour, then in egg, then in the croutons. Brown in 3 T olive oil. Remove chicken to a cookie sheet. When all of your chicken pieces are done bake them in the oven at 375 until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile add to the chicken pan and Saute:
40 cloves garlic, peeled
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced

After vegies are sauteed, add:
1 cup dry white wine
14 oz can chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or about 1/2 t dried)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (Or about 1/2 t dried
2 bay leaves

Put chicken on top of vegies and bring to a simmer. Cover pan, transfer to a 375 degree oven and cook 45 minutes.

Notes: That is probably WAY too much flour/paprika mixture. I did 3 half chicken breasts with this split in half again so 6 pieces and there was a ton left over. The croutons are just about right for that amount of meat.

Greek Baked Beans

A while ago I got a good Greek cookbook from Amazon.com called The Complete Greek Cookbook. I have featured several dishes directly from the book on this site and I have used a lot of the recipes in the book as additions and guides for other recipes. This month's Cuisine At Home magzine came. They have great recipes and ideas in the magizine. There was a recipe for Greek Baked Beans in the magazine this month. Intrigued I looked up the recipe in my cookbook. It was an almost verbatum reproduction! I decided to give it a try. I changed things around just slightly to make it fit more to my tastes.

Greek Baked Beans

2 cans Canellini beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
2 T vinegar
3 T honey
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t ground oregano

Preheat oven to 375. Make the sauce by heating olive oil in a saucepan. Saute the onions. Add remaining ingredients except beans and parmesan. Bring to a boil. Mix in beans and pour into a shallow baking dish. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes. When beans are done sprinkle top with the cheeses.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Artichoke Chicken and Forgotten Great Movies

I was hungry for something with artichokes and chicken. I did a google search for artichoke chicken and found a few recipes that looked good, but none of them fit perfectly. I decided to make my own version with the ingredients that I was craving.

I also want to bring to the readers' attention to great movies that have been all but forgotten by popular culture. The first is Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America. It came out in 1984 and has an amazing cast including James Woods, Robert DiNero and tons of others.

The second is Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Released in 1975 it stars Ryan O'Neal. Both movies are absolute must see. If you haven't seen them you would be well advised to rent or buy them ASAP.

Artichoke Chicken

2 chicken breasts, halved and pounded thin

a few tablespoons olive oil

1 cup wine to deglaze pan

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, whole

1 box fresh sliced mushrooms
basil, oregano, thyme
1 jar pimentos
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 T butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream or half and half or milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice chicken breasts in half to make 2 thin chicken pieces per breast. Pound thin with a meat hammer. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and brown chicken pieces on each side. Set chicken pieces aside. Deglaze the pan by pouring 1 cup wine into the pan. Save the wine and set aside. To make the sauce, melt 2 T butter in a saucepan. Add flour and stir to make a thick roux. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and the wine that was used to deglaze the chicken pan. Bring to a boil and cook until it thickens a little bit. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Add cream and remove from heat.

Combine the chicken, mushrooms, onion, garlic, herbs, artichoke hearts, and pimentos in a baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top. Bake, uncovered, until vegis are done and sauce is thickening significantly - about 1 hour. Serve with rice or pasta or not.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chicken Parmesan

One of my favorite dishes is chicken parmesan. For this recipe I had a lot of influences. I like the crusted chicken romano at Cheescake Factory. A little of that is in my recipe.
I like the chicken parmesan at Buca di Beppo. A little of that is in my recipe.

Chicken Parmesan


1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 onion, very finely diced
3 strips bacon, fried
2 cloves garlic, pressed
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt to taste
a pinch each of basil, oregano, crushed red pepper
1/4 cup cream

Fry bacon in a sauce pan. Remove bacon from pan, leaving grease behind. Saute the onion and garlic in the grease. Meanwhile take the whole peeled potatoes and either crush them by hand or pulse them briefly in the blender, keeping them chunky. Add tomatoes to the onions and garlic. Crumble bacon, return to pot, cover, and simmer over low heat. After about 1/2 hour add the herbs, pepper and red pepper. Cover and simmer a little while longer. Taste the sauce. Adjust the saltiness with sea salt. Add 1/4 cup cream, stir and set aside.


2 chicken breasts, cut in half the thinner way and pounded real thin
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup saltine crackers
2 T dried parsley
2 eggs
a few T milk

Cut the chicken breasts in half to make thin pieces. Pound extra thin with a meat hammer. Combine the egg with the milk and stir vigorously. In a food processor combine the crackers, cheese and parsley. Pulse until powdered.
Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, then the parmesan/cracker/parsley mix. After dredging in the mix set into a greased baking pan.

The baking
You will need a few pieces proscuitto
you will need a few slices of mozarella cheese

Bake the dredged chicken pieces at 425 in the oven until browning and starting to look like chicken parmesan. Remove from oven and set on a plate. Pour the marinara in the bottom of the baking dish and return the chicken pieces to the pan. Top each piece of chicken with a piece of proscuitto and return to oven until proscuitto is starting to look a little crispy like a piece of bacon. Next top each piece of chicken with a piece of cheese. Return to the oven until cheese melts. Finally turn the oven to broil. Put the chicken back under the broiler until the cheese starts to brown.
And plated it looks like this:
If you have any leftover proscuitto, just roll it up and stick it to a piece of cantelope with a toothpick.


