Another fish crusted in a corn product

December 30, 2009

I'm originally from western Pennsylvania where every dive bar competes to serves the most gigantic fried fish sandwich. This means I am conditioned to prefer my sea critters with a crunchy coating. (In fact just an hour ago I ate a salad with fried fish on it at a restaurant in my hometown.) Add to that the fact that I found this older Rick Bayless cookbook in a used bookstore in Charlottesville, VA, and taaa-daaaaa - before I knew it I was eating cereal on my fish. (And to revisit the Rick Bayless issue from a previous blog post - yes, I did eventually see the tv show, and he is quite creepy. Damn good cookbook author, but as a show host he gives off somewhat of a stalker vibe. Blink, Rick! Blink!)

Crispy fish with tomatillo sauce, adapted from Mexico: One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless
Serves 2

1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups smashed corn flakes (smash first, then measure)
2 5-6 oz. fish fillets (I used catfish), about 3/4 inch thich

vegetable oil, for frying

1/2 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 serrano pepper, stem cut off, but otherwise left whole (use a jalepeno if serrano seeds are too hot for you and yours)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium white onion, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup fish or chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Fish preparation
Get out three flat bowls for breading the fish. Put the flour and salt in one, the egg in another and beat it with a little bit of water, and the smashed corn flakes in the third. (Note: you will probably want to smash the corn flakes with your hands rather than a food processor, because the machine will make the crumbs too fine.) Dredge the fish on both sides in the flour, then egg, then corn flakes. Really push the corn flakes into the fish. Repeat with the second fillet. Put them on a clean plate and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roast the tomatillos and chile on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 5 minutes on each side. You want them to blacken in spots, and they will probably also burst a little bit too. Take them out to cool for a few minutes before pureeing it all (along with the juices) in a food processor or blender.

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, stir for about a minute, then add the tomatillo puree. Stirring constantly, cook until it is darker and thicker, about 3-4 minutes. Add the broth and half of the cilantro. Once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and let it cook and thicken for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Fish, continued
In a large heavy skillet (cast iron is nice here), pour in vegetable oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat it over a medium high flame until it is hot enough to instantly sizzle a cornflake. Cook the fish for about 2 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. (The refrigeration helps the coating stick to the fish, which makes for easier cooking and flipping.) Drain the fillets briefly on paper towels, if desired.

Spoon half the sauce onto each plate, then top with a piece of fish. Garnish with the rest of the cilantro. I served this at my house with a simple romaine salad with a lime vinaigrette. (Bonus recipe! Lime vinaigrette: juice of one lime, salt, pepper, whisk in olive oil to taste.)


December 24, 2009

Just totally not in time for Christmas, I decided to make a list of my Top Ten Favorite Kitchen Things. Not all are gadgets, and they certainly aren't all essential, so Things they are. And maybe if you're lucky, you celebrate Serbian Christmas (exchanging gifts on the Epiphany) or maybe the K-mart in your town is open for a couple of hours tomorrow. And also please enjoy this gratuitous picture of a fig and bacon salad.

Top 10 Kitchen Thingies
in no particular order
(and the links are for descriptive purposes only, I am not endorsing any particular brand - with three exceptions)

1) Mini-whisk. I convinced my husband's Aunt Joanie to buy one just the other day, and she says she's used it every day since. (It was only two days ago, though.)
Pluses: It's teeny-tiny, great for making salad dressing, whipping up one or two eggs, or combining small amounts of things. It's more efficient than a fork. Plus you can save your forks for food shoveling.
Minuses: It's teeny-tiny, so you'll still need a mama-sized whisk for things like polenta or fritatta.

2) Cast iron pan. It was non-stick before non-stick was cool.
Pluses: You don't use soap to clean it (water and a Chore Boy only, please!), it can go in the oven, and it gives THE best crisp crust on anything you sear or fry in it. And it's not that expensive - I think ours was $25 or $35. As a bonus: it adds iron to your diet! Not a problem for me, as I have a freakishly high iron content, but great for the anemic folk out there.
Minuses: It's really heavy. And if you're a germaphobe, the whole not using soap thing might bother you. (Let's just say that is not an issue in the House of Mango Hands.)

3) Kitchen Aid Mixer. Aka bridal shower gold.
Pluses: It can do everything! It has a whisk, bread hook, and just general mixing gadget. Plus you can buy any number of attachments. I have the meat grinder (thanks Walter! Stay safe in Iraq!), pasta plates, and sausage stuffer. I think you can also get an ice cream maker, French tickler, and juicer attachments.
Minuses: If you have a small apartment, it can be hard to find a place to store it. Also, they are pricey.

4) Immersion blender. I heard my friend Kaitlin (aka Bev)'s fiance's stepmother just bought one on a Mango Hands recommendation. (Hi Christine! I can't wait to meet you! Your daughters are beautiful!)
Pluses: If you like to make soup, you have to get an immersion blender. If you're making something you need to puree, you don't have to go through the fuss of dumping it in the blender in batches. You just stick it in, zshooch it around, and smooth soup it is! Bonus points if it comes with a mini-chopper attachment. (Most do.)
Minuses: Um, I can't think of any. Don't forget to unplug it before you wash it.

5) Garlic press. Great for keeping away vampires, or people who like Twilight too much.
Pluses: It does a damn good job of mincing garlic. I only bought one because America's Test Kitchen recommended it. It's great if you don't have anything else to chop but garlic, but you don't feel like getting a knife dirty. Most have a mince and slice feature. Get that kind.
Minuses: I am not the biggest fan of one-hit wonders (aka things with only one purpose), so if you feel the same it might not be for you. And it can be a pain in the butt to clean. My husband thinks it should go on the Top Ten Useless Kitchen Thingies, but if he wants to espouse that opinion he should get his own blog.

6) A giant cutting board. Put it next to the mini-whisk for laughs.
Pluses: It's giant. You can chop a bunch of different things and keep cute little piles, and then use them as you need them, as opposed to getting a bunch of little bowls dirty.
Minuses: It's giant. You'll need some counterspace. (But it's worth it.) And if it's wooden, you'll have to oil or wax it to keep it from drying out like a crusty old man.

7) A small salt bowl. I like to touch everything that goes in my food. Good think I usually wash my hands.
Pluses: It's small, it travels, and you can pinch exactly how much salt you're putting in your food.
Minuses: We spill it ALL THE TIME. There are piles of salt all over our house.

8) Salad spinner. I once saw this episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown suggested spinning your greens dry in the clothes dryer. This is much easier.
Pluses: Gets your greens nice and dry, plus it is fun for everyone to use. We have a collapsable model, which is great for our small space. If you eat green things, you should own one.
Minuses: Ours broke recently. It stopped spinning. Hence our new model. Please note that just spinning your greens doesn't clean them. You have to soak them in cold water, then scoop them (don't dump them! you'll just dump the sand and dirt in with them!) into the spinner.

9) Thin-slicer thingie. Don't spend load of money on a mandoline. This is just as good and cheaper. (This is the only link where I actually recommend you buy this exact model. You may, however, get a different color. Mine is lime green.)
Pluses: Perfect for consistent, very thin cuts of vegetables. I've used it for gratins, potato chips, and thin apple slices for brie, red onion, and apple baguettes.
Minuses: If you enjoy your fingertips, please don't lose the fingerguard. Or you WILL cut yourself.

10) Microplane zester. Also useful for zesting off your fingerprints in case the police are on your tail.
Pluses: It's the best way to zest citrus, plus great for ginger, parmesan cheese, and chocolate.
Minuses: See above.

Happy Elfing! If you have suggestions for other fabulous kitchen things, please leave comments.

Serves four

December 22, 2009

There is a family story from my mom's side that gets told every single time we eat pie. I was about to say that it is such a good story that it never gets old, but... Well, it is a really great story. My mom grew up with a fantastic pie-baker for a mother and a pie-lover for a father. There was pie after dinner every night. It wasn't even considered dessert, it was just the pie course. In fact, sometimes after pie, a person might inquire if there was dessert that night. As a family that had fresh-baked pie every night, they did not necessarily want leftovers, so the eight inch pie was always cut into four pieces - one for each person. When my mom started bringing my father home for dinner, my grandmother had to start making an extra pie, because no one could bear to have a smaller serving of pie. I wonder what that family of pie-lovers did with those extra three pieces? I'm sure they found a good home in someone's belly.

Speaking of pie-lovers, I happened to have married one. For many reasons I'm sad that my grandpa died before I met my husband, but just imagine the conversations they could have had about pie! My husband is also a FABULOUS baker and made this pie for my family for Thanksgiving. He made it the day before and well, the pie was just a little too tempting. This photo was taken about 10pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Apple pie, from the Shelburne Farms cookbook
serves 4 (at my mom's childhood table) or 8 at a regular tabl
Makes a 10-inch pie 

2 10-inch homemade pie crusts (the Shelburne Farms cookbook has a great recipe, but I think any great pie crust will work just fine)
3 pounds apples (recommended: a variety of apples, including but not limited to the Northern Spy, Cortland, Empire, Fuji, Baldwin and Ida Red - or, ask your local orchard for a good variety for pie)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, thinly sliced into pats
couple of tablespoons of milk
a sprinkle of sugar

Peel the apples and slice them VERY thinly into 1/8 inch slices. This may seem too sliver-y, but it makes for a fabulous pie. Toss them in a large bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons flour and salt. If the apples seem really juicy, add the extra tablespoon of flour. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, with racks at the lowest and second lowest spots in the oven.

Roll out one of your homemade pie crusts, which was probably chilling in the fridge, to a diameter of about 13 inches. Gently transfer it to a 10-inch glass pie pan. Carefully layer the apple slices in the pie crust. It takes more time than just dumping the slices (and I've been known to mock my  husband for his placement technique) but it does make a difference. Just add one slice at a time, trying to add them with little to no space in between. Top the apples with the thin slices of butter. 

Roll out your top crust (also to a 13 inch diameter) and place on top of the pie. Crimp all along the edges with your fingers. Lightly brush the top of the pie with milk. Cut about 4-5 slits in the top of the pie. Sprinkle with some sugar. 

Pop the pie in the second lowest slot in the oven and let it bake for 25 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350, and move the pie to the lowest rack. If the edges are browned at this point, put some foil over the edges to prevent them from burning. Bake the pie for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender when you poke through one of the vents with a skewer.

Let it cool before eating. And good luck trying to save it for a day. You probably should have made two pies.

You have to keep your head on a swivel

December 16, 2009

Every time I go to the grocery store, I like to peruse the meat section. I don't actually cook a lot of meat, but I still like to look. So the other day, I'm trolling the dead animal section of Whole Foods and I swear if my life was a TV show there would have been a bright light shining from the meat case and a chorus of angels singing "Ahhhhhhhh!!!!" There it was - a package of mismarked meat! I think when I first met my friend Emily G. she thought that all my boyfriend and I ever did was hunt for mismarked meats at area grocery stores. That is only what we did every weekend, Emily. We watched Matlock and darned socks during the week.

Anyway - back to the mismarked meat. It was a pound and a quarter of 93% lean free-range ground beef - marked at TWELVE CENTS. Yes, that would be one dime and two pennies. There were actually like five packages marked at that price. But since it was kind of like stealing (only kind of, it was technically and legally on sale for twelve cents), I only bought one package. Of course, when I got home, my husband couldn't figure out why I didn't buy ALL the packages. I like to think that I gave someone else the unadulterated joy of finding mismarked meat.

So what to do when life gives you mismarked meat? Make meatloaf!! (My god, I do love meatloaf.)

The best meatloaf ever, from Bon Appetit
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package crimini or baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped (this should be about 1.5 cups)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (you could use 3/4 teaspoon each of dried if you don't have fresh)

1 1/4 lb ground beef or ground buffalo (preferably mismarked to twelve cents)
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup tomato sauce, divided
1/2 cup panko
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook until softened, about four minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the thyme and sage. Let it cool slightly.

Dump the ground meat, egg, 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce, panko and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add in the mushroom mixture, and VERY GENTLY, using your hands, combine everything together. (Have you ever had a really tough, not delicious meatloaf? It could be because the meat was squished and squashed to death in between someone's fingers.) Dump this on a sheet pan, and form a loaf-like shape.

Cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 cup tomato sauce with the hot pepper flakes in a small bowl. Remove the loaf of meat from the oven, and cover the top with the tomato sauce mixture. Cook another 2o minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Sprinkles required

December 14, 2009

You know who I feel really sad for at Thanksgiving? Dogs. Not only are there all sorts of smells to be constantly aware of, ("Ooh, that smells good, I should go stand near it. And look sad.") but there are loads of people around who possibly don't know that the dog is not allowed to eat 1 lb. blocks of imported aged provolone. ("Perhaps if I sit here and paw at this leg, this stranger may give me all the food on that plate. Don't forget the sad eyes.") Multiple times during Thanksgiving Day at my parent's house someone would ask, "Where's Gus?" and my dad would respond, "Oh, he's in the kitchen, praying to the turkey." ("Oh please turkey, use those crisp yet juicy wings to fly off the counter and into my food dish!") So you can imagine the stress of the holiday on my parents' dog. And, the heartless creatures that we are, my husband and I had the gall to whip up something else that smelled delicious just three days later. I bring you:

Pumpkin Donuts! (Yes, this is spelled with an exclamation point.) from Bon Appetit
Makes 12-13 donuts and 12-13 donut holes, which was plenty for 6 people
Note: You have to start this 3 hours in advance, so I made up the dough the night before.

1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cloves
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 egg (I used - 1/2 egg and 1 egg yolk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon buttermilk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin

Canola oil (for deep-frying)

Spiced sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
(I had lots of this leftover, so you could probably cut it back some if you wanted to.)

