Monday, March 24, 2014

talking about containers, pots and pans

my entire professional life was about extractions.  As an analytical chemist, in order to determine what was in a substance, you needed to extract the items you wished to know about.
We are a bit limited as cooks to what kind of vessels we cook in and heat is a great "extractor", but there are issues and problems.
When we marinade something over night, what type of vessel do we use.
Most marinades are acidic in nature, do you use a metal bowl?
Even the best stainless steel is affected slightly by a vinegar, sugar or even a tomato marinade and the result is a trace of metallic twang or sharpness that will be present, even though it is in a small amount.
Do you place hot foods or microwave foods in plastic?  While there is no significant taste issues, the "fillers" in the plastic, primarily Phalates, will migrate into your food.  This is even more true is you microwave in plastic.
While there was some sort of hysteria created on the internet concerning dioxins migrating into food (this is a known carcinogen), phalates may have some effect on the genetics in reproduction and so it might be go to stay clear (here it is talked about creating more females than males).
So what do i do - i have glass bowls and plastic bowls for cold marinades,  Glass pans for baking in acid and for microwaving.
I have stainless pots for cooking, like everything else, but major acidity is added after cooking or done separately in a microwave in glass.
Sadly, it appears again, i know too much.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

meatless during lent

Fish on Fridays and no meat on Mondays and Wednesday...sowe have quiche!
cheese, spinach, pepper and tomato

2 pie crust - ready made
6 whole eggs, whipped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/3 sweet red pepper, diced
1/2 hot green chili pepper diced fine
2 ripe tomatoes, diced fine
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup "Dubliner" Cheese (or any strongly flavored cheese), shredded
        (the three cheeses are blended together)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon tarragon

Bake the empty pie shells at 350 F until just faintly brown, remove and let cool.
mix all the ingredients and 1/2 of the cheese blend and pour into the pie shells
bake the pie shells with the mixture for about 30 to 45 minutes or until the top begins to brown
Spread the remainder of the cheese on top of each pie and continue to bake until all the cheese on top is melted and the center of the quiche is firm.
Serve warm!

Monday, March 17, 2014

ST Patty's Day

The people in my house love brown food.
Boiled and almost tasteless is just fine for them, but not me.
Having a Texas background, i thought i would try something different.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
my way

2 pieces of corned beef ~ 4 pounds each (it really shrinks)
1 head of Green cabbage sliced very thin
2 onions, quartered
2 tablespoons traditional pickling spice, store bought
  - these usually have mustard seed, bay leaf, black pepper corns, allspice, mine includes some cinnamon stick as well
4 red potatoes
2 tablespoons deli mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried orange zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 beer

The corned beef is soaked in water and refrigerated for 2 days with the water being changed 6 or 7 times - this removes the salt from the beef.

The day of serving, the corn beef is drained once again, pickling spice and onions are placed in a large pot and the corned beef added with enough water to cover them.
the mixture is brought to a boil and the heat reduced to a simmer for 4 hours.
After 4 hours, the beef is removed from the pot and placed in a pan with the beer in it
a glaze of mustard, salt and sugar is made and slathered on the top of the beef.  This is covered and cooked at 180 F in the oven for 3 hours.
The beef is uncovered and the heat increased for 30 minutes to 425 F.
To char the top briefly, broil on high for 2 or 3 minutes.

The hot liquid is strained and poured onto the cabbage and potatoes and simmered for 2 hours.  
Drain and serve the cabbage, potato and corn beef sliced against the grain.

They loved it!

Friday, March 14, 2014

i have been here awhile, but have no followers for this blog

So more deep thoughts before i proceed...
I am a cook, not a chef and i am proud of this for i am beginning to believe something which may or may not make people mad.
I chef prepares and presents what they want you to eat, and there is nothing wrong with this because i learn a great deal from a number of chefs.
I also believe a chef will push new things, well, because...
I see a cook as someone who knows the person they are preparing a meal for intimately and caters to the likes and dislikes of the person they are serving.
I am proudly a cook, for i know what the people that i cook for like and dislike.
I may serve something out of the box, but ultimately it will be something they will eat because i know their likes and dislikes.

Having said that, i went out of the box on Wednesday, a meatless day for me during lent (and that is in of itself, out of the box for the people i cook for).
I have a wonderful Asian Indian friend who showed me many things and i do some of them well - like lentils (dahl) and a jasmine rice and then there is Okra.
First let me say, i grew up hating Okra.  My mother prepared it stewed with tomatoes and the slimy texture i could not stand.
I still can not stand it, but there is a way...

First the spices, all dry - whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dry mustard seed, dry red chili pepper, whole black pepper corns, whole cloves and cinnamon are roasted with out oil till they just begin to give off their wonderful aroma, cooled and then ground fine and set aside.  I use equal portions (except for the cloves, i use 6 per tablespoon of the other spices and ginger, which i use half the amount of the other spices), and you might want to reduce the amount of pepper to make it less hot, depending on your palette.
1 tablespoon of cooking oil .
1 red onion, sliced.
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 or 3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 dozen baby okra, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
16 oz canned diced tomato or 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons of the fresh spice mixture

to the oil in a hot pan (heat on high) add the onions, pepper, okra and spice mixture until the onions are just translucent
add ginger, tomatoes, turmeric and garlic and reduce heat to medium - medium high to reduce the liquid.
Remove from heat, add the cilantro and salt and serve.
I usually serve this over jasmine rice with a side of yogurt (usually mixed with fresh cilantro).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

back tracking a bit

At the doctors office for something routine today, i could not help but notice all the magazines on food, most as the primary component.
I thought about this blog and thought, "just what the heck am i thinking?"  A billion or so cooks, a million or so chefs and all these magazines...who am I to think i can add anything to such a wealth of knowledge?
But i can, if i stick to what i know and what is, well, me!
What is that?
Born of a French Father and a Greek mother - those foods should not collide and be mixed, but each is special.
Growing up in Texas - very unique, yet there is much German influence in the smoked meats (my dad was Alsatian, very similar)
and then i have a long time exposure to some really old school Italian families, some friends who are Hispanic and some who are Indian.
I do not mix, but there is something to be learned and shared from each.

Then there is my professional calling, as a chemist, one i did well for over 36 years and that truly makes me unique.  So with no further ado, i bring you my next post.

Citrus zest
specifically Orange

Listening to Alton Brown talking about the origins of punch the other day, he talked of some of the flavors from the orange zest being alcohol soluble and a light went off in my head.
I know that the dry zest i use has about a 6 month shelf life before it becomes, well, meh.
I know that freezing dehydrates things even quicker and so looses these essences even faster, but i also know that some of the flavors in a citrus zest are also water soluble.  Since most grain alcohol is at best only 95% alcohol and 5% water (yes i worked with the pure stuff in the lab, but do not have access to that now), alcohol will extract most of the flavor, but not all. 
There still is a significant of non-soluble oils left, but they do not "pop" like the other flavors.
The dry zest i make adds a burst of citrus at a single small point, which is absolutely a wonderful sensation, without overpowering a dish with the citrus flavor.
The alcohol extract would create the flavor, well everywhere and should mix well with the dry zest in special creations.
Knowing all of this, i also proceeded to dry some zest with sugar, which will trap the alcohol and water soluble flavor and provide still another use.

That is what i have been doing and enjoying with zest!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Escarole and beans

A meatless (even Vegan) meal for lent

·       2 bunches of escarole, washed thoroughly and chopped roughly
·       1 onion, half diced, half slivered
·       1 red pepper, cut in slices
·       5 Italian star green hot peppers, Chopped roughly
·       2 cans small white beans
·       4 cloves garlic, minced
·       1/2 teaspoon dry basil
·       1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
·       8 oz whole mushrooms
·       Olive oil for the pans to cook in
·       salt to taste
·       2 cups rose wine

the diced onion is browned in just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a small sauce pot on medium heat
Beans are added, juice and all and the heat is changed to a simmer and the pot covered.
Basil and oregano is added to the beans
peppers, the remainder of the onion and the hot peppers are added to another pot and heated to just brown in another, larger pot.
mushrooms and garlic are added to this and the heat reduced to low.
This is constantly stirred until the garlic is just translucent.
The wine is as added and brought to a simmer and after a minute the escarole is added and the pot covered.
continue cooking for 30 minutes, but before the escarole browns (it should still be green), remove it from the pot and reduce the juice by half.
Plate escarole and then add the beans to the top.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Traditional Collard Greens

I found myself with cold weather and a ham hock, so i bought a couple of bunches of Collard Greens and went traditional.
Collard Greens

·       2 bunches collard greens, washed and chopped fine
·       1 smoked Ham hock
·       1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
·       1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
·       3 cloves garlic, minced
·       2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
·       1 tablespoon bacon fat
·       1 cup water
·       regular salt to taste

just soften the garlic in the bacon fat in a large pan on high heat
add the ham hock, collards and water
bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to low
cover and stir occasionally for 1 hour
add vinegar and stir and continue for at least 2 more hours
salt to taste and serve
Save the collard green "liquor" as a side drink