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gord1

I want to write.  I have a ton to say.  I want to give you a ton of information about factory farming and how horribly we treat farm animals.  I want to tell you not to eat any pork from an animal that was raised in a metal pen, 7 feet long by 2 feet wide that never sees the light or stands on dirt.  I want to share all the information that I’ve read, but I can’t write well and I don’t have much time.

If you are interested in what gives me nightmares and what has driven me to spend as much as 100 percent more for humanley raised meats for my restaurant and my home here are a few links to check out:

Humane Society of the US

Food and Water Watch

Sustainable Table

Righteous PorkChop

If you live in Reno please check out slowfoodreno.com and come to one of our meetings and say hello.  I can’t write well, but I can talk! 🙂

As for this recipe, it rocks.  If you want to cook Mexican food, pick up a Rick Bayless book.  I have three now and every recipe I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a ton) is awesome.

This recipe looks hard but it’s not!  I did it for dinner after work.

Gorditas with Classic Shredded Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless beef chuck steak, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 small white onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus oil to a depth of 1/2-inch for frying
  • 1 (28-ounce) can good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped or 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and very finely chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (2 cups) fresh, smooth-ground corn masa for tortillas or 1 3/4 cups powdered masa harina mixed with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon baking power
  • About 1/3 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other dry grating cheese, such as Romano or Parmesan
  • About 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quarts salted water, about 1/3 of the onions, and half of the garlic and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain, reserving the broth for another use. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your fingers or 2 forks. Don’t worry that there are bits of onion and garlic mixed with the meat.

Wash and dry the saucepan, set it over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the remaining onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and chiles and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the shredded meat and simmer for a few more minutes, then taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a well-seasoned or nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Knead the masa (fresh or reconstituted) to make it pliable, adding a little water if necessary to achieve a soft-cookie-dough consistency. Knead in the flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Divide the dough into 10 portions and roll into balls; cover with plastic to keep from drying out. Line a tortilla press with 2 pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (to be on the safe side, cut them from a food storage bag; the thicker plastic usually works better for beginners). Gently press out a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to about 4 inches in diameter (it’ll be about 1/4 inch thick). You’ve now made a gordita, which is what you call a fat tortilla. Peel off the top sheet of plastic, flip the gordita, uncovered side down, onto the fingers of 1 hand, and gently peel off the second piece of plastic. In one flowing movement, roll the gordita off your hand and onto the heated griddle or skillet. Bake for about 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and bake for another 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned and crusty on the top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on the sides. Remove to a plate. Continue pressing and griddle-baking the remaining gorditas in the same manner.

When you’re ready to serve, warm the shredded beef. Rinse the remaining onions in a small strainer under cold water and shake to remove the excess moisture. Have the cheese and cilantro at the ready.

In a deep heavy medium skillet or saucepan, heat 1/2-inch of oil over medium to medium-high until the oil is hot enough to make the edge of a gordita sizzle sharply, about 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. One by one, fry the gorditas, turning them after they’ve been in the oil for about 15 seconds, until they’re nicely crisp but not hard, about 45 seconds total. When they’re ready, most will have puffed up a little, like pita bread. Drain on paper towels.

Once they all are fried, use a small knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each one about halfway around its circumference, opening a pocket. As you cut them, fill each gordita with about 1/4-cup shredded meat and a sprinkling of the onions, grated cheese, and cilantro.

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No picture, no story. I just wanted to get this down so I can remember it for the future.  It was excellent!

Melted Cheese Casserole with Mexican Sausage and Roasted Chiles (adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium fresh poblano chiles or fresh pasilla chiles
  • 8 ounces Chorizo Sausage
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces Mexican melting cheese such as Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro & sour cream optional

Roast the pablanos over an open flame, turning regularly until the skin is evenly blackened and blistered, about 5 minutes.  Be careful no to char the flesh, only the skin.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes.  Rub off the blackened skin, then pull or cut out the stems and the seed pods.  Tear the chiles open and quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds and bits of skin.  Cut into 1/4 inch wide strips about 2 inches long.

Heat the oven to 350.  In a medium skillet, cook the chorizo over medium heat,stirring to break up any clumps, until half-cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is richly golden and the chorizo is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the poblano strips, taste and season with salt if necessary.  Transfer the mixture to a 9 or 10 inch shallow baking dish.

Very lightly dampen a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the tortillas in the towel, then in foil, sealing the edges tightly. Place in the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes.

When the timer goes off, stir the cheese into the warm chirizo.  Set in the oven alongside the tortillas and bake until the cheese is just melted. Sprinkle with the crumbled oregano and serve with the sour cream, tortillas and cilantro.

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par1

Okay, let’s start with some good news!

I’ve been exercising again now for almost two weeks.  Every day and I feel great.  Thanksgiving was the final straw as I ate almost half of a pumpkin pie, in one night, and a fair amount of my pumpkin cheesecake, same night.  Sitting there, or better yet laying there I was thinking about how lousy I felt and that I couldn’t let the first seven months of the year go to waste.  So I’m back at it.

As for cooking, well…I haven’t had a ton of time, but I did make this parsnip soup not long ago and I loved it.  In fact we made a modified version for the restaurant this week. I fell in love with parsnips a few weeks back when I made them with the pot roast.  I ran across this recipe in Delicious, which is a Australian magazine and though pricey, I really like the recipes and the photography.  I’ve been picking it up at Barnes and Noble since it cost something like $100 for a subscription…they have to mail it from down under.

As for my time, well we have been super busy at the restaurant.  We’ve been working six days a week, 11 to 12 hours per day.  The economic downturn has affected us a bit, but we are still up over 12% from last year which was up 40% over the year before so I think we are doing well.  We’ve been turning down business all year long because of limited kitchen space so as things tighten in the market we have been able to replace any lost business with those jobs that we would have turned down in the past.

We have incredible customers and of course I believe we make incredible food with the best customer service so I’m not too worried. I told somebody a few days ago, on a scale of one to ten, one being not worried at all and ten being scared shitless, I’m about a five.  In fact we still have multiple opportunities to pick up business in areas we are certain will work, we just haven’t had the time to focus on them.

My heart goes out though to all those who have lost jobs and are struggling with our current economic condition.  I pray each day that our business will continue to thrive and succeed and I wish all of my readers the same.

So try out this recipe if you like parsnips. You will enjoy it and it was easy to make.

Parsnip Soup with Toasted Pecans and Feta (serves 8)

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large leeks, white part only, sliced
  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 6 tablespoons pecans, toasted, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • 5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.  Add the leeks and sweat, stirring regularly for eight minutes or until softened.  Stir in the potato and parsnips and cook for ten minutes, stirring every few minutes so that the vegetables don’t color.

Add the stock and water plus 1 tablespoon salt.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  As soon as it’s boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until potato and parsnip are tender.  Remove from the heat.

Cool slightly, then blend with a stick blender (or in batches with a regular blender) until smooth.  Stir in the cream and then taste.  Add more salt if necessary.  Reheat gently over low heat – don’t allow to boil or your cream will separate.

Just before serving, mix pecans with a small drizzle of oil to give them a nice gloss.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with feta.  Sprinkle over the pecans, add a grinding of black pepper, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley.

Devour!

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Okay things are not looking too great on the eating good side of things.  I will say though that I haven’t been eating any cereal with half and half or large bags of Peanut M&M’s.  I did sneak a piece of cardamom coffee cake today at the restaurant, but it was a small piece.

I was supposed to start working out this weekend after the trip to San Francisco, where I did in fact eat quite a bit.  I had cupcakes at Kara’s Cupcakes and at Miette. I thought Kara’s were as good as ours and I really liked their cream cheese frosting.  I think Miette’s are a bit dry and both of the times I’ve been there, I’ve been disappointed.

We had a great time on the trip and made a few discoveries in the tons of restaurants we surveyed.  I won’t bore you with all the details except to say if you are in the city and want an awesome place for brunch, you’ll have to wait for 30 to 45 minutes, check out Brenda’s French Soul Food.  The place was awesome, the food was great, staff was super friendly and their beignets are to die for!  Not just regular beignets, but these were stuffed.  One with chocolate, another with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon honey butter and another with Crawfish with cayenne, scallions and cheddar.

The first set of plans for the exterior of the new building are almost done.  I can’t share too much information, but we will have a patio outside with water and a fountain, windows that open to allow the beautiful spring and summer weather in and about 900 square feet of kitchen…10 times our current space.

We did have a scare today when I found out through a third party that the building will be in a specially zoned area because of its proximity to the Reno/Tahoe International Airport.  For about a 1/2 hour we thought we wouldn’t be able to go forward with the concept without some major changes, bad changes, but after doing some research we found out that we were okay after all.

So planning goes on…I actually spent tonight working on our new breakfast and lunch catering menu for the Winter edition.

So on to the Pastitsio.  I love Pastitso.  I often eat it at a local restaurant here in Reno called the Blue Plate.  How can you go wrong?  Meat, cheese, bechamel and pasta!

The meal took some time.  I started around 5:15 or so and I think we ate at 8:00.  This would be great for a weekend or a day you were home early from work.  The meal was excellent.

Pastitsio (makes 10 – 12 portions)

adapted from the cookbook Modern Greek

For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound ziti
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bechamel sauce

For the Pie:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 cups meat sauce
  • 3 cups bechamel sauce
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (I used panko)
  • 3 tablespoons grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese

This recipe is all about the order.  Make the meat sauce first.  When you have about 30 minutes left before the meat sauce is done start on the bechamel and start the pasta water.  When you are about 15 minutes from from the meat sauce being done, cook your pasta.

Pasta – Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and simmer for 10 minutes or until almost soft.  Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.  Allow to cool and then add the beaten eggs, cheese and bechamel sauce. Toss the pasta until well coated with the mixture.

To Assemble – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a rectangular 9×13 inch baking dish with the melted butter.  Spread a third of the pasta evenly in the dish can cover with half of the meat sauce.  Add another third of the pasta and cover with the remaining meat sauce.  Add another third of the pasta and cover with the remaining meat sauce.  Spread the remaining pasta over the top and spoon on the bechamel sauce, smoothing it over the top.  Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and cheese.  Make for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and devouring!

Bechamel:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries or ground allspice
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the milk, bay leaves and allspice in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave in a glass bowl.  Don’t let the milk burn.  You are looking for 150 degrees or so.  Melt the butter in another saucepan or saucier, then add the flour and whisk for about 5 minutes until combined.  Slowly ladle or pour, be careful, the hot milk into the flour mixture (discarding the allspice and bay leaves) and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and, when slightly cooled stir in the cheese and nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (makes 4 cups)

Meat Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup red wine, (drink the rest of the bottle while making this, I did)
  • 1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute the onions, garlic, celery, parsley, oregano and thyme for about 5 minutes until softened. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and reserve.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan and saute the ground beef, stirring often to break up the pieces, for about 10 minutes until browned.  Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, bay leaves, salt and pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Return the onion, garlic and celery mixture to the saucepan, stir well and simmer the sauce for 45 to 60 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. (Makes 5 cups).

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I was going to post this before I left for the weekend, but time was short. So please read this like it was last Thursday or Friday!

Everyone is getting sick of chili in the house. This is the fourth version in the past two weeks. I made a buffalo chili this week, but didn’t like it so I’m not going to post about it. Not that it was bad, it was just not exciting in the least.

If you missed the first two versions you can find them here – Springfield Chilli & White Bean & Chicken Chili. Keep in mind that all three of these recipes are adapted from Cooking Light. They are not the full-fat versions!

We’ve continued to work on the business plan for the new restaurant and are almost done with the list of restaurants we are going to visit in San Francisco this weekend. There are so many cool places we want to visit to get inspiration for the interior of the new place.

I’m very much looking forward to visiting my friends, Diane and Brain’s, very cool, very unique candy store in San Francisco called The Candy Store. You can check it out here. Diane and I used to work together in the city back in the Internet hay days! Diane was one of my best friends in the city and I’m so excited that their store is successful. It had been a dream of hers for as long as I’ve known her, but the cost and expense of doing business is San Francisco is so high. She persevered and finally last year they were able to swing it. If you are ever in San Fran go take a look, it will be well worth it! And tell Diane Joe sent you.

As to my other major endeavor, keeping myself in shape…I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry about exercising or eating right until I come back from the city this weekend. Then I will get myself back on track. Though this chili is from Cooking Light so that’s helpful. Another picture below!

I did blow it big time last night. This will either make you queasy, laugh or make you feel sorry for me, but about six months ago we ran out of milk. We always have the fat-free variety in the house, so I decided to use some half and half. I loved it! Now I know that the caloric content is about 10 million times more so I don’t often do this, but every once in awhile I break down and have cereal with half and half. Last night was one of those nights. Two bowls at 9:00pm of a very cool Canadian cereal called Shreddies (my wife grew up in Canada) and a fair amount of cream. YUM! I’ve even tried it with heavy cream once, yes 40% fat, but this was a bit too much!

So how about more chili? This version is from Cincinnati and has pasta of all things. According to the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cincinnatians consume more than two million pounds of chili each year, topped with 850,000 pounds of shredded cheddar cheese. Wow, I guess I need to put A LOT more cheese on this next time. I did a Google image search and found some crazy pictures with so much cheese I couldn’t even begin to believe it. I guess this is fast food in Cincinnati.

Anyone from Cincinnati who can set me straight on what the real deal is let me know!

I liked it, not as much as the Springfield Chilli or the Chicken Chili, but it was a completely different taste profile and meal. Give it a try and let me know what you think. It was well worth the minimal effort to put it together.

Cincinnati Five-Way Chili (serves 4)

(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground sirloin
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium), divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons spicy barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 3 1/2 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and warmed
  • Oyster crackers (optional)

Heat oil a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add both the turkey and the sirloin to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

Add 2 cups of the onion and all of the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 1 cup water along with the ingredients on the list up to and including the tomato puree. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Make the spaghetti when the meat mixture is almost done. Heat up the kidney beans in the microwave for one minute.

Place about 3/4 cup spaghetti into each of 4 bowls. Ladle 1.5 cups chili into each bowl. Top each serving with some onion, cheese, and beans. Serve with crackers and devour!

PS – I just picked up a cool Greek Cookbook. I’ve been wanting to try some Greek recipes for a while, not many good Greek places in Reno, so stay tuned. I think I will make pastitsio next week!

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Well let’s see, where did I leave off last time. Business has picked up in the last few days nicely and even though lunch caterings are down a bit, we have a large event on Thursday night and a wedding on Saturday. The 200 person lunch is also close, so I guess all-in-all business is going great.

This past weekend was catch-up-on-the-books weekend. Oh and I did get to play some paintball on Sunday. (See the article about Baking Bacon for more background on my paintball playing.) I studied a bit of accounting in college so somewhere along the way I took over all of the bookkeeping for Dish. It saves us quite a bit of money, but I rarely have the time to stay on top of it. When I first started I would keep the books up-to-date on a weekly basis, then it became every other week and slowly over the past six months it has become a monthly thing. Unfortunately I still have to process payroll every week along with vendor payments, but I can do those things fairly quickly. It’s the things like balancing the rather large check register or entering the daily sales info that can get put off at times.

In fact this is part of the problem I have right now. Our business and the numerous opportunities are too big for the staff, but we can’t grow because our location is too small. Enter stage right, adding a new location. Mums the word, stay tuned.

So on Saturday I was looking for something that was going to taste great, not heat the house up and would include pasta. I was in the mood to try something different as well. As always I wanted something with a method or technique that was new to me. Here is a great quote I just stumbled across. “I am defeated, and know it, if I meet any human being from whom I find myself unable to learn anything.” ~George Herbert Palmer.

So with that being said, I found the recipe in Alice Waters’ cookbook “Chez Panisse: Pasta, Pizza & Calzone” I figured it had to be good. Alice Waters, duh! One criteria down. It included some new techniques like charring a red pepper along with ingredients I hadn’t worked hands-on with before like anchovies and pine nuts. Looking good. There was no oven involved and other than boiling some water and toasting some pine nuts, there was very little heat involved. Viola, we have a winner. Oh and there was pasta involved, all the better.

The results were perfect! We loved the bite of the garlic at the back of the throat along with the light and fresh taste of the red sauce. I will make this sauce again. The texture and the taste of the pasta with the basil was awesome. Again super-fresh tasting and the added texture and flavor from the pine nuts were great. The hardest part was cleaning the food processor between sauces!

So without further delay – Here ya go!

Green & Red Pasta (serves four)

Green Sauce:

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Fresh purple basil leaves (I subbed fresh oregano)

Red Sauce:

  • 3 large ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • 2 salt packed anchovies (we used oil packed)
  • 3 cloves garlic

Other:

  • Fettuccine or tagliatelle for 4
  • Fresh Italian parsley
  • Parmiganio Reggiano

Green sauce – Add the basil leaves and olive oil to food processor and puree until blended well. Mince the garlic and add to food processor. Blend with the basil oil until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is your green sauce! Move to a glass bowl and clean food processor, you will use it again shortly.

Rinse the capers in cold water to remove the brine. Over medium heat in a small pan, lightly toast the pine nuts. You are looking for a nice brown. Be sure to flip often, they can burn quite easily. The capers, pine nuts and the purple basil, if using, are to be added to the pasta at the end.

Red sauce – Core the tomatoes and cut them in half crosswise. Remove the seeds, salt and pepper them and brush with some olive oil. Grill the tomatoes four to five minutes on each side. I used my gas grill. While grilling the tomatoes, grill the red pepper until the skin blackens. While the pepper cools, skin the tomatoes and roughly chop them. Peel the skin from the pepper and remove the seeds. Chop the pepper and mix with tomato. Rinse and filet the anchovies. Blend, in the food processor, the anchovies, tomatoes/red pepper with the remaining olive oil and season with black pepper.

Cook the pasta per the instructions on the package. Drain and mix half of the pasta with the green sauce and half with the red. Serve them side by side on a warm platter. Garnish the green pasta with the capers, pine nuts and leaves of purple basil. Garnish the red pasta with leaves of parsley and Parmigiano if desired. Devour!

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