Tag Archives: food

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Proving that tomatoes can turn a classic dessert into a savory delight.

Even though turning on the oven in the middle of August isn’t on the top of most people’s list, there are a few dishes that are worth the extra mercury on the thermometer. Tomato cobbler is one of them.

“Cobbler? But that’s a dessert!,” is the reaction of most folks. Not in this case. This cobbler is a savory take on the classic sweet dessert and uses fresh and juicy summer tomatoes in place of the fruit (though, technically, tomatoes are also considered to be fruit).

Why tomatoes, you ask? Sure, you could throw them in a nice, cold salad, but have you ever popped them in the oven and baked them until they burst? Their natural sugars are enhanced with the application of heat and roasting them brings out their sweetness and even more flavor over eating them raw. In short, roasted tomatoes are a-mazing. If you have access to heirloom tomatoes, splurge and use them in this dish as they have even more “meat” and flavor to them than most tomatoes in the market.

To make this easy tomato cobbler, the vegetables (or “fruit and veg”) are cooked in a pan and poured into a baking dish over a cornmeal batter. To give it an even more homey and rustic look, use an ovenproof or cast iron pan to cook, bake and serve it in. And if you get the hankering for this savory side dish and tomatoes aren’t in season, simply use drained, canned tomatoes (the no-salt added kind). It tastes great when served fresh out of the oven, but tastes even more heavenly if it is allowed to sit and cool a little while and served at room temperature. It also makes fantastic leftovers when reheated and served the following day.

Grab the sumptuous flavors of late summer while you still can, crank up that oven, and make this mouthwatering cobbler as soon as humanly possible.
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Sweet Heat BBQ Breakfast Hash

Sweet Heat BBQ Breakfast Hash
New potatoes, bell peppers, sausage and barbecue sauce unite to create one amazing brunch meal.

New potatoes, bell peppers, sausage and barbecue sauce unite to create one amazing brunch meal.

Here’s a twist on the classic breakfast potato hash that gets a kick of flavor from smoky sausage and barbecue sauce. This sweet potato BBQ hash makes for an easy and hearty, one-pan brunch dish, especially when served with some sunny-side-up eggs on top. You can use any barbecue sauce that you please; my favorite is Stubb’s Sweet Heat Sauce.

Want the recipe? Get the full recipe here on the Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q website and and be sure to check out the other delicious dishes (some of them by yours truly) featuring their tasty products.

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Sinful Sides: Indulge in this creamy kale and butternut squash gratin

Sinful Sides: Indulge in this creamy kale and butternut squash gratin

Your waistline may hate me, but your taste buds will thank me.

Forget the lean turkey and ham, the holidays all about the tasty, rich side dishes. These are some of the only days of the year that most folks let themselves indulge in rich, indulgent foods without a second thought on the calorie count (until the following day). Even healthy vegetables like sweet potatoes, green beans and kale get an oleaginous makeover with additions of bacon, butter and cream. Why? Because they make foods taste better!

If you’re going to load up on calories, it had better be worth it and taste amazing, and this following side dish is just that. So don’t even bother trying to make a “lightened up” version of this butternut squash and kale gratin with skim milk and light butter spread, go all the way with whole milk, cream and good quality cheese. Your waistline may hate me, but your taste buds will thank me.
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Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

No lettuce required: Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Salads are a staple of summer and they come in many forms. What pops into most folks’ heads when the word “salad” is uttered is most likely a plate full of leafy greens. While lettuce based salads are well and good, there are other forms of “salad” to consider this time of year, like ones consisting entirely of veggies and/or fruit. They’re a great way to utilize the best produce that this season has to offer and can be a great way to boost the nutritional content of your meal (barring they’re not swimming in mayo or sour cream because that kind of negates the “healthy” aspect).

This first recipe utilizes fresh, raw veggies that are tossed in (my take on) creamy Green Goddess dressing and it makes for a great side for a summer gathering. Instead of smothering this dish in a mayo and/or sour cream based dressing, it gets its creaminess from avocados and buttermilk — the latter being much healthier than you might think (one cup contains less than 100 calories and only 2.2 grams of fat). Make the dressing a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry and feel free to toss the veggies together with the dressing up to an hour before serving.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 4 servings

2 ears of sweet corn (raw)
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 bell red or orange pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed and minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
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DIY Dips and Spreads: How to whip up your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing

DIY Dips and Spreads: How to whip up your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing

USE A CONDIMENT: Make your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing to gussy up those summer spreads.

