Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Repeal Day!

Like you need another reason to drink beer. . .

Today is the 74th anniversary of the ratification of 21st amendment. Take some time to savor a great beer. I'll sit down with a nice cold IPA from the 21st Amendment brewery (how appropriate!) They are a great microbrewery in San Francisco, that offers a changing selection of consistently delicious beer. The brewpub is a great place to grab a bite with friends and best of all they sell a few of their beers in cans to take home.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hooray Beer!!! Homebrewing Part 1

Kenny and I have made beer at home a few times over the last two years. I bought him a homebrewing kit two years ago, and we have enjoyed making a few batches in the last couple of years. We started out with and IPA, and followed that with an Oatmeal Stout. Last year we decided to try and make a Celebration Ale for our friends and family to give out as gifts for Chrismas. We needed four weeks at a minimum for our beer to be ready to give as gifts, but we kept putting off the brewing process. We ended up opening the first bottle to celebrate Spring instead of Christmas as we had envisioned.

This year we are trying to make beer for the holiday season once again. We have opted not to go with a seasonal blend, instead choosing to go with our most successful variety so far, an IPA.

Now I realize that the average beer drinker may not even know that there are different kinds of beer (Budweiser vs. Miller's doesn't count, by the way.) There are basically two main types determined by the type of yeast used for fermentation-ales and lagers. Ales are top fermenting, and lagers are bottom fermenting. Most home brewers will chose to go the ale route, as it is fermented at room temperature, and doesn't require the same amount of precision a lager might need to develop properly. More specifically we are making an IPA, which is an India Pale Ale. It is characterized by a stronger than average hoppiness. Hops are the plants that contribute to the bitterness of the brew, balancing the sugary sweetness of the malt, which feeds the yeasts. Back when the British had colonial rule over India, they would ship beer from Britain to India, adding extra hops to help in the preservation (hops have numerous beneficial effects including antibiotic properties.)

Until a few decades ago you wouldn't have even been allowed to brew at home (at least as far as the law was concerned.) It was due to an error in the 21st amendment which allowed for the homemaking of wine, but unintentionally didn't mention beer. In 1979 Jimmy Carter signed a bill making homebrewing legal once more. The new legality spawned a slew of new beer makers who not only have learned to create their own but have helped support and popularize the craft and microbrews that can be found through the U.S. (Anchor, Sam Adams, and Pyramid are a few of the larger ones.)

There are many great things about homebrewing. The anticipation of the final product is probably the greatest. You'll find me and Kenny peeking into our spare shower to check up on our beer daily (if not hourly.) The beer will take about three weeks until its time to put it in a bottle. I'll be back soon to update you about its progress. And maybe, if you are one of the lucky ones Santa may even leave you some in your stocking.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tomato Mania

Growing up I remember all tomatoes seemed exceedingly red and ripe. Often they needed nothing more than to be sliced and sprinkled with salt. I have always loved tomatoes, and love them even more since I've discovered the many varieties available. Being in the heart of tomato season, you've likely stumbled upon bins of orange, greed, red, purple, and multicolored heirlooms. Each has distinctive qualities that should be celebrated. Seek out a Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, or Ida Gold. I suppose there could be commercially produced variations, but for the most part you'll find the treasures labeled "heirloom."

An heirloom variety is one that has retained its integrity over time, meaning that it has not been hybridized, but is a seed stock that has been maintained over time. Some say the the seeds must remain the same for over 100 years. All I know is that if eaten ripe, there will be no disappointment. For those of you who haven't experienced the richness that embodies a heirloom variety of produce, seek it out, you'll be surprised at the rich flavors.

For the last few weeks my kitchen has been inundated with many of the varieties mentioned above. A few great ways to go through them are: make a caprese salad with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella (in the photo above), chop and add garlic and olive oil for a quick fresh pasta sauce, add to a salad, or just salt and eat as you would an apple. Don't just take my word for the greatness of heirloom tomatoes, check out how other bloggers wax poetic on the subject: Matt Bites, The Amateur Gourmet, Albion Cooks. Who wouldn't love an heirloom tomato smack dab in the peak of the season?


Monday, July 30, 2007

My Weekly Challenge

Growing up there was a time my family subscribed to a CSA box. We would get our weekly selection of vegetables, and would try new things we hadn't even heard of. I remember we received Jerusalem Artichokes one week, they seemed so extremely exotic (not so much now.) Since visiting the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market back in December I have really wanted to subscribe to one. Kenny and I searched around online but had difficulty finding one in our area. I finally found Two Small Farms while cruising around the web. I immediately looked into the options and signed up. I paid for a four week trial, and a few days later picked up my first box.

