Saturday, October 30, 2004

feeling your oats

I'm making oatmeal this morning. Here's the recipe, courtesy of

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large saucepot, melt the butter and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes, without stirring.
Combine the milk and half of the buttermilk with the oatmeal. Stir gently to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with remaining buttermilk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Here's a recipe for Overnight Oatmeal:

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried figs
4 cups water
1/2 cup half-and-half

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.
Stir and remove to serving bowls. This method works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning

Friday, October 29, 2004

et tu, brute?

caesar salad is probably my favorite salad. Nice and garlicky with a bit of spicy snap, with garlicky croutons, just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Over the years I've experimented with a few Caesar dressing recipes. I finally stumbled upon one that I really liked. It was based on a recipe from Wolfgang Puck; I tweaked it a little to make it more appealing to me.

I also really like the CPK Caesar Salad, so here's the recipe for their dressing, also from the CPK cookbook.

CPK Caesar Dressing
1-1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1-1/2 tsp minced shallots
1 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp nonpareil capers, drained (small round capers pickled in vinegar)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients except olive oil in food processor or blender until smooth. Add olive oil slowly while blending to form an emulsion.

Speaking of preparing a Caesar salad, the hearts of romaine that come in a bag from the grocery store I find to be the most convenient, because they last a long time, and they take no time to rinse & cut up. Somehow that always tasted fresher than the pre-cut romaine that comes in the bag.

pica? pitza?

In Lithuania, pizza is written "pica" which I tend to read as "peeka", but it's phonetically correct. There is a big chain in Vilnius called "Cili Pica" (pronounced Chili Pizza) that serves very thin crust pizza with all kinds of interesting toppings. You can get egg on your pizza, you can also get mustard on your pizza.

I saw some funny food things in Lithuania. Lithuanian "cepelinai", or boiled potato zeppelins, traditionally come with sour cream and bacon "gravy", except one restaurant wrote "sour cream and graves". Nobody's perfect, I guess. In Estonia we saw a restaurant menu that had liver with fried "unions"...I think they meant onions, otherwise we know where Jimmy Hoffa was buried.

Speaking of pizza, I couldn't resist another trip to the CPK cookbook for their BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe, because that's my favorite of their pizzas.

I have noticed in other pizza recipes I've read that one key to great pizza is using high gluten flour. If you can't find high-gluten flour (often available by mail order from smaller mills or from King Arthur Flour), you can often find pure wheat gluten in your health food store or in some supermarkets where you find health food or "weird" flours (like rye flour, etc.) Usually a couple of tablespoons mixed in with regular flour will help make your pizza dough more chewy.

Anyway, here's the recipe. See the Thai Chicken Pizza recipe below for how to put it all together.

10 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sweet & spicy BBQ sauce

BBQ Sauce Note: I think Bullseye works well & approximates very well. You might want to try some Bullseye with a bit of hoisin sauce to add some additional sweetness & complexity

1/2 c. sweet & spicy BBQ sauce
2 tbsp shredded smoked Gouda
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 small red onion, sliced into 1/8-inch slices
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Cook the chicken in the olive oil. Let it cool, mix with 2 tbsp BBQ sauce & refridgerate.
  2. Make your pizza dough the night before
  3. Roll and/or stretch it out.
  4. Cover pizza round with 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  5. Sprinkle 1 tbsp smoked Gouda over sauce
  6. Sprinke 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella over the top
  7. Put 1/2 of the chicken (approx 18 pieces) evenly over the crust.
  8. Put 18 to 20 pcs of red onion on the surface.
  9. Sprinkle additional 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella over the top.
  10. Bake 8-10 minutes in 500 degree F. oven on a pizza stone.
  11. Remove from oven, sprinkle cilantro on top.

piece of pie...errr...cake

That was a great line from 2010, the sequel to Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odessey. By some random occurrence, I actually saw a scene from 2010 being filmed at Leo Carrillo State Beach north of Malibu. It was the scene when Roy Scheider is biking down the asphalt hill in the tricycle-bike. I was camping at the beach with my mom & brother when I saw that scene being filmed.
Anyway, saw an episode of "Good Eats" with Alton Brown (episode entitled "I Pie") that got me thinking about baking pie, which I haven't done in years. I used to really enjoy baking pies, and I have made peach, cherry, apple and lemon meringue. I liked making pies mostly because my mom never really baked sweets, much less pies, and I love pie! I remember reading recipes from an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from the 1960's. The crusts always turned out mealy and never flaky, but now I think I know why (I was using butter!) So here are some "crusty" notes I scribbled while watching the episode earlier this week.