With summer officially in full swing, many minds conjure up ideas for outdoor parties which then turns to the thought of food. The fare at these warm weather parties often include grilled items, cold salads and various other spreads. But while most folks are envisioning burgers, brats and deciding what to include on the crudité platter, I’m ruminating over what accompanies said items.

To me, the stars of the show are the condiments — able to mask any overcooked hunk of meat or bland sandwich — and Heinz just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, so I choose to make my own condiments. The ingredients are inexpensive, plus they’re easy to make and customizable to suit any taste. Check out the following recipes to impress your cookout guests (and never get caught buying boring condiments again).

‘Better than 57′ Ketchup

Before making my own ketchup, I assumed Heinz 57 was the end all, be all because that’s what the commercials tell us, right? Try this simple recipe on for size and you’ll won’t have to battle with that infamous glass bottle again.

Makes a little over 1 cup

14 ounces of crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce (1 small can or 1/2 large can)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
A dash of freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan, whisk together and put on medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a heavy simmer, then lower heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Partially cover the pot as the mixture will splatter as it cooks. The mixture will thicken as it simmers. Let cool to room temperature, then either serve it or put it in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
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East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

Not the prettiest enchiladas, but the bold flavors make up for its looks.

Experimenting with food and flavors is a passion of mine and I love to “explore” the globe through its cultures and their cuisines. Sometimes, I like to be region-specific with my cooking, and other times I, in the immortal lyrics of Fleetwood Mac, like to “go (my) own way” by using a basic flavor profile and letting the creativity flow.

This past week, my culinary journey was at a fork in the road. You see, I had a craving for cheesy Mexican enchiladas with tomato sauce, but also had the itch to experiment with some Indian flavors and wanted make the dish a little healthier. Thus, these vegetarian, gluten-free Indian enchiladas were born. I used a few basic spices that can be easily found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores — save for the Indian chili powder that can be found at an Indian grocer or easily substituted with regular chili powder — and some easy-to-find ingredients commonly found in most Indian cuisines, like butternut squash, chickpeas and tomatoes.

Paneer cheese, a fresh farmer-style cheese that doesn’t melt, is a star ingredient in the filling. It holds up to high heat cooking and adds both bulk and protein to the filling. Paneer can be found at specialty and Indian grocery stores, but can be easily substituted with firm tofu (this would then make the dish vegan as well).

Even if you’ve never cooked Indian food before, this recipe is very approachable and can be adjusted to your taste and spice level: leave out the spicy chilies for a milder sauce or add more if you’re a heat-seeker, substitute the kale with spinach, and you can even use different types of winter or summer squash in the filling if you please.
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You say tomato, I say soup: Creamy Sherried Tomato Soup with Herbs

You say tomato, I say soup: Creamy Sherried Tomato Soup with Herbs

This easy-to-prepare tomato soup is comforting goodness in a bowl.

No matter the weather or season, any time is a great time for tomato soup. There’s something comforting and restorative about a warm bowl of tomato soup — homemade tomato soup, that is. For me, it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. This version in particular is so easy to prepare that you’ll be on your way to culinary bliss in no time.

When I first found this recipe and saw some of the main ingredients — tomato juice and chicken base — I worried that it would turn out tasting like something grandma would made or simply like I’d opened a can of Campbell’s (which is decent, but like I said, homemade simply tastes better). Turns out the ingredients totally work — the juice gives it added tomatoey oomph and the chicken base is a shortcut to using broth, which one would have to simmer for ages to achieve the same flavor.

The result is a pinkish-hued bowl of comfort to be served warm or piping hot (depending on your mood and the weather outside). I like to stir in chopped herbs like parsley and basil just before serving for a pop of color and flavor. As for the sherry, Ree used cooking sherry, whereas I prefer to use real sherry wine.

Sherry is a fortified wine that originates in Jerez (“Sherish”), Spain, and is typically served as an an aperitif used to “finish” and add flavor to dishes. I go by the old adage on cooking with booze: “If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.” Cooking sherry is a version of sherry which has been treated with salts and other additives so that it can be stored in the cupboard at room temperature. While this is all well and good, I’m not a fan of its flavor and prefer using standard dry (not sweet) sherry wine in its place. Don’t have sherry on hand? Not a problem. Try substituting a cup of dry red or white wine for the sherry — just add it before you throw in the tomatoes to let the flavors meld while they’re simmering together — or leave it out altogether.

Feel free to get a little creative with this recipe and personalize it as well. For added flavor, try throwing in a teaspoon or two of fresh, chopped rosemary or thyme when sweating the onions. Don’t want to use the cream and/or sherry? Not a problem. Try substituting a cup of dry red or white wine for the sherry; just add it before you throw in the tomatoes to let their flavors meld while they’re simmering together.

