Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Three Bean Chili

First prepared December 25, 2009. A Family Favorite and SIGNATURE DISH. A few things distinguish the recipe: Use of three beans, the high meat content, large meat pieces, and low tomato content. Looks pretty, is delicious, and packs a wallop nutritionally.
1 T vegetable oil
2 lbs lean ground beef 
2 c yellow onions, coarsely diced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 T ground cumin
1 t Mexican oregano
1/4 t (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
2 T tomato paste
1/2 c dry red wine
1 can each (15 to 19 oz) black, pinto, and cannellini beans, undrained (Bush™ is good)
1 7-oz can chopped green chilies (Ortega™ is good)
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
about 1 c tomato juice (or water) as needed to thin
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers in a heavy dutch oven. Brown meat, about 8 minutes. Cut it into 1/2 inch lumps as it cooks. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until clear but not brown. Add the herbs and tomato paste, and lightly cook them. Add the wine and reduce until evaporated. Add the tomatoes, chilies, and beans, scrapping the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Add the juice (or water) to adjust the thickness. Simmer covered for two hours, gently stirring every 1/2 hour or so. Season to taste. We like some heat but add more red pepper flakes if you prefer hotter. Yields 6 to 8 servings, over steamed rice or boiled spaghetti.
Toppings: finely-chopped sweet or red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, Louisiana hot sauce, and tomato salsa all step up the taste.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Microwave Rice

Yields a product similar to a rice cooker.
2-1/2 c water
1-1/2 c long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 t salt
Place the ingredients in a deep, microwavable container (e.g., a 46 oz margarine tub). Cover loosely. Microwave (1250 watts) on high until it boils, and then on 20% power for 12 minutes more. Open cautiously. Fluff with a fork. Let stand 10 minutes uncovered to cool and dry. Yields 4 cups (about 800 g).

Baked Flounder and Rice

Fish, Leeks, Onions, & Rice Ready to Serve
Conceived and first prepared December 23, 2009. A Family Favorite.
12 oz fresh or frozen and defrosted flounder filets, cut into portions
1 c leeks, julienned
1 medium onion, thinly sliced through the poles
1 t dry oregano
1/4 t crushed red pepper
2 T olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 T butter
2 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf
1/4 c Spanish olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 c Peppadew® peppers, coarsely chopped (see Note)
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 c chicken stock
4 c steamed white rice
Heat oil and butter until sizzling in a 10-inch skillet. Add leeks and onions, spices and bay leaf. Cook on medium heat about 10 minutes until softened and beginning to color. Remove the bay leaf. Add the olives, peppers and capers and warm through. Spread the rice in the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch glass baking dish, arrange the fish on top, sprinkle on some olive oil. and distribute the sauteed vegetables over the fish and rice. Squeeze on lemon juice, scatter zest, and pour stock around. Bake uncovered in 300 degree F (150 C) oven for about 40 minutes until fish flakes. Serves 4 to 6.

Peppadew® peppers
[Photographer Unknown]
Note From Wiki: Peppadew® is a brand of sweet piquant pepper, a patented cultivar of Capsicum baccatum, grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa. They are sweet, fruity, and pleasantly warm. Sold seeded (to reduce the heat) and lightly pickled. About 1100 Scovill units. They are sold in jars and at food store deli bars. Substitute sweet or hot cherry peppers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

REVIEW Bergama Cafe Durham NC [Closed August, 2013]

Bergama Cafe
3520 Hillsborough Road
Durham NC
(919) 383-0300‎

In a word, delish!
3.5/5 stars - $$ (to use Greg Cox 's shorthand ratings)

Recorded 12-17-09

[After dragging myself to the finish line on a very burdensome writing project last night, I was exhausted, unkempt, grizzled, and hungry. I took son Jon to Tommies for smokes and a Coke, and easily determined we were both hungry, and a Middle Eastern supper at a new neighborhood restaurant was appealing. About 8:30 we were seated. The place was empty. Sad, and so unfitting. They have wonderful food and are lovely and interesting people. He's from Chechnya  and his wife is from Turkey.}

The venue: Was a Burger King for many years on heavily traveled Hillsborough Rd near I-85 and US 15-501. Was converted to a "serious" sit down place a few years ago, and has yet to foster a place for a great restaurant, although the need is real for that part of town.

Me: Dolmas and Roasted Potatoes with vegetable gravy - Excellent $12, including sides. Glass of Sutter Home White Zin, $4.25,
$20 with tax and tip.
Sides Pizza Bread Sticks/herb-seasoned EVOO - V. Good
Salad Bar One Trip - Limited but Excellent

The stuffed cabbage rolls (5 were presented) were lovely, as were the roasted potatoes. The whole was covered with a flavorsome gravy of cooked cabbage, onions, and the pan gravy. The seasonings were subtle, peppery, and aromatic. The salad bar was limited in offerings but all the ingredients were fresh and crisp. Very tasty ranch dressing. The bread sticks were baked from pizza dough, and so were nicely chewy. A plate of flavored oil on the side for dipping was provided. More bread was offered later in the meal. Service was friendly and attentive (we were initially the only diners) although our waitress seemed new and knew little about the menu.

Wine list (on a Corona placard!) is brief and laughable with the odd surprise. Greek vin ordnaire at $8/glass. "Straight from Greece" it says. Where else for Greek wine?

Jon: Gyro platter. Very attractively sliced and folded roast meat, arranged on a bed of grilled pitas. $10.95;
$16.00 with tax and tip. Sides: Bread sticks, salad bar, rice pilaf,  steamed vegetable medley - Jon pronounced it all excellent. He drank ice water. A Best Buy.

