Monday, July 30, 2012

Oven BLAT: Bacon, Lettuce, avocado, and tomato in the toaster oven

BLAT Bacon, Lettuce, avocado, tomato

Avocado was the best thing that ever happened to the BLT, ok, so it did kind of kill the name, BLAT, but aside from that, it's essential.
Aside from avocado, of course the best possible ingredients, is how you cook the bacon. If you like baco extra crispy, then the microwave is the way to go. If you like cleaning the stove top, go ahead cook bacon on the stove, see how it goes. personally I've always like my bacon a little on the crispy side, but not microwave crispy.

So the toaster oven is my cooking method of choice. Simply lay the bacon out on foil, top with a little fresh pepper. By laying the bacon ont flat it clings a little to the foil, and come out pretty flat.


Cook on 425 for 8 minutes for a little on the crispy side, I always think i'm going to cook the bacon a little longer, and then 8 minutes comes out perfect. The range is between 6 and 11 minutes depending on what kind of bacon you like.

I use scissors to cut the bacon to size and fit perfectly on a slice of bread.

Place a little mayo on the other side of the bread

Tiop with avocado and tomato.

Then lettuce and top with a second slice of bread.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Best Tzatziki

tzatziki
Growing up we always had tzatziki, being a yogurt worshiper it was easy to love. It was all minty and garlicy, with large chunks of cucumber. But when I went away to school, I encountered a different sort of tzatziki, with a much thicker consistency, much more flavor and shredded cucumber, I started playing with the recipe, sort of mixing the two and adding a few "secret" ingredients to get as much punch out of it as I could.

At the height of summer, this can even be served as a cold soup, though I use a thinner yogurt if I'm going to serve it as a soup. If on the other hand you're going to serve this on burgers, use strained yogurt, to get a more spreadable consistency.

A touch of dill, doesn't take away from the mint flavor, but rather adds to it, and the lemon punches up the naturally sour taste of the yogurt, but then again I love strong acids, so that may be why I love that addition.

Getting the correct balance of salt is not always easy, I just add slowly and taste til perfect. This sauce increases in flavor if you leave it overnight, although the cucumbers do lose a bit of the crunch. It actually seems to absorb some of the salt as this happens, so if you do end up oversalting, an overnight stay can cure this.

Start by shredding cucumber, skin on.

Then strain out the excess water, I shred onto a paper towel and then squeeze out the excess.

Top with garlic, mint, dill, and salt.
tzatziki

Add yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Mix
tzatziki

Done.

tzatziki

1/2 large cucumber
1 clove garlic
2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp dried dill
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vegan Dishes #1: Lentil Kufte

red lentil kufte
We all have to start somewhere, no I'm not a vegan, at least not everyday of the week, but I try to at least be a vegetarian 3 days a week, and that's not too far a step from being vegan.
Middle eastern food is very interesting when it comes to vegan dishes, many of their traditionally dishes are naturally vegan, others are simply a sub out for butter step away. Because the food is naturally in that state, it doesn't taste altered, and it's fulfilling. Kufte is a sort of lentil meatball, just not shaped into balls it's fresh and comforting all at the same time.

It all starts with cooked onions, some weeks I make a large batch of cooked onions and then use it through out the week, so many dishes use them. It's like squeezing all the lemons the day you buy them. If at the end of the week you haven't had a chance to use them, you can always toss them into a vinaigrette and make a salad.

This recipe wants one large onion cooked slowly on low heat for around 30 minutes.


Meanwhile boil red lentils in 3 cups of water.

You are looking for a mushy watery state.

Place onions and 1 cup bulgur in a large bowl. There are many different grades of bulgur, you're looking for size #1, which is the size that's used in tabouli. Bulgur is cracked wheat, that's cooked and then dried, and sorted according to size.

If the mixture is wet add more bulgur.

Add hot lentils, mix, cover and leave for 25 minutes.

Add most of the green onions, parsley, hot paprika, and salt. Then mix. If it's too dry you can add a little hot water or even olive oil. 

For into shapes, this shape is the traditional one used, it's basically squeezed and retains the shape your fingers give it, you can make little balls, or footballs, whatever you like, you do want something you can bite the end off of.

Top with remaining green onions and sweet paprika as a garnish.

This can be served as an appetizer or main dish, it's great with a tomato and cucumber salad, or really any other salad. You can eat these with your hands, they can be served warm, cold or room temperature.

Lentil kufte
1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 cup bulgur
1 large onion,
olive oil to cook onion
2 green onions, chopped (save some for garnish)
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 tsp hot paprika (or to taste)
salt to taste
sweet paprika, as garnish

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seeking Tuna Casserole

There's a lot of food I didn't grow up eating, but wanted to, at least some of them. I still look back at my first exposure to bologna with dread, it was shared with my first exposure to wonder bread and yellow mustard, it was way too much for my taste buds to handle.
Tuna casserole always sounded interesting, the trouble was, i wasn't actually sure what it was supposed to taste like. So I've been trying out variations for years, there's a couple of things I have learned, first use cream of mushroom soup, cream of celery is not as good, second use peas, they're easily the best vegetable in this dish and don't go all mushy, and third one can of tuna goes a long way.
Start off mixing a can of cream of mushroom with a cup of evaporated milk.

Add tuna, peas,and cheese.

Add boiled pasta and half the onions
Mix

Top with remaining onions, and bake at 350 for 35 minutes

Tuna Casserole
1 can cream of mushroom
1 cup evaporated milk
1 can tuna
1 1/2 cups peas
1/3 cup shredded cheese
1 can french fried onions
1 package boiled pasta

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Za'atar with strained yogurt: Everyday zombie breakfast

There's nothing like a breakfast that takes seconds, with only 3 ingredients, and tastes so complex, it's sour earthy, creamy and comforting all at once. Plus the if you buy just a little za'atar it lasts so long, this breakfast has an almost permanent place in the kitchen without taking up a lot of space.

This is based off a middle eastern bakery item called meneish, it's great, especially fresh, but not very accessible. 

Za'tar is a combination of dried herbs, sesame seeds, sumac, and usually a little salt. It's often served mixed with olive oil, but it's a little heavy with all the oil, yogurt lightens it up, brings out the sour tones, and brings in a creaminess.

When buying za'atar, look for something more green in color, there are variations that are more brown, but the green has a better flavor profile, (in my opinion) it's fresher and lighter in flavor.

How to make this, I like to use non-toasted bread, top it off with strained yogurt and then za'atar, try not breathe hard, laugh, sneeze, that kind of thing the za'atar just flies off.

1 slice bread
2 tbsp strained yogurt
1 tbsp za'atar

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What it's Wednesday?

Had a break through on one of my short stories, it took a funny turn, the only question now, at what point does a short story become a book?

I'm going back to old school, this week's farm box contained celery, carrots, cauliflower, and potatoes, I kinda want to make clam chowder in July, what's wrong with me? I always want it to be the next season.

Anyone know any food trucks, we have a bike race coming up on August 8th in Encino, and still have trouble actually getting a confirmation.

The thing about growing up in Santa Monica, is despite the fact that it's near the beach, there's the cliff that keeps off the sand, I was in Playa Vista on Friday near the water and there was sand, like on the sidewalk, what is it that makes me think of developing countries when there's sand on sidewalks, (only if you can't actually see the water from where you are.) We when to Caffe Pinguini, they over cooked my fish, like a chain restaurant would, disappointing, there is no good excuse for that.

The problem with having more time to cook, you end up eating your own food for days at a time, I have to learn to make smaller batches.

Still learning to use the camera after all these months, I was trying to make a video, had it on panorama setting instead apparently. I place a lot of food on this window still while trying to get a nice shot with some natural sunlight in it.

Apparently it's DineLA this week again, there should be some great deals out there for meals. Check out there site, I 've had both hits and misses trying these out, http://discoverlosangeles.com/restaurantweekv2/index.html

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nothing like a swirl: Chocolate Vanilla Marble Cake

Chocolate Vanilla Box Marble Cake
Ok so I have this box of cocoa I bought a month ago, and I really wanted to use it, but I couldn't find a recipe that felt right, I was considering making cocoa rice krispies, but that would be a hard sell at my house, and nothing sells at home like coffee cake. Plus marble cake always has the added bonus of ending up with a great swirl on the inside, if by chance I get twirl just right, I think I did pretty good, I may have looked it up on youtube looking for a video that showed me how to do it, although I completely forgot to focus when it came down to doing it the way the video suggested.

I start off simple, with a box cake, I just made it to instruction. I always go the oil route rather than butter, I like the moisture level the oil brings.
I took half of the batter out, and added 1/3 cup cocoa.

I then oiled a bundt pan, I love the silicon kind, mainly because the cake just pops out. 
Place one layer of vanilla batter on the bottom. 

Then a layer of chocolate.
Then vanilla
Then more chocolate and then more vanilla, I like a lot of layers.
To swirl, you're supposed to make eights with a chop stick, bring up the chop stick at the end of the eight, I did do that, although I kept forgetting to bring up the chop stick, and just doing swirls. I did eventually manage to bring it up a couple times at the end.
Bake at 350 for around 50 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.

Once a little cooler I start peeling off the sides and squeezing the center to separate the cake from the sides of the pan.

Pretty even uncut.

Even nicer on the inside.

Marble Cake

1 box vanilla cake, made to instructions I used Trader Joes White Cake
3 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup oil
1/3 cup cocoa

Monday, July 23, 2012

Disaster of the Week on a Monday, Zucchini Stew

So where is today's post? It got thrown out, it started out ok, I may have put a little too much pepper paste in this one, I used the hot instead of the mild, I was planning on serving this with lots and lots of rice or bulgar. I also like this on the overcooked side, so I brought to a boil, reduced to medium and left to cook for 20 minutes, which should have been fine, but, it wasn't. The after photo is so scary, I couldn't use it. Actually didn't even take one, some burns you don't want to have evidence of. The bottom was gone, the pot I soaked with dish washer liquid, that's the highest grade of burnt on food. Sigh, so sorry folks no photos for today, tomorrow should be a better day, has to be, it should it will have a new better not burnt posting.
The days with the burnt food are always the hardest, blog or no blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ham and Cheese Panini with Avocado

ham and cheese panini with avocado
These days the fridge seems to have an endless supply of avocados, so I am throwing them into everything, normally I wouldn't add one to a panini, it's already so rich, adding something creamy seems like overkill, but somehow avocado overkill is just fine with me, (I found recently there is however such a thing as too much bacon, please don't stop reading my blog because of it)

I love paninis in the summers, they remind me of being a kid in Cyprus in the summers when we used to come back to the beach condo from the sea and sit dripping wet on the patio while we basically ate these. I'm sure there was other food, but this is what I remember.

I used the forman grill to make them, some people I'm sure own panini presses, if you dont have either, you want to frying pans, you heat both and place the sandwich in one, heat one side, flip over and place the other heavier pan on top, to get it to press down, there are other methods involving bricks and if you have bricks laying around at your house I'm sure that should work even better. All of ours are in the non-functioning fireplace.

There are a few other tricks I have when it comes to paninis, but this is the most basic kind, you want to butter the bread on the outside, or use a little cooking spray, and if you're going to add anything afterwards, you want to have the layer of ham on bread, so you can in fact open the sandwich, if you're not adding anything, then place cheese on both sides and everything will be glued together.

I assemble the sandwich on the grill, I start with buttered bread, butter side down, then add ham, then cheese then the second layer of bread buttered side up.

After it's done, and you have the coloring on the bread you're looking for, pry apart the side with the ham and add a little sliced avocado, Creamy, cheesy heaven.

2 slices multigrain bread
1 slice ham
1 slice swiss cheese
1/4 avocado, sliced
butter

Speaking of using avocado, I have tried many methods keeping the fruit from turning brown, but the best method seems to be that press and seal stuff, I apply it directly to the fruit, having it actually touch the green, and getting out all the air, and it stays so pretty.

Avocado doesn't brown

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mystical Coconut Brownies, well not really

Magic Coconut "Brownie" Bars
Ok so these really aren't brownies, I thought they were called 7 layer bars, but on further reflection I realized I was missing a layer, there's only 6 here. I also heard that they were called Magic Bars, but I really don't like the name, it suggests there's something hidden or they're low fat or something and neither is true so that name doesn't really work for. My sister called them coconut brownies, and I get where she got that from, there certainly something brownie like about them, so that's what I'm going with.

You start off crushing or processing cookies, I used a little bit of graham cracker and a lot of chocolate sandwich cookies as in Oreos, (well Joe Joes  from TJ's with the frosting removed.)

Crushing involves placing the cookies in a bag and smashing them.

The processor, is placing them all in their and pulsing.
See mostly chocolate, but a little cinnamon graham, cause great balance of flavor.

Then melt coconut oil. I used coconut oil because I wanted to save the butter, and since this recipe has coconut in it already, I thought it would be a nice addition. It really was, the flavor was great, it's a little sweet, so next time I'm going to reduce the sugar a little, but I didn't feel like I was missing out without the butter.
Mix crumbs, sugar and coconut oil.


Put a little water on a half rimmed cookie sheet, and top with parchment paper. Then top with crumb mixture. Pat down, and bake at 375 for 15 minutes, until firm.



Remove from the oven and let cool completely. This takes around 20 minutes.

Chop nuts, this is my Alaskan knife, I love using this when chopping nuts or herbs, just makes it so much easier to rock back and forth, rather than chop up and down.


Top with nuts.
Top with chocolate chips.

Top with concentrated milk. Concentrated milk is the one that have sugar in it.


Top with coconut.

Bake at 375 for around 15 to 20 minutes, you're looking for great color on the coconut.
Place on a cookie sheet to slice into serving pieces.


Mystically Coconut Brownies

Bottom layer
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp sugar

On top 
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) concentrated milk
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut

Magic Coconut Bars in Bento Boxes

I packed these all up into bento boxes and sent one to work with everyone.