Sunday, February 23, 2014

As promised....My Follow Up Installment of "What I Have Been Up To" in my kitchen. 

 I had an idea that I realize is not a new idea (Rachael Ray has talked about this a zillion times), but as I have mentioned recently, my New Year's Resolution is to shop smarter and much more budget conscious. With that said, I have been thinking about ways to "stretch a buck". A pretty familiar term these days, right?  So I challenged myself:  how many dishes could I make - that serves four - with one package of (6) boneless/skinless chicken thighs?  You know me, I am a thigh guy;  I love the richer, juicier flavor of chicken thighs. I digress.....sorry.  These are the dishes I put together:

Chicken Fajita Pita Pizza 
 I used two chicken thighs; 1/2 yellow onion, slivered; 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated; 2 teaspoons dried oregano, halved; 2 tablespoons Smoked paprika; 1 tablespoon Chipotle powder or Pasilla powder (I used half a tablespoon of each); juice of a lime; 1/2 cup Italian cheese blend, finely grated; 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme; 1 pinch mortar/pestle roughly ground cumin seed; salt and pepper; 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

Saute the chicken for three minutes in heated evoo over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute three minutes.  Add all of the seasonings and the lime juice and saute over medium-low heat for then minutes.  Meanwhile, add garlic and/or basil infused extra virgin olive oil to two pocketless pita rounds with a brush.  I like to add a sprinkle of palm-crushed dried oregano and garlic powder to the pitas before baking three or four minutes at 400-degrees.  

Remove the pitas and, using a slotted spoon, add some of the aromatic mixture to the pita, spreading it around. Add a sprinkling of cheese and bake again for eight to ten more minutes, until the cheese and toppings are bubbling.  Remove, allow to cool a few minutes, cut, and serve. I like to add a sprinkle of oregano (my secret ingredient, as you know) or fresh basil ribbons as a garnish.  I also like to (and this may sound weird to some of you) drizzle sriracha or hot sauce to the pizza - because it IS chicken fajita, afterall!

 That is dish one!


Chicken Fajita Roll Ups

I followed the recipe above in much the same way, but I changed things up a little.  I added a half palm full of coriander seed and cumin seed, which I'd roughly ground in my mortar/pestle, and added that and the other half an onion, slivered.  I also added 2 cloves garlic, slivered. Instead of using grated cheese for the roll ups, I added baby marinated mozzarella rounds, which I'd halved. For the bread, I used Naan Flat Bread.  Ok.  Here I Must confess that I cheated a little bit with this and the next recipe.  I couldn't help myself!!!  However, if I had not cheated, the chicken thighs would Still have been more than enough for four servings. I added two garlic chicken sausage links, chopped. Simply for more fun.  Here is what it looks like.  
I added sriracha to give it even more of a kick!  

 This makes four roll ups.  So good for lunches, and really filling!


Rigatoni with Chicken in Semi-Homemade Pasta Sauce

In a skillet, I added 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat.  I added two chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces which I'd added a little dusting of salt and pepper to.  In addition, while it sauteed, I added a sprinkling of paprika, Italian seasoning, fresh basil, finely chopped (I know, Nonnas, don't be mad!) and a pinch of dried oregano crushed in my palms. Meanwhile, in a high-sided sauce pan, I added two pints of grape tomatoes, halved, sprinkled with salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  I covered the pot for about twelve minutes over medium-high heat until the juices flowed from the little tomato halves.  I crushed them with a potato masher.  Not original, but effective, right?  To that, I added one 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, juice and all, along with one tablespoon of dried Italian seasonings and fresh basil ribbons, about two tablespoons, and simmered that for about ten minutes before smashing those, as well.  My goodness, the aroma was fantastic!  After that, I boiled my rigatoni in liberally salted water in a large pot, until al dente. 

*As I mentioned above, in the previous post this evening, i cheated a little by adding two more) garlic chicken sausage links, chopped into discs.  As I stated above, had I not, the chicken thighs would have sufficed quite well.  As it was, one small plate was more than enough to fill me up!  I just cheated because I really wanted to try the sausage.  

