Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chickpea and Roasted Eggplant Curry [Zack]

If you're in the mood for a healthy and hearty vegetable dish that will leave you full and satisfied, you're on the right page.  The combination of chickpeas with rice creates complete proteins, which means that it's a great substitute for meat.

I chose to make this with an Indian flair.  I included a few basic Indian spices, I pureed the chick peas to make a creamy curry, then added the cubes of roasted eggplant for texture.  Try it out!


The first step is to get the eggplant goin.  Dice it in 1/2 inch cubes and drizzle with some olive oil.  Place them into the oven at 400F / 200C until they are nicely browned (about 30 mins).

Next, get a pot started over medium heat.  To be prepared for the mashin, slice the red onions roughly (you'll puree them later along with the chickpeas, so no reason to be precise.)  Also, peel and roughly chop your ginger and garlic.  Chop your birdseye chiles too.

Add the onions to the pot with the 3T of olive oil.  Let them lightly brown.

If you have a mortar and pestle, add the cumin seeds, fenugreek, tumeric, and the mustard seeds. Crush them up into a powder, then in goes the ginger, garlic, and chiles.  This paste should smell amazing!  If you don't have a mortar and pestle, just chop everything and toss it in the pot!

Add the paste into the pot.

Wash your chickpeas.  Once you can smell the paste, dump the chickpeas into the pot, along with the chicken stock and 2 cups tomato puree.  Once it starts a'bubblin, reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 5 mins.

Use a stick blender or a food processor to smooth out the curry.

Swirl in the yogurt and juice your lime into the curry.  Add 2 puffs of hing (if you have it) and adjust for salt.

Your eggplant should be roasted and ready to stir in.  Let the flavors integrate for about 5 mins, then serve over rice or with garlic naan.

2 roasted eggplants
2 red onions + more for garnish
2 cans chickpeas
2 cups chicken stock (or veg stock if you want to keep it all vegetarian)
2 cups tomato puree
1 lime
1/2 cup yogurt
3T olive oil (plus more to drizzle over the roasted eggplant)
optional cilantro garnish

if you can't find all of these spices, just use cumin :)
1.5 tsp mustard seeds
1t fenugreek
1T tumeric powder
2 small squeezes hing
2T cumin seeds

2 inches ginger
2 birdseye chiles (or 3 if you can handle it!)
2 cloves garlic

Song:  Movits! - Skjut Mig I Huvet
Skjut mig i huvet by Movits! on Grooveshark

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough [Matt]

Welcome to the dark side. Don't worry. I won't be sticking around here long either. 

A single parameter was set for pizza night - make the dough gluten-free. I shrugged it off thinking, 'who needs gluten anyway? What absolutely essential role could gluten possibly play in the success or failure of my pizzas?' Dumb.

I started researching gluten-free doughs and sifted through about 10 different recipes. I narrowed it down by comparing common ingredients (some recipes wanted you to buy four different flours (that I'd never use again. sweet, bro)). 

Basically it comes down to needing GF All-Purpose Flour and Xanthan Gum (which apparently only Whole Foods sells). The Xanthan Gum acts as the key bonding agent to replace that essential roll of gluten in the dough. It kind of works, I guess. 

+ Pizza dough is ready to be used once you complete the recipe instead of needing the gluten to bond for hours (if not a day) like traditional pizza dough. 
+ Spreads like a dream. You wet your hands with water, then lightly apply pressure to spread the dough out across a lightly-oiled baking sheet. It's very easy to get the shape you want.
+ Rises quicker. If you want a thick-crust pizza, you only have to wait 15 minutes for the yeast to take affect and rise. 
+ You mix the dry and wet ingredients together with a hand mixer. It saves mess, kneading and time.

Very difficult to get a crisp thin-crust, which is my preference. 
Calzone-ing is near impossible.
Flavor is closer to that of bisquick biscuits than traditional pizza dough.

Here's a direct link to the recipe I used. Normally, I rewrite these things and 'make them my own,' but GF-cooking is closer to baking - you can't mess with proportions without disaster. 

