Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday Night Swine

I started Panzer Kitchen about two months ago with the goal of expanding my range in the kitchen without hewing too closely to other people's recipes. I wanted to learn to cook, really cook, not just follow instructions. I'm beginning to think this was a good idea.

Last night I made something delicious of my own invention: pan-friend pork chops smothered (marinated?) in crushed almonds, fresh lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, cilantro, garlic and jalapenos. That's right, I made it up, practically out of thin air. I never used to be able to do that.

I served it with a raspberry yogurt dipping sauce to cut the spice of the jalapeno and to add a touch of sweetness--also because I wanted to enter a monthly food blogging competition called The Royal Foodie Joust, hosted by the Leftover Queen, a real blog with actual ADVERTISEMENTS. The deal is you get three ingredients--in this case, raspberry, lime and almond--to turn into a meal.

I don't love this photo, but I need to prove to the judges that I used the raspberry yogurt. I did use it, I swear, and though not totally necessary, it also wasn't half bad.

Wait a second, I just realized anyone can be a judge! Just click on the link above, go to the June event and vote for me. Go on, vote for me. Do it. Do it.

Anyhoozle, if you want to make this yourself, and I encourage you to do so, just mix up the ingredients above in whichever proportions you prefer. I went light on the soy sauce, heavy on the lime juice and jalapeno, and used a hammer to crush a bag of raw, unsalted almonds. I massaged the mix all over the chops and then fried them up in olive oil. I would have grilled them outside if I hadn't discovered at the last minute that the grill was out of gas.

Word to the wise: the almonds will stick to the pan and they will burn. If you find they're getting too burned, remove them from the pan and set them aside. They'll be fine on the plate while you finish cooking the chops. I threw the extra almond mix into the pan because it was so tasty just cooked on its own.

When the meat was done, I deglazed the pan with soy sauce. I learned something from this, which is that when soy sauce is cooked on the stove and allowed to evaporate, it becomes extremely salty. Duh. Seems obvious now, but it didn't occur to me in that split second when my eyes happened on the bottle of Kikkoman and I thought: Deglaze! Still, a little dollop of this on the pork was a nice final touch.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sweet Satsumaimo!

Say that three times fast. Or just say Japanese sweet potato.

Baked for an hour at 400 degrees, slapped with butter and drizzled with maple syrup, it's a meal. Japanese sweet potatoes have a subtler taste and denser texture than your basic yam, with hints of chestnuts, pear and pound cake. I like them a thousand times better. The Internet tells me they're a fall harvest vegetable, which I believe, but my local market has them year round. The Internet also says they're from Japan, but I'm pretty sure this one's from South America.

For something fancier, try these:
Roast them with scallion butter [Epicurious]
Japanese Sweet Potato Cakes [My So-Called Japanese Life]
Japanese Sweet Potato Gratin [NY Mag]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Barbecued Chicken

This post is pretty much self explanatory. Cover chicken in a sauce and throw it on the grill. After that, it's all a matter of opinion. I like to start it out on a very very hot grill and get it nice and charred on both sides, basting every time I turn it. Toward the end, I'll turn the heat down (this doesn't apply if you've got a charcoal grill) to let it finish cooking on the inside. I've heard that eating the burned bits can kill you, but so can being bitten by the rabid squirrel who's still camping out on our patio, or getting hit by a speeding bicycle messenger. I'll take my chances.

Plenty of people make their own marinade, which is often delicious. But sometimes I prefer to go to an overpriced market and pay a premium (about $6 in the case of this jerk sauce) for a fancy marinade that also delivers--without the work.

Put the asparagus directly on the grill, moving around occasionally, and don't worry about it.

Stay tuned for more barbecue from the Panzer Patio before our move next week. Yes, we're moving! Not to a new home page, but to a new actual, 3-dimensional home in a place called Sunset Park. Google it.

We'll miss climbing out the bathroom window to get to our patio. Some guests think it's strange, also inconvenient, and even embarrassing when they actually have to use the toilet. But we think it's charming, in the way many things can be charming in tiny Brooklyn apartments, like book shelves made from old wine crates and breakfast "nooks".

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Vodka, club soda, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Pick your proportions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Eggplants used to intimidate me. All that salting and rinsing and frying seemed too much of a hassle. It was sad, because I love eggplant. Then I learned there's an easier way: Stick the whole thing in a hot oven (500 degrees) or a covered bbq and call it a day. It worked perfectly! I poked it first a few times with a knife before I put it on the grill and then I occasionally turned it while it cooked. When the skin started to char and peel off and the eggplant sort of deflated, I took it off.

It didn't look pretty. I let it cool. Then I peeled off the skin and mixed the cooked eggplant with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. I was available on Blackberry throughout.

This photo isn't half bad, taken by sheer good fortune just at the start of the golden hour. I'm sending it over to a blogger named Michelle. I don't know her personally, but she's got a blog I read regularly called Greedy Gourmet (I especially like the European-style date lines) and a feature called SnackShots. This month's theme is salads, so what the hell.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sweet Plantains (and a Surprise Guest)

My Bubby, who is 93 years old this year, used to cook maduros, or sweet plantains. They are a childhood favorite, and immediately conjure images of my grandparents' apartment in Miami Beach--a gold velvet couch, heavy gold drapery, an oversized TV console blasting "The Price is Right," a domino set on the glass coffee table, giant watercolors by a supposedly-famous Israeli cousin and of course, maduros, rice and beans and arroz con pollo at the dinner table.

Really good maduros require plantains that are ripe beyond all imagining: black, oozing syrup and starting to mold (see left). My advice: If you think they're ready, give them another 3 days.

Peel the plantain carefully and slice it on an angle, then fry in vegetable oil, or some other oil that can stand high heat.

Be generous with the oil. I've found that maduros are tastiest when they've fried ankle deep in very hot oil. Flip them once, when the undersides are brown and caramelized, and when the other side is cooked equally, take them out and let them drain on a paper towel. If the oil is very hot, they shouldn't take more than a couple minutes on each side.

This batch came out delicious. Even the squirrel thought so. When we weren't looking, he jumped through the kitchen window, grabbed one, and ran out onto the deck to eat it. Can you blame the little bugger?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sweet Noodle Kugel

It's not exactly my Bubby's recipe. She used to make it with a can of Del Monte's fruit cocktail ("without the liquid!"). I got a little fancier and used sliced pairs and raisins, just like a recipe I'd seen in Faye Levy's 1,000 Jewish Recipes. No matter what you do, it's hard to make a mess of eggs, cheese, butter and sugar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil a bag, or a half bag, depending on the size of your baking dish, of egg noodles. Cook them until they're almost al dente then run them under cold water and let them sit. In a bowl, mix equal parts cottage cheese and sour cream (don't skimp on either one), half a stick of softened butter, two beaten eggs, sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like it), a dash of cinnamon, raisins and thinly sliced pears or apples. Mix in the noodles then pour it all into a greased baking pan.

One last touch: Before you put it in the oven, drizzle a bit more softened butter over the whole thing. That'll get the top all crispy and brown. I cooked it for about an hour.

I'm now sending this over to Ruth's Presto Pasta Night. (Think of it as Jewish baked ziti.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stop the Presses!!

Browsing through my Foodie Blogroll widget (below and to the right), I happened upon a blog that immediately seared itself into my brain: Real Bagels are Boiled. But it wasn't the bagel part that attracted me, it was the author's obsessive devotion to something called NATIONAL BURGER MONTH. Never in my own burger-obsessed life have I encountered such a vast and unusual trove of burger recipes and photos, from a startling shrimp-topped burger to James Beard's favorite burger, a decidedly unkosher blend of ground beef and heavy cream. Mysterious bagel blogger: I salute you.

The burger in the photo above was eaten by my friend Tom (right after he took the picture), another burger devotee, at Five Guys in NYC.

For more burger love, check out the always reliable A Hamburger Today.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jicama Salad

Jicama is so delicious I don't know why I only eat it once a year. For this salad, I cut a whole jicama into thin strips and tossed it with sliced, seeded cucumber and radishes. I made a dressing with olive oil, sherry vinegar, lime, salt, cayenne pepper, a wee bit of agave nectar (sugar is a fine substitute) and chopped mint.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lessons From a Sea Bass

Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

What do we mean by "adapted"? In our kitchen, we mean using most of the ingredients called for in a particular recipe, substituting some and skipping others, and then ignoring the specified measurements altogether.

What's the worst that can happen? The sauce is a little too salty? The fish a little overdone? Big whoop. The payoffs are worth it. We'll be able to cook the same meal again one day without having to refer back to the recipe. That's cookbook liberation.

On this night, we practiced braising. It's a technique you can't screw up: Brown the main ingredient (fish, chicken, meat, vegetables, etc.) at a high temperature then cook it slowly, covered, in a liquid. The browning adds flavor and crispiness, the liquid steams (we think).

We coated the fish (locally caught whole sea bass) in flour first to give some thickness to the braising liquid. After shaking off the excess flour, we browned each side in very hot peanut oil in a deep saute pan, then removed the fish to a plate. Lowering the heat, in the same pan, we sauteed sliced onions, sliced mushrooms, minced garlic, minced ginger and cayenne pepper. Here's a gratuitous shot of the mushrooms and onion, and the cheese we snacked on while we cooked.

After the veggies were nearly soft we added a few small cups of water, white wine, soy sauce and white wine vinegar. Per our mission, we didn't measure anything, just sort of threw it all in figuring it would work out (it did). Keeping the liquid on a low simmer, we put the fish back in, covered the pan and left it to cook for about 10 minutes until it was done. The final touch: a dollop of sesame oil before pouring the liquid over the fish.

Almost forgot the appetizer! Fluke sashimi. Here's how you make it: Ask your fishmonger which fish is sushi-grade (meaning fresh and fileted). Buy some. Take it home and slice it. Accompany with soy sauce and wasabi (the powdered kind is widely available and only requires a little water to make into a paste). Dip, rub, eat.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Roasted Asparagus

A classic spring crowd pleaser: Set the oven to 500 degrees; lay the asparagus out on a flat baking dish lined with tin foil and coat generously with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes or until firm.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pasta Night: Lemon & Garlic

Jessie in Lexington, Va., had a classic cook's conundrum: an exotic ingredient she wanted to play with, but no clue how to use it. (How she came to have an excess of salty preserved lemon around to begin with is a mystery.) She writes:

"I'm never quite sure what to do with salty preserved lemon, so last night I tried adding it to a simple pasta dish. Throw a bunch of trimmed ramps (that have been blanched in boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes), lots of roasted garlic, olive oil, preserved lemon, and a squirt of fresh lemon juice to a food processor and pulse into smooth. Toss with al dente spaghetti, and top with grated parmesan and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a slice of homemade bread and home brew."

We're submitting this dish to Ruth's Presto Pasta Night. Crossing fingers...

The home brew is delightful, but hardly simple. If you have a few hundred free hours on your hands, give it a shot. Here again is Jessie:

"Making homemade beer is sort of like canning vegetables in that it requires standing over a 3 to 5 gallon pot of boiling liquid for a couple of hours while all the windows in your home fog up. But unlike canning, it's crucial to regularly measure the density of the liquid with a hydrometer before adding additional ingredients (tales abound of home brew bottles exploding under pressure due to imprecise hydrometer readings). What you're looking at here is a blond ale, with a 7 percent alcohol content, comprised mostly of malted barley and stored in 3-4 cases old Grolsch bottles. The entire process--boiling, bottling, and, in particular, fermenting--takes about 10-12 days. The taste reminds this beer maker of the English ale New Castle. "

A hydrometer???

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Grilled Pizza

With the weather warming up, it was finally time to break out the grill. Up in Boston, Marisa and Mo have been cooking grilled pizza. They use a bag of pre-made pizza dough at Trader Joe's (at Panzer Kitchen, where we use no measurements, making our own dough would be near impossible) and take it out of the fridge 20 minutes before they're ready to start.

The only tricky part about this dish is flattening the dough. Mo went at it diligently for about 10 minutes, using a rolling pin and a floured wood cutting board, and occasionally lifting it up to stretch it out with his hands.

When it was the right size (in our case, sort of medium-sized), he put it on a heated grill and brushed the dough with olive oil, flipping it carefully once until it was crispy on both sides then sprinkling grated cheese and covering the grill just long enough for the cheese to melt. Again, this requires diligence, but no particular magic. Right, Mo?

We topped our pizza with turkey sausage and red peppers, chopped tomatoes and arugula drizzled with olive oil and lemon. But you can put anything--or nothing--on yours.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

10-Minute Dumpling Soup

Pick up a package of frozen vegetable gyoza or dumplings (available at Trader Joe's or most good supermarkets). Saute chopped kale and a lot of minced garlic in olive oil. Boil a pot of vegetable broth (fresh or from a cube). Drop frozen dumplings and frozen edamame in boiling broth. Let cook for about 3 minutes then shut off flame. Add kale and garlic, a splash of soy sauce, and hot sauce (Siracha if you can find it) to taste.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Spring Omelet

Fresh ramps from the farmer's market. Garlicky-scalliony-earthy-buttery spring ramps. Delicious raw with a cold beer, chopped up on a salad, or cooked with just about anything. Here, we slice up the white bulbs and the thin pink stems and saute them in lots of butter in a non-stick pan. Then we add the beaten eggs.

We cook on a low heat, using a rubber spatula to keep the sides loose as the eggs slowly cook. When the omelet is nearly done, we sprinkle on some grated parmesan and gently fold.

We top with slices of ramp leaves, sea salt and pepper.

Monday, May 5, 2008

New Orleans Special

Panzer Kitchen took a field trip to New Orleans for Jazzfest last weekend. The music was fine, but the food... omg.

Barbecued shrimp po' boy from Liuzza's (by the track)

Jambalaya from a vendor near the jazz heritage stage

Fried gulf oysters at Cochon on Magazine Street

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cream Cheese, Wonder Bread, and...

Wonder Bread and Philadelphia cream cheese: Is there a more perfect union in all of appetizer-dom? We think not. Put anything atop the squares and you're done. We went with tinned sardines in oil (King Oscar brand), radish slivers and sea salt, cucumber and dill, and our childhood favorite, green olives.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

World's Easiest Salmon

Prepare on a large piece of foil spread on a baking sheet. Rub the fish with olive oil. Add some white wine, salt and pepper. Cover with lemon slices. Close up the foil and bake until done. This was Alaska Sockeye. Serve at any temperature with a dill sauce. Or just dill. Or no dill.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Big Day For Panzer Kitchen!

Our recent duck fattoush was cited as a favorite of Cook Think's weekly Root Source competition!

The ingredient we had to work with was pita, and here's the final take from the folks at Cook Think:

"We had some incredible entries to the root source. Ivy, of Kopiaste, submitted our favorite recipe, Sheftalia in Cyprus Pita. We can’t wait to get our hands on some caul fat to try it out.

Also whetting our appetites? There was a gorgeous Tuscan Style Pita Pizza from Wine Imbiber. We’ll be picking up some lamb this week to try We Are Never Full’s Lebanese Spiced Lamb Smothered in a Garlic-Yogurt-Pomegranate Sauce and The Culinary Chase’s Turkish Lamb, Feta and Spinach Melts. We’re also excited about this Deconstructed Duck Fattoush from Notes from a Kitchen. Thanks to them and to everyone else who submitted."