Broiled chicken with tomato and goat cheese pasta

I can’t wait until I have a house. Actually, all I really want is a decent grill. I don’t really need a house for that, but silly laws about having grills on decks in apartments prevent me from doing any real grilling. Is it so much to ask for few cuts of grilled chicken to go with the meal? Apparently it is. But I can’t let these sorts of things get in the way.

Even if you don’t have a grill, you have science! Grilling and broiling are actually quite similar. Broiling is like the upside-down, charcoal-less version: high heat with the food close to the heat source.

Chicken, tomato, goat cheese pasta

A light, simple meal that anyone can make.

As a bonus, broiling is pretty much as easy as (or easier than) grilling. You don’t have to worry about cleaning up a grill or messing about with charcoal. All you need is a broiling pan. Honestly, you don’t even need that–I don’t have one. A wire cooling rack in sheet pan works the same way.

So now you can focus on getting the rest of the food ready. Make pasta-check. Cut tomatoes-check. Crumbled goat cheese-check. Basil, garlic, pepper-check. Mix them all together, place that chicken on top and you have a meal finished in half an hour or less.

Chicken, tomato, goat cheese pasta2

This really came together in about half an hour. Nothing difficult to do.

See, in nearly no time at all you can toss together a great meal. Pretty much literally. Just don’t make me jealous by actually grilling yours :) . Click though to see the recipe after the link. Continue reading “Broiled chicken with tomato and goat cheese pasta” →

Sun-dried tomato and sausage polenta gratin

Last week was a pretty busy week. And the highlight of it was probably on leap-day, Wednesday February 29th. Not only was it leap-day, but it was also a February that has five Wednesdays. That doesn’t happen too often, I’m too lazy to do the math, but I know that it can only happen on leap-years where the first day in Feb is also a Wednesday. Of course, a special event like this can only be marked with a party. Food and drink.

Sun-dried tomato and sausage polenta gratin

A club I’m part of (Carolina Larrikins) hosts events on the first, third, and–if it exists–the fifth Wednesdays of the month. It was kind of a pot-luck thing for food, and a keg of good beer was provided (thanks, gang!). I made this tasty polenta gratin and helped some friends out with something a bit more important than food.

After I left work, I noticed that there was a series of text messages waiting. A couple friends were asking–no, urging–me to come to the party. My services were direly needed.

See, they wanted to get married. And they wanted me to marry them. Not everybody can just marry people. But ministers can; and I just happened to be an ordained ULC minister. So by the end of the night, not only had I officiated a wedding, but I can say that I catered it as well! Not bad for a moments notice :)

Sun-dried tomato and sausage polenta gratin

I was pleased with myself. I quickly wrote up a little speech to give, got my stuff together, finished prepping the food and got over there. The ceremony went off without an issue and the reception was wrapped up with the pre-existing party. The gratin was pretty much destroyed by the end of the night, so it was either good, or people were hungry. Probably a bit of both. Click through to see how you too can cater a wedding… Continue reading “Sun-dried tomato and sausage polenta gratin” →

Granola Bars

I’ll admit that I’m an odd kind of lazy. It’s the kind of lazy where I’ll go out and run 20 miles at a time, but won’t be bothered to make myself breakfast because I’m still sleepy. So that means that I fall prey to the easy conveniences of modern breakfast that people still try to believe are healthful, i.e., the granola bar. Most are just puffed rice, oats, and corn syrup… basically a glorified candy bar. Some others are actually pretty good for you (like the Kashi ones). After going through a few boxes of bars, I started thinking that it really couldn’t be that hard to make my own. After all, it’s just a bunch of nuts and whatnot stuck together. Besides, if I made them, I could use ingredients I liked, avoid high fructose corn syrup, and maybe pack a bit more protein in there.

Granola Bars

Yeah, lots of nuts, but also some good dark chocolate.

One trip to the bulk purchase section of the grocery store later and I had all my ingredients. I skipped everything I didn’t like and went for the things I wanted: nuts and chocolate. Cashews, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips. Obviously, this is heavily modifiable based on your taste. Feel free to use any combination of things that you enjoy. Any chopped, dried fruits would work well. You could even do crazy spices or add things like wasabi peas. I stuck with the tried and true.

