Thursday, December 27, 2012

No gnocchi jokes today (maybe)

Gnocchi, gnocchi!
"Who's there?"
 Okay, I'm not going there, wherever that is!!! I heard it said there's no "there" there.

Yours truly drove for 8 hours yesterday, most of it in driving rain, heavy wind and increasingly lowered visibility. When I finally got in the door of our house it was to discover a serious plumbing problem that arose while we weren't even home. I am not full of the milk of human kindness this morning (as the plumber in the basement has his meter running full tilt), but I am determined to have a tasty one-dish dinner. Yes, the gnocchi are the shelf-stable kind found near the pasta at the supermarket, but they are pretty good. The shrimp are one of my specialties. I should be called "Iron Chef Shrimp." (Okay, okay, I'm bragging. But as my grandma used to say, "If you don't blow your own horn, no one's going to blow it for you.) So I've spent much of the day so far in my van, tooting to the heavens. Only consequence is the summons I got for disturbing the peace. Just cook the shrimp however you like them, wilt the arugula and/or spinach (I used both), and boil the gnocchi according to the package directions. Dress with some butter and olive oil (and maybe garlic and parsley?) and have another martini.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jen gets me to thinkin’ about potato and cheddar soup (and then doin’)

Here's photos of the topic of the day.

Jen (Jenns food journey) is known as Tilapia Tootsie, the Sauce Maven, and Suzie Soup. She has earned these sobriquets by dint of persistent postings of excellent recipes. You probably should not assume that you are permitted to address her by these names. Better to simply address her as Jenn the Magnificent. (Gosh, I hope she’s blushing right now.) 

My holiday gift to all of you is a very inexpensive one: my congratulations and gratitude for being out there where I can find you often and regale myself with your baking (help, I’m baking and I can’t stop), your stories (all embroidered I am sure), your photos (I have to steal mine in the absence of a cooperating camera and computer), and your enthusiasm for all things culinary. 

But back to Jen. A recent post of hers was for a soup, something she does not often do. However, the important thing is that she got my attention and I’ve spent the last few hours with soup sloshing around in my brain even as I have been writing, answering emails, and plotting food Armageddon (I don’t even know what that means). Sometime very soon you will notice Jenn has used the “V” word (no, not the one that goes with “Monologues”) in a recipe. You’ll see, and you’ll know when it happens. 

As a result I now have the courage to use “CP”, as in canned potatoes. I have cooked with them many times over the years. Last night I made some potato and vegetable cakes and Peter qvelled over them. I had sneaked the canned spuds right past him. The vegetables were mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, chayote sqash and celery, all of which had been lightly poached in broth, Shiaxing wine, olive oil and butter. Sometimes I toss them on salads, other times I snack on them right out of the fridge. The canned potatoes, sautéed whole, make for a lovely side dish when browned up in some butter. They have a unique texture and are not intended to be substituted for the real thing except when time is short and hunger is long. 

Scold me if you must. I can take it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wangs (or, if you're not a redneck: Wings)

Want to see my new bumper sticker? 
Well, here it is.
I can only hope it helps me gain momentum.

Then there was the chicken wing thing.
Food for a king; not from the Ming;
lacking in ping; unable to ring ...
or to sing;
can possibly zing.
Easy to cook. Easy and messy to eat.
Not too expensive if bought up in bulk.

Get a deal on a big package of them.
Roast 'em at 300 degrees for 2 hours
with a coating of salt, pepper, garlic powder,
and some brown sugar.
Turned once.
Tasty and perfect for a rainy day
when you lack motivation.

Don't make my mistake
and forget to spray the foil
before loading the things.
They stuck a bit.
Tasted quite simple and good.
Not food to garner you
dollars from adoring fans,
but guaranteed to keep at bay the
(at least until the wings
are a thing of the past).


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gnocchi Marietta*

I found gnocchi at Whole Foods yesterday. They were with the refrigerated pastas. Not as tasty as fresh, but I'm too lazy to make them from scratch. I combined the "pillows" of potato and egg with some beef kielbasa and a homemade gravy or sauce (your choice of terms).

Inspired by my food blogger shrink, Jenn (go here and read her), I made some gravies lately - very much from scratch. It's color was more pinkish than it appears in the photo. After sauteing the kielbasa (cut into 1/2" pieces) in a bit of oil, I threw some butter and then some flour into the same pan to make a roux. Then in went 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth and a few shots of hot sauce. When thickened up the stuff was a perfect foil for the starch and meat. I ate quite a bit more than I intended.

Oh, the gnocchi boil up in salted water in no more than 5 minutes. I think I'll bookmark my own recipe.

* There is a famous operetta named "Naughty Marietta" from which comes the song "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life." 'Nuff said.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


How do you make corn muffins when you have no corn meal? Are you willing to pay for the secret? No? Okay, I feel very close to you and I'm going to give this bit of genius away.

First, let it be known that I have not been a fan of corn bread. I find it invariably dry and more or less tasteless. Second, let it be known that both of those barriers were breached by yours truly.

Peter and I threw a dinner party last evening. There were a couple of "stars" on the menu, but this one gets my vote as "Best of Show." The two tortilla components included 1 1/2 cups ground up corn tortillas and 1/2 cup ground up and toasted flour tortillas (this was in the freezer waiting to be used like bread crumbs). The proportions of other ingredients were arrived at by extensive research (I looked at two other recipes).

The most unusual corn muffins
1 1/2 cups food processed corn tortillas
1/2 cups food processed flour tortillas
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Splenda
1 tsp salt

Whisk these ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Mix together:
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup milk

Using a fork, incorporate these latter bits into the dry ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Use a 6 muffin tin. Line the muffin spaces with paper baking cups. Spoon the mix into them.

