Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Now that is a made up word I can love! Google even recognized it, but not before thinking I meant to search for 'intraperitonealization' which is some sort of laproscopic surgery treatment in the urology field. Yum. Basically I was inspired by Ina Garten's Portabella lasagna and came to the realization that I too could make lasagna! Not just any lasagna but a beautiful, completely edible one! In the past I came to realize the magic that is white lasagna through the traditional Greek pastitsio, and Stouffer's vegetable lasagna. That silky bechamel sauce is what really does me in. I never thought I could successfully make something this complicated, to me this is the dinner equivalent of making a good baklava.

If you have oodles of time on your hands, or live near a Wegman's, you could use roasted or even grilled marinated veges instead of just mushrooms. Carrot, onion, zuccini, and even tomato could be roasted or grilled and make an excellent filling for this dish. Mess around and find your favorite combination. I know I am a slow cook, but this dish took me a whopping 2 hours to put together and bake so I won't be messing around with it much.

Vegetable Lasagna

1lb lasagna noodles
15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
4 cups milk
2 lbs Portabella mushroom caps
10 oz frozen chopped spinach
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ cup grated parmesan plus extra for sprinkling top
1 stick unsalted butter plus another ½ stick to cook mushrooms
½ cup all purpose flour
¾ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbs kosher salt

Set oven to 375F

Boil lasagna in salted water for 10 minutes, until pliant but firm to the bite. Drain and mix with oil to prevent sticking and to keep moist.

Soak the spinach in bowl of hot water and break up with your fingers, grab a palm full and squeeze the hell out of it with a bundle of paper towels. Squeeze until no more water comes out, set aside and repeat with the rest using fresh towels until the spinach is VERY dry.

Sauté the mushrooms in 2 batches with a couple tablespoons butter, salt until tender, about 5 minutes. Use 1 garlic clove per batch. Set aside off the heat.

Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium low heat, add flour and whisk quickly to remove any lumps that may form. Cook this roux, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes or until bubbles form at the edges. Add the milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg all at once and continue to stir until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Keep the heat at or below medium and stir constantly to prevent burning. Set aside off the heat.

Mix the ricotta in a bowl with the egg, ½ cup parmesan, dried spinach and dash salt and pepper. Mix in about 1/3 cup of the milk sauce to loosen.

Pour enough sauce in the bottom of a 9x13x2 or 3 inch baking dish to lightly coat the bottom. Put down a layer of noodles (about 5), then about ¾ cup of the sauce (enough to coat noodles), then 1/3 of the mushrooms, then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture spread evenly. Repeat with 2 more of these layers and finish with layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes, cover with foil if top gets too brown.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Late Thanksgiving Post

I was nominated to do Thanksgiving dessert again this year, which I find hilarious since I used to suck at baking until recently. I was going to repeat the orgasmic pumpkin cheesecake with pecan-gingersnap crust of 2006, but mom wanted apple pie. I had only recently (as in 2 weeks before) delved into the abyss that is crust making with any success. This after my complete and utter failure at fruit pie making a few years ago for boyfriend. It wasn’t that it didn’t taste good; it was the hideous appearance, soupy insides and soggy bottom crust that convinced me I had no business in the dessert making arts.

2 weeks ago I decided that, dammit, I’m going to make pie crust and it will yield a visually appealing and tasty result! I fished around the internets for recipes, since no one in my family makes fruit pies, or any pie now that I think about it. Mom makes a mean Jewish apple cake though, mmm…. Moving on, I found a very basic, simple butter crust recipe at Epicurious. I *heart* Epicurious. Found a deep dish apple pie recipe on the Food Network website courtesy of Emeril Lagasse. I don’t like Emeril or his recipes for the most part, but this one seemed to stand out due to the lack of 3 cups of sugar. I did make some adjustments but he deserves the credit. His cooking time, however, was waaaay too short.

I used a Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 9-inch Nonstick Deep-Dish Pie Pan. I don’t care if this is cheating; I bought the pan on discount for $7 and would have gladly paid full retail now that I see the results. Both attempts with this pan yielded a perfectly cooked bottom crust, no more soggy mess for this gal! This crust is just effing magic, the recipe makes just enough for a 9-inch double layer crust that flaky and thick enough to hold it’s shape on a plate. I know I don’t have great technique with rolled crust, and yet I get an excellent result which leads me to believe this recipe is somewhat forgiving. The picture is of the first attempt, the Thanksgiving pie was much taller, prettier, and tastier. This recipe reflects the lessons learned from the first pie.

Novice-Proof Apple Pie

3 large Golden Delicious apples cored and sliced thick
4 large Granny Smith apples cored and sliced thick
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs flour
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tbs unsalted butter cut into small pieces
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup ice water
1 tsp vinegar

Work in a large metal mixing bowl that has been in the freezer for at least 10 minutes
The key here is to keep everything cold and work quickly, you could use a food processor if you aren’t ready to use your hands, just pulse the butter, flour, salt and sugar until butter is in small beads, then add vinegar and water till it slightly comes together.

