Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Here's a quick and easy hot chocolate recipe to keep you warm during these cold winter days.

  • Couple pieces dark chocolate
  • Spoonful of Nutella
  • Milk
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  1. In a small sauce pan or pot add the chocolate and Nutella and bring to a low heat
  2. Stir frequently so the chocolate doesn't burn
  3. When the chocolate and Nutella have melted together, add a mug full of milk
  4. Stir continuously until the milk heats up to the desired temperature (be careful not to boil it!) and the chocolate and Nutella are well incorporated
  5. Carefully pour into a mug and top with some whipped cream

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Pancakes

DISCLAIMER: The following recipe has been deemed inappropriate for consumption for the following people:
  • Diabetics
  • Children with low sugar tolerance (usually resulting in behavior like this)
  • Vegans
  • Pancake-haters
  • Anyone afraid of dentists
If you are one of the lucky people excluded from this list (or you want to defy common sensibilities and try it anyway), read on.  I'm a huge fan of sugary desserts and all, but four or five of these pancakes will satisfy my sweet tooth for the day: honey-sweetened cakes with a thin layer of melty Nutella topped off with a dusting of snowy white powdered sugar...mmm...that's what I'm talking about!

You will probably find most, if not all, of these ingredients in your cupboards at home with the exception of the leavener.  I could be mistaken, but I don't ever remember seeing this type of product in the U.S. so you may have to substitute it with more readily available ingredients.  The leavener we use is for sweet baking products so vanilla flavoring has been added to the leavening agent.  In place of the 1/2 teaspoon from this recipe, you can probably get away with the same amount of baking soda and a splash of vanilla extract.

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 t. leavener
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 c. milk
  • Nutella
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Combine the flour, leavener, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl
  2. Whisk in the egg and honey
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk until the desired batter consistency is achieved (may require more or less milk depending on your preference)
  4. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat
  5. Ladle in some batter, wait for bubbles to appear, then flip to cook the other side (standard pancake cooking procedure here)
  6. Now this is where the good stuff happens - spread some Nutella across the pancakes immediately after they are taken out of the pan
  7. Dust or sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of the Nutella
  8. Consume immediately!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Toaster Oven Pumpkin Pie

As you have probably heard from either Becky or myself at some point, the cooking situation in these Italian apartments is rather dismal.  Our entire (dys)functional kitchen is a literal closet (closing doors and the whole bit) with four-burner gas stove (one of which is completely dead, another that is so close to the wall of aforementioned closet that there is a giant burn in the wall from standard use; which only leaves two burners for any practical use).  Our fridge is smaller than the ones I had throughout my college dorm years - with a freezer that is nothing short of laughable.  Which brings me to the focal point of this recipe: our "oven".  Toaster oven, to be exact.  To its defense, it is slightly larger than the average countertop toaster oven.  I think we could bake an 10" pizza in there if we really wanted to.  Still, it's a friggin' toaster oven designed for making...erm...toast and such?

In spite of this culinarily-debilitating environment, we can honestly do most of the things we otherwise could in a more apt environment - we just need to get a little more creative at times.  Enter the toaster oven pumpkin pie.  Becky made some pumpkin ravioli for a group of friends this past weekend (it was supposed to be butternut squash ravioli but the stores were apparently fresh out this past weekend).  The best way to get fresh, authentic pumpkin flavor for anything is to use a  fresh, authentic pumpkin - which we were able to find (the last one in the store, even!) just in time for the dinner party.

As you are aware, pumpkins are generously-sized fruits.  This one was on the smaller side, ringing in at approximately 3 kg (~6.5 lbs) which is a lot more pumpkin than was necessary for 9 servings of ravioli.  With the leftover (a little less than half of the original pumpkin), I decided to make some pumpkin pie since we missed out on that during Thanksgiving.  I picked up some smaller aluminum baking tins (approximately 6" x 9") from the grocery store and a pre-made pie crust and set forth to make my pumpkin pie.

My first attempt at this turned out a bit on the charred side, but this was mostly superficial.  Beneath the super thin layer of crunchiness was a familiar texture and flavor - real pumpkin pie!  If you have a real oven and are not so adventurous as to give this a try in a toaster oven, be my guest (chicken).  You will have to adapt the baking times and temperatures accordingly (since I don't really have solid suggestions at this point either).

  • 2 lb. raw pumpkin
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 3/4 T cinnamon
  • 1/4 T nutmeg
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pie crust
  1. Depending on the size of your pumpkin (whether it be a whole, small pumpkin or simply a chunk of a larger pumpkin), you may have to chop it up into a couple pieces in order to get it to fit comfortably inside a toaster oven
  2. Scoop out all the seeds and membrane from the inside of the pumpkin
  3. Cut up the butter and place a few chunks on the inside of each piece of pumpkin (if there are multiple)
  4. Roast the pumpkin piece(s) in the toaster oven until tender (it took 35 - 40 minutes at 300F for mine but may vary for yours)
  5. Remove the pumpkin piece(s) from the toaster oven
  6. Using a large spoon, scoop out all the meat and place it in a large mixing bowl
  7. Add the cream to the pumpkin and mix well
  8. Using a blender (or an immersion blender if you have one), puree the filling to a smooth paste
  9. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to taste (the measurements above are merely suggestions, I actually have no idea how much of each I put in) - it is important to taste test now before you add the eggs to the mixture
  10. Slightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl before mixing into the pumpkin filling
  11. Roll out the pie crust into an aluminum baking pan - or a real pie tin if you have one that will fit in your toaster oven
  12. Gently pour the filling into the pie crust
  13. I don't have a good suggestion for the timing and temperature for the pie yet, but I can relay what I did.  First, I baked the pie for ~10 minutes at ~400F at which point the pie crust was beginning to brown but the filling was still very liquidy.  I reduced the heat to ~300 for another 20 minutes or so until the top of the filling began to brown (but the filling still wasn't cooked through).  I reduced the heat again to ~210 for another 10 - 15 minutes.  At this point the top of the pie was very crisp looking (but this was only the very top).
  14. Remove the pie from the toaster oven and let cool
  15. Carefully slice and serve with cool whip or vanilla ice cream.  Unfortunately we are lacking both, but it tastes just as good by itself!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant was one of those foods that I would always pass over on restaurant menus and supermarkets alike.  It just never appealed to me for the longest time.  Then, one fateful day, I decided to try an eggplant Parmesan somewhere and have been a fan ever since.  I don't necessarily do a lot of cooking with it at this point, but I now know that, despite its less-than-savory name (even though I knew it didn't taste anything like eggs - which disgust me), it is a very versatile and tasty vegetable.  Bread it and fry it up with cheese and pasta just makes it that much more appealing!

This vegetarian meal can be made in less than an hour.  You can halve that if you use pre-made marinara sauce in place of the basic tomato sauce below.

