Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Some Soup For You


It's been wintry here in the Valley of the Sun, like 55° (bone chilling I know) so I made soup tonight. 
I have had this kuri squash on my counter for over a month so it was time to use it.

 
Kuri squash is a hard winter squash similar to a pumpkin. Use care when cutting it for use. I cut it into fourths and didn't cut myself. Then I grabbed a spoon and scraped out the seeds and stringy stuff. Setting that stuff aside, I then oiled and salted the squash pieces and roasted them at 400° for around 50 minutes until they were fork tender. I roasted onion, shallot and garlic. Thai basil to be added later. 
  
While the squash was in the oven, I worked to get the seeds out of the stingy squash goop so that I could roast them also. Rinsed and dried ready to cook.
 
I put them in a 275° oven mixed with coconut oil, s & p and several pinches of curry powder and cooked them until they started making noise and looking crispy, maybe 30 minutes. 

After the veggies had cooled a little, I scoop out the flesh with a spoon and chop up the onion etc.
  
Then I put this all in the vitamix with a cup of chicken stock and maybe a cup of water and some Thai basil leaves. Blend until very smooth and put into a pot on the stove to heat it up. Now was time to add salt, maybe 1/4 teaspoon, a few pinches of curry powder and cayenne pepper for a little heat. Not sure how much salt, but taste as you go. I needed to add more. Add water or stock as needed for the desired consistency. 

That's pretty much it, a simple winter squash soup. Ladle it into a bowl, float some of the seeds on top with Thai basil flowers and a sprinkle of cayenne. Serve with crusty bread and butter. 
 
A nice warming soup on a chilly evening. Though the seeds turned out chewy instead of crispy, I will probably use pepitas next time. The crusty bread saved the day as I scooped the seeds out after this pic.

Confession:  I've been away from this blog for too long. Truth be told, I have lost a lot of interest in cooking. Lots of eating out and getting takeout has become the norm. 
The last six months have seen me moving along my new life, old friends and new friends have helped me along my grief path. Although some very tough days lie ahead, it will be 1 year next week since my wife passed, I am hanging in there. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Catching Up- Again

I was caught thinking about my long forgotten blog the other day, and found that it has now been a year since I last wrote.

Where to start as this has been the worst year of my life...

If you don't know, my wife passed away at the end of January from her battle with cancer.
Her last year was filled with doctors, nurses and hospitals, chemo, stem cell treatments and radiation. Every step was supposed to help, but ultimately they didn't. 
She was my best friend and wife for most of my life, and losing her has placed a large hole where my heart used to be. I miss her daily and the tears are never far from the surface. I think that I have experienced every emotion over the past 6 months, and many times I am so jumbled up I don't really know what to do. I have written many notes at all hours of the day detailing my feelings as a way to cope. I have had to adjust to the life of a widower and single parent to 3 boys/men. Running a home, shopping, cleaning, cooking, clothes. It is completely overwhelming.

But with the help of my closest friends, family and even joining her bible study group, I have been moving forward with my life. I am getting out and around town trying to enjoy this life.    I have even dated some. Life will move forward.

I haven't stopped cooking, so here are just a few things from the last few months.





 Avocado toast with tomatoes, basil cucumber smash, green and indigo tomatoes,

Heirloom tomato salad, a hot pepper food gradient, chicken tagine with purple cauliflower and mushrooms.

I can't say what the future will bring, but I hope that I will be able to make some good things happen again. Maybe I will even keep up my blog on a regular basis. Keep track of my Instagram (@theelhefe) for my latest cooking and other interests.
Here's to life...!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Catching up and cooking with a tagine

A little catching up with things in my world: sometimes life gets in the way and you forget about your inactive blog. My last entry hit on December 1st last year. On that day my wife had us go to the emergency room because of pain she had been feeling. A CT scan revealed a mass in her abdomen. A few days later we were told it was a type of lymphoma and that chemo treatments were to begin quickly. Obviously a diagnosis like this changes your life and everyone around you as well. 

Fast forward 8 months. She has been doing as well as can be expected, and I can only pray that these treatments are doing what they need to do for her to get past this. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and will be working hard to get there...

Ok I'll talk tagine now.
Here is my tagine in its usual spot holding up some cookbooks. 

