Friday, July 16, 2010

Pizza for more than two

One shabbos way back when it came up over a meal that I like to cook, and that I owned a pizza stone and make pizza. Given that, it seems logical to assemble a bunch of friends one Saturday night and I would make pizza for everyone.

This melave malka had been in the works for months but finally came to fruition last Saturday night. People came, fun was had, and Rachel and I made pizza in the kitchen. The verdict? The people loved our pizza! In fact, some suggested we bake pies for sale during the nine days, although a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that we'd be earning less than minimum wage, so we gave up that idea.

Anyway, if you want to bake pizza and impress your friends, here's how to do it.

The recipe - use this one. A couple notes about the recipe.
- You need a scale, to weigh your ingredients. There is no other way to make sure you're putting in the right amount of stuff, specifically flour.
- You need a mixer, such as a kitchenaid. We had to borrow one because we just returned ours so we could buy a 220 volt/50 Hz one (ישראל!)
- The dough is super sticky. You're gonna be like "whaaat? it toootally needs more flour, yo!" Don't do it. Just follow what Peter says.
- He says to divide each batch into 6 pieces. I divided mine into 4 pieces, and I think I made the right call.
- For the rising, we used a gallon ziplock bag for each piece. Don't forget to oil everything up, or the pizza will stick.

Our dough sat in the fridge for about 48 hours, and tasted amazing. You could get results with 24 hours, too. If you don't do the long, slow, fridge ferment it won't taste bad but you won't get the same kind of flavor we got.

On the night you want to make the pizza, you need to heat your pizza stone up for 45 minutes to an hour at some extremely hot setting, like 450 or 500 degrees if you can. That stone needs to be HOT.

A quick word. Some people claim you don't need to use a stone, and that you don't need so much heat. I can only say that these people don't like pizza with a crispy crust. They must like eating pizza that is floppy and where the dough isn't baked. Because if you, like I, enjoy eating pizza that is baked through, crispy underneath and not burnt on top you NEED to use a pizza stone. Trust me, I've been trying to recreate pizzeria pizza at home since I was twelve. I've tried 80 gajillion different ways. It's pizza stone or bust, guys.

Next, roll out the dough. If you have a really big stone, you can roll the dough onto what's called a pizza peel (those big, wooden spatulas. I have one) and bake the pizza straight on the oven, like they do in pizzerias. My stone is small, though, so what I do is form the dough in a round pizza pie pan and put that straight on the stone. It's not as crispy as if you go straight on, but it's a close second.

This dough, by the way, is going to be soft and somewhat delicate. I don't know how to toss pizza dough, but even if you do you might not want to. It's so soft and elastic that all you need is a well floured surface to just flatten it out and work it into a crust with your hands. If you're using a pan you can just spread it out towards the edges until the pan is filled.

Oh, also, I threw some cornmeal into the bottom of the pan before putting the crust down. Gives the pizza a little extra crunch. Totally optional. If you don't use a pan you can rub some corn meal on the peel, so it gets under the crust and will crisp up on the stone.

My sauce is really simple. Chop a small onion, cook in olive oil, add salt, pepper, and garlic powder, add tomato sauce. Add brown sugar. That's it. I believe that less is more - feel free to disagree and go to town on the herbs and spices, feel free to use organic heirloom tomatoes, feel free to do whatever.

It doesn't matter what you put in your sauce, but just remember that too much sauce on the pizza will make it bad. I bad 64 ounces of sauce and I barely used a quarter of that, and I made 8 pizzas. Spread the sauce really thin. It will look meager, but you will thank me later.

Then you add cheese. Actually, if Rachel is nearby, as her to add the cheese because she will add the cheese in a uniform layer, not too much and not too little. Just right.

Then slide the pizza onto the stone and bake for, oh 7 to 10 minutes. I don't know exactly. When it's done it will look done, and you will know.


Corn chowder

When I worked at Mike's Bistro, they made this awesome corn chowder. It used sweet summer corn, and became super rich and creamy purely by solubilizing the sugars and starches in the corn itself. We tried to recreate this.

It didn't quite work. First of all, maybe we were supposed to use that white sweet corn and instead we used the yellow corn from Shoprite (17 cents each!). It tasted sweet to me, but maybe it wasn't sweet enough.

Also, I didn't follow a recipe. I shaved the kernels off the corn and then put them, along with sauteed onions and some spices, into a crock pot. Then I threw in the corn cobs and set it on low. The plan was for the water to slowly extract a succulent corn stock from the cobs and make the soup thick and rich. That didn't happen.

Again, might have been the corn, but I also blame the crock pot. Its low setting is pretty weak. For example, one time I put dried beans in there and set them at low for, like, 12 hours and the beans were still hard afterwards. Seriously? So maybe that's why we got no stock.

We ultimately saved the soup by dumping in some cream (when in doubt, add salt, sugar or fat) and zhuzhing it (uh, I mean pureeing it with our hand blender).

It was ok.

