Sunday, April 29, 2012

“A Deconstructed Grilled Cheese,” Or In a Less Artsy Fartsy Way–Fried Cheese Filled Bread Balls

Few of the foods I have loved from my childhood evoke more ire and disdain from friends and celebrated food icons than the much maligned processed cheese food, also known as American Cheese, the boldly orange stuff found in convenient individual plastic wraps. Often considered a lowbrow food, it must be admitted that it is a much used ingredient by harried mothers everywhere seeking to make something quick and satisfying for their children after a long day of school and a great way to shut them up for a few minutes which they scarf down their white bread and American cheese while watching the afternoon cartoons.

Before then, I actually did not know what a true grilled cheese sandwich in this form was for a long time. My family had always simply placed the cheese on bread slices, and toasted them in the toaster oven, and I had liked it just fine, and still did after learning the proper way. Truth be told, I still enjoy this as a quick snack when I can get away with it. But when I witnessed my friend’s mother butter the sides of two pieces of bread, slide not one but two pieces of American cheese between them, and them grill them between the plates of a George Foreman grill did my perception of how grand a grilled cheese could be was truly elevated. Perhaps that experience was one of the contributing elements to my love of cooking and its abilities to transform food.

So it is this memory that I pay homage to for this post, and with love that I transform it into this. I really hope I’m not using the word deconstruction incorrectly when I call this a deconstructed grilled cheese. It seems more like a reconstruction, but obviously I haven’t watched enough Top Chef to figure it out.


So behold my creation of love and quick thinking, a “deconstructed grilled cheese,” which is now in the form of homemade bread dough, studded with chopped garlic, stuffed with American cheese, and fried to doneness.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Hope You’re a Big Flan of Asparagus Custard.

Actually, I’d understand perfectly well if you were not, I won’t be offended really. That said, if you’re into asparagus, custards, and are adventurous enough to see what the bizarre love child of mingling the two would be, I would suggest you consider this admittedly somewhat out there recipe.

Ah, yes, by the way, this week’s theme is asparagus, not custard, but no one is keeping score I don’t think.

I originally had intended on doing something a bit more commonplace, such as roasted asparagus, a regular favorite in the household, but it being a challenge I decided to challenge myself. A tickle in the back of my head reminded me that there was something one could do with asparagus and eggs that was mentioned in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio so I took a look and there it was, Asparagus Custard.

A bit taken aback, I had to beg my family to allow me to foist this upon them.

Molding issues aside, it had a really nice green color at the end of it. Oh and don’t worry, this isn’t a dessert at all, but it is certainly cooling. Read on if you haven’t been scared off!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

No Knead to Fuss: One Pot of Bread

All right, I will admit that I’m stretching the definition of “one pot meal” a bit here. When someone says a one pot meal, they mean an actual meal pulled together into a pot, typically a soup or stew full of goodies. And while I did have some ideas for the typical one pot meal, my family was a bit full up on soup this week and I wasn’t going to press my luck trying out a new soup recipe.
Instead, I opted to try out no knead bread, a baking application which has been on my mind since I read about it in The New York Times (online). It also involves an enameled cast iron pot, which if one uses as the mixing bowl as well, could justify my claim that this is indeed a one pot meal. Plus a towel and table. Details. And whether some slices of delicious bread and butter constitutes a meal.
Onepotbread 000

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Tribute to My Love of Sandwiches.

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Baked Salmon with Roasted Bell Peppers and Capers Sandwich.

This is truly a glorious week for Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking, because it focuses on the sandwich! My love of sandwiches as a food marvel cannot be overstated, especially given how many of them I’ve posted here.

The sandwich is truly one of the most wonderful of food delivery mechanisms, as well as the most versatile. Though he wasn’t the inventor, the sandwich was given its most commonly used name by the John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who popularized the food item as a way to eat without needing to take a break from playing cards back in the day (Source: Sesame Street, Wikipedia.)

