Southwesterly Salad

SW Salad 2

If you buy a cooked rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breasts, then this is a no heat in the summer salad. Even if you bake the chicken breasts like I do, it’s a low mess recipe and perfect for tiny kitchens. When I bake the chicken breasts, I dust them with a little salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Dressing:
• Small plain Greek yogurt (usually around 5 ounces)
• Juice of one lime
• Quarter cup or so of olive oil
• Two tablespoons of minced cilantro
• Half teaspoon each of cumin and garlic powder
• Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Salad:
• Around two-thirds a cup of cubed chicken per person
• Around two cups roughly cut romaine lettuce per person
• Around a quarter of an avocado per person
• Sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers and red onion

As always everything can vary. The chicken could be turkey, or maybe smoked turkey, maybe scallions instead of red onions…corn kernels…the leftover fried onions from Thanksgiving….a hit of Ancho chili peppers or Siracha in the dressing…

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Horiatki with Pasta

Greek Pasta 2

This is always my first ‘welcome to summer’ recipe. Although tomatoes won’t be in around where I live until July, they are not the star here so I don’t mind using those Kumato ones. This is a definite tiny kitchen recipe: just one pot for the pasta.

Pasta options: After trying penne and some sort of short ziti, I’ve settled on conchiglie. You could try bow ties or rotelle; there’s probably a lot of fun pastas that would work here.

Other options: You could add some oregano or maybe some sliced Pepperoncini.

Time note: I usually mange to get everything chopped and ready to go by the time the pasta is ready.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• One pound conchiglie pasta
• Half cup of mayonnaise
• Quarter cup of white wine or rice wine vinegar
• Half cup of good tasting olive oil
• One to four or more cloves of garlic
• Four or five Kumato tomatoes
• Around eight or ten Kalamata olives
• Half a small red onion
• One cucumber
• A handful of parsley
• Around three ounces or more of crumbled feta
• Fresh cracked pepper
• Sea salt flakes

Get the pasta water going; add salt if you want.

Then get a big bowl, big enough to hold all the pasta and the rest of the stuff. I have three white mixing bowls that nest together, I use the largest one.

In a two cup Pyrex measuring cup, add the mayonnaise. Slowly add the vinegar while stirring, then slowly add the olive oil while stirring. Run as many cloves of garlic as you like through the garlic press ( I used four big ones) and add to the mixture. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.

Cut the tomatoes into a small dice. Put them in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Cut the olives into a small dice and add this to the mayonnaise mixture. Next cut the red onion into a small dice and add this to the mayonnaise mixture. Skin the cucumber and cut it in half; with a spoon, remove the seeds, then slice into strips and cut into a medium dice. Put these in the bowl around the tomatoes. Finely chop the parsley and add it to the bowl.

When your pasta is done, run it under cold water to cool it. Once it’s cooled, add it to the bowl and mix together. Then add the mayonnaise mixture and combine, and then add the feta and mix until just combined.

Put in your bowls and serve with? In my house it’s water with lemon.

Notes: For olive oil, I use Columela— it has a sort of spicy flavor, for sea salt flakes, I use Maldon, and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I use table salt for anything mixed in or cooked and save the sea salt flakes for finishing or roasting. Using these ingredients adds a little extra flavor to the dish and they’re getting much easier to find now.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Hoisin Tsukune Bentosh

Futon

If my mother saw me eating this, she would scream. When I was a kid, none of my food could touch. Sometimes we would have Swanson’s TV dinners and one section would invade the other; she would have to cut all of the mixed stuff out. And even then, I wasn’t happy because the molecules had been in contact. This was one of the first bowls I did. It was originally a bento box and I wondered how it would taste together. I was super surprised that I liked the combination, especially the rice and the cabbage salad. This is another recipe that can work in a tiny kitchen: you only need one burner —or a rice cooker—and a toaster oven for the meatballs.

Meatball options: I have been using ground chicken breast. I seem to like the kind of mild flavor here, but you could really use any kind of ground meat— pork, turkey, even tofu. I’m also thinking about swapping out the scallions for chives or chopped spinach.

Rice options: I used basmati when I took the picture because I’m trying to use up a ridiculously enormous bag I bought at an Indian market. I usually make it with short grain sushi rice, but I would really be happy with any rice— even brown rice. I also think quinoa would be a good option.

Cabbage salad options: This can really be anything. I used savoy and red cabbage, but green cabbage or napa or any cabbage you want will work. I have been adding carrot and scallions, but you could really use a lot of different things: peppers, radish, what else? kale?

Sauce options: You can use store bought hoisin sauce to coat the meatballs if you have one you like. I used to have one I liked, but it disappeared, so now I make one that is a little more tomatoey than most traditional ones. You could also add peppers or Sriracha to the sauce to take heat level up.

Time note: The meatballs take me around 10-15 minutes to make and then 25-30 minutes in the oven. Everything else comes together while the meatballs cook— unless you use a rice cooker, in which case the rice can take around 50 minutes.

