Saturday, October 29, 2016

How to Make Fancy Crackers – Also Know as Crispy Rosemary Sea Salt Flatbreads

Making your own “fancy” crackers at home is a fairly basic operation, and not only will they be less expensive, but you can customize them anyway you want. Whether those reasons are good enough is for you to decide, but if they are, your efforts will be rewarded… with crackers just as good as the ones from the store.

As I mentioned in the video, there are two types of “crackers;” the crispy, delicate, flaky, biscuit-style; and the flatbread-style we’re making here. These are much more like a fried pita chip, than a saltine, which is perfect for pairing with cheese. There’s nothing worse than trying to cheese a too-brittle cracker, three drinks in, and having it explode in your hand.

The recipe and technique are very simple, but please pay attention to your baking time. My “12-15 minutes,” is just a rough guess, and it will depend on the thickness of your dough. I would start checking at 10 minutes, and go from there. Other than that, not much can go wrong. With prime cheese and cracker season upon us, I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 48-60 crackers, depending on the size
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

- Bake at 400 F. for 12-15 minutes, or until browned and crisp.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Roman-Style Gnocchi – No Potatoes Were Harmed During the Making of This Video

Gnocchi alla Romana are as delicious, as they are virtually unknown. I feel like I’ve eaten a fair amount of Italian food, and I’ve been to Rome, but it wasn’t until late in life that I discovered these wonderful, baked semolina dumplings.

Above and beyond their exquisite texture, and great taste, I love their versatility. They’re a world-class side dish as is, but can be paired with your favorite pasta sauce, and served as an appetizer, or entrĂ©e. Rave reviews should come your way; along with lots of “But, why are these called gnocchi, again?”

For a great winter twist, you can place some sage leaves in between the gnocchi before baking them, and they’d be perfect at any holiday feast. In fact, now I’m upset I didn’t do that this time. I’m going to have to make another batch. Anyway, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 16 Roman-Style Gnocchi:
Note: I used a 2.75-inch cutter
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1 1/4 cup semolina
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (only about 1.25 ounces by weight, but if you grate it on a microplane, it will easily fill a cup)
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons melted butter for the top
more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for the top

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chicken, Sausage, Peppers, and Potatoes – Name That Dish!

It’s kind of nice when the name of a recipe is simply what’s in it, as is the case with this pan of roasted chicken, sausage, peppers, and potatoes. As soon as you see the words, you know exactly what you’re getting into. 

The only problem is, “chicken, sausage, peppers, and potatoes,” uses up a lot of characters on Twitter, so if you did have an idea for a shorter and/or catchier name, I’m all ears.

By the way, the two most important things here are not on the ingredient list. That would include a large, heavy-duty roasting pan, as well as a very hot oven. Hopefully, you have something similar to what I used, but if not, you can divide everything up between several smaller casserole dishes; or even use those large, disposable aluminum pans.

I went with hot Italian sausage here, since it so highly-seasoned, but you can really tailor a dish like this to your personal tastes, by switching up what you use, as well as the herbs, and seasonings. No matter what you include, just be sure to season generously, and leave it in the oven long enough. We want everything beautifully caramelized, and our chicken fork tender. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
4 large Italian sausage links
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large handfuls, seeded and cut sweet peppers
1 sliced small red onion
1/2 sliced yellow onion
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
2 generous teaspoons dried Italian herbs (I actually used an “Herb de Provence” herb blend, which included rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, parsley, and lavender)
fresh Italian parsley to garnish, optional

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles – Better Than Certain Coffees and Beers

This is a very unlikely post, considering the fact I’m not a big fan of snickerdoodles, and generally loathe adding pumpkin spice to non-pie things, such as coffee and beer. Despite that, I had a feeling the pumpkin spice would work perfectly with the buttery, cinnamon sugar cookie, and it did.

Unfortunately, a quick Google search showed I hadn’t invented it, and there were thousands of variations; from thin and chewy, featuring crisp edges, to much taller, pillowy versions. I decided to go thin, and adapted this snicker doodle recipe, from Averie Cooks.

One common denominator was the use of baking soda, plus cream of tartar, instead of baking powder. Since that’s pretty much what baking powder is, I don’t see what the big difference would be either way, but I thought I would mention in case you refuse to go out and buy cream of tartar. Either way, I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy! 

Ingredients for about 18-20 Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (6 1/2 ounces by weight)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon fine salt)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger 
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the rolling sugar:
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
*plus a few extra pinches of the pumpkin spices, if so desired

For the icing:
1/4 cup powdered  sugar
stir in enough milk, lemon juice, or other liquid to achieve brushing consistency

Friday, October 14, 2016

How to Make Berbere Spice and What to Do with It (Partial List)

I love berbere spice, but it never occurred to me to make my own. I usually get it pre-mixed from the fancy grocery store, and it’s never disappointed, but I’ve wanted to feature it in a recipe, so I figured I’d also show how to make a batch from scratch.

