Friday, September 30, 2011

guest post! Knuckles Handerson

I was out of town most of the week, and when I got back, I was sick. So I did zero cooking this week. But you know I wouldn't leave you postless! I recruited my... well, my hand, Knuckles Handerson (follow him on twitter!), to do a guest post. Take it away, Knucks!

Being the hand of a foodie, I myself have grown quite fond of the adventure, culture and fun of food. Here are some links with particular interest to me...

If You're eating Sushi with chopsticks, you're doing it wrong! I can do the job even better... Just ask Trevor Corson, Sushi expert.

But sometimes I am busy (I'm kind of a big deal, you see) when you're hungry. Then you need this... the human nerd equivalent to a feed bag.

Daddy?!?! :(

Don't let me end up like that... learn some knife skills from "Non-wobbly veg" chef Jamie Oliver (Stef thinks he's dreamy).

More protection. Hilarious protection.

Knuckle Sandwich necklace. brilliant.

Food with Googly eyes... talk about food porn... *wolf whistle*

Pinkies up! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

pumpkin chili with cornbread smudges

It's sweater time!! Open windows, warm sunny days, cool nights, shorter days. The perfect time to make this autumn chili. It is one of my favorites! The corn "smudges", as I've dubbed them, were an attempt to make cornbread flavored crackers... they tasted great with the chili, but be warned, they aren't crispy crackers. They were crunchy when fresh, but not the next day, and not crispy. They were easy to make, though, and like I said, nice and cornbready tasting.

Pumpkin Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
2 poblano chile (or other large, mild chiles), chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
2 (14.5 ounce) cans canned peeled and diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can Pumpkin
1 (15 ounce) can canned tomato sauce
2 (15.25 ounce) cans beans (I used black and kidney), drained and rinsed
corn cut from 2 ears of corn
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
Salt and pepper

Heat vegetable oil in dutch oven or large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, shallot and peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until tender and starting to brown. Add turkey; cook until browned. Drain.

Add all the spices, cook for for a couple minutes, until fragrant. Add tomatoes with juice, pumpkin, tomato sauce, beans, corn. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes... longer for better flavor.

Corn Smudges

1 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup boiling water
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons grated cheese (I used cheddar)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix corn meal, sea salt, sugar, pepper, flour, and baking powder. Pour boiling water over this and mix well. Incorporate egg, butter and cheese. Stir until butter is melted. Drop by tablespoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread thin (the thinner the better) with a spatula or back of a spoon. Sprinkle with additional salt and perhaps some cayenne for bite.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until firm throughout, and darkening along the edges. (The longer you bake them, the crispier they will be. I found that some of mine were a bit chewy, and the ones that were darker were crispier.) Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chicken & Eggs

With a lot of food blogger participating in Food Outreach's Hunger Challenge (See my friends Stef and Kimberly's experiences for info), I thought I would revisit one of my favorite cheap recipes. I actually blogged this years ago... see the post here if you're into not-good photos.

It's barely even a recipe! This time I used chicken legs, but you can use thighs as well, and probably whatever your favorite pieces of chicken are.

Basically 8-9 chicken legs, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup rice vinegar. Mix everything up, put it in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours-ish.

Originally I put the hard-boiled eggs (peeled) in with the chicken to cook all day. This time I decided to try cooking them separate to avoid overcooking. When the chicken was done, I removed it and placed it on a foil-lined sheet pan.

While I prepared the quick-pickled cucumbers (cucumber, 2 teaspoons sugar, 3 Tablespoons rice vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes) I simmered already hard-boiled & peeled eggs in the juice from the crock pot, about 15-20 minutes.

Right before serving, I stuck the chicken legs under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the skin. This was still an easy dinner despite the extra steps I added. And pretty darn cheap... the chicken cost me $4 total... I didn't do the math on the rest of the ingredients... but this could feed a family of 4 easily for under $8.

And it's really really yummy and satisfying, to boot! The chicken comes right off the bone, but is not mushy. I simply took the bones out and chopped up the chicken to serve on rice with the eggs and cucumbers. Really good flavors from just a few staple ingredients. who knew?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

pizza topped with nostalgia

Ahh, childhood. I had a great one (despite my mom's obsession with perms and my dad's penchant for short shorts). Tastes and smells are a big part of our memories. I can't claim to have grown up with lots of home-made, wholesome meals... there were many many taco kits, Manwiches, boxes of Hamburger Helper and cans of Spaghetti-Os consumed. Now, my dad could cook, and would try to make meals from scratch when time allowed. And when he did, mmmm. SO good. His meatballs? fuhgeddaboutit.

One of the nights I am most nostalgic about was pizza night. Pizza night was great because my brother and I got to help my dad make the pizza. We got to choose the toppings, and help assemble... making it the best pizza in the world. My dad died when I was 16, so I treasure such evenings... he was the best father a girl could ask for.

