Using the diverse cultures and foods of Astoria, NY to feed one man's imagination in the kitchen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New blog site

I am proud to announce a new blog site "Have to cook!" This blog will have new recipes and ideas for those of us who have to come home each night and get a meal on the table.

The recipes will always be simple prep, easy cooking steps, little mess and hopefully delicious. I will use my chef experience, eating adventures and goals of feeding my own family to give you something special.

From now on please join me at "Have to cook!"

Thank you,

Friday, May 29, 2009

Losing weight and eating well

It's been a while since my last posting. Much has changed in my life. I have been dieting for 3 months and down a total of 27.5 pounds. Still a long way to go but I am determined. What finally did it for me? No idea but after 20+ years of talking it is actually happening.
A few keys have been:
Every calorie counts so make it good for you and delicious.
Actually journal what you eat all day. This has been an eye opener and a valuable tool.
Portion control.

With this in mind, I share with you a favorite recipe. It's healthy, low calories and 0 points for Weight Watchers.

Spicy cilantro dressing
Serving size: 2 tablespoons.

2 cup(s) Iceberg lettuce

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, (1 whole lemon)

2 tbsp drained Pickled Jalapeno Slices

1 tbsp juice from pickled jalapeno jar

2 tsp table salt

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup(s) water

1 cup(s) Spanish onion

1 cup(s) cilantro, (1 whole medium bunch with stems) washed / cleaned

1/2 cup(s) avocado

Put all ingredients in blender and puree till very smooth. Put in container with air tight lid. Will hold in fridge for up to 1 week. Adjust for salt, cumin, lemon. Adding more lettuce will smooth out the flavor.

We serve it on a plate of salad with grilled chicken breast or Tilapia.

Great for salad dressing, topping for cooked meats, chicken, veggies. Also use as base for green rice dish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Anniversary dinner

On vacation with family. Showing some love and appreciation for the holiday digs and Jen's parents 44th anniversary.

Around here (somewhere in Florida) there is little by way of good shopping. "The Boys" is one exception, a family run Italian market that has everything one could want by way of fresh produce, Italian deli and cheese plus all the great pantry items one would expect.

Main lobsters on sale, excellent olive oil, crusty peasant bread, good herbs and veggies, some special ingredients and off to the kitchen. Stopped off at the supermarket for a standing rib roast for four.

Time to cook for a big dinner. Started cocktail hour with the lobster salad (shown above). Boiled and picked lobster meat, mayo, lemon zest, parsley and chive. We had to start on something because the rib roast in the oven was filling the room with good aromas making us very very hungry.

The main course was a standing rib roast marinated for 6 hours with a fresh made rosemary, lemon, garlic sea salt rub. I seared it on the grill and then into a low oven for 2 hours. Pulled it out at 130F and poured over some lemon juice and olive oil. Let sit till 135F and rested for 15 minutes. Nice crust, super juicy pink meat and just so damned good.

This tomato salad simply made with pitted green olives with celery, marinated artichoke hearts, some chopped parsley, chili anchovies. Squeeze over some lemon juice and a bit of olive oil. An easy dish to put together.

We rounded out the meal with Tuscan beans (canned) slow baked with garlic cloves, diced tomatoes, fresh herbs and olive oil with a bread crumb crust. After 2 hours the beans were creamy and the crust added a nice textural balance.

Dessert was to be my favorite Chocolate salame but we were too full to enjoy it. Maybe today.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the road: Maryland. Chocolate tart recipe

Chocolate Ganache Tart

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 stick plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
* 1 large egg yolk
* 12 ounces (330 gr) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
* 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
* 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190C) degrees.
2. Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.Stir in the yolk and pulse again until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead just to incorporate dry ingredients. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze crust at least 30 minutes before baking. Bake blind for 25 minutes, remove the weight and bake for another 10 minutes. Let cool.
3. Place chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Pour hot cream, through a sieve, over chocolate. Stir until smooth and creamy in texture. Stir in pecans, if using. Pour chocolate mixture into center of cooled tart shell. Let stand until set, about 2 hours, or chill for 1 hour.

On the road: Maryland RECIPE. Ribs

12-13-08 bbq master
Originally uploaded by forgashflicks
Cousin Marc the Pit master has just provided recipes for the ribs and the chocolate tart. Thanks cousin.

Chinese Ribs
½ cup Soy Sauce
5 Tbls Brown Sugar
4 Tbls Honey
½ Cup Chicken Broth
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 racks baby back ribs

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup honey

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Remove the membrane from the ribs and marinate ribs 8-24 hours (the longer the better).

Combine soy sauce and honey for glaze. Grill ribs on low, turning and basting frequently with the glaze, until ribs are done (about 1 hour).

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the road: Maryland

The family is on the road for the holidays. 1st stop is Chesapeake beach MD at my cousin Marc's home. Marc is the pit master of the family. Not only does he have a big ass grill with 5 burner zones, he also has an all wood smoker for his more serious projects. Marc was my go to guy when I worked out my recipes for the baby pig roast and bbq sauces.

On this trip he prepared a pot of chili for our lunch time arrival, which I have to say was some of the best chili ever. Marc then spent the afternoon preparing, at Jen's request when Marc called us 2 weeks in advance to ask meat preferences for dinner, Chinese style spareribs and fried rice. A note here to say that this is a sign of a most excellent host.

