Grant McWilliams

Food Blog

Food Blog

Food is the only art you can eat.

Eating lite

Lately I've been getting more exercise and eating my lunch later. The side effect of this is that when dinner comes around I don't feel like eating as much so in the name of satisfying my desires we've been making lighter weight dinners.

The dishes you see to the right probably look familiar because I've had them up here before. The noodles are butternut squash filled ravioli in a browned butter sage sauce. Honestly this meal takes about as much time as it takes to boil the water. You don't consume very much of the butter since you're just coating the noodles. The salad was your basic balsamic vinegarette made using whatever balsamic vinegar I had left in the cupboard. As much as people like Trader Joe's it's taken me nearly 2 years to get rid of all the crappy balsamic that I've bought there (or had given to me). I've not had the money to buy good stuff so we're using it for things like this - vinegarettes.

Italian food in Italy is very light and refreshingly simple unlike the stuff you'll get in Italian restaurants here. I'll not beat that dead horse as I've said plenty about it in the past. Anyway this is a cheap, simplen and flavorful meal. I think the main investment is the Sage if you're buying it from the grocery. If you have an Asian market or you grow it yourself this meal is very inexpensive. I spent about $6.00 to feed four people (or $1.50 ea). Definately worth the cost.

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Getting myself thrown out of grocery stores

Sometimes while reviewing an establishment I draw a bit of attention from the proprietors. On occasion that attention is negative. It doesn't make sense because if I then give the business a bad review (because of the negative attention) then thousands of potential customers will see it and business will be hurt. It would seem that a better idea would be to just let me do the review and if things are good the business would prosper but this logic is lost on a lot of people. The reason I'm mentioning this is I got thrown out of a really nice asian grocery this week and was told to delete my photos from my camera. Review with photos coming in a few days... :-)  Isn't America great? Add a comment

Chelo and Souvlaki

I'm not sure what was going on but a local store had London Broil for about $1.88 per pound so I bought some even though I don't care for it much. I figure with enough massaging I could use it for something. I can't really afford to buy lamb right now so I decided to use the London Broil in place of lamb in making Souvlaki. The beef got cubed then marinated with olive oil, lemon juice, Cabernet Sauvignon,garlic, oregano, salt and crushed pepper. The cubes of beef were threaded with onions, cherry tomatoes and red bell peppers on skewers and broiled. At 145 degrees it wasn't too tough to eat but a few pieces went over 150 and they got really chewy.

To go with it we made Chelo which is nice (especially if you like the flavor of butter). I know I'm mixing cultures by doing souvlaki and chelo but I think I can still sleep at night. I finally found a use for my Al-Clad Ltd sauce pan - making Chelo! I bought the pan and haven't really ever used it. Primarily because the sides are really low and well, Al-Clad makes the worst handles of any company in the world. I'm not sure why they do that. They ruin great performing cookware buy attaching a handle that has two really sharp pressure points on the wrist. Have they every tried to use them or are they just for looks? OK, I'm ranting about Al-Clad which isn't a good thing. It's just that they make really nice stuff and have really bad handles. Thankfully this Al-Clad pan (known from this day forward as my Chelo pan) is really small so it's not much of a problem. I have a single egg skillet that's also Al-Clad and works well because of it's size. My double boiler is Al-Clad but has two handles so it's OK. Al-Clad are you listening? It's just not me either, I was in Sur La Table and the guy selling a customer pans said "you might consider Calphalon if the handle bothers you". A-hah! The handles do suck. Ok I'm done ranting. For the purpose my Al-Clad pan makes Chelo fine so I guess I'll be keeping it.

 

 

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Tamales

 

 

I made these about a week ago but since I've been having some hardware issues with my site I haven't been posting much.

