Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Message For My Friends and All of My Readers

I just wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your support over the last two years.  This learning adventure has been quite amazing, and your support especially endearing.  I look forward to new adventures in the kitchen with you all.  With that, Happy Holidays and respect for you and your support.  Thank You, once again.   ~  Martin

After much had work since Monday creating and making personalized gifts - calendars and candles - for my family  members, I decided to gift myself late last night (too late, I know; bad, very bad!) with an extreme burger.  I created a burger meat mixture of spices and tikka masala, tamarind paste and Ponzu.  I added garlic and stone ground spicy mustard, as well.  The flavor was extreme but amazing.  I KNEW it would be fantastic as a glaze on a burger.  So, I went with that.  I also knew bacon had to be part of it, as well as making it a Bistro Burger, so a fried egg was an added must.  The above photo is what it all looked like after a sprinkling of a pre-grated Mexican cheese blend.  Soooo powerfully but not overwhelmingly flavorful.  I would say, create your favorite burger and put the glaze on your burgers as you fry or grill them.  The glaze seals in juices and flavors from the meat and adds an awesome and flavorful crust.  If you like extreme flavors, this one is for you!!!  

Sauteing the burgers at medium heat with the glaze on both sides. It is DeLish!!!

Once again, folks, Thank You so much for your readership and viewership!  Much respect and appreciation for you!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jeanine's Chicken Saute'  

My former roommate and good friend, Jeanine, is an amazing cook.  She makes the most amazing pies Ever, and I love to eat them.  She is also a talented cook with generations of family recipes and teachings in her arsenal of dishes.  I appreciate that she honors her family and ancestors.  She is certainly not afraid to take on or invent something new that comes to mind. This, I think, is one of those "this just sounds really good" dishes and she made it with amazing ease and with incredible flavors. ***I must make a correction.  Glad I thought to ask (again).  She had watched one of her friends, co-owners of a local fantastic restaurant, make this dish, and she recreated it with her own style.   I am giving you the recipe as she gave it to me (she is amazing on technology, and I am not about to try to change it up).  This is just one of those "must do" recipes this winter.  Go for it.......

Chicken sauté 

Chicken (choose your favorite)
Thighs, drumstick, half breast
1. Clean chicken, salt and pepper
Set chicken aside
2. Prep garlic (5 large cloves)
3. In large sauté pan,
Olive oil
Garlic (p
Fresh rosemary
4. place chicken in sauté pan when pan is at medium heat.
And brown chicken (fat side first)then braise
Half way, pour in 1/2 cup to 1 cup or even two cups of white wine
Boil off alcohol until half the liquid left. Cook 30-40 minutes
5. While chicken is cooking, get water ready for noodles (egg noodles)
6. Use Wondra by gold medal
For thickening
7. When chicken looks golden brown
Add mushrooms. Lots of mushrooms.
8. Last 5 min. Cook noodle,
Butter noodles after straining
9. Take chicken out. Leave chicken juice to make gravy
10. Pour gravy over chicken

                             I cannot wait to make this dish, myself!

Recipe (per viewing a friend who had made this dish for her) and Photos by:  Jeanine Mastel, 2013



Monday, December 16, 2013

Spaghetti Stuffed Meatball Sammies with Homemade Chunky Marinara

Don't you just love a meatball sammy?  Who doesn't?   Juicy meatballs full of warm spices, both dried and fresh herbs and small pieces of spaghetti, smothered in flavorful homemade chunky marinara and topped with parmigiano cheese atop a toasted garlic roll leaves you wanting more and more. Ok, it did with me, but you be the judge.  I wish I could take credit for this one, but Rachael Ray introduced this one a few years back and I have been wanting to try it ever since.  I was not disappointed!  Let's get going.

Ingredients List
8 San Marzano or Roma tomatoes, 6 seeded and quartered  (or one large can crushed tomatoes) and the other two chopped into chunks
1 ten ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, halved + 2 cloves garlic finely grated
1 large white onion, half quartered and half finely chopped + half a white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, separated
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup parmigiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup spaghetti broken into half to inch pieces
1 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano
4 large fresh basil leaves
quarter to half teaspoon red pepper flakes  (your preference)
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I use Cento)
1 or 1.5 pounds ground beef  (I used an 90/10 mix of lean ground beef)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Some of the ingredients of tonight's dish.

