Monday, September 29, 2014

An Oldie But Goodie....
Jo's Hamburger on French Bread...Marty Style!

Back in the days of marriage, children, mortgages and car payments, stretching a buck was very important, and my wife was GREAT at it.  Me?  Not so much.  We must never speak of it. One of my all-time favorite dishes, other than her lasagna (which should be a food group) is her Hamburger on French Bread.  It was very simple.  Sliced french bread, hamburger smooshed over the top of it and broiled.  I always topped it with mustard and hot sauce and loved it.  Being on pantry meals (using what you have on hand as going to the store is out of the question) this month, I used frozen french bread, hamburger and cherry tomatoes and a little sopressata, and some scallions left over from my second version of my When Pasta Met Garlic dish.  Anywho...This meal is for any college student, any single or any uber busy family working hard to make all of those payments and who struggle to get kids to eat in between extracurricular activities and homework.  I'm a teacher, I know these things well. 

Let's get started.  

1 pound of ground beef (the leaner the better)
2 scallions, chopped angularly
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped, separated in half
half a pint of yellow and red tomatoes (but who cares what color they are, right?), halved 
sliced french bread
salt and pepper
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, separated
1/2 cup white zinfandel, chardonnay or sauvingnon blanc vino 

Options:  four-six slices of salami, sliced chorizo or sopressata, slivered;
one scallion, finely chopped; parmesan cheese, grated, 3/4 cup; half a red onion, finely chopped

 Add the ground beef to a large bowl along with anything else you would like to add to it.  I added a little red onion, about two tablespoons parmesan cheese and a clove of grated garlic. Incorporate well without overmixing and set aside.  

 Meanwhile, brush or drizzle extra virgin olive oil atop the french bread slices and top that with a little blanket of parmesan cheese and bake until the cheese just begins to melt, about five minuets.  Remove and set aside. 

When the bread has cooled, use your hands, which are your best kitchen tools, to spread hamburger thinly, about 1/4 inch thick, atop the bread.  

 You should be able to fit 6 french bread slices on a baking pan.
Place under the broiler about eight minutes, but not on the top rack, until the meat begins to crust and brown.  The bread crust may begin to burn.  You may need to turn the baking pan around to avoid further crust burning.  

For a very flavorful topper, other than the mustard I enjoyed on mine in the old days, the following is an elegant and grown up idea.  In a non-stick skillet, add the remaining extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the halved cherry tomatoes and the remainder of the grated garlic.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Bring the heat up to medium-high and add the wine.  When the wine boils and sizzles, reduce the heat to a simmer.  Allow the tomatoes to simmer for twenty minutes, until the wine has cooked out.  The flavors will be incredible. 

Plate your Hamburger on French Bread and top it with your hot tomato reduction.  Scatter scallions atop the reduction, along with a little parmesan and some fried sopressata, if you have that.  This adds color and texture and flavor.  You will love it. Trust me. This is a singles or a family winning dish. 

Thanks, again, for your time and viewership!  
Hope you really like this one!
Yet ANOTHER episode of "What I have been up to in my kitchen...."
Before I get into the few things I have actually been up to in my kitchen, followed by a second blog recipe post, I just want to say I have Really Missed writing for you.  I am excited to have this opportunity - first time in nearly a month - to show you some of the simple but tasty dishes I have worked on when I have had time.  I am a teacher, therefore, my day is full of organizing, planning, teaching, grading and more, so by the end of the day, I do not always have the brain power to organize, plan and write above and beyond that. Working on it.  Alright, on to the dishes!
 Starting out of order, but the other day, I was craving pancakes.  I had found that I'd left my boxed pancake mix at my mom's, so I texted my partner in culinary crime, Miss Maria, and asked her for her from scratch recipe.  I used one cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, one egg and nearly a cup of 2% milk.  I normally use buttermilk, but, as this was an end-of-the-month pantry meal, regular milk came to the rescue!  I also added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.  I did not have peanut butter, one of my secret ingredients, melted along with butter, honey and cinnamon, so a teaspoon of cinnamon had to do.  And do it did!  To my batter in a skillet over medium heat with melted butter, I added two teaspoons of my Rose Raspberry Reduction (fresh raspberries reduced in a White Zinfandel vino with lemon zest, lemon juice and honey).  

Flip, and Finally.........

My Drunken Raspberry Pancakes. I drizzled some of the raspberry reduction atop the hot pancakes and butter, and topped with fresh berries.  So good!  No syrup necessary!


  My Italian Burger stuffed with an egg and basil greens on top.  This may be a repeat, but it was good round two! The hamburger meat is mixed with fresh oregano, fresh chiffonad basil, diced red onion and garlic, Italian seasoning and a shot of zinfandel wine. It is topped with melted provolone and sweet Italian chile rings.  So good!
In addition to that.............

