Best Fruit Smoothie Evar!

I was still kinda hungry (had a fairly light early dinner) but didn’t want anything too heavy, so decided to make a fruit smoothie. Typically I make these during the day as a snack, but good for dessert or breakfast too. The fruits are of course variable, but this particular combination really worked well, so I’m going to record it.

Ingredients

  • 1 large very ripe banana
  • 10 oz package frozen organic strawberries
  • 7 oz container plain unsweetened greek yogurt
  • 5 pitted dates
  • 7 pecan halves
  • unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • rose water

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Adjust amount of almond milk until desired consistency is reached (about 1 cup?). Go easy on the rose water, a small amount is plenty (about half a capful).
  2. Blend on high until light and frothy (start out on low to break up the chunks).
  3. serve in margarita glass, with a straw.

Notes

  1. While writing this, I think I figured out the reason this was the “Best Smoothie Evar” The yogurt was kinda old, and added a pleasant sour/fermented flavour, similar to buttermilk. Normally I make my own yogurt, will have to try leaving it out longer to get this effect.
  2. Another favourite fruit combo I love is mango and kiwi. But pretty much anything can go in, including apples (core but its ok to leave the skin), oranges, pineapple, grapes, berries, carrots, jalapenos, etc.

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Breaking Bad Coffee Maker

I started watching Breaking Bad recently. Not a great show for food so far, but one of the chemists creates a crazy looking apparatus for making coffee. I was intrigued, and did a bit of research to see how much of it was real, and how much Hollywood. It turns out that the actual setup was bullshit, but the basic premise is valid.

enter image description here

The idea is to have two vessels. You heat the water in the first, which causes the pressure to rise and forces the hot water up a siphon tube into a second vessel which has the ground coffee. After a minute or so, the heat is shut off, which creates a vacuum and sucks the coffee back into the first vessel. A filter prevents the coffee grounds from flowing back into the first vessel.The Florence Siphon

Apparently this method has been around for at least 150 years, with some fancy models that would shut off the flame automatically.

https://i0.wp.com/i01.i.aliimg.com/wsphoto/v1/403885205/Freeshipping-100-quanlity-assurance-Wholesale-vacuum-Royal-Belgium-coffee-maker.jpg

In order to try it out and see if I actually like the coffee made this way (it is characterised as “clean and bright”, the opposite of French Press, but with the advantage of direct immersion as well as filtration, and the water is pretty much guaranteed to be at the correct temperature) I started with a simple utilitarian stacked model. It arrives Tuesday, I’ll post a follow up report once I’ve tried it.
The next step will be to make my own “mad scientist” setup. Make Magazine posted instructions for a fairly simple “Florence Siphon” setup that looks quite doable. But I really want it to look more elaborate like the one on Breaking Bad. Will have to consult with a chemist (“hi dad…”).

There is also a gorgeous stacked version, with a graceful curved stand and carafe. But it costs $300 which seems like too much, considering the one I bought was 1/10th the price and does the exact same thing. Here’s a picture of each.

https://i0.wp.com/www.amphora-ag.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/c/a/cafemaker_d_1.png

Aside from the stylistic differences, mine is meant to heat right on the stove, rather than rely on an independent alcohol or butane burner.

 

Baked Ziti

I’ve been planning on making baked ziti since thanksgiving, and finally got around to it. In fact, for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, I did a double batch. The quantities that follow are for a normal pan full, just double if you want extra, it’s barely any extra work.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb box of Barilla dried ziti n.74 or mostaccioli n.71 pasta (or half-half)
  • 2 links hot Italian sausage (.25 lb)
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage (.25 lb)
  • ½-1 jar Classico D’Abruzzi sauce with sausage
  • ½-1 jar Barilla Marinara sauce
  • red or white wine
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in an 8 quart pot. Add some salt and a splash of olive oil. When at a full boil, add pasta and cook for 9 minutes, then drain and return to pot.
  2. Sear the sausage on all sides in a frying pan coated lightly with olive oil. When brown on all sides but not cooked through, remove from pan and slice thinly. Add back to pan and cook on both sides until brown and cooked through. Add to pasta.
  3. Add sauce to pasta. Start with ½ jar of each, stir, and add more to taste, until it looks “juicy” enough. Stir in cooked sausage.
  4. If the sauce jars are empty, rinse out with a splash of wine. Add to pan and deglaze, then stir in to pasta. If there is still leftover sauce in the jars, then just add the wine directly to the frying pan.
  5. Add the ricotta and about ¼ cup (or to taste) freshly grated parmesan cheese, and stir to mix. Spoon into a 9”x13” pan greased lightly with olive oil (or non-stick cooking spray).
  6. Thinly slice the mozzarella cheese and sprinkle over the pasta. Bake in preheated 350F oven or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
  7. Serve with a side of more baked ziti. Or a salad if you want to be healthy about it. And red wine.

