Friday, June 29, 2012

Bloody Ginger

It's been peer reviewed; the Bloody Ginger's a hit!

Also a tap.

This is another two-part post. The first part is for the Bloody Ginger, a refreshing drink for the summer, but with enough Cinnamon to be warming, I would suspect, in the fall and winter. The basis for this drink is the popular Caribbean and African drink, the nonalcoholic Ginger Beer. I got the idea after trying a Ginger Beer that my coworker's "adapted" son brought in to school one day. My version is absolutely nowhere near as good as his, but I'm working on it and for now it's not bad. I didn't ask for the recipe for my coworker's son's version, because he's starting to sell it at Central Market and other specialty shops, but she did tell me that it's an all-day affair when he makes it, and mine takes just an hour or so and could probably be done faster if I weren't so darn lazy. On it's own right it's delicious (essentially just a Ginger Tea, but I like the way Ginger Beer sounds more). It's spicy, and even though it's not carbonated you get the burning sensation of carbonation in your throat as it goes down.

Before I get to that recipe, however, I want to show off the Bloody Ginger, just one of many drinks I'm sure you could make with a Ginger Beer mixer.

Bloody Ginger



Equal Parts:
Pimms #1 (an English Liquor that clocks in at 25% ABV, so not too bad)
Ginger Beer (see recipe below)
Tonic Water
Slice of Lime or Mint

Fill a long tall glass with ice. (My glass was a little big, but whatevs.) Pour in Pimms #1, Ginger Beer, and Tonic Water in that order and stir. Garnish with a slice of Lime or Mint. Kick back and enjoy.

Ginger Beer (Nonalcoholic) 




3 Big Ginger Roots
1/3 c. Sugar
4 Cloves
2" Stick of Cinnamon
Juice of Half of a Lime
2 quarts Water

Bring the Water to a boil. While that is happening, peel the Ginger and soften a little bit by pounding it. Once Water is boiling, add the Ginger and let boil for an hour. Dissolve the Sugar at the end of the boil. Remove from the heat and add the Cloves and Cinnamon. Chill and then pour into a container. Squeeze in the Lime Juice, mix and enjoy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oughtabe Award-Winning Potato Salad

Did you know the 4th of July is next week? I hadn't realized that until this morning when I was talking to my aunt who was all "don't forget to bring a pair of khaki shorts and a white t-shirt for the family photo." I was all "what?" And she was all "at the island next week!" Crap. Right. I'm going to South Padre Island to hang out with family and a few teacher friends who will coincidentally be there as well. Should be a rockin' time, but I was under the impression that I had a few weeks to go, but I guess not. Not that I'm complaining. One of my friends has described my most hilarious cousin as a caricature of me. Basically at these things my family enjoys getting drunk and having fun. And, well, I can't blame them. 

In any case, my aunt is one of the best cooks I've ever met. Like most people, she doesn't venture into many exotic cuisines or have the desire to learn to make Sausage and Mayonaise and those types of things like I do, but in terms of sheer skill, line up 100 people with identical ingredients and equipment and I'd be shocked if she wasn't the best. For as long as I can remember her Potato Salad has been her raison d'etre. It's quite simply phenomenal. I've watched her make it, though not yet going so far as to put anything in writing. For some reason or another I got a craving for this stuff, and unwilling to wait a week to see my family (hopefully her Potato Salad will be there), I set out to do it myself. Which is why I had to make some Mayo yesterday.

Now it's been a good half year or more (I can't remember if we had her Potato Salad at our Christmas dinner- like I said, we like to drink...) since I last had her stuff, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that mine is a very, very close second. It's very different from hers; uses different Mayo, has Leeks, and is full of Dill, but it's terrific. I'm sure that the winning ingredient here is the Mayo. I can't stress how much better my stuff is than what you can get at Walmart and Kroger. If you have a food processor, check out yesterday's post and make it. 

