Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fix Your Salad: Vitamin Greens, Tatsoi, Croutons, and That Pesky Leftover Cranberry Sauce (feat. Sunday Sandwich)

Salads take a lot of guff in Murka, due to the one-two punch of this country's love affair with dead cow meat and that era of the token salad when iceberg lettuce and industrial tomatoes were king. Salads can be so much more and if you're looking for a great way to get some vitamins into your system, then look no further than the noble salad. Many greens are packed with vitamins, fiber, and are easy for human bodies to break down into those needed parts. In addition, the variety of colors, textures, and flavors within that broad palate of the salad are a joy to explore. A properly made salad is a beautiful thing.

Japanese Vitamin Greens
In greens alone there are the options of  kale (vitamin k, lutein, carotenoids, vitamin c, beta carotene, iron, calcium), spinach (niacin, zinc, protein, vitamins a,e,c,b6, and k, thiamin, folate, riboflavin, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, copper, manganese), basil (protein, vitamins e,a,c,k, and b6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, potassium, zinc), mint, (vitamin a, small amounts of other vitamins like c and b complex vitamins, high in iron and manganese), and bok choy, (vitamins a,c,d,b6,b12, magnesium, iron, potassium, protein). While I'm more likely to parody "superfood"-touting clickbait than I'm likely to write it, I've found an easy-to-grow cabbage with vitamin in the name, Japanese Vitamin Greens. High in vitamins a,c,k,e, iron, and calcium, Vitamin Greens are a mild mustard green cousin and have a flavor reminiscent of  bok choy.

In addition to some home-made garlic croutons* and a light touch of vinaigrette**, the salad above contained baby kale, bok choy,  and, as I had both available and they have slightly different nutritional profiles), vitamin greens, as well as garden-fresh tomatoes (still producing in late November), several mustard greens (Ho Mi Z, Southern Giant, Mizuna), as well as another mustard ...

... Tatsoi
Like all of these delicious greens, Tatsoi is loaded with carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals. Sure, you can cook these mustards, but they're even more nutritious raw and together they make a mighty fine salad.

Those, friends, are just some of the greens. There are a whole world of salad ingredients, dressings, and toppings waiting for you to create your own works of art.

"What", you may be asking, "about that titular 'pesky leftover cranberry sauce'"? Well, first of all, look at you using "titular". Secondly, and seriously, I mixed a little of the juice with a few tablespoons of Champagne vinegar and quarter cup of avocado oil to produce a light, tart, and tasty dressing for the salad. That's what. Part of the remainder went into today's sandwich.

In case you missed it

St. Andre Triple Cream Brie and cranberry sauce on a toasted English muffin. Sounds like breakfast to me (although, I want to try the same filling with some freshly baked rye).

Back again to salads, a mix of healthy greens and other vegetables is a delicious way to get vitamins into your system. Have fun with dressings. Have fun with ingredients. Throw in some cut vegetables or fruit. Make friends with citrus zest. Play with peppers. The foods of many cultures offer a variety of salads to explore. Salads don't have to be boring. Don't make them boring. Fix your salad!

Radish, Tomato, Bell Pepper, Mixed Greens, Red Frilled Mustard, Fennel

* About those croutons: I took some stale baguette ends, cut them into cube-ish shapes, tossed them in a skillet with olive oil, melted butter, and garlic powder, and then stuck the skillet into a 300 degree oven until the croutons re-crisped (around five-ten minutes).

About Fix Your Salad: After my most recent trip to Utah I posted about a pathetic excuse for a $12 salad at a once-favored restaurant. "Don't just bring me problems," I'm always telling people, "bring me solutions". So, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, (and Doc Gus' suggestion that I give our reader(s) a tour of my garden), since that post I have been sharing some of my favorite salad greens. If you're going to charge folks $12 for a salad, restaurant industry, don't be lazy jerks about it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Leftover Victory: Black Beans, Wild Rice, Kabocha Soup, and Chocolate Mint Leaves


I can't believe how well this turned out. Leftover black beans and wild rice from a bout of taco fever combined with kabocha and ginger soup made from leftover squash and topped with chocolate mint leaves from the garden made a fantastic Thanksgiving Eve dinner. I'd even planned, and forgotten, a splash of lime, but it wasn't necessary. I'd try it next time, though.

The soup, by the way, killed it at Thanksgiving dinner. The only thing that came close in raves was the snickerdoodle ice cream. I also made some yummy bacon-less baked beans using Vegemite for the vegetarians in my life.

That's all for now. I'm thinking waffles and leftover cranberry sauce. Yeah.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Holidays are Cheesy

I was scrolling through photos from yesterday's Thanksgiving feast at 99% Bittersweet's domicile, sitting on a couch, fading in an out of consciousness as one at my age does after consuming 10,000 calories of food. The only thing that would make the ritualistic gouging of Thanksgiving more tone-deaf is if there happens to be a Redskins game scheduled for that particular Thursday.

