Category Archives: recipes

Third Time’s the Charm Yogurt

It seems making yogurt is all the rage these days. I’ve recently come across posts from Tigress, The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter, Attainable Sustainable, and from Marcus Samuelsson. Yogurt is getting expensive – I believe the quart size Chobani in my local grocery store is now upwards of $7. You can buy cheaper yogurt, but a lot of it has pectin in it to change the texture, which I don’t like. I am a pure Greek yogurt girl – I want my ingredients to say “Milk, Live Active Cultures” and that’s IT. To top it all off, my friend Olivia has been making yogurt for a while, who on the scale of difficult cooking projects called this one “so easy it’s stupid.” So I had to give it a try.

Take One: Well, I’m sure you can figure out how this is going to go purely by the fact that its take one. It didn’t go badly – I just wasn’t satisfied with it. I didn’t start with much milk – in fact I used some lovely Beaver Brook Farm milk leftover from making ice cream. Whole, RAW milk – super rich stuff. I had been buying 2% Chobani. I also tried this in thermoses/travel cups – only about half made it – chalk that up to poor insulation. I probably didn’t care for this small batch because it was so rich. I also had to find a way to up my yield.

Take Two: I went all out on this one. I spent the extra dollar for a half-gallon of Farmer’s Cow 2%. I also bought a Chobani 2% – you have to get the starter cultures from somewhere. Making yogurt is fairly easy from all of the methods above – heat milk to 180° and leave there for a while, depending on how thick you like your yogurt. Then let it cool until it drops below 115° – stir in the cultures and keep it warm for 4-8 hours until it sets. You really do have to babysit it – this is why they have yogurt maker machines that you can buy, but I wasn’t about to spend money on a unitasker. I heated the milk to 180° for 10 minutes, then once it hit 115°. I stirred in the yogurt. While it was cooling, I put 110° water in my crock pot, and turned it on warm to keep it there. I put the yogurt in a metal bowl in the warm water, effectively creating a bain marie. There was only one problem – the warm setting on the crock pot is TOO warm! I had to set an alarm anytime it hit 115° and rush in to put in a couple of ice cubes. Needless to say – the batch did not turn out as yogurt, but more like a ricotta. If you go much over 115°, you kill the cultures – what makes yogurt, yogurt. I am going to try to see if I can salvage it today with some salt and make chicken rollatini and ravioli. But anyway – strike two. I fed the leftover whey to my plants, though – at least they get something good out of it.

Take Three: I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the $7 yogurt in the store, so I knew I had to try it again. Farmers Cow – check. Probe thermometer – check. Olivia offered her method of wrapping the warm milk in towels to keep it warm. I also thought about Sofya’s method of sealing it in the oven overnight, and Kris’ method of using a cooler. But given the past two strikes I wanted to keep an eye on this one, so back to the crock pot. This time, I put 110° water in the crock pot and didn’t turn it on. It gradually cooled – I could monitor the water temperature with a probe thermometer – and when it got below 90°, I added some additional warm water – never going over 110°. It sat for about six hours – and really firmed up. I strained it overnight to get the consistency I wanted. I woke up this morning to the most perfect thick, luscious yogurt. Finally! Breakfast was a small cup with the last bit of a jar of apricot amaretto jam from last summer. Perfection.

Homemade Yogurt
One half gallon of milk – your choice
One small individual serving of yogurt – your favorite

Heat milk slowly to 180° on the stove. I find stirring it often helps avoid forming a skin and also avoids burning the bottom of the milk. Leave it between 180-185° for 10 minutes. Let it slowly cool to 110°. While it cools, prepare your slow cooker with 110° water and a metal or otherwise oven-safe bowl (a bain marie). Once the milk has cooled, mix 1/4 cup of it with the individual yogurt, and then milk into the rest of the warm milk. Pour into metal bowl in slow cooker, put probe thermometer in the water in the slow cooker, and monitor. Do not go above 110°, but do not go too low either. Incubate 4-6 hours, until yogurt has firmed. Drain for thicker greek style yogurt. Use the very last bit of this batch to make your next batch. Never buy store-bought yogurt again!