Now without further ado, here's my Oughtabe Award-Winning Potato Salad

Potato Salad


3 White Boiling Potatoes
2 Giant Leeks
1 Red Onion
1 Bunch Dill
1-2 Large Spoonfuls Homemade Mayonaise 
1 Small Spoonful Horseradish* 
1 Bunch Fresh Dill
Small Chunk Butter
Salt and Pepper

Boil the Potatoes until cooked. A knife should easily be able to cut them, but they shouldn't be so cooked that they're crumbly or falling apart. While the Potatoes are boiling, slice and cook the Leeks and dice and cook the Red Onion in a saucepan in a little bit of Butter. Leave them barely crunchy. This should be a very fresh tasting salad and overly cooked Veggies give the perception of old store-bought crap. Once the Potatoes are cooked, cool them in cold Water and slice them into medium sized chunks. Spoon Mayo over them and mix until all chunks are more or less covered. I prefer not to overdo the Mayo, but this is obviously a personal preference. I add the Leeks and Onions after the Mayo for the sole reason that I don't want the Veggies completely covered. I want to see their color and I want this to be more "salad" than a vessel for Mayo. Finally, finely chop the Dill and mix it in. Salt and Pepper to taste, as usual, though I didn't feel the need to do this in mine.  

*See how I made Mayo and prepared the Horseradish in yesterday's post! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mayonaise and Horseradish (Not Together. Yet.)

*******Holy crap, I'm editing this post to add this line, because this is my 100th post!*******

The past few days have been outrageous. I'm feeling way too damn good. It's making me wonder if my cooking is actually good or if my happiness is clouding my ability to objectively evaluate my food.

I was tired yesterday from a late night and swung by the Redbox. I watched the Artist and 21 Jump Street. The Artist was quite simply enchanting. I love love. What else can I say? And I love the notion of a silent romance- although my romances are anything but. It charmed me, and though I'll probably never see it again, I'll likely remember it for years to come. 21 Jump Street was just hilarious. 

My goal today was Mayonaise. I need it for some Potato Salad I'm craving. I wanted to make a spicy Horseradish Mayo, but opted to prepare the Horseradish separately. Below are both condiments. 

Although I'm including my recipes, the process for both of these items is more important than the recipe itself. At least for me for now. This is the first time I've worked with either, so I don't want to limit myself to one specific recipe. 

Mayonaise 


3 Egg Yokes*
1 finger's worth of Grey Poupon (about a teaspoon, but I used my finger)
4/3 c. Peanut Oil (and yes, that is supposed to be an improper fraction)
Juice of 1/2 of a Lemon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

If you have a food processor this stuff is a piece of cake to make. I imagine that it's a little more annoying, but still fully within most people's skill set (though maybe not patience level) to do without one. Put the Yokes and the Mustard (Grey Poupon) into the food processor and pulverize for an instant or two. Then, with the processor on, slowly drizzle the Oil into the mixture. After roughly half of the Oil has been mixed in you should start to see it emulsify.** Once all the Oil has been dribbled in, squeeze in the Lemon Juice and Salt and Pepper. Pulse your food processor a couple times to get everything nicely disperse. I don't like Mayo in general, but this stuff is really good. It's mind-boggling just how much fresher and more flavorful this stuff is than what you get in a jar of Hellmann's. All in all it takes maybe 5 minutes with a food processor, so if you have one you have no excuse. 

Horseradish

1 8" Horseradish Root
3 Cloves Garlic
1 tbsp Water
3 tbsp Vinegar

Have you ever seen Horseradish Root before? Don't worry, it's not that exciting, but I'm including a picture so you can find it in the store. 


I sliced the outer layer off and then chopped it into smaller pieces before mincing it with the Garlic (I didn't have to add this, but it sounded good to me... I know, I know, when doesn't Garlic sound good to me...) in the tablespoon of Water (just to help lubricate everything). 


According to multiple websites I consulted, if you get too close to the minced Horseradish and take a whiff, it'll hit you like a fist to the face. I wafted it towards me like they teach you in a high school chemistry class. Some sites recommend doing the mincing outside or wearing a mask or something and all I can say is: lol!!! Seriously, it's not that bad, just don't stick your face in it. There's absolutely nothing that I can sense lingering in the air in my 652 square foot apartment. I will say that I got fairly close a couple times and could feel it burning my eyes like a pungent onion, but then I stepped back for a second and felt immediately better. 

Add the Vinegar after 1-3 minutes. Again according to multiple sites, the Vinegar neutralizes a chemical reaction that occurs when the Horseradish is chopped- or something along those lines. Point being, the longer you wait to add the Vinegar the more potent the Horseradish will be. The longest amount of time any of the sites I perused suggested was 3 minutes, so I waited 3 minutes. In retrospect, I should've waited 4 just to be a badass. Anyway, I wasn't eating spoonfuls or anything, but it wasn't too bad. Really nice and fresh tasting. Supposedly it'll last for about a month in the fridge. The Horseradish was organic and I had to go to a Whole Foods to find it. They charged me $1.75. 

