Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Baked Ziti

Continuing with the comfort food theme, this week we make baked ziti. Another simple but great dish for the cooler months of the year. Easy to make, and fun to eat.

One of the great qualities of baked ziti, like many marinara-themed dishes, is that it is a great candidate for two things:

1 - LOTS of fresh garlic
2 - LOTS of red wine

Of course, the cheese and pasta are nice too :)

This recipe is adapted from Cooks.com.


- Spaghetti or other marinara sauce
- 1 box ziti or penne pasta
- 8 oz. ricotta cheese
- 1/2 c. milk
- 8 oz. sliced mozzarella cheese
- 2-4 cloves fresh minced garlic
- Pinch of basil
- Pinch (or more, to taste) of garlic powder
- Pinch of Italian seasoning
- 8-12 inch baking dish
- 1 large bottle red wine

Open wine. Pour a glass. Get to work ...

In a saucepan, set water to boil and proceed to prepare pasta as stated on package.

In the meantime, dump ricotta cheese into a medium mixing bowl and mix in the milk and spices, stirring. Consistency should be similar to pancake batter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare bottom of baking dish with approx. 4 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce.

When ready, add drained pasta to ricotta cheese. Mix well. Then dump into 8 x 12 inch pan. Lay mozzarella cheese on top of pasta. Add 2 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce to top to keep mozzarella from burning. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly warm. Let stand 10 minutes before serving and top with more spaghetti sauce to serve.

Serve with some nice bread and more wine!

NOTE: you may be tempted to use shredded mozzarella here, and while that will work, your baked ziti will drier than it would be otherwise. The consistency of the slices gives the dish a nice, cheesy bubbly texture, which works hand in hand with the sauce.

Tonight's music: Nocturnes by Dave Brubeck

Tech Tip: This week's tip is more of a 'food for thought' tip rather than a technical one. Some of you may have heard of OpenID, which is a universal username and password set people can use all over the Web with their various services. To read more, go here: http://openid.net/. My question to you is, what do you think of this? Given the amount of web-based services many of us use (Amazon, Flickr, Yahoo, Google, Delicious, etc.), it's easy to forget the usernames and passwords we create, especially if we don't use one or more sets of them consistently (this is what I do, so if I do forget, I know it is one of a series I always use). However, how convenient would it be to use a single set to sign on to everything? VERY. But, there is the security issue. Anyone using OpenID who has their identity hacked may find all of their web-based accounts vulnerable; but of course, this is a worst-case scenario, and OpenID likely has contingencies for such events. But it is an issue worth pondering as more services support the OpenID platform. In a field in which technology adoption and use moves so quickly, often we don't stop to think how something we do may affect us in the future. I am not coming out for or against OpenID. I only wanted to get you thinking about it, along with everything else you do out here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mac and Cheese

It is time for some comfort food, and one of the best for me is homemade mac and cheese. Simple, but good.

This is a favorite meal of mine during the late fall and throughout the winter. It is a nice option when you come home, it's already dark, and you don't have the energy to fix something glamorous.

Something you'll notice right away, when making this recipe, is how much the boxed variety of mac and cheese sucks.

Honestly, this meal doesn't really lend itself to a 'drink' drink. If anything, dark beer or chilled white wine could be good. Otherwise, water or soda works just as well.


-2 cups macaroni/elbow pasta
-1 cup sour cream
-2 cups cottage cheese
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1 egg, slightly beaten
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup sliced jalepenos (or to taste)
-A few dashes of paprika (to top)

Combine sour cream, cottage cheese, cheddar and egg in a bowl. Mix well. Preheat oven to 425 F.

Then, boil pasta and drain. Add to mixture along with jalepenos and crushed red pepper. Stir until evenly mixed.

Put the mixture into greased baking dish, spreading evenly. Top with a few dashes of paprika and bake for 45 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and top is slightly browned. Remove when finished and let stand for 10 minutes. Put into bowl and serve. Repeat as necessary.

Tonight's music: Kill To Get Crimson by Mark Knopfler.

Tech Tip: Ever wanted to add your own content to Google Earth? Well, you can! Using Google's Panoramio photo community (free to join), you can upload photos, tag them, and geographically place them on a map (geo-tagging), which can be included in Google Earth. There are lots of possibilities, too, if you really get into it -- you can even create your own 'tours' using Google Earth. If you haven't downloaded the free app, get it from www.google.com. Explore, and have fun -- it's often the best way to learn.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mighty Moose Chili

Autumn is upon us, and thus begins the season for chili. I have been making the Mighty Moose Chili for many years now, and while I have my own variations on how I fix it, the original recipe belongs to my friend Marty Moose' Lockhart. We both share a penchant for spicy foods, and so we both make this sure chili is pretty warm in that sense .....

