Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe Geek is Going on Hiatus, Sort of

In the interest of time, I'm recombining my two blogs.  I'm not sure if there's anyone who reads this one but not the other.  If you do, and don't have the link, email me at oldbiddyblogging at yahoo dot com and I'll send it to you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Date Nut Bread, sans nuts

Perhaps I was subliminally inspired by my recent dates with nuts from  In any case, I picked up a big bag of dates at Sam's Club with the intention of making date nut bread.  I'm breaking with tradition and posting this on both my blogs.
I used the recipe from my favorite cookbook.  I'll list it here, since I can't post a link.

Date Nut Bread

2 cups chopped dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Combine dates, water and baking soda.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. The dates will soften up a lot from the combination of hot water and baking soda.  They will also fizz a little. Good times!

6 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used a combination of sour cream and milk since that's what I had)
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9" loaf pan.  Combine egg and milk and wisk to blend.  Wisk in sugar, vanilla and melted butter, then add dates and the soaking liquid.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix, then add the liquid ingredients and mix until just blended.  Add nuts. Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Anyway, that's the recipe.  I have a confession to make - I forgot the nuts.  I chopped them and toasted them but forgot to add them to the batter. Perhaps it was a subliminal thing - no more dates with nuts, ever!  Perhaps I was a little distracted.  The arborist was here giving estimates to my neighbors and I.  He was a lot better looking than the guys. He can come climb my limbs any time.
In any case, the bread was really, really good.  Soaking the dates made a huge difference.  They were tender and the bread had a great, light texture and a slightly carmelly flavor.  It was by far the best date nut bread I've ever eaten, even without the nuts. I took half the loaf in to work.  It had mostly disappeared after a few hours, even though not everyone was around.   I'll definitely be making it again, but next time I will add the nuts, and probably some chocolate chips too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans

It's been a while since I cooked quinoa, so I didn't remember the proper proportion of liquid to grain.  I went online to look it up, and ran across this recipe.  I had most of the ingredients on hand, and it sounded good and had very positive reviews.
I made it more or less as described in the recipe, with the following changes.  I had some fresh corn, so I used that, I didn't have any cilantro, so I omitted it, and I only used one can of beans, as recommended by many of the reviewers.
It is pretty tasty, and I'll make it again.  The combination of corn and quinoa always works well.  I ate it with chicken leftovers, but it would be good in a burrito or with a little sour cream.  I would probably take it in the opposite direction and increase the amount of quinoa and stick with one can of beans next time.
Don't believe the part about it making ten servings, though.  I'll probably get 4 or 5 servings out of it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chicken Spiedies

When I moved here I noticed a weird murky-looking marinade at the grocery store.  It was called 'spiedie marinade'.  It's avaible in bottles or you can buy pre-marinated meat.  I had no clue what it was.
It turns out it's a regional dish here in central New York.  As with many dishes, there is debate as to who invented it, wth several people taking credit for it.  Anyway, it's a Binghampton thing.  Meat is marinated for a long time and then grilled on skewers.  Once it's cooked, it's served on a roll.  The original spiedies were made from lamb, but are more commonly made from chicken or pork now.  It's also used for venison, which makes sense given all the deer around here.
I bought a bottle of spiedie marinade.  It smells like Italian dressing. I soaked some chicken tenders in it for a few hours. It was pouring, so  I didn't bother with skewers or charcoal, or bread.
The speidies were tasty - salty, tender, and with a slight flavor of garlic.  I could see why they'd be tasty in a sandwich, especially with beer.  Rugrat liked them too.  I don't know what it is with regional Binghampton cuisine though - they are seriously into salt, with the salt potatoes and the spiedies.  I'm glad I didn't serve them together.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pork Chop Battle, part 2

Now that I have a fancy new gas grill, it was time to test the smoker capabilities.  I opted to do smoked pork chops again, albeit with a simpler recipe.
I brined the pork chops for several hours in a mix of 1/4 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 4 cups water.  I then put them on the grill, along with some wood chips.  My grill is a bit different, so it's not necessary to soak the wood chips. You just drop them in.  There's no direct flame so they don't burn up too quickly.  Anyway, using the BBQ option resulted in a temperature of 350F, which was higher than the 250-275F that is recommended. The chops cooked quickly, in about 40 minutes.  They were tender and moist and tasted like a cross between regular and Canadian bacon.  The smoke flavor and salt level were just about right.  They were not overwhelmingly smoky.  I will definitely be making these again.  If I feel like being a really anal retentive BBQ geek, I'll try cooking them more slowly at the recommended temperature. 
I really like the infrared cooking so far.  I like my meat on the rare side, without a really charred crust, and everything I've cooked so far has come out moist, rare but not underdone, and was nice and tender. 
Next up: Chicken Spiedies

