Saturday, August 21, 2010

Easy Blue Cheese Dressing: Your New Secret Weapon!

To Dress, To Dress!

   This recipe is a great way to use up that leftover blue cheese from the party you threw. In my experience selling cheese, i have heard many people complain that when they bought blue for the party, no one really ate it. This could mean that these people need to find more adventurous friends, but it also definitely means they have blue cheese leftovers to deal with.  I like this as a way to stretch my blue cheese money further.  A nice blue cheese can be kinda pricey, and this simple dressing recipe can actually be your secret weapon for lots of dishes. 

   Because of the yogurt base, this dressing melts into a nice creaminess over hot items. I once made this, added a pinch of chopped fresh dill, and spread it over freshly grilled burgers in lieu of cheddar. The result was amazing!  How 'bout blue cheese dressing drizzled over saute'd mushrooms as a side dish for steak? Or mixed with mustard powder and tossed instead of mayo into your macaroni salad? Or an easy sauce for ravioli? Spread over corn on the cob! Too hot to cook today? Try it drizzled over shredded carrots as a cool, crunchy, quick and easy side dish.
Anyway, please be daring! and send me pictures!

Easy Blue Cheese Dressing
Makes  about 1 cup

2-4 oz blue cheese (remove natural rind from stilton style blues), crumbled
1/2 cup your favorite plain yogurt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, (more or less according to your taste)
*** optional seasoning ideas: dill, mustard powder, honey, red pepper flakes, etc.) i don't usually add salt, blue cheeses are usually very salty. But, of course, that is up to you.

Crumble cold blue with a fork, add yogurt and seasoning. Mush it together with a fork for about a minute. Whisk till smooth and fluffly. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for two weeks or longer.  Shelf life will depend upon the freshness and quality of the ingredients used (taste before each use after 10 days).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Home Roasted Coffee: Remove Your Smoke Detector

Yes, Folks. 
Roast Coffee yourself!

Today's Post is mostly just for fun, something we did in the kitchen that was kinda awesome. 
I have always wondered what happens to coffee to make it taste so good. Roasting coffee is a simple process, but very difficult to master. But, like anything else in the kitchen, i think it can be done with practice. Anyhow, i am no master. Only curious. Roasting your own coffee can save you some money once you get good at it. I have become somewhat of a coffee snob, so only the best Fair Trade/ Organic fresh roasted beans will do. This can be a pricey habit. We got this coffee from a local place that also retails online called Sweet Maria's. They have great prices, good quality, and good ethics. Check their website (link above) for Roasting tips and other coffee stories. 

Ok, on to the show. First i have a slideshow of the first half of the roasting, but when it started to move fast, i shot a video. hope you enjoy!

And also:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Homemade Flour Tortillas: Make 'em Yourself!

Homemade Tortillas!

    This is a fairly simple recipe, but it does take a little practice to get it perfect. You will be pleased with the results if you give it a try! Homemade tortillas for burritos, tacos, quesadillas, or just as a side dish to any mexican food. 
   My grandma taught me to make tortillas from a very young age. I remember practicing rolling in first grade. My grandma was often disappointed in my lack of ability to produce round tortillas, and would scold me with her story about how she learned to make them round. " If i messed up, my mother would hit my hand with the rolling pin. It is a fast way to learn." Horrified, i tried my best. My grandma's good humor and tender patience always allowed for my mistakes with out any bruised knuckles, but it is something i still think of every time i roll.
   Anyhow, try your best, and send pictures if you try it yourself!

makes 4, serves 2

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs Shortening
1 tbs Olive oil
1/2 cup HOT water (not hot from from the tap. heat in microwave or kettle)

Mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add shortening, oil, and water. mix till combined, forming dough into a ball. Knead for about one minute. Allow Dough to rest for ten minutes. Divide dough into 4 even pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and roll out on a well dusted board with a well dusted rolling pin. Cook on a dry clean skillet over medium high heat. Poke holes in any large bubbles that form for even cooking. Cook about 30 seconds on each side.  Serve hot.  Unrolled balls of dough will keep in an airtight container at room temp for about 3 days. You can also roll and partially cook tortillas, and keep them in a zipper bag in the fridge for about a week, or freeze for a month. 