1 cup powdered sugar
whipping cream

Whisk together the flour and spices (through cloves.) Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in large bowl until blended. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Slowly beat in the buttermilk. Beat in the pumpkin in four additions. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture in four additions. Cover with plastic; chill 3 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the spiced sugar.

In another small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons whipping cream. The glaze should be thick, but not too thick, so whisk in a few dribbles of whipping cream if you need to thin it out a little.

After their chilling time, roll out the donut dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 inch wide round cookie or biscuit cutter (if you don't have one, use a glass), cut out the donut rounds. Using a 1 inch round cookie cutter, cut out the donut holes. Repeat with remaining dough. (You can re-roll the scraps.)

Heat oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches in a large, sturdy dutch oven or Fry-O-Later to 365-370 degrees. (You'll need a deep-frying thermometer if you're using a dutch oven.) When the oil reaches temperature, fry a few donut holes at a time. They'll take about 2 minutes, and you should turn them occasionally. Drain them on a rack over paper towels, but when they are still warm, toss them in the spiced sugar. (This is a great two-person job.) The donut rounds will take about 1 minute per side, so flip them halfway through. When they come out, drain on a rack, and then spoon some glaze over top. While the glaze is still warm, liberally apply sprinkles.

The recipe says to let the glaze set for 30 minutes before eating, but if you have that kind of willpower, I'm not sure we would get along that well. Happy Donutting!

Hoo-ha free

December 9, 2009

Sometimes food can be just about highlighting a really great, fresh, seasonal ingredient. Other (equally delicious) times it's about combining all kinds of hoo-ha to make something great. This dish, which is one of my husband's favorites, is the former. When we were in Scotland this summer, he ordered a fish sampler of sorts. (I tend to prefer a beer sampler, but to each his own.) It was three different fishes, simply broiled and served with a little lemon and butter. I'm still getting my bearings with fish and tend to like more hoo-ha with my finned friends. But this was really good, and the local rockfish really shined.

Oh, and I don't eat the skin, but if you feel bad about wasting it, mail it to my parents because their dog has skin issues and fish skin will make his coat lovely and shiny. Hi Gus! Tell them you can have extra snacks tonight!

Pan-seared rockfish, with a shout-out to Alice Waters "The Art of Simple Food"
Serves 2

2 pieces rockfish, skin on (Rockfish is a type of bass indigenous to the DC area. Um, I think.)
salt and pepper
olive oil

lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons capers

Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt, pepper and capers.

Choose a large heavy skillet (I used my trusty cast iron pan). Wrap the bottom of another pan (or a pot) in foil.

Season the not-skin side of the fish with salt and pepper. Heat a good amount of olive oil in the heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once it's hot, put the fish in skin side down. Put the foil wrapped pan on top of the fish to weigh it down. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy, about 7 minutes. Once it is, flip the fish over and cook for about a minute or until it is just cooked through. Remove to a plate.

Re-whisk the lemon sauce and pour it into the hot pan for about 30 seconds. Spoon it over the fish, and prepare to enjoy a hoo-ha free meal.

Love affair, part two

December 3, 2009

There are several charming things about this recipe. The first is that the main ingredient is eggplant, which, as expounded upon here, delights me to no end. Another is that the recipe calls for said eggplant to be cut into "fingers." I just love that description. And they really do look more like fingers than, say, chicken fingers. I have no doubt this recipe would be less delicious if the eggplant was cubed. Thirdly, I once made it for my sister-in-law, who currently lives VERY far away (no, think even more far away than that) and when I make it I like to think of the brief time she lived VERY nearby.

Eggplant fingers with an herby curry, adapted from the "contemporary curries" section of 660 Curries
Serves 3-ish

1/4 cup packed cilantro
3 T packed mint
2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass (this is now readily available in jars)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves of garlic
2-4 green chiles (Thai, serrano or jalepeno), just the stems removed
zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons oil
1 large, 2 medium, or several small eggplants, cut into fingers (think the shape of a french fry)
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup chopped green onions

hot rice, for serving

Put the cilantro, mint, lemongrass, salt, garlic, chiles and lime zest in a food processor and pulse to a fine mince.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once it shimmers, add the eggplant fingers and the herb mixture. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato, and continue to cook until the eggplant is tender, about 10 more minutes. Watch the heat so you don't burn your eggplant. If you need to, add a tablespoon or so of water to prevent sticking.

Once the eggplant is done, turn off the heat and stir in the basil and green onions. Serve over rice. Think of Kate.

It's not all brain surgery

November 25, 2009

You don't always have to add a ton of hoo-ha to an ingredient to make it delicious. Take the humble sunchoke. Also known as the Jerusalem artichoke, it looks like a cross between a knobbly piece of ginger and a potato. The flavor is a tad flowery and herbal and it has a slightly higher moisture content than a potato. But, really, all you need to do is to roast it. The photo at left is of small raw sunchokes.

Speaking of roasted, I happen to think any vegetable tastes better roasted. I won't eat asparagus or brussel sprouts any other way. Wait until they look like they are about to burn, then keep them in about four minutes longer, then add lots of salt. Just as good as french fries. Well, no, that's a lie.

Fair warning though, roasted brussel sprouts can be a little fart-a-rific. No worries, just light a scented candle or hang an air freshener off your back belt loop.

Sunchokes n' sprouts

sunchokes, preferably small, but if not, cut into 1 inch pieces
small brussel sprouts, or large ones cut in half (extra points if you get them on the stalk)
olive oil, just barely to coat

Roast at 400 til brown, crusty, and tender. See photo below for approximation.

Mostly about hell, but also waffles

November 24, 2009

I am really picky about eggs. I used to hate them in every way, but in showing some personal growth, I will now eat dippy eggs (aka sunny side up) and frittatas that contain lots of cheese. I still say that if there is a hell, they will serve me egg salad sandwiches, which combine my two vehement hates of cooked egg yolks and mayonnaise, not to mention eternal hellfire. On a recent road trip to Cincinnati, I saw a billboard warning: HELL IS REAL. So, I better stop being so judgmental, or an eternity of egg salad sandwiches awaits me.

Eternal damnation aside, my non-love of eggs has inspired a devotion to waffles and pancakes. When I had a little bit of canned pumpkin leftover, this was the perfect recipe to use it up. Also great as a turkey-day breakfast. Although the photo shows syrup as a condiment, I liked them best with just a little bit of butter.

Pumpkin waffles, from Gourmet
Makes 8 waffles (in my waffle maker, don't know about yours)

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (aka 1/6 cup) brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 250 degrees or "warm."

Sift together the dry ingredients: flour through cloves. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the milk products, pumpkin and butter. Slowly whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into your waffle maker as you would normally make waffles, keeping the early batches warm in the oven until all the batter is used.

If you're making this just for two people, you'll likely have leftovers. They are still perfectly delicious after refrigeration and then a turn in the toaster.

Using the surplus

November 18, 2009

A few months ago, my husband and I spent the better part of the afternoon reorganizing our refrigerator and pantry cupboard. Yes, our life is fabulous, we can't help it. Anyway - in this cleaning, we found three jars of hoisin sauce. Two in the fridge (one on the door, and one shoved in the corner of a bottom shelf) and one in the cupboard - our emergency stash, if you will. Heaven forbid Washington, DC, has a nuclear meltdown and we don't have any hoisin sauce! So the other night when we were scrounging a bit for food and didn't feel like walking the 250 yards to the grocery store, we threw this together. You'll see me later this week at H-Mart stockpiling the hoisin, now that we're down a 1/2 cup.

Hoisin chicken with clumpy (in a good way) rice
, adapted from Donna Hay's "Off the Shelf"
Serves 2-3


1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup wine or sherry (I used leftover champagne)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
4-6 chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces*

1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 green onions, chopped
1 red chili, seeded and chopped
3 cups COOKED rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 small bunch swiss chard, bag of spinach, or head of bok choy

*vegetarian option: this would be really good with cubed tofu, too. Sear the cubes in a pan to get some texture on it before plopping them in the sauce.

Heat the hoisin sauce, wine and grated ginger in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and boil it for 2-3 minutes to thicken slightly. Add the chicken pieces and stir, until the chicken is cooked.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Cook the onions and chili for about a minute. Stir in the rice and cook for 3-4 minutes. (A spatula works better than a wooden spoon here.) Pour the egg over top, and move the mixture around constantly until the raw egg is no longer visible, about a minute. Stir in the greens, adding a tablespoon or two of water to help them wilt down.

Serve the chicken and sauce over the rice.

For my brother, the carnivore

November 16, 2009

One year for Christmas at my parents' house, there were three Crockpots exchanged between three people. I got two of them. (I kept the bigger one.) It will be forever remembered as the Holiday of the Slow-Cooked Meat. I know people say they can be used for so much more, but I've only ever done meat. Who doesn't love coming home to a big slab of slow-cooked meat? Well, probably vegetarians. Once my friend Rebecca had an incident where hers shut off in the middle of the day, leaving her with short ribs that had been sitting at a sketchy temperature for who knows how long. The pizza we had for dinner that night was DELICIOUS, though.

A piece of advice - only use your slow-cooker when you'll be gone all day. Because otherwise, you'll be smelling amazing smells all day, and you aren't allowed to even peek in and stir it. It's a little torturous.

And a quick note about pork shoulder: Yes, it can be really fatty. I actually trimmed TONS of fat off of mine, leaving us with not-too-greasy sandwiches. And to all those out there protesting, "but fat is flavor," well, we all have to be able to zip up our pants the next day, and I don't see you pitching in for my personal trainer, so suck it. I don't fear the fat, but I'm also not ashamed to say I trim where I can.

Pork Barbeque, from an Epicurious recipe
Makes about 8 sandwiches

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pepper, chopped (I used a skinny red chili, because that's what I had)
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (with seeds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons hot Mexican powder
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
3 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of as much fat as you want (because she who holds the knife is the boss!), cut into 2-inch hunks
1 12 oz. can or bottle of beer (I used an ale.)
1 bay leaf

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, cook one minute. Remove from heat.

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients: brown sugar through hot pepper sauce.

Fish out your Crockpot from whatever dark corner of the kitchen it usually lives. Put in the peppers and onions, pork and sauce, and stir it around. Pour the beer over the whole lot, and float the bay leaf on top.

Set your slow cooker on low and cook for 8-10 hours. DO NOT PEEK OR STIR.

Using tongs, remove the meat to a bowl. Transfer the juices and vegetables to a saucepan. If you want to, skim off some of the fat from the top. (I got a few tablespoons without much effort.) Over medium high heat, reduce the sauce for about 30-40 minutes. Turn off the heat, and using an immersion blender, puree into a smooth sauce. You could also put the sauce in a regular blender. Add the meat to the sauce, and shred the meat a little bit with two forks. (Don't make it look like cat food, though.) Warm on the stove until heated through. Serve on buns of your choosing, or just as-is.

I know it seems like this might be REALLY spicy, but we really did not find that at all. I actually shook some more hot sauce on top of mine, because that's how I roll.

A cranberry bar and some hot green tea

November 12, 2009

Please enjoy this guest post from my special baking correspondent, also known as my husband. And it's true, he hoards berries like a squirrel.

When fall rolls around I always grab a couple of bags of cranberries the first time I see them in the grocery store. They are only on the shelves for a few weeks and I get this strange urge to horde them. (I don't know whether that's from growing up in New England or a hereditary trait.) And while some form of cranberry sauce or relish is always at the table when my family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, for some reason we never make it before then. So we find ourselves awash in berries and looking for things to use them in. The recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag for a cranberry bread has been a consistent go-to, but this week I gave this recipe from Dishing Up Vermont (a great cook book with recipes from restaurants and inns around the Green Mountain State) a go. I found it lighter than the usual quick bread recipes and a piece goes great with a cup of tea.

Delicious cranberry bars
Makes 9-16 squares

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup apple sauce
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup of sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 baking dish. Combine the sugar and eggs in an electric mixer. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients, starting with the cinnamon through the flour. Mix the butter, applesauce, and vanilla extract into the sugar-egg mixture until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and then fold in the cranberries and almonds.

Pour the batter into the dish and bake for 50-55 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack before serving.


November 11, 2009

Have you ever watched any cooking shows on public television? I contend they are far superior to anything on the Food Network. Public tv shows seem more authentic and have a genuine desire to teach you something, while Food TV is more in the mood to entertain you. Which is why I am so disappointed never to have seen a Rick Bayless public tv show. He is like the American godfather of authentic Mexican cooking. I have two of his cookbooks (thanks Mom!) and they are awesome. Everything I've made of his is hot-damn delicious. Apparently he used to have a show, but now he doesn't. How about some reruns, PBS? I've seen some old Baking With Julia's that are about a century old. Give me some Rick Bayless!

I've written about my love of the poblano pepper before. This is the first time I've made a soup with that dark green delicacy, and I can see it happening again every poblano season.

Roasted poblano soup, adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen
Serves 4-6

6 medium-large poblanos (I only had 5, and the world is still turning)
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small bunch chard, stems removed, leaves chopped into 3-inch ribbons
4 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch or instant thickener* OR 1/4 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon salt

Possible toppings
crushed tortilla chips
feta cheese
cheese quesadillas, for dippin'

Roast the poblanos under a broiler or on a grill until the skin is blackened in spots. Put them in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Peel the skin off (no sweat if some stays on), and remove the stem, seeds and ribs. (The seeds and ribs is where the heat lives. After roasting, the ribs will look small and innocent, but cut them out if you are heat sensitive.) Cut the poblanos into strips. (You can do the roasting a couple of days ahead and put the strips in the fridge.)