This place needs some changes to succeed. It would be a shame if tasty ethnic fare doesn't succeed. Bergama needs menu design advice; a better web presence; a better street impact to attract diners from heavy traffic on street. Better wine list. Ethnic clarity of offerings. Pizza? Italian? Greek? Turkish? "Middle Eastern". Menu needs to educate better.

Home Fries

Recorded 2-10-07

2 lbs Russet potatoes, whole
2 tsp salt
1/4 medium onion, blossom-cut into thin pieces
1/8 cup low-fat margarine
1/8 cup canola oil
onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper as seasonings
Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, add salt, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow boil for 15 minutes. Test with a sharp knife. Potatoes should be part-cooked. Turn off heat and let stand covered 20 minutes. This lets the heat penetrate evenly. Pour off hot water and shock with a few changes of cold water until not too hot to handle. Slip off skins under running cold water, dry, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Heat fat in a skillet over medium-high heat and add potatoes and onions, and seasonings to taste. Turn every few minutes, taking care not to burn them. They should brown and crisp. Fry about 15 minutes total.

Yields four generous servings. Loaded with calories! Goes well with poached eggs (see recipe).

Perfectly Poached Eggs

Recorded February 2, 2007. Adapted from Julia Child's first TV series on PBS. A family favorite and SIGNATURE DISH.
12 inch non-stick saucepan with 1 1/2 inches water
1 oz white vinegar
2 eggs, at room temperature (freshest possible, USDA grade AA if available)
English muffin split, toasted, and buttered [Thomas™ is best]

Add the vinegar to the water and over medium heat bring to a fast simmer. Crack an egg carefully into a small bowl with a flat edge. Lower the edge the bowl under the water and gently tip the egg into the hot water. Repeat for the other egg. Let them both sit undisturbed in the hot water until the whites begin to set up. Gently loosen with a spatula so they are floating. Spoon hot water over the eggs to help them cook on top. After the whites are set and the yolks are beginning to thicken (about 3 minutes), lift each egg out with a slotted spoon. Blot bottom and top with a clean towel. Put a muffin (or biscuit) half on top of the egg and holding it in place with the free hand, invert and place on the serving plate. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serves one. May be doubled but don't overcrowd pan. Goes well with a side of home fries.

Eggs Benedetto

Prepared and recorded December 18, 2009. Substitutes prosciutto de Parma for Canadian bacon, and uses a commercial, but authentic, Hollandaise.
Eggs Benedetto with a side of Hash Browns
2 Perfectly Poached Eggs
English muffin, split and well toasted
butter, softened
prepared Hollandaise sauce (Trader Joe™)
1 thin slice prosciutto
Start the muffin toasting and the water boiling. Prepare two poached eggs. Warm the prosciutto in small skillet in a little water to rinse out some salt. Assemble stacks when eggs are done: muffin, lightly buttered; then a small pile of prosciutto; then an egg; top with a generous covering of Hollandaise gently warmed in the microwave.

Brandy Alexander

Recorded December 18, 2009. Made according to the recipe of Merry's mother. First experienced circa 1961 in their living room in Pleasant Ridge, MI, as an annual yuletide wassail.
150 ml (about 5-1/3 oz) each:
cheap but decent domestic brandy (e.g., E&J™, Christian Brothers™)
creme de Cocoa (cheap is fine)
half and half (fresh and sweet)
Gently mix the liquids together in a one-pint bottle and chill before serving or shake with ice to dilute alcohol content and reduce the sweetness. Yields 4 4-ounce servings. Caution: These are not chocolate milk!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Braised Cabbage

Recorded 1-03-07 (at long last)
1 small head of green or red cabbage (about 2-1/2 lbs),
  quartered, cored, and cut into 1 inch pieces

1/3 cup low-fat soft margarine
salt, pepper, paprika
Put cabbage in a large skillet, cover half way with water and salt lightly. Cover and bring to a moderate boil. Boil 8 minutes and drain well in a colander. Return to pan over medium-low heat, add margarine and seasonings to taste. Mix and braise uncovered slowly about 12 to 14 minutes until tender, turning occasionally.

Good as a side to many dishes. Can be added to vegetable soups or used in veggie burritos or added to buttered egg noodles.

Serves 6

Ben's Guacamole

Recorded January 28, 2006. This should be made in a molcajete, a large Mexican mortar and pestle, rough hewn from basalt. Other tools, such as Thai products carved from granite may be suitable but a smooth surface will not work. Buy a molcajete at most any tienda Mexicana that sells groceries. It can be used to make a wide range of salsas and marinades. About $15, or more for a fancy one. Hand-carved lava and last a lifetime — what a value! An alternative approach is described here.

2 ripe Haas avocados
2 cloves garlic
2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 T whole cumin seed
1 fistful cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 small red onion finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded, chopped and drained

salt to taste

Start with tomatoes to give them time to drain.  Halve avocados, remove pit and scoop out flesh. Place it in a bowl, immediately squeeze lime juice over, stir to coat. Add cumin to molcajete and grind completely.  Repeat with jalepeno, cilantro and garlic in that order (makes it easier). Now add avocado one half at a time.  Mash them completely. As the bowl fills it will become harder to mash effectively. This is OK; it will give the guacamole a more "homemade" texture. If you are making this recipe with more than 2-3 avocados, simply transfer to a bowl and mash the next avocados. Season with salt and residual lime juice to taste. Add the onions and tomatoes. Make sure to get as much juice out of the tomatoes as possible, as it will turn the mixture brown. You can serve right away, but it is better if you give it an hour to meld. Cover with plastic wrap so that there is no air between the dip and the wrap. Serve with chips and limes. Serves 2-6.