Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lentil Loaf

A friend of ours had us over for dinner one night and served us an amazing lentil loaf - it was cooked in a pie pan, and had a nice solid consistency. He claimed it was a British wartime recipe, a meatloaf substitute in a time of scarcity.

I kept bugging him for the recipe, but he never ended up giving it to me, and so I decided to just make my own version. It's pretty quick and easy and makes lots of leftovers.

2 cups red lentils
Water or chicken broth
Oil for cooking
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
8-10 mushrooms, cut into chunks
2 jumbo eggs

1 Tbsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 Tbsp salt (or to taste)

Tasty white cheese to garnish (feta or queso fresco)
(Weird but tasty: salsa)

Pre-heat oven to 375. Boil lentils in unsalted water or chicken broth while you prep the veggies - I use about 3 cups liquid, 1 cup chicken broth and 2 cups water, but sometimes have to top it off. You're trying for a thick consistency, like a daal, not like lentil soup.

Carmelize onions in a pan, preferably an oven-safe skillet using about 2 Tbsp oil. Once the onions are getting close to done, add the mushrooms, sprinkle with some salt and cook until both are nicely cooked.

Add the spices and eggs to the cooked lentils and whomp thoroughly. Since I use a cast iron pan to cook the onion and mushroom, I just pour the lentil mixture directly into the cast iron pan and place in the oven. Alternately, you could pour the veggies into the lentils and from there into a grease pie pan.

Bake about 15 minutes, or until the loaf is firm. Serve with cheese. It feels a bit 'dry', but Melanie solved that with a bit of salsa that we had around and it was remarkably delicious. Alternatively, you could make a gravy as you might with a meatloaf.

In the pan

On the plate

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

Some recipes are so elemental that I do not think of including them on this blog. However, our family keeps growing and we must spread the basic cooking knowledge that we Magidows take for granted to the newer members of our flock. Hence, a step-by-step recipe for fluffy mashed potatoes, which Dan has been called upon to supply for his family's Thanksgiving in my absence. There are many ways to make mashed potatoes, but this is my way.

This makes a LOT of mashed potatoes.

1 5-lb. bag of russet potatoes
1 stick of salted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
~1/4 to 1/3 c. half & half
Lawry's seasoned salt
Ground white pepper (note to Dan: in the brass pepper grinder)
Ground nutmeg (optional)

  • Peel the potatoes. Keep the peeled potatoes in a bowl of water while you are working so that they don't turn brown.
  • Quarter the potatoes--they should be big chunks that can still fit into the potato ricer. 
  • Place into a large pot and fill with cold water until the potatoes are just submerged. Starting them in cold water allows them to cook thoroughly without falling apart at the edges or becoming watery before the centers are cooked.
  •  Do not add more water than needed, or you will unnecessarily increase cooking time.
  • Place the lid on the pot, but leave it ajar so that steam can escape.
  • Bring to a boil, and as soon as it boils, remove the lid and lower the heat so that it stays at a low boil (otherwise the pot will boil over).
  • It is hard to predict how long they will need to cook, but at 20 min, check them and see if they are tender. It will probably take 30 min or so for a large pot.
  • How to tell if they are done: 1) the edges of the potato chunks will start to become indistinct 2) when you pierce the potato with a knife, it encounters no resistance and the chunk will crack apart.
  • Note: if they completely fall apart, then you have overcooked them and the mashed potatoes will be watery and less delicious.
  • Drain the potatoes.
  • While they are still hot, squeeze them through the ricer with the insert with the smallest holes.
  • Rice them into the biggest bowl, because you will need the space to mix them later.
  • While you are working, add in the butter, cut into chunks, so that the butter is melted by the hot potatoes as you go.
  •  Do not question  the amount of butter--for a Thanksgiving dinner this will give you the most decadent result.
  • Gently mix the potatoes so that the butter is mixed in, but do not overmix or they will become gummy.
  • If the potatoes are too dry, add in small amounts of  half and half. You may only need a couple of tablespoons--don't overdo it! This amount is hard to predict because potatoes vary in their moisture content, and the cooking method has an effect, and also the butter will add a lot of liquid.
  • Taste and decide if they need more salt (this will depend on how salty the butter is). If it needs more salt, add Lawry's seasoned salt. Also add a generous amount of ground white pepper.
  • The key is to mix as little as possible so you can keep the fluffy texture. Don't pack it down solid when you place it in your transit/storage vessel.
If you need to reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes.

For gravy, I find that unless you can pull off a true pan gravy from the turkey drippings, you are better off with packet gravy. The liquid stuff in jars or cans doesn't seem to be as good as good ol' packet gravy.