Here's where I lose my fooche-bag street-cred. The pizza I'm so nostalgic about? Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit. And my brother's and my toppings of choice? Jarred mushrooms and hot dogs, or the tiny pepperonis that sometimes came with the kit. I decided to make my favorite childhood pizza as an adult, so see if it was delicious as I remember.

Jarred mushrooms were like candy to me. They were a special treat reserved only for pizza night and occasionally added to spaghetti sauce. On pizza night, one of the first orders of business was to drain the the little shrooms on paper towels. Throughout the pizza-making process I would sneak over to the counter they rested on and pop one in my mouth... I did this so much that I'm positive only half the jar ever ended up on the actual pizza.

As a "grown-up" (and I use that term very loosely), I had a bit more self control and only snuck a few of the mushrooms. I found some mini-pepperonis at the store that looked like the ones from the old kits, and used those as well. I could not bring myself to put hot dogs on it (that was more my little bro's thing, anyway). When I mixed the dough (just add water!) the yeasty smell took me right back. Everything, from spreading the crust out on the oiled foil-covered cookie sheet, spreading the sweet canned pizza sauce, carefully and evenly distributing the toppings and mozzarella cheese... it all gave me warm fuzzies thinking about what a happy childhood I had.

The pizza? SO delicious. Is my opinion clouded by nostalgia? Who cares?! This pizza, with it's sweet tomato sauce, soft, doughy crust and salty powdered cheese on top made me happy.

I thought I'd be clever and make the second pizza (I got the 2-pizza kit) with some of my favorite "adult" pizza toppings (no, not that kind of "adult"... ha ha... do they make pizza sauce flavored lube??) I added some fresh garlic and crushed red pepper to the remaining canned sauce, and topped the second pie with the doctored sauce, caramelized onions, arugula and anchovies.

It was tasty, for sure... arugula rules on pizza, but if given the choice, I would want the pizza kit pizza of my youth. Playing in the sprinkler, picking dandelions, chasing lightening bugs... and making pizza... I was such a lucky kid.

What foods bring you back?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

a fond farewell... to my camera!

Did you notice a difference in the photos in my last couple of posts? Well, you may not have, because I'm still learning my new camera. That's right, after 6 years I bought myself a fancy new camera! All of the photos you are used to seeing on Iron Stef were taken with my trusty, well-used, well-loved Sony DSC-H2. While this camera has served me well, the addition of an adorable niece warranted an upgrade to a Nikon D5100. But, boy, my old Sony sure did make some pretty pictures. To bid adieu to the H2, here are some of my favorite shots from throughout the years.

Beet Gnocchi. Pretty in pink! This shot was one of Serious Eats' photos of the week.

Curry potatoes in a Noodle Bean Nest. These Noodle beans were just too fun to pass up!

An OLD photo, from before I bothered to fix the white balance on my pics. But I still love it's composition. Asparagus Gruyere Tart.

Minty Pea Ravioli.

Baked Shrimp with Feta. Love the Contrast in this photo.

Caramelized Leeks and Morels Tart. Parchment paper makes a really lovely background.

One of my mostest favorite all-time recipes and photos. Sushi Ceviche.

These Shrimp tacos with Jicama Mango Slaw were so fun. I reflected that by making the photo extra colorful with one of my favorite bright blue plates and a red napkin.

Edamame Salad. Picnicy!

Smooshed Sandwich, pre-smoosh. Pesto is one of the prettiest substances on earth.

Edamummus in action.

Tater tot pizza. Distressed dark wood is another favorite background. Good for contrast.

Mini Meatloaf Cupcakes. Cute food. Shooting in the fading light of the evening can give photos a nice calm feel. But don't wait until it's too dark (as I ALMOST did with this one.)

Another good evening light shot. Kumquats. Fun to say, fun to look at, fun to eat!

Nonna's Molasses cookies, looking so warm and inviting. Is it Christmas yet?

Pig who cooks pig? Autosarcophagy! Fantastic Rib joint in Galesburg, IL.

Ooey Gooey Food Porn. Close-ups are where it's at! Brie, Chocolate & Basil Sandwich. SO GOOD.

Soups are hard to photograph. This Wonton one turned out so delicate and pretty.

Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus on polenta. Some of my favorite plates are textured.

Tuna Burger. See what I mean about close ups? I just want to run my tongue along those grill marks. Too much? ;)

Eggs in Pancetta cups with Hollandaise. I don't think I am tooting my own horn too much when I say I love love love this photo. I got really lucky with lighting. And eggs are one of the best, most prettiest subjects (see my logo).

God Speed, Old camera! You served me well (and I will still be using you for situations where a big fancy camera is not appropriate.)

If you are a food blogger or interested in food photography, you should go to my Friends' class at Kitchen Conservatory on October 15... a food photography class by one of my favorite food bloggers (Kelly from Barbaric Gulp) and one of my favorite photographers (Corey Woodruff. 2 of my favorite people. See you there?

Here are some posts on food photography that I've found helpful over the years:
Serious Eats guide to food photography
Food Photography Technique
Simply Recipes' tips on taking food pics
101 Cookbooks food photography tips