Fish and Chips

The other night, we were in the mood for fish and chips. That usually means deep fried fish and deep fried potatoes. We decided that frying both was too much, so we settled on frying the potatoes and making the fish with a tomato sauce.

Ever since I tasted khreimi, the North African fish dish with tomato sauce and cumin, I've been making it a lot. I often use tilapia, which isn't as good as when you make it with salmon or another richer fish. But tilapia is cheap and healthy (I think) so I usually end up buying it and making khreimi anyway.

I don't use a recipe, I just cook onions in a pan with garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, and then add tomato sauce. This time I added in some red wine too, because I had it lying around. Then you put the fish into the sauce and cook it with the top covered until it's done.

Then I made fries. Here is how to make fries the Right Way:

1. Cut away the round part of a potato (I used a baking potato, russet might have been a little better) until you have a long squared off potato

2. Cut into sticks

3. Wash thoroughly and dry on paper towels for at least 30 minutes. They should be BONE DRY

4. Heat oil to 325 degrees.

5. Fry them until they are pale and limp, a couple minutes. They will not be crispy... yet. This is ok.

6. Heat the oil to 375

7. Fry the suckas until they are golden brown and crispy

8. Apply salt

This takes a long time, especially if you are frying in batches, as I did. But they taste real good, and are worth it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dumplings, stir fry, broccoli

I really like dumplings. Almost every time I order Chinese, I get dumplings, and I'm surprised why I don't see more people getting them, too. They are meaty, crispy, doughy, salty and tangy all at once. I've made dumplings once before, and tonight we decided to have them again.

Dumpling dough is super simple. Put water up to boil. Put 2 cups of flour into a bowl. Add 1 cup of boiling water. Knead. You're done!

Ok, so the hard part is kneading the dough right after you pour boiling water into it. It's pretty hot. Use your own judgment when deciding when to start kneading, but don't burn yourself. When the dough is smooth, make it into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Then you mix ground beef with soy sauce, rice vinegar, some pepper, and whatever other spices you want - garlic (fresh or powdered), ginger, cumin - whatever you want. If you have scallions, chop 'em up and mix them in. Or dice an onion and mix that in. I didn't have chives, and didn't want to use up a whole onion for it. So mine came out tasting like little burgers. Not bad, but I prefer when they taste more like a meat filling, which means the meat needs to be supplemented with onions or some other kind of flavorful veggie.

To make the dumplings, pinch off little walnut sized pieces of dough and roll them with flour into a 3 or 4 inch circle. Mine were sticky, I should have added more flour to the dough. Next, dip your finger in water and wet the edge of the whole circle. Then, put 1 tablespoon of filling into the center. To close the dumpling, fold it into a crescent and pleat the edges over itself to create a pretty pattern, and a solid seal.

That doesn't make any sense in writing, so look for a video or pictures, or you can look at our final product. It's good to work in a team. I rolled the circles while Rachel filled and sealed them. She's a natural, by the way; they were such pretty little dumplings. Truly the work of an artist.

Then the question becomes: how to cook the dumplings. I will tell you the three ways I have tried.

1. Pot-stickers. This is how I made them the one other time I've made dumplings. You heat up a metal pan (non-non-stick, because it won't work on non-stick!), and plop your dumplings on it. You let them cook for a couple minutes. They will become stuck to the bottom of the pan. To unstick them, you pour maybe half a cup of water (check a pot sticker recipe to be sure) into the pan, and then clamp on a lid right away. The water unsticks the dumplings, and the steam causes them to finish cooking, and wrinkle. When they are done, they'll slide right out.

2. Steaming. I'll be honest. I was trying to recreate the dumplings I've eaten in restaurants. These dumplings are not wrinkled, so I know they aren't pot stickers. They are crispy on the outside, so I know there is some pan frying in involved. But they are also kind of chewy/doughy. I thought perhaps they are steamed, and then pan fried. I figured that maybe they could also just be steamed, and then be eaten in their extra-doughy state. I tested this on the first half of tonight's dumplings. I set up the steamer basket and everything, put them in and cooked them for 5 to 10 minutes. I learned two things. Firstly, steam is really hot, which is why it cooks stuff. But if you stick your fingers down in the basket, they will get steamed as well. Secondly, steaming causes dumplings to stick a little bit to the basket, and to generally disintegrate. Maybe 1/3 of them stayed together, but most fell apart to some extent.

3. Pan frying. This is what I did with the second half of my dumplings, and this time I hit the jackpot. Instead of frying them straight, as in pot stickers, you put a think layer of oil on the bottom. Then, you just keep them moving like any other fried thing, until they are brown all over and cooked through. And that's it, that's the classic restaurant dumpling - crispy, chewy, meaty.

We also made some baked broccoli (see older post), this time changing it up by adding soy sauce, so as to fit alongside the dumplings. We also had a stir fry of onions, green peppers, garlic and mushrooms.

Other than the fact that most of the food was too salty (a problem caused by adding both crystal salt and salty soy sauce to things), it was a veritable feast. Or as they say in Chinese... I have no idea.

Turkey coleslaw wraps, Spanish rice

Rachel and I used to eat turkey coleslaw wraps a lot when we were dating. In case the name isn't obvious enough, you take a large tortilla, add sliced turkey, add coleslaw, and you wrap it.

On Monday night, we changed it up a little bit by cooking the coleslaw. First I finely julienne'd a small onion, and sauteed it up in oil with salt. I then added the slaw, which came in a bag. It was just cabbage and carrot I believe, but the cabbage was shredded super thin, which was nice. I sauteed that for a bit; I think I added some vinegar and pepper but I'm not really sure. Won't make a huge difference either way. Then I added a dressing of mayo and dijon, stir it in, let cook for about 30 seconds, and took off the heat. Then we assembled the wraps as usual.

To make the Spanish rice, I sauteed chopped onion in olive oil and salt, then added pepper, paprika, chili powder, turmeric, garlic, and cumin. Then I added 1 chopped tomato. I put in the rice, cooked in the oil and onions for a few minutes, then poured in some water (follow your rice's directions for amounts). When it boiled, I slapped on a cover and reduced the heat. I had to add in a bit more water at the end but after the second time around, it was done.

This is maybe the second time I've made Spanish rice from scratch (i.e. not using the Near East mix). Both times, it looks great but lacks in flavor. It probably needs more salt than anything else - although it was good that Monday's rice wasn't too salty, since the next day was a fast day. Other than salt, I don't know what gives the Near East mixes more flavor. Possibly MSG, but also it probably has some dried powdered tomato product. You'd think I'd have more tomato flavor, having used a real tomato, but I'm guessing I actually had less tomato flavor. How?

Well, here's the way I see it. Powders are concentrated flavors, and therefore can out-flavor the real thing. For instance, compare fresh garlic with powdered garlic (I'm talking about the strong stuff, the talc powder stuff). The powder is not better than fresh garlic - the latter is sweet, and rich, and acidic and flavorful. But the powder packs an unbelievable garlicky punch, because it is pure garlic taste. In terms of taste per mg (unless this unit already exists, I hereby name it the Flyshack: 1 Flyshack = 1 taste/mg), garlic powder is slightly stronger than raw, crushed garlic and certainly stronger than cooked garlic.

So I'm still looking for ingredients to put some more flavor into my Spanish rice. But it's still pretty good.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Asian flavor Morningstar burgers

This is going to be a slow week for SupperForTwo. Rachel and I have social engagements for every single night this week except tonight (I know, I know, we're so popular). And tonight, we were way too tired to cook anything real so we settled on grilled cheese for Rachel and Morningstar Asian Veggie Patties for me.

Sadly, I can't really recommend these patties. They taste strongly of ginger, carrots, and zucchini. Unlike Morningstar's regular veggie burgers, these leave out the meaty soy protein and instead have the kind of filler you see in the "vegetable patty" variety of veggie burger, or the kind of food yeshivot in Israel serve as the tzamchani option.

They don't deserve a picture, even if I'd remembered to take one. Stay tuned for a return to the usual culinary standards next week...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I've finally uploaded all the pictures we've been taking. Now you go back and look at all the old posts to see their pictures!

Kind of like how in that one Waldo book at the end you needed to go back to each page and find something you weren't looking for before.

Stir fry celery and tofu

Tonight was tofu part deux.

This time, I sliced the block of tofu ahead of time (last night), and lay the slices on some paper towels on top of a plate. I then put more paper towels on top of the slices, then another plate, then weighed the whole thing down with my CIS.

Today, I sliced the slices into noodle-like strips, and marinaded them in soy sauce, rice vinegar, some leftover pineapple juice, sugar, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

To make the stir fry, I sauteed some crushed garlic in vegetable oil, then added celery sliced into mini sticks. I poured over whatever marinade was not absorbed into the tofu. I let that cook until the celery started browning on the bottom, at which point I added in the tofu. I left it cook without moving it for a while. The tofu would start to brown, I'd shake the pan up, and let it sit again. I repeated this a bunch of times until the tofu was mostly brown.

We ate it with white rice.
It was better than the last tofu we ate (more flavor), but I used a little too much vinegar in the seasonings so it was too sour. But the celery was really good, and the rice came out well. But then again, it's rice. Not so complicated.

Spinach spaghetti

This was a dish made from leftovers - leftover ricotta cheese and leftover sour cream.

Saute a whole lot of spinach (it cooks way down, like, into nothing, so use a whole bag) with onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. When cooked down, add some ricotta cheese and some sour cream. Maybe a tiny bit of water, I don't even remember.

Mix it all together, and blend it with a hand blender until it's pale green. Cook up some spaghetti, drain it and right away toss it with the green sauce.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Crispy breaded tofu, beans and rice

Last week we decided to make tofu, but we decided that we wanted to make it crispy. Now, although this may seem simple it is in fact rather difficult, as many on the internet can confirm. To get tofu crispy you have to dry it by squeezing out all the water, or heating it. Some people freeze the tofu and then thaw it, which also gets rid of some water while also imparting a meat-like consistency to the tofu.