Using your fingertips in a pinching motion, go through the butter, flour and salt until the mixture looks like course meal and the butter pieces are the size of peas. Add the water slowly until the mixture just starts to hold together, you should be able to squeeze it into a ball with one hand and it will be a slightly crumbling ball when you open your hand. Roll it into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least an hour. Note: this step allow the water to fully combine with the flour, so your crust should not be sticky going into the fridge, it should be on the drier side.

In the meantime preheat your oven to 400F and start cutting up your apples. Mix them well with the lemon, sugar, flour and spices for at least 10 minutes.

After an hour cut your cold dough in half and roll out each half separately to about ¼ inch thickness using a cold rolling pin. Flour the roller and the surface to prevent sticking. Work fast so that the butter softens, but does not melt. Also the less you mess with it the better it will turn out. Do not rewad the dough into a ball and roll out again, it will suck and people will laugh at you. Just throw it out and start over, or bake it and give it to someone you hate.

Line the bottom of your pie pan with one crust. To transfer just get the crust to stick slightly to the pin (or hold it with a finger) and roll it up half way and lift it onto the pan, then unroll. Make sure the crust sits in the bottom edge, pull the crust edge toward the center of the pan and press it gently into the edge where the side meets the bottom. Do not pull when you do this or you’ll stretch it out and it will be uneven, uneven=bad. If you choose the pecan option, spread them evenly on top of the bottom crust. Scoop the spiced apples into the crusted pan using your hands to strain out some of the accumulated liquid; you can add a couple tablespoons of the liquid just don't pour the apples in. I don’t like soupy pies, so I do this as a preventative measure, there will still be plenty of liquid I promise. Stud the apples with the 2 tablespoons of butter and cover with the top crust using the same transfer method as the bottom.

Fold the bottom crust edge over the top crust edge and roll or pinch to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut at least five 1 inch slits into the top crust. The slits are important, if steam (water) can’t escape fast enough it will just sort of hang out in your filling and give you the dreaded soup. Brush the top crust with a little beaten egg and milk and sprinkle a little sugar if you want it shiny. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 375F and bake for 80 minutes. Let cool 1 hour before serving.

The Thanksgiving pie made me laugh, the crust had baked in the lovely dome shape it took when laid over the massive pile of apples, but as the apples cooked down they left the upper portion of the dome empty. This is not a problem for me, but if it is for you the solution is to slice your apples thin and layer them in a way that reduces air pockets. The flatter the apples lay, the less room they will have to shrink. Another solution would be to precook your filling, then lay it into the crust and bake, although I'm not sure what the cooking time would be for that.

Yankee-fied Chili

I am a northerner, and damn proud of it. I have nothing against the people of the south, in fact I love their food with a passion only matched by 2 star-crossed Arkansas first cousins. Kidding! Well, not really but anyway...I came across a recipe for white chicken chili yesterday, and I suddenly developed an intense craving for my mom’s version of this dish. I remember how she used to make me pick over the carcasses of the chickens she would roast for dinner, one to eat and one to stew. How I would burn my fingertips because I was too impatient to let the stew bird cool down enough, and how annoying it was to spend an hour on the eat bird and only get a half cup of meat off the damn thing. She would use the stew bird to make either chicken and dumpling stew, or a fragrant, silky, delicious white chili.
Unfortunately the woman is in the middle of moving and probably wouldn’t have appreciated my phone call asking her to dig out a recipe from the mountains of boxes currently blanketing her new house. Knowing that I couldn’t fully replicate her version, I went on my own path with this one. The basic ingredients are liquid, beans, meat, and spice. As long as you have these 4 key things, the odds are good that you’ll end up with something edible.

I used a cooked grocery store rotisserie chicken to speed up the process, but you could use any cut of the bird as long as it’s around 1lb boneless or 1.5lb bone-in. Cook it any way you want except deep frying. Another way to make a "quick" chili is to use canned beans instead of dry. Cooking with dry beans usually add a full day to the process what with the soaking and rinsing and whatnot, so I tend to avoid it much to my grandmothers chagrin. In the picture you will see red potatoes, and you will notice no potatoes in the recipe, follow the recipe.

Yankee-fied White Chicken Chili

2 tbs olive oil
3 (14.5 oz) cans reduced sodium chicken stock
2 (15.5 oz) cans northern white/cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 whole rotisserie chicken meat removed and shredded (or equivalent 1lb chicken meat)
1 medium onion diced
3 carrots cleaned and sliced (optional)
1 ½ cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
3 cloves garlic crushed or diced
1 jalapeño seeds removed and diced small
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup cheddar or Mexican blend cheese shredded
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot (3 quart or larger) over medium-low heat.

Add the onion and carrot and cook until onion has softened, about 5 minutes, do not brown.

Add the garlic and jalapeño and continue to cook for another 3 minutes until very fragrant.

Pour in the chicken stock, beans and spices and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes add the corn and cooked chicken and simmer another 10 minutes.

Turn off heat and add the cream and cheese and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

Note: if you want a thicker final product (recipe results in loose stew) you could mash ½ cup of the beans by hand or in the blender and add to the pot when adding the stock and remaining beans. Or cook a rouxe (1/4 cup each of butter and flour cooked over low heat for 5 minutes), add a cup of stock, combine well and add to pot with beans and remaining stock.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I did it. I made a Chinese-ish stir-fry, by myself, all alone, from scratch, without a wok, and it's edible. Here’s some background on me, I grew up with a Vietnamese best friend who had a fucking CHEF for a mom who would feed me the most insanely delicious things ever to come from the hands of man! I ate (almost) everything she would set in front of me, even the weird stuff that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) translate to English. Then I got a waitress gig at an authentic Thai restaurant owned and operated by a family. For every shift you worked they would feed you a meal with whatever the chefs felt like making that day, curry, larb gai, tom yum, pad woon sen, spicy basil…and it was all incredible. On top of this I’ve had real Korean barbecue fed to me by a real Korean grandmother, and enough Japanese food to know what is passable and what is junk. And now that I live in Philly, I can frequent Chinatown to my heart’s content, stuffing my face with the best and cheapest Chinese food I’ve ever had. For the record, Peeking duck with plum sauce and green onion wrapped up in those little rice tortilla things are better than sex.
To sum it up: I’m spoiled, really, really spoiled when it comes to most Asian food. I can’t even eat crappy take-out pork lo mein any more without craving pad kee mow instead. So when I try to make my own Asian grub, which is very rare, I am almost always disappointed and slightly nauseated at my utter lack of skill in that cooking department. Hell I even manage to burn rice in my top quality rice cooker! Confession: rice hates me, but I love it.

So here is my lame ass attempt. Honestly though, it’s the best I’ve ever made, and completely edible. This batch made enough for about 4 people.

2 large crowns broccoli, get ones with stems
1 red bell pepper
16 oz portabella mushrooms
1 can water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots
16 oz package firm tofu drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes

Marinate the tofu cubes in 1/3 cup soy sauce and 1 tbs chili oil in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. In a large sauté pan fry the tofu in a couple tbs vegetable oil (or whatever oil you like) until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Set aside until vegetables are ready.

Cut the vegetables however you like them, just make them fairly uniform in size to get even cooking.
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the broccoli florets and stems (use a potato peeler to get the tough outer skin off and cut the interior into chucks) along with the carrots (sliced into thick rounds) for no more than 2 minutes, you want them a little firmer than fork tender. In a large, hot sauté pan (or wok if you roll like that) add the mushrooms with a few tablespoons of oil and cook 1 minute until softened. Add the drained blanched vegetables, water chestnuts and peppers and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the tofu and sauce and stir to coat and heat through. Serve with steamed white or brown rice.


2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup water or stock (low sodium)
2 tbs chili oil
2 tbs sesame oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs ginger (grated fresh or dry powder)
½ cup chopped onion
4 tbs honey
½ tbs sesame seeds

2 tbs corn starch dissolved in ¼ cup water

Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan, add garlic, onion and fresh ginger, if using. Sauté for 1 minute, then add all other ingredients except corn starch. Bring to boil, slowly drizzle in the corn starch slurry while stirring the sauce. You may not need all of it to achieve the thickness you want, I only used about half. Reduce heat to med low and cook for 1 minute, taste and add whatever you want, more sweet/spicy/sour. Pour into bowl and set aside.

You could use chicken or pork instead of tofu, but i'm broke as a joke and 1 lb of tofu only cost me $2.50. Actually, with the exception of the sesame oil ($4.00!), and assuming you have all that weird stuff like chinese chili oil just laying around in your fridge (I've had it for over a year, it just doesn't go bad!) this is pretty damn cheap for feeding 4 people. The tofu and veges cost me less than $10, so if you stock up on the main sauce ingredients, which don't go bad, you can make many batches of this for next to nothing. Don't buy this stuff from your local mega-huge-mart, they will have crappy American versions and charge you rediculous amounts. If you can, shop at an Asian grocer where the signs are not in English, or get a Vietnamese family to adopt you.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Hands Down Best Banana Bread EVER!

