Gigantes or Royal Corona Beans in Creamy Garlic Sauce

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Creamy and delicious gigantes beans

These giant beans are full of protein and when cooked right are creamy and delicious. I like this method that can be done in less than an hour vs the traditional method that takes all day. No soaking needed. If you do not have access to Spanish Gigantes, you can purchase the Royal Corona Beans from Rancho Gordo. They are much the same in size and texture. The beans can be used as a side dish or main. They are also terrific served on toasts as an appetizer.

Recipe:

Beans:

Place 2 cups of beans in the IP covered with water 3″ over the beans. Set on beans for 20 minutes. Run and allow to go to natural release. remove lid, then add 2 Tbs salt and a head of garlic cut in half. Cook again for 25 minutes on bean setting with natural release.

While the second cook is going prepare the sauce:

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons good quality Olive Oil
8 Cloves garlic minced
1 onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 rib of celery finely chopped
3 Tbs salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 can San Marzano plum tomatoes, pull apart tomatoes with hands
1 cup white vermouth
1/4 cup heavy cream
Fresh chopped flat leaf parsley or other herbs
Good quality EVOO. I use my smoked olive oil.

Method:

In a dutch oven, using medium heat add 3 Tbs olive oil and saute the garlic, onion, carrot & celery till soft, about 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add salt and peppers. Add the wine and simmer till reduced by 1/2.
Add the tomatoes and their liquid and simmer another 5 minutes. Check seasonings, correct if needed. Stir in cream.

Divide beans among bowls and top with sauce and sprinkle with parsley or other herbs then drizzle with oil just before serving. They can also be served family style in a larger bowl and are great as an appetizer on bread.

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Pastitsio: Greek Lasagna in the Instant Pot

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Pasttitsio is full of flavor and texture and made much quicker in the Instant Pot!

This recipe is so good that I revisit it every few months. It makes a great centerpiece for a dinner party and the leftovers are better than the first night’s meal. With the Instant Pot there are not as many leftovers, it makes a smaller amount, but I like that since we typical feed two to four at our house. If you want to make it the traditional way for a larger number of people, click here. The noodles are difficult to find, but I get them on Amazon.com, buying 6 bags at a time.

Greek Lasagna Pastitsio

When teaching others to make this dish, I have often joked that the word pastitsio (pa-STEE-tsee-oh) translates to “messy kitchen” in Greek. I was only kidding, but there is a hint of truth to that statement. The Greek word pastitsio derives from the Italian pasticcio, which loosely translates to a mess or a hodgepodge.

Three essential components make up this dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • /2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano crushed
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for topping if desired
  • 1/2 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries.
  • 2 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
  • 1/4cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
greek noodles

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2cup all purpose flour
  • 1 pint milk, warmed
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 1/2  of a whole nutmeg, grated with a microplane

Preparation:

This recipe will yield about 4 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a 6″ spring form pan that is 3-4″ deep.

Begin with the Meat Filling:

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.

Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.

Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.

Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.

Brush the bottom and sides of the spring form pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.

Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can

Bechamel Sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.

Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.

Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. I even pull back the sides of the pasta to let some go down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs if desired. I make a foil sling for the spring form pan to make it easier to remove from the IP.  Process in IP on high on rack for 18 minutes using instant release. remove from the pot and place on a sheet pan. place under broiler on low to toast the topping. allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

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Mee Krob: A most Delicious Treat

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Since I was a child this has been one of my favorite Thai Dishes, It is a savory, yet sweet and savory dish with a lot of crunch from Northern Thailand. It is rarely seen on restaurant menus because it must be served fresh and it is fairly labor intensive to prepare. I promise you, it is well worth it.