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Yakisoba bread.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Baked Salmon with Bell Pepper and Capers


The great thing about quality products is that you don’t have to make a big production to have great results. The other day I had on hand some lovely Coho salmon, and found this rather simple preparation for baked salmon with bell peppers and capers, with both bell pepper and capers being items my mother loves in cooking. This is a key detail because I made this dish a few nights ago for my mother’s birthday.

The recipe actually calls for sockeye salmon. I’m not sure why there’s a particular emphasis on that kind, as I think this would work well with any fairly thick salmon fillet.

The ingredients are very simple to pull together. A few pounds of salmon fillet, olive oil, sea salt, capers, garlic (not pictured)…


And of course the bell pepper. Three would be preferable, as the peppers were quite nice. In a way, I felt a bit like Donald Rumsfeld in this aspect: you don’t go to dinner with the peppers you want, you go to dinner with the peppers you have. Actually, no, I didn’t feel like Donald Rumsfeld at all. That guy can go to hell.

You might want to preheat the oven to 375 degrees F at this point, but it can probably wait until the peppers have been dealt with.


That is you need to char them. A blow torch really would have been a better tool, as a bell pepper is a rather inconveniently shaped thing.


Once well charred all around, darkening as much skin as you can get without burning down into the flesh, allow to cool a bit and then wrap in plastic, or place in a covered bowl. The idea is to trap them with the moisture.


If you haven’t preheated the oven, now’s the time to do it.

Now, lay out your washed and paper towel dried salmon fillets in a baking dish coated liberally with olive oil.


Toss the capers and some cloves of garlic on the fillets.


Now’s a good time to deal with the bell peppers. Those uncharred nooks and crevices are a bit annoying but we’ll deal.

Rub off all of the skin from the now cooled off peppers. If you are a big cheater like me, doing this under running water helps speed up the process quite a bit. I’m sure you lose some flavor and nutrients but when you’re on the clock there’s no shame in a shortcut.


There we go, some beautiful skinned bell peppers with a nice moist “chewy” feel to the flesh.


Even roasted bell peppers can be cut up using the side slicing method I describe here, albeit with a bit more care. Then cut them up into roughly square inch-inch and half pieces and toss onto the fish.

Finally, season with finely ground black (or white) pepper and sea salt.


Put the whole assortment into the preheated oven for 16 minutes, and you’re all set! Let it sit for a few minutes before serving.


Goes great with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.


And there you have it. A simple but still very nice birthday meal for a mother. Provided she likes fish.


Baked salmon with Bell Pepper and Capers, adapted from Epicurious.

  • 2-3 bell peppers, red and or yellow
  • 2 pounds salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed in cold water if packed in vinegar (if salt packed, soak in water for ten minutes). Chop if desired
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Fine sea salt
  • Finely ground black or white pepper ground
    1. Char bell peppers, then place in a covered bowl, or allow to cool slightly before placing them in a food safe plastic bag. Once completely cooled, remove skin and chop roughly into square pieces of about an inch or an inch and a half.
    2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    3. Wash and dry fish with paper towels.
    4. Place fish fillets, skin side down, in a baking dish coated liberally (but don’t go overboard) with olive oil.
    5. Toss on the capers, cloves, and bell pepper pieces, then season with fine sea salt and ground black or white pepper.
    6. Place baking dish into preheated oven for 16 minutes. Remove and allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Sbiten, a Spiced Honey Drink.


    Note: Don’t actually drink this much sbiten.

    Ok, a bit late. I have finally done what I didn’t want to do, submit a recipe for 52 weeks of cooking on the first day of the following week.

    But I guess given how many people submit weeks afterwards, I should not be so hard on myself.

    This week’s theme is Russian food by the way, which is something I’ve never ever really thought about outside of a James Bond movie, or hearing about borscht. I wanted to try something a bit different however, and I think I found the ticket on wikipedia: sbiten, a spiced honey drink akin to good old grog, scourge of scurvy. Actually given how little citrus is in this, I’m not sure it would prevent scurvy.