Or, you could cheat, and coat the tofu in bread crumbs and deep fry it. That's what we did. Dip the tofu in flour, coat in egg, then dip in some bread crumbs with salt. Fry in oil. Enjoy.

On the side we had white rice and black beans, cooked with some onions and garlic. Note: apparently, some canned beans come with a lot of salt in the liquid. So our beans were really salty because I wasn't counting on that. So either don't add salt, or drain yo' beans.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


There are certain foods that I've eaten for years, thought they were ok, but knew that they could be better somehow. Tacos are the perfect example of such a food.

Tacos used to mean those hard, crunchy corn shells, filled until overflowing with some sort of fake meat, beans, lettuce, cheese, tomato, avocado, or some combination thereof. Those shells were good (they were essentially over sized corn chips), but the taco itself usually fell apart quickly. I would then have to eat the remaining salad of the above ingredients which, while still tasting good, did not feel like eating a taco should.

Then I learned that real tacos use soft tortillas, so that the filling doesn't fall out. Also, they usually taste better than those hard shells, which are often kind of stale-tasting. You can go with either corn or flour here. We tried corn once and it gave Rachel a stomach ache so we don't use them. Plus, we really like the flour ones, even though most recipes you'll read call for corn.

For the filling, we fried Morningstar crumbles with onions and some green pepper. To prepare the tortillas, I filled the bottom of a frying pan with vegetable oil, and sort of deep fried the tortillas really quickly, folding it over as it developed a crust. Each one was only in the oil for about 30 seconds tops.

The final tacos consisted of the tortilla, filling, chopped tomatoes, avocado, shredded iceberg lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce.

There's nothing like biting into a slightly crispy, slightly chewy tortilla filled with savory, meaty, sweet, cheesy, rich, crispy filling. Yum.

We also had mojito lemonade, leftover from Shabbos. To make it, make lemonade from a mix, pour in some rum, and put in a bunch of fre
sh mint leaves. We left ours in the fridge overnight, to let the alcohol extract all the minty goodness, and to allow the whole thing to chill, so that no ice would be necessary. It tasted great, but rum can do a number on you.

Portobello pizzas

This week, one of the dinners Rachel picked out was from one of our Suzie Fishbein cookbooks. These cookbooks have really pretty pictures, and are good for brainstorming. Some people claim the recipes don't always work, but I say that's subjective and depends on how you define work.

What is not subjective, though, is Suzie's copyright section on the inside cover, which contains some particularly strong language about reproducing the recipes, even if not for profit. Judging by the picture of Suzie I found on the internet, she doesn't seem like the sort of woman who would take me to court over a blog posting, but I'll try to keep things extra vague to keep Rachel happy.

So here goes: roast portobello mushrooms with onions and cheese on top. It doesn't really matter what kind of cheese you use. It doesn't really matter if you choose to add sauce or whatever. It doesn't even really matter how you cook it. It's just a portobello mushroom with toppings. Go wild!

Since portobellos are delicious, so was this dish. But they are also very watery, as was this dish. All of this can be confirmed by reading the reviews of various internet recipes for portobello pizza.

We also sliced two yams really thin (side note: information on the internet related to the difference between yams and sweet potatoes is very confusing), and baked them with olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and salt. The second batch burned a little, but they were crispy and good.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Banana bread and popcorn

Two short items:

Banana bread - I followed this recipe, using apple sauce instead of butter, and using no nuts but otherwise everything was the same. It was really moist, and we devoured it, especially since we've been depriving ourselves of carbs.

Popcorn - for a cheap, quick, and healthy way to make popcorn, measure out 1/4 or 1/3 a cup of kernels (the kind you buy in the plastic jar) into a brown paper bag. Fold the opening tightly shut (don't fold all the way down the bag.. you get the idea), and microwave on the popcorn setting. I sprayed mine with a little bit of spray oil (after the microwave; it went in totally dry) before adding salt, so that the salt would stick. Unclear if it made a difference; you could probably get away with just salt and no oil.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garlic Chicken

You have to try this garlic chicken.

Here's the background: my dad likes to make "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic", a recipe he got from the Times. His uses a whole chicken with tons of garlic cloves (still unpeeled), olive oil and the "Scarborough Fair" mix (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme). He'll bake the chicken in a clay pot.

I decided to repeat this recipe, with a few modifications. First of all, since this chicken is baked long and slow, I decided to go with dark meat only (in my case, just thighs). See, I used to like white meat cooked long and slow until it was so soft that it fell off the bone. Recently, though, my tastes have changed. I now think, as do many others, that white meat cooked for too long is dry. So if I'm going to cook it, I'll only cook it until it's just done and still juicy. In theory, I could still cook a whole chicken in pieces using a long-and-slow recipe, but take out the breasts before taking out the dark meat. But a) this is annoying and b) breasts, even when the bone is still in, are at least twice as expensive as dark meat, so I generally avoid them.

Second of all, I saw that most of the garlic chicken recipes online were calling for peeled garlic. I was concerned, because what I like about my dad's unpeeled garlic version is that the garlic, when roasted for a long time, pops out of the peel as a creamy, garlicky spread. I wasn't sure if unpeeled cloves would roast the same way, or if they would dry out. But I decided to peel them and see what happened.

Third of all, I added chopped onions and chopped white potatoes to the bottom of the pan. We had them lying around, and we often add onions and potatoes to chicken. It always comes out well and I had no doubt that it would work.

Lastly, I didn't have parsley, sage, or rosemary; only thyme was on my side. I picked up an 80 cent parsley baggie at shoprite (yes, I know I live in Elizabeth, but I can assure you it WAS parsley), but didn't feel like shelling out another $5 for sage and rosemary. I don't use them very often. Instead, I used dried basil and dried dill, which I had anyway. In this case, I figured the particular herbs didn't matter. I was using dry, rather than fresh, and I was just trying to give the dish a general "herby" flavor. As long as I had some kind of herb in there, I knew it would do the trick. (This rule would not work if your dish had a distinct herb flavor. For example, if you are making fresh basil pesto, you can't use anything else. And if you want a distinctly dill flavor in a soup or tzatziki, you need dill. You get the idea).

So here's the final recipe: chopped onion and white potatoes in a Pyrex; add like 2 whole heads of peeled garlic cloves (plus the root part was snipped off) which have been lightly fried in about 1/4 cup of olive oil (pour the oil in too); rub chicken thighs with a little olive oil; sprinkle on your dry herbs; place them on top of the veggies; splash some white wine over each thigh and let it run down to the bottom. Bake at 350 for about 2 hours, or until you like it.

We've made some good chicken in our day, but this was really good. The chicken was moist and fall off the bone, the skin beautifully crisp and flavorful. The potatoes and onions had a ton of flavor, and were addictive. The garlic cloves were just as creamy as I'd hoped, perfect for spreading on bread. Major winner.

The rest of our Shabbat recipes were repeats from before - crispy broccoli, stir fried zucchini, and deli sandwiches for lunch.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stir fry with rice

Tonight we made a great stir fry. First, I prepared the following:
- 1 thinly sliced onion
- 3 pressed cloves of garlic, mixed with garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne and coriander
- mushrooms cut into small chunks
- 1 diced red pepper
- 1 package of tofu, cubed, mixed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, salt and garlic powder

To make the stir fry, I first cooked the onions over high heat, in vegetable oil, for about a minute. Then I added the garlic, and cooked for another 30 seconds. Then, I added the pepper and then the tofu. I added the mushrooms last. To the whole thing I added some more soy sauce, some more rice vinegar and a little bit of sugar.

We had it with rice. Maybe not the most sophisticated stir fry I've ever had, but it had a lot of flavor - salt, sweet, savory, spicy.


Last night we had salad for dinner. Nothin' special, pretty much the same salad we had last week, the one with veggie burgers.

But this time Rachel made croutons. She cut old challah into cubes, gave them a quick spritz with vegetable oil and tossed them in salt, pepper and garlic. Then, she baked them at 275 for about 15 minutes.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spanish risotto and zucchini

I kind of made up Spanish risotto. To make regular risotto, you saute a chopped onion in butter, then add dry risotto rice, then add water or stock a little bit at a time, letting the rice absorb the stock bit by bit, until all your stock is used up and your rice is super creamy. For more details, consult the Internet.

So to make Spanish risotto I chopped an onion as well as a green pepper. I meant to use the red pepper we bought but I spaced out and used the green pepper instead. Spacing out is a common trait among superior chefs.

Anyway, I then added the rice as usual, along with some garlic, pepper, paprika and oregano. Instead of using stock, though, I used 3 cups of water mixed with a 15 oz can of tomato sauce. At the end I threw in a couple shakes of vinegar, and seasoned the rice to my liking. End result - creamy rice with a kick of tomato and pepper. And enough for lunch the next day, too.

To make zucchini, I just sliced 2 zucchinis into rounds and sauteed them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Keep 'em moving or else they'll stick to the pan. They were savory. No leftovers from these babies.


For Memorial Day, we had burgers for dinner. First, though, we made fried plantain because we've always wanted to try it. And we live in Elizabeth, NJ, whose grocery stores stock ample supplies of both green and yellow plantains, not to mention dozens of other Hispanic ingredients (yucca and various other roots, dried fish, something called Mojo sauce...).

We sliced and deep fried a yellow plantain, and sprinkled salt on top. It was ok. The taste was kind of bland, with a hint of banana. I thought plantains weren't supposed to taste like banana even though they look like bananas, but this one did. We tried dipping them in hot sauce, but that didn't do much. Apparently we got the sweet kind, so maybe next time we'll try the green kind, or something.