I've made 4 different banana bread recipes in the last 2 months, and I've eaten a lot of this stuff over the years so trust me on that title up there. This recipe has convinced me that not baking with sour cream should be a crime. I found this recipe on Allrecipes and halved it with a few other small changes, but the full credit goes to Esther Nelson the submitter. Seriously I need to hug this woman.

Best Damn Banana Bread

½ cup butter (could probably sub some with applesauce)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground clove
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (white or wheat)
¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350F for muffins or 300F for loaves

In large bowl cream butter and sugars then add in eggs, vanilla, bananas, sour cream and spices. Mix well.
In seperate bowl combine flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and nuts.
Add dry to wet a little at a time stirring by hand until just combined, don't overstir.

Fill greased and floured pans (2) 7"x3" loaves or (2) 12 cup muffin. Sprinkle with left over nuts if you want to show off.
For muffins bake at 350F for about 20 minutes until toothpick comes out pretty clean and tops spring back slightly when touched. Let sit in pan for a minute or two before turning out.

For loaf bake at 300F for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out pretty clean. Put the loaf, pan and all directly into your freezer for 20 minutes. This is optional, I think the recipe makes for a pretty moist product all by itself as the muffins without the freezer step came out just as moist as the loaf. I store this in the fridge because I'm wierd, but I promise it doesn't get hard or slimy so you can go ahead and be weird with me.

This mix doesn't have a whole lot of rise, but at the same time it is still very springy and tender and airy. Oh yeah, try not to eat it until at least the next day, I was blown away by how much the flavor improved in the fridge overnight.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I *heart* Halloween

Ah, Halloween, the holiday that brings out the slutty, freakish fool in all of us, a night where you can dress up like a naked sexual organ and (hopefully) not get arrested for indecent exposure.

Boyfriend and I as 'Old Man Balls' and 'Posh'. We like to stay classy.

Wow, I was about to be on a roll there until my incredibly irritating coworker started rustling his dwarfy little hand around in that crinkly sandwich baggy again, inhaling some crunchy health food for the fourth time today (it's 2pm). I could tell you how absolutely infuriating it is to have to hear this douche stuff his face all day, but that is for another blog.

Anywho, for me the best part of Halloween is the day after when I can think about Thanksgiving hardcore, and plan out all the cool stuff I'm going to think about making but not actually make.
And of course: canned cranberry sauce. That magical stuff that beckons to me every year "come on, poke me with a spoon and watch me sensuously jiggle in the serving bowl, mix me with gravy and spread me on a leftover turkey and stuffing sandwich for your post-Thanksgiving hangover breakfast, hell eat me plain! Yes, no matter what super-hyped homemade cranberry sauce you set in front of me, I'll always have a soft spot for that sour, congealed, industrial mess that is-canned cranberry sauce. Moving on...

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

Gut your pumpkin and get all the squishy matter off of the seeds, wash thoroughly and dry.
Transfer seeds to a cookie sheet with sides and drizzle a little vegetable oil over them, about 1 tablespoon for a medium sized pumpkin’s worth.
Grind some kosher salt (or use that toxic table salt), about a half tablespoon.
Mix the seeds so that they are evenly coated with the oil and salt.
Bake in 400F oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly golden.

I thought about using spices and herbs and whatnot, but I really had a craving for some good ole’ fashioned salted seeds, so there you go.

The sacrificial lamb.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thicker Than Soup, Thinner Than Stew…

First of all, if anyone ever used the word “stoup” to describe the above condition to me I’d laugh in their face and give them a nice, hearty slap to bring them back from the kiddy kitchen fun time hour, or maybe the other way around I haven’t decided yet. Just because you can make up imaginary, cutesy terms to describe something that you’ve “made” doesn’t mean you should. I wonder if She Whom We Shall Not Name has ever considered the fact that her adorably rancid little term already exists, for something far more interesting. Also, why bother using euphemisms in your little cooking show when you have to explain what they mean? Every. Single. Time. It’s called 30 Minute Meals, not Kindergarten Speech Therapy. Plenty of actual chefs don’t have to resort to childish abbreviations or speech patterns when performing on their shows, and I suppose they don’t have to because they actually have intelligent and useful things to say. Every TV ‘chef’ is annoying to some degree if you watch them too much, but She Whom We Shall Not Name is agitating after a record 4 seconds.
Moving on. Chowder-it’s thicker than soup, thinner than most stews…oh…wow.

Corn Cheddar Chowder
Recipe derived from this awesome food blog: http://www.lastnightsdinner.net/

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced sweet Spanish onion
1 cup sliced scallions
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
8-10 small red potatoes, cut into about 1 inch chunks
16 oz portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped or pureed (use blender/food processor) roasted red/yellow bell peppers
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Kosher salt to taste

Melt 2 tbs of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add onion and scallions. Season with salt and cook on med low until lightly caramelized. Add vinegar and cayenne, cook 1 minute. Add corn, stock, potatoes, pepper puree, stir and cover. Simmer over medium-low heat until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20-25 minutes.
While you wait for the timer, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter in a separate pan with some salt and pepper. Move the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. Reduce the mushroom water/butter left in the pan until it forms a dark, thick syrup, then pour into the mushroom bowl.
When the potatoes are nice and soft, taste and add additional salt, cayenne or vinegar if necessary. Spoon some of the soup into a blender, filling no more than half way. Put on lid and hold a thick cloth over the lid and blend until smooth. Pour the result back into the chowder and fill blender halfway twice more. You could also use an immersion blender or food processor for this if you have them. Stir in the blended remains and add the shredded cheese, stir well. Now add your mushrooms with their lovely sauce and mix again. Serve with a thick piece of rustic bread, I like Portuguese Saloio. If you're entertaining you could garnish with a sprinkle of cheese and chopped scallions.

So. Damn. Good. Even with frozen corn, it would likely be even better with fresh. I still can't believe I actually made this, I'm shocked. This is my first ever fully independent soup-like conconction. That tablespoon of cayenne does add quite a kick, so if you don't like spicy you should cut that in half, or more. The original recipe did not call for mushrooms or balsamic vinegar, but it's fall and I wanted to make it more autumn-ish so in they went. I also gave a thought to using yams or sweet potatoes instead of red and doubling the Spanish onion and omitting the green...maybe next time.
Before I added the cheddar, but after I pureed some of the potatoes, I did a taste test. Holy crap this was good, even without the cheese! So the low fat alternative would be to sauté the onions and mushrooms in olive oil, and just forget the cheese altogether. Hazaah!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Last year I convinced my Yia Yia to give me her Greek family recipe collection. I told her I was going to combine it with some other stuff to make a family cook book that I would give to all the women in our family. So yeah, I still haven't gotten around to making the book, but I have finally made one of the recipes. I've helped make almost all of the recipes she gave me and almost every April of my childhood was marked by twisting and moulding hundreds of koulourakia and kourabiedes for the Greek Festival thrown by my church.

Man, those were the days, sitting at an incredibly long table with at least 20 old Greek church ladies on both sides, rolling and twisting and telling stories. I was always the youngest one there, none of the other Yia Yia's brought their grandkids. I would sit very quietly and try to decipher their bad english to understand what the hell they were all laughing about.

However, now I'm trying to cook this stuff completely on my own, in my tiny, barely functioning kitchen. Oh yeah, American pronuciation of this cookie is 'kool-eh-dakia' just so you know. Many of the recipes for kourourakia I found on the internet claim they are a "traditional Easter cookie" and I don't know why. Maybe my family, and the entire church congregation is wierd, because there are pans and pans of the stuff served with coffee and this wierd, sweet barley cereal stuff every Sunday after the morning service. Easter is usually when someone in the family makes the good stuff - baklava (which I despise but still appreciate), kourabiedes (my fav), ravani (a farina cake), finikia...and those fucking awful white almonds. God I hate those things, and I just know that when I get married there will be little tulle wrapped bags of them EVERYWHERE. Moving on...
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


1 lb unsalted butter softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs (or 5 medium) + 1 egg
1 orange zested and juiced (at least 1/2 cup liquid)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp salt

7-8 cups flour (plus more for rolling)
4 tsp baking powder
Sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F. This recipe makes 60-70 cookies, about 3 half sheet pans full, so you can halve it if you want.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light yellow color, add in the orange zest and juice, and the vanilla and clove. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time and mix very, very well after each.
In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together.
Add the flour to the wet mix 1 cup at a time.
Ok, the original recipe called for 4 cups of flour and 4 tsp baking powder, but it wasn't enough flour, the dough needs to be formable into twists. So I added somewhere between 3 and 4 more cups of flour, until the dough didn't stick to the sides of the bowl and I could roll it into a ball in my hands. Don't use a mixer for this, or you'll be buying a new one, use your hands to kneed in the flour after the first 2 cups.
If you have the time, let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up so it is easier to form.

You can make these into any shape your little heart desires, but the traditional form is rope twists and curled S shapes. Either way you have to start out with a stable, floured surface at least 1 ft. wide. take a small palmfull of dough and roll into a slight ball, then rub your hands together to get a long, tube shape. Put the dough on the floured surface, flour your hands, and roll into a long, thin cylinder, approx. 10" long, and about 1/4" thick. This does not have to be the exact measurements, just try to make all the cookies about the same size so they cook evenly.
Now for the rope twist, just flip one end over the other so you have a little hole at the top, then continue to flip the ends over each other until you run out of straight dough.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
For the curly S, start at one end (make sure surface is very well floured) and curl it in on itself, like a centipede does when it dies. Don't lift it off the surface, just curl it as it sits, a little less than half way down the length. Then curl the other end in the opposite direction, keep curling until you run out of straight dough and you meet the other curl.
If you arent' using sesame seeds, transfer formed dough to cookie sheet. If you are using the sesame seeds, put them on a flat plate and carefully flip the twisted cookies onto the plate top side down, press very lightly so the seeds stick, then place top side up on a cookie sheet.
Beat the extra egg in a bowl with an optional tsp sugar. Brush tops of cookies with egg and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. These are hard, scone like cookies so don't freak if they aren't soft coming out of the oven.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Mine came out a little light, probably because my oven SUCKS! They should be a little darker than this. On a side note the clove and vanilla are my own additions to this, my grandmother's recipe, although I have seen both used in other kourourakia recipes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Potatoes Jess

