Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

Had some Baby Bella mushrooms in the fridge and decided to whip these up real quick.

I'm ashamed to admit I've never made stuffed mushies before. I've always wanted to, but just never got around to doing it until today. I perused some recipes online and after a while I decided to try my own.

I removed the stems and diced them very fine along with a few cloves of garlic. I melted about 3 Tbs of butter in a skillet, cooking the mushroom/garlic mix for about 8-10 minutes on low/medium. The I stirred in some chili paste, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper at about the 8 minute mark. I let that sit for a few minutes to cool and then added some feta and mozzarella cheese.

Stuffed the caps on a baking sheet and baked at 350° for about 25-30 minutes.

I think I may have used a bit too much chili paste, but I definitely enjoyed them.

Any other suggestions would be appreciated!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food and Music

Love and appreciation of food has really shown throughout our human history, and has been encapsulated into our technological advances. A cursory look into the history of our major endeavors within society show food side by side with most, if not all mediums of information. Cave paintings dating back to the Stone Age reveal game that early humans hunted for sustenance. The Roman written Apicus is historically known as the earliest collection of cookbooks within European history, reserved primarily for professional cooks catering to the upper class. It goes without saying that Gutenberg's Printing Press acted as the catalyst for mass production of printed information, thus enabling printed cook books to flourish. The invention of the television was another milestone, which almost immediately began showcasing my favorite medium for recipes, cooking shows. It's safe to say cooking is an integral part of our society and has wriggled its way into all corners of our communications.

The combination of music and food however is still extremely amusing to me. I've grown up around instruments my entire life and have a profound respect for anybody musically inclined. I love all music, and my appreciation level typically depends on an artists eclecticism. I find parallels between my cooking and my love of music because in both instances I yearn for a wide variety of coexisting flavors. Hip Hop is a great example of what I mean when I say coexisting flavors. Producers search high and low for the best combination of samples that compliment each other, sequencing them together in elaborate orders and running them through a plethora of filters to create their own nuances. I guess you can say all music is similar to cooking in the sense that musicians enjoy following a recipe towards success. They have methods they follow, tools they use and they enjoy the flavors of each ingredient along the way. So if you can play guitar you can cook, and if you can cook... well, you probably still suck at the guitar.

What I love about songs that mention food is the innuendo that almost certainly follows. It seems throughout each generation, artists have enjoyed creating double entendres based off of the idea of cooking or food. Drug use, crime, or sexual endeavors seem to be at the forefront, but sometimes an artist is also just talking about straight up food. I have respect for that.

Below are a few of my favorite tracks that mention food and my interpretation.

MF Doom - Beef Rapp

One of my all time favorite hip hop artists, Doom has kept it real probably longer then you've been born. Hailing originally from London and then NYC, he has played a huge role in underground hip hop and is easily one of the most prolific MC's to ever touch a mic. This song has more metaphors about food then any I can think of. Try to find them all and you win a prize.

Food Kartel - Cook It Inna

I've never really listened to much Reggae, but this guy is great! I'm not sure what he's saying but he definitely means business. My guess is he cooks so good it drives everybody crazy and then they try to steal his food from him. Not cool.

Warrant - Cherry Pie

Do I really need to explain what this song is about? I guess the band got it's name when they were arrested for statutory rape.

Led Zeppelin - The Lemon Song

"The way you squeeze my lemon"... That's filthy Mr. Robert Plant! I'm sure there is a deeper meaning to this song, the lemon being as sour as his relationship I suppose. That line is a killer though.

G Love and Special Sauce - Fatman

Great band with an amazing style. I only have good things to say about G Love. This song is obviously about some fat man in a dilemma, needing to choose between eating a sandwich or selling a vehicle. "you're gonna miss a sale you fat man"

Well that's it for now. More recipes in the next few days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

I mentioned in my first post that the dishes I cook are typically void of any regional scope. I get a little overzealous too often and end up saturating my creations with whatever spices I arbitrarily pour. This usually results in an awesome dish or some nasty agita. Sometimes I go a little overboard and for the next few days I'm belching fire and/or sitting down very slowly. Luckily for you, me, and everybody else within smelling distance, this is not one of those dishes.

Let me tell you how much I love eggplant by first telling you how much I hated eggplant when I was a child. I hated eggplant when I was a child. There, I told you. Why I hated it was just sheer ignorance. I hated a lot of food growing up for no other reason then it either looked nasty or had a nasty sounding name. Being the dumb little turd I was, I equated eggplant with eggs. I seriously thought eggs were in Eggplant Parmesan. I suppose you do technically use eggs, but this type of idiocy was on another level. After a while the part of my brain that handles reason started working and I realized Eggplant Parm is not a bunch of purple eggs under a layer of breadcrumbs, sauce, and melted cheese. That does sound pretty bomb though. Maybe next time.

Ingredients for Eggplant:
2 good sized Italian Eggplants... don't skimp you jabroni.
2 eggs
whole mess of olive oil

Ingredients for Sauce:
1 large onion
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 can tomato paste
1 cup water
2 cans crushed tomatoes
7-10 basil leaves
some fresh parsley
teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil

This recipe calls for making a nice homemade sauce prior to breading and frying the eggplant. Using instant sauce is blasphemous and will land you on my shit list. It's good to let the sauce cook for a long duration, as it will become more flavorful over time. The very first thing you need to do is peel and slice the eggplant. I prefer peeling stripes into the eggplant, leaving half the skin on. My grandmother showed me this one day and I copied the hell out of it, but I don't think she knows what the Internet is so I'm in the clear. Also, if you do it right it makes the sliced pieces take on an almost square shape which fit nicely together in the casserole dish.

Once you have a nice striped pattern on your eggplant and you're feeling like a real boss, it's time to slice it. From reading many different recipes online, the consensus seems to be 1/4 inch, but I usually try to go a little thinner than that. It generally yields more slices filling the casserole pan to the top.

Now that the eggplant is all sliced up real good we need to drain it. The water inside of the eggplant has a bitter taste to it, especially if you have had the eggplant lying around for a while before cooking it. Hey, it happens... I'm not being judgmental. To drain, I layer a colander with the eggplant and salt both sides, continuing to layer the eggplant on top of itself and salting. Go crazy with the salt, we're going to rinse it off afterwards so just have fun with it!

The slices are draining, lets get going on that sauce. Chop the onion and try to stay consistent with the pieces. Little pieces burn quickly and give off a foul taste.

Pour some olive oil into a pot or deep pan that has a cover. Remember, we're pouring in 2 cans of tomatoes so nothing too shallow. Throw the burner on medium heat and give it about 5 minutes. Toss the chopped onions in and give it a good stir.

Afterwards mince up the garlic cloves. The onions usually take 7-10 minutes, but you want them translucent and soft. Toss the minced garlic in and give it a good stir. If your garlic is minced microscopically you only need half a minute. If it's minced a little more coarsely you can continue for a minute or two.

The paste goes in next. Get a spoon, it's going to be viscous. Stir Stir Stir until the oil, onions/garlic and paste are all one big happy family. And then drown that family with a cup of water. Damn, what's wrong with me? Stir a little more until it's an even consistency.

Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes and stir some more. I leave the heat at medium, or maybe juice it up a little bit to get the sauce bubbling. Keep a close eye though, it likes to go from placid to spitting all over your stove within seconds.

Once it's bubbling, drop the heat to as low as possible, give a good stir and let it simmer. This is when I add my seasonings and herbs. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Chop up the basil leaves and parsley and throw it in. Stir it up once again and leave the cover slightly ajar at low heat. The longer this bad-boy simmers the better the sauce will taste.

OK, now that the sauce is cooking and you're probably covered in little specks of red, it's time to handle the eggplant. First, preheat the oven to 350°. After that, run each slice of eggplant under cold water to clear off any excess salt and bitterness. Pat each slice dry with paper-towels...

Now we want to set up three bowls in a row. First bowl contains the flour, second bowl contains the beaten eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs. If you would like to coat ALL pieces prior to cooking them that's fine. Just grab a big plate or serving dish. If you feel like a hero you can get the oil going right away and fry them as you coat them. This makes it go a little quicker and saves you from washing another dish. Yes, I still have to wash my individual dishes like a barbarian.