The game this year was a rematch of Super Bowl champions the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. Spoiler alert: the 49ers lost.

As I scrolled through the photos I thought about prior Chowbacca! Thanksgivings... last year we "live blogged" the event, a once in a lifetime convergence of the American holiday and Hanukkah. I wondered if we had done a disservice to our reader (hi, Darren!) by posting our recipes a la minute, giving no one a chance to prepare ahead of time to follow suit for their "Thanksgivmuhkkah."

I held two thoughts in my head: first, we are not the Food Network, or worse, the kind of corporate sponsored mega-blog that eventually rolls up into a Food Network development deal (for those with the, ahem, pioneering spirit) and thus do not have the budget to buy a half dozen or more turkeys in August and September in order to test and then stage "holiday meals" ahead of the actual holiday. Sometimes we will try to get things in ahead of the event, like a week of cheeky St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo features, but for the high holy holidays of cooking (Thanksgiving being the highest, followed by Christmas and to some extent New Years Eve and Day) we have neither the money, the time or honestly the inclination to pump out expansive features prior to an event.

The second thing that occurred to me is that this is the fourth (fourth!) Thanksgiving that Chowbacca! is going to have together since our inception back in September of 2011 and that our reader (hi, Darren!) can peruse recipes from any of the prior three years or so of blogs about Thanksgiving should they need inspiration.

Still, Alton Brown is a pretty good source if you get stuck, so we won't blame you for selling us out for evil fascist corporate TV holiday specials ("...I wonder what canned monstrosity Stepford Wife and 'cook' Sandra Lee is making this year? Look, they carted Emeril out, look at how spiteful he looks next to Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri. Alton Brown... what has become of you? What's so funny, Michael Symon? Does anything bum you out, ever?"). As a matter of fact, that sounds kind of fun... I think I'll browse those with righteous schadenfreude tomorrow while I graze on a stunning array of left-overs.

And then I slipped back out of consciousness only to be woken by a vivid nightmare of having to prepare profiteroles for unappreciative anorexic models.


The holidays are rife with tradition, and mine are no exception. Most of my holiday traditions involve a degree of self-loathing accompanied by increasing regrets and resentment, but that's just the Thanksgiving seconds plate. By the time I get around to dessert I have hopefully drank away any doubts.

Hah, that's dark! Wow. Anyway, I do have little traditions and of course the build-up to the main event is a whirlwind of activity and planning which I embrace with, pun intended, gusto.

One of my favorite pre-gaming activities is visiting Rainbow Cooperative for supplies. I was pleased to find cheesemonger, author and Rainbow Worker/Owner Gordon "Zola" Edgar behind the cheese counter last Sunday.

We chatted amicably for several minutes catching up on local goings on, the comings and goings of friends, up-coming alt and punk shows and all the other sorts of banter you would expect of your cheesemonger.

"What's good? What do I have to have this year?"

The following is based on Edgar's recommendations (coupled with brief quips about the origins and makers... "this cheese was the last batch made by an old punk rocker before the company fired him and replaced him with an 'efficiency expert'" and "this cheese is a drought cheese, the maker combined the two milks into a single batch to save water since making two batches would involve retooling the facility and sterilizing everything" and "I can't believe we got this for only $20 a pound!").

I present to you the 2014 Chowbacca! Thanksgiving Cheeseboard:

G's bacon confit cheddar cheese ball. I suggested next year we make it a cheese Death Star... "that's no moon!"
And would you like some wine with that cheese?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bringin' It: Snicker Doodle Ice Cream

Yes, Tom Petty, The Waiting is the Hardest Part
The last thing I'm bringing to the party is chilling in the freezer right now. I'd had this idea. Snicker Doodle Ice Cream? Yeah.

The recipe I messed with can be found here. Thanks, Chew Out Loud!

⅓ cup white sugar (I did 1/2 cup)
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon (Hell, I added cinnamon until it tasted like my favorite cookie)
1 cup heavy whipping cream (I went two cups, therefore ...)
1½ cups half and half (... I cut this to half a cup)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (Three! Four? It was 3 a.m.!)

1 Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl to combine well. Cover and chill in fridge 2 hours or overnight.
2 Pour mixture into a 1-quart ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instruction. Typically about 30 minutes.
3 Immediately transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ice cream is "set."
4 Recipe may be doubled for a 2-quart ice cream maker.

Bringin it: Baked Beans

These were made on Tuesday and have been sitting around in jars waiting to be unleashed on Thanksgiving. MWUHAHAHAHAHA!!

But seriously folks, I made "hold the bacon" baked beans to give the vegetable-tarians at Thanksgiving something tasty to much on. Having never made it, I started with a recipe. I messed with it, of course.