I used to be one of those people that couldn't stand the smell of steamed corn mush but something happened after I started traveling to Mexico. Now when I smell Tamales I'm immediately transported to the streets of Mexico City where heavy duty trikes laden down with giant gas powered steamers hang over the front wheels with steam eaking out their lids troll the street markets looking for customers wanting to buy tamales for next to nothing. I also think of a woman on Calle de Motolinia with a charcoal fire in the bottom of a grocery cart selling fresh grilled food. There was always a line waiting to get her food. This is Mexico City and that smell of Tamales permeates the city (along with smog of course). Now when I smell steamed corn I smile. Anyway we made Tamales in my one remaining steamer. Overall they were pretty good but the corn only versions were a bit salty. The filling in the others was a mixture of shredded chicken, raisins, onion, garlic, roasted tomatoes and chiles and oregano. I can't take any credit for the recipe at all because I made it straight from Zarela Martinez' Food from the Heart cookbook. It was her grandmother's recipe and in my opinion if it was good enough for Zarela's grandmother then it's good enough for me.

A friend asked me if the recipe was authentic because of the raisins. Number one, I don't think there's

such a thing as authentic anything and yes, anyone familiar with Mole's know Mexicans use raisins in their food.

A while ago I was steaming pumpkin in my large double level steamer and later awoke to the fire alarms going off. I scorched it pretty bad but the metal wasn't warped or anything. Since I have figured out how to get it back to normal I resorted to using my smaller steamer with only one level. This means I needed to steam the tamales in two batches taking 2 hrs to finish. When I get my big steamer either fixed or replaced I'll revisit Tamales.

 

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Boniatillo and Gulab Jamun recipes up

Now that the recipe module is operational again on my site I'm starting to upload my recipes when I get time. Tonight I added the Gulab Jamun recipe as well as the Boniatillo recipe. Both are desserts, the former Indian and the latter Cuban.

Both recipes are done for all practical purposes so I won't be changing them. Tonight I made ghee so tomorrow if I get time I will upload the "recipe" for that as well.

Boniatillo is a favorite dessert that we make out of sweet potatoes. It's really easy to make but because the potato needs to cook for about an hour you can't really have dessert in 5 minutes.

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Recipe module back online

It's been a long time coming but I've gotten the recipe module back online. There's only one recipe there which is pizza dough. I'll get the other recipes uploaded when I get time. I'm using a Joomla! component called Gary's Cookbook and don't really care for it much but don't have time to hack out the 20,000 or so lines of code or rewrite Gary's Cookbook (which is under the GPL license so I legally could) so for the time being I'll just deal with it.

I will only be uploading recipes that I am at least 80% satisfied with. If a recipe that you know I cook isn't up there it's because I don't yet like it so you probably shouldn't waste your time in asking for it. I will try to post a note at the bottom letting you know if I think it's done yet. It takes a lot for me to be satisfied so most are in various stages of completion.

For those of you that are seeing this via Facebooks feed the URL for the recipebook is http://www.grantmcwilliams.com/index.php/food/recipes

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Chicken Panang and Fresh Spring Rolls

We're just staring to cook Thai food but so far it's very similar to Italian in that it's dirt simple. Once you have a curry paste created you can make this in about the same amount of time it takes to steam the rice. Total cost for 4 people to eat Chicken Panang and Jasmine Rice - $3.60. In a recession you CAN eat decent food!

The Fresh Spring rolls in the background were made by Natalya.

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Chicken Marsala

Two days ago we had Chicken Tikka Masala and tonight we prepared Chicken Marsala. People who know us have a hard time telling these apart because the names are almost identical but there's no two dishes further apart than these two. Chicken Tikka Masala is Indian and Chicken Marsala is Italian/Sicilian. The former gains it's flavor from Garam Masala spices and the latter from what I think is the nicest of the fortified wines including Port, Sherry and Madeira - Marsala.  The wine we refer to as Marsala was born out of a Brits fondness for the then popular Port which was unavailable in Sicily. A fortified wine is one that has added alcohol added to it such as ethanol. Yes, people do that! Port is a fortified wine from Portugal as does Madeira which come from the likely named islands off the west coast of Africa. Sherry comes from Spain and Marsala comes from the city of Marsala in Sicily and is my favorite of the four. Chicken Marsala is a favorite dish amongst the southern Italians and I think I've about perfected it. The secret to great Chicken Marsala is the amount of fond you're able to build up in the pan and the quality of Marsala you use. I've tried just about every Marsala from every store in the area and I've settled on two. Unlike a Cab, Merlot or virtually any other wine you usually only have one variety of Marsala per store so if you don't like the one you had the last time you have to drive to the next store to try a different variety. My two favorites are Opici Italian Sweet Marsala available at Central Market in Mill Creek and Pellegrini Italian Sweet Marsala available at PCC markets. I use only sweet Marsala in my recipe but if you want to use dry you can add a touch of grade B maple (Grade A is not as strong)  to your sauce for a nice variation. The other issues with Chicken Marsala is getting a decent Pancetta which can be a bit difficult. Central Market had an awesome one but they've since changed brands and I don't like the new one as much but it's edible. Costco's Pancetta is pretty bad as is most pancettas you get in a package. I'm still looking for a replacement so I'll keep you posted. The last thing I'm a bit picky about is using Portobella's instead of Crimini (baby portobellas) or god forbid Oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms give up quite a bit of moisture and shrink in the process so you really want a good meaty mushroom.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Good Indian food is hard not to love. When I open my spice cupboard I'm instantly transported to a magical land full of aromas and color and when we're cooking - well, you can probably imagine. When someone says Chickin Tikka Masala most people who know Indian food knows it's a tomato creme sauce with a strong Garam Masala flavor to it.What most people don't know is that it's a dish that was created in London and has become so popular there that the Brits have declared it the national dish. The proprietor of my favorite local Indian restaurant (Clay Pit - Mill Creek WA) said that 90 percent of the people they serve order Chicken Tikka Masala because that's the most known and recognized dish. Mill Creek is a predominantly white community so this makes sense. We've eaten Indian food all over the world and it's a shame that people don't get better accustomed to some of the other dishes as they're wonderful as well. The influence Chicken Tikka Masala has had on other Indian dishes has been dramatic so much so that cooks are adding Garam Masala to a lot of other dishes to make them more appealing to customers addicted to Chicken Tikka Masala. This I think is unfortunate but a reality nonetheless. Anyway we've been working on a Chicken Tikka Masala recipe at home and we're about 90% there. On first bite it comes off as being a bit flat but things build as you proceed. What I'd like is for the flavor to be stronger and the heat identical. Outside of that I think we're about there.

You may already know that Chicken Tikka is cooked in a tandoori and I don't have one. To get around this I marinate the kebabs in the yogurt/spice mix and put them as close to the broiler as possible. This may mean you put the rack on the topmost slot and then invert a sheet pan in order to get the kebabs closer. I'm also experimenting with making naan in a similar fashion. A tandoori runs at about 800 degrees and my oven will hit 550 so by heating the oven with a Pizza stone up under the broiler I may be able to similate a tandoori. More on that later. I have a few more changes to my Chicken Tikka Masala recipe before I post it but it will be coming in the next month or so.

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Bobbing for Gulab Jamun

I'm off dinner duty tonight which means I'm on dessert duty. Most baked desserts take quite a while to make so I decided to drag out the fryer and make Gulab Jamun which is a popular North Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Gujarati and Punjabi sweet dish made of a dough consisting mainly of milk solids (often including double cream and flour) in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom seeds and rosewater or saffron.

You can get it in Indian restaurants but we've found the quality to be all over the place. Sometimes you get it cold and other times it's warm. Once they were very clearly frozen and when they warmed them up the insides were still cold - ew! Also like many desserts there is a huge markup on Gulab Jamun in restaurants, for the price of one Gulab Jamun with maybe 2 balls of dough you can make an entire dish of them with 80 at home and in under an hour.

The photo to the right is 3/4 of the batch we made because we are still experimenting with the proportions for our copper serving dish. We used 2c dried milk, 1c flour, about 2/3c milk and 1tsp baking soda for the dough. We'll be adjusting this down a bit because we ended up with an extra 10 that won't fit in the dish. The syrup is made with 3c sugar, 2.5c water (or less) and 2tsp cardamom powder. In the future I'll be experimenting with putting rosewater in it as well. This whole tray of Galub Jamun cost about $2.50.

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