In a large bowl, toss the seeded tomatoes, onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the veggies out on a baking sheet and roast fifteen minutes at 400 degrees.  Place the veggies, once cooled about five minutes, into a food processor or blender and chop and puree the veggies.  

In a large saucepan or pot, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onions and saute' until they begin to become translucent, then add the chopped tomatoes. Lightly season with salt and pepper and cook for about three minutes longer. Add the pureed veggies, the dry and/or fresh herbs and incorporate well.  Add the red wine vinegar and bring the marinara to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and stir well.  Allow to simmer on low for twenty or more minutes, if possible.  Now to the meatballs. 

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, the other half of the finely chopped onion, the finely grated garlic clove, one leaf fresh basil, finely chopped, and the half cup of broken spaghetti, the other part of the Italian seasoning and a good pinch of both salt and pepper.  Mix the meat thoroughly, folding the ingredients into the meat, trying to not overwork it.  Once incorporated, allow the meat to rest for about ten or so minutes, then form the meatballs into golf-ball sized rounds.  You could use a regular sized ice cream scoop to regulate this, if you wish.  Once formed, there are two ways to start cooking the meatballs.  You could bake them 400 for ten minutes, or, you could fry them in a skillet with evoo until the meatballs have caramelized on all sides; two sides, at least.  NOTE:  You do Not want to cook them all the way through.  They will finish cooking in the marinara sauce. I chose to fry them but I have baked meatballs before with similar, juicy results. 

Remove the meatballs and snuggle them into the marinara sauce and try to cover them with sauce.  Allow them to cook with the simmering sauce for ten to fifteen minutes more.  

Add evoo to the rolls you are going to use.  I chose sourdough rolls.  Love them!  I also sprinkled the rolls with a little garlic powder before toasting in the oven.  

 When you are ready to serve, tear up the rest of the basil leaves into small pieces.  Add cheese to both sides of the toasted roll and spoon some of the steaming, chunky, aromatic marinara over the cheese on both sides.  Scoop two meatballs out of the pot and place them on the bottom part of the roll and drizzle with marinara.  Top with finely grated parmigiano cheese, garnish with basil and serve.  

WARNING!!!  This is messy! You may want to use a knife and fork.  Orrr not!  
Enjoy!!!  Thanks for your time!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beef Short Rib Tacos

If you have not noticed by now, I LOVE tacos as much as I love burgers and pizza.  This is also not my first beef short rib taco recipe.  Last Christmas, my family decided to break open the Christmas dinner box and we had a Taco Bar for Christmas dinner.  I had a fantastic time making beef short rib tacos, citrus and chile pulled pork tacos (pibil) and regular old ground beef tacos (my mom's request).  My family is not too adventurous when it comes to spicy foods and heat, so I kept the heat to a minimum.  So this time, I decided to crank up the heat. Here is what I did. 

 Beef Short Rib Taco Ingredients:
 2 packages of beef short ribs, about 2 - 3 pounds
1 large white or 2 medium white or yellow onions, quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 Pasilla-Chile Ancho pods
3 Guajillo Chile pods
2 teaspoons Chipotle in Adobo
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
salt and pepper (to season the ribs before searing)
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seed or ground cumin
1 cup fresh chopped or torn cilantro
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed between your palms
corn or flour tortillas
grape seed or extra virgin olive oil
Lavender flower honey (or whatever honey you have)
1 box (2 cups) chicken or beef stock
1 bottle or can of Mexican beer

When you look at that list, you immediately ask yourself: "What is not to like?"  Seriously.  It all sounds incredibly mouthwatering.  And spicy.  It is, but it is decadent,delicate and balanced, all at once. We all have our own likes and dislikes, so I am sure you will make it your own, add and delete, as you wish. Isn't that the fun of food, afterall?

Season the room temperature beef short ribs with salt and pepper on all sides.  Slice the bacon strips into bite-sized bits and add to a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  You may add a little grape seed or extra virgin olive oil if you like, but with bacon, it is not necessary.  Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees.  The rack should be in the center.  