I used Vegemite. You speaka my language? I like Marmite in my BBQ sauce, but Vegemite is less salty-tasting and works better in applications like this, I've found.

No bacon fat makes for sad baked beans, so I replaced the dead pig umami with dead yeast umami. It was dandy.

2 cups navy beans (I used a 50/50 mix of navy and pinto beans)
1/2 pound bacon (just kidding. No piggy.)
1 onion, finely diced (I used a red onion)
3 tablespoons molasses (I cut it back to 1)
2 teaspoons salt (the Vegemite brought all of the salt. I used no extra)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (4 tablespoons of Vegamite replaced this, too)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with onion.
In a saucepan, combine molasses, Vegemite, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for 3 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.

The final step took about five hours in my oven, which is usually a quick cook, but it was all worth it.

Happy Turducken Day!

Bringin' It: Roasted Kabocha Soup, Roasted Kabocha Seeds

There was a lot of that kabocha left the other day. With Thanksgiving coming up I'd thought that taking some soup along to my in-laws might be a nice thing. There were also seeds for roasting. Why not do both? My favorite ex-con brought the soup recipe. I brought the tweaks.

2 3/4 pounds sugar pumpkin or butternut squash, halved and seeded (*cough* kabocha, peeled)
1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem (I used half of a red onion)
2 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean (subbed with 4 tablespoons of MSG. Yes. Shut up.)
1 garlic clove, peeled (I decided to up the garlic to 5 cloves because garlic)
1/2 cup olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
5 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock (subbed with 5 cups of chicken-flavored vegetable stock)

I also added three tablespoons of freshly microplaned ginger. So there.


1 Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut pumpkin into 2-inch pieces. Combine pumpkin, onion, mushrooms, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Add oil and 2 teaspoons salt; toss to coat, then spread in a single layer. Roast until pumpkin is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, rotating pan and tossing vegetables halfway through. Let cool, then remove skins.

2 Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan; heat over medium. Pour in 2 cups stock; puree with an immersion blender until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. Bring soup just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Using the same jellyroll pan that I'd roasted the kabocha in I recycled the oil and seasonings and added some more to roast some seeds.

Place the kabocha seeds in a single layer on an (olive) oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. Sprinkle with salt, smoked paprika, turmeric, and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.

Thanks to this I only have the kabocha skin that I saved to make ... what ... and the rest of it should be gone tomorrow, making room for the next wave of leftovers. Mmmm, leftover sandwiches ...

Happy Turducken Day, Tursuckers!

Waffle Files: Waffles con Arroz

"Hey... so I'm making the waffles with rice flour, but this recipe does not look right," I told 99% Bittersweet as her 20-month old pawed at my iPhone.

"I-pone!" said the toddler.

"Yes very good that's an iPhone," I told her, then turning to mom, "it says 1 cup of flour, 3 eggs and 1/2 cups of milk..."

"Oh no, that's not right," 99% Bittersweet.

Cooking for a while means that you get a sense of ratios, and the ratio for pancakes is anywhere from 1:1:1 four, eggs and milk to slightly more eggs if you want your pancakes to stand up, a little more milk for a moister pancake, a little more flour for a "fluffier" pancake.

"The only thing is that whenever I make pancakes or waffles with rice flour is that they tend to be a little gummy," 99% Bittersweet.

I set about experimenting. Measurements are approximate.

Rice (and Almond and Dark Rye) Flour Waffles:

  • 2 cups of rice flour.
  • 1/3 cups of almond flour.
  • 1/3 cups of dark rye flour.
  • 6 eggs whites.
  • 6 egg yolks.
  • 2 cups of milk.
  • 1 cup of heavy cream.
  • 2 tablespoons sugar.
  • 3 teaspoons Kosher salt.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
  • 1/8 teaspoons plus 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar.
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda.

Separate egg whites into a clean metal bowl and add 1/8th teaspoon of cream of tartar (powdered tartaric acid, which will help the whites set).

Add yolks, cream, milk, salt, sugar, remaining cream of tartar and vanilla and beat to mix. Add flour and mix until smooth but do not overwork.

Reserve the baking soda until the last minute.

Beat eggs with a balloon whisk until you have medium firm peaks.

Working in 3-4 batched, fold the whites into the flour, yolk and milk mixture, working with a large rubber spatula from the bottom of the bowl up and over the whites. You do not have to be super diligent about mixing in all of the whites evenly.

When you are on the final batch of whites, fold in the baking soda as well.

The soda will react with the tartaric acid in the batter to form carbon dioxide, which along with the egg whites gives your batter "lift."

Use a home waffle iron to bake the batter or spoon onto a griddle to make pancakes.

I would use a lower temperature and longer cook time on pancakes to allow them to set throughout before flipping.