Now I like to use a cast iron pan, but any pan will do. I don't really measure how much oil I pour into the pan. More than likely you will have to pour more in before you're done, otherwise things will get a little smokey.

The eggplant only needs about a minute on each side. We're not cooking technically, just getting the breadcrumbs to stick and crisp up. When they are done on both sides move to a dish with paper towels and pat off any excess oil.

Once all the pieces have had their turn in the pan, you're going to get a casserole dish. Any dimensions are fine, just use common sense and pick one big enough to fit everything. Now it's layering time baby. Put a little bit of sauce at the bottom, followed by a layer of eggplant, followed by another layer of sauce and finally a layer of cheese. At this point I realized I had no damn parmesan cheese, so I'm only using mozzarella. Fucking sue me! Continue in this order until you use up all of your eggplant.

Once all the eggplant is stacked I like to cover it all with sauce and a big layer of cheese. Mmmmm... Cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil, and put into the oven upside down. Just kidding, rightside up is fine!

Let this bake for 35 minutes, increase heat to 500° and remove foil. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until top is slightly browned.

There you have it. Eggplant Parmesan with no Parmesan. I usually cook up some pasta as well to complete the meal.


Hey Suckas

Hello World!

My name is Billy and I enjoy cooking. My methods are unorthodox, my dishes rarely fit into a regional scope and I like to freestyle most of the time. I think measuring is for chumps, but for the sake of my prospective 2 readers, I will measure things (occasionally). I started cooking at the tender age of 19 after moving into my first apartment with a few friends. I was very intimated by the stove at first and spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents trying to determine if I was doing things right. One of my biggest fears was undercooked meat. I had this feeling that if my steak was just the slightest bit too rare, or if my chicken wasn't boiled to oblivion then my stomach would fall out of my butt. I believe there is a scientific name for that condition, but I'll save that for another time. I would call my mother or father and ask, "how many minutes..." or, "how do I know when it's done" only to be answered with "when it's pink" or, "when the juices run clear." This confused the hell out of me seeing as the color pink is relative, and juices never run as clear as say vodka. This resulted in many overcooked pieces of meat and a smoked out kitchen. It took me a while, but I started developing this thing called 'confidence' after realizing my stomach was stationary and safe.

Another big fear was that if my measurements were not precisely precise, the dish would be ruined. I would phone my mother while making a sauce and ask how many tablespoon of fresh basil or parsley do I need? This one was a little easier to shake than the undercooked meat issue. I realized after a while that most food is edible no matter what you put into it, granted it's not arsenic or ricin, and that my fear of ruining a dish by using one too many basil leaves was just plain silly. I was trying to perfect something I had never done before. So now I go measurement free with most things. Baking however is a whole other ballgame and requires meticulous measurements. I don't bake as much as I would like, but just keep that in mind.

I had grown up with a Sicilian American mother and an Italian/Irish American father, both of whom were beasts inside the kitchen. My father had spent a few years years of his young adult life working at Luberto's Bakery, which if you're from Revere you probably know. Hence, whenever we had family get-togethers or celebrated a Holiday he was dragging out the Kitchen Aid mixer and putting in WORK! I feel like an asshole because I never learned from him back then, but he put himself into a tranquil state while making these things and had a way of blocking out everything else, including a whinny little bitch like my 10 year old ass was. My mother handled most dinners though, as my father worked the night shift (no longer a baker, now an electrician for trains). I could rant on about how my mother made the best sauce, or her meatballs were unmatched blah blah blah... but everybody says that. I feel like children form a special subconscious memory of their parents cooking at an early age, and that it follows them throughout life. I still marvel at the meatballs my mother makes, and though I follow her recipe as closely as possible, my end result is something that tastes completely different. I've bitterly accepted this truth, and now I focus more on trying to add my own twists to certain foods.

Well, that's a brief history of food and I. I'm hoping this blog will act as a new chapter and influence me to further my love and appreciation of all things tasty!