*In case you don't know how to separate the Yoke of an Egg from the Egg Whites, I'll explain: crack the Egg and then tilt the section with the Yoke back so that it completely cradles the Yoke. It won't be large enough for everything, so the Egg Whites will flow over into a bowl for future use or the sink or trash or wherever. Rock the Yoke into the other half and more of the Egg Whites will fall. After one of two transfers you should have a nice clean Yoke. 
**To emulsify is to turn something into an emulsion.***
***An emulsion is when two liquids that don't mix (in this case liquified Egg Yolk and Oil) are mixed together. I realize that sounds contradictory, but if I understand this correctly, it's akin to putting a bunch of black and white dots next to each other on a piece of paper and getting an image that looks gray. They're not actually mixed, but it creates something new anyway. In this case Mayonaise.****
****If I don't understand this correctly, please tell me so (and correct my mistake) in the comments section. Thanks!  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kale and Swiss Chard Salad with Feta and Chicken

I went into a Whole Foods in search of horseradish (get excited for the future) and saw the following:


Super Foods, eh? I like the way that sounds. So I found a recipe for a Kale, Swiss Chard, Feta, and Chicken Salad and knew I had to make it.

Kale and Swiss Chard Salad with Feta and Chicken



Here's the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kale-swiss-chard-chicken-and-feta-salad/detail.aspx


Here's my extremely similar recipe:


Most of 1 bunch of Kale chopped
Most of 1 bunch of Swiss Chard chopped
1 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenders chopped
8 oz. Feta
Bunch of Raisons
Bunch of Pecans


1 tbsp Honey
0.25 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
0.25 c. Olive Oil
Pinch of Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste


I cut the Oil and Vinegar in half, because I don't like too much dressing, but left the rest unchanged and I loved it. I set aside a little of the greens for my lizard, because he's a lover of Super Foods, used 8 oz. of Feta, because that was the size of the package, and used Pecans instead of Walnuts, because that's what I have in my apartment. It's a truly delicious meal. I've only eaten Kale cooked in soup and Swiss Chard sautéed, so in addition to being an excellent meal, it has also been enlightening. I used to think these greens were thick and unappetizing, but not anymore. If you've ever had doubts, make this salad. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tabouli

I'm back! 

I was in Chicago for the past week visiting family. It was nice- I went to the Shedd Aquarium, the beach, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and a few other places, but it's nice to be home. My grandfather  now lives in a retirement home- not a nursing home, since he's still in incredible shape for a 92 year old,  but a home where you check in and out and stuff like that and it keeps me (not that I couldn't, but I don't...) from going out at night and doing all the things that somebody my age would normally do. So it's nice to be home. 

I've had a bit of a skip in my step all day. For one reason primarily. I feel a little guilty, but I'll get over it. I'm very happy.

I didn't get enough vegetables in Chicago, so the next few recipes may be uncharacteristically healthy. My first attempt is the Middle Eastern dish Tabouli. It's chock full of parsley, which got me thinking: what exactly is parsley? Is it a vegetable like lettuce? An herb like basil? Or something else entirely? Wikipedia has this to say about it: 

Parsley (Petroselinum hortense) is a species of Petroselinum in the family Apiaceae, native to the central Mediterranean region (southern ItalyAlgeria and Tunisia), naturalized elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as an herb, a spice and a vegetable.

How in the world can something be an herb, a spice, and a vegetable? This does not make sense to me. It's like saying that a peanut is a pea, a nut, and a potato. What is this world coming to?!?!?!?!?

Tabouli



1 bunch Curly Parsley
1 bunch Flat Leaf Parsley
4 Tomatos
3 Cloves Garlic
6 Green Onions
1 c. Bulgar
Juice of 1 Lemon
Olive Oil to Taste
Salt and Pepper

Bulgar is a grain of sorts, I don't know, but you cook it with about 2.5 cups of boiling Water and let it sit for a few minutes. Chop everything in the food processor and then mix in the Bulgar. It tastes nice and fresh and a little spicy due to all the Garlic and Onion. Nice! 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Cheesecake

Last Friday evening I hosted a dinner for a small group of new Teach for America teachers. I haven't hosted much recently, and coupled with the fact that I'm on summer vacation and haven't had much to do recently, I took advantage of the time to make a really killer meal of make-your-own pizza, salad, and cheesecake for dessert. It went over well.

