Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moroccan Chicken Stew over Polenta

I might have to add this one to my list of comfort foods. It's warm, it's spicy & it's creamy. I have made it with quinoa, couscous, and this time, polenta, and this was by far my favorite. Speaking of polenta, I might have to add THIS to my "oh-yeah" list. It's been years since I've made it, and now I remember how much I love it! Another cool thing about this is that it's actually really simple and you should be able to make it with what's already in your pantry, freezer & spice rack (once you pick up some polenta)! Oh yeah, and you need to tap into your stock of Harissa, which I'm sure you have in the fridge. (See the September Harissa post for recipe). And by the way, I just thought of this: I bet this would be a great use for leftover Thanksgiving turkey!

* ok wait, just a reminder that I cook based on what I happen to have available (improv cooking), so just go with what you have. I don't ever measure unless I'm baking, but I'm giving you some rough measurements just so you get the gist of it. If you don't have enough chicken etc.., just adjust and wing it! It's gonna be great no matter what.

  • Alright, first saute about a 1/2 C. onion & a couple of cloves of garlic in some olive oil.
  • Meanwhile, rinse some (a pound or two) bone-in chicken & season with salt & pepper. Add to onions & garlic and brown a bit. Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. paprika, and a scoop of harissa. How big of a scoop is up to you, depending on wether you want it to make you sweat or just give it a little kick.
  • Add a can of crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce, or fresh tomatoes, whatever..), a Tbs. tomato paste, a teaspoon of sugar and one cinnamon stick. The cinnamon stick is what gives it that moroccan flavor, don't even think of omitting it!
  • Simmer for about an hour, if you can wait that long. While it's cooking prepare your polenta according to the package. Make sure to add some butter and half & half, or something sinister too! Then fish out the chicken & allow to cool a little, then remove from the bone and shred or cut into smaller chunks and add meat back to the pot.
  • Serve over a scoop of polenta, and throw some fresh chopped parsley over the whole thing. So good!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


So the whole "Sexy Food" conversation we've all been having (see the October post) started with a statement that pomegranates are a sexy food. And I, of course, would agree. But these guys also bring me straight back to my childhood.

I remember eating these whacky fruits when I was a kid, juice dripping down my arm, staining my shirt and giving my lips a strange, purple hue.

I loved the way the seeds were clumped together. I loved the way they almost pop in your mouth when you bite them. I even loved the strange game of dodging the crazy, bitter white parts.

I haven't bought them in years. Mainly because they usually require coughing up about half a months rent to purchase one. Imagine my delight, when perusing the produce isle at Safeway the other day, I saw them not only on sale, but buy-one-get-one-free! Even though the "one" that I had to buy to get my free one was still overpriced, I couldn't pass that up!

I looked up some recipes to see what exciting thing I could do with them, and did find a couple. However once I cut into the first one and began to pluck the ruby seeds out & into a bowl, I couldn't help myself from grabbing a spoon and eating the whole thing like it was a bowl of cereal.

So I declared that the other one would be reserved for adding to a simple green salad, like they do at my favorite sandwich place on occasion. I ended up with another bowl of seeds that this time I dutifully put into the fridge to reserve for said salad. But each time I opened the fridge, I grabbed a handful, until what is left is a sad little pile left in the bottom of a bowl, awaiting their mingling with leafy greens.

We'll see if the salad happens, but even if it doesn't, I am content to have been brought back to one of my many childhood food memories. AND, if you happen upon a sexy pomegranate and need an idea for what to do with it, toss it in a simple salad with a balsamic dressing and enjoy the crunch, the color and maybe even a blast from the past!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sausage Meatballs

I have been on a bit of a sausage binge lately. As usual, it's been inspired by buying a bushel of something from Costco. This time it came in the form of breakfast sausages. I've been using them for their intended breakfast purpose, but also cooked & sliced for pasta, and several times recently, in the form of meatballs.

A couple of weeks ago I made some potato leek soup with sausage & bacon meatballs. And then a couple of nights ago, I put them into sweet red pepper sauce over pasta. I don't know what it is about them. Maybe they are richer in flavor? Maybe it's how moist they stay? Maybe it's... Oh, I don't know, but sausage meatballs are where it's at!!!

Somehow, I've been ending up with about 16 medium sized meatballs, by winging it with some basic resemblance of the following:

  • Throw about a 1/4 of an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, half a carrot, and some sweet bell pepper into the food processor and give them a whirl.
  • Then squeeze 6-8 sausages out of their skins (yuck, I know - just do it) & add to processor with a handful of bread crumbs, 1 egg, a handful of fresh parsley, some salt, pepper & paprika and combine.
  • Roll into balls and put onto a cookie sheet and bake at 375. The whole baking them thing is a new one for me, I usually do them in a saucepan, but have recently had some scrambled sausages, some burned sausages and have discovered that doing them in the oven is perhaps a little gentler because you don't have to roll them around. Either way...
  • Then throw them into a pasta sauce, soup, over rice, or as a pupu (that's 'appetizer' to you & me) and see if you don't love 'em even more than their bovine cousins!

