Sunday, August 31, 2008

Loco Moco

If you’ve been to Hawaii you probably know what loco moco is.  But bear with me while I tell everyone else. 

Loco Moco supposedly originated at a drive-in called Café 100 in Hilo on the island of Hawaii.  In its purest form, it is white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy.  In more deluxe renditions, the rice can be fried rice, the meat can be a sausage patty, some sliced linguisa sausage, or even a small steak. 

We fell in love with loco moco many years ago on an early visit to Hawaii.  I make it a lot when we are there (usually every other Christmas) and sometimes at home.  This week we had Chinese takeout and I ordered fried rice just so we could have loco moco this weekend.  It really is not a healthy choice, but once a year, well, it’s okay.  And on many occasions, like today, I leave out the brown gravy so it’s not quite as much of a fat bomb.  Sometimes it’s just really good Japanese fried rice with one sautéed egg on top.

Today’s loco moco was deluxe fried rice, topped with a 3-oz burger patty seasoned with green onions and onion soup mix.  I usually keep a supply of burgers in the freezer, so just used of the 6-oz patties and split it for two.  Then two eggs, sunny side up.  I do insist on making sure all of the whites are cooked, with the yolks still runny.  That takes some careful watching, but with a tsp of water and a lid on for a few minutes, they do turn out the way we like them. The runny yolk makes up for no gravy. 

So that was our brunch today.  I even had a nice glass of Argyle sparkling wine (can’t call it champagne anymore, that’s illegal!).


What's for dinner

I thought we’d have rack of lamb today. But it is nicely vacuum packed so will keep until next weekend. I have some homemade goat cheese and herb ravioli in the freezer that should get used, and a couple of basil plants that need pinching back. I am planning to blanch and skin a couple of tomatoes, then use the boiling water to cook the ravioli. I will serve the ravioli at room temp with a sauce of basil/parsley pesto and tomato concasse (peeled and seeded tomatoes cut into very small dice). As I am already going to boil water, before I use it to blanch the tomatoes I will blanch six big peaches so we can slice them for a crostata. I’m planning to get a lot of use out of one pot of boiling water!

Baking bread and other kitchen projects

You know, I never thought I’d be one of those people who prefer to bake their own bread to buying it. But somehow I became one of those people. Today I am making whole wheat sandwich rolls and one loaf. I probably wouldn’t except our leftovers demand bread: I made some really great baby back ribs the other day, spice rubbed and then cooked at 200 degrees for about 12 hours. Didn’t even need sauce, but I made some anyway. The point is, I always make too much, the Costco package of ribs has three full racks. So Dave picked off all the rest of the meat and now he wants a pulled pork sandwich. It’s the least I can do for him. The rolls are baking right now and starting to smell good.

I’m also making cherry-plum syrup today. So many of my projects are a domino effect of other projects, and this one is a classic. I might have mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was using up extra cherries by glace-ing them. The by-product of that was about a quart of cherry syrup. I also had way too many black plums, so I threw those in the blender the other day to get a nice puree, to maybe make freezer jam. I had to use that puree by today so decided to cook it together with the cherry syrup. I’m thinking that it will be great with duck or pork, as well as on yeast waffles. I think I’m going to end up with about six cups, so I will probably pour it into jelly jars and process it.

Project #3 today is a beef chuck roast. The other day I rubbed it with a spice rub of red chile, oregano, cinnamon, cocoa, allspice, thyme, garlic power, etc. Now it gets to slow-cook in the bottom oven for 10 hours, and I’ll pick out all of the meat and turn that into chili. I have some ancho chile paste in the freezer, I think left over from making enchilada sauce, and it will help make a nice rich chili. Good thing it’s a long weekend, we might have time to eat some of it; Dave is leaving on business on Tuesday so we’ll be stocking the freezer with chili for his lunches in the future.

I also have to finish baba ganoush with squash and eggplant, but I need to go get more garlic and lemons for that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pastel Potatoes

As I’ve mentioned more than once, we get weekly produce bags from a semi-local farm, all organic. For the past few weeks, we’ve gotten potatoes but not really enough to do what I really like, potato salad. Today I decided I had accumulated enough. And I had red potatoes, pink potatoes, and purple potatoes. So here’s what my potatoes for salad looked like, cooked, peeled and cubed (see photo). I thought they were kind of funny so decided to share. White, pink, lavender.
I’m kind of Spartan in my potato salad: just potatoes (waxy type), eggs, sweet onion, celery, white wine vinegar (to soak the hot potatoes), mayo (only Best Foods/Hellman’s will do), a little yellow mustard, salt and pepper. Pickles on the side, only (homemade dill slices and sweet gherkins).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Playing with pizza

We were going to go out for pizza tonite but I really didn't feel like going out. So I made a whole wheat pizza crust for two pizzas. One pizza was sauced with homemade bbq sauce and slow-cooked pork butt with onions and mozz. The second one was spread with goat cheese with mixed herbs and topped with minced fennel, minced sweet onion, minced sun dried tomatoes and drizzled with a little oil from the sun dried tomatoes. It also got a little mozz, can't have too much cheese. They were both really good and I think Dave was happy we stayed in for pizza!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spiced tomato cream sauce

I had leftover couscous from the Sunday birthday dinner so wanted a chicken stew to go with it. Already had cooked chicken breasts in the freezer, so I made a sauce: 1 14-oz can organic chopped tomatoes 1 T ras al hanout 1/2 t cinnamon 2 t clarified butter 1 T corn syrup 2 T heavy cream Cook the spices in the butter until fragrant. Add tomatoes and use stick blender to take out almost all of the lumps. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, over very low heat for an hour. (I did the slow simmer because I had lots of time; it's probably also fine to cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring.) Add protein, in this case chicken breast in 1/2" cubes. But I'm also going to make this with paneer, an Indian fresh cheese that's easy to make.

Birthday dinner for my Mom

Thought I'd share what I did for dinner for Mom and Jerry yesterday. I have to go down and cook for her once in a while anyway (they live in Tacoma, I'm in downtown Seattle, so it's about 40 miles), got to keep some meat on her bones. And while she is a very good cook, sometimes she'd rather not have to. The menu was grilled game hens, grilled zucchini, seven treasures couscous, pickled cucumbers and onions, foccacia, and an apple and pear crostada. For the game hens, I cut out the backbones to flatten them, and then brined them for a couple of hours. My recipe was a variant of one from Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen. After brining, I made a spice rub that included brown sugar, paprika, chile powder, coriander, pepper, cayenne and some other stuff. Added some oil to that and rubbed it in, let that sit overnight. Skewered the hens and then grilled them, glazing with a homemade bbq sauce in the last ten minutes. It paired nicely with a bottle of merlot. The zucchini were a large globe-type and I just cut them in half and then sliced in ½" slices. Those get salted to take out some of the excess moisture, rinsed and tossed in olive oil. They only need a few minutes on the grill and are good at room temperature, so we did those first, made sure they had nice grill marks, and let them sit while the birdies grilled. I mix the couscous with shallots sautéed in olive oil, minced preserved lemon, chopped dried apricots, raisins, chopped pistachios and almonds, and some saffron. That is also served at room temperature, and I was able to make that in the morning, one less thing to do at dinner time. The foccacia is a variant of my pita bread recipe, I pat it out into a half sheet pan and dust it with fennel salt. Only takes 20 minutes at 400 degrees to cook, and you get a big sheet of 1-1/2" thick bread that is very soft but sturdy. It makes really good panini sandwiches, too. Finally, I made a crostada with organic apples and plumcots. Used the same crust recipe that has cornmeal in it for additional texture. I should mention that nearly all the vegetables I used in the meal were organic and came in a weekly basket we get from a local farm. I do believe in supporting our local farmers!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bee-yoooo-te-full foccacia from all purpose dough

I've been fiddling with a bread recipe for a while now -- it started out as a recipe for pita bread, but with a few changes it now works for many things. I've made burger buns, blankets for hot dogs, pita bread, and dinner rolls with it. Today I tried a full-size foccacia:

The basic recipe is 3C AP flour, 3C bread flour, 2 C warm water, 5t yeast, 2 t sugar, 1 1/2t salt, 1/3C vegetable oil. I use my KitchenAid mixer. Put 1C flour (either type), yeast, and sugar into mixing bowl, whisk together. Whisk in 1C warm water. Cover and set aside for 30-45 min until foamy. Then dump in all the other ingredients, and turn the mixer (with bread hook) on speed 2 and let it mix for four minutes. Check to be sure that there's no wet flour pushed up on the sides of the bowl (just run a spatula around it). Then run for another four minutes. At this point it should be all mixed, kneaded, and pulling away from the bowl. Gather dough and put into an oiled bowl, turn the dough to coat with oil, and cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Let rise for an hour, then shape into what you want to bake with it. Let the dough rise again for another half hour or so, then bake at 400 degrees. You'll end up with about 1400 grams of dough, which makes 1 dozen pitas, ten burger buns, one full size (13x18") foccacia, or about four small pizza crusts.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Red hands

So first I was doing the cherries, now I've just peeled a bunch of beets. And my hands match my bright pink shirt and shoes! Someday I'll remember to pull out some latex gloves for these things. I think we'll have the beets with yogurt, cucumbers, and dill. I'm also making a tian of summer squash, sweet onion, and tomatoes. Too much good stuff, as one of the commercials says. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep up with all that shows up in our CSA basket each week.

Too Many Cherries?

No, you can never have too many cherries. But I do have too many for us to eat fresh before they spoil. While I was making fruit leather the other day (stone fruits, again too may to eat), I saw directions for making glaceed fruit. So I am trying it today with 1.5 lbs of pitted cherries. I have one of those German cherry pitters with a hopper so I can pit them somewhat faster and with much less hand strain. It's not perfect but it does the job. The cherries are in their initial syrup today (2C water, 2/3C sugar, 1/2C white corn syrup. For three more days they will get more sugar, the point is to replace all the water in the cherries with sugar. And the syrup that's left? MMM, waffles!