Solyanka Russian Soup

This hearty soup can miraculously turn bits and bobs from your winter larder into a satisfying, savory meal. This is one of the few examples of cooking with pickles--don't turn your nose up! Their zingy flavor blends pleasingly into the soup and adds some delightful crunch. The soup is made with a variety of meats, especially cured ones such as ham, smoked turkey, bacon, mild salami...whatever you have on hand. You can also add uncured pork, beef, or chicken.

Garnished with capers and jalapenos. Also suggested are: olives, lemon slices, pickled mushrooms, smetana/sour cream.
Use 3 lb of a variety of smoked and fresh meats, such as:
  • Cubed pork shoulder
  • Bone-in stew beef cut, such as round or chuck
  • Slab bacon
  • Smoked turkey
  • Ham hock
  • Smoked sausage (Krakovska from Kramarczuks is good for this)
2 medium onions
3 large carrots
1 c. dill pickles, chopped
1 c. frozen green beans (optional)
4 roma tomatoes, or 1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. pickled mushrooms, or fresh mushrooms cooked down to make 3/4 c.
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
+ parsley stems (for stock)
1 Tbsp. fresh or dried dill
3-5 Tbsp. pickle juice (from the jar)
2 bay leaves
5 allspice berries
3 whole cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for saute

Garnish ideas:
  • Capers
  • Olives (any kind you like)
  • Lemon slices
  • Hot pepper slices
  • Green onions
  • Smetana or crème fraîche or sour cream
Begin by making a ham broth.  Place the ham hock, bacon, and stew meat in a large pot of water, and add one onion cut into wedges, one carrot roughly chopped, and the parsley stems. Add the bay leaves, allspice, and cloves, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour or until everything is tender. Drain through a sieve. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces, including the ham from the ham hock.

Meanwhile, dice the remaining carrots and onions. Dice any pre-cooked meats such as the smoked turkey or smoked sausage. Saute the onions and carrots in a heavy soup pot in some oil until they begin to get tender. Add the chopped pickles and mushrooms, and cook 1-2 minutes,  Add the tomato paste and paprika and continue to cook while stirring so it coats the veggies. Add the tomatoes or tomato puree and simmer for 5 minutes.

 Add 4-5 quarts of ham broth, as well as the cooked, chopped meat to your cooked veggies. Add the green beans, dill, and parsley, and simmer 5-6 minutes until the green beans are tender. You can also add the olives and capers at this point, but if you have picky eaters, leave them as a garnish. Add the pickle juice and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve with garnish and fresh, hearty bread.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lillian's Fail-proof Chicken Kebabs

 I cannot believe that I have not posted this recipe, even though I have probably made it a hundred times. Now you too can know the secret of how to make killer chicken kebabs, every time. This recipe will impress friends, endear you to in-laws, please picky eaters, and perhaps even make you more attractive.

The key is using dark meat, i.e. chicken thighs. This is also good with lamb. Multiply the recipe to make more (I usually make about 12 thighs).

Unfortunately I do not have any good pictures, but this captures how tightly you should pack the chicken onto the skewer for maximal juiciness.

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
~1/3. c. full-fat plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. salt
additional seasonings* (optional)

Cut the chicken thighs into large-ish chunks that will stay on your skewers. Combine the remaining ingredients in whatever container you want to marinate the chicken in, then and add the chicken thighs. There should be just enough yogurt to coat the meat generously--it shouldn't be swimming. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight.

Place the meat onto the skewers and really pack it on tightly. This is key to keeping the meat from drying out. I recommend the sword-type skewers. Heat your grill to high initial heat, then place the skewers on the grill and lower the heat to medium. Turn 3-4 times, allowing to cook through without burning (allow 25-30 minutes, but it may go faster).

Slide the meat off the skewers and serve with various mezze; there are a ton of ideas listed under Middle Eastern on this blog.

 *Note: you can add more seasoning, such as cayenne, cumin, a pinch of allspice, or a generic "kebab seasoning" mix. However, I think it turns out best if you keep it simple.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mulligatawny Stew

It's not every day that I post a130 yr old recipe! I found this one from 1885 for Mulligatawny Soup while perusing a site that houses vintage cookbooks and recipes. I am calling it a stew because I overdid it on the rice, and it's kind of nice that way. Scale back the rice if you want it to be soupy and/or are planning to have leftovers, as it will thicken considerably as it sits. Boiling a whole chicken will make more chicken stock than you need for the recipe, which is great if you want to make extra to freeze.