Well, sort of from scratch. To make this “for real,” you need to buy the whole spice seeds/pods, toast them, and grind it yourself. It does make a difference, but I rationalize not doing all that extra work because I usually toast the spices during the cooking process anyway.

I’m not exactly sure what dried chili pepper(s) would be most authentic, but many people are saying that the New Mexico chili I used does a nice job. They have a nice, sweet, earthy flavor, and are sort of medium spicy. If you can’t find it, they say California or ancho chilies can work.

Like I said in the video, please use the ingredients and amounts below as an outline, and adjust this to your tastes. Once you’ve perfected your formula, you’ll be the proud owner of one of the most delicious, and versitle spice mixes ever. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients (everything can/should be adjusted to taste):
1/2 cup ground dried New Mexico chiles
1/4 cup paprika
1 generous tablespoon cayenne
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

For the chicken:
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, seasoned with salt and berbere spice to taste
2 teaspoon melted butter
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/4 chicken broth, or as needed
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp berbere spice
salt to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sausage Pasta Fazool (Pasta e Fagioli) – Perfect for “One of Those Days”

It’s not completely accurate to say this is my recipe for sausage pasta fazool, since I’ve probably never made this the same way twice, but that’s just the kind of dish it is. In fact, I rarely even make it on purpose, but rather as a way to use up leftover meat. Regardless of what you use, this is classic Italian-American comfort food at its finest.

Having said that, if you were going to make this intentionally, this particular array of ingredients does work quite well. Sausage is always a great choice for a sauce, since not only do we get our meat, we also get all the associated garlic, herbs, and spices for free.

Speaking of the herbs and spices, I went with “sweet” Italian, because I really like how the anise and fennel seeds work with the beans, but any variety of fresh or dried sausage can be used. So, don’t feel like you have to wait for “one of those days” before giving this a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 smaller portions:
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup dry macaroni
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 to 4 cups chicken broth, or as needed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups chopped Swiss chard
1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Friday, October 7, 2016

Mexican-Style Shrimp Cocktail – The New Taco?

One of the many advantages of living in San Francisco is my proximity to some pretty amazing Mexican food. That used to be a much bigger deal, but happily, you can now get tacos and burritos in just about every corner of the country these days.

However, one item that hasn’t swept the nation like the others, is the Mexican-style shrimp cocktail. Which is a shame, since it’s every bit as good, if not better, than the more common version. Who knows? Maybe if this video goes viral, one day “Taco Tuesday,” will be joined by “Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Monday.”

Please just use the ingredients and amounts below as a rough guide, and adapt as you see fit. The spiciness, tanginess, and salt level are all very subjective things, and you’ll almost certainly need to adjust. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 cup clam juice
1 pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup diced English cucumber
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely diced
1 1/4 cup diced, peeled, seeded ripe tomatoes, or quartered small cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup ketchup
2 freshly squeezed limes or to taste
freshly chopped cilantro to taste
Mexican hot sauce to taste
1 large Hass avocado, cubed

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Real Aioli for Real

I don’t usually like to put words like “real” or “classic” in front of recipe names, since who the hell really knows, but in the case this aioli, I’m feeling pretty confident. In its purest form, this amazing sauce is nothing more than olive oil emulsified into freshly crushed garlic, seasoned simply with salt and lemon.

It arguably the greatest cold sauce of all time. Speaking of cold, the health benefits of regular aioli consumption are legendary. There’s not much not to like here, unless you don’t like garlic, then there’s plenty. This is pure, fiery, intense garlic flavor like you may have never tasted. It’s also a clever trick to get you to buy a wooden, or marble mortar and pestle.

Sure, if you don’t have one you can smash the garlic against the cutting board, with the flat of a large knife, and sort of do the same thing, but you don’t get the extra pulverization when emulsifying the oil.  And it’s all about the pulverization.  That’s what releases all those volatile compounds in the garlic, producing aioli’s signature flavor. I really hope you give this a try soon.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for about  2/3 cup Real Aioli:
4 large FRESH garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or other course grain salt
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly sqeezed lemon juice or vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup *light flavored extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 teaspoons of water to adjust texture 

- Note: This is best eaten fresh, but should be okay for about 24 hours

* Since this sauce has such a sharp, hot flavor from the garlic, you don’t want to use a really strongly flavored olive oil. We don’t want anything too peppery and bitter, which will clash with the garlic. Use something on the mild side, or cut with a neutral vegetable oil.