Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pizza Bisque aka Italian Onion Soup

Creamy tomato soup with a hint of roasted red pepper, delectable mushrooms, and more than a pizza’s worth of pepperoni.

This originated as a way to use up a bag of pepperonis in my freezer (are we seeing a trend here?). Serve topped with a toasted slice of pepperoni roll or garlic bread and a blend of mozzarella/parmesan cheese, ala French onion soup. I guess you could call this Italian onion soup…there are onions and quite a few cloves of garlic in there…

Yields about a gallon. Maybe more. Have company.

2 onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of pepperoni, quartered
1 pound of mushrooms, sliced
3-4 bell peppers, roasted (see Step 1), then diced
2 cans of evaporated milk
1 can of V8
2 cans of diced tomato
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1 32 oz carton chicken broth
1 32 oz carton beef broth
3T sugar
1t red pepper flakes
2T granulated garlic
2T granulated onion
3T dried Italian herbs

1.    Roast peppers. Cut off the ends, remove the crap in the middle, and slice in half. Rub with canola or other high-heat oil. Place on foiled sheet skin-side-up and broil until skins are burnt and crispy (about 5 minutes). Remove from oven and throw into sandwich bag or scrunch the foil into a packet, whatever works. This will trap moisture in and help the skins to pop off. After allowing to cool for ten minutes or until you can pick them up, peel the skins off the peppers. Dice em. Dice up the un-roasted ends too—it’s just too much of a pain in my opinion to roast and peel those little bits.

2.    Add pepperoni, onion, and garlic to a large pot (seriously, my normal pot was too small). Stir over medium heat until pepperoni grease starts to render out. Mmm. Saute until onions are translucent.

3.    Add tomatoes, bell peppers, V8, broths, and dry spices. Stir well to combine.

4.    Ladle out about 4 cups into a food processor. Process until smooth and add back into the pot.

5.    Add mushrooms. Cover and let simmer until warmed through and mushrooms shrink. This can take as much or as little time as you like. No harm letting it cook for an hour or longer, if you want—but in the quick version, you only need about 15 minutes.

6.    When about ready to serve, crack open the evaporated milk and mix in. Let the soup get warm, but don’t let it simmer again, or the dairy will break. This doesn’t taste bad or anything, but it makes your soup look like someone sneezed ricotta cheese into it.

7.    Taste and adjust spices as desired.

8.    Ladle into oven-safe bowls. Top with a toasted slice of pepperoni roll or garlic bread, then a layer of mozz and parm—broil like you would a bowl of French onion soup.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spanakopita Deluxe aka Spanakoplava aka Bakapita

Sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? But the slightly nutty flavor of the spinach/parmesan blends well with the walnuts, and the little bit of sweetness complements the feta and lemon. Lots of good textures too—soft, crispy, and crunchy. This recipe might look lengthy, but don’t worry. It’s really pretty simple…and I’ve taken care of the first seven steps for you already. 

Step one. Buy a few bags/boxes of frozen spinach to make something…it doesn’t matter what.
Step two. Stick the spinach in the back of the freezer and forget about it.
Step three. Clean out your freezer months later and spy said forsaken spinach.
Step four. Decide to make spanakopita.
Step five. Look up recipes to get inspired. Decide that nothing sounds exciting enough. Cudgel brain to produce something different, yet still delicious.
Step six. Realize that there is another food you love that’s sandwiched between layers of phyllo: baklava. Plus spanakopita? Reject the idea of combining the two. Reject the rejection.
Step seven. Poo-poo the idea of shaming this glorious idea by crafting it in the typical casserole square construction. Rolling it is.