The Mighty Moose is a Cincinnati-style chili and contains many ingredients (cinnamon, vermicelli, etc.) that are particular to the city's famous chili.

-1/2 lb. ground beef or venison
-1/2 yellow onion, chopped
-1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
-3 Tbsp chili powder
-1 Tsp cinnamon
-1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
-Black pepper to taste
-4-8 drops Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce (WARNING: this stuff is dangerous and made ONLY for cooking ... to not go overboard with it .... the prescribed amount will be PLENTY)
-1 can diced tomatoes w/ green chilis (undrained)
-1 can dark red kidney beans (undrained)
-1 can black beans (undrained)
-1-2 cups (approx.) vermicelli
-1 lager-style Beer
-Shredded cheddar and chopped onions to top chili

A note on the ingredients: those listed here yield a medium-size pot of chili, big enough for about four hefty servings for a single individual (it is GREAT for lunch leftovers). If you are fixing chili for a larger group, simply adjust the ingredients as necessary.

Crack a beer, turn up some tunes and get to work ....

In a large pot, turn heat up to medium. Add chopped onion, pepper and meat. Saute until meat browns, drain mixture if necessary, and return to pot. Maintaining heat, add canned tomatoes and beans, stirring well to mix. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.

Next, add the chili powder, cinnamon, black pepper, Dave's Insanity, and crushed red pepper. Stir well to mix and allow to simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste mixture after it has simmered awhile and adjust spices to taste if necessary.

The longer chili simmers, the more the spices, meat and vegetables have time to 'come together.' If you are into a longer simmer, you may consider reducing heat, as you don't want the chili to begin sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When it has simmer sufficiently, it is time to add the pasta. First, open the beer and pour at least 1/2 the can into the chili (enough to cook the vermicelli). Then, add the pasta keep an eye on things while it softens, stirring as needed.

Add more of the beer if necessary, otherwise, finish it off yourself. When the pasta has cooked and the chili has reached a good consistency, give it a good stir and reduce heat to low.

You are ready to eat!

Ladle chili into a bowl or onto a large plate, and top with chopped onion and shredded cheddar cheese. If you're into hot sauce on your chili, you can't go wrong with the original Tabasco brand.

Get another beer, put some crackers or tortilla chips on the side, and you are all good.

Tonight's music: Dave Matthews Band Big Whiskey and the GruGrux King and Rilo Kiley More Adventurous.

Tech Tip: Get an iPhone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Light Tapas With Boursin Topped Flank Steak

Tonight I am doing another original recipe, combining a favorite cut of beef with a simple twist, served alongside a series of simple tapas dishes.

As always, simplicity is the foundation of all things great -- and so it is in this meal.

So, let's get to work .....


- 2-3 sprigs fresh basil
- 1 medium tomato
- Block havarti or fresh mozzarella cheese for slicing
- olive oil
- 7-10 shrimp, peeled and de-veined with tail on
- red or white seedless grapes
- Block brie cheese
- 1 fresh carrot
- Chopped parsley
- For cocktail sauce: 1/4 ketchup (be upstanding and get something organic, k?!), a few dollops fresh prepared horseradish, green hot sauce (pick your fave), and fresh lime juice (squeeze to taste).

- 1 Flank steak, seasoned with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and drizzled with olive oil. Rub ingredients into meat (don't be a jerk! get your hands dirty ....)
- Boursin cheese

- 1 large bottle red wine

Open wine, pour glass, and start cooking!

First, set meat out to reach room temp. Then, make cocktail sauce: Combine ketchup, horseradish, hot sauce and lime juice. Stir to mix well, then place in fridge to keep cold.

Julienne carrot and place on plate with grapes and four slices brie cheese. Arrange artistically!

Slice tomato and arrange on plate, drizzling all with olive oil. Place slice of havarti or fresh mozzarella on each, as well as a basil leaf to top. Grind fresh black pepper on top and serve.

TO COOK SHRIMP FAST: place in bowl and microwave on low heat for 1:30 or so. This produces a clean, cooked shrimp. Place them on a plate, sprinkle chopped parsley over all, and serve with cocktail sauce.

THAT is the tapas course. Enjoy with wine.

NOW for the meat .....

Place in convection oven/conventional oven/broiler on 425, or grill with hood up on high heat. Cook to medium rare (that's right ... DON'T waste this cut!!!! The cow gave its life for you to eat it .... have some respect and don't burn it!!!) and let cool for two minutes after removing from heat. Spread boursin cheese on top of steak, covering completely. Slice into medium slices and serve with more wine.

Tonight's music: Parade and Around The World In A Day by Prince and the Revolution, Katy Lied and The Royal Scam by Steely Dan, Live at the Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers.

Tech Tip: do you use browser bookmarks? how cool, and useful, would it be to be able to access then from any computer? Well, you can! Using a service like Delicious (http://del.icio.us) or Mister Wong (www.mister-wong.com), you can store your bookmarks online in an account you create with the service, accessible from anywhere you access the Internet. You can also tag your bookmarks, and share them with other users.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spicy Flank Steak With Red Curry Mussels

This week we revive a favorite, the spicy flank steak, and combine it with red-curry mussels for some heated surf and turf. The spices employed here bring flavors of the near east from Turkey and India.

This is a good meal any time of the year, as far as I am concerned. While this blog focuses on the solo eater, the steak in this meal is enough for two. So, you'll have some fun leftovers.

- 1 Flank Steak
- 3 Tbsp Baroody Turkish Hot Sauce
- Crushed Red Pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- Kosher or sea salt
- Black pepper
- 1 pound mussels
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 yellow onion
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Turbinado sugar
- Red Curry Paste
- 1 large bottle red wine

Pour a glass of wine and get to work .....

Mince garlic and chop onion. Place flank steak in a dish to marinade, and cover with Baroody hot sauce, massaging it into all sides of the steak. Sprinkle crushed red pepper and 1 clove minced garlic over the steak, rubbing it in also. Top with a pinch of the salt and fresh ground pepper. Let sit at room temperature for around 20 minutes.

Heat a large pot, heat sesame oil to medium heat. Add 2 cloves garlic and chopped onion. Saute with a WOODEN spoon for 5-7 minutes. Add coconut milk, a few dashes crushed red pepper, lime juice, and a dash of turbinado sugar (I use the latter two ingredients instead of fish sauce). Stir well, then add curry paste (to taste -- I use at least 1 Tbsp. Stir until paste is dissolved into coconut milk mixture. Cover.

Place steak directly on the an oven rack to broil (range or convection), or place on a grill with the hood up to sear. I recommend cooking rare or medium rare.

While the steak cooks, the curry mixture should be boiling. Remove lid and add mussels in groups directly to mixture. Cover 3-4 minutes to steam each group, placing steamed mussels in a covered container while the rest cook. Discard any that do not open.

When mussels are finished, spoon some of the curry mixture over them.

Remove steak from heat when it is cooked to taste and let sit for 2-4 minutes. Slice and serve alongside mussels. Pour another glass of wine and enjoy.

Tonight's music: Solitude Standing by Suzanne Vega

Tech Tip: ever wish you could put your photos on a map? Well, you can! By using Flickr (www.flickr.com) or Panoramio (www.panoramio.com), you can geo-tag photos and place them on a map. In the case of Panoramio, photos can be placed onto Google Earth, while Flickr uses its own system of maps. Each service is free to sign up for and use.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hawaiian Hula Melt With Jerk-Spiced Shrimp

Tonight we once again fix some light, summer fare. This meal is an island combination from both Hawaii and the Caribbean ... both of which prove a good combination of flavors ... a good balance of sweet and savory. And, a nice and easy dinner for the summertime.

I originally planned potatoes on the side here, but upon discovering there were none to be had, I decided to substitute shrimp.

Everything still works fine.


- 1/4 pound ground beef, buffalo or venison
- 8-10 shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- Jerk Seasoning
- 1-2 slices fresh pineapple
- 2 slices whole-grain bread
- 1 Tbsp butter
- Sliced muenster cheese
- Yellow mustard and mayonnaise to taste

AND, I will offer a jerk seasoning recipe:

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 teaspoons crushed dry thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

This meal could be cooked inside (on a stove top range or toaster oven) or outside (on a grill). Crack open a beer, put on some tunes and get to work.

Form meat into a patty for grilling, pan-frying or broiling (I used venison, which is very lean and cooks pretty quick). Slice pineapple, and drizzle shrimp with olive oil and jerk seasoning.

Cook meat until medium, then remove from heat and place on bread with cheese, pineapple, mustard and mayo. If using a grill, brush each side of bread with melted butter. If not, coat skillet or griddle with a thin layer of it. Cook patty-melt style until the bread is toasted on both sides.

In the meantime, place shrimp in separate skillet (or skewer on grill). Cook until done (they will cook fast ... ).

When patty melt is done, cut in half and serve as pictured with shrimp. Crack another beer and enjoy.

Tonight's music: Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Tech Tip: do you ever wish you could change how a file behaved? Or, a certain type of file? Well, chances are, you can! In any Microsoft Windows operating system, you can right-click a file's icon and choose 'Properties' to access information about the file, including what type of program to open it with, the file's icon, and whether to apply global properties you set to other files of the same type. In Mac OSX, ctrl-click and choose 'Get Info' to access the same info about a file.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pesto Pita Pizza With Tomato and Avocado Salad

I know I have said this before, but this week's meal is REALLY easy. Compared to my normal fare, I am totally Rachael Ray-ifying tonight's dinner.

This is a good summertime recipe for warm days, or for when you get home from work and want to fix something that is quick.

Once again, the ingredients are easy and natural, and unless you are crazy you will like this recipe and use it over and over.

- 1 large pita (such as King of Pita Bakery, pictured below)
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 cup pesto
- Fresh mozzarella
- 3-4 fresh mushrooms
- A few dashes crushed red pepper
- 1/2 avocado
- Fresh grated Parmesan (PLEASE not the stuff in the green shaker -- buy a fresh block!!)
- 1 bottle red wine

While you can use store-bought pesto, there is no replacement for the real thing in the summertime. I won't go into how to make it here, but it is essentially a combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. Further, if you would rather not have this spicy, simply omit the crushed red pepper.

Pour a glass of wine, put on some music, preheat the oven to 425, and it's time to get to work ...

First, mince garlic and chop mushrooms. Cut one tomato and the fresh mozzarella into slices (about 4 each). Add crushed red pepper to pesto and stir well.

Next, spread the pesto over the pita -- this is your pizza sauce. Make you sure cover it well, almost to the edges. Then, arrange toppings -- tomato and fresh mozzarella slices, minced garlic and mushrooms in typical pizza fashion.

Place in over and bake for 15 minutes, or until mozzarella slices begin to brown.

While that is cooking, prepare the salad. Cube avocado half and other tomato, and place mixed pieces on a small plate. You could play with the presentation options here; I cubed my avocado half but kept the shape of it, and then placed the tomatoes around it. When your pizza comes out of the oven, grate fresh Parmesan on top of the salad.

Let your pizza cool for about 2 minutes, and then slice four ways. Because the pita crust is thin, one pizza is enough for one person, though depending how hungry you are, you may have a slice leftover.

Pour another glass of wine and enjoy.

Tonight's music: Dave Brubeck's Greatest Hits, Kostelanetz Plays Gershwin, and Chris Squire's Fish Out Of Water.

Technology Tip: have you ever needed to share large files with others, but weren't able to attach them to an email message because of the size? Well, there is a great service called drop.io (http://drop.io) that enables users to create 'file drops' that are accessible either publicly or via password. Further, the drop automatically creates a voicemail and fax number, as well as a conference call number. The service is free up to 100 MB a drop, and there are no limits to the number of drops you can create. In addition, you can pay to get enhanced services such as larger drop capacities and site statistics.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Green Curry With Tofu and Vegetables

Tonight's recipe is another easy one, proving again that most of the time, simplicity is best.

Most of the ingredients can be had at a supermarket, or if you are so inclined a whole foods or world market. As usual, I make mine pretty hot and spicy, so reduce the amount of crushed red pepper and/or curry paste to your taste. This dish is a staple of Thai cuisine, and while I am making a vegetarian version of it here, one can easily use beef, chicken or shrimp in lieu of tofu.

- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 3 Tbsp green curry paste
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 lime
- 1- 1.5 cups tofu, cubed
- 1/4 red onion
- 2-3 radishes
- 1.5-2 cups broccoli
- 1/2 green or yellow bell pepper
- 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- White wine OR vodka and cranberry juice

Make/pour a drink, put on some music, and get started cooking ....

1 - Mince garlic and chop onion, and place both in a skillet with sesame oil on medium heat.
2 - Chop/slice vegetables. Add to saute mixture, periodically stirring with wooden spoon.
3 -Meanwhile, place 1 cup jasmine rice in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Turn on medium heat and cover.
4 - Cube tofu and add to saute mixture. Stir-fry for 10 minutes, or until tofu starts to slightly brown. Then, add vegetables to saute mixtures and stir-fry for 7-10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.
5 - Add coconut milk and juice of 1/2 lime, stirring mixture to coat. Then, add curry paste and crushed red pepper, stirring to coat. Maintain on medium heat, stirring periodically, for 10 minutes.

6 - Meanwhile, rice should be boiling. Reduce to low and keep covered.

As the curry mixture finishes cooking, the water in the rice should finishing absorbing and evaporating. Scoop 2-3 helpings out with an ice cream scoop onto a plate. Serve curry mixture in a bowl, and spoon over rice. This dish goes nicely with some plain white yogurt and some nan or pita bread on the side (as pictured at the top of this post). Make/pour another drink and enjoy.

Tonight's music: The Royal Scam by Steely Dan, and Elephants: Teeth Sinking Into Heart by Rachael Yamagata.

Tech Tip: Sometimes, technology simply involves how we interact with information. Visit www.cooliris.com to download a nifty browser plug-in that allows you to navigate most websites Minority Report-style. Further, check out www.oskope.com for a visual search engine that works along a similar design. How we interact with information changes how we see and consider it ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tandoori Chicken With Carrot Lime Salad

Tonight's recipe is once again quite easy, so long as you have all the ingredients. I am borrowing the bulk of it from Gourmet Magazine -- which if you haven't checked it out, you should! It is less calorie-conscious than pubs like Cooking Light, but the recipes and the insight are brilliant ... and hey, you really should be eating FOOD. Substance is more important than the minutia of nutrients.