Mee Krob With Shrimp and Tofu
Mee Krob
Thai Crispy Stir Fried Rice Noodles
Developed by Devany Davidson  
Mee Krob is an easy dish that makes a fantastic snack, or appetizer. Children LOVE it. Vegetarians could easily leave out the shrimp. In Thailand this is almost always prepared in a wok If you feel nervous about deep frying in
a wok, you may use a stock pot.
Ingredients
6 ounces sen mee – rice noodles (these are called by other names in
Chinese look for the thinnest rice noodles if you do not see the “mee”)
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbs of thinly-sliced pickled garlic or regular garlic rough chopped.
6 tbs of shallots (small red or purple onions), sliced thinly
6 ounces of medium prawns, shelled and de-veined
Sauce
¼ cup sweet chili sauce (also known as dipping sauce for spring rolls)
¼ cup of ketchup
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate mixed with 5 teaspoons water
6 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup palm sugar (or brown sugar if you cannot find it)
7-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, shredded (if you cannot find fresh, forget
about it dried and frozen are not flavorful enough
2 tablespoons fish sauce – Nam Pla (I prefer Red Boat)
* Note the sauce should be a balance of sweet, salty and savory, not just
sweet
Garnish
Thinly sliced green onions, and red and green Thai Chiles or jalapenos julienned.
1/2 cup extra firm tofu, cubed
½ cup of cilantro chopped coarsely
1 Cup of bean sprouts
4 radishes julienned
Chopped peanuts, toasted

Method
1. Heat about 3 cups of peanut oil in a wok or very deep stock pot until very hot (350)
2. Drop the noodles, a small quantity at a time, into the hot oil.
They immediately puff up and turn golden brown.  Turn immediately
with chop sticks or spider.
3. Remove at once with a slotted spoon, or a wire spider.
4. When all the noodles have been cooked, set aside to drain
5. Drizzle the egg into the oil to form a ribbon of cooked egg, then take it from the oil and chop it up. 
6. Finally deep fry the pieces of tofu until golden brown and set aside.

1. Now pour off and reserve all but a little of the oil
2. Stir fry the garlic pickle and shallots
3. Stir fry the prawns briefly until they turn pink
4. Mix the cooked ingredients, except the tofu, and transfer to a serving platter.
5. Combine the ingredients of the sauce, cooking on a medium burner
until slightly thickened and place it in a small bowl.
7. Just before serving, ladle it over the food and toss gently then add a
bit more on top and garnish.

Notes: If you live in an area that does not have an International Market, you can order everything online at www.simply-thai.com Most large
grocery stores have many of the ingredients now days.
You can prep the garnishes ahead of time and make the sauce ahead, so
that all you have to do is the frying and tossing before service.

An Ode to The Northwoods Inn and their Fabulous Sides

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Growing up in Southern California in the 1960’s and ‘70’s I  got to enjoy a lot of fun theme restaurants. They were somehow an extension of Hollywood and the era that ushered in Disneyland and many other area theme parks of that day. A few remain, but many have been shuttered over the years to make way for malls, freeways and most importantly housing developments as human encroachment took over the land of my birth. We had sunshine and great weather till the people came, then we had traffic, smog, inflated real estate prices and lots of other problems.

One of the few remaining theme restaurants is Clearman’s Northwood’s Inn in Covina. They also have sites in La Mirada and San Gabriel, but mine was in Covina. Opening in the height of LA fun and fancy in 1958 they still manage to draw crowds.

When you drive up on a hot southern California day, your eyes deceive you, it looks like a snow covered Alaskan log lodge. As you step into a North Woods Inn, you’ll slowly pull open a heavy wooden door and peer into a dimly lit and richly decorated room of rustic log walls, massive taxidermied bears, jewel-toned stained glass, sawdust-strewn floors and eccentric hunting-lodge kitsch. The signs tell you to “Please throw peanut shells on floor.” 

You must arrive hungry. Entrees include all you can eat of two salads, recipes below, their famous garlic cheese bread, rice pilaf, a one pound baked potato with cheese, butter, sour cream and mushroom gravy. And then there are the huge steaks!

So over the years I had to recreate the recipes since I moved thousands of miles away from these favorite salads and cheeese bread! Here are my takes on them. Some people mix the buttermilk blue cheese on iceberg with the red cabbage salad, but I like to use the red cabbage as a palate cleanser. The cheese bread is my favorite and I think it is also like the bread at a long gone nearby establishment The Trails.

The Red Cabbage Salad

The Northwoods Inn Red Cabbage Salad 

1/2 cup . red wine vinegar 
4 T. sugar 
3 tsp. kosher salt 
2 tsp. seasoned salt 
1/4 tsp. pepper 
1/4 TBS. grated onion
1/2 cup olive oil 

1 head red cabbage, coarsely shredded 

Whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and onion until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Whisk in oil. Dressing can be made ahead and stored in fridge. Bring to room temp before using. Pour over cabbage, toss well and let sit 10-15 minutes. Toss again and serve.