Yesterday while I was surfing for recipes instead of sucking my brain dry on Poisson ratio charts, I came across this recipe for mashed potatoes with cheese on top. The key to hitting the print button was its simplicity, and good ingredient proportion. While I was at my ghetto ass Superfresh for the potatoes and cream I saw some decent looking sliced baby portabellas, and I thought: yes…YES! Of course I couldn’t find anything remotely similar to Gruyère, and I have this unfortunate aversion to Swiss. I found myself in that Bermuda triangle of quality, the processed cheese aisle. You know the one, with rows of Kraft singles as far as the eye can see. I’m looking for something, anything good that doesn’t have the word cheddar (although that would be killer too), Kraft, or imitation on the label. Cracker Barrel to my rescue, featuring a package of sliced natural Fontina. I’ve never actually purchased or cooked with Fontina before but I’ve heard that word on many a cooking show, so at the very least I’d have something culinarily relevant. Ha! I think I’m forgetting that this is a glorified bowl of mashed potatoes, so anyway, on with the recipe.

Potatoes Jess

6 Idaho baking potatoes
16 oz portabella mushrooms
½ lb unsalted butter – 2 sticks plus an extra 2 tablespoons
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup grated parmesan
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ to ¾ cup Fontina cheese, just rip up a few slices. Cheddar would also kick ass.
¼ cup fresh herb – chives, parsley, basil…

Wash and dry potatoes, poke all over with a fork, and bake on an aluminum foiled cookie sheet for 45 minutes at 425F until fork tender.
While the potatoes are doing their thing, wash and slice (if you got them whole) the shrooms, dry with a paper towel, and sauté in 2 tablespoons of the butter and a little salt and pepper over medium heat.
When the shrooms are soft, remove them and set aside, leave the liquid in the pan.
Using the leftover liquid, sauté the garlic until fragrant (2 minutes on med-low heat).
Let the potatoes sit for a few minutes after they are done or use a towel so you can handle them. Scrape off the skin with a knife and put the naked spuds into a large bowl. Coarsely mash with a fork into small pieces, the potato should fall apart easily, if not, well I don’t know how to fix that so I guess you’re beat.
Cut the remaining butter into tablespoon pieces (melts faster) and add them, the cream, parmesan, herbs, and the cooked garlic with pan drippings to the potatoes and mix with a big spoon until all the liquid is soaked up (a couple minutes of stirring does just fine). Taste and add salt and pepper accordingly.

Take out some sort of baking dish, I used a 9 inch round cake pan because I had nothing else small enough. Spread half of the potato mixture on the bottom of the dish, pour the mushrooms on top, then gently plop the rest of the potatoes on top of that. Flatten the top and layer on the torn up cheese pieces, if you are really lazy you could just lay on whole slices. Turn on your broiler and put the dish on the second from top rack. Broil for about 5 minutes until lightly brown and slightly puffed. Keep an eye on that mess, I don’t know how easy it is to burn Fontina and it was too expensive for me to experiment.

Voila! Instant happiness. You'll notice the absence of herbage in my pics, well that's because my "Super" grocery store only had dill and cilantro, so just put some imaginary green bits in there and that's what it'll look like. I ate this with some steamed broccoli to make me feel a little better about the whole ½ lb of butter thing. There are four layers of awesome in there so use a big spoon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Boyfriend came to visit this weekend, so I finally had a chance to cook for us (his kitchen is non-functioning at the present). It was chilly outside, so we both wanted some hot, gooey, comfort food. I had experimented with homemade macaroni and cheese the night before, but there wasn’t enough sauce for the pound of pasta, and there wasn’t nearly enough cheese in said sauce. Also, there was no meat to speak of. I love ground beef in my pasta and so does Boyfriend so that was an easy choice, the vegetable was not. I wanted peas, he didn’t want anything green whatsoever. I swear he wouldn’t have eaten it if I so much as garnished it with parsley, sigh. So peas are optional in this recipe, but they would totally kick ass.

Mac & Cheese with Beef

1 lb pasta (I used wide ziti but any small, chunky pasta will work)
1 cup frozen peas (or more if you love them)
½ lb ground beef
½ tsp Adobo (a seasoning salt, if you don’t have this, just sub with garlic powder, salt and pepper)
2 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

4 tbs unsalted butter
4 tbs flour
2 cups milk (any kind except skim)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (or your favorite meltable cheese)

Salt and Pepper to taste (be stingy with this)

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente. To save a step, throw the peas in the pot 1 minute before the pasta is done and drain all of it together. Put the pasta (and peas) back in the pot and set aside. Don’t add oil.

Cook the beef in a big skillet, drain off the grease half way through cooking. Then add the Adobo, a few grinds of pepper and the Worcestershire Sauce. When fully browned drain off most of the grease, leaving a bit in the pan. Pour the meat into the pot with the pasta and stir well.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter, then add flour while whisking. This is called a roux, a basic sauce thickener, also an arm breaker. Cook this for a minute over medium heat whisking constantly. Pour in the milk slowly while whisking briskly. Keep the heat at medium and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, you will see the sauce start to thicken. You want to cook out the flour taste so small simmer bubbles are good, boiling is not. After the sauce has cooked for 2 minutes after thickening add the cheese a handful at a time, don’t stop stirring. Tired yet? After all the cheese is melted taste your sauce. If it tastes floury just keep on stirring over med for 2 more minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper, then pour sauce over the pasta/meat mixture.
Stir, serve and revel in your awesomeness.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pasta Rescue

So after the whole cat-food-spaghetti-sauce incident, I had this pound of cooked ziti sitting in my fridge, cold and lonely. I did not want to "cook" again, I "cook" once a week and make enough so that the leftovers last me about 5 days. All I had around was some garlic and frozen snow peas. This is what became of them:

Garlicky Snowpea Ziti
Time: 15 minutes (25 if making fresh pasta)
Tools: garlic press, big pan

1 lb cooked and cooled ziti (or any chunky pasta)
1 bag (probably 12-16 oz) frozen snowpeas, broccoli or whatever is hiding in your freezer
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if, like me, you enjoy pain)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper

Heat oil in pan over med-low, add pressed garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes. Turn heat up to med and add frozen veggies and sautee until crisp, usually around 5 minutes. Add pasta*, season with salt and pepper sparingly and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes, then mix in parmesan. The parmesan seasons like salt, and the red pepper seasons like pepper, so go easy on the real stuff!

Quick, and really fucking good too.

*If you boil the pasta fresh, just drain well and add to the pan, turn off the heat and mix with other ingredients.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To Avoid Cat Food Red Sauce

Easy Tomato Sauce

28 oz crushed tomatoes in liquid store bought or homemade*
4 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
16 oz fresh mushrooms (portabella or button)
2 lbs zucchini
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Your favorite pasta
Optional: Chopped basil

*Homemade crushed tomatoes: cut a shallow X in the bottoms of 1.5 lbs tomatoes, boil for 2 minutes then put in ice bath until cool. The skin will peel off easily, then just crush the skinned tomatoes in a bowl with your hands, or a potato masher, or chop them up on a cutting board.

Strain the crushed tomatoes until most of the liquid is separated, you’ll get about 2 cups worth of solids, reserve liquid. Mince or press garlic and sauté with red pepper flakes in 3 tbsp of the olive oil for 2 minutes on med low heat until garlic is lightly browned and smells good. Add the solids from the strained crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, don’t add liquid at this stage. Add the basil if you’re using it.

Chop zucchini to bite size cubes (quarter length wise and then cut across about ¾”) with skin on. Slice mushrooms. Sautee zucchini in 3 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper over med heat for 3-5 minutes until nicely browned and crisp tender. Add zucchini and any liquid in the pan to sauce. In zucchini pan add 2 more tbsp olive oil and sauté the mushrooms again with salt and pepper, until moisture is released from the mushrooms and they are soft. Add the mushrooms and all their liquid to the sauce and stir. If the sauce is still too dry add a few tbsp of the reserved tomato liquid. Note, this is not meant to be a runny sauce, you want it to stick to the pasta when it’s mixed in.

Cook some fettuccini or angel hair, or even penne in salted boiling water. Drain thoroughly (don’t rinse) and add to the sauce in the pan. Pour 2-3 tbsp olive oil on the pasta and combine with the sauce. Add ¼ cup (or a little more if you like) grated parmesan cheese.

Notes: You can, of course, cook the zucchini and mushrooms at the same time in the same pan if you have one that is big enough. Also, go easy on the salt when seasoning each stage, the parmesan at the end will add quite a bit of seasoning. Instead of zucchini and mushrooms you could use eggplant, yellow squash, broccoli, bell peppers, Italian sausage, grilled chicken, pretty much anything you have laying around that you would want to eat in a tomato sauce. Take a trip to your local farmers market, produce is usually cheaper (and much better) than the chain grocery store offerings because it hasn’t traveled as far.