On my trip to the farmers market last weekend, I found some curry leaves. What! I am always on the lookout for odd finds at the market, and these certainly fit the bill! 
After googling curry leaves for a bit, I decided that a lamb tagine sounded like a logical starting place to discover what these can do. Here is a recipe that I borrowed from to make mine http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/moroccanlambtagine_6696
Next I had to buy some lamb. I have used boneless leg of lamb many times and went to the store. I finally found one at my 3rd grocery store. What the hell!
Anyways I got home and began chopping it up and discarding a lot of the fatty bits. Then I tossed the cubes in a yoghurt, Aleppo pepper, salt and olive oil to marinate for a bit. 
Next I made up the spice blend to use. 
I mixed 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of all these plus a large pinch of saffron in a small bowl. 
Then I chopped up a white onion, peeled a few carrots and chopped up some dried apricots. 

Next I heated the bottom of the tagine to start cooking. I began by browning 1/2 of the marinated lamb. I then noticed that the pieces weren't really browning very well. Seems that I shouldn't have marinated them as the cubes had a lot of liquid coming off them as they cooked. Oh well I just went with it until all the lamb was somewhat browned and removed from the tagine. Then I removed most of the liquid and began cooking the onions. 5 minutes later I added 5 big peeled garlic cloves, a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes and a can of water to the tagine. Time to add the browned lamb pieces and a piece of the curry leaves (about 10 leaves) on top. 
Then I took a picture for Instagram, and this is where I began forgetting things. I took some pictures thinking that I would just put the top on and bake it in the preheated 350° oven. But I looked at it and thought, where are the carrots? So I grabbed them, put them on top and took another pic.
I popped the top on and placed it in the oven. Turned around and saw my spice blend. Oops I should have browned all of this with the onions. Got it out of the oven and stirred in the spices. Top on and back in the oven. Posted this pic to Instagram and figured on 2.5 hours of cooking time until dinner would be ready. 5 minutes later I notice the apricots on the counter. Once more I take out the tagine and stir in the apricots. Finally everything I was using was now cooking together. 

Cooking with a tagine is like a long, slow braising that results in tender meat with a nice sauce. I wanted to serve this with jasmine rice that I cooked along with 3 curry leaves just because I could. 

Here is the finished dinner on my plate with a little cilantro sprinkled on top. 
Tasty, tender, with a nice spice blend along with the little extra flavor of curry leaves. The family really enjoyed this Sunday dinner, and I am now thinking of other ways to use the tagine again. 

Hoping to update again, any thoughts and prayers are much appreciated as the mrs will be going through a month of intensive chemo. Keep looking up and moving forward. Hefe out...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Roast Turkey 2014

This is a chronical of the events related to the Roast Turkey of 2014. It ended up looking like this for Thanksgiving

I have to write down the basic steps because it turned out so well.

It started with a 17.3 pound fresh turkey. Brined for 24+ hours. 1 lemon, 1 meyer lemon, 1 onion, 1 cup kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 3 rosemary sprigs and 3 bay leaves, an ancho chile, 3 allspice and 20 black peppercorns. I boiled the water, added the salt and sugar, then put all the rest in and set aside to cool before putting in the bird for the night.

Then around noon on Thanksgiving I took it out of the brine and rinsed it off well. Then tried my best to pat it dry with paper towels. Place it on the roasting rack in the pan.

I then made an herb rub that had fresh rosemary, parsley and thyme chopped up. I took part of the herbs and spread them along with a little softened butter on the outside as well as under the skin on breast and thighs. Salt and pepper the outside. 

Then I stuffed it with halved meyer lemon, orange, fennel bulb, onion and whole herb sprigs. Tie up legs. Tuck under wings. Oven at 325° convection. Place breast side down in V rack and cook for 45 minutes. Flipped it over on the rack and then spread a little more butter over it along with the remaining herb mixture. 

Change oven to 325° regular bake. After 1 hour throw in some celery and carrots under turkey and a cup or 2 of water. Bake a total of 3.5 hours with basting in the final hour. Let sit 30 minutes, make the gravy, carve and serve with all the extras. 