Yields three rolls; half a roll is a meal for one person

Spanakopita filling
-20–24 oz (two 10 or 12 oz packages) frozen spinach
-2T butter or olive oil (for sautéing)
-1 small onion, small dice
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1/8c olive oil
-2 eggs
-24 oz crumbled feta cheese
-1/4c shredded parmesan
-2T lemon juice
-1t nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
-1T salt
-2t granulated garlic
-2t granulated onion

Baklava filling
-2c walnuts
-1/4c+ honey (You know how honey sticks to the measuring cup…so make it over-full)
-1t ground cinnamon
-1t sugar

-2 sticks of butter, melted
-1 package of phyllo dough (usually two 8 oz packs of ~20 sheets each)
-Honey, for drizzling
-Alcohol of choice, for maintaining sanity

1. The day before you want to cook, open the spinach packages and dump contents into a colander over a bowl, preferably so the colander is a few inches above the bottom of the bowl. Leave out on the counter until spinach is on its way to melting (about 1–2 hours). Place contraption into refrigerator overnight. The next day, grab handfuls of the spinach and squeeze into the sink (or into the bowl to save and freeze in a baggie to make vegetable stock) to remove as much water as possible. This step allows the spinach to dry out a bit, which will make the cooking-down step much faster. If you’d rather ignore this, plan on adding another 15–20 minutes to Step 3. Last thing—make sure the phyllo dough, if frozen, is in the fridge at least overnight to thaw.

2. Add the 2T of olive oil or butter to a medium-sized pan (big enough to fit in all the spinach). Add onion and garlic and sauté over medium-high heat.

3. Add the spinach. Stir and cook, uncovered, until the mixture is pretty dry. We want a moistness close to hour-old brewed coffee grounds—damp, but not drippy/juicy. If your spinach mixture is too wet, the phyllo will not crisp up. No one likes soggy bottoms!

4. Take the spinach pan off heat and let it cool off while you prepare the baklava filling.

5. Either chop by hand or use a food processor to cut up the nuts. When you have the proper grind—I like a rough chop, maybe quartering the walnut halves, but do whatever you prefer—mix in the cinnamon, sugar, and honey. Set aside.

6. Melt 1 stick of butter and get out a pastry brush or basting brush. If you don’t have one, fold up a paper towel until you’ve got a wad about an inch wide. You can use this in lieu of a brush.

7. Hopefully the spinach is relatively cool now. Mix in the cheeses, oil, eggs, spices, and lemon juice. Spray a lasagna pan or baking sheet with pan spray. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

8. Get out your phyllo dough. Open only one roll to start. Keep the sheets you’re not working with covered with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. If your phyllo dries out, you’re gonna have a bad time. Seriously…you think I’m overreacting, because that’s what I thought when all the recipes I looked at reiterated this. Phyllo is a bunch of very thin dough sheets. Maybe thinner than paper. If they dry out…you can’t get them apart without ripping them all to hell. In the end, this doesn’t REALLY matter (you’re slathering the layers with butter-glue and slapping it all together anyway). But try to keep them happy…and definitely have a bit of alcohol before starting (this does help). Also helpful if you have a partner to hand you sheets of phyllo...quick-quick like bunny.

Lay out one piece of phyllo. Brush it with butter: you don’t need to cover every visible square millimeter. Hit the edges, hit the middle. It’s not a bad idea to move quickly (keeping that phyllo un-dry!). Place a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first and brush that with butter. Repeat until you have about 2/3rd of the package (~12 sheets of phyllo) in a stack. Do not butter the top of the last sheet.

9. Orient the phyllo stack/yourself so that the long edge of the phyllo is facing you. Grab the spanakopita filling and use a spoon/spatula/your hand to spread 1/3rd of it on this long edge. Keep away from the short sides about an inch back.

10. Butter one brush-width along the inner edge of the spanakopita filling.

11. Spread 1/3rd of the baklava mixture over the rest of the phyllo. Brush some butter on the top edge.

12. Slide your fingers under the phyllo and gently roll the dough up. As you roll forward, also fold the edges in so that the finished roll has tucked edges like a burrito. Gently squeeze all along the roll to shape it. Place the roll seam side down on the pan/baking sheet.

13. Repeat steps 8–12 to produce a second and third spanakoplava roll. If you don’t want to eat all of the rolls within a few days, freeze the extras now.

14. Brush the tops and sides of the rolls with butter and drizzle some honey on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. You want the phyllo to be golden and crispy and the fillings to be hot. Don't expect nice clean-looking will be messy. And delicious.