My King Cut Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops.  I served this with a simple almost meatless rotini bake.  Let's start with the chops.  I slit the chops (too much) and baked them at 400 degrees after seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Very simple seasonings, but perfect for pork.  I baked for 20 minutes, stuffed with the cheese and baked them for 20 minutes more.  The cheese began to ooze and bubble and the chops opened up.  I did not want them to open up, so lesson learned, do not cut them end-to-end, but make the incision deep enough to keep the filling inside.  Plus, if I'd had apples or sausage, I would have added the blue cheese to that, but alas, this is still a pantry dish, using what I had on hand, as going to the store was not an option.  My lesson for everyone IS:  you can still cook good meals with freezer and pantry items, stretch a buck, and enjoy your food!

I also made a simple rotini pasta bake with Manchego cheese.  This is a true thirty minute meal or less.  I began boiling water for my rotini.  Salted it lightly (for my mom, who is a heart patient, so very lightly, otherwise, I would salt it liberally, as it the only chance you have to season the pasta) and let it cook to al dente before straining.  Meanwhile, to a large high-sided sauce pan, I added a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, half a chopped red onion and 2 cloves garlic, diced and 6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonad. When the onions started to become translucent and soft, I added a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomato pure.  I brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to a low simmer until the pork chops finished so the flavors could marry.  The aroma of the sauce made me light headed....really simple and good. 

I sprayed a baking pan with non-stick olive oil spray and added a modest layer of sauce.  To that, I added the hot rotini I'd tossed liberally in the pasta sauce.  Atop that, I simply added a cup of shredded Manchego cheese (all I had on hand) and a cup of crispy diced bacon bits.  I baked for 18 minutes until the cheese was bubbly and began to brown.  Amazing aroma, I tell ya!  I removed that and chops and let them both rest. 

Here's my final plated product. 

And FINALLY.......................

Something I have done before, previously blogged, I believe, but this time in slider form:  My Taco Burger Sliders. Small tortilla wrapped burger patties topped with a green chile sauce and Oaxaca cheese. 

I had one pound of pretty lean ground beef, 85% lean, and some tortillas on hand.  I had been having tacos for a few days, LOVE the flavor of authentic Mexican tacos, but craved a burger.  Why not have a combinacion?  So, to the meat, I added 1 tablespoon of ground onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of ground pasilla chile and one teaspoon of smoked, ground chipotle powder (courtesy of my friends Kim and Morgan, of Sweet n Savory, whom you can follow on Twitter @sweetnsvry), two sprigs of my fresh oregano from my potted garden and two teaspoons of roasted green chiles for moisture.  I mixed the seasonings with the meat and made six little patties.  I fried them up.....

which smelled amazing.  Meanwhile, as the burgers were frying, I made my special sauce.  I had yogurt - yes, yogurt - in my frig, but not mayo, and to a half cup of plain Greek yogurt, I added the rest of the green chiles from my 4-0z can along with some chopped pickled jalapenos and finely chopped fresh cilantro.  I placed a taco-sized whole wheat tortilla on a cutting board, swirled a tablespoon of the sauce, placed the patty in the center, added a little more sauce and topped it with slivers of Oaxaca cheese.  Oaxaca is my favorite cheese, period.  It is the Mexican version of Mozzarella.  So good!  I folded the tortilla like an envelope, in a way, and pinned it together with specially placed toothpicks.  I believe, in my previous blog post, I used burrito-sized tortillas and fried them, which made it easier.  But, this was slider-sized, using whole wheat, low fat tortillas, using yogurt, so this was a bit healthier.  To continue, I baked the Taco Burgers on a baking sheet topped with parchment paper.  Made clean up a snap!
The baked taco burgers.  

Here's the final product. 

Hope you try these!  Simple, easy, flavorful party dishes!  Great for paper plates!


One of the last things I wanted to leave you with is, I have begun creating marinades and spice rubs for various uses.  I have begun marinating meats overnight and then freezing them until I want to use them.  That includes spice rubbed meats.  Here are some samples.  I label each gallon-sized zip-lock bag.  Just a good idea for busy families and for future reference!

Could this BE any easier?  

Thanks for your time, friends.  I appreciate your viewership more than you know! 
Please stay tuned for my next post...tonight!  It's an oldy but goodie!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Me, in my friend, Erin's kitchen
Welcome, Friends, and Meet My Friend, Jack!

Hi Friends!  Wow, it Has been a very long time since my last post!  Thanks to the many friends who have continued supporting my humble little blog.  Now, it is no secret that I am a big fan of Twitter.  Much of my blog networking happens on Twitter, and I have met many, many incredible chefs, food bloggers, fantastic home cooks and friends (all of the above!).  One of the people whom I have Twitter-met is Jack Knight, a young inspiring home cook from Great Britain.  Jack is an inspiration to me because he has been the cook I regret not being, one who has been in the kitchen since childhood.  In addition, he has undertaken an enormous task which I, too, must undertake, and that is to shed pounds.  Jack has shed an incredible amount of weight by changing the foods he loves and creating healthy versions of them, by choosing moderation over splurging, and by exercise.  Jack is a truly amazing guy with an incredibly sharp wit, understanding of the world beyond his young years, and is quite the colorful character.  With that, PLEASE meet My Friend, Jack, my guest food blogger.  You can follow Jack at:  
1st Guest Post
Jul 25

This post is inspired by the 'Spilling the Beans' and 'Cup of Tea' interviews in the magazine of my favourite supermarket: Waitrose. I'm not sure if they have John Lewis shops in America, perhaps one of my readers there could let me know in the comments?