This dish comes from India, for anyone who is wondering. A Tandoor is a type of oven; and, while a toaster oven, convection oven, regular oven or grill with suffice with this recipe, I wanted you to know where the name of the dish is derived from.


For spice paste
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 small fresh red or green chile such as serrano or cayenne
  • 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh gingerroot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
For meat
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
For carrot salad
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
For drink
  • 2 beers, OR
  • vodka, cranberry juice and lime
... okay, for starters, fix a drink ... either crack that first beer, or fix a vodka and cranberry (in a tall glass, pour two shots vodka over ice, cranberry juice to taste, and lime wedge, squeezed in). Put on some music. Now, we're ready to start ....

Make spice paste:
Mince garlic with salt and mash to a paste. Wearing protective gloves, mince chile (including seeds for a spicier paste) and in a bowl stir together with garlic paste and remaining spice paste ingredients. PLEASE, use wood!!!!!

Make 3 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep in each chicken breast and rub spice paste into cuts and all over chicken. Marinate chicken, covered, 30 minutes at cool room temperature.

Halve onion through root end. Thinly slice one onion half, separating layers, and in a small bowl soak onion slices in ice water to cover while broiling chicken. Stash other half for another day.

Then ....

- Preheat broiler and line broiler pan with foil.

- Arrange chicken without crowding on rack of broiler pan. Brush chicken with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and broil about 3 inches from heat 8 minutes. Drain onions and spread on top of chicken.

- While that cooks, finely shred carrots in a food processor, and put in bowl. Add lime juice and cilantro, tossing to coat. Chill until game time.

- Then, it should be about time to turn chicken over and brush with remaining teaspoon vegetable oil. Broil chicken until lightly browned and just cooked through, about 6-8 minutes more.

Depending on your oven, chicken may take more time to finish, you will just need to keep an eye on it, checking the insides through the slits you made ...

- When finished, plate chicken with some of the onions atop for garnish, carrot salad on the side, and a generous dollop of fresh, plain yogurt. Make another drink ..... and eat :)

Tonight's music: The Hot Rock by Sleater-Kinny, Parade by Prince and the Revolution, and Around The World In A Day by Prince and the Revolution.

Tech Tip: ever found yourself in a situation where you need to convert a file from one format to another, but don't have the tool to do it? FRUSTRATING. There is great little website, however, that can help: www.zamzar.com. For all files under 100 MB, it is a free service to convert most any type of file to most any type of other. Pretty cool, eh?!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spicy Peanut Noodles With Shrimp, Broccoli In Oyster Sauce and Edamame

Tonight's meal is simple. You only need to make sure you have all the ingredients ready, and bear in mind to cook on medium-low heat. Any of these sauces are available at world food/asian food markets, as well as many supermarkets.

Thai food often features a rich array of spices, and as usual, I make these peanut noodles pretty hot. Thus, temper crushed red pepper to taste. And even though it's not in the recipe below, when sauteing the base ingredients, feel free to try a little chopped ginger or basil.


2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled
1 small head broccoli
1/3 box vermicelli
1/2 cup peanuts, smashed
1 cup spicy peanut sauce
1/2 cup oyster sauce
2-3 Tbsp crushed red pepper
3/4 lime
2 cloves garlic
3/4 chopped green onion
Dash turbinado sugar
1 bag frozen edamame
Cranberry juice

Put ice in a tall glass. Pour two shots vodka in, add cranberry juice to taste. Squeeze in juice of a lime wedge. Put on some music, and drink while cooking.

- In a medium saucepan, add 3/4 full with water. Put on medium heat to boil for pasta.
- Chop garlic, onion and broccoli. Smash peanuts.
- Put sesame oil in skillet, heat on medium-low. When it starts to get warm, add garlic and onion. Saute with a WOODEN spoon for 10 minutes ... while you're doing that, add the oyster sauce to a medium saucepan and add 1/4 cup water and turbinado sugar. Put over medium-low heat. Swish pan periodically to mix.

- As saute mixture heats up, add shrimp. Cook until done. When finished, add peanuts and saute for 2 minutes. Then add lime juice, saute one minute, then add peanut sauce and crushed red pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes, continuing on medium-low heat.

- Add broccoli to pan with oyster sauce. Toss to coat, reduce heat to low and cover. Check and stir periodically.

- When water for pasta boils, add vermicelli. Boil until done and drain. Then, add to peanut sauce mixture, tossing well to coat. Reduce heat and let sit for 5 minutes while everything else finishes.

- Put Edamame in microwave and cook 5 minutes to finish. Put in bowl and lightly sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt over it.

- Broccoli in saucepan should be about done. Uncover and toss one more time.

Plate pasta and broccoli. Drizzle a little excess oyster sauce over broccoli. Serve alongside edamame.

Refill drink and enjoy with your Thai dinner. And hey, don't be a jerk -- use chopsticks.

Tonight's music: Wilco: The Album, U2: Live Under A Blood Red Sky, and U2: No Line On The Horizon.

Tech Tip: key strokes in any computer operating system can save users a wealth of time and effort. Further, excessive mousing can lead to hand, wrist and forearm injury. Therefore, memorize the following keystrokes for common computing tasks (notated as win/mac):

COPY - ctrl-c/apple-c

PASTE - ctrl-v/apple-v
SELECT ALL - ctrl-a/apple-a
SAVE - ctrl-s/apple-s
UNDO - ctrl-z/apple-z
NEW TAB - ctrl-t/apple-t
QUIT - ctrl-q/apple-q
PRINT SCREEN - print screen/apple-shift-3
BOLD - ctrl-b/apple-b
ITALIC - ctrl-i/apple-i
UNDERLINE - ctrl-u/apple-u

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jerk Chicken and Coconut Shrimp

Jerk Chicken with Avocado, and Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Black Bean Salad and Mango Sauce

Okay, tonight's meal sounds complex but it's really pretty easy, you just have to keep a handle on your timing and ingredients. This can be done inside or outside, and I'll be sure to give notes regarding whether you are broiling, grilling, etc.

I am often taken with presentation of my food, and while it is not always a big deal, I do like to make a nice dish of things in terms of colors and proportions, not to mention flavors and textures.


2 Chicken Breasts
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Jerk Seasoning (see below)
Black Bean Salad (see below)
Mango Salad (see below)
1 mango
1 avocado
1.5 cups peanut oil (for frying)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (for garnish)
1 large bottle cold white wine

-Pour glass of wine, refilling as needed. Chop herbs. Pour peanut oil in skillet or pan, heat to medium-high heat. Then, prepare the following ....

Jerk Rub
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 teaspoons crushed dry thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-This makes enough for you to keep and use for awhile. Using off-the-shelf herbs is fine, though if you have them fresh, all the better. Mix everything together in a bowl, and place in a seal-able plastic bag or covered spice jar. Rub onto both sides of the chicken, leaving the skin ON. Heat convection or traditional oven to broil temp ... OR, if grilling, heat up to high heat .... get ready to add chicken when told ....

Black Bean Salad
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can black beans
2 green onions
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1 lime (for juice and zest)
1 banana pepper, chopped
1/4 avocado, chopped

-Place olive oil in a skillet, heat to medium. Add garlic and whites of onion. Saute until soft (use a WOODEN spoon, MF!), then add beans, banana pepper, 2 tbsp lime juice and lime zest until cooked down. Remove from heat, add remaining lime juice, green onion tops (green parts), 2 tbsp cilantro. Reduce heat and keep warm ... just before serving salad, the 1/4 chopped avocado will be placed on top.

Shrimp Batter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1-1.5 cups dry white wine

-Combine all ingredients except wine in a bowl. Mix well, then add wine. Mix again, then add shrimp. Toss to coat. If batter is too thick, add more wine. Get ready to fry them when instructed ...

Mango Sauce
1 mango, pureed
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 orange juice
Dash crushed red pepper

-Combine ingredients in a bowl, stirring together. Adjust ingredients further to taste. Reserve for finished shrimp.
- Place chicken into broiler or onto grill. If the former, let cook 9-12 minutes or until juices are clear. If the latter, grill 4 minutes on sear per side with hood up, flipping for grill marks (for a total of 16 minutes).
- Chop 1/4 avocado into cubes to top black bean salad, then chop remaining 3/4 into slices to garnish chicken.
- In skillet with peanut cooking oil, begin to add coated shrimp (5-7 per batch), frying for 5 minutes or so until golden brown. Place atop a paper towel on a plate as they finish.

- As shrimp finish, check on chicken ... it should be about done ... when there, remove from heat. Place finished breast on a plate with avocado slices around. Add parsley garnish. In two ramekins, place black bean salad (in one) and mango sauce (in other) ... then, place shrimp on a small plate with sauce ramekins .... serve alongside jerk chicken ... and another glass of white wine.

Tonight's music: Steely Dan Katy Lied and Wilco: The Album

TECH TIP: Ever need to record what you are doing on your computer screen? There is an EASY way to do it .... go to:


This application runs in your web browser. Use the built-in screen recorder to create a screencast of whatever you do on your computer, no matter what the platform. Bear in mind that it records about 2 frames per second, which is great for applications and desktop stuff, but not great for video ...

