Saturday, September 24, 2011

Red sauce & shells with sauce and smoked mozz

it was sunday and i was getting antsy pantsy sitting around doing nothing.  i wanted to cook all kind of things!  so i started with some gravy (as old italian grandmothers call it).  usually i like to put meats and veggies in my sauce but then it's just tomato sauce, it's not gravy.  i thought i would give gravy a shot for once.  so i got all my stuff together:

-2 cans whole plum tomatoes in juice (unsalted is preferable, I got some at Trader Joe's they were organic but salted and with basil)
-2 cans tomato paste
-1 onion
-1 head of garlic
-olive oil and butter
-salt and pepper
-dried seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper seeds, paprika, cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder [literally the pepper dried then ground  up], oregano, basil

 1. dice onion and chop the garlic fine.  get an enormous pot to put all this wonderfulness in.  heat up some olive oil and butter in the pot, throw in the garlic and onion.  Let it cook a little bit, I let it carmelize a bit and thsi made it a sweeter sauce, which was nice since i had so much heat from the hot peppers.

2. Open the tomatoes, before putting them into the pot, squish them with your hands and break them apart.  This is the funnest part! be careful, they have lots of juice in them and they will squirt all over the place (that's what she said!)

3.  Add the  tomato paste, season with everything you got.  Crank up the heat and bring it to a boil.  Then lower the heat to low.  Mix it up really good and wait.

4. Stir every 15-30 minutes to make sure all the flavors are melding nicely.  Taste it every time you lift the lid.

4.  After about 2 hours of slow cookin, your gravy will be awesome!  and the smell in your house is pretty ama-sing.

So  now that i have all this gravy, i needed something to do with it.  i had bought some small shell pasta on sale and a good chunk of smoked mozz so the brain started piecing it together.

I boiled the shells and then threw them into a large baking dish, covered them in sauce then covered them in shredded smoked mozz, i baked it in the oven (with the cornbread, yay using the oven for more than 1 thing!) until the mozz was nice and melty.
before it went in the oven

after the oven
finished product
it was a big hit and it lasts for days and days!  i still have some gravy leftover, with which i am sure i will make something, i'm thinking chick peas with gravy and maybe some indian spices to make it a party in my mouth.

Dried Chick Peas

i have been scared of dried beans since forever, there's all that soaking and waiting and planning ahead and waiting, i didn't want to deal with it at all!  i looked on the interwebs and found this: speed soaking method  (thank you frugal living nw!)

I don't have a picture of the beans before soaking but i have many of them after.  I really liked the speed soaking, the beans were ready to eat in about 2 1/2 hours or so; there was some waiting but it was ok, i was making red sauce anyways!  This was not intimidating at all and super simple, i don't think i ever want to soak beans overnight.  i have read complaints about the beans being to hard or tough but i like that bite to my bean, the canned ones are so mushy and have no flavor, i will not buy canned beans again!! it's dried all the way and the speed soaking method!  i have many things in my brain about what i want to do with these beans: hummus, falafel, chana masala, so many many things... oh man, i do have like 2 pounds of cooked beans to work with. it looks like it's gonna be a beanie week!

  1. Sort 2-3 cups of beans on a rimmed baking sheet and rinse the beans in the cold water.
  2. I didn’t want to soak these overnight so I switched to the Speed Soaking Method. Brilliant.You can do this with any bean to speed up the soaking time. Here’s how it works: Place the beans in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the beans soak in the warm water for 1 hour. Drain the water and rinse the beans.
  3. Dump the beans back in the pot and cover with several inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Let simmer on medium heat, covered, for an hour or until tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, if desired. Let the beans cool in the water, absorbing the salt as they cool.
  5. After half an hour or so, drain the beans and cool completely.  Use them immediately or store in the fridge for several days, the freezer for several months.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Louisiana hot sauce

i like this hot sauce, more than franks most definitely, it is vinegary and a little spicy and it was delicious with the tuna cakes i made last week.  i do love me some sriracha, but that is more spicy than flavorful and a little too thick for my liking.


thanks food network for the recipe

I was in the Essene Market on 4th Street and I saw that cornmeal was on sale for like a dolla a pound so I picked up about a pound of it and what better to make than cornbread??  So I looked for some recipes, but we didn't have any corn, so I just did it without, although a nice crunch or texture difference would have been nice.  This came out super thick, next time I either need to use a larger dish or use butter instead of oil (whoops!), they tasted good though, not extreme sweetness, just a nice touch of sweet, fresh corn would definitely give it that extra oomph it needs.  Note: you should refrigerate the leftovers and reheat in the oven.

Also, it looked a lot thinner when i was done mixing, this is fine, when all baked up, it was all good.


