Category Archives: main dish

chicken fennel kebobs with tzatziki

to say that it is grilling season in texas would be somewhat incorrect–it is always grilling season in texas. we like our meat, we sometimes like to fetch it ourselves (aka hunting), and we like to cook it outdoors because it’s usually too hot to turn on the stove and, let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. regardless of where you stand on charcoal or wood vs. propane, direct or indirect heat, or barbequeing vs. grilling, most everyone agrees that cooking outside kinda rocks.

this is a fairly light preparation and works well when you are feeling overwhelmed by the summer heat but have a hankerin’ for more than just another salad. the cool creaminess of the tzatziki compliments nicely the char and warmth of the kebobs. and, if you’ve never grilled fennel, oh boy. it becomes sweet and caramelized, all while still retaining it’s crisp nature. add in some sweet red onion with singed edges, moist and lemony chicken, wrap it up in a seared pita and top the whole thing off with a cool sauce and let the magic happen.

chicken and fennel kebobs with tzatziki (4 servings)

adapted from bitchin’ camero

kebobs:

2 lb boneles, skinless chicken breats, cut into large cubes

2 fennel bulbs, remove frond and stem ends, clean and cut bulb into 2″ pieces (reserve a few fronds for the sauce)

1 large red onion, cut into 2″ pieces

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt & pepper

tzatziki:

7 oz plain yogurt *

1 cucumber, seedless variety, or seed a regular one

1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds

1 large clove garlic

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

*greek yogurt will make a particularly thick sauce or you can just drain regular full or lowfat plain yogurt for a similar effect.

prepare tzaziki first so the flavors have some time to develop–sometimes i’ll make this a few hours ahead. grate cucumber with a box grater onto a paper towel or cheesecloth. make a small package of the papertowel and twist the ends up, squeezing out any liquid from the cucumber. you may or may not be alarmed at how much liquid you can get out doing this–DO NOT skip this step. chop garlic and make into a paste on the cutting board with the salt, by smashing it with the side of the knife. place garlic/salt mixture in a bowl with the yogurt, cucumber, fennel fronds, and lemon juice. adjust seasoning to your preferences. in other words, taste it. if you like more garlic go for it, but remember the flavor will be more pronounced as it sits.

alternate placing chicken, fennel and onion pieces onto 8 separate skewers. sprinkle with oregano, salt & pepper, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. place on a (preheated-very important) medium-high grill and cook for a total of about 20 minutes, rotating skewers every 5 minutes or so. you want a nice char on all sides and the chicken to be cooked through. allow to rest for a few minutes before serving with tzatziki and grilled pita.

this goes really well with a glass of nice, dry french rose. but everything, including another glass of rose goes really well with a nice, dry french rose this time of year, doesn’t it?

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Filed under chicken, main dish, meat

the good life: black beans & rice

i have had a long affair with black beans and rice. it all started when i moved to texas in my early 20’s. i was lucky enough to get a job at the coolest, hippy-ist (not hip-ist) cafe in town, one of those places where your boss would bail you out of jail, you can pretty much assume that all the cooks are hungover, and a waitress might just run off with the band to whom she  just served coffee. it was here that i was first introduced to what would become one the food staples of my life–black beans and rice. it was born, like many things, out of necessity. it was cheap, easliy accessible, and nutritious. these are the three most important qualities of a meal when you’re on a budget whether due to youth, job status, or financial strain.

this brings me to the real reason for this post. i was lucky enough to be asked to be part of a group of food bloggers in a challenge to bring awareness to the problem of hunger here in our fair city and it’s outlying areas. This is a project inspired by the capital area food bank, one of it’s proud volunteers, kristi willis of austin farm to table, and austin american-statesman food writer, addie broyles. the food bank feeds 48 thousand people per week in 21 counties. in addition to canned & packaged foods and meat products , they are proud to be the 2nd largest distributor of fresh produce of any food bank in the nation. this means fruits and veggies, people–real food! not only do they offer food via 360 partner agencies ’round these parts, they’re also involved in the food stamp program (SNAP), a senior outreach program, kid’s cafe, mobile pantries, and they offer nutritional education, menu planning, and recipe & cooking classes. whew!

most of the food bloggers involved in this awareness program are doing their own personal challenges; some are posting every meal from a typical week’s worth of food from the food bank, some are posting daily updates, and some like me are writing a simple, singular post in the hopes that it will inspire you to reach out, volunteer, donate, or otherwise do what will float your your philanthropic boat. saturday, may 8th is also the annual stamp out hunger food drive, whereby you can simply leave non-perishible goods in a bag by your mailbox–it doesn’t get any easier than that. if you’d like to read more about the food blogger challenge, please visit the rest of the bloggers involved  from this central site: food blogger hunger awareness project.

black beans & rice (serves 4)

this is not so much a recipe as a method. you can substitute any type of beans or rice that you like. i prefer black beans and brown rice for sentimental reasons and this combo packs a nutritious wallop.

1/2 lb dried black turtle beans

1/2 onion, chopped

a few bay leaves

a handful of salt

1 cup brown rice

soak beans overnight or use the quick soak method. be sure to change to soaking water to fresh. cover soaked beans with a few inches of fresh cold water. add the chopped onion, bay leaves, and salt and bring to a boil. simmer, semi covered with a lid for a little over an hour until tender but not mushy.

make the brown rice according to package directions bearing in mind brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as white rice, so give yourself plenty of time. i like to add a bit of olive oil and water and a pinch of salt to the rice and water for a boost of flavor.

if you have a bit of veggies, onion, or pickled jalapenos, chop ’em up and add on top. or you could just simply eat it as is with a few dashes of cholula or your favorite hot sauce.

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Filed under beans, main dish

avgolemono with chicken and dill

a week or two back here in central texas, we had this crazy weather pattern happenin’. one day i was walking around in flip-flops, minding my own business, when i heard that it would be 20 degrees the next day. well, i scrambled home and harvested every scrap of green from my ‘winter’ garden: spinach, arugula, parsley, fennel, mint, and dill. the oregano i covered with a sheet and three days later, when the freakish weather ended, it said ‘meh’ and went right back to growing like a weed. even the scraps of mint i was unable to pull out in time are now back to their regular ol’ selves again.

whenever i comes across dill’s intoxicating aroma, i have an unending desire to make this soup. it has been a tried and true favorite of mine for many years,  just the thing when winter gloom sets in; warm and filling, but bright and sunny all wrapped up together. early that frigid morning, i managed to make it to the farmer’s market to visit a chilly friend who works at vital farms and sells eggs there on the weekend. i also found a farmer who sold me these beautiful green onions next to her booth. i already had a little piece of chicken (did you hear what he called you? a little piece of chicken! bonus points for naming that movie) at home in the fridge and some homemade chicken stock in the freezer from another adventure just waiting to fulfill it’s destiny in something as warm and soothing as this.

avgolemono means egg + lemon. makes sense, right? you’ve heard it before, but i’m sure there as many versions of this as there are cooks in greece, it’s country of origin. traditionally it is made with chicken stock only, not chopped chicken, and i think adding dill is also an americanization of this soup. but i’m ok with that. i have let go of many of my purist ways over the last several years, as long as the spirit of the dish remains the same, i can let it go. especially if it tastes good!  i do also feel some sentimentality as it was with this recipe that i learned the skill (and importance) of tempering an egg.

my ‘rescue’ dill:

avgolemono (serves 4-6)

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5  green onions, thinly sliced and divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4-1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped

6 cups fresh chicken stock

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, small dice

2 eggs, separated

juice of 2 small lemons

1 cups white rice or orzo

kosher salt

lots of freshly ground black pepper

heat olive oil in medium stock pot. add all but 2 tbsp green onion and garlic and saute for i minute. add chicken stock, bring to a boil and toss in diced chicken. bring back up to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until chicken is tender. add 1 cup rice or orzo and cook until tender. this will add starch to the mixture-you want that. meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg whites by hand (or with a stand mixter) until soft peaks form. add egg yolks and lemon juice and whisk together. slowly add 1 cup hot soup stock to egg mixture, whisking continuously. this is a very important step (you are tempering!). you do not want to add the eggs to the pot before you do this or you will end up with some form of egg drop soup. add egg mixture back to soup pot, stirring as you add it so eggs do not scramble. remove from heat and add  dill and salt to taste. top with remaining green onion and lots of freshly ground pepper.

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Filed under main dish, soup

tamale dressing

if you’re still casting about for an additional side to add to your thanksgiving repertoire or you just want to try a new and exciting dressing/stuffing this year, boy do i have a treat for you. if you have had thanksgiving with me in the last several years, you’ve had this dressing. a few times i’ve even used my own homemade tamales. i also make a very traditional bread and sage dressing so everyone can have what they want, but this one always runs out first.

there are a few variations of this dressing floating around out there and mine is originally from the local paper, but i can’t remember the source anymore. i have really adapted it to be my very own, however. the original and my own have diverged completely with the exception of the spirit of the dish. it’s thanksgiving’s crazy-mixed-up tex-mex cousin, who came up from the valley for the holiday. looking forward to all the family that is coming to our house for thanksgiving ~ hope yours is wonderful!

tamale dressing (makes a large casserole pan)

12 tamales of your choice (i choose traditional pork)

1-8×8 pan prepared corn bread

1 cup finely shredded white cheese (oaxacan, mozzerella, jack)

2 cups chopped fresh tomato (or 1-28 ounce can rotel tomatoes with green chiles)

2 cups chopped onion

1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

preheat oven to 350 degrees. crumble tamales and corn bread into large bite-size pieces by hand into a large bowl. do not blend or process as this will result in a very dense and mushy dressing. saute tomato (drain if using canned), onion, pepper in a a few tablespoons of butter until soft (about 5 minutes). add oregano through through cumin and saute for about a minute. add salt and pepper to taste. cool briefly. add tomato mixture and cheese to tamale/cornbread mixture and toss gently-do not over mix. pour into a large greased casserole or baking pan and bake for 30 minutes until heated throughout and lightly browned on top.

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Filed under main dish, side dish

provencal tomato tart

 

tom tart 2

so the last days of summer seem to be upon us. and i don’t feel particularly sentimental about it. you see, down here in texas the summer is fairly brutal, especially this year. we may be approaching close to 60 days of 100 degree (or better) temperatures. and so there is no love lost between me and summer this year. good riddance. sayonara. adios, mofo.

tom tart flours

tom tart crust in pan

but wait. don’t leave without offering up the last of your tomatoes. i will take them gladly. i will put them in a tart with pesto and mozzarella and offer them up for the last week of summer fest.

provencal tomato tart (serves 6)

don’t let the long list of instructions for the crust scare you off–use your favorite store-bought crust if you can’t be bothered. the tart itself is so easy and versatile: substitute mustard for the pesto, gruyere for the cheese, you get the idea.

adapted from ‘once upon a tart‘ cookbook by frank mentesana & jerome audureau

for the crust:

(or use savory crust of your choice, par-baked)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 semolina flour (this small addition makes for a fantastic crunch)

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tbsp cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces

small glass of ice water

put the flours and salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade. pulse a few times to integrate. add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse quite a few times, until mixture forms little balls (like moist crumbs) and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to run it continuously and create a paste. dump dough into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp ice water. using your hands, start forming the dough into a ball, adding more water if needed. the dough should just hold together into a ball, you do not want it to be wet. wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

roll dough out to 1/4″ on a lightly floured board and place gently in tart pan with removable bottom. chill 30 minutes. this will prevent your the sides of your tart from shrinking too much when you bake it.

