Archive for April, 2009

Spicy Apricot Dippin’ Sauce

Posted on April 28, 2009. Filed under: easy, recipe |

This sauce is a perfect example of what you can do when you’re feeling creative. I had no idea I was going to make this until just before I did.

2 Tbls. Apricot Jam
1.5 Tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Tsp. Chili Powder
Chives or Scallions
Pinch of Salt

Snip a couple of chives or scallions into small piece. Mix everything.

*The combination of apricot jam & cider vinegar does not smell very good. Be prepared! Luckily, it tastes fantastic.

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Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti

Posted on April 24, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

From time to time, the good people at Foodbuzz send me free samples. The idea is that since I (theoretically!) have good taste, I can report back to the vendors about their products. I like this. Free things are nice, and I do (actually) have pretty good taste. However, sometimes the enjoyment of reviewing free samples meets an impassible boundary. In this case, it’s my deep dislike of mushrooms.

So when the good folks at Buitoni sent me a sample of their Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, I was in a jam. Must do my duty as free sample reviewer, mustn’t eat hated mushrooms. I decided to solve this problem by splitting the task- I would do everything but the eating.

The cooking directions for the agnolotti – basically a large ravioli with a fancy name – are simple, boil for 4-6 minutes. I like the quick cooking time, but I don’t like that Buitoni suggests adding oil to the pasta water- it’s a big no no in pasta cooking. Step two of the Buitoni process states that “our premium pastas are do delicious, just toss with extra virgin olive oil,” so that’s what I did. Simple.

On to the taste tester. Tester reported that mushroom flavor was pronounced and very earthy. They found the flavor generally balanced, but a little on the salty side. Texture was good, especially considering the pasta was made to be refrigerated for a fairly long time period. They thought the just serve with olive oil claim was a bit bold, it could have used at least a little garlic. (To be fair, the olive oil instruction does end with “or one of our fine Buitoni sauces,” but, if you’re going to make a claim that simply oil works, you better back it up!) “Better than your average refrigerator case pasta” was the final verdict.

The “Riserva” brand is Buitoni’s high-end line, and that’s reflected in the Wild Mushroom Agnolotti ingredients. Everything looks to be of good quality- there are actually a lot of mushrooms in it, and there is a noticeable lack of high fructose corn syrup & preservatives. Good for you Buitoni! It is a very rich dish, however (6g saturated fat, 25% of your daily cholesterol), so I’d suggest either serving in smaller portions or only enjoying occasionally.

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Pin-Up Pastries is Sweet

Posted on April 20, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

It’s always exciting to see one of your friends do something fantastic. I’ve been friends with Erin Garcia, the owner and executive pastry chef of Pin-Up Pastries for quite a few years now. After working as a personal chef, and in many of New York’s top kitchens, she’s now running the show in her tasty new sweets shop.

Garcia’s pastries totally hit the mark. What I like best about them is that they’re not cloyingly sweet. By using high quality ingredients & amazing technique, Garcia is able to make satisfying deserts that don’t overwhelm. Especially impressive are her macrons, which come in a variety of exciting flavors.

The store, decorated with namesake pin-up photos, is located at 13944 Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks. Check it out!

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Live Cooking Demo Tonight!

Posted on April 17, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ll be making Penne Pesto with Chicken Breast live tonight on LuvChat.  Tune it at 8PM Pacific time to enjoy the shenanigans.  Show will stream in repeats after the broadcast. 

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Baby Back Ribs

Posted on April 16, 2009. Filed under: pork, recipe |

Finally. I’ve been thinking about making these for ages.

2 Tsp. Salt
2 Tsp. Brown Sugar
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Onion Powder
1 Tsp. Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp. Cumin
1/2 Tsp. Ground Sage
1/2 Tsp. Coriander

Wash & dry ribs. Remove membrane on the backside of ribs by sliding a sharp knife underneath, then gently pulling the membrane & moving the knife. This is optional, but highly recommended. The membrane, being inedible, takes away from the rib eating joy. Cover both sides of the rack with rub, and rub gently into the meat. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Soak wood chunks in water for 1/2 hour. I used a combination of hickory, pecan, and cherry. Place on top of hot coals. When smoker reaches 250 degrees, place ribs on rack. Smoke for about 3 hours, adding coal/wood as necessary.

If desired, you can brush with BBQ sauce in the last half hour. You don’t really need to.

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Posted on April 14, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge |

For the last three years, I’ve been using a small charcoal grill with a box attachment to do my smoking. Thanks to a sweet $59 deal at the Home Depot, an upgrade has been made. The box is still fairly small, I don’t have a lot of people to feed. But, it’s bigger than before, opening up a range of options.

I like the square design, with the coal/wood pot located on the bottom, a vessel for liquid above that, then two racks for smoking. Temperature is easy to regulate, thanks to 4 adjustable vents.

My first experiment was with chicken. After seasoning the box, I put a few lightly brined breasts on the top rack. I let them smoke for an hour- a simple, clean smoke flavor was the result. The next thing was a rack of baby back ribs, since I’ve been secretly plotting a rib smoke for about a year now. The planning and plotting payed off, the ribs were fantastic. Come back on Thursday to see how it all went down.

So, what’s next? Well, I think I’m going to live my dreams and smoke a whole Boston butt. Pulled pork is a passion, and if I can pull it off, I’ll be a happy happy man. After that, I’m going brisket, two different ways: Texas style and Jew style. That’s right, friends, sometime this summer, I’m going to cure and smoke my own pastrami. Sweet.

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Posted on April 9, 2009. Filed under: one pot, recipe |

Passover is not my favorite holiday. I’m positively incapable of going 8 days without any kind of leavened bread. In a strange gesture of dedication, I try to live through the entire holiday without eating any sweet sweet forbidden pork. Generally, I fail. (But, in my defence, it’s usually by mistake. Like the one year I went to a friend’s house for Easter and realized the extent of my failure only after I had eaten a ham sandwich. I ham sandwich that was made AFTER the Easter dinner.)

What I do like about Passover, though, is the feast tradition. So, last night I made a little bit of awesome. The highlight of the meal was this brisket.

1 Brisket
1 Cup Beef Stock
1 Cup Water
2 Onions, sliced
2 Tsp. Sherry Vinegar
1/8 Cup Crushed Tomatoes
Fresh Thyme & Sage

Season brisket with salt & pepper, then brown both sides. Remove from pan, deglaze with water & stock. Add remaining ingredients, return brisket to pan. Bring everything to a boil, cover, and then transfer to a 300 degree oven. Cook for three hours.

Allow brisket to cool for about 20 minutes, then slice against the grain of the meat. Strain cooking liquid, and serve as sauce.

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Health Freedom Expo

Posted on April 4, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

The Long Beach Convention Center played host to the Health Freedom Expo over the weekend. New age hippies flew on their positive energy powered magic carpets of healing just as quick as they could. Hucksters and snake oil salesmen rejoiced.

I’m all for stepping out of Western thought and finding a balance in life. I’m clearly for a whole food approach to eating. Traditional medicine can be a very effective tool in treating many ailments. There are many things about wellness I don’t understand, so therefore shouldn’t judge. Good. Fine. I get that.

I also get that, as a whole, we can be way too concerned for out health & well being. Instead of looking for long-term, sustainable ways of living, we look for the quick fix, the magic bullet. So people head to places like the Heath Freedom Expo to spend money on complete crap.

There were many devices for sale that make your water “pure”. A ctually, I take that back. Some made your water “pure”, while others infused it with positive energy. There was even one device that would cleanse you AND the planet. All you had to do was pay $300, and stick your feet in the magical tank.

In addition to healing through water, you could also heal yourself with berries. Berries! One better than the next! Antioxidants! Don’t get me wrong, I love berries. I’m sitting next to a giant basket of strawberries (bought from the farmers’ market because some bastard keeps stealing my garden berries) right now. They’re fantastic, they taste great, and yes, they are very good for you. They don’t however, create miracles. So when someone tells you that drinking a special juice made from them will cure cancer/headaches/insomnia/low sex drive/memory loss/the recession, you should laugh at them, not buy their berry juice. Because here’s the thing: NO SINGLE FOOD SOURCE CAN CURE EVERYTHING.

Some of the vendors really believe in what they sell. And that’s fine. The mind/body connection is a real thing, and if you have the funds & think your ion water is helping, be my guest. But you should realize that a lot of the products being sold are scams & pyramid schemes (I’m looking at you Mona Vie), so use caution. Most of what was for sale at the Health Freedom Expo will do you no good. Spend your money elsewhere. (You can spend it funding an awesome cooking show…mmmm, funding.)

There was one pretty awesome thing for sale at the expo- Kangoos. They are ski boots with cleverly shaped rubber attachments that make you walk/job like a kangaroo. Really fun to use, and very low impact on your joints.

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Steamy Buttered Asparagus

Posted on April 2, 2009. Filed under: easy, healthy, recipe, vegetable |

I am not a member of the Cult of Asparagus. It’s good, for sure, but not as good as french fries. Still, the stuff is pretty damn healthy, and it does taste like springtime (though not as much as now peas).

1 Bunch Asparagus
2 Tbs. Butter

Remove woody bottom from asparagus. This can be done by either: holding both ends and snapping -or- looking for the part on the stem where the color changes from a pale white green to a deeper shade of green and cutting just above that. Clearly, the second one will leave you with more to eat. With thick asparagus, you should also use a vegetable peeler to peel the stem.

Steam asparagus until just tender. Don’t overdo it. Don’t. For thin asparagus, 2.5 minutes should do it, thick asparagus 5 minutes.

Add butter to a warm pan, and heat until it just begins to turn brown. Toss in steamed asparagus and a pinch or two of salt. Cook 30 seconds. Squeeze lemon, toss again, serve.

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