Toss the quartered onion and garlic in two tablespoons oil and place place them in a cast iron skillet or skillet oven safe up to 400 degrees.  Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven for about eighteen minutes until golden brown.  Slightly burned is fine.  That is flavor!  Meanwhile, in a saucepan, add the dried pepper pods and toast over medium heat for about three minutes.  Add water until the pods are covered and bring to a boil.  Cover and let sit off the heat about fifteen minutes, or until the peppers have reconstituted.  Tip:  I stem and seed the peppers before I toast them and place them in water.  If you want your sauce extremely hot, you could leave the seeds inside.  
The onion and garlic roasted to a nice golden brown is pure flavor. 

Place all of the roasted veggies in a food processor or blender, as well as the reconstituted peppers.  Add a cup of the saucepan pepper water and a teaspoon of honey.  The honey will help balance out the acid spice and heat.  Blend until you have a thick consistency.  Do not worry about it being thick, because you will be adding additional liquids for the braising process soon.  Leave the chile sauce in the blender until you are ready to use.  

Now, here is where I have a story to tell.  Worry not, it is shorter than most of my stories.  My friend, Maria, whom you all know well, by now, was helping me write this recipe.  It was at this point that I received several texts concerning a familial matter which I ended needing to attend to, so I had to put cooking on hold for several hours. The chile sauce had a long time to sit and the flavors had time to marry, so the flavors were quite rich.  I wish I'd had time to roast my spices and incorporate them into the sauce, too, before I had to leave, but, next time!

Back to business.  The bacon should render its fat within a few minutes; remove the bacon bits and set aside for later.  They are great for the cook to snack on!  Place the beef short ribs bone side down in the dutch oven and sear until the skin releases, about three or four minutes.  Turn and sear the meaty side for four minutes, until the meat has begun to caramelize.  The aroma will be amazing.  Trust me. When all the ribs have seared, remove the meat and add the a cup of the Mexican beer to deglaze the pot.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the burned or browned bits and stir well.  As the beer begins to burn off and reduce down, add the pepper veggie sauce along with a cup of chicken or beef stock and stir well.  Snuggle the meat back in, meaty side down, if possible, and cover with both beer and stock. Add the dry spices at this time.  Using the spoon, make sure the meat are covered and cushioned by the sauce.  Bring it to a boil and cover.  Place the dutch oven in to the oven at 375 degrees for three hours.  Afterwards, remove the meat, which, by-the-way, may well fall off the bones.  Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce by half.  

 Beef Short Ribs searing in rendered bacon fat. 

The ribs should have a beautiful caramelized sear on al sides, but not cooked all the way through, as they will braise for three hours in the chile sauce with chicken or beef stock and beer!

Beef Short Ribs removed from the braising liquid.  The meat is ready to fall off the bone and is easily shredded, as seen below!

As you shred the meat, do not forget about the reducing sauce in the very hot Dutch oven.  When you have finished shredding the meat, skim as much of the fat from the sauce as possible.  There will be a considerable layer of fat, so be aware that this will take several minutes to affect. Trust me, it will be well worth it!

Once the fat has been removed, place the meat back into the sauce and simmer for about twenty minutes.  You Could, if you like, and I love this alternative, is to take a hunk of the meat, splash down about two tablespoons of the sauce into a skillet over medium-high heat, place the meat atop that, and mix and sear until it crisps up.  I love the crisp meat and the rich, delicate heat of the sauce.  So good!  Just an alternative.  I served my beef short rib taco meat in both small four and doubled corn tortillas with cheese, my favorite hot sauce (as if the chile sauce is not hot enough!) and fresh cilantro. 
I also sprinkled a little bacon atop the cheese and hot sauce before serving.  Amazing. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  It is Perfect for our cold winter nights.  The oven heats the kitchen and the home and fills it with amazing aromas.  It is a Delicioso treat!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Roasted Spiced Chicken over Saffron Scented Couscous and with Caramelized Onions

I know that title is a bit of a mouthful, but this is just simple and easy comfort food for any time of the year.  If you are a busy student, the oven roasting time frame for the chicken frees you up to research, write or do whatever your homework tasks are. If you are a busy parent or single, this is just as simple and easy a recipe which frees you up to complete whatever tasks you might have to do before you settle in.  Or, if you are cooking for a loved one, you can simply snuggle and enjoy quality time while you wait a little while for the chicken to roast.  You will love the aromas of the saffron and herbs de provence, among other spices and herbs as you do what it is you.....well, do. With that, let's get to it, shall we? 