Monday, October 6, 2014


Only recently in life have I come to appreciate the taste of cabbage. As a kid, I'd eat cole slaw (drowning in mayo/requirement at bbqs) and, begrudgingly, sauerkraut once a year on New Year's Day (for good luck). Now--thanks to my husband, who is descended from Polish folk (if I hadn't mentioned it)--I will actually CHOOSE to eat cabbage. Pigs in blankets (Polish style, not little hot dogs wrapped up in dough), halushki (buttered noodles plus fiber!), and a fair amount of Japanese dishes. Other than in egg rolls, I didn't know Asian food was into cabbage. Here's a good, easy, delicious recipe to convert you to the Way of the Cabbage. Okonomiyaki is a sort of pancake/pizza...essentially, a flour/egg/water/cabbage pancake batter with whatever else you want mixed in, fried on a griddle, with meat, mayo, and bbq sauce on top. I know...I sounds odd and not appealing at all. But try won't be disappointed.

Yields 8
Base batter ingredients
-Green cabbage, finely sliced and broken apart--Tough to measure. Ends up being about 15 cups--or for me (and my small hands) 8 big handfuls. This can be about half of a small (2-3 lb) cabbage or a quarter of a large (3-4 lb) cabbage
-4 cups of flour
-2 cups of water
-1 T baking powder
-1 t salt
-6 eggs
 -Whatever else you want--onion, mushrooms, cut-up shrimp, pre-cooked chicken pieces, green onion, you name it.

Topping ingredients
-Mayo (can be kewpie or regular/American)
-Tonkatsu sauce for authenticity, or any kind of bbq or steak sauce
-Whatever other sauces you want to drizzle on top--I like eel sauce too, if I have it. If you like your food spicy-hot, add sriracha and red pepper flakes.
-Bonito flakes for authenticity--these are a sort of dried fish flake used to make fish stock. The cool thing about them is, after you sprinkle them on the hot and be-sauced okonomiyaki, one end of the flake sticks in the sauce and the other end waves (because of the convection). It's pretty cool.

Extra-special embedded meat ingredients
A special part of the okonomiyaki is that you usually dollop the batter over some bacon. However, you can obviously use any kind of meat you want. Spam is good...and recently, we tried adding thinly sliced pork chops with great success. You need to pre-cook this meat--everything should be just a few minutes shy of ready to eat.
-Pork loin (at least 2 lbs) sliced into 8 very thin pork chops. We're talkin' maybe a half-inch thick. OR 16 pieces of bacon. OR one 12-oz can of Spam, sliced into 8 thin slabs. OR...whatever else strikes you.

1. Prepare any meat/veggies (other than the cabbage) that you want to mix into the batter. Embedded meat needs par-cooked (aka partially cooked, for you non-fancy-pants people). Any mix-in meat items will need completely pre-cooked and cut up.

2. Thinly slice (as thin as you can get it) the cabbage. I like using a serrated bread knife. Break apart the pieces so they'll mix easily into the batter. Put the cabbage in a large bowl.

3. Mix together the flour, water, eggs, salt, and baking powder. The mixture will be slightly lumpy, but that's OK. Mix this batter into the cabbage bowl, stirring well. It's advisable to do this in several stages.

4. If there are any other veggies or pre-cooked meat chunks you want *in* the okonomiyaki (as opposed to stuck on the top/bottom) mix them in now.

5. Grease/butter a griddle or pan. Pre-heat to medium-hot. Put 1/16 (or 1/8, if you're using pork chops--they're only on one side) of the special embedded meat in a small pile. Ladle about 2 cups of the batter over the meat. Press the another 1/16 of your choice of par-cooked meat into the top of the pancake. Repeat until your cooking area is full.

6. In about 4 minutes, check on the okonomiyaki. When you see small bubbles coming through the batter--just like happens when cooking pancakes--they are ready to flip. This could be anywhere between 4 and 8 minutes, depending on how hot your pan is. Don't flip until you can slide a spatula cleanly under the okonomiyaki without fighting it.

7. Cook on the second side for about 2-4 minutes. Again, don't flip to check unless you can get the spatula in without an argument.

8. If you're starving, prepare an oko from the first batch to eat. If not, keep going until you're out of batter. Store the finished oko either on a plate in the microwave or on a cookie sheet in a warm oven until you finish them all.

9. To decorate a cooked okonomiyaki for eating--spread or squirt a nice layer of mayo, bbq sauce, and whatever other sauces you wanted on top of the okonomiyaki. Sprinkle on a few tablespoons of bonito flakes and wave back to them as they beckon you to enjoy your first mouthful. Cut up into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!

10. I'd recommend refrigerating any leftovers without applying the toppings. To reheat, pop in the microwave or oven (both work well) and then top with abandon.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Higgledy-Piggledy Ham Salad

Ham salad might not be a novelty for some of you...but for me, it is. Growing up, I ate tunafish salad...often...and on rare occasions, "weird" chicken salad at someone else's house. I wasn't exposed to ham salad until I was in my teens, at which point I looked at the pink mush and WAY am I eating that! Fortunately, I aged with some good sense (hey, I said SOME) and have recently taken the leap. For all of you who had been in my shoes, I say...TRY IT! YOU'LL LIKE IT! IT MIGHT JUST BE THE BEST THING YOU EVER PUT IN YOUR MOUTH! (Was that too hammy?)

For those of you who are familiar with ham salad, this is a different spin than many recipes I've found. I know it sounds kinda odd, but stick with me. Most recipes use hunks of leftover baked ham--this utilizes lunchmeat. What can I say? I had a bunch extra and was sick of lunchmeat sandwiches...

1 pound sliced ham lunchmeat
1/4c whole mustard seed, rehydrated in beer of choice (I used a wit)
3 heaping tablespoons of prepared horseradish
2 stalks celery
1/2 small onion (about a 1/4 diced)
3 hardboiled eggs
1 T French's mustard
1c mayonnaise

1. Get out your food processor. Take the chunk of lunchmeat and cut it into strips and then squares. This helps the processor work more quickly. Process the ham until it is a pile of tiny bits. Scrape the ham into a medium-sized (2 quarts or so?) bowl.

2. Loosely chop the celery and onion and put it in the processor. Process to desired size--I recommend the equivalent of a dice. Scrape the veg into the bowl with the ham.

3. Cut up the hardboiled eggs (I sliced across, then cut the slices into rough thirds). Add to bowl.

4. Dump in the mustard seed, horseradish, mustard, and mayonnaise. Mix with a spoon. Add fresh cracked pepper if desired. Taste and adjust.

5. Spread on bread and eat! Better than you thought, right?

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Zippy Dippy

This dip is for chips...preferably ruffled chips. You will definitely like it, and you will definitely smell like garlic if you eat more than a few chip-scoops-worth. Yields about 25 ounces.

16 oz light sour cream
4 oz neufchâtel (or cream cheese)
1/4c shredded yellow cheddar
5 green onions, thinly sliced
2T hot mustard, such as Mr. Mustard
4 heaping T prepared horseradish
~6 pieces of bacon (see step 1 to quantify), fried and rough-chopped
1 clove minced garlic (sauté it if you want to eat this with other people...alternatively if you wish to drive them away, add more raw garlic)
Salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, cracked pepper, and old bay seasoning to taste

1. Fry up the bacon. You will need 4 or so pieces for the dip. Forget using tongs to flip people use chopsticks. You're smart, aren't you? Take the bacon off to cool on a few paper towels and set aside. Eat one piece when edible temperature (this is important; do not skip). Vital that you feed one rasher to each person helping you prepare the dip as well.

2. Combine the sour cream and neufchâtel in a largish bowl. You could use a mixer to knock the lumpy cream cheese into shape--or a fork if you're lazy. Don't ask me how taking longer doing it by hand is lazier...if your mixer was where mine was, you'd do it too.

3. Shred the cheddar and fold into the sour cream...thinly slice the green onions and fold in...mince the garlic get the idea. Add horseradish, add mustard; add dry spices to taste.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Zuppa Tosc-Awesome

This soup is loosely based on a loose adaptation of the Olive Garden dish, Zuppa Toscana. I originally ordered this soup for the same reason as everyone else--you're getting the soup, salad, and breadsticks lunch and discover the soups all sound like tosh...except...oh, what's this...there's sausage in this one. I fiddled with it a bit and so now it isn't quite's Tosc-Awesome.

Note: I omitted the cream usually called for in Zuppa Toscana so I could pretend I was being a bit healthy--if you don't like brothy soups, you'll probably want to add some cream to this. Do so after the boiling is done--you just want to warm it through. Maybe a pint or so for this amount?

Zuppa Tosc-Awesome -- Yields about 1.5-2 gallons
2 32oz cartons of chicken broth (which you will then fill again with water)
2 lbs ground sausage, such as Bob Evans Savory Sage
5 medium-largish potatoes, cubed (skins on is nice)
3 medium-largish potatoes, sliced and diced finely
2 pinches red pepper flake
2 bay leaves
Granulated garlic
Granulated onion
1 small bunch kale, ribbed and chopped thinly
1 bag frozen peas
1 onion, sliced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced

1. Prepare the onion and garlic. If no one has ever shown you the proper way to do this, there's lot of mucking about. Here's what I like to do: cut the root and stem ends off first. Next, make a shallow slice down the side so you can peel off the paper and funky outer layer. Cut the onion in half from root to stem end. Now the exciting part: turn the half flat side down, and start slicing down the onion so that the little half-rings fall apart on their own. Isn't that great? Anyway, do that. Cut the ends off the garlic, squash it with the flat of your knife, and de-paper it. Mince finely.

2. Cut up the potatoes. Most of them should be in nice chunks--but since we're not adding cream as in the original version of this soup, you should (basically) mince some of the potatoes so they fall apart completely in the soup to add body.

3. Brown the sausage in a large pot with a bit of water to keep it from burning. I wouldn't add more fat to it at this point...the sausage can be pretty greasy already. After it's started browning, toss in the onion and garlic and stir.

4. Pour in the chicken broth and water. Add the bay leaves and red pepper flake; stir in granulated garlic, onion, salt, and pepper to taste. Side note: Be cautious with the red pepper--honestly, 2 pinches is more than enough to give a nice heat to several gallons of soup. Yes. Several Gallons. If you don't like spicy put in one or two PIECES instead of pinches.

5. After the broth is boiling, toss in the potatoes and carrots. Boil until your root veggies are cooked through. This can be as quick or long as you like--the longer you simmer, the better the flavor.

6. Add the peas at some point--you don't want to boil them too long, or they'll get mushy.

7. Cook the kale. You should de-rib each leaf and cut it into strips. Don't get terribly lazy, or you'll have huge leaves of kale in your soup...wet, messy, and hard to eat! By the way, if you're not sure whether you like kale or not...steam it in a separate pot. That way if you don't like it, you can...I don't know, freeze it or something and make it into artichoke-spinach dip...sans spinach.

8. After the broth tastes good to you--dish it out and top with a bit of kale. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

5 Bean, 4 Pepper, 3 Meat Chili

So I was just gonna call this 5 bean...but then I realized the 4 and 3 parts...I could have popped in 2 and 1, but it would have been forced. Anyway, this is a good recipe for when you wanna have leftovers all week, and maybe some to freeze too. Also a fantastic way to use up hot peppers if you have a million on the bushes on your back patio...I digress. I will record here what I used...but the great thing about chili is YOU CAN PUT WHATEVER YOU WANT IN THERE, and as long as there's some kinda bean, you're usually within the legally accepted bounds. Oh, also, I split this in half so I could make one batch really spicy...and one batch edible. :)

5-4-3 Chili
Big can kidney beans
Small can black beans
Small can Northern beans
Small can Garbanzo beans
1 lb bulk sausage
1 lb hamburger
1 lb cut up chicken breast
1 large onion
5-7 cloves garlic
1 can tomato sauce (not pasta sauce, tomato sauce)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 lb fresh green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
Handful of fresh basil and parsley,
For edible spice: 1 serrano del sol pepper, 1 cherry bomb pepper, 1 jalapeno
For hotness: 12-15 of the above, assorted
1 bell pepper, chopped
Big carton of beef broth

1. Chop and saute the garlic and onion in some olive oil.
2. Cook the meats with the garlic and onion until everything is done.
3. Dump everything in the pot. (Remember to halve everything into two pots if you're making two batches)
4. Cook on high until the chili is bubbling. Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours.