Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Chicken & Eggplant Kebabs with Persian Style Rice and a Mint Yogurt Sauce

OK, so this recipe is fun for me to share because I learned a few things by making it.
1. Brining chicken breasts should be mandatory. When I took my first bite of this dish I would have sworn that it was dark meat chicken and not breast. As brining promises, it made the chicken SO moist and tender. I think I may have even smiled with that first bite. And 2. If you boil rice like pasta it will come out perfect every time. This is coming from a guy who is really really bad at cooking rice. Even when I use my rice cooker it comes out too soft and starchy.
Although this is clearly a recipe that can be swapped out in so many ways, I found that the Eggplant and the yogurt sauce went really well together. If you want to just make Eggplant Kebabs it could be equally satisfying as a dinner.
First I'm going to talk to you about the rice. I really have no idea if this is a Persian method of making rice, but when I first saw this method on T.V. the other day Martha Stewart was making a Persian dish, and then when I Youtubed it, most the videos were of Persian people making some variation of that same dish Martha made. So, I'm calling Persian. Basically it's just rice boiled like pasta. All the recipes I saw were made with Bismati rice. I however used good old Uncle Ben's because that's what I had.
I filled a large sauce pan with water, added a little Olive Oil, some salt, and a big pinch of dried Parsley. When it came to a boil I dumped a cup of rice in the water, and let it boil until soft. Strangely I saw some recipes that said it takes 10-12 minutes and some that said 15-20 minutes. My rice took 22 minutes. However long yours takes, the next step I think is the important one. Pour the rice into a strainer and then let it sit for at least 10 minutes. I covered mine to keep it warm while it sat. After that you have perfectly cooked rice. Fluffy, firm, and not starchy at all.
Now, I know I'm working backwards here, but I am so happy I can make good rice now, that I just had to start there. But when you are ready to make this dish you need to start with the sauce. If you can, you will want to make this sauce the day before. I had a little this morning from last night's left overs, and the flavor got way better.
If you can't make it the day before, a few hours will do.
You'll need a couple hours to brine the chicken too, so keep that in mind.
For the sauce you'll need Yogurt, a little lemon juice, a few sprigs of fresh Thyme, about 10 Mint leaves, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika.
Depending on how much you need to make will determine how much of everything to use. I used about 2 cups of Yogurt and about 2 big table spoons of chopped Thyme and Mint combined. I added the juice of half a lemon, and seasoned with all the other ingredients slowly until I reached a flavor I was looking for. You'll want the sauce to be light and delicate. It should compliment your Kebabs -Not overpower them.
Now it's time to brine the chicken. I cubed up a package of chicken breasts and soaked them in slated water for 2 hours. I didn't measure out the salt to water ratio, I just made the water taste like the ocean, and that seemed to work. Just make sure all the chicken is covered with the solution.
Next up, when it's time to take the chicken out of the brine, rinse it off well and dry all the cubes with a paper towel. Then I coated them with Olive Oil, a tiny bit of salt (the chicken will be salty from the brine), pepper, garlic powder, and some more paprika. Mix it all together and set the chicken aside. Now that I had it, I would add some heat too. Just a little, so if you have it, maybe add a tiny bit of Cayenne pepper.
Next cube your Eggplant about the same size as your chicken cubes. I used 2 baby eggplant instead of the large kind. I wanted to make sure each piece had skin on it so they would hold up to being grilled and not fall off the skewers. After they were cubed I drizzed them with Olive oil and seasoned with just salt and pepper.
Now it's time to skewer. I used wooden skewers that had been soaking in water since I made the Yogurt sauce. That's important so they don't burn on the grill. If you have metal skewers they will work just as well.
Now just grill 'em up and your done. Just about 5 minutes on each side on a really hot grill and you should be good to go. It will really depend on the size of the chicken and Eggplant cubes you've made.
Plate by making a bed of rice on a plate, place a few of the kebabs on the rice and drizzle liberally with the yogurt sauce.
You're gonna love it. I promise!! And like I mentioned before, this is a recipe that can be changed up a thousand different ways. The yogurt sauce especially. I think dill would work well, and maybe even Tarragon.  Also beef or lamb instead of chicken could be great as well. It's up to you really.

Again I would love to hear from you. If you make it, let me know what you think. Or, if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

Enjoy your dinner and don't forget to add the love!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shrimp Avocado and Mango Salad

It's been a year since the last time I blogged. I don't understand it myself, so don't ask me to explain. Just know that I am hoping to get back in the swing of things, and this easy and healthy dinner I made last night seems like a great way to start things off again!
So this combo of ingredients came to me while I was driving home from work yesterday and when I came home to look for a recipe it seems that I am not as clever as I thought I was. There were about 300 recipes out there and they were all different. I decided I would just make it the sway I wanted to. So here is my version of a Shrimp Avocado and Mango Salad. And how it's been since my first post all those years ago, this is a no recipe, recipe made with tons of love!
These measurements will make about 4 small salads appetizer size, or 2 big dinner size salads.

Here's what you need;
2 Mangos
2 Avocados
Shrimp. I used about a pound of large shrimp. You need like 18-20. Or as many as you want.
Olive Oil
Cayenne Pepper
A large Lemon
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Flat Leaf Parsley
Any soft greens you like. I used organic sweet baby greens.
Shredded red cabbage (they have small bags of pre shredded red cabbage at any store. Get those)
Salt & Pepper

Start early with the shrimp. Clean/peel/de-vain/ de-tail them and place in a large bowl. To the shrimp add a table spoon of chopped garlic, a little onion powder, a little cumin, a little (or a lot) of cayenne pepper, a little paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour a few table spoons of olive oil over that and mix that all together.  Cover the shrimp and let that sit in the fridge as long as you can. At least an hour.

When meal time gets closer make the salad dressing. This one you've seen me make 100 times already. It's just a simple lemon vinaigrette. The juice of a lemon mixed with 3 equal parts olive oil. Salt and pepper, garlic powder and a bit of chopped flat leaf parsley. Whisk that all together and adjust the taste to your liking.

Now peel and dice all of the Avocados and Mangos. I like it so that the dices are not uniform. The different sizes add texture in my opinion, but if you prefer, make all the dices the same size for a prettier ascetic. Put your dices in a big mixing bowl and pour some of the dressing over them to keep the Avocado green. On top of that add a couple of handfuls of the chopped Red Cabbage and on that, add your bag of greens. Place that bowl aside or back in the fridge while you grab the Shrimp out.

Now heat up your grill, grill pan, or sauté pan. Nice and hot! I used the outdoor grill because you know I LOVE to grill.
Cook the Shrimp whichever way you have chosen. It'll be quick. About 2 mins on each side, and then remove from the heat.

Toss the salad together adding more of the dressing as needed and plate. Then add the Shrimp on top and serve. The salad will be bright and cold with a little sweetness from the Mango, while the Shrimp will be warm and have a little kick from the Cayenne. All together it will let your mouth know summer is on it's way!!

Please try this and leave a comment below telling me what you think! More comments may mean more posts! :)

XOXO -Paul

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grilled Flat Bread.Feeding my new grill obsession

This past weekend P2's cousin and his partner gave us a grill. Yup.. GAVE us a brand new grill!!! Since that day almost everything I have eaten has been grilled. I know that's probably not the healthiest choice in food preparation, but right now I can't help myself.  I'm a city boy, so I have never actually owned a grill.   
Soon I hope to share the ridicules  joy I have found in brining meat before grilling it, but for now I am going to share the pleasure of the grilled flat bread.
If you are unfamiliar with flat bread, it's Pizza. I am not sure what why it's cool to say flat bread, but in the past few years, that's just the way it is.
So Clearly there not much to know about in term of how to make a grilled flat bread (store bought by the way). What I can tell you is more advise than anything else.
I found success in having the grill very hot on one side and less hot on the other. Brush each side with a little olive oil then grill the top of the flat bread on the hot side of the grill. Once you have some good grill marks, remove it from the grill to add the toppings.
Topping options are endless. Do whatever you feel like. Below my pictures are of a breakfast flat bread I made with prosciutto and egg, and a  shrimp pesto flat bread. Both were great as a meal, but could be cut to be shared or added to a meal like brunch!
Once you've topped the flat bread return it to the cooler side of the grill, cover and let it cook until you are happy with the doneness.
That's it. Easy Peasy!
Wishing everyone a great summer!!! Get out there and grill!
XO - P


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Something is fishy with our fish!

Nationwide study casts a wide net over seafood fraud
February 21st, 2013
03:02 AM ET
Mislabeled fish is flooding the marketplace and Americans may be swallowing it hook, line and sinker, according to a new study by an environmental activist group.
A look at seafood sales across the country by ocean conservation group Oceanafound that roughly one third of the time, seafood sold at U.S. grocery stores, seafood markets, restaurants and sushi venues had been swapped for species that are cheaper, overfished, or risky to eat.
Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana, told CNN that the study was conducted over the course of two years and encompassed retail outlets in major metropolitan areas across 21 states. Staff and supporters of the organization purchased 1,247 pieces of fish and submitted samples to a lab for DNA testing to determine if the species matched the in-store menu or label in accordance with Food and Drug Administration naming guidelines.
Out of the 1,215 samples that were eventually tested, 401 were determined to be mislabeled.

The FDA, which holds the primary responsibility for the safety of seafood products in the United States, uses a Web-based resource known as the Regulatory Fish Encyclopedia to aid in the identification of commercially important species of fish. The agency worked with several organizations, including the University of Guelph's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, where the Oceana study’s testing was conducted, to develop the Fish Barcode of Life Initiative (FISH-BOL) program, which introduced a definitive, universal system for identifying fish.
Seafood fraud is of particular interest to the FDA not only because the lack of a standard naming convention would prevent correct species identification and inhibit processors' and consumers' knowledge of the potential safety hazards and allergens, but also because it may enable economic fraud due to high value fish being swapped for lower value species. The FDA’s “Seafood List” identifies acceptable market, scientific, common and vernacular names and specifies which may be used interchangeably to avoid any ambiguity in the marketplace. The agency frowns upon the use of vernacular names, which are usually introduced at the regional level.

13:36 – Eatocracy speaks with CNN Radio's Edgar Treiguts about how to buy responsibly sourced and tracked fish
The two most mislabeled fish, according to Oceana, were snapper (for which 33 different species of fish including rockfish, perch, sea bream and tilapia were substituted) and tuna, which was mostly replaced with escolar - an often-banned snake mackerel that can cause mild to severe gastric distress to those who consume it. In many cases, Atlantic cod, which is often overfished, was mislabeled as the more sustainable Pacific cod (and vice-versa). Grouper was often replaced with at-risk species including Gulf grouper and speckled hind, or in one case, king-mackerel, a high-mercury fish that the federal government has advised sensitive groups, such as pregnant women, to avoid.
The most frequent outlet for mislabeling was sushi restaurants. Out of 118 sushi venues visited, 95% sold fish that varied from their menu identification, including the previously mentioned snapper and tuna, as well as yellowtail/hamachi, which was incorrectly labeled in every case.
Diners at non-sushi restaurants received considerably more honest ingredients,according to Oceana, with just more than half of the 148 visited locations selling incorrectly labeled fish (snapper and cod again were the most slippery catch). And grocery store shoppers fared best of all, with only 27% of the 408 stores selling seafood that didn’t live up to its label’s claims.
While this was one of the largest studies to date, the findings echoed those in previous studies by the Boston Globe (48% mislabeling in 183 local samples in 2011, with little improvement in a 2012 follow-up), Consumer Reports (20 to 25% mislabeled), and the United States Government Accountability Office, which used its 2009 findings to call on the federal government for additional inspection resources.
But who is responsible for reeling in this widespread fraud and why is it happening in the first place?
That’s where things get fishy, despite the efforts of the seafood industry. U.S. fishermen provide most of this information at the dock, but save for product from participants in voluntary programs like Trace Register or Trace and Trust, it is extremely difficult for vendors and consumers to track this information from boat to plate.
The matter is further muddied by the fact that 91% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, 54% of which is processed at sea, and roughly 2% of which is governmentally inspected for fraud. The further a fish gets from its origins, sold in parts rather than whole, the more difficult it is to track to its eventual destination, leaving the supply chain wide open to human error and deliberate deception.
According to the GAO, three federal agencies play key roles in detecting and preventing seafood fraud: the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, which reviews import information to detect fraud schemes; the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service, which offers a voluntary, fee-based inspection program, and the FDA, which focuses its seafood-specific resources primarily on health issues by way of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points management program. The separation of responsibility and lack of collaboration, the GAO’s analysis found, left the system especially vulnerable to fraud.
While the agencies might not be aligned in their methodology, they - and organizations like Oceana, Food and Water Watch and the Blue Ocean Group - do all agree: every level of the seafood chain suffers as a result of fraud. From the economic impact on the fisheries that are undercut by sellers skirting the rules, fish species endangered by a muddied tally of their stocks, vendors and chefs whose reputations are at stake, and diners who risk ingesting allergens and toxins from mislabeled fish, there is a cost to misidentified seafood.
In 2009, the FDA sanctioned seafood seller Peter Xuong Lam, president of Virginia Star Seafood Corporation, after he was convicted of conspiracy to import catfish, falsely labeled as sole, grouper, flounder, snakehead, channa, and other species of fish, from Vietnam for fraudulent sale. He was sentenced to five years in prison and became the first food importer ever to be debarred (for a period of 20 years) by the agency. The agency continues to cite and seeks to prosecute offenders who attempt to undermine the system, but notes that the responsibility of regulating retail food stores and restaurants falls primarily to state and local agencies.
In 2012, U.S. Reps. Edward Markey and Barney Frank, both Massachusetts Democrats, introduced the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act which would require full traceability for all seafood sold in the United States. The bill died in Congress, but industry members and civilians are taking up the charge.
Members of the National Fisheries Institute can sign a pledge to stamp out economic fraud in the seafood industry, and its Better Seafood Board provides a mechanism for members of the seafood industry to report fraud where they see it occurring and provide documentation on issues that arise.
Closer to the plate, in October 2012, 500 chefs - including Mario Batali, Thomas Keller and Rick Bayless - signed a pledge calling on the U.S. government to require that seafood be traceable in order to prevent seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.
But diners need not be left dangling.
Lowell recommends that consumers empower themselves by purchasing whole fish, which are easier to identify, and not trusting prices that seem too good to be true. She also encourages asking questions of fish vendors, such as what kind of fish it is, whether it was wild-caught or farm-raised and where, when and how the fish was caught. Even raising the question will alert the sales staff that consumers are interested in where their food comes from - and that they won’t settle for anything fishy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Is your dinner Gay?

Just saw this while I was tooling around on google looking for other food blogs. It's an iReport from CNN about what foods people think are gay, and which foods people think are straight, seemingly stemming from the whole Chick-fil-A disaster a little while back. I think it is a funny, and light hearted piece, however after reading the comments left by some people I am surprised by how many seem to have thought the reporter was trying for a "hard hitting" journalistic masterpiece. Other comments were quite funny.
Here is the video;
Here is the link to CNN if you want to check out the comments too.

Any thoughts to foods that you think are gay??? ;)


Friday, November 30, 2012

Eggplant and Pepperoncini Tomato Sauce.

So the surprise breakout star of my culinary week is a sauce I used to top off a dish last night. It was an Eggplant and Pepperoncini Tomato Sauce that was simple and actually quite delicate.
If you read this blog often you know I have random and strong cravings that need to be satiated immediately.  For weeks I have been craving spicy food, and yesterday it was those funky little green peppers. If you don't know what Pepperoncini are, they're those pickley, and a little spicy peppers you find in Italian Antipasto and Greek Salads. You find them near the olives at the grocery store. They look like this-

The gorgeous recording artist Chantae Vetrice was coming over to record with P2, so I needed to make something impressive, but this damn craving was bugging me. I sent Chantae a message and asked what she would like for dinner, and she said she eats everything, so it was on!

I knew a few things going into this meal;
1. I wanted a sauce to top breaded chicken cutlets.
2. I wanted to pair the Pepperoncini with a mellow veg in the sauce.
3. I wanted to try and make mashed Cauliflower and use it as a bed for the chicken. (that was pretty amazing too!)

All of my wished came true!
Everything paired well and the sauce was a success! There was just enough kick to the sauce to relieve my craving, but still left my dining buddies saying; "there is something great about this that I can't quite put my finger on".
Here is what to do to make this sauce;
In a deep saute pan, start to saute half of a diced medium white onion and 3 diced cloves of garlic in olive oil over a medium heat.
Once they are translucent add half of a large Eggplant diced small to the pan (or 1 small Eggplant diced).
Once the Eggplant is cooked, (about 20 mins cooking time so far) add a drained large can of Petite Diced Tomatoes. (I prefer RedPack)
Let that cook down for another 10 to 15 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. If you need to add moisture, feel free to add some water or chicken stock.
Now start adding in the Pepperoncini. I started with 3 which I had sliced into rings. Let it cook a few minutes and taste to see if that added enough kick for you. In all I added 6 or 7. That gave just a little heat and great background flavor.

Once it is cooked and seasoned again with salt and pepper to taste, I added a handful each of chopped flat leaf Parsley and Basil.

That's it! It worked great over the chicken, but you can use it with pasta, fish, or I would imagine it would even go great with beef! It was also perfect for the cold weather!

I hope you make this and love it like we did. I am heading over to eat some leftovers now!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gluten free, Soy free, and Dairy free Apple Crumble with roasted Coconut.

Fall is here, and if you live in the North East like I do then you know that Apples are in season. Apples, Pumpkins, Cinnamon, and Corn are all over the place, so naturally I started to crave the comfort of Apple Pie. Well not really the pie but those soft, cinnamony Apples inside the pie. So that being said, I am happier with a crumble than a pie. Not to mention I hate to bake, so a crumble is much more my speed.
I fell victim to my cravings today, and the picture above shows that I have no regrets!
In the spirit of health I cut out the bad stuff because the more I do that, the more I realize we don't need it. Mind you, I still kept real sugar in there, but it was organic. Does that count?

What I did was follow this recipe, but switched out things to make it gluten, soy, and dairy free;
Admittedly it is not the best recipe out there, but again, I do not bake, and it was real easy to follow.

I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, and I used their Gluten Free Oats too. I also took the butter out and used Earth Balance dairy free and soy free "butter".

Otherwise I followed it.
What I would change is that I would add more Cinnamon. And not only Cinnamon. I would also add Nutmeg and maybe even Clove.
The amount of Cinnamon that this recipe called for was not enough.
I also took the nuts out of the recipe and replaced them with shredded Coconut.

It was really quite perfect when all was said and done. I also added a big scoop of So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

So far out of the 4 ramekins I made, I have eaten 2. But today is not over! :)

Let me know if you make it and what you change along the way! Hey! Don;t forget to add the love too!