I made a triple-batch of their recipe to get my three pizzas of around 12" each.

6 Tsp Yeast
3 Tsp Sugar
2.25 Cups Water
3 Eggs
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 1/2 Cups GF Flour
6 Tsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 Tsp Sea Salt

Again, for directions, go here.

Where I diverged from the recipe was baking time and trying to make a calzone.

I baked my two dinner pizzas on 400f for about 10 minutes on each side. The crust was just beginning to get a golden brown hue. I knew I was going to finish these on the grill later, so I wanted to just get the dough firm enough to hold the ingredients. Whether you're grilling or not, I always recommend pre-baking the dough, then adding ingredients so that you make sure the dough bakes evenly throughout. 

As far as the calzone - the first attempt was a bit of a disaster. I spread the dough on a sheet of aluminum foil in a oval shape. I then placed my chilled ingredients of Nutella and mascarpone down the center. The tricky part was then folding the dough over and getting the edges to stick. With standard pizza dough, this is just a matter of pinching, but with GF-dough, you additionally have to worry about the top of the calzone tearing because there is no real give when attempting to stretch the dough over.

The first calzone erupted in the oven - luckily the aluminum foil acted as a barrier to creating a huge mess. 

On the second pass, I folded both of the calzone sides up toward the middle and pinched them. This made it look more like some distorted version of a dumpling, but it worked. I also kept the aluminum foil on the calzone for the first 20 minutes of baking at 400f to help it keep its shape. For the last 15 minutes, I peeled down the foil and cranked the over up to 500f to get some golden browning going on the crust.

Though the dough was a hassle to get right,  I feel confident that you could tweak it a bit to make it taste a bit better (ex: garlic-butter crust). I'm sure I will make it again at some point and it's worth exploring so you can appreciate how amazing gluten really is.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Aged Pecorino with Walnuts and Truffle Honey [Zack]

Lauren and I spent a day cooking and taking food photographs with her sister Kaitlin (super cool sister) and Kaitlin's fiancee Ricky (super badass professional photographer). We started the day by going to the Cleveland West Side Market, then we moved on to an Asian supermarket. We spent 7 hours cooking, laughing, and taking photos. It was a total blast. While we were starting to get our ingredients and equipment organized, I whipped up a fast appetizer so people wouldn't get too hungry while we were cooking.

If you haven’t tried Pecorino cheese with honey and walnuts yet, you may be skeptical. This is a traditional Italian preparation that takes advantage of the salty-sweet flavor combination. You can pair Pecorino with a variety of sweet items: figs, pears, honey, jelly/compote, grapes, etc.

If you don’t like to cook, but you want to bring a fancy appetizer or cheese course to a dinner party, this is your ticket. Cut the cheese (heh), sprinkle walnuts over it, and drizzle honey on top. That’s it!

As you can imagine, since this is such a simple combination of items, the quality of the ingredients is key here. If you can, try to go to a nice cheese shop and ask someone about the different types of Pecorino. The more aged the cheese is, the stronger it will taste. I happened upon some truffle honey at the market, but you can use a nice quality regular honey as well. You’ll just miss the back end unmistakable funk of the truffles after you’ve taken a bite.


There's really not much to say here.  Slice the cheese in the way that you want to serve it.  You can make little squares so people can eat it with toothpics, or longer slices for small plate presentation.

Crumble some walnuts in your hands, and drizzle a good amount of honey on top.  I always end up adding more than I would have guessed because the honey is so darn good.


Quality Pecorino cheese, aged to your taste (a proper cheese monger will let you try a few varieties)
Crushed walnuts
Truffle honey, or normal honey

Song to drizzle to:  Snoop Dogg - Beautiful
Beautiful by Snoop Dogg Ft. Pharell on Grooveshark

Monday, September 16, 2013

Spinach Fettuccine w/ Seared Scallops [Matt]

I've never attempted to measure my ingredients for making pasta. Half the fun comes from getting your hands into the dough and adding pinches of things as you go along. Here's my best attempt at the process of making fettuccine (supplement with YouTube videos if you're more of a visual learner).