... for instructional, demonstration and education purposes, this is a really useful technology ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Penne Arriabbiati

A classic Italian entree is tonight's dinner .... I have seen at least a few different spellings of this dish so if you, dear reader, have a more correct version, please inform and I will update this blog.

One of the great things about this dish is how easy it is --- and, how GOOD it is. As always, I make it HOT .... but I will temper my recipe for those of you who prefer your dishes mild ....

I fix this a lot ... because it is SO GOOD ... and so easy ... and fun to fix ...

I need to mention that I eyeball a lot of proportions, so the ingredient list consists of estimated amounts .... and I know those will work fine ... but you know, when you start cooking, if it's in your blood, you'll improvise and begin to work by feel rather than measurement ....


-2.5-3 cups (approx) penne pasta
-olive oil
-1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
-several dashes of sea salt (really, keep this around .... fuck granulated salt for most types of cooking)
-LOTS of crushed red pepper (moderates can do 1.5-2 Tbsp)
-LOTS of minced garlic (I used 4 cloves, you can bust this down to 2 if you need to)
-Chopped oregano (you know fresh is best, MF ... but if all you have is the stuff in the cabinet, it will do).
-Chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
-Paremesan cheese (get the block and shred it, man ... don't get that fucking awful stuff in the green shaker .... )
-1 large bottle red wine

Open wine, pour glass, put on music ... repeat as needed while cooking ...

Now, we're ready to get started ....

-In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil.
-In a medium pan, heat water on medium heat to boil penne. Toss in a dash of salt.
-Chop 2-4 cloves garlic (temper to taste)
-When oil is at medium heat, add garlic and crushed red pepper. Let saute for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant.
-Add crushed tomatoes, oregano and a dash of salt. Mix well, and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally if needed.
-As soon as water for penne boils, put in pasta.
-When tomato/garlic mix boils, reduce heat slightly and simmer about 10 minutes.
-When pasta is done, drain and reserve 1/3 cup of the boiled water. Add pasta to tomato/garlic mix, tossing to coat well. Then, add parsley, remaining water, and 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Mix well and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Refill wine glass. Spoon pasta and sauce into bowl. Grate parmesan cheese on top, and serve with bread, because if you adhered to the higher proportion amounts in this recipe, it will be HOT.

Enjoy this great, simple dish. So often some of the best things in life are simple, yes?

TONIGHT'S MUSIC: Led Zeppelin's Presence and Tilly and the Wall's Wild Like Children.

TECH TIP: a lot of us know that when a Windows PC experiences a program crash or gets hung up on a task, we can press 'ctrl-alt-delete' on the keyboard and invoke the Task Manager, enabling us to see what programs are running and which are not responding, and giving us the option to end tasks that are unresponsive. However, how do you do it on a Mac?


The 'Apple' key is also referred to as the Command key. Both of these tricks are very useful to users of both Apple and Microsoft operating systems, because if you can simply end a task or force a program to quit, it saves you from having to re-boot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spicy Flank Steak With Shrimp

This is one of mine, and it's pretty simple. Once again we are using beef, which is not something I eat all that often, but it's a good recipe, and it's summertime, and we are doing it.

The recipe has plenty of room for improvisation, though I can tell you that as written, it produces one hell of a good meal.

I am not a large portion eater, so my recipes on this blog are pretty reasonable. Further, I write this for solo eaters. But, if you feel this meal needs something else, a piece of nice bread with butter or spreadable cheese, or a simple salad with a creamy dressing, will do nicely.


- 1 Flank Steak (choose your size, although no matter what you'll have some leftover, unless you are REALLY F-ING hungry). Let steak warm to room temp (or close to it) before cooking.
- Baroody Turkish Red Pepper Hot Sauce*
- 1/4 lbs. fresh shrimp, regular size (not jumbo, unless again, you are REALLY F-ING hungry).
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced.
- 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- Several dashes crushed red pepper
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- 1/4 cup Ketchup
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
- 1 large bottle red wine.

Pour yourself a glass of wine. Put some music on. Repeat as necessary while cooking.

* you can find this at world food markets, and surely at some whole foods stores and supermarkets with kick-ass world cuisine sections. You can also use Spicy Black Bean sauce, or other similar things, but this recipe REALLY works well with Baroody.