Served with parathas (frozen section at Indian grocery).

1 whole chicken, cut into breast and legs
1 package beef or veal stew bones
6-8 c. water
2 Tbsp. oil

2 red onions, diced
3 Tbsp. curry powder**
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. butter 3/4 c. basmati rice
1/2 c. frozen peas (optional)
1/2 lemon

* if you are making a large batch of chicken stock, use aromatics such as yellow onion (including the peel), celery, bay leaves, etc...
**you can keep the seasoning simple and just use curry powder, or doctor it up by adding some freshly crushed coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, and minced ginger, as I did

Brown the beef stew bones in hot oil in a large stock pot, then add the chicken and aromatics. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 1.5 hrs, skimming any gunk off the top. Strain the stock off and set the chicken aside.

In another pot, heat the butter and fry the onions until they begin to get tender. Add the curry spices and toss over heat to release the fragrance. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the onions. Add as much chicken stock as you would like to turn into soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the onions about 80% smooth to thicken the sauce. Add the rice and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.

Shred the chicken and add it to the soup. You may add some frozen peas for color. Add in the juice of one lemon and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with lemon slices and green onions, if desired.

If you are curious, here is the original text of the recipe:
Divide a large chicken into neat pieces; take a knuckle of veal, and chop it up; put all into a large saucepan, and add one gallon of water; salt; boil for three hours or until reduced one-third. Put an ounce of butter in a hot frying pan, cut up two red onions, and fry them in the butter. Into a half pint of the stock put two heaping tablespoonfuls of curry powder; add this to the onion, then add the whole to the soup, now taste for seasoning. Some like a little wine, but these are the exception and not the rule. Before serving add half a slice of lemon to each portion. Many prefer a quantity of rice to be added to the soup before it is finished; the rice should be first well washed and parboiled.

Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken with Eggplant

Ages ago I bought some szechuan peppercorns for a recipe, and haven't tried many recipes with them since. They're very strange - they have what can only be described as a floral, citrisy taste, a bit like lychees (but less floral). In this dish, based loosely on authentic szechuan chicken recipes, they lend a really nice counterpoint to the chilies, but you don't want to add too much and overwhelm things. Note that this is a fairly dry stir fry.

I made this with Japanese eggplants, but if you only have normal eggplant, cutting it into cubes might actually be nice, since they'd be a similar shape to the chicken chunks.


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (breasts reheat better for leftovers), cubed
5 Japanese eggplants, in slices
3+2 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 teaspoons peeled sliced fresh ginger
1 heaping tablespoon szechuan peppercorn
3-8 Chinese-style dried red chilis, seeds removed
3 tablespoons dry sherry or rice wine
2 tablespoons oil + more for cooking
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt to taste


At least 1 hour before cooking: Over very low heat,  warm the szechuan peppercorns until they start to get fragrant, but without burning them. Crush 2/3 of the peppercorn in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and pour over chicken chunk. Add dry sherry, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 chili peper, mix, and let marinate in fridge at least one hour.

After chicken has marinated, start warming a pan until good and hot - I used a wok, but actually think a frying pan would have been a better choice, since we're not trying to make something saucy. While warming the pan, you can heat the chili peppers for more flavor if you like, but be careful not burn them.

Add oil to the hot pan, and briefly let 3 cloves of garlic and ginger sizzle before adding the chicken and chilis. You may need to cook the chicken in shifts if you want it to brown nicely. Cook until chicken is browned on the outside, it may not be fully cooked inside. Remove chicken from pan.

Add more oil, sizzle the remaining 2 cloves garlic, add eggplant. Let cook a minute or so before adding remaining (whole) szechuan peppercorns, let cook another minute or so before adding returning the chicken to the pan and adding soy sauce. Cook until chicken is cooked through and eggplant is tender.

Since this dish doesn't have much soy sauce, you may need to add salt. Serve on fluffy white rice.

If you need an addition veggie, I put some rice vinegar, a few szechuan peppercorns, and a grind of black pepper over sliced persian cucumbers.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tom Kha Thai Soup

Accompanied by my illustrious photographer and culinary muse, JiJY, I present to you: Tom Kha. This fragrant soup is made with chicken and is bursting with flavor from the aromatic spices (and no curry powder/paste at all), and brought together with coconut milk and lime.

Finished product, garnished with Thai basil and an egg. Photo by JiJY Thanwalee.