Fettuccine Ingredients:
4 Whole Eggs
3 Additional Egg Yolks
3 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Half-&-Half
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
(For Spinach variation, food process 2 cups spinach into a minced consistency and add to the bowl)

Since I have no one to impress with fancy cooking antics, I mix my dough in a large mixing bowl. This saves me from dealing with the mess of yolks ingrained into my counter top and keeps flour from going in every direction.

Dump the 3~ cups flour into the large mixing bowl. Make a divot in the center of the flour to put your eggs. Add in the 4 whole eggs and 3 additional yolks (please, do yourself a favor and splurge on the 'cage-free organic'. It REALLY does make a difference with end pasta texture). Add the olive oil, half-&-half, sea salt and spinach (if you're swinging that way).

I use a solid-state whisk to slowly start blending the eggs together. You want to gradually start pulling in flour until it clumps to the point where you wonder why I told you to use a whisk in the first place. Scrape the dough off the whisk with your fingers. Start mashing the dough together in the bowl with your hands until it doesn't really seem like any more flour is getting added to your ball. 

Remove the semi-dough ball from the bowl, flour your counter, and pretend your dough ball is a Bop-It (twist-it, turn-it, mash-it, press-it, etc?). Once your dough ball has reached the strange state of firming up, yet a bit smooth when pulled, put the ball aside under a damp dish towel. Let it rest while you set up your pasta crank.

Once your pasta crank is together, make sure you have some place to rack your pasta. I use pasta rack trees. They're dope.

Take a pinch of dough, you'll really have to eyeball it, and run through the crank in descending numerical order. Fold the dough over a few times when putting it through the initial notch 8, eventually progressing down to notch 2 (second to last as far as thickness).

I recommend dusting your counter / the bottom of the rolled pasta sheet with flour. This will help prevent the pasta sheet from sticking as it slides through the machine.

Run the sheet of dough through the fettuccine crank attachment. Take the shaped pasta and hang it on your drying rack(s). Do this until you're out of dough. 

Scallop Ingredients: 
1 lb Large Bay Scallops

Get a big pot of water boiling - add in a splash of olive oil and pinch of salt. This helps the pasta from sticking to itself and raises boiling point. 

Take out your favorite large searing pan. Lightly coat the bottom with melted butter as you bring the heat up to med-high. Lightly dust both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper, then plop them onto the pan. It's key not to shift their position or turn them over until the bottom of scallops have a proper light brown sear, otherwise the meat will tear. The sear will take around 2 - 3 minutes on each side pending heat. The key is to get that golden brown without over cooking the scallops. 

When you are about to turn your scallops over, add your pasta to the boiling water. The pasta, since it's fresh, should only take 2 - 4 minutes to cook (depends on thickness of pasta vs. water temp). Pull out a strand or two and be sure to try it before dumping it into the sieve. 

Time to multi-task. Flip your scallop, then start to heat up a third pan. Add in a splash of olive oil on medium heat to the fresh pan. When your pasta finishes boiling, sieve it, then shake it to get any remaining water out. Dump the pasta into the heated oil. Sauté the pasta for about a minute and a half, then plate. Your scallops will probably finish cooking before the pasta, so put them to the side to rest.

To go next-level, like the dish below, you can sauté onion, asparagus and prosciutto before adding in you pasta. This will take a bit more planning and should be started right around when you dump you pasta in to begin boiling.

Finish with some fresh grated lemon zest and parmesan reggiano.

Best of luck and feel free to experiment once you get the hang of it!

Banana & Oat 'Cookies' [Matt]

2 - 3 Ripe Bananas
1~ Cup Oats

Optional (Pick a couple):
Dark Chocolate
Peanut Butter
Fresh Berries
Diced Apple
Chopped Nuts

These are the EASIEST 'cookies' to make in the world - easier than standard oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because there is no butter, egg, sugar or flour used. This also makes them a bit more 'guilt-free' pending what else you decide to throw into them.