The Best Cheese Bread Ever

Clearman’S Northwoods Inn – Cheese Spread 

In a food proccessor add:

1/2 ts dry mustard 
1/2 ts celery salt 
2 ts garlic salt & 6 garlic cloves
3 tb plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
2 ts tabasco 
1 ts paprika 
1 lb butter 
1 lb cheddar cheese – grated finely 
3 oz romano cheese, grated
Mix until well blended. Refrigerate

Put onto sourdough bread, place under broiler until lightly toasted.

Keeps 6 weeks in fridge, can be frozen

The Clearman’s Blue Cheese Dressing

They serve this on Iceberg, but I prefer it on butter lettuce

· 1 cup buttermilk 
· 1 cup sour cream
· 3 cloves garlic 
· 1/8 tsp sugar 
· 1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika 
· 1 teaspoon salt 
· 6 tablespoons blue cheese
PREPARATION:
In a food processor combine buttermilk, sour cream, garlic, sugar, paprika, and salt. Blend until smooth. Add blue cheese, and pulse quickly once or twice. Do not blend. You want small chunks of blue cheese. 

Refrigerate 4 hours or more before serving to let flavors blend. 

Yield: About 1-1/3 cups 

Another one of Mr Clearman’s fantastic establisments farther West in Cucamonga, now Rancho Cucamonga still stands, The Magic Lamp Inn.



Bruce and Mark’s Sichuan Chicken Wings

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Wings saucaed

This recipe is adapted from my friends Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbourough’s podcast, Cooking With Bruce and Mark. They are a fabulously talented couple, married for many years. They are endowed with both humor and cooking talent among many other things. Bruce is the chef and Mark is the writer. Together they are a team that has produced many best selling cookbooks and a great podcast. I suggest you subscribe to it. Bruce and Mark adapted the recipe from the book All Under Heaven by Carolyn Phillips.

These wings are perfect for your Superbowl party, or just for a fun diner with a kick. You can adjust the heat by adding more chiles or leaving the seeds in some of the chiles. A wok or large skillet will work for this.

Ingredients: 

  • 24 chicken wings, divided by cutting the drumette from the winglets and discarding the “flipper”
  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
  • 4 cups of peanut oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions finely sliced (green and  white parts)
  • 2″ of ginger, peeled and finely chopped.
  • 20 (or more) Japones dried chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 3/4 cup plain rice vinegar
  • 7 TBS sugar (I used Indian Jaggery, grated)
  • 3 TBS “regular” soy sauce. If you are buying it in an Asian grocery this is called “light” soy as opposed to the darker, thicker soy.
  • 2 tsp crushed Szechuan peppercorns, lightly toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle

Method:

Wings drying

  • In a zip lock bag, toss the chicken wings in the corn starch and place on a rack to go into the refrigerator over night or for 12 hours. This sufficiently dries out the chicken and makes it crisp up perfectly.
  • When ready to assemble, heat the oil in a wok to 375  and fry the wings in small batches so that you are not over crowding. You can use a fat thermometer to assure even heat.
    wings frying
  • Remove the wings to a rack to drain.
    Wings fried
  • Pour and strain the oil into another container.
  • In the wok, add aromatics: ginger, garlic and chiles. Stir fry briefly.
    Wings sauce
  • Add the soy, rice vinegar and sugar, stirring while cooking
  • When fully incorporated add the wings and stir to coat
    Wings saucaed

I think he liked them!

Wings finished

 

Pozole Rojo in an Instant Pot

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Pozole 2

When I was in cooking school in Mexico, we went to Taxco, the “silver city” often. I had also been there many times when I was growing up. The hillside town has silver mines and many silversmiths catering to shoppers. With every visit we would go to the Pozolerias for lunch or dinner. If we were lucky,  we would be there on a Thursday we could get the Pozole Verde (green). On other days there was Pozole Rojo (red) and Blanco (white). Traditionally Pozole was made with pork. I know this is gross, but back when the Aztecs were sacrificing humans, they even used human flesh and later, pork tasted more like human flesh. Over the centuries it has developed into a regional stew with pork, chicken or even vegetarian ingredients.

