Saturday, May 31, 2008

Grilled Dessert

So, the other day, I asked Z to go to the grocery store to pick something up for dinner, and she brought home some peaches for dessert. I'd never heard of grilled peaches, so I'll admit I was skeptical at first. Based on the number of different grilled peach recipes she was able to find, however, I was convinced it was, in fact, a real thing, so I went along with it. These turned out great. We had them with grilled pound cake, but I would imagine that they would go great with vanilla ice cream - especially with the syrup drizzled all over.

It turns out, these make a good breakfast too... (the morning lighting is better than in the one above)

Grilled Peaches (recipe adapted from "the internet")

4 tbs butter
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c amaretto (or rum)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4-5 cloves
6 peaches - halved and pitted

Heat syrup ingredients (everything but peaches) in a small fry pan until sauce thickens while the grill preheats.
Grill peaches 3-5 minutes per side, basting with syrup
Served with grilled pound cake or vanilla ice cream and drizzle with remaining syrup

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Every once and a while I'll buy a bottle of wine with the intent of saving it for a special occasion. This particular one, a 2003 Clos Du Mont-Olivet Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I purchased 2 or 3 years ago to break out when I finally got my dissertation. Well, the week of my defense came -- I successfully survived (relatively unscathed no less), and then last Friday night, we broke out this bottle:

We've been into "Rhone style" wines (Chateauneuf-du-Pape is an appellation in the southern Rhone region of France) lately, so I figured this one would be quite tasty. I'll have to admit, I was a little disappointed because my expectations were so high. The wine was quite good, don't get me wrong, but it didn't have the body I was expecting - it was lighter, both in color and taste, than I typically prefer. I'm glad I waited a few years to drink this, because I think if I'd consumed it right away it would have been too "jammy." It went surprisingly well with chicken on the grill (I used an "Asian" marinate of some sort).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Camp Food

As I mentioned in my last post, we went camping with some friends last weekend. We were each responsible for one meal, and Z decided we should do something involving foil packets. She scoured the internet, and found a recipe for foil packet fish. We mixed all the spiced in a small ziploc bag before hand, and sprinkled them on the fish packets and then squeezed the lemon juice on them. Then, we sealed the packets and cooked them over hot coals for 20-30 minutes (likely to vary depending on how hot your coals are). The foil packets basically allow you to steam the fish, something you can't normally do over an open fire!

Lemony Fish Packets

6 halibut fillets (any white fish would work)
3 teaspoons dried dill weed
3 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Seasoning salt to taste
1 pinch lemonpepper
1 pinch garlic powder (or to taste... we like garlic)
1 lemon

Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl. Place fish on a square of tinfoil. We made three packets of two fillets each. You could do them individually. Sprinkle dry mix generously over fillets. Flip and repeat. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice over fillets, being careful to avoid seeds. Seal packets and place over coals for about 20 minutes. Mmmm.... tasty.

We didn't have any picture of the final product (we were quite hungry), so instead, here are pictures of us seasoning our foil pouches.

Also, we made "home fries" over the open fire. This turned out to be quite successful, in large part because Amanda's cast iron pan is finally seasoned enough to be non-stick (cooking bacon in it earlier in the day had to help). We boiled some redskin potatoes the night before we went camping and then chilled them and stored them (in our cooler) in a ziploc bag. Then, we diced them, threw in some diced red onion (lots of red here) and generously coated them with olive oil and seasoned salt.

The real success of this dish, however, is how well it cooked on the open fire in our iron skillet. I'd always heard that a well-seasoned cast iron pan is basically non-stick, but had never experienced it. My parents had cast iron skillets, but typically washed them using soapy water, which prevents the buildup of so much "seasoning," and thus, their pans were far from non-stick.

Notice how, much like the fish, I don't have a picture of the finished product. We were very hungry :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How (not to) cook a sausage

OK - so a few of us went camping last weekend. I'll post more about the food later, but thought I'd share some observations on how not to cook Italian sausage over a campfire. Everyone knows you can cook hotdogs on a (long) fork over an open fire, as these pictures indicate. However, as you'll also see, we also tried cooking Italian sausages in this fashion as well. One of my friends, who we'll call "J," was the first to try this, and we all quickly learned from his mistake (his is the sausage in the front of this picture).

As you can see, his is starting to split already, which is perfectly fine. However, a sausage splitting (unlike a hotdog) is NOT a sign it is done (or even close). When J took a bite of this bad boy, we quickly discovered that it was not, in fact, done. Instead, it was bright red and oozing blood (great food image, I know).

Learning from his mistake, I decided to cut mine open after the outside had cooked a bit (which is actually how I normally cook them anyway). As you can see, mine look delicious, while his (the one to the left now) has a permanent place reserved in a circus sideshow (right next to the bearded lady).