First, take ripe bananas, mash them, add your favorite spices (I go with apple pie spice, ginger, vanilla extract), sprinkle of salt - then add in oats until you thicken up the 'batter' to match that of normal oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. The general ratio is 1 cup oats per 2 bananas, pending the size of your fruit (sup ladies).

Dump the mixture onto a baking sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking oil. Chop up your favorite chocolate (I use bakers 55% so it'll melt upon touch) and bake at 400f for 20 - 30 minutes depending how thick you spread your cookies. The 'cookies' are done once the oats begin to brown.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hibiscus Margarita [Rhonda]

This is an easy cocktail. And it's got a surprise hint of jalapeno.

We had this drink at Harvest Pizzeria in Columbus, and it was a super fun change from the run-of-the-mill margarita.

The only thing you may have trouble finding is hibiscus powder, but if you live in Columbus, Spices LTD at North Market carries it. So if Columbus has it....

I don't have a real recipe. We made a pitcher for a crowd, and I used a 12 oz. can of limeade with one and a half cans of water. Sprinkle in about a tablespoon of hibiscus powder for that pretty color. Stir. I splashed in maybe a tablespoon or two of Angostura bitters. Add most of the tequila you're planning on using, then...

Slice a jalapeno pepper into half a glass of tequila, cover it with Saran Wrap and let it sit for awhile. I let it go overnight since I was adding the infused tequila (strain out the jalapeno!) into an entire pitcher. Some found it too hot. (wimps) Judge by tasting. If it's too strong, add more limeade.

Salt the rim and serve with a wedge of lime.

Suggested soundtrack: Justin Timberlake's "Take Back the Night"

Monday, September 2, 2013

Roasted Pepper Soup [Matt]

I was given a large bag of medium-sized peppers at work because our attempt to celebrate the last true Friday of summer was foiled by the propane tank being empty and attached by a bike lock that no one knew the combo to. So I glanced at some recipes for Roasted Red Pepper Soup, but quickly realized my peppers were multiple colors and people are dumb and generally use way too many ingredients. Below is my recommend on keeping it as simple as possible.

5 - 6 large peppers
3 medium sweet onions
48oz chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup heavy cream salt (to taste) crushed red pepper (to taste)

Let the easy recipe begin! Chop the peppers, toss in olive oil, then kick them in the oven at 450f until they start to char. Pull them out and put aside.


While the peppers cook, rough chop the onions. throw them into a gallon+ sauce pot with olive oil. You want them to begin to brown as well.

Once the onions have rendered, dump in the chicken stock (I used a blend of my lamb stock + chicken stock to give the soup a heavier flavor). This will stop the onions from browning. dump in peppers once they are ready. Bring to a boil.

Dump in cup of red wine (doesn't matter what kind. drink rest of bottle here). Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat off. Add heavy cream. Transfer soup to food processor or blender (pending your slice and dice situation)... if you have a hand blender like me (acquired today), use now. Blend until the soup's consistency is to your liking.


Serve - can top with some goat cheese, chives or dollop of sour cream. Great to pair with some crusty bread (I added some tomato and fresh mozzarella to top mine).


Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp [Rhonda]

More Louisville influence from Jack Fry's restaurant...

Like I mentioned in a previous post, our whole family was in Louisville, KY, as support crew for Matt's Ironman race last weekend. (He did extremely well, by the way, finishing in the top third of the participants. Whoomp! There it is!)

This grilled watermelon and shrimp recipe was inspired by an appetizer I had at Jack Fry's: crispy pork belly with watermelon, watermelon radish (tricky to find), ginger vinaigrette, cantaloupe coulis and sesame seeds, topped with fried leeks.

Food Network chef Cat Cora posted a recipe that I used as a base. This makes a refreshing dinner salad, or, as a small plate appetizer.

