3.31.2010

Chorizo, Crumbly Style

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I've been kind of avoiding sausage making. From witnessing the process once, the casing part really didn't appeal to me. I thought I could get away with letting the husband and his buddies play around with this. But, sometimes friends aren't enough. Sometimes, there's a need for a controlling, bossy wife to help. The husband says, once in a while, his fear of messing up "my kitchen" takes him to another level, a higher level, and his work (whether beer, bread or sausages) is better for it. I'm glad he's realized that. Finally.

The last time, the husband made sausages with a friend, the friend ended up oversalting, considerably. So this past Sunday, my precise and cautious eye was needed as we prepared to make chorizo.
Above is the ingredient list. We used hot Spanish paprika instead of sweet Hungarian and added less caynne pepper, but that was the extent of our alterations.
Once the spices were ground and combined, the place smelled of chorizo, before the meat was even in sight. And the smells quickly won me over.
Sausage making is really a two-person job, especially when using the hand grinder, and attempting to take pictures. There's quiet a bit of muscle needed.
I really tried to minimize my part in helping with the casings. I only stepped in when absolutely needed. But they were intersting to photograph. I even ended up doing the second round of grinding, and getting a work out using the crank, in order to avoid casing.
Before we cased, we did make a trial patty and fried it up to make sure the spices were right. We ended up adding a little more salt, but otherwise we were very pleased with the flavors. My sausage-making hesitations melted away as I tasted the delicious, freshly made chorizo, and my husband announced this was his best batch, and I was his favorite sausage partner. Ah. And I hadn't even been trying to be the best.

3.30.2010

Saturday Adventures: German Deli Followed by Seafood

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Saturday was a busy day. First we made a trip to Schreiner's Fine Sausages in Montrose to buy sausage casings. They are one of the few local places that sell them. We met a friend there, and enjoyed a delicious lunch. They were barbequing outside, and for $6 you could get a sausage plate, or a beef sandwich and sausage plate. Their sandwiches, and sausages were delicious.

They had a nice variety of sandwich meats, sausages, imported mustards, and other goodies. And apparently, if you kill a deer, you can also take it in for "custom processing".
With our bellies full, we headed to Glendale's Fish King for our dinner.

Now we love having people over for dinner. But sometimes it's nice to not have people over, and relax on the patio, not talk too much, drink wine and enjoy our balcony garden. We did just that for about an hour, and then watched three hours of The Wire. You could only enjoy each other's company so long before you want to see drug deals, and hear lots of cursing. And that show delivers on both.
At the fish market we bought oysters for appetizers. Yum.
We also bought Monchong fish, it's Hawaiian, and jumbo shrimp. We've never had Monchong before, and we really liked it. The husband threw together an Asian-style marinade with soy sauce, wasabi, sesame oil, rice vinegar, pepper flakes and sesame seeds. It was delicious. The fish was subtle in taste, but nice and meaty.
I prepared the shrimp simply, with butter, white wine, lemon, lots of garlic, a few pepper flakes, and parsley. They were very juicy and fresh. The husband declared from now on he only wanted to eat fresh jumbo shrimp. I told him, homie go get a raise first.
On the side we had a salad with cucumbers and garbanzo beans over butter lettuce. I made a quick Asian vinaigrette similar to the marinade. I used grapeseed oil, tamari soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and sesame seeds. And it was good.
A quick, no hassle meal. Perfect for enjoying outside, and only using a couple of dishes and pans, the kitchen was a cinch to clean afterwards.

3.29.2010

Cookbooks from the Library Store

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Monrovia got a new library last year. It's basically across the street from us. It's polished, well designed, and pretty. Except for the hideous little mermaid fountain in the front, I like everything about it. And with the new library there's a room dedicated to the Friends of the Monrovia Library, where you can buy used books. I love this little room. There's usually two to three shelves dedicated to cookbooks. But this past weekend, they had some sort of mega sale, and brought out carts of books, and there was a nice selection of funky old cookbooks. Above is a sampling of what I bought. And after reading through The Korean Kitchen, I got so hungry that I made the husband take me out for Korean food.
On a previous visit to the library store, I also found this crazy little Hollywood Bowl Cookbook. It's from 1984, and has contributions from Nancy Reagan and former California Governor George Deukmejian, as well as a lot of the orchestra members. It's kind of funny. But you can tell it was taken very seriously, because the Hollywood Bowl Cookbook Committee worked on it for three years "tasting, testing, typing and editing". Typing, ha!

Berry Salad

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I haven't met a berry I didn't like. They are my favorite. I like them in sauces, salads, desserts, ice cubes, cocktails, and just by themselves. And since I'm not much of a weekday breakfast person, I like to have berries in the morning, in the car, on my way to work.

But sometimes you get some berries that are just lacking in flavor, they sure look pretty, but they need a boost. That happened last week. I bought a lot of strawberries from Henry's Market and they just didn't have that sweetness. So when that happens, I pout a little, and then get to work. I sliced the stawberries, added a handful of blackberries, coated everything with a sprinkling of sugar, and placed my berry mix in the fridge. A few hours later you have a nice, sweet berry salad, in a delicious glaze. You can eat this on it's own, but it's also great on cakes and ice cream.  

3.28.2010

Spring Kitchen Cleanin'

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When I got married, and moved out, I inherited a bunch of stuff. A dowry. No goats, or chickens (to which the husband was disappointed), but dishes, bedding, towels, tablecloths, and a lot more. It's an Armenian thing, and my parents have been collecting stuff for me for ages. Some of the stuff was made by my grandmother, so it has sentimental value, and is actually pretty cool. Other stuff was practical, and good to have. And then there's the china set. Imported from Germany back in the 1980s, brought to the USA when my family migrated in 1990, it then sat in my parents garage for another 13 years. Waiting. For me.

This set is no doubt high quality, I mean it's made by Germans. But it's 12 settings, with about a hundred extra pieces. Sugar and cream bowls, tea and coffee pots, salt and pepper shakers, butter dishes, and other pieces for which I have not found a purpose. There's a lot going on. And the style is not really our style. So, we've used about 15% over the past 5 years. This past week, I packed most of it up, and stored it away. For our daughter's dowry.
What also got me in the mood to clean was the fact that one of our friends moved away, and gave me some of her kitchen stuff. It's sad when friends move away, but it's less sad when they give you fancy bamboo drawer organizers. Below are some before and afters.

With the dowry packed up, I was able to de-clutter and make room for items we use more regularly. Now I can also reach everything. And when I can't, I have my tall friends over for dinner.

3.26.2010

Dinner Pie: Swiss Chard and Feta

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I found this recipe randomly. I was searching for ways to cook fennel, and somehow came across it. It caught my attention. Not because I'm a pie person, I'm not really. But I like working with phyllo dough. It's delicate, and pretty. And you have to be careful. I like that.

I originally tried this recipe out for Conan Day (see previous post). Then I had dough and cheese left over, so I made it again later in the week. I have pictures of both, one was made in a casserole dish, and one in a pie dish. I prefer the casserole. It was easier. You can make more. And you don't have to cut the phyllo sheets into rounds.

The spinach version of this recipe is good too. But, I really liked it with the chard. And so did the husband. He doesn't care too much for chard, but he asked me to make this for Easter dinner. And he considers very few side dishes worthy for his Easter lamb, so that should tell you its delicious.
Greek Swiss Chard Pie (New York Times)
Serves 6
(my only alteration was that I substituted a shallot for the onion)

2 to 2 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, stemmed and washed thoroughly
Salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of dill and parsley, or 1 teaspoon each dried thyme and oregano
3 large eggs, beaten
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
12 sheets phyllo pastry plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or 2 tablespoons each melted butter and extra-virgin olive oil, combined, for brushing

1) Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil while you stem and wash the greens. Wash them in 2 changes of water, lifting them from the water so that the dirt stays behind. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add the chard and blanch for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer to the ice water. Let sit just until cool, a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water by taking up bunches of the greens, making a fist around them and squeezing. Chop coarsely and set aside.

2) Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Oil or butter a 10-inch tart or cake pan (I like to use a ceramic dish for this). Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the greens, herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir the mixture for a minute, until the greens are coated with oil. Remove from the heat.

3) Beat the eggs in a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Crumble or blend in the feta. Stir in the greens, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4) Line the pie dish with 7 pieces of phyllo, lightly brushing each piece with butter or oil and turning the dish after each addition so that the edges of the phyllo drape evenly over the pan. Fill with the greens mixture. If using phyllo, fold the draped edges in over the filling, lightly brushing the folded in sheets of phyllo ,then layer the remaining 5 pieces on top, brushing each piece with butter or olive oil. Stuff the edges into the sides of the pan. Brush the top with the butter or oil, and make a few slashes so that steam can escape as the pie bakes.

5) Bake 40 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is golden. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

3.24.2010

Conan Day: A Barbarian Banquet

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Look closely. Those "C's" on top on the dough, those my friend, are for Conan. Conan the Barbarian.

I have a friend who says we  find any reason to get together to eat and drink. It's true. We make up holidays, celebrate couches, pork, hot days, cold days, and just about anything. This past weekend, we paid tribute to the movie that is Conan the Barbarian. I have to admit, I had never seen this movie before, and I would never see it again, this was all the husband's doing, but, the food was excellent and there was beer.

In preparation for the screening, I cooked up the side dishes, and the husband baked breads. Another friend cooked little hens and lamb heads.
At the insistence of the husband, we made the grilled vegetable salad. Although we've been having this a lot lately, we haven't tired of it. It's good and good for you.
I also made couscous with red onions, garbanzo beans, sun dried tomatoes, dill, and dressed it with lemon juice and olive oil. I love me some couscous. It goes with anything. It just needs to be spiced up a little.
When we got to my brother-in-law's house, there were two gross looking lamb heads in the oven, and cute little hens, stuffed with lemons and lavender. The hens were tasty. The heads, I stayed away from.

My favorite dish was a new recipe I tried, a Swiss Chard pie. But, since I liked this recipe so much, and made it several days later, it deserves its own entry. Coming soon!