Heat oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and let them get a little brown, about five minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and dried herbs,** about 1 minute. Add the roasted poblanos and chard. You might need to add a little water if your veggies are sticking to the bottom. Cover the pot and let the chard cook, about 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, and in two batches, puree the chard/poblano mixture in a blender. Be careful, it's hot. Technically, Rick Bayless will have you the press this mixture through a sieve. I did this, and frankly, I don't know that it made that much of a difference. I'd skip it next time. But if you're feeling sieve-y, go for it.

Put the poblano puree back in the pot and put the heat on medium. Stir in 4 cups of the chicken stock, cream and salt. Put the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock in a small bowl and stir in the magical thickener, cornstarch, or masa. Add the thickened stock to the soup pot. Let the soup cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until thickened and hot.

*Instant thickener is made by King Arthur Flour and is part magic.
**I like to put dried herbs in my palm and rub my hands together to release some of the scent from the herbs.

Not posh

November 9, 2009

Remember when I wrote how Glasgow has the highest per capita Indian restaurants of anywhere outside of India? Well, you know what they must have the lowest per capita of? Mexican restaurants. Or anything Latin American. I nearly succumbed to burrito-deficiency-itis when I lived there for a semester in college, after living off of Anna's Taqueria for two years. One day my friend Sue and I decided to make regular old ground beef tacos in my windowless dorm kitchen. We got all the goods: crunchy yellow shells, that scary "seasoning" packet, salsa, sour cream, orange cheese, and even a green tub of goo labled "guacamole." So there we are, assembling our comfort food that I'm sure 1 million other Americans were eating at home in Iowa, Pennsylvania and Florida. And the Scottish girls who shared the kitchen start talking about how posh our dinner is. Because they had never witnessed taco preparation before. Um, Ortega taco kits are really anything but posh. I would even declare them the exact opposite of posh.

I won't lie. I still make the occasional ground beef taco. Why not? They are kind of awesome. But I now have about 15 other favorite tacos in front of it. Here's one.

Crunchy black bean tacos - adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe
Makes 6 tacos

6 small corn tortillas (don't use flour tortillas)
vegetable oil
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups shredded cabbage (either from a head or coleslaw mix)
2 green onions, finely sliced
juice of half of a lime
2 tablespoons cilantro OR mint

To serve
homemade guacamole (mash an avocado with some minced garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, maybe some cilantro)
chipotle hot sauce

Mix the cabbage, green onions, lime juice and herb of your choosing together well. Season with some salt.

Mash the rinsed and drained black beans with the cumin, vinegar, and garlic.

Preheat toaster oven to 250, or set your oven on "warm." Heat a large skillet with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil over medium heat. Swirl the oil around so it covers the skillet evenly. Put three tortillas down in the skillet. It's ok if they overlap a bit. Using one half of the bean mixture, divide it among the three tortillas in the pan, spreading it on one half of each tortilla. Top with some of the feta cheese. Using tongs, fold over the other half of the tortilla and press down, making the tortillas into half moons. Once the tortilla is crispy and light brown on one side, flip it over and brown the other side. (I think tongs are easier to use than a spatula here.) Keep the first batch warm in the toaster or oven while you repeat with the last three tortillas.

Shove some of the cabbage mixture into each taco, and then serve with the guacamole and chipotle hot sauce. Heaven, I tell you. Crunchy, beany heaven.

What about cauliflower? Nothing about cauliflower.

November 8, 2009

Exactly. Nothing about cauliflower. It's one of the very few vegetables I won't eat. I highly doubt this blog will ever discuss cauliflower. Or gnomes. Nothing about gnomes either.

You know what I will talk about? Incessantly, actually? Eggplant. I will likely write the Song of Solomon to eggplant. It's so versatile. Italian, Indian, Asian, classic American, and Mediterranean cuisines all love the mighty eggplant. My dear friend Elsa (who until the past year has never lived more than 1.5 miles away) and I probably talk about the latest thing we've done with eggplant about 60% of the time we talk on the phone or via e-mail. So, Els, here's a really good eggplant recipe.

Roasted eggplant pizza
Serves 3-4

1 medium and 1 small eggplant (any variety)
2 big tomatoes
1 head garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb. of pizza dough (I used the whole wheat from Trader Joe's)
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon basil
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons green garlic, chives, or green onions
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices and the tomatoes into 1 inch chunks. Brush the eggplant slices lightly with olive oil and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Liberally salt and pepper the eggplant. Put the tomato chunks on a separate baking sheet with just a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Peel the outermost paper off of the garlic head. Put the whole head in a piece of foil, drizzle with about a teaspoon of olive oil, and wrap it up tight in the foil. Put the tray of eggplant, tray of tomatoes, and the foil-wrapped garlic in the oven. Roast until tender, about 18-20 minutes for eggplant, 10 for tomatoes, and 30-40 for garlic. Midway through each roasting time, flip the eggplant and stir up the tomatoes. Let everything cool to a reasonable temperature.

Squeeze the garlic out of its paper into a mini-chopper or food processor. Add the 1/3 cup basil, parsley, and green garlic, and pulse to make a paste.

Roll out the pizza dough and place on a baking sheet that is lightly oiled. Spread the garlic paste all over. Lay the eggplant slices on top, followed by the tomato chunks. Top with the mozzarella. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Garnish with remaining tablespoon of basil.

Tiny giant-headed lady cures hangover

November 2, 2009

Have you ever watched Giada De Laurentiis on the food channel? I have several observations to share. I shall make a list.

  • She is very fussy and delicate with her garnishes, and makes complicated hors d'oeuvres.
  • She takes very small bites when she tastes her food.
  • She is teeny tiny with a giant head. And a giant rack.
But despite all that, I actually kind of like her show. (Aside from the one she did in DC and apparently forgot her fact checker and stated all kinds of erroneous information about the District. Georgetown is IN DC, not outside of it!) As long as you ignore her weird fussiness, she can serve up simple, classic food.

And she is Italian, and therefore knows how to do a thing or two with leftovers. Those Italians, I tell you, they are a resourceful people! Once she made leftover spaghetti into pie! Spaghetti pie, that is. And let me tell you, nothing cures a hangover faster than spaghetti pie. Well, maybe an IV drip, but I don't know how to make that.

Spaghetti pie
Serves 2-4

2-3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
at least 2 cups leftover spaghetti with tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk together two eggs, milk and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Stir in the leftover spaghetti. The mixture should be gloppy and wet. If not, add another egg.

Heat half of the olive oil in a non-stick skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. Once it's good and hot, pour in the spaghetti, spreading it around evenly. Let it be - don't fuss with it. After about 8 minutes, it should be golden brown and crusty on the bottom. Loosen the edges and invert the spaghetti onto a plate. Let the rest of the oil heat up for a few seconds, then slide the spaghetti pie back in, uncooked side down, and let it cook for about 6 minutes. You can either slide it onto a serving plate, or cut wedges directly from the pan.

Note: My photo depicts spaghetti made with yellow tomato sauce, so traditional red sauce would look more, um, red.