For this four person version you’ll need:
• Around a pound to a pound and a third of ground chicken breast
• Two cups short grain white sushi rice
• Half cup or so of Panko
• One large egg
• Tablespoon or so of grated ginger
• Eight scallions
• One to four or more garlic cloves, depending on taste
• Toasted sesame seeds
• Four cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
• One cup finely shredded red cabbage
• One large carrot grated
• Rice Vinegar (around a half cup, plus two tablespoons)
• Two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
• Half a cup of ketchup or chili sauce
• Quarter cup of soy sauce
• Two tablespoons of brown sugar or honey
• Two tablespoons of rice vinegar
• Two tablespoons of orange juice (if you have it around)
• Around a tablespoon of canola oil if cooking rice in pot

Cooking equipment I used:
13×18 sheet pan for meatballs (or toaster oven pan)
Pot for rice—I used a 3 quart saucepan, or rice cooker

Get the oven going at 400º F and then start on the meatballs— unless you’re using a rice cooker, then get the rice going first. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Finely mince three scallions (white to light green parts) mince or run through the garlic press one to four cloves of garlic depending on taste (I used four) and mince or grate a tablespoon or so of ginger. Add all of this plus a half cup of Panko to the egg. Now I get my sheet pan out and put it next to the bowl. Add the ground chicken and mix everything together. I usually make the meatballs around two inches diameter, giving me around fourteen meatballs. They’ll spend about 30 minutes in the oven to get brown.

If you’re doing the rice on the stove top, get the pot going on high and mix one tablespoon of canola oil and two cups of rice in the pot stirring for a minute to coat the grains before adding three cups of water. Bring to a boil and then cook on low for 20 minutes.

Now get the cabbage salad ready. Finely shred (I used a little hand-held mandolin) around four cups of Savoy cabbage, put in a large bowl, and coat with around a half cup of rice vinegar. Finely shred around cup of red cabbage and add that, then grate a large carrot and add that, then finely slice three scallions (white and light green parts) and add that, tossing after each addition. Then finely slice the two remains scallions on a diagonal and set aside to garnish. Toss in two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil. Set the salad aside but keep tossing it every few minutes while you make the sauce, tasting once or twice to see if it needs something more. Sometimes I add a little sugar, sometimes I add some red pepper flakes.

I usually make the sauce in a two cup Pyrex measuring cup. Combine two tablespoons of brown sugar or honey with two tablespoons of rice vinegar to dissolve and then add around a half cup of ketchup or chili sauce, around a quarter cup soy sauce, and around two tablespoons of orange juice (I only add this if I have it around). Taste it to see if you want to add more soy sauce or whatever.

By now the meatballs should be done. In a bowl, toss the meatballs until coated with however much sauce you want. Then you can layer the rice, cabbage salad, meatballs and top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. I try to pause for a moment her to appreciate how cool it looks before I dig in.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Polpetta Bentosh

Italian Meatball (1 of 1)

I never thought I would like meatballs with lemon in them, but over the years I kept seeing recipes putting lemon in meatballs, so I thought I would give it a try. Now I hardly ever make any of my four standard meatball recipes— recipes that took many moons to perfect. The lemon also goes really well with spinach and probably other greens too. I’ve been alternating between two sauces: one is Marcella Hazan’s classic with the onion and butter— which I won’t put here since it’s easy to look up— and the other is a kind of basic sauce with a little wine kick. These meatballs are all beef, but you can make them with a combination of beef, veal, and pork, or you can make them with ground chicken or turkey. I’m using 90% organic grass-fed beef because I think it has the most tender texture and a really clean beef flavor. I also usually make this with gemelli pasta but I could only find strozzapreti. Really any pasta could work here.

Put a rack in the upper third and get the oven going at 400º. Line your sheet pan with parchment or foil if needed. I like this recipe best when I make a panade of a large slice of crusty Tuscan or Italian bread in milk. If you want to do this, you need to get this going first. In a small bowl, break the bread into small pieces and add about a half cup of milk and then use a fork to kind of smush the bread and milk together; you’ll need to keep coming back and smushing it while you work on the other stuff. You may need to add more milk. If you don’t want to use bread, you can use a half cup of panko or bread crumbs or even eight smashed-up saltines. You can soak these in milk or just add to the rest of the mix. In a large bowl, beat up one egg. To this you add around a tablespoon of lemon zest, around a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of crushed rosemary, finely chopped or pressed garlic (I ran four cloves through the garlic press last time I made this so you may want to start with one), and around a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Now add the bread mixture or crumbs and the meat and mix everything together. I usually have the baking sheet next to the bowl. Now you can make the meatballs. I have been making them a medium size, around two inches. Once you have them done put them in the oven. They’ll take around twenty, twenty-five, maybe thirty minutes to get nice and brown. Set your bowls on the stove to warm.

Next up is the sauce. As I mentioned before, I’ve been alternating between Marcella Hazan’s classic sauce and this basic one. In a large saute pan (you’ll need room to put the meatballs in later) add a few tablespoons of good-tasting olive oil and get that warming while you finely chop a small yellow onion or half of a large one and add to the oil. Turn the heat up to kind of sizzle but not brown the onions. Add a teaspoon of salt. Finely chop or put through the press however many cloves of garlic you want (I used four again). Add the garlic to the onions and saute until the onions are sort of translucent. Now deglaze the pan with a half cup of red wine and let it reduce to about half. Now add one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. You can taste it now and see if it needs more salt or some pepper. If you think you want more sauce, you can add a 14.5oz can of tomato sauce. Let this kind of simmer/bubble. When the meatballs are done, add them to the sauce.