This was a great camping trip, because we were able to cook almost everything over an open fire (we only started the grill once). It made us all feel rustic, which is entertaining if you actually know us.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Its the sauce

I made homemade pizza earlier this week. The basic crust recipe I used was very simple - basically flour, water, honey, oil, and salt (see below), and a good crust is an important part of a good pizza. However, I feel that a good sauce is critical to the flavor of a good pizza. I typically make enough sauce for at least two batches of dough, and sometimes more than that.

For the sauce, I begin with a large can of crushed tomatoes. This is heated in a saucepan over medium heat with 3 cloves of minced garlic, about a quarter cup of olive oil, a tablespoon (approximate) of oregano, a teaspoon each of basil and rosemary, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. After about 15-minutes I let it cool a bit before using it (I usually do this while the dough is rising).

This is what the pizza might look like (this one has red onions and peppers, chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, an pepperoni - Z's had bacon, asparagus, and broccoli in place of the pepperoni and chicken).

With the leftover dough, I decided to take advantage of other leftovers and combined them into a new treat - Mexican pizza. We'd made Mexican lasagna earlier in the week, and had some left over sauce (tomatoes, ground beef, black beans, onions, chili powder, cumin, etc.). So, I used this as my pizza sauce (mixed with a little of the sauce above to thin it out), replaced the mozzarella cheese with cheddar, and threw on some of the left over toppings from the night before (jalapeño pepper bits, red onions and peppers, and mushrooms), creating Mexican pizza. This probably was not one of my favorite dishes of all time, but it was a good way to get rid of leftovers, while still being friendly to the taste buds.

Finally, a note on a project Z has been working on for the past week or so. She organized our collection of recipes into two handy binders. The binders a both filled to the brim with recipes, and the clear sheet protectors are very nice (keeps me from getting the recipes too messy in the kitchen). This was a lot of work, as our recipes were not really organized in any sensible way - we each had some recipes in our own "storage systems" (boxes or folders that were not organized in any way), plus she recently cut out a lot of recipes from magazines so that she could get rid of the magazines. Here are the binders:

As I said, the organization has been wonderful - we've already taken advantage of having these recipes at our finger tips, and have also reminded ourselves what all we could possibly make (I guess no excuse now for having no ideas for dinner).

Pizza Dough Recipe (adapted from the Bread Bible, one of the best books on the topic):

1 to 1-1/2 cups warm water
1-tablespoon yeast
2-tablespoons honey
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2-3 cups bread flour (can also add wheat gluten to increase the protein content of all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Add water, yeast, honey, and a dusting of flour to a large bowl to let the yeast activate - about 15 minutes. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and 1-cup flour. Gradually add in additional flour until
you've got a sticky dough. Move to a flat, floured work surface and knead for a while, gradually adding flour as needed. You're looking for the dough to get relatively firm, but not as firm as you might for in a baguette dough (generally around 10-minutes, but probably much quicker if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook).
Place dough in a greased bowl to rise for about 90-minutes (cover with saran wrap or a wet towel). After the dough has risen, you could shape it for one large pizza, or multiple smaller ones (my typical option). Throw on the sauce, toppings of your choice, and cheese(s) and bake in a preheated over (as hot as your oven will go). Pizza is great because you can go simple with simple combinations like pepperoni and mushroom or tomato and fresh basil, or get more creative like the ones you find at artisan pizza places, using funky sauces and flavor combinations
A baking stone is something that will definitely make the pizza better - it gives the crust a nice crispiness that I absolutely love. If you're going to do this, once you've shaped your dough, place it on a pizza peel dusted in corn meal to transfer onto the pre-heated baking stone. On a baking stone, the pizzas don't take very long (6-10 minutes, perhaps more if you're going with a very thick crust), but they definitely take longer on a regular baking pan.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pasta Primavera

OK, so I know pasta primavera is one of the easiest dishes known to man, but I honestly had never made it nor seen it made until about a month ago. I had a bunch of veggies laying around, and didn't feel like making a stir-fry, so I searched the blogs for an appropriate recipe. I ended up combining the things I liked from 3 or 4 different recipes.

I started by chopping the veggies:

As you can see, I chopped mushrooms, carrots, red onion, asparagus, snow peas, broccoli, yellow bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and garlic. The longer-cooking foods (carrots, asparagus) I blanched before the actual cooking. In the process of cutting these, I discovered that I'm horribly slow with a knife! I know Sam is planning to take knife wielding classes, and they would probably be a good idea for me as well, though I may have to wait until after graduation.

Once I chopped my veggies, I cooked the pasta and kept it in the pot with a little of the cooking liquid and some olive oil to prevent congealing. Meanwhile, I heated up some olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan. I started with the garlic, and then added ingredients in reverse order of anticipated cooking time (onions, carrots, asparagus, and mushrooms, followed by peppers, then broccoli, and finally the snow peas and sundried tomatoes). This only took a few minutes, and when done, I added the pasta, and then mixed it all together with some black pepper and the cherry tomatoes. It looked something like this:

Finally, I finished it off with a little Parmesan cheese and topped it with some chicken I'd grilled. The chicken was marinated with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with a little garlic, oregano, and rosemary.