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 package linguine or spaghetti pasta
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 2 fresh mozzarella balls, thinly sliced
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese
  1. Slice the eggplant width-wise in 1/4" discs
  2. Lightly salt both sides of the eggplant slices and place in a colander and let sit.  This will draw out some of the water from the vegetable.
  3. In a sauce pot, sauté the garlic and onion with extra virgin olive oil until tender
  4. Toss in the tomatoes and a few shakes of red pepper
  5. Stir the tomatoes for a couple minutes then add 2 cups of water
  6. Bring to a boil
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. When the tomatoes soften, remove the pot from heat and blend with an immersion blender.  A standard blender will work also if you don't have an immersion blender.
  9. Return the pot to the stove and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally
  10. While the sauce is reducing, start boiling the pasta in a separate pot
  11. At this point, the eggplant slices should have had time to dehydrate a bit (you'll see a small puddle of water under the colander)
  12. Setup an assembly line on your prep surface with the following items: 1 plate with flour, 1 plate or shallow bowl with the eggs, 1 plate with breadcrumbs and 1 empty plate (for the prepped eggplant slices)
  13. To bread the eggplant slices, dredge each side of the slice through the flour first, then the egg (allowing excess to drip off), then finally the bread crumbs and place it on the final plate
  14. Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil and bring to medium-high heat
  15. Gently place the eggplant slices in the pan
  16. Flip the eggplant slices after the first side browns
  17. Add a slice or two of mozzarella to each eggplant slice as the bottom side cooks
  18. When the bottoms have browned, transfer to a paper towel covered plate (to absorb the excess oil)
  19. At this point, the pasta should be ready for plating.  Strain the pasta and add some to the serving plates, followed by a couple slices of eggplant, followed by a ladle of sauce topped off with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tortellini al Ragù di Salsicce

Tortellini are stuffed pasta shells akin to ravioli.  As such, they can be used in much the same way.  I was originally planning to make a simple marinara sauce for these tortellini, but ended up throwing the extra sausage into the pot after I got tired of folding the shells - thus another ragù recipe.  Ragù, I have found (thanks to Becky), simply means "meat sauce" so there is really no true ragù recipe.  Feel free to use your favorite pasta sauce in place of this ragù as well.

If you start the sauce before the pasta, the sauce will be nice and thick by the time the tortellini are ready.  If you happen to have a stick blender - and if you prefer a smoother sauce - purée the sauce before adding the sausage.  A double batch of fresh pasta dough recipe yields around 40 tortellini so you will be busy for a couple hours - unless you can find someone to help you out.

  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • Handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 c. Chianti
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, separated
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 batches fresh pasta dough
  1. Toss in the carrot, onion and garlic into a pot on medium-high heat with some extra virgin olive oil, cooking until tender
  2. Mix in the tomatoes and basil with about a cup of water
  3. Add the black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
  4. Bring to a boil
  5. Add the wine and reduce heat to a simmer
  6. In a separate pan, brown the sausage through
  7. Transfer the cooked sausage to a paper towel covered plate to strain out the excess grease
  8. When the sausage is cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and mince
  9. Combine 3/4 of the sausage, egg and parmesan cheese in a bowl, mixing well
  10. Add the remaining 1/4 of the sausage to the simmering sauce
  11. To make the pasta, roll out a small piece of dough very thin and cut into 2" squares (fig. 1)
  12. Add a small portion of the sausage filling to the center of the pasta (fig. 2)
  13. Fold the pasta in half diagonally and seal the edges with your fingers (fig. 3).  Keep a cup of water nearby to help seal the edges if your pasta is too floury or dry
  14. Place the pasta between your thumb and forefinger with the triangle tip up and fold the two wings around your thumb, sealing them together (fig. 4)
  15. Tuck the tip down into the folded wings and gently flour before placing with the rest of the tortellini (fig. 5)
  16. To cook the tortellini, gently place them one by one into a boiling pot of water, making sure to give each of them plenty of room
  17. Remove when they float to the surface (2 - 4 minutes)
  18. Serve in a bowl with a ladle of sauce and a fresh grating of parmesan cheese

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pappardelle al Ragù

Think of pappardelle as really wide fettucine.  Unlike its thinner sibling, pappardelle goes best with chunky, meaty sauces.  Here in Tuscany, it is common to see pappardelle in restaurants served with a wild boar ragù.  However, wild boar is much less accessible than Italian sausage - which I used for this sauce.  Becky rolled the pasta slightly thicker than that of fettucine which complimented the heartiness of the sauce perfectly.

  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 c. Chianti
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh pasta dough (see recipe)
  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil for a couple minutes
  2. Remove the sausage from its casing (if it has any), chop it up and toss it in the pan
  3. Once the sausage has browned, add the tomatoes and wine, mixing well
  4. Make a few turns of freshly ground black pepper to the sauce
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 - 20 minutes or until saucification is complete
  6. While the sauce is simmering, you can begin rolling out the pasta dough into a large sheet.  Make sure that you are following the flour, roll, flip, repeat method so as to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling surface and rolling device
  7. After you have rolled out the dough into the desired thickness, you should have a decent sized sheet of pasta
  8. Flour the top of the pasta sheet once more, making sure to evenly spread the flour to all corners
  9. Gently roll the sheet into a snake and place it on a cutting board
  10. Using a non-serated knife, segment the snake into 1/2" pieces.  These pieces will unroll into long, (relatively) straight pappardelle noodles
  11. Toss the unrolled noodles with flour so they do not stick together
  12. The fresh noodles will take only 2 - 3 minutes to cook
  13. Add the cooked noodles to the sauce and gently mix with tongs
  14. Serve immediately with a fresh grating of parmesan cheese

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tubetti di Formaggio con Sugo Piccante (Cheese Tubes with Spicy Sauce)

I used the extra pasta dough from here and extra ricotta from here to create these cheese sticks.  These are a homemade replacement for mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce.

  • Homemade pasta dough (see recipe)
  • Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  1. After the pasta dough has been made, the tubes are a snap - simply roll out small portions (pasta thickness) into small oval or rectangular shapes (approximately 5" wide by 4" high)
  2. Spread a small dollup (~1 t.) of ricotta along the edge closest to you, leaving about 1/2 inch on either side
  3. Carefully roll the pasta into a tube
  4. Seal the ends with the tines of a fork
  5. The tubes can either be placed aside or refrigerated while you prepare the sauce
  6. In a small sauce pan, sauté the garlic and onions with extra virgin olive oil until tender
  7. Add the tomatoes and a good dose of black pepper
  8. Add the red pepper flakes (the amount of red pepper you use is your decision, but I prefer this sauce spicy)
  9. Add a bit of water for the flavors to saucify in
  10. Mix in a splash of balsamic vinegar
  11. Reduce heat to a simmer, mixing frequently, until the sauce has achieved its desired consistency
  12. Bring out the tubetti from wherever you were storing them
  13. Cover the bottom of a large sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil and bring up to medium-high heat
  14. One by one, carefully lay the tubetti in the hot oil, seam side up
  15. After one or two minutes, the bottom of the tubetti should be brown and crispy, flip them over and cook the other side
  16. Lay out the cooked tubetti on a plate covered in paper towel to absorb the excess oil
  17. Serve immediately with the sauce for dipping

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

Ravioli are a very versatile pasta - you can fill them with just about anything.  However, by keeping the ingredients simple, you have a larger selection of sauce and entrée pairings.  These ravioli will go just as well with a tomato-based sauce as they would with a simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grating of fresh parmesan cheese.