Here is what you will need:
1 package of 4 - 6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on.  That is just my preference for this dish, but feel free to use boneless-skinless chicken thighs, if you like. 
salt and pepper
1 rounded tablespoon of Herbs de Provence  (Love it with lavendar in the mix
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin  (adds a smoky warmth)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
2 tabs of butter
1/2 cup chicken stock (but don't put it away just yet!)
1- 2 large yellow onions, sliced into thick discs of half discs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.  In a small bowl, mix the other spices and herbs and sprinkle half of the mixture liberally on the skin side. Sprinkle the garlic over the skin side of the chicken.  Add the extra virgin olive oil and the butter to a cast iron skillet or an oven safe skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, chicken skin-side down and sear for about four minutes.  Carefully turn;  if the skin is still sticking to the skillet, however, allow it to sear another two minutes until the skin releases easily.  Turn off the heat after one minute and place the chicken onto a plate and keep it close by, along with the onions and the chicken stock. 

Arrange the onions in the center of the skillet, sprinkle the onions lightly with salt and pepper, and place the chicken atop the onion discs. Add the chicken stock to the skillet, which will help keep the chicken and onions moist.  Add half a cup of your favorite wine, too, if you wish, to add extra flavor.  Do not be afraid to add beer, either!  The alcohol burns off but leaves great flavor behind for those browning and softening onions.  It is just delicious!

Roast for 25 - 30 minutes.  You will love the aromas filling your kitchen as time goes on. 

In the meantime, add a tab of butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a medium sauce pan and melt until the butter is foamy.  In a separate small sauce pan, add 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and a pinch of deep red, aromatic saffron over medium heat.  Allow the saffron to steep on low once the stock begins to boil.  The aroma will dazzle you, I tell you.  You may get quite distracted from your multi-tasking due to the amazing aromas filling your kitchen. I must now add a vague disclaimer if you suddenly find yourself unable to continue your tasks due to the aromas floating around in your kitchen. I'm just sayin'!

Once the butter foams and mixes with the evoo, add a cup of couscous.  Toast until the couscous starts becoming a beautiful golden color, then add once finely grated garlic clove and sautee for a good minute.  Smells great, I know!  Now add the saffron scented chicken stock, stir, turn off all of the heat and cover the couscous sauce pan. That is it!  You can leave it covered until you serve the dinner as a whole!

Back to the tasks at hand!  Orrrrr not!

When it all comes together after about thirty minutes, get ready to plate.  I was cooking this dish for my son up at college, so I served the chicken with a simple salad alongside a couscous round and the caramelized onions.  

Once the chicken is done, remove it and allow to rest.  Meanwhile, place the skillet over medium-high heat and reduce any remaining liquid with the now quite softened onions. Try to skim off some of the fat with a spoon.  I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the onions just for the caramelization fun of it.  I used a small bowl and packed it with couscous (smells pretty great now!) and made a rounded stack in the center of the plate.  I added salad to one side, leaned chicken on either side and added some of that amazing caramelized onions between them.  I know, I am diligently working on my presentation skills. One of my major goals this new year. Watch me grow!

This was plate two, served up a little differently.  

Thank You, once again, for your viewing and reading time!



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pomegranate Balsamic Glazed Pork Shoulder Steak with Chimichurri and a Host of Scintillating Sides

I thought that would get your attention! Scintillating sides.  Well, they are!  My culinary partner, Maria, and her son came over Friday evening and I made them a delectable dinner.  Well, it was in my opinion, anyway.  I had found huge pork shoulder blade steaks and immediately realized how great they would be seared with a pomegranate balsamic vinegar glaze.  Maria and I had barely eaten that whole day, so we created snacks and sides to add color, freshness and incredible flavor to the main dish.  First, however, I want to tell you how I kept the pork steaks tender and juicy. Also, before I move on, stay tuned at the end of this post for a wonderfully flavorful and easy way to use leftovers!