Who Put Fancy Feast In My Red Sauce??

Exhibit A: The offending bottle of crap not fit for human consumption.

I am in possession of a strong set of guts. I grew up with Greek, Spanish, German, and in my teen years Vietnamese cuisine. Octopus, eel, mussels, deer, rabbit, kimchi, pickled anything, quail eggs, bitter greens, fried duck fat, raw fish, raw onion, dangerous amounts of garlic…I eat it all and love it. But this shit is too much. I present to you, the discerning eater, Del Grosso Meat Flavored Spaghetti Sauce. Do not, under any circumstances ever, buy this product unless you’re using it as part of some cruel prank on an unsuspecting roommate.

I made the mistake of picking up a few bottles of Del Grosso sauce for $1 a piece, thinking I was getting a good deal. I liked the fact that all the ingredients looked simple and straight forward, and they contained less sugar than the big commercial brands like Prego. The other flavors, Marinara and Three Cheese, weren’t bad although it should be noted that they weren’t great either. I just don’t understand how you could screw up something so simple, but trust, the Del Grosso’s violated that sauce in more ways than an Atlantic City hooker sees on a Friday night.

To put it simply, the sauce tasted like cat food, the wet kind, after it’s been sitting out for a few days in the sun. To piss me off even more, I had poured it over 2 lbs of gorgeous sautéed zucchini, thus ruining it. I even made an attempt to eat the finished product, because throwing out perfectly good food is just wrong when there are starving kids out there. I wouldn’t even feed this crap to starving kids. I would have been better off throwing some parmesan and olive oil on those zucchini and eating that with the pasta, and using the “meat sauce” as squirrel deterrent in my garden.

To DelGrosso Foods Inc: You owe me 2 lbs of zucchini you jerks.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Feta Tomato Toast

Time: under 10 minutes
Tools: knife, cutting board, hands


2 1 inch slices Italian bread (olive bread would probably be great too)
¼ cup feta cheese, dried by squeezing in paper towel and crumbled
1 ½ tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 med size tomato, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional tspn fresh lemon juice and dash oregano


  • Arrange the crumbled feta on top of the bread slices.

  • Drizzle the ½ tbs oil on top of the cheese.

  • Put slices in toaster or under broiler for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is slightly brown and bread is toasted.

  • Mix the chopped tomato with the remaining 1 tbs oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and oregano if using.

  • Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the toasts.

  • Inhale.

Notes: You can use more or less feta and tomato to suite your tastes. I do the tomato separate because I like the feta warm and the tomato room temp, but you could just mix the cheese with the tomato mix and put it on the toasted or untoasted bread. If you like kalamata olives, they would be great chopped in there too. I like eating this with a salad on hot days when I don’t want to “cook.”

This recipe is also good for entertaining. Instead of using big slices of bread, you could use unsalted or low sodium crackers, or even little phyllo cups (sold frozen in grocery stores, just need to bake!), and top or fill with the cheese and tomato mix. I prefer the tomato mix room temperature, but again, experiment to see what you like best.

Not Another GD Food Blog

Yeah, I won’t lie to you, this IS another GD food blog complete with recipes for high calorie food, reviews for restaurants of which I am in no way qualified to write, swearing, possibly some amusing kitchen accident stories, more swearing, and lots of purdy pictures.

DISCLAIMER: You will, under no circumstances, ever find a recipe on this site akin to 'Cheesy Hamburger Bacon Tuna Salad Surprise' ala this atrocity of the cooking world. Nor will you ever see the words “sammy,” “yum-o,” or “crushed Doritos.” However, you may well find the words “fuck,” “shit,” “stiff peaks,” etc. If this is bothering/scaring you already, I would suggest you proceed elsewhere as I already don’t like you and don’t want you fucking up my recipes.

Ok, let’s proceed to the ubiquitous Blog Statement You Really Don’t Care About: The main focus of this blog is to help people be more creative with their food. I'm a recent college grad writing for recent college grads, or anyone else in a ramen 3 times a week food slump. I’m also writing this to help out people who may not have much experience or confidence in the kitchen. Don’t think of yourself as a “bad cook” or an “idiot who can’t boil water,” you just haven’t learned yet, you’re like an untapped keg just bursting with potential!

Through these recipes, I want to help people understand that it's ok if you don't follow a recipe exactly, it's fun to experiment with new flavors and combinations. I created most of these recipes to make for myself in my post-college years since I live alone. So rest assured they have all been consumed by yours truly, The Guy, and some guinea pigs at the office and are totally safe for human consumption.**

**Not responsible for any deaths/puking sessions resulting from any recipe on this site.