We made a lot more pasta than we needed, but fortunately, it reheats very well, so we had the leftovers for dinner a few days later, with some more grilled chicken breasts (this time I replaced half the vinegar with lemon juice for a little softer flavor).

We also had what was left of a bottle of Stephen Vincent's "Crimson" with the original dinner (we'd opened it the night before to drink with a little manchego cheese that caught our eye). This is one of our favorite all-purpose wines. It is a Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and is typically around $10-12. While it doesn't go well with everything (I think the manchego cheese was not the best match), it does do well for most dishes. The Syrah helps it to match with a wide range of dishes, and the cab gives it enough backbone to stand up to steak. I would imagine that this wine would age well, but we've never been able to keep a bottle around long enough! We've picked up a case of it, though it is earmarked for our wedding reception.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Last week, Z made some guacamole that I thought I'd share with everyone (AKA, Z, Jenny, and Z's parents). She was a little sketchy on the recipe details, but I believe it involved 3 avocados (mashed up), around 2 tablespoons of sour cream, a little red onion, cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, and either garlic, cayenne, or some sort of spice (this I gathered from her description of the process - admittedly, I asked her quite some time she'd made it). It turned out very nicely, and looks quite good.

Unfortunately, I'm not a huge avocado fan, so the guacamole was lost on me, but she was very happy with it, and her coworkers enjoyed it a lot as well.

During our first trip to the Twisted Vine (when we picked up the Pinot Gris I mentioned last time), I mentioned that we went a little crazy purchasing wines (you can read all about it here). One of the delicious items we got was this port from Ferreira.

The woman at the wine store recommended this as a good, inexpensive port, and it didn't disappoint. We actually opened this bottle sometime late last month, so I'll admit my memory is a little hazy on the details of its taste. I am fairly confident that it tasted like a port :). I remember being pleasantly surprised, because the last time we tried a "good deal" bottle of port, we were terribly disappointed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stone Wolf

So, in addition to cooking and food-related posts, I'll also be posting about various wines we try. Today's wine, a 2006 Stone Wolf Pinot Gris that we got for around $15:

We tried this wine at a tasting at the Twisted Vine in Grandview. They have weekly wine tastings (Thursday - Saturday, 6-9) and feature a flight of reds and a flight of whites. So far, we've enjoyed the whites the most, although admittedly, we've only gone twice. One gem we found on our first trip was this Pinot Gris. It is rare that Z and I both enjoy the same white wines (we're typically on the same page when it comes to reds). This was a clean, crisp tasting white wine that held up over the course of the evening. One of the other whites we had during the tasting started out good, but by the time it had warmed up slightly, was no longer enjoyable - this is particularly bad, considering that later in the evening, our intoxication went up, and with it the strictness of our taste preferences went down!

After the tasting, we ended up getting a bottle (along with bottles of 5 other wines) to take home (hence the picture by Z on our back porch). It went very well with dinner the following week, a panko crusted perch with dill and lemon zest in the breading, asparagus on the grill, and couscous.

We've only started to work through our other purchases from that evening, but I'll be blogging about one of the ports we picked up soon. Z has really been into ports lately, and I've been happy to go along with it. One thing I love is that with the higher alcohol content, they'll last quite a while without losing much in flavor. Of course, with the higher alcohol, less is needed anyway!

Monday, May 5, 2008

First post!

For my first post, a food that my grandparents (and other Dutch descendents of their generation) used to make. I'm not sure how exactly you spell it, but it is something like "saucissen." They are basically pig-in-a-blankets with a few modifications. First, instead of hot dogs for the "pig," these use breakfast sausage (sage sausage preferably). Second, instead of a biscuit dough for the "blanket," these use white bread dough.

I was running late from campus, so I had Z make the sausages (I usually get about 8 to a pound, she made them smaller - around 12 per pound). For the dough, I used a homemade white bread dough (flour, water, yeast, salt). After the sausages had cooled for a bit, and the dough had risen, I wrapped each piece of sausage in a thin layer of dough, being sure to get complete coverage. Then, I baked them at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. I wish I had done an egg-wash or thrown a few ice cubes in the oven to darken the crust a little and also make it a little crustier, but in general, I was happy with the results.

Here is another picture (note, all pictures are taken by Z).

I think I lost the bread dough recipe. It was an odd "wet dough." Basically, about two weeks ago, I made a dough that was wetter than normal and that didn't require kneading. I have kept in in the fridge since then, and have pulled a chunk off to bake as needed. Obviously, it is a very basic dough, but it is nice to be able to just grab the homemade dough out of the fridge, let it rise for a bit, and then bake it. I often do this with pizza dough (though not for more than a few days), but this was my first time with a regular bread dough.

welcome to the blogosphere

Well, after much encouragement from my fiancée, I've decided to start a blog. Mostly I'll write about various dinner attempts, but other stuff will surely find its way on here as well. Stay tuned for some delicious recipes...