Beef Braciola

2 lbs top or bottom round steak, cut into long and narrow (about ½-3/4 inch) strips and pounded flat

The filling:

1/3 cup bread crumbs

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped

2 oz. salami, chopped

1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

Spread the filling on the flattened strips of meat. Roll up strips and secure with either one long toothpick or 2 regular sized tooth picks. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or deep pan. Brown well on all sides and then set aside.

The sauce:

2-3 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped or pressed

One 28oz. can of whole Italian plum tomatoes, either hand crushed or pulsed in a food


½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Fresh basil leaves (3-4) torn and thrown into the pot

* We added one red and one green bell pepper to the sauce cut into 1” chunks. This was not in the original recipe but made a very tasty addition.

Add ¼ cup water to the dutch oven to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add olive oil. When hot add the onion and sauté. Add the garlic and cook about one minute more. Add the tomatoes, chopped peppers and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the steak rolls and simmer for 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours on low.

Italian Wedding Soup

The Italian wedding soup I am used to is green, has little meatballs and some pasta in it. My wife recently found another version with 3 kinds of leaf vegetable in it.

Italian Wedding Soup

1 head of escarole, washed, core removed

1 head of chicory, washed, core removed ***substitute spinach leaves if unavailable

1 head savoy cabbage, washed, cored and cut into eighths

2 19oz. cans cannellini beans, undrained

¼ cup olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ lb. pancetta, chopped (bacon also works here)

1 lb. hot or mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 28 oz. can whole Italian plum tomatoes, hand crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of dried oregano ***a tiny bit of fresh oregano from your garden is good as well

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Separately boil the escarole, then the chicory and cabbage for a few minutes each. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve 5 cups of the water to use later in the soup.

Heat the oil in the pot you will use for the soup. A large dutch oven works well. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the pancetta and brown. Add the sausage and cook until done. Puree one can of the cannellini beans and add to the meat in the pan. Bring to a rapid simmer and add the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetables, the other can of beans and reserved water. Return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve topped with freshly grated cheese.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New way of making eggplant

I decided to make my eggplant a new way. I looked up a recipe for beer batter on the internet. I decided to make my usual eggplant, pepper, tomato and garlic yogurt dish with battered fried eggplant.

Beer Batter

1 cup beer
1 T oil
1 egg white
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t kosher or sea salt
1 cup Wondra or pastry flour
1/4 t mustard powder
1/2 t onion powder

Combine everything to make a batter about like pancake batter. Dip your eggplant slices in the batter and fry in oil. Works for onion rings as well.

For full details on how to make the rest of the dish see this post. Serve with kababs.

Kafta Kababs

This recipe also comes from the book The Arab Table, mentioned in the shish kabab post. Kafta is basically just ground up meat that is mixed with spices and onion. Middle Easterners make kafta into meatballs, hamburgers and also grill it on flat skewers. To make kafta kababs you will need flat metal skewers.

I modified the recipe in the book The Arab Table by using an idea one of my Iraqi friends (not the guy from Kurdistan) gave me. When he makes his kafta he uses half lamb and half ground beef. I also adjusted some of the ingredients to make it balance more to our tastes.


1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 yellow onion, very finely minced
1 T salt
1 t ground allspice
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef

To make the onion and parsley right, just take 1/2 onion and the parsley and throw them in a food processor. Chop them up until they are very finely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients to a large bowl and mash together with your hands until very well combined. Let "marinate" in the fridge for a few hours before using. You can freeze the rest if you have leftovers for use later.

Trick: I buy lamb in bulk from Sam's Club. I can get a 3 pound boneless leg of New Zealand lamb for about $10. When I bring it home I cut the meat up into lean cubes for making kababs. I take the leftover meats that are not suitable for making cubes and grind them up. I freeze everything in 1 pound batches and use them as needed. You should never throw any lamb away. Grind up the less desireable parts for other recipes like moussaka or kafta. You can even make a mean Bolognese sauce by adding ground lamb.

Shish Kabab

When we lived in Kansas I had a friend from Kurdistan. He was into Middle Eastern food as you might imagine. He recommended a cookbook to me called The Arab Table. I also heard about the book on NPR. I bought the book and have been impressed by the recipes therein. We were hungry for Middle Eastern food tonight so I decided to fire up the grill and make Shish Kababs. The following recipe is based on the one in The Arab Table. One funny fact about the author is that she lives in Kentucky.

Shish Kabab

8 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 T tomato paste
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

The marinade makes enough sauce for 2 pounds of meat. Today I used big chunks of boneless leg of lamb. You can also use big beef cubes or a combination of the two. All you do to make this is combine all the ingredients in the marinade and plop the meat into the bowl. Stir occasionally and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight. When you are ready grill it up.