  • "Blind baking" a crust means to bake it without filling, then add filling later. This is typically done for meringue pies.
  • Alton recommends all-purpose flour, and not bread flour, unless you want a chewy dough, because bread flours typically have a higher gluten content.
  • Using butter as the "fat" in pastry dough will make your crust more "crumby", not flakey, but will aid in browning
  • Using lard will yield flaky crust because of its high melting point.
  • Using a combination of butter & lard, you get the best of both worlds
  • Before starting, put butter and lard in the freezer for 15 minutes. You need to work with cold fats.

Here's the entire recipe:

  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, chilled
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lard, chilled
  • 6 ounces (approximately 1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup ice water, in spritz bottle
  • Approximately 32 ounces of dried beans, for blind baking

Place butter and lard in freezer for 15 minutes. When ready to use, remove and cut both into small pieces.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until texture looks mealy. Add lard and pulse another 3 to 4 times. Remove lid of food processor and spritz surface of mixture thoroughly with water. Replace lid and pulse 5 times. Add more water and pulse again until mixture holds together when squeezed. Place mixture in large zip-top bag, squeeze together until it forms a ball, and then press into a rounded disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place 2 metal pie pans in the refrigerator to chill.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut along 2 sides of the plastic bag, open bag to expose dough, and sprinkle both sides with flour. Cover again with plastic and roll out with a rolling pin to a 10 to 11-inch circle. Open plastic again and sprinkle top of dough with flour. Remove pie pans from refrigerator and set first pan on top of dough. Turn everything upside down and peel plastic from bottom of dough. Place second pan upside down on top of dough and flip again. Remove first pan from atop dough. Trim edges if necessary, leaving an edge for meringue to adhere to. Poke holes in dough and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of dough and fill with dry beans. Press beans into edges of dough and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and continue baking until golden in color, approximately 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling.

Enough for tonight, pie-pie! :)

chicken tonight, tonight

i ate more chicken tonight, tonight...sounds like it could be an old Sinatra song. I was tired & hungry after working out, and this turned out to be a nice light but tasty dinner. Incidentally, I bought 5 jars of Trader Joe's Sun Dried Tomato Pesto because it's so good just slathered on baguette slices or as part of an appetizer. The chicken turned out nice & spicy with a hint of Garlic.

Tonight's Quick Chicken Dinner:

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper oil
1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. Emeril's Essence
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch cubes.

5 baguette slices, about 1/4" thick
2 tbsp tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto from Trader Joe's
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. frozen green beans
1/2 c. water

In small saucepan, heat water to boiling, add green beans & cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

Spread sun-dried tomato pesto on baguette slices. Top with 1 tbsp. grated Parmesan, and toast under a broiler or in a toaster oven for 4-5 minutes, watching carefully. Remove & set aside.

In a large pan, heat oil, add garlic & saute for 10 seconds. Add chicken cubes, and season with Essence, and cook for 5-6 minutes, until brown and cooked through. Don't overcook. Remove from heat, and mix in 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese.

Plate, serve & enjoy. Yum!

You can find the recipe for Emeril's Essence on You can find the Cayenne Pepper Oil in the "China Moon Cookbook" by Barbara Tropp, which is available on Speaking of Barbara Tropp, I was lucky enough to visit her China Moon Restaurant in the mid-1990's on two occasions on two separate trips to San Francisco. I remember the food was excellent. It's unfortunate that she passed away from cancer; her memory lives on in the Chinese food I like to cook & eat. Her "China Moon Cookbook" was the first Chinese cookbook I ever owned. In fact, it was the 2nd cookbook I ever bought.

Thai Chicken Pizza

slim pickins 'n' thai chik'ns...

I like leftovers; they're very "homey" eating. Yesterday was mac & cheese & a leftover slice California Pizza Kitchen Thai Chicken Pizza. I personally think CPK's food is delicious. My standard meal at CPK is a 1/2 Caesar salad and a BBQ Chicken Pizza.