As I normally do, I drained the pasta, saving a partial cup of the starchy cooking water, added the pasta to the sauce, along with the saved part cup of pasta water, and tossed the pasta with the sauce.  I wanted the sauce to cling to the rigatoni for the best possible flavor experience.  I served myself simply, just adding a little sprinkle of cheese over the pasta.  Very filling and satisfying!  

I was very excited to be able to prepare three dishes with four servings each with one package of boneless/skinless chicken thighs.  YES, I know, I cheated a little, but as I said, without the sausage, the meals would stand alone in their own right.  Take the challenge!  You will Not be sorry!  So much savory flavor in each dish!  Enjoy!  
Thank You gentle readers!  I appreciate your time and support!   


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Yet Another Episode of "What I Have Been Up To Lately..."

I have been quite a busy home cook the last two weeks.  I cooked for my mother's birthday shindig in the middle of the month and, more recently,  decided to get in some culinary therapy and thinking this last Thursday evening, and I am excited to share with you how my idea turned out.  First things first:  Momma's Birthday Menu. I decided on a simple but tasty set of snacks and easy to assemble meal. There were only four people, including myself, for this shindig.  I have to confess, however, that I somehow deleted the photo of the final meal assembly, but it was extremely buffet style simple.  I will get to that very shortly.  First.....

Pizza in a Biscuit. 
I worked on this recipe two more times before getting it just right! I followed my usual biscuit recipe, but because my aunt does not like salami, I used sopressata and a blend of Italian cheeses for the biscuit stuffing.  (Please see my "Pizza in a Biscuit" post from just a few weeks ago.  Thanks!). I added egg wash to the top and bottom biscuit cut outs to seal the shell better, which worked great, as well as to the top of the shell before adding parmesan cheese.  You can see the color turned out perfectly.  I was very happy with this final product.  

Next, 24-Hour Marinated and Seared Skirt Steak Bruschetta...

 For 24 hours I marinated four skirt steaks (two for this dish, two for an upcoming dish) in:  3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, the zest of one lemon and the  juice of one and a half lemons, three cloves garlic, crushed and grated, 2 teaspoons coriander seed and cumin seed, ground roughly in my mortar w/pestle, salt and pepper, 2 teaspoons chipotle powder, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, one hand full of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped, and half a palm of dried oregano, crushed between my palms.  

I seared the steaks over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes one side, two minutes on the other before turning off the heat.  I allowed the steaks to rest several minutes and then sliced into one to two inch slivers.  Meanwhile, I had sliced up a Demi French Break roll, drizzled evoo over each slice (about 20), sprinkled each with only a dusting of garlic powder and a good pinch of finely grated mozzarella, asiago and fontina cheese.  I baked those slices at 400 degrees for eight minutes, until the cheese began bubbling and starting to brown. I removed the bread, and began topping it with the steak after allowing the bread to cool for about three minutes.  I garnished with scallions and a sprinkling of the cheese blend and sriracha sauce drops around the plate. 


Don't Forget The Salad!!!

I sliced blood orange and red grapefruit and tangerines into discs (red was the theme) and arranged them on a large platter.  I sliced blackberries and strawberries to also adorn the plate.  While performing that task, I reduced a half cup of balsamic vinegar and half a cup of pomegranate balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of honey and the zest of one lemon and juice of half a lemon until it became thick.  I reduced it by a half.  I love the condensed powerful flavors! To garnish, I drizzled my reduction over the top and sprinkled with fresh basil ribbons.  Sometimes, I add mozzarella cheese to this and call it my Citrus Caprese Salad.  I like the sound of it, regardless of how wrong it is.

Seriously good, folks!

What you are Not going to get to see, however, is the main meal.  Simple cheeseburgers on Kaiser rolls, which is what my mom pretty much wanted. I am sorry I forgot to take a photo of the buffet line I'd set up.  I live in a nice-sized, yet, still small one-bedroom apartment, so you can imagine that I do not work and play in a sprawling beautiful kitchen, so a buffet line on my counter top and rolling culinary cart butcher block top was not glorious, but it was functional. 


Please stay tuned for another episode of What I Have Been Up To.....later this evening.  I will present to you how I stretched a chicken buck, making three hearty meals with one package of (6) boneless/skinless chicken thighs.  Good fun and good food!  See you this evening!!!  Here is a sneak preview!

Chicken Fajita Naan Flat Bread Roll Up!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pizza in a Biscuit

I remember mornings when my mom would make biscuits with bacon and eggs.  She likes English muffins, which is how I came to love them, but I love flaky, buttery biscuits above any breakfast or dinner bread.  When I began cooking, baking was the one thing I feared the most - and still do - because, if it can be wrecked, I am the one to do it, and really badly!  But I can never give up on making biscuits. I have made my fair share of disasters, though.  I like to make my biscuits from scratch, using whole wheat flour.  I one time forgot one or two key baking ingredients and they turned out like rocks.  Despite such disasters, I persist.  

I am one of those die-hard butter users when I make biscuits, instead of shortening or lard.  My Grandma P - bless her - made The BEST biscuits I have ever put into my face.  Her secrets were shortening, she used a cast iron skillet (for Everything) and her most precious ingredient:  Love.  I miss her. 
I did not spend much time as a child out in the country with my paternal grandparents, although I enjoyed staying with them more so as a kid than a teenager.  I was a dumb teenager for not staying there more often.  My G-Ma P's cooking was always a masterful occasion.  Very down home, good old-fashioned amazingly flavorful cooking.  I will never forget the aromas of her cooking, and most certainly, I will Never forget her biscuits. I would float into the kitchen like a cartoon character when she took them out of the oven.  I will forever strive to make biscuits like her.

Alright, let's go to it.  I am sure you are tired of my reminiscing.  Sorry. 

I love pizza, too, which, in my humble opinion, should be a food group. I am sure you all know why.  I love sausage, pancetta and bacon biscuits with egg and cheese, so why not make a biscuit with pizza fixings?  And so I did.  

Here is where I must confess my sin.  Because I was experimenting with ingredients yesterday, I (blushing) used a boxed biscuit mix. Don't be hatin'!  Now that I know how awesome these are, next time I will make the biscuits from scratch and I will post them here for you.  In the meantime, keeping my chin up, here is what I did:

My Ingredients:
6 slices of peppered salami or sopressata, finely chopped
8 slices of pepperoni, finely chopped
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup your favorite Italian cheeses  (I used a store-bought mix of finely grated mozzarella, asiago smoked provolone, Romano, Fontina and Parmesan).
1 teaspoon Tuscan seasoning (found in the spice section of your grocery store)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
2 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
1/2 stick iced butter, finely cubed
1 cup milk
2 cups biscuit mix (I used Bisquick) 
1/2 cup pizza marinara
1 egg

 I did not picture the egg as it is not part of the original biscuit recipe, but because my G-Ma P always used one, I did, too.  

Grind up the cumin seeds and the Tuscan seasoning and add it to your dry biscuit ingredients, and stir them in thoroughly.  Add the half cup of parmesan cheese to the dry mix and incorporate the cheese, as well, very thoroughly.  I know, this is going to taste so great!  Finish making your biscuits per your recipe.  When you roll out the dough on a floured board or stone, cut out 18 circles. On each circle, add a small dollop of the pizza sauce. 

You are going to make nine biscuits this batch. Now you have nine tops and nine bottoms.  Add a teaspoon of the meats and a teaspoon of the cheese and place the top biscuit circle over the bottom.  Gently pinch the seams together.  In hindsight, I wish I had used a second egg, beaten it, and used it to seal the biscuit circles together.  Next time!!! Top each biscuit with a pinch of parmesan cheese and bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Remove the freshly baked biscuits after about 15 minutes.  They will be beautiful golden brown on top!