I have been making some version of herb rubbed turkey for years, and I am pretty sure that I nailed it this time. I might not even wait until next year to make it again!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A little cabbage side dish

I found myself needing to make a little side dish the other night, so I naturally looked in the fridge for some veggies. I dug around a bit and found this Savoy cabbage that I had bought several days earlier.
Ok, now what to do with this? I didn't want to make slaw or an Asian salad. Hmmm. I wanted to cook with this thing, so I started cutting it up to do a stir fry type dish. 
And I just kept cutting and cutting...
Cutting and more cutting while trying to make bite sized pieces of the thicker parts. I planned to cook these first to make them tender before tossing in the leafier parts. 
 Here it is all prepped along with the seasoning of chopped serrano and green onion. 
I heated up a pan, put some avocado oil in it, and put in the thicker pieces to begin cooking. Season with a little salt.
Some might say avocado oil? I have discovered this at the farmers market, and I now use it for most stir fry recipes. It is a healthy oil with a high heat point. 
At this point I put another pan over the one I was cooking with to try and help the cabbage cook through. 
Next it was time to put the leafier parts of the cabbage in to cook. Stir it around a little and it is time to put in the flavoring.
I put in the chopped serrano and green onions. I like to add flavoring like this right at the end so that these seasonings don't burn. I call it a "flavor bomb". I use it with many different types of cooking. Stir it up until heated through and it is ready to serve. Tonight I put some oven fried chicken tenders over this cabbage stir fry for a nice little dinner. Bon appetito!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dipping Sauces...


It seems I'm always looking for stuff that I 'need' for our kitchen. Spices, oils, bbq sauces, mustards. I probably shouldn't because we have so many things in our pantry but I can't help it.

One thing I always seem to see for sale are dipping sauces for bread.

Note: I wrote this on a long flight, thus the lack of original pictures...

A search of Amazon resulted in over 100 choices. Some are pricey, or just a bag of herbs to mix yourself. Why not just make your own with stuff from your pantry. 

Some good olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper and a splash of vinegar is really all you need.

I usually grab a clove or two of garlic and chop it up into a bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Italian dried herb mixture and some red pepper flakes. Add like a 1/4 cup of evoo and a teaspoon or so of balsamic vinegar and stir it up. Add some salt and pepper to taste, then let it sit for a bit to let the flavors come out. That's all there is to it. Grab some crusty bread slices and dig in. Yum!
Of course this isn't just for bread. Drizzle it over ripe tomatoes as a dressing, or on some veggies and meats before grilling. 

This is only a starting point. Try adding fresh herbs if you have some in your garden. Basil and oregano are obvious choices. Rosemary, mint or parsley? Sure. Maybe pan roast the garlic in its skin to soften the flavor some before chopping it up. Parmesan cheese? Why not! 

Try other spice blends, different vinegars, flavored oils. Tailor it to whatever else you are making to eat. The choices might just be endless. Give it a try and you might actually make a dent in your pantry. 

Photo credits: Amazon.com (top collage), Couponclippingcook.com (garlic), Zestycook.com (pepper), Bonappetite.com (Italian herbs), Followpic.co (bread & dip)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grill Improvising

I can't believe that I did it again! I ran out of propane. 
And as usual, it happens when the food isn't done yet. 
                                                             
As a guy that grills often, you might think that I would check the gas once in a while.
But I don't, and it usually gets me when I least expect it. I start the grill, it gets hot then
I throw on some pork tenderloins in this case, and go inside for a bit. It is around 100° 
and I can't just stand out there watching the grill. Then I go back to check the meat only to find that the fire is out. 
  WTH!!
This has forced me to figure out how to finish cooking food that isn't done yet. In this case
I brought in the tenderloins and put them into the oven that was already roasting some 
peppers, onions and baked potatoes.

Dinner turned out fine if maybe delayed a little bit.


Update: A couple of days later, I had just turned on the grill just as a monsoon storm started moving in. I even found a rain jacket to battle the elements, but it became impossible as the wind and rain became dangerous. Time to use the grill pan indoors.

 
After the storm passed, we found a large limb down, a small lake and a wet owl that I spotted in a tree. 
Does anyone else have these problems or I am the only one dumb enough not to check on the gas tank?
By the way, my cool cement blocks are from Touvlo.