Pesto, in the plural sense.

garlic scapes, of any amount, roughly chopped
a bunch of basil, stems removed, leaves fragrant
a handful of walnuts or pine nuts or such
quite a bit of grated Parmesan cheese
a sensible amount of salt, doubled
and some black pepper
in a food processor
with more olive oil than anything else.
presto
pesto

Source: A Pesto Poem by Tammy Donroe

Garlic Ramp Cashew Pesto. One of about four different pestoes in my chest freezer. What is the plural of pesto anyway?

I make all sorts of pesto during the year. Depending on what I need to get rid of I mean what’s in season, of course. Also a great way to save the flavors of summer for an April Fool’s Day Nor’easter, if you catch my drift.

1 part nuts. Cashews, walnuts, pignolis, pistachios… roast them.
1-2 parts greens. Basil, kale, garlic scapes, broccoli raab, artichokes…
1 part olive oil. Extra virgin, as green and fruity as possible please.
1 part parmesan. Real deal reggiano – accept no substitutes.
Salt & Pepper to taste

Most easily done in the food processor. Roast the nuts for added flavor. I’d love to do it old school with a mezzaluna but a) don’t own one and b) I’m pretty sure my Alaskan (tourist) ulu isn’t quite sharp enough. Chop nuts, remove. Add greens, chop. Add back in nuts. Drizzle with olive oil. If you want to freeze it, add only enough olive oil until it comes together. When thawed add more olive oil and cheese. As always, play with it until you find a balance you like. As you can see, I tend to go light on the cheese and heavier on the nuts. It really is good without cheese – I swear! Best served with carbs, really, but also good with proteins or veg.

Pesto inspiration:
Lunch at Sixpoint’s Arugula Pesto with Almonds
Grilled Bread with Thyme Pesto and Preserved Lemon Cream
NY Times Asparagus Pesto
Smitten Kitchen’s Linguine with Tomato Almond Pesto

Options
1. Pizza or pasta. Enough said.
2. + Crusty bread + fresh mozzarella as an appetizer or tapa with a glass of wine.
3. Add extra olive oil and slather on grilled chicken or fish straight off the grill. Cheese optional here.

I’m always looking for new pesto ideas – please suggest some!

Saint Patrick’s Day Sauce

Being born and raised in New England, our March 17th is all about the boiled dinner. Corned Beef, Potatoes, Carrots, (optional) Turnips and Cabbage, all cooked together over many hours. Usually slathered with horseradish or mustard to liven things up. Well why not have both? In my family, its a tradition to make this sauce, and eat it with EVERYTHING on the plate.

How good is this sauce? Well, lets just say I am mildly lactose intolerant and I eat it anyway. Take a look at the ingredients – if that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Saint Paddy’s Sauce
A secret family recipe

2 tablespoons butter
One large container sour cream
One brick cream cheese
Horseradish to taste (anywhere between 2-4 tablespoons)
Spicy Brown Mustard to taste (equal parts to the horseradish)
Additional powdered yellow mustard for color and flavor
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add cream cheese. Once it is melted, add the rest of the ingredients. We like it moderately spicy – you are serving it with boiled food after all – but you can adjust to your palate. Trust me – totally worth the extra calories and dairy pain.

Forgive the lack of proper picture taking on this one, folks. I barely had enough time to whip up the sauce tonight, and I wasn't cooking, so there was limited opportunity. I do love that this picture could have been taken in 2011 or 1971, though.

I’ve thought many times about making it healthier. It probably doesn’t need the butter. You could sub Greek Yogurt for the sour cream, and not do all of the cream cheese. But every year I crave the nostalgia as much as I crave the taste – and I make it the same way its been made for years in our house. Maybe I’ll play with it next week – when all that leftover corned beef goes on sale.

