Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Year's Beans and Greens – Like Winning the Lottery, Except You Eat the Ticket!

Eating beans and greens on New Year’s Day is an annual tradition that supposedly brings prosperity and good fortune. Does it work? Who knows, but what do you have to lose? I mean, even if there is nothing to this ancient superstition, at the very least you get to enjoy one of the world’s great comfort foods. 

Here are some ideas that may, or may not, help get you into a higher tax bracket. Just click the recipe name, and you’ll see the original posts with ingredients. Enjoy!

Italian-Style Beans and Greens

So simple, so good, so comforting, and so a lot of other things. Italian soul food at its best.

Utica Greens and Beans

This delicious good luck charm hails from Utica, NY, and in addition to the obvious ingredients, also features pancetta or prosciutto.

Black Eyed Peas with Pork & Greens

They say the coloration on black eyed peas makes them look like coins, which adds to that whole prosperity in the New Year thing. Sure, if you squint, I guess. Very tasty nonetheless.

Brazilian Feijoada

You'll have to serve this with a side of braised greens if you're serious about getting rich in 2015, but either way, this amazing stew is not to be missed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Of Lobster Bisques and Christmas Breaks

Lobster bisque is one of our yearly holiday traditions, and since I’m making a batch today, I thought I’d repost the video in case you want to add another very special course to your Christmas or New Year’s Eve menu. Markets often have specials on lobster this time of year, and if you can find a couple, this is a real crowd pleaser.

By the way, we’re closing up shop for the Christmas Holiday, and taking a little break until the New Year. Don’t worry, I promise not to rest too much, as I’ll be busy cooking and filming new episodes. I sure hope they match up with your resolutions! Let me guess, you’d like to see something low-carb and high in fiber? It’s like I’m a mind reader.

Thank you for another great year on the blog, and for your continued enthusiastic and inspiring support. We had a lot of laughs, and I avoided any actual work for another year. That’s a pretty sweet deal. Happy Holidays to you and yours, and as always, enjoy!

Click here to see original the Lobster bisque post!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Edible Holiday Gift Idea: Candied “Buddha’s Hand” Citron

Welcome to our annual homemade edible gift episode, where you finally figure out what to get that “special” (aka super-picky and has everything) foodie on your holiday list. By the way, if you’re a fan of candied citrus, you ‘ll want to make extra, since Buddha’s Hand is a unique and special treat.

To me this crazy looking fruit tastes/smells like a really fragrant Meyer lemon with hints of grapefruit, and if you can find it, I recommend you give it a go. It’s not cheap, but what is? If you can’t find it, don’t despair; this technique works perfectly fine with strips of orange or lemon peel.

Regarding the blanching step I mention in the video; I heard that pre-boiling wasn’t necessary for this fragrant fruit, as it’s not as bitter as other types of citrus, so I tested it both ways, and I’m glad I did.

The batch I boiled in water first had virtually no bitterness left, and still had a fairly strong citrus flavor. The batch that was candied raw definitely had a more fragrant aroma and vibrant taste, but unfortunately there was a distinct bitter aftertaste.

So, I recommend the boiling step, especially if you’re going to be making this primarily as a candy. If you were going to be cooking with it, in things like fruitcakes, then you could probably get away with the bigger flavor, and slight bitter edge.

Either way, I hope you can get your hands on some of these hands, and give this fun, and easy to make holiday confection a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 2 cups of candied citron:
(warning, I didn’t measure very carefully, but that doesn’t matter here. As long as you have enough simple syrup to cook your citrus in, you are fine)
3 cups cubed Buddha’s Hand citron, washed thoroughly, or other citrus peel, sliced into 1/4-inch strips (simmer in plain water for 20-30 minutes before candying step)
2 1/2 cups sugar (plus extra for tossing the candied fruit in)
2 cups water
- cook on medium heat, stirring, until the syrup reaches 230F.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Truffled Cauliflower Gratin – Now 100% Truffle Oil Free

This cauliflower gratin would typically be “truffled” with truffle oil, but I’ve never been a big fan. Truffle oils are almost always synthetically produced, one-dimensional, and way too overpowering. 

So, in this otherwise humble gratin, we’re going to use another, much more delicious delivery system…truffle pecorino. For less than $10 worth of cheese, I think you can get a much nicer, truer truffle flavor – plus, it’s cheese. By the way, if you know they actually make this cheese with synthetic truffle oil, please keep it to yourself, and don't spoil it for me. 

This stuff is pretty easy to find in fancy grocery stores with decent sized cheese departments, but if you can’t, I’ve seen it online at even better prices.