So, without further ado, pull up a chair, help yourself to coffee or tea and a cookie. Let's begin.

Name: Jack Knight

Age: 27

Describe yourself: Lifestyle blogger, gay, geek, slight fitness freak, home cook, reader.

Think of a moment that changed. your life: The first time I saw the film 'Julie and Julia'. I was going through a "What path should my life go on?", crisis, and I watched it and realised that I should try food blogging.

What song sums up your life? There's two songs that sum up my life at the moment. First one is by Talking Heads, 'Psycho Killer'. The lyrics go like this: "I can't seem to face up to the facts; I get so nervous, I just can't relax. Can't sleep coz my bed's on fire, Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire."

The second song is Will Young's "I'm Feeling Happy Now", I think that's what it's called.

Someone is going to make a film based on you, and you have the say on who's going to play you. Who would you pick? Okay, I've given this a lot of thought, and I've decided on two possibilities. Daniel Radcliffe, because I'm told I look like him, and a stand-up comedian named Jack Whitehall, because I'm posh and rude apparently.

What childhood menu do you still crave? My Mum's chicken casserole. She always cooked it on Saturdays because my grandmother was coming and she really liked it.

Were you a fussy eater when growing up? Definitely. I was extremely fussy. I remember not liking pasta, pizza, mushrooms, and dark chocolate, all of which I love now.

Are you a fussy eater now? Are you fucking kidding? These days I am trying to not have many sweet things in my diet, I do allow myself a cookie or a brownie now and then. I also try to have wholemeal/whole-wheat anything whenever I can, and there's always plenty of vegetables, berries and cherries, plain yogurt and salad stuff in the fridge, and loads of bananas, grapes and apples in the fruit bowl.

Describe your kitchen at home: Seeing as I'm moving at this moment in time, it is rather chaotic, boxes everywhere.

Since you're moving, what would you change about your new kitchen? I don't know what my future kitchen is going to look like, so I can't say.

What are you like in the kitchen? I like to be alone in the kitchen, nothing worse than someone coming in and interrupting my trail of thought. But if you insist on being in the kitchen, I'd rather you helped by preparing a side dish or something.

Any cooking disasters you'd rather forget? I can't think of any I'd rather forget.

Share a great cooking tip: If you make a mistake, don't worry. It's all part of being human. Even the greatest chefs fuck up from time to time.

What drives you on? The desire to have good food on the table, and to make sure that everyone's eating healthily.

Who taught you how to cook? A mixture of people; my mother, my Godmother, my Home Economics tutors; and some of my friends. I've also taught myself through cookbooks and recipes from various blogs.

Do you have a signature dish? I am currently on the lookout for one, although everyone seems to the brownies that I make.

What's the most unusual food you've ever eaten? Now, you'd think with my being a food-obsessed guy, I'd have tried many things. Unfortunately I haven't. But I suppose the most unusual thing I've eaten was on a trip to Finland about a decade ago. It was a reindeer steak. It was okay, but I'd rather have a medium beef steak.

Where do you like to eat out? In the market town nearest to me is a pub called 'The Swan', and their steak roll is amazing. It's a ciabatta roll split in half, filled with rocket/arugala leaves, caramelised onion chutney, horseradish mayonnaise and slivers of medium steak.

Favourite junk food? Sweet chilli flavour crisps/potato chips.

Favourite kitchen gadget? A good sharp knife or my hands, clean of course.

Favourite food writers? British: Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and a young man called Sam Stern. American: Amanda Hesser, Dorie Greenspan, Mark Bittman and Tyler Florence. Blogging wise, I am a big fan of Molly Wizenberg (Orangette), Adam Roberts (The Amateur Gourmet) and the lovely Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen).

If you could ban any restaurant dish, what would it be? The Hawaiian pizza.

Wine or beer? Neither I prefer lager with lime, or cider.

Mars bar or Snickers bar? I am a big fan of the Snickers bar.

How do you have your tea/coffee? I like both with just a little milk, no sugar. (And I don't mean tea and coffee mixed together.)

It's your final meal, what's on the menu? Oh crumbs. Croque Monsieur with a glass of pear cider, followed by an oatmeal, raisin and chocolate chunk cookie. Incidentally, that is what I've had for lunch today. Uh-oh!

And finally, do you have a favourite quotation? I have many. But I'll leave you with this John Adams quote: We need to make books cool again, so if you go  round someone's house and they don't have books, don't fuck them. And if all they have is an e-reader, still don't fuck them.
Say Hello to Jack!
Jack, in his Chef's shirt. 

Thanks, Jack, for your guest post!  I am excited to see what dishes you present to us in your next guest spot!