Next time in iliea's Kitchen:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chorizo: Mexican Breakfast Sausage


     So, here's the thing: Chorizo has always been a guilty nostalgic pleasure for me. Mexican Sausage, often including questionable parts of the animal and far more questionable amounts of fat. Buy some from the store, cook it up, and you get a small pile of grainy "meat" drowning in a pool of bright red melted fat. *shudder. Well, i have tried to combat this myself in the past, and a solution for a long time had been to cook it up, drain out the fat with a wire sieve, then return the "meat" to the pan to scramble with eggs. Having collected this drained fat many times, i know that once it cools, it turns into a pale orange goo. I had a hard time not imagining that the breakfast i had just eaten was now a pale orange goo, clumped up somewhere in my body. *again with the shudder. Heavy, fatty, and kinda dirty, but the nostalgic memory was worth this price. Grandma often made chorizo for me, and i have grand memories of saturday mornings finding her in the kitchen, rolling out tortillas, with a pot of beans bubbling away on the stove. She would hand me a basket and ask me to go bother the chicken for some eggs. Grandpa used a meat grinder and made ground pork out of clearly identified parts, and grandma would turn that into the most delicious chorizo.  *sigh.
     Ok, so these days, store bought just doesn't cut it for me. But i can't help my wanting for the chorizo of my childhood. So i wrote my uncle, and asked him if he knew how to make it. After following his vague recipe, and tweaking it, and testing it a bunch, i have finally made the chorizo of my memory. 

Other benefits from making your own chorizo other than deliciosity and nostalgic factors is expense and health.  Fresh ground pork is super cheap, as are beans, flour, and eggs. You can make a weeks worth of substantial breakfasts for 2 for not too much money. Adding potato to the scramble is a tasty way to get your chorizo to stretch even further. I buy in bulk flour, spices, and beans... Saving LOTS $$$. Health wise, if you make it yourself, you get absolute control over what goes into it. I have found that buying fresh ground pork from a clean and trusted butcher shop contains little fat compared to the Glowing red pool i got in store bought chorizo. I tend to buy organic, so as far as i know, this is the only way to get a cleanly organic mexican chorizo. 

Coming soon is my tortilla how to. Make your chorizo!

Chorizo Recipe:
serves about 10

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp granulated garlic or 3 fresh cloves, minced
3 tbs chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin

If you like it spicy, you can also add:
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbs red chili flakes

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or spatula. Do not mix with your hands, the chili could make your skin irritated. Pack into an airtight container and refrigerate for 24 hours. Chorizo will keep in your fridge for two weeks, more or less.

Chorizo Scramble with potatoes
for 2

1 small yellow potato, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dash red pepper flakes optional
splash of water (about 1 oz)

2 heaping tablespoons chorizo
2 eggs

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil, potatoes and season. Cook, tossing occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. add water, cover. lower heat to medium low. Steam the potatoes till the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and toss the potatoes to dry them out a bit. Check to make sure the potatoes are soft. If they are not, add another splash of water and repeat steam process. Push potatoes to the edges of the pan. Place chorizo in the center of the skillet, and flatten. cook over medium heat, stirring, for about five minutes. Toss potatoes together with chorizo. Add eggs, scramble. Serve with beans and tortillas, or roll into a breakfast burrito.

Next time in iliea's Kitchen:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pasta Primavera: iliea Style!

Pasta Primavera!

From Pasta Primavera

Hello, everyone. i know it has been a very very long time since my last post, and i apologize. Summer has a way of making me forget to document my kitchen adventures. I have been taking pictures, just not all the time. Anyhow, in the next few weeks i will be trying to play catch up in ilieaskitchen. 
First up is this Springtime recipe i did in May. The Peas were big, fresh and beautiful, and they went perfectly with the new recipe for alfredo sauce i been so in love with recently. 
Traditionally, Pasta primavera is fresh spring veggies with pesto. I used fresh sweet english peas, asparagus, and spinach, but you can substitute any green veggies you like. As most of you know, but some of you don't, but i'm actually allergic to basil, so even though it is delicious, Pesto is OUT. So this is my version, pesto free, of Pasta Primavera. Enjoy!

Pasta Primavera
Serves 2.

1 cup fresh shelled english peas
1 cup 1 inch pieces asparagus
1/2 cup blanched and chopped spinach
1 cup chicken broth or 1 cup water and bouillon, or vegetable broth
1/2 cup half and half
minced garlic, 3 or 4 cloves according to your taste
1 tsp red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 egg yolk
1- 8oz Package Fresh Spinach Fettuccine

Get a large pot of water on the stove to cook your pasta in. Prepare vegetables: Cut and blanch spinach in chicken broth, reserve blanching liquid. soaking in cold water bath as shown. squeeze, chop, set aside. bring broth back to a simmer, and add peas and asparagus. cover and simmer till bright and soft, about five minutes. Meanwhile grate cheese and mince garlic, and begin to cook your pasta. follow package directions, cook one minute less than called for. remove veggies from broth. add half and half, garlic, and pepper. bring back to just a simmer, remove from heat. in a separate bowl or cup, add egg yolk and a spoonful of hot cream sauce. stir. repeat 4 times. add egg mixture to sauce, whisk well. drain cooked pasta. add half of the cheese, and all of the sauce. toss well, cover and let stand five minutes. stir in the rest of the cheese and the veggies. serve, garnishing with extra cheese and pepper flakes.

Next time in iliea's kitchen:

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