  • 1 chicken
  • 4-5 quarts water
  • 1 chicken boullion cube
  • 3-4 stalks lemon grass
  • 1 galangal root
  • 6-8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 large shallots or 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 Thai chilies

Simmering the broth. Scoop off the scummy bits so you get a nice clear broth. I accelerated the process by using a pressure cooker. Photo by JiJY Thanwalee.
Place the chicken, aromatics, and water together in a large pot or pressure cooker. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour (or 35 min in pressure cooker). Drain the broth for use in the soup and discard the aromatics. Remove the chicken and when it is cool enough to handle, strip the meat from the bone. Use half of the meat in the tom kha (use the rest of the meat in some other recipe such as chicken laap salad).

Coconut Milk & Veggies:

  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 bunch Thai basil (reserve some for garnish)
  • 1.5 c. oyster mushrooms (or 1 can straw mushrooms)
  • 6-8 green eggplants, stems removed and quartered

NOTE: other vegetables are possible, such as long beans, tomatoes, or bamboo shoots, but I recommend restraint so that the other flavors shine through


  • 1-2 Tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 large lime

In a separate large pot, simmer down the coconut milk for 10-15 minutes to concentrate it. Add the broth and veggies and simmer until they are tender. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice and adjust seasonings to taste.


  • Thai basil
  • Cilantro
  • Thai chilies
  • Green onions
  • Beansprouts
In some ways, garnishing the soup is the best part...other than eating it, of course! Photo by JiJY Thanwalee.

Enjoy the amazing flavors of the soup, along with the crispy garnish. I froze some, so I'll let you know how well it works as leftovers.

Sometimes the chefs get hungry, so I recommend a meaty snack with a spicy kick: Hmong sausage and a chili pepper. Photo by JiJY Thanwalee

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Braised Shortribs

Sometimes you just want a pile of hot beef, and you don't want to chew. This is the recipe for you. It can be made in the pressure cooker or slow cooked. The onions, carrot, and celery cook down and make a delicious gravy, which you could blend if you want it to be smooth.

Fortunately, my cooking is much better than my photography. This is the short ribs served over potato gnocchi, with a side of turnip greens. I kept the onion/meat juice mixture chunky and used it as a sauce for the gnocchi.

3 lbs short ribs
1 large onion, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
2 carrots, grated
3-5 shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 c. dry sherry or 1 c. dry red wine
1 large bundle fresh thyme, or 1 tbsp. dried
1 pkg French onion soup mix
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c. cooking oil
~3 c. water

Sprinkle the short ribs with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil until very hot and brown the short ribs in a few batches, to avoid overcrowding the pot. Do this in the base of your pressure cooker (if using that method); if you are using a slow cooker, use a separate pan. Remove the short ribs from the pot. Add the onions to the hot oil and stir until they begin to brown. Add in the celery and carrots and stir to cook for 2-3 min. Add the tomato paste and stir until it is well-distributed. Add the sherry and onion soup mix. Stir the short ribs and any meat juice they produced back into the pot. Tuck the bundle of sage into the pot, and then add just enough water that the short ribs are partially covered.

If you are using a slow cooker, bring the liquid to a simmer and then pour it into the cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or until fall-apart tender.

If using a pressure cooker, bring to a boil and then put the lid on and take it up to high pressure. Cook for 45 minutes and then off the heat allow the pressure to escape naturally from the pot.

Once the ribs are cooked, you have options with how to serve them. I recommend putting them over wide noodles or gnocchi, but would also be very good on top of polenta or mashed potatoes.
1. (for picky eaters) Remove ribs from pot and, slip out the rib bones and chop up the meat (it's up to you if you want to get rid of the connective tissue, but it should be very tender and delectable at this point).
2. OR For more adventurous types, leave on the bone
3. Either use a slotted spoon to strain out the veggies and use these as a chunky sauce for your starch.
4. OR once you have removed the meat from the pot, use an immersible blender to make a smooth sauce with the meat juice and veggies.
5. Either mix the meat back into the sauce, or serve it on top of everything.

Now you are probably confused. However, if you have a big batch of these savory, tender ribs, I am sure you will figure out a satisfactory way to serve them!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy Berry Tart

I was invited to a dinner party with rather short notice, and asked to make dessert, which isn't really my specialty. Luckily, I got this ginormous, very British cookbook "1000 Classic Recipes" for $2 at a book sale. Being British, probably half the recipes are for cakes, pies or tarts, and flipping through I found this recipe which was ludicrously easy and required very few ingredients. It's low fat (for the gallbladderless among us), it could probably be made with gluten free flour, it takes maybe half an hour to make from start to finish, and it's really tasty - a nice, light summer dessert. The one caveat is that it's best to serve fairly soon after making, otherwise it gets a bit mushy from the berry juice. Also, it doesn't make a huge amount - I'm not sure how amenable it would be to doubling, though it sufficed for six people for a light dessert. 

