Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pickled Chicken

This recipe is my grandmother's variation on Pollo en Escabeche - a Portuguese dish of cold chicken pickled in a vinegar and wine marinade. The chicken is tender and delicate in flavor and perfect for serving with a salad or for a easy meal. The chicken can also be served warm, or at room temperature.

Grandma's version does not call for any vinegar, but it is cooked in white wine. After a bit of research I find that you could replace the water in this recipe for an equal amount of red or white wine vinegar. Be sure to use a good dry white wine for this recipe. I used a Pinot Grigio.

Pickled Chicken
1 medium frying chicken cut in pieces
1 cup of white wine.
1 cup of hot water
1 small lemon, sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
3 carrots, sliced thinly
1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon thyme
olive oil

Brown chicken in olive oil until golden. Place in casserole with vegetables and seasonings and pour water and wine over top. Simmer gently until chicken is tender. Refrigerate and serve cold.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sour Cream Cucumber Salad

It's interesting how recipes change with each cook who makes it. This recipe was a favorite of my grandmother and my mother. It was always on the table at parties and gatherings. It's not something I liked at first, but I have grown to love it. When my mother made it, the salad was more soupy and spread all over the plate. I am one of those people who believes that all inhabitants on the plate should keep to their own turf unless purposefully mingled by the supreme authority (that's me!) Gravy! Keep to your side of the plate - stay out of the corn! Hence my Cucumber Salad has a bit more body and is less disobedient. My mother and I also argued over the salt in the recipe. But I personally sat with my grandmother with notebook in hand and got the exact recipe as she made it - with salt!

This stuff doesn't last long in my house. I am lucky if I get one serving. The gremlins leave me nothing but an empty bowl if I dare leave it to chill overnight. Guess I need to make more!

Sour Cream Cucumber Salad
6 large cucumbers
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 heaping tablespoons Kosher salt
12 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Additional salt, to taste

Peel and remove seeds from cucumbers and slice thinly. You can leave on some of the green cucumber peels and use red onions for a bit of color, as this salad is very white. Combine with sliced onions in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt and cold water to cover. Refrigerate overnight until cucumbers and onions are wilted. Drain and squeeze out extra juice from the vegetables. (Squeeze them good or the salad will be too salty and too runny). Stir in sour cream, sugar and season with additional salt to taste. Serve yourself a bowl and hope there are some left when you return for seconds!

Cucumber Salad on Foodista

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Potato and Onion Pierogi

This recipe is dedicated to my cube mate Andrea (aka "The Grand Inquisitor"). She puts up with a great deal sitting next to me, and she always has a sense of humor, even when tired from a night caring for her little one. We were both thinking of Pierogies this week, and I decided to experiment a bit. This is the result of my day of experimentation. After several hours of multitasking, I emerged from the kitchen bedraggled and dusted with flour and armed with delicious pierogies toasted in butter.

I probably will be editing this recipe as I learn to equalize the proportion of filling needed to dough, so keep that in mind if you find things different around here. I found three websites that assisted me, and I used a combination of all three to create my own.

Pierogi Dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs

Combine ingredients and knead into a pliable dough, about 10 minutes or so. I threw all of my ingredients into my bread machine and let it do the work of kneading. A food processor can also be used. The dough should be smooth, pliable and not too sticky. Add flour as needed, cover and set aside. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for a few days.

Pierogi Filling:
3 large potatoes, peeled
1 large sweet onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until a fork easily pierces the potatoes. Drain and mash or process through a potato ricer. Set potatoes aside to cool.  Saute onions in a skillet with butter until soft and translucent, not browned. Add to potatoes and mix well. Do not add any additional liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sample the potato filling until the seasoning is good, as too little seasoning could easily leave the dumplings bland.

Dusting with flour, roll dough to 1/8th inch thickness. I used my Atlas pasta machine, because I typically don't bake and can't even remember where my rolling pin is. I gradually rolled it to a thinness of setting "4", which is about 1/8th inch thick. Lay dough out on a dusted surface, and cut rounds of about 3 1/5 to 4 inches round. Fill in the center with potato filling - approximately one generous teaspoon, moisten one half of the edge around with water and seal firmly with a fork and your fingers. I used a dumpling press to do mine.  When the dough is used up, you can either cook the pierogies and serve them or freeze them for future use, laying them out on a tray until frozen, and then sealing them in a container or bag.

To serve, boil completed dumplings in water for about five minutes, until they float. Drain, and then place in a skillet heated with butter and onions. Saute until dumplings are golden and onions are browned. You can either serve them slathered with sour cream, or as I do with melted mozzarella cheese. Four of these dumplings is a filling serving. My batch of dough ran out at about 20 dumplings.

Websites used in the making of these yummy pierogies:
Helen Dyrkaz's Pierogi Recipe
Accidental Hedonist - Potato Onion Pierogi
Homemade Pittsburgh Pierogies with Sour Cream

Pierogi Casserole on Foodista

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I first encountered Chimichurri at my aunt Carol and uncle Juan's house. We visit yearly when we are returning from vacation, and each time we go there she serves up something fabulous for lunch. One year she and my Uncle were grilling chicken and sausages for sandwiches. Aunt Carol pulled this sauce from her refrigerator almost as an afterthought and my cousins began pouring it on their sandwiches. My sister Kathy and I shrugged and added it to ours. In my memory, I distinctly recall Kathy's eyes getting big and round. I swear I heard nothing but heaven's choir singing. My love! My Chimichurri! Where have you been all my life? We haven't parted since and my bottle of Chimichurri is always near in my refrigerator awaiting it's pairing with chicken or steak.

This is my own version of Aunt Carol's recipe. The sauce keeps for several months in the refrigerator. The olive oil will solidify with the cold, but a bit of time at room temperature will bring everything back to normal.

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water

Combine all seasonings, herbs, onions and garlic in a heat-proof bowl. Heat olive oil in microwave until hot, but not boiling and pour over seasonings in bowl. Set aside to give time for the seasonings to infuse flavor into the oil - about 30 minutes. Heat vinegar and water to a boil and pour into bowl and allow to steep for 2 or 3 hours. When cool, pour into a bottle and serve.

Chimichurri can be served as is over grilled or roasted meats. It can also be used as a marinade by combining 1/4 cup of Chimichurri with about 1/2 cup of vinegar.

Chimichurri on Foodista

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Savory Cornbread

In late July, Western Pennsylvania corn is at it's very best. You can find it for sale on street corners everywhere. It's one of my favorite foods, and it tastes like sweet sunshine. The snow keeps falling and I am craving some of that sunshine. So I decided to imagine some warm weather and bake my favorite cornbread. Cornbread has a different character depending on the region of the US you are in. I prefer a savory southern cornbread, the type which is found in the rural south. Unlike the drier and lighter northern cornbread, this is more dense and moist. It is also zesty with a touch of sweet. I am getting warmer already!

This recipe calls for bacon grease.  The southern United States is famous for it's cured and smoked bacon. Nothing was ever wasted by struggling and hardworking families in the past, and bacon grease was saved and used in many dishes. It doesn't hurt to learn a few of these economies and put them to use today. But for those who avoid pork products, butter also works well and tastes lovely.

Savory Cornbread
2 cups of fresh sweet corn (you can use canned sweet corn)
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
fresh ground black pepper (about 6 grinds)
one good pinch kosher salt
hot sauce (to taste!)
2 tablespoons bacon grease or butter

In a bowl combine corn, cornmeal, flour, milk, egg and seasonings and mix well. Set aside. In a cast iron skillet, saute onion in bacon grease or butter until soft. Pour in corn batter and bake in skillet in oven set to 350 for about 35-40 minutes. Melt butter over the top while hot and serve. If preferred, you can bake in a 9x12 baking dish, greased with butter.

Cornbread on Foodista

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baked Kibbee

I have been searching for a good kibbee recipe for a while. I lie. Actually I would prefer to have a plane ticket to the Levant to try a homemade version made with love by a random grandma. Sigh. And so I perused cookbook after cookbook looking for a recipe that would be easy enough for a novice like me to do, and tasty enough to make me feel like I was relaxing by the Eastern Mediterranean. Lo and behold I found a recipe in my Grandma's collection. Was Grandma Harvey secretly wishing to travel the world too? Maybe! Perhaps this is the source of my wanderlust!

This makes a huge batch of kibbee - a full 9x14 pan. Next time, I am planning on dividing the recipe by half and hopefully getting something around 9x9.

Baked Kibbee
2 cups #1 fine bulgur
2 large sweet onions, chopped
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 pound pine nuts
2 1/2 pounds ground lamb (or mixture of ground lamb and beef)
fresh ground pepper
kosher salt
pinch mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup corn oil

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cover bulgur wheat with hot water and soak for about 15-20 minutes. While bulgur is soaking, saute onions with one stick of butter in a skillet until onions are soft. Remove onions and set aside. In same skillet, brown pine nuts until golden brown and set aside with onions. Brown 1/2 pound of the ground lamb until cooked through, and then add to the onion and pine nut mixture. This is your filling. Season with salt and pepper and allow filling to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine remaining meat and bulgur wheat. Using hands, mix to combine. You can also run through a food processor using ice water to keep the meat-wheat mixture cold. Add salt, pepper mint and ground cloves to the mixture. Knead well until all of the seasonings are incorporated into the mixture.

Butter a large pan (13 x 9 or larger) with generous amount of softened butter. Divide the meat/wheat mixture in half, and cover the bottom of the pan with one portion of the meat - adding in small patties and pressing together to a 1/2 inch thick solid layer. Smooth the surface with hands dipped in cold water. Add filling layer and spread evenly. Take the remaining half of the meat/wheat mixture and cover the filling, using small patties of meat until the entire surface is covered in a 1/2 inch layer. Smooth and press together using hands dipped in cold water.

Using a sharp knife, cut around the sides of the pan, and then cut the kibbee into diamond shapes about 1 1/2 inches wide. Take your finger (dipped in cold water) and poke in the center of each diamond. Pour evenly with corn oil over the top of the meat and let the oil soak into the divisions. Bake for about 1 hour. Let cool for 5 or 10 minutes and remove from the pan and serve. Drizzle the hole with extra virgin olive oil and serve with pita bread and a salad of fresh cucumbers and yogurt. It's also delicious served cold the next day.

Kibbee on Foodista

House Salad Dressing

This is more memory than recipe. It's funny how memories change over time. When I was a kid, mom always made the homemade salad dressing below and I thought it ordinary and boring. It wasn't until I was a teenager that store-bought dressing made it's entrance into our kitchen. Like all tired old things, this dressing became a thing of the past as we sampled all of the new flavors that came from the bottles. Bottled dressing now tastes strangely - "bottled" to me. It's too salty and too vinegary, or just too artificial. I kind of miss the taste of the homemade stuff. And when my mother died in 2007, I began to recall all of those silly concoctions my mother made. Like her fruit salad - a canned pineapple ring with a gob of cream cheese in the middle. And this salad dressing, once banal and ordinary, it now sparkles with her memory.

It's a simple dressing, and pretty cheap to make. I don't recommend substituting the Heinz Tomato Ketchup for any other brand. Blame it on being from Pittsburgh if you must. This ketchup is a part of my history and my city's history. Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Clark Bars rule!

House Salad Dressing
1/2 cup Heinz Tomato Ketchup
1/2 cup Miracle Whip

Mix together well and drizzle over a fresh crispy pile of iceberg lettuce. You can thin it with some milk or water if you wish, but I like it just how it is!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Boiled Salad Dressing

My great-grandmother, Sophia Kraft was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1882 to German immigrants. At the age of 16, she was living away from home as a cook in Youngstown, Ohio. It was probably at this time she acquired the vast collection of recipes that I am fortunate to now have. This is her recipe for salad dressing. It is tangy and creamy, and perfect on a bed of greens.

This salad dressing is made without any vegetable oil. Back before 1900, commercial vegetable oil was not yet available. The Italians were newly immigrating to America, and with them came olive oil, but this was still not readily available to the average cook. One of my vintage cookbooks, Presbyterian Cook Book published in 1927 has a similar recipe. The author states that this dressing will keep "for a month or more."

Boiled Salad Dressing
1 large egg
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons butter

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add water and mix thoroughly, removing any lumps. Beat eggs well and add vinegar and seasoned water. Heat gently in a double boiler, stirring constantly until it thickens. Take off the heat and stir in butter.

Sophia's recipe states that if desired, you can stir in a bit of sweet or sour cream. I added about one tablespoon of sour cream.

Boiled Potato Salad Dressing on Foodista

Red Beef Curry

Some day I want to travel to India. Actually I have a lot of places I want to visit, but India is in the top three. I blame this fascination on my mother. Her passion was China. So great was her love of Chinese culture that she learned Chinese painting and earned her black belt in Karate. Eventually she was able to visit the country she had come to love and enjoy it's beauty and it's people. This hunger to learn about other cultures is one of the greatest gifts she gave me. So until the time comes when I can visit the places I wish to go, I imagine myself being there with the food.

This is an easy curry to make on a weeknight. It keeps and reheats well, and lets me imagine myself in a faraway place during my work lunch break. Sometimes I need that mini-vacation to keep going the rest of the day!

Red Beef Curry
1 2-pound beef flank steak
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 sweet onions, sliced
1/2 cup red curry paste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter), or vegetable oil

Slice flank steak in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into thin strips along the bias and set aside. Saute onions in one tablespoon of the ghee until translucent. Remove onions and set aside. Saute beef strips in the remaining tablespoon of ghee until medium rare. Drain meat if needed and return to skillet. Add curry paste to the meat and saute to cook the curry paste for a minute. Add onions, tomatoes, and water and simmer gently until heated through. Serve over steamed rice.

Red Curry on Foodista

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bacon Peanut Butter Sandwich

One of my favorite memories as a child, was of my Grandparent's cabin in the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania. I don't remember it's exact location, but I can still see the cabin vividly in my memories. There was a huge fireplace, and a big window out the back where we would sometimes watch deer passing by. During the summers, my mother would take my sister Kathy and I to this cabin while my dad was serving his two-week active duty in the Army Reserves. On the way, we would always stop at Sadie's Bar for a root beer. I remember swimming in the pond and chasing tadpoles, and my mother giving me rides in the wheelbarrow. It was a beautiful wooded haven. On one visit, my Grandma Harvey made me this special sandwich. I will never forget it. It may be an odd combination, but something about this treat is delicious to the deepest level.

I made this last weekend, and divided it up for everyone to try. We each had a quarter. I thought my girls deserved to have this memory at least once. Shortly thereafter, Zoƫ went into the kitchen and did some clanking and banging. She emerged with a second sandwich to divide with us. Yep, like I said - it's delicious.

Bacon Peanut Butter Sandwich
2 slices of bread, toasted
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter - more or less as desired
3 slices hot cooked bacon, not too crunchy

Toast the bread until golden and smear both slices with peanut butter. Add hot bacon and assemble into a sandwich. Take a bite and savor the sticky oozy bacoliciousness.

Bacon on Foodista