Cut open the biscuits and smell that Italiano flavor and enjoy the pizza in a biscuit!

ENJOY, gentle readers!
Thanks so much for your time and consideration!
Enjoy Cooking!

What I Have Been Up To.....Again...

This last week has seen me enjoying some simple yet flavorful dishes, as well as creating a fantastic first-time dish, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  Here, I want to share with you two of the simple, minor but quite tasty dishes I put together:  Chicken Saute Pita Pizza and Egg in Foccacia with Garlic and Herb Roasted New Potatoes.  Hope you like these!

Chicken Saute Pita Pizza
For those evenings when want something healthy and filling without the effort, this pizza will seal the deal.  If you are having unexpected company and are on a strict budget, you can make two pizzas for under ten dollars.  

Here is what you will need:
1 package pocketless pitas (use 2 - 4 pitas)
1/2 cup of your favorite cheese  (I used a 6 Italian Cheese blend) and Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, one crushed and placed in a half cup of olive oil and the other sliced into chips
1 medium red onion, slivered
6 - 10 sun dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, half in the skillet and half in the half cup of olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons chive goat cheese (or your favorite)
2 - 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper
some fresh cilantro or parsley cut for garnish

In a skillet, add three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil from the half cup of olive oil fusing with garlic, over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, reduce to medium and add the slivered red onion and the garlic chips. Saute until the onions become slightly translucent. 

 Add the chicken and spices and saute over medium heat until nearly finished, about six to eight minutes.  

Meanwhile, place two pitas on a pizza stone or baking sheet. Brush generously with the garlic infused olive oil and bake for three minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove. 

Add a slight dusting of cheese to the pita. Spoon up some of the chicken saute, allowing the juices to drip off of the saute, and spread some out over the pita. Arrange some of the goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes.  Dust with a bit more cheese and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.  The edges will crisp up and the cheese will melt and the filling will cook through. 

Remove and cut with a pizza cutter.  Sprinkle with your garnish, fresh or dried.  I sprinkled mine with dried basil to give it an aromatic advantage. 

Okay, one more for fun!
 Takes about thirty to forty minutes to make and bake and far less time to eat! Enjoy!


Egg in Foccacia with Garlic and Herb Roasted New Potatoes

I have seen many people make this dish before.  Nothing new here, except a ton of flavor! I have found a company in Sacramento, California, who makes Foccacia bread in loaves.  It is quite the shopping coup!  I simply take a slice of bread, cut a circle out of the center of the bread with my biscuit cutter and crack an egg into the hole when I have the bread in a hot skillet with a little butter under it.  The egg hardens when it cooks.  In the meantime, in a smaller skillet, i seared up a little pork belly and left the rendering in which to roast my cut up new potatoes.  I placed a few garlic chips and some cumin seed in the hot rendering and tossed the potatoes (two, cut into bite-sized pieces) in it and roasted them for fifteen minutes at 400 degrees.  LOVE how cast iron skillets cook so evenly and in shorter time frames!  My grandma knew what she was doing using only cast iron skillets! 

When all is done, i plate and sprinkle with a little cheese and fresh cilantro for garnish and enjoy a hot, comforty dish of down home food. Delicious!  I also like to drizzle a little sriracha or another of my favorite hot sauces down over it.  It is a family thing; we love hot sauce!

 Hope you enjoyed this installment of What I Have Been Up Too.....Again...

Things I Have Been Up To......

Hello, my awesome, gentle readers!  I am sorry I have been away for so long!!! 
I have been up to a great deal!!!
I have made gnocchi (for the very first time!) under the tutelage of Chef Adam Hinojosa of San Francisco.  I have made a manly-man but-made-for-Everyone burger, and I have fit a pizza inside a biscuit!  Actually, I have created a fun Italian seasoned cheesy biscuit stuffed with peppered salami, pepperoni, pizza marinara and six Italian cheeses and fresh shredded basil.  My son loved it, so I know I "done good". 

I will be blogging all of these dishes and more very soon!  
Stay tuned!



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