From Food Network Kitchens

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
30 min
about 4 to 6 side dish serving


  • 2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for preparing the pan
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups milk


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer and a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until light and airy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
Add the cornmeal mixture to the butter mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined into a thick batter. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly before serving.
  • Copyright 2001 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Curry Vegetable Stir Fry

There were so many vegetables in the fridge that were almost rotten but not quite yet, they were on the cusp of rotten, so I decided to make a stir fry!


cayenne pepper (fresh from the garden and dried)
garlic powder
onion powder
curry powder
dash of cinnamon
cilantro (fresh, chopped up fine)

chicken stock
tomato juice
corn starch slurry

1) So I started this off by getting my pan nice and hot, then I added some EVOO to the pan and fried my fresh cayenne peppers in the oil for a few seconds, then i added the curry powder and let that open up for a few seconds then the tumeric, then the other spices.  Let these toast up for about a minute, stirring frequently.
2) Add onion and garlic, let them join the flavor party, the oil you're using is soaking up all this wonderful flavor.  After the onions and garlic party a bit and cook a little, add your other veg minus the mushrooms, they cook super fast so near the end.  Let the vegetables meet your lovely flavored oil and other goodies for about a minute or two.  Season your new additions.
3)Add some liquid, I had some tomato juice left over from salsa, and some chicken stock, fill the pan so only half the veg is covered.  Stir.  Season. Add mushrooms. Watch.  You want  this to cook low and slow, like a braise.  You also want all those flavors to soak into the veg and all those little bits stuck at the bottom of the pan are now in your liquid = yummy yummy!  Cook until the veg is tender.
4) Now that the veg has expelled some of its liquid and the cooking liquid has reduced a little bit, it's time to thicken the sauce with some corn starch slurry.  Take about a tablespoon of corn starch and add it with a tiny bit of water (i made the mistake of adding too much water and having to wait for the water to cook off) and make alsmost a paste with it, dump it in the pan and bring to boil, then you can take it down to a simmer again.  Depending on how thick you want your sauce, you can add more or less corn starch, it's up to you.  I do find that too much corn starch and your sauce feels like a diner lemon meringue pie filling, all gelatinous and weird, not yummy yummy.  The sauce will thicken as it cools down.  At the last second, add your cilantro and stir around.

I've been experimenting with Indian flavors lately.  We have some fabulous curry powder that I am obsessed with!  More to come I promise!


I made this salsa for Mike's housewarming party, even though Oscar took credit for this creation!!  we had just come back from my friend's house, he has a beautiful garden with super awesome tomatoes and peppers and shiso!!  He was so fabulous that he sent me home with so many peppers and huge tomatoes and shiso leaves and seeds! yay!!

lime (just need the juice)
hot hot peppers

1)Chop up the tomatoes, take out the cores, put the seeds and juice in another container, use that juice for curry stir fry!  Then put the chopped tomatoes in a fine mesh strainer, then salt the tomatoes and let them sit to expel some of that extra juice.
2)While waiting for tomatoes to drain, chop up the other stuff: fine dice for everything, no one likes a huge mouthful of raw onion! well i kinda do, but that's beside the point.
3) After letting the tomatoes drain for about 45 minutes, shake them around and make sure all of that liquid has come out, you do want some but not as much as you will get.  As you can see in the picture, it is watery, that is because when I was making this batch, I had to add another tomato late in the game and didn't have  time to drain that one.  Mix all your ingredients up, taste and season accordingly.  Don't be afraid of salt, the tomatoes really need it!

This salsa was a big hit at the party, even though Oscar tried to steal my thunder, but then Mike stepped in and told him what's what, thanks friend, at least i know ONE person has my back!

Tuna Cakes

Inspired by this recipe

So I read about food every day and I bookmark all these recipes with thoughts of grandeur that I will make them all...  I love when my brain actually remembers what I have read!!

I didn't have a recipe, just a vague memory of the above recipe.  I remembered it had a mashed potato base and it had canned tuna (weird combo I know).  It tastes like fish cakes you get from a deep fry seafood palce (i know, i used to work in one!).  It's like fish flavored mashed potato and while that may not sound delicious, it totally is, kind of like how scrapple is like pig flavored mashed potato.

These patties have the crispy panko outside and a creamy flavorful filling with some crunch from the onion.  I love texture differences!  I'm eating them right now for breakfast and I am pretty stoked!

3 medium size russet potato
1 medium onion
1 head of garlic
Handful of fresh herbs (dried will work as well)
Cayenne pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
old bay seasoning
~2 Tbs. butter
2 cans of tuna
2 eggs
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs (Panko preferred)
more breadcrumbs for breading (Panko preferred)
butter for frying
EVOO for frying

So here's what I did:
1) Dice up 3 potatoes and boil them until tender
2)Chop up one onion and one head of garlic and some cilantro or any fresh herb you have on hand.
3)Drain potatoes, put them back in the pot you boiled them in, add salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and a little Old Bay seasoning, add some butter and mash it up.  Let cool.
4) When mashed potatoes are cool, mix in breadcrumbs, tuna, and eggs, if it is too wet, put more breadcrumbs in there, too dry, add some water/stock.
5)Form this mixture into patties, then bread them.  Stack them neatly and then put them in the freezer to set for 20 minutes.  This helps the breadcrumbs stick to the patties while frying and it helps keep the patties together while cooking.
6)I cooked these in some EVOO and 2 Tbs of butter, flip only once, anymore and these suckers will fall apart, think crabcake for this one.  Let  these patties cook and completely brown on one side.  Don't be afraid to add more oil and butter to the pan, the panko really soaks up all that goodness and gives it such a nice crunch and texture difference.

I hope you all make this, or some variation of this.  I am sure you can make this as potato pancake without the tuna.  You could add peas and make it indian spiced, you can make straight up potato, but make sure to add enough bread crumbs to bind your mixture.