Pozole is the Mexican name for treated corn, also known in the US as hominy. Since maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions. The conjunction of maize (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars, because the ancient Americans believed the gods made humans out of masa (cornmeal dough).

This recipe is for the rojo pozole with chicken and it includes home made stock as well as an abundance of dried chiles. In this case I used ancho and guajillo which make a rich and delicious stew.

When pozole is served, it is accompanied by a wide variety of condiments, potentially including chopped onion, shredded lettuce or cabbage, sliced radishes, avocado, lime, cilantro, tostadas (freshly cooked tortilla chips), Mexican Crema and/or chicharrones (fresh fried pork skin).

While this recipe is developed for the Instant Pot, it can also be made in a dutch oven or pasta pot. The cooking time will be much longer.

A note about the hominy/pozole: This can be made with canned hominy, but I suggest you take the time to soak and make your own. It will have much better texture and flavor. You can buy prepared hominy by Rancho Gordo, however, it is smaller than the kind purchased in Hispanic Markets or the kind you will make yourself.  Both will need to be soaked over night and cooked in the stock for about 30-50 minutes in the IP.  If you are cooking in a regular pot it will take 2-4 hours depending on the kind you are using. The Rancho Gordo Hominy takes less cooking time because of the size of the kernels. If you really want the original flavor you can buy large heirloom corn from Anson Mills (my favorite heirloom provider) and make your own. It is an extra step, but well worth the effort. Directions can be found here: How to make Hominy from Corn.

Pozole1

Ingredients: 

  • Chicken stock made from a whole chicken
  • Breast  and thigh meat from the chicken, reserved
  • 2 cups of dry hominy soaked for 8-10 hours
  • 6 ounces each of dried Ancho and Guajillo chiles
  • 1 onion cut in large chunks
  • 8 cloves of peeled and smashed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of Mexican Oregano (or marjoram)

Method: 

Chiles1

  • Drain the hominy and rinse.
  • Put the hominy in the Instant pot and cover it with stock, about 3″ above the hominy.
  • Cook on the bean function for about 30 minutes if using Rancho Gordo Hominy, 60 minutes if you are using the Mexican Pozole. Check for doneness. It should be somewhat al dente, but not tough or difficult to bite into. Avoid over cooking it to retain integrity of the kernels.
  • While the hominy is cooking,  use a large skillet to toast the chiles in even batches. When toasted, break open and remove seeds and stems. Put them in a blender with the garlic and onion.
  • When the hominy is cooked, take off about 1 cup of the stock and pour it into the blender and puree the chiles till smooth.
  • Pour the blender contents into the Instant Pot, stir in oregano and seal. Cook on Bean setting for 15 minutes.
  • To serve, put some of the chicken into bowls and ladle the pozole over it.
  • Serve with garnishes mentioned above.

Pozole3

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Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Phyllo Tart

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Tart on plate

This tart is so easy to make and it is scrumptious. Since I made it for two of us, I halved the recipe that I usually make for parties etc. When serving many people I cut it into one inch squares and place in cupcake papers. This full recipe is made in a half sheet pan. I use a quarter sheet pan for the half recipe.Line either size with parchment paper.

Ingredients:

  • Half a package of phyllo, thawed.
  • 6 onions
  • 4 tablespoons Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 box (5.2 oz) Boursin Cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • juice & zest of one lemon (Meyer if you can get it)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Splash of olive oil

Method:

Heat oven to 400 degrees

  • Make caramelized onions by sauteeing the sliced onions in a little olive oil. Add the sweet onion sugar. cook down on low for an hour, stirring frequently. Allow to cool slightly,
  • Lay out the Phyllo dough, cover with plastic wrap and top with a wet kitchen towel.
  • Lay out two sheets of phyllo on to the baking sheet, then brush with olive oil and continue the process until all of the sheets have been laid out. Keep replacing the plastic and towel in between layers. Some of the phyllo should hang over the edge. Brush a layer of oil on the top sheet.
  • Spread the onions out evenly on the phyllo
  • Crumble the cheese over the onions
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Toss the arugula with the lemon juice and olive oil, then top the tart with it.
  • Lay the tart out on a cutting board (just pull the paper out onto the board) and cut with a pizza cutter.

This can be served warm or room temperature. It keeps for a week in an air tight container.