Make them ahead of time and reheat on Thanksgiving for a no-fuss breakfast.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Curried Kabocha

I picked up a kabocha. No, not a kabocha squash. Kabocha is Japanese for squash. You can take your squash squash to the ATM machine machine. So, I picked up a kabocha at South Coast Farms and I will tell you true, friends, this Japanese pumpkin is a pain in the buttocks to peel. It's such a pain to peel that this guy and this guy have different ways of handling it from this guy. I couldn't decide which looked best, so I just did my own thing. Just remember not to cut toward yourself, to go slow and steady, and use a sawing motion with your sharp knife and you'll be fine.

After saving the seeds and skin for later use, I found a recipe to monkey with and went to work.

The first thing that I did was make my own curry paste by combining lemongrass, sacred basil, three white and three black garlic cloves, fresh ginger, fish sauce, black pepper, culantro, apple mint, a teaspoon of Vegemite, (you read it right), onion, and smoked paprika in the blender until smooth.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning (I left this part out due to the fish sauce and Vegemite in the curry paste)
2 medium green bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed and cut into 1/4-inch strips (I used orange bell pepper)
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (I put all of the garlic in the curry paste)
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (from about a 1-1/2-inch piece) (I put all of the ginger in the curry paste)
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 (13- to 14-ounce) can unsweetened regular coconut milk (I realized that I was out of canned coconut milk, so I subbed Trader Joe's Vanilla Coconut Beverage)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use double black which is super salty)
1 medium kabocha squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (I put culantro in the curry paste)
Steamed white rice or steamed brown rice for serving (I used nutritionally superior red cargo rice)

I also added some cashews to the mix.

So affordable at 99 Ranch Market

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 6 minutes. Add the peppers and cashews, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the curry paste, stir to coat the onion-pepper mixture, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, water, soy sauce, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in the squash, return to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is fork-tender but still firm, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

Serve immediately over rice.

Curry Paste in a Hurry

Onions, Bell Pepper, Cashews

More Curry Tunnel!

The paste is on!

Simmering ....

... served.

Bonus "I thought the camera was off" moment.

Buck Tradition

I've been asked in the past to do more traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. I could, I supposed, if not for a few things: 1) My in-laws put on a spectacular, and traditional, spread every year for both holidays, so, at most, I'm either bringing something to the party or not, 2) Dottore Gus and 99%Bittersweet do up the traditional foods so well that my doing it would just be ... well, more, and, as Doc Gus himself points out, we don't have people throwing money at us to stage holidays beforehand. 3) It would bore me.

Honestly, if (and back when) left to my own planning I never go traditional. Well, I do like a goose at Christmas, but who does that anymore? If it wasn't for the lovely traditional dinners that my family and I share with my wife's family, I would do something like the prime rib cap pictured above with some dungeoness crab legs, purple potatoes, and asparagus. Simple, fun, and different, not hours stressing out over a giant bird. Sure, maybe I'd mix it up and do a traditional Thanksgiving every other year, but I'd always want my Christmas goose. The pressure of getting everything right year after year just seems unnecessary. It's supposed to be good food and fun times with family and friends, not a drag.

Fondue is always welcome. Just sayin'.

The prime rib cap may sound daunting, but really it's just two minutes of sear on three sides and then 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It's a rich and satisfying cut of meat. No one is going to ask where the turkey is after their first bite. Save the work for the goose. Relax.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Just In ...

12 pieces of high quality stainless steel cookware for $211.96? Yes. When I spotted this sponsored ad on Facebook it was like seeing a long-lost friend.

Years ago, while rebuilding my cookware collection after a moving mishap I found four pieces of Cooks Standard at Smart and Final. I was impressed with the quality and affordability when compared to All-Clad. I bought the pieces that were available. SandF never restocked and I was misinformed that Cooks Standard was no more (the line was only discontinued at SandF, apparently). Having no recollection of what they were called, no logo to work from, and having had no luck in finding them previously I've since filled gaps in my kitchen with, and married into, a ridiculously full set of All-Clad but those Cooks Standard pieces are still working hard in my kitchen. I've used that one skillet and three pans for eight years and they are still my daily go-to cookware in a kitchen full of All-Clad. I like that they're lighter but every bit as durable as their spendy cousins. Also, not aluminum. If you need great cookware, look no further. Get some Chowbacca!-approved Barkeepers Friend to keep them looking good as well as cooking good.

Looking on Amazon it appears that Cooks Standard offers some pans with those hokey plastic see-through lids. Don't buy those. Never those. Stainless all the way. The 12-piece set seems to be all stainless lids, and a good starter/basic set, although they offer a few other sets, some at a lower price.

I'm not affiliated. I'm just a fan looking out for Chowbaccan! wallets. If you don't want to shop through Amazoink, use the Google. I've seen them elsewhere online, including Costoco, and priced similarly.