Marinade for the pork steaks:
  4 large, thick pork shoulder blade steaks or 6 thin steaks
1/4 - 1/2 cup Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon citrus Ponzu
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
salt and pepper
*Optional:  add the juice and zest of one lemon or lime

In a medium bowl, add all of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Season the pork steaks with salt and pepper, both sides. Add half of the marinade to a large roasting pan and place the steaks in the pan.  Pour the rest of the marinade atop those and allow them to marinate for thirty minutes to an hour; more than an hour is best, but thirty minutes will be just fine if you have company coming over and you are pushed for time.  You can leave them out if it is not longer than thirty minutes, otherwise, place them into the refrigerator until thirty minutes before cooking.  

When it is time to cook, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) to a large skillet over medium-high.  Sear for three minutes per side for thin steaks, and six to eight minutes per side for steaks thick as or thicker than one inch.  Remove from the skillet and cover with foil and set aside. Thick larger steaks can be halved easily after cooking. This enables easy plate service.  You will want to top your pork shoulder steaks with my cilantro chimichurri.  It's up next!

Cilantro Chimichurri to top the Pork Shoulder Blade Steaks
1+ cups fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sriracha
3 - 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 - 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper (to taste after processing)

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a thick mixture.  You may want to add more cilantro or more evoo until you reach the desired consistency of the chimichurri.  Let sit a good hour to allow the flavors to marry.  

Ready for the sides and Snacky Snacks?

Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes:
In a large bowl, toss the 2 pounds of fingerling potatoes in the following mixture:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil
1 rounded tablespoon of fresh or dried rosemary
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a large oven safe skillet or roasting pan at 400 degrees.  Roast for 18 - 25 minutes, until the potatoes are soft inside and crispy on the outside. 

Garlicky Cheesy Baguette Bites for Snacking
Slice a baguette into several half inch slices. Spread the slices out over a baking sheet and drizzle with evoo.  Sprinkle them with smoked paprika and finely grated garlic, above two or three cloves.  Roast at 400 degrees for eight minutes.  Remove and top with a good pinch of grated parmesan cheese and if you like, mild cheddar jack cheese.  Place back into the oven until the cheese melts.  For fun, drizzle a little of the chimichurri over some slices arranged on a plate.   So good!

 And to top things off......!!!

Frisee Salad with Corn, Black Beans and Spicy Vinaigrette
Wash and shred Frisee greens, removing the thick stems.  Arrange on a serving platter.  Rinse and combine corn and black beans and spread over the frisee.  In a mall bowl, combine two or three tablespoons evoo, one tablespoon red wine vinegar, two cloves grated garlic, one teaspoon sriracha, two tablespoons grated white or red onion, pinch of salt and black pepper, one teaspoon worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of Ponzu, and two tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar.  Add one pinch of dried, crushed oregano and whisk to incorporate thoroughly.  Set aside and allow the flavors to marry, about twenty to thirty minutes. Upon serving the salad, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve family style.  Garnish with shaved parmesan and chopped scallions.  The flavors and textures are comforting but with a spicy bite.  DeLish!  


Plate up your pork shoulder blade steak, top with my cilantro chimichurri, and add both the roasted fingerling potatoes and the salad.  Savor the mixture of complimentary aromas and enjoy the flood of savory flavors!

Oh!  One more thing!!!
You may have leftovers.  I used a nice slice of San Francisco Sourdough Bread, spread garlic herb cream cheese atop the bread and placed some thinly sliced pork steak over that to create a delectable bruschetta.  I spread some leftover chimichurri (better day two!) atop the meat and added some leftover salad and more shaved parmesan.  So good!  Great for lunch or for dinner as easy leftovers!

 Thank You for your time and I hope you enjoy these recipes.  They are easy and the flavors are fantastic. Enjoy!


In-House Cook's Lasagna Rolls, Lasagna, and In-House Cook's Bacon Bacon Cheeseburgers!!!

Two QuaranDinners Terrible play on words, but I wanted to share with you all a couple of simple dinners to bust your taste buds.  Fi...