On a sexy personal note, the male-to-female ratio in TFA is stellar for guys. Of the eight new teachers I hosted (and I had no say in who I hosted), seven were women. Two were spectacularly attractive, and one of those two seemed to be at least mildly interested in me. Of course I'm moving to Austin shortly and will never see her again, but that didn't stop my unconscious mind from thinking about her as I was drifting to sleep that night. No harm done, right? Wrong. She has the same name as one of my best male friends. So there I was falling asleep, letting my mind wander a little... you know how it is... and sure enough my brain has to say her name and then my stupid unconscious has to flash an image of my friend. It couldn't have lasted for more than a split second, but that was long enough. Talk about an awkward night's sleep.

Cheesecake



I used the following recipe: 

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chantals-new-york-cheesecake/



Do not use the crust. It falls apart and is bland. I don't know what to suggest in its stead, but I'm going to find something else next time. I followed the directions and left the cake in the oven for hours afterward, but it still cracked. You might as well stick it in the fridge right away as far as I can tell. Also this recipe makes a GIANT cheesecake. You'd probably be better off cutting everything in half and making a smaller one.



For the topping:



1 lb. Frozen Strawberries
0.25 c. Sugar

Slice the Strawberries and let sit in the Sugar for a while. The Sugar draws out the juices and makes for a sweet and gloppy topping. Sorry that I forgot to take a picture of an actual slice with the topping, but you can probably imagine that it tastes pretty good. It does.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sausagefest

This probably isn't the first time I've used this title, but this is the first time that a post of mine truly lives up to the  title; fore you see, as of today I am a sausage-maker.

Yeah, yeah, it's summer break. What have I done? I've played Trials Evolution on the xbox 360 and brought chame (my friend's word) to a bunch of n00bs. I watched the first season of Game of Thrones. Pause. Wait for it. Let. That. Sink. In. That's right, "chame friend" brought me season 1 on DVD. Have you seen this show? Seriously, have you seen it? It's incredible! There's sword fighting, masturbation jokes, boobies and breast-feeding, incest and intrigue, armies, dragons, ale and wine, feasts... BRING ME SEASON 2!!!!!!!!

I was supposed to have a date this evening. I probably shouldn't be going on dates with women when I know that I'm moving to Austin in a few weeks, but I'm not so good at getting second dates, so it probably doesn't matter. In any case, I canceled due to tremendous storms. We rescheduled for Sunday. I have another date with another lady tomorrow evening. We're supposed to go kayaking, but we'll see if the weather permits.

On Friday I'm hosting a dinner for two thirds of a dozen of new Teach for America teachers. I'm planning on making pizzas. They were great last time, so hopefully they won't suck. I used this as an excuse to buy a Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus. Holy crap this thing is amazing. It's cut through everything I've given it in instants. I made salsa earlier today (actually it was more of a cilantro pesto, but still tasty), sliced three onions and a few jalapenos to serve with my sausages, and shredded potatoes the other day for hash browns. This machine is incredible. I'm going to use it often. I'm guessing that it's going to cut my pizza prep time by at least 50%.

I made two types of sausages today, but I'm just going to post the Bratwurst recipe today. I'll post the other one sometime soon.

Bratwurst
(Makes 6 - 8 Sausages)


0.9 lb Pork
0.4 lb Beef



1-2 Sausage Casings*
1.5 tsp Salt
1.5 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Marjoram
0.5 tsp Caraway Seeds
0.5 tsp Nutmeg
0.25 tsp Ground Ginger
1 Egg White
1 shot Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug Schwarzbier (Dark Lager)

Grind the Meat.



Mix with the Seasonings, Egg White, and Beer. Stuff into Sausage Casings.





Cook as you would any other Brat.  


*I purchased the Sausage Casings at Central Market. They were $4.49 for the pack, of which I've used maybe 1% of them and made roughly 20 Sausages. They're heavily salted and the directions on the package instruct you to rinse them off and to run water through the inside. They're a little cumbersome, but make really delicious Sausage. These were at least as good as the best I've ever bought in the store!