Assembling the bars themselves couldn’t be easier. Just mix everything in a large bowl. Work it around so that everything is evenly distributed and plop it out into a baking pan. Press down gently to even it out and bake it for about half an hour and the end result is one giant granola bar. This is good if you are a giant. Not so great for us… but that’s why we have knives. Just cut the one big square into lots of little squares/rectangles and what was once fit for giants is now manageable by us!

Granola Bars

If one of these is healthful, eating lots at a time should just make me super healthy! Wait what? It doesn't work that way?

Click on through for the recipe and a few tips. Continue reading “Granola Bars” →

Knockwurst, onions, and mushrooms

I’m not sure which wurst is the best wurst (or, ahem, würste for those looking for something more authentic), but knockwurst is pretty tasty. Of course you can go with the standard bratwurst, but this is the perfect dish to try a different kind… you have so many to choose from! Bratwurst, rindswurst, knackwurst (or knockwurst), bockwurst, and on and on.

Knockwurst, onions, and mushrooms1

Bratwurst, knockwust, bockwurst... Use a mixute or whatever you want.

Knackwurst is commonly “knockwurst” for some reason here in America, but a simple spelling change doesn’t make it any less tasty. I’ll just keep using the knockwurst because that’s what I see more of in stores here. Anyway, knockwurst is similar to bratwurst but is (usually) a mixture of veal and pork with some garlic and light seasonings mixed in. I say “usually” because different recipes call for different amounts of veal/pork or even sometimes other meats and spices–it depends on how creative the butcher wants to get with their own take on it.

The thing is, no matter what type of sausage you end up getting, you will have a terrific meal to go with some good winter beers. I love some stouts and porters as the weather gets colder. But hey, you don’t even need beer to enjoy this! I’ve been taking leftover to lunch at work (where beer is frowned upon during the work hours… bummer) and it reheats nicely and make everyone envious.

Knockwurst, onions, and mushrooms1

Sausages, mushrooms, and onions all cooked together. What's not to like?

So yeah, get your grub on and make this. It’s not terribly complicated and you’ll dig it. Click through the break to see the recipe and more pictures. Continue reading “Knockwurst, onions, and mushrooms” →

Hearty, healthful, cold-weather salad

I’m not really sure I can call this a salad, but I can probably get away with it more than I can calling this or this a salad. At least this one has spinach in it. But every other name I came up for it was just way too long and cumbersome. Try on “Butternut squash and chicken with farro and wilted spinach in a chipotle-adobo dressing”. Quite a mouthful, but it does sound pretty good, doesn’t it?

spicy winter salad.

Continuing my current chipotle fascination.

This was actually my first time cooking with farro. I’ve been meaning to make it for a while, but my list of things to make seems to grow, not shrink. At this rate, it’ll take the rest of my life to work through it all. Somehow, I’m OK with that. Still, I checked this one off of my list and I’ll probably be going back to it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it’s actually a lot like barley.

As I’m still on my chipotle kick, I worked some into this dish as well. Unlike the shrimp tacos the chipotle is content to take a minor role and just add a hint of heat and smokiness to the dish. I kept things simple and basically used it as a salad dressing mixed with a bit of oil.

spicy winter salad.

A pretty healful combination for a satisfying winter meal.

Click through the jump to see the recipe. Continue reading “Hearty, healthful, cold-weather salad” →

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos

I’ve been on a chipotle kick recently. I’ve been adding some chipotle peppers and adobo to tons of stuff. It just gives it a good kick of heat and a nice smoky touch. Any kind of good meaty thing can do with a tablespoon or two of the stuff. It’s easy to make too. Just buy a tin of chipotle peppers in adobo and blend the whole thing (or chop it up). You can store it in a small size zip-top bag in the freezer for months (but you’ll use it before then anyway). Try some in your next chili or even use it in part of a marinade to give a little extra something to a cheap cut of meat.

But this time I was in a Mexican mood. I wanted some tasty shrimp tacos. And tasty shrimp tacos is what I got :) I mean, really, take a look.

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos

Best tacos I've made.

I know, right? Right? Oh, well, I guess I know but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or you could make this too… You should. There is so much great flavor in this. A little smokiness, a bit of heat, and even a little sweetness (not to mention the scallions, onion, and tomato) all work together to make this some of the tastiest tacos that will ever come out of your kitchen.

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos

I mean, look at that, I bet you wish you could have eaten it.

So go get the ingredients and get cooking. Click though for the recipe and more details. If you like this one, maybe I’ll share some more chipotle recipes soon. Continue reading “Chipotle Shrimp Tacos” →

End-of-summer tart

This simple tart is a great way to use up all those summer fruits you have sitting around. If you don’t have any fruits, what’s wrong with you? Summer fruits are the best. Peaches, strawberries, plums, berries, cherries… Go get some. It doesn’t matter what, I’ll wait.

I hope you picked up some puff pasty while you were out, because that’s basically the only other thing we need. Have I mentioned that this was simple? It is.

I’ve made this will all kinda of fruits: blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, nectarines, and strawberries–no, not all at ones. Try to keep to to under 4 kinds of fruit. The less “juicy” ones tend to work a bit better because the crust doesn’t get as soggy. So if you want it have blueberries in there, I’d go light on them.

Free form summer tart

That's my piece in the background!

Who wouldn’t want a slice of this? I mean, really? It’s got some great fruit on there and that awesome flaky, buttery crust. All done with only a minimal amount of effort too. The crust is already made. Cut up some fruits, you don’t even need to peel them. And it goes right on a sheet pan with some foil or parchment paper. If you do it right, you don’t even have much to clean.

Simple summer tart

It looks good because it tastes good.

So thaw out that puff pastry and click through to get the details… Continue reading “End-of-summer tart” →

Tostones

I couldn’t be content serving just the Cuban-style mini-burgers without a strong supporting side. I wanted something fried and crispy, you know, to keep with the “burger” theme. But potatoes, and hence French fries, aren’t very Cuban. Plantains, though, are. Like potatoes they are starchy, and–like potatoes–they can be fried.

Cuban sliders, black beans, and tostones

Crunchy, tasty tostones.

Because this specific batch was to substitute the crunchy crispiness of French fries, I squashed the plantains a bit thinner than what is common for tostones. I was going for a version that highlighted a bit more crunchiness, and I got it. Do what feels right for your taste though. I’d recommend squishing and frying a couple at different thicknesses to get a feel for how crispy they get.

I’m not sure why it didn’t dawn on me at the time, but I didn’t even think about cutting them into French fry shapes. I was just hooked on making tostones and really needed to see that through. They were great and I don’t regret not doing plantain-french-fries except maybe for the novelty factor.

I still think I may try to cut some into French fry lengths at some point to see how that works out. Click through for the recipe and to see how I made these. Continue reading “Tostones” →

Cuban style pork sliders

Sometimes an idea weasels itself into you mind and you just can’t shake it. It becomes some crazy fascination that you hope will be just crazy enough to work. The end product is there in your mind and all you have to do is build it. That’s the tricky part though. All this expectation, and you aren’t even sure how to get to that goal. My goal was some cuban style pork sliders. And when you think about it, combining that tasty, slightly tangy marinated pork with some caramelized onions and a bit of pineapple isn’t all that crazy. In fact, it’s downright tasty

Cuban sliders, black beans, and tostones

Cuban sliders, black beans, and tostones.

So with all that on my mind, I assembled my army of ingredients. Pork chops, lemon juice, OJ, a pineapple, some small buns, and a handful of herbs and spices. I had all the tools I needed. I just had to assemble it correctly. Fortunately, the end result was just as amazing as I could have hoped.

Cuban sliders, black beans, and tostones

Cuban sliders, black beans, and tostones.

It probably also helped that I served it with tostones and some black beans. I’ll talk about those tostones next time. For now, lets focus on making these delicious sandwiches. Click through for the recipe and a few tips. Continue reading “Cuban style pork sliders” →

Gesier Salad: What’s in it and how to make it.

Admittedly, this dish isn’t common here in the US; I’ve never even seen it outside my parent’s house. Even so, I think it’s worth knowing what this is because it is extraordinarily tasty. If you ever do see it in a restaurant, please consider ordering it. Just so you know, I don’t think it’s likely that you would easily be able to make this at home as the ingredients would be difficult to source unless you knew a good butcher or a specialty shop. Gesiers aren’t expensive or rare, they just don’t seem to be a commonly purchased item. My family brings our own supply back from France when we visit. Our suitcases are always chock full of interesting foods and we always make room for things like gesier, good pâté, wine, mustard, cornichons, etc.

Gesier Salad

Let's see... nuts, potatoes, mixed greens, French vinaigrette. Yeah, I'll have that.

The salad itself is deceptively simple for something that packs this much flavor. The tender gesiers are basically umami delivery mechanisms that punch up all the flavors. The wonderful savoriness is cut by the earthy mixed greens and the light acidity of the vinaigrette. A handful of fresh nuts goes a long way, rounding out the textures in the salad.

Oh, I guess I haven’t mentioned what a gesier is yet (and that’s not entirely accidental). People enjoy this dish until I spoil it by telling them what they are eating. Don’t worry though, it’s just duck. Well, it’s not just duck, it’s the duck’s gizzard. I know, I know, that might sound a bit odd, but this is actually pretty good. I guess the best way to describe it would be to imagine if the dark meat of a duck (or chicken) was more, uh, just more. It’s very flavorful, so you don’t need much. The amount in the salad is great because it’s not overpowering and well balanced by the other flavors.

Don’t be nervous though, if this isn’t your thing I won’t surprise you with a plate of it if you come over for dinner. But if you want to try it, I think you’ll be quite pleased. (Give me a heads-up and I’ll try to get a hold of some more!)

Simple Gesier Salad

My mouth is watering as I type this. This looks so good. Savory, slightly bitter from the salad, a touch of acid from the vinegar offseting everything... I really need to get some more of these.

In case you do find a good source and want to make it, here are two ways I suggest serving it. The first (image directly above) is an extremely basic salad that puts the gesier front and center. The second method (see the image at top of page) has more ingredients, including potatoes and nuts, which complement the rest of the flavors.

Simple Gesier Salad
Ingredients
about 2 gesiers per person
mixed baby greens or salad de mâche
basic french vinaigrette (See this post for the recipe)

Directions
Salad de mâche was used here.
1. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cut the gesiers into wedges or slices. Add some oil to the skillet and toss in the gesiers. Cook for several minutes until slightly browned.
2. Make the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Add the salad and mix to coat with a thin layer of dressing.
3. Serve on the plate with the gesiers on top of the salad.

If you have any crusty French bread, serve that along side it. You know this looks good. It is. I’d much rather eat a gesier salad than something like this, wouldn’t you?

Cutting gesier.

Here, my mom is cutting the gesier into wedges. Thanks for dinner!

Searing gesier.

Sear them briefly in a hot skillet before serving.

Gesier salad with potatoes and nuts
Ingredients
about 2 gesiers per person
mixed baby greens or salad de mâche
basic french vinaigrette (See this post for the recipe)
oven roasted potatoes
Crushed walnuts

Directions
We had some left over roasted potatoes that we used for this dish. If you don’t have any, or want to quickly make some simply cut some potatoes into even, bite sized cubes and toss lightly with olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper. Bake them at 375F for 30-45 minutes, until they become golden brown.

1. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cut the gesiers into wedges or slices. Add some oil to the skillet and toss in the gesiers. Cook for several minutes until slightly browned.
2. Make the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Add the salad, most of the nuts, and the potatoes. Mix to coat everything with a thin layer of dressing.
3. But a bed of dressing on a plate, add some of the cooked gesiers and a few more nuts.

Gesier salad with potatoes and nuts

This isn't something you'd find in every home. Enjoy it.

As a bonus for reading all the way down to the bottom, here is the can of gesiers from Verdier. He makes pâtés and other ‘canned’ meats that we can easily transport back on the plane. My grandfather actually used to live near him and we always eat some of his products when I go visit my family in France. He runs a small operation that consistently produces quality foods.

Canned gesiers

This guy makes terrific pâté's too. I really hesitate to eat the ones I have because I can't easily get more.