I came across their recipe for Thai Chicken Pizza as listed in their book (available on, so I thought I'd share it. NOTE: the dough must be prepared the night before for best flavor. Worst case, you can use the dough after the first rise.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp sesame oil (Chinese or Japanese)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Vietnamese chili sauce (like Sambal Oelek?) or dried chili flakes
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp water

1 tbsp olive oil
10 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Pizza stone

Pizza Dough
2 c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 scallions, slivered diagonally oriental style
1/2 c. white bean sprouts
1/4 c. Shredded carrot
2 tbsp chopped, roasted peanuts
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

To prepare Peanut Sauce, combine sauce ingredients in small pan & over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, and boil gently for one minute. Set aside. You will use 1/2 on the chicken and 1/2 on the pizza.

Heat pan over high heat, add olive oil, and cook chicken stirfry-style for 5-6 minutes. Do not overcook. Set aside in refrigerator until chilled through. Once chilled, coat with 1/4 cup of Spicy Peanut Sauce. Return to refridgerator to chill again.

Heat pizza stone in a very hot oven (500 degrees F.) for 1 hour. Shape dough into pizza round, and spoon 1/4 cup sauce evenly over pizza, spreading it around. Cover sauce with 3/4 cup of mozzarella. Save rest of mozzarella for later.

Next, add to pizza in the following order:
1. chicken pieces
2. green onions
3. bean sprouts
4. carrots
5. An additional 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
6. roasted chopped peanuts

Bake pizza in oven for 9-10 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese at the center is bubbly. Remove pizza from oven, sprinkle with 1 tbsp cilantro.

Pizza Dough
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 c. plus 1 tbsp warm water (105 -110 F)
1.5 c bread flour (preferred) or all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (for coating)

Dissolve yeast in water and set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Place dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) into a 4-6 quart mixing bowl. Make a weill in the middle & pour in yeast/water mixture and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to combine ingredients. Once mixed, lightly oil your hands and knead dough for 5 minutes. When done, dough should be slightly tacky; that is, it should be barely beyond sticking to your hands. Don't knead more than 5 minutes, or the dough could be tough and rubbery; the same goes if you overmix the dough in a electric stand mixer. Incidentally, if you use a stand mixer, use the mixing paddle and not the dough hook for this batch size; the dough hook is too small to be effective for this batch size.

Lightly oil the doughball and the interior of a 1 quart glass bowl. Place dough ball in bowl and seal bowl with plastic wrap, with as much an "air-tight" seal as possible. Set aside at room temperature to rise until doubled; this should take about 1.5 to 2 hours at 70-80 deg. F.

1st rise has been completed. Punch down the dough, reform it into a round ball & return it to the same bowl, covering it again tightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refridgerator overnight.

2nd rise has been completed by the next morning. About 2 hours before you are ready to build your pizza, take the dough out of the refridgerator. Cut the dough into two pieces with a sharp knife. Roll the smaller doughs into round balls on a smooth, clean surface. Place newly formed balls in a glass casserole dish, spaced far enough apart to allow them to double in size. Seal dish with plastic wrap, as airtight as possible. Set aside at room temperature to allow them to double in size (about 2 hours). Now they should be smooth and puffy.

The 3rd rise has been completed. You can now carefully stretch out the pizza dough into rounds as desired. Dust your pizza peel in cornmeal, semolina, or flour, and transfer the stretched dough to the peel. Top your pizza with ingredients & bake.

Enjoy the pizza and buy the CPK Cookbook at

chicken wings and things

chicken chicken chicken. Two nights ago, I adventured off into the mystical magical world of chicken wings again. I used a recipe from a bottle of Red Rooster Hot Sauce, with my own twist on it.

Here goes:

Wing Marinade
3 tbsp corn or vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic, finely minced (I like using a garlic press for this)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 tbsp hot sauce (I used Red Rooster)

Wing Sauce
4 tbsp hot sauce (I used 1/2 Frank's Red Hot original, 1/2 Red Rooster)
6 tbsp butter
6 tbsp vinegar

2 - 2.5 lbs of chicken wings
Corn or vegetable oil for frying
Carrots, cut into cigarette-size sticks
Celery stalks, cut into cigarette-size sticks
Blue cheese dip or dressing

Cut off the wing tips, and save them for making stock later. Separate wings at joints, rinse with water, and pat dry. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large bowl and whisk. Add chicken wings and let marinate at least 30 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.