V-Day Vanilla Snobbery

V-Day is traditionally low-key in the SK household. There might be a dinner, out or in, maybe some candelight, and a relaxing evening of enjoying each other’s company. This year, we’re eating in. Señor SK is a big fan of roast chicken, but even more so a roast chicken with a little something special to keep it moist and delicious. Some garlic mashed potatoes and some roast asparagus and we are in business.

…But isn’t this day all about dessert? More or less. Señor SK is a big fan of simple flavors, and one of his favorites is vanilla. Did I mention he is a vanilla snob? Not in a bad sense – not that snob is always negative, especially in Connecticut. But rather in a he-kn0ws-what-he-likes-so-dont-mess-with-it kind of way. Vanilla Ice Cream is his vanilla vehicle of choice, but not just any vanilla ice cream. Vanilla BEAN ice cream or else – I wouldn’t dare bring home French Vanilla as a paltry substitute. I know French Vanilla has more eggs to give it a rich custardy base and a yellow hue – and while this has egg yolks in it it is a far cry from the French Vanilla in the grocery store. Vanilla snobs have no fear – I have found the cure for what ails you.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz’ Vanilla Ice Cream and Rurally Screwed’s Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream with egg yolk
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1 cup COLD whole milk
2 cups COLD heavy cream (or half and half)
homemade vanilla extract
2-3 COLD egg yolks

First, 12-24 hours ahead, put your ice cream canister in the freezer. Second, make sure all of your dairy is cold – I took mine straight out of the fridge – when you are ready to churn. Whisk one cup of whole milk and 3/4 cup of vanilla sugar together until the sugar dissolves – 1-2 minutes. Vanilla sugar is the final resting place of my vanilla beans. I usually buy them in bulk on eBay (yes, really, eBay – thanks to Alton Brown for the tip). Some of them go into vanilla extract (split and scraped beans + vodka + time) some are used in baking, but all of them end up dried in my jar of vanilla sugar. Its good to have when you live with a vanilla snob.

Anyway, once the sugar is dissolved, add the heavy cream. I only had a cup on hand, so I added more whole milk to the cream. It’s plenty rich as it is, and I wasn’t about to run to the grocery store, so there you go. Separate your eggs (I used three) and mix the yolks together, then whisk to incorporate. If you have a problem with raw eggs, this recipe isn’t for you. An easy solution to that is to trust your egg source. We buy a carton a week at CRFM from Highland Thistle Farm. Their eggs are always deeply golden – a sign of how fresh they are – and so, SO much better tasting than those lifeless pale yellow things from the supermarket. I guess we are vanilla AND egg snobs at SK. And maybe milk snobs – due to the delicious stuff coming out of Beaver Brook Farm.

Add homemade vanilla extract to taste 1-3 tablespoons. Or more if you have a vanilla problem. I age our vanilla extract until it is deep brown flecked with vanilla – since I scrape the beans into the extract. Whisk into the ice cream mix. Now, take your canister out of the freezer, set up the machine and start it churning while its still empty. The ice cream mixture is already smooth and creamy, but for added assurance I strain it as I pour it into the machine – it catches a few bits of egg every time.

I set my ice cream machine for its longest churn – 30 minutes. When you first start to blend, it goes from smooth liquid:



… to pure deliciousness. All with a little bit of air and a little bit of patience, grasshopper. Trust me, its worth the wait.

I mean, look at that! Guaranteed to satisfy even the most deep-seated vanilla snobbery. At this point, despite your desire to inhale the whole batch, it must be hard set in the freezer for at least 4 hours to give it that ice cream consistency we all know and love.

Yield: 1/2 quart (2 pints) and something delicious enough to make mildly lactose intolerant individuals forgo all common sense.

Options
1. Eat straight up and try not to lick the bowl. Just try. This recipe is already stellar, but if you must:
2. Serve in affogato. I am the lone coffee fan in the house, so not this time.
3. Serve with fresh fruit. Berries when in season are fantastic. Or jam, when in the middle of winter.
4. Drizzle with Disaronno or Coole Swan (Irish Cream – much preferred to Bailey’s) for added decadence. If you need more decadence, that is.