On to the burgers. I finely diced an onion and mixed it into 20 oz of ground beef (80% lean) with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. I would have preferred to buy chuck steaks and ground the meat myself but please, people, we're on a budget, ok?

I weighed out the burgers into four 5 oz patties (I'm not OCD, I just have a kitchen scale and love using it). Then I cooked them on a hot CIS for a couple minutes on each side. I tried testing the internal temp with my probe thermometer, but it was only registering about 120, and I was looking for 150-160. But looking at my burgers I thought that they were close to done, and I knew if I left them on for much longer they would be dry and burnt. So I took them off and we ate them. They weren't so pink inside but that might have been because of the seasoning. We're still not sure if they were cooked all the way, but we're here still so I guess it turned out ok.

Next time, I will make them wider and thinner. Oh, also - we made corn on the cob. Apparently sweet corn is in season, somewhere. I thought corn season wasn't till July/August but I guess not. And at our Shoprite, each ear is 17 cents. Doesn't get better than that.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Shabbat - Chicken nuggets and more

This past Shabbat, we were hosting both Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch. For dinner we made chicken and potatoes, sushi, green beans and salad. For lunch, we made chicken nuggets, cornbread, spinach bourekas, broccoli, coleslaw, and more salad.

Chicken and potatoes

This is one of our favorites. The way it works is you build three layers in a Pyrex pan (or any other pan). First, you slice onions and make a layer of those. Next, you slice potatoes and make a layer of those. Lastly, you arrange chicken (dark meat works best) on top. Then you pour some kind of sauce over the whole thing, and bake it until the chicken is falling off the bone. [note: if you cook white meat this long, it will dry out. That's why we use dark meat]

Usually I make a ketchup based sauce, but this time I experimented. I mixed up a whole bunch of savory spices (see the steak post) and rubbed them all over the chicken. There were a TON of spices on the chicken. Then I put the chicken in a ziplock bag, poured red wine in and sealed it in the fridge overnight. The next day we took it out, lay the chicken on top, mixed more spices (mostly mustard seed) with the wine to make a sauce, poured it over and baked it.

The chicken itself was pretty good and flavorful, but the potatoes and onions were so loaded with mustard and other spices that they were pretty much inedible. Lesson learned - don't put too many spices in the potatoes.


Nothing special here. I made sushi rice, put it on some nori, filled it with mock shrimp and avocado, and wrapped it up. Making good sushi has nothing to do with recipe and everything to do with dexterity. I'm getting better at it, but I'm still not so good. One thing I will try to do next time is wash the rice better. I think my rice is too sticky.

Green beans

I sauteed some onions and garlic, and then added green beans with some water. I wasn't paying attention and the water boiled away and the beans started to burn, but they still tasted ok. Pay attention to your beans is the lesson of this story.


We go for pretty basic salads - iceberg, tomato, cuke, maybe some carrot. Our big thing is to throw in some of those salty Israeli pickles. Give it a try.


This was the same as in this post, minus the cheese. I didn't burn it this time, so it was good.

Chicken nuggets

We chopped up chicken breasts into small pieces. We dredged each piece in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs - we flavored both the flour and breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, chili powder, etc. We often then fry them, but this time we baked them.

When you make breaded things, you often find that your hands start getting caked with the breading. To avoid this, do the following: use your right hand to drop the chicken into the flour (but don't touch the flour with your right hand). With your left hand, cover the chicken with flour until coated, then shake off the excess flour. Then drop the chicken into the egg (but don't touch the egg with your left hand). Then, cover the chicken with egg using your right hand. Then, drop the eggy chicken into the breadcrumbs (but don't touch the breadcrumbs with your right hand). Roll the chicken around in the breadcrumbs with your left hand, shake off the excess, and set aside. This way, your left hand only touches dry ingredients, and your right hand only touches wet ingredients.

Then we usually make a "buffalo" sauce to go on top. If you were making buffalo wings, the classic buffalo wing sauce consists of one part hot sauce (like Frank's) to one part margarine, plus a little salt and sugar to taste. We replaced the regular hot sauce with a mixture of two Goya hot sauces - ancho and chipotle (again, see previous post). They were great, and we made a ton so we had leftovers, too.


I followed some generic recipe on the internet - mostly corn meal with a little flour, some baking powder, salt, sugar, etc. They call for buttermilk, which I tried replacing with soy milk. Not the same; buttermilk is really thick and flavorful so it's hard to replace. I added chopped jalapenos to my cornbread batter. Then, I heated up my CIS (cast iron skillet - keep an eye out for this abbreviation in future posts) in the oven with some veg oil (2 tablespoons). Then, I sliced some soft salami real thin and fried them until they were crispy. I took the CIS out of the oven, and poured the batter right in. I topped it off with the crispy salami and baked until done.

The cornbread wasn't great. It was kind of hard and crumbly. Maybe that's just how cornbread is supposed to taste. Next time I make cornbread, though, I'm going to add more wheat flour and more sugar. Truth is, though, I had to substitute soy milk for buttermilk, and you can't really expect to get the same results.

Spinach bourekas

I sauteed some onion and garlic and then added a pound of fresh spinach. That stuff cooks down like nobody's business. I then poured the whole mess into a food processor, chopped it up and added 2 eggs. I took a sheet of puff pastry and, while it was still pretty hard, broke it into 3 pieces along the seam that it comes with. Then, when each of those pieces thawed, I rolled each one out so that it became much wider and thinner (Z axis) - to do this you need to have flour on hand for the dough and your rolling pin. Then I filled each long rectangle with spinach, covered it over and pinched it. I now had 3 very long bourekas. I cut them into squares to serve.

The bourekas came out very tasty. Next time I would leave out the eggs, because it made the filling too runny. But I highly recommend rolling out puff pastry whenever using it to house some kind of filling, be it dessert, meat or vegetable. Just use flour.


Rachel made a light mayo and vinegar dressing for the coleslaw, which we picked up in the bag form, because we didn't feel like shredding cabbage and carrot by hand, but you could if you wanted I suppose.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eggs, Mushrooms and Peppers

Usually I'm the one who cooks dinner. But every now and then it's Rachel who puts on the chef's hat. This is all the better for me, because it means I can chill out and relax, plus I get to have Rachel's cooking, which is fantastic.

We were going to make quesadillas but we were once again foiled by mold, this time on the tortillas. Instead we had scrambled eggs with cheese, and a huge pan of sauteed onions, mushrooms and green peppers. With a little toast on the side and some dashes of chipotle hot sauce (is there anything this stuff won't go on?) our hunger was put to rest.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Salad with Veggie Burgers

After steak night and two dinners out, we were in serious need of something light and healthy. So we made a salad. But we were also hungry so we put in Morningstar burgers (is there any other brand? No. There is not.)

The salad consisted of shredded iceberg, diced tomato and cuke (de-seeded of COURSE), toasted, diced Morningstars and cheese. We bought Feta but it smelled weird, so we used shredded mozz.

For a dressing we've become partial to mixing mayo with hot sauce - the Goya ones with wooden caps and some Mexican hechsher. We had ancho and chipotle flavor, and we mixed both in.

I was ravenously hungry and didn't think this salad would fill me up, but it did. To be fair, I also ate half an apple and a some carrots, but still. Before the salad, I was threatening to dip into the ice cream, and I DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO when I was done. Because I was actually full. I speak the truth.

Although I did sneak a spoonful of whipped cream before bed... I'm only human. Sorry Rachel.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rib Steak

It was my birthday last night, and we made rib steaks.

Oh yeah.

There isn't too much to rib steak. It's a pretty delicious cut of meat. Since I don't have a grill, I used a cast iron skillet and an oven. You get the skillet real hot over high heat (takes a couple minutes, because the iron is so thick), add a little canola oil to coat the bottom, and put in your steaks (sizzle sizzle). Wait about 1 minute and flip the steaks. Wait another minute or 2 and then put the skillet into a 400 degree oven (use mitts!). Wait another 7 minutes or so, and your steak is perfect. Just take it out, let it rest and it's good to go.

This time, I did something different. I usually avoid flavoring rib steaks with anything other than salt and pepper. But this time I decided to do the opposite - and go all-out Bobby Flay. By which I mean mix together every single spice I own (seriously, look at any of Bobby Flay's rubs or bbq sauces, and you'll see that is his basic strategy).

Ok, not every spice. Spices come in categories. You have your sweet baking spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and cardamom. And you have herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, etc. And then you have the savory spices - garlic and onion, chili powders of all forms (which includes paprika, "chili powder", cayenne pepper, and many others), black pepper, cumin, coriander, and mustard powder.

(There are more, but the above is what I have in my pantry).

The Flay method generally consists of mixing together every single savory spice and throwing in a sweet baking spice, usually ginger. I left out the ginger this time, but I threw together all of the above mentioned savory spices, plus salt. And I rubbed it all over my steaks just prior to tossing them in the skillet.

I also made a "steak sauce" by tossing chopped onions and more of the aforementioned spices into the skillet after I took the steaks out. I also added some oregano, which I didn't put on the steak. Then, I added in two forms of acid - vinegar and wine. I started with some ancho chili sauce, which is vinegar based, and added in a little regular wine vinegar. Then I added in enough red wine to sort of coat the skillet, and let the whole thing cook down a bit. It was fanstastic.

I also made some spicy potatoes by dicing potatoes and onions and frying them with more of the spices above. I didn't tend the skillet well and the bottom of the hash burned terribly. But it was still pretty good. Potatoes fried with onions and savory spices tend to be.

Tuna and Egg Salad

If you're like me, the mere mention of these two foods triggers bad thoughts, like disappointing brown bag lunches and mediocre shalish shudas pickin's. When someone asks you "what do you want to eat?", tuna fish and egg salad will inevitably be listed as options, and you will inevitably say "pass".

Why? Probably because most of the times you've eaten them it's been out of some giant tub in a school or camp cafeteria. Not a lot of thought was put into it, and it came out dull and unexciting.

The truth is, though, tuna and egg salad get a bad rap. They should be eaten more often, for the following two reasons:
1. They are cheap
2. They are good meat alternatives for those who don't want to eat that much meat (after all meat is expensive and not that good for you).

I found that, when you take a few simple steps to make these two dishes a little more sophisticated and exciting, you find yourself eating them - and looking forward to them - more and more often.

Let's start with tuna. Plain tuna with mayo is filling, but bland. I start by adding mustard; this alone will take your tuna into a whole new dimension. Throw in some pickle relish (or chopped sour pickles if you don't like sweet), or pickled peppers and you've got a sandwich that's rich, satisfying, sweet, tangy and spicy all at once. Really, anything you find in the pickle isle of the supermarket is a good candidate for tuna (jarred peppers, olives, capers, etc.)

With egg salad, I usually go with savory/spicy. Besides salt and pepper, garlic is a must. In fact I often just stop there - salt, pepper and garlic (and, of course, some mayo). The garlicy version puts regular egg salad to shame. But don't stop there, throw in chili powder, or cayenne for heat. Throw in hot sauce, or bbq sauce. Try using garam masala. Try sun dried tomatoes and basil. The possibilities are endless.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pierogies with Beer and Onion Sauce, and Crispy Broccoli

This one's pretty simple. I used potato-cheese pierogies, which you can pan fry straight out of the freezer until they are done.

For the sauce, I sautéed onions in butter and olive oil. I didn't go all the way to carmelization because I was feeling impatient. (To caramelize onions, cook them medium low for like 45 minutes). I added some Dijon mustard and beer (Sam Adams honey porter). I cooked out a bunch of the beer, and then tossed in the pierogies and served.

To make crispy broccoli, chop up broccoli into bite size pieces (I cut the stem part extra thin). Mix it in a bowl with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, some cayenne if you like that, and a little bit of lemon juice. Bake on a cookie sheet until they are shrunken and crisp. Oh yeah.


- It's hard to mess up store bought pierogies and they taste great

- Crispy broccoli was delicious. Rachel thought there was too much cayenne. I agreed, but only sort of because it is girly to say that something is too spicy.

- Pretty cheap dinner. The whole thing was for sure under $10, closer to $5


- Potato-cheese pierogies are not healthy. Broccoli is healthy, but this broccoli had a lot of olive oil in it. Better than vegetable oil I guess.

- Whenever I cook with beer, I realize that I like the idea of cooking with beer more than the actual result. The hops in the beer made the sauce very bitter. Alton Brown did a show about cooking with wine and talked about how certain wines are good for cooking because they won't leave bitter flavors (in wine, they come from the tannins). Maybe he said something about beer too, but I forget. I guess if you cook with beer, try an ale rather than a lager. That is pure speculation; I haven't actually tried it.

Falafel Night

Since it was Yom Yerushalayim, we decided to make falafel.

I've never made falafel before, and since Alton Brown has never done a show on falafel, I didn't know how to do it right. All I knew was that you used chickpeas and fried them. I consulted the Internet, which told me that falafel boils down to the following:

  1. You can't use canned chickpeas, you have to soak them (some people put baking soda in the water)
  2. You can either use just chickpeas, or a combo of chickpeas and fava beans
  3. Your falafel dough can either have flour, or have no flour

All the rest is seasoning.

I soaked a bag of chickpeas overnight, and ground them up in the food processor with onions, garlic, salt, parsley, cumin, and maybe some other stuff. Doesn't really matter. Some people put in cilantro but I don't like it.

The "batter" was way too loose; no way was it going to stick together in the fryer, so I chose to add a couple tablespoons of flour. This got the batter to stick together, but it was way too doughy.

I also made the pita from scratch. I followed a recipe I found on Youtube with some woman making it in her kitchen (that's all I remember). It was 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of water, yeast and sugar. Let rise for 1 hour, roll into circles, let rise for another 20 minutes, bake.

My pitas did not form pockets. I blame this on not kneading the dough. The woman on the video didn't either, but I should have known better. You always knead dough. My pitas ended up kind of hard and not chewy. They weren't terrible, but they were not great.

In conclusion, I will do a few things differently next time. First of all, I didn't put enough water over the chickpeas when I set them up to soak overnight. In the morning, they had soaked it all up and I had to add more. So have plenty of water for them to soak in. Second of all, I'm going to try putting in 1 tsp of baking soda into the soaking water. Hopefully these two things will make the dough sticky enough to fry without adding flour.

And as for the pitas – I'm going to knead the dough! And bake them on a cookie sheet set on top of a baking stone, not directly on the baking stone like I did this time. That way, I can let them rise those last 20 minutes on the cookie sheet itself, and I won't have to transfer them.

Welcome to Supper for Two

This blog is about two people who cook and eat supper together. Actually, the blog is less about the people and more about the supper.

Without further ado,

… Supper for Two