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Toy: Char-Broil Infrared Grill

OK, so I had a brief respite from my grill lust when I got the BBQ/smoker, but after a few days the gas grill lust returned.  The smoker is good for the weekends, but I'm hungry and tired when I get home from work.  I wanted to be able to throw some meat and veggies on the grill and eat within 30 minutes.
I got lucky on Craigslist - the full story is posted on my other blog.  Suffice it to say I am now the proud owner of a brand new Char-Broil Red infrared gas grill.  I like it pretty well so far.  There are settings for high heat (clean/preheat) sear (for steaks, etc), grill, and BBQ/smoke.There is a U-shaped pan so grease never drips directly on the flame.  That's good for me since I was always having grease flare-ups in  my old mini-grill. I think the pan also serves to radiate/diffuse the heat so stuff cooks quickly and evenly.  There were mixed reviews on the grill and the infrared.  A lot of people really like it, and Consumer Reports gave it a high rating, but some people got lemons or were die-hard BBQ or gas grill snobs.  Anyway, so far my grill isn't a lemon (knock on wood) and I'm always open to new technology, so I'm happy.
Last night I cooked some chicken breasts* and zucchini.  The zucchini was a gift from the lady that sold me the grill.  The chicken cooked in about 10 minutes, and the squash took 15.  As it was cooking, it smelled really good, like a rotisserie chicken.  That was a good sign.  My old mini-grill always was pretty smoky due to the flare ups.  At five minutes I took a look at it. It looked done on that side so I flipped it.  At ten minutes it was done.  I let it rest while the squash finished.  Anyway, the chicken was really good - it was fully cooked but not charred on the outside, and it stayed very moist inside, even though I hadn't brined or marinated it. The squash was better than usual, but not perfect.  I've never had much success with grilled squash.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with my first attempt.  I'm looking forward to cooking other stuff on it.

*  this is my standard quick meal, so it's a good test.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My new smoker/smoked prok chops and salt potatoes

My brother and some of my coworkers are total barbeque geeks.  I've been listening to them yap about barbequing and smoking meats, and they were a bad influence on me.  
I bought a charcoal grill/smoker.  It was on sale for $19.  I've been wanting to get a nice big gas grill, and still intend to do so, but finding this was part of my good shopping karma this weekend.
It's nice and small and light, but I can still fit a small turkey in there.  When I'm not using it I can stash it in the garage.  I like its' design better than my old round one. I'm giving the old one to a grad student.
I got some pork chops, rubbed them down with a spice rub, and then looked at the instructions.  Ooops.  The grill needs to be cured before the first use, to seal the finish and get rid of paint odors. I cheated and let it cure for two hours, added a few more charcoal briquets and then started cooking the pork chops. I had trouble maintain the proper temperature (250F), so I should've added more earlier.  After an hour I gave up and finished off the pork chops in the oven.  They smelled pretty good as they cooked.  They were moist and smoky, and the rub was tasty.  They were somewhere in between smoked and baked.  I don't recommend cooking them this way, but it is useful to know that rub is so tasty, especially since I have a lot left over.
My brother reminded me that smoked food is best paired with something blander, so it's not so overwhelming.  I used this advice as an excuse to make salt potatoes, which are new potatoes cooked in a saturated solution of salt water.  They are a regional dish here, and there's even chemistry involved, so of course I wanted to try them.  The salt raises the boiling point of the water and also denatures the protein in the potato, so they get really tender and creamy.  They are usually served with melted butter.  What's not to like?!?!  (Admit it, you really want to try them)  Anyway, to take away the guesswork of either preparing a saturated solution or measuring out salt, they sell bags of potatoes packaged with bags of salt.  [I found it kind of funny that the potatoes were packaged in Sacramento, where the workers were probably wondering WTF about the salt.]  I prepared them according to the directions.  The salt/water mixture was pretty close to saturation.  I ended up putting the lid on the stockpot so they wouldn't splatter salt all over my nice clean kitchen.  After about 20 minutes, they were done.  I'm not sure if I didn't cook them quite long enough - they were soft and starchy like baked potatoes, rather than being creamy, but after sitting in the presence of butter for a while they became creamier.  As you might expect, there was no need to add more salt, but they weren't overwhelmingly salty.  (Be forwarned that I like my potatoes very salty, though.]  I may make them again, especially since I still have some potatoes left.
I'll post more once I successfully use the smoker.