It’s worth the effort to find, and turns this already great casserole into something truly special, and with side dish season in full swing, I really hope you consider giving this truffled cauliflower gratin a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6-8 Portions
6 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 tsp salt or to taste
pinch of cayenne
pinch of nutmeg
5 to 6 oz wedge of truffle pecorino, grated
1 large head of cauliflower
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano as needed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a few fresh chives to garnish

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Culinary School in a Box, and Too-Good-to-Eat Christmas Cookies

My friends at have put together a series of online cooking classes, which could make a great gift for the foodies on your list. Whether they admit it or not, we all know your friends and family are envious of your culinary abilities, and secretly wish you’d teach them some of your skills.

Since that’s not going to happen anytime soon (hey, you’re busy, and they can’t afford your rates anyway), why not do the next best thing, and make them learn themselves? With any luck, they’ll practice their “homework” on you. Plus, think of all the time you’ll save wrapping a present.

In case you’re wondering, while I completely stand behind this offering, I'm not personally involved in the course instruction, nor do I directly profit from subscriptions to the school. For more info, head over to Enjoy!

Christmas Cookie Decorating Ideas

I’m not much of a cookie guy, and even less of a decorating cookie guy; so, since I’m no help, I thought I’d pass along this great post by Karen Gaudette, called 21 Fun And Creative Cookie Decorating Ideas. Because Christmas.

Ironically, the ultimate goal with this kind of thing is to make a cookie so amazing, so intricate, and so visually arresting, that no one would dare bite into it. “How were the cookies? No idea, they were too nice to eat.” Just imagine. Enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Cornish Pasty – Going to Fall Down a Mineshaft? This is the Meat Pie For You!

This Cornish pasty is one of those rare recipes that novice cooks will find easier to make than experienced bakers. That’s because to make this to its original, and very sturdy specifications, you’re forced to over-mix the dough…a cardinal sin that literally gives pie makers nightmares.

Like any pastry dough, we’re just adding just enough ice water to bring everything together, but unlike classic pie dough, we’re going to knead the mixture for a couple minutes past that point.  Thanks to a little thing called muscle memory, this is not going to be easy for some of you.

Get over it; because once you taste and feel the final product, it will all make sense. The tougher, but not tough dough is the perfect delivery system for the meaty filling. Speaking of which, I went with a fairly traditional version, and provided the recipe below, but this great crust will work with all sorts of stuffings.

You could use cooked meat in these, but part of what makes them so good, is how the raw ingredients cook in their own juices, while encased in the tasty dough. I can’t imagine many things that wouldn’t be great in these.

By the way, this recipe is dedicated to my mother-in-law Peggy, who requested it about five years ago. It was one of her favorite foods growing up, and I’m curious to hear how close I got. I hope you give this easy, and delicious meat pie a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Cornish pasty

4 cups bread flour (mine weighed in at 1-lb 2-oz)
2 oz (4 tbsp) cold butter
3 oz (6 tbsp) cold lard
1 1/2 tsp salt
about 2/3 to 3/4 cup ice water, or enough to just bring dough together (start with about 1/2 cup, and then drizzle in more as needed)

For the steak filling:
12oz cubed beef skirt steak
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup diced gold potatoes
1/3 cup diced turnip
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp butter, cut into 8 thin slices

For the egg wash:
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tsp water

- Bake pasties at 350 F. for about an hour or until browned and bubbly

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pine Cone Cheese Ball – So Good, You’ll Want to Hug a Tree

Any cheese ball is a welcome addition to a holiday party spread, but when you bring one that looks like a pine cone, you’re talking about a real showstopper. 

The only danger, as I joked about in the intro, would be hurting the feelings of other guests who also decided to bring a cheese ball, sans camouflage. Hey, they’ll just have to raise their game next year.

Obviously, this seasonally appropriate appetizer can be made using any cheese spread, or cheese ball recipe, but if you’re going to use this one, which comes highly recommended, we should talk about the garlic. I love raw garlic, and since I felt a little cold coming on, I decided to be generous with the amount.

For normal people, two cloves might be a little strong here, so fair warning. If you’re a fan of roasted garlic, that would be beautiful in this as well. Also, if you’re a fan of our beer cheese recipe, there’s no way that wouldn’t be perfect too. I really hope you give this easy, delicious, and gorgeous-to-look-at pine cone cheese ball a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for one giant or two normal size pine cone cheese balls:
2 package (8 ounce ea.) cream cheese
4 ounce goat cheese
Salt, pepper and cayenne taste
1/2 to 2 cloves minced garlic, depending on how strong you want it, or roasted garlic cloves to taste
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme leaves
whole almonds as needed

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ricotta Pie – Call It “Cheesecake” At Your Own Risk

You would certainly be well within your rights to call this ricotta pie a “cheesecake,’ except then your guests would be expecting cheesecake, and that might cause some problems. 