Bake 12-15 minutes. You know the drill - a toothpick should come out clean when inserted into one of the muffins.

All good things must come to an end

This past Thursday I was awakened at 1:30 am by Scooper, who was whimpering at the bottom of the bed. For the past month the latest he would sleep was 4:15. This time I became aware in short order that he couldn't walk; in fact, he could barely stand. Then he refused food - possibly for the first time in his 14 years. I've mentioned in my most recent blog that he was totally deaf and nearly totally blind. At 1 pm that same day a very compassionate vet came to the house and euthanized him.

In honor of Scooper and his pal Pupkiss, who pre-deceased him, I'm reprinting two stories from a couple of years ago. We're sad, but grateful to have had a good number of years of fantastic companionship with the two of them.

I'll only leave this up for one day. Then it's back to the food. 

Dog, the other white meat; and The world according to Scooper

It’s just a JOKE!

I have nothing else to post today, so I thought I’d introduce our little one, Scooper. He’s almost 12, a little deaf, but still very much the puppy at times. (In between, he sleeps most of the time.)

Scooper had a “brother,” Pupkiss, who was a year younger. Unfortunately the poor little guy developed the curse of the King Charles Spaniel, a bad heart. It didn’t affect him until last April when he went into conjestive heart failure. He got treated with drug after drug, but by October we realized we had to let him go. And so we did.

Scooper is named after the Pooper Scooper. Pup’s name had a more interesting derivation. At the time he came to us we lived in Teaneck, NJ, a community heavily populated by orthodox Jewish people. There’s a Yiddish word, “bubkes,” that sort of means “nada.” That’s what inspired Pup’s name. The first day he was with us was a Saturday and, while we were out in the side yard with the boys, along came a family walking to schul – 3 little girls with their parents. The girls came over to the fence to see the boys and of course asked what their names were. Now, mind you, we didn’t want to give offense. I started by telling them the bigger dog was Scooper. Then looking at the girls’ father I told them the wee little puppy was Pupkiss. The father got a twinkle in his eye and said (in a wonderful Yiddish accent), “Very clever.” Whew! I was relieved.

For about 3 years, after the dog food scare, I cooked chicken (boiled), rice (brown) and mixed frozen vegetables for the “boys.” I kept giving them a bit of Iams kibble along with these things. Iams was not implicated in any of the problems. So, you see, this really is an oblique way to post about food.

Say hello, Scooper.

This is Scooper, comfortably ensconced in his favorite papa-san chair right next to my computer. He’s 12 now, and happily in good health except for being quite deaf. He never listened to me anyway. I had nothing new to post this morning, so I thought I’d let him be a guest.

The world according to Scooper:My #1 daddy is generous to let me do a posting on his blog. Heaven knows, he spends plenty of time at it. I love sleeping next to him while he blathers on about his food. I don’t know much about his food as he and #2 daddy, Peter, never give me any of it. I score some dropped bits on the kitchen floor from time to time, and I have to admit it can be some pretty good stuff. I am just as happy to have my 2 squares a day – some Iams kibble and some stuff out of a can. I am not patient when it’s my meal time, and I say so. Back when that other guy, Pupkiss*, was still around, I could sometimes shoulder him out of the way and finish his food too. After a while he got wise to that and ate really, really fast. I don’t know what ever happened to him. Last fall he just wasn’t here anymore, leaving me as an only child, just the way I was before the little interloper came on the scene and began competing with me for the daddys’ affections. I understand there may be a picture of the little bugger down below. By the way, daddy #1 used to whisper in my ear (when I could still hear), “Remember, I’m your #1 daddy.” I don’t even know what that means. I have a good life. I get to sleep on the bed, snuggle in front of the tv with the guys, get petted quite regularly. AND, every day I get to poop! Well, there you have it. Try my recipe if you dare. Best regards, Scooper.

Kibble and squeak

1 handful Iams kibble

2 heaping tbsp Pedigree canned dog food with meat, or chicken

Put these in a bowl and get it on the floor ... right NOW.

*Pupkiss joined our family when Scooper was 1 year old. He was a little guy with strong opinions and a fondness for actually watching television. He developed the scourge of King Charles Spaniels, heart trouble, when he was 9 1/2. We coddled and medicated him for several months until his struggles got so bad we had him euthanized.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mexican lasagna

It is with great reluctance that I let the soups slip back into archival limbo. I didn't conjure up this casserole in my sleep; I did so entirely awake and quite sober. Some years ago I made something like this. Now I had no need of a recipe. I would like to have submitted this as part of an episode of "The Next Iron Chef" on Food Network. I finished this masterpiece just a couple of hours ago and I still remember what's in it. I certainly remember that it has corn tortillas because, as I thought I was ready to start assemble, I realized I had neglected to buy them during my morning grocery run. I didn't use a full size lasagna dish. When I do, Peter and I get sick of it before it's gone. My dish was about half size. Here we go: (Egad, I miss those soups.)

Cut about a dozen tomatillos into 1 inch pieces. Cut up 2 cubanelle peppers about the same. Start this stuff sauteing in a bit of oil. When sizzling nicely, reduce heat to very, very low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.You don't need to add any broth to this; the veg will render a lot of water. Let it cool a bit and then puree it in your food processor.

In another saute pan cook two 8 inch pieces of Mexican chorizo. Puree it. Add it to the sauce. The sauce now turns somewhat reddish due to the annato in the meat. I added some salt, some pepper, some ground guajillo chiles, some garlic.

Don't feel you have to make homemade ricotta from buttermilk just because I did (nyuck, nyuck). Layer corn tortillas (sliced up a bit to cover the size of the casserole) with sauce, ricotta and asadero cheese. I think it took 4 layers for mine.

Bake at 350 covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15. Let rest for 5 or 10 and then plunge in.

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