Heat oil in a heavy, deep pot for frying, or in a deep fryer; about 2-3 inches of oil should be plenty. The key to getting the wings nice & crispy is to make sure the oil is at least 325 deg. Fahrenheit before putting in your wings; 375 degrees is best, but you have to watch it, because the oil will start breaking down & burning any higher. It's best to use a deep fry or candy thermometer to make sure the temperature is right. Any lower than 325, and the oil will cool down too much when you put all the wings in.

Shake off excess marinade & carefully add the wings to the hot oil. Be careful, oil will bubble up rather violently, and if you don't have a deep pot, it could overflow & burn you. Let the wings fry
in the oil for 10-12 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary so the oil temperature stays around 375 degrees.

Around the 6 minute mark of cooking time, make the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low to medium heat & heat until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. As soon as butter is melted, remove from heat.

Scoop out wings, let them drain on a plate with a paper towel for a minute. Put wings into large bowl, pour sauce over wings, and toss wings in sauce so they are evenly coated. Garnish with carrot sticks and celery sticks. Serve immediately with blue cheese dressing on the side.

Incidentally, I did a hot sauce taste test between Red Rooster Hot Sauce, Crystal Hot Sauce, and Frank's Red Hot Original, to determine which I liked best for chicken wings. Frank's came out the winner, and even though I would say it has a tiny bit of "processed" flavor, it has a nice smooth, somewhat thicker consistency than the other two. Red Rooster came in second, it's got a nice vinegary kick to it, and is about as thin as Crystal. Crystal has the tiniest "metallic" tinge to my tastebuds, so I passed on it, but it might be worth a try too. If I come across something I like better, I'll let you know.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Cooking is great...

...because it's creative.
...because it's peaceful.
...because it's passionate.
...because you can make people happy.
...because it can make you happy.
...because life is short, and food is meant to be enjoyed.
...because it can bring people together to share in something good.
...because good food can heal you.
...because happiness can heal you.
...because a carrot is never angry.
...because you can beat the eggs.
...because you can punch the dough.
...because you can make punch.
...because you're always learning.
...because it requires patience and focus.
...because it can come in useful.
...because you can make it your job.
...because there is so much good stuff to eat!

Two 4.5 pound pork shoulders (pork butts) cooking in the new customized Char-Broil Charcoal smoker. Note hot plate and barely visible smoker box below grate. Posted by Hello

cooking with blogs

I got home from a homeowners association meeting a minute ago, and was about to start cleaning up the kitchen when I realized, "wow, wouldn't it be cool to start a cooking blog?" A couple of weeks ago I decided to keep a cooking "journal" of various food experiments, to see how much I could learn by keeping track of what I cook & what I like.

So here it is, my inaugural entry in the What's Cookin' Now blog. Tonight, I re-heated some pulled pork for dinner, & decided to make some Carolina style vinegar sauce to go along with it, because it was tasting a bit dry.

So here's the sauce I improvised:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Over moderate heat, bring all ingredients to a simmer in a non-aluminum saucepan. Take off heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Mix with pulled pork and serve. I noticed that it actually tasted more balanced when cool. When hot it was very vinegary and sharp, when cooled the taste had mellowed.

I smoked two pork shoulders (also known as "pork butt(s)") a few weeks ago in a Char-Broil H20 smoker that I bought from Home Depot for $35 and customized with a $7 electric hot plate, a $9 cast iron smoker box, and a $20 galvanized steel trash can (as an insulating cover). My first experience smoking meat, and on a cold, very windy and rainy day: not the optimum conditions for an thin, uninsulated metal shell to hold in heat. I got the hot plate because I was considering building an improvised terra cotta flowerpot smoker a la Alton Brown. Anyway, the smoker wouldn't get up to the "Ideal" temperature setting on the built-in thermometer (which is around 225 degrees). So, I removed all the handles, made a wire loop to replace the cover handle, and covered the whole smoker with an inverted metal trash can. In a matter of 10 minutes the smoker was at the ideal temperature, and stayed there very easily, despite the extremely poor weather. I took out the water pan too, was unnecessary. Now the whole thing works great.

Some choice pulled pork links:,1977,FOOD_9936_26997,00.html

The Char-Broil H20 Charcoal Smoker can be bought at