Notes

  1. Yes, I use store-bought sauce for this. With everything else going on its fine. But if you are Italian and/or your grandmother would have a fit if she found out, feel free to make your own.
  2. You may be tempted to buy some pre-shredded “mozzarella”. Don’t. I guess it’s ok if serving to kids (in which case leave out the hot sausage too), but please try to use the real stuff. Doesn’t need to be the fancy stuff, the prepackaged supermarket kind is fine.

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Chopped Liver

Along with the feets mentioned in the previous post, the supermarket also had a whole bunch of containers of chicken livers. So I got one of those too. And made chopped liver. Some people like it with beef liver, but that’s what gives chopped liver a bad reputation, in my opinion. Made with chicken livers, its light and flavourful without being disgusting and “liver-y”.

The main key trick to making good chopped liver is the onions. For a pound of livers, you should have two large onions. Chop them up and saute over low heat in a bit of butter (or schmaltz or oil) until completely golden but not browned. This takes quite a while, but they will melt and carmalize and be sweet and luscious. When done, add to food processor with metal blade.
Then add some schmaltz (or butter, or oil) to the pan, and sear the livers over medium heat. Pat them dry with paper towel first so they don’t stew. Adjust flame so the liquid doesn’t accumulate, but don’t overcook! They only need a couple minutes on each side, they should still be pink in the middle. When done, add to the onions in the food processor.
Meanwhile, while the onions were cooking, you should have hard boiled 4 eggs. Cut into pieces and add to food processor. Season with salt and pepper.
Deglaze the pan the livers cooked in with a splash or two of brandy. Cook out the alcohol and scrape up all the meaty and oniony bits and add to food processor.
Pulse a few times, then open and scrape down sides of bowl. Pulse a few more times until smooth. Don’t overprocess or it will turn into a gummy mess. Some small chunks are fine, or pulse carefully if you prefer it smoother.
Its good warm straight away, but most people prefer to chill it.

Serve with rye bread, corn tortillas, lettuce, or whatever you want. Its pretty versatile. Makes an absolutely delectable filling for omelets. Or a meaty sandwich spread instead of mayo.

Here is a slightly more “proper” recipe for reference, similar to mine but won’t be as good because it has too much fat and not enough onion: http://theshiksa.com/2010/06/07/chopped-liver/

Note: I prefer to cook the onion in butter, and the livers in schmaltz, but either are fine. Or just use oil, but you’re already cooking a pound of saturated animal innards, so what’s a few more grams of saturated fat? Essen!

Feets!

The sekrit to making the best chicken soup is to add some chicken feet to the pot. In the old days, chickens had feet and heads, now they seem to grow in vats without them. Or maybe McDonald’s buys them all to make McNuggets. Eww.

During the snow storm last week, the supermarket had a really odd assortment of stuff, sold out of many normal items (gotta get the bread and milk…), but with some odd things they don’t normally even carry. The result being that I got 4 chicken leg quarts, and a 1 lb package of chicken feet, and made chicken soup. Just tossed the meat into the pressure pot with a carrot, onion, and stalk of celery. Cover with water and cook until the carrot is soft. For best results, chill overnight and skim off solid layer of fat.
But then I had a pile of boiled chicken feet left over. I felt bad throwing them out, but eating plain boiled feets was less than alluring. So I got the brilliant idea to turn them into Chinese style dim sum. They are often made with fermented black beans, but I don’t have any right now, so I googled around until I found this one:
http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1859445

I already had the cooked feets, so I skipped the first several steps, and started by browning 2 dried red chilies, 3 star anise, and a cinnamon stick in a teaspoon or so of oil. Then added a bunch of chopped garlic and ginger. Then made the sauce with a nice dollop of hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, miso (to get the fermented flavor that the black beans would have provided), mirin, chili paste with garlic, sriracha, and sherry. Added all that to the pot and brought to a boil, then threw in the feet and a couple of the legs/thighs, and let it reduce to a glaze-like consistency.

So damn good I ate it straight from the pan. The feet were tender and the bones just popped out of the slightly gelatinous meat. Diluted with the thigh/leg meat, it wasn’t gross at all, but full of flavor. So if you see them for sale at a supermarket near you, try it!

Hot Chocolate for Grown-Ups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup high quality cocoa (min. Ghirardelli. Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, Maison du Chocolat, or other premium brand preferred.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups (or 1 liter) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Kahlua (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients except nutmeg in 4-quart saucepan. Add hot water and stir to incorporate over high heat until it boils. Start with 1/3 cup and add up to ½ cup if necessary to prevent from burning.
  2. Slowly pour in milk while stirring.
  3. Heat until hot, stirring occasionally, until almost at a boil. But do not bring to boil.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and nutmeg.
  5. Ladle into mugs and add 1 TB Kahlua per cup.

Notes

  1. Splurge for the “good stuff”, the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference. The cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla should be the best you can get your hands on.
  2. For an extra kick, add a shot of espresso. Then top with some frothed milk. Just like your favourite coffee shoppe, only much better, and 1/8 the price.

 

Kid’s Version

Follow the directions on the side of Hershey’s cocoa box. Essentially the same as above, but use ¼ cup Hershey’s coca, ½ cup sugar, 1 quart cow milk, omit spices and Kahlua, and top with mini marshmallows.