Spice Rack Challenge: Citrus

A few weeks ago I tweeted that I was making Florida Citrus Curd. I had friends who brought me back gifts from Florida – questionably legally – in citrus form. Unfortunately, the recipe I followed didn’t turn out. Long story short – the giant batch turned out eggy. I don’t know about you but eggs and grapefruit is not one of my preferred flavor combinations. I haven’t found a way to make it work, despite advice from Foodpicklers I don’t think it can be saved.

Never one to give up easily, I trekked to the nearest Whole Foods to grab some Meyer Lemons. It seems like you blink and you miss their “season” up here in the frigid North. I really just need to make friends with someone who has a tree. Or figure out how to do it here indoors. Someday. Until then, I will resort to a small amount of decidedly not local citrus to import some sunshine to snowy Connecticut.

Meyer Lemon Curd
Adapted from Vanilla Garlic’s Scavenging Lemon Curd and Healthy Green Kitchen’s Meyer Lemon Curd

3 large eggs This time I used only yolks
8 large egg yolks
2 cups sugar
1.5 cups lemon juice (four lemons worth)
zest of four lemons
1/2 stick of butter, cubed
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

You need to do this in a double boiler so the curd cooks slowly and doesn’t curdle. If you are constructing a double boiler for the first time, before you turn it on make sure the metal bowl fits in the pot without touching the water. Only the steam should be able to touch the bowl. Make sure that the bowl is metal. In a pinch I used a glass bowl once – only to have it crack. Metal only – trust me. I also used a wok ring to stabilize the bowl.

Please ignore the seriously messy stove.

Bring the double boiler on the stove up to a boil, then down to a simmer. While the water is heating, separate your eggs. I used eight eggs because thats what I had, but in hindsight think its a good amount.

Mix your egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice together and put on double boiler. You need to keep stirring until the mixture reaches approximately 180 degrees and is thick and rich – taking approximately 20 minutes or so. I alternate between a whisk in the beginning to a silicone spatula at the end to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure the sugar is incorporated.

Once it starts to thicken, start to add the butter in small chunks. I used Kerrygold butter – which seems to make the yellow mixture even more golden. Maybe its all in my head, but that butter is CRAZY delicious. I would have used my favorite local butter, but I was unfortunately all out. Kerrygold – though again not local – really is the next best thing.

Once all the butter is incorporated, cook for another minute or so. How to tell its done? Its thick enough to do this:

Just try to get this shot while holding with your right hand, shooting with your left, and trying to do it quickly to keep stirring! Sometimes it takes some talent.

Cooking it slowly (over a long period of time) and gently (with a double boiler) is to ensure that you end up with a luscious, smooth curd. One way to make sure the curd is perfectly smooth is to pass it through a strainer with a silicone spatula to get every last ounce.

After you pass it through a strainer, then add the lemon zest. Don’t do what I did the first time and add the zest before the straining – because, quite obviously, you’ll strain out the zest too. Serious facepalm on that one.

Yield: 2 half-pints. For me – two to freeze, because I had a bowl to lick clean. They both went into the freezer for future use – but I might have to make some more soon. I also had some  juice leftover – which went into a post-work amaretto sour of perfection. You can water bath curds – but due to the butter they have a much shorter shelf life (a few months) than traditional water bathed products (a year). For more info, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation guidelines.

 

Options

1. Use a different citrus. I think grapefruit would be lovely, but you may need to add more sugar to make it work. Oranges don’t work, though – as they lack something (acid?) to make the curd set.
2. Use a different fruit all together. I’ve used raspberries before a la Eat the Love.

 

 

 

 

3. Use the final product on toast, in yogurt, with oatmeal… lots of breakfast possibilities.
4. Make a large batch and use it in between layers of cake. Add a little into buttercream, top with zest – I think a lemon cake might be calling my name!

Pork Chile Verde

So in 2009 I had the privilege of staying in Juneau, Alaska for the summer. Despite being a capital city, Juneau’s population is only around 40,000. In combination with being able to access the city only by boat or plane, Juneau really acts more like a small town than anything else. I wound up staying with two former Californians (Hi Swansons!) who have a special place in their heart for burritos. And only in Juneau do they have absolutely fantastic pork chile verde at the local 24 hour convenience store. So, needless to say, I got hooked on pork chile verde really quick.

While there is great Mexican food in CT, I have yet to find a great pork chile verde within reasonable driving distance. So I am forced to recreate it myself. Darn. My only regret with this recipe is that I only made one batch of salsa verde and froze it. Never again – much more will be made this summer! This recipe is the sole reason I am going to try growing tomatillos again this year.

Pork Chile Verde
pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch chunks. I would approximate about 1/2 lb per person.
one serving chile verde (see below)
onions, garlic chopped in small pieces
cumin, salt and pepper to taste
one can green zebra tomatoes (optional)

First, brown the pork in a heavy-bottomed pot – I used a dutch oven. I had to do it in many batches so that the pork would actually brown instead of just sautee.

Next, thaw the chile verde base. I made this in the summer. Essentially, wash and peel/clean tomatillos, onions, garlic and chile peppers of your choice. If you are not a fan of spice, you can use green bell peppers, but it wont be the same. I used poblano chiles from my farmer’s market. I roasted them in a 400° oven with olive oil and salt for about 45 minutes – until the veggies take on some color. Once combined, I mixed them in a food processor until it took on small chunks. I then put it in a quart size freezer bag and froze for later use. To thaw it, submerge it in a pot of cool water when you start. It should be ready to go once the pork is browned.

At this point, I like to add some fresh veg too. I add some fresh onions and garlic into the bottom of the same pan I browned the pork. I then add some cumin for a little earthiness. It really brings out the flavors in the verde base. At this point, I also added a small can of green zebra tomatoes (also preserved this summer). The juice from the tomatoes helped to deglaze the pan, and balance out the strong-flavored sauce. If you dont have them, dont worry about it.

The rest is really simple. Add the base to the aromatics, add pork in and cook over a low temperature until the sauce turns from a bright green to a green-brown. You can do this in the oven or on the stove.

Sorry about the missing bite of beans. I need to work on that self-control thing. Er, and the poor photo quality.

Options
1. Serve in burritos. Enough said.

2. We served them with homemade refried beans/refritos and tortillas. Goes great with a strong lime margarita! But really, when its blizzarding outside, what DOESN’T go great with a strong margarita?

3. You can really adapt this method to any kind of stewed pork. I am going to try a version of carnitas this way, in a red sauce. I bet it would transition well to a mole sauce or really any strong flavored stew base.

Spice Rack Challenge: Rosemary

Finally, a challenge that I didn’t completely miss! After missing out on Dark Days 2011 and the 2010 Can Jam, I came across the 2011 Spice Rack Challenge. Hosted by Mother’s Kitchen, essentially the challenge is to use a particular spice/herb in one dish per month. Very doable – and helps clean out the pantry and explore new recipes? I am totally in.

This month’s challenge is rosemary. I love rosemary, but it can be a little strong for some people. I like this recipe because its subtle, and doesn’t require a large amount. Probably a good thing because my fresh rosemary is down to two sprigs!

I made this recipe last month, and while its very good I wanted to tweak it a little. Unlike other recipes, Martha I think hit it out of the park on the flavors of this one.

Rosemary Tomato Cannelini Beans
Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Stewed White Beans with Tomatoes and Rosemary

one can (15.5oz) cannelini beans
finishing extra virgin olive oil
fresh grated parmesano reggiano
one large sprig rosemary
canned tomatoes
salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Drain and rinse the beans. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan and add beans. Fry for approximately 5-10 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from pot.

Add tomatoes – I used home-canned puree. I then take the back of a chef’s knife and smack the sprig of rosemary a few times. Really – its stress relief! Don’t chop it – just break it up enough until you can smell the rosemary. Add rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in the pot and reduce until desired consistency – anywhere from half an hour to simmering all day. I put mine on the stove for a few hours. If it reduces too far, add a little water and cook for another minute or two.

At that point, add the beans, and remove the rosemary. Serve with freshly grated parmesano reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil. And please, please use real parmesan – that fake stuff in a can isn’t worthy of this recipe.

Options
1. Change the beans. I used canned cannelini beans, which are always in my pantry. Please use the beans of your choice – some heirloom Rancho Gordo beans would be lovely.

2. Change the tomatoes. I used tomato puree – because that’s what I had – but you can also use whole or diced or even tomato sauce. I think a bit of tomato paste for richness couldn’t hurt, either.

3. You can certainly chop the rosemary and add in, I dont mind a few large bits of rosemary. You could always use an immersion blender to puree it if it bothers you, or infuse the sauce with rosemary/other herbs in cheesecloth, or mince the rosemary before adding it.

4. I liked the flavors in Martha’s recipe, but it was a bit lacking in texture for me. So I started this version by draining and rinsing the cannelini beans and frying them in olive oil. It makes them slightly crispy and I think really makes this dish. Please feel free to go back to the original if you’d rather not.

5. If you live with a die hard carnivore, this recipe would be great over pasta with pork or chicken. Italian style sausage, grilled chicken or even chicken sausage would be great. I like to keep it vegetarian, served with crusty bread to sop up the sauce. This time, I added some chopped Rainbow Chard for some greens.

6. Spice it up! Some red chili flake in the olive oil when frying the beans would be awesome. For a less potent kick, add it with the tomatoes.

Steamy Kitchen Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings

Steamy Kitchen Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings – any dumplings really come down to one thing. They are a giant pain in the butt to make – but totally worth it – so when you get going you might as well make a big batch.

Chinese Dumplings: Boiled Pork and Cabbage
Adapted from Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings by Steamy Kitchen, which was adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen

As Jaden said, salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage REALLY is essential. It prevents your dumplings from being too soggy!

12 ounces napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped (or regular cabbage)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use microplane grater)
1/4 cup minced Chinese chives or green onions (white and green parts)
2/3 pound ground pork
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 package frozen round dumpling wrappers (gyoza/potsticker wrappers), defrosted at room temperature for 30 minutes (I used square wrappers – worked just fine)
for the slurry: 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1/2 cup water (I didnt have any cornstarch handy, and used Wondra flour and water instead.)

1. To make the filling, put the cabbage in a food processor and process until cabbage is finely minced. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let cabbage sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, return the food processor bowl to the stand and add the ginger, chives, pork, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Pulse 4 times to mix the ingredients well. Set aside.

2. Use your hands to grab a handful of the cabbage and squeeze and discard the excess moisture out into the sink. You can also spoon all of the cabbage onto a cheesecloth and then squeeze all the water out. Place the dry cabbage back into the large bowl and add the pork mixture. Fold the cabbage into the pork mixture.

3. Mix together the slurry. Take one dumpling wrapper, spoon scant 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Dip one finger into the slurry and “paint” the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Bring up the bottom side of the wrapper, fold up and press to shape into a half-moon shape, encasing all of the filling.* Place on baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and repeat with rest of dumplings. Make sure that the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.

*At this point, if you have square wrappers, its a bit different. Instead of a half moon, you fold from a square into a triangle. I then folded the ends of the triangle in (see below). Be gentle – its easy to rip them here!

Dont worry if you have a couple screwups, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Its incredibly easy to overfill – when in doubt, underfill them!

4. When all dumplings assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. When boiling, and gently slide in 1/3 of the dumplings. When water returns to a boil, turn heat to a simmer and gently cook for 6-8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with hot chili sauce. Makes 50(ish) dumplings.

Snowflake Kitchen Dumpling Sauce
Honey
Chili Garlic Paste
Soy Sauce
Rice Wine Vinegar
Garlic

Mix to taste – I used about equal parts of the soy/vinegar, one clove minced garlic (or frozen garlic cube) and one heaping tablespoon of chili garlic paste – cause I love the stuff. I added honey in small amounts until it balanced the acid and heat.

Thoughts:
Really satisfying, even though a ton of work. I boiled the ones we ate that day and froze the rest. I think I might try steaming or pan frying the next batch. The wrappers are so versatile – I am scheming up new things to do with those… I see custom ravioli and dessert wontons in my future!

Poke. Its good for what ails you.

Now if I had my say I’d be eating this on the North Shore of O’ahu drinking a Mai Tai and watching the sunset. Instead I have this view:

Its not a bad view, its just not this one…

…but I digress.

Whenever I am in the need for a Hawaiian pick-me-up or I see some sushi grade tuna, its poke time.

Poke

Sushi grade tuna, cut into small squares
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon each black and white toasted sesame seeds
1 scallion, chopped
1 sprinkle of Hawaiian pink sea salt (optional)

Dice tuna and chop scallions. You can cut them to your preference but the idea is to be able to pick up a small bite or two with a pair of chopsticks. Toast sesame seeds until slightly golden. You know – a little less than I toasted them this afternoon – whoops! Combine tuna, scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce and salt in a bowl. Add in almost all of the sesame seeds, reserve some for topping. Marinate in the fridge for a few hours, then top with the reserved sesame seeds before serving.

Grab Bag Chili

Normally I am pretty consistent about following a recipe, or at least a method or technique. Not this time. It was a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And it came out AWESOME. There’s only one downside – I dont know if I can replicate it. Only one way to find out – I bought more chili beef today.

Grab Bag Chili

1.5lbs Chili Beef. Our local grocery store carries this – beef ground less fine (er, more coarse? Its a bigger grind. Words seem to fail me today).
Veggies. I had onions and garlic. You could add bell peppers, carrots – whatever you like. This is grab bag chili, after all.
Tomatoes: Canned – crushed/whole/pureed and tomato paste.
Beans. I had canned kidney and black beans.
Beer. 1 bottle Sam Adams Boston Lager. Absolutely required.
Other liquids: Stock or water, whatever is on hand.
Spices: Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Pimentón. Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste.
Peppers: Dried Ancho and Red Bell Peppers.

Mise en place: Chop onions, garlic to preferred preferences. I like my onions in smaller pieces and garlic minced. If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse them well. Normally I hate canned products but canned beans are one of those things I always keep in my pantry. Put the dried chiles in a small bowl and cover with hot water to rehydrate.

On to actual cooking! Brown the beef over medium heat, remove. If there is a lot of fat, drain all but a few tablespoons off. Add onions and any other veggies to sweat for approximately 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and drained, rinsed beans. Add spices, approximately a tablespoon of each, and salt and pepper to taste. I like a deeper onion and garlic flavor, so I use powder – not onion/garlic salt. Pimentón (Smoked Spanish Paprika) gives a really nice smoky flavor and beautiful color to the chili. Make sure to use a chili powder that has cumin in it. I like mine, but I add additional cumin. Continue to cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes more to incorporate. At this point, remove the rehydrated chiles, chop into small pieces and add both the chiles and rehydrated water into the pot.

Then add the beef, beer, tomatoes and liquid. I add the liquid (stock/water) last to just cover everything. Oh, and if using whole canned tomatoes, crush them as you put them into the pan. Just be careful to do it slowly and into the pot or you might make your kitchen look like a murder scene. I speak from experience.

Let it all come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and eat when it has reached the consistency you like. Its good after a few hours, but better as leftovers the next day. Top with sharp cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread, biscuits, cornbread, tortilla chips… As always taste as you go and adjust to your preferences. Its easy to go vegetarian too – just eliminate the beef and use veggie stock. I would add more than one kind of beans for protein, though. Perfect on a snowy winter day.

UPDATE: Made a second batch along similar lines. Also tasty, but lacked a certain something. Perhaps frightful weather outside is required.