There’s a little bit of a lag here depending on how you want to do this. I like to let the sauce simmer for another fifteen, twenty minutes after I put the meatballs in, so I usually don’t start the pasta water until the meatballs go in the sauce. I use the time to clean up the prep area or go through the mail, whatever. So depending on your timing— gemelli takes about 12-13 minutes— get your pasta water started, salting it if you want, and get out the colander. Also get the spinach out— I use an 8oz container of fresh baby spinach. You could try kale or Swiss chard; they may need an extra minute. When the pasta is three minutes from finished, add the spinach, mixing it with the pasta as it wilts. You could probably add the spinach to the sauce— and I may try that— my worry was it would make the sauce taste bitter.

Once the pasta and spinach are drained, it’s ready. You can top with some Parmesan or Romano or both. A friend mentioned maybe goat cheese or feta. I’ll have to warm up to that idea a little bit. I guess fresh basil too— that wouldn’t clash with the spinach, would it? I’ve been garnishing it with a few fresh spinach leaves.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• Around a pound and a third of 90% lean organic grass-fed beef
• One pound of gemelli pasta
• Large slice of Tuscan or Italian bread or baguette
• A half cup or so of whole milk
• One large egg
• One lemon
• Garlic cloves (I used four in the meatballs and four in the sauce)
• Salt & pepper
• Olive oil
• Small yellow onion
• Half cup of red wine
• 28oz can of crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic)
• 8oz baby spinach (or other greens)
Optional: fresh cracked pepper, Parmesan or Romano

Cooking equipment I used:
• Saute pan (I used a 6qt All-Clad lidded pan)
• 13×18 sheet pan for meatballs
• 7 qt. stock pot for pasta and spinach

Notes:
For olive oil, I use Columela or Nunez de Prado— it has a sort of spicy flavor and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I also use grass-fed organic beef all the time now— the flavor, and especially the texture, are better I think.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Hark! The Cookie

Monster Cookie

Common name: White chocolate chip mint chocolate cookies.

I wasn’t going to put any recipes on my blog besides the Bentosh series, but then my younger daughter and I made these cookies. I have to put this here in case my house burns down or the armageddon happens or some other tragedy so I can insure it will be safe somewhere in cyberspace.

So, ok, this was my younger daughter’s idea for a holiday cookie, based on her love of peppermint bark, that we cobbled together from various cookie recipes. I always like to say you can use whatever brands you want because I don’t want to be a food snob, but the truth is the ingredients really make a difference, especially when it comes to desserts. I learned this many moons ago when I first made Georgetown Cupcake’s chocolate ganache cupcake with regular butter, Hershey’s cocoa and chocolate chips. I couldn’t figure out what was so great about these cupcakes. For some reason, I decided to make them with their recommended ingredients: Plugra butter, Valrhona cocoa, Callebaut chips, the whole deal. And WOW! So it’s not that they won’t be good without all these special ingredients, but they won’t be great. I think it was mostly the chocolate that really made a difference, so I didn’t sweat it here when I realized I had only regular salted butter.

6.5 ounce bag of starlight mints or box of candy canes
8 ounces of butter (two sticks), I used regular salted butter this time because that was all I had
1/4 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2/3  cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 cups of flour (I used Gold Medal)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Guittard Cocoa Rouge)
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 ounces of white chocolate chips (I used Guittard Choc-Au-Lait)

Get the butter and eggs out to soften and get up to room temperature (this usually takes a half hour or so).

Get the oven going at 350˚.

Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats (such as Silpat) if needed.

Bash the candy into something around the size of Red Hots or M&M Minis. Careful here. The first time I used a rolling pin and now it is covered in pock marks. I had better success placing the candy between two layers of heavy duty zip lock bags and using the flat side of a meat mallet on a plastic cutting board. I have also used a food processor, but that just turns it to mostly dust (it also gets the machine really hot and etches the bowl).

Combine 2 cups of flour, 2/3 cup cocoa, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Set aside. I don’t usually sift the dry ingredients together unless it’s a cake or cupcake.

With a stand or hand mixer, cream together 8 ounces of butter, 1 cup sugar, and 2/3 cup brown sugar. Scrape down as needed. Add the eggs. Mix until all mixed together.

Scrape down the bowl and begin adding the dry ingredients in three additions. Scraping down between each addition. This is to help incorporate the dry ingredients and also to keep you from having a flour bomb go off.

Once everything is thoroughly mixed, fold in the crushed candy and white chocolate chips.

Now you can decide what size you want the cookie. I used a large ice cream scoop that holds a ⅓ of a cup. I baked 5 cookies at a time on a large baking sheet. This made a ‘monster’ size cookie between 4 and 5 inches across. I baked these for 14 minutes. I did one sheet at a time, although if I would have turned the convection on, I could have done three sheets at a time.

Let cool slightly and eat.