If you tell me I’m about to get a slice of cheesecake, I’m picturing something tall, dense, sweet, and very rich. Those adjectives are why people order cheesecake in the first place.

That’s why this lighter, less sweet variation is being called a ricotta pie. So much of cooking for people is managing expectations, and a recipe’s name is a big part in that. Moving past semantics, I really enjoyed this cannoli-inspired take on the rustic Italian classic.

I played around with a hybrid pie-dough/cookie crust, with flavors borrowed from a cannoli shell, as well as studded the filling with chocolate and candied orange; also common features of that other ricotta-based dessert. If you don’t want to mess around with my crust, or you’re still trying to do the paleo thing, you can skip that step, and just butter and flour the pan first. Your favorite graham cracker crust will work as well, especially with some ground almonds tossed in.

Regarding the sweetness: Generally, ricotta pies are not very sweet, and contain only about half the sugar of a traditional cheesecake. For this size pie (9-inch), you could use between a 1/4 and 1/2-cup of sugar, depending on your tastes. I used a 1/3-cup, which is perfect for me, but I’m not you, so adjust accordingly. Same goes for the grated citrus, and chocolate. I really hope you give this great ricotta pie a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions:
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in chunks
1 large egg
2 tbsp marsala wine
2-3 tablespoons ice water, or enough to form dough
Prebake crust for 15 min at 400 F.

For the filling
3 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste
1 or 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon and/or orange zest
pinch of salt (not shown!)
2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips, optional
2 tbsp diced candied orange zest, optional

Bake 45 minutes at 350 F., or until just set (160 internal temp)

*I garnished with chopped pistachios, and some  additional orange zest that I tossed with some simple syrup (1/4 cup water and a 1/4 cup sugar brought to a simmer and allowed to cool.)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Next Up: Fesenjān

Sorry, but due to a large pot hole and a really small tire, today's Fesenjān video will not air until tomorrow. I think it will be worth the wait. Speaking of waiting, time to call roadside assistance. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Persian Rice – Sorry, Measuring Cups

I believe I’ve posted a few “fool proof” methods for cooking “perfect” rice, but this Persian version takes the grand prize, and it’s not even close for second. The beauty of this method is that it doesn’t rely on any specific measurements, or even exact times. This will make some of you very nervous, but just go with it.

As long as the pot you use to boil and steam the grains is large enough, this will work exactly as shown. Since we are basically steaming rice that’s already been par-boiled and drained, there are never any issues with too much, or too little water.

By the way, I’ve only made this a handful of times, and so I’m sure there are many things I could improve on. I hear that soaking the rice in cold, salted water before boiling it helps improve the texture even more, which I find kind of hard to believe.

I mean, is there a level of rice perfection that goes beyond perfection? Probably too deep a question for a food blog about rice, so I’ll simply close by saying, I hope you give this Persian rice a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 Portions:
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed very well
3 quarts water, brought to a boil with 3 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 russets potato, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices
salt to taste
pinch of ground cumin
5 or 6 slices of butter for top
pinch of saffron, ground and mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
parsley to garnish 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why Store-Bought Whipped Toppings Are Not Cool

Okay, so I may have embellished the grocery checkout line story in the intro, but all the important parts are true. You can quickly and easily make your own whipped topping that’s not only less expensive, but vastly superior in quality. By the way, you may know this stuff by its more common name, whipped cream.

I’d like to apologize in advance to all the people who will lose their jobs when whipped topping factories start closing down after this video goes viral. Hey, you had a good run. But really, who in their right mind would buy that stuff again, after seeing what’s in there, as well as how incredibly simple it is to make yourself?

Just be sure to buy, “Heavy Whipping Cream,” also sold as “Heavy Cream.” This should have a fat content of around 34-36%, and as long as it’s nice and cold, will make perfect whipped cream, every time. As I explain in the video, these are not egg whites, and require no special finesse. Regular whipping cream will work, but it doesn’t have the same rich, decadent feel.

I’d like to think the only reason people buy "tub topping," is because that’s what they (and their parents) have always done, and simply don’t know there’s such an easy alternative. Well, now you know, and with plenty of holiday desserts still to top, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 large dollops:
1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp white sugar, or to taste
1/8 tsp vanilla extract