Fast Food, My Way

Mon, Nov 10 • 0

A friend of mine sent me an email specifically asking about what I make when I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen — when we’re hungry, and I need to make something quickly, and don’t have time to marinate, macerate, or equivocate.

Oddly enough, my mind usually turns to breakfast, regardless of the time of day.

Omelets. You can usually whip one of these up in no time flat, and it’s a great way to use up left overs and odds and ends in the fridge. I’ll usually start by frying up some diced bacon, or kielbasa, or pancetta, or country ham… small dice, a quarter of an inch… in some butter in a non-stick pan. Then I’ll throw in some diced onions and peppers. Short of that, I usually keep a frozen vegetable medley that contains potatoes in it. I’ll nuke it to take the freeze off, and then put a portion of that in with whatever I’ve started frying. You really don’t need much to get a good omelet going. In fact, if you’ve got too much, you’ll more than likely end up with a scramble instead (not that that’s so bad). Then I’ll take three eggs, and break them into a bowl, and add a good pinch of salt, and some grinds of pepper, and whisk that with a fork until well blended. I’ll pour the eggs into a pan, and shake the pan, until the bottom is well coated with egg. My wife doesn’t like runny eggs, so I probably cook the whole thing for more than I need to. And though some might find this last part cringe-worthy, I’ll add a slice of velveeta cheese. This recipe makes enough for 2 people, unless they’re really starving — and from beginning to end, no more than 15 minutes, not counting clean up.

Other things you could add — browned hamburger and jarred salsa; leftover steak with onions and horseradish and sour cream; beef stew…

Pancakes & Sausage. I usually fall back on the premixed, but you can find a detailed recipe for pancake batter anywhere on the net (like here). I’ll mix the batter up while I fry up the sausages — which I put in a skillet with a tablespoon of butter and a quarter cup of water. I bring the water to a boil, and clamp on the lid, and let the water heat the sausages through, then remove the lid to let it all evaporate, and then let the butter brown them. As for the pancakes, well, I probably don’t need to tell you how to make these, since it’s probably the first thing (after cereal) that most of us learned how to make as kids. I use a cast iron griddle pan over medium, with a spray of canola. I ladle the batter on, and wait for the bubbles to set. (I usually add a couple or six frozen blueberries into each pancake as they cook on the first side.) I flip em, and let the second side cook. Use whatever syrup you like — I like organic grade B, because it has a stronger taste. Again, this meal takes about 15 minutes, from start to finish.

So maybe you’re more into dinner-type meals? Well, I’ll point you to some of the recipes I’ve already posted … Slumgullion is a deep comfort food for me, and probably only takes about 20 minutes to make, and can feed a small army for about $5; Sausage and Peppers is another winner. I’ll post more recipes in the coming days with a special mind to quick, and easy prep.

Have you got any simple and quick, go-to recipes to share?

La Cense Mail Order Beef

Tue, Jul 15 • 0

Last week, the good people at La Cense Beef sent me a quantity of their products to try for free in the hopes I’d tell you good things about them here. And after trying some of the items they sent, I am certainly impressed.

Their website proclaims that their beef is all natural, hormone free, grass fed beef. The product comes in a styrofoam cooler, deep frozen with a block of dry ice to keep it that way. After allowing them the thaw, my wife and I have sampled two of the items they sent — their steak burgers, and their NY strip steak.

The hamburgers were fine, though not anything really to write about, but their strip steak was delicious. Strip steak is my favorite cut when I make steak. I usually go for the thick steaks that sell at Whole Foods for similar price, per pound, as La Cense, but they’re cut much thicker, and require a bit more care to cook.

The La Cense strip steak was about three-quarters of an inch thick. It arrives in a vacuum package, so the steak was a little misshapen when I removed it from the packaging. (Somehow, during shipping, the packaging on this steak had developed a small hole, so it left a bit of a bloody mess in my refrigerator as it thawed. You’d do well to thaw your steak in some sort of a tray or zip top bag to avoid a similar fate.) The steak displayed a good amount of fat and marbling, and the flesh was deep red.

After cooking the steak in the usual way (warming on the counter for 30 minutes to take the refrigerator’s chill off, drying the surface with paper towel, and then generously sprinkling with salt and fresh ground black pepper, I cooked the steak in a hot skillet for 3 minutes per side, putting a lid on the pan for the last 2 minutes of the second side, to cut down on the smoke, and to push the heat deeper into the steak. I then allowed the steak to rest for 10 minutes.) My wife proclaims that this is one of the best steaks I’ve ever made, better than the dry-aged steaks from Whole Foods.

Since I’m suffering from a head cold, I will have to take her word for it. I thought it fared better than a similar cut from the normal grocery store, but wasn’t quite up to par when compared to Whole Foods. Add to that the inconvenience of having to thaw the steak for several days puts it slightly lower in my book. However, if I had ample freezer space (which I don’t), I wouldn’t hesitate to order several of these steaks to keep on hand.

A 7.5oz strip steak will set you back $17.49, considerably less than a similar steak from other mail order companies (Lobel’s sells a 10oz. natural prime dry-aged bonless strip steak for a whopping $46.99, and Omaha Steaks normally sells four 8oz steaks for $69.99, which works out to be exactly the same as La Cense. My local Whole Foods sells its grass-fed beef for $15.99 a pound, dry-aged for $17.99 a pound.)

La Cense Mail-order All-Natural Beef

White Bean Mash

Sat, Jun 14 • 0

An easy dinner side dish comes together in less than 10 minutes.

1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 can cannellini
(white kidney) beans, drained

In a sauce pan, heat up some oil, and lightly fry the chopped garlic. Add the beans, and let them heat up. Then, with the back of a wooden spoon, mash the beans to form a paste. Season with some salt and pepper.

Zucchini with Scallions and Mint

Sat, Jun 14 • 0

A tasty recipe to use up all the squash for your garden.

I saw this on Lidia Bastianich’s cooking program on PBS. It’s surprisingly delicious. (You should know, though, that boiling vinegar will leave a lingering, though not completely unpleasant odor.)

½ c white wine vinegar
3 medium green zucchini, sliced
6 scallions, cut into 1″ pieces
fresh mint leaves, chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil, and reduce by half. In large frying pan, sauté the scallions in a little hot oil. Add the zucchini, and allow it to brown on both sides. Add the reduced vinegar and toss to coat each slice. Remove from heat, and add chopped mint leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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