It's best served with vanilla ice cream.

2 c. worth of berries (I used raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, but your berries may vary)

2 eggs
1/4 c. superfine sugar (you can just put granulated sugar into the food processor and blast it a few times)
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 c. ground almonds
Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375.

Grease the inside of a pie dish, and line it with parchment paper (which you may have to cut into a circle to fit into the pan easily). The grease mostly serves to hold the paper in place. Cut any berries that need cutting (e.g. strawberries) and place those and the other berries (blueberries or raspberries for example do not need to be cut up) into the bottom of the pan. If you think the berries will be too tart, toss a little sugar on them.

If you don't have superfine sugar, since you'll be using the food processor anyway for the almonds, you can just blast normal granulated sugar a few times and it'll be fine for this recipe. Grind the almonds in the food processor once you're done with the sugar.

Crack both eggs into a bowl, add the sugar. Here's the only weird part - you're trying to get as much air as possible into these eggs, but since the yolks are still included, it won't make stiff peaks like it would with normal egg whites. Beat it until it is pretty stiff though, to the point where beaters make short-lived trails in the eggs.

Mix the flour and almonds, then fold them into the eggs. Try not to lose too much of the air during that process. Pour the batter over the berries. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough part is golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from oven, wait until it has cooled off a bit, then invert onto a serving plate and carefully remove parchment. Cut into slices and serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hearty Lentil and Weiner Soup

Hot dogs and lentils are a match made in heaven and are also extremely cheap! You can keep it basic and use regular hot-dots, or get fancy ones from Kramarczuk's or another meat market. I used their coarse-ground weiners with great results. Use green or brown lentils, not the red ones. I added orzo pasta to thicken it up, but you could also use rice or potatoes and adjust cooking time accordingly.

4 weiner links
1 c. green lentils
1 c. orzo pasta
1 qt. beef or ham broth
2 qt. water

1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 sage leaves, sliced (or 2 tsp. dried)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried coriander
2 Tbps. Crystal or Tobasco hot sauce
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. black pepper
handful of fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
salt to taste

Slice up the weiners and saute them in the oil in a heavy soup pot until they brown slightly on the edges. Add the onion and half of the celery and saute until the onions begin to cook through. Add the tomato paste, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and toss to coat. Add the broth, sage, bay leaves, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer 20 minutes.

Add the remaining celery and carrots and the orzo and increase the heat to boil the orzo, carrots, and lentils until just tender (~10 min). Add the hot sauce and parsley and adjust the seasonings to taste.

NoneMoreBlack pointed out that this recipe is similar to Cotechino con Lenticchie, an Italian dish traditionally served at New Year's Eve. If you are somehow able to source the specialty cotechino sausage, please make the Italian recipe and tell me how it is!

Chicken Pasta Operation Icebox

Dan claims this is an original recipe, but I think it's just a variation of Pasta Fazool and Pesto Sausage Desperation. He absolutely loved it and insisted that I post it on the blog. It is indeed delicious. The basic idea is protein (could be leftover meat) + pasta + miscellaneous color/flavor agents that do not require a trip to the grocery store = dinner.

1 package pappardelle or fettuccine (long wide noodles)
1-1.5 lb chicken breast
2 medium onions
1/2 c. roasted red pepper, chopped (i.e. from a jar)
1/2 bag/block frozen spinach
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 glugs dry vermouth
3 Tbsp. cooking oil + a dash olive oil
A few sprigs of basil and parsley from the garden, chopped
OR 2 tsp. pesto
2 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Boil the noodles in plenty of salted water until just tender (they will cook more in the pan). Drain, reserving 1 c. of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken into cubes and toss them with salt and pepper and dried oregano.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan until quite hot, then add the chicken and brown on the edges, but do not fully cook through. Remove to a bowl.

Return the pan to high heat and keep it very hot through the next few steps. Add the onions and saute until they have toasty edges, tossing in the garlic and red pepper flakes part-way through. Deglaze with the vermouth and add the roasted red peppers and spinach, tossing them until the pan becomes dry again.

 Push the veggies to the edge of the pan and add the noodles. If they have become a solid glob, pour some of the hot noddle water over them to loosen. Allow the edges of the noodles on the bottom of the pan to crisp a bit.

