Deviled ham salad

-1/2 pound ham, diced then re-diced until it’s nearly shredded.

-2 scallions, sliced thin

-1 heaping teaspoon prepared Grey Poupon dijon mustard. No other brand is acceptable

-two tablespoons mayonnaise. Only two brands are acceptable: Hellmann’s or Duke’s

-1 teaspoon Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce.

-1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/8 teaspoon cayenne

-1/4 teaspoon salt

-Several big fuckin’ grinds of black pepper

Whisk liquid ingredients together into a dressing. Add diced ham, scallions and mix well to coat. Taste and adjust spiciness.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or better yet, overnight.

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Cabbage Soup

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Cabbage Soup

 

  • 1/4 lb dry red beans, soaked overnight (Rancho Gordo “Dominigo Rojo” are perfect, but kidney beans work too)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 lb sausage or Tofurkey
  • 1 head cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1/3 cup long grain dry white rice
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 2 cubes vegetable or chicken bullion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
  • salt to taste

Cook the beans in water (I use the soaking water) until they are soft, about an hour or so. Heat some vegetable oil in a separate pan, and cook the onions until lightly browned. Add the sausage/Tofurkey and cook until it is lightly browned, then add the combination to the beans. Mix in cabbage, celery, rice, tomato sauce, tomatoes, boullion, bay leaf, and thyme. Add enough water to just cover all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for at least an hour until the vegetables are soft and the rice is cooked. Season to taste with salt.

Makes up to a week’s worth of delicious winter-time lunches!

EDIT 2016-02-05: I just reread this because it’s cabbage soup-making time here again, and I realized that I wasn’t clear about one thing: the beans MUST be soft and mostly cooked before you add the tomato sauce and tomatoes to them. The acid in the tomatoes will cause uncooked beans to never fully cook.

 

Mexican Guajillo Adobo Sauce (Adobo de Guajillo)

Ingredients and tools for Adobo de Guajillo

Ingredients and tools for Adobo de Guajillo

I love mexican cuisine, and one of my favorite recipes is adobo de guajillo: pureed hot pepper sauce. It’s easy to make, it tastes absolutely delicious, and it goes well with almost any savory dish. In this simple version, it’s really just toasted chiles, softened, and then blended with a few simple side ingredients. Although this probably sounds suspiciously bland, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Adobo” (spanish, meaning “marinade”, “sauce”, or “seasoning”, I’m told) originated in Spain as a way to preserve meat in the hot months, before refrigeration was available. A mixture of the spicy sauce, salt, and vinegar could keep meats well. Over time, and as better methods of preservation developed, it started being used primarily as a marinade and sauce.  As a marinade, the capsaicin in the chiles helps by dissolving fats, allowing the marinade to penetrate more deeply. As with other things Spanish, it was carried to the New World and even into the islands in the Pacific, and has branched into many different versions.  This recipe is specifically Mexican, and uses ingredients common in Mexico (and most of the USA).

  • 3 ounces guajillo chiles (about 12)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pineapple vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon cumin
  1. Clean, stem, slit open, seed, and devein the chiles
  2. Heat a comal over medium-low heat (without any oil)
  3. Toast the chiles two or three at a time, turning them over with tongs and pressing them down until they are fragrant and have changed color a bit–approximately one minute per batch.
  4. Soak the chiles in cold water for thirty minutes, until they become soft. Discard the soaking water.
  5. Put chiles and remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Use more water if necessary.

The resulting sauce can be used to marinate meats, and as a sauce for beans, rice, tamales, and meats. It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen for longer periods of time (although I always make it fresh, when I want some).

Notes:

  • A comal is just a low-rimmed cast iron or stoneware griddle
  • Pineapple vinegar is traditional in many recipes, but apple cider vinegar is a fine substitute
  • Guajillo chiles can be found in many supermarkets; if not, mexican specialty stores will carry them. Other types of chiles will also work, but will vary in size and heat.

Black Currant Jam

Black Currants Cooking

Black currants cooking. This is about step #2 in the following recipe.

My mother is Estonian, and as a very young girl she was forced to flee her home and life on Muhu Island (part of Estonia) when the Soviets were re-invading the country, out of fear of the purges that the Soviets were so well known for at that time. Her story is compelling and complex, and I won’t attempt to describe it here; I mentioned this fact only as a way to mention that she ended up as an immigrant in Sweden, and that she grew up there, learning Swedish customs and cuisine.

One thing that is a part of Swedish cuisine that seems to be almost completely unknown in the USA is currants. These are berries of a particular kind of compact bush that is largely unknown in the USA, which is a shame because they are AMAZING. They are a mid-summer crop that is harvested quickly and processed immediately, because they go bad fast. Black currants are sweet and delicious; red currants are tart and will make your right eye squeeze shut if you try to eat too many at once. Both of them are loaded with nutrients! My european friends here in the USA all pine for the flavor of black currants.

One of the first things that I did when I moved to my current home was to plant 13 black currant plants, and they’ve been producing faithfully ever since. A flat (about one quart) of black currants in the grocery store costs $17 here, when you can find them. If you DO find them, I recommend that you buy them right away! Why? Because of the following recipe. This recipe can be easily doubled, and it always jells because currants are loaded with natural pectin. The resulting jam lasts for a long time and is wonderful on oatmeal in the morning, or toast, or whatever.

  • 5 cups black currants
  • 4 cups sugar (yes, you read that right)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but that’s not crucial)
  • 2 cups water
  1. Place the fruit in a sauce pan with the water. There should be several inches of headspace above the currants, as the combination will need to boil high.
  2. Bring to a low boil, stirring often to help break the fruit down. Once at a low boil, cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn down the heat and add the sugar (slowly) and the lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Raise the heat up and bring to a full, rolling boil. Keep stirring.
  5. Boil hard for 10 minutes.
  6. Once the 10 minutes are done, turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then pour into jars.
  7. If you want to can the jars, process them in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Depending upon your technique, you’ll get about 4 to 10 eight-ounce jars of jam. And it will DEFINITELY set: currants are loaded with pectin, so you never have to test the batch for its jell-point. Your result might look like mine, as I finished cooling my black currant jam jars this afternoon:

Canned Black Currant Jam

I’ve already traded one of those jars for some ripe tomatoes, which go for $$/lb at the market, and each of those jars cost me next to nothing (less than a dime and a few hours of my time).

Tuna-Noodle Casserole

This is trashy American comfort food and it is very fine. You can vary how rich it is by the kind of milk you use (whole, low fat, skim) and how much mayonnaise you add. Yes, mayonnaise. Do not even.

Ingredients

-2 cans cream of mushroom soup
-1.5 cups milk
-1/4 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise
-1 pound egg noodles, cooked until still firm, set aside
-1.5 cups frozen or fresh peas
-miscellaneous leftover veggies if you have on hand; chopped carrots are good
-parmesan
-Salad Supreme seasoning (McCormick’s brand in the US; otherwise celery seed, salt, pinch cayenne, orange peel, black pepper, salt, sesame seeds. Or whatever.)
2 cans albacore tuna (10-12 ounces)

Technique

The theory here is the same as for creamy macaroni and cheese—-never bake the entire casserole with noodles in it. Prepare it on the stove top then briefly broil to get a nice crumb crust on top.

Put soup in saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in milk and several dashes Salad Supreme. Heat until it can be whisked smooth, then add peas. Return to simmer and stir, adding other veggies if you have them. Cook until peas are tender, then add tuna and mix. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, put cooked egg noodles in very large bowl or pan. After the sauce has cooled slightly, whisk in mayonnaise. Add sauce to cooked noodles and stir, thinning with milk if necessary. Adjust seasoning.

Put on oven broiler. Pour noodles into lightly greased casserole dish. Top with parmesan, Salad Supreme or paprika. Place under broiler just long enough to give a golden crust, no longer than 4 minutes.

Zucchini Relish, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Squash

This is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest (where I call home) that zucchini, yellow squash, and other summer squashes become the reason why neighbors and family begin avoiding each other. A single zucchini plant can produce so much fruit that it’s not only impossible for a single person to use it all themselves, it’s impossible to even give it away right now because everyone is trying to give away their excess. If you had hearts in your eyes as a mid-winter dreamer of gardens and foolishly seeded more than one plant, then you are in even worse straits; it’s likely that your local food bank won’t even answer the doorbell when you ring, now.

However, I have discovered a partial solution, and it’s a good one: zucchini relish. It’s easy to make, easy to preserve (if you enjoy canning), delicious, and it works for any food that you might use pickle relish on. (Think meats: hot dogs, hamburgers, etc., but it works equally well on veggie burgers and even with crispy fried tofu.)

There are a huge number of recipes for zucchini relish out there, but this is the one that I’ve settled on, after a bit of modification. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and probably a couple of years after being canned. I cannot comment on that second assertion since I devour it long before it gets to its first birthday, no matter how much I make.

The offending fruits

The offending fruits

Sweet Zucchini Relish

  • 12 cups shredded summer squash (I use a food processor)
  • 4 cups chopped onion (I use a Vidalia ChopWizard)
  • 5 tablespoons salt (I use salt *snerk*)
  • 1 red bell pepper (optional: just for color)
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional: just for colour, for my UK friends)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
  • fresh ground black pepper (amount to your liking)
  1. Place the shredded squash in a large bowl, and add the salt. Mix with your hands until it’s evenly mixed. The squash will immediately start shedding liquid. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the squash. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the remaining solids.  (Rinsing is important: the salt was there to get the liquid out of the solids; you don’t want the salt in the final product, at least not in that amount. What salt remains will be perfect for enhancing the flavor.) Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

At this point, your relish is done. You can pack it into jars and refrigerate and eat, or you can freeze it, or you can can it. It’s really just that simple. If you decide to can it, here are the remaining (incredibly uncomplicated & standard) steps:

  1. Pack relish into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  2. Use a knife to skim the insides of the jar to remove any bubbles.
  3. Wipe the top of the jars to get rid of any moisture or solid bits.
  4. Put on a fresh lid and place in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

A pint of canned zucchini relish. This EXACT pint is going into the mail to grace Josh SpokesGay’s table.

And that’s all there is to it. The great thing about this recipe is that it takes a nutritious and delicious fruit, summer squash, which has a very short raw shelf-life, and turns it into something that you can use for months or even years.

The World’s Second-Best Chicken Wing Recipe

First off, the World’s Best Chicken Wing Recipe is finished on the grill with indirect heat and plenty of mesquite smoke. These are finished in the oven. Anyhoo… two parts. Part the first is the chicken wings, part the second is the sauce.

To start with the wings, either start with pre-cut party wings or cut up wings yourself (reserving the tips for chicken stock later.) Rinse the chicken, pat it dry, and lay the pieces out on a cookie sheet. Cover the pieces in plenty of salt and stick in the fridge for around an hour. You’re going to pat the salt off when you’re done, and this should make the skin nice and dry. Dry skin=crispy skin.

chickenwings1

This is a good time for you to mix up your dipping sauce, start strategerizing your glaze, or get a couple of brews on ice. I’m having ranch-flavored Greek yogurt(with a couple of tablespoons of mayo) and a couple of hours of flavors marrying is a good idea. Traditional buffalo wing sauce recipes are all over, but I’m doing something a little different, a little special. If you like your wings a little more simple, you can season them with your favorite powered seasoning or seasoned salt immediately AFTER frying.

My glaze looks more or less like this:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (of your choice)
  • dash of Worcestershire
  • splash of lime juice

chickenwings2

If you have a blind swordsman handy, you can prank him with the hot sauce and then he’ll kick your sorry ass.

Deep fry them wings now! Not too many at once and with a break in between so the oil doesn’t cool down. The worst thing you can do when you’re frying food is not having the oil at the proper temperature. Each batch goes about 8-10 minutes and then on a paper towel to drain, followed by being tossed in the glaze.

chickenwings3

chickenwings4

When you’re close to done frying, preheat the oven to 400°. Put the wings in a pan or on a cookie sheet covered with foil, and finish in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. Here’s what you get at the end of it:

chickenwings5

Any questions? Ask and I’ll tell. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of the honey-soaked heat of these amazing chicken wings!

BTW, the hot sauce that I used is called Green Heat, made by Spicy Caribbee from Puerto Rico. They have a shop in Old San Juan, and you can order online at www.spicycaribbee.com.

My wife is a big fan of chicken wings done right, and she has been yelling for the last 30 minutes that these are the best damn chicken wings she’s ever eaten in her whole life!

Chilled Pea Salad

Ingredients:

1 lb peas
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. flour
3/4 cup Greek/strained yogurt
2 tsp. dill
1 oz feta cheese
2 scallions/spring onions, diced
Squeeze of lemon juice

Technique:

Simmer peas in a saucepan until tender. Drain water, return to pan. Add salt and dill. Meanwhile, whisk flour into half and half until smooth. Turn heat on low and stir flour/milk mixture into peas. Stir gently until heated through and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and put in glass bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Stir in yogurt along with scallions and feta. Refrigerate at least one hour (longer is better).

To serve: stir in one squeeze of fresh lemon.

Mayonnaise as good as Duke’s

I am an unapologetic fanboi of mayonnaise. I love the shit. I love it so much I’d marry it if that were legal in my state. This recipe is the best I’ve had aside from Duke’s, the last commercial mayonnaise that doesn’t add sugar. Sadly, Duke’s can only be bought in the south of the US. Before discovering Duke’s, I was a Hellmann’s boy. And it’s a fine mayonnaise. But I think this is better. And it’s dirt cheap to make.

Equipment
-A stand mixer OR a hand-held electric mixer OR a blender into which you can pour liquids while it runs.

Ingredients

1.5 – 2 cups canola oil or other light, flavorless oil

1 whole egg
4 tsps. white vinegar. No, not apple cider, not rice, and for god’s sake not balsamic. White. Vinegar.
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried, ground mustard
1 tablespoon French’s Yellow prepared mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Technique
Whip egg, salt, dried mustard, prepared yellow mustard, cayenne, and vinegar with two tablespoons of the oil. Scrape bowl. Put mixer on highest setting and add a thin stream of oil until mayonnaise turns thick and white. Every now and again stop the mixer to scrape the bowl. Whip and add oil until the mayonnaise is your preferred consistency. The more the oil, the heavier and also the whiter.

EXPECT this to take at least 10 to 15 minutes. Do not rush adding the oil or it could break.

The last spreadable butter you’ll ever need

Don’t ever buy whipped butter, spreadable butter, or half-fat margarine again. This recipe does it all, it’s easy, and it’s cheap.

Equipment
-A stand mixer OR a hand-held electric mixer

Ingredients
-(scalable—this recipe uses 1/4 cup for each part. You can make more or less with the same proportions)
-2 parts butter, at room temperature, sliced into chunks (1 stick=1/2 cup=2 parts)
-1 part greek yogurt, room temperature
-1 part flavorless oil, such as canola, corn, etc.
-1 part water
-1/4 teaspoon salt. Plain, granulated salt. Not some fancy chunky shit that won’t dissolve.

Technique
KEEP MIXER RUNNING THROUGHOUT EXCEPT WHEN SCRAPING BOWL.
Place butter in mixer bowl. Whip on high until butter is totally smooth and liquid. Scrape bowl as needed throughout. Pour in oil at a medium pace; don’t dump it in, but you don’t have to trickle it either.  Pour water in, whip until smooth. When mixed, spoon in greek yogurt a spoonful at a time. Whip until smooth on highest speed. You’ll end up with something that looks like butter frosting or soft whipped cream.

Pour into glass container and refrigerate.

This “margarine” sets up firm when cooled, yet spreads right out of the fridge. It’s delicious and tastes real, not fake, like commercial products. Bonus—it has half the total fat, half the saturated fat, and about half the calories of plain butter.