Let me know what you come up with and where YOUR meatballs end up!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Here is my new favorite. If you've been paying attention, you surely know that I am a sucker for a good label. Thus the discovery of Plungerhead.

Of course, it looks and sounds ridiculous. But read on & you discover that it is an old vine zinfandel from a vineyard in Lodi, California. It seems I have been gravitating toward zins from either Lodi or Australia.

If you want to read about all the strange things the pros smell & taste in this fabulous glass of wine, scoot on over to http://www.donandsons.com/theotherguys/ plungerhead/lodi_zinfandel.php . But if you want to just take my word for it, believe me when I say; this is a great, full, smooth, deep wine that goes for $14-16 bucks and if this is what you're into, this will shoot to the top of your favorites list.

One of the cool things about this wine is it's cork. If you notice in the photo, it is a combination between a cork & a screw top, made from some sort of totally recyclable plastic. No opener needed. Easily re-sealable if you should strangely have any leftover wine in the bottle.

So give it a try. I think it's going to make you smile, rock your world, and wedge it's way into your heart.


Potatoes Confit

Here's a dirty little secret for the best, crispy potatoes. A chef friend of mine let me in on the world of "confit". The definition is actually duck or meat cooked in it's own fat. However, the technique of cooking anything, starting in cold oil and slowly bringing it up to frying heat, is considered confit.

For these potatoes, slice them pretty thin and cover in vegetable oil. Turn the heat up pretty high, throw in a sprig of rosemary and let it go until they are brown & crispy. Drain on a paper towel and toss with salt & chopped rosemary as soon as they come out of the oil. You can even throw in some whole cloves of garlic and they come out creamy and soft like roasted garlic.

I know this sounds very unhealthy, yeah yeah... Just drink some carrot juice with your potatoes and everything will be just fine! Just try it and don't worry about the bad-for-you-factor.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Le Crepe Cafe

I want to introduce you to another place that I have discovered that can transport me to another country, just by walking in the door. Marysol Ruiz owns Le Crepe Cafe, and for the past few years has run her business from a small, yet snazzy little food cart. But as of last week, you can now cross the threshold from East Manoa road and step into a little slice of Paris.

Le Crepe Cafe now sits at 2740 E. Manoa Rd in Honolulu, Hawaii. The murals on the wall, the french music coming from the speakers, and of course the dozens of crepes to choose from, mix with the sounds of customers chatting in french and sipping espressos.

Le Crepe Cafe serves savory and sweet crepes. The savory crepes are great combinations of veggies, lunch meats, cheeses, and fresh herbs. I watched Marysol whip up one where she cracked two eggs onto the crepe as it cooked and continuously spread the egg around and then layered on some turkey slices and cheese. So simple, yet so great for breafkfast, snack, lunch or dinner.

The sweet crepes have combinations of fresh fruit, nutella, honey, and even one that is simply sugar and lemon juice sprinkled over a perfectly cooked crepe.

If you are in the neighborhood, stop in for a meal or a snack and allow yourself to linger over a simple French dish. Close your eyes and you might forget that you're sitting in the jungle of Hawaii, and you just might believe you are strolling under the Eiffel Tower.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poached Pears & Walnuts with Walnut Lemon Thyme Cream

Alright, I know this sounds fancy & weird & like something you're not going to make, & I understand where you're coming from. But in my defense, I got these Sekel Pears at Costco (ie: I had a billion of them), so I tried to find a dessert recipe that would do the last couple left in the bowl some justice.

This looks kind of swanky, but really it was pretty simple & even a little rustic.

Here's what I came up with: Peel the skin off of some pears, depending on how many you have, how big they are & how many people you plan to feed, and place in a small, snug roasting dish of some sort. A side note here: I just realized that it would have been good to remove the core of the pears, so that you don't have to wrestle with it, I didn't... but you should.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, bring a poaching liquid to a simmer, consisting of some wine - red or white, whatever you're willing to part with. I opted to save my wine for dinner so I used a Sam Adams! Then, flavor this with whatever you have on hand. I squeezed in an orange, some zest, brown sugar, cinnamon & honey. I mean really, don't freak out here. Just rifle through your cupboards and throw in anything that might work. Taste it as you go and see what it needs.

Sprinkle some walnuts, or pecans or whatever you have, over the top of the pears and then pour the liquid over them so that it covers the pears. Throw it into a 350 oven for 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, see what you have in the creamy department. I had some plain yogurt and some goat cheese that I whirled into a food processor with some vanilla, sugar, lemon thyme, and some ground up walnuts. (I think that was all, but who knows)...

Serve with the warm pears and you will look like some kind of freaky chef-ish type, but really, you just worked with what you had & were willing to part with and came up with a comforting, warm, simple dessert! Go for it...