Degree of difficulty: moderate
Time: prep 40 minutes, grill time for shrimp and watermelon 10 minutes
Serves: 4


1 lb. large shrimp, defrosted if frozen, cleaned and deveined, tails left on

2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 bell peppers...1 red, 1 orange, cored, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil
2 limes, halved
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Salt and pepper

1 small seedless watermelon, halved, then sliced into 1/2 inch wedges, rind on
Unsweetened coconut, toasted for garnish
1 scallion, sliced for garnish
3 cilantro sprigs, chopped for garnish

Optional (but fab) salad addition:
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup jicama, diced
Applewood smoked bacon
Ponzu sauce
Olive oil

A couple of tomatoes, a few chunks of crispy applewood smoked bacon, a handful of jicama, some arugula, and some fresh cilantro, chopped, will make a nice salad to slide under the shrimp and grilled watermelon. Toss these with a splash of ponzu sauce and olive oil.

Preheat the grill.
In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the water and the sugar. Cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour 1 cup of the syrup into a small bowl and set aside. To the remaining syrup, add the red and orange peppers, jalapenos, garlic and cilantro and simmer on medium heat for 35 to 45 minutes or until thickened and marmalade-like. (I added a splash of soy sauce and some lime juice to cut the intense sweetness.)

Toast the coconut for garnish. Once finished, it can sit for a bit while you do the rest.

Toss the shrimp in a bowl with half of the olive oil, juice of 1 lime, cayenne, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Let marinate 20 to 30 minutes. Place on the hot grill and grill each side until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the watermelon for the grill. Place the watermelon on a plate and brush each side with the reserved sugar syrup and the remaining olive oil. (I used a sprinkle of salt instead of the simple syrup...) Place on the grill and cook on both sides, about 2 minutes.

If using the optional salad, arrange it on the plate first. Once the red and orange pepper marmalade is thickened, place watermelon on plate (I removed the rind and cut it into chunks) with shrimp on top. Squeeze the remaining lime over it and spoon on the marmalade. Garnish with coconut and scallions and serve.

Suggested soundtrack: "We Will Rock You" by Queen. Brilliant race, Matt. Way to crush 'em.

Shrimp and Grits Louisville-style [Rhonda]

With the whole family down in Louisville, KY, last weekend for Matt's Ironman, we got to sample some kicker cuisine in that hopping town. Jack Fry's, an iconic Louisville spot, had the most interesting appetizers I've come across in a long time. Three things on the menu caused me to fall silent, the restaurant chatter fading away, as I thought about these unlikely combinations: Shrimp and grits with country ham, red-eye gravy, shiitakes and tomatoes. Pork belly with watermelon, watermelon radish, cantaloupe coulis and fried leeks. And foie gras with country ham, johnny cake and elderberry and blackberry preserves.

It's worth a road trip from Columbus for that trifecta alone.

Nick, Haydee and I shared the shrimp and grits. It was utterly sumptuous. And super rich. I tried to recreate it here and came dangerously close. (Dangerous because this is a naughty dish.)

I subbed in a few chunks of crisped applewood bacon for the country ham. No red-eye gravy handy, but I really didn't miss it. Other than that, it's pretty much what we had.

Degree of difficulty: moderate
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2


8 large shrimp, defrosted if frozen, cleaned and deveined, tail shell removed
6 oz. applewood smoked bacon
A small handful each of sliced shiitakes, green (or red) bell pepper cut into slivers, and fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
Grits (I used Quaker quick grits...cooks in 5 minutes)
2 tablespoons or so of heavy cream and/or one tablespoon crème fraiche
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper

Dice the bacon into chunks and fry until fairly crisp. Drain bacon onto paper towels. In separate frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the veggies with the garlic.

Steam the shrimp OR sauté them in a touch of olive oil. While that's happening, make the grits, two servings-worth, according to package directions. Add the butter and a touch of heavy cream. I also put a tiny bit of crème fraiche in, and it was awesome. But, again, rich. You can cut back on these additions...just taste as you go. The grits at Jack Fry's were super creamy, almost like mashed potatoes with lots of butter.

Season the grits with salt and pepper to taste (I used a wonderful smoked sea salt). Put the grits in two large bowls, divide and scatter the shrimp, veggies and bacon artfully over the grits. Serve immediately.

Suggested soundtrack: OutKast's "The Way You Move" (is there a clean version?)