By the way, during this prep time his wife Mindy requested a chocolate tart for dessert so he went about whipping up one of those too. Husband, father, cook and pastry maker, pretty impressive huh?

Dinner was a big hit for all. Even Leo went carnivore on this one. He just loved the ribs we put in front of him.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Herb roast chicken & Tuscan bean

Ok ok, I know, enough with the beans already. I can't help myself. Was never a big fan of beans yet between my stay in Florence and Judy Witts filling my head with ideas, what can I do?

This one covers the bases once again. Cheap, easy and little mess.

Soak Italian cannellini beans over night.
(Bean recipe below chicken recipe.)

Rub whole chicken with rosemary salt mix (or similar) and olive oil. Puncture a lemon 12 times and place in chicken cavity. Tie up cavity, this makes it extra juicy.

Bake in roasting pan at 350F until internal temp is 160F.
The lemon will give you the most juicy chicken of all time.
Remove chicken to plate. Scrape up the bits in the pan. Leave all the drippings and bits for the beans.

Bean recipe:
Place strained beans in the roasting pan with 2 heads garlic (tops cut off), rosemary salt mix (or similar), piece of pancetta and enough water or chicken stock to just cover the beans. Drizzle over plenty of olive oil.

Bake in oven uncovered at 350F about 2hrs stirring up the beans once or twice. Cook until beans are crusting on top and getting creamy.

Plate the beans, place chicken piece on top. Squeeze over lemon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Breaded chix cutlet with Butter tomato sauce

A simple entree for Sunday dinner with friends.

Breaded the butterflied chicken breasts with mix of breadcrumbs, parm cheese and rosemary salt. Cooked in oiled pan.

28oz can crushed tomatoes
4 clove garlic whole
1 small onion halved
1 bay leaf
Red pepper flake to taste
Salt and pepper
4 tbs butter

All into small pot to boil then simmer while you prepare the chicken.

The butter makes the dish. Adds a nice decadent touch to a cheap and easy to make dinner.

French onion stuffing

French onion stuffing
Originally uploaded by forgashflicks
Sunday dinner with friends. Looking for something that would fill the apartment with a warm rich aroma. Did not want a soup but a hearty luxuriously textured side dish. Came up with this dish here.

French onion stuffing:
-I love hearty dishes and wanted the great taste of this soup but with more in it to make it a side dish.

6 lg onions sliced thin
2 tbs butter plus more for dish
1 tbs sugar
2 qts liquid (1qt chix stock and 1 1qt water. Or all chix stock)
1/2 cup cheap brandy or similar
Peasant bread (crusty with hearty interior) cut into inch cubes. enough to fill standard casserole pan.
Gruyere or swiss, sliced. Enough to cover top of casserole with at least 1 layer. More if you like.
Salt and pepper to taste.

In heavy bottom pan on high heat melt 2 tbs butter then add onions, stir in sugar and some salt.
Keep stirring onions over high heat till some water releases. Lower heat to medium high and occasionally stir onions.
You are looking to wilt down and then lightly caramelize the onions. This will take 20 minutes plus. Do not let them burn.
When light browned and softened turn up the heat and add brandy. Stir up and cook till dry.
Add 2qts liquid, bring to boil, stir up and lower to simmer. Cover and simmer 30 - 60 minutes or until it smells great.
Adjust for seasonings.

Butter the casserole dish. Push in cubes and mound them like an apple pie.
Ladle over soup to fill, put lid on to squish down cubes of bread. Let sit 5 minutes to soak in.
Repeat process with soup till bread is soaked but not broken down.
Bake in 350F oven uncovered for 30 minutes. This step will puff up the bread and make it light and fluffy.
Bake in oven till cheese gets bubbly and browned on edges.

This is a great, cheap and filling side dish. I served it with breaded chicken breast topped with butter tomato sauce.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pork ragu casserole with Tuscan bean crust

Today I finished a two day process of cooking down pork shoulder into a pork ragu sauce. Yesterday I slow roasted the shoulder with bones and rind, crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves and olive oil. All in a lg roasting pan for 8 hours at 250. Today I shredded the meat, chopped the rind and discarded the bones. Back into the cleaned roasting pan with more olive oil, crushed tomatoes and a bottle of red wine. Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes for basic seasoning. Slow roasted at 250 for another 6 hours. The result was dark, rich and succulent. All into freezer for future meal but saved 2 qts for a new idea.

After reading her blog and talking with Judy Witts about her new recipes and seasonal cooking in Tuscany I came up with this dish. Also inspired by the pork cassoulet we did last week that was such a hit.

Pork ragu casserole with Tuscan bean crust
-Basically a left overs dish. Be creative, it's really all about the dark rich meat in sauce and the creamy yet crusty topping.
2 qts prepared pork shoulder ragu in tomato sauce (or similar recipe)
2bs dried white beans. Cooked with bay leaf, garlic and olive oil till softened then drained.
- Save liquid and remaining beans for soup.

Mix beans with chopped garlic, olive oil, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, chopped sage or rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. You want a moisted mix but not mushy broken beans.

In casserole dish coated with olive oil, lay in the pokr ragu and smooth down. Layer over the bean mix. Pat down and sprinkle over more bread crumbs for crust. Drizzle over olive oil.

Into a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes or until crust is browned and bubbling.

I promise you will love this one. Hearty, rich, delicious.
Good one pot dish with little clean up.
Left over beans and liquid can be pureed and used as base for soup with chopped chard and chicken stock.