1. Mince garlic. Place flank steak in large pan to marinade, then spoon 3-4 moderate spoonfuls of Baroody onto it. Use your hands (yes, your hands -- good cooking involves getting messy sometimes) to massage the sauce into steak on all sides.
2. Sprinkle 3/4 of the minced garlic on the top of the steak, lightly rubbing it in. Sprinkle 2-3 dashes of crushed red pepper onto the top of the steak, as well as a few dashes of sea salt an black pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 20-25 minutes.
3. Prepare shrimp, peeling and de-veining if necessary. Set in fridge to keep cool for now.
4. Pour ketchup into small bowl or ramekin, adding lemon juice and horsey. Stir until mixed well, and place in fridge to keep cool.
5. Put oven (or convection oven or broiler) on broil to heat, placing rack near top heating element. Place a pan to catch drippings on lower rack.
6. In a skillet or wok, pour in olive oil and remaining minced garlic. Heat to medium heat, and get the shrimp out of the fridge.
7. Place steak in oven, directly on rack. Check for doneness every 5 minutes. Depending on your taste, it will be done sooner or later. I like it medium-rare, and that usually takes broiling for 12-15 minutes in my small convection oven. After around 7 minutes, I take it out and make a small cut in the middle to see how done it is .... gauge from there how done you want it. For medium-rare, 7-8 more minutes should do it ....

... don't be lame here ... a well-done steak often becomes a wasted steak ... pinkness means tenderness ... I am just saying ...

8. As your spicy flank steak cooks, place shrimp in skillet and saute in heated olive oil and garlic until done.
9. Take steak out of oven, let sit for five minutes on cutting board.
10. Turn off the burner for the shrimp when done, which should be about now.

Slice flank steak with a sharp, worthy knife into 1/8-1/4 inch slices ... place on heated plate with shrimp, and get your cocktail sauce out of the fridge, setting it on the plate. Pour another glass of wine, and enjoy the steak. If you made it right, meaning HOT, the shrimp and cocktail sauce will temper the heat of the steak ....

... finish off with a few pieces of chocolate after digesting your dinner for 30 minutes or so ...

Tech Tip: if you live alone, turning up the stereo is not a problem. And, if you have a spouse or roomie that likes it, it is all good. However, if you have one or more roomates who are sensitive, this could be complicated. Further, when you cook, do you share it? or not? Well, you can solve the music problem with your iPod (or some such) ... put on the earbuds, crank it up, then drink and cook .... yet another practical use for those things. As for the sharing, well, not everyone likes spicy food ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thai Red Beef Curry

This is an easy one, and I can't even take credit for the recipe -- it is from Williams-Sonoma.

I have re-printed the recipe list below, but will give you my own blow-by-blow. I have adjusted the ingredient amounts for one person, even though you'll make plenty for leftovers, if you are inclined to have them .... otherwise, throw them out or give them to a friend, because if you give them to the dog, he/she will not have a good digestion experience.

Further, you can always substitute chicken, shrimp or tofu for beef.

I make this hot .... so, temper the curry powder to your particular taste. Further, please, use a wooden spoon to saute.

You need:

1.5 (approx) lb. lean stewing beef, such as chuck or round, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1.5 Tbs. canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1 cans (each 13 1/2 fl. oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbs. Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cans (each 8 oz.) sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 cup jasmine rice
parsley to garnish

vodka, cranberry juice and a lime wedge

First, place a few ice cubes in a tall glass, add two shots of vodka, cranberry juice to taste, and squeeze the juice from a lime wedge into the drink before dropping it in. Stir, begin to drink as you work ...

Next .... put some music on ....
let me add re: the curry paste here: if possible, get something from an asian food store ... the stuff at the supermarket that is made state-side is just to the left of weak. Unless that how you like your curry, get the real deal imported from Thailand, et al.

Now, let's get to work ...

Salt and pepper the beef, tossing to coat in a bowl. Reserve for the moment. Next, chop the garlic and onion. Pla
ce a large pan or skillet on the stove, add the canola oil, and heat to medium. Put the beef into the skillet, browning on all sides (approx. 5-10 minutes). Remove from skillet and place in a bowl.

In a small pan, add 1 cup jasmine rice and two cups water. Turn up heat to medium and cover.

Next, add the garlic and onion to skillet, maintaining medium heat and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add curry paste, and make sure it coats the onion and garlic nicely (30 seconds or so). Add coconut milk and de-glaze skillet, scraping onion, garlic and curry powder from the sides of the skillet. Add brown sugar, lime juice and fish, stirring each ingredient in. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

Your rice ought to be boiling by now ... reduce heat to minimum and keep covered.

Add beef to skillet mixture and simmer for 15-20 minutes, covered. Then, add bamboo shoots, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 5-10 minutes, or until the shoots are tender.

At this point, your rice should be done. Place in a bowl, and spoon curry mixture on top of it. Garnish with chopped parsley. I used Italian flat-leaf, but hey, do your own thing here ....

.... your drink should be empty by now too ... make another, and enjoy with your Thai Red Beef Curry. Bread makes a nice side dish. Some people like yogurt.

Tech note: I used my iPod Touch via WiFi as a recipe book for this, which was nice because it takes up so little space. I simply opened the Williams-Sonoma recipe page and glanced at it periodically to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything.