Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tzatziki Sauce

I made this to go with the gyro, but I thought it deserved it's own page. Even though this is a paleo food blog, I have several vegetarian and vegan friends I would like to share recipes with. It's really easy to be a good cook when you're an omnivore, but true talent is making due with limited ingredients. My friend, Kristy, is a vegan and she is one of the best cooks I know. Christmas dinner at her place rocks. I do like a good challenge and going out to eat with Kristy requires research. How do you find a restaurant where you can get both vegan and paleo meals? It's difficult. Z'Tejas has a gluten free menu, but they're only vegetarian entree, mushroom enchiladas, has lots of cheese. I found a BBQ place that has a gluten free menu, but absolutely nothing on their menu was meatless. Ethiopian and Indian cuisines have lots of vegetarian options, but bread and lentils are almost unavoidable. We went to a hockey game  last week and found a restaurant near Jobing Arena that has a huge vegetarian menu. I ordered a steak. There was butter on top.

Right before I started cooking, I ran out to the store to get a few thing. I meant to get fresh mint, but I forgot it. So I used dry spearmint. 

Ingredients:

2 cups yogurt (I used goat. If someone wants to try it with coconut yogurt, let me know how it turns out.)
1 medium cucumber
4 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dried mint (or 1 Tbsp fresh mint, minced)
salt

Place yogurt in cheese cloth and drain excess water. This is going to take a while so leave it in the fridge and go and do some other things.

Peel cucumber. Slice in half and scoop out seeds. Chop finely, add salt and strain out excess water.

Since I used dry mint, I rehydrated it in the lemon juice for about 10 mins. I pressed the garlic into a mixing bowl then added cucumber, lemon, mint, some more salt and lastly the drained yogurt. Mixed it all up and put it back into the fridge while I was having rotisserie drama with the lamb.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gyros

There are things I like about living in Arizona: It never snows, I can afford my mortgage payment, I can grill 90% of the time (and when I can't it's because it's too windy, not because it's too cold.) and my job is pretty cool most of the time. However, I was born and raised in New York City and spent a few years living inside the D.C. Beltway, so I'm more accustomed to things like great restaurants and ethnic diversity - things you can't find in Arizona. In NYC, every diner is open 24-7 and you can get gyros any time of the day. And there was that place, Fontanas, on Northern Blvd that had the best gyros. You could watch them cut slivers of lamb off a slab of gyro meat on a stick. This recipe was inspired by homesickness. I did a google search and found Alton Brown's gyro recipe. It had a video. I recommend you watch it. I didn't do mine exactly like his, but close enough. Close enough to wonder why they heck mine fell off the spit and his didn't. It got messy. I ended up cooking it on foil on the grill and flipping it on four sides. It tasted awesome, but the presentation was lacking. I just couldn't slice it thin enough.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground lamb
1.5 Tbsp Penzey's Lamb Seasoning
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed.

Place chopped onion in food processor until it turns to mush. Strain excess liquid. You want it as dry as possible. put onion back in food processor with garlic, lamb and seasoning and process for about 5-10 minutes, scraping the sides periodically.

Set plastic wrap on counter and place lamb on plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably more.

When ready, put meat on spit and roast over fire for about 30-45 minutes.

Slice thin and serve with tzatziki. I made Spinach Scallion Pancakes to have instead of pita bread.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spinach Scallion Pancakes

My friend called me the other day and asked me about coconut milk. He wanted to know if he could have it with cereal. He said he was allergic to cow's milk so he switched to almond milk and now he's allergic to that. Just now I got an email from him saying he's going to have to try rice milk because he's allergic to the coconut milk. I replied, "Maybe you're allergic to cereal".

For those of us who don't eat grains, it's difficult to obtain that full ethnic cuisine experience. I was never really a big bread eater, except when it came to things like naan, injera, pizza and pita bread. So when I made gyros, I needed something flat to eat it with. I couldn't really wrap the gyro in these pancakes, but perhaps with a little work, one day I'll have something reasonable.

3 eggs
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 16oz bag frozen spinach, thawed
2 bunches scallions
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
olive oil

Beat eggs. add all other ingredients and beat together. Heat a pan with olive oil. Scoop out batter to desired size. cook for about 3-5 minutes and flip, cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Savory Bacon Crusted Pumpkin Pie

My friend Nikos can't understand why I stopped drinking beer. Sometimes I can't understand it either. As a child, I would take sips of my father's beer from time to time. I liked the head (snicker). My father never drank crap beer so into my teen years, my palette was already too refined for the standard mass produced crap beers which were SOP at keg parties. I didn't drink much until I was 18 and could go to bars. Er, I mean 21, of course. Living in NYC, my go to was Brooklyn Lager. What awesome flavor. When I met Brooklyn Brewery's Brew Master, Garrett Oliver, at the Great American Beer Festival back in 08, it was like I just met a rock star. Seriously I was star struck. It takes alot to do that to me. I've never gotten weak kneed from meeting a celebrity before, not even Dr. Ruth. (ok, maybe a little. Never mind, Liz did have to help me walk a few steps after our Dr. Ruth encounter.) I quit my career in archaeology to work as a cellarer in a microbrewery, that is how important beer was to me. I would plan vacations around breweries and beer fests. When I was on the road, I would go out of the way to find a local brew pub. Beer was my passion, my love; it was in my blood.