Not only is this tomato soup approachable for any cooking skill level, it’s perfect for a weeknight meal, as it only takes minutes to throw together and you can get it on the table in a flash. Serve it alongside a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and call it dinner.
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Street Inspiration: Recreating Chi’lantro’s Korean barbecue kimchi fries

Street Inspiration: Recreating Chi’lantro’s Korean barbecue kimchi fries

SIMPLY ADDICTIVE: Korean bulgogi, caramelized kimchi, Cheddar cheese, cilantro, magic sauce, sriracha and sesame seeds atop of a pile of crispy fries.

Back in March, I covered the burgeoning food truck scene here in Austin, Texas, during the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive festival. There’s a food truck/trailer for just about every type of cuisine here, including many that offer their take on fusion fare. Due to a word limit for print, I didn’t get too in depth about the actual food that these mobile eateries proffer, but I felt like it was time to highlight a few of my favorite dishes (and recipes for recreating them).

For my first installment, I feel it’s necessary to feature the first food truck dish I fell in love with: Chi’lantro’s Korean-American fusion kimchi fries. Though I can appreciate a wide range of cuisines and top-notch ingredients, it’s simple comfort food that I end up craving at the end of the day (or after a long night hitting the local bar scene) and this dish is just that. Exotic and tangy Korean barbecue and kimchi is piled atop a bed of warm, crispy French fries and topped with cheese, cilantro, “magic sauce”, Sriracha and sesame seeds. Not the healthiest pick, but it’s for darn sure one of the best eats in the city.

I had been itching to recreate this recipe at home but couldn’t figure out their exact formula for some of the elements in it. Lucky for me, Chi’Lantro’s chef and owner Jae Kim shared his secret recipe in the May issue of Food & Wine Magazine. While the original formulation is divine, I can never follow a recipe without putting my own spin on it. So here’s my take on this Korean barbecue junk food treat. Try it once and I promise you’ll be hooked.

One quick note on the kimchi (or “kimchee”): While fermented cabbage may not sound very appetizing, this element is key to the dish. If you’re ambitious and have the necessary ingredients on-hand — like Korean chili powder and salted shrimp — and a month to ferment it, make your own at home. Otherwise, you can most likely find it already prepared at at your local Asian market. It’s a fabulous condiment to have in your fridge whether you’re making this, serving it alongside a traditional Korean dish, or even slapping it in a grilled cheese sandwich (which is also amazing).
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Très délicieux: Strawberry Napoleons with vanilla pastry cream and strawberry-thyme jam

Très délicieux: Strawberry Napoleons with vanilla pastry cream and strawberry-thyme jam

As General Napoleon Bonaparte once stated, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself,” so the next time you’re entertaining and have to make dessert, in the don’t half-ass it by buying a cake at the supermarket. Get in the kitchen and express your culinary flair with a homemade treat like these strawberry Napoleons (no short Frenchmen needed). This take on the traditional French dessert (a.k.a.: mille-feuille) is made up of layers of flaky puff pastry smothered with vanilla pastry cream and strawberry-thyme jam, topped with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. I promise you don’t need to be a trained pastry chef to pull this off.

The homemade jam I used was infused with fresh thyme — a lovely sweet-savory combination — but feel free to use store bought instead. (Tip: Infuse store bought jam with thyme by heating both together with a little water in a pot over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, then let cool to room temperature.) As for the vanilla pastry cream (a cooked custard), you can have the bragging rights by making it yourself, but if you’re in a pinch, simply use vanilla pudding in its place.

I urge you to go forth and conquer this dish for a special occasion (or any dol’ ay), and remember: it won’t be as difficult as the Battle of Waterloo — it’s just dessert.
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Stop the insanity: Ridiculous kitchen tools (and saner alternatives)

Stop the insanity: Ridiculous kitchen tools (and saner alternatives)

Who needs knife skills when you can hack your food to bits with the Slap Chop? (Image: vxla via Flickr Creative Commons)

Single-use kitchen tools, or “unitaskers,” are one of my biggest pet peeves as a cook and culinary instructor. Why waste money on multiple gadgets that only do one thing when you really only need a few (including your own pair of hands) to do a multitude of tasks?

I expected to find a good amount of stupid kitchen tools when doing research for this piece, but even I was surprised at the volume of crap that’s out there. And you know what perplexes me the most? That people buy these things!

Without further ado, I give you my top picks for the most inane, least useful kitchen gizmos and simpler, more sane alternatives to them:
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