preheat oven to 400F. prick holes over bottom of tart with the tines of a fork. cover with aluminun foil or parchment paper and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. bake in center rack in oven for 10 minutes. remove foil or parchment and weights and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until light brown. cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

tom tart pesto

for the filling:

4-5 tbsp fresh basil pesto

a few handfuls grated mozzarella cheese

6-7 roma tomatoes

a few tsp dried herbes de provence

slice tomatoes and place in colander with a pinch of salt to drain off any excess liquid. spread pesto evenly across bottom of par-baked tart crust. sprinkle cheese over. layer tomatoes like dominoes. scatter herbs atop tomatoes. bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and cheese melts, about 10-20 minutes.

now, visit a way to garden, matt bites, steamy kitchen, and white on rice couple (and their commenters/participants section!) for other delicious tomato recipes this week!

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Filed under appetizer, main dish, side dish

tortilla espanola

 

tortilla 5

when i was 10 years old my mom asked us, her 3 children, if we would like to go to europe. for a year. like to live there. yes, please! and so we did. true story. we bought a VW van in amsterdam (refer back to the whole cosmic part of my moniker), had it decked out to live in and were on our way to camp europe. when you think about it most of europe is located on a latitude that falls on the cool side when it comes to camping, with the exception of summer.  we ended up  spending most of our time in sunny southern spain. eating this.

most of you probably don’t have memories of pleading with your mother to head up to the bar for a drinky-poo. but we did. it was the only way to get a slice of tortilla espanola (free with a glass of wine!). this was our introduction to tapas back in 1975. mom did her best, but she wasn’t (and still isn’t) much of a drinker. so we just had to learn how to make it ourselves. my sister and i still make these on a regular basis. this was probably one of the first things i ever learned how to cook completely on my own, tollhouse cookies and biscuits from a can, aside.

eggs

look at these beautiful eggs from vital farms. they are from araucana hens, i believe. they are the ones that produce the blue-green eggs.

tortilla 3

mmm…lemony, super yellow yolks. commercial eggs ain’t got nothin’ on these.

tortilla 4

you can play with the ingredients a bit. i chopped up some salami i had on hand. like an omelette, you can add just a few handfuls of veggies or meat to liven things up. traditionally in spain, these are sweet red pepper, chorizo, maybe a few sliced mushrooms. but the egg and potato really should remain in leading roles. this is a peasant dish, after all.

tortilla final

tortilla espanola (serves 6-8 as an appetizer)

this is a very fluid recipe, meaning that the amounts may be slightly different for you, depending on the size of your potatoes, eggs, even your pan. the mixture should look roughly like the picture of raw eggs and potatoes in the bowl above before you put in in the pan for the final step. don’t let the amount of oil used in the recipe scare you away. the potatoes should gently fry, but also boil in the oil, then most it is drained off.

4-5 medium sized potatoes  sliced to 1/8″ thickness, then cut slices in half or quarters (i prefer yukon golds, russets will also work)

1 small spanish onion, sliced thinly

5-6 farm fresh eggs

3/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

heat olive oil in non-stick 7-8″ skillet over medium heat. add sliced potatoes and a generous pinch of salt and cook until potatoes are tender and appear blistered. you are not trying to brown them, but it’s okay if the edges are slightly browned. remove with slotted spoon and place in a colander. whisk eggs in a large bowl and add salt and freshly ground pepper. add  potatoes (and any other veggies or bits of meat you are using) and combine mixture. pour off all but 1 tbsp of olive oil from pan into a measuring cup and reserve. heat oil in pan over medium high heat, then add potato/egg mixture. allow to set for a minute or so, then slide pan around a few times while cooking to be sure it doesn’t stick. i will sometimes tilt the pan to allow egg to run underneath tortilla if i feel it is very soupy. cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then place an inverted plate on top of pan. quickly invert pan so tortilla is on plate, uncooked side down. then slide tortilla back into pan and add an additional tbsp of reserved olive oil. turn heat down to medium-low and continue to cook until bottom is slightly browned and tortilla is cooked through. you will have to trust your instincts on this as you will not be able to see inside the tortilla. if i have my doubts, at the end of the cooking time, i place an inverted plate or lid on the pan, turn off the flame and allow it to steam for a few minutes. flip tortilla on a plate, allow to rest for about 10 minutes and enjoy!

this is best served warm or at room temperature. around our house, we eat this over the course of  a day or so. it is also great as a light dinner with a green salad and a glass of white rioja. just store in the fridge and remove at least 20-30 minutes before serving.

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Filed under appetizer, main dish

viva ribapalooza!

 

ribapalooza-score cards2

this past weekend saw another  instillation of ‘ribapalooza’ at our house. this was the 5th annual. and the hottest (i believe it was officially “the hottest july 4th on record” per our friendly weatherman, at 105 degrees!). ribapalooza is best described as a rib contest without any real rules, save that your entry must be ribs of some sort (a few years back our friend michael entered ‘fish ribs’!) and you must have them ready for 4pm judging, give or take. this year’s entries included st. louis, baby back and beef ribs with all manner of preparation methods represented: roasted, barbecued, smoked, etc. there were glazes made with soda, cherry sauces, jalapeno-honey lacquers and much, much more.

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each entrant places as many of his or her ribs as there are judges into a nondescript container that is given a number. each entry is brought to the judge’s table individually by one of mediators (we don’t really call them that, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?) so they are judged solely on their own merits, not compared with one another. the ribs are judged in four categories: appearance, taste, tenderness/texture, and originality. we’re really getting serious these days, too. we have real-live trophies and a bonafide graphics department makin’ everything look real official (thanks, casey!).

ribapalooza-me & frank

here is the lucky winner from this year, frank mancuso from saint arnold beer. the winning rib recipe was made with, what else, saint arnold root beer (their only non-alcoholic offering). i was lucky enough to take 3rd! there is always plenty of sangria, a keg of saint arnold and plenty of heat on hand.

ribapalooza-sign

frank has generously offered up his award-winning recipe for you, dear readers.

after all, ‘there is no delight in owning anything unshared’, right?

 

Saint Arnold Root Beer Ribs

Ingredients:

 

For the rub:

1/4 cup of salt

1/4 cup of brown sugar

2 1/2 tbs. of black pepper

4 teaspoons of mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons of chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon of allspice

 

For the glaze:

2 cups of Saint Arnold Root Beer

1 cup of Heinz Chili Sauce (or Ketchup)

1/2 cup of  mustard

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of molasses

2-4 teaspoons of chipotle powder

 

Two racks of St Louis ribs

1/4 cup of Saint Arnold Root Beer

Coat the ribs with the rub, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours.

 

Heat the oven to 300 degrees and bring the ribs to room temperature.

 

In a foil-lined large baking or roasting pan, arrange the ribs with the meat side up, pour in 1/4 cup of Saint Arnold Root Beer, cover pan tightly with foil and place in the oven.

 

Meanwhile, place all the glaze ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes until thick and syrupy.

 

After an hour and a half, take the ribs out of the oven and spread some of the glaze on each side of the racks. Place back in the oven, meat side up and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

 

After 30 minutes, take out the ribs and spread more glaze over them and cook for 30 more minutes or until ribs are desired tenderness.

 

At this point, take the ribs out of the oven, spread more glaze on them and then cook each side under the broiler for four minutes.

 

Divide and serve!

 

ribapalooza-mac n cheese

 

after some grumbling and some smack talking from our non meat-eating friends, we added a mac ‘n’ cheese competition on the side. congratulations to chris for winning the cheese crown with his very austin-type entry, complete with avocado.

 

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congrats to all the winners and many thanks to all who participated to make ribapalooza V a success.

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Filed under main dish, meat