Sunday, April 26, 2015

Product Review: Campbell's Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas

As you know from my Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives test, I love Moroccan-inspired recipes.  I cannot wait to visit Morocco someday!  I was excited when my mom found this product--Campbell's Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas.  It's a soup in a convenient pouch.  You tear the top to vent the pouch, microwave it, and pour into a bowl to serve.  It would be difficult to eat it from the bag.  Even if you open it all the way, you hand will brush the sides and get dirty.

The scent of the soup was reminiscent of the exotic Moroccan spices I enjoy.  The consistency was a slightly thick soup.  The pureed butternut squash gave it more substance than a broth-based soup.  The taste was oddly sweet, much like a pureed carrot soup.  I wanted more chickpeas and less sweetness.

The bottom line: would I eat it again?  Maybe.  It's better than the microwaveable bowls of beef vegetable soup made by Campbell's.  That may be the grossest canned soup available.  I'd pair it with a very savory bread though--like garlic naan--to cut the sweet.

Campbell's Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas.

Romanian Mititei (Mici)

Lately I've been on an Anthony Bourdain No Reservations kick.  I've been DVRing every episode that comes on and watching them in spare time.  Recently I watched him travel to Romania.  It didn't go exactly as planned...they couldn't film at a Dracula site and Tony clearly wasn't loving the Dracula Halloween party he attended.  He did love the mititei (mici) though.  If you're having trouble with the pronunciation, it's like "meet-e-tay" or "meach."

No Reservations: Romania

What's mititei?  It's Romanian sausage, sans casing.  Evidently it's street food--best with mustard, pickles, and beer.  Snacks for everyone by day.  Meatballs for drunk Romanians by night.  A mix of meats and spices.  Everyone does it a little differently--some use more traditional seasonings like garlic and thyme, others get more adventurous with caraway and anise.  I'm not a big fan of anise, so we'll keep it simple.

I decided to make my own mititei.  I made mine a bit bigger than the traditional Romanian ones, but with the same flavors.  They turned out deliciously fatty and flavorful.

Ready to try some Romanian food?  While not the perfectly authentic ingredients, these are things you can find readily available and will evoke everything you need to hit that Eastern European note.  The hardest thing to find will be the ground lamb.  I called ahead to the Marsh closest to my house on Mass Ave. in Indy and they didn't have any.  I also tried the downtown Marsh, who said they have it from time to time, but not that day.  Claus' German Sausage and Meat Market in Indy also didn't have any--you have to call one to two days in advance because they thaw a piece of lamb shoulder for you and grind it to order.  But, Goose the Market to the rescue on Delaware Street!  I was able to pick up half a pound within thirty minutes of calling.

You'll need:
1 lb. ground beef (I used 80% chuck)
1 lb. ground pork Italian sausage (I use Bob Evans brand--has fennel seed in it)
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1 packet of beefy onion soup mix
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 c. club soda
Ingredients assembled.

Mix everything but the baking soda and the club soda in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  Don't press too hard or compress the mixed ingredients--just loosely form a ball.  While refrigerating, soak wooden skewers so they don't burn.  No need to soak if you're using metal skewers.

Mixed and ready to be covered and refrigerated.

When you're ready to cook them, preheat your oven to broil or heat your grill.  Add the baking soda and club soda.  Separate the meat into balls for however many skewers you're preparing (no fewer than six--six will make entree size mititei).  About twelve will make more expected snack sized size mititei.  Don't pack the meat down into the balls hard or you'll get what evidently they call "pucks" on the street.  The balls are just so the skewers are uniform size.

Take each of the balls and smooth the meat over the skewer into more of an oval or traditional sausage shape and size.  Again, don't push the meat down too hard or it will be too dense--a puck.

After the skewers are prepared, place them across a foil lined pan (not in the pan where they will sit in the fat that renders) or directly on the grill.  Don't move them until you have a nice char on the side.  Then rotate.

Once all sides have a nice char, remove and serve with homemade chips, mustard, pickles, and if you're included, a beer or three.

The final product--when six skewers are made--an entree-sized mititei (mici) skewer.

Poftă bună!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Full Coverage BLT Sandwich Solutions

Things I love about summer: longer days, warm weather, and BLT sandwiches made with garden fresh tomatoes.

The garden tomatoes aren't rolling in yet, but the sweet corn is, so I'm ready for BLT season!  The ultimate high is biting into a BLT and having the perfect amount of bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  The worst: getting to the end of the sandwich and only having lettuce and bread left.

Here's how to get every bite of your BLT full of bacon and tomato.  It's so simple--you'll be surprised you didn't think of it yourself!

The full coverage BLT sandwich.

To make your full coverage BLT, you'll need three large strips of butcher bacon, sliced in half to yield six smaller pieces.  Use the thick cut butcher kind--you'll never go back to the standard strips!  Place the three strips side by side.  Then weave the remaining three strips to create a lattice work. 

 Bacon lattice work, ready to be cooked.

To cook the bacon square, I baked in the oven on a foil lined pan for about twenty minutes at 425.  Adjust based on the thickness of your bacon.  Thin bacon will cook much faster.  The thickest of butcher slices may take more time.

While your bacon is baking, slice your tomato, toast the bread, and wash and dry the lettuce.  Assemble your sandwich so all you need is the bacon.  If you really love tomato, cut your tomato into smaller pieces and stick them in place in the mayo.  This will guarantee tomato in every bite.

Tomato lover's BLT: use the mayo to glue tomato pieces in place.  This will ensure tomato in every bite in a way that sliced tomato does not.

The finished product: a full coverage BLT sandwich.

Easy Tilapia or Cod Fresca

This recipe was the result of fatigue.  I wanted something healthy but fast.  This recipe generates a full dinner in less than twenty minutes!  I've used both tilapia and cod, and the tilapia is preferable.  The cod is less firm, which I find less satisfying.

You'll need:

Cajun seasoning blend (such as Tony Chachere's)
two tilapia or cod fillets
pico de gallo
non-stick spray
haricot verts

Yield: two servings

Pre-heat your oven to broil.  Melt two tablespoons of butter in microwave.  Stir in one teaspoon of Cajun seasoning blend.  Coat pan with non-stick spray then put fish fillets in pan.  Spoon the melted butter and seasoning blend over the fish, reserving about one to two teaspoons of the mix.

Place haricot verts in microwave safe dish and cover with water.  Microwave for four minutes.  Drain in colander.

Peel avocado and slice thinly.  Season with salt and pepper.

Broil the fish for about five minutes, adjusting for the thickness of the fillet.  Remove from oven.

Return haricot verts to dish they cooked in.  Top with the remaining butter and Cajun seasonings and stir (or cover and shake to coat).

Add fish to plate, top with avocado slices and spoon pico de gallo over the top liberally.  Add the haricot verts and serve.

I added a fast dessert, too.  While the fish was cooking, I washed a few handfuls of raspberries, blueberries, and a few mint leaves.  I layered the berries in a glass with Lite Cool Whip (I'm still minimizing my dairy consumption, and while not 100% non-dairy, Lite Cool Whip is very close!)  I chiffonaded the mint and added a touch of mint throughout, then garnished the top with two whole leaves and berries.

The final product...less than 20 minutes later!  Easy tilapia fresca--tilapia topped with cajun seasoning, avocado, and pico de gallo.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Allrecipes Recipe Test: Mick's Thai Beef Salad

Recently, I posted about how much I dislike most of the recipes on  The recipes that people there rate five stars baffle me.  It's a culinary wasteland of Velveeta and bland, overcooked food.  This recipe is one in a million on that's actually amazing.  This recipe was absolutely fantastic with only one change to the ingredients and one change to the preparation.

Here's the recipe:

I followed the recipe exactly, except I omitted the added sugar.  I didn't think it was necessary because the sweet chili sauce gave enough sweetness.  And anywhere you can reduce your refined sugar consumption is healthful.

In the preparation, Mick suggests cooking the steak 4-6 minutes on each side.  My steak was not thick enough to cook it this long and expect a juicy, tender medium-rare result.

You can follow along with Mick's recipe above, or here's how to make it:

You'll need:

2 green onions, chopped
1 lemon grass stalk, chopped
1c fresh cilantro
1c fresh mint (I used slightly less)
1c lime juice
1/3c fish sauce
1T sweet chili sauce (such as Mae Ploy)
Steak (I prepared one large strip steak)
1 head of leaf lettuce (I used petite Romaine), torn to bite sized pieces
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1 pint Cherry tomatoes, halved
Optional: thinly slices of jalapeno or Serrano peppers

Prepare the dressing by combining the green onion, lemongrass, cilantro, mint, lime juice, fish sauce, and chili sauce in a medium bowl.  Not a small bowl--you'll be adding the steak after you cook it.

Season steak with salt and pepper and broil or grill to your desired doneness.  Allow to rest to reabsorb juices, then slice into thin strips against the grain.  Add meat to the dressing and chill for about three hours.

When ready to serve, tear the lettuce and place in bottom of bowl.  Top with cucumber slices, tomato halves, and steak and sauce.  The recipe calls for the tomato to be on top of the steak, but I actually prefer the steak and sauce on top of the tomatoes so the dressing flavors the tomatoes.  Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, and if desired, thin slices of jalapeno or Serrano peppers.  I love peppers, so I added these to give some extra heat.

The recipe did not yield 4-6 servings as Mick suggests.  This made three large entree salads.

This Thai beef salad is such a winner!

This recipe has lots of freshness, sweet heat, and juicy steak.  All winning components for me!  The lemongrass really adds a delightfully aromatic component.

This one will definitely be a favorite, just in time for summer!

Product Review: Daiya Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread

Now that I'm consuming as little dairy as possible, there are certain foods I miss.  A bagel with cream cheese is at the top of the list.  While at the Marsh near Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis, I was considering buying soft tofu, stirring it to break it down, and using it as cream cheese.  Then I noticed the Daiya Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread on the shelf near the vegan cheese.  It was worth a try.

I bought a single everything bagel in case the spread didn't work out, lox, capers, and a tomato.  The next morning, I eagerly awaited my non-dairy breakfast.  The first thing I noticed is that it was satisfyingly creamy and smooth as I spread it over the bagel.  The smell was not like cream cheese though--it smelled like paper.  I know that's hard to explain, but if you've been eating a sandwich wrapped in paper and grabbed a bite, it's kind of like that.  Not bad, just papery.

I assembled my smoked salmon bagel, topped it with two tomato slices, and spooned on some capers.  The presentation looked just like a bagel with ordinary cream cheese.

Lox bagel made with Daiya non-dairy cream cheese.

The taste...I had mixed feelings.  It was way too sweet.  One of the ingredients is agave nectar, and I'm not so sure it needs it.  I disassembled my bagel and sprinkled the spread liberally with salt and pepper.  At that point, it was edible but the underlying sweetness was still noticeable.

The bottom line is that this spread will work on a breakfast bagel where some sweetness will be welcome.  A Panera cinnamon crunch bagel?  That would be great.  A lox bagel or something similarly savory?  Not so much.

It's still in my fridge, but I haven't used it again. 

Home to Remove Silk from Corn...It's Never Been Easier!

Tired of picking silk out of your corn on the cob?  No toothbrush to use the supposed kitchen hack of scrubbing the silk away?  Do it the easy way.

Step 1: Cut the end (without the silk) off the cob.  You'll want to see the cob on the end, not husk.  If you see husk, cut off a little more.

Step 2: Microwave the corn for 2 minutes and 30 seconds on full power.

Step 3: Grasp corn with a towel (it'll be hot!)  Squeeze from the silk end and the corn will slide out.  All of the silk will stick to the inside of the husk!

Your summer just got a lot easier!