Outburst included

When whole wheat pasta first became readily available, I was all about it. Pasta with less guilt! Who isn't a fan of that?! But then I realized that some of my favorite pasta dishes didn't necessarily jibe with the nutty, hearty flavor of whole wheat pasta. So I went back to cooking with the old-fashioned white flour pasta. But in some cases, whole wheat pasta can be really wonderful.

You know what else was wonderful? GOURMET MAGAZINE. And THEN SOMEONE KILLED IT. And it DIED. FROM ALL THE KILLING. I shake my fist at you, Conde Nast.

I'm not quite over the end of Gourmet. And I got all shouty because this recipe is based on one from the LAST issue of Gourmet EVER, November 2009. But it is really good, and I used fresh walnuts from the farmer's market in it. They are nice and lovely and a little chewy, but in the best way.

Spaghetti with blue cheese and walnuts
Serves 2

1/4 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts
1 head escarole, chopped into 2-inch pieces
3 oz. blue cheese, cut or crumbled into pieces
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Cook spaghetti in boiling water.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and cook walnuts, stirring constantly, for two minutes. Remove walnuts from pan. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan and cook onion and garlic for about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add escarole, a few tablespoons of boiling water from the cooking pasta, and blue cheese to pan. Stir with tongs until the escarole is wilted and the blue cheese melts. Add vinegar. When the pasta is done cooking, toss it with the escarole mixture. Top individual servings with walnuts.

And then they did the Monster Mash

Eating isn't just about the food. My husband and I both grew up in families where it was important to sit down and have dinner together. You know, talk about your day. Discuss what furry kittens you destroyed because someone voted Republican. Determine who the cuddliest member of your species is. Et cetera. It's not just about what you eat, but who you share it with!

This particular night we had a fall feast of acorn squash stuffed with cheesy orzo, sauteed chard, and crusty bread. It was almost as warm and cozy as we are.

Acorn squash with orzo and Gruyere, adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 2

(In case you can't tell, I am a huge fan of food stuffed inside of other food.)

1 acorn squash
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg, or a pinch of powdered nutmeg
salt and pepper

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place face down in a dish or pan, and pour some water around the squash to a depth of about half an inch. Cover with foil, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook orzo in boiling water about five minutes. (You don't want to fully cook it.) Drain, then put back in the same pan with the milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a bubble, and stir for three minutes. Stir in the chopped green onions and stir for another minute. Grate in the nutmeg, and add 1/2 cup of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until combined.

Take the squash out of the oven, pour off the water, and turn the squash halves cut-side up. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon in the cheesy orzo. Top each squash half with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese. Bake uncovered until the top is brown and crusty, about 20 minutes.

We love acorn squash!

And the winner is!

October 28, 2009

I know I've been a bit delinquent in announcing the winner of the House of Mango Hands 2009 Pumpkin Beer Tasting. If you're hazy on the contestants, you can catch up here, here, and here. I'm very pleased to present the gold medal to...

Will Stevens' Pumpkin Ale, by Wolaver's!

This was a fun challenge for me, comparing the subtleties of so many different kinds of pumpkin beer. Maybe it will be a yearly feature, as there are many more brands of pumpkin beer that didn't make it into our brackets.

I know there were a few people pulling for the Punkin Ale by Dogfish, and I agree that it is a damn fine brew. But in the end, the Wolaver's was the unanimous winner, with a lovely wheaty undertone and the perfect pumpkin and spice notes. Plus, the Dogfish was $10 for four beers, and I found a six-pack of Wolaver's for $8.49. More beer for less money! Who isn't a fan of that?

So, as this competition comes to an end, I leave you with a little song that I learned from my old friend Dean. It goes like this:

biddly beer

Now try singing it in rounds with a friend!

Stanley P. Kachowski reminds you that pierogies are good food*

October 26, 2009

I am of the opinion that pierogies are best enjoyed while watching Steelers football. In the offseason, you can also have them at your grandma's house for a holiday, accompanied by the obscure Slovak food of your choice. (I choose babalki!) Or, if you happen to find yourself at a Pirates game, you can order them right at the concession stand. (In trying to keep at least 1,000 people in attendance, the Pittsburgh Pirates even have a mid-inning event where humans dressed as pierogies race down the field. Check out this video where a pierogie tackles Teddy Roosevelt, a racer in the Washington Nationals mid-inning President's Race.)

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across this article advocating the consumption of pierogies DURING a triathlon. Not as a spectator, but as a competitor! Um, that is insane. I've competed in a couple of races (and by that I mean I thumped along like a maimed hyena stuck with a tranquelizer dart), and I can't imagine eating a pierogie on the run. I mean, is there someone running alongside holding a small container of sour cream for dipping? Would you just wipe your buttery hands on your shorts? The logistics alone boggle me.

In summary, pierogies are good to eat while watching sports, good to dress up as while playing sports, and also good to shove in your pocket for snacks while playing sports.

Makes about 45

Dough, from Gourmet Magazine

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cake flour
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water

Put the flour and cake flour in a bowl and stir with a fork to combine.

Make a well in the center, and drop in the eggs, salt and water. Stir the wet ingredients together first (with the fork), and then start to add in the flour mixture gradually. Once it is a loose dough, dump it out onto a clean dry surface (including all the flour and dough bits in the bowl) and start to knead it together. Knead for 8 minutes until soft and elasticy, or until you're exhausted and need a beer. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.


2 russet potatoes
7 oz. sharp white cheddar, shredded (Vermont makes the best cheddar!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 small green onions
1/4 cup sour cream

To serve

Stick of butter
1 large yellow onion
Sour cream

Peel the potatoes and chop into 2 inch chunks. Put in a pan, and cover with cold water. Cover, bring to a boil, and boil until just tender with a fork (about 8 minutes). Put in a bowl with the cheese, salt, pepper, onions and sour cream. Mash with a potato masher, or whip with a handheld mixer.

Cheating variation: Have 2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes? Add cheese, green onions, and sour cream.

Cut the dough in half and keep half in the plastic wrap. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Roll it very thin - about an 1/8 inch. Using a round cutter about 2 -3 inches wide, cut out circles of dough. (I used my brother's wine aerator, as we were at the beach in a limited kitchen, but a can or biscuit cutter is probably a more conventional choice. Man, he was mad when he found out I touched his wine toys.)

Get a little bowl of cold water ready for moistening the edges of your pierogies.

Take about a teaspoon of filling and drop it in the middle of your dough rounds. Dip your finger in your water bowl and wet the outside edges of the dough round. Stretch and fold it over to make a half moon, and smush the dough together to seal it shut. Set the finished pierogie aside on a floured cookie sheet. Repeat as necessary. I re-rolled my dough scraps once, but after that they tend to get really tough.

To save some or all of your pierogies for later, you can put the cookie sheet in the freezer for a couple hours, and once they get good and frozen, put them in a freezer bag.

To serve, bring a big pot of water to a boil, and cook the fresh or frozen pierogie for 5-6 minutes until mostly tender.

