Sunday, September 29, 2013

back to herbs

i use some herbs that are not tremendously common, sometimes.
Fenugreek is one and have had a difficult time finding it.
I would say the flavors pair well with Indian food, which i will cook at times.
Hard to find, but i found the seeds and so have been harvesting it and find that it is also better dried (more flavor) and so have dried my first batch.
Tarragon is more common, but i grew that also and now have a great batch of it; used with fish and poultry, i particularly like it with crab!
Cinnamon basil, smells more like a Thai basil and so that is what i use it with.
Leeks i have grown for the first time.
Fennel seed is a staple in my garden (and hard to get rid of) - teas, extracts and sausages are my main focus.
Marjoram, much like oregano, but used more in Mexican cooking.
Thyme, one of my favorites for poultry.
cilantro, parsley, rosemary, celery all make the appearance in my garden and the smells are marvelous to take in while walking.
Spearmint and peppermint also ten to take over as i brush past....
This fall is fun!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Italian Squash (Cucuzzi)

Two kinds shown here.  The long one is over 5 feet long (yes, i said that).    The skin is tough, sometimes, but it is edible so this belongs to the summer squash classification rather than a tough, heavy skin, which is winter squash.

 Traditionally served with a meatloaf filling,  i had to try something different and went with sausage.

1 long or 2 short squash
1 pound of sausage (in casing or without
toasted fennel seed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
fresh rosemary, minced fine.
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

cheese to sprinkle on top

Cut the squash into 4 inch lengths and core out the seeds, leaving a hole for the sausage.
boil the squash separate from the seeds, adding a teaspoon of salt to the water.
Boil the squash seeds with the sausage (if in casing) and garlic, fennel and rosemary with one teaspoon salt.
Otherwise fry the sausage and add the fat to the seeds.
After bringing the squash to a boil and the squash has become slightly darker, remove it from the water.
discard the water.
continue reducing the squash seed liquid until there is less than 1/2 of liquid.
Stuff the squash with sausage and place in a baking pan.
Pore squash seeds and liquid into the pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes
Remove from the oven and serve with Parmesan cheese over top of the squash (either whole or halved)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What i cook when i am away, and some times at home also

Farmhouse Chicken Thighs

Why farmhouse you ask?  It is because when i go down to a farm in Virginia, i use only what is available to me from the farm (but i buy the chicken, so not to slaughter the egg layers)

4 chicken thighs (okay, i really like thigh meat best with the skin on)
1 inch stalk of rosemary, minced very fine
1 teaspoon of fresh oregano, minced
1/4 cup scallions
2 cups Sangria (the very cheap kind)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup fresh peas, without pods

Add enough olive oil to a 2 quart cooking pot and add 1 teaspoon salt.
When the oil is hot from  high flame, add the thighs, shin down to brown them.
When brown add oregano, rosemary and black pepper and then turn the thighs skin side up.
Add the wine and allow it to reduce on  a simmer by reducing the heat.
Add carrots first and after 5 minutes add peas and scallions.
Reduce the wine till it becomes thick.
Taste the liquid and add more salt if needed
there is no need for flour because the fat from the chicken and the olive oil become an emulsion with the wine.

Serve with you favorite starch (i love roasted red potatoes with this.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frozen, canned and fresh

There is a mighty movement for farm to table, getting the freshest ingredient possible at any time and i would maintain that limits you.
One strange example is where my biochemistry back ground comes in, i prefer to first freeze all my meats and fish because freezing "pops" the cell membrane and i rub the spice mixes or marinade while defrosting.  The flavor gets deeper.
Fresh must be used within a limited time frame and if you can get something on sale, you can not stock up.
Canned and frozen vegetables are usually picked at the ripeness peak and if you are cooking with them and the canned product does not have extra things added, there is no reason not to use.
With vegetables, frozen is best for me, but i really do like working with fresh from my garden.
Spices, a new category is added, dried and most spices lose flavor when dried, but most of us can not have a winter garden in our kitchen.
The big exception is oregano (and i suppose marjoram) where the flavor intensifies when dried.  From my experience Thyme also is stronger dried.
Delicate items like mint and basil can be dried, but even careful drying will lose flavor.  Cilantro can only be preserved in a mixture and frozen.
The opening of cell walls in plants is not a good thing in other words.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"pre" made, store bought additives

yes, i used them for very specific things, but my list is not large.
I prefer making most of my own, but there are times....

Lawry's Baja Chipolte lime marinade - used instead of grinding and blending my own Chipolte peppers (which have variable heat) with lime and sugar.  I use this in Hamburger meat to make Kick-ass grilled hamburgers.  The ratio is 3 oz to 2 lbs of meat.

Bisquick - can not do without it to make all kinds of things, particularly biscuits.

Cream of mushroom or celery soup - i do not make soup with it, but rather as an additive and thickener for many meals, mostly using chicken.

Instant potato flakes - this is a thickener for my potato based soups and stews (and sometimes i use it to thicken mashed potatoes that have had a mistake with liquid addition)

Filo dough - i will not spend three hours trying to make dough that thin.

Dry pasta - i have not had the courage to make my own pasta yet - maybe some day....

Most of this is amazing as i make some things that most people buy - Enchilada or taco sauce is my own.
Spice rubs are my own
tomato sauce is my own (save some times i add some Ragu to thicken it)
BBQ sauce is y own.
I grow most of my own spices (and dry them)