Start folding the veggies into the noodles until they are well-combined. Toss in the chicken and the herbs or pesto. Once it has heated back through and the chicken bits are fully cooked, turn of the heat and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top (optional) and adjust the seasonings.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Spanish Tortilla (omelette)

I think I like leftover potatoes better than the first time they come around, and this is one reason why. This makes a hearty, easy meal that feeds a crowd, and even keeps vegetarians happy. It's great hot, but also good cold as a late-night snack (sort of the 17th century Taco Bell). You can get fancy and make it from raw potatoes (I recommend waxy ones like Yukon Gold), but slice them thin and allow plenty of time for them to cook through.

~2 c. cold leftover potatoes, sliced
1/2 white onion, sliced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
6-8 eggs
1 Tsp paprika (smoked paprika is extra tasty in this)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Optional: other leftovers

Heat a large nonstick pan with the olive oil. Add the onions and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the potato slices in a single layer, and cook on medium-low until the edges start to crisp.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the salt, pepper, and paprika. TIP: taste the eggs to see if the salt is right--don't fear the reaper. Dump the hot potatoes into the bowl and stir. I think this step allows the potatoes to get thoroughly mixed throughout the eggs and jump-starts their cooking. It also allows you to add more oil to the pan if you think it's necessary.

Dump the egg mixture back into the pan. Cook for ~10 minutes. Personally, I leave the lid on and allow it to cook thoroughly on one side. Other, more adventurous people, flip the tortilla part-way through. You could also put it under the broiler to cook the top if your pan is oven-safe. If you're desperate enough to be making a tortilla out of leftovers late at night, you probably don't want to try flipping it so keep it simple.

Once cooked to your satisfaction, dump onto a cutting board and slice into wedges.

Couscous Salad

This is a great dish to bring bright colors and fresh (non-mayonnaisey) flavors to a potluck. I used "maftoul" (giant couscous), but you could any grain that suits your fancy and stays toothsome when cooked: barley, wheat berries, bulghur, brown rice, wild rice, etc...

1.5 c. maftoul couscous
3 c. chicken broth
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, sliced
1/3 c. red onion, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lemon
1 small bundle fresh mint, sliced thin
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp. black pepper
1 pinch allspice
1 Tbsp. salt or to taste
2 tsp. Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)

Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the couscous (or other grain). Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (it is OK if there is extra liquid). Drain the grain and rinse under cold water. Cut the vegetables into uniform pieces and add to a serving bowl with the chickpeas and drained grain. Add olive oil and lemon juice and mint. Toss and season, adjusting spices to taste. Chill and serve.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Suya African Grilled Meat

I wanted to try something different than my usual cooking adventures so I ventured into African cuisine. I already love to make sukuma wiki collard greens, and this recipe makes a great main course with the greens. I got the recipe from Kadirecipes.

2 lb grilling meat, such as tri-tip
1/4 c. raw peanuts
1 Tbsp. paprika
 2 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp salt or to taste

Roast the peanuts and allow to cool. Chop in the food processor until fine sandy texture, but not peanut butter. Blend in the remaining seasonings.

Cut the meat into chunks or strips. Press the seasoning blend onto the meat and allow it to marinate for at least an hour. Place onto skewers, brush lightly with oil (if you are using lean meat) and grill.

I found that my meat needed a bit more flavor pop, so I have increased the seasoning amounts from the original recipe. This meat went perfectly with the sukuma wiki and pap (cornmeal mush) as a side dish. The peanuts added a warm flavor to the meat without overpowering it.

Chori-Pollo: Chicken with Chorizo

This dish is like the mullet of Mexican food: it tempers the healthful protein of chicken breast with the decadent fattiness of chorizo. Everyone wins! I grilled the chicken, but you could cook it any way that works for you. Most restaurants drown this dish in cheese, but it really only needs a little bit to tie the dish together. Would also be delicious with a fried egg on top.

From the left: yellow rice, pico de gallo, chori pollo, avocado, and black refried beans.
4 chicken breasts
2 links or ~1/2 pound loose chorizo
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
3 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. lard
1 Tbsp. Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Adobo seasoning
1/2 tsp. cayenne
salt to taste
1/2 c. grated Queso de Oaxaca or Monterrey Jack, if desired

If the chicken pieces are irregularly sized, pound until they are flat and uniform in thickness. Salt the chicken breasts to taste. Combine the oregano, black pepper, garlic powder, adobo, and cayene, then rub the spice mixture onto the breasts. Drizzle with oil and place them in a ziploc to marinate for 1 hour or more.

Heat the lard in a frying pan and add the chorizo (remove it from casings if you have links). Cook thoroughly until starting to crisp. Add the onions and peppers and saute until the peppers are tender.