  • Homemade pasta dough (see recipe)
  • 1 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. fresh spinach
  1. Boil 1/4" water in a large stock pot
  2. Remove the stems from the spinach and toss into the pot until properly steamed - this only takes a couple minutes
  3. Strain the spinach well, pressing as much of the excess water out of it as is possible, then let it cool
  4. Finely chop the spinach
  5. In a bowl, thoroughly mix together the spinach and ricotta, this will be the ravioli filling
  6. Take a small portion of the dough (roughly ping-pong ball size) and roll it into a thin, roughly rectangular shape on a floured surface.  I have found that the best way to do this and to avoid making a mess out of your rolling device (rolling pins and empty wine bottles work well for this) is to flour the entire piece of dough, smash it down with your hand, flour it again, roll it out on one side, flip it, flour it, roll it out, flip it, etc.
  7. Using a non-serrated knife or pizza cutter, cut off the rounded sides so you have a nice rectangle - this should be 6" wide by 8" high or so
  8. Make another single cut through the middle of the dough width-wise, creating two 6" x 4" pieces
  9. Add a fork-full of filling to the right half of one of the ravioli shells and spread it across toward the three edges, leaving enough room to seal it in the next step (see top image)
  10. Fold the left half over the right and seal by gently pressing the tines of a fork around the open edges of the raviolo
  11. Flour a cookie sheet, plate or any other mobile surface for the finished ravioli - be careful if you stack the ravioli as they will stick together if not thoroughly floured
  12. To cook the ravioli, gently slide a few of them into a large pot of boiling water taking care not to overcrowd them
  13. When they are finished cooking, they will float to the top (2 - 3 minutes)
  14. 4 or 5 ravioli are large enough for a single serving

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fresh Pasta Dough

Fresh, homemade pasta is incredibly simple to make - if you have the time to devote to it.

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg and flour until the result is roughly doughy (I do this initial mixing with a fork), adding water if necessary
  2. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for a couple minutes until smooth and elastic
  3. If you aren't going to use the dough right away, store it in an airtight container
That's it! You have just made pasta dough.  Obviously it isn't in edible form yet, but that's where the creativity comes in.  You can use a rolling pin, empty wine bottle, or (if you're lucky enough to have one handy) a pasta machine to shape your dough into the shapes of your choice.  Cooking time will depend on the thickness and shape of the pasta you make, but it will be less than the boxed counterparts (because of the freshness).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lentil Soup, Simplified

Lentil soup has become one of our staples out here in Siena.  It is super easy to make, it tastes good and it is (mostly) healthy.  The Tuscans pride themselves on the simplicity of their foods while maintaining a high bar for overall tastiness and quality of their cooking.  They are able to make a few basic ingredients go a long way.  In going with this tradition, I have modified my lentil soup recipe to conform to the style of the area.

Lately, Becky has been making lentil soup once a week or so.  Her version includes diced potatoes and the rind of a parmesan cheese (add these with the lentils).  Note that the image to the right has a yellowish tinge around the edge; that's because I added a little curry powder to the recipe - I couldn't resist.  The soup is perfectly fine without it.

  • 1/2 c. Pancetta, cubed
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 c. green lentils, rinsed
  • Black pepper
  1. In a pot on medium-high heat, sauté the pancetta, onion, carrot and garlic together with a little extra virgin olive oil
  2. When the veggies have tendered and the pancetta has browned, add the lentils and a healthy dose of black pepper - dry fry for a minute or two
  3. Add a couple cups of water to the pan and mix well
  4. Salt to taste
  5. When the pot has come to a boil, reduce to a dull roar and let cook for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender (stirring occasionally)
  6. Serve hot with a splash of olive oil and a couple slices of bread to mop up the extra soup

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shells with Pancetta and Tomato Sauce

Becky and I have been in Siena for close to two months now, and I'm just getting around to posting about our culinary adventures.

>insert sad and slightly apologetic emoticon image here<

For me, I guess the biggest adjustment (cooking-wise) to the environment here as opposed to that of Los Angeles, is the regionality (it's a word now) of the ingredients. Everything here is very Italian: the meats, veggies, beverages, baked goods, spices (actually, the lack thereof) bleed Italian. You walk into a grocery store and you are simply overwhelmed with the Italian-ness of your surroundings. It's a little hard to explain, especially after living in LA where there is really no primary demographic. Not that this is necessarily a hindrance by any means. Quite to the contrary, actually. By drastically reducing my spice collection (I went from 40+ different spices in LA to just two here in Siena: black peppercorns and red pepper flakes) I have been able to focus more on the flavors of the ingredients that give a dish its sustenance. This pasta dish is a good example. By using only three primary flavors (pancetta, tomato and balsamic vinegar), you can create a quick and easy lunch for a couple people in less than half an hour.

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. pancetta, cubed
  • 4 tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Balsamic vinegar


  1. Sautee the onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil for a couple minutes
  2. Add the pancetta and cook until browned
  3. Toss in the quartered tomatoes (skin side down) with a half cup of water
  4. Season with black pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste
  5. After a few minutes, you will be able to slide the tomato skins off using a wooden spoon - compost the skins
  6. Add a little balsamic here - not too much, maybe ~1/8 cup or so
  7. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 - 15 minutes
  8. When the tomatoes are tender, you can mash them with the back of the wooden spoon to encourage sauceification
  9. At this point, you can boil your pasta of choice - I use small shells because they hold the sauce well
  10. Strain the pasta when al dente and toss in with the simmering sauce
  11. Serve with a fresh grating of parmesan cheese and a couple pieces of bread to soak up the extra sauce

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chocolate Almond Spice Drops

Part III from the "Cleaning out the cupboards so we can move to Italy" series

If this recipe starts out sounding a lot like one of my previous chocolates (see Pomegranate Chocolates), that's because it is. After using up the pomegranate jelly, I had an excess of nicely melted orange cardamom chocolate to experiment with (this is one of the better problems to have, I've discovered... in a related note, I'm not looking forward to my dentist appointment next week...). I decided to combine this base with one of my favorite savory spice combos (cinnamon, clove and nutmeg) and see where that took me.

I prefer a slightly bitter chocolate when making my own candies (bittersweet 60 - 70%). Callebaut has been my medium of choice because a) I can consume it in solid form by the handful (and I do, see dentist note above), b) it melts nicely, c) it sets up firm, yet will melt in your mouth after a couple seconds and d) it is relatively cheap for a culinary grade chocolate. Again, and I apologize if this sounds snobbish, but I have tried some of the standard grocery-grade chips (Ghiradelli, Hershey's, generic, etc.) and they simply do not make good candies - most likely due to the higher levels of preservatives and wax.

Callebaut bittersweet (60%) runs $5 per pound (sold in two pound bags, chip form) at one of the local restaurant supply warehouses here in Culver City so you're not going to break the bank making birthday candy for ... (me? please?). To get an idea as to how much candy two pounds of chocolate chips equates to, it's approximately 20 times more than you would ever want to consume in a single day. And that's if you're me, which very few people out there are.

Anyway, here's what you came for.

  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/8 t. cinnamon, freshly ground
  • 1/16 t. nutmeg, freshly ground
  • Pinch of brown sugar, optional
  • 3/4 lb. bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • Almonds, whole

  1. In a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) grind the cardamom and cloves into a fine powder
  2. Mix in the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar
  3. In a double boiler, gently melt 3/4 of the chocolate, orange zest and spice mixture until smooth and creamy
  4. Remove from heat and add the reserved chocolate, folding with a spatula until melted through
  5. Before the chocolate sets up, lay out a sheet of wax paper over a cookie sheet
  6. Using a spoon, spread out small oval-shaped portions of chocolate (just larger than a single almond) until all the chocolate has been used
  7. Gently press a single almond into each chocolate drop
  8. Let the chocolate cool and set. You may want to place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to expedite the process if you are working in a warm and/or humid environment
  9. I prefer to individually wrap each piece just in case they are left out and start to melt - plus it just looks cool to have a bowl full of home-made hand-wrapped candies sitting out

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chicken With Spicy Marinara

Part II from the "Cleaning out the cupboards so we can move to Italy" series

Honestly, I didn't have high expectations for this one, so I was surprised when I actually tasted it and thought "Hey, I'd eat this again". As a side note, does anyone know if Rice Krispies go bad? Maybe that was what made it good. If this doesn't turn out tasty for you on first attempt, try aging your Rice Krispies for at least 18 months. I did.

  • 1 c. marinara sauce
  • 2 T. Tabasco
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Few leaves basil, torn
  • 1 c. Rice Krispies (see above), crushed
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 t. cayenne powder
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 chicken breasts, split in half width-wise
  • Cheddar cheese, sliced

  1. In a small pot on low heat, combine the first four ingredients, mix well and let simmer
  2. Combine the Rice Krispies, flour, cayenne, black pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes in a mixing bowl
  3. Dredge the chicken pieces through the mix, coating both sides
  4. Add some extra virgin olive oil to a large pan on medium-high heat
  5. Place the four chicken pieces in the hot pan and sear both sides (do not cook through at this point!)
  6. Dredge the partially cooked chicken through the dry mixture again and place back in the pan and cook through
  7. If the marinara has achieved the desired spiciness, remove from heat
  8. Arrange the chicken on a serving dish
  9. Cover each piece of chicken with a thin slice of cheddar
  10. Cover the cheddar with a generous spoonful of the marinara
  11. Allow the chicken and marinara to melt the cheddar before serving

Chicken Pasta Bake

Part I from the "Cleaning out the cupboards so we can move to Italy" series

As much as we would like to take everything we own with us wherever it is we may be headed, this simply is not a feasible option. Over the past two or three years, we have invested some effort into our culinary collection: spices, pastas, legumes, cereal, spices, chicken, flour, oils and did I mention spices (like over-flowing shelves full of them)? If anyone is interested in taking a pound of corriander seeds off my hands, please do - I'll throw in some star anise, cinnamon sticks and cardamom, too!

So anyway, these next few posts will reflect my attempts to create enticing (or at least entertaining) edible entrées from our expansive collection of extras. Buon appetito! (Disclaimer: these recipes have not been endorsed by the Italian people in any way, shape or form. Unneccessary Italian may be used from time to time. Proceed at your own risk.)

This recipe is part casserole, part cheese plate, but mostly a hastily thrown together trough of Italian-ish ingredients. Becky being the cheese connoisseur she is, likes to keep our fridge full of assorted families of formaggio. Unfortunately, we often forget about what we have in stock and the wedges grow into unsightly furry beasties to spite us. If you suffer from the same situation (and if you savor soft and semi-soft slices from select four-legged milk producers like sheep, um...shcows and sgoats? sh--, starting to see the shortcomings of selected sentence structure) this dish is a good way to clean out the cheese shelf before restocking.

  • Cherry tomatoes, generous handful or two
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3/4 lb. pasta (penne or rotini are my preference)
  • Few basil leaves
  • ~3 oz chèvre
  • ~4 oz fresh mozzarella in brine
  • ~3 oz fresh feta
  • ~4 oz ricotta
  • Parmesan or Romano, finely shredded

  1. Begin by roasting the tomatoes and garlic. I would suggest tossing the tomatoes with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and black pepper and spreading in a small pan or baking dish. For the garlic, peel it and place it in a piece of tinfoil with extra virgin olive oil and black pepper. Close the tinfoil up around the garlic and twist the top closed, forming a little tinfoil bag. I usually roast this stuff in our toaster oven since it doesn't take up much room.
  2. While the tomatoes and garlic are roasting, boil the pasta to al dente and sautée the chicken pieces until cooked through
  3. Chiffonade the basil
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, cooked chicken, garlic (put the garlic through a press first) and 3/4 of the basil
  5. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the chèvre, mozzarrella, feta and ricotta cheeses and mix together with a fork
  6. Add the cheese mixture to the pasta mix in the large bowl and stir together
  7. Spread out the mix into a baking dish
  8. Sprinkle the remaining basil, tomatoes and parmesan/romano cheese over the casserole
  9. Bake in the oven for ~10 minutes or so until the cheeses are gooey

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Split Pea Soup with Pancetta and Almonds

If you want a more prominent pancetta flavor in your soup, chop some up and add it to the mirepoix (celery, carrots, onion).


  • Carrots, chopped
  • Celery, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Onions, chopped
  • Bay leaf
  • Potatoes, diced and divided
  • Split peas
  • Cumin seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Fennel seeds
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Almonds, crushed
  • Pancetta, cubed
  • Sage


  1. Sauté the first four ingredients in a stockpot until carrots are tender
  2. Add bay leaf and most of the potatoes, reserving some for added texture later on
  3. Mix well and add some water to the pot
  4. Mix in the split peas
  5. In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the cumin, mustard, fenugreek, coriander, fennel and black peppercorns
  6. When stock pot reaches a steady boil, start adding the spice mixture a little at a time, mixing between additions – reserve about a teaspoon of the spice mixture
  7. Add salt, if desired
  8. Stir the soup occasionally so as to avoid burning the bottom
  9. When split peas become tender, start a sauté pan on another burner medium-high heat
  10. Grind the almonds in a spice grinder
  11. When sauté pan is hot, add crushed almonds and reserved spice mixture, mixing frequently to avoid burning
  12. When the almond mixture is nice and brown, remove them from the pan and set aside
  13. Sear the pancetta in the sauté pan
  14. Add a little broth from the soup to the pancetta pan
  15. Add the reserved potatoes to the pancetta pan and mix thoroughly
  16. Add more broth to the pancetta pan if it becomes too dry
  17. When pancetta is thoroughly cooked and potatoes are tender, add a cup or two of the broth to the pancetta pan and simmer
  18. Add the crushed almonds and sage to the pancetta pan and mix thoroughly
  19. Let simmer until sauce thickens
  20. By this time, the soup should be just about ready. If the peas are really tender, remove the bay leaf
  21. Using a hand blender, blend the soup into a smooth puree
  22. Add the pancetta mixture to the soup and simmer for a few minutes
  23. Serve hot

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chili con Carne


  • 1 - 1 1/2 c. kidney beans
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • Black pepper
  • 6 - 10 green cardamom pods
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 10 - 12 cloves
  • 1 T cumin seeds
  • 3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 oz) can chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 T cayenne (optional)


  1. Soak the beans in plenty of water overnight
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil for a couple minutes, then add the beef and a couple good rounds of freshly ground black pepper, cook through
  3. Strain the grease from the beef mixture
  4. In a small sauté pan, dry roast the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and cumin seeds until fragrant (only a minute or two)
  5. In a large pot on medium-high, mix the rinsed beans, beef mixture, spices, tomatoes, chilies, bell pepper and a couple cans worth of water
  6. When the pot has reached a good boil, reduce the heat to simmer and let cook for two hours, occasionally stirring and adjusting seasoning and water levels as necessary

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gyro (Better Version)

I just made gyros again today, but changed it up a bit. This version takes quite a bit longer from start to finish, but it is most definitely worth it! I'll also include my own pita bread recipe as well. I've included measurements this time, but they are estimated so just use your own judgment if something doesn't seem balanced.

Lamb Ingredients
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 t. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 c. onion, finely diced
  • 1 T. mint, finely chopped
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 6 lb. leg of lamb

Additional Ingredients
  • 1/2 c. red onion, finely sliced
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 1 c. heirloom tomotoes, diced
  • Feta cheese
  • Pita bread (recipe in previous post)
  • Tzatziki (recipe in previous post)

Day 1 Directions
  1. Combine the lemon, cumin, onion, mint and oregano in a small mixing bowl and mix well - this will be the marinade for the lamb
  2. Salt and pepper the lamb, to taste
  3. Rub the marinade into the lamb, covering all sides
  4. Set lamb in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator overnight
Day 2 Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425
  2. Transfer the lamb to a rack with a walled cookie sheet beneath to catch the juices
  3. Place the rack in the oven and cook lamb for 1 - 1.5 hours, or until lamb has reach desired wellness
  4. Remove the lamb from the oven and transfer the rack to a clean walled cookie sheet
  5. Using a spatula, scrape the drippings from the first cookie sheet into a sauté pan
  6. Heat sauté pan to medium-high heat, adding onions when scrapings begin to sizzle
  7. Sauté onions until tender
  8. Splash some wine into the sauté pan and let reduce
  9. At this time, the lamb has most likely completed its post-roast cooking and will be ready to be sliced into thin pieces
  10. Layer the fresh pitas with tzatziki, onions, feta, lamb and tomatoes


  • 1 c. natural Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 cucumber
  • 3 - 4 Garlic cloves
  • Black pepper
  • 2 T. Mint leaves, julienned
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  1. Put the yogurt in a strainer lined with cheese cloth
  2. Grate the cucumber into the strainer with the yogurt, mix
  3. Allow yogurt and cucumber to drain overnight
  4. Roast the garlic cloves with black pepper and a splash of olive oil until golden brown and very tender
  5. Combine the yogurt and cucumber mixture with the roasted garlic, mint leaves, lime juice and freshly grated black pepper
  6. Mix the tzatziki well, you may have to crush or blend the garlic so there are no large chunks

Pita Bread

This is an easy recipe for those interested in making their own pita bread.


  • 1 T. butter, melted
  • 1/2 t. dry yeast
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c. white flour
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. mint, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 500
  2. Combine the yeast, butter and 1/4 c. tepid water in a small bowl
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining dry pita ingredients
  4. After the yeast has been given the opportunity to rise (~5 minutes or so), add to the mixing bowl and mix well - add more water or flour as necessary
  5. Knead the down until it is smooth and elastic
  6. Set aside in a lightly oiled, covered bowl let rise for 45 - 60 minutes
  7. On a baking stone, roll out the pita dough into small circular pita shapes
  8. Bake the pitas for 3 - 5 minutes. You should see them puff up like balloons
  9. Remove pitas from oven and place on cooling rack - if desired, cut a slit along side a portion of the edge to create a pocket (I usually omit this step and simply roll the pitas as-is around the filling)

Friday, June 5, 2009


My version of the traditional Greek sandwich.


  • Onions, finely sliced
  • Lamb meat, thinly sliced
  • Red wine
  • Pita bread
  • Heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • Feta cheese, crumbled

  1. In a pan, sauté onion in butter until translucent
  2. Add lamb to pan and brown
  3. Add a little red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan for any stuck flavors, and reduce
  4. When sauce is of desired consistency, remove from heat
  5. Create sandwiches by filling pita with meat, tomatoes, cheese and tzatziki

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Peanut Butter Crunch

NOTE: When making chocolate candies, the quality of the chocolate is very important. I would suggest going to a specialty culinary store and paying a few dollars extra to get the professional grade stuff - Hershey's and Ghiridelli just aren't going to melt and reset evenly. For the peanut butter, I would recommend using the real stuff (where the only ingredient is peanuts).


  • Bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, 60 - 66% dark
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice Krispies
  • Almonds, crushed
  • Raisins


  1. In a double boiler, gently melt 3/4 of the chocolate and some peanut butter until smooth and creamy
  2. Remove from heat and add the reserved 1/4 of the chocolate, mixing until melted
  3. Add the Rice Krispies, almonds and raisins, mixing well
  4. Before the chocolate sets up, lay out a sheet of wax paper over a cookie sheet
  5. Using a spoon or your hands, dollop out small balls of the mix onto the wax paper. They will collapse into a half sphere but should not completely flatten out. If they do collapse, add more Rice Krispies, almonds and/or raisins
  6. Wrap each piece in candy paper or aluminum foil when they have cooled and set completely

Chicken Chipotle with Potatoes and Beans

La Ballona, a local Mexican restaurant in downtown Culver City, makes the best chicken chipotle. This is my attempt at their classic recipe.

  • Pinto beans
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Potatoes, cubed
  • Chicken, cubed
  • Chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce)
  • Black pepper
  • Cilantro, chopped
  1. In a pot, boil the beans until tender
  2. In a large pan, sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until tender
  3. Add the potatoes and cook until they tender up a little bit
  4. Add the chicken pieces, cooking all sides until they turn white
  5. Add the beans and chipotle peppers with adobo sauce
  6. Grind some fresh black pepper into the pan, to taste
  7. Simmer this for a while until the potatoes are very tender and the chicken is cooked all the way through, adding water when the sauce becomes too thick
  8. Finally, add the chopped cilantro and mix well
  9. Serve hot with rice and corn tortillas

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Barley Vegetable Soup

Soups are an easy solution to the what-to-bring-to-work-for-lunch dilemma. You make them on the weekend and they're ready to dish out each morning before heading into the office. This recipe came about as I was looking for another use for all the garbanzo beans I had just purchased.


  • Onion, finely diced
  • Celery, finely diced
  • Carrot, finely diced
  • Bay leaf
  • Garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
  • Chicken stock
  • Barley oats
  • Potatoes, finely diced
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Pancetta (optional)
  • Scallions, chopped
  • Mushrooms, finely diced
  • White vinegar, splash
  • Cream, splash


  1. Sauté first 4 ingredients until vegetables have softened
  2. Add garbanzo beans and mix well
  3. Add chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes or until garbanzo beans are tender
  4. Add barley oats and potatoes
  5. Simmer for another 30 minutes, or until tender
  6. Add black pepper, cayenne pepper and turmeric to taste
  7. If using pancetta, sauté in a separate pan until browned
  8. Sauté scallions and mushrooms lightly with pancetta or extra virgin olive oil then add to the stock
  9. Add vinegar and cream
  10. Remove bay leaf immediately before serving


I used to buy granola to put in my yogurt at breakfast for quite a while. After a few months, however, I became bored with the store-bought varieties and wanted to pursue a more cost-effective option, thus leading me to devise the following mix-in combinations for a home-made granola base.

You can make any kind of granola you want, the recipe below is provided only as a base. Basically throw in anything you think sounds tasty. A good starting point, if you are coming to a blank, would be to look at the list of ingredients in the granola or granola bars you like.


  • Old fashioned oats
  • Honey

Mix-in Combination Suggestions

  • Pecans, walnuts and dried cranberries or
  • Orange flavored dried cranberries, orange zest and almonds or
  • Ripe banana or
  • Dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds or
  • Lemon zest, grated ginger and dried cranberries or
  • Peanut butter and brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 250°
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix
  3. Add the wet and sticky ingredients and mix thoroughly (you may simmer to infuse these ingredients for better flavor)
  4. The mixture should be difficult to mix with a spoon, so I suggest mixing with your hands
  5. If the mixture is too wet or sticky, add more oats
  6. Bake on a cookie sheet for ~30 minutes, or until golden brown, mixing half way through
  7. Let the granola cool completely before moving to an air-tight container

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chicken Curry

This is another recipe that changes just about every time I make it. Feel free to experiment with the spice combinations.


  • Onions, finely chopped
  • Garlic, thinly sliced
  • Chilies, dried
  • Chicken, cubed
  • Spices
    • Black peppercorns
    • Mustard seeds
    • Cumin seeds
    • Cardamom pods
    • Coriander seeds
    • Chili powder
    • Turmeric
  • Chicken stock
  • Tomato paste
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Cilantro, finely chopped


  1. Sauté the onions, garlic and chilies in extra virgin olive oil until onions are translucent
  2. Season the chicken and add to the pan, browning the outside
  3. Grind spices in mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to pan, mixing well
  4. Add chicken stock, tomato paste and tomatoes to pan, stirring well
  5. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is reduced to desired consistency
  6. Add cilantro and stir thoroughly
  7. Serve with rice and naan

Chicken Quesadillas

These are easy to make, but require some preparation time. If you want to save on the prep time, I would suggest buying some small corn tortillas from the supermarket.


  • 1 T butter
  • Cooked polenta (cornmeal)
  • Flour
  • Cheese (queso fresco and/or cheddar work well), shredded
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion (or 4 scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Cayenne pepper powder (optional for additional heat)

Tortilla Directions

  1. Melt the butter and add to the polenta
  2. Add enough flour to the polenta to form a pliable dough
  3. Using a floured surface, break off golf-ball sized pieces of the dough and mold them into small balls
  4. Use a tortilla press to flatten dough
  5. In a frying pan, add splash of olive oil and heat to medium
  6. When oil is hot, add the raw tortilla shells one at a time, cooking until just done (~1 minute per side)
  7. Place cooked tortilla shells on a paper towel covered plate to drain excess oil

Quesadilla Directions

  1. Place some cheese on the tortilla first, followed by all other toppings, then top with cheese (the cheese acts as a “glue” to keep the tortilla together when cooking and eating)
  2. Fold the quesadilla in half and cook in cast iron pan until cheese is melted
  3. Serve finished quesadillas with home-made guacamole and salsa

Monday, May 4, 2009


Avocados are a staple in every type of food imaginable in California. You can order them in your pizzas, salads, sandwiches, sushi and pretty much everything else. Until we moved out here, I never really tried them. Now I also add them to everything, but my first experiment with the regional fruit was in this guacamole recipe.


  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T lime juice


  1. Using a potato masher or your hands, mush all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl until the desired consistency is achieved
  2. Refrigerate in an air-tight container and serve chilled with quesadillas or chips

Pomegranate Chocolates

NOTE: When making chocolate candies, the quality of the chocolate is very important. I would suggest going to a specialty culinary store and paying a few dollars extra to get the professional grade stuff - Hershey's and Ghirardelli just aren't going to melt and reset evenly.


  • 1 lb. bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, 60 - 66% dark
  • 1 orange
  • ~8 green cardamom pods, freshly ground with the shell pieces removed
  • 3 pomegranates, arils only (the red seed casings)
  • Sugar


  1. In a small pot, simmer the pomegranate seeds with juice of one orange until juicy
  2. Add some sugar, to taste
  3. Simmer until the pomegranate mixture becomes syrupy
  4. Remove from heat and blend thoroughly, the pomegranate seeds probably won't blend very well
  5. Strain the pomegranate mixture with cheesecloth to remove all of the seeds. The final mixture will be very thick and will probably be reduced to 1/8 cup (or less) total volume
  6. In a double boiler, gently melt 3/4 of the chocolate, zest of one orange and cardamom powder until smooth and creamy
  7. Remove from heat and add the reserved 1/4 of the chocolate, mixing until melted
  8. Before the chocolate sets up, lay out a sheet of wax paper over a cookie sheet
  9. Using a spoon, spread out small half-dollar sized portions of chocolate, being careful to use up only a little less than half of the total chocolate mixture
  10. Let the first layer cool and set. You may want to place the cookie sheet full of chocolates in the refrigerator for a few minutes to prevent the remaining mix from setting up
  11. Using another spoon, spread a very thin layer of the pomegranate mixture over the cooled first layer of chocolate. This should be a very thin layer because the pomegranate mix is so concentrated
  12. Cool this second layer as well
  13. Cover the candies with another layer of chocolate, being sure to seal in all of the pomegranate filling
  14. Wrap each piece in candy paper or aluminum foil when they have cooled and set completely

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hummus, Fresh

I discovered the magical powers of fresh hummus at a restaurant here in Culver City called Tender Greens. If you are a fan of the standard tannish grey variety at all, you definitely need to try it with fresh beans. The beans, by the way, look like little green brains inside their pods - so that's a plus (?).

  • Garbanzo beans, fresh and green
  • Garlic clove, chopped
  • White peppercorns
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  1. In a shallow sauté pan, simmer beans, garlic and peppercorns in a bit of olive oil
  2. When garlic is tender, add just enough water to half cover the beans
  3. To make tahini, puree sesame seeds with a little water in a food processor
  4. When beans are tender, remove from heat
  5. Puree bean mixture with cilantro into a fine paste
  6. Mix together the tahini, bean paste and lime juice
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Serve with fresh pita bread or falafel

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lentil Soup

Hey all!

This is one of my favorite recipes and it changes every single time I make it. Ever in the search for the perfect combination of spices and aromas, the following is a good starting point when I'm in the mood for some lentil soup.

I have also used the following raw spices (to varying effects) in other iterations of this recipe: fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, white peppercorns, star anise, cloves, powdered cayenne pepper, allspice pods, green cardamom pods and fennel seeds - although never all at once as this would blur the flavors of the individual elements. I prefer to use whole spices and grind them with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle just before use as this brings out the full flavor of the spice.

Inset shown with swirl of plain yogurt.

  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Garlic, thinly sliced
  • Dried chili peppers
  • Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Cinnamon
  • Black peppercorns
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Cumin seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Roma tomatoes, diced, optional
  • Yogurt, Greek style, optional
  • Lemon, optional
  1. In a stockpot, sauté the onions, garlic and chili peppers until the onions are tender
  2. Mix in the lentils
  3. Add enough water to appropriately handle the amount of lentils you put in (directions for cooking lentils are usually on the lentil bag)
  4. Salt the soup, if desired
  5. In a spice grinder, grind the almonds, cinnamon, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, cumin and mustard seeds
  6. Add the spice mixture to the pot and mix well
  7. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat until lentils are very tender (20 - 30 minutes depending on the type of lentils used)
  8. Reserve a ladle or two full of lentils from the pot
  9. Using a stick blender (or regular blender if you do not have a stick blender), puree the soup
  10. Add back the reserved lentils
  11. Add the tomatoes to the soup (if using) and simmer for a few minutes
  12. When the soup has achieved desired thickness, remove from heat
  13. Mix in a good amount of yogurt, if desired
  14. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon and freshly made naan
Peas out!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas


  • Garlic, minced
  • Onion, minced
  • 12 oz can tomato paste
  • Chicken stock or water
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Black pepper
  • Jalapeño, Serrano or any other spicy chili, finely chopped
  • Small corn tortilla shells
  • Chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • Basmati rice, cooked
  • Cheese (Cheddar and/or Colby Jack work fine), shredded


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Sauté garlic and onion with a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  3. Cook until onions are tender
  4. Lower heat to simmer
  5. Add the tomato paste and enough stock to form a relatively thin sauce, stirring constantly
  6. Add the chili powder, cumin, black pepper and Serrano stirring constantly
  7. Salt to taste
  8. The sauce should simmer for a few minutes so the liquid has a chance to reduce – you will know when the sauce is about ready when there it leaves more red coloring on the stirring spoon than water
  9. In a rectangular glass baking dish, roll up the chicken, rice and cheese in the tortilla shells and lay them closely together
  10. When all shells have been rolled, pour enough of the sauce to completely cover the tortilla shells and fill in any cracks and crevices
  11. Top with a layer of shredded cheese
  12. Bake for ~20 minutes, or until sauce bubbles and tortilla shells fall apart easily with a fork

Gnocchi with cherry tomato and pancetta sauce

I can't truly say that the gnocchi recipe is my own since most basic gnocchi recipes are very similar to this one. Nevertheless, I have included it for referenced use with the various gnocchi and pasta sauces throughout this book (if they don't exist yet, they will someday :) ). Gnocchi are small potato dumplings that are most often used in pasta-like dishes.
I made the cherry tomato and pancetta sauce (below the gnocchi recipe) for Becky's birthday dinner this year. It turned out pretty well and is really easy to make!


  • Russet potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Parmesan and/or Romano cheese (freshly grated)
  • Flour
  1. I don't usually include proportions in my recipes, but I figure that for this recipe I could probably make something up. Here are my best guesses:
  2. For each pound of potato, use:
    • 1 Egg
    • 1/2 c. grated cheese
  3. One pound of potato will yield about two small first course portions
  4. Boil the potatoes with skins on until just tender - you don't want them to fall apart when a fork is put through them, but they should be tender enough to pierce easily
  5. Remove potatoes from water and place them out on a walled cookie sheet, reserving the potato water
  6. When the potatoes are just cool enough to peel (2 - 3 minutes), remove all skin and blemishes
  7. Roughly mash the potatoes with a fork, but be careful not to overdo it - you want to mash them just enough so all large chunks have been broken down
  8. Let the potatoes sit for a while and cool, 10 - 15 minutes
  9. After they have reached a comfortable temperature, put them in a large bowl with the cheese and egg, mixing well
  10. The dough will be pretty sticky at this point, so begin adding flour a little at a time until the ball is pliable and able to be gently rolled out without breaking
  11. If you end up adding too much flour, work some of the reserved potato water into the dough
  12. Remove a small chunk of the dough, smaller than baseball size, and place the rest of the dough into a covered bowl
  13. Roll out this chunk into a long snake about 1/2" thick
  14. Cut the snaked dough into 1" segments, these will be the dumplings
  15. If you would like, there are a few techniques you can use to get the traditional gnocchi shape (ridges) that help to keep the dumpling covered in whatever sauce you serve them with. I use a gnocchi paddle, which you can pick up at a specialty culinary store; or you can just use the back side of a fork. This is kind of a tricky procedure to explain without pictures, so search for "shaping gnocchi" in Google to see how it's done.
  16. And that's it for the dumplings themselves. You can use them in place of traditional pasta in many dishes. If you do not use them right away, they freeze very well.

Cherry Tomato and Pancetta Sauce

  • Red onion, finely sliced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Pancetta, chopped into 1/8" chunks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Basil, fresh
  • Oregano, fresh
  • Chianti
  1. In a large pan, sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until tender
  2. Add the pancetta and sauté for about 5 minutes
  3. Add the whole cherry tomatoes to the pan
  4. Reduce heat to medium low and cover, stirring occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the pan
  5. The tomatoes will begin to soften and burst after a few minutes
  6. When the tomatoes have formed a nice sauce, add the fresh basil and oregano and mix well
  7. Add some chianti to the sauce and scrape up any pieces that may have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan
  8. Simmer the sauce until slightly reduced
  9. Best served immediately over gnocchi (44).

Pad Thai

Hey all!

This is an interpretation of a Thai pasta dish that Becky and I created one night for dinner, not knowing it would turn out so well!

  • Linguine pasta
  • Raw shrimp
  • Snow peas
  • Raw peanuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T red pepper flakes
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 2 T cilantro
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 oz bean sprouts
  • 3 T peanut satay sauce (look in the foreign foods section of the supermarket, or at any Asian market)
  • Splash of white wine
  • 1 Egg


  1. Cook linguine al dente
  2. In a wok (or large frying pan) add a splash of olive oil
  3. When oil is hot add shrimp and cook until pink
  4. Add handful of snow peas and a couple small handfuls peanuts
  5. After 2 – 4 minutes add the garlic, red pepper flakes and scallions and cook until scallions have softened
  6. By this time, the peanuts should be nice and toasty so add the lime juice, cilantro, basil leaves, bean sprouts, satay sauce and wine
  7. Mix thoroughly
  8. To finish, crack the egg over all ingredients and mix well, scrambling the egg
  9. Add the linguine, giving a few good tosses and serve immediately
Peas out!

Gołąbki (Golumpkies)

Originally sent November 1, 2008

Hey all!

A few weeks ago I got a huge craving for golumpkies (Polish stuffed cabbage rolls). I don't know where the craving came from, to be honest, since I've only had them a handful of times in my life. But there it was, a nagging growl in my stomach begging for slightly spicy, seasoned meat rolled in a steamed cabbage leaf covered in a thin tomato sauce... Mmm... Not to mention the fact that they actually came up a couple times in casual conversation recently. Everything seemed to be pointing me in the same direction, so finally I succumbed to the cravings and came up with the following recipe.

For anyone out there who has made golumpkies before, this recipe probably isn't too much different than the one you use. I added a few additional spices, fresh cilantro and replaced the more traditional rice with potatoes, but other than that, I think it's pretty standard.



  • Ground beef
  • Ground turkey
  • Red onion, finely chopped
  • New potatoes, diced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Chili peppers, finely chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Black peppercorns
  • Mustard seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Salt, optional
  • Egg
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Tomato sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 325° if you plan on making the cabbage rolls immediately
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, turkey, onion, potatoes, cilantro, parsley, chillies and garlic
  3. Combine the red pepper, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander and salt (optional) in a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder
  4. Add the spices to the meat mixture and mix thoroughly with your hands
  5. If you have time, cover this mixture and refrigerate overnight
  6. Core the cabbage and steam it, removing the outer leaves as they become tender
  7. Thin the tomato sauce with water (2 parts sauce to 1 part water is fine)
  8. Pour enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of a couple glass baking dishes
  9. To make the cabbage rolls, lay a steamed cabbage leaf out on your prep surface so that it naturally curves upward
  10. Place a small, packed portion of the meat mixture at the thick end of the cabbage leaf
  11. Roll the thick end of the leaf up and over the meat
  12. Fold in the sides of the cabbage leaf
  13. Continue rolling the meat mixture toward the leaf tip (if this sounds confusing, there are plenty of pictured illustrations of how to do this online)
  14. Place the cabbage roll seam down into the tomato sauce
  15. Fill the baking dish with cabbage rolls, you can pack them fairly closely together
  16. When a dish is full, grind fresh black pepper over the rolls and cover in a generous layer of tomato sauce (the sauce should cover the rolls about half way)
  17. Bake for 60 - 75 minutes, removing every 30 minutes or so to baste the top of the rolls with tomato sauce
I heard that my great-grandpa made some amazing golumpkies, so this one is for him and our Polish ancestry on my Mom's side.

Peas out!

Sweet & Sour Chicken

Originally sent October 14, 2008

Hey all!

I'm going to pass around two recipes this time. Actually, one is a recipe for an ingredient that you can use in other recipes. The other is a sauce recipe that probably isn't very good on its own. So I guess you could think of this as one complete recipe that comes in two different parts.

I borrowed the base of the Sweet and Sour Sauce recipe from a few different recipes that I found online. I then added the sesame seeds, red pepper flakes and honey to make it my own. This is a super quick sauce recipe that you can make in ten minutes or so and refrigerate for a few days if you don't have time to make the chicken (or pork) to go with it.

The Fried Chicken Pieces recipe can be used in any other recipe that calls for fried chicken (or pork) pieces. You can adjust the spices as you see fit to complement the dish you are preparing.

Another (third) recipe could have been added, but I figured that a rice recipe would only serve as unnecessary filler - so feel free to use your favorite rice recipe for this dish!

This is great reheated for work lunches, but is best fresh out of the wok! Enjoy!

Fried Chicken (or Pork) Pieces

Use your own judgment for the amount of each spice you add – there's really no science to it. Also feel free to experiment with the spices, adding different flavors that complement the dish you are making.


  • Chicken (or pork), cubed
  • Flour
  • Baking soda
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes


  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, black pepper and red pepper flakes
  2. Dredge the meat pieces through the flour mixture once, covering well
  3. Remove all meat pieces from the flour mixture and set aside
  4. Add enough water to the flour mixture to create a somewhat thin batter
  5. Heat a wok to medium-high
  6. Add a generous amount of corn oil to the wok and allow the oil to heat up
  7. Dredge the floured meat pieces through the batter, shaking off the excess
  8. Add the meat pieces to the wok in small batches – you don't want the meat to be too crowded
  9. Transfer the meat pieces to a paper towel covered plate when they rise to the top of the oil and are a golden brown color
  10. Add wherever fried chicken or pork pieces are needed

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Note: Try adding lemon or orange zest for more citrus flavor


  • Sesame seeds
  • Red pepper flakes
  • White vinegar/rice vinegar
  • Ketchup
  • Honey
  • Cornstarch, mixed in some water


  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan on medium-high heat until lightly browned
  2. Add red pepper flakes and vinegar when seeds are toasted, temporarily removing the pan from heat until the steam subsides
  3. Add a couple squeezes of ketchup and honey, mixing well
  4. Taste test the sauce and adjust the vinegar, ketchup and honey levels as desired
  5. When the desired taste has been achieved, add some of the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce
  6. Serve with fried chicken (or pork) pieces over rice

Rice + Fried Chicken (or Pork) Pieces + Sweet & Sour Sauce = MMM-azing! This is an easy dish that you can make year-round since none of the ingredients are seasonal (unless you use in-season citrus).

Peas out!

Harvest Soup

Originally sent September 28, 2009

Hey all!

It has been at least a year since my previous send, but I've decided to try the group mailing thing again. Since I'm terrible about filling people in on the daily operations out here in LA via email, I'm going to utilize this communication medium for something completely different - FOOD! Well, I guess it isn't completely different since I'm always eating, and subsequently always cooking. Every month, I come up with a small handful of new recipes. Some are way good and others are rather...not. I will reserve the latter for myself and share the former with the rest of you in hopes that you will enjoy them as well. I will provide the recipes in a couple different forms: the first will be in standard text format in the body of this email, and the second will be a more printer-friendly PDF version as an attachment. If anyone has any questions/comments/suggestions for any of these recipes, I would love to hear them. So go ahead, print them out, change things up a bit and let me know how it goes!

I came up with this recipe less than 24 hours ago. It was my dinner last night and my breakfast this morning. I thought it would be fitting to release this now since the main ingredients are very seasonal, harvest-time vegetables. It's easy out here in California to find these veggies fresh at farmers' markets and grocery stores, but I'm sure they are still available out east for those of you who are actually experiencing a change in the seasons (lucky...). So, here we go, this first recipe I've titled simply as "Harvest Soup".

This is a hearty, sweet vegetable soup. If you find it too sweet for your liking, add some cayenne powder or a pinch of salt – these will help to soften the overpowering sweetness. On the contrary, if you find that your veggies aren't sweet enough, add some brown sugar.
  • Red bell peppers
  • Onions, chopped
  • Carrots, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Sweet corn kernels, divided
  • Summer squash ( zucchini, pattypan/scallop, etc.), chopped and divided
  • Heirloom tomatoes, divided
  • Coriander seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Black peppercorns
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade and divided
  • Fresh chili peppers, finely chopped
  • Yogurt, plain or Greek style
  • Lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to broil
  2. Place whole red peppers on a baking sheet on the highest rack in the oven
  3. Rotate peppers every 5-7 minutes (or when they blacken) until pepper is very tender
  4. Remove peppers from oven
  5. In a large, heated stockpot, drizzle enough extra virgin olive oil to just cover the bottom
  6. Add onions, carrots and garlic to hot oil, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and carrots are just tender
  7. Add corn and squash to the pot, reserving a small handful of both ingredients to be added at the end
  8. Cover pot, stirring occasionally until squash softens
  9. Add tomatoes and just enough water to cover vegetables in 1 inch of water
  10. Grind coriander, mustard and cumin seeds with turmeric and black peppercorns into a powder
  11. Add spice powder to pot and stir thoroughly
  12. Meanwhile, sauté reserved corn and squash in a separate pan
  13. When squash begins to brown, add reserved basil and chili peppers, mixing thoroughly
  14. Remove stockpot from heat
  15. Using a hand mixer (or blender), blend the stockpot ingredients into a paste and return to the stockpot (if using a blender)
  16. Add sautéed vegetables to blended soup for texture
  17. Add enough yogurt to achieve desired creaminess
  18. Add lemon juice, to taste

I hope you enjoy this soup! Look for to the next installment of Doof Backwards! in a few weeks. I have plenty of recipes on backlog so this could be a monthly or bi-monthly thing for a while. If there is anyone out there on this list who doesn't enjoy food (or the cooking part of it) as much as I do, just let me know and I'll remove you from the list.

Peas out!

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