The photo shows everything that came that first week: Golden Beets, Cauliflower, Spinach, Radishes, Romaine Lettuce, Spring Onions, Oregano, Spigariello (a type of leafy green), and Strawberries.

We've now been subscribing for about 5 weeks. We LOVE our weekly supply of veggies. I check the Two Small Farms blog at the beginning of each week to find out what exciting produce we'll get to play with that week and then spend the next several days waiting to pick up our box (it comes on Thrusdays.) We love that we are forced to try and eat things we may not have otherwise tried. We also like that we are forced to eat a ton of vegetables, we both feel we are becoming more healthy as a result. The commitment of the subscription is contributing to our health and happiness. I would recommend anyone try it out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Goat Cheese: What to do with it?

I have to say that over time I've become less and less of a picky eater. I'm not a picky eater in the extreme sense, since I eat foods in colors other than white. But as a child I hated onions, hated fish, hated mushrooms, etc, etc. Slowly I've learned to love all of them, although certain flavors and textures I am still a bit hesitant about. In particular there are two types of cheese that I occasionally love, but often hate: blue veined cheeses and goat cheese. Sometimes they are the perfect addition to a salad, sandwich, or appetizer, and other times I find them unpalatable.

I decided to introduce goat cheese to my cooking after buying an assortment of beets, remembering that goat cheese if often paired with them. After putting together the goat cheese, beet, and walnut salad seen above, I still had about 6 oz. of cheese I needed to use (along with a vegetable bin full of veggies.) I'm now convinced the best way to use up an assortment of leftover food is to make a pizza.

I purchased the pizza dough from Trader Joe's, the Garlic Herb variety. And rummaged around my fridge coming up with caramelized onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and of course, the goat cheese. Once the cheese has had a chance to warm up and caramelize a bit it is soo delicious. So good that I made this recipe again a few days later for some friends.

Makes 4 Individual Pizzas

  • 1 package Trader Joe's Garlic Herb Pizza Dough
  • 1 cup Pizza sauce (or mix 8 oz of tomato sauce with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and add herbs)
  • 1 large tomato sliced
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • 1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
  • 1 small zucchini sliced
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and let it start warming to room temperature for about 20 minutes. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

Flour a large cutting board or clean kitchen counter. Remove pizza dough from bag and flour lightly. Roll dough out to desired shape (I actually usually cut in 4 servings, and roll out what ever shape comes most natural, usually a triangular piece.)

Top each piece of dough with pizza sauce, then caramelized onions, then all remaining toppings. Add goat cheese near then end so it is on top and browns up a bit.

Bake for roughly 20 minutes, or according to the directions that came with your dough. The crust and goat cheese should both be lightly golden.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

One-Legged Chef Update

Dear Readers,

After months of hobbling around on one leg, awaiting the day my cast would come off, I again became a two legged functioning individual. My cast came off on July 2nd!!!! Within a week I was driving. And two days after that. . .back on crutches.

I have very unfortunately managed to re-injure myself, so I will remain the one-legged chef a while longer. Which is good for you, dear readers. I'll be going in for surgery this time around which means I'll actually have to take time off work. The one good part about all of this is I'll be at home the next few weeks and able to catch up with all my postings. I have a back log of photos I've taken awaiting comments to post on my blog.

Hold tight. . .more recipes coming your way.

The One-Legged Chef

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My New Favorite Recipe

I have a weird obsession for making lists. I have massively long list of books I want to read, a list of books I've already read, a list of recipes I want to master, and an ever growing list of things to do. Each list is housed in its own notebook. A few months ago I started a new notebook to keep a record of all the new recipes that I try. Each entry contains the title of the recipe, any notes about alterations I made to the recipe, as well as my impressions, followed by a rating out of 5 stars. I've made 21 recipes since the beginning of the year, and today was the first time I questioned if a 5 star scale would be adequate.

I made Eating Well Serves Two's Orzo with Lamb, Olives & Feta. I am in love.

Lamb is probably my favorite type of meat. I particularly like it cooked all day in a slow cooker. It seems you can never ever go wrong with slow cooked meat of any variety (by far the easiest way to cook a whole chicken, and impossible to overcook.) The dish I tried today is much better suited for when you haven't planned ahead to allow an 8 to 10 hour cooking time. Man o man, this is one delicious treat. The flavors are complex, it's like a meaty marinara sauce with the addition of cinnamon. In the past I've stayed away from most things sweet, so luckily for me I've discovered over the last year that cinnamon offers great complexity to savory dishes, much more than you'd imagine (or at least more than I had imagined.) It's delicious used in fajitas, and as in this recipe it happens to go particularly well with lamb.

This dish is very quick and easy to put together. The end result is so good, I'd venture to make it even if it took several hours. Next time I'll have to create a slow cooked version to see if it's even possible to make any more delicious. If you love lamb, or maybe even just like it, try this recipe, it will be a new favorite. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Exotic Letter "Q"

I had read about the wonders of Quinoa (say it Keen-wa), for sometime but had shied away from making it. Any word with the letter "Q" always has an exotic ring to it (of course I'm partial being moniQue.) Quinoa truly is an exotic food originating in the Andean region in South America. The Incas referred to it as the "mother of all grains." It is a prized nutritional powerhouse for its high protein content, and balanced amino acids (a true complete protein, rare in the plant world, soybeans are the only other I know of.) Quinoa is full of minerals and vitamins. And best of all, it is tasty, and quite an attractive grain.

Perusing my favorite cookbook of the moment Eating Well Serves Two, it occurred to me that I had nearly every ingredient to try the Quinoa, Mango, & Black Bean Salad. I suppose not everyone has a box of quinoa in their cabinet, but please buy it on your next shopping trip and try it. This salad works great as a vegetarian entree for two, or a side for four. Other easy uses are as an alternative to rice, I've prepared it plain as a side with stir fry.

Check out the recipe on Eating Well's website. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Have Leftovers Got You Down?

I despise throwing away anything that at one point had been perfectly good food.

Kenny and I decided to forgo our Costco membership this year. Although we had mastered the art of checking out without buying the kitchen sink we would still end up with too much food that would eventually land in the trash. We called these endeavors "hands only" shopping trips. Pretty effective for shopping Costco on a budget; although, we still ended up with food we wouldn't ordinarily buy. For instance, we currently have a whiskey soaked English cheddar which has been sitting in the back of the fridge for about a month. Its pretty gross if you ask me; unfortunately, about a pound remains.

I approach eating all my groceries in two ways. The first is by cooking meals for "two." I have a great cookbook created by Eating Well Magazine, called Eating Well Serves Two. It is probably my most used cook book ever, surprising as it was published only about six months ago. So far my favorite meals have been Caramelized Onion & Green Olive Pizzas, Chicken & Fennel Flatbread, and my favorite, Fennel Sauerkraut with Sausage & Potatoes. I have yet to try a disappointing recipe. Eating Well is also a great magazine that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning about and cooking healthy cuisine. In the winter we fell in love with the Oven Barbecued Brisket, and the Butternut Squash and Leek Lasagna.

My second, and far less successful, method of preventing grocery spoilage is to eat the same thing over and over again until gone. This really doesn't work out very well. I eat too much of one thing, get tired of it, forget about it, discover it moldy in the back of the fridge a month later.

Luckily after buying four pounds of salmon for Mother's Day and having quite a lot of it left over, I devised a way to make use of it quickly along with a slew of other ingredients hidden in the produce drawer. The salmon already had a light spattering of Soy Vay Island Teriyaki marinade so I went with an Asian theme when choosing ingredients. The end result was delicious, so good I even ate the leftovers of these leftovers cold over lettuce with some vinaigrette.

Monique's Leftover Salmon Cakes
Makes 6 servings
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked salmon
  • 1 large shallot minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1/8 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup scallions
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (regular are okay too, Panko are Japanese and coarser than regular bread crumbs)
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • Extra Panko to coat patties
  • Canola Oil
  • Lemon for garnish

Break the cooked salmon up into little bits with a fork. Add shallot, ginger, tamari, cilantro, scallions, Panko, and eggs to salmon and mix together.

Pour extra Panko onto a plate. Form mixture into six balls (they should fit into your palm), then lay in the Panko and smoosh down to a patty about 3/4" thick.

Heat Canola oil in a pan over med-high heat. Cook patties in the oil turning when golden, about 3 minutes per side. Unless you have a humongous pan, you'll probably have to cook in batches. When you remove the browned patties lay on a papertowel to soak up excess oil.

Serve over greens or on a hamburger bun.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

Nothing says springtime like muffins


It was a gorgeous day in Santa Cruz today. I suspect the weather was up to 80 degrees, pretty warm if you ask me. It certainly feels like summer is around the corner. So why the desire the crank up the oven to 375 degrees in an effort to make a not so refreshing treat? It's thanks to the newest member of my cookbook collection: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson.

The first food blog I ever came across was Heidi's 101 cookbooks, and I've been going back to her blog daily ever since its discovery. I haven't spent any time with her previous cookbook, Cook 1.0 , but her new book is gorgeous. She incorporates stunning photography with delicious recipes, with a focus on natural and whole ingredients. It's the first cookbook I've wanted to read cover to cover as it's packed with great information about incorporating natural and whole foods into your cooking. Some of the ingredients I've already discovered while working in the natural food industry, like agave syrup; others are a bit more esoteric, and I suspect, pretty difficult to find. She does have a list of resources in the appendix for anyone who has trouble finding ingredients at their local grocery or natural food store. I'm looking forward to making her Risotto-Style Barley, Crema de Guacamole soup, Gnocchi alla Romana, and her Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens. I'm eager to recommend her book to everyone, especially those who haven't jumped into the world of natural foods yet.

So back to the muffins. The black bananas on my fridge were begging to be baked, so I gave them what they wanted. I've truly only baked a handful of times, usually trying banana bread, or a derivative. I've found in my limited experience that it is extremely difficult to get the right amount of wet ingredients to ensure a a moist end product. I was optimistic about the mixture of butter, bananas, and yogurt in Heidi's creation. It seemed destined for a successful end product. And sure enough I ended up with muffins with a nice moist interior, but subtly golden brown on the outside.

I did improvise quite a bit when it came to the ingredients. Choosing to be frugal, I opted for the three year old, unsealed bag of Unbleached All Purpose Flour thats been hiding in my cabinet (I chose to ignore the purpose of the chapter which was to incorporate a variety of whole grains into cooking.) I used salted butter, Greek yogurt instead of regular old plain, and omited cupcake papers. On the flip side I was happy to incorporate organic walnuts that I purchased at my local farmer's market, use some of the vanilla paste I bought at Trader Joe's, and take advantage of the sample of organic cane sugar I received at my last job. I do eat a good amount of all-natural and organic products, but at this point I'm still using up ingredients I have on hand exchanging them for better quality organic products whenever the opportunity arises, and in some cases, like the poor flour, the opportunity doesn't arise frequently.

Either way the end product turned out well. The batter base seems to me a good template for more varieties of muffin. Next time I would probably try the same recipe sans Espresso powder, with the addition of other fruits and spices. I found the espresso was fairly subtle, so don't expect this to replace your daily coffee craving; although, I would still recommend this to anyone looking for a yummy breakfast muffin.

Here is Heidi's recipe with my own instructions (I'm still trying to figure out copyright laws, so bear with me. . .):

Makes 12 Muffins

  • 2 cups white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped toasted walnuts (toast in the oven about 4 minutes at 350 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon fine espresso powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup natural cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line your muffin tin with papers.

Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sea salt, 3/4 cup of the walnuts, and espresso powder. Set aside.

Cream the butter using a mixer, or good ole' fashioned hand mixing. Add sugar, continue to cream. Stir in eggs. Mix in the vanilla, yogurt (my favorite plain yogurt is Greek style), and mashed bananas.

Pour wet ingredients into dry mixture, and combine just until mixed through.

Spoon mixture into the muffin tin.

Bake for 25 minutes, or longer. Check for doneness with a toothpick (it comes out clean when it's finished baking). Let the muffins rest in their tin on the counter for about 5 minutes, then take them out and rest on a rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy for breakfast, or anytime you need a little pick-me-up.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Life on the Left

Well, no. I'm not exactly one legged.

For months I have wanted to start my own food blog, recognizing that those in the food blog world are kindred spirits. I too spend endless hours skimming through cookbooks and cooking magazines, marking with myriad colors of post-its those recipes my
taste buds would like to meet first. I work with food, play with food, dream about food. I love the kitchen, I love to eat, and I especially love cookbooks. We should call it what it is: a FOOD OBSESSION!

With the fixation on food already in place the last bit of motivation I needed to start my blog was an appropriate blog name. One that explained what my food personality is. I'm nothing close to gourmet, but nothing short of culinarily driven, and little too silly to hide. The proposed list was endless, with most arriving closer to stupid than clever.

So last night, the final bit of encouragement I needed came to me in a Nancy Kerrigan moment. In the second half of the Championship game of my indoor soccer league (soccer being one of my other true loves), up by one point, a sudden sharp bang sounded from the back of my right heel (complete with pain, of course.) I was sure my opponent had some how managed to wrap her leg behind me while still in full view in front of me, winding up with enough strength to bring me to the floor.

The unfortunate reality is that I completely ruptured my Achilles tendon. With that goes the ability to bear weight on my right foot. And thus the name: One Legged Chef. I'd
apparently been looking for inspiration in all the wrong places.

I have yet to cook on one leg. Already, getting food from microwave to table has proven challenging, but I can't imagine a more fitting opportunity to spend some serious time honing my cooking skills, along with my balance.

I mostly cook from recipes created by others and want to share those stellar few that have made it into my repertoire. I do have a few that I've created on my own, but mostly this blog will chronicle my ambition to become a culinary master, and develop all the skills I need to twist the classics with a little of my own flair. I have a tendency toward rich savory foods, but living in the fruit basket (or is it salad bowl?) of the world I try my best to take advantage of the earth's bounty and eat balanced overall.

Thanks for sharing in my adventure, may we all be standing at the end.