Grill or pan-fry the chicken breasts. On my propane grill I pre-heated up to 500 and placed them on the grill, then immediately turned the heat down to 50% and closed the lid. I cooked them for about 5 minutes, or until the edges appeared cooked but the center was still a bit raw. I flipped them and only cooked for about 2 minutes more.  They came out perfect and juicy.

Chop up the chicken breasts and place on the plate, topping it with the chorizo mixture and a sprinkle of cheese. Buen provecho!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Creme de Papaya Smoothie

This dish is from Brazil, where it is often served after a heavy, meat-laden churrasco meal (primarily to tourists), with the idea that the papain enzyme will help dissolve the pile of meat you just consumed. Don't know if it works, but it is definitely delicious. Typically it is made with vanilla ice cream to a pudding-like consistency, but I like this lighter, zingier, smoothie version.

1 c. ripe papaya chunks
1 c. plain yogurt
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1-2 Tbsp. crème de cassis or Ribena
1 pinch salt
1/4 milk (optional)

Wait until your paypaya is super-duper ripe--I wait until it is on the verge of developing mold and attracting an armada of fruit flies. Peel it and take off some flesh with the peel to get rid of the bitter outer edge. Cut into chunks. I get the big red papayas from the Mexican grocery, but you can use the smaller pear-shaped ones too.

Blend together the papaya, yogurt, sugar, salt, and a dash of the  crème de cassis. Add the milk if you want it to be a smoothie rather than a pudding. Drizzle the remaining crème de cassis over the top. Serve cold.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fried Rice: Step-by-Step with Pictures!

I received a request to share my fried rice recipe, written for a kitchen beginner. There are a lot of subtleties for making awesome fried rice, which would make it a lot easier to teach in-person; this step-by-step is the next best thing. I'm going to shout a bit in this post, but listen to me if you want your rice to fulfill your every hope and dream!


  1. LEFTOVER rice (at least one night in the fridge, ideally a few days old). If you try to make it with fresh rice it will be mushy. 
  2. A BIG-ASS non-stick pan. Don't try to be a cowboy with cast iron or some other shiz.
I am serious--if you are a beginner, DO NOT PASS GO without fulfilling those requirements or you will be disappointed and frustrated and never try cooking again.

For rice I recommend a long-grain Thai jasmine rice, but other types will work.

If you don't have a GOOD non-stick pan, I recommend Swiss Diamond. If you are concerned about carcinogens or whatever tin-foil hat bullshit you ascribe to, these high-quality pans do not contain PFOA and they are highly resistant to chipping or scratching. Seriously--I bought a whole bunch of fancy (useless) stainless/aluminum pans, but 80% of the time I use my 13" Swiss Diamond nonstick.


  • 6 c. leftover long-grain rice
  • 3 green onions, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3-4 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 3-4 Tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1-2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce

If you want to get fancy, you can add more meat (I recommend pre-cooked/leftovers) and/or vegetables. Also, if you are not a pussy, add some fish sauce. I like to buy large packs of ground pork and cook them all up, then freeze in small containers so I can add them to ramen or fried rice to make heartier meals. The sweet Chinese sausage pictured is AMAZING in fried rice, especially shrimp. If you want to add cilantro, stir in at the very end before serving.

My favorite additions:
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Leftover chicken
  • Ground pork 


Whatever you add, cut it up into evenly sized pieces about 1/2". Do not add more than 1/3-1/2 c. of any one ingredient. You want to have significantly more rice than ingredients, so exercise self-control!

Heat your pan up good and hot so the oil is shimmering and about to start smoking. This will give your rice yummy crispy edges and keep it from getting mushy. Don't skimp on oil--assure yourself with the fact that your favorite Chinese restaurant is probably using 2x the oil.

Gently break the rice apart and stir every 1-2 minutes for 15 minutes or until some of the rice starts to get light brown and crispy. BE PATIENT.

Oooh yeah...that's some good flavor and texture developing--I am so glad I was patient!

Move the rice to the edge of the pan while you cook the other things. This allows it to keep crisping, while keeping the vegetables from over-cooking. I recommend using pre-cooked meat to keep the process simpler.

Lower the heat to medium and stir the vegetables while they cook in the center of the pan. The time this takes will depend on how much veggies you are adding, but should take 3-7 min. If you are using fish sauce, add it at the same time as the veggies to flavor them and allow the pungency to cook off.

NOTE: I like to add half of the green onions at the beginning and half at the end, so they are not all super raw, but still give good flavor.

Once the veggies are cooked to your satisfaction, stir them into the rice. Sprinkle with the oyster sauce and chili garlic sauce and stir in.