And I gave it up for my health. Perhaps it was foreshadowing when I was working at Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church and there was a guest in the restaurant who was celebrating with friends. He didn't want a appetizer plate. He didn't eat anything the whole time he was there. He had a few glasses of red wine y nada mas. He had Celiac Disease. (he couldn't eat the food because everything on the menu was marinated or battered in it beer.) I had heard of it, I even suspected I had it when did my brief stint as a vegetarian and realized that despite the cool freakin' name, Seitan did not agree with me. The guy told me he used to be really into micro brews and was a real beer connoisseur. It made me sad. I actually thought that I would rather die of some horrible disease than give up beer.

But back to Nikos and his bewilderment over my grain-free diet. He asked me what I was going to do over the holidays (work, of course.) But seriously, turkey and vegetables are all I need. Plus, the drumstick doesn't touch the stuffing and it's the best part of the bird! The moment of inspiration came when Nikos asked about pumpkin pie. I said you can eat the filling with out the crust. He said, "are you going to put a sardine on top?" It was at that moment that I realized that bacon, being pliable and having a propensity to crisp when cooked would make a perfect pie crust. He said he would try it. If it weren't for the 2 glasses of wine I just had, I would bring a slice to him at work. Wouldn't I be everyone's best friend ever if I showed up on my night off with bacon-crusted pumpkin awesomeness. That would be better than the oatmeal cookies I used to bake.

Ingredients:
1 12 oz pack of bacon
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 can
3 eggs
1/4 cup walnut butter (or any nut butter or cheese if you choose to eat it, or leave it out completely, whatever)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp anise seed

If you're using fresh pumpkin, you want to drain off as much excess liquid as possible. I measure the 2 cups into a colander and then drained the liquid, so it was less than 2 cups drained.

Line pie plate with bacon. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drain off excess bacon grease. You can dump this is you live in fear of saturated animal fat, or you can save it to season your cast iron.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add all the other ingredients. beat together then put in pie crust. Place extra slabs of bacon in a lattice on top of pumpkin. Bake at 400 for approximately 45 minutes, then broil for 5-10 or until bacon on top is crispy. let cool, drain extra bacon grease and enjoy.

This was the longest blog I will ever write. I blame the wine.

Crab Cakes

I traveled all over the East Coast before settling in the vast desert wasteland that is Southern Arizona. There are many, many things I miss about it. Mostly my friends and seafood. I lived in Falls Church, VA for 2 years and when I say I'm homesick, it's usually the DC area that I'm longing for. Not NYC, that place stresses me out.


But back to the seafood. Virginia, being next to Maryland, has it's fair share of great places to get crab cakes. Consequently, so does Delaware, but then you're faced with the dilemma of finding something else to do in Delaware besides eat seafood. If you happen to be passing through DE, it only takes about 10 minutes so there might not be a reason to stop. But if you're stuck working there for 3 weeks like I was, or you're visiting family or you're a NASCAR fan and just have to go to Dover, you can explore the many delicious options. I imagine that there aren't too many NASCAR fans who are going to stumble across this blog.

Interesting fact about people from Maryland and Delaware, they put Old Bay on everything. You can't make Crab Cakes without it. Well, I just did. I used Penzey's Chesapeake Seasoning. I guess you can use any Old Bay wannabe seasoning, but if you have Old Bay, it's probably best.

1 16oz can of crab meat
2 tsp Old Bay
1/2 cup red onion finely chopped
1/2 cup green pepper finely chopped
1/2 Roasted Red Pepper Aioli (or any aioli or mayo will do)
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour (maybe more)
Coconut oil (or any fat you like)

The aioli is what holds the crab cakes together. Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup (or 1/4 cup if you want them smaller) scoop out crab mix and form into patties and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Set up your assembly line with one plate of coconut flour, a bowl with the eggs, and another plate with almond flour. Dredge cakes in coconut flour, then dip in the eggs and then coat with almond flour. Fry until golden brown. try to get the sides cooked too. I did this by putting the cakes against the side of the pan.

Remove from heat and serve with aioli, cocktail sauce or tarter sauce.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

I'm on this aioli making kick. I think it's because I like saying "aioli". it just rolls off the tongue and sounds so much more appetizing and gourmet than "mayonnaise". This time, I used the food processor. So much smarter. This one didn't come out as thick as the Smoked Tomato Aioli, but it tastes good and that's what counts.

1 large egg
1 large red bell pepper, roasted
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil

All ingredients should be at room temperature, even the egg. Puree red pepper in food processor. Add garlic and puree some more. Then  add everything else but the olive oil. blend thoroughly. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in. It took me about 10 minutes and I switched hands a few times. When all the olive oil is in, continue processing for another couple of minutes. remove from processor bowl and refrigerate. Like revenge, best served cold. To make it thicker, you could try draining some of the liquid from the red pepper.