My cooking style does not follow any particular ethnicity. When I am preparing a dish, I will use spices and techniques from all over the world, dictated by whim, and what is available. No one ever really taught me to cook. When I went to college, I learned by doing. I rarely use actual recipes with predefined amounts, but rather use a dash of this and a gob of that.
One rule of thumb that I figured out in college, is that spices that are about the same color have similar flavors and are often interchangable. There are green spices like Taragon, Parsley, Thyme. There are red spices like Paprika, Cayenne. Brown and yellow like Cumin, Cardoman, Tumeric and Mustard. I know it sounds weird, but if you don't have the spice that you are looking for, try one of a similar color. It just may work.
A few preferences. I avoid reconstituted lemon juice. I prefer to use butter to margarine. I avoid buying anything made with guar gum. Rather than garlic powder I buy the jars of chopped garlic.
Many local stores sell dried peppers in bulk. I will make blends of the various peppers. I usually make two blends. One of the larger, milder, peppers, (Negros, Passillas) and one of the smaller, hotter, peppers (pequenos, arbol)s. I just buy the peppers, chop them up in the blender and store them in a glass jar. When cooking I will add various amounts of each blend, to taste.
I like to make sauces to cook things in. One of my favorites is Honey, (fresh) lemon juice, and vietnamese chilli paste. You can add a little chopped garlic and soy sauce as well.
I particularly like to use this sauce when stir frying. I buy some of the turkey breast lunch meat, dice it up, marinade it in the sauce, then fry it until the sauce is a sticky glaze. I then stir fry the vegtables to go with it. I will serve it either over rice or noodles. Sometimes, when eating it over noodles I'll mix some sour cream up into the mixture as well.
QUICK EASY AWESOME BEAN DIP
Take one large can of Vegetarian Refriend beans and one can of Chile Chipotles. Homogenize the Chipotles in a blender. Mix the two. Chipotles are smoked jalapenos and are very tasty and very very hot. This mixture is pretty spicy for people who like hot food. If you don't have good spice tolerance, start out with about a third of a can and then add more to taste. I like to make this in a glass bowl and heat it up in the microwave.
I've recently started making my own sushi. It's pretty easy but has a reputation for being difficult and fancy. The two most critical things about making sushi are a good rice recipe and a sharp knife. I can't help much with making sure that your knife is sharp, but this is the rice recipe that works for me:
Cook 3 cups rice. (use real rice, not instant, it'll take about 5 cups of water)
4 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablspoons sugar
There should be some undisolved sugar in the mixture.
Fluff the vinegar and sugar mixture into the cooked rice
In Santa Clara County a good place to get sushi supplies is Yaohan on Saratoga near 280. Oldtimers will remember it as Shop-rite.
Spread your sushi nori (seaweed) out on the tatami (bamboo mat).
I like to cover my tatami in plastic wrap to keep it clean.
Spread a thin layer of rice on the nori covering all but about 1 inch near the edge furthest from you. I have found that a plastic rice paddle works very well for this.
Put the stuff that goes into the maki onto the rice. A common mistake is to get overenthusiastic and overstuff the maki.
Roll it up fairly tight.
Sprinkle a little water on the strip of nori that isn't covered by rice before
finishing rolling it up, to help it seal.
Use the tatami to get a nice tight roll
This is where a sharp knife comes in.
Place the seam of the maki on the bottom next to the cutting board. No, you don't cut it on the tatami.
Wet the knife in a large bowl of water conviently next to your work area.
Using as little downward pressure as you can, draw the knife across the roll.
I'm sure that all sounded far more mundane than you expected from me.
This is where things get a little weird. People tend to think of sushi as
raw fish. Lots of other interesting combinations can be used to make
diverse tasti rolls:
Smoked salmon and brie
Bacon and brie
Spam and Wasabi
Span and Pineapple
Or you can come up with your own combinations using the following ingrediants, or other ingrediants, to your taste:
chopped macadamia nuts
CHICKEN ALA' PAN
A college housemate taught me this recipe. Go to the store. Buy a chicken. Take the chicken home. Remove it from the package. Remove the envelope of innards and wash out the chicken. Put the chicken in a metal pan. Put the chicken and the pan in the oven and cook at about 350 degrees until done.
Fancier variations include sprinkling the chicken with various spices and glazes. A simple recipe addition is to just sprinkle it with taragon, or to glaze it with fruit jam.
ARROZ CON CHICKEN ALA' PAN
Cook up rice. Mix with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Put it in a metal pan. Cook Chicken ala' pan on top of it.
The trick to making a good chilli is to cook it a long time, without burning it. The longer it cooks, the deeper the flavor. "Young" chilli will give a quick surface burn that fades fairly quickly. Well cooked chilli will not be as hot initially, but the burn will build from the inside. You may notice that you are sweating profusely before you notice that your mouth is on fire.
My technique for cooking the chilli without burning it, is to put it in a covered metal pot, in the oven at a low temperature. As it cooks down I stir it to scrape it from the edges of the pan and will add liquid to rehydrate as needed. For the liquid you can use water, red wine or beer.
Chilli, is usually based on beans and/or meat. If you are making it with beans, buy your beans and start them soaking at least a day before you plan on cooking. Warning: beans swell tremendously, I usually end up with about three times as many beans as I really need. There is a plus side to this, however. Freezing the beans breaks down the cell structure, so that they can absorb the flavor of the sauce more readily. So, just freeze the excess beans for next time.
I like a lot of onions in my chilli. At least as many as I have beans (or meat). Chop them up and fry them well. To the soaked beans and onions add the spices and tomato puree (or tomatos).
What spices to use? I got my initial list of chilli spices from the ingrediants list of Carroll Shelby's chilli mix. The key ingredients are peppers, Cumin and garlic. I usually use a mixture of my pepper blend and chilli chipotles.
I like to serve the chilli with either grated sharp chedder or sour cream to temper the flavor. Remember, if you just want hot, all you need to do is add Habenero peppers and/or Chipotles. The art comes from getting the flavor along with the heat.
At a party I made a rather mild chilli, and put most of the hot ingredients in a sauce I called the ocatne booster. The octane boost ended up kicking serious ass. It's spicy enough that half a tablespoon was enough to give me an endorphin rush, yet it is really flavorful and tasty. I spent this afternoon with the Nyquists (Julia, Dick, Rochelle, etc.) and had brought some chilli to contribute to dinner, and the remains of my octane boost to spice it up.
I took a couple of tablespoons of the octane boost and mixed it in with a tub of sour cream to make a pleasant, mildly spicy dip. One of the people there commented that it was just a bit spicier than she can normally eat. Julia, Jeremy, Jessica, myself and some others were using the octane boost straight as a dip for our chips and crackers. After that, the other tasted like plain sour cream. It was nice to be in the company of folks who share my appreciation of spicy food.
I ended up giving Julia the leftover octane boost. I'm now out of it. I need to make some more, but don't remember the exact ratios. It was purely intuitive cooking, I didn't realize that it would be something that would stand on it's own so well. As far as I remember, it had three, maybe four or five ingredients.
Pureed chipotles peppers in adobo sauce (I think it was one large can)
Somewhere between four and six finely chopped habanero peppers
African bird Cayene (I dunno, maybe a tablespoon)
and I think it had cumin and possibly garlic in it too.
Octane Boost II
Wear latex/vinyl gloves during prep and fry up the following (I used olive oil):
6 fresh habaneros, stems removed, chopped up fine in the blender.
(you can use oil to wash it out of the blender)
3 fresh pasillas, chopped up (about 1/2" square)
an ounce or two of minced garlic
2 Oz package of dried Pasilla/ancho peppers
2+ tablespoons of African bird cayenne
5 tablespoons of cumin
(I would have liked to use a wider variety of large dried milder
peppers, but couldn't find them at the store)
When the fresh pasilla has been fried down to soft, put this in the blender and blend it down to liquid, then put it back in the pot. I was using my Le Crueset dutch oven to cook them in.
After cooking this paste down some more, I took 5 of the small (7 oz) cans of chiipotle peppers and pureed them. I poured them in with the other paste and cooked it down some.
Cut up a chicken and put it in a dutch oven with chopped vegetables. Sprinkle liberally with assorted spices:
pepper blend, cardoman, cumin, "curry powder", garlic
Cook in an oven at about 350 degrees until done. You may want to stir occasionally. When done remove the chicken, and mix the drippings with yogurt and/or coconut milk. Serve over rice.
Larf is any food substance that the ingrediants are not easily figured out by a cursory visual inspection. It comes in many varieties.
Dice up meat and cook with various brown and red spices. I often use Worcestershire, soy, some pepper and garlic. Mix the meat and sauce with sour cream and serve over noodles.
MACROLARF aka Megaroni
Cook up Macaroni. Blend with grated Chedder, Mozzarella, and any other dairy products that strike your fancy (Jack cheese, sour cream, milk ...). Add various tidbits to taste:
Bell peppers or pimentos
Last modified 05/29/98
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