Melt half a stick of butter in a heavy skillet. Add half the onion, and let the onion get a little browned. Push the onion to the side, and add just as many pierogie as fit in a non-crowded manner. Let them get golden brown, then flip to the other side. Repeat with the remaining half stick of butter, onion, and pierogie.

Serve with the browned, buttery onions and sour cream.

On being cured of a severe dislike

October 22, 2009

Did you know that Glasgow, Scotland has the highest per capita concentration of Indian restaurants of anywhere aside from India? Well, I heard that somewhere. Who knows if it's actually true. It was the first place I had Indian food, and I suffered such intense gastrointestinal distress I thought I might die. Very slowly I tried things that were curry-scented, or tandoori, or yogurt marinated, and now, nine years later, the smell of Indian food no longer sends me running for the bathroom. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that I rather like Indian food. If you are interested in making it at home and don't want to buy those jars of pre-made sauce in the "ethnic" aisle of the grocery store, consider getting Raghavan Iyer's book, 660 Curries. I know that sounds like an exhausing amount of curries, but, dude, India is a really big country. I've probably made 10-12 dishes out of it and all of them have been outstanding. The coconut cashew chicken curry, though, nearly made my head spin around. From deliciousness, not being possessed.

Coconut cashew chicken curry
Serves 2

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup cilantro
6 garlic cloves
2-3 green chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, or two chicken leg quarters (skin removed)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toast the cashews, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil as you can.

Combine the cashews, coconut, cilantro, garlic, and chiles in a food processor and puree.

Re-heat the same skillet, and toast the sesame and cumin seeds until they smell nutty and toasted (about a minute or two). Stir in the cashew/coconut puree, and stir about 1-2 more minutes.

Push the mixture to the sides of the pan, and brown the chicken in a single layer. Pile the cashew mixture on top of the chicken so it doesnt burn. Flip the chicken over to brown the other side, again piling the cashew mixture on top.

Combine the salt with 1/2 cup water. Pour this mixture over the chicken, scraping up and browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cover the chicken until it is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir and baste the chicken occasionally.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon. Shred the chicken with two forks. Stir the yogurt and garam masala into the sauce in the skillet. Add the chicken back in and stir to combine. Serve over rice.

Another way to eat syrup

October 19, 2009

Mmm, weekend breakfast. There are so many possibilities! Why have lame-o cereal and orange juice when you have time to make something that will really work to soak up whatever you drank last night? Dippy eggs, toast, and bacon? Waffles? Bagels and lox? Or (drumroll please) APPLE PANCAKE! It takes a little bit longer than your average breakfast, but that just means your loved one has time to run out to fetch you a decaf skim latte while it bakes. This is a classic in our house, and we've played with the spices and sugars enough to get it just right. Goldilocks would be proud.

Apple pancake, adapted from Dishing Up Vermont
Serves 2-4

3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon (divided)
2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
maple syrup (warm, please)

Put a cast iron skillet (or other oven-proof skillet) in a 425 degree oven.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the sliced apples, brown sugar and remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

Take the skillet out of the oven and melt the butter. Add the apples in a single layer, then pour the batter on top.

Bake the pancake for about 25 minutes, or until puffed. Serve with warm maple syrup.

So easy even a caveman could make it

October 18, 2009

There's an awesome pizza place in my hometown of Beaver, PA, called Mario's. It's BYOB, serves a-frickin-mazing wood-fired oven pizza, and makes the most delicious chicken piccata pasta. These are all factors that make it the best place to eat in downtown Beaver. Plus there's a 92% chance you'll see my brother's friend Ryan there.

Mario's is also the first place I tried what is now my favorite speedy weeknight dinner. It's called beans and greens, and it might be the best complete dinner on the planet that can be ready in less than 20 minutes. You can use any kind of greens. Kale makes a nice hearty meal, spinach is soft and silky, and swiss chard is a happy medium between the two. I probably wouldn't use collard greens, because they take forever to cook. My trick to delicous kale and chard is to cut the stem out. The stems take longer to cook, and if you leave them in, the stems can be stringy in your final product. You could also use a hard sausage (like one of those fancy sticks of salami) here with delicious results.

Beans and greens
Serves 2-3

2 links fresh sausage, or 4 oz. hard sausage
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 bunch greens, de-stemmed and roughly chopped (no need to de-stem spinach)
1/2 cup chicken broth, beer or water
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Heat large skillet over medium heat. If you're using fresh sausage, squeeze it out of the casing and roughly break it up with a spatula. If you're using hard sausage, chop it into 1/4 inch half moons. Either way, brown the sausage. (I never add oil when browning sausage, because it has enough fat to get going on its own.) Add the sliced onion and cook just until starting to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes. Cook 30 seconds. Add the greens, turning them with tongs to equally wilt them. Add the liquid, and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. If you're using kale or chard, turn the heat to low and cover and cook until the greens are tender, about 5-7 minutes for kale and 3-5 minutes for chard. You won't need to do this for spinach, because it wilts and softens so quickly.

Stir in the beans and warm through, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and add the vinegar. Taste your final product to see if it needs salt. Because sausage and canned beans can be really salty, you might not need any. This is also great accompanied by some crusty bread.

Final first round bracket

And introducing the final two competitors in the House of Mango Hands pumpkin beer tasting of 2009!

Ichabod, by New Holland Brewing Company
First of all, this beer has a headless person on their label. Good thing this was a blind tasting or I may have been swayed. (I'm such a sucker for good packaging.) This beer had a mild nose, and was darker than all the other competitors. It was yeasty and tasted like a brown ale with a minor pumpkin flavor, subtle spice, and mild hoppiness.

Will Stevens' Pumpkin Ale, by Wolaver's Brewing Company
The beer had a good nose of spice and was a beautiful caramel color. It had a pleasant taste of pumpkin pie, yet was also reminiscent of a wheat beer. A very nice incorporation of pumpkin without being overwhelming.

Winner: Will Stevens'

Shout outs all over the place

October 15, 2009

I pretty much love anything crusted in cornmeal. In fact, this year for my birthday I might request that my husband coat himself in cornmeal. Mmm, he would be so crunchy and delicious. Oysters, waffles, green tomatoes, there is really nothing cornmeal can't make yummier.

I actually meant to post this recipe much earlier in the blog, but as I wrote the salsa recipe on the back of bank receipt, and then apparently used it as a bookmark in an Indian cookbook and only found it the other day when I was looking up mango recipes for a friend who lives in Tanzania. (Hi Ellie! Stay away from snakes!) Sorry it's a bit out of season, but perhaps those in the south (Henry and Erin - WHO ARE NOW ENGAGED!) can still find some serviceable peaches.

Cornmeal crusted fish with basil fruit salsa
Serves 2

1 peach
1 nectarine
1 small poblano
1 giant green onion
1/4 cup basil
2 white flaky fish fillets (I used turbot)
1 egg
1 cup course cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Blanch the peach and nectarine by plunging them into boiling water for 1 minute, then moving them to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Peel off the skin and chop the fruit into 1/4 inch pieces. Finely dice the poblano, green onion (including the green part)*, and basil. Combine with the fruit and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly beat the egg with a splash of water in a low flat bowl or pie plate. In a different low flat bowl, combine the cornmeal, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Dip a piece of fish in the egg on both sides, then dredge it in the cornmeal. Set on a plate while you do the other piece (or pieces).

Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet. Once it's hot, gently place the fish in. Once the underside is light brown (about 3 minutes), turn and cook the other side.

Top the fish with the salsa.

*I hate when recipes tell you not to use the green part of a green onion. Why not? It's still onion-y and delicious.

A most delicious memorial

October 14, 2009

Like many people who love food, its politics and its stories, I was heartbroken to hear about the cancellation of Gourmet magazine. Even though its readership has more or less been steady despite the economic downturn, advertisers have cut way back. From what I've read, the ad revenues for Rachel Ray and Paula Deen's magazines have been just fine. Sigh. Look, I love a good 30-minute meal, and I find it hilarious what Paula will put mayonnaise in, but do they really need entire magazines? Apparently that's what sells. Or more specifically, that is what advertisers want to be available on the shelves. Maybe because the cooks who buy those magazines will use more pre-packaged ingredients? Which are conveniently advertised inside the pages of those magazines? Whereas Gourmet questioned industry practices (read this shocking article about tomatoes in Florida) and promotes going to the farmer's market to use seasonally available fresh produce. Which reminds me of a great quote I read this weekend, "Eat foods in inverse proportion to how much its lobby spends to push it." (Kirk Westphal)

Or perhaps I'm just sad that something I really enjoyed every month is gone and I needed a good whine.

So, in honor of Gourmet magazine, I thought I would finish off Squash Week with a delicious dessert I found amongst its pages. Read more about Gourmet memorials.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
8 slices
(could serve 8 once, or 1 person 8 times)

4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 6 ounces of cookies, crushed in the food processor)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Press evenly into a pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Let it cool at least an hour, or preferable longer, before continuing with the rest of the pie. (I did mine the day before.)

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
8 ounces cream cheese (let soften to room temperature)
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated, if you can)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (please note this is not an entire can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put sugar and ginger in the food processor and pulse until the ginger is really small. Add the cream cheese, and process until smooth. Add rest of ingredients except pumpkin, and process until combined. Take out 2/3 cup of the cream cheese mixture. (It is easiest to pour it into a glass measuring cup.) Now add the pumpkin to the cream cheese in the food processor, and pulse to combine. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust and spread evenly. Pour the reserved cream cheese mixture on top, and swirl decoratively with a knife.

Bake on a baking sheet until the center is set, 35-45 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature on a rack (about 2 hours). Then chill in the fridge at least 4 hours before serving. I garnished mine with a few pieces of chopped crystallized ginger.

In which I attempt to bake something

October 12, 2009

If you've never thumbed through a Donna Hay cookbook, get thee to a bookstore posthaste! I have a couple of her books (thanks Barbara!) and really love them. Her recipes are delightfully simple, but she puts ingredients together in such an interesting way. Maybe it's because she's Australian. (I wonder if she knows Crocodile Dundee?) Sometimes you might look at one of her recipes and think, "Hmm, that sounds insane." But most of the time it works! My lovely mother-in-law got me a subscription to her magazine one year. I loved it, but their seasons are opposite of ours. Here I am, freezing in February, and Donna Hay is tempting me with barbequed chicken and watermelon from halfway around the world. Crazy Australia and their backways flushing toilets.

Anyway, so this recipe was featured in Donna Hay Magazine Issue 32, and as I have a general fear of baking bread, I followed the recipe exactly. It came out great, and would make a fun bread to have alongside a big salad for dinner, or to pass at the table for Thanksgiving.

Butternut Feta Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1 small butternut squash
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil (divided)
2 tablespoons yeast (2 packages)
1/2 cup warm water
1 onion
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups flour
7 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

Peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes, toss with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, and roast in a 350 degree oven until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Combine the yeast and water in a bowl, and let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. If the yeast doesn't foam, it is probably dead and you need to start over with new yeast.

Put the onion, remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, milk, eggs, rosemary, salt and sugar in a food processor, and run until smooth.

Combine the yeast mixture, onion mixture, and flour in a large bowl and stir well. Cover the bowl and allow it to rest in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.

Stir the feta and squash into the dough. (Yes, this is somewhat weird, as the dough is all sticky.) Put the dough into the loaf pan. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. (My bread took an extra ten minutes.)

Battle of the brews, bracket two

Pumpkin beer tasting continues here at the House of Mango Hands.

The second bracket contenders are:

Punkin Ale, by Dogfish Head Brewing Company
This beer has a lovely rich amber color, with a pleasant nose of vanilla, but had no head when poured. It had a slightly hoppy flavor, with subtle pumpkin notes. Tastes mostly of beer with just the right hint of pumpkin and spice. Overall, a nicely balanced fall beer.

Pumpkin Ale, Smuttynose Brewing Company
An unfiltered beer, the Smutty had an intriguing citrus nose with a lovely thick head. It was high on the hoppiness scale, and while it had a slight spice note, tasters had a hard time detecting any pumpkin flavor. Overall it's a good beer, but it could not hold its own in a pumpkin contest.

Winner: Punkin

Playing to its strength

October 10, 2009

Teacher, in a concerned voice: I'd like to talk about your son, Spaghetti Squash. He's, well, different from all the other squashes.

Mom Squash: Yes, he's so yellow!

Teacher: No, no. It's not that. He's strandy! Like a noodle! I think he needs vegetable reassignment therapy.

Mom Squash: Yes, his father and I know about his noodly orientation. But we believe that is the way he was made. If he wants to be served with sausage and red sauce, he's not hurting anyone. No squash should be changed into something he is not.

Yes, spaghetti squash is probably the spaghetti-est vegetable there is. I know it looks orange in the photo, but because the squash is yellow, and the sauce is red, well, you remember the color wheel.

Spaghetti (squash) and sausage
Serves 2-4
(depending on size of squash)

1 spaghetti squash
2-3 hot italian sausage links
12 oz. (half jar) of purchased pasta sauce
1 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. (God, how many times have I written that sentence this week?) Cover each half with plastic wrap, put on a plate, and microwave for 10 minutes or until tender. If you have a really small squash, you might want to go a minute or two shy of that.

Meanwhile, squeeze the sausage out of its casing, and brown it, crumbling it with a wooden spoon as you go. Add the sauce and parsley, and warm through.

Carefully take the plastic wrap off the steamed squash halves. Take a fork, and starting at the stem end, run the fork lengthwise down the squash, creating strands. Dump the strands in with the sausage and sauce. Keep the squash halves!

Divide the squash/sausage mixture amongst the empty squash halves and top with the Parmesan cheese. Put the halves in a baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes, and then broil for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese is browned.

If your halves are huge, cut them in half, and serve one quarter squash per person. If your squash is smaller, serve half a squash per person.