Something to dip the pita chips in.

December 16, 2006

I finally have a moment to post on this blog, so here goes. I made up a dip for Thanksgiving appetizers. It went over, almost too well as people were filling up on the snacks before I could get the meal on the table.

Before going on, keep in mind that all the measurements can be adjusted according to taste.

What you need:

1 8 oz. tub whipped cream cheese
3 tablespoons of tahini (ground sesame seeds)
1 tablespoon Thai peanut satay sauce
1 or 2 tablespoons honey
lime juice

How to cook:

mix the first four ingredients until well combined. A dash or three of hot sauce won’t hurt. Add lime juice and combine until the dip has the desired thickness. Add more honey to taste.

If anyone tries this, I would love to know what you think of it.

the Grit

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Pita chips

December 10, 2006

Over the last year or three, chips made from pita bread have become one of my favorite foods. They’re tasty, easy to make, inexpensive, and not as bad for you as potato chips. They’re a great hit at parties. The only trouble with them is the brushing with olive oil.

Just in case, here’s how you make them. Pre-heat your oven to 400 F, with the wrack in the middle. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil (extra virgin is best.) Put the pita directly on the wrack for 5 to 7 minutes, until just barely starting to crisp. Let it cool a bit. Cut it into wedges.

As I said, the messy part is the olive oil coating. It dirties a brush and a bowl, wastes some oil, and usually gets too much oil on the bread. However, I have found a solution. It turns out, that one can now purchase good quality olive oil in spray cans. I’ve been using one made by Crisco, which comes in a nice olive green color. This is so perfect for making pita chips, that it seems to be the inspiration for the product.

Tart dough snacks

December 6, 2006

finger-food-01.jpg

I know, the silicon pan is not my favorite color, but it worked well with these bite sized snacks. I rolled the dough out very thin, on a floured surface and gave it a quick sprinkle of onion and garlic powder. Using a cookie cutter about twice as wide as the muffin molds, I made 24 disks and pushed them into the molds. I slightly over filled them with sharp Cheddar cheese and chopped pepperoni slices. Into a pre-heated 400 F oven for 15 minutes, or until the edges are nice and brown. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes or so, to let the cheese firm up a bit. They pop right out of the pan. Yum. Be careful, the silicon doesn’t look like it will be hot, but it hold heat very well!

Tart Dough

December 5, 2006

I have found a tart dough recipe that is, pretty much, perfect. You make it in a food processor. It can be sweet or savory. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator. It’s easy to work. It has enough butter in it to come out flaky even with wet fillings. Heck, the only problem with it is all that butter 🙂

What you need:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into chunks
pinch of salt
ice water

Put the flour in your food processor with the bottom blade attached. Add the butter a bit at a time, pulsing until all the butter is incorporated and you get a consistency about like corn meal.

Add salt to taste. Add spices to taste, depending on what you are going to use the dough for. Don’t go over board. The dough should complement the filling, not overpower it. Pulse to combine.

Now for the fun part. Slowly drip in the ice water while the processor is on low. The dough will start to form and, suddenly, will turn into a ball. That’s it; you have tart dough. Be careful getting it off the blade!

Put it in a baggie and chill for at least an hour.

We’ll talk about its many uses next.

Silicon mini-muffin pan

December 4, 2006

I broke down last week and bought a silicon mini-muffin pan at Wal*Mart. Hey, it was only $10, Christmas parties are coming up, I’m thinking about finger food, and this thing looked interesting. As it turns out, I’m going to buy at least 2 more. They work great. You do, however, need to put it on a baking sheet, since it is so flexible.

It has depressions for 24 bite sized whatevers. I have a great, and easy, recipe for tart dough (which can be either savory or sweet), I’ve got a biscuit cutter that makes a perfect round to line the molds, and the thing lives up to its non-stick reputation.

My experiments so far, with just cheese and pepperoni filling, have made my wife, who is on a diet, threaten my life if I make that again while she is home. I find this promising.

I’ll keep you updated as events develop.

the Grit

Not just another chicken and rice dish

December 3, 2006

I whipped up a meal this weekend that was good enough to inspire this blog. My wife reminded me three times to write down what I put in what, so I decided to share it here.

I call it “chicken and stuff on rice and stuff topped with fruit and stuff.” Here’s how it goes:

You start with the fruit and stuff, which is basically a chutney. Put all of the following into a large bowl. I used two nice ripe mangoes I chanced across at Wal-Mart, and a peach which wasn’t quite as ripe, but was still nice. Peel them and dice into chunks about the size of your finger nail. Don’t, and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough, dice your finger nail, and, if you do, don’t add it to the chutney. Next, add about half of a finely minced sweet onion. Go ahead and mince it all; we’ll need the rest later. Also toss in some minced hot pepper, how much is up to how hot you like it. Add several, 4 or 5, tomatillos, diced just a bit larger than the fruit. Add the juice, but not the seeds, of a lemon and a lime. Add a good strong dash of Tabasco sauce. Using a garlic press, squeeze out two or three cloves of garlic and a good hunk of peeled ginger root. Give this a fair drizzle of Balsamic vinegar, a shot of clear rum, and a table spoon of powdered sugar. You could also use brown sugar, but I was out 😦 You might also need more sugar, depending on how sweet your fruit is. Next, if you have it, add a shot of Grand Marnier. If you don’t keep fancy liqueur on hand, a shot of orange juice would probably do. Finish with salt, black pepper, 3 or 4 good shakes of ground cumin, a hit of ground nutmeg, and a shake of ground Cinnamon. Toss this really well and refrigerate, covered, for several hours, stirring occasionally.

Rice and stuff. For this I made a small dice of 1 medium green bell pepper and of 1 medium orange bell pepper. You take out all the seeds and ribs of course. Then, in a medium sized sauce pan, I sautéed the peppers and the rest of that minced onion in 3 table spoons of butter. I also added a good shake of crushed red pepper and a big heaping spoon of minced garlic, salt and black pepper. When all this is cooked pretty well, I tossed in a cup and a half of rice. This gets cooked for about a minute to get the rice all coated. Next I added the appropriate amount of liquid, which is listed on the rice package. Instead of water I used vegetable broth. Cook all this according to package directions. You can do this part a bit ahead, since it will stay nice and warm with the lid on for at least an hour.

Chicken and stuff. This is the fun part because you get to pan fry the chicken. For this dish I do believe that a not-stick skillet will be the best choice, since you don’t want the bacon to stick. Didn’t I mention bacon? Sorry, this starts with 3 or 4 strips of bacon, minced and fried in the skillet until you have crunchy bits and a nice pool of bacon fat. Strain the bacon out and put the grease back in the skillet. Next trim up 3 or 4 mid-sized boneless skinless chicken breasts. Then pound them a little so they are close to being evenly thick. Hit them with a little salt and pepper. Then put a cup or two of all purpose flour in a bowl. To the flour add salt, black pepper, and a nice amount of chili powder. Mix all that up. Put enough olive oil in another bowl to coat the chicken. Dip each chicken breast in the olive oil. Let the excess drain off. Flip it around in the seasoned flour until lightly coated. Discard the olive oil that is now all chicken contaminated. Add enough canola oil, or whatever oil you use for deep frying, so that the level will come up about half-way on the chicken. Heat that oil up pretty hot. Carefully add the chicken. Cook it 4 to 6 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. The flour coating should get nice and crispy. Take its temperature with one of those instant read thermometers. If it’s not 160 degrees F, cook it some more. Cover a plate with paper towels and put the chicken on it to rest for 5 minutes or so.

To assemble the dish: put a scoop of rice and stuff a little off center on a plate. Lean a piece of chicken on the rice. Put a few spoons of fruit and stuff on top and some around the sides. Drop some of the bacon bits over it all.

What I used:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
rice
2 mangoes
1 peach
3 strips of bacon
paper towels
1 hot pepper
1 medium sweet onion
1 green bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
olive oil
2 cups all purpose flour
canola oil
salt
ground black pepper
chili powder
Tabasco sauce
rum
Grand Marnier
ginger root
garlic
vegetable broth
Balsamic vinegar
sugar
4 or 5 tomatillos
ground cumin
ground nutmeg
ground Cinnamon

Hope it comes out for you as good as it did for me.

I do love to cook.

December 2, 2006

Hi,

I’m the Grit. Generally I blog with the Brit, but since he doesn’t cook, I figured having a place to talk cooking would be nice. So here we are. I’ll post a few recipes, some cooking tips, some of my blunders, kitchen gadget reviews, and what ever else comes to mind.

Stay tuned,
the Grit