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May 24th, 2010 Comments off

Well, time flies and May is almost over, hard to believe! We are “suffering” through just about the worst spring I’ve ever encountered in Northern California, I doubt we’ve had a single day in the 80es yet, lots of rain, cold wind, overcast skies. Not my kind of weather and certainly not inviting to cook anything much outdoors.

Lots of other things kept me busy too, the kids, art classes, photography, cooking was mostly some quick standards over the recent months. Not that that’s bad food, a quick standard can be anything from steak with potatoes and salad, curry chicken with naan bread and salad, variations on pork, etc. Just nothing out of the ordinary, but hopefully that will change quickly now!

The bad weather also kept me from the farmer’s market, or we were out of town, but during a recent stop at whole foods they had piles of fresh in the shell chick peas (garbanzo beans) and I jumped on them. I had recently read about them and thought about frying or roasting them, of course I could not find the recipe (magazine? recent cookbook? Old cookbook recently read?) and unfortunately they were a bit less fresh or older than I thought, so me and the kids spent quite a while shelling them. Not too much fun, I could shell fava beans for a day, but these are pretty cumbersome in comparison.

I decided to steam them until almost tender, then toss them in the frying pan with some butter, salt and a touch of cayenne. Came out really tasty, if I can find fresh shelled ones I’d get them and happily pay for the shelling. I used them as a side dish with bone in skin on chicken thighs with pesto and pancetta. Aside of the work the peas require, this is a quick mid week dinner. I used the already diced pancetta from Trader Joes, as well as their organic chicken. The pesto is from Costco, their Kirkland Cibo Naturals pesto. It comes in a large plastic jar and IMO is as close to home made as it gets. Certainly the best ready made pesto I’ve ever found. I squeezed some lemon juice in it too I think.

First I cooked the pancetta until browned, then I roasted some halved baby garlic that I also got at Whole Food. I love baby garlic, too bad it’s only around in spring! Once all that was browned I took the garlic out and added the chicken, which marinaded in a good covering of pesto. Cooked until nicely browned, I added some water to the pan, made sure all the good brown bits were scraped from the bottom and put the baby garlic on top to finish cooking through by steaming in the covered pan. This came out very tasty, takes maybe half an hour. I served some fresh red dandelion salad on the side with a lime dressing. And – as I finally remembered to take some pictures again – here they are:

fresh steamed chick peas


Pesto Chicken with Pancetta, Baby Garlic, Chick Peas and Dandelion Salad

The next larger project is my little one’s 3rd birthday party this weekend, hopefully the sun will return by then! I’m considering either a brisket or pork shoulder low and slow in the Big Green Egg and some brats and hot dogs for the kids, a big fresh salad and maybe something like fire roasted beets and onions.

Categories: Cooking, Dinner Tags:

Time to get cooking again!

March 6th, 2010 Comments off

Well, for several reasons my cooking has been on the down low lately, at least I did not get around to making anything out of the ordinary and never got around to posting. What I did cook a couple of times now is a simple Indian style curry chicken. I bought some very tasty curry mix in a Persian store, Madras Curry Powder and the brand seems to be Camel. Comes in a pretty green tin and only costs $3.99 for 500 grams! Can’t beat that. The mix is very pleasant with a wonderful “curry aroma”, not too spicy either, which is great for the kids.

To make my curry I first cook some onion in oil until translucent. Then I make a hole in the middle of the pan and dump in a good tablespoon of curry powder and let it cook up for 30 sec or so – the “hole” gets dry very fast and allows me to toast the spices in the same pan. Then I mix it all together and add chicken pieces, usually skin and boneless chicken thy as it’s cheap and tastes better than chicken breast. I cut them into bite size pieces. I let this cook and brown, scraping the nice browned bits back into itself, sometimes have to add a bit of water. Of course you can get creative here and add other things, last night I used up a container of mild salsa and once off the heat added about two tablespoons of sour cream, both left over from a burrito dinner last week.

I serve this with one of my kid’s favorite things, “yellow rice”. I add about a scant tsp of tumeric (or sometimes some saffron) to the rice and mix it in, add some butter once finished at times. Some salad or simply a handful of scallions cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces to nibble on – or sliced and sprinkled on top. A quarter lemon or lime to sprinkle over on each plate looks nice and adds some nice acidity according to each diner’s wish. Tastes great, the house smells fantastic, and it’s so easy that I’m wondering why I used to buy simmer sauces or things like that.

I’ve also added sliced mushrooms to the onions before, tomato paste, things like that. Variations are easy to invent for this quick and easy midweek dinner. Make twice the amount of chicken and you have some wonderful leftovers that you can turn into a great curry chicken salad – add some currants, a bit mayonnaise, things like that.

Sorry, no picture, but it should be easy to envision the yellow and green colors on your plate.

The weather seems to finally be turning towards the better here in Northern California and I have many plans for open fire cooking. For one on my big green egg, which is probably the single best cooker I’ve ever bought or used, but I also want to cook on a fire pit and fire up the good old weber really soon. Matter of fact, I think I’ll check the freezer now and see what we could make tonight :-)

More to come, I also plan to cook quite some food from Ad Hoc at Home, a fantastic book. Inspiration seems to be catching up with me again, the gray skies are gone, flowers start to bloom, hopefully we’re done with the winter gloom now. Farmer’s market tomorrow!

Categories: Cooking, Dinner Tags:

Cooking with Ad Hoc at Home – Cauliflower Soup

December 7th, 2009 1 comment

I really love this book! There are quite some things I want to try my hands on, the first that I had flagged was cauliflower soup, which incidentally also was the first dish we got to try at a book signing with Thomas Keller, so I guess I really had to make it now :-)

I made the whole recipe, which is supposed to give you about 6 portions. It uses two heads of cauliflower (4-5 lb), a leek, some onion, milk, cream and butter (of course), 1/4 tsp curry, s&p. and you add croutons and beet chips. All together it probably took me about 2hrs, though you could take quite some short cuts here, buy croutons, buy veggie chips, blend with an immersion blender if you don’t mind it a bit more rustic and skip the cup of blanched and fried in butter florets on top. This could be a relatively quick to make dish if you skip those mostly presentational things.

In this cased I followed the entire recipe, except that I used curry powder I have from the Indian store.

I cut two heads of cauliflower into chunks, half an onion and one stalk leeks. I did not really measure these out in cups, just eyeballed it. They go into a pot with butter and 1/4 tsp curry powder and some salt, where they steam under a parchment paper lid (seems to be one of TK’s favorite things and really does work very well) for some 20 or so min, until almost tender.

Cauliflower, leek and onion

Cauliflower, leek and onion

You add 2cups milk, 2 cups heavy cream, and 2 cups water, bring to a good simmer and let go for an other 30 min or so. Then you’re ready to blend it all up. He recommends the VitaMix (I have a feeling that we have some paid product placement here….) which I don’t have, I had to use our stone old:
Picture 65
Oysterizer Cycle Blend, which actually did a fantastic job! I can’t imagine what a VitaMix would have done better. I started on slow and eventually worked my self up the row of buttons until I hit liquefy and ended up with a super smooth light and foamy, velvety, almost whipped cream like soup, out of this world! Super creamy:
Picture 62

Once that’s all done, you’re basically good to go, you could just eat right now, but there are a couple garnishes to do if you want to copy the recipe exactly.

As I have never deep fried anything, I figured this is as good a time as any to try my hands at it, and I won’t need a huge pot of oil. I took my smallest pot and filled it with about an inch of peanut oil, heated it up to 300 degree F. Meanwhile I peeled one beet and sliced it on my mandolin into very thin slices. Once the oil reached temp, I fried them in batches of 5:
Picture 63
I put them on a cooling rack and salted them with fine sea salt.

Next it was time to blanche the cup or so of florets I had reserved, just in salted water with a dash of vinegar. Once done they go in a frying pan with a Tbsp of butter until browned. I used the same pan I had used for the croutons with the remainder of garlic oil still in there, figured I might as well.

Well, there you have it, soup, browned florets, croutons, beet chips. To plate I poured two ladles of soup on a bowl, added some florets in the center, croutons on top and a stack of chips on top of that. For a bit of color I added one water cress twig, sprinkled some black salt and pepper around and drizzled a bit of good olive oil on. Served with thick slices of rustic sourdough bread, this dish is heavenly! The soup is rich, fluffy, airy and light, very very tasty. The different add ons give great different textures, from soft to very crunchy and the bread is what you need to soak up every last drop and wipe the bowl clean.

Ad Hoc Cauliflower soup with Beet Chips

Ad Hoc Cauliflower soup with Beet Chips

This soup is delicious and I see lots of other add ons one could play with, things like bacon, different greens, etc. A flexible delicious base to play with. Or just stick to the book, I’ll definitely make this again.

I still have a bit less than half of it for left overs, wondering if it would freeze well? Might try with just a cup to see what happens. This would be a great soup to bring for a potluck or to share at Christmas with family, just get some good quality croutons or make some that day, everybody can get a small cup to warm up and get ready for dinner!

I will be making more things from this book, it’s not a 30min quick glop book, the recipes take some work, but it’s also not the French Laundry book. It’s full of recipes any good cook can make, if one is willing to spend a bit time in the kitchen. As you can imagine, I highly recommend this book, check in my store for a link to buy it via Amazon and support this site at the same time!

Oh, I just came across some nice video with Thomas Keller on the Borders Books site, check it out:

Thomas Keller about Ad Hoc at Home and cooking some recipes

Categories: Ad Hoc at Home, Cooking, Dinner Tags: