Friday, May 24, 2019

Peruvian Potato & Chicken Salad (Causa Rellena) – Behold the “Giver of Life”

There’s nothing very unusual, or interesting about serving a chicken or potato salad at a cookout, which is why this truly unique, Peruvian potato and chicken salad will cause such a stir. Or should I say, “causa” a stir, since in Peru that’s what this gorgeous dish is called. I’m told the name comes from the Inca word for “giver of life,” which is exactly what this will do to your summer picnic table.

Above and beyond the bold, vibrant flavors, this is unlike any other potato-based salad, in that we’re using mashed potatoes instead of cubes, or chunks, but it really does work beautifully, and the smooth, silky texture makes this even more refreshing to eat. Keep all that in mind the next time a heat wave rolls through your area.

I went very minimal with the cherry tomato garnish, but my Peruvian friends are letting me know that olives are a very traditional garnish, as are hardboiled eggs. If you do an image search, you’ll see all kinds of elaborate presentations, and that’s half the fun of making something like this, so go nuts. Regardless of how you dress yours up, or what ends up in your salad, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Appetizer-Sized Portions (in 6-oz ramekins):

For the potato mixture:
1 1/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, or russet
2 tablespoons Aji Amarillo chili paste, or to taste (see note below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 or 2 limes, juiced, or to taste
salt and cayenne to taste

For the chicken salad:
1 large cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded
1/4 cup green peas
1/4 cup cooked diced carrots
2 tablespoons finely diced roasted red pepper
1 teaspoon minced shallot, or red onion
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup mayo, or as needed
salt and cayenne to taste

For the sauce:
1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon sour cream, optional
1 small crushed garlic clove
2 teaspoons Aji Amarillo chili paste, or to taste
a splash of water to adjust the thickness

Please Note: If you can’t find Aji Amarillo, you can make a paste from some fire-roasted and peeled orange or red bell peppers, and red Fresno chilies for some heat. While this does get you close, you should definitely try to find a jar of the real stuff, since it does have such a unique flavor.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Skewers with Miso Ranch – A Combo Made in Heaven, and Sebastopol

I’ve wanted to film a skewered version of our chicken teriyaki recipe for a while, but it was actually a karaage I recently enjoyed that pushed me into action. Michele and I were at Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol, where they serve an amazing chicken karaage that comes with a miso ranch dipping sauce. The cool, tangy sauce is just perfect with the fried nuggets of chicken, and I assumed (correctly so, as it turns out) that it would be just as effective with these skewers.

None of the ingredients below are very hard to find, and any large grocery store should have Sake, and Mirin, as well as probably several kinds of miso. I used a “white miso,” which is actually gold in color, but apparently the “white” refers to the rice content, which is the other main ingredient besides soybeans. Feel free to make the dressing without it, but its fermented savoriness is such a great addition, I’d at least make some effort to track it down.

As far as the chicken goes, there’s not a lot that can go wrong, but I’d caution against an extra long marination. Especially if you’re skewering small chunks like we did here. The meat will “cure” in the sweet, salty mixture, which can make for an odd texture once cooked, as well as the meat is more likely to start falling apart. Personally, I think about four hours is ideal, which is perfect, since you can marinade in the morning, and then grill in the afternoon. Regardless of these variables, I really do hope you give both these incredible recipes a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients to make about 12 small skewers:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3 or 4 chunks each
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
2 tablespoons finely minced green onions
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Miso Ranch:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 generous tablespoon white miso paste, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced green onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
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Friday, May 17, 2019

Crispy “Everything” Flatbread – “Everything” and Everything

These crispy “everything” flatbread crackers aren’t just called “everything” because they’re inspired by the “everything bagel,” but also because they’re everything you’d want in a flatbread. They’re savory, and interesting enough to eat by themselves, but also pair perfectly with countless dips, any cheese plate, and of course, anything you’d schmear on a bagel.

I played it safe with the powders, but I’m tempted to try this with freshly minced garlic and onions, which would get us even closer to their round inspiration. I’ll tweet a photo if it works, but even with the dried stuff, it was really close. By the way, garlic/onion powder, and granulated garlic/onion is the same thing, just ground to a different fineness, and they’re interchangeable. Just make sure they’re made with pure garlic and onion, and not a bunch of salt.

This easy technique will work with pretty much any seeds and flavorings, so I encourage you to go nuts customizing the recipe. Just don’t forget to flip your dough over before baking, so that your flatbread edges curl up the right way. For a more rustic look, you can bake these uncut, and then once cooled, snap them into irregular shards, which is also a great look. Either way, I really hope you give these crispy “everything” flatbreads a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 48 Crispy “Everything” Flatbreads:
3/4 cup spouted spelt or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon onion powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hot water, or more as needed
poppy seeds and sesame seeds as needed

- Bake at 375F. for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and crispy.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sweet Potato “Hummus” – So Close

One of my all-time favorite things to do is take an iconic recipe, and somehow tweak it to maybe make it easier, healthier, or tastier; which was definitely not what happened here. This was simply a case of me wanting hummus, not having garbanzo beans, and making it anyway with sweet potatoes, which, much to my amazement, came out remarkably well.

I don’t blame you if you're skeptical, but this stuff really does have almost the same taste and texture as hummus. It has a little bit of a sweeter finish, which reminded me of a red pepper hummus, but all in all, it’s very close. In fact, my wife Michele, who has a much more discerning palate than I do, said that if she were blindfolded, she’d have trouble identifying this as not being actual hummus.

However, to get this close to what you think hummus tastes like, please be prepared to adjust the ingredient amounts to your liking. Some folks like just a hint of garlic and lemon, while others like to be crushed by it. Same goes for the tahini, and other seasonings, so taste, and adjust accordingly.

Of course, since the name, “hummus” comes from the Arabic word for chickpeas, one can make a strong argument that this isn’t hummus, and therefore shouldn’t be called hummus. But those people don’t have to worry about search engine results, which is why I just worked the word “hummus” into this paragraph four times. Actually, let’s make it five, as I say I really do hope you give this easy, and delicious alternative hummus a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 2 cups of Sweet Potato Hummus:
2 cups mashed, roasted sweet potatoes
1/3 cup tahini
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle
pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons cold fresh water whipped in to lighten texture, optional
freshly chopped parsley to garnish
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Friday, May 10, 2019

Lemon Poppy Seed Scone with Fresh Strawberry Glaze – These Passed the Test…Will You?

Certain things just go together, like lemon and poppy seeds, or gorgeous, freshly baked scones and a fancy brunch, which is why, with Mother’s Day coming up, the timing for these may be perfect. And yes, I was kidding about the poppy seeds affecting your Mom’s drug test, although if there are issues, I believe my joke disclaimer in the intro shields me from any liability.

The method for making these scones is very simple, but can be a little scary for a novice baker, since the dough starts off in such rough shape, but if you’re able to wrestle it all together on the table, verses mixing into a dough ball in the bowl, you’ll be rewarded with a much more tender scone. Having said that, even a slightly tough lemon poppy seed scone is a great thing to eat, so don’t stress either way.

Once again I’m using self-rising flour, and hope you do the same. It just works better for these recipes, and every serious baker should have some in their pantry. If you want to make your own, for every cup of regular all-purpose flour, just sift in a teaspoon and a half of baking powder, and a half teaspoon of fine salt. But regardless of which flour you use, or how you glaze these, I really do hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
2 3/4 cups self-rising flour (see note in blog post above)
1 stick (4 ounces) very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
grated lemon zest from one lemon
1 large beaten egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk or as needed

- Bake at 375 F. for about 25 minutes

For the Strawberry Glaze:
3 or 4 strawberries, cut in quarters, and then finely mashed
enough powdered sugar to make a thick spreadable glaze
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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

White Bread – Good For You In Other Ways

For most of my early life, I ate sandwiches almost exclusively on white bread, and wasn’t thrilled when whole wheat was the only option, like when staying at a friend’s house. Thanks a lot, someone else’s mom. Then everything changed. I went out into the world, learned about nutrition, and fiber, and just how delicious a well made, whole-grain loaf of bread could be.

Before I knew it, I was eating all my sandwiches exclusively on wheat bread, and wasn’t thrilled when white was the only choice, like when visiting a friend’s house. Thanks a lot, someone else’s wife. Now, I’ve reached a new phase of my life, when I can enjoy, and appreciate them both. I mostly eat whole grain breads, but occasionally will indulge in some white, which if we’re being honest, really is a much more special bread eating experience, especially for sandwiches.

Whether we’re talking tuna, or chicken salad, the buttery, slightly sweet, but mostly neutral flavor of white bread really lets the main ingredients shine, and I can now enjoy it almost guilt free. So, whether you’re a nostalgic baby boomer like me, or just a curious millennial “wondering” what a classic white bread tastes like, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 1 loaf:
1 1/4 cups warm whole milk
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 large beaten egg
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, or enough to achieve the texture seen here
3 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter

- Bake at 350 F. for about 30 minutes
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Friday, May 3, 2019

Southern-Style Baked Banana Pudding – A Better Banana Cream Pie

If you like banana cream pie, you’ll absolutely love baked banana pudding. Not only is there no piecrust to mess with, but I think the vanilla wafer cookies pair even more perfectly with the fruit and custardy pudding. 

Speaking of banana cream pie, don’t even think of skipping the meringue topping. Sure, whipped cream, or God forbid “whipped topping,” might be a tad easier, but we need to use up those four egg whites anyway, so do it right.

As I said in the video, this is classically made in a clear glass bowl or deep baking dish, so that you can see the beautiful banana pudding beneath the meringue. That is a great look, but as long as it’s oven-safe, and you can fit everything in, any baking dish will work. We’re not really “baking” the pudding, but just browning the top, so the depth or shape of the pan isn’t really that important.

What is important though, is that you use nice ripe, soft bananas. We want them close to the same texture as the custard-soaked cookies, to really get the full effect, so make sure you buy them at least a week before you make this. Other than that, not much can go wrong with this Southern classic. In fact, this is so simple, and kid-friendly, it’d be a great thing to make for mom on Mother’s Day, which is why I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from Alton Brown's Famous Version
Ingredients for 8 Portions:
(I used a 10-inch baking dish)
For the pudding:
1 box vanilla wafers (you’ll have extra)
3 or 4 very ripe bananas, peeled, and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the custard:
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon banana liquor, optional
1 tablespoon cold butter
For the meringue topping:
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons white sugar

- Bake at 400 F. for 7-10 minutes, or until nicely browned
-- I think this is best served cold, but suit yourself! 
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