Add the things that just need to heat through briefly, like pre-cooked meat and frozen peas. Check the seasoning--if it is not salty enough, add more oyster sauce. Push everything to the sides of the pan again.

Pouur the beaten egg into the center and scramble it as it cooks. It's OK if it combines with some of the rice. Keep scrambling it and chop it up into small pieces with the spatula and mix into the rice.

Give everything a good stir and ta-da!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Date Ball Cookies

These cookies are super simple, and quite healthy for cookies!

2 c. almond butter (or any nut butter)*
2 c. chopped dates (I like to buy whole dates and chop them myself so they become very sticky)
2 c. oats (I prefer quick oats because they are smaller)
optional: coconut, honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract, seeds

Mix well with a spoon and/or with hands. The mixture should stick together well. Use a tiny amount of water if too dry. Add more oats if too wet. If the mixture is too sticky to work with, but you don't want to change the consistency, you can leave it (preferably covered) in the refrigerator up to one hour before rolling the dough into balls. I store these in plastic airtight containers. If you are concerned about them sticking together, you could use wax paper to separate layers of cookies. These keep well in the refrigerator for at least one week.

A similar cookie that is also delicious: Form balls out of mushed dates and crushed walnuts. Roll in coconut.

*I have also heard of people experimenting with using pumpkin purée. I think one could use some sweet potato purée, or bean paste. I haven't tried using these yet, but the recipe is very easy to use for experimentation...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Kufta in Yogurt Sauce كفتة باللبن

I made this not quite realizing that it was a real recipe - I was thinking of making shish barak (see Mimi's recipe for that), which is kind of like Middle Eastern ravioli. However, I had no patience for making all those little ravioli, but I really enjoyed that sauce. Only later did I realize that this is a legitimate, traditional recipe, called Kufta bil-laban, "Kufta in yogurt." (Not so helpful for everyone, but here's a recipe for it in Arabic.)


1.25 pounds lean ground beef
2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Dash nutmeg

2 cups yogurt (or 1.75 c. yogurt, 1/4 cup water if yogurt is very thick, like greek yogurt. Middle eastern yogurt is normally a bit watery)
3 tsp. corn starch

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. (or to taste) cilantro, minced (optional)
Olive oil for sauteing


Preheat oven to 450, or broiler if you'll be able to watch closely. Mix beef and spices, roll into small balls. Place the kufta balls on a cookie sheet and bake or broil until solid and cooked. 

Slowly heat, on very low heat, yogurt mixed with corn starch. In another pan, sautee garlic until it starts to become golden. Throw in cilantro briefly, then pour all of this into the yogurt. Add kufta balls, and cook briefly until combined and everything is warmed and cooked through. 

I recommend serving this on vermicelli rice.  You could also sprinkle some pine nuts on top to garnish.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crockpot Pulled Pork

I finally figured out the key to good crockpot pulled pork--ignore 90% of the recipes out there and don't add the BBQ sauce until the end. In fact, doing it this way you could go full Southern style and not add BBQ sauce at all. If you add the sauce at the beginning it winds up watery and thin and doesn't let the meat or the sauce really shine.

If you wanted it to be smoky & spicy you could substitute canned chipotle peppers for the paprika and cayenne. I used Sweet Baby Ray's on this last batch and it was too sweet for me. Try to find a BBQ sauce that suits your taste.

I am a crockpot skeptic, but this recipe really works!

Picnics are way more fun as a grown-up...even when it's -11 outside!

1 large 3+ lb. pork shoulder or Boston butt
2 medium onions, sliced
1-2 c. water
1 chicken boullion cube
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 pinch cayenne
salt and pepper
1 jug BBQ sauce

Rub the spices onto the pork. You don't actually have to rub them on, but I find it's easier to gauge the quantity when I do it this way. Place the meat, bay leaves, boullion cube, and onion slices into your slow cooker. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the crock with 1/2" water.

Cover and set to LOW for 8 hrs or so. Pork should be pull-apart tender when you get home.

Drain and reserve the precious liquid, save the onions. Take the pork out and let it cool enough to handle. Pull it apart into shreds and add it back into the crockpot. (This cult will usually be bone-in...remove bones and discard). Put the onions back into meat and a little of the meat juice. Add the BBQ sauce and crank the heat back up to HIGH. Go watch a Netflix episode as it heats through.

If you don't want a saucy style, add more salt and meat juice to the meat until it is delectable. Serve as-is or with mustard sauce.

